Raising Children in Harmony with Mother Nature
A verse often recited in Waldorf schools goes like this: “The Earth is firm beneath my feet. The sun shines bright above. And here stand I so straight and strong, all things to know and love.”
In accordance with the Waldorf philosophy, the verse encapsulates an approach that from infancy prepares children to become adults able to live in harmony with the Earth and in integrity with themselves. It illustrates what adults wish for children: a way to grow up feeling secure, capable and able to know and love the world and one another.
The Earth is firm beneath my feet…
The Earth supports, heals and nourishes people in abundant ways. What experiences foster in young children such a sense of security and trust in the goodness of the Earth? When adults teach by example the joy of growing and eating fresh fruits and vegetables, transforming food waste into rich compost and making teas, ointments and remedies, children gain a visceral experience of the Earth providing for them, which can give them an incomparable sense of security.
Simply being given the opportunity to play in nature and to experience the beauty of the rain, grass, flowers, stones, leaves and ice, children can feel that the Earth is a treasure house overflowing with riches. A fly’s glistening green back is a jewel. This can lead the child to sense that the world is good. If the world is good, then, the child internalizes the experience that, “I can be here, wholeheartedly.”
The sun shines bright above…
The sun signals when it is time to wake up and when to sleep. Yes, the sun will set at the end of this day, but a new day will come. The rhythms of day and night and the seasons give the sense of assurance that there is a time for everything. Nothing needs to be rushed. The speed of technology, cars and other so-called time-saving machinery can make us feel frantic, rather than relaxed.
Adults can best lead children when they create and work with rhythms that honor the body’s alternating need for rest and activity, for time alone and in community and for eating and digesting. By establishing and maintaining healthy rhythms, adults give children the freedom to breathe deeply and grow in a healthy way.
And here stand I so straight and strong, all things to know and love…
Teaching children at a young age to do things themselves such as put ting on their jackets, cleaning up after themselves and serving others at the table helps them discover their importance, impact and value. They gain a sense of responsibility and self-worth from which they are better equipped to treat all beings with respect and consideration; to be true to themselves and capable of forming deep, positive relationships; and to be strong and self-sufficient in community.
Lori Barian helped establish Tiny Green Trees Children’s Center and serves as director of administration for Great Lakes Waldorf Institute, both in Milwaukee.