Planting the Seed
A friend and I were talking about parenting, observing that we are so much more involved in our children’s school life than our parents were with ours. Today, we take our kids to school and pick them up daily. That’s minimum. We know teachers by name and a good number of parents, too. Classmates are not just faces; we know them. We are also involved in many of the school activities. Some of us have even found our life’s work in sister initiatives; others are training to be teachers.
In the Manila Waldorf School, the community of parents, teachers, mentors and students is vibrant and alive. I have been in that school for six years. Not only have I watched it struggle and grow, I’ve grown along with it, both as a parent and an individual. Mentors visit regularly to impart knowledge and share experiences with teachers and parents, giving us a fresh and deep perspective on how to raise our children to be whole human beings in thinking, feeling and willing.
Waldorf teachers are such invaluable allies in the constant struggle to do right by our children. They see them not as little adults who need to be bombarded with knowledge, the sooner the better. In the Waldorf School, the spiritual and emotional development of the child bears much weight. I can always count on the teachers for meaningful input regarding my children, not just on their intellectual progress. The big picture of who they are as individuals—body, soul and spirit—is always taken into consideration.
A good number of Waldorf parents have decided to keep television and computers away from our children until they are much older. We would rather they gallop freely in the field of imagination for as long as they can. Both my children love books and are always eager to hear a story. My older child knits and crochets with genuine interest and passion (nimble fingers, nimble mind). My younger one creates fabulous scenes in his play with pieces of cloth, clothespins, chairs, blocks, dolls — anything he can get his hands on. Many Waldorf families are also healthy eaters, so it isn’t just my children who eat brown rice, vegetables and whole grains. The school is an environment that embodies many of my life choices. It is precious that such a supportive community surrounds my children.
One of the things I love about the school is the celebration of festivals. We just finished celebrating Michaelmas, a festival that honors the Archangel Michael. The children always look forward to this time of year. In September, you begin to hear strains of the Michael songs being played on the recorder or violin. In the kindergarten, you hear little angelic voices singing the same songs with pride and anticipation. The stories in the classrooms carry the same theme: the triumph of good over evil and the inner strength man must cultivate to bring good into the world and transform the evil that threatens it. The festival culminates in an obstacle course where children confront challenges and experience the possibility of overcoming them. Parents are recruited to participate in the festival as well and the morning ends in a potluck lunch.
This festival allowed me to reflect on the state of our nation and the claws of evil lodged deeply in the hearts of our leaders. I felt an immense sense of gratitude that my children are growing up in a setting that puts spiritual and emotional development high on the list; where the intellect is but one aspect of education. It made me wonder what sort of education and home life GMA and her cohorts had that contributed to their casual manipulation of the law; the ease with which they kill the good in the name of power and greed. They display such hardened thinking and are so painfully lacking in the emotional and spiritual quotient department. What good is a sharp mind if it isn’t tempered by compassion and an authentic intention to serve? What good is religiosity if the essence of the Christ and His deeds are not lived?
Waldorf Education is strong on helping children develop into moral human beings, not through dogma or abstract concepts, but by example. The curriculum, festivals and activities cultivate respect and reverence, awe and wonder in the world, joy in learning. As Waldorf parents, we learn that we cannot teach our children morality unless we ourselves live it or die striving. We cannot teach our children strength of will if we’re sitting on our bottoms all day telling the help what to do. We cannot teach them to respect nature if we’re too busy to sit before a breathtaking sunset. The teachers carry this sense of truth, beauty and goodness as well, and every lesson is approached creatively. Through this school, I have become a more authentic person, hopefully worthy of the two boys who have chosen me to be their mother.
It is our duty as parents to help our children walk the path towards freedom. Waldorf Education seeks to do just that. When I think of my kids and their future, I never imagine them at the helm of a billion dollar conglomerate. I see them as happy and whole, confident in their chosen field and radiant with excitement at the prospect of serving the world responsibly (especially if they end up at the helm of a billion dollar conglomerate!). I imagine them as productive, compassionate spiritual human beings who live and fight for truth and integrity always.
It is important that our children are educated in a way that prepares them for the terrifying challenges of this harsh, materialistic world. We see the tip of the iceberg in our problematic government and in the leaders who continue to behave like dinosaurs. Education that supports not just the intellect, but also the healthy development of soul and spirit, will give them the inner strength and integrity that will save the day. The battle against evil is lifelong. Every generation comes into the world carrying the seed of good in them. As parents, it is our task to make sure it takes root and blossoms.