Saturday, November 5, 2011

on my shelf: trust and wonder

This is one of a series on books that I've found indispensable in growing, birthing, and parenting a child.  If you're interested in what else is on my shelf, check out these posts.

I have given a lot of attention to the Montessori method in my book series thus far, but I don't want to give short shrift to my other, softer, more pastel educational philosophy:  Waldorf.  Vicki Jo and I did a six-week class at our local Waldorf School, and it was lovely.  I really think that you can read and research all you want, but nothing substitutes for actually being in an environment and feeling it out for yourself.  Also, it helps you understand that for both Montessori and Waldorf, broad sweeping statements are largely useless.  The individual school/community/environment matters most.  There was a slim little volume that went along with the registration fee for the course, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it:

Trust and Wonder:  A Waldorf Approach to Caring for Infants and Toddlers is written by Eldbjorg Gjessing Paulsen (what a name!).  She has been active in both Scandinavian and South African Waldorf schools, so she has seen a variety of contexts.  The book is meant for both parents and Waldorf educators.  There are some sections that are more practical application-oriented for creating Kindergartens (which in Waldorf parlance can go anywhere from two or three years until six or seven), and these aren't really germane to the home-parenting audience. 

Paulsen draws on her personal experience and Steiner's philosophy to describe an ideal environment for very young children:  free of extraneous noise (of all kinds - visual, auditory, touch), well-ordered and attentive to the cyclical rhythms that create structure in our lives.  "Rhythm and routine" was a very important chapter for me.  It helped me see the difference between having my child on a schedule (which I'm convinced will never happen, even if I tried!), and following a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly rhythm in our activities.  Even within the parts of the day, allowing times for the day to inhale and exhale became a part of my thought.  This means that you allow for times when your child is intensely focused on an activity, and then you make sure they have time to recover and integrate their sense experiences.

Paulsen covers the all-important Waldorf concept of free play with nondescript, natural toys, and gives a brief but comprehensive background portrait of the entire philosophy (which has branches related to much more than childhood education!).  She outlines what a day in the Kindergarten might look like.  She discusses the inclusion of the child in the daily activities of the home (baking, kneading, dusting, sweeping - this is one area where Montessori and Waldorf largely agree:  the child doesn't need structured stimulating activities.  The home and the ordinary activities therein provide all the stimulation she needs).

This is a must-read if you are interested in incoporating Waldorf principles into your daily home environment.  I know it has given me much to think and dream about already, and my child is only seven months old!

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