February 23, 2014

What Education Means To Me (Why I Love Waldorf)

Discussing and choosing the right kind of education is like discussing and choosing a religion. It all boils down to: what is education to you?

I had no choice when my eldest was in pre-school since I wasn’t the one who paid for it, and quite frankly, I was too young to weigh for myself what was truly important. He did go to a good pre-school but really, what makes a school “good”? My then-5 year old boy was studying fractions and geography and I thought that was the new norm because when I was in pre-school we only had time for stories, clay, play, snack, and naps. In hindsight, my son’s school was that kind of school that saw children as numbers, as academic statistics. It was all about how many toddlers they can send to Manila’s top schools. I never aspired my son to go to those “top schools” but that kind of education and environment surely made me question the capability of my own child: Why hasn’t he learned how to read yet? Is there something wrong with my child? I didn’t know then that I was asking myself the wrong questions.
Learned fractions, the 7 continents, and so much more! I thought it was all good...

"When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
― John Lennon
For the first two years of his elementary life, I sent him to a non-traditional school, also in Quezon City. It was a non-conventional school and they approached learning in a fun and interactive way. My son learned how to love reading in this school but in retrospect, the whole approach was still too cerebral. I didn’t know then that I wanted more for my child. I didn’t know then that there could be so much more to “educate”.

When we left the crazy city and moved up to the mountains, the nearest school that appealed to my taste was Waldorf. At first it was too radical, but between “too radical” and traditional, I chose the former. And I believe I made the perfect choice.

The Transition

If I am to profile a typical 2008 3rd grader, they would be little people who were into High School Musical. Their shoes a wide variety of funky Chuck Taylor. They consumed hotdogs and fries like there's no tomorrow. They're into Spongebob and Harry Potter. They owned things like iPods and iPads with Linkin' Park and Soulja Boy MP3s.

When my son moved to Waldorf in 2009, he was so disappointed that his FrancisM moves didn’t appeal to his new classmates, heck they didn’t even know who Francis Magalona was. He was disappointed that his new Chucks were irrelevant. He was disappointed that he wasn’t allowed to use stickers with skulls and other ‘Chemical Romance’ or ‘emo’ things on his lunchbox and notebooks. Instead, he had “odd” classmates. He had classmates who played with wooden stilts and/or knitted tote bags during breaks.

I admit I was culture shocked.
With his classmates who were, naturally, into exploring bugs at the age of 8.
I thought my son’s love for “emo” stuff was “self-expression” and I tried to question the teacher about it. What I didn’t realize then that it wasn’t “self-expression” at all, but rather, pop culture reflecting off my child. And the goal of Waldorf was to find out WHO MY CHILD REALLY IS before he can explore pop culture. Before the Hanna Montanas and Sponge Bobs of the world corrupt the child, Waldorf education digs deep and encourages them to grow as who they really are with detailed and age-appropriate curriculum. As one parent shared, during one of our many book studies, “I decided to move my daughter to Waldorf because she was no longer herself. She acted and sounded exactly like the character she watches on TV. The scary part is, it wasn’t only her but her classmates as well.”

It may seem “wrong” to block off the “real world” to these children, but if you think about it, what is real and what isn’t? How can a child find out the “real side of him” if he is bombarded with people and things to idolize and mimic? How can they enjoy nature and spend time with themselves when they’re already addicted to the moving graphics of computer applications and cartoons? I came to realize that cognitive knowledge, emotional and spiritual learning, practical and physical skills are well achieved if there are little to no exposure to Disney, Cartoon Network, Eat Bulaga, and the likes in the first 12 years of a child’s life. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want media to define my child. (Read why Silicon Valley hot shots send their kids to Waldorf here and here).

Finding Out What Education Means to Me

Five years in Waldorf and I am still learning a lot of things about my son. My responsibility doesn’t stop at when I pay the tuition fee and I don’t assess his progress through numbers on papers alone. Not just based on his squiggly paint lines, or crookedly crocheted Christmas ornaments, even. My son’s teacher meticulously explains what goes on in a person as they sail through one developmental phase after the other so we have a better understanding or a good advantage when assessing my child’s behavior, temperament, interests, language, and rhythm. The teacher fostered a solid partnership between us and in effect, made me realize that my responsibility doesn’t stop with my child. It goes on a social level and so I started learning how to echo the values of the entire community and vice versa.

“The healthy social life is found when, in the mirror of each human soul,
the whole community finds its reflection and when,
in the community, the strength of each individual is living.”
- Rudolf Steiner

Blame it on my pregnancy, but I was teary-eyed one day when we had a question and answer portion with Waldorf kids. One parent asked them to describe their future selves and they said: "happy, inspirational, and helpful". "Aren’t you already happy, inspirational, and helpful?", a parent pushed. They said they already are and so much more, but they want to continue being so in a global scale ten years from now. I half expected to hear the usual: ‘Successful businessman’, ‘brilliant doctor’, ‘rich lawyer’, and so on and so forth. A fool I am to forget for a second that these children aren’t molded like other children. Other children who spend 8 or more years of their school life brainwashed to think that in order to survive this world is to study hard and get a job that pays well. Other children who are used to measure themselves through how many medals they have around their necks. Other children who are exposed to the idea that their worth is as good as how many games their school wins on national TV.

What truly matters to me is for my children (and other children!) to grow confident, compassionate, respectful, grateful, appreciative, helpful, generous, and to have enough sense to survive this world without succumbing to nasty tricks. I want them to be whole, I want them to be the kind of people who will never be cynical, jaded, and selfish. I want them to be citizens of the world and I want them to know that the power to attain real freedom and peace comes from within. Excellence in academics is just sweet bonus.

I agree with what a co-parent said on the video above: The world would surely be a better place if there are more schools like this.

I am not saying I am trying to raise a Ghandi. Truth be told, my teen lies and tease people like any other teen, heck he is even addicted to MineCraft. I’m just happy I have a solid idea who and how I want them to be and I am grateful I found a school to make me realize these things and help me achieve it the best way possible. 

The only competition is yourself.
Fishing to kill time with school friends. No iPads/iPhones allowed.

Biology class: Cooking healthy food for the body

I want my sons to be confident, compassionate, respectful, grateful, appreciative, helpful, generous, and to have enough sense to survive this world without succumbing to nasty tricks. I want them to be whole, I want them to be the kind of people who will never be cynical, jaded, and selfish. I want them to be citizens of the world and I want them to know that the power to reach real freedom and peace comes from within.

"We are often asked: 'Are you preparing your children for the REAL WORLD? Are they ready to enter this school or that school?' ...I believe we are selling ourselves short if that's the only thing we're looking for. The answer is YES and more. They're people who can think outside the box, people who can create new forms. It's not just on the level of development of the intellect but it is this whole human being."

"It's not preaching morals to these children, but allowing them to find their own moral within different stories that they hear or different lesson situation that come out."

"You can tell there's really something beautiful going on in Waldorf but you can't say exactly what it is."

Fitting that this video ended with a Waldorf Medieval Fair. Acacia Waldorf School's Medieval fair is this coming February 28! Please come and join us!

Note of Thanks:

Thanks to my mother who introduced this school to me and for helping my husband and I with the finances. We are forever grateful.


  1. Hi Pika! Thank you for this article. You know, I've been hearing a lot about Waldorf and I even know a friend who's an art teacher there. The closest Walforf school in our home is Waldorf Manila and I am seriously considering them as an option for my daughter next year. I still need to do my homework and get to learn more about Waldorf, and coming across this is really helpful for me.

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