Waldorf Education - Celebrating The Light Within

Do you ever wax nostalgic for a time long gone?  I do.  Really it is a longing for simplicity.  And yes, it exists.  In fact, there is a whole philosophy of education that encourages us to remember what we likely already know.  Children need to move.  To play.  Imagine.  Dream.  Long ago, one man paused and really thought about this.  He first carefully watched and observed.  Then he pondered.  At the end of his process he came up with a philosophy of education - Waldorf education.  While he may have reached the beginning of his conclusions over a hundred years ago, many are discovering the timelessness of it.  Waldorf education strives to bring balance in education, integrating arts, movement and nature in everyday learning.

It might look something like this.  Nearly every day I hear and see a robust group of children laughing outside in the neighborhood.  Playing outdoors in every kind of weather.  Rain?  Yes!  There they go in their rubber boots and rainpants stomping and jumping in puddles.  Did the rain freeze last night?  No matter.  The sidewalks now become a skating rink and they slide on their bellies or their knees, falling and getting back up only to slip and slide again, shrieking with glee all the while.  They make giant piles of leaves to jump in.  Hide in hedges.  Pick apples every day to eat and take some home to share.  They crawl through tall grass - the kind that if you crouch down, you disappear.  They find gnome homes under tall pine trees and fill their hats full of pine cones.  They even climb trees!  They dig in mud, make forts, plant bulbs.  Roll down hills.  Jump on abandoned mattresses tossed out on the curb.  Wait.  What?  They decorate snow cakes with icicles for King Winter’s birthday.  Or build huge piles of snow to carve out snow caves.  Run.  Skip.  Play.  Play.  Play… All the while they are guided with love and imagination.  

Waldorf early childhood (3-7) families experience this all firsthand.  They become pros at dressing their child for the weather, layers, wool, layers, wool - they get it!  These children are are easily outside over half of their school day.  But that’s only half of it.  Being inside in a waldorf school is also very different.  Work and play blend seamlessly so you can’t tell where one ends and the next begins.  Children are eager to help sweep or wash dishes.  There are ample opportunities for artistic expression through singing, handwork, watercolor painting, or beeswax drawing.  Most of the toys are handmade from natural materials or even just straight from nature - for example, pine cones, acorns, leaves, tufts of wool, and unformed beeswax.  The open endedness leaves plenty of space for a child’s imagination to work and play.  Stories are shared and told by heart.  Meals celebrated together with a blessing and a candle.  There is a mood of reverence and a steady rhythm that holds each day.  It’s all so beautiful, the children just can’t help being drawn along, and in this way they are allowed to grow slowly and confidently in the direction of becoming themselves.  

As rhythm is so crucial, the seasonal rhythms are also recognized and celebrated through seasonal festivals.  For example, in the fall they celebrate Michaelmas, a festival of courage.  November they celebrate Martinmas with the tradition of children carrying lanterns and singing.  December, with the Advent Spiral, brings the opportunity to gather in the quiet of winter and remember your inner light despite the longer hours of darkness.  These festivals all share a common thread of finding the courage, the music, and the light we need within ourselves.  We can then carry it forth in the world.  

Here in Bozeman, we have World Family School.  Children and families are brought together in a spirit of gratitude, community building and a sense of wonder.  This School is in the process of becoming a certified Waldorf school.  They are a non-profit currently serving children ages 2-7 in their multi-age Kindergarten and First Grade.  The School has been active since the mid-1970’s, and though they took a brief hiatus, they reopened their doors anew last year.  If you’re ever in their neck of the woods, you’ll see many of the above mentioned activities going on.  

This winter, World Family School invites you to join in two of their community events.  They will be hosting their first annual Elves Faire Fundraiser.  A wholesome family experience, this will feel similar to an old fashioned holiday carnival.  You can experience hand dipping your own candles, make an angel ornament, and see a marionette play (which if you’ve never seen a waldorf one - don’t miss it!  They are beautiful simplicity at its best!)   Plus much more including food, a homemade/handmade silent auction, raffle and children’s market.  Saturday, December 2, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm at their new school location 1439 W. Babcock; Bozeman, MT.  Tickets can be purchased at the day of the event for individual activities or an unlimited pass for $20/person may be purchased in advance on our website.  Family passes are available for $60.  

They will also be hosting an Advent Spiral.  Again, if you’ve never been to one of these, it’s beautiful.  The Advent Spiral is a celebration of community, sharing and light.  Please join them for a potluck dinner as they gather in the quiet of winter to remember their light in the darkness.  On December 21, 4-6 pm location TBD.  Please visit their website for more details. Suggested Donation $20/family.  As World Family School is a  non- profit, all ticket sales and donations are tax deductible and will help them meet their fundraising goal.  

For more information please email info@worldfamilyschool.org or call (406) 404-6770

-”Waldorf school education is not a pedagogical system but an art - the art of awakening what is actually there within the human being.”  -Rudolf Steiner

- “Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives.  The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility - these three forces are the very nerve of education.”  -Rudolf Steiner