by wildflower
for MotherSpirit

Rudolph Steiner was the founder of Waldorf schools in the late 19th century in Austria. These schools
believe in helping the young child’s spirit incarnate into the body slowly and gently. They try to foster the
growth of the whole child, not just the child’s mind.

According to Steiner, the human child goes through three stages of development, called the cycles of
unfoldment, the first being from birth to about the age of age seven or until the adult teeth start to come
in. This first stage focuses on the will of the child. This is the stage where the energies are focused in the
body. At this time it is important to help channel the child’s energy positively through their bodies into the
activities they are involved in. Young children learn primarily through imitation so it is nice to have
imitative activities they can do with you around the house. Cleaning, preparing food, doing laundry and
washing dishes can be surprisingly fun for them if they are done with a parent. The second cycle of
unfoldment is from around age seven until the onset of puberty. This stage focuses on the feeling aspect
of the child, meaning the desire to connect with other people, with animals and with Nature and the world
around them. Social life outside the immediate family becomes more significant. The sense of rhythm
becomes more refined and music with a repetitive rhythm is craved. Activities that embody rhythm and
repetition such as jumping rope, bouncing balls, swinging, knitting, sewing, drumming, running, and so
on are very enjoyable at this age. There is a strong desire for a role model at this stage and children
should be taught about real heroes and legends along with fairy tales that possess strong moral
archetypes. The third cycle of unfoldment starts at puberty and goes into adulthood. The focus of the
persons energies move into the head. The child will often pursue their ideals and really start to
philosophize.. Of course, we don’t stop developing then, so Waldorf education focuses on laying a
strong foundation for the person to spring from.

I don’t know too much about the second and third cycles of unfoldment as pertaining to Waldorf
education because my oldest child is only 5 but I can give you a general idea of Activities done in the first
elementary school years. The first period is when the spirit is adjusting to being here on Earth.
Academic arts such as reading and writing are usually introduced after the first cycle of unfoldment.
Natural rhythms are established and retained. We focus on an activity until the children need to move on
to another one. It is very simple! Usually we will move from concentrating our attention on something
like building with blocks, playing in the sandbox, water or dirt play, coloring with crayons or looking at a
book. When we get restless, we take an "out breath" which might entail going outside for a walk,
climbing a tree or digging in our garden. The home environment is relaxing and the learning tools and toys
are made of all natural materials such as wood, wool, beeswax, shells, silk, pinecones and rock. (I will
grudgingly admit to having a few plastic toys hidden in the closet….we just can’t give up those legos!)
Children’s play is looked at as their work. I allow quite a bit of freedom around here! Much emphasis is
placed on the child’s ability to be creative and creativity is encouraged by the atmosphere and the toys.
For instance, homemade dolls made of cotton and wool are given to the children to play with. Their faces
have minimal features so that the child can render with her imagination the expression necessary in her
play. The wool in the doll procures warmth from the child, giving it a comforting feeling. Many of the
toys are without much detail, letting the child’s imagination work to the full extent. There is a lot of
focus on story telling, particularly the original Grimm’s fairy tales. We look for stories from other
cultures as well, with a strong archetype. These are hand picked to help the child through certain stages
in their lives. There is a heavy emphasis on the arts. Children use block beeswax crayons colored with
plant dyes and watercolors. In watercoloring, only one color is used at first to get the child intimately
acquainted with the primary colors. After they get a good feel for each color and the feeling it gives them,
they move on to using two primary colors and mixing them to get a third. Often times a story is
incorporated in this mixing making it fun and meaningful for them. Wet on wet is the method used for
watercoloring. This entails wetting the paper so that the colors run and spread. I think it is very
beautiful to look at. The corners are usually cut round on the paper. Colored beeswax is used for
modeling instead of plastic clay. The warmth from the sun or a person’s hands soften the different
colored pieces of wax, making it easy to mold into whatever the imagination holds! It smells and feels
wonderful. Bread dough is also nice to play with. Finger knitting with wool is usually taught around age
6 or 7. Children are taught to play wooden recorders and small wooden harps tuned to a special scale
called the pentatonic scale that sounds harmonious any way it is played. Seasonal festivals are celebrated
with the aim to connect the Human with the rhythms of nature and the cosmos. We keep a seasonal
table that parallels what is unfolding outside in the moment. It usually is kept simple with silks reflecting
the colors of the season and plants and flowers we find outside, flowers from our garden, sometimes just
a handful of earth on a plate….maybe a homemade flower fairy or two. We try to keep an object
symbolizing each element on the table. That’s about it! I am still trying to learn more and more about
Waldorf education for use at home and I have loved almost everything I have learned. Of course there is much much more to the philosophy and the schools than what I have included here but I though it might provide some insight to those interested. It’s not for everyone, but it definitely has something for everyone if you know what I mean!

Categories: Pregnancy