waldorf homeschool

Can We Train the Imagination?

Last week, I had the pleasure of sharing time with our team in New York and our partner Floris Books. As we sat around a table and shared ideas about our work, I shared how our work is more than about selling books.

A collection of beautiful children’s book enlivened the space between us as if to remind us all that imagination can be nurtured and trained. Much of our society has lost its way in educating children. It has removed the vibrant energy of diving into the work of great authors and allowing those words and imagery to sink deep down into the consciousness of our children. It has replaced that process of planting the seeds of imagination that will someday grow into innovation and leadership, with a method based on fact training and mental problem-solving.

But what can we do to bring back the richness of an education that values and promotes the training of the imagination? We can fill our children’s shelves with well-crafted books that speak to their creativity through imagery through words.

We can share those books as a family, no matter the age of your children and allow them to slip into a world where they need no particular skill only an open mind and heart. Without imagination we cannot perceive, construct, and birth what is needed in the future. We need to take moments every day to train our imaginations, and there is no better prescription than that of a well-crafted book.

This week, we are sharing books for all ages to train our imaginations and stock our bookshelves for the lazy days of summer ahead.

Reverence Not Testing The Waldorf Way

Inner experiences is the only key to the beauties of the outer world.
— Rudolf Steiner, How to Know Higher Worlds

Reverence is the path to knowing a child’s needs.

Every morning, I choose a book to read. Sometimes it is a few lines and others a chapter. The last several mornings I have been reading How to Know Higher Worlds by Rudolf Steiner. A meditative path charted by Rudolf Steiner, translated by SteinerBooks.

I find that being a lifelong student, we can discover new ways to our inner life, our inner knowing that can only be seen when our biography is ready for it. I am a student of the natural world which at its root is reverence.

The beginning of any connection in nature begins with reverence for a natural space. It is this practice of reverence that pulls back the doubt and allows you to seek a connection to the universe. A connection that will lead to surrendering beyond the noise of the outer world, and into an abundant inner life, a path that leads to your original knowing.

In education, we have people trying to improve education by measurement, testing, and analysis. The flaw with this method is that it does not involve reverence. The process of observing a classroom, a child, a family, a teacher, and ourselves must be an exercise in reverence to be pure observation. We must be able to observe without judgment and assess without fault if we want to improve the education years for children, their parents, and our communities.

Reverence with our own thoughts is the way to begin.

This consists in our learning to surrender ourselves less and less to the impressions of the outer world and develop instead an active inner life
— Rudolf Steiner, How to Know Higher Worlds

What does that mean for education and the work of our schools, parents, and teachers? When we revere something or someone we want to take care of it, nurture it, and help it grow. The beauty of the principle that underlies a Waldorf education is based in reverence or admiration for human development.

The preparation for teaching in a revered sense requires devotion to a practice that deepens the experience for both the teacher and their class. It is a practice rooted in the understanding of human development and how we teach and guide effects the development of the children in our classrooms.

A recent study by the nonprofit advocacy and consulting group TNTP concluded “ “Students spend most of their time in school without access to four key resources: grade-appropriate assignments, strong instruction, deep engagement, and teachers who hold high expectations,” the report says.

As teachers of children, we have the unique opportunity to observe children. We are able to surrender ourselves to the experiences in front of us by being open to what we can learn from them about what they need versus what they need to learn from us. We can observe without judgment, and watch in awe as the answers unfold in front of us.

Teachers need resources to create lessons based on developmental stages, and those resources need to penetrate deep into the curiosity and wonder of the children in their classes. This does not stop in early childhood, it is the foundation of all teaching and learning. Profound, engaging teaching and learning ignite a love of learning.

Teachers in today's classrooms need resources that spark interest in them and their students. The standardized curriculum that supports testing will never create that type of excitement and yearning.

Do you need resources to learn to teach in this experiential way? If you are new to the idea of teaching in an evolving curriculum that mirrors your student's needs, the following books will help you understand the real beauty and strength of this type of education.

Teacher Development Resources

Towards Creative Teaching, Notes to an Evolving Curriculum for Steiner Waldorf Class Teachers

Writing to Reading the Steiner Waldorf Way, Foundations of Creative Literacy

Teaching Resources

Science Through Stories

History Through Stories

A Journey Through Time in Verse and Rhyme

Autumn: A Collection of Poems, Songs, and Stories for Young Children

Creative Form Drawing with Children Aged 6-10 Years

Special Education Resources

The Extra Lesson

Autism: Meet Me Who I Am

Need more resources? Visit our online bookstore at SteinerBooks.org or contact Kathy@steinerbooks.org.

Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children

Culture is nothing more or less than the way we live our lives.
— Sharifa Oppenheimer

My imagination had conjured up scenes of calm babies in beautiful clothes held by a rested, peaceful mother glowing from the miracle of birth. The reality, however, was more like exhausted parents from the rooming-in of healthy premature twins, waiting for someone to release them from a hospital of onlookers so they could get some sleep already!

I remember uttering the words, “where is the parenting manual that describes this”? A far cry from the ethereal beginning I expected, but it was not the last time that my idea of parenting differed from reality.

In Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children Sharifa Oppenheimer gives young parents the tools and ideas to create their unique family culture. An inspirational model, complete with space to write in the margins and take notes, once you have had some sleep and identify as a parent to a small human.

Rhythms

For many years, I have told our boys imagination stories. These stories rooted in my childhood memories of trips to visit family, magical creatures coming to life in the garden, or mischievous twin boys that went on fantastic adventures while their parents were busy. Later, the boys would take over the creative stories and I would move them along with a prompt of ‘and then what happened’? Our family rhythm of reading a book before bed is so well established that the kids remind us it is time to read together, and we all enjoy finding out what those Hardy Boys are up to today!

Sharifa Oppenheimer, inspired by the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, helps us see that education is a lifetime of moments, beginning with imitating the adults in their lives. It is with Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children, that we can bring back the great traditions of raising a family by teaching them who they are by how we live.

Creating a Family Culture

The family is a living breathing thing. Our daily actions teach our children how they are an essential part of our family organism. They belong to a group of people that treasure their gifts and support their challenges. It is through our family interactions they learn the intricacies of social behavior in the safety of the home environment and form the foundations of their identities. We can either do this consciously as she suggests or not, but the quality of our family culture rests on the awareness we bring to it.

familyculture.jpeg

Heaven on Earth is a must have for every parent of young children. It reminds me that a wide-awake parent raises a child who has the courage to see things as they are, and can build that important relationship with their inner selves to guide them to one day create their own family culture.

You can buy Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children at SteinerBooks.org as well as the accompanying guide How to Create the Star of Your Family Culture: The Heaven on Earth Workbook.

What does it mean to grow sustainable children?

Growing Sustainable Children Gardening Block.jpeg

One of the favorite things I have learned with our move to Wyoming is the wisdom from new friends. I love flowers and for most of my adult life have grown flowers and a few herbs to include in my meals.

I remember one Texas neighbor asking if I was growing any food and as I looked around my garden all I saw was flowers. Flowers feed my soul, so yes I guess I was growing food - soul food.

Yesterday, a friend and I launched our gardening block for our children’s learning community. A community brought together by a need to allow our children to experience learning together in a group and also have time to learn through play. We are all homeschooling families who were looking for more. Our class is our evolving answer.

Watching the children intuitively know what to do, being gentle with the seed potatoes, listening intently to our resident garden queen, my friend Jody, was more than just another thing to check off a curriculum checklist. It was a nourishing act of teaching and learning.

We began by reciting the poem Seeds by Molly De Havas, from The Waldorf Book of Poetry. As the children followed the rhythm of the words and read out loud together, they began to form the living breathing connections of learning together.

I told stories of the Irish Potato Famine, the latest discovery in Utah of the Four Corners Potato, and how the famine brought my great-grandmother to America. We talked about biodiversity and how that would prevent famine from happening again.

The group of children ranged in age from 4-10, and they all began to understand how important it is to nurture the ground that will feed you.

Growing food and caring for the earth is primal.
— Ronni Sands

Our lesson was about potatoes, but it was more than that. It planted the seed of paying attention, nurturing the earth that will feed us, and had them asking when the next class would be.

The book Growing Sustainable Children, A Garden Teacher’s Guide was a five-year project of writing down the unique way author Ronnie Sands leads children of all ages through the experience of gardening.

It will teach you, the teacher, to create activities that support child development and guide your self-development. Our class was children, but it was observed by parents who were as drawn into the process as their children - perhaps more so.

Growing Sustainable Children: A Garden Teacher's Guide is a method to bring communities together while supporting the connection between humans and the earth that feed not only our bodies but also our souls.