The question that comes up a lot this time of year is, “Waldorf homeschooling looks interesting…What do I do to start? What curriculum do I use?”
Before you jump into curriculum, here are three things I think you should look at first:
Understand what Waldorf homeschooling is and isn’t.
- It is developmental, and it is about the child in front of you, but it is parent led. It requires a parent to teach and yes, a parent to lead, after careful meditation and inner work regarding the child in front of them.
- It does involve what some people see as “holding off” on things until the appropriate time/age, which goes back to the developmental foundation of Waldorf homeschooling. Can you believe in this developmental piece or not? If not, just move on without worry or guilt. Find what works for your family!
- It involves the arts – drawing, painting, modeling, vocal and instrumental music, drama, speech, movement, handwork. It involves practical work inside and outside the home – gardening, baking, cooking as well.
- It is not secular, but it is not religious. It is a spiritual curriculum that involves taking in a totality of a human being – head, heart, hands. Understand that Waldorf Education is based in Rudolf Steiner’s knowledge and insight into the developmental human being. That one really hangs a lot of people up. Look ahead and see how you would adapt the curriculum for your family if the story content of the grades bothers you and what you will do. Every major civilization and world religion is covered. Will this bother you? Will the timing bother you? Find out ahead of time. If you look up some websites for the Waldorf Schools, you can see what blocks are taught in what grade. Look all the way through high school and then decide.
- Understand that Waldorf homeschooling and Waldorf Schools are perhaps a bit like cousins or similar fruits of a same family – grapefruit and lemons. Waldorf homeschooling can and has to be different in important ways sometimes to make things work at home and for any given family’s situation. For example, Steiner’s original indications in many lectures were geared toward age ranges, which is more the case at home than specific grades like at a school.
- It involves your own input into any curriculum – it is about where you live geographically, and your cultural and spiritual background because those things can be worked into the stories of the grades.
- It involves an element of rhythm to the day, week, month, and year which involves festivals important to your family and your own cultural and spiritual celebrations.
- Yes, it encourages a slow and simple lifestyle, being home, rest and outdoor play, open ended toys and yes reduced to minimal media usage. But the hallmark of Waldorf is honestly the development of the child and supporting the unfolding of healthy development.
- It is about goodness, beauty, truth, responsibility, and love for humanity. Some parents find this part really hard to bring, especially in the beginning grades. They worry the injustices of the world are not being taught right off the bat. And then some parents find the later grades really hard, when the children’s subjects are no longer just about sunshine and pink bubbles as well. Look ahead and see if it resonates.
- Find out the differences between Waldorf and Montessori, Waldorf and curriculums like Oak Meadow, Waldorf and Enki. They are not the same thing.
Read some of Rudolf Steiner’s works and see if any of it resonates. You can listen to it on Rudolf Steiner Audio, find it on Rudolf Steiner archives and more. Many will suggest “Kingdom of Childhood” and “A Child’s Changing Consciousness” for the kindergarten level and things like “Soul Economy,” “Discussions with Teachers,” “Practical Advice to Teachers” to start. If this seems daunting, I am going to suggest two very different short lectures and you can try just getting the feel of how Rudolf Steiner approaches things. One is “On the Nature of Butterflies” and “Overcoming Nervousness”
Understand that Waldorf homeschooling takes time. Just like the lifestyle piece of Waldorf in the home involves slowing down, it also involves having time to do school. It takes time to create main lesson books. In the upper grades, it is not uncommon to have a drawing take several hours. It is not uncommon to have to practice and re-do things to get it right, whether that is in handwork or in practicing a piece of music or math. It is also not uncommon to have to plan rather than have an “open and go” curriculum, particularly in the upper grades. So it takes time on both the part of the student and the teacher. This is often a true drawback for working or otherwise really busy homeschooling parents and families, but can also often be a call to slow down and simplify for better health and family life.
Then,after all that, if you are still interested in persuing the idea of Waldorf homeschooling, I actually recommend you start with a consultation with a consultant first before you spend a lot of money on different curricula that you may or may not end up needing. Melisa Nielsen, Jean Miller, Christopherus, and Live Ed all offer consulting pieces. Perhaps start there.
If Waldorf Education or homeschooling isn’t for you, that is of course okay! Elements of Waldorf lifestyle and education can still help lead to great health gains for the child in this fast-paced and anxious world no matter how much or how little of Waldorf education and principles you choose to include for your family’s journey.