Madrona School Alphabet (N)

N is for nurturing….nurturing that underlies education at Madrona School. From our youngest students, introduced to a school setting through the sweet unfolding of a parent-child class, to the relationships that develop between students and teachers in both our early childhood program and our grade school, our faculty work hard to see each individual child and meet them where they are.

Our parent-child program offers a small child, ages 18-36 months, a home-like introduction to school and a social setting. Our teachers set up the room with care, selecting toys and activities, as well as parent education materials. This is often the way a family learns about Waldorf education. We run this program in two sessions, fall and winter/spring. If you know a family with young children, invite them to inquire about this most nurturing of classes!

Our preschool and kindergarten classes are both mixed-age, allowing for teachers to get to know a young student over two or more years together. Our teachers value their role as a parenting ally, and our students have a real opportunity to connect with another loving adult.  

This continuity is also an important nurturing element in our grade school. Class teachers move up through the grades with their students, getting to know a family over time; and our specialty teachers also enjoy building relationships. The teachers really get to know a family and their student, able to see growth from year to year, able to foster interpersonal relationships in the classroom, able to be another regular relationship in a young person's life. 

Teachers are, by definition, nurturing folks. At Madrona School, they gather for a morning verse of their own, a daily reminder of our school's focus on each student, on partnering with families to teach each child and see them go on into the world to become a whole and contributing member of society!

Finally, and not at all least, our parent community strives to nurture one another, through regular events like parent meetings and parent society, volunteering in the classrooms to share talent and time with teachers and students, and in helping when a family needs a little extra help. We invite you to enter into the school community in whatever way feels comfortable for you. Join us!

—adapted from our school newsletter

Madrona School Alphabet (M)

Our celebration of what makes a Madrona School Waldorf education unique continues with… M for music!

Music in its most basic rhythmic form surrounds us from our earliest days -- heartbeat and breath, and eventually those sweet, simple lullabies from our parents and caregivers. There are many books and articles to explain different ways our brains benefit from music, its relationship with math, with memory, and on and on. Music infuses our curriculum at Madrona School too. There are songs for all the work and transitions in our early childhood classes, and during circles throughout the grades. We sing as classes and at assemblies, we play flutes and recorders, and 4th graders choose a stringed instrument, playing and reading music together through 8th grade. Music helps our students practice pattern recognition (good for reading and math!), creativity of expression, and collaboration through ensemble work, not to mention improvement through the discipline of a daily practice. Music offers an expression of joyful organization and speaks to us on so many levels; its daily integration in the curriculum is truly something to treasure!

—adapted from our weekly email newsletter

Madrona School Alphabet (L)

Next up in our alphabet-based exploration of what makes a Waldorf education unique...L for living education. We've explored this topic in other ways throughout this alphabet, but it bears repeating. Living education happens when you offer learning through experience and discovery, when you have a strong relationship between teachers and students, and when you offer a curriculum that engages all the senses.

As members of the Madrona School community we can all think of the glimpses we have of this education in action. There are the bean bag exercises that combine mental math with rhythm and song, taking practice to perfect. There are the demonstrations of middle school science -- making sound resonance visible with a Chladni plate demonstration or studying mechanics through building simple machines. There are the 1st graders in handwork class, knitting yes, but stopping often to count their rows and look up at the shared pattern posted at the head of the room, mentally calculating and then announcing how many "mountains" remain in their project. There is the sharing of applesauce, sauerkraut and beeswax candles from 3rd grade practical arts lessons, and the understanding of a life cycle as they prepare to plant grains in our new garden space for next year's 3rd grade to harvest and study. There is the focused silence of book work in the 4th grade after an energetic and physical game of energetic sentence diagramming in language arts. Countless examples abound...

In a 2014 interview, Christof Weichert said: [A dynamic lesson] is the essence of Waldorf education. Steiner said that we teach within an artistic process…the experience is that of expansion and contraction. It is shaped by very precise use of oral qualities, visual qualities and interactive qualities, and they have to be in balance. You should always have an eye for what refreshes the children and what tires them. If the children get tired, you change into another mood or another activity so you and the children are in kind of a flow….If you are engaged—and you’ll find that in the third chapter of The Study of Man—if you engage yourself in what you do, you stay alive. You stay fresh.

—adapted from our weekly email newsletter, May 20, 2014

Madrona School Alphabet (K)

Next up in our alphabet-based exploration of what makes a Waldorf education unique...K is for knitting…and our handwork program in general. Handwork is one of the unique specialty classes offered in a Waldorf school. Developed to work in tandem with the curriculum as a whole, handwork strengthens fine motor skills and helps with hand-eye coordination, which in turn help students with writing, reading and math. Knitting, crochet, clay, woodcarving, embroidery etc., all contribute to the formative artistic foundations within a Waldorf education, fostering creativity, flexibility and independence.

Handwork is offered in kindergarten at Madrona School with some sewing and woodworking projects, but the program begins in earnest in 1st grade with knitting, providing a foundation for the rest of the program to build upon in future years. And, while students learn to knit, they come to see the beauty and utility that can be made with their own hands, simple materials and some perseverance. Often, the students will make something in this first year that they use everyday throughout their grade school years, like a flute case. Ask any older grade school student and they can probably remember what it was like to finally see their mistakes and fix them, to count the "mountains" in their knitted fabric, and the pride they felt upon the project's completion. There is a comfort in using something they made, even as they grow older and their skills improve.

For additional information, read Patricia Livingston's article "The Importance of Handwork in the Waldorf School", originally published in Renewal 9(1), 2000. Or see our blog post on handwork dated February 15, 2017.