Welcome to the World of Waldorf! Through this article and subsequent pieces, I will attempt to explain the Waldorf philosophy and what it stands for. Waldorf was started by Dr. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). After the First World War in Germany, Steiner initiated a school for children of people working at Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory, thus the name Waldorf. He gave his first lectures there to the teachers of the first Waldorf school and it was documented into a book called “Practical Advice to Teachers.”
The focus in Waldorf methodology is on the development of the whole human being which consists of Body, Mind and Soul, also known as Willing-Feeling-Thinking.
Waldorf begins at home with a simple lifestyle and day-to day-routines.
There are no academic goals to be achieved until your child is 6-7 years old. Yes, you heard it, No activities, no worksheets!
What does the Waldorf philosophy say?
According to Dr. Rudolf Steiner, human development can be classified into 7-year cycles – 0-7, 7-14, 14-21 and so on. One of the basic concepts of Waldorf Education is the threefold human being – Willing, Feeling and Thinking. For the first 7 years, we focus only on the ‘will’ of the child. Will is in the Body, Feelings in the Soul and Thinking in The Spirit or Mind or Ego (not the negative ego, here it means the higher self).
As we focus only on the Will of the child it means we work only on the development of the child’s body, not touch the feeling and thinking aspects yet, as those are yet to be developed in the later stages of the child’s life. In the early years, Eat-Play-Sleep-Repeat is the only mantra.
What does the Waldorf philosophy recommend in the first cycle?
So what is needed to foster the healthy development of the child’s body? Rhythm, Sleep, Nutrition, Movement, and Warmth- these are the FIVE golden keys of parenting, as suggested by Helle Heckmann who has been running an early child care center in Denmark for the last 30 years.
Let us look at these 5 things which are all a child requires until the age 7:
What is rhythm? Why do we need rhythm? How can we build a rhythm?
- We find rhythms in nature – daily, weekly, monthly and yearly
- Setting up a Rhythm is essential in daily life- it establishes security in children- life must be predictable rather than full of surprises for children. Repeating your daily routines at the same of the day is known as a day rhythm.
Examples to include in your daily rhythm – Wake up, Bath time, Meal time, Indoor Play with Open-Ended Playthings, Painting, Handwork, Washing vessels, Cleaning the house, Putting things away, Peeling fruits, Eating them, Gardening and so on.
- Modern life causes hindrance to build rhythms- automatic washers, dryers- we can stock up loads of clothes and wash any time, without regard to weekly rhythms. Children no longer see the tasks of daily life in a process.
- Irregularities in rhythms create illness.
- Rhythms are a gift from nature. We will talk about monthly and yearly rhythms in a different blog.
Modern day throws up the challenge of not enough sleep, a worldwide issue.
- Set up a regular sleep time-children begin to feel drowsy, saying a prayer, story, lighting candle-switch off lights and gadgets.
- Every child needs 12 hours of continuous sleep to rejuvenate- children’s rhythm should be such that they should wake up on their own and don’t need an external alarm.
- A lot of physical and mental development happens during sleep.
- Sufficient physical movement helps children fall asleep.
What is the right nutrition??
- We eat to live! Lack of proper fuel can cause hyperactivity, poor mental ability, obesity, malnutrition & so on.
- Food habits are determined by yearly seasonal cycles & how climate influences crops. We must eat what is grown locally (where we live) at that time of the year. Nature provides what is needed for us from the natural vegetation in any given place.
- Include wholesome ingredients for breakfast, lunch & dinner. Reduce spices, salts & sugar. Avoid refined, processed, fried food.
- Make it a habit to eat together vs eating in front of a TV.
What are the games you played as a child? Today’s children sit far too much!
- Movement and Speech development are so interrelated- Movement in early years lays the foundation for walking, speaking, thinking
- Free movement: WALKING- cross coordination helps build a connection between the left & right brain/ cerebral hemispheres. Running, climbing trees, falling are very important.
- Indoor play should allow children to explore and play with natural open-ended playthings like wooden blocks, pebbles, peg dolls, pods from the tree, cotton fabrics, play silks and so on. We will talk about finer motor skill development in a later blog.
Warmth/ Love/ Care
- Essential clothing- comfortable for child to move about freely, loose fitting-not tight, Child should be able to become dirty without thinking about fashion accessories. Avoid poor quality clothes, invest in good cotton clothes. Cotton is child friendly and appropriate for our climate. You should be worried if you get a clean child home, end of day.
- Hat during sunny days and proper footwear!
- Children play best when they don’t worry about their bodies.
- Play helps in healthy development of inner organs, social skills, creativity and imagination.
Waldorf parenting or slow parenting for me, is a lifestyle! If you were born in the 80’s or before, go back to your childhood and recollect your earliest memories. All you did was eat-play-sleep-repeat, compared to a child today, who is bombarded with an overload of information through books, activities, some 100 toy options, packaged food, screen time, worksheets, tests in the early years. Today’s children sit more than move around to play. If you ask a speech therapist, he would also say speech is related to movement and today’s children don’t move as much as we did!
Homeschooling is an overhyped term in recent times, thanks to social media! Not sending a 2 year to school is now called homeschooling. Homeschooling is not bringing school work to home. I would say be a mother, slow down, be with your child, give time, give warmth, cook fresh food, eat at the right time and play with your child. Your child needs you, not a teacher! Early childhood happens only once, it is precious!
Adapted from an article originally written by Divya B A for Babychakra: the-world-of-waldorf-homeschooling