Can Waldorf Work With Other Homeschooling Methods?

Yes, I do know mothers who do Waldorf with other methods, or employ the use of  a Main Lesson Book with other homeschooling methods and certain subjects.

But, I have several questions for you if this is something you would like to consider, and please do read this whole post and keep an open mind.  This is meant in a spirit of love and support, with questions for you to ponder and meditate on, not a “yes or no” answer.

1.  How well do you serve two masters?   I don’t mean this in a snarky way at all, I am asking you to consider and ponder this!   Something in your homeschool really does need to predominate I think or it can make one a little batty trying to do “the full monty” of all the methods you pick and still have a family life that is joyous and fun!  You absolutely can deviate away from the Waldorf curriculum if you feel it is appropriate for your child, (especially I think once your child is over the age of nine),  but our first impulse in the home environment for the younger child would see if we could satisfy the child’s need for things in small steps first.

For example, the four-year-old who wants to write letters.  We might try to see if the child could be happier doing typical Waldorf Kindergarten things, (ie, redirect)  and if that does not work OVER TIME (not just the first time I try!), I have had no problem teaching my four-year-old little girls how to write their first name.  They love that, it usually is all they really want to know regarding letters at this point and off they go to play.  The other example would be the six-year-old Kindergartner who wants a Main Lesson Book like the big brothers and sisters.  So they get a Main Lesson Book, they draw something in it, and then they are tired of it and go off to play.  The eight-year-old girl who wants to sew (sewing machines typically come in during the Eighth Grade) – can they be happy with hand sewing, with learning how to embroider by hand, and then perhaps yes, we look at a machine, but we do this with conscious knowing we are deviating from Waldorf indications.   How about the ten-year-old boy fascinated by paleontology? 

Start in small steps because of time and money and interests can change quickly!  It is WONDERFUL  to approach a child’s interest with interest and support, but also with a mindful pattern and way to proceed in order to  meet that interest!  Children try a lot of different interests on , and not all have to be met with the same intensity!    Can we work with that in smalls steps as we proceed?  We gauge how intense the interest is, because sometimes small things satisfy and sometimes they don’t.   And if the child eventually, over time, needs “more” or we do decide to deviate from the typical Waldorf indications it  is okay, but we bring a MINDFULNESS to it, and we try SMALL STEPS first. 

By the same token, if a child is not ready, we have the luxury of waiting in the home environment.  Many of you know the saga of my now second-grade daughter who is a knitting fool who could not seem to touch knitting needles in the first grade without tears starting.  She wasn’t ready, and we dropped it and did other forms of handwork, came back to it in Second Grade and boy, was she ready.

2. Why do you want to employ other methods?  Seriously, dig down, and see what is holding you back from only using Waldorf.  Bring a mindfulness to this, and meditate on it.  Steiner homeschooling is PHILOSOPHY driven; we do things for the development of the child and the ENTIRE curriculum builds on each thing during the year and during subsequent years. The curriculum is laid out in such a way that really, really, in my experience, speaks to the child.  The child will often ask to study a certain subject that you are coming up to!  It really is uncanny!   Steiner was an astute observer of children, what children needed, what the human being was and needed to develop.  Waldorf Education speaks to that.

In contrast, I see parents of other methods searching for the “best” reading program, the “best” math  program, trying to find that logical progression so there are  no “gaps”.  Waldorf has this already in place, time tested!  It all builds on itself. 

So what is holding you back?

As a related digression, not only are many countries starting academics later, but many are also spending less time in the classroom than the  average United States public school (or some of the homeschooling families I see!!) student.  My German friends tell me that in Germany students have about 15 hours of school a week (they go in the morning, go home for lunch and that is it)  until the sixth grade when they do return to school after lunch for an hour or so of further instruction.   More hours and jamming more facts down their throats in the Early Years and the Early Grades does not necessarily equate to increased knowledge, the ability to problem-solve or a love of learning. 

4. Is it that you want to be “eclectic”?  What exactly does that mean to you?  There are beautiful things in every method, I think, but sometimes we just cannot do it all and remain sane.  This is a lesson in life we also need to show our children, especially in this day and age:  you can’t have it all, you can’t do it all, sometimes you must choose a path and take it!   As homeschooling  mothers, our number one priority has to be our family life and they joy that is there, along with providing our children with an excellent education that will guide our children into becoming educated adults who are kind, who are loving, who are compassionate and who can also problem-solve, find information, and handle the stresses of modern life. 

I feel Waldorf Education in the home environment prepares children to do just that.    There are similarities in subject matter  between Waldorf and other methods in some ways, for example, as the child hits 5th grade and starts Ancient History. But even then there are extreme differences in how the subjects are presented.  The Waldorf teacher looks at a time period and we cover history through these scenes that BEST typify a historical time period and/or historical person in our Main Lesson Block.  We teach in a three-day rhythm, we teach and use sleep as an educational aid.  Most of all, we teach through art – art is not an “added in” subject, but the way through which we teach as part of that three-day rhythm.

The Early Years and the first few grades  probably pose the most problems for people, but from what I have seen is that many of the children who start academic work in the Early Years (particularly those little girls who want to start and fly ahead) end up with problems around eight or nine because they are just burned out.  They missed the experience of DOING  things, and the parents went “abstract” too quickly.  Children need a solid foundation in the things that they know, the things they experience every day, things that are real to them!  The concrete!   In my area, for example,  first graders are learning about Teddy Roosevelt – it means absolutely NOTHING to them, they have no historical context to put it in, but they have to know it for some standardized test. 

I am proud to be a Waldorf homeschooling mother, and thrilled my children get to learn this way.  I don’t feel as if my children are missing anything, I feel confident that every academic skill is being covered and that the whole curriculum is complete and my children will be prepared.  We also have plenty of time to spend together as a family in joy and love.

Still not satisfied?  Here is another voice addressing this subject, have a look:  http://waldorfjourney.typepad.com/a_journey_through_waldorf/2009/06/can-waldorf-work-with.html

Happy meditating on this important subject,

Carrie

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21 thoughts on “Can Waldorf Work With Other Homeschooling Methods?

  1. This is interesting. It will be fascinating to read about how this works for you when you educate more than one child at a time, and older children as well. I look forward to reading about your journey!

  2. This post really spoke to me. You may remember that just a couple months ago, I posted a cry for help on MDC’s Learning at Home board about doing too much. We’ve shifted things around, pulled back a bit, and tried to renew our commitment to a Waldorf curriculum. It’s been amazing. Now we’re pretty much finished by lunchtime and I can honestly say no one’s education has suffered. This has left us so much more time for exploring nature, making little jaunts into our community, crafting, music, and other creative pursuits, cooking and baking, playing games, and just enjoying one another. Thank you for posting this!

    • Annette, THat is really exciting when you find what works for your family!! I honestly think Waldorf is very rigorous, I think Marsha Johnson’s free files prove that as you look at the blocks as they go up in grade, I think you CAN work it with your religious views (that is important to me and I know to you as well :)) and I really think it is a good way to educate (and I am the ever-loving college student, so I do know something about college as well, LOL) …
      Nice to hear about your success!! Woo-hoo!!

  3. I think ideas from other types of homeschooling can work very well with Waldorf.

    I tend to look at Charlotte Mason methods for ideas. Mostly for books. As a Librarian and bibliophile, I love the idea of “Living Books”. Books that give inspiration and a picture of beauty, or eloquence. Not some dry, boring text. It helps me to look for appropriate books for my children.

    I like the Nature walk ideas from Mason. I don’t do them exactly as a Mason homeschooler would, but the idea of being out in nature and being observant in an appropriate way does dovetail nicely with Waldorf.

    Another CM idea/project that I think is very appropriate is the time line idea. In Waldorf we teach whole to parts, but sometimes I think it is a good idea to be a bit more concrete with facts. The timeline project is NOT something I would do with a First or Second Grader, but I definitely think it is something that could be started with a Third Grader (Old Testament Stories, these are historical people after all), and definitely with a Fifth Grader (when they start Ancient History.) Maybe its because I studied History in College and I saw it can be difficult for people to study different areas (i.e. countries) of history and not see how people and events overlap and influence each other, or even just happened at the same time. And it can be such an artful, beautiful project, one that lasts for years.

    Waldorf does dominate in my plans…I’m just not above pinching an idea from somewhere else.

  4. HI Carrie,

    Wow, thanks for this post… This topic is something I’m presently struggling with, and believe that I’m moving my way through to settling down to one Waldorf curriculum. I’ve been using Enki, Live Ed. and Christopherus, and am finding that the one that really speaks to us, that feels most sincerely “Waldorf”, is Christopherus. I like all methods for a variety of reasons, and find frustrations with 2 of them; yet it’s Donna’s work and wisdom that feels so genuine to me. Of course, right? She’s a Waldorf homeschooling mum herself…she’s got lots of experience.

    Thanks again. I so value your thoughts and expertise.

    Jennifer

  5. Thanks so much for this Carrrie – I really enjoyed reading through all your different points on the matter. I am very much in to Waldorf methods, however I sometimes find it difficult to explain to family why it is that I would prefer not to use other methods.

  6. Carrie, I would love for you to talk about unschooling. I am surrounded by people who believe that child-led eductation is the best, much more free, and that it’s the best way to connect on a more even level with your child. You do not force them to do something that they do not want to do, you learn alongside them.

  7. Carrie,

    What would you suggest for the reverse scenario? In my case, because I’m new to Waldorf and still learning myself, I’m incorporating it slowly into a more traditional curriculum.

    • Ooh, Alida, that is so interesting! Tell me how you are incorporating things and then I feel a post coming on, LOL!
      Carrie

  8. Great, informative (as always) post!! I, too, wonder about unschooling. It just seems to make so much sense and to go hand in hand with Waldorf in the early years. I’m honestly not sure if I can be that free or relaxed. I already catch myself worrying that my son, who is only 27 mos.) can’t say his ABC’s. I catch myself going back and forth between thinking: “of course he can’t he’s so young” to “but so and so can and he’s only a few months older what am I doing wrong”.
    I’m sure you have it stated several times in the blog, but what book(s) do you recommend to begin with Waldorf at this age and that kind of map out the future?
    How do you keep from comparing and doubting?
    Thank you

  9. Carrie, thank you for this post and many others on your blog. It is because of the depth of your writing (and my Christopherus material) that I am incorporating Waldorf ideals into our home life (and schooling per se).
    Having never been to a Waldorf school, nor seen homeschooling happen in real life, I am struggling to understand Waldorf in the older grades. (But heh, I’d never seen a baby being breastfed in my own country before ds was born either!!) I am also struggling not to anticipate adding onto a Waldorf curriculum…

  10. Thanks for this post; it covers some things I was curious about!

    On the letter formation thing – what about a child who doesn’t ask to learn to write letters, but instead copies them herself from wherever she happens to see them at age 4? People have told me that if they are forming the letters themselves, in a self-taught way, at an early age, then they will need to be taught to form letters correctly soon so they don’t get stuck in the habit of forming them incorrectly (since when they copy the letters with no instruction, they aren’t doing it the “right” way, like they are making two complete circles and a line for a capital B)…

  11. I am guitly of mixing too many methods… often it is because of financial issues and the other main reason is not setting aside enough time for planning.
    We have six children and I have committed myself to waldorf homeschooling for the five year old and almost two year old at least through grade 6. Our 4 and 6 graders, I do main lesson blocks with them, but often stray into other methods.
    In this coming new year, I plan to learn more and incorporate more…
    Thank you for this timely post and for your honesty.
    Warm wishes.

    • Tonya, I am so proud of you! I do think those with 5 or 6 children CAN do Waldorf, I have an idea of how it would work in my head but no 6 kids to practice on, LOL but I am excited by your commitment specifically!!
      Carrie

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  15. Hello, I just read many of your posts. Am extremely anxious to read more about the “nerve sense” child and the 3 and 4 fold person. Please advise on what posts and other info about these subjects. Thank you and Aloha!

    • Oddly enough, the three and four fold human being is under one of the four year old posts…gee, I need to make that easier to find. …I will see if I can find you a link tomorrow to it…:)_ Aloha!
      Carrie

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