The Broader Essence of Waldorf Homeschooling

Waldorf homeschooling involves feeling general themes that span several grades, as opposed to “looking in the curriculum for what is for that year”.

What Waldorf homeschooling can bring you, if you let it, is healing but also BALANCE.  If you are interested in Waldorf homeschooling but lean more toward structure and skills and knowing what your child “can do”, Waldorf homeschooling can help you slow down and realize, for example, that an oral report in fifth grade could lay the basis for a discussion of literature in sixth grade.  Waldorf education can put the academic skills children need for life on a timetable that is realistic for development and can place them at a point where these skills will not be like pulling teeth, but will be vigorous and full of vitality.

If you are more unschooling led, Waldorf Education can provide a beauty in form and also help with healthy development as to what nourishes each broad developmental phase through these broad themes.  You have more leeway, I think than just “X story in X grade.”  Waldorf Education leaves time and space for what the child brings, leaves time and space for “a-ha” moments, but this comes after careful preparation by the teacher within these broad themes and meditating on the child in question.  If you are more unschooling led and you don’t feel comfortable taking the lead in teaching your child anything that the child might enjoy and find nourishing but didn’t think of it themselves first, then Waldorf Education might not be a good fit for your family.  And that is okay!

Kindergarten through Grade 2 (grades one through two is ages almost seven through eight or so):  A general theme of celebration of life, especially through the festivals,  a strong sense of protection and unhurriedness, and  a feeling of unconditional love from the family branching out during the grades into love felt by the child from the “best buddy” and the trusted community.  In homeschooling families, the love of a peer or “best buddy” may come later, but the longing is still there and can be seen in children who reside in a stable community each year in the grades.

This comes best from the folk tales, fairy tales, saint stories, and stories of animals that YOU are comfortable with within your family tradition.  All of these stories point toward the  unconditional love for the child by not only the family but the community and by nature and yes, a general sense of a higher being itself.

In a Christian Waldorf home, the Old Testament stories are very rich and nourishing for all ages, but of course speak very directly to those children in the nine year change if you can work deeper with the stories the children have already encountered as part of family culture.

The seasonal festivals and the doing are most important.

The challenge for the more form led parent will be to remember to teach through art, to provide balance, to not get so caught up with “where their child is academically.”  The shift at the six/seven year change toward the parent assuming a more direct role in teaching is also part of this time.  This can be a challenge for some truly dedicated unschoolers, but the role of the homeschooling parent as a more direct and loving leader cannot be understated nor overlooked.

Grades 3 through 5 (ages almost 9 through age 11 or so):  The broader themes here are still one of love from not just the immediate family, but from the best buddy, from the community and  from connection to the community.   Philios, the love of brotherhood and the community, is found in these ages.   The beauty found in the world through biographies of great people such as George Washington Carver in fifth grade botany or in legends or in the Old Testament stories shows the important strivings of man and of humanity.  Academic skills typically increase slowly to include more significant writing, reading and through organization in fourth and fifth grade.  The challenge for the homeschooling teacher is to show a calm, steady emotional state whilst the child goes through the nine year change, and to balance the needs of the child to be in community with the need to be home with family.

The challenge for those more structured and formed will be to not rush into academic skills that are normally the realm of those children ages close to 12 and up, and the challenge of the unschooling led parent will be to step up and provide consistency and find the beauty in the stories of the Old Testament, the Norse myths, geometry and math, and finally through Ancient Civilizations and to know to bring these stories to a child after we have digested them and believe in them is nourishing even if the child doesn’t bring up directly that they want to hear about “X” subject.

Grades 6 through 8: The child is dealing with Eros, not just with the awakening provided by the more popular connotation of this term, but with the awakening to perhaps even a larger sense of community and what lies beyond and a larger awakening to themselves.  Causal thinking is developing, and this is fostered through accurate observation in the sciences, for example.   Even subjects such as math provide a pondering for the meaning of love, accepting and belonging… Things are brought in to balance a typically very black and white view of the world at this age – charcoal drawing, for example, in sixth grade and perspective drawing in seventh grade.

For those form and structured led, it may prove a challenge not to push into a high school level thinking and academic expectations.  For those unschooling led, it may be more tempting to abandon any of the broad themes found in history, literature, art and math found during these grades, but then I truly believe the child will miss a picture of beauty in the world and in humanity that is not often  found in mainstream co-op classes or computer and on-line classes.  It can be difficult to find beauty in the harshness of the Romans, or in some of the things in American history or the explorers, but yet that is the task of the teacher to see and guide the child towards.

High School:  The child is moving into discovering truth in the world, and who they are in the world.  What is truth, who are they in the world, how do they deal with the unconditional love of family, the love of the best buddy and the love for wanting to be accepted and belong to those outside the family.  Idealistic causes are well-served in this time, to warm often cool intellectual thoughts.  Art continues to provide the balance between the nervous system of thinking and the system of will and doing.  Art is a portal to feeling itself.

Hope that helps provide a broader picture today,


6 thoughts on “The Broader Essence of Waldorf Homeschooling

  1. this is good timing as I start to make decisions for what we are doing next year with my 6 year old boy who is a january b-day. I’m starting to hear about the boys who don’t quite resonate with waldorf teaching if they are quite “choleric” and constantly moving and don’t seem ready to focus on drawing and circle time still as we try. I’m ready to take more of a teaching stance, but not quite sure what he’s going to really resonate with…I don’t want to commit to a waldorf cirriculum if it’s not currently the right fit…?

    • Karin,
      If your commitment is to Waldorf homeschooling is a commitment, then that is your baseline that you will work from and make it work for your son through careful observation and through knowing most of the first grade year would need to be doing and things done orally and progressing toward other things Handwork can be a great help with those things; I encourage you to go back and read all the first grade posts. Usually with a child who has a Dec or jan birthday, you almost see that child reach grade level in the spring of that year. So I would expect more of a slower, steady fall with preparing him to be a learner, and then moving into more true first grade work in the spring or so.

      But, the commitment has to be there on your part. If you are going to not see this as your baseline, then it will be difficult to not blame Waldorf homeschooling for everything that doesn’t work out as you see. As homeschoolers, we can be on a constant search for what fits and we can spend lots of time combing through every style and curriculum out there. I encourage you to do your inner work and meditate on this..what do you think your son will gain from waldorf homeschooling? Is your spouse or partner on board?
      How does your home life support this? How are you preparing?

      If this is not the path for you, then that is okay! But, I think that is easier if you can sit down and figure that out honestly with yourself before involving or not involving your child. A consultant such as Melisa Nielsen of A Little Garden Flower could be well worth your time and money at this point before you go further.


  2. This is a great post and a wonderful framework for the big picture – thanks Carrie! I especially love this: “Waldorf education can put the academic skills children need for life on a timetable that is realistic for development and can place them at a point where these skills will not be like pulling teeth, but will be vigorous and full of vitality.” Yes! I just love how Waldorf education speaks to the soul of the child – academic learning in the context of soul nourishment is bound to thrive.

  3. Pingback: Links To Love | The Parenting Passageway

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