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Rethinking Education: Nurturing the Whole Human Being through Waldorf Education

Updated: Mar 24

When I had just graduated from high school and my parents were asking me what course I would take, I had no idea what to take. I didn’t have a preference. I knew I wanted to write because writing came easy to me, but that requirement didn’t limit my options either. I was nervous, but also, hopeful. I filled out three entrance forms and went to take the exams. In applying for three universities, I figured, I would pass at least one, right?

In a nutshell, I did get into a university, but more importantly, I passed all my exams. This means my education up to this point had prepared me well enough to get into all the colleges I chose. However, I realized as I grew older, my elementary and high school education prepared me well not just for these entrance exams, but for things far more meaningful than tests.

(Two little boys lining up to wash their hands at Sisidlan Institute.)

The friends I have, the way I speak, write, and think, the etiquette I use in social situations, can be traced back to my elementary and high school. As an adult, I can see how a habit begun at 7 years old of automatically putting dry trash in my pocket due to my school’s strict No Littering policy, has resulted in me becoming someone who sees the importance of protecting our environment. I can also see how spitting on the cement pavement once, at 9 years old, only to be seen and scolded by a teacher, has resulted in me becoming an adult who knows that public spaces are things we must take care of collectively in order to benefit the whole.

These are very small examples of the very many ways which schools all over the Philippines influence and develop the mindset and outlook of children everywhere. The culture of a generation of adults, starts from how they were taught as children.

(Replanting seedlings during farm work week of Class 9 Tuburan Institute and busy hands happy hearts Farm.)

Education is not just about the subjects that were taught to us, it’s also everything else. It’s both the said and unsaid rules, the things teachers say and the things they don’t. It’s the unspoken practices of behavior in talking, sharing, holding secrets, solving fights, dressing, and more, that we learned from our peers and the adults around us. It’s the absorption of these small, mundane, day-to-day things through our most formative years, which form a large part of who we are and how we see the world.

(Students working on an activity together, discussing strategies,

making conversation, sharing materials, and more.)

This is why schools are such an important and integral part of the growth of an individual, as well as the development of a community, and a country, as a whole.

If we are to move then as a society towards a future that is quickly changing, with all the very speedy developments in technology, social media, and trends which appear and disappear constantly, we need to take a good hard look at our schools and ask ourselves, “Are we truly preparing our children for the future?”

Perhaps in order to answer this question, we need to have a redirection of our vision. Instead of looking outward at all that’s happening in the world, trying to predict the jobs that may exist, the problems that may occur, and then educate based on that, we instead shift our vision to the child right in front of us.

(Two students in Grade 2 learning their multiplication tables through the story of a woodcutter bringing back sticks from the woods and how drawing and writing the entry into their book.)

In university, we are educated based on a job market that administrators predict will still exist when we graduate. It’s a very job-directed sphere of education.

However, elementary schools and high schools have a different purpose. From when a child is 5 years old up until they are 18, they are taught how to be a functioning adult. Schools answer the question, “How do we educate this new person to speak well, write well, think well, and more?” The teaching starts off simply at 5, and becomes more and more complex as the children get older. However, over the years, elementary and high schools in the Philippines are beginning to put more and more emphasis on academics (Science, Math, English, AP, Filipino, etc.) and not so much on non-academic subjects (Arts, Crafts, PE, etc.) This is not through any fault of the schools per se, but because the world has this very powerful idea that the brain is the most important part of us and that we must educate the brain in order to eke out the most potential from our children.

But new science is showing us that sometimes we need to move in order to think. We need to write in order to think. We may also need to talk in order to think. Thinking doesn’t just happen through the effort of your brain. It happens through the effort of your whole entire being.

(Sisidlan and Tuburan Institute's Class8&9 students during their Mt.Apo hike)

And on some subconscious level, we understand as well that a human being cannot survive on thought alone. A person has to feel things such as love, empathy, and understanding, in order to be part of a community.

In addition, in order for things to be done, a person has to have the mature will to be able to move and create things in the world. They need to be able to transform thought into action, imagination into reality. Simply put, your Thoughts, Feelings, and Actions, all need to be developed equally in order for you to get as much out of this human experience as possible. Thought isn’t the only thing that matters. It must be all three or else, the unbalanced child also becomes an unbalanced adult.

But this is difficult. Why?

Because the world, doesn’t think this way. The world thinks in parts, not in wholes. The world likes to cut big things into small pieces, and then delve deeply into the pieces. It forgets to put all the pieces back together again in order to see a deeper, richer, view of the whole. This is so with how we see environment, how we see society, how we see people, and by extension, how we see a child.

Admittedly, it is difficult to see the whole, and far easier to see the parts. However, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Educating for the whole being of a child is exactly what Steiner-Waldorf Education strives to do. It is an education that prioritizes the holistic development of children through a balancing of their thinking, feeling, and willing. Put into practice, a Waldorf school gives equal importance to both academic and non-academic subjects. This teaching sees the relationship between how a child’s movement in sitting, walking, and running, can develop spatial orientation skills, and eventually, abstract mathematical thinking. It sees how knitting and crochet in young children can develop the vision and fine motor skills of the eventual teen. It sees how stories of fables and parables, heroes and monsters, can develop the internal nuances of a child’s feeling for greater concepts of courage, duty, honor, and love.

And so, at Dreambucket, we recognize the transformative impact of Steiner-Waldorf Education and are committed to supporting initiatives that prioritize the holistic development of children. This is why Dreambucket has under its list of initiatives, both Tuburan Waldorf School and Sisidlan Institute. By endorsing Waldorf schools and similar institutions, Dreambucket contributes to building a foundation for future generations that will allow them to go beyond the confines of old ideas of education, towards a direction where they grow in empathy, responsibility and freedom, well and able to meet new challenges and find meaning and purpose in the world.

This is because, at the heart, we believe that children are the future of society, and when we educate for the whole development of a child and not a development of parts, that is when society truly flourishes.

(Taken from a play performed by Sisidlan Institute Students.)

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