Waldorf Homeschooling Versus Waldorf School

In this solemn economic time, our local Waldorf homeschooling group is getting more and more calls from the parents of the local Waldorf school who will not be able to afford Waldorf school in the fall and are interested in investigating Waldorf homeschooling.

I have a few thoughts on this subject.

It actually does come up, even in Waldorf homeschooling circles, this question of, “Well, if you had all the money in the world, wouldn’t you put your child in Waldorf school?”

And our family’s answer is no.  You will learn my bias toward Waldorf homeschooling in a moment, but let’s peak at the issue of school first.

PROS (or at least, hopes for a school!)

  • A community (hopefully!) of like-minded people gathering for festivals, a community of general happiness with the ideas of the Waldorf curriculum as tailored to the soul development of the child.  This can be very hard to find in a land of Well-Trained Mind homeschoolers and unschoolers.
  • A place where there are specialty teachers to bring things like eurythmy, foreign languages, woodworking, games.
  • Fabulous festival celebrations.
  • Some things, like Circle Time in Kindy and pedagogical stories in the grades , grouping children of the same temperament together, work well in a group at school and may not work nearly as well at home.
  • Great teachers who collaborate with parents as partners in education.
  • Hopefully the school will offer some of the other “extras” such as gardens and beekeeping and other totally enriching experiences for your child.
  • Hopefully adult opportunities for learning.

CONS (or at least possible cons)

  • Possibly long drive times to get to and from school.  In my major metropolitan area, you pretty much would have to sell your house and go buy one by the only Waldorf school in our area, or spend a great deal of time in the car.
  • Tuition, fundraising outside of tuition, extra fees.
  • Some parents who have left the Waldorf school environment for homeschooling felt like they learned a lot more by homeschooling than by being at the school.  For example, many parents told me they did not celebrate the festivals at home, only at school, and after transitioning to home they had to decide what the festivals meant to them and how to plan it, whereas at the school the festivals were planned and they had a part assigned to them.
  • Some parents who have left the school environment for homeschooling told me they felt that many parents were not on the same page regarding media in the younger grades and other areas, even with school policies set forth.
  • Some children truly do not function as well in a group environment in the younger grades.  Some parents told me they felt their wild child really calmed down with Waldorf homeschooling as opposed to school, or that their shy child really came out of their shell with homeschooling.
  • Some parents have told me they felt the repetition of the early grades, the focus on group unity in the early elementary grades, or lack of individual attention and progress to a slower or faster learner were hard to deal with.

Waldorf Homeschooling PROS (yes, this is my bias)

  • Waldorf homeschooling is first and foremost about family.  It is about spending copious amounts of time with your children, quantity time and really being there for all those little questions that come up during the oddest moments.
  • You can save  your children a great amount of overstimulation by not having to drive in traffic, and save money by not paying tuition.
  • You will learn about Steiner, festivals and make them your own.  You can fit your own faith into your homeschooling experience they way you want if this is important to you.  It is important to me.    You can tailor your blocks to your child – for second grade, for example, you can pick – there are the Saints and the animal trickster tales, of course but you can also pick “Cherokee Animal Trickster Tales” or Anansi the Spider or Robin Hood or American Tall Tales.  You can pick stories where the meaning really speaks to the things your child is struggling with.  You can pick what  festivals you celebrate and how, with the whole family involved in building up to the festival.
  • You will develop your own skills so you can teach your child.
  • You can spend a vast amount of time outside.
  • You can go on vacation when you want, and take a day off when you need to attend to family business.
  • You can foster close bonds between siblings who may otherwise be separated all day in different grades.
  • You can show your child the warmth and work that goes into homemaking, and have time to do this.
  • Dad may be able to be more involved as you can work your homeschooling around his schedule as well, and homeschooling and learning becomes a family adventure. You start planning family things around the blocks you are studying – weekend field trips different places that tie into what you are studying.  Grandparents and aunts and uncles can even get into the act!
  • You can move at your child’s pace within the curriculum.  I still feel with the grades it is important to keep within the three day rhythm and use sleep as your aid, but you can do more math blocks than language arts blocks if your child is a language arts star and needs more work in math, you can work toward longer sentences in language arts if they have mastered shorter sentences earlier, or move ahead in math if they really get it.
  • You can honor your child’s development as it unfolds.  Sometimes children do things that do not fit into the norm and need more time to just be.
  • With homeschooling, there is plenty of time for the child to play, to look at clouds, to make homemade salt dough, to just dream and be.  Sometimes this gets lost in the hustle and bustle of any school if one is not careful.

Waldorf Homeschooling CONS

  • I guess this to me is a pro, but to many parents it is a con: You need to do your own inner work with this method. How do you feel about fairy tales? Saints and legends?  The Old Testament as a story of a people’s relationship to authority?  How do you feel about what comes where within the curriculum?  This can be hard work for some people.

My thought on this:  Aren’t these questions you should be looking at anyway?

  • You have to get to know your own community and your own resources.   Waldorf homeschooling in the US Virgin Islands is going to look a lot different than homeschooling in Idaho, not because the building block in the Third Grade is going to change, but the local resources are different.  A child in the US Virgin Islands might learn about the use of molasses as a building and binding agent, or the particulars of the cannonball tree in botany  in addition to other cultures’ building methods and a child in Idaho may focus more on local things in addition to others’ building methods.  This intimidates many parents, that their child “may not learn it all.”

My thought on this:  Even a Waldorf teacher in a school has to pick and choose amongst possible blocks and available resources; just like you!

  • Being a Waldorf homeschooler can be hard in some respects when everyone else around you is homeschooling with other methods.

My thought on this:  Start your own local Waldorf homeschooling group.  Be a beacon for your area!  Hang out with homeschoolers who use other methods, and be okay with that.  Do what works for your family!

  • Some parents feel Waldorf requires intensive work.

My thought on  this:  All homeschool curriculums require work on your part. That is called teaching, as just opposed to opening a book and handing it to your small child.  There are open and go kinds of Waldorf homeschool curriculums out there.

  • Some parents feel Waldorf homeschooling requires severe lifestyle changes.

My thought on this:  Baby steps, people, baby steps.  Homeschooling in itself is a lifestyle, no matter what method you choose.    And the pink protective bubble of Waldorf Kindergarten does not last forever.

  • Waldorf homeschooling is not the same as Waldorf school at home.

My thought:  Absolutely and that is one of the reasons I choose to homeschool.

I appreciate your thoughts and comments in the comment section,


11 thoughts on “Waldorf Homeschooling Versus Waldorf School

  1. Another great post, that I’m filing away for future use! You have a really great way of getting to the essence of the matter. I appreciate your thoughtful posts – I know how much time must go into these!

  2. Hi,
    I am a die hard homeschooler, who came to Waldorf because of friends who did Waldorf. If people in your area aren’t doing this, I say have the “If you build it they will come” attitude, go out there and tell other homeschoolers what you are doing. Build your communtiy. I have a highly obnoxious post about homeschooling right now on my blog.
    I love having my family around all day, it is do fun!! I love learning about Waldorf and trying to improve every day.

  3. Maybe the best of both worlds would be a Waldorf school that actively supports local homeschoolers! For me, I don’t think my family would work well with homeschooling, and I would put my kids in Waldorf school if there were one here. I miss the community aspect of being near a school very much. A long commute would be a hard pill to swallow, however, as it really changes the entire day and definitely affects the children.

    Every school is different, just as every homeschool is different. Parents’ experiences at schools vary wildly, and some of the stories I have read about why families left Waldorf schools are shocking. They are not the end-all, be-all paradises they might seem sometimes, because of course you are working with fallible human beings and sometimes unhealthy group dynamics. And there are unhealthy homeschool situations too.

    One thing I always try to remember is that when Rudolf Steiner said or did something, it was in response to a specific situation, and he was always careful to point that out. Waldorf schools were developed to conform to the then current German state educational requirements, and for the German culture. Maybe it’s not the most beneficial thing to have grades 1-8 with the same teacher. Maybe it’s not best to go to school 5 days a week! Maybe there are curriculum choices that would work better for American/African/whatever children than those he developed for Europe. This is an area where I think homeschooling excels, and Waldorf schools are deficient — being open to new ways based on Waldorf principles and close observation of the child (another thing Steiner stressed again and again).

  4. Thank you for the thoughtful, beautifully-worded blog post. You continue to provide people with thought-provoking, stimulating topics! Thank you for spending the time listing pros and cons.

  5. Hi

    I just found your blog through the mothering forum. The idea of Waldorf homeschooling is very appealing to me and my husband. I only have a minute now to respond but I wanted to say how wonderful it is to read your perspective and feel the support across distance. I hope to write more comments with some questions in the near future.


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  9. Thank you so much for this thoughtful comparison! I found it very helpful. And a lot of the listed cons resonate with me. I’ve just moved from a rural area where my son went to a Waldorf school to an urban areas, and the commutes to school became painful.

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