What is essential? It is a question that Rudolf Steiner tells us to ask of ourselves. I have been at this a long time and the word essential always stops me… cold. Of course, like many moms, I love the beauty of a Waldorf home. Simple, clean lines, beautiful wooden toys, beeswax crayons, soft tones. The stage is set for such a warming atmosphere – one where we would all love to curl up and stay. This isn’t Waldorf though – this is materialism. Often when moms can’t have that perfect home they get down, feel depressed or spend every extra dollar on that next wooden toy. Is this essential? I say no. I’ve been at this for many years and yes, we have beautiful play things that we have acquired, we have many of the material desires of the Waldorf heart, but it took me years to obtain them. Looking back, while I was pining for the look of the Waldorf home, I really should have been working on me. The spirit of Waldorf lies not in the toys, not in the trappings, not in beautiful blog posts and afternoons spent sorting through pages of photos. It isn’t in that wooden castle or in the basket of perfectly sorted and folded play silks. It is in YOU. It is in the striving and more importantly the understanding of Rudolf Steiner’s desire for children. In the book “Rhythms of Learning” by Steiner, co-authored by Roberto Trostli, Robert McDermott writes the foreword. He explains:
“The self-education of adults is essential for the Waldorf approach to educating children, because Waldorf does not consist solely of methods, techniques, or structures, but rather the development of human capacities – those of the children but also, and more importantly, those of teachers and parents.”
This passage sends a strong message that Waldorf education is about really understanding Steiner and his work. The beauty of Waldorf isn’t in what the eye can see – it is in what the heart can feel. When you tap into it at first, your senses are overwhelmed by the visual stimulus – the beauty of the Waldorf playroom or the wonder of the children dancing around when their other schooled peers are playing video games or pretending to be older than they really are. When you begin to pull back the layers and really begin to study the method, your heart starts to understand something that your eyes and brain can not comprehend. Waldorf is a feeling, a knowing and above all it is a TRUSTING. Our mainstream culture does not teach parents to trust, it teaches them to question everything and to forget that faith plays a very large role in parenting. Faith and patience are forgotten virtues in this world of “I-want-it-now” so we must work to cultivate it within ourselves. When we develop our will in a healthy way, our children benefit and we can really begin to live the essentials of Waldorf.
How do we develop this? Inner work is such a huge part. If I had to hang my hat on anything, it would be my connection to God, Source, Goddess… what ever that means for you. Steiner believed that children need this strong connection as well and in this world that continually dulls us, we need that connection to make us sharp again.
In “The Renewal of Education” Steiner writes:
“If one observes children who, through proper upbringing, have developed a natural reverence for the adults around them, and if one follows them through their various phase of life, one may discover that their feelings for reverence and devotion in childhood gradually transform during the years leading to old age. As adults, such persons may have a healing effect on others, so that through their mere presence, tone of voice, or perhaps a single glance they spread inner peace to others. Their presence can be a blessing, because as children they have learned to venerate and to pray in the right way. No hands can bless in old age, unless in childhood they have been folded in prayer.”
This IS the heart of Waldorf. That essential connection to the Divine. This connection allows us to then dream big, set goals, move forward – without the connection, it is all just stuff. In this world of materialism, we must work harder to bring to our children a sense of gratitude, love and duty. A sense of Waldorf. It is in the heart, not the eyes.
What is essential? Steiner believed we all need three basic things:
1) our basic material needs met
2) to learn how to get along with our fellow man
3) freedom in education.
These are Waldorf essentials.
The rest is fluff.
Now, now… I am hearing many of your already – “but wait! This stuff is awesome! It is great! Shouldn’t we have a wonderful natural home?” YES! You should always strive for those things that make your heart sing, always! But… know first your god, then yourself, then your children….cultivate the beauty there….then there is beauty every where.
A line from one of my favorite songs “there is beauty all around, when there’s love at home.”
May this method bless your heart and soul, may you bless others with the knowledge of what you have learned and may your children bless their children because of the great work you have begun.