planning

Responsible Innovation - Waldorf at 100 (Growing Old or Growing Wise?)

We recently participated in a local meeting with members of our regional Pedagogical Section Council, Waldorf class teachers, and administrators. The topic of the evening was Waldorf at 100 - Growing Old or Growing Wise?

Many schools and teachers (and Waldorf related organizations) are still not sure how to include Waldorf homeschoolers in these larger conversations - we always appreciate being invited to the table. We consider one important part of our work to be bridging this gap. How do we help homeschooling families gain access to training resources, and, how do we help local Waldorf schools find ways to include homeschoolers in their offerings?

Art credit: Waldorfish ©2019

Art credit: Waldorfish ©2019



The evening’s conversation was rich. We touched on questions such as:

  • What does it mean for the future of Waldorf education that the students of today aren’t the students of a decade ago, let alone of 100 years ago?

  • How do we meet the children of today and stay true to the underlying essence of Waldorf education?


Clearly the answers require more than one night of discussion. However, it’s more important than ever for those of us who love Waldorf education to talk openly about these (sometimes uncomfortable) questions.

There is a real danger of things becoming stagnant - becoming “things we do in Waldorf because that’s what we’ve always done.” One part of the discussion that we personally resonated with was this question:


What happens to our thinking if we change Waldorf from a noun to a verb?

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Instead of saying “we do Waldorf” or “we use the Waldorf method” how different does it start to feel (and look) if we instead say “this is how we Waldorf” or asking the question “how does your family Waldorf?” Suddenly it shifts from being a stagnant Thing, to being alive and breathing!  Always changing based on the child in front of us, which was Steiner's goal all along.


Freedom in Anthroposophy means acting out of love - Acting from a place of deeply knowing the child/ren in front of you. As homeschoolers, this intimate understanding of our children allows us to take what we understand to be the essence of a particular grade or block, and then INNOVATE responsibly. Achieving the same goals, but with entirely different, child-driven means than another Waldorf family might use.

*We write more about this idea here.





Why Waldorf Chalk Drawing?

Chalk art in the Waldorf curriculum is a medium for extending the storytelling that is happening. It is a medium for enlivening the curriculum through pictures.

In Waldorf Education, it is always through storytelling that the images arrive. Surrounded by story, the children live into their imaginations and each will create mental pictures unique (and most meaningful) to them. Through the artistic activities that follow the review portion of a lesson, the children are able to live into the story experience again. Here they place their own feelings on it. This allows a true and unique connection to the content of the lesson.

Image: ©Waldorfish, all rights reserved

Image: ©Waldorfish, all rights reserved

“Children are more receptive to authority in teaching through art. Consequently, we can accomplish the most in this sense during this period of children’s lives using artistic methods. They will very effortlessly find their way into what we wish to communicate to them and take the greatest delight in rendering it by drawing or even painting. We should make sure, however, that they avoid merely imitative work.”

~Rudolf Steiner, in Rawson and Masters, Towards Creative Teaching, 1997

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“Ordinary everyday life can be portrayed in meaningful pictures and images. The teacher must fill with inner conviction and warmth the pictures he/she presents to the souls of the children. They can derive strength for the whole of their lives from lessons that stream from heart to heart rather than head to head.”

~Rawson and Masters, Towards Creative Teaching, 1997


Looking to improve your chalk drawings?

We have 2 courses that will help:




Waldorf Geometry :: Math in the middle grades

Ge•om•e•try | noun

Origin:

Middle English- via Old French from Latin “geometria”, from Greek, gē ‘earth’+ metria ‘measurement’.


Earth Measurement. This sounds like something entirely different from most of our own experiences with Geometry in school, yes?

Over thousands of years, geometry has become a standard part of math class and yet it sits in the modern math curriculum isolated from its true origin.


Ancient scholars, the first geometers, understood geometry to be the act of measuring the complete human experience of living on Earth. They set out on this study in order to understand the design behind everything they were experiencing in the physical world. In ancient Greece, the latin word “Mathematikos” meant “desire to learn” and the latin word “mathema” meant “knowledge/study.” In other words, the measurement and study of the physical world in order to understand the human experience on earth and how everything around us is created.

Inspiration is needed in Geometry, just as much as in poetry.
— Alexander Pushkin


Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf education place the utmost importance on the Geometry curriculum and have created a different path for students than the typical math curriculum offers. In truth, in Waldorf schools children begin their study of “earth measurement” with their first lesson on the first day of first grade - by drawing straight lines and curved lines. Straight lines and curved lines are nature’s design tools and they will become the essential building blocks of writing and drawing.

Printing, cursive, numbers, and music notation are constructed with lines and arcs. As the students progress through the early grades, patterns of lines and arcs are part of almost every lesson. Where there are patterns, there is geometry. Clapping games establish rhythm and order. Eurythmy and dance involve expression by way of patterns in movement. Students sit in rows, circle up, and line up.

Music and geometry go hand in hand as well. Rhythm, intervals, and patterns are the geometric design of music and poetry. As the students learn more about music, they can observe how different geometric patterns in music have unique qualities that induce a particular mood or feeling. Major chords sound “happy” and minor chords sound “sad.” The interval between a root note and the 5th sounds and feels much different than the interval between the root note and the seventh. Music is a great example of geometry as the tool behind the expression through sound. The idea of math as a universal language actually goes much deeper than numbers and calculations on paper being the same everywhere in the world. Ideally, a child’s education in the early grades is full of geometry.



Early experiences with Geometry


In grades one through four, there is no formal geometry class. Geometry comes by way of everyday school life (music, writing, movement, etc) and Form Drawing class. Forms are patterns of straight and curved lines that become more complex as the children advance through the grades. Simple repeating forms in grades one and two help with the development of coordination for printing and cursive writing. More complex forms in grades three and four help to develop a sense of spatial awareness and symmetry. In the fourth grade, students practice forms that are also symbols from different cultures (i.e. Nordic symbols) and learn how to tie knots - a three dimensional version of the form drawings.



Moving into the middle grades

Grade Five - Freehand Geometry

Grade five is a special, transitional year, symbolic of the peek of childhood. The students study great civilizations of the past, including the “Golden Age” of Greece. The students themselves are in the golden age of childhood. They are at the peak of their development in their child bodies and have gained as much mastery of their physical bodies as they are going to before heading into puberty. Fifth grade also marks the transition from form drawing to geometry. The goal of grade five “freehand geometry” is to lock the archetypal geometric forms into the body by drawing them without the use of tools. Classes also set out to find geometric forms in the world outside of their classrooms.

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Grade Six - Geometric drawing tools

With the arrival of adolescence, grade six becomes a year of re-birth both physically and in the curriculum. In geometry, we need to go all the way back to the beginning with straight lines and curved lines. This time, however, the children learn to construct lines and arcs with geometric drawing tools. A straightedge (ruler) constructs a line and a compass constructs an arc. The students will now begin a second journey through geometry that mirrors grades 1-5. The three-fold approach to learning (doing, feeling, thinking) is beautifully displayed in the geometry curriculum. In grade 6, the focus is on the physical doing aspect of learning. Learning to use tools to construct and measure is a physical task and it challenges the students as they begin to develop new physical bodies. The focus on “doing” in grade six mirrors the 1st and 2nd grade curriculum where an understanding of lines, arcs, and patterns comes from drawing forms with both the hands and feet, walking patterns, and rhythmic clapping games, etc.

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Grade Seven - Inward and outward exploration

Grade Seven in Waldorf schools is generally thought of as “the year of exploration.” A seventh grader, now fully immersed in adolescence, is ready to outwardly explore the physical world and inwardly begin an exploration of the question “who am I?” The feeling life of the seventh grader takes center stage in the curriculum as we use geometry to understand the human body and the natural world we live in. Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man and the work of Fibonacci give us clues about the mathematical formula behind all that is living on our planet. It’s an incredible moment when students discover that the same ratios and patterns found in pentagrams, roses, apples, insects, hurricanes, and the milky way galaxy, are also found in the structure of our own bodies. The observational studies of nature performed by the likes of Plato, Pythagoras, Eratosthenes, Fibonacci, and Leonardo Da Vinci are mirrored by the observational powers of the seventh grader (they see everything, yes?).

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Grade Eight - Digging deeper

In grade eight, the geometry curriculum enters the thinking realm. Armed with knowledge about how to use the tools of the geometer and the experience of searching for one’s self both in nature and the human body, the students are ready to become mathematicians, in the ancient Greek spirit of the mathematician being one who studies all things. We can now venture into the world of abstract thought and theory. The students will grapple with how to measure and study the three dimensional world on the two dimensional surface of the paper. By the 8th grade, it is the hope that students can see that there is always more than meets the eye, and they now have the physical and intellectual tools to dig deeper through observation, making precise measurements and calculations, and articulately describing what they see. They are mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers training to see things on multiple levels. On one level, numbers define quantities and help us with measurements and calculations. On another level, each number has its own unique set of qualities. Like the circle, the number one represents wholeness and the beginning. Plato called the circle “the mother of all shapes.” When the whole is cut into two, polarities are created (up, down, left, right, life, death, hot cold, positive, negative, male, female, etc.). The number three has a very balanced quality (tripods, tricycles, triangles). This way of understanding the quality of numbers is similar to the phenomenological way of teaching science. When a botany student imagines a plant, the goal of the teacher is to get the child to have a fluid mental picture that includes the entire life cycle of the plant, as opposed to just a fixed image of the plant in a particular moment in time.

With geometry, the goal for the 8th grader is to help them think of numbers not just as quantities but as parts of patterns in nature with their own qualities that shape the world around us and our experience of the world.

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“Let no one ignorant of geometry come under this roof.”
— Latin inscription above the door of Plato’s Academy

•We created a 3 page Qualities of Numbers reference guide for you! Tell us where to send yours in the form below.

It’s free!


•We offer a comprehensive Geometry curriculum, covering the grades 5-8.

4 Questions (we should all be asking on behalf of our children)

 

Crafting the rhythm of our children's days and school year can start to feel daunting when we consider all the various options available to our families.

Several years ago it became urgently important that we find a way to distill our planning process down to focusing on the things we considered MOST important. We want to share with you the 4 guiding questions that were the result of our reflections. Brian and I ask ourselves these questions when making decisions for our children, in regards to schooling and at home.

Whether you are new to Waldorf(ish) education, planning your next homeschool curriculum, or looking to make a course correction when you feel like you may have wandered off track, these gems can serve as guideposts. They come out of our successes as well as our failures.

 

Simple. Useable. Right now.

 

The 4 questions:

(I encourage you to take your time reading these. Really savor Each. Word. Perhaps keep a piece of paper nearby to write down your immediate responses & thoughts.)

 

1. Does this (activity, toy or program, etc.) encourage creative thinking? Thinking that is permeated with imagination, flexibility, and focus?

2. Does this experience help foster my child’s emotional intelligence? Is it helping my child develop empathy, and building their self esteem?

3. Is this (activity, toy or program, etc.) promoting my child’s physical vitality, stamina and perseverance?

4. Is this (activity, toy or program) helping to nurture a spiritual depth within my child? One born out of an appreciation and responsibility for the earth, their work and for their fellow human beings?

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Bonus Gem:

This piece, written by longtime class teacher, Steven Sagarin, is such a perfect compliment to this process of reflection:

“What is Waldorf Education” 

(Pro-Tip)

Read his article in chunks, accompanied by good chocolate. Give yourself time to go about your day and let each section sink in before reading the next.

**Essentially, we believe that a Waldorf education can take a variety of forms and still be PERFECT.**

According to each teachers individuality, outer forms of teaching may vary enormously in the different classes, and yet the fundamental qualities are retained...in a Waldorf school outer forms do not follow set patterns, so that it is quite possible for one teacher to teach his class of 9 year olds well, while another who takes a completely different line, can be an equally good teacher...and as long as the teacher feels in harmony with the underlying principals, and with the methods employed, he must be given freedom in his work instead of being tied to fixed standards.
— Rudolf Steiner
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We'd love to hear your thoughts!

All love,

Robyn