Waldorf Found Our Family

By Marla Beck, parent, Class of 2022

When my daughter was born, a friend of my husband’s gave us two books to read:  You Are Your Child’s First Teacher and Heaven on Earth. What a gift to be shown a path to rich play, warmth and rhythm in the home!  I won’t say we attained our ideals (we did not), but this slow, simple framework served our family well when our daughter was very young.  Despite all the things we did not know as new parents, we were clear about this:  in our home, we’d respect our little one and nourish her curiosity and wisdom through play.

As our daughter grew into a preschooler and kindergartener, she attended a Waldorf homeschool co-op and a Waldorf-inspired public school program.  At this time, another friend of my husband’s – Kristine Deason, a seasoned Marin Waldorf School teacher – told him:  “You should send your daughter to Marin Waldorf.”  Jon said there was a feeling of inevitability in her words. Many years later, here we are – parents of a rising eighth grader!

Jumping into Waldorf education wasn’t the easiest decision for our family to make, despite the natural affinity we felt for this way of learning and being.  Waldorf seemed risky.  Would our child read on time?  What about computers?  Would she know what was going on in the “real” world? 

When we didn’t voice these questions ourselves, concerned family and friends spoke our worries out loud.  We had no “real life” examples of Waldorf education.  Would it really work for our family?  Our child?  If so, what qualities would this kind of education foster in our daughter?

One of my daughter’s preschool teachers, Christine Zelehoski, used to tell us, “Every year of Waldorf education is a lifelong gift you give your child.”  I leaned on Christine’s words a lot in the early years.  When we enrolled our daughter at Marin Waldorf School, I chose to trust.

Eight years later, I smile at the concerns we once had.  For anyone with a younger child, I can share this. Our eighth grade daughter and her classmates:

  • Tackle difficult readings
  • Practice public speaking, storytelling and writing
  • Possess a solid, felt-in-the-body comprehension of foundational math skills and algebra
  • Confidently use technology for research and communication
  • Discover scientific principles through their senses, beauty and wonder, developing skills in observation, prediction and deductive reasoning along the way

Reading, writing, arithmetic?  Check.  Science and technology?  Check.  These kids are graduating with a solid academic foundation, knowledge that is anchored in their bodies and hearts as much as their minds.  I tend to think facts and information “stick” this way. 

In addition to academics, these kids have experienced and practiced principles of craftsmanship, continuity and interconnectedness.  They build beautiful wooden objects with real tools, knit their own socks, and learn to blend their voices together in distinct, multi-part harmonies that sometimes make me cry.  These children tend to the land, the school garden and their environment. They learn the human story through Western art and history, and they engage with  non-dominant narratives, too.  I love that our students have heard and know some of the stories of the First peoples – men, women and children who perhaps knew Grandmother Oak when she was just a sapling.  I love that, when Marin Waldorf children have disputes, the teachers here are involved and aware, taking the time to teach our children constructive ways to voice their truths, communicate and problem-solve. 

This loving community has taught our daughter well, but it has supported us as a family, too.  The world is complicated. The daily rhythms of work, and the yearly rhythms of responsibility, kindness and celebration have given form, comfort and richness to our family life. We have learned to honor the seasons.  We’ve looked forward to working and playing hard together at the Children’s Faire each year – especially when our class got to be the Sleeping Giants!  We’ve looked forward to annual traditions – the tenderness of the Rose Ceremony, the reverence of Winter Assembly, the exuberance of May Faire, and the many opportunities we’ve had to offer time and energy throughout the year. The parent evenings that cycled through each school year gave us, as parents, an opportunity to grow a community, have hard discussions and learn about our daughter’s development through her teacher’s eyes. Annabelle has made lifelong friends at Marin Waldorf, and so have Jon and I.  We appreciate the inner and outer beauty of the place.

I’ll close with two scenes from recent daily life in our family.

On a recent flight back east, a Jackson 5 song came through my headphones.  I’d heard ABC many times before, but this lyric made me sit up straight:

Reading, writing, arithmetic

Are the branches of the learning tree

But without the roots of love everyday girl

Your education ain’t complete

Marin Waldorf has given our eighth graders “roots of love.”  They’ve experienced a powerful sense of belonging that is rare in middle school years.  They’ve learned practical skills and ways of being that will support them in living happy, purposeful lives.  Education, indeed.

One last story. 

Yesterday afternoon, my daughter stepped into a radiology exam room to get an x-ray for her wrist. Our daughter greeted the tech with a question.

“How’s your day going?” 

After the x-ray (which turned out fine), the tech came out of the room to speak with me.

“Excuse me,” she said, looking hard at me from behind her Covid face shield. 

“Your daughter – “  The woman’s voice broke, and her eyes teared up.

“You – you are raising a daughter who cares,” she said.  “Thank you.” 

We are raising children who care. 

Our community – our school – has been raising our daughter right alongside us.  Every day, our daughter has had opportunities to learn how to get along well with others, respect others’ differences and express her own truth and kindness with conviction.

We are raising children who care. 

A huge and heartfelt cheers! to Marin Waldorf School.  Our parent community, Ms. Terziev, the staff and teachers at our school have raised a class of beautiful, independent eighth graders who care – each in their own way.

Jon and I are forever grateful for all the good our family’s received at Marin Waldorf School.  We wish you the very best on your family’s journey here. 

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