Since I am spending four whole weeks working on Eurythmy in a Waldorf School, I figure it may be a good thing to talk about how Steiner schools work. Note: Waldork is not an actual term. It’s what I and others I know in the community will occasionally call ourselves.
I would like to put a disclaimer on this that I am only speaking to my experience. Waldorf school’s have a bad rep in some circles for various reasons, but I have really enjoyed my time here and imagine that I will continue to be a part of this community if only in continuing to be friends with the people I have meet at school and events like What Moves You.
Waldorf schools are based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, a philosopher/educator/farmer/architect/everyman who created a theory of education and growth (among many other things) for young people in the early 1900’s. The first Waldorf school was in Stuttgart, Germany. The system grew and multiplied all over Germany and eventually spread to other parts of the world. There are now just over a thousand Waldorf schools in 60+ countries.
At the lower school level (K-8) there is a strong focus on imagination and learning through artistic experiences. My friends who are “lifers” know how to knit, crosstich, spin their own yarn, sew, and many, many other hand based craft things that are amazing to me. Classes in early years at Waldorf schools include lots of stories and singing as well as Eurythmy. They study German and Spanish (at least at the one I went to) and do math with crayons until something like fifth grade.
In the upper school classes grow to be more accademic, while there is still equal merit given to artistic capabilities. Students are called upon to ask their own questions, not ones asked for them by a book. Main Lessons (classes on History of Music or Astronomy, among others) are focused on for about a month of intense consentration along with other subjects and art classes. While I only attended Waldorf school for a year and a half I still was able to do jewelry making, weaving, bookbinding, and sewing (though I already knew how to do that).
One of the things that drew me to the Waldorf community was the idea that everyone can do everything. This leads to very high expectations across the board. Those who typically do well in math are encouraged to also play an instrument and work in the arts. Students gifted in the humanites also do physics expirements. Everyone is expected to meet the same marks, with the knowledge that each individual will excel at something different. There is also a great balance of how everyone must be a part of the group, but each individual must also find ways to grow in their own lives.
Now, I’m not going around saying that this is the perfect system and everyone should start going to Waldorf schools. It’s not for everyone. There are problems that arise within the system. Contradictions are contradictory, and arguments are argumentative, but every system has it’s problems, and there are always critics. I’ve found a place that I can be a part of a community here, and I am so glad to be a part of it.
In a similar vein, but somewhat removed is Eurythmy. Waldorf kids take classes in Eurythmy, and if they’re interested they can go on to do Eurythmy training. The thing that Eurythmy training is closest to (at least from my understanding) is going to college for dance, but that doesn’t feel like an accurate description. As mentioned in a previous post, Eurythmy is hard to explain without some threshold of previous knowledge for it, but for today I’ll say that, when done intensely (we rehearse three to six hours Monday to Saturday), it is hard work. Everyone that is a part of the program is consistently tired or sore in some way. We now have a week and a half left to go and I’m anticipating some of the most exhausting days ahead. I can’t wait.