Losing The Forest For The Trees?

Did you ever get the feeling that Waldorf homeschoolers or Waldorf families in general lose the forest for the trees sometimes?  Or that their lives and their children must be absolutely perfect because they have this perfect rhythm in this perfectly peaceful home where every object has a place and there are only natural toys where everyone goes about singing all day long like Maria Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music”?


Here is my idea, and see what you all think:

I think Waldorf Education is for everyone.  I think even if you do not agree one hundred percent with what Steiner wrote, elements of Waldorf Education can still work for you and your family.  I still think Steiner was an amazing observer of children, and so many of the ways he thought to bring life and morals and yes, education to children in a school setting was incredible!  Many of his simple observations of children match with what Gesell, Piaget and other child psychologists have also noted in child development.  This curriculum is possibly the best match for what Gesell and Piaget thought.

Interestingly enough, in his book, “The Therapeutic Eye: How Rudolf Steiner Observed Children”, Peter Selg writes, “At the Stuttgart teachers’ meetings, Rudolf Steiner would never be abstract, let alone moralistic.”  In another few pages, he quotes Caroline von Heydebrand ( a teacher)  as saying that “Rudolf Steiner was someone “whose wise insight was exceeded only by his kindness.” He asked teachers to approach students from a point of love that came from the deepest  knowledge of the developing human being.

In the first seven years, we work to protect a child’s senses, to develop a child’s imagination, to work with the child’s impulses and will through movement and fantasy and through the child’s body.  Why then, do so many people turn the first seven years into  a  list of “Can Not’s” and “Should Not’s”?

I suggest that these people are looking at the first seven years in Waldorf from a negative perspective; the things Waldorf “won’t let my child do” as opposed to what will best nurture and develop the child in the first seven years.  I have worked with so many children over the years from premature infants up until age twenty-one, in intensive care units, in outpatient facilities, in the home, in breastfeeding clinics, in support groups.  I have worked with children with special needs, children with physical challenges, children with emotional and mental challenges.  I have observed so many children over the years.    We are all human beings.  These children, all of them, would have benefitted from the indications we follow in the first seven years in Waldorf Education.  I feel strongly about Waldorf Education precisely because of my experience and observations.

Do not use Waldorf as an excuse to suck the joy out of your family  life nor to put down the people around you because they do things differently.  Be a light, and a kind light, for those around you.  Perhaps your example, without any words at all, will be powerful to them on their journey.  They are doing the best they can with the information they have at this moment.  And if they are not really thinking, oh dear, that is unfortunate for the children.   But not everyone is interested in being a mindful parent.  And even mindful parents have differences of opinions!

Have joy, keep the very big picture in mind as to what is important – rest, rhythm, outside time, fostering the imagination through music and stories and puppetry, movement, protecting the senses, giving the child a sense of goodness and security in the family and home and the world.  That is the bottom line. It is not that television is evil or that computers are evil or that if your child looks through a magnifying glass before they are nine they are going to die or if they teach themselves to read they are going to be damaged! 

It is, though, about what you as a family make as a priority, how you live consistently, how the younger your child is the more protection of their senses that they need, and how you do need to make some hard choices about what to wait on and what to start now.  As a society we tend to offer the small child everything in one giant lump at an early age and dump it on them – “Here you go!  You are six, right?  Here is Teddy Roosevelt and World War II and Irag and a microscope and a computer and the Internet and oh! don’t forget your cell phone and here, you can watch that movie, no problem and sure, Harry Potter is fine, enjoy the last book especially!  Want to earn some money?  Better get on that fast track now!  Here’s your list of classes and sports and school activities!”

I should hope that even without Waldorf Education, we would figure out that a six- year- old is not the same person as a sixteen –year old and that some things should come later rather than earlier.  I would hope we would stop and ask ourselves if our child really does need to know that, to do that, to be talked to in that way at that age and to stop and think.  What we say and what we do makes our child’s world and their reality.  Think about what kind of world and reality you want it to be!

The world will open up; the right thing at the right time. 

Waldorf Education is for real parents and for real people.  People who have a sense of humor and love and delight in the child.  Are you one of those kinds of people?




13 thoughts on “Losing The Forest For The Trees?

  1. Wonderful. This is an exceptionally timely post for me as I am just beginning our journey into the Waldorf philosophy and homeschooling. I love your outlook it sums things up for me perfectly. Thank you!

  2. Thank you for such a beautiful post. I feel on the verge of tears many times during the week when I watch as the world handles little people with such a rote way of communicating. My children are now 18, 20 and 21 and I am the nanny to five year old twins. Their mother died 3 and a half years ago and we have been together for 3 of those years. I am a follower of Waldorf even before I knew that it was a something to follow. I read your posts with the savoring that I reserve for unhurried moments. I am going to start a social justice parenting class at my church this year with the blessing of our priest. We can only have compassion on the world if we at first can see those as precious that share our first “world”, that being family. Thank you again. Many times I feel as though I was delivered to the wrong planet where the language spoken is not love but confusion. Blessings on your new year of moments. xxoo, Trace

  3. Yes! This is so true! So often the Waldorf approach to early childhood is taken in a negative, “thou shalt not” kind of way that is completely debilitating to the will! I remember being a victim of this kind of mentality myself when I first found Waldorf. Thank goodness I found a way to free myself up to listen to my instincts, understand child development, and use my observation of my child as my primary guide!

    I find it to be such a shame when parents dogmatically accept some aspect of Waldorf education when it clearly does not resonate with them or their child. It’s all too easy to fall into this trap in our efforts to “do it right.”

  4. This post is very freeing for me, and helps me to feel like I can use Waldorf in my home and homeschooling, but don’t have to be perfect at it, be “hardcore Waldorf” to make it work for me and my child. It will help me to remember these words when I come in contact with local Waldorf parents who are a bit “Waldorfier than thou” about their approach, as well. I can relax. I can breathe…Thanks again!

  5. Thank you for this inspirational post. As a newcomer to Waldorf Education I often find myself getting caught up in the “how to” rather than simply jumping in and doing it. I needed to hear your message of seeing the big picture as to what is important.

  6. Thanks Carrie. Again a very timely post for our family.

    We are new to Waldorf and we do not agree 100%, but I think it is the best way to educate my children. This post has helped me to see the forest – it has been there all along but I was so focussed on all or nothing.
    By keeping the big picture in mind we can make it work for our family.

  7. I am just beginning to investigate Waldorf too, and find many aspects of it appealing. I am a first-time mother, with a 1.5 year old son, and am very much still learning on the job! My husband and I have had conversations about how parents in their enthusiasm to share all the interesting things in the world with their children, introduce too much too quickly. We are hoping to slow down in our approach. Carrie, I admire your calm, considered approach to parenting.

  8. Great post! Waldorf can be overwhelming sometimes when we try and do everything “right”. I think relaxing and enjoying our children while we parent mindfully is key.

  9. Thanks for this great post.
    Most Waldorf philosophies resonate so well with me although I tend to not use the Waldorf label.
    I am looking for a written explanation of these Waldorf philosophies that I can share with my in laws. They come from such a different background (TV, food from a box, electronic toys) and I would like to share with them how we live and teach our our children (little ones – 1 & 3 yrs. old.). They mean well and I think more understanding will bring us closer.
    For example, my mother-in-law does not understand why we make pancakes from scratch (many reasons and not just for health). My explanations don’t seam to sink in and I think she is the type to respond well to having it all written down and coming from someone else. I am looking for something more than the definition of Waldorf education – something with specific examples – and it’s more than just education – it’s a lifestyle.
    I am thinking there is something like this in your blog – if you know of something I would greatly appreciate it.
    Thank you for all your bring to my families life Carrie!

  10. Pingback: Can Waldorf Work With Other Homeschooling Methods? « The Parenting Passageway

  11. Pingback: It’s That Time Of Year!! Questions About Waldorf Homeschooling! « The Parenting Passageway

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