Waldorf 101: Notes from Parent Night

Here are some impressions and notes from a parent night at  Cora’s preschool this month. Yes, I’m the dork that takes notes at parent night. What can I say, I’ve been studying Waldorf early years stuff so intensely on my own, and finding such wisdom and inspiration in it, and also so much to be baffled by, that it is a huge relief to just sit back and have someone (our dear, wise teacher) who has been doing it for years give the straight dope. It went something like this:

In early childhood, two pairs of things are most important for educating the child.

The first pair is Rhythm and Repetition. These are the primary tools for teaching children under seven. I love to think of rhythm as pattern. The repeated rituals and acts of daily life that connect us to ourselves and the larger world.

The second pair is Imagination and Imitation. Healthy play springs from what children have seen and experienced, the impressions they take in from the world around them.

Our work as parents is to be worthy of this imitation, to be the best role models we can be. This is where parenting becomes a spiritual act, as we tend to our inner self in order to embody beauty, goodness, and truth. We can do this in part through our own self-education, by asking ourselves what we are doing to grow alongside our child. I can honestly say that I got hooked on Waldorf the moment I realized the extent to which it hinged on my own inner work.

The gestures of gratitude and thankfulness are the well from which all of this—rhythm, imitation, imagination—springs. The virtue of gratitude is instilled in the first 7 years of life, and lays the foundation for the later development of love and duty. Our expressions of gratitude in daily life at home are deeply nurturing to our young children. And ourselves.

That’s the gist of it, folks. Short, sweet, simple. And kind of deep, if you think about it.

I think whether you are into Waldorf or not, there’s a good chance this will seem like common sense. It’s kind of natural and intuitive for us to strive towards this in our mothering, isn’t it?