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Waldorf News

'Western society is chronically sleep deprived': the importance of the body's clock

The cycle of day and night on our planet is age-old and inescapable, so the idea of an internal body clock might not sound that radical. In science, though, asking the questions “why?” and “how?” about the most day-to-day occurrences can require the greatest leaps of ingenuity and produce the most interesting answers. This was the case for three American biologists, Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young, who earlier this week were awarded the Nobel in medicine or physiology, for their discovery of the master genes controlling the body’s circadian rhythms. The first hints of an internal clock came as early as the 18th century when the French scientist Jean-Jacques d’Ortous de Mairan noticed that plants kept at a steady temperature in a dark cupboard unexpectedly maintained their daily rhythm of opening and closing their leaves. However, De Mairan himself concluded this was because they could “sense the sun without ever seeing it”. More »

How do I Find and Create Goodness for My Children?

In difficult times such as these with environmental disaster of almost unprecedented scale and concern about friends and others in Japan at the forefront of our thoughts, it is not easy to feel the goodness in life. In an external crisis, our urge is often to listen and see the news and to share our feelings with other adults. As a consequence, it is easy for the children around us to be exposed to things that they cannot understand, to become fearful about situations they will never see and cannot change even if we think that the media or adult conversations are not attended to by the children. Even pre-verbal children can sense profoundly the distress in our inner being. But nothing brings stamina for life and daily well being to our children more directly and strongly than surrounding them and immersing them into an atmosphere of goodness and joy. For us as adults, the message they seek from us is this: I am happy to be alive, I am interested in the world around me and I want to find a place for myself within it. Children are born with an openness to meet what their lives will bring. Despite their individual destinies and challenges, this openness is present and as the adults in the child’s world, we have tremendous potential to cultivate this openness. More »

Education for Nonviolence: The Waldorf Way By Torin M. Finser, PhD

In a world of increasing violence and destruction, many parents and educators are asking, “How can we raise children with the resilience needed to face such challenges? How can we help our children become confident and compassionate contributors in society?” In his new book, Education for Nonviolence: The Waldorf Way, Dr. Torin Finser examines the source of evil and terror, identifying its root within the human soul. If human nature has the capacity for both goodness and evil, Dr. Finser argues that educators and parents must be concerned with educating not just the intellect of each child, but the entire soul. He describes, “In this case, the source of evil is in the human soul, the psyche, the inner life of a person. The life of emotions, of anger, fear, and envy are real forces that work their way outward from within. If one is to get at the root of evil, one has to begin with the soul” (21). In Waldorf Schools, teachers loop for many years with their classes, providing an opportunity for the teacher to know his/her students more deeply. In striving to see each child holistically, teachers are able to deliver instruction that meets the specific needs of each child. More »

What Would Steiner Say… About Painting with Children?

If Rudolf Steiner walked into a Waldorf school painting class today, what might he notice, and what might he say? (I don’t wish to offend anyone who believes I’m being impertinent by putting words in Steiner’s mouth, but my intention, through reference to what Steiner is recorded to have said, and also to what there’s no record of him ever saying, is to make more immediate what would otherwise be dry.) Q. What about all that wet-on-wet watercolor painting? A. Believe it or not, I never said anything about that! I only said that the paint should be liquid. Yes, it’s a way to keep the paper flat and to have the colors bump up against one another in a beautiful way, but it’s not necessary, and it’s certainly not something to carry on year after year through elementary school. Q. What about paintings of one color only? A. Again, I never said anything about that! Why limit the children’s experience? Is this a meeting of German rectitude and American Puritanism? That’s not what I intended! I spoke about individual colors, of course, but every reference that I made to a painting exercise for children concerns at least two colors; a comparison, a contrast that can give rise to a feeling in a child’s soul. Don’t confuse the theoretical with the practical! And don’t confuse my esoteric lectures for adults with my recommendations for teaching children. More »

The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life: the new sleep science: Leading neuroscientist Matthew Walker on why sleep deprivation is increasing our risk of cancer, heart attack and Alzheimer’s – and what you can do about it

Matthew Walker has learned to dread the question “What do you do?” At parties, it signals the end of his evening; thereafter, his new acquaintance will inevitably cling to him like ivy. On an aeroplane, it usually means that while everyone else watches movies or reads a thriller, he will find himself running an hours-long salon for the benefit of passengers and crew alike. “I’ve begun to lie,” he says. “Seriously. I just tell people I’m a dolphin trainer. It’s better for everyone.” Walker is a sleep scientist. To be specific, he is the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, a research institute whose goal – possibly unachievable – is to understand everything about sleep’s impact on us, from birth to death, in sickness and health. No wonder, then, that people long for his counsel. As the line between work and leisure grows ever more blurred, rare is the person who doesn’t worry about their sleep. But even as we contemplate the shadows beneath our eyes, most of us don’t know the half of it – and perhaps this is the real reason he has stopped telling strangers how he makes his living. When Walker talks about sleep he can’t, in all conscience, limit himself to whispering comforting nothings about camomile tea and warm baths. It’s his conviction that we are in the midst of a “catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic”, the consequences of which are far graver than any of us could imagine. More »