Have you ever heard the term “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander?” (It means, basically that what a man can do, a woman can do to or what is good for the man, is also good for the women) I would like to coin a new phrase and dedicate it to Waldorf schooling: What is good for the gosling is good for the goose.
Over the years I have heard so many parents reflect that sentiment – even myself. When I attended the parent-child class with my children in the Chicago suburbs I used to joke that I was going for me and they were just along for the ride. At my Waldorf enrichment school overseas many mothers commented to me that they were surprised how much THEY looked forward to coming to my program and just the other day someone commented that they didn’t know who was getting more out of Waldorf – their kids or them!
This is one aspect of Waldorf education that makes it so appealing and healing at the same time – it encompasses each person as a holistic being. In striving to be the best teachers we learn the skills of inner work and meditation, in creating paintings with our children we can sometimes heal ourselves from our own rushed childhood years. In teaching a main lesson on mythology our own fire for learning is re-lit and in taking nature walks we re-learn appreciation of nature from our own children. In noticing the ways that Waldorf can be good for us as well as our children, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the teaching methods as well as for the efforts we put into our teaching hours. We can also discover new and wonderful things about ourselves and enrich our own lives.
This week, our show on The Waldorf Channel was about a parent making a main lesson book (seewww.thewaldorfchannel.com – click on ART). As a parent we are also learning and a main lesson book can be something that we can use to record that learning, express ourselves, honor what we are learning and create a sacred space for it. As a baby we are cheered with each new skill we learn. Our first laugh is rewarded with praise and photos. Our first steps are rewarded with hugs and squeals of excitement from the adults around us. However, when we learn something new as an adult how often do we get praised for it? Keeping your own main lesson book can be a way for you to honor that.
The reason I call it a “main lesson” book rather than a journal is that I want to emphasize that the scope of the book is to record lessons and processes rather than a mixture of lessons, photos, and experiences. A memory album is a record of the past. A journal is a record of our inner thoughts and experiences. A main lesson book is a record of lessons we are working on now – academic, artistic & spiritual. In my main lesson book this week I have written out two of my favorite quotes and decorated them with a flowery border. The next page is a mandala meditation I did when I needed to work through some frustrations. Mixed in with those kinds of entries is a page I did with the kids on herbal form drawing and another page on a story we created together.
Another area of Waldorf we can learn from is the skill of rhythm in our lives. Modern society teaches us to schedule things by the hour and accomplish as much as we can in one day. We are told that we must be on time to work, on time to school and on time to everything we do. We are given cereal so we can rush through breakfast, frozen meals so we can rush through cooking and cars so we can drive quickly to wherever we are going. In this rush we often lose our sense of rhythm and can become quite overwhelmed and confused.
In Waldorf education, rhythm is a central part of the day. In Steiner’s writing it is hard to find a lecture in which he does not refer to rhythm and cycles – of the day, of the month, of the year, of the life and even of the life of earth & mankind itself.
In his lecture, The Christmas Festival (at: http://tinyurl.com/2baklv), Steiner says, “Man seems to become more and more akin to the great rhythms of Nature. If we think of all that encompasses the life of the soul, of the course of the Sun and everything that is connected with it, we are struck by something that closely concerns us, namely, the rhythm and the marvelous harmony in contrast to the chaos and lack of harmony in the human soul. We all know how rhythmically and with what regularity the Sun appears and disappears. And we can picture what a stupendous upheaval there would be in the universe if for a fraction of a second only the Sun were to be diverted from its course. It is only because of this inviolable harmony in the course of the Sun that our universe can exist at all, and it is upon this harmony that the rhythmic life-process of all beings depends. Think of the annual course of the Sun. — Picture to yourselves that it is the Sun which charms forth the plants in spring time and then think how difficult it is to make the violet or some other plant flower out of due season. Seed-time and harvest, everything, even the very life of animals is dependent upon the rhythmic course of the Sun. And in the being of man himself everything that is not connected with his feelings, his desires and his passions, or with his ordinary thinking, is rhythmic and harmonious.
By realizing this within our children and ourselves we realize how important “little things” like morning circle time, regular meals, regular bedtimes and regular routines are to our holistic well-being. There are many theories today that most psychological issues we deal with as a society are greatly attributable to our lack of rhythm. Depression can often stem from days, months or even years of sleep deprivation (example: http://tinyurl.com/3x6atf) . ADHD can become manifested when a child or adult is exposed to an environment lacking in rhythm (example:http://tinyurl.com/3c47pc) and many illnesses, especially of the digestive system, can be directly related to our habits of eating out of rhythm with the seasons and with our own physical needs. However, although we may spend hours planning the rhythms of our child’s day, we sometimes forget our own. While we definitely reap the benefits of the morning circle time and other rhythmic routines we sometimes forget that our own routines often need a rhythm. In the same way we schedule a different activity for each day (bread making on Monday, painting on Tuesdays, etc…) we can also schedule our own chores in this way.
In my personal situation, I schedule both my household and my business duties in this way. On Mondays I clean the animal cages and change the sheets on the beds. On Tuesdays I scrub the kitchen floor and clean the bathrooms. The list rotates every week. In my business I have a similar list. On Mondays I list things on Ebay, I do home and business related shopping and I ship any weekend orders I have. On Tuesdays I do finances for the home and the business and on Wednesdays I write BLOGS, articles and do my main work on the Waldorf lists. On Thursdays I see consulting clients and on Fridays I have office hours for students from my natural healing classes.In the same way I also have a rhythm to my day, which reflects the rhythm of breathing in and breathing out that the children follow. After spending some time on breathing in (E-mail, gardening, doing dishes) I make sure that I spend some time on breathing out activity (ie: running errands, lessons with the kids, healing work). I also make sure my day contains the three elements of head (writing articles or mental work), heart (chatting with friends, being with my kids, partner and pets, meditating) and hands (knitting, baking, creating something).
The morning is a natural time of awakening when a person can best function in creating projects & writing. Afternoon is naturally the peak of the day when more physical activity is required, such as a walk. Many people who ignore this natural rhythm can experience a “low” or feeling of fatigue daily sometime in the afternoon. The evening (and early morning before the sun comes up) is a natural time for inner work and peaceful activities as a family. On days when I do not follow these rhythms I can feel the difference in my mood, productivity, outlook on life, ability to work and levels of inner peace and balance. If you reflect for a while you will find that there are many ways in which you can incorporate Waldorf into you own life as well as your child’s life. If you have any inspirations that work for you please share them with the group at:firstname.lastname@example.org
Soul of man!
You live in the heart-lung-beat
That guides you through the rhythm of times
To the sensing of your own soul’s being:
Practice spirit contemplation In equanimity of soul,
Where the surging Cosmic creative deeds
Unite Your own I
To the cosmic I;
And you will truly feel
In deeds of the human soul. – Rudolph Steiner