I think in Waldorf homeschooling, we have a unique chance to take the indications and pedagogy built by the indications of Rudolf Steiner and the Waldorf Schools and build off of them toward our own culture or our own religious impulses.
The American impulse in Waldorf homeschooling is something I really want to discuss today. I alluded to it in one of my last posts where I referred to the Neoclassical period of American history here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2013/03/17/pondering-portals-part-three-media/
I have been deeply disappointed as to the depth and breadth of the American spirit as covered within the Waldorf Curriculum as according to the AWNSA chart, which otherwise I love and use for planning my year. There are a few nods to American literature and other things on there, such as mentioning Tom Sawyer as a literature pick for sixth grade. American history is usually covered in depth in Waldorf Schools in the Eighth Grade, although one teacher I met a few weeks ago stated the Waldorf School he was teaching in for a few years “didn’t get to American history” that year. That is appalling!
A long time ago I ordered a small book that was a working document by several esteemed Waldorf teachers regarding the Waldorf curriculum for American teachers (“Examining the Waldorf Curriculum from an American Viewpoint”). With all due respect, I was rather disappointed as it contained just a few seeds of ideas for each grade. It was, to me, more of a nod to multiculturalism and how the curriculum fit the American child as is without much mention of American history, art, poetry, songs or literature. I think multiculturalism within the curriculum is exceedingly important, and I have back posts about this on this blog, but I also think the spirit of America not only includes multiculturalism but also transcends it to be something more: the purely unique and individual character of America and the American spirit that unites us all. I have head an American anthroposophist speaker refer to this as “The Spirit of Columbia” and I agree. I was raised by grandparents who made it through the depression and World War II and saw this American spirit everyday. It embraced multiculturalism but also transcended it.
Those of you who homeschool in states where American history is required by law have no doubt found ways to work some things about America into the Waldorf curriculum. Veteran Waldorf homeschooler Lauri Bolland, who has written several guest posts on this site, wrote an extensive list regarding this issue on Melisa Nielsen’s homeschoolingwaldorf Yahoo! group. I have a few ideas and suggestions as well.
First of all, consider revitalizing the American festivals and all the literature, stories, legend and music that go with these festivals. The pillars of American festivals, at least to me, includes especially the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and the birthdays of Washington and Lincoln, now combined more popularly into President’s Day.
Look at the region of the country in which you live, and consider the American music of your region. The AWNSA curriculum chart includes African-American spirituals as seventh grade material, and I understand why, but I LIVE in the Deep South, and it would be ridiculous when that music is all around us to not live into that. Your region will have its own music, its own heroes and legends. Live into that!
I highly suggest besides the American festivals and songs, that one looks at the stories, legends, folktales, literature that is pure American spirit. Multiculturalism is of course part of this and part of the American story, but I am also thinking of the spirit that makes us all Americans and unites us as one.