At the heart of the Waldorf approach is the understanding that young children arrive in this world with the ability to recognise the mysterious and sublime.
A preschool teacher protects this unconscious awareness in the young child by creating an environment where a child can sense that the world is good. Through activities, routines, and stories, children encounter the inherent goodness in human existence the wonder and bounty of nature, the comfort of loving human care. These elements reassure, welcome, and invite a young child to embrace all of life.
In the grade school, children's spiritual awareness diminishes slowly over time as their sense of self, their independent individual awareness, becomes more pronounced and distances them from the immediacy and oneness of early childhood. It is at this time that Waldorf teachers provide children with the experience that the world is beautiful. Through arts-infused instruction, through a program rich in poetry, painting, and music, and through science study that explores the splendor of our natural world, the children's feelings are nourished by this aesthetic quality.
In the high school, a young person's growing capacity for critical thinking longs to know that the world is true as they grapple to understand modern life by recognising patterns and underlying causes of human behaviour and in world events.
These experience enable Waldorf graduates to engage life:
- that the world is good for the preschool child
- that the world is beautiful for the grade school child
- that the world is true for the high school student
It was Rudolf Steiner's contention that when children are educated in a sound three-dimensional manner, they are able to sustain their deeper nature.
An education works either to close or to open the channel between a child and his or her genius. Genius was once an intuitively perceived reality: the protective and guiding spirit that gave each person prepared to receive it the wisdom, or love, or power for good deeds on Earth. A person's genius was a higher self that could be called upon to infuse life with values transcending personal limits.
How confusing and sad that in schools today, the progressive as well as the traditional, this term has come to mean something entirely different, some special privilege no longer available to all. From Waldorf perspective all children have genius. This premise raises an important question: How do we nurture and protect the child's genius?
Unlike other schools that teach in a conventional manner and then add a class or two to address children's deeper needs, Waldorf Schools meet the inner needs of their students through the entire educational program. It begins with the reverence and respect that the teachers feel for each child. It occurs continually throughout the school year at timely moments when students stop to say a verse or a grace and acknowledge the existence of something greater.
But more extensively, it takes place through a unique approach to teaching that engages children actively, emotionally, and thoughtfully. This truly holistic and balanced approach nurtures the deepest in each child by encouraging warm-hearted involvement, an enthusiasm for learning, and an abiding interest in the world.