Waldorf Homeschooling: An Independent Daughter Movement?

If the platform of  Steiner’s spiritual  work is seen as the “Mother” and the  “daughter” movements are such practical outreach movements as biodynamic agriculture, curative education, anthroposophic medicine, and Waldorf Education in the Waldorf Schools, I think the explosive growth of Waldorf homeschooling has left some of us wondering if Waldorf homeschooling is an independent daughter movement in its own right, not just something  “under” the Waldorf School?

As homeschoolers, we  often hear how the Waldorf School cannot be replicated in the home environment, but yet the Waldorf Schools give us the ideas of curriculum and implementation.  Unfortunately, first time Waldorf homeschoolers are often concerned about following the curriculum created for the school environment as closely as possible and often drive themselves crazy trying to do this as a parent with no teacher training and no specialized staff – and in the process ignore the way the curriculum could be implemented in the home for the benefit of the development of the child and family..  Steiner was the first to believe that a classroom should be adapted to the place and time in which one lived; therefore a classroom in Germany in one region would look different than a classroom in southeastern America.  Why do we act as if the homeschool environment should be  the same as a generic “model” classroom when this is not what Steiner even wanted for the school environment?

I recently found a link about the differences between the Waldorf School and the Montessori method and was struck by something that I hear over and over from Waldorf School teachers as a concern regarding homeschooling.  This is from the City of Lakes Waldorf School website as an answer to a Frequently Asked Question.  http://clws.org/faq/#difference  and this was the part that caught my eye and stimulated my thoughts about Waldorf homeschooling:

Waldorf education, on the other hand, puts particular emphasis on the development of the young child within a group. Barbara Shell, a teacher who worked in public, Montessori, and Waldorf schools, put it this way:

“Waldorf teachers orchestrate this [social] development by modeling good social behavior with their children, by getting the children to join together in movement activities, by introducing songs and games that develop group consciousness, and by helping children learn to work through disagreements.”

The overall development of the child as a social being and citizen of the world IS a goal in homeschooling as well as in the school.  But we have different methods than a class consciousness to achieve this goal as we work within the context of the family unit and created community.   If we employ methods still rooted within a philosophy of freedom; still rooted within the spiritual knowledge of the developing human being; still within the ideas of bridging the gaps between the arts, the sciences, and religion;  if we nurture the life of the individual in conjunction with having a place in the world, then I would argue that Waldorf homeschooling meets the criteria to be a “daughter” movement within its own right.

In order to make this a true movement, I feel there would need to be the emergence of more true leaders within this movement and a more inclusive spirit of collaboration between people who are not only rooted within the Waldorf School movement that we DO heavily draw upon as homeschoolers, but who are also rooted in homeschooling environment who really understand homeschooling.  I think we also need leaders in Waldorf homeschooling who have been through the upper grades and high school in the home environment and understand the indications of Rudolf Steiner for education and how this culminates in the home environment.   There are many resources regarding the early grades being written and sold, but this is the very beginning of the path. There is wisdom that comes in experiencing the fullness of the homeschooling cycle in seeing a child to independence.

Waldorf homeschooling also often pulls from outside influences; the  farm, field and forest movement is but one example.  The work of Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate, the authors of “Hold On To Your Kids” is also seen by some in the Waldorf homeschooling movement as a strong influence.  I work with the indications of development from the Gesell Institute, and there are other Waldorf teachers in Australia working with this influence as well who have emailed me.  The religious life of the family who homeschools also pulls into play as a fundamental aspect of many who homeschool, and this would need to be addressed in further detail and work in any daughter movement.

Waldorf homeschoolers remain indebted to the Waldorf School and the curriculum created for this school environment.  However, one wonders what Rudolf Steiner would say about homeschooling in this day and age and what indications he would give that would be different for the home environment.  Despite Waldorf homeschooling having been around for many years now, the explosion of homeschooling in general and “Waldorf- inspired”  homeschooling in specific may now lend itself toward further exploration and clarification of using this method practically in the home with the family and immediate neighborhood/community as the social context within the a family culture that varies from home to home.  There is much interesting work that lies ahead!



14 thoughts on “Waldorf Homeschooling: An Independent Daughter Movement?

  1. As someone who will be stepping into the grade 1 curriculum in September this year, I have found myself wondering just what Steiner would have thought about homeschooling, and his thoughts on how it would differ from the classroom. I know I can’t bring to my little man what he might receive in the classroom, I just don’t have the training or knowledge, but having more information available to us as homeschoolers would be very beneficial, and would definitely help me out on this journey.

    Thanks for opening the conversation, looking forward to seeing where it goes.

  2. Oh so true, Carrie! I myself struggled to follow the Waldorf school curriculum as-is in our home environment, and it soon became very clear that it simply wasn’t workable. And if I continued trying to make it work I was headed for serious burnout. So, in our homeschool, I’ve been going through the process of adapting (and for me, the guidance I’ve received through the Christopherus materials and your website have both been indispensable support).

    My kids are still very young (7 & 5) so I can see that this will continue to be an issue I will have to tackle well into the future. Thank you for bringing up this topic. I too am eager to participate in this conversation!

  3. I’d like to hear more on this too! We are waldorf-inspired homeschoolers and, yes, we face these very issues everyday. I sometimes get frustrated but I like this perspective of looking at it differently, as an independent movement. We don’t have to be perfect because maybe there is no “perfect”!

  4. Oh how glad I am to see this post.
    Yes! Yes. We need to have this conversation as a homeschooling community. I firmly believe Waldorf homeschooling is an evolution from the Waldorf School. As you spoke of, it has its own presentation, challenges, and unique opportunities that simply don’t exist in the school environment. We need more understanding, more voices of experience, more humor and lots of grace because there are SO MANY of us mamas who are finding waldorf as our children enter pre-K or Kindy or First grade, and we are struggling to grasp an entire philosophy, much less its corresponding curricula, whilst still doing the “day-to-day” (and often with little/no real life support) and it can just be so overwhelming when many of the resources are written for school teachers who have spent years on education in the method. We have to somehow get that in between babies and sleep deprivation and yet the children grow and….!! Partly because there isn’t a cohesive operation under this assumption that what we are crafting as *Waldorf Homeschoolers* is a new and different piece than *Waldorf School* has been…I believe we need those roots to grow deeper and love love love this article. Thank you Carrie!

  5. On this day when I became a mom to an adult (very weird indeed) – I find myself loving this curriculum more than ever. I would consider myself a leader in this community and I WISH there could be MORE working together. I have homeschooled all of mine and I have taken STEINER – NOT the school – and made it ours. There are differences between what he suggested and what tends to be practiced in the schools. We need to learn his work – not just learn about it – to actually learn it. We have to study it.

    I toured my local school recently for the first time since we moved here (San Diego Waldorf) and when the tour guide handed me her enrollment packet, she pulled out a piece of paper that had all the San Diego area schools – including the charters and then she turned to me and said “Melisa, we would love to have you on this list too. Families need to know what all of their options are even if they don’t end up attending our school.” I was dumbfounded. She seeks collaboration even though things can be competitive among schools in CA where there tends to be many of them and many charters. She was confident in sharing Waldorf regardless of how it happened. I would love to see more of this.

  6. What a timely post for me. And find what you say to be very valuable. I too find Waldorf homeschooling to be very different from the class room, and many times difficult to bridge the gap to access the knowledge. I have beenwaldorf homeschooling since the beginning my daughters are now in 5th grade, 2nd grade and2yeears.

    I am now trying to get some different inspiration to help us figure out our path. Right now it is from Charlotte Mason.

    I have found the waldorf schools to generally be unsupportive. But I think that tide is turning. As more and more families choose to Homeschool.

    Melisa s curriculum has been a wonderful aid.

    I look fforward to hearing more on this subject.

  7. Thank you so much for this post, Carrie. I often say to those new to this approach that we want to look at each of our families as a group or community. And I agree with you that Waldorf homeschooling is an offshoot of the Waldorf school movement but also a movement in its own right. In my opinion, the biggest challenge lies in something you allude to: we are trying to translate to the home environment a method that was created for the classroom in another county and another era. Lots of obstacles and grey areas in that. Steiner definitely wanted us to look at our own current situation and the children before us, and create an education for them specifically. That’s why I have this fascination with the lectures that Steiner gave to that first group of teachers back in 1919; how do we interpret his indications for homeschooling? (And yes, too bad he isn’t here to ask! What would he say???) I write my reflections on these 15 days of 3 lectures a day on my blog, and would love to have more join that conversation. Just yesterday, I wrote about Steiner’s view on teaching history (you can see it here: http://waldorfinspiredlearning.com/steiners-view-teaching-history/ ). My youngest of 3 is now homeschooling in high school, and I really see this as a marriage of the two movements of homeschooling and Waldorf education. Here in Cleveland, we never had a Waldorf school until last year, so that was never an option for our family; but from my view of 20+ years of homeschooling, I am certain that this Waldorf-inspired homeschooling provides the only possibility of education towards freedom! (Alan Whitehead agrees with this and sees the whole of the Waldorf movement as beginning with homeschoolers in Australia, even before any schools opened outside of Germany. He calls Waldorf homeschooling the best of the best!) I applaud your call for a spirit of collaboration because as you say, “much interesting work lies ahead.”

  8. This was a very thought provoking piece! I especially like your sixth paragraph, the one that starts with “The overall development of the child.” I’m stopping myself from quoting the whole thing back to you! LOL. I also like Jean’s response above; it does feel like Waldorf homeschooling is a step toward freedom that private Waldorf schools and government approved Waldorf charters don’t have.

    I think your call for leaders to make this a true movement is interesting, and I guess I don’t quite understand your vision for that. Are you suggesting something organized like Lifeways, but for homeschoolers? Or something more grassroots along the lines of a reading/discussion group like Jean’s Waldorf cafe?

    The other interesting thing to consider are Steiner’s indications about the high-school-aged adolescent. In Rhythms of Learning, Trostli argues that “class teachers who have gained a general wealth of knowledge are no longer appropriate for the high school. Adolescents need to be taught by specialists who are experts in their field.” Certainly, there are ways to incorporate this as home schoolers. Most of us who teach at home have some level of expertise in one subject at least, and for those areas in which we are not expert, we can seek to find outside classes, co-ops, mentors, or public school teachers (gasp!)

    I appreciate your post and the thoughtful responses it generated. I look forward to more “discussion” about this topic. Thank you!

    • Hi Mrs. Mallard!
      Yes, I am not sure what I am envisioning regarding leaders…I just think if this is a daughter movement, then curriculum providers perhaps should have more of a spirit of collaboration at times in some way for leading homeschooling mothers, perhaps the qualifications to be a “leader” is not that you are Waldorf homeschooling parent nor a Waldorf teacher, but need degrees of experience in both or some expertise in pedagogy…. Perhaps a Lifeways type thing that is more formal training for both curriculum providers and parents would be fantastic! I know there have been varying degrees of this tried on line before, but by different curriculum providers. Maybe the time is ripe for some model that incorporates expert teachers, much as Lifeways does, but the curriculum is set…???? Not sure. I just don’t really see a lot of curriculum providers really working together in a spirit of collaboration for homeschooling mothers; I worry about some of the “curriculum” products out on the market that are being written by people that I don’t think really have expertise; and then there are things that go on within the Waldorf School community that the homeschooling community finds out after the fact that again reflects the separation between the school movement and the homeschooling movement. So many different and divergent areas!
      And yes, the high school..totally different model than what might be happening at the school…and what are the options? I know a lot of parents are looking forward to experiential kinds of things such as Kroka or others who are used to Waldorf students but the child could go off for a semester. Technology could make a virtual Waldorf high school, at least for some subjects, a reality. All interesting to ponder!
      Still thinking!

  9. Hi Carrie! Just found this blog post in my backed-up e-mail. I think Waldorf homeschooling is a thing in itself and I greatly value your amazing insight, contributions and help for young parents trying to make it work. I think Rudolf Steiner would have been quite OK with it – he was homeschooled himself by his father! But I think he would definitely emphasis the differences between what is possible and preferable in the home versus a school setting.

    What makes me sad, however, is that in my opinion, the Waldorf Movement as a whole has failed in some ways to make a school setting viable for many people who would want it. This (again in my opinion) is the greater “failure” of the Anthroposophical Movement to really come to grips with developing an adequate Economic Life (another subject, but related). I looked up “Montessori” phone listings in the greater Los Angeles area last year and there were almost a hundred! Of course, many were day care centers or home day care using the label Montessori. I have no idea what that entails or what variations on meaning it may have. But why shouldn’t there be 100 “Waldorf” day care centers in the same area? Because of economic realities, many Waldorf schools feel very competitive for every tuition dollar and resent any other “Waldorf” initiative in their area.

    If the Waldorf School Movement had really understood the original paradigm of the First Waldorf School in Stuttgart, Germany and had developed and aligned viable local businesses of every kind with every school community, the schools could be practically free and not dependent on tuition, thereby allowing many who now homeschool access to the school environment and community. The tragedy being not so much that the homeschool parents are “losing out” by not being in a school, but that the schools have lost out by not having so many wonderful families and children to be in them and to find each other as a community at large.

    • Christine,
      I agree with you 100 percent! I so value you and your insights. You have a great perspective and knowledge of the movement…we need more people like you around. 🙂
      And yes, why not a million “Waldorf” day cares and schools – in my state there is only ONE school for the entire state and some states have no schools. That makes me sad too. I love your point about aligning businesses with every school community.

  10. Pingback: You Need to Know the Three Stages of the Waldorf Curriculum ⋆ Waldorf-Inspired Learning

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.