An Exploration of Sacred Parenting and Education

Waldorf’s approach to child learning

In Education, parenting on January 29, 2012 at 10:35 am

By way of introduction,

I’m a Muslim born mother to two blessings, Ali (4 yrs) and Anas (2 in April) residing in Malaysia. I sought to live authentically and simply, and become less of me and more of an empty vessel made soft by love.

The call to start a family with my beloved husband lead my cautious nature to dive deep into that vast ocean of motherhood head first then heart. Searching lead me to attachment parenting and now Waldorf. Living in this modern world set adrift from the wise counsel of the past, a parent is in need of a community of dedicated followers of faith guided by the Truth. And I hope by putting myself out there I am finding that support; may it be in spirit or form. Keep in mind that as I am sharing I am simultaneously still learning so forgive me for any discrepencies and imperfections.

One thing I am definitely learning on this parenting path is that a mother’s heart is crack anew each day.

God’s joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box,
from cell to cell. As rainwater, down into flowerbed.
As roses, up from ground.
Now it looks like a plate of rice and fish,
now a horse being saddled.
It hides within these,
till one day it cracks them open.

Rumi

Waldorf or Steiner pedagogy meets the child where they are developmentally. It introduces appropriate concepts at the right age when the child is physically, emotionally, and mentally ready. Its emphasis on nature connects the child to its Creator, and the cultivation of reverence and gratitude in the child is nurtured intrinsically.

During the first seven years the child mainly learns through play and imitation.He or she is busy growing into its body and learning to adapt to its environment.  This is the time for building the foundation for future social and academic excellence through storytelling, lots of outdoor time, healthy movements, songs and verses, rhythms, and active participation in the daily rounds of family life. Current scientific research supports the idea that before the change of teeth, the child’s body has not fully matured enough to be taught formal academics.  The work of the child is play.  (http://www.youandyourchildshealth.org/youandyourchildshealth/articles/teaching%20academics.html)

Between the ages of  7 and 14, the artistic, emotional side of the child begins to emerge, so lessons are taught imaginatively and artistically, and poetry, verses and multiplication tables are taught via movement and memorisation. This is also the age when the child is also starting to learn about authority. Coincidentally enough, our prophetic tradition also advises guardians to teach the children to pray at the age of 7, and by 10 the child is ready to be taught on the consequences of neglecting the prayers.

The ages between 14 to 21 are for the development of critical and logical thinking. At this age the child has now developed its reasoning faculties. Under Islamic law, a boy is considered baligh by the time he is 15. Steiner’s academically rigorous curriculum meets the growing person’s intellectual capacities at this point.

The similarities between Waldorf and Islam’s observation of the child are worthy of consideration. It would be most beneficial if we can study Steiner’s approach while using Islam’s rich spiritual and intellectual tradition as the guiding template. If scholars, perceptive parents and dedicated educators following this blog would contribute to this discussion, we would all be greatly enriched, God willing.

For those interested in further reading, these short series of lecture by Steiner gives insight to Waldorf pedagogy. http://steinerbooks.org/research/archive/education_of_the_child/education_of_the_child.pdf

“No hands can bless in old age, unless in childhood they have been folded in prayer.” Rudolph Steiner

By Asma Shurfa

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  1. Thank you for contributing Asma. Recently I came across a Muslim Montessori school. I guess the question that needs to be asked is if an education based on the principles of Islamic spirituality were designed what would it look like? Khadim, a senior dervish said something interesting about how in our spiritual tradition we already have principles by which we live and the key in developing a curriculum would be to do it with those principles as opposed to incorporate them from externally. Who knows- this blog may contribute to such a curriculum that may even just offer an alternative to the Montessori or Steiner debate (no harm in imagining). Thank you for sharing the wonderful links. Will have a look when I get some time. From what I’ve seen of it Steiner does seem very clear about what it wants for its children and that activities are based in a group as opposed to choosing things individually – i thought was interesting.

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