Once upon a time, a child stepped into a Waldorf Early Childhood classroom. A soft, joyful voice of welcome folded him into his morning activity, which had been carefully chosen to nourish, nurture, and respect his specific developmental stage. He is surrounded by natural playthings, intended to engage and honor the imagination which is so present and active within him. The room is in harmony with his senses, offering protection and respect for the nature of childhood itself. As his hands hold blocks of wood, or raw wool, or naturally-dyed silks, he is imbued with a sense of truth; the weight and texture of each piece is different, offering valuable information to his nervous system. There are numerous opportunities to engage meaningful work; whether it be child-sized brooms, helping to prepare a snack, cloth dolls tucked into their cradles, tidying away, or the chance to bring a tearful child a glass of water, his strong and natural desire to help is amply nourished. As he grows, these joyful opportunities, offered in freedom and without inappropriate expectation, become his willingness to engage the tasks of his life.
Play is the young child’s ‘work,’ and it is what makes it possible for him to digest and understand his experiences. Children are not tiny adults. Rather, they progress through specific stages of development, each with its own unique needs. The Waldorf Early Childhood curriculum strives to understand, protect and meet these needs in every aspect of its creation by understanding these developmental stages and meeting them with reverence and respect.
From birth until the loosening of the baby teeth, children learn through imitation, a deep and irresistible urge to take in and become whatever they perceive. Because the young child is drinking in so deeply what comes to meet him, media is discouraged, and the inner attitudes of the adults in the child’s presence are of utmost importance. Ideally, through this imitation, the young child will gain a firm inner knowing that the world is good.
In the early childhood classroom, the teacher’s assistant will be joyfully present with the chores and preparations of the morning, so that the teacher may stay fully present with the children at play. She serves as a guide, maintaining harmony through a deep awareness of each child’s needs. Helping the children to engage play successfully not only dissipates the need for conventional discipline, but allows the children to develop a healthy social skill set that will carry throughout their lifetime.
The rest of the early childhood morning breathes in and out of activities such as storytime, where stories are told, not read. This inspires the children’s imaginations to form pictures; a capacity that will help tremendously with reading comprehension, language development, focus and lengthening attention spans. Outside play has a myriad of benefits, but especially noticeable as the children develop is that students who are comfortable, strong, and balanced in their bodies have their attention free for active, creative thinking. Rooted in healthy experiences of early childhood, these young children become active and enthusiastic participants not only in their studies throughout the grades, but purposeful, engaged, willing adults who create the world they believe in.
SEE OUR SCHOOL IN ACTION
We welcome your visit to the Waldorf School of Bend! Experience our morning rhythm, and visit a main lesson in each grade. After your classroom visits, we are here to discuss Waldorf philosophy, answer questions, and explore whether the Waldorf approach is a fit for your child and your family. Because we visit classes in session, adults only please. There are other opportunities for your children to visit at our Open Houses.
Beginning in autumn, scheduled tours are held on each Tuesday morning beginning at 9:30. Tours alternate between our grades and early childhood programs. Call Sarah Rucker, Admissions Director, at 541-330-8841 to reserve your spot.
The Waldorf School of Bend cultivates academic excellence through our experiential curriculum rich in the arts, sciences and practical works. We honor each child’s unique spirit by building capacities of will, free thought, compassion and social responsibility. In this way, children develop with purpose to act as powerful world citizens.