When families are searching for curriculum, what they are often asking, consciously or unconsciously, is how do I become a Waldorf homeschooling teacher? How does this work? I completed my Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy and the Arts through Antioch University in 2013, and I can only relay to you a bit of my own experience in this area of becoming. I am still becoming, so of course I do not profess to have complete answers regarding this subject, and I do think it differs from person to person. However, here are some thoughts and suggestions based upon a wonderful article Douglas Gerwin in the Center for Anthroposophy Autumn 2016 newsletter. You can read the newsletter here as it will help you understand what I writing about in this blogpost.
One thing that is profoundly different about the development of Waldof teachers compared to traditional teachers is that the awakening of teaching is dependent upon practicing the arts, biography, and the inner work and development of that teacher him or herself. This is a very different approach than most traditional approaches to training teachers in the United States. The article I linked to above talks about this in the context of Waldorf teacher training, and I would like to add a few thoughts based upon being a Waldorf homeschooling parent who must wear both parenting and teaching hats.
The first and primary rule in developing yourself as a Waldorf homeschooling parent is to develop your own inner life. What does that really mean? To me, this means a conscious awakening of an inner spiritual path that will lead you toward love for all of humanity. Steiner’s lectures compiled in “Love and Its Meaning In The World” have always been most inspiring to me. The traditional way to develop your own inner life in Waldorf teacher training usually refers to two things: one is to a central meditation practice and also to Steiner’s six supplementary exercises taken on as a practice, and the second thing is a devotion to and practice in the arts. These things are new to many people, and I think especially new to busy homeschooling mothers who are pouring themselves into their families. A few resources I can recommend regarding this endeavor:
- Lighting Fires: Deepening Education Through Meditation by Jorgen Smit
- Stairway of Surprise: Six Steps to A Creative Life by Michael Lipson
- Art As Spiritual Activity: Rudolf Steiner’s Contribution to the Visual Arts Edited and Introduced by Michael Howard
- There are many more titles by Rudolf Steiner that includes this work
- There are some singulaiknowr titles regarding drawing, painting, modeling, speech, drama, and movement in the Waldorf School setting that can be helpful to parents striving to work with the arts.
- If you are of a religious practice, you will find things that inspire you. Since I am part of the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church, I am inspired by the Book of Common Prayer, the liturgy of each Mass throughout the liturgical year, the book “Welcome to Anglican Spiritual Traditions” by Vicki K. Black and the writings of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I also am drawn to resources about Christian Contemplative Prayer, Christian Contemplative Reading, and “sitting with God.”
In the home environment, I would also like to add the path of the homemaker as a way of developing oneself. This has been written about rather extensively in:
- Homemaking and Personal Development: Meditative Practice for Homemakers by Veronika Van Duin
- The Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker by Manfred Schmidt-Brabant
The second way to develop oneself as a Waldorf homeschooling parent is to understand and to be aware of the development of the human being. Traditionally, in Waldorf teacher training courses this is usually undertaken by reading Steiner’s lectures, particularly The Foundations of Human Experience, and through the study of one’s own biography. The resources I can recommend regarding this endeavor include:
- The Foundations of Human Experience by Rudolf Steiner
- Tapestries: Weaving Life’s Journey by Betty Staley
- The Human Life by George and Gisela O’Neil
In the home environment, I would also like to offer the path of being fully and wholly present and attentive with our children, our elders, our neighbors, our community, nature around us. Their stories are our story. Their stories make up the stories of humanity, just as our story does. To connect on this very level of humanity is humbling and enlightening. To connect to nature and feel it flowing through us leads us to sharpen our powers of observation and to see development over time. And for that matter, to be fully and present of our own emotions and to be able to sit with those emotions is a major part of attentiveness. Here are a few resources that talk about this from a Waldorf perspective include:
- The Therapeutic Eye: How Rudolf Steiner Observed Children by Peter Selg
- Drawing From The Book of Nature by Dennis Klocek
- Tools for emotional self-discovery and emotional awareness such as Nonviolent Communication.
Douglas Gerwin points out in his article that the third way of becoming a Waldorf teacher is to develop your craft through the actual doing . For homeschooling parents, I think this doing means NOT searching endlessly for the perfect curriculum; it means you jump in and you DO IT. Some things may fall flat. Some blocks may go better than others. Some circles just don’t fly well. You may not be able to bring some things that you wish you could. Even some years may feel more fallow than other years if you are homeschooling very long-term. This is part of the learning process in teaching your children and in teaching other children outside your family. Just find your resources, make a plan from your heart, leave room to teach the child in front of you and what the angels bring that day ( in other words, you may ditch your plan!) and go with it. That is the art of teaching. It is the welling up of what is inside you – your biography, your inner work, your knowledge of the subject and the child in front of you and the environment. It all intersects, and it takes time to get there. However, the clock for the time to get there doesn’t start until you actually start the teaching and facilitating of the beautiful child or children in front of you! Waiting on the sidelines doesn’t do it. I don’t know as there is any one resource for this doing, as it is doing and not just reading and waiting for the right thing to fall into one’s lap! The experiences of other teachers, and in homeschooling, the experiences of other homeschooling mothers are very helpful and illuminating, so my suggestion for increasing your craft is to:
- Meet with other homeschooling families in community. A Waldorf community would be ideal in terms of talking about actual ways to approach different grades and blocks, but any homeschooling community will help you understand the highs and lows that come with being a homeschooling family. Just find the tribe that fits you!
- Find and attend conferences. The Center for Anthroposophy has courses every summer to prepare for grades (East Coast); I belive Rudolf Steiner College (West Coast) does the same. Gather a group and put on a conference yourself and gather the Waldorf homeschooling parents flung far and wide in your state. To come together for even one day is so powerful and uplifting!