This is a topic near and dear to my heart as there really does not seem to be a number of people blogging about using Waldorf homeschooling with their older children (especially middle school aged and up) anymore. I don’t know if this is really because there are so few of us left or just that the folks who are really doing it and in the trenches don’t have the time to blog! (And, as I head into sixth grade, third grade and four- year- old land this fall, I can totally understand that lack of time, so there is no judgment there, just an observation!)
Yet, I feel a need to point out that just because few of these blogs exist (which again, could mean there are more families out there doing this than we think!), this way of homeschooling does not have to lead to burn-out. It can become a long-term way of homeschooling, not just for for the “pink bubble” of the kindergarten years. In fact, I think one can see a real pulling together of the curriculum and how it all ties together starting especially in fifth grade and up and it is beautiful and amazing to see the connections and the way these subjects are so enlivened!
So, my theory is that in order for Waldorf homeschooling to continue beyond the ‘”pink bubble”, I think it is important to understand what Waldorf homeschooling really is. I think “burn-out” or being worn out with something often occurs when our expectations do not match the reality of what is at hand. Children are the text in Waldorf homeschooling, but the teacher is the leader in Waldorf homeschooling. We meditate on the child, we look at the development of the child in a holistic way, but we decide what we need to choose for stories and other things within the framework of the curriculum during the grades, how to work with these things on behalf of the child with help from the spiritual realm. Again, the teacher works with the child and on behalf of the child, but is the decided loving authority throughout grades one through eight. If this is uncomfortable to you, and there are of course degrees along this continuum, perhaps it is better to say Waldorf Education does not fit your family and to talk about what path is better suited to you. I personally find that a much more honest take than saying Waldorf homeschooling doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work for you, than I think that is okay, and BETTER than okay, because then you are on the path to finding what IS better for you and your family. Life is too short to not be happy!
Secondly, I think burn-out often has to do with lack of boundaries. I went through some experiences this year where I wrongly felt like I had a lot of things to hold, and I had this long-time volunteer commitment I was not feeling very dedicated to on top of everything else. It was not the fault of the volunteer organization, it was ME! Once I started clearing away the clutter in my life, stopped trying to hold things for people that I had no business holding, then I could see that this volunteer commitment was not that big after all and still sustainable for me. But boundaries are what got me to that realization!
In homeschooling, boundaries are doubly important. You HAVE to have time for YOU and YOU alone if you are going to sustain this for a long period. This means, practically, if you have a spouse that works super long hours or travels and is gone a lot or you work part time in addition to homeschooling, you are going to have to be double and triple careful what commitments you make outside of homeschooling. The most successful homeschoolers, the ones who really homeschool at home (as opposed to families who homeschool by enrolling their children in many classes, which I am not knocking per se but it is different then when you are homeschooling at home), need to actually BE HOME. Usually that means at least three days during the week where they have no commitments to be ANYWHERE at all, including no running errands and such. This becomes very important as one moves up in the grades. I found fifth grade to be this breaking point for myself.
Outside of scheduling, homeschooling this way also requires boundaries at home regarding NEGATIVITY. If you yourself feel consistently fearful, anxious, negative, full of judgment towards others, irritable and full of hatred towards a particular person or situation, or if you have anxious, negative, judgmental emotions or angry emotions flooding into your life or the life of your children, then it is really very difficult to be centered enough to actually teach. If the emotions are coming from you, then you may need a great deal of inner work or counseling in order to be centered enough to homeschool this way. If the negative emotions are flooding in from outside, then you must put boundaries on this so your household is peaceful. This can involve letting situations or people go out of your life. That can be hard, but so necessary. You must find the nourishment in yourself and your life for this to work. You must surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, for what you are, and who nourish and heal you. It is not that there is no place to help others, but also that it cannot be completely unbalanced where you are being covered in negativity from those you want to help. There is a prayer one of my spiritual elders and mentors, a gentle spiritual giant, from church recently gave me that I am working with daily:
May I be at peace.
May my heart remain open.
May the light of my true essence be unveiled.
May I be healed.
May I be a source of healing for others.
Most of all, choosing to homeschool can require making choices in other areas of your life in order to facilitate that. People get really angry and frustrated when I tell them that, because they want to hear they can still do it all, but the reality is, especially as their children grow and move up in the grades, that they cannot do it all well and homeschool well, at least not in a Waldorf Way.
Straight talk from me today,
My son is entering 6th grade, and I have felt so strongly that I can no longer take part in the homeschool co-op leading a class, 4H, and all of our fun social commitments because it leaves me unable to keep it all together at home. These are words of wisdom!
Carrie, I love this post. What you say about negativity is so important. There are people that say things online that they would likely never say in person or that they would never want their children to say. I learned long ago that my children pick up on EVERY bit of my energy. If it is good then things go well and if it is dark then things don’t go so well. Boundaries play such an important roll in all of this. We should be an example, even when our children are not looking.
I just love this post and again couldn’t agree more.
One thing you touched on that is often overlooked is HOW to do this schooling. If a family can only manage three days then they should make those the best three days they can. We don’t have to be held back by what others are doing.
I got a letter from a customer today that mentioned how afraid she was to talk about her incidental TV use in her Waldorf group because she feared judgement. She thanked me for giving a more balance view for her so she could let some of the guilt go.
Where ever we are on this path, we have to own it and live it.
A friend of mine (who also homeschools with Waldorf; Hi Siobhan!!) asked me about my budget for homeschooling. I told her the majority of money that I spend has nothing to do with homeschooling directly, but more to keep me in the right state of health (mentally, emotionally and spiritually). This would include regular visits to my chiropractor, meeting with my spiritual director, attending conferences (like yours! and Taproot). All of these things combine to help me bring the right attitude and frame of mind when I am homeschooling my boys.
Balance is so important – and really, I think, the key to it all.
Hmmm . . . I feel like I have a lot more to say, but I’m going to stop here.
Thanks for being a light on the path.
So… I am starting a new programme this fall… It is 2.5days home learner programme(public) and I want to compliment this w Waldorf at home. I am a trained handwork teacher and lover of form drawing, math, stories… I plan to fold my child back into a Waldorf high school when appropriate. Based on your post, do you think I’m off my rocker? Do you have any tips on folding in Waldorf to what my daughter will be learning outside the home? I am hoping to form a small handwork group in the community. Kind Regards
Please tell me more..Are you doing the teaching at the public program? Is just your daughter attending? How old is she? Do you have other children and what are their ages? What is the responsibility of what goes on at home on the “off” days in regards to what is being taught in the public program those two and a half days. We have programs like this in the US for homeschoolers, we call them (at least here in the Deep South) homeschool hybrids — the days at home are pretty dictated by the program, there is homework and set things to do at home in the off days.
Right on Carrie! Straight talk is good. I am one of those who hasn’t been online much for years, by choice. Because we can’t do it all or have it all, all of the time. My youngest is now going into high school and I feel a loosening, a little extra space! And I have long said three days a week at home are what I need to stay sane and keep going on this path.
For me, avoiding burn-out has been about just what you say: setting boundaries, making tough choices and engaging in creative, fulfilling activities just for me. The boundaries piece takes a while to learn I think, and is the first to burst the “pink bubble”! Then keeping the negativity at bay and staying filled up ourselves requires on-going effort. For me it’s singing with my women’s group, early morning walks, doing art, meditating on poetry, bird watching.
We are all looking for what nourishes us and I often tell people that this Waldorf path is a spiritual one for you, as well as a great homeschooling choice for your kids. And spiritual journeys can be intense!
Love the prayer you included; a friend of mine set it to music and it’s lovely!
Thank you for your honesty, Carrie.
What an amazing and timely post for me, Carrie. Thank you so very much for this. Negativity is so counterproductive…
So enlightening, and thank you. I am only contemplating homeschooling at this point, and doing the research. I’ve noticed that most families who post seem to have multikid households. We have a daughter. Any insight on waldorf homeschooling an only child?
Sure, Cecelia…You can try this back post, but be sure to read all the comments made by parents of singletons: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/11/13/parenting-and-homeschooling-the-only-child/
So glad you are here reading! Congratulations on contemplating homeschooling!
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Beautiful. And so so true! Even as I am only thus year fully waldorf, we’ve strive for rhythm etc in past years and the “too much” and negativity always get me. Boundaries.
Journey where you are…it can be beautiful. Quite frankly, what I have seen over the years is that there is nothing wrong with Waldorf homeschooling, what is wrong is what we try to make it or ourselves into in the process, or that there are really other things going on in the marriage, the home, with the child and Waldorf homeschooling is the scapegoat for the unrest.
Steady, baby steps wins the long distance run of homeschooling.