One Parent’s Journey to Waldorf Education

I remember so clearly when well meaning friends and family began asking the questions about what school my husband and I had selected for our daughter. She was a mere three years old and I was pregnant with my son. Quite honestly, we had only just weaned her from nursing less than a year beforehand—so how could we be ready for something as big as school? I already felt the pressure mounting about this big decision ahead of us. This sort of cultural panic left us feeling like we were not fulfilling our job as parents if we did not respond. When I approached friends and coworkers about their experiences with early childhood programs, I began to feel growing concerns about what we would do. At a time when we were still new to parenting and feeling quite vulnerable, I wasn’t sure exactly what we were looking for, but I was sure we would know once we saw it. I decided to make a list of schools and visit them one by one. For several weeks my husband and I trudged off to visit after visit with various teachers and schools in the area, feeling more informed and more disappointed with the choices that lay before us. Luckily, at the end of our list was the Eugene Waldorf School. My mother happened to be in town that day and accompanied us to that memorable visit into Ms. Lamb’s room in the Rosebud Preschool. With great relief, we discovered an environment where that pressure did not exist. The room smelled wonderful like fresh bread. It was clean—not just picked up or tidied, but washed and cleaned in a way only someone who cared would do; it was uncluttered, and set up purposefully for the children to really play with the toys. The toys were simple, but beautiful and interesting—I kept picking them up myself and looking earnestly all around the room as if I were exploring a favorite relative’s home. My daughter immediately got to work playing with the kitchen set and I felt myself exhale a little. Light filled the room and the breeze lightly sifted through the rose colored curtains. I peeked outside and found, to my delight, a beautiful outdoor campus. It was devoid of the usual playground equipment, but contained a garden and natural areas to explore. I brought my gaze back into the room and a wooden rocking chair with a quilt draped over it caught my eye. This idyllic picture I am describing was not a copy of a magical place— it was true, real and pleasant. Ms. Lamb was working in the attached kitchen area, unassuming and calm, and she waited patiently for us to explore and bring our questions. Her gentle tone and movements, as well as her kind demeanor, answered more questions than I could have asked. There were nuances that resonated deeply for me and reminded me of days spent with my grandmother. I felt comfortable and safe, respected and understood, and somehow I knew our children would be as well. That was the first of many similar and positive interactions that followed as we got to know the Waldorf school. That was six years ago. Our daughter is now in the third grade and our son is completing his last year in the Rose Kindergarten. I know that we made the right decision in coming to this school and I consider it a privilege to be here. I couldn’t put it into words at that time, but I know now that we were not just looking for a school—we were looking for a long term commitment, a partner, a loving community, a trusted advisor and a resource that we could share common values with, and trust with our most precious children. All of these things, in addition to a high quality education and learning experience, are the core of what we were seeking and what we expected. What I have come to realize is that many schools offer these things, but no other place employs the methods the Waldorf school does, which are applied at just the right developmental steps. It is the gentle, but effective way in which the children are taught—through head, heart and hands, educating the whole child—that allows this experience to be so deep and supportive to children and their families. There are so many varied programs that enrich this experience such as the organic whole foods served, the biodynamic gardening, eurythmy, the stunning focus on the arts, and the dedication and commitment from the faculty that is absolutely unmatched anywhere. We could not help but feel inspired to do better ourselves and this is the beauty of the curriculum. It follows the tone of "one good turn deserves another". The more we looked, the more we found that pleased us, and the more we wanted to be a part of this process. So, this journey has continued for us. As we have moved from the Rainbow Bridge, to the Rosebud Preschool, to the Rose Kindergarten and on into the grades, we have been met appropriately and kindly at each level. By this, I mean that our children have been met by their teachers wherever they needed them, and guided to their next step. As parents, we also have been met and guided. One of the reasons we chose Waldorf is because we recognized there were things the school could offer that we couldn’t. I also trusted that those same people would listen to us when we had questions, concerns or suggestions. And yes, they did listen and we did too. This long term partnership or friendship between parent and teacher works so well to help unlock and support the gifts our children carry, and we all benefit as a community. Sometimes this involved growing pains where I felt I did not understand a process, or I clung to what I was comfortable with— not wanting to venture beyond my comfort zone. And every time it got to this point, I took a deep breath and plodded through holding tight to my values . . . and we came out on higher ground, feeling so glad that we had stuck with Waldorf. It is definitely not easy. Like most things that generate incredible satisfaction and reward, this process requires a great deal of money, time, planning and effort. Many of these things are needed while the daily demands of life are pulling at our sleeves. It might seem inconvenient to stop and find a way to make these contributions happen. But we all know that we must find a way in order to realize our shared goals of supporting these children in every way we can. There are so many things I would like to say about the Eugene Waldorf School and how it has touched our lives. My husband and I feel fortunate to be able to send our children to a place that will help build the foundation they need to find their place in this world, no matter what their personal goals are. I can’t think of anything more important to support than this. Alycia Zarlons