The Joyful Journey

Finding Balance: Honoring Childhood While Educating for the Future

Christine Martuscello, Admissions Coordinator of Meadowbrook Waldorf School

A Waldorf School Offers A Child-Centered Education

A healthy education is one that balances the current needs of the child with future educational goals. The child, not the goal, should always be at the center of the process.

Waldorf Education, founded in 1919 and based on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, achieves a balanced education by offering a developmentally appropriate curriculum that both supports children where they are in the moment, and prepares them for their next phase of development.   This curriculum unites academics with the arts, movement, practical work, and a deep respect for the natural world.

The Waldorf Preschool Program

For children in a Waldorf preschool program, this means their days are spent engaged in purposeful play, social activity and exploration, both indoors and out. Rich stories are experienced through puppetry, songs are combined with movement, and curiosity, observation, and collaboration are encouraged during forest adventures. Although these important activities are considered “pre-academic”, they all build skills critical for the academic journey that begins in first grade.

A Classical Elementary School Curriculum

Once students enter elementary school they are formally introduced to a classic, liberal arts curriculum that includes music, fine arts, foreign language, and practical arts to create deeper, more meaningful learning. Desk time is balanced with movement, academics are balanced with the arts, and time indoors is balanced with time spent in nature. Since children at this age learn best through strong, memorable experiences, the curriculum is often offered in an experiential manner. In the early elementary grades, this means math facts are paired with clapping games and rhythmical movement, language arts studied through dramatic presentation, and history is experienced firsthand with field trips and biography. These activities meet many styles of learning and reflect the complex world the children will inherit. The skills learned in these early years provide a strong foundation for the challenging learning and growth that is still to come.

Waldorf Curriculum Meets the Child’s Developmental Stage
Elementary (Grades 1-5)

The later elementary curriculum broadens the experience of the child. In the early elementary years, children are still in a dreamy world of imitation, content and secure in their family. Adults are seen as all knowing, and children do not yet question the world around them. This begins to change during the mid-elementary years as the children become more aware of themselves as individuals, and more awake to the world around them. This “nine year change” challenges their sense of confidence in the world, and their place in it.  To reassure children that they will have what they need to meet the world as adults, the Waldorf curriculum turns to the practical. Units of measure and fractions are studied in math, with shelter building and farming as cornerstones of the curriculum at this age. The curriculum at this time is a conscious exploration of what directly surrounds the child: local ecology, government, animals, and plants.

It is this experience of the local and practical that helps children cross a threshold and see themselves as individuals capable of inhabiting a rich and complex world, and successfully meeting the future with knowledge, connection, and collaboration.

After this immersion in the local, the curriculum expands to include ancient cultures and creation stories including Judeo-Christian, Native American, Norse, Indian, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman mythology. Presented during the later elementary grades, these stories describe how humans have been long striving to understand and explain the world around them.

As the curriculum broadens to include that which is outside of the child’s view, the fine and practical art curriculum also broadens. Fourth grade students add a string instrument to their recorder studies, and woodworking is added to the handwork curriculum begun in first grade. Both of these additions serve to not only improve fine motor skills, but to strengthen the will and demonstrate to the child that with practice and perseverance difficult tasks can be mastered to a beautiful end.

Middle School (Grades 6-8)

Middle school is a time of great change: physical, emotional, and intellectual. The children begin to question what they previously accepted without issue when they were younger. This adolescent urge to question and test is the perfect time to introduce the rigorous science curriculum. Through deep observation, which has been encouraged since the early childhood years, the students explore the world sometimes hidden from view through chemistry, optics, physics, anatomy, physiology, and astronomy. Moving from the concrete calculations of decimals, geometry, and business math, to the more the abstract math of exponents, number bases, platonic solids, and algebra, challenges the middle schooler’s burgeoning ability to think in the abstract.

Mirroring their sometimes tumultuous internal changes, the students study tumultuous times of history. Roman law, the Dark Ages, the beauty of the Renaissance, and periods of revolution are explored through first hand experiences, drama, fine art, and biography.   The students are now introduced to individuals, rather than the myths and legends of elementary school, who worked to make positive change in the world, sometimes at great personal cost. By the study and example of these pivotal individuals, the seed is planted that they too can be instruments of change in the world.

Waldorf Education Offers A Balanced, Thoughtful Approach 

A Waldorf Education provides a balanced curriculum that honors childhood by meeting the child where they are developmentally. The nurturance of foundational skills and play in early childhood provides a strong basis for the academics of the elementary years.

The elementary grades offer a rich curriculum of language, math, foreign language, history, geography, music, fine, and practical arts. Time for outdoor play and projects allows the child to experience the natural world, encourages collaboration, and provides an opportunity to recharge.  Once in middle school, the rigorous curriculum expands further to include more sciences and complex math to challenge the children’s new abilities.

It is the thoughtfulness of this intricate curriculum that encourages student’s growing capacities while maintaining the reverence of childhood.

Related Links:
About Waldorf Education 
Meadowbrook Waldorf School Curriculum
Admissions Application


Michaelmas: Contemplating Dragons


The children have been practicing this week for our Michaelmas celebration.  The pageant is the same every year and each class plays a pivotal role in the story.

There are the littlest First Grade Gnomes and energetic Second Grade Meteors.


Third Grade portrays the elements, while the noble Fourth Grade contains the knights and St.  Michael.












The hardworking Fifth Graders are the farmers and peasants, while the Sixth Grade gives life to the fearsome and fun dragon.


Finally, our Middle Schoolers provide the stirring music for the morning.











With our senses full of the sights and sounds (and soup) of Michaelmas, it is easy to overlook the deeper meaning this festival holds within a Waldorf school.

Kristina Boving, Meadowbrook Grade 5 Class Teacher and Trustee of the Board, describes the introspective side of this exuberant celebration:

In Waldorf Education, we believe strongly in working with the influences of the natural world, noticing and celebrating the changes in the seasons. Now that fall is upon us, teachers and students are preparing for the festival of Michaelmas, which recognizes the figure of St. Michael. Little noted in modern times, Michael was a powerful figure in days of yore. Better known to us today is Michael’s association with St. George, the patron saint of England, as he fights the dragon.

This powerful image of Michael and his battle against a fearful dragon resonates with the autumn season on many levels. In summer, we are more active, diving into the great outdoors, and losing ourselves in the joy and revelry of long, warm days. Our part of the earth seems to be in a state of dreamy bliss. As fall approaches, and days grow cooler and shorter, nature starts to contract and settle in for a period of dormancy. We are influenced by this change as well. We too are beckoned to a more contemplative mode of being. Our power of thinking can grow clearer and we can become more self-aware, if we take the time to bring our thoughts to consciousness. This is the time to gather our forces to resist falling in too strongly with nature’s cycle of decay and death during the autumn and winter. This is the time to take our outer perceptions and draw them inward to a sustaining, and hope-giving inner experience. This is the time of year known in the Middle Ages as “vita contemplativa” as opposed to summer’s “vita activa”. Michael’s fight for goodness and beauty, and the hope that it brings us, can sustain us through this season.

It takes a strong will to focus on our inner lives, especially during the hustle and bustle of our modern lives. The image of Michael taming the dragon can be a guide for us, helping us re-focus on the essential, giving us courage to overcome fear and despair during the darkening days of autumn.

Parent Child Programs: Register Now!

Due to popular demand, we have expanded our Parent Child Programs.  This September we are offering 3 parent toddler programs, an infant program and our popular outdoor toddler program.


(Birth – 12 Months)

This program provides an opportunity to find and give support during one of the most joyous, exhausting and overwhelming times of parenthood.  Held on Monday mornings from 9-10:30 am, this session is for infants and their caregivers. CLICK HERE for Parent Infant Program information and registration documents.


(1 – 3 years)

little with duck chickFor the fall session, we have expanded our popular toddler classes. Classes are now held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays from 9-11am.  Perfect for the new walker to the older toddler, and their caregiver. In this 6 week class, you can explore the joys and challenges of raising your child in a supportive and nurturing environment. Caregivers and children share a lovely morning of play, snack and circle time. Siblings are welcome.  Click below for more Parent Toddler Program information and registration documents.

TUESDAY TODDLER Info and Registration

WEDNESDAY TODDLER Info and Registration

THURSDAY TODDLER Info and Registration


Acorns Outdoor Program
(2.5 – 4 years)

Acorn. New forest preschool class offered Fall 2014.Get a taste of the “forest nursery” concept popular in Europe and profiled in the Providence Journal. Acorns is an outdoor parent child program for 2.5-4 year olds and their caregivers. Spend time exploring our beautiful forest and meadows at a child’s pace. Share story, song and snack outdoors as your child is allowed to play freely and discover our world.  Held on Thursdays from 9-10:30am beginning in September. CLICK HERE for Acorns Program information and registration.

The Freedom of a Waldorf Education

Renee Kent wrote this post as archivist for the Meadowbrook Parents Association.  The MPA meets monthly to discuss various aspects of school life with members of the teaching and administrative staff.  Each meeting begins with the presentation of an educational topic from a faculty representative.  In this post, MWS class teacher Andrew Gilligan brought his incredible energy to discuss with us what it means to enroll in a Waldorf School.  Renee writes, “He presented with such passion and reverence and I am sharing here what I took away from the discussion, not the least of which is an incredible gratitude that people such as Andrew Gilligan exist and take deeply into their own souls the responsibility for educating children in a way that goes much deeper than the practical curriculum of reading, writing, and math.”

Educational Freedom


Andrew Gilligan began his discussion about the importance of Waldorf Education in the world and what it means by asking us to think about the word freedom.  As parents, we exercise our freedom to choose the type of education that best fits the needs of our child.  Waldorf Education exercises its freedom as an independent school system, free from the full weight of government regulation.  Waldorf philosophy (or pedagogy) views children as free beings who come with unique gifts to bestow upon the world.  The children are granted the freedom to enjoy childhood.  The education itself is intended for children to grow into adults who are confident in exercising their own freedom to be who they are meant to be.

Educating for an Unknown Future

Children are the lifeblood of human society.  Children are, quite literally, our future.  While this is a popular media catchphrase, the gravity of this is taken quite seriously by teachers.  Our children will become the adults that make the decisions in our world.  The root of the word education means to draw out.  Waldorf educators abide by the philosophy that their primary role is to remove hindrances so that children are able to bring their own ideas out into the world.  This stands as a stark counterpoint to the general idea that a proper education ‘fills up’ the child with information, information that may or may not be relevant when the child is grown.  As a teacher Mr. Gilligan asks: “How is the gesture of education able to draw out the capacities that lie within the child?”  “How can we educate this child for freedom?”

We prepare a child of today for an unknown world of tomorrow by allowing them to know their own self, to rely on their inner strength, and by allowing them their own freedom within the moral compass of knowing that they must take responsibility for that freedom.  We do this by holding a quiet knowing of what childhood ought to be, by allowing them the freedom to fully experience childhood.

Education Begins with Healthy Relationships

Waldorf educator and author, Gary Lamb describes a Holy Trinity of Education made up of parents, teachers, and children.  The basic foundation of a healthy school is healthy relationships, where no one is given authority to make a decision about a child unless that individual knows the child in question and bears some responsibility for the education of that child.  No outside agency, (government, academic or industrial) should be involved in making policy decisions about education unless directly involved in providing that education to the children concerned.  If children are to be free to develop to meet the future they must be free of the demands of present economic and political considerations.  Waldorf Education is child-centered meaning all decisions regarding that education are driven by the needs of the individual child and the class in question.  Using the Holy Trinity of Education those decisions are made by the child’s parents and teachers.

NIK_3088Individuality in Education

In a Waldorf School, the teacher is a pedagogical artist with the freedom to bring his or her own particular interests, experiences, and skills to the students, enriching the curriculum with deeper meaning.  Public school colleagues are limited in this capacity. This is not because they lack the understanding or do not feel the gravity of their responsibility. It is because their freedom is restricted by school systems. They are regulated by the need to provide quantifiable results. They are required to evaluate success according to metrics. Metrics that are based on standards unconnected to the individual child’s capacities.  Within the Waldorf curriculum, teachers are free to make choices that meet the needs of the class, assessing progress and evaluating the process as it relates to the children concerned.

Freedom to Invest in an Education

As parents we know our children, their needs and gifts, better than anyone.  As parents we have the freedom to choose the educational system we feel is the best fit for our children.  However, the cost of attending an independent school may mean some parents are unable to act on their choices.  Parents in Waldorf Schools are partners in their children’s education not only by working with the teacher in support of the work done in the classroom, but by sustaining community life and helping alleviate financial pressures through volunteerism.

Mr. Gilligan offered that it is a brave choice to become a part of a  Waldorf School. It is a free choice, not something foisted upon you and it requires a personal investment.  What it calls on us to do is to rise up and hold ourselves accountable, to sharpen our responsibility of soul.

Freedom to Pursue Their Life’s Work.

As a parent listening to this talk, I was repeatedly moved by the depth of commitment expressed by Mr. Gilligan.  Most parents if asked, I imagine would say that what they want is for their children grow into happy, well adjusted adults.  To me this means that they will pursue what they are passionate about, something that is soul satisfying and that they can fully immerse themselves in.   What became clear to me while listening to Mr. Gilligan is that in choosing a Waldorf School, I have surrounded my children with adults doing exactly that.  Adults who felt a calling and pursued it, a calling they are free to fully inhabit to the benefit of the children.  With adults they respect, doing their life’s work with integrity and passion, the children are being shown daily that they are free to do the same.  I can’t think of a better place for my children.

Site Design and Development by Ian O'Brien | Background painting by Nicole Besack | Select Photos by Monica Rodgers and Seth Jacobson