How many of us have been led to believe that a numb, placid, apathic state is the norm for American society, especially in reference to children and the education system? Freedom of expression has no place, in society, and certainly not in schools. This is where natural education becomes completely un-natural!
How Does Freedom of Expression Work in Education? Obviously, this makes for a more complex educational model and in order to answer that question one would need to look closely at our current state and even privatized educational system. Bullies proliferate and even flourish under the concept of intimidation and the ability of watching teachers closely to find a time to “strike” and get their anger out on an unsuspecting host becomes all important. Knowing full well that the teachers-either won’t care or will blame the victim, school is the bullies domain, even if at home their parent is the bully and they are the victim.
Bullies at Homeschool
When speaking on a continual home evironment for schooling, the parent too often becomes the bully and the children may spend years repressing, controlling, and hiding themselves and their true feelings. In this way, the school system is more conducive, as some children will get their anger and emotions out-even if it is in a deviant, harmful, victimizing way.
A Better Way- Waldorf Education
What About Waldorf Education? My belief is that Waldorf is the most perfect educational model for children and I am a Waldorf homeschooler myself. I have always wanted to send my kids to the Waldorf school but the elitism, politics, and high-price of the school always deterred me. Even with all of Steiner’s work (the founder of Waldorf) and the highly trained teachers, I have time and time again witnessed Waldorf kids that function and act no differently then public school children. This is because:
1) The parents are not true Waldorfers at home and therefore they are relying solely on the building and school to “create” a Waldorf child. or
2) Children forming a “pack” or dysfunctional peer group to replace the family unit that they have been prematurely displaced from.
This is not to say I do not believe in Democratic schooling-because I do, however, I believe rhythm is extremely important in the early years. Also, because so many people are neurotic and do not know what natural is and therefore cannot mimic it or create it- may in fact be causing more harm than good. For instance, a faux natural parent might see their three year old trying to read books-so, automatically assumes that it is natural and therefore starts teaching the child to read. This is without knowing that the child has been already to exposed to intellectualism and mechanical technology. A Waldorf professional would recognize this child as being to astral, or having a prematurely developed left brain. The teacher would then recommend a remedy such as art or walking outside in nature to help bring in the etheric, right brain hemisphere. This is the most important core of Waldorf education.
Sink or Swim Education
All children under the age of 9-10, when thrown into a group setting (Waldorf for instance is against group sports at a young age) function as a dysfunctional family if not carfully monitored and “tended to”…like a garden. Just think of a playdate with only two or three 3-7 year olds, so much chaos, hurt feelings and misunderstandings. But eventually it stops…does it truly stop? How many parents and teachers tell children to go back and play or endure the abuse…to not bother them. Or if you have a female and male in the abuse ratio the child might even hear “He is hitting you and being mean to you because he likes you…” How harmful is that in the longterm?…extremely.
Out of the Home into the Classroom
If you think about a class with as little as 10 and as much as 30 children, how effectively can one tend the child garden…even with two teachers? At a time when young children should be bonding with the family unit and learning simple aspects of sharing and relationship-they are thrown into a huge group-and are told to function as a “whole.” This is the communistic aspect of education, Waldorf or not, that denies a child the right to individuality-if only for a time. Now granted, there is a time for transition, when children need to come out of the family unit and function as a collective group-but even Steiner himself admitted that time doesn’t come until all of their adult teeth are in. At that time the children in school practice making circles with dots in the middle, to indicate their 9 year change and transformation and understanding that they are separate from the collective-as children start to then realize and feel they are different from everyone. However, even with that valid and appropriate recognition of age appropriateness and education-I have seen Waldorf children act like bullies-sneaky and manipulative-in kindergarten and first grade.
What Makes a Bully a Bull and a Victim a Victim?
Is this because they are born into sin and shame, like religion would tell us? Is it because there are some kids that are mean and some that are nice? NO. We would be foolish to believe passive children are passive all the time, never forget the second part of that equation which “passive-aggressive.” Passive children will one day get their feelings out-and one day express. These children, bullies and victims, are two sides of the same coin, both desperate to release and express themselves. Some kids have been forced into passivity because of other children that have been allowed to, or have learned sneakily how to, get their anger out. It is not fair and it is deviant and wrong.
The Yin and the Yang of It
All children deserve the right to both protect themselves from aggression and also express themselves. After all, rage and anger is a completely sane and logical response to assault. However, in a school setting, all logic is put to the side for the sake of collective peace and rigid rhythm. As time is of the essence and classes are set up in time slots, there is no time slot to sort out emotions and problems-even if it is important, legitimate and can even heal and help the group in the long term.
What is a school?
Whether we talk about a homeschool, a public, or private- we are talking about the humans who are running it. In that frame, we know all humans carry their emotional neurosis-especially concerning children. First and foremost a school should be a place to learn about relationships and mental “health,” after all, what use is it to read, write and “surf the internet” if we can’t treat ourselves and our fellow human beings with love and respect? We need to rethink what the goal of education is, we are more than just analytical scientific robots-we have a heart, a spirit and emotions that desire wellness, unity and health.
To School or Unschool: That is the Question
How do we school or “un” school our children or even begin to think of freedom oriented learning- if we don’t first “unschool” ourselves in the restrictive unrealistic lies we have been taught in our own childhood concerning human emotion and thoughts? I was taught as a child that even thoughts were bad, and one time I admitted to my parents that I had secretly wished they were dead and came to them out of guilt and apologized-guess what happened? I was spanked and told not to think those thoughts anymore. I have sought desperately with my own children to give them their own mind and allow them to express with words, movement, art and music. No homeschooling day is so scientifically and rigidly important that we cannot take ten minutes, a half hour or even an hour to sort through are relationships and feelings. Becoming conscious of our feelings of anger, accepting it and releasing it when it becomes prudent to do so-Keeps the pathways of humanity and human emotion OPEN!!!
If you like this blog-feel free to contact me for a consult or read my book “Beyond Natural Cures” which has a lengthy helpful chapter on natural education and the benefits of music therapy.