By: Becky Larson
It has been a pleasure to interview so many members of our faculty and staff here at City of Lakes Waldorf School this year, in celebration of our 25th Anniversary. I’ve found that the question “How did you discover Waldorf education?” is actually quite revealing. No two answers are quite alike and they immediately begin to paint a portrait of the speaker. Now it’s my turn, and I get the unique opportunity to write my own story.
The little girl in this photograph is 6 years old. She has recently knocked out all four of her front teeth. She was showing off for a neighbor boy by doing donuts on her blue two wheel bicycle. On the day this school photo was taken, her mother had spent a solid hour curling and aquanetting her bangs into an elaborate coiffure that did not survive the vigors of recess.
How did you discover Waldorf Education?
I discovered Waldorf through the design blog Apartment Therapy and a companion book called “The Eight Step Home Cure“. I’ve often felt torn between beauty and meaning. I love art and fashion and beautiful interiors, but have often found them to be hollow shells of consumerism. I’ve always felt that at their best, beauty and meaning belong together, each enhancing and enriching the other. I liked the perspective of the book, with it’s focus on creating a healthy home first, one that is beautiful because it is healthy, not merely a beautiful facade.
The approach resonated deeply for me- the idea that caring about the way you arrange your home, or the clothes you put on your body, or the food you eat, can and should be tools for the spirit to grow. Attending to the details of daily experience should help you to be more alive and more engaged with the world. I had to know more. I found that Maxwell Ryan, had once been a Waldorf teacher. My only experience of Waldorf were the rather odd looking faceless dolls I’d seen on Etsy, and the salad made with apples, walnuts and celery.
How did you find City of Lakes Waldorf School?
We were living on the Big Island of Hawaii, and I was working as a Response to Intervention teacher in Hawaii Public Schools. Hawaii is consistently ranked 47 or 48 of the 50 states in public education, and though there were many beautiful things about the culture and our life there, it was disheartening to see so many children falling through the cracks. As I read about Waldorf education, I realized that many of the common behavioral and learning issues I saw in the children I worked with were due to developmentally inappropriate curriculum. There were also heavy restrictions placed on teachers, mandated regulations and a heavy emphasis on testing and data collection. I was interested in a more holistic approach, one that considered the emotional and spiritual development of the child. I wanted something that was kinder to the children, and the grown ups too.
We decided to make a move back to Minnesota to be nearer to our family and I discovered that City of Lakes Waldorf School was only a few blocks from the apartment we would be moving into. I applied at once, with an emphasis on my background in education, writing and social media marketing, (especially around Becky Kazana, my wedding cake topper business). I began work in my first month in a new city, starting in October of 2012. By July of 2013, my role had expanded to include alumni work and event planning and I had a new title: Marketing & Events Coordinator. Though you may not see me often (my office is tucked away near the library in the basement) I am the person behind the weekly update, many of our school communications, as well as fundraisers and special events.
What is Special about City of Lakes Waldorf School?
Last year, when the re-branding work was just getting started, we had some brainstorming sessions with a large team, led by Dion Hughes and Jeff Stoner. At the close of a long session of fun, collaborative, creative work at Persuasion Arts & Sciences, we were asked to answer a simple question. Imagine you’re at a cocktail party, talking to someone who’s never heard of Waldorf education before. What would you say in 30 seconds? As we went around the room, there were witty and insightful answers, many revolving around the experience of parenthood. I became suddenly nervous. As one of the few in the room with no children, and a definite Waldorf outsider, I wasn’t sure what to say. I hoped no one would notice I hadn’t spoken. Then Dion said, “How about you Becky?”
I stared at the ceiling, considering. “Well, I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t have any children, so…” I trailed off hopelessly. “This place makes me want to have babies,” I blurted out. And it’s true. It did and it does, and now I’m pregnant.
For many years, my husband and I weren’t sure if we wanted to become parents or not. Parenting demands so much self sacrifice, and a commitment and stability we didn’t have ready to offer. Parenting is presented in our culture as such an involved, beleaguering affair, and kids are rushed through growing up with so much anxiety. I didn’t want to be part of that.
But City of Lakes Waldorf School offered another picture. Kids are allowed to be kids here. They play outside in the sunshine or rain or snow, and they learn how to work with their hands, whether it’s knitting or juggling or playing the flute. Best of all, are the poised, confident young people like the ones graduating from 8th grade this week. They are so unlike the slope shouldered, downtrodden, angry middle school students I remember from public schools. They look you in the eye, they know who they are, and they are excited and curious about the journey still before them. That is something I am proud to be part of.