The obvious occult leanings of Waldorf founder Rudolf Steiner might leave many wondering if Waldorf is right for them. Steiner’s educational system is excellent and can be divorced from Anthroposophy. I know it can be done, because I don’t really know anything substantial about Anthroposophy, and I’m successfully using Waldorf curricula everyday. Our days our fun-filled and revolve around nature and rhythm. This is a typical day:

1. Nature Walk
2. Sing circle songs (Wheels on the Bus, Old MacDonald, Seasonal Songs) and reciting poems (Stevenson, Yeats)
3. Doing activities that reflect our month’s theme (e.g., reading about leaves, leaf rubbing)
4. Engaging in handwork, watercolor painting or some other craft
5. Free play which usually involves playing with our home made educational games
6. Yoga (*maybe*)
7. Telling a Grimm or other fairytale & discussing it
8. Practicing writing our two letters for the month
9. Discussing our number for the month (e.g., let’s draw a one, what does it mean to be unique, name things that are unique)

See, nothing esoteric here. The only unusual thing we might do is celebrate one of the Waldorf holidays. This month is Michaelmas. I’d never heard of that until I became acquainted with Waldorf. It’s a real Christian holiday that celebrates the Archangel Michael. Apparently, it was much celebrated in Europe, but a quick look on Wikipedia suggests that it is not so well observed nowadays. We choose to celebrate these holidays for a variety of reasons. Unlike the well-known holidays, there’s absolutely no commercialism associated with them. Thankfully,my son doesn’t expect any gifts. Instead, these new, unexpected holidays are purely family oriented. The symbolism is rich, and they lend themselves to lots of fun-filled activities. Michaelmas is based around Michael defeating Lucifer portrayed as a dragon, so there’s lots of crafts and plays and storytelling with dragon themes. Kids love that.

Holidays aside, Waldorf is a superior educational system that simply can’t be beat. Right now, the focus is simple but as the age of the child progresses, it takes on the form of a classical education. Waldorf is not Dick and Jane literacy and teaching to tests. Right from the get-go, Waldorf presents very challenging texts and language for children to absorb. The youngest of children are listening to Rumi, Yeats, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Frost, and other great poets. Even the Grimm tales are presented in the original language. This promotes advanced literacy and vocabulary. Advanced geometric concepts are presented in ways that children can understand. Overall, everything that is taught in a way that involves the “head, heart, and hands.” The head is obviously the intellect, but use of things like oral story telling and puppetry (imagination/heart) and handwork and painting (hands) to enforce lesson material further engages the child and reinforces retention in ways that rote learning does not.

Additionally, the range of subjects is also impressive. Whereas many schools are just teaching the basics, Waldorf schools teach quite a variety of subjects in the first eight years. Botany, Art, Drama, Music, Mineralogy, Physics, Algebra, Geometry, Chemistry, Ancient Hebrew/Persia/Indian/Egyptian/Native American Culture, are just a few of the many subjects. There’s a constant focus on creativity and world culture that simply is not found in public school. The range of subjects also shows that children are capable of being challenged in ways that many public elementary and middle schools do not attempt.

That said, I’m seriously considering taking a foundational course in Anthroposophy to see if it is or is not something that I want to involve myself with further. Steiner’s metaphysics does not grab me thus far, but his educational system is brilliant. I’m tempted to see if there is anything else in Anthroposophy that may be of use.

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