This is the time of year when my homeschooling mothers get stars in their eyes looking at the different Waldorf curriculum choices, blogs, and they start to feel more than inadequate.
“We don’t have a good rhythm because my four year old cried over everything during the day and the baby needs to be changed about twenty times a day!”
“My house doesn’t look like those beautiful blogs!”
“I don’t feel calm in my house like a Waldorf teacher; I yell at the kids a lot.”
So, I am here, in my perfectly plant-dyed silk cape, to help you realize that “Waldorf Perfect” is a myth. I wrote a post awhile back about “Hopeless With Waldorf” addressing these same sorts of issues.
I find the sweet “Waldorf-inspired” mothers who have children under the age of 7 are often the mothers who are so interested in Steiner’s educational ideas but also seem to be the most impressionable. Blogs, books, consultations, curriculum – you all have seen it or are looking at it all. I worry a bit about this, because not one of these people who put out these products are perfect. Some of the things you all are reading are not true to Waldorf Education or Steiner’s thoughts about education, but you don’t know these things are not really true or typical of Waldorf Education or Waldorf Parenting. Somewhere along the line, nature and beautiful surroundings of natural materials have become substituted for an actual curriculum. It is not so much that Waldorf Education is as dogmatic as you might think, but there are essential truths to work with. However, you have to know what some of these essential truths are in order to have discernment.
There are others of you who are really interested in Waldorf Education and Waldorf Parenting, but are really put off by the idea of limited to no media, or by not bringing in academics directly until first grade, or by being home more than you might think you want to be. It is a journey, and I think if you can keep an open mind, then things go along. I have seen some mothers who are attracted to Waldorf Education and Waldorf Parenting go every direction but for the reasons I just mentioned; they go off into Classical homeschooling or Unschooling or whathave you but eventually they circle right back around to where they started because the attraction is so strong for them. They need the healing impulse of Waldorf Education right along with their children.
They still have to do the work to figure things out though. Sometimes it is just if you are ready to do the work now or ready to do it later.
But have you noticed that the common denominator in all of this is you?
So, I really encourage you to take the time to work on YOU. YOU are the essential piece of the parenting and homeschooling puzzle, whether you are “Waldorf-inspired” or not.
I wrote a series of posts on Inner Work, I have written quite a bit about faith and religion and spirituality in parenting, and we are now talking about topics surrounding parental anger. These are all good places to start.
You do not need a curriculum for the Kindergarten years. I encourage homeschooling families to actually do only one or two years of “kindergarten” at home. It may be your child’s five year old year or it may be your child’s six year old year depending upon when that child’s birthday falls.
The heart of the Waldorf Early Years at home include protection, warmth, giving the child something worthy to imitate, lots of practical work, singing, getting your child in their body through lots of physical activity outside and rhythm. To this list, I would add a sense of community with other families starting at about age four and a half to five. Four and a half was the traditional age Waldorf Kindergartens used to start children, and it is a good time to look for more social things that are short and have a little structure that the parents create, not just “go off and play whilst I talk in the corner to all these other parents”. If you need more social time, schedule it without your small children.
The heart of Waldorf is actually not play silks, wooden toys, having a perfectly plastic-toy free house. These are all wonderful in and of themselves, but without the true heart of it, they can all become rather empty gestures.
Start with your inner work. Start with rhythm. Read some Steiner and see what you think. Let things digest. Take the one thing that is most challenging for yourself right now, whether that be anger, having patience, setting boundaries and put those terms into the search engine box on this blog and read those posts and work on that one area for forty days.
Start and work in baby steps, and never, ever get intimidated that Waldorf Education and Waldorf Parenting is not for you because someone you don’t even know in real-life seems perfect. I assure you they are not. I am not perfect either! We all have our strengths and weaknesses and things we are striving for.
Start somewhere, work with the essential truths of Waldorf Education and Waldorf Parenting, pare down your blog list and computer time and get out and just do it!