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!