Saturday, July 30, 2011

By wisdom a house is built

and through understanding it is established.
--Proverbs 24:3

This is a follow-up post from last fall's brief mention.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
--John 1:1-4

Last year, I read most of a book chronicling one teacher's journey through a Waldorf education. I enjoyed his classroom anecdotes as he narrated each year's studies and events with the same students for eight years. (In a Waldorf school, the students generally have the same teacher for the first eight grades.) His descriptions of singing, movement and playing songs on a pentatonic recorder/flute sparked an interest in me to re-learn the recorder and teach my children as well. Each chapter describes in warm detail, the learning that each year brought to his students.
I enjoyed the flow of the language and imagined what the classroom and its outdoor surroundings were like as I pictured happy, content children being nurtured and loved for their child-likeness. I had very little issues with the academic content as it seemed to stem from a true desire to make learning memorable and enjoyable, not rushed by a calendar or testing dates. I can still go back and find passages that I enjoy reading and thinking about as I relate to my own past classroom teaching days and now those days here at home with my children.

The book was a welcome read in many ways and I imagine I will keep it on my shelf along with my other homeschool/education books.
I write all that to say, as a Christian parent I do need to be aware of the various philosophies that may present themselves to me as viable options of learning.
If you spend any time reading the about a Waldorf-style education, you may notice what I did which is that many of the blogs and websites I have been exposed to espouse this way of thinking, often without clearly identifying themselves as "Waldorf" parents.
They are often the ones who would be described as easy-going, non-judgmental, well-educated, creative, and open-minded. They write loving posts about their children and the home-life they strive to create. They are Moms and Dads who play with and enjoy their children and work hard to pass on the best of life to their children. They are not dogmatic in their views, but are doing what's best for their own family as should you. They are careful to protect their children from harmful or toxic environments and lovingly nurture their children's dreams and fancies. They see life as a spiritual journey and will often allude to having spiritual moments or inspirations and the desire to do what is good and right. They revel in the beauty of nature and give thanks for its generous kindness to them. And they teach their children to reverence and care for nature and its beauty.

Now, perhaps you may be saying, yes, I have read and seen what you are describing and what's so wrong with it? They are just the kind of parents we wish all children had, caring and nurturing their young ones. And I can agree with that. I'm not suggesting that we should shun this educational method altogether or its adherents. However, as Christians we need to be consciously aware that most of this is being done in the absence of acknowledging and worshipping the Creator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Nature is admired and extolled independent of its Maker. Thankfulness abounds everywhere except to the Giver. These things should not be.
The Waldorf school is spiritually-minded but it does not spring from the work of the Holy Spirit as revealed to us in the Word of God. The Bible is not the standard, it is simply one revelation amongst many, many others. This is religious pluralism, the can't-we-all-get-along way of thinking and is directly opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So while I read their books, follow their blogs and admire their creativity, I need to be aware that their worldview is an invented religion which needs to bear the scrutiny of the Word of God. (To be clear, this biblical screening process applies to any educational method or philosophy that we happen upon, whether it be Waldorf, Montessori, Classical, unschooling, etc.)

The Apostle Paul encourages us to think carefully:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
--Colossians 2:8

I make every effort to use discernment as I surf the web or browse possible book titles. If something seems off, it probably is. Again, it does not mean that I have to run very fast in the opposite way, but I do need to wisely evaluate the ideas and philosophies that underpin a seemingly innocuous blog or book. Knowing what the Bible teaches about all areas of life is the surest way to be able to stand firm and not be swept away by hollow and deceptive philosophy.

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