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I knew nothing about Waldorf schools. Although when I started first grade, we were living near the Rudolf Steiner School in New York, my parents were political liberals in the midst of the civil rights movement and would never have dreamed of paying private tuition - even if they had known about the school. Then by the time a Waldorf school was founded in San Francisco where we had moved, I was well into my teens and attending a first-class public high school. So, the whole Waldorf movement passed me by - until Germany.

When our oldest son was 7 months old, we took out an ad in the local newspaper for a Tagesmutter (babysitter) so that I could get back to writing my PhD dissertation (and I felt Awfully Guilty about having even taken a half-year off). Suddenly, a bit like Mary Poppins, she arrived and changed the landscape of our lives. Having been a Waldorf student all the way through school, she had an understanding of the environment and child development that astonished me even though she was only in her early 20s.

Our German babysitter was pretty and had intelligent eyes. She wore a leather jacket and scarves. She spoke German, English and Russian (in West Berlin, Russian was considered a useful third language). She sang beautiful songs, and made simple figures for play out of cloth and wood. She sewed an elf doll. She put old-fashioned baby hats on our son even on warm days. And we had lots of discussions about the proper layers of clothing when it got cold, and why antibiotics should be avoided, and the best way to prepare a lemon wrap for a cough. Sometimes I found what she said a little weird, but I saw how wise she was and I thought carefully about all her ideas. Little by little, I began to realize I was missing out on something in my cognitive world of words. And as I got to know my neighbors with children, I also got to know through her some Waldorf parents and children and I noticed a difference. Waldorf parents tended to be musical, tended to be kind to their children, usually cooked organic foods, and tended to avoid television. I felt I was learning something amazing every day. readmore logo

Waldorf education

Waldorf education's purpose, mission, and origins is explained by Liz Beaven, administrator of the Sacramento Waldorf School. This clip was filmed as a part of a panel of Waldorf alumni discussing how their experiences at a Waldorf school prepared them for their professional and personal lives.

“At its root, Waldorf education is based on an aesthetic approach,” says David Swanger, an educational philosopher at UC-Santa Cruz. “By aesthetic, I mean a heightened feeling through beauty and the life of the emotions, particularly as the children are educated through the arts. In American public education, art is typically given short shrift. The dominant ethos of the public schools is to learn facts. Feeling is regarded as a disruptive influence, a nuisance and a threat to orderly proceedings. Everything—from the architecture to the codes of conduct and the colors on the walls—is organized so people will not be excited and passionate and exuberant, so things can move along at a somewhat uniform and orderly pace.” [View source]

Solovitch, Sara, "Childhood in a Cocoon", The Mercury News, June 4, 1989,


"The classroom had been thoroughly prepared for the first-graders' arrival. Their wooden desks had been sanded and polished; name cards, painted with watercolors, adorned the front of each desk. A coat hook similarly identified awaited each child as well. ... The room was bright and festive, with freshly painted red walls, a new rug, and a blackboard drawing of sun, moon, and twinkling stars. There were even twenty-three drinking mugs awaiting twenty-three potentially thirsty children ... As they arrived with their parents, I stood at the door, greeted each one with a handshake and words of welcome, and led them, one by one, to their special places in the room. ... Soon all the children were seated at their desks, wondering ,"What's next?" In passing, I gave Anthony a compliment: "I see you already know how to sit tall in your chair." (He was sitting ramrod straight, chair pulled up tight, hands folded in front of him on his desk.) No sooner had the words left my mouth than twenty-two other little chairs were swiftly pulled up, and twenty-three sets of hands appeared on the desks. Such is the potential of positive feedback, not to mention the six-year-old's desire to please and capacity for imitation. ... The marvelous fact that young children copy everything in their surroundings can become a tremendous teaching tool if used responsibly." [View source]

Finser, Torin M., School as a Journey: the Eight-Year Odyssey of a Waldorf Teacher and His Class


An inspired Waldorf practice can become empty ritual

by Christof Wiechert

It is the teacher's task to establish equilibrium in the classroom. "Just as in the experience of music there is an equilibrium between tension and the easing of tension, quiet and loud, fast and slow, high and low, in teaching also there must be an alternation between poles and a balance between them. If the teacher achieves this, the children's will to learn, their desire to learn, as well as their good learning habits will be fostered. If this equilibrium is not present, what is done on a daily basis with the intention of forming good habits, turns into an empty ritual." . . .

"In this context, some common rhythmic activities can be called into question. The rhythmic section becomes ritualistic when, for example, in a sixth-grade class each student recites his personal report verse in front of the class on the day of the week on which he was born. As such, the custom is not bad. However, it can easily become an empty ritual, especially if the verse was written by the teacher months before and is no longer relevant. Then we see an empty ritual: a totally unengaged pupil reciting his verse in front of his bored classmates. The procedure is of no value to anyone. And it takes time, easily ten to fifteen minutes in a larger class. If you add in the remaining elements of this part of the morning, truly precious time has been lost." read whole article at Waldorf Today

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