Organizations across Canada are concerned about new anti-spam legislation coming into effect this month. They are communicating with all the people on their mailing lists and making sure that they still want to receive regular email contacts from the organization. While we have heard from some people that are relieved to receve less emails, it is so affirming to receive reponses expressing gratitude and affirmation of the work we are doing, like the one below. Thank you! - Ed.
I hope I will get a chance to visit the Steiner Centre while I am in TO in August for a few days. If not, please know that I love receiving your newsletters and I always feel so inspired when I read of everything you are doing there at the Steiner Centre. I still feel as though I live in a "Steiner Dessert" here on the Central Coast of Australia.
I am grateful that I am only an hour and half from Sydney but still, you have SO much more to offer there in Toronto!!! i had no idea how lucky I was when I lived there - THANK YOU for all that you continue to do to promote Steiner Education and Anthroposophy !! Your letter is always an inspiration for me while am here DOWNUNDER.
I have actually accepted a teaching position in Saudi Arabia starting on 14th August so my life is about to change drastically!! I will keep you posted.
I hope to see you in August.
“The best way to educate children is with teachers. Computers have little to teach us about being human!”
This is my first visit to Japan and I must say that I have been swept off my feet by the kindness and generosity of my hosts, the Kobe Shinwa Women’s University. They have invited me to be part of their Annual International Education Symposium. I am giving lectures to their teacher education classes, speaking at their International Education Forum, visiting schools and eating the best sushi I have ever imagined. It is a treat to my senses and a nourishing experience on any number of levels.
I spent the first weekend with an old friend, Professor Brian Bresnihan, whose eldest son Joshua was part of my class at the Olympia Waldorf School. Brian led me on exciting explorations of two of Japan’s most famous historic cities Kyoto and Nara. There is so much there to drink in: Shinto Shrines, Buddhist Temples, side by side with rice paddies all linked by amazingly organized rapid transport trains. Each town and region in this area has preserved its own distinct regional character, foods and crafts. They each have regional delicacies or products for which they are renowned. Each has an identity, a unique quality that is preserved with pride. This same regional quality is so much harder to find in North America and is likely connected with their remarkable cultural conservatism.
In Japan Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples stand side by side, sometimes almost on top of one another, yet they do not appear to compete with one another. They represent two strong historic belief systems in Japan that have intermixed over the ages and now for the most part are preserved more for tourists than for their vital spiritual functions. People go there to walk through the gardens and take pictures not to sit in meditation or contemplation of the eternal or transitory. These temples are magnificent, powerful edifices, exquisite examples of skilled craftsmanship and the Japanese artistic esthetic. While they are known as centres of religious training they also appear to be every bit as much centres of power. Their architecture imposes a certain sense of calm fierceness that lets everyone know who holds the power.
sketching at buddhist temple
Waldorf Science Curriculum
The next afternoon I went to visit Waldorf teaching colleagues at the Kyotanabe Steiner School. I was invited impromptu to speak and sing with the grade 10 English class, which much to their credit have a very high level of language proficiency. I then spoke with the faculty about some of the core ideals that inspire the Waldorf science curriculum. Phenomenological science, Goethean or experiential science best describe the Waldorf approach to science. Here we strive to engage students actively with archetypical phenomena that help them to see more deeply into the workings of nature and to encourage them to take more interest in the natural world. It is a deeply ecological way of studying science as it is inherently a whole systems approach that includes the questioner as an essential element of any investigation. Thus rather than alienating students from the world of science, this phenomenological process invites them right into the heart of the research so that they can make their own discoveries, not just regurgitate what the teacher/experts say are the answers. This approach to science empowers the questioner and leads to a deeply integrated knowing.
The timing of the curriculum is also important as it engages children deeply in the natural world before and during their inner journeys through puberty. As we are all well aware puberty can be an all consuming time of acute self awareness, inner angst, change, new interests, especially in the opposite sex and often an emotional rollercoaster. The Steiner teachers and I looked at the positive effects of a phenomenological approach on adolescents going through this inner revolution of puberty. It can bolster their confidence, ground their passions and help expand their interests beyond the narrow bounds of their own change. We further explored how the Waldorf curriculum employs of art and science in a symbiotic way such that scientific precision and artistic nuance work hand in hand. Yes, a Waldorf teacher must be equally a scientist and an artist. These offer an essential balance to the curriculum and to the teacher. Lastly we discussed how each teacher needs to form an authentic relationship to the subject matter and equally to the students to create a healthy learning environment. We need to find a way to be interested in all aspects of the world and to take an interest in each student. It is no small task, yet these teachers showed that they are remarkably dedicated. Their students are clearly well engaged with the task of learning and their work is beautiful. What a pleasure it was to be in such a well humming school.
Kobe Shinwa Women’s University
The next few days were spent with Kobe Shinwa Women’s University. Kohei Yamane, the university Chairman, Yuki Ishioka, one of his talented professors who has been doing research in Toronto at the Toronto Waldorf School and Midori Sakurai, my translator extraordinaire, have been taking such good care of me, making sure that I have everything I need, delicious meals, excellent lodging and plenty of inspiration.
Kohei took me to visit a public school in Kobe that educates 600 students from grade 1 to 6. The principal met us and proudly showed us around. The school was spacious and well kept with large rooms for music, physical education, library and an in school kitchen which cooks fresh food for all the children. There was even a computer room, which we were all pleased to see was empty and looked relatively unused. So while the curriculum here is highly prescriptive and leaves little room for creativity or individuality to emerge, at least the ravages of modern computer bombardment have been kept in check. Most of the classrooms did not have screens of any kind. We saw teachers engaging children. And when we saw that the school did in fact have a computer lab, but that it was empty, the principal said, “The best way to educate children is with teachers. Computers have little to teach us about being human!”
I will share other thoughts about my visit and describe the International Education Forum in a later post.
Warren Lee Cohen
Dorothy Olsen was this year's recipient of the honorary Waldorf Education Certificate at the graduation ceremony for our Professional Development for Waldorf Teachers and Early Childhood Educators full-time programs on May 28, 2014. She was recognized for her enormous contribution to the work of Waldorf early childhood education in Canada over the past three decades. Although she was not able to be here in person, her presence was felt in the hearts of many who were, and in the hearts of other early childhood educators who have been inspired by her work.
In the early 1970s, Dorothy was the lead kindergarten teacher of the newly founded Vancouver Waldorf School, where she remained for most of a decade. In 1984 she became the founding kindergarten teacher at the Halton Waldorf School when it started in Campbellville, Ontario. In 1990 she joined the core faculty of the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto, where for 11 years she led the early childhood focus of the full-time Waldorf Teacher Education year. Returning to the west coast, in 1996 she co-founded the West Coast Institute for Studies in Anthroposophy, where she was a lead teacher until her retirement.
At the graduation ceremony, Jan Patterson spoke about the privilege of working with Dorothy and expressed special gratitude for her support when she passed on her early childhood work to Jan in 2002. "When we started our part-time early childhood program in 2010," Jan added, "I was again able to ask Dorothy for her blessing and mentoring in the development of this new program."
Jan Ney Patterson
Co director RSCT
Director Professional Development for Waldorf Early Childhood Educators full and part-time
Gene Campbell is the director of Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy - distance at the Steiner Centre. Gene is a pioneer in her own right, a teacher, a counselor and a long time student of anthroposophy. She clearly was impressed by this workshop. In her words, "It is a great pleasure to learn so much in such a short period of time about something that I have studied diligently for thirty-four years!" Below are Gene's reflections on the weekend.
Dr. Robert Gilbert of the Vesica Institute recently offered a three-day workshop in Toronto on Spiritual Science. It has left thoughts that need digesting over the coming months and exercises that need to be undertaken to strengthen new capacities.
It is enlightening to realize, as Dr. Robert Gilbert points out that much of what we do in our very busy lives has no direct contribution to the development of our own human capacities or of mankind for future generations. Centred in the work of Rudolf Steiner as the first initiate of this current age of Consciousness Soul development, Dr. Gilbert reminds us that we each participate actively in the shaping of human nature. Our thoughts, feeling, and actions set forces in motion that affect not only ourselves and those around us but also the collective consciousness of our age. He further founds his work on the three pillars of the Rosicrucian Oath: meaningful service to others, self-transformation on all levels, and dedicated striving to complete our true spiritual destiny.
Steiner assures us that, without our conscious and steady effort, our higher human capacities will lie dormant. It is easy to imagine how even one life that ends with little new development is a loss we all experience. To avoid this, we need a plan of action:
The day cannot be stretched but we can make better use of our time. The same twenty-four hours are given to each of us. A good first step is to do an inventory on how we are spending our time and where the opportunities are to free up time for our self-development through becoming more efficient at meeting necessity, more skilled at interpersonal communication to maintain healthy boundaries, and more conscious of our priorities by infusing our lives with purpose and direction.
Steiner asks us to bring the discipline of science to the study of the spirit. Good science is founded on a search for truth, objectivity, conscious explorations, original research, holding hypothesis, aligning with new truths as they are revealed to us, as well as subjecting our current perspective to peer review. Our starting point, then, is conscious, clear thinking. This can be developed and strengthened and will serve all aspects of life.
Through it, the difference between discernment and judgmental thoughts becomes self-evident. It’s equanimity offers us the best opportunity to determine what is inherent in a situation and what we ourselves bring to it that ‘muddies the water’ unnecessarily. Dr. Gilbert recommends as a first step to study the core concepts of spiritual science. They are founded on the wisdom of the human being and can therefore be tested by each person out of life itself.
Wherever we direct our attention, will determine our reality. Step by step, as our higher values begin to direct our attention, service to others, development of new capacities, and our unique destiny will unfold.
As a spiritual scientist, we take what has first been received through clarity of thought and we begin the task of digesting and experiencing what it is we now understand in order to develop new habits, capacities, and perspectives. We must plumb the depth of its wisdom and experience it in everyday life.
On-going self-assessment is not a process of self-judgment but rather an on-going method of course correction. The more objectively we regard our shortcomings, the more we are able to set to work to develop the practices that will strengthen them. The more we will slip past the part of us that ‘wants to behave badly” as Dr. Gilbert points out.
Under Dr. Gilbert’s leadership, exercises were offered for those of us, not yet disciplined enough to undertake them for ourselves, to experience the fruits of our next stages of development. He calls it ‘progressive spiritual weightlifting’. As you can imagine, we felt the burn but appreciated the new vistas!
Once experienced, there is no going back. We know the truth of what we have experienced. And yet, the work clearly lies ahead. Thoughts need digesting and exercises need doing for our own capacities to be developed.
Program Director: Foundations in Anthroposophy – Distance
More and more people are exploring the option of homeschooling their children and are keenly interested in the Waldorf approach to education.
The decision to homeschool is often based on dissatisfaction, fond memories of one’s own childhood education, lifestyle choices, to mention but a few. Rarely is the decision made from the perspective of meeting the developmental needs of the child and determining what needs to be in place in order to fulfill those needs.
The Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto offers parents the opportunity to explore the option of Waldorf homeschooling, and for those who choose to Waldorf homeschool, the centre provides a variety of ways of offering them support along their homeschooling journey.
As our children grow up their developmental needs change. As the parent/teacher we must constantly transform ourselves and our homeschooling approaches to meet those needs as best we can. This ½ day, week long workshop will build on the questions: ‘Why homeschool? Why Waldorf? What are the developmental stages of childhood? How can I continue to develop the adult in me?” and will transform those answers, through hands-on activities and individual planning time, into fresh, concrete, effective ways of moving forward for the upcoming homeschool year. The fundamentals covered during the March Waldorf Homeschooling Intensive would be an asset but are not a prerequisite.
Parents/partners are encouraged to attend this intensive as a team to collaboratively create the homeschooling journey that draws on each others strengths, offers support for one another and meets the developmental needs of the child(ren).
Prior to attending this intensive, it would be most helpful to have read the following books which provide a foundation as to what Waldorf education is as well what the journey is about from the perspective of being your child’s teacher: Understanding Waldorf Education from the Inside Out by Jack Petrash, School as a Journey by Torin Finser.
RSCT is busy preparing for our Summer Festival of Arts and Education.
Enrolments are coming in from Guatemala, South korea, Russia, USA and all parts of Canada. The early enrolment discount is only available through May 23.
What participants have to say about the Summer Festival of Arts and Education
"Inspiring, confidence building and a call to action!"
"I love, art, colour and biography work, so to have a course that weaved in these three was very enriching for me."
"Loooved it! just when I thought it couldn't get any better... it did."
Gene Campbell, Program Director
Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy - distance
A recent keynote address given by Nancy Blanning, a long-time Waldorf early childhood educator delivered at the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto, The Wonder of Boys, after the book by the same name by Michael Gurian, has proven to be controversial in its content within the Rudolf Steiner Centre faculty. It has raised the issue of gender’s relevance within Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy.
This issue is one that belongs to the wider community within the global movement and invites stimulating collective dialogue as it will have profound effects upon our future direction. In the spirit of healthy debate within the Waldorf movement, I wish to offer these thoughts:
Steiner said relatively little on the topic of gender and yet he placed it squarely within the context of his anthroposophical picture of the human being as far back as 1894. In Philosophy of Freedom: Chapter 14 Individuality and Genus, Steiner states:
“Man, however, makes himself free from what is generic. For the generic features of the human race, when rightly understood, do not restrict man’s freedom, and should not artificially be made to do so. What is generic in him serves only as a medium in which to express his own individual being.”
“The tendency to judge according to the genus is at its most stubborn where we are concerned with differences of sex. Almost invariably, man sees in woman, and woman in man, too much of the general character of the other sex and too little of what is individual.”
“Determining the individual according to the laws of his genus (race, people, nation, and sex) ceases where the sphere of freedom (in thinking and acting) begins.”
Note by Steiner in a later edition of the same book:
“Immediately upon the publication of this book (1894), critics objected to the above arguments that, even now, within the generic character of her sex, a woman is able to shape her life individually, just as she pleases, and far more freely than a man who is already de-individualized, first by the school, and later by war and profession. I am aware that this objection will be argued today (1918), even more strongly. None the less, I feel bound to let my sentences stand, in the hope that there are reader who appreciate how violently such an objection runs counter to the concept of freedom advocated in this book, and who will judge my sentences above by a standard other than the de-individualizing of man through school and profession.”
As spiritual scientists, we are continually seeking to understand the patterns being revealed to us in our work as Waldorf teachers. Steiner has offered us constitutional types for early childhood, temperaments for grades, and soul types for high school in addition to his anthroposophical picture of the human being formulated in the threefold and fourfold human as tools in our search for meaning. All of these he intended us to apply equally to both genders. If these are being used diligently in our child study, in what way are we judging them to be inadequate for our work?
If we can observe a pattern that even one member of the opposite sex could also express, to what degree would it be valid to attribute that pattern to gender? Are we able to eliminate the variable influences of culture (an environmental factor) to legitimately attribute it to gender (an inherent factor)?
Clearly, these are broad strokes in a debate that has spanned generations and clearly is on-going within the movement. If you would be willing to offer any comments or insights to broaden our perspective, we would be most appreciative.
Here it is, our new Summer Festival brochure hot off the presses. Choose from 23 stimulating workshops all connected with the theme, Metamorphosis. Parents, teachers, artists and others who yearn for inspiration out of anthroposophy, the arts and Waldorf education come together for three stimulating weeks of deep nourishment for body, soul and spirit - summer camp for adults.
More and more people are exploring the option of homeschooling their children and are keenly interested in the Waldorf approach to education.The decision to homeschool is often based on dissatisfaction, fond memories of one’s own childhood education, lifestyle choices, to mention but a few. Rarely is the decision made from the perspective of meeting the developmental needs of the child and determining what needs to be in place in order to fulfill those needs. The Rudolf Steiner Centre, Toronto offers parents the opportunity to explore the option of Waldorf homeschooling. And for those who choose to Waldorf homeschool, the centre provides a variety of ways of supporting them along their homeschooling journey.
This Waldorf Homeschooling Intensive has been designed as an opportunity for parents to explore and bring clarity to their questions: “Why homeschool? What is the Waldorf approach? What are things that need to be in place to effectively homeschool? How do I understand a child’s developmental needs? How do I develop and nurture the parent/teacher in me? ARe there advantages to parents homeschooling as a team and what might that team approach look like?
The answers to the above questions will ultimately impact the entire household. Parents/partners are encouraged to attend this intensive as a team to collaboratively create the homeschooling journey that draws on each others strengths, offers mutual support for one another and best meets the developmental needs of their child.
Prior to attending this intensive, it would be most helpful to have read the following books which provide a foundation as to what Waldorf education is as well what the journey is about from the perspective of being your child’s teacher: Understanding Waldorf Education from the Inside Out by Jack Petrash and School as a Journey by Torin Finser.
This intensive also serves as a foundation for the Bringing Spirit to Waldorf Homeschooling which is offered in the Summer Festival of Arts and Education July 7 to 11.
As our children grow up their developmental needs change. As a parent and teacher we must constantly transform ourselves and our homeschooling approaches to meet those changing needs as best we can. This ½ - day, week long workshop will build on the questions: ‘Why homeschool? Why Waldorf? What are the developmental stages of childhood? How can I continue to develop the adult in me?” and will transform those answers, through hands-on activities and individual planning time, into fresh, concrete, effective ways of moving forward for the upcoming homeschool year. The fundamentals covered during the March Waldorf Homeschooling Intensive would be an asset but are not a prerequisite.
Parents/partners are encouraged to attend this intensive as a team to collaboratively create the homeschooling journey that draws on each other's strengths, offers support for one another and meets the developmental needs of their child(ren).
As more and more individuals choose to parent their children out of the Waldorf philosophy, they become increasingly aware of the importance of gaining an understanding of the anthroposophical foundations of such an approach - the wisdom of the human being, child development and ways in which they can meet the needs of their children, as well as attend to their own adult development.
In response to the many requests from Waldorf-inspired parents, teachers and homeschoolers for ways of accessing Anthroposophy that can accommodate busy home life, the Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy distance course was created. This customized one-on-one distance course specifically designed for Waldorf parents and homeschoolers includes all topics required for certification thus fulfilling prerequisites for any future Waldorf teacher training or other anthroposophical training. At the same time, the practical work related to parenting and homeschooling provides a focus for digesting the concepts studied in Rudolf Steiner’s basic books.
The flexibility and individual attention of the course has great appeal. You can begin the program of assigned readings and personal phone or Skype mentoring sessions at any time and pace the studies to accommodate your schedule. Mentors for this Foundations Studies distance program bring many years of experience to the program, their training in anthroposophy, as well as their personal experience as Waldorf parents and homeschoolers. Marg Beard leads the Waldorf homeschooling option of the Foundations in Anthroposophy distance course.
Marg Beard lives in Wingham, Ontario with her husband Phil. They homeschooled, through to high school, their three now university age children and co-founded Rosewood – a Waldorf homeschooling group – which was in operation for 12 years. Marg leads the Waldorf homeschooling option of the Foundations in Anthroposophy distance course at the Rudolf Steiner Centre, Toronto; is a faculty member of Chiron which provides workshops for parents and teachers; a graduate of the Healing Education and Remedial Training (HEART) program from RSCT, and a mentor for da Vinci School, Toronto. Marg has her own Waldorf parenting and homeschooling consulting practice, KALLIAS, working in one-on-one or group settings both privately and with community organizations as well as with Waldorf, public and private schools.
Please contact Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto
905 764 7570 firstname.lastname@example.org www.rsct.ca
Waldorf Graduate and highly respected scientist, Andreas Schleicher, speaks cogently about the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) that he has been part of developing. He and his team at the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation in Paris have been analyzing data from schools arond the world to better understand what is working in education and what creates opportunities for excellence and equality in these schools. His research has led to the implementation of an international rubric (PISA) that measures not what students are being taught but rather how well they can use their education to solve new or different sorts of problems. This research reveals trends across boundaries of culture, nation and economic strata and tracks how those trends are changing over time. Regardless of what you think about the rising tide of testing in education, Andreas makes a compelling case for the advancement of education through obtaining clearer data about educational systems around the world. His is thinking outside the box, and he clearly carries a passion for developing the free human spirit. These are ideals shared by Waldorf educators.