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Growing Up Waldorf

Growing Up Waldorf
Molly Webster

Do you ever wonder what it's like to be a student in a Waldorf school? How important is it to approach education the way High Mowing School does, and what difference does it really make? Ultimately all students graduate with an understanding of math, science, language, etc., but we, as parents, dedicate significant tuition and time to pursue this way of life... so does it really make a difference? Well, I want to take you on a little journey with me, and share a peek into your child's mind as a result of the way Waldorf schools approach childhood and learning, and if you are biting your nails and really need a spoiler, the answer is YES. Yes, it makes all the difference in the world.

When I was a child, I had the privilege of attending a Waldorf school in New York state, where I was dreamily shepherded through wooded wonderlands and magical playgrounds; where I painted and created beauty with my hands; and where I never even realized how much I was learning in my days of play until I took a placement test for a public school. After Waldorf, I proceeded to skip three years of school and graduate with my master's in business administration, but back then I was under the illusion that we were "just" on forest walks, investigating mushrooms, or planting seeds to watch a new life blossom. Little did I know how much I was learning about core subjects like science, mathematics, and language.

As an adult, I can now see both worlds. I walk onto the High Mowing campus and see little stumps in a circle, or a weather-beaten playset with a simple sanded area for digging. It may even look a bit worn down to the naked eye; but with a simple shift of focus, I see a table and chairs where friends both real and imaginary can share a cup of tea. I see a grand castle, or farm, or doctor's office, or even an expansive runway for spaceships and planes alike, rising from the forest floor. I see magical little fairy houses to be built in the roots of a tree, or a great ship to be sailed off into the stormy seas of a pine with low hanging branches. As a result, I walk into a store of increasingly expensive children's toys, and in my head I hear the unceasing train of “I can make that, they can make that, we don't need that," and it becomes a measure of time vs. money. Which toys do I make for my children as things they will cherish being personally crafted (or where the most expensive component is time, like a Waldorf doll), and which toys may be inexpensive and less important as a homemade treasure in our home (wooden play clips, cars, and train sets, etc.).

Outside the campus, I see a world of opportunity. More than ever, there is so much negative energy in the world that can be draining to our dream world, but I still see possibility. I still feel that if I wanted to become a scientist or a circus performer, it is well within my reach. I get to play sports with my children and know that I'm no professional athlete, but all the movement of my Waldorf education gave me the transferable balance, agility, and speed to keep up and keep them humble as they grow. I get to wake up and tune in to the birds singing and appreciate things as "small" as running water and electricity, a loved one's embrace, or the smell of spring in the air, and it's not an unconscious thought, as it is for so many in this day and age. Each sense is conscious, because I am a Waldorf child and this world is a gift that I get to live in every day.

This may seem far off to some, but if you were raised differently and are wishing you could share in this view of the world, I have good news. It's never too late to train your imagination and mental imagery to be rich with life. Our children offer us a door into this world if we can be attentive to the invitations they offer, but there are also many texts that can help illuminate the way as an adult. Don't be shy to lean on your child's teacher to offer some resources in this area. They are incredible resources for our community, and I'm sure they would be delighted to support your learning and growth. You may just find that opening this door for yourself leaves you with a little extra joy in parenting too!

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