By: Jess Moore
In Waldorf education we work from the hypothesis that in the early years the young child should experience the world as good. It is difficult sometimes for an adult to understand how to bring the world as a “good” place to their child, when we are all burdened by the anxieties of climate change, social unrest, global pandemics and the list goes on. However, it is important for the young child to know our world as good so that they will invest themselves in being here. At a young age to hear the polar ice cap is melting and the sea levels are rising, may make them feel hopeless, and we need for the next generation to be filled with hope. For it is in that hope that comes the change we need to shift our current direction and make the changes for the betterment of the world.
That said, we do not want to paint a Polly Anna picture of falsehoods for the young child either. We do not say “it's all good,” when deep down we know that it is untrue. So how is it that you bring goodness and truth at the same time?
The young child is met with goodness, when things are respected, orderly, and rhythmic. It is often said that there are three R’s in Waldorf Early Childhood Education - rhythm, repetition and reverence.
Rhythm is the most important way to bring goodness to the world of the child. With a healthy rhythm the child is not left guessing and anticipating what is next. They are not left in a state of unknowing, and can flow from activity to activity with ease. The modern child is more anxious than ever before. We know that our modern lives are not as rhythmic as our ancestors, we do not necessarily follow the rhythms of nature as once we did. Yet, this is the nutrition that the young child needs. To know that their day will unfold similarly day after day, brings a sense of peace and a natural order to things. This rhythm is not a routine. There is a difference. Routine can easily become stale and unenlivened. But rhythm is alive. It breathes just like we do. A healthy rhythm will have active times, experiential times, quiet (introspective times), times for eating, times for rest.
A child's day should unfold like the seasons of the year. The early morning should have springtime energy, this is the time for active play and exploration. The noontime summer energy is a bit slower and nurturing, it has time for eating and resting. In the late afternoon, the autumn energy of preparing for rest starts. At this time of day, the activities of the young child are focused on the family (or community) and preparations for dinner. And finally, the night time brings the winter energy. Where we turn inward and sleep, just as we see in nature.
By meeting each day as being worthy of honoring, the young child learns through experience, to revere each activity and process. This reverence helps to build a love for their family, community and world. This is how a young child learns to be a steward of the environment. It is not by telling them we need to protect the earth, but by showing them that we respect it each day of our lives.
By practicing the Three R’s each day of the child’s life, the child can breathe more freely and live into their experiences. Without anxiety, the children know what will come next because it comes from a natural order, a language that is universal and needs no explanation. Within this freedom, the young child learns to know that the world is indeed a good place to be.
Jess Moore has been a grades and early childhood teacher, board member and College chair and has worked at both Maine Coast Waldorf School and Seacoast Waldorf School. This year marks her 15th as Lead teacher in the Sunflower Kindergarten. Her professional interests include studying and innovating the Waldorf Curriculum and meeting the changing needs of today's children and their families and mentoring new teachers and programs. She can be reached email@example.com