I see many families who start along the path of Waldorf homeschooling. Some embrace it fully, some families weave in and out of it for quite some time. Some families choose to go a different path, some go a different path and then steer back towards Waldorf homeschooling around the time their children go through the development shifts of ages nine and ten. And yes, some become absolute haters of Waldorf education, which I frankly feel many times is not due to Waldorf education in and of itself, but how that family approached it all. Are there ways to avoid pitfalls in Waldorf homeschooling?
I don’t know for sure, but I do have a few ideas. So here are my Top Ten Ways to make Waldorf homeschooling work for you!
1. Do not get so hung up on the “right and perfect way” to do Waldorf education or the “right and perfect curriculum” that will be the “magic” for your home. YOU are the magic. In the home environment, there are few guideposts and roadmaps. The main thing is to know development, observe your child and strive yourself, have joy and keep things vibrant. If you are trying for “perfect” it is all drudgery and you will soon abandon Waldorf Education.
2. In the Early Years, be wary and careful of doing way too much way too soon. Far better to live within the rhythms of the year, the seasons, the liturgical year, your own home and develop those things fully than to spend hours creating perfect handwork projects and charming things for your children (unless creating perfect handwork projects is part of what nourishing YOU). Do not stress over every little thing trying to make it “Waldorf perfect.”
3. Remember the wisdom of the forest kindergarten movement. I really feel this is where a child birth through aged five or so should be centered more than anything, in nature and in that movement, in the musicality of creation. Around that shift of five and a quarter, five and a half I think is where you can really observe your child and see what skills they still need to develop in order to be successful in the early grades. You can search “Nokken” in the search engine on this blog and learn more.
4. Look ahead. Yes, there are differences between a kindergartner and the first and second graders, but there certainly are things from kindergarten that carry into first and second grade. Always err on the side of movement, work, the practical life of the home in all the grades.
5. Know the developmental stages of the child, and then look at the curriculum created for Waldorf Schools, and see how you can fit those skills and themes into your homeschooling and to your child. Adapt it to your family, not the other way around of trying to make your family fit into the curriculum. Do, though, keep balance and development always in the foremost of your mind. Sometimes children need help to do the things that are harder and more challenging for them. Sometimes they need to learn how to be a learner in a sense or how to persevere through something challenging. Look at their development and look at what other children their age are doing as well if you have a community to draw from. Sometimes those observations can give you clues as to what your children or family really needs. Always ask yourself, how is what we are doing as family preparing our children for adulthood? For having their own families? For health?
6. Keep your family culture, your family’s religion and spirituality first and foremost. If you are feeling like you need to “get rid” of your three-year old in order to “do school” with your first grader….well, that is not the point of homeschooling and chances are things with your first grader does not have enough movement and active doing! Go back to point number one.
7. Gather a community that you love and nourishes you. I think this is especially important as you head into the upper grades. Not only is there less “how to” out there, (so you really need to talk to some other mothers!), it also can start to feel a bit more lonely as all the neighborhood children head into middle school and get home at five o’clock and are not out playing. Maybe those children are doing more important things than what we are doing at home! (They aren’t, but a good community can be a great buffer against this feeling!).
8. Keep working on yourself: your spiritual path, your skills in observing your child and other children, your artistic skills, and learning new things both practical and academic. Heal your past in whatever means necessary: talking with a priest, talking with a counselor, being part of a support group…What do you DO with the pain and woundedness you feel in order to move forward? How is your physical body? You have to have energy and vitality in order to homeschool.. You really can’t hold the space to homeschool if you are adrenal fatigued, adrenal exhausted, and scattered. Be the vibrancy you wish to see in your children and in your life!
9. Waldorf Education for the grades is about far more than just capturing things in a Main Lesson Book. Be sure to keep it active, work through art, include movement…if a child gets a concept down in the active willing realm, that is more than half the battle!
10. Most of all, love yourself, love your family. Trust in the process of Waldorf Education and in the big picture of it all. There will be bumps, there will be messy, there will be doubt and there are no guarantees made by homeschooling or attachment parenting or anything else! But trust and have faith that by continually striving, you will be a healthy model for your child to think of and return to even in his or her darkest times, and that the love of family and friends and community helps carry so many things.
Many blessings and love,