By: Spring Garden Waldorf Parent, Abby Boyce
Becoming a parent directs you into a world of decisions and doubts. You wish the best for your child and desire the path that will create a happy, healthy, and successful individual. The onslaught of decisions come swaddled up next to your new infant: breastfeed or formula, cloth diapers or disposable, co-sleeping or cry it out, stay at home or continue in your career. The decisions then mature into discipline measures, childcare, methods of potty training, and preschools. Unfortunately, the decisions are often shackled with the heavy load of self-doubt. It is natural to want to do the “right” thing for your child(ren), but the parent certificate of affirmation never seems to arrive to put your mind at ease. Fortunately, we have received some of such coveted affirmation by making the decision to have our children attend Spring Garden Waldorf School.
Spring Garden Waldorf School is an accredited Waldorf school in Copley, OH. The Waldorf education movement was started in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919 by Austrian scientist and philosopher, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Rudolf Steiner aimed to create an independent educational experience where children emerged as creative, responsible, and free-thinking individuals. His methodology has been implemented in over 600 Waldorf schools in 32 countries, and we are blessed to have one of these schools in Northeast Ohio.
The greatest gift of Waldorf education is the preservation of childhood. The curriculum educates the whole child, addressing the intellectual, social, and creative development of the student. The curriculum is rich and engaging, mindfully presenting material in diverse and fun ways, so that the child is absorbing knowledge without even realizing it. For example, math is taught with stories, creating geometric shapes while learning multiplication tables, or throwing bean bags. Art, Music, Physical Education, Foreign Language, and Handwork are essential arms complementing the traditional Language Arts and Mathematics. They are not viewed as unnecessary electives, but rather crucial to fueling our children’s humanity, as well as their intellect. The children are also taken outdoors three times daily, and encouraged to run, jump, and play. They are given the opportunity to experiment with and manipulate natural materials, such as sticks, stumps, and mud. They are immersed in the changing of the seasons through their experience outdoors, as well as festivals that mark the passage of time. In this way, the Waldorf philosophy emphasizes respect and reverence for human existence and the natural world.
Many aspects of Waldorf philosophy are in stark contrast to our traditional educational system today. Academics are not started in Waldorf education until age 7 or first grade. The education is devoid of monotony, pressure, all-consuming testing, and overwhelming homework. Computers are absent from the classrooms. In fact, watching television, computer, or gaming screens of any kind is discouraged, as it is thought to actually change the brain’s development in young children. Children who watch hours of TV need entertained more and are less able to empathize, to recognize emotions in others. Furthermore, frequent viewers are victimized by the relentless advertisements pervading children’s programming, whose sole purpose is to create “cradle to grave” consumers out of our children. The main lesson teacher actually moves through first to eighth grade with the class. It allows the teacher to really know each student and create a unique bond with each student and family, as well as providing continuity from year to year. The teacher is unable to evade problem behaviors or situations, but must create solutions for each student within the realm of his/her classroom. Attempts are made to address many personalities and learning styles, so that each child can feel some sense of success and confidence.
My children view the world around them with unadulterated wonder and curiosity. They are engaged, and they love school. In fact, last summer, when they were on vacation for a short two weeks, they were asking me “When do we get to go back to school?” These moments, in addition to many others, solidify for me that we made the “right” decision. I realize we have many decisions and situations to maneuver ahead of us, involving driving, the internet, curfews, and colleges. However, Waldorf education is helping us parent our children into happy, healthy, and successful individuals. If it sounds like the right decision for your child(ren) and family, please learn more at http://sgws.org.
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Mr. Grimes nominated, and the College of Wooster accepted:
- Sarah Caley
- Jules Christensen
- Eli Hansen
- Grace Hecky
Students will be part of a music festival held at McGaw Chapel at the College of Wooster on November 20-21. Admission is free. Doors open at 6:30.
Congratulations to our young vocalists!
Ever known a math whiz who can’t jump rope? Or maybe you know the world’s most competent linguist who is tone deaf or cannot balance his checkbook. Our daily experiences demonstrate that “smart” is not defined by a single measure. Howard Gardner, American developmental psychologist and Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, developed the theory of multiple intelligences that has revolutionized the way educators think about learning.
The idea of one “general” intelligence ruling someone’s abilities has become an outdated notion since Gardner published his theory of multiple intelligences in 1983. Waldorf educators, following the impulses of Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolph Steiner, have been focusing on the education of the whole child since the late 19th century.
We at Spring Garden Waldorf School have created a detailed blog series discussing how each of Gardner’s eight intelligences is fostered in the Waldorf classroom. Read more on how each of these intelligences are developed at Spring Garden Waldorf by clicking the links below:
Last Wednesday, Spring Garden hosted speaker Cate Hunko, M.Ed., as she discussed Waldorf education and her experiences teaching math to 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students.
Ms. Hunko has been a Waldorf Teacher for over 15 years, is the mother of two daughters, and was previously an artist working as an automotive designer — all experiences that have helped fuel her passion to understand how young teens of both genders approach and process mathematics.
During the algebra block in Grade 7, Ms. Hunko noticed a divergence in her class between the boys and girls. This difference had never presented itself in the younger grades, where all children (for the most part) approached and learned math similarly. She wanted to know why she was seeing this happen in the older grades and began researching the topic.
Her studies led her to information on a developmental split that occurs when children enter puberty. Their physical maturity, it seems, alters their brains and their approach to mathematics.
While she acknowledges that every child is different, she has seen a few trends in differences between boys and girls. In her experience, boys in middle school seem comfortable with numbers and willing to move through the process of math without much questioning. As they gain new skills, they can become competitive about their accomplishments.
Girls have no trouble memorizing formulas, but they often seem more separated from the black-and-white process of mathematics; instead, they display a deep drive to understand the how and why of the calculations. The competition the males bring to the table is not always engaging or encouraging to their female peers. As girls bring memorized formulas to problems, they often hesitate in the application of those formulas, standing outside of the process and analyzing it instead of just jumping in.
According to Hunko, this difference between male and female students often requires teachers to give young women more time at math, both in the short term and long term, while understanding that their careful approach does not indicate a lack of skill.
She says, “They want to be intuitive about it, but sometimes it takes time for them to set that aside in order to accomplish the task.”
What does giving students “time” mean?
and ‘not talented,’ especially considering that more young women may fall into this lesser category during this important time in their physical development.”
Hunko feels adolescent girls are often left behind in STEM learning because adolescent boys, who often have fewer physical challenges and different brain development than girls during puberty, seem quicker at math – a quickness that doesn’t necessarily correspond with innate talent. However, it is a relatively short time before the young women can catch up with their male peers, and a slower and more dedicated teaching style that avoids labeling can ensure female students’ success.
What does effective STEM teaching look like for young women?
Hunko recommends engaging young women in both the history and practicality of math, but also stresses that they cannot stay in that place in their mind as they put what they know into practice. “They must transfer that enthusiasm to the formulas they’ve committed to memory and then they must focus, stay grounded, and commit to the formula.”
Hunko feels that even more than the teaching itself, the home life and support of parents makes the biggest difference in women entering STEM careers. “Many of the women currently in STEM had parents in STEM. Parent support in the sciences is key. First off, don’t give up on your girls, even if they struggle with math during junior high. That doesn’t mean they’re ‘not math people.’ Don’t use labels like that, and don’t discuss your own struggles so they have a chance to be true to themselves. Don’t say you ‘also hated’ math.’ Struggle and hate are not always the same.”
Hunko believes it is women’s different approach to math – careful, focused on the big picture, and less competitive – that makes female career roles in STEM essential.
“When it comes to teaching, the pendulum is swinging to a far side in STEM right now. We need to bring it back to the center. Women have a lot to offer the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math industry. They bring a different and essential perspective.”