Is there a world of education that keeps a child’s mind, development and heart and soul at the forefront? When it comes to education alternatives, what is available? Are our children coping socially in their particular school environment? If not where do we begin to look? Fresh Avenues can be created to enrich our lifestyles and our children’s minds by seeking out education alternatives. For Vicki Kearney, editor and self-publisher of her book, “Creating Avenues for Change, Timeless Moments”, it was something that she just had to do.
As a mother of four children, Vicki allowed herself to go with her natural instincts. When it came to caring for, nurturing and educating her children, ‘Natural Parenting’ is on the top of her list and fits with her way of life. The term ‘way of life’ is seemingly what instigated Vicki and her husband Peter Kearney to explore different avenues of education for their four wonderful children rather than going through standard education streams. After much investigation, Vicki and Peter decided on the Steiner Waldorf teaching method as being applicable to their ideals and wishes for their children’s futures.
Now with their fourth child at the Samford Valley, Steiner School in Queensland, Vicki felt compelled to express her gratitude and desire to spread the word about this mindful education movement by compiling her book ‘Creating Avenues for Change’. From there her explicitly edited photographic compilation became her way of spreading the word to the greater community. This carefully created photographic edition with overlayed poetic text, and spare verse, presented on 80% recycled fibre paper make this a fantastic addition to any lounge room or reception coffee table. ‘Creating Avenues for Change’ is a celebration of what a successful, heartfelt and happy experience a Steiner family can have. As a parent, an artist and editor, Vicki expresses this pictorially through magical photographs from 18 different Steiner communities. Vicki says she feels “connected at the heart” with this community and wants the world to know that such a fulfilling experience can make a child’s’ school years very enjoyable. It is the constructed reality of terrorism that we are all now facing as individuals in a global society, which influenced Vicki to present the Steiner Waldorf ideologies to us.
The events of September 11, 2001 and attacks on innocent global society members, coerced artistic Vicki to, as she says, “splash a little bit of beauty and positivity back into the world”. ‘Creating Avenues for Change’ is a fantastic remark on keeping childhood for our children. Vicki makes reference to this by quoting the Declaration of the Alliance for Childhood on the ‘Right to Childhood’ which states, “Children have a right to dream, and they need time to grow at their own pace. They have the right to make mistakes and the right to be forgiven”. (USA 2000)
Enriching the child’s mind and encouraging them to let their inner star shine as brightly as possible is really the basis of this type of schooling. The Steiner methodology celebrates childhood, encouraging feelings of willingness to participate in their class and as an individual. Beginning the teaching year with age old stories without pictures, encourages children to activate their senses to express themselves, by firstly listening and imaginative thinking, then speech and their will to input their responses to a class group revealing just what they got from the experience of the story. Alan Drysdale, a Steiner Waldorf teacher from Samford, Queensland, says that starting each year with an appropriate fable applicable to a child’s’ developmental stage, “enables one [teachers] to ‘touch the soul’ of children”. Observation of how the child’s mind works at different stages is the essence of making education exciting for children in the Steiner Waldorf school. Vicki says “Steiner schools take teaching strategies and a strong curriculum and allows the teacher to be flexible within it.
To develop each child individually and bring out the star in them”. The teacher must therefore be intellectually creative too. It is through the classroom and outdoor school activities that children learn about them selves, their community, environment, their natural surroundings and the global social community.
The results are obvious when parents later see their socially, well developed children exuding self-confidence through self-expression, mindfulness, equality and positive energy. Although standard schooling systems are embracing the Steiner stream within their systems, Vicki wants to open the message of the Steiner philosophy for Tertiary Institutions to be able to also apply these beliefs.
Children not only receive a great intellectual education but also a practical one, gaining the knowledge that all objects that one needs for life or survival, don’t just come from a factory or a shop but were originally sourced from primary products. At Steiner they are taught this through making tactile hand-crafts from organic sources, rather than solely communicating through speech or writing.
Producing something from these earthly sources brings great satisfaction and insight into how the world once was. Parents also take on board this tactile creative process by attending workshops to learn how to make the first kind of hand-crafted fabric of felt from wool products for classroom and home use. Children are generally not encouraged to wear commercial ‘gimmicky’ clothing or footwear to school. So parents usually get involved in making boots or slippers for their children to wear in the classroom while at school in the cooler months. The Steiner parent craft groups also make toys for their children and items to send to international underprivileged communities as well as for their own schools’ fund raising. There is a great acceptance of ‘living without’ too much technology.
A Steiner family life doesn’t revolve around commercialism and mass production. They are often knowledgeable of sustainable living, conservation of nature, water, energy and life, agriculture – participating in community market garden groups. Something more than a few of us could consider for our beautiful children that we so carefully bring into the world. Of course every family lives differently; behaviour is not mirrored to say the least. Individuality is a given amongst a community group with warm hearts and minds that would really like a more harmonious and peaceful existence like our world before industrialisation, mass production, the info-technology revolution and globalisation.
Socially adept Steiner graduates, with strength of character, self-drive, individuality and acceptance of cultural, social and political differences in the near and the wider communities may be just what is needed in this fast and seemingly ‘mad new world’ that we now live our lives in.