Do you remember coloring in coloring books as a young child? What about the lined paper in handwriting class or a pre-formed letter made of dotted lines for you to trace? These don't exist in a Waldorf classroom. You also will not see any make-and-take art where the teacher has made a craft, prepared all materials, and asked the children to follow step-by-step directions. Why is this?
Mindfulness! In Waldorf education, we're attempting to merge head, heart, and hands or similarly said- mind, body, and soul.
When a child is given a coloring book or coloring page, they're limited by the imagery provided by the manufacturer and asked to color within the pre-determined boundaries. This limits creativity. But, a blank page of high-quality paper and a box of beeswax crayons with vibrant hues invite creativity, and innovation, and inspire imagination!
In a handwriting class, students use their block crayons to line their own paper which requires "crossing the midline", supporting neurodevelopment by strengthening the connection between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Then, as the children draw their letters starting from heaven (the top) to earth (the bottom) they're asked to feel each part of the letter and stay patient as they practice slowly forming each line and curve. The teacher models "feeling the middle" of the letters b or h, for example.
These are just minor examples of mindfulness in a Waldorf classroom. Each day starts with circle time where the students recite an agnostic verse with the teacher and move their bodies to the words. A brief guided meditation may occur to set intentions for the day and a candle may be lit by the "fire fairies" to help the children center their focus and begin their day with reverence.
The curriculum is designed to connect with the child at each stage of their development and honor where they are in their learning journey. Stories and folktales from around the world are told to inspire truth, beauty, and goodness in the students and they document their learning with art, music, and handwork to stay connected to the material, but also to awaken the creative energy that dwells within us all.
Waldorf alum that I've interviewed over the years accredit their Waldorf education for their success in adulthood. One woman said, "My Waldorf background is why I was not affected negatively during the pandemic. I was able to stay grounded and sane despite the isolation during lockdowns. I started my own business because I learned to be creative and innovative throughout my Waldorf years".
The foundation of Waldorf education is the belief that children are both spiritual beings and physical beings. We cannot reach their minds if we don't speak to their hearts.
If you're interested in supporting Waldorf education in Bozeman, Montana, please join us August 10th at Hachi in "The Market" at 7pm to learn how we plan to merge head, heart, and hands of the students we serve. Thank you warmly. Be well.