Waldorf in The One Room Schoolhouse

I was a guest speaker at the La Leche League of Georgia Area  Conference  over the weekend.  What good providence that Sharifa Oppenheimer, author of “Heaven On Earth:  A Handbook For Parents Of Young Children”,  was the keynote speaker!  It was lovely to meet her and spend time with her in person.  I so appreciate authors such as Sharifa and Kim John Payne who are really doing their best to bring the healing and therapeutic sides of Waldorf education to broader audiences.

Whilst I was driving Sharifa back to the airport, she and I were talking about the translation of Waldorf Education from the classroom, where the class becomes a social organization of its own, to the homeschool. It is interesting to think about and it was an interesting discussion!

I truly believe that the Waldorf Curriculum stands well with individual homeschooling students. After all, Steiner himself was aware of education in both group and individual settings through his own life experiences.  I feel what can be more challenging to translate is the “one room schoolhouse” situation where mothers are homeschooling students in different seven-year cycles.

If you think about it, Waldorf teachers go through training to become a teacher dealing with children in ONE of the seven year cycles.  For example, one is trained as an Early Years educator or a grades teacher or a Waldorf high school teacher.  One teacher does not have to cut across all the seven year cycles as a homeschooling mother may have to if she has children who are 16, 10, 6 and 4 years old!

So what is one to do?  Here are some of my suggestions!

1.  As always, we must work with ourselves.  We work to become authentic human beings. We work to learn how to set boundaries in a loving way.  We work to understand how we speak and work with  a 4-year-old and how that is different when we work and speak with our 10-year old.  We work to understand the seven-year cycles.

2.  We learn to  juggle.  There is no reason that Waldorf education cannot work within this one room schoolhouse model!  However, it may look different than in a traditional Waldorf classroom.  There has to be more of a back and forth flow between the children of different ages so that all of their needs are met.  This is absolutely true no matter what homeschool method you choose.

3.  We work to preserve what homeschooling is all about – and that is family.  We work to foster relationships between all family members and to create a rhythm that works for all family members.  We include boundaries as to what is needed for a teenager is not what is needed by our under-7 child and we know when we can be flexible and do things on a bit of a different timetable that is still appropriate, but perhaps not exactly  what one would experience within a Waldorf school.  I like this post by Donna Simmons on that subject:  http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2005/07/how_to_do_it.html

4.  We utilize the advantages of learning within the home environment. Home is a great place to cook and to garden, for example.  Make the most of your environment!

5.  We garner support:  a homeschooling group, the use of other family members or friends or neighbors who could help you if you do need some uninterrupted time, some more meditative time with your sixth grader.

6.  We guard our time. If you are rushing around and always leaving the house and going here and running there, that is not going to be peaceful or conducive for good learning or home stability for ANY age. 

I would love to hear your ideas and experiences; please leave them in the comment box!

Many blessings and much love,



6 thoughts on “Waldorf in The One Room Schoolhouse

  1. Thanks for this post Carrie! I am actually having an easier time with this than I anticipated! Basically we’re doing it all together! I use circle time to tell my Kindy story and at the table my little guy colors, my big guy does his work. We all do crafts, baking, physical movement stuff together and on Friday nights we perform the K story for Daddy! For our building block my little guy had a big board so he could practice hammering while my older guy did his measuring and cutting. Last week I had 2 wisdom teeth removed (ouch!!!) and Daddy stayed home to finish up the building project. I am doing my best to refine plans about a week or two in advance. So far, so good!

  2. Now that I can really tell the story out of my head, I have a much easier time. I can tell the story when the time is right ( just being patient and looking for that time is kinda fun for me). We learn our songs/poems in circle and sing them while walking the woods to remember them. My 2nd grader does her table work while the younger ones play or come to table for coloring. Having supplies on hand that are similar has helped, helped, helped. Now my three year old has her own supplies that are “special” too. Yarn for handwork, block crayons and a book for table work. We spend A LOT of time outside, so being flexible and taking the days work with us into the outdoors has helped. No reason we cant practice reading by the creek, or write out our poems at the park. I like what children of different ages teach each other, holding onto that belief helps me at difficult times. I can remember that being patient with each other is part of what we are learning too, and one of the important reasons I homeschool.
    I also wake very early to get a head start on the day. It makes me feel grounded.

  3. I find it works well with math and reading to have older children and younger children work together. I love Sherene’s advice about being outside. Nobody ever regrets spending time outside. My daughter used to call her home school group “treeschool” everyone thought she was saying “preschool”

  4. I’m still struggling with four children at very different stages. Thank you for this blog post, it’s provided me with some different perspectives. We got through a Viking/Celtic main lesson very well and maths worked but now I’m feeling very stuck doing local geography AND fables AND keeping the kindy stuff and toddler stuff at the same time.

    Just keep chugging along.

    • Hi Kris,
      Could you work the fables in as animals you encounter in your local geography? Just a thought.
      Many blessings,
      Carrie 🙂

  5. This is another great post Carrie! I talk to families about this all the time. Layering it all in is a great begin – take your time to learn the method, realize that you won’t be perfect and give yourself permission to ENJOY it all. Remember that this education is just as much for us as it is for our children. I think rhythm and planning things out are so important – over the years, 4 kids, being married, then single, then married again, what has saved my bacon is a consistent rhythm and planning. When ever I have been off, it always comes back to those two things. In order to really plan, I had to be connecting with Spirit.

    Kindness to yourself is key as well… we all mess up, have bad days, weeks, even years! Forgive yourself and regroup. Walk on.

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