Those of you who have followed this blog for years know that when I could come up for air from the busy times of being in the trenches with my own three children I have been dreaming of what an American Waldorf homeschooling curriculum would look like. There is a chart compiled by the esteemed David Mitchell that many schools and homeschoolers use entitled, “The Waldorf Curriculum: An Overview for American Waldorf Teachers” with the sub-statement in large letters: “These course descriptions present possibilities for the American teacher to expand upon.” This is the place where many American Waldorf homeschoolers look, and it can be a good overview for those looking to familiarize themselves with some of the things Steiner said, and some of the traditions of the Waldorf School.
I have written before in these posts about some of the American impulses I can see or visualize in the Waldorf curriculum:
Extending Inigenous Cultures Throughout the Waldorf Curriculum (Specifically for the Americas!)
Extending Africa Through the Curriculum (one of my favorite posts, suggestions for extending African history and culture all the way through tenth grade!)
The American Impulse in Waldorf Homeschooling (from 2013, that is quite some time ago! I have been thinking about this subject for a long time!)
I appreaciate those of you who ask questions, who ask about the curriculum. Because, in case you haven’t noticed, Waldorf homeschooling isn’t really popular. Yes, wooden toys and handmaking and nature is popular. The idea of being “Waldorf-inspired” is often popular for kindergarten through second grade, but drops dramatically after that. I know of very few middle school and high school Waldorf homeschoolers – they are spread out around the entire United States. Waldorf homeschooling itself is fairly unpopular. You never see a Waldorf curriculum provider at a state homeschooling conference! It is often mentioned in homeschooling how-to books as one of the methodologies of homeschooling, but not much beyond that.
Homeschoolers are a fiercely independent lot, and they want to tease out what Rudolf Steiner really indicated and in what lecture (was it in the educational lectures, the general anthroposophy lectures? where?) and how this actually fits the child in front of them in this day and age. It is teacher-intenstive for parents who are stretched for time, and it is specialist-intensive from the school model with separate teachers for so many of the subjects that make up what homeschoolers see as the beauty of Waldorf education – foreign languages, games and eurythmy, handwork, orchestra and voice and band, drama. All of these things are hard to come by at home and are negatives for most homeschooling parents trying to distinguish between methodologies of homeschooling. Perhaps the traditions of the Waldorf School, in the large sense are a wonderful fit for every child, but in a small sense some of it is very difficult for the average homeschooler. Some Waldorf teachers have gone on to argue how Waldorf homeschooling shouldn’t really exist, because Steiner was laying out indications for a school setting and how this model is not possible for home for one child, let alone multiple children of different grades being taught at the same time. But then, we also hear that the Waldorf Curriculum is living and breathing as well and is adaptable to different geographic locations around the world – so why would it not be adaptable to homeschooling? It can all be quite confusing, especially to those unversed in the traditions of the school or who haven’t read Steiner.
I started homeschooling my children for HEALTH. Nothing was more important to me than their spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional health. I have always felt Waldorf was the best educational vehicle to meet this goal. It has very specific indications for the developing child, who is seen as a holistic being and it is taught through the model of head, hearts and feeling life, and hands and practical work. The stories for each grade meet that child, and we tailor our stories and curriculum to our particular locality , our particular place in the world! This is such a hard thing to put in any Waldorf curriculum! A Waldorf curriculum writer is not going to know about my tiny location in the Southeast, our particular ethinic and cultural background as a family, our particular interests, our health challenges, and what is around me regarding places of geographic, cultural, and historical interst! There will not be enough resources in any homeschooling curriculum to bend to all of that, so I write my own year after year.
However, I would like to see Steiner’s original indications for a breathing curriculum outline for American homeschoolers to love and be attracted to. Otherwise, the healing impulse of Waldorf Education is going to miss most of a generation of homeschoolers in a time when our children’s health is more threatened than ever before. This seems a complete shame to me at a point when what I care most about is the health of my children’s generation. I have been asked by several readers to write some blocks for specific content areas for specific grades in order to meet some of the American needs of the curriculum and I am contemplating that.
Stay tuned for more.