Articles

WALDORF SCHOOL IDEA AND PRACTICE

A Contribution to the Understanding of New Education - I

By : Christof Wiechert

Preface: in the comming copies of this Newsletter of Forest House Waldorf School in Hong Kong some aspects of the Waldorf school principles are highlighted. We start with the parent-school relation, then we look at the student development in relation to age appropriate education, then we look at the methods used in Waldorf schools.

Parents in the Waldorf school

Often we hear the question, is Waldorf education good for every child or does a typical “Waldorf school child” exist? The answer is not difficult and can be given by every parent who observes his child - you simply look if your child is happy and healthy in school. Does he/she it like to go to school? Sometimes the children are not happy when holidays start - they want to go to school. Sometimes you see it also in the weekends - they want to go to school. The children enjoy going to school because we try to educate without any pressure. There is scientific evidence that children suffer under pressure at school.

But we look further. Sometimes we see in school dreamy children, they are not really aware that they learn. Sometimes they are slow learners, but, they will awake, sooner or later. We respect, within certain limits, this individual awakening of children. But also the opposite is true; we see children who are very awake. They sometimes have the tendency to become lazy, if they are not nourished enough. It is then the task of the teacher to observe that, and to give the child extra to things to learn. Especially the pioneering class in Forest House Waldorf School with mixed-aged children, is in these respect somehow a challenge. But Cindy will master that easily with her experience and with the help of her class assistant Angel.

If we look at this aspect, the school takes wise care of both the dreamy child and the awoken child, then we can say, every child will benefit from the education in the Waldorf School. We do not see a special 'Waldorf-child'.

The future is our standard - that means we try to have an education not from yesterday but for the time after tomorrow. What comes after tomorrow? In this coming times (and it is already here) we live in a world that becomes more and more drenched and penetrated by technology. There is nothing wrong with that, it is just our future. But there is a negative side-effect - nature heals and is healthy whereas technology harms our health (for example the development of the brain - some brain functions die off when replaced by technology).

We identify a new task in education: to provide an education that provides health not for the moment at school, but for life. We need an education that provides sustainability in health for life. Research in the late nineties of the last century have given us proof that education and art, or art in education, or even education as an art, gives us these qualities of health. Hundred years ago we had also not so good education. But life in and with nature and in natural circumstances healed all negative effects of the teaching methods. That is today not the case - poor teaching is not anymore compensated by living in nature. Our environment is a technological one.

To make that happen we need in the near future, forms of 'educational partnership', that means parents and the teaching staff should work together to make the school and the home environment for the child as optimal as possible.

Here we see that there is an important task for kindergarten teachers and for those who work in early childhood, because the future will show us, that those parents who themselves were raised in an exclusively technical-urban environment, will have difficulties to raise their own (little) children.