Waldorf Pure?

This actually goes with this post:  “Are You Moving Forward Or Just Treading Water?’”( http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/16/are-you-moving-forward-or-just-treading-water/).  I think this is one thing that holds people back from Waldorf homeschooling, this notion  that they are not “pure” Waldorf.  I find it rather odd we preface conversations about Waldorf in this manner, when we don’t seem to about any other form of homeschooling.  Are you Montessori pure?  Classically pure?

Roberto Trostli  points out in his book “Rhythms of Learning”  that there are “three salient features”  of Waldorf Education:

“1.  Waldorf education is based on a developmental approach that addresses the changing needs of the growing child and maturing adolescent.

2. Waldorf teachers strive to transform education into an art that educates the whole child- the heart and the hands as well as the head.

3.  Waldorf schools are committed to developing capacities as well as skills so that their students will become self-aware, compassionate individuals with a sense of responsibility for the Earth.” 

Doesn’t sound that crazy, does it?  So where do we get so hung up?  Maybe we put much of the dogma on ourselves.  Steiner was all about the individual, and creating one’s own path within Waldorf Education.   He was all about teachers evolving and creating their own things out of Waldorf Education and their own inner work, arising to meet each individual child. 

Many people “mix” Waldorf with different things….Donna Simmons writes somewhat  of this here in her post entitled, “But Is It Waldorf?”  http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2005/10/but_is_it_waldo.html

Her point is if one understands the Waldorf curriculum then one can choose to work from that and make that work for your family even if you deviate here and there from what a Waldorf school would do in accordance to what works best at home.  Let’s face it, there are some things that work well in the home environment that don’t work well in the school environment and vice versus.  But let’s celebrate that and stop perceiving it as some kind of inferior being to do Waldorf Education at home instead of at school. 

Can you mix Waldorf with other methods? Sure, many people do.  Donna Simmons has an audio download here specifically about Unschooling and Waldorf:  http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/bookstore-for-waldorf-homeschooling/audio-downloads.html

However, I will say this:  Waldorf is a philosophy of education, not just a mish-mash of this reading program, this math program, this writing program.  While many homeschoolers are out searching for the “best program”, Waldorf homeschoolers continue to work within a distinctive approach for each seven year cycle and what subjects really speak into the soul of a child who is seven, eight, nine, ten, etc.  It is a fundamental difference. 

And I do think “mixing” can be harder in the very Early Years.  To me, either you work within that first seven year cycle and accept that the right time for more pure academic work is toward that six and half or seven years of age or you just don’t.  And it is not that the Waldorf Kindergarten is anti-academic!  But it is anti “shove it into their heads” at that stage.  We use the body at that stage for such academic concepts of acquiring language and writing (oral, through the ears and the voice as we listen and  re-tell stories and verses in three different languages), math (orally and through the body as we play, skip, count in verses and being outside), science and nature education (through bodily movement outside using all 12 senses), artistic sense (by doing and creating, not  by looking at pictures in a book of masterpieces and analyzing the book). To me, though,  this makes sense for a small child – does it to you?  Some people are concerned about a “slow start” – I personally am more concerned about bringing in the information at the time when my child is going to understand it and want to learn it best.  Are you?

Many people are afraid if they stick just with Waldorf their children will miss something.  Aren’t you more afraid they are missing something by skipping around and changing programs all the time?  In Waldorf every single thing builds upon itself and it is all covered in its due course.  Trust in that!

Every teacher has to pick and choose the best way to illuminate a subject for a particular grade, this is true in public school, private school and Waldorf school.  It is also true in homeschooling.  There is no way to “cover everything”.  Part of homeschooling is teaching your child how to find information, synthesize information and problem-solve, not just regurgitate facts.  Waldorf homeschooling really does excel in this area.

What you want is to have time to ENJOY your family – you should be able to have time to hike, bake bread, paint, pick berries, cook and love and enjoy each other. 

Simplify your life, and yes, pick what works best for you and your family.  I really do think Waldorf is enough, but if you understand what Waldorf is then you can decide where you are comfortable to insert a different approach to help your child.  However, my plea is for you to give Waldorf a chance alone instead of automatically assuming  it is not enough :) or that it is too “dogmatic” for you to make it work.

I am sure this will generate a lot of discussion!  Looking forward to it!

Blessings,

Carrie

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8 thoughts on “Waldorf Pure?

  1. What a great post! It took me a long time to realize that acting on my intuition and observation and doing what I feel is right is the most “Waldorf” you can get. It kinda drives me crazy sometimes how this word “Waldorf” gets put on such a lofty perch. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you’re not doing it right.

  2. I often feel this way. I’m not really doing Waldorf. Looking at just the three feature…then I’m totally Waldorf. I was recently at a group discussion where too much time was spent on whether a nature table was a “nature” table or a “seasonal” table. I found myself rolling my eyes and questioning the whole thing.

    Thanks for putting it in perspective.

  3. More food for thought for me in this post, so thanks once again.

    My little one isn’t even kindergarten age yet and I still haven’t decided about homeschool or traditional British primary school. One of my sticking points is will I know how to give her a Waldorf education if I keep her learning with me and will she miss out on something she would get at school. It’s so helpful to read your take on these things as what I lack here is a community of like minded people to discuss them with, although I am still looking for one : )

    I’m hoping that by increasing my understanding of Waldorf, the ‘right’ way to fully integrate this into my family will jump out at me sooner or later!

  4. high five sister! I think before going ahead on doing anything is a good thing to unferstand it…like you mention. If you know what waldorf education is all about and you understand and you keep always in mind the development of your child (holistically of course) then you don’t have to have the title but work from within. Thank you for writing about it.

  5. Ah yes…I teach at a Waldorf school, and my daughter goes to a school, but I do perceive that some might associate dogma with that path, and it just isn’t so. I support and embrace homeschooling and would not hesitate to do it if need be. But we are happy where we are now, and I am happy for homeschoolers too. Because truly, we need each other.
    I do believe Waldorf as an educational paradigm is the best for children out there today. However, it isn’t going to have the same effect if a parent educates their child halfheartedly. I tell parents to consider the form of education they can support, and this does trickle down to nurture the child.

  6. I love your words here Carrie. DD is 2yo, so the decision to homeschool or attend a Waldorf school is not a decision we have to make yet – but these are the two options that we will consider when the time approaches. In much of my reading and involvement in the online Waldorf homeschooling community of late, I have been very inspired and I really do think homeschooling with a Waldorf curriculum may very well be where our journey leads. As I discussed this with a friend who has much Steiner/Anthroposophy background/knowledge both herself and within her family; husband, grandfather etc she mentioned that Steiner gave the indication that the child needed another adult figure of influence, that being within the teacher, and not just the parents in the home. I have also had another friend who is a Steiner teacher mention her view that she would like her child to learn from a broader range of people than just herself and her husband. I know with the later point, there is the example that there is many homeschool communities where events are organised and one parent may be the ‘musical one’ another the ‘form drawing one’ etc etc and there is great influence from many people – but the comment regarding Steiner’s indications has really got me thinking…. anyway – I guess I’m not really asking anything in particular but to ask your view in regards to these issues (in thoughts of homeschooling), specifically this indication of Steiner. As always Carrie, I am very appreciative of your time to share such wonderful words of wisdom – especially with a new bubba and what must be a busy home life – thank you for taking the time to share with us.

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