3 Top Tips from Waldorf Education
After a few years of being an initiate in the mystery school tradition, then working with Mini Me Yoga International and Dr. Kate Bartram-Brown I began learning more about Dr. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Education, and went to graduate school for my Masters degree in Waldorf Education. I love finding the common threads amongst various practices and schools of thought, maybe it’s my inner geek coming out but weaving things together to compare and contrast can be a fun way to learn! While there is so much I could share about Waldorf Education, I wanted to start with these three tips because I saw similarities in the Waldorf philosophy and Mini Me Yoga application. Below are snippets from my Masters thesis titled: Learning as Life: Empowered Leadership for the Guardians of Childhood.
1. The Power of Words
This is a powerful one, the use of our speech in connection with our imagination and gesture to speak into the world what we want to create; to use our voice as a tool for creating a specific vibration or frequency. While this is something we’re trained in in Mini Me Yoga, thanks to Dr. Masaru Emoto’s work, we also find evidence of this in many ancient traditions and schools of thought. In the Kybalion (2019) is the Hermetic Principle of Vibration: “everything is in motion; everything vibrates; nothing is at rest” (p. 12 ). Summarizing from Subtle Yoga: Building Resilience, Kaoveri (2008) states that in yoga, the throat chakra is the bridge between the lower centers and higher centers of our beings. It is a creational center, for those who have control over their faculties to speak and make it so. Kaoveri continues:
…it also is the center through which we actualize our lives, our purpose for being here on this planet at this time in history. It is the bridge through which the body/mind delivers the self to the doorway of its highest potential.
Rudolf Steiner brought particular attention to speech formation for children, as well as for teachers. In Speech and Drama, Steiner (1924/2007) states that “[speech formation] is to be conscious of the very way one speaks, such as the way of letting out the sounds, the use of gesture, the way one relates to what one talks about” (p. 30). In a lecture originally given in 1919, Steiner shares in The Genius of Language, as quoted here from Okumoto’s (2019) Enlivening thinking and speech in search of spiritual identity:
The goal of speech formation is to have an access to this original power of language. Such ultimate goal of speech formation is not explicit in Waldorf education; however, the whole practice of speech formation is to prepare students to have a body, heart and head that are holistically developed, so that they can be conscious of and open to this subtlety of language.
Language is a man-made construct, as we see so often how our energy communicates much better than words. As if meaning can be lost when translating from the energy into verbal communication. Steiner says children from birth to age seven are entire sense organs, taking in the world around them – which makes them far more attuned to energy than language. Children pickup on our energy far more than our words- so being consistent with our energy, words, and actions is crucial when working with children. As adults, this makes clearing our mind through means of meditation, yoga, energy healing, and daily spiritual practices that much more important so that our communication is clear and we are in integrity with ourselves and the children we’re with.
2. The Strength of Rhythm
Rhythm is reflected in the macrocosm through a variety of ways, such as the 28 year cycle of Saturn, the cycles of the moon each month, to the ebbs and flows of the ocean tides. We are also connected to our environment in a multitude of ways; we mark the passage of time and completion of life chapters. From sunrise to sunset, the week, month, year, the four seasons, holidays, celebrations, and birthdays. In the microcosm of our physical vessel, our body, it embraces rhythm through multiple functions: from eating and drinking to eliminating, breathing in to breathing out, pumping oxygen to the blood and bringing it back to the heart, in order to strengthen our muscles we expand and contract them, and we have waking hours and time to sleep. Honoring the cycles of nature and of time is deep within our DNA, and in human history. As Jon McAlice states in Learning through Rhythm:
In the course of the last decades, the significance of rhythm for the existence of the human being has been re-discovered. We can see that all life is rhythm and that the interplay of vital processes is a harmony of rhythms.
When looking at ancient teachings on rhythm, The Three Initiates wrote about the Principle of Rhythm in the Kybalion, as it is one of the seven Hermetic Principles: “Everything flows out and in, everything has its tides, all things rise and fall...” (The Kybalion, 2019, p. 15), which nods to another Hermetic Principle, The Principle of Correspondence “As above, so below; as below, so above” (The Kybalion, 2019, p. 11) Steiner takes these principles a step further, acknowledging how the microcosm and macrocosm reflect within one another in personal development with the assistance of rhythm, saying: “One can ascend to a higher development only by bringing rhythm and repetition into one’s life. Rhythm holds sway in all nature” (as cited in Scheinfeld, 2018, para. 3).
As Steiner established Waldorf education, it mirrors the rhythms of life into the day to day classroom routine, particularly through in breath and out breath activities as described by Helle Heckmann (2011) in Waldorf News:
In the inhaling or breathing-in phase the child directs his attention to an activity that basically relates him to himself. For little children each breathing-in period (drawing, watercolor painting, knitting, eating…) is very short because little children can only concentrate for short periods of time. In the exhaling or breathing-out period, the child relates mainly to the surrounding world (free play, free running etc.). For each breathing-in period the child needs a breathing-out period and so a pattern is established. This rhythm is something that you can bring into your home. You have to try to find out when the children breathes-in and when they breathe-out.
When we look at the programs Dr. Kate Bartram-Brown created in Mini Me Yoga, each one abides by this in-breath and out-breath rhythm which adds to the effectiveness for establishing rhythm and supporting children and adults in resetting themselves towards a calm and regulated state of being. This also shares why having a yoga, meditation, and mindfulness program for children is key – as children don’t have a large capacity for in-breath type activities like how adults practice yoga and meditation, and that’s developmentally appropriate.
Steiner often says, “rhythm replaces strength,” (O’Connell, 2020) and when we begin to train ourselves and have the discipline to establish these pillars of in-breath and out-breath in everyday life, it replaces the need to have as much effort in our planning and doing. It allows us to embrace and enjoy other rhythms as well: the rhythms of the seasons, the rhythms of the skies, and our own rhythms in our bodies. When we think about creating the daily rhythm, we need to also keep in mind the view for the week. Then it becomes a conversation with yourself of what you would like to accomplish each day. Thus, rhythm replaces strength. Your capacity to overcome inertia in your life increases, as you have a vehicle to build momentum for what you want in your life. As the planets have their own forces that keep them in motion, we too can enact such forces within our own lives.
3. The Privilege of Being a Grown-Up
Waldorf innately affirms adulthood, and the “grown up” nature of parents. While it is easy to see how Waldorf education is child-centered, it also honors the achievements of adulthood. For example, a couple of noticeable practices I immediately took note of in Waldorf schools was that the teacher would not bend down to greet the children, nor would they kneel down to work with them at their desk. I have a memory of one of my professors pointing out that this is to subtly yet significantly reinforce that the teacher is the “grown up” and grown ups are who children literally and metaphorically “look up to.” Oftentimes, especially nowadays with social media and television, peer-like relations between child and parent are far more common through pop culture references. The common trope of the “dumb parent” who lacks maturity, craves instant gratification, and needs the child to save the day has recently emerged in our culture. The concept of authority has become less acceptable over the years, and because of it we not only have parents who are uncomfortable with holding authority, but children who are uncomfortable with healthy authority in the family, in the classroom, and in the community (Kim John Payne, Alliance for Public Waldorf Education, January 2019).
Children like and need structure, such as establishing rhythm, in their external environment and also in their relationships. A key here in establishing a hierarchy between parent and child is to keep adulthood out of childhood, meaning: have adult conversations, especially ones pertaining to children, away from the children. Children have no business in adult scenarios, as a child’s level of being “awake” (conscious, or aware) should not match our own. It is our task as adults to protect childhood, not pierce it with adulthood before they are developmentally ready. This protection further builds the trust from child to adult, as well as confidence within the adult. Within the book You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, author Rahima Baldwin Dancy (2012), a midwife and Waldorf teacher, states:
It is appropriate that we question what we are doing and that we discuss our attitudes and intentions with one another—but not in front of the children! It is beneficial for children to think we know what we are doing, even if we aren’t so sure ourselves. They don’t need to be involved in the intricacies of adult considerations and thought processes. Rather, they need to feel that mother and father are united in what they are doing.
Baldwin Dancy affirms the parents’ own connection to their parental intuition and their ability to stay fast in the face of ever-changing parenting fads:
We need to listen to our own inner knowing. And we need to acquire knowledge about how the young child develops so we can make informed choices with confidence and receptivity. Most new parents have no knowledge of child development, and we haven’t even been around children since we grew up. Many of us have forgotten what children are like and find ourselves on the path of parenting without any knowledge of the landscape.
A parent’s level of empowerment coupled with their understanding of their child’s holistic development can place the parent as an advocate for their child, especially up against the trends, marketing schemes, and legislative campaigns that collectively chip away at childhood:
We need to realize that there are many cultural forces working against seeing the child in such a way [as a whole child, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual] and responding with what really supports our children’s development. First of all, we need to recognize that childhood is being squeezed out as a valuable phase in itself as legislators, academicians, and marketers bring academics and clothing styles to ever-younger recipients. Our society tends to regard children as little adults, so we are encouraged to reason with them as if they were grown-ups and to teach them with techniques appropriate for much older children. Despite years of studies by Piaget and neurophysiologists, educational politicians determine curricula and textbooks seemingly without any regard to the way children actually think and learn, pushing curricula earlier and earlier and teaching to the test. (Baldwin Dancy, 2012, pp. 5-6)
Mini Me Yoga and Waldorf Education encourage the expertise of adults while learning and having fun alongside children. Children are their own beings that require nurturing into this world, and it is our mission as adults to protect that process. Just as the mother carries the gestating babe within her, we can “hold” a child throughout their life – balancing experiences with guarding them, being brave in listening to our own intuition and saying no as needed. As part of my masters thesis, I conducted long form interviews with parents and teachers from various backgrounds and something that consistently showed up was the impact of the parents’ and teachers’ dedication to their spiritual and personal development as their children grew; further affirming and adjusting their intuition and strength of will to apply what is necessary for their children to be a supported force in the world.
For more on this topic, visit Katlyn’s website: www.katlyneboucher.com for blogs, download her Master’s thesis, join the newsletter, or contact her directly for parenting and homeschool transition support.
About Katlyn Boucher
After 2 years of working alongside Dr. Kate Bartram-Brown, from the United States, in 2017 Katlyn Boucher helped build up the team to carry on Mini Me Yoga towards more expansive growth, which included the dynamic team of: Ashley Costello, Vikki Readings, and Fiona Roberts. She trained and collaborated with this group of women for the sustainable growth of Mini Me Yoga in between an extensive class schedule, while beginning her accelerated Masters degree in Waldorf Education at Antioch University New England. By 2020, Katlyn began bridging Waldorf education methods to parents alongside her healing practice full time, leaving the Mini Me Yoga family with gratitude. This thesis and her ongoing work as a spiritual guide, healer, educator, and homeschool transition coach are efforts to provide guidance to parents and teachers, as is her commitment to the betterment of holistic education, parenting, and childhood by adults beginning with the self. This February Katlyn and her husband will be welcoming their first child, earthside.