Monday, June 11, 2012

Do all children thrive in a Waldorf school?

“I look into the
world to discover myself;
I look into myself and find the world.”

                                                                                        —Rudolf Steiner 

Q U E S T I O N: When does a child not thrive in a Waldorf school? 

The beauty of the Waldorf method is how the curriculum meets the child at each stage of development, which is reflected in the historical development of consciousness of humanity. It is a rich education, based on the liberal arts that educate the whole person in intellectual, physical, and moral development. The child learns from the world of literature, myths, fables, and legends, before lessons turn to  history; the child learns by experiencing numbers and processes qualitatively before learning to compute; and the child learns by speaking, moving, and writing, before learning the more abstract task of reading. Each child is allowed to blossom in his or her own time, with all the encouragement and support from parents and teachers, who together hold the long-range objective of educating free-thinking independent individuals.

The philosophy behind Waldorf is based on the wisdom of the human being, with capacities of thinking, feeling, and willing. Thus we educate head, heart, and hands! The young child learns through doing; experiential learning continues during elementary school, as art, music, movement imbue every subject and good study habits are cultivated; this is the groundwork that becomes the foundation for higher learning, abstract thinking and reasoning to be developed at the high school level.

In my experience of Waldorf education, I have observed that Waldorf teachers are dedicated, idealistic people. When a difficult stumbling block become evident, parents and teachers work together to best serve the child. If the parents feel confident in the teacher and the methodology, it will usually be a good experience for all. This is a group effort between parents and teachers, with the child in the center. The child best thrives when there is a harmonious transition from home to school and when the school experience comes home! Parent education is essential, perhaps as often as every six weeks. It is a commitment.

—Maria Ver Eecke

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

how the wooden button got its name

Many thanks for all who joined Tuesday evening for inspiring stories and perfect sangria. Our teachers Leigh and Maria presented their vision for The Wooden Button and spoke both broadly and specifically about the many benefits of a Waldorf education.

 Leigh also told the story of how The Wooden Button got its name:
When Leigh taught as a Handwork teacher at a Waldorf-modeled charter school in the Bronx, she worked with a troubled 6-year-old boy. The student was surprisingly large for his age and was often in trouble for fighting, however with Leigh's attention he soon became a speedy and skilled knitter. He was so speedy he would finish his knitting before the other students and Leigh would give him extra projects to keep him occupied. One of these projects was a felted pencil case. But while the student was a speedy knitter, he was often impatient and rushed ahead without listening to the instructions. When it came time to add a buttonhole to the closing flap of his pencil case, he grabbed the scissors and cut a 3-inch diagonal slit. The slit was so large that no ordinary button would work to keep the flap closed. When Leigh looked at the wide-cut buttonhole a moment she turned to the boy and asked, "You know what I'm going to have to do this weekend, don't you?" He thought a second, "Um, I don't know, call my grandparents and tell them I'm in trouble?" Leigh smiled, "No, I'm going to have to look far and wide to find a button big enough to fit the hole you cut!"

And that was indeed what she did that weekend. With some perseverance, she found an enormous wooden button that would fit the boy's buttonhole, and she brought it to class the next week. When she showed the large wooden button to her student, his eyes lit up and a broad smile spread across his face. He sewed the wooden button onto his pencil holder, and it worked perfectly—despite the fact that the button was, well, over sized for the relatively small pencil case onto which it was sewn.
This story stayed in Leigh's mind. It seemed a metaphor for the ways in which a Waldorf education meets its students where they are, instead of expecting them conform to an external measure of success. It accommodates a 3-inch buttonhole and the mischievous boy who cut it, without shaming or sidelining him. It doesn't attempt to make all children, or their schoolwork, identical. The large six-year-old boy and his large wooden button is one of the reasons Leigh believes the Waldorf method worked.

When Leigh and Alex first met to talk about starting a school, Leigh told Alex the story. Alex too immediately loved the story. They decided the wooden button would give its name of the school they started together. And so it is.