This is a question that NEVER comes up with other homeschooling methods. You never hear another homeschooling mother say, “Gosh, I don’t think I am Montessori enough.” or “Gosh, I wonder if I am Classical enough.”
What is it about Waldorf homeschooling that brings out this guilt?
I think it is because no one other form of homeschooling is so tied into the universal picture of child development and how the development of the human being impacts parenting and education. I don’t know as any other form of education has such a strong idea about what leads to good adult health in the future. It is also more teacher led, than say opening a textbook or workbook and reading that. It involves a certain initiative.
So, because of that it is natural to wonder if one’s efforts measure up.
“One’s efforts.” I think that is the first thing we need to ask ourselves when we are wondering if we “measure up” is:
Am I making an effort? What is my effort toward? I think almost more than any physical piece, like do I have a rhythm to my home, or do I teach Greek mythology to my 11 year old, the answer to this question lies in what initiation am I taking in adult education and learning about this subject? What are the why’s beneath the “Rhythm would be good” or “Greek mythology would be good around fifth grade”? Am I interested in learning more about how a subject that I am teaching would be approached by Steiner himself or by a teacher who really has studied Steiner? Do I care about the developing human being and do my thoughts on this leave open some room for what Steiner or other secondary Waldorf education literature/pedagogy have to say according to what age my child is? Does that resonate with me?
There is no “check-off” list for what is “Waldorf enough”. It is a subjective experience. So, when you ask yourself about “Waldorf enough”, I think all you can do is look at where you are, and where you want to go. How do you get there? Where are you on this walk, and is this actually the path you want to walk on to an extent?
Sometimes we hear in Waldorf Education that we have to digest things and then bring them to our children. I think that is why so many teachers are reluctant to endorse or write a homeschool “curriculum”, because the usual method in Waldorf Education is to know oneself, to know the subject, to meditate on it and the children and digest it and then see what a-ha moments flow from that as this reverent whole.
That sounds awfully daunting, doesn’t it? For many of us as homeschoolers, short on time and sleep, it sure does.
But here is the thing. I think if you have a handful of those “a-ha” moments scattered throughout the year, then you are doing well. I think the longer I teach and go through the curriculum itself (which has I outlined in previous posts may be broader for a homeschooling family than at a school), I learn and approach things differently, even if I start from a more rote perspective.
I went through botany this year. Some of it was rote. It was a book or books I had read, it was ideas for projects, it was ideas for paintings and drawings and experiences. But some of it was “a-ha” and when I stepped out to look at the world, my view of the plant kingdom had changed. My view of the cycle of the life of a butterfly had changed. It touched me and resonated with me. That is an “a-ha” moment. It was “a-ha” for my child and for me as well.
I think if you have initiative to learn, if you are fairly clear at least about the basics of Waldorf education and what that means with the seven year cycles, then you are striving. But no one can spoon feed you this path.
You have to actually want to do this and be open to it.
If it is stressful for you, then perhaps it is not the right time for you or you are focusing on the wrong things on this path. It is not the wooden toys, it is not just about play and being outside (although that is huge!), but to me it is slowing down enough and finding time to do your own inner work (whether that is your religion, yoga and meditation or using some of Steiner’s ideas, etc) and then using some of your time for hearing the ideas of Waldorf Education and yes, thinking about how that resonates with you and where you would bring that to your child in a loving way. It implies a certain amount of trust that this would be beneficial for my child.
It is about seeing broad pictures and themes.
It is about regarding this work as holy and sacred. It is a privilege to be able to do this, not a bother and not a stress.
It is about being positive about where you are, but also to keep striving forward with your own efforts and not waiting for it to fall into your lap.
Observe your child, and keep striving. Those are the two rules.
To this I would add a third: understand child development and the seven year cycles. Then you know the “why’s” of the curriculum and how to adapt to what works for you.