At the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for our new building I shared how I had once heard one of our original founders say “every community needs to have a Waldorf school” and admitted that at the time I didn’t quite understand why she would make that claim. Now, five years into my own children’s journey between public and private education and having become familiar with the methodology of the Waldorf curriculum, I understand perfectly. Here are my top three reasons why I agree that Waldorf education should be available in every community and why we are so fortunate to have a Waldorf school in our own backyard.
Foremost, I have never met a more passionate and dedicated group of teachers. Waldorf teachers are by far the most enthusiastic educators in the world. They are in love with their curriculum, methodology and their students. Each morning Waldorf teachers greet every child at the classroom door by name, shake their hand and make eye contact. They are genuinely devoted to these children’s academic and life success. They devise extremely interactive and creative lessons which often require them to work long days in preparation, they frequently make themselves available for school events on weekends and have chosen to train and teach in the Waldorf method because they believe in it. (It is certainly not for the pay!) Unfortunately in conditions of overcrowded classrooms, institutionalized teaching procedures and forced standardized testing curriculum, most public school teachers are frustrated rather than enthusiastic. In an age where too many children hate school or exhibit a variety of classroom disrupting behaviors, by sharp contrast, Waldorf students are excited to come to school. Upon arriving at school this September I heard a child declare to his parent “I love coming here!”. Shouldn’t every student be saying that? Waldorf teachers create a vibrant learning environment which promotes joyful learning. This positive experience of school creates a lifelong love of learning. This is a far reaching gift I feel I am giving to my children.
Second, the Waldorf curriculum, though developed almost one hundred years ago in 1919, couldn’t be more appropriate for preparing our children and grandchildren for a future we cannot predict. Through its use of experiential learning Waldorf education teaches to a multitude of learning styles; visual, auditory, artistic, kinesthetic and many others, creating in the children the ability to synthesize new information and problem solve from many modes. Through the use of biographical stories and fairy tale characters the children create a vivid emotional interest in new material being presented and retain information for the long term. Creativity is included in every lesson – math, science, reading, writing and of course the traditional arts & music programs. This permeating facet of creativity in all lessons promotes critical and original thinking, advanced problem solving skills, clear self-expression and the strong self confidence needed to create something from scratch. These are all skills that tomorrow’s innovators are going to need. Unfortunately, most traditional American public schools teach only in two dimensions and the lessons are primarily passive. Lessons in Waldorf Education are three dimensional and very, very active! There is a saying; “Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.” Waldorf Education involves the student from their earliest sensory experiences in the nursery school program to living history lessons in the elementary grades. I cannot imagine a better preparation for the twenty-first century for my children than the ability to creativity problem solve, collaborate, generate original thought, communicate clearly and have self-confidence in their ability to produce results.
Finally, the Waldorf curriculum cultivates awareness of the the larger world around the student. Awareness of multiculturalism is presented through study topics broadly ranging from ancient Hebrew Sukkah dwellings to festivals celebrating the good deeds of the Celtic Saint Michael to singing of an African lullabye, “allunde, allunde” in the early childhood program. Also, awareness of the global environment and the human place in it, is present every day in a Waldorf School. All Waldorf students spend a significant portion of each day outdoors enjoying our beautiful five acre wooded campus, working in our outdoor farm classroom with the chickens and vegetable beds or taking nature hikes at one of our picturesque local mountains. As my seven year old son told his former public school friends, “Recess is never canceled at my Waldorf school!”. Waldorf students learn to experience and appreciate all of nature’s seasons from spring mud to winter sledding. Waldorf children also build their awareness of the greater world around them by learning not one but two foreign languages beginning at age six. This is a full seven years earlier than most public schools offer foreign language study. I believe all of these – cultural awareness, environmental gratitude and early exposure to foreign languages are the building blocks for developing a child’s sense of social responsibility. I certainly want my children to be good global citizens and a Waldorf education is strongly supports the early foundations for that.
These gifts of a joyful learning experience, self-confidence built on original thinking and the building blocks of adult social responsibility are just a few of the reasons I have chosen to enroll my children in a Waldorf school. There are so many others. I am moved when I imagine the difference a generation of Waldorf graduates might go on to make in our world! Yes, indeed, there should be a Waldorf school in every community. I am so grateful we have ours.