The Value of Parent Education

|||   Waldorf schools are unique in the way we offer parent education in that parent evenings, lectures, committee gatherings, book study groups, handwork circles, parent-child classes and parenting support groups are considered as important as the education being provided to our children.

Studies show that students whose parents are engaged in their education are more likely to succeed, overall, which we would expect from the feeling of being supported, understood and when our endeavors are valued. Understanding the developmental approach of the Waldorf pedagogy helps parents gain a better understanding of their child. Why would the study of Rome, with its aqueducts and marching, its order and history, meet my child at ages 11-12? What is it about the saints and holy peoples that meets the 7 and 8 year old? Parent evenings help families understand what their child is learning, but also who their child is in that moment and, therefore, how better to meet their needs at home.

Parents in a circle listening to a teacher while crafting

Making what might feel like a counter-cultural choice to choose Waldorf education sometimes requires renewing the connection to the reasons a family came to Waldorf in the first place. For example, some parents might become concerned when their child is not reading if their neighbor’s child is. Being shown the approach taken in Waldorf schools helps parents to understand the intelligence of learning to read when students are developmentally ready, by moving from drawing to writing and then to reading. Perhaps the reverse of, and slower than other schools’ approaches, nevertheless its wisdom is apparent, as children first learn to read what they themselves have written. Another subject about which parents appreciate additional education is the area of technology use for students. Touching lightly on the negative impacts of screen usage reminds parents of perhaps why they opted for a screen-free education for their children, and for the family, which then helps them find ways to navigate around a screen-obsessed culture.

Teachers & Parents share what they see as the importance of parent education:

Parent Educator: Timothy Lynch

Parent education is a crucial component in building bridges between the home and school environments. Supporting the child’s education and growth requires inner work from both teachers and parents. By gifting oneself the time and space to attend parent education classes, parents step into this inner work as individuals, but within the container and support of the greater community. This is particularly important at this time when many people are feeling a great sense of isolation from others.

The parents who attend our classes gain a greater understanding of the purpose of Waldorf education, and perhaps more importantly, they themselves feel it through the activities we engage in and the reverence with which we weave our time together. Our parents often return each week with stories of small changes they’ve made at home and how those changes have made a large impact. Bedtime routines that work, for example, bring ease to the child but also to the wellbeing of the parents. One parent shared that humming simple songs and communicating more with gestures has brought about more harmonious transitions and has had a soothing effect on the whole family. This is an excellent example of self-care in the context of a parent and child relationship.

Parent-child class eating a warm meal together.

Whether through harvesting practical tools, building a greater intellectual understanding of the trajectory of the young child, gaining a felt sense of the education, leaning back into the support of community, or settling into the warmth of the classroom environment itself, the benefits of the parent education classes are far reaching. The work we do is in support of our children, their parents, their teachers and peers, our community as a whole, and beyond.

Parents experience the middle school Physics curriculum.

Nicole Mathers, First Grade Teacher

Today’s parents are often on their own, reinventing parenting as they go. In a Waldorf community, parents have the support and help of teachers who offer parent education as parents raise their children. We greatly value this offering as it gives an evolving developmental picture of the growing child. It also allows the adult to get a taste of the incredible curriculum their children study. This experience of the curriculum is essential in building a community that is supportive in the overall healthy development of the children. During my recent parent evening – in person and the first time our First Grade class parents have ever gathered all together – at least one parent from every family was present. We were becoming connected during a bean bag game we played together, and were able to laugh at ourselves a bit as well, which is always good for the wellbeing of a parent or a teacher. We also discussed the ways in which learning math is like learning a foreign language, and parents came away with some ideas for how to support their child’s early numeracy through table setting, grocery shopping, and laundry folding!

Parent, Eileen F.

Community is so powerful, and the toddler years can make community harder to reach. Meeting with other parents/caregivers at a beautiful park is a treat in itself, then add in a wise teacher as the leader and guide and it makes for a magical morning! The crowd-sourcing of ideas and strategies from other parents is invaluable. The articles provided are also immensely helpful to share with partners and caregivers as well as to refer back to over time.

For me, this parent-child class has been the antidote to the current parenting culture which can feel quite fear-based and consumer-driven. Little Ferns (parent-child hiking class) provided a safe space to bring parenting concerns and seek advice from the wisdom of the group, without further agendas.

Our particular Little Ferns group became a support beyond our Tuesday morning meetings. I especially benefited from the sense of community as we welcome our second baby and spent many postpartum Tuesdays at Little Ferns.

Parents gather for handwork & community.

If you like what you see here, save the date to visit us during Experience Waldorf Day, January 21, 2023, during which time adults become students for the day, and enjoy the full experiential opportunity that it is to be in a Waldorf classroom.

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