"Receive the children in reverence, educate them in love, and send them forth in freedom." Rudolf Steiner
Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy on education (Waldorf/Steiner Education) is based in these words and his spiritual-scientific research of the human being. From Steiner’s viewpoint, the personal work of the teacher and parent plays a significant role in the well-being of the child. The first 7 years being the foundational years, wherein the child is learning through imitation, are of great importance and influence upon the later years. “The first thing to be aimed for is a living comprehension of the child in all its pulsing life” (Steiner, The Child's Changing Consciousness, 1996)
The early childhood teachers and parents model behavior worthy of imitation and are attentive to the quality of the child’s surroundings; the rhythm of their day; the senses, including the warmth or manner in which the children are clothed and fed; their relationship to nature and the seasons; the significance of play, movement, storytelling and music and the artistic environment are aspects comprising Waldorf Early Childhood Education. “Our bodies are permeated by rhythm, in the beating of our hearts, the breathing of our lungs, women’s cycles of fertility, and the circadian rhythms of our metabolism. But as modern human beings, we have also established a life that is removed from the rhythms of nature.” (You Are Your Child's First Teacher, 2000) Steiner’s educational philosophy is detailed and widely studied. There are over 1,000 Waldorf schools worldwide, with over half of those being in the United States. Waldorf education goes through high school with the majority of the schools being 1st through 8th grade, wherein the class teacher remains with the class for the duration. Steiner based Early Childhood programs are generally in “home like” settings, offer nature, play and relationship based curriculum with substantial parent education and the celebration of seasonal festivals. (You Are Your Child's First Teacher, 2000)
Steiner’s philosophy is based on his study of human development, which forms the outline of Waldorf education. That the children are actively involved in their learning and environment is a given. The curriculum is brought to the children through close interaction with the surroundings, via poems, songs, movement, circle, storytelling, puppetry, and arts. (Steiner, Rhythms of Learning, 1998)
Steiner’s ideas are certainly applicable, effective and desirable for today’s early childhood programs. Teachers appear to be hungry for a deeper knowledge of their work and have an interest in the health that this philosophy presents, including the inner work of the teacher and nourishing quality of Waldorf Early Childhood programs. In Waldorf early childhood programs, the inner work or soul life of the teacher is of prime importance in order that they may be better prepared to meet the challenges of today’s early childhood programs and more able to be adults worthy of imitation. The therapeutic aspects of this educational model have much to offer our educational system in general, particularly in the early years. “Everything that affects a child from outside is recreated within”. (Steiner, Rhythms of Learning, 1998)
Dancy, R. B. (2000). You Are Your Child's First Teacher. CA: Celestial Arts.
Michaela Glockler, M. (2000). A Healing Education. CA: Rudolf Steiner College Press.
Steiner, R. (1998). Rhythms of Learning. NY: Anthroposophic Press.
Steiner, R. (1996). The Child's Changing Consciousness. NY: Anthroposophic Press.
"Childhood is a time of wonder and awe...What wonder does is help us see the sacred in the world." Tobin Hart Ph.D.
At The Secret Garden Preschool and Kindergarten, our holistic early childhood practices are based upon the fundamental need for relationship-based care (bonding and continuity), neurological research, and recognition of living arts (domestic, nurturing, creative and social arts) as central to the advancement of children’s social, emotional and intellectual skills. The physical setting is home-like rather than institutional or school-like.
• Adult and child activities include practical life skills such as building, gardening, cleaning, cooking, washing, repairing, and sewing, among other things.
• Movement/play curriculum emphasizes child-initiated activities that promote healthy musculoskeletal development, providing opportunities for unstructured, spontaneous movement in a safe environment. Traditional games and finger-plays provide opportunities for the children to imitate healthy movement, develop senses to support the foundations for learning, and increase both small and large motor skills.
• The children spend large chunks of time outside in all weather. This helps them become more robust and strengthens their bond with the environment in which they live.
• Child guidance is based on: observation, presence, respect, communication and warmth.
• Natural organic foods are provided and often prepared together.
• Foundation for lifelong literacy is fostered through storytelling and puppetry, individual lap time with a book, poetry, verse, daily singing and music, drama, and the daily interactions of play and movement in a healthy, secure environment.
• Emphasis is on loving human interaction with warm speech, live singing, verses, and stories rather than technology. The Secret Garden Preschool and Kindergarten is a television and video-free environment.
• Celebrations honoring traditional seasonal festivals, cultural backgrounds of the families, and children’s birthdays are offered.
• When possible, ongoing relationships are established with senior adults and youth who visit on a regular basis.
• Our program provides a developmentally appropriate, nature-rich, play-based approach found in Waldorf/Holistic preschools and kindergartens throughout the world.
Teacher Training Programs
LifeWays North America
Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America
The Holistic/Waldorf early childhood educator works with the young child by creating a warm, beautiful and loving Nature-rich, home-like environment, which is protective and secure, and where things happen in a predictable, rhythmic manner. Here s/he responds to the developing child in two basic ways:
First, s/he engages in domestic, practical, and artistic activities the children can readily imitate (for example, baking, painting, gardening, and handicrafts), adapting the work to the changing seasons and festivals of the year.
Secondly, the Holistic/Waldorf kindergarten teacher nurtures the children’s power of imagination by telling carefully selected stories and by encouraging free play. This free or fantasy play, in which children act out scenarios of their own creation, helps them to experience many aspects of life more deeply. When toys are used, they are made of natural materials. Wood, cotton, wool, silk, shells, stones, pine cones and objects from nature that the children themselves have collected are used in play and to beautify the environment.
Sensory integration, eye-hand coordination, appreciating the beauty of language, sequencing, and other basic skills necessary for the foundation of academic learning are fostered in the kindergarten. In this truly loving, natural and creative environment, children are provided with a range of activities to prepare them for later learning and for life itself.
Helle Heckman on talking too much to children. "Why do we need to speak so much?"
Helle Heckman on Sleep.