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Karen Brennan
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discussion of “What Young Children Really Need.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

This week, we will look at the article, “What Young Children Really Need,” by Susan Howard.  In the article, she lists and discusses 9 things that she believes to be essential to Waldorf Early Childhood Education

• Love and warmth
• An environment that nourishes the senses
• Creative and artistic experiences
• Meaningful adult activity to be imitated
• Free, imaginative play
• Protection for the forces of childhood
• Gratitude, reverence and wonder
• Joy, humor and happiness
• Adult caregivers pursuing a path of inner development

Obviously, these essentials are qualitative and not quantitative.  In an age of science, where we like to be able to test and measure everything, this can be troublesome.  And yet when we look at Steiner’s description of the young child as being all sense organ, of taking in everything that is in their environment, and it does seem that young children are this way to me, this list makes a lot of sense.  Steiner says that the young child learns through imitation and free play. He says that “The real educational value of free play lives in the fact that we ignore our rules and regulations, our educational theory, and allow the child free rein.”
Susan Howard summarizes Rudolf Steiner’s advice to the first Waldorf early childhood teacher—
                                    • Observe the children
                                    • Actively meditate
                                    • Follow your intuitions
                                    • Work so that all your actions are worthy of imitation

It would be nice, perhaps to have concrete answers to questions about what we do when a child does this or that, but human beings are so wonderfully complex and children especially are constantly changing.  There is a lot of freedom and also a lot of responsibility in the above description of the work of the adult who is working with young children. We can learn from each other and from reading the words of experts, but working from our authentic selves with love and joy is really at the heart of Waldorf early childhood education.

Next week we will look at the introduction to Simplicity Parenting.