The learning before the learning
Reflections of the Waldorf Kindergarten
With both of my children now in the grades at WSA, I often reflect on the kindergarten experience that both were so fortunate to receive.
In Waldorf kindergartens, there’s a conscious effort to preserve childhood for as long as possible, but preserving childhood doesn’t conflate with delayed learning. On the contrary, the Waldorf kindergartner experience reaches beyond the mainstream study of letters and numbers, and instead focuses on a far more fundamental and formative curriculum: the precursors of learning itself.
The children learn to be together, to work together. Setting the table, sweeping the floor, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, they’re developing cooperation, appreciation, and responsibility – the values necessary for the life each child is growing into.
Handwork projects require dexterity of hand, the learning of new skills, and – increasingly rare in our world of instant gratification – the notion of “one step at a time.” Allowing children to move through each step at their own pace culminates in an accomplishment that is entirely their own. Stories, songs and rhymes encourage an awakening of children’s senses and memory to come to life as well as an appreciation for learning that will continue to flourish.
Not too long ago I was satisfied with the notion that Waldorf kindergartens offered a haven to prolong childhood, encouraged children to live into their imaginations, and crafted the space and time for them to explore the world. I didn’t query much further.
In looking back, I clearly see a rich multi-layered curriculum, and am deeply respectful of the meaningful activities that happily engaged the children. The foundational aspects of working together, completing a project, taking care of a shared space – along with language acquisition, number sense, and body geography – were always there at the heart of each rhythmic yet magical day.
Now that my children have transitioned to the grades, they’ve embarked on a more intellectual journey. I may pine for the smells wafting from the kindergarten on bread day. I might miss the beeswax bunnies they once molded with little fingers. But as I watch my children embrace their learning with eagerness and delight, I am filled with gratitude knowing that they were soundly prepared for this next stage of learning.