Waldorf Perfect

This is the time of year when my homeschooling mothers get stars in their eyes looking at the different Waldorf curriculum choices, blogs, and they start to feel more than inadequate.

“We don’t have a good rhythm because my four year old cried over everything during the day and the baby needs to be changed about twenty times a day!”

“My house doesn’t look like those beautiful blogs!”

“I don’t feel calm in my house like a Waldorf teacher; I yell at the kids a lot.”

So, I am here, in my perfectly plant-dyed silk cape, to help you realize that “Waldorf Perfect” is a myth.  I wrote a post awhile back about “Hopeless With Waldorf” addressing these same sorts of issues.

I find the sweet “Waldorf-inspired”  mothers who have children under the age of 7 are often the mothers who are so interested in Steiner’s educational ideas but also seem to be the most impressionable.  Blogs, books, consultations, curriculum – you all have seen it or are looking at it all.  I worry a bit about this, because not one of these people who put out these products are perfect.  Some of the things you all are reading are not true to Waldorf Education or Steiner’s thoughts about education, but you don’t know these things are not really true or typical of Waldorf Education or Waldorf Parenting.  Somewhere along the line,  nature and beautiful surroundings of natural materials have become substituted for an actual curriculum.  It is not so much that Waldorf Education is as dogmatic as you might think, but there are essential truths to work with.  However, you have to know what some of these essential truths are in order to have discernment.

There are others of you who are really interested in Waldorf Education and Waldorf Parenting, but are really put off by the idea of limited to no media, or by not bringing in academics directly until first grade, or by being home more than you might think you want to be.  It is a journey, and I think if you can keep an open mind, then things go along.  I have seen some mothers who are attracted to Waldorf Education and Waldorf Parenting go every direction but for the reasons I just mentioned; they go off into Classical homeschooling or Unschooling or whathave you but eventually they circle right back around to where they started because the attraction is so strong for them.  They need the healing impulse of Waldorf Education right along with their children.

They still have to do the work to figure things out though. Sometimes it is just if you are ready to do the work now or ready to do it later.

But have you noticed that the common denominator in all of this is you?

So, I really encourage you to take the time to work on YOU.  YOU are the essential piece of the parenting and homeschooling puzzle, whether you are “Waldorf-inspired” or not.

I wrote a series of posts on Inner Work, I have written quite a bit about faith and religion and spirituality in parenting, and we are now talking about topics surrounding parental anger.  These are all good places to start.

You do not need a curriculum for the Kindergarten years.  I encourage homeschooling families to actually do only one or two years of “kindergarten” at home.  It may be your child’s five year old year or it may be your child’s six year old year depending upon when that child’s birthday falls.

The heart of the Waldorf Early Years at home include protection, warmth, giving the child something worthy to imitate, lots of practical work, singing, getting your child in their body through lots of physical activity outside and rhythm.  To this list, I would add a sense of community with other families starting at about age four and a half to five.  Four and a half was the traditional age Waldorf Kindergartens used to start children, and it is a good time to look for more social things that are short and have a little structure that the parents create,  not just “go off and play whilst I talk in the corner to all these other parents”.  If you need more social time, schedule it without your small children.

The heart of Waldorf is actually not play silks, wooden toys, having a perfectly plastic-toy free house.  These are all wonderful in and of themselves, but without the true heart of it, they can all become rather empty gestures.

Start with your inner work.  Start with rhythm.  Read some Steiner and see what you think. Let things digest.  Take the one thing that is most challenging for yourself right now, whether that be anger, having patience, setting boundaries and put those terms into the search engine box on this blog and read those posts and work on that one area for forty days.

Start and work in baby steps, and never, ever get intimidated that Waldorf Education and Waldorf Parenting is not for you because someone you don’t even know in real-life seems perfect.  I assure you they are not.  I am not perfect either!  We all have our strengths  and weaknesses and things we are striving for. 

Start somewhere, work with the essential truths of Waldorf Education and Waldorf Parenting, pare down your blog list and computer time and get out and just do it!

Many blessings,

Carrie

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19 thoughts on “Waldorf Perfect

  1. Tears are in my eyes! You post could not have been more perfect for me at this time! I love your site, you inspire me. I have a 4 year old daughter, soon to be 5, and I was looking Christopherus Kindergarten with your 3 to 6 year old (I thought it was a good guideline for my home). I was also torn between Oak Meadow Kindergarten. I am a Christian as well, but I have a hard time with anthroposophy? Does that not play a role in your Waldorf education and your Waldorf home? Please share your thoughts. thanks.

    • Ashley,
      If you put in the term Anthroposophy on this site, you can see the posts that come up that deal with that. I think as homeschoolers we are fortunate in that we can decide how deeply we want to delve into and work with anthroposophy. Anthroposophy is not a religion, it is Steiner’s philosophy. Many Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Christian mothers of other denominations make up a bulk of my readers for this blog, and we have come to see our homes and educational values do honor God and the Church. You can see more about how this may be so in those back posts — I also linked in one of those posts to something the very wise Elizabeth Foss wrote regarding this as well.
      Happy Reading and am so glad you are here! I think the Christopherus Kindergarten is a good starting point!
      Many blessings, glad you are here,
      Carrie

  2. Thank you Carrie, very well said! My own journey began as a classroom Waldorf teacher who asked the same questions you are asking in this post. Even then, I was attracted to the idea of Waldorf homeschooling because it seemed a good venue for “relaxing” the tendency of striving for perfection. There is another kind of striving that Steiner spoke of. One that begins in humility and is centered around love and self-development. Here’s a wonderful story that illustrates this concept. Steiner, in recruiting teachers for the first Waldorf school, asked a mathematician to come in as a history teacher (it may have been the opposite, I’m not remembering the details too well). And the mathematician’s response was that he was not familiar enough with history. Steiner responded to the effect that it was the striving that mattered. That the material would be fresh and alive precisely because he was learning it as he taught it. And to me, that applies to every aspect of Waldorf teaching. If your children see you striving in this way, that is the best teaching you can offer them. Thank you again for your wonderful posts!

  3. Four and a half … is a good time to look for more social things that are short and have a little structure that the parents create, not just “go off and play whilst I talk in the corner to all these other parents”. If you need more social time, schedule it without your small children.

    Thanks for continuing to include this. It seams like I am the only one (who we know or are around) who believes in this. It really works for our family but it can be hard to avoid these situations. We want to be social but it never seams to to be worth it – they are so young (3 and under)! How can a group of 3 y/o and under play well unsupervised? It doesn’t work – and then it seams like it’s just damage control. Or my children learn something like “you can’t play with us” and I just think they are too young to be involved with that (we actually had quite an unbelievable experience with “mean girls” at 3 y/o that I couldn’t believe – but no parents were around to help).
    I do say I question myself (should we do more outside the house – play dates, field trips, etc.) but in the end I feel confident again. You help me get there! Thanks!

  4. I think I needed to hear this. I love all the beautiful blogs I follow about Waldorf and Montessori, but have felt somewhat overwhelmed by them. Sometimes I forget that all my children really NEED is my presence. And that everything important (rhythm, etc) will flow out of that with a little direction. Plus, I sometimes realize that I’m just getting caught up in a different kind of consumerism. Maybe not the Toys-R-Us kind, but a push to consume nevertheless. I don’t think THAT is the heart of Waldorf, from what I understand. Thanks for a great post.

    Oh, and I’m not a Christian, but do enjoy your blog, just FYI. Thanks for the hard work you put into it!

    • HI Kendra! I am glad you are here — everyone who is interested is so welcome here in this space! I think we all want to be better parents, and we take the pieces that resonate for our families….Not everyone who reads this blog is a homeschooler or is interested in Waldorf even, but many are interested in gentle discipline so that unites us!
      Much love and many blessings to you!
      Carrie

  5. Thanks so much for this post. It was really helpful. I’ve copied one paragraph into a note on my phone that I find especially powerful and I think I will need to reread it many times a day for the next few months.
    I’m also not a Christian but I really apreciate your blog and I doubt I would appreciate it so much if you weren’t so true to your beliefs.

  6. I love love this……my education fights me when it comes to unschooling in the early years. But the peace that has come from establishing a flexible rhythm is evident any and everywhere I take my children…they stand out as happy and peaceful and sure of themselves. <3 the waldorf principles and flexibility of preschool…creative play has sparked the imagination of my 2 year old who does and says things that my friends with K5 and first graders barely do! Especially the natural treasures…we can't seem to keep them on a "nature table" yet, but we'll get there! :)

  7. I have often wondered why your blog (well Melissa’s, as well) is not filled with all those perfect pictures. The ones where the tone is soothing and calming. The beautiful knitting that I cannot seem to figure out. It so easy to get caught in all of that stuff. But, I am not that concerned with that stuff. I am looking for ways to soothe our education and bring in that rhythm. I grew up in a very chaotic household. I brought a lot of that into my marriage and have grown up beside my children. I can only do my best. But, since I have dedicated myself to this improvements our years have gotten better. Although our last two have really made things a bit crazy…it seems like we are settling back in.

    All that to say thanks for always being one to cheer us on and up. Thanks for no pictures!!!!

  8. carrie – i have been a reader in the past but just now reconnecting after several months…needing guidance i suppose. my son is turning five in august. our local waldorf school is simply too expensive and rather (hate to say it) elitist. i so much want to be this homeschool peaceful rhythmic mother for my children but with a five year old, two year old, and third baby due in september i am quite frankly overwhelmed with the prospect of trying to do homeschool. maybe i need to let go of the fact that i need to “do” anything? we have a little forest school that does a kindergarten program, just two mornings a week, and i have thought that might be a good rhythm for him and me too! do you have advice for a mom in my shoes, expecting a new baby right at school time? we have resisted preschool, believing kids should be with their parents in the home, and have received so much slack from people about it, i dread to think of what some people around us would say about homeschooling too…(even though my mother and one sister are totally supportive as my siblings and i were homeschooled!)
    any advice would be welcome.

    • Hi Sara – This is a great topic and I would love to write a post on it, so look for that soon! Hang in there – all you really need at this point is rhythm that includes being outside and gross motor activity…you can add in the story time, fingerplays, etc as you see your way to do so. Many of the songs, verses etc can be interwoven with your rhythm of practical work. In these early years, getting food, naps and changing diapers may be your sole rhythm for a while and that is okay!
      Be easy with yourself and know in your heart the best place for your child is to be home. Homeschooling is first and foremost about family! That is the foundation!
      Many blessings,
      Carrie

  9. I love this post. Thank you for writing with such honesty it really helps. I feel like I get overwhelmed by all the “things” and products. I am very interested in Waldorf homeschooling and parenting but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have a website or resources you can recommend? My boys are almost 2 and 4 so I know I have time. In the mean time I am reading more about young children on your site and working on my inner self.

    • HI Meaghan!
      Glad you are here! You don’t have to be perfect, and you are not trying to re-create a Waldorf school in your home. :) I recommend the forum http://www.homespunwaldorf.com, and also the Gateways section of the Waldorf On Line Library. Gateways is a publication devoted soley to the Waldorf Kindergarten. Other books may include You Are Your CHild’s First Teacher, The Early Years book by Christopherus (an ebook) , and Beyond the Rainbow Bridge. If you are looking for the whole picture, I recommend the Christopherus Waldorf Curriculum Overview and the book Waldorf Education: A Family Guide.

      Many blessings,
      Carrie

  10. Pingback: Waldorf Perfect Re-visited | The Parenting Passageway

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