The Wisdom of Waldorf
What do we want for our children as they grow?
This is a conversation we were having at Gentle Days a few weeks ago. It’s not by any means a perfect list, but some of the things we discussed were:
health and happiness;
being able to confidently experience a full range of human emotions without shame;
being free to explore, and be fully themselves, not being restricted by pressure to conform;
and being understanding and accepting of all kinds of people.
I found myself interested in how those different strands of thought, proposed by different individuals, interact with each other and are interdependent. And I’ve been reflecting on how those wishes for our children are met and addressed in Waldorf practice and thinking. More on that later.
A little treasure arrived through my door this morning from Floris: The Wisdom of Waldorf. Timely, as it happens: our group’s committee were just having a conversation last week about how some of the books in our library feel a bit academic, and not what sleep-deprived parents want as bedtime reading!
I have to confess that, rich and inspired as it is, I find Steiner’s work takes a lot of poring over: it’s a century old and translated from German, and dense with unfamiliar language and concepts. So this is an absolute gift to tired, busy but curious parents!
It is published as part of the Waldorf 100 celebration. It’s super-simple in its format: a short quote on each page - 100 in total. You might call it Waldorf bitesize. As Kevin Avison remarks in the preface - “What it does offer is a selection of key points for orientation, or a profusion of thought-buds.”
It’s short enough to read in a single sitting, to get a general drift of Waldorf-ness, a few particularly resonant thoughts floating to the surface with a little fizz. Or dipped into; tasted a one or two at a time, like a jar of tiny and intense sweets, exploring and savouring each flavour, giving it time to sink in.
Certainly for me, there were quotes that demanded questions, and made me want to find out more. Overall, I had a strong impression from the book of the individualism within Waldorf education, but less strongly reflected is the importance within the Steiner movement of social justice and community, which in my mind is a greater issue for our current times.
There were a number of quotes that I thought, in particular, spoke to our earlier discussion. There’s more detailed thinking behind them, of course. I’ll elaborate on that over the coming months at Gentle Days. But for now a few pertinent nuggets from this book for you:
#54. “A general liveliness and cheerfulness prevails, combined with golden humour. This is the atmosphere in which Waldorf children grow up.” Berta Molt
#23. “Human beings must be capable of feeling, not weakly, but strongly: beautiful - ugly, good - evil, true - false, so that they live in them with their whole being.” Rudolf Steiner
#73. “What’s so wonderful about Waldorf education is you’re exposed to all these different ideas, but you’re never given one view of it. You’re encouraged to think as an individual.” Julianna Margulies
#35. “When I went to the Steiner school for the first time, I was struck mainly by older children: I had never before walked into a school where teenagers were so welcoming and self-possessed and kind.” Tilda Swinton
#38. “To be able to see the world as someone else sees it, to treat your neighbour as yourself, requires a very special quality: imagination.” Andrew Hill
You can borrow The Wisdom of Waldorf from our wee library, or get it for yourself from
- it’s £8.99.