Tag Archives: Waldorf School

A Reply to Nana

In yesterday’s post, Nana left a comment responding to my anxieties about sending my kids to private schools that are not Waldorf:

hokay! I’m an outsider here and will probably cause some apoplexy for some of you. Does anyone think it odd that a system (and don’t try to deny that it is, indeed, a system) such as Waldorf would become established in a country (Germany) which is known for its regimentation and by-the-rule-book attitude? This has been a highly organized and orderly country for a very, very long time. Let’s not forget the German propensity for rich food!

Now let’s apply this phenomenon to every day life, but in reverse. If you give your children the kind of nurturing environment which the Waldorf method encourages, it will be instilled in them and carried with them wherever they are.

If Waldorf could bloom in Germany, then Waldorf raised children can bloom anywhere. Kids need to be introduced to a variety of controlled experiences. Otherwise how can they learn to make intelligent, well thought out, decisions for themselves when they leave the nest?

Henitsirk needs to stop beating herself up over this because it’s not healthy for her and her family. She needs to put a more positive light on the challenge which life has given her at this time and remember – it’s not forever, but it is for now.

I started to write a response comment, and then realized that it was too long and might as well be its own post.

Yes, Waldorf sprang from the Germanic culture, with all its wonderful regimentation and paternalism and nationalism. Now, Steiner actually spoke and worked vigorously against those tendencies. In fact, his ideal for Waldorf schools was different in many ways, but he had to compromise with the state in order to manifest the schools in such a way that they would be not private but available to all. (See this PDF from the Research Bulletin on some of the ways in which Waldorf school methods might be a result of either Steiner working with necessities of his time and place or of our misinterpretations of his teachings.) Sort of the way Waldorf charter schools have done in California and other places. (Something good to remember for those who feel charters aren’t “real” Waldorf!)

Steiner also felt that younger children needed what you could call “regimentation”, though not in an authoritarian way, but rather an authoritative way. For the exact reason that you describe in your second-to-last paragraph: so that children are given a firm, secure foundation to later, when they are ready, make their own way. So, the Waldorf curriculum is highly structured in a sense: certain things are only taught to certain grades, painting for young children is not free expression but rather painting a certain motif modeled after the teacher, etc. This is an interesting article on young children in particular, and how strict discipline is not useful and in fact might be harmful (warning: published in 1963, very un-PC references to “primitive” cultures!).

I found a wonderful passage (see p. 45) from a lecture by Steiner on the healing effects of education. It seems like a gift for me in my questioning and anxieties right now:

[A]s grown-ups we do not find such great value in what we ourselves have become through our own education. We do not look back with deep gratitude on what we received through instruction and education. Ask your own heart whether this gratitude is always alive….

Advice to self: Breathe. Observe. Find gratitude in your heart. Be conscious of motives coming from fear or anxiety, as they will mislead you. Have faith.

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Photos from Wikimedia Commons.

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Parzival’s Mother

The medieval German Romance Parzival, by Wolfram von Eschenbach, is read widely in Waldorf high schools and teacher training courses, as a rich allegory for the modern human’s struggle for inner development (or as Rudolf Steiner put it, the development of the consciousness soul). (See here for an interesting article on how the story of Parzival relates to adolescence.)

I haven’t read it in a few years, but the other day it struck me that my current inner struggles about sending my kids to mainstream schools in some way resembles a thread in the plot of Parzival.

Queen Herzeloyde (Herzeleide, “heart’s sorrow”) loses her husband in battle, and so in her grief she vows to raise their son, Parzival, alone in the forest where he will never encounter knights, the chivalric life, or anything that may harm him. She doesn’t even tell him his name, only calling him bon fils, cher fils, beau fils.

Does this work?

No, of course not. One day some knights happen to ride by Parzival in the forest, and it’s all over. He’s overawed by their splendiferous armor, their knowledge of weaponry, and so on. He’s gone before Herzeloyde can say boo.

Now, without sounding too presumptuous, I remembered this part of the story when I was mulling over our school situation the other day. We’ve been pretty firmly in the Waldorf camp for a long time: Anthropapa and I have both studied the foundational works of anthroposophy and quite a bit of the Waldorf pedagogy as well. We’ve worked for two Waldorf teacher training colleges. Our kids went to a Waldorf home day care last year.

Here in the wilds of Pocatello, however, there are no Waldorf schools to be found. No Waldorf anything, so far. Just some homeschoolers and a fledgling school about an hour away. We’ll be glad to get to know them, but it’s not possible for us to commute that far right now.

So we found our best alternatives: a Lutheran school for SillyBilly, and the Early Learning Center at ISU for Napoleona. Both fine, sound schools where the kids are safe and happy all day long.

But…

These are mainstream schools. They are definitely not Waldorf. There are computers, there are movies, there are character books. There is reading and math in kindergarten. There are USDA lunches, complete with the tater tots and pizza I remember from when I was a kid (OK, they get some fruit and/or veggies with each meal, I will admit. But none of it is organic, no less biodynamic.)

I feel like, despite my best intentions, my kids are off into the dark woods, following a bunch of people dressed in shiny stuff and sporting the coolest rides they’ve ever seen.

Now, I realized that Parzival had some kinda destiny to follow, what with all the finding the Grail and helping the Fisher King and all. But Herzeloyde just wanted to protect him, so that neither of them would have to feel the grief she felt at the loss of her husband.

I don’t anticipate falling down dead the way Herzeloyde did when Parzival left her. But I do feel like we’ve tried so hard to provide a safe, nurturing place for my children, and now they’re off to fight wholly different and unanticipated battles.

And unlike Herzeloyde, I have options. We could move closer to the fledgling Waldorf school. I could homeschool them. Some day, we’ll probably move somewhere else, perhaps where there is a Waldorf school. But right now, I’m feeling my own heart’s sorrow.

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Images from the beautiful Codex Manesse.

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Filed under Anthroposophy, Books, Deep Thoughts, Napoleona, papa, Parenting, SillyBilly, Uncategorized, waldorf education