This question, or a variation of this, comes up on all the Waldorf Facebook groups frequently. It is a not a bad question, of course, but also a challenging one for a “sound byte” medium such as Facebook because it deserves a full answer as to what the essence of Waldorf homeschooling is really about. Waldorf homeschooling is really about much more than the outer aspects of Waldorf that are touted on some of these groups, because it is the “inner” Waldorf life that really creates Waldorf homeschooling.
So, I am writing today to give some direction to those with small children who have just discovered Waldorf Education and are not sure where to go beyond the outer trappings of “stuff”.
I think the first aspect is to realize that Waldorf Education in the home first and foremost deals with a basis of attachment between parent and child. This is the basis of homeschooling in general, and Waldorf homeschooling is no exception. Therefore, you will need to be able to sort through literature about Waldorf Education and look at it through the lens of the home and family. I suggest beginning by reading some of the articles from the Gateways Journal through the Waldorf Library. The Gateways Journal deals with the Early Years child, mainly within a school setting, but much of it is also about development of the Early Years child in general and is therefore very valuable to the homeschooling parent.
Secondly, Waldorf Education is about developmental and holistic education based upon Rudolf Steiner’s pedagogical view of the child. It would serve one well to delve deeper into this area so one knows whether Waldorf Education matches up to what one really believes. The first seven years are about a gesture of protection over the child, about protecting and developing the twelve senses and the physical body, and about the world being a place of goodness where the child is recognized as a spiritual being of gratitude. For many parents, this gesture can often takes inner work, and this is an important part of striving for the Early Years parent-teacher. What will your inner work look like? When will you do this?
Many homeschooling parents are attracted to Waldorf because of its gentle and holistic nature, but often are not happy with when they discover that Waldorf Education does assume the teacher is the leader and the authority. It is not child-led. It is based upon the development of the child, and the observation of the child in front of you and therefore is respectful of the child, but a homeschooling parent-teacher will lead a rhythm cultivated from a sense of in-breath and out-breath that involves work, play and love. Therefore, in order for this to work in your home, you have to be okay being the leader in your home and in creating, initiating and sustaining rhythm.
The resources I most frequently recommend include books such as Rudolf Steiner’s lectures gathered in “Kingdom of Childhood” (and even “Soul Economy”, because it shows how the Early Years fits into the entire educational cycle). The other books I recommend include “Heaven on Earth” by Sharifa Oppenheimer because it gives many practical examples of rhythm that many parents have told me they have found helpful with their small children; and the book “Connecting With Young Children: Educating the Will” by Stephen Spitalny. Books about toymaking and the rhythm of the year are also wonderful to have, if you have them and then “do” something with them!
I think this post is a good place to start as well as its focus is on “doing”: Waldorf in the Home with the Three and Four Year Old.
Many blessings and peace,