Family Guide: Review by Arthur Fink

A Beautiful Book

dandelionI can still remember my delight upon unwrapping the package containing Waldorf Education: A Family Guide edited by Pamela Fenner and Karen Rivers. It’s a beautiful book, filled with wonderful illustrations, and a wealth of helpful text. In this day, when so many books are typeset but never designed, it’s refreshing to encounter a book whose visual appearance and form is itself a statement about the need for rhythm and reverence in our lives.

Waldorf Education: A Family Guide has its origins as a parent handbook for the Marin Waldorf School. It is a compendium of articles on the history and practice of Waldorf education, content of the curriculum, meaning of the festivals, ways to complement the Waldorf school experience at home, understanding of the temperaments, and other topics that should interest current or prospective parents.

While this format doesn’t permit in-depth consideration of any of these topics, this is more than compensated by the wealth of material on the temperaments, multi-culturalism, rhythm and balance, and the role of spirit and religion.

Some of the articles deserve particular mention. Henry Barnes’ introduction to Waldorf education (“Learning That Grows with the Learner”) is an excellent short summary of how Steiner’s observations and theory find expression in the Waldorf School, and John Davy’s biographical sketch of Rudolf Steiner will help any newcomer understand how one man could be the source of so much wonderful creative ferment.

René Querido’s essay on “The Role of Temperament in Understanding the Child” provides vivid examples of how an understanding of temperament can help parents as well as teachers respond to our child’s needs:

‘One Friday [during watercolor painting] there was an accident, and a huge bucket of water got kicked over. What did the melancholics do? They got up and stood in it. The sanguines were immediately standing on their chairs and shouting, ‘Ooh — what is that?’ The cholerics rushed out after mops and buckets. What did the phlegmatics do? You may not believe it, but they sat in their chairs and lifted their legs above the water. I got the best lesson in my life.’

The book is filled with wonderful gems — and anexcellent bibliography and directory of Anthroposophical resources that will help the eager reader go further. For me, this appendix alone was worth the price of the book — and will certainly keep me engaged for years to come.

In addition to listing books and lectures about Waldorf education by Rudolf Steiner, and other books on Anthroposophy, education, parenting, festivals, music, and crafts there is a comprehensive list of Waldorf teacher training programs, Anthroposophical Society publications and addresses, and references to endeavors working with biodynamic agriculture (“healing the earth”, curative work (“soul care for those in need”), medical practice (“treating patients, not symptoms”), health and hygiene (“products for sound living”), eurythmy, speech and drama, music, painting, architecture, sculpture, finance and consultancy, religious renewal — all from an Anthroposophical perspective.

This book belongs on the bedside table of any parents who treasure the childhood of their young children, and of anybody else seeking a vivid introduction to Waldorf Education. It also should be in our public libraries, in the waiting rooms of our local pediatricians, on the book tables at seasonal fairs, and in any other places where prospective Waldorf parents might have a chance to leaf through this delightful volume.

Arthur Fink
Former President, Board of Trustees, Maine Coast Waldorf School, Maine

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