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Why Do We Choose Waldorf?

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Ashwood Waldorf School’s rigorous academic program engages students at every level.

Master teacher, experienced administrator, and parent of five Kathleen Young has been mentoring our teachers at the Ashwood Waldorf School for many years. On Monday evening, November 4, Kathleen met with parents and staff to put Waldorf education in context, and, as far as possible, “in a nutshell.” The evening was lively, and several parents volunteered to continue the conversation at a later date with an eye to becoming advocates for the school in our wider community.

Waldorf’s four original fundaments were coeducation, an integrated 1–12 curriculum, administration by the teachers, and no connection with government.

Rudolf Steiner created Waldorf education in 1919 in the wake of the First World War with the intention educate students for peace. The education was a cornerstone of Steiner’s larger vision for social renewal.

Waldorf pedagogy is based on seven-year cycles of human development. Do human beings develop differently now than in 1919? Is the Waldorf curriculum still relevant today? Is it relevant for different cultures? There is an explosion of Waldorf schools worldwide, particularly in China.

When family and friends ask us why we send our children to a Waldorf school, we need to try to understand what motivates their questions. What do they really want to know?

Parents at the meeting shared a number of specific questions they’ve encountered:

  • “What’s wrong with the public schools?” There are very good public schools here, and most of my friends send their children to public school. It is hard to invite a conversation about Waldorf education without seeming judgmental/critical of those who choose public education. The public schools offer iPads for every student; what’s wrong with that?

A parent suggested reframing the question: “Not, ‘What is Waldorf education?’ but ‘What is public-school education?’” Public education tends to rush children, to push them, to encourage conformity. Overemphasis on testing and early use of technology has been called the “Race to Nowhere.” Waldorf education is about allowing children to develop at their natural pace.

  • “Why do Waldorf schools introduce reading so late; isn’t earlier better?”

Kathleen said that we prepare children to read well when it is time for them to read. We work on “literacy readiness” in kindergarten, first, and second grades. Reading is an abstract activity. Are early readers actually decoding language, do they love to read, are they reading worthy literature? If children are pushed to read before their physical development supports this, their ability to think critically in later life is compromised. A parent suggested that it’s easier to explain “later” reading once a parent sees their children successfully master reading. Experienced parents can share their experiences of these milestones with new parents and parents of younger children.

  • “What about technology? Will Waldorf students be at a disadvantage if they don’t become familiar with it early?”

Kathleen said that current brain research supports the Waldorf approach. Technology affects young, growing minds differently than it does those of adolescents and adults. Technology robs younger children of part of their humanity and intelligence. Their ability to think critically is compromised. A parent quoted a tech guru who said, “Learning to use a computer is like learning to use toothpaste.” Technologies change quickly, and bright, curious Waldorf grads are more than likely to be able to master the latest when they need to.

  • “What is so different about Waldorf education that makes it worth the financial sacrifice?”

Kathleen stated that Waldorf education is no longer an “alternative” type of education. Waldorf educators and parents are now in the vanguard. The issue of testing is hotly contested, “nature-deficit disorder” is the latest syndrome, Waldorf can model an education that nurtures the development of confident, balanced young people whose worldview is shaped through an understanding of how other people think. Education in music, languages, and the fine and practical arts gives children the confidence that they can do anything. Betsy Morrell noted that Waldorf is a classical education, offering activities that were once considered an integral part of any well-rounded pedagogy. Parents want their children to love learning and enjoy their natural curiosity.

If you would like to learn more about how to explain why you have chosen Waldorf education, contact Judith Soleil to speak with her about Ashwood’s Parent Ambassador program.

Annual Pumpkin Carving

Every year Ashwood Waldorf School students create jack-o-lanterns for our All Hallows’ Eve Walk. Click one of the images for a slideshow.

Ashwood to Offer “How to Talk About Waldorf” Workshop

Join us for a Parent Ambassadors Workshop on Monday, November 4. With veteran Waldorf educator and school consultant Kathleen Young, we will explore the hallmarks of an Ashwood Waldorf School education. This workshop will be tailored to the interests of participants, and may address such questions as:

  • How do I explain Waldorf education to my family and acquaintances?
  • What can I say to people who seem misinformed about the values, accomplishments, and mission of Ashwood Waldorf School?
  • What resources are available for busy parents to learn more about Waldorf education?

Designed for current Ashwood parents and grandparents who want to improve their ability to articulate their school choice to others, this workshop is also open to any community member interested in learning more about the value of a Waldorf education in Midcoast Maine.

When: Monday, November 4, 6:00–8:00 p.m.

Where: Ashwood Waldorf School, Grade School building, garden level

Register at info@ashwoodwaldorf.org or call 207-236-8021 for more information.

Ashwood Alumni to Perform in Camden Hills Regional High School Musical

“Shrek, the Musical,” based on the Oscar-winning film, is this year’s Camden Hills Regional High School fall musical. Several Ashwood Waldorf School alumni are cast in this show, so don’t miss the chance to cheer on our talented students!

Duncan Hall ’10, plays Lord Farquaad, while Fiona Hall ’13 turns in a performance as one of the Three Pigs, along with her cohort Chloe Isis ’13. Jamie Oshima ’12 plays a Singing Knight, while Jonas Eichenlaub ’13 rounds out the ensemble.

“Shrek, the Musical” will run Fridays and Saturdays, November 8, 9, 15, and 16 at 7:00 p.m.; and Sunday, November 10, at 2 p.m. in the Strom Auditorium, Rockport. Advance ticket sales are $12 reserved and $10 general admission; $6 for students and senior citizens. There will be a special Family Show on Wednesday, November 13, at 6:00 p.m. with the reduced ticket price of $5, all general admission. For more information: 207-236-7800, ext. 282 or stromtickets.com. Link

Kim John Payne to Offer Workshop/Lecture on Simplicity Parenting

KimJohnPaynePublicityPhotoRecentCopy“Using the extraordinary power of less to raise calmer, happier & more secure kids. Learn how to simplify toys, books and clothes, meals and bedtimes, schedules, and filter out the adult world.”

Kim John Payne is an Australian who has, for 27 years, worked throughout the world as a counselor, consultant/researcher and educator of both children and adults. He has been helping children, adolescents and families explore issues such as social difficulties with siblings and classmates, attention and behavioral issues at home and school, and a range of emotional issues such as defiance, aggression, addiction and self-esteem. He regularly gives keynote addresses at international conferences for educators, parents and therapists and runs workshops and trainings around the world. He is on the faculty at Antioch University New England. His book Simplicity Parenting (Random House) has received international media attention and has been featured in Time Magazine, Parenting Magazine, NPR & BBC, ABC, NBC, & CBS television.

  • Lecture: November 1, 7-9 p.m.; $15
  • Workshop: November 2, 9 a.m. -1 p.m.; $45
  • Combined Lecture & Workshop: $50
  • Location: Seacoast Waldorf School
  • 403 Harold L Dow Hwy (RT 236), Eliot, ME 03903
  • FMI: 207-439-7911 or website

 

Fifth Grade Travels “Across the Beautiful Sea” to Seguin Island

Ashwood Seguin Trip - 6 webIn September, shortly after school began, Ashwood Waldorf School’s Fifth Grade set off for our first group boat-and-camp overnight. The weather threatened storms and wildness, but our captains, John Chandler and Richard Lee, and their intrepid first mates, Tania Chandler and Cherry Short-Lee, were confident we would be just fine, so we set off from Small Point, and had a beautiful trip, through rising fog and rolling seas, past the mouth of the Kennebec River, past seals and seabirds, past dolphins, to the rocky shore of Seguin Island.

The swells were too high for the boats to land, so Kate Chandler rowed all of us and all of our supplies into shore, and we carried tents, food and ourselves up the steps and under the old tramway to our camping spot. We had a quick dinner after setting up the tents, and then the rains came, and the winds, and a tent blew over, and we felt as if we were having a true adventure.

We went up in the dark night to the lighthouse, to walk around on a catwalk under the light, which was beautiful and slightly unnerving, and then had popcorn and lemonade while the lighthouse keepers told us scary stories.

We slept very snugly, once we settled down, the sky finally full of stars and wind, the sea murmuring, and seabirds calling from time to time in the darkness. In the morning we had breakfast and went for a walk on the island, then toured the lighthouse museum. Then we did a few hours of community service, clearing stones off the beach to make a path for visitors and collecting trash, while the keepers took the Christopher Moore-made donation box to put up on their visitor sign. It looked great!

The sea was still too rough for the boats to land when it was time to leave, so Kate rowed everything, and everybody, back out from the island, and then we sailed and motored under a clear blue sky to Small Point. Everyone said the highlights were the scary stories, and the voyages across the beautiful sea. We live in such an extraordinarily beautiful place; it was marvelous to be out in the glory of Maine.

Thank you to John, Tania, Cherry and Richard, Kate, Lora, Jim and Christopher! Thank you to the Friends of Seguin Island, who keep the island running and accessible! What a great way to open the Fifth Grade year!

Lesley Finlayson, Fifth Grade Teacher

Jack Petrash to Speak at Merriconeag

Waldorf educator Jack Petrash will be at Merriconeag Waldorf School in Freeport, Maine for two events:

Dynamic Schooling to Meet the Future:Jack Petrash photo
A Public Talk by Jack Petrash
  • Friday October 18, 7:00 p.m.
  • 57 Desert Road, Freeport
  • Suggested donation: $10 at the door

To meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world our children will need to be resilient, imaginative, determined, disciplined, kind and clear thinking. Jack Petrash will explore how we can develop these essential qualities and instill in each child a reservoir of strength, the capacity for creative thinking, and a healthy sense of self.

The Art of Raising Strong, Resilient Children
A Workshop with Jack Petrash

Parenting is not an easy assignment in our complex, modern world. We are often good at holding our children close OR at letting them go. The challenge is to hold both of those polarities simultaneously and doing so is an art that we will explore in our time together.

The Spirits of Halloween

This article by Eugene Schwartz gives an explanation of why we try to keep All Hallows’ a scare-free experience for our youngest children. Please read and comment. 

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For the younger child, this festival reaffirms the goodness of the world. Eons ago, as they looked upon the mists that wove around their fjords and heaths, ancient Europeans had a particular experience as the days grew shorter. Toward the end of the month that we call October, they perceived the souls of all of those who had died in the past year gathering and preparing to ascend to their heavenly home, making a space for the souls due to be born in the year to come. But before they could assume their place in the ethereal realm, the departed souls had to sweep away all the detritus of the life just past and cast it to the earth. Thus the popular image of witches riding on their broomsticks is a misperception: in reality, the brooms are sweeping away the witches!

At the time when the child is in fourth grade, a sense of human mortality begins to dawn within her. Children of this age are rightfully and healthily drawn to all of the frightful and gruesome aspects of Halloween, and they look forward with trembling anticipation to visiting a haunted house, watching an horrific form arise out of a swamp, or, if only through a well-told story, being scared out of their senses!

For the younger child, however, the situation is different. The spirits and creatures with whom the younger child communes are not those created by human error, but rather those in whom the innocent and wise powers of Nature reside: gnomes and undines, fairies and elves, the spirits of stones and streams, sun and wind. For young children to be exposed only to the dark and demonic qualities of Halloween is to deny the unspoken conviction that they carry in their souls that the world is good.

— Eugene Schwartz

Middle School Trip to Gulf Hagas

Gulf Hagas, the “Grand Canyon of the East”, is a three-mile-long slate gorge located in the mountains of central Maine. Last week Ashwood Waldorf School’s Middle School students enjoyed a two-night camping trip to the area crowned by a day-long hike along the rim of the gorge. It was an amazing trip: waterfalls cascading through narrow passages, sheer slate cliffs, crisp fall colors, and even a moose on our way home. Our profound thanks go to all of the parents who helped make the trip possible by cooking and shopping and providing equipment. We’d also like to send a big shout-out to our chaperone/guides: Buck O’Herin, David Ray, and John Luft.

Amy Watson, Seventh Grade Teacher, and Laura Purdom, Sixth Grade Teacher

Photos by John Luft.

 

Ari Snider ’10: Framing a Life

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe asked Belfast High School senior Ari Snider ’10 to tell us about his recently completed year abroad. He writes: “It was fun and interesting to tie my Ashwood years into my exchange experience. I believe that there is a very real connection between the two.” — Editor

During my years at Ashwood Waldorf School I would often complain about drawing borders on my main lesson book pages. I was never the most steady-handed or discerning artist in my class, and I found form drawing tedious and irksome. I looked forward to high school, where painstakingly detailed borders would no longer be required.

Freshman year at Belfast Area High School replaced main lesson book pages with printer paper; yet, I did not feel liberated. I missed outdoor recesses, hands-on specialty classes, daily singing, general cultivation of the creative spirit, and other keystones of Waldorf education. I especially missed the creative task of each carefully drawn Main Lesson book page. I craved a more wholesome experience akin to that of my Ashwood education.

The possibility of a year abroad had already begun to tempt me when, early into sophomore year, I learned about Rotary Youth Exchange. A year later, I bid my family farewell and set out for Belgium.

ari-2I left the United States as a cultural ambassador, only to arrive in Belgium feeling like a nervous child in a foreign land. The emotional turbulence of the initial adjustment period tested my resolve and forced me to reaffirm and reexamine my core values. Only then did I begin growing into a mature exchange student, a process that continued throughout my exchange year.

Three kind, caring, and adventurous host families provided me with a strong base of support throughout the entire year. Over time I developed fast friendships with my Belgian Scouts and schoolmates, as well as with other Rotary exchange students. In the end, saying goodbye to my Belgian life hurt, but the pain of the farewells was a testament to how wonderful the year had been.

A year abroad offered me the challenge and engagement in the present for which I had so yearned. In Belgium, I nurtured my ari-1creative spirit by becoming fluent in French, exploring my host country, and opening myself to new people and experiences.

Living abroad taught me that my own perspective was the most important factor influencing my life and how I reacted to and processed the challenges and opportunities that faced me. Throughout my exchange, I relearned the importance of framing each page of my life within its own carefully drawn border.

—Ari Snider ’10