what is waldorf education

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.

Shakespeare and the New Ideals - Rudolf Steiner

Receiving Shakespeare into our minds and souls might therefore be the very stimulus to give us men and women of today the power, the inner impulse to follow ideals, to follow real, spiritual ideals. We shall see our true ideals aright if we bear in mind how transitory many modern ideals have been and are, and how magnificently firm are many old ideals that still hold their own in the world by their effectiveness.
— Rudolf Steiner, APRIL 23, 1922

Education and the Moral Life

Today we have anthropology and we have psychology.

Anthropology’s main concern is the abstract observation of the

physical aspect of the human being, while that of psychology

is the abstract observation of the human soul and spirit as

entities separate from the physical body. What is missing is the

anthroposophical perspective, which observes the human

being—body, soul, and spirit—as a unity; a point of view that

shows everywhere how and where spirit is flowing into matter,

sending its forces into material counterparts.

- Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy Part 2


Education and the Moral Life

Rudolf Steiner

STUTTGART — MARCH 26, 1923

Everyone involved to any degree at all in social life will certainly feel that the moral aspect is one of the most important aspects in the entire field of education. At the same time, one realizes that it is precisely this aspect that is the most subtle and difficult one to handle, for it relates to the most intimate area of education.

I have already emphasized that educational practice needs to be built on real knowledge of, and insight into, the human being. The comprehension, perception and observation that I tried to characterize last night will give the knowledge necessary to train the child’s cognitional capacities. Practically speaking, knowledge of the human being, supported by the science of the spirit, will enable one to reach, more or less easily, the child’s powers of cognition. One will be able to find one’s way to the child. If, on the other hand, one wishes to appeal to a child’s artistic receptivity as described yesterday, which is equally important, it is necessary to find a way to each child individually, to have a sense for the way various children express themselves from an artistic comprehension of the world. When it comes to moral education, all of one’s skill for sensitive observation and all of one’s intimate psychological interest must be kept in mind, so that all the teacher’s knowledge of the human being and of nature can be put at the service of what each child brings forth individually. To reach children in a moral way, the only choice is to approach each child on an individual basis. However, with regard to moral education, yet another difficulty has to be overcome—that is, an individual’s sense of morality can only be appealed to through full inner freedom and with full inner cooperation.

This requires that educators approach moral teaching so that, when later in life the students have passed the age of formal education, they can feel free as individuals in every respect. What teachers must never do is to pass on to developing students the relics of their own brand of morality or anything derived from personal sympathies or antipathies in the moral realm. We must not be tempted to give our own ethical codes to young people as they make their way into life, since these will leave them unfree when it becomes necessary that they find their own moral impulses. We must respect and acknowledge the young person’s complete inner freedom, particularly in the realm of moral education. Such respect and tolerance truly demand a great deal of selflessness from educators, and a renunciation of any self-interest. Nor is there, as is the case in all other subject matters, the opportunity of treating morality as a subject in its own right; as such, it would be very unfruitful. The moral element must be allowed to pervade all of one’s teaching.

Practical Training in Thought

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The revolutionary ideas that come to education in the future will come from the hoards of parents leading the experimental movement called homeschooling. 

I am reading a new book that was sent by Steiner Books, one that a few sentences into the first chapter, I said: “oh my…”. 

Books are my favorite way to learn of new ideas, and consider them against my own beliefs and experiences. 

This book had an energy to it. I knew I would want to share it but not in the physical sense - get your own! This one will be on my bookshelf to share with my kids.

I consider books an asset of ideas to pass down to my kids. What if you had a personal collection of books, and notes to tell your kids how it changed your thinking? A hope chest or bottom drawer of ideas to consider has been whirling in my mind for a while now. A physical collection of ideas to consider as they make their way in the world. 

My father was a reader; he loved a good crime novel or book of history. We traded books often when we lived nearby, and later in life when I moved out of state and Amazon became my gift (book) delivery service, I would send him books I thought he would enjoy. 

Home library collections can show the journey of discovery over our lifespan. 

As families dive into the possibility of directing their child’s education, Waldorf education is likely to come into view. As I began searching for methods to consider with my children, the healing power of sunlight diffused rooms, natural materials, beautiful chalk drawings drew me in without even as much as a small understanding of Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy on education. It just felt right.

How many things in our lives just feel right?

The book I chose for my first read was Anthroposophy in Everyday Life: Four Lectures by Rudolf Steiner published by Steiner Books. The book drew me in from the introduction. 

“we find their so-called “practical thought” is often not thought at all but only continuing pursuit of traditional opinions and habits.” Rudolf Steiner

As parents dive into the world of home education, they will find themselves in a sea of opinions and habits of others. Without realizing it, we look to authorities to see our way, not governmental authorities necessarily, but rather individuals that have become an expert in homeschooling. 

I would venture to say there is no such thing. 

We need thought leaders and visionaries to share ideas without authority, much like our hope chest of ideas to consider. I believe in my small understanding of Steiner; he gave indications for learning which is what will bring the revolution needed in education. As a visionary, his thinking was years ahead of others, but it is time we begin to unwrap his thoughtful gifts for the well-being of our children and theirs.

My initial thoughts on Practical Training in Thought Karlsruhe, January 18,1909.

If we embarked on this journey of directing our children’s education through homeschooling to help them retain and discover who they are and what their journey through life will bring to the world, then Practical Training in Thought is an essential foundational skill.    

" When something really practical has been invented, it has often been done by a person without practical knowledge of that particular subject." R.S. 

This statement confirms what millions of parents are doing worldwide for their children by directing their education. The innovations of business, science, the arts, and design thinking are coming together in pursuit of a vibrant, safe education for our children. 

Training your thought begins with practicing in nature. It is something I do without even thinking, but Steiner's words remind me that we must practice objective thinking and nature allows us the perfect connection.

I don't want to ruin the experience for you by telling you every detail, but take a moment each day and look up at the sky. Don't try to define the type of clouds or predict the weather, just observe and you are well on your way to training your thinking mind.

I will share more of my impressions from Anthroposophy in Everyday Life: Four Lectures by Rudolf Steiner by Steiner Books, but why wait? Order your copy and read along with me.