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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.

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.

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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

 

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.

CNN Profiles the “Waldorf Way”

As enrollment skyrockets at Waldorf schools from coast to coast, Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on “The Waldorf Way,” looking at three key aspects Waldorf education–movement, testing, and technology–with a cognitive neuroscientist.

Click here on the image to go view the video:

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Learn more about Waldorf by exploring our website, or by calling 207-236-8021 or emailing info@ashwoodwaldorf.org.

Fifth Grade Pentathlon 2013

A New Approach to Teaching Science

Eighth Grade chemistry demonstration at Ashwood Waldorf School with class teacher Jacob Eichenlaub

Eighth Grade chemistry demonstration at Ashwood Waldorf School with class teacher Jacob Eichenlaub. Photo: Doug Mott © 2013

 

 

Twenty-first century children are entering a world filled with complex technological wonders that allow them to communicate with people across the globe in seconds, have vast storehouses of information, literally, at their finger tips, and look forward to a future where machines will be able to perform highly sophisticated functions previously delegated to human efforts. At the same time, understanding how things actually work, both simple and complex, falls outside the grasp of most human beings inhabiting our planet today.

Children now require a new approach to teaching science that is at one and the same time both innovative and classical. As study after study has shown, children are less and less able to sit for long periods of time being passive listeners. These future citizens of the world need and demand activity from their teachers. To meet the complexity of the world and to succeed in a society whose constant will be rapid change, they need to be taught different ways of thinking and they need opportunities to exercise these capacities.

The word science comes from the Latin scientia, which means knowledge derived from observation. In Waldorf schools, students learn science through a phenomenological approach that demands that students fine-tune their observational skills while actively discovering the patterns and laws that govern different phenomena. They participate first hand in the process of discovery through experience and are only then led beyond their observational experience to discover the concepts and laws that stand behind phenomena and connect them.

This approach to innovation and discovery models the process that has been used by great scientists throughout history such a Newton, Galileo, Goethe, Einstein, and more recently Jane Goodall and Stephen Hawking. By participating in science through observational discovery students are able to make active connections that mean stepping outside of their personal likes and dislikes to begin to penetrate the truth of the phenomena itself. It provides them with the opportunity to increase their capacity, the confidence to understand the world they live in, and the ability to exercise synthetic and analytic thinking and know which is which. In short, they learn to become conscious of the world in new and increasingly penetrating ways and, at the same time, become conscious of their own thinking about that world. Such individuals have the potential to make the discoveries yet to come and to be the human beings we will need as stewards of our global future.