Parents trying to open a Waldorf School in Spokane don’t have a building or a teacher, but they have lots of enthusiasm.
Lisa de Haan first read about the Waldorf educational philosophy several years ago in a toy catalog.
“It just sounded wholesome to me. The arts were an important part of the curriculum, and that drew me in, too,” de Haan said. “The emphasis was not so much on the child’s intellect, but on the physical, the intellectual and the artistic.”
De Haan and other interested parents are sponsoring a free talk on Waldorf education Saturday.
Two teachers from a Waldorf School in Nelson, British Columbia, Gill Pearce and Debora Oese-Lloyd, will speak from 10 a.m. to noon at the north Spokane County Library, 44 E. Hawthorne.
The Spokane parents hope to start a Waldorf-inspired preschool in the fall and possibly a full-fledged Waldorf School by 1996. They already are using Waldorf ideas in a twice-weekly play group at de Haan’s home.
There are Waldorf schools in Seattle, Olympia and Sandpoint.
The movement began in Europe in 1919 and is based on the ideas of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian-born philosopher.
Arts play a central role in Waldorf schools. Children learn two foreign languages and handwork such as knitting and cross-stitching. Teachers use a wide variety of materials - but seldom textbooks.
Waldorf’s sequential approach to teaching civilization begins with mythology in the younger grades and progresses through the Old Testament, ancient cultures and up through modern times by the time students reach eighth grade.
Teachers follow the same group of students from kindergarten through eighth grade.
“As a teacher, you work in a deeper way with a child,” said Oese-Lloyd. “It’s a system where you get to know them very well. They have more breathing space to learn when they’re ready to learn.”
Academics are not neglected for the arts, Oese-Lloyd said.
“It looks like there are more fine arts in Waldorf education because there is so little in the public school,” she said. “We believe art is a higher expression of human intelligence, not something extra.”
De Haan, who has two young children, wants to measure the interest of other parents in Spokane.
“It takes people coming together with a common vision and wanting Waldorf education for their children,” she said. “You need a lot of people who want this to happen.”