According to Waldorf philosophy children become secure in their bodies through daily rhythm. A daily routine is set so children know what to expect and therefore feel safe throughout the day. Teachers are discouraged from reading children books and asking children questions or interrupting them in any way from a dreamy inner place they are thought to occupy. I deeply believe in creating rhythm for children as a way to hold them. I also deeply believe in reading children books, and asking them questions. When we don't engage the child, and don't create opportunities for him to make meaning of the world (in a manner that excites him and invites conversation) , it seems to me that we are in some way limiting the child’s freedom.
According to Barbra Patterson, author of’ Beyond the Rainbow Bridge: Nurturing our children from birth to seven’, A Waldorf teaching handbook, children age 3-5 need to be given space to play with no interruptions, in order to fully play out their dramatic play. This suggests a child who is connected to the spirit world, who learns by taking things in through all his senses, and through working with his body, rather than his mind. This suggests a child who instinctively observes and imitates adults, but does not think. For this child, simple non-directive creative play spaces are designed to encourage growth and spontaneity in play. At the same time this child’s projects and trains and villages that were made yesterday are not saved in the classroom for today, which is just the opposite of a Reggio approach to early childhood education which allows for children to build on and extend their thinking from yesterday by approaching it with a fresh angle today. To a Reggio approach this fresh angle is considered to be rooted in meaning that has been retained from previous work. To a Reggio educator thinking is something that is encouraged and supported.
To me this brings up an important question. What is freedom in early childhood programming? We wish to offer children the opportunity to unfold their inner nature, express their ideas and their understanding of the world. We hope for them to become individuals who will be self motivated and who will feel that nothing can stop them in life. But, placing our adult assumptions and interpretations on stringent ideas regarding what education should be for children restricts children's freedom. Placing children in a program that limits the opportunities for their encounters with opportunities to question and engage their curiosity is only one way in which we impact children's sense of freedom to learn.
This brings me to a larger perspective that states that any child entered into any childcare program is not free. He is enrolled within a structure that is of his teachers choosing. It seems to me that in taking this perspective into consideration we can see that there is an inherent danger in teaching of projecting our adult theories on a child, as opposed to being fluid enough to respond to the child’s actual needs. The question is can we be flexible enough within our theories and philosophies to be able to see and respond to the child.
To me freedom has to do with creating a place of freedom within ourselves as adults. When we are free, and not too constricted by any one idea of what childcare should look like, we are better able to see the needs of the individuals before us that are in our care. When we keep flexible and self-reflective we are setting the stage for ongoing wonder and learning within ourselves. This is something that I do believe the children will imitate.