I need to preface this post with a few general thoughts. First of all, homeschooling can be a very divisive subject for some. There is no “right way” to educate your child or set up your home. I respect the fact that homeschooling doesn’t (and shouldn’t) work for everyone. So, please, this is not some manifesto on how everyone should live, just the choices we are making for our family. I hope if you have questions, you’ll ask….
So, why Waldorf??
In case you didn’t have time (or the interest) to read the long Wiki.pedia article I linked to in my last post….here’s some facts:
- Waldorf (or Steiner Education) is one of the biggest movements in private education. There are over 800 Waldorf Schools in the USA. And over 1200 schools worldwide. In fact, there is a Waldorf School near us that educates the children of some of the biggest names in the area.
- The Waldorf Movement was started by Rudolf Steiner in 1919. Steiner had extensive ideas on social reform in post-war Germany, and was known as a bit of a controversial figure. The Waldorf Method was based on his research into child and human development.
- Waldorf Education emphasizes the teaching of the whole child: heads, hands, and hearts. Steiner wrote: “Insightful people are today calling for some form of education and instruction directed not merely to the cultivation of one-sided knowledge, but also to abilities; education directed not merely to the cultivation of intellectual faculties, but also to the strengthening of the will….but it is impossible to develop the will (and that healthiness of feeling on which it rests) unless one develops the insights that awaken the energetic impulses of will and feeling. A mistake often made…is not that people instill too many concepts into young minds, but that the kind of concepts they cultivate are devoid of all driving life force.”
- Waldorf Education also focuses on the inner life of the parents/educators. He felt that the teachers can’t educate children without working on the spiritual/mental enrichment of themselves. This personal enrichment is supposed to help the teachers/students delve deeper into themselves and knowledge. It is known as “Anthroposophy” and it means: “The study of the wisdom of man”. The teacher, through devotion to truth, beauty, and knowledge, awakens the student’s love for the same. Steiner believed that each person is capable of tapping into a spiritual awareness, which then provides opportunities for more meaningful learning.
- Rhythm is incredibly important in Waldorf Education. Each day is supposed to have a rhythm, each week, each season, and each year…all have natural rhythms that are important to work with and not against. And to focus on that rhythm, various holidays from different religions/world views are celebrated year round.
- With the celebration of those holidays, comes the nurturing of a child’s imagination. Through the use of songs, plays, dance, puppets, dolls, and play…children are able to express themselves in their own unique way.
- But, what about actual academic subjects? Math, science, language arts, foreign languages, history…are all present and emphasized. But, Waldorf encourages the use of everyday activities (cooking, handicrafts, woodworking, and such) to bolster the “academics” and bring them into the real world of learning.
- Waldorf education also recognizes that children come with their own needs and their own talents/weaknesses. It is the duty of the educator to create an environment of learning which will best suit the child. Helping a child tune out the distractions of life (TV, loud music, commercialism….) and tune into their own sense of security, warmth, joy, and wonder is what a Waldorf educator is supposed to do.
- And through it all, there’s a emphasis on simplicity, family, and taking time to do things right.
So here we are. I have bought two different Waldorf curriculums….Earthschooling and Christophersus….different ways of presenting a Waldorf education. I belong to a homeschooling co-op (we meet once a month) and I’ve joined a number of online support groups/forums.
Everything about the curriculum and way of life speak to me. I have long been unhappy with the focus on more…better…bigger…faster in my life. I hate having a TV (a throw-back to my childhood) and I was distraught that Cadet was starting to learn how to “ask” to watch TV.
So, to that end, we’ve made changes in our household. Lots of them. Some small, some big…and there are more to come. All of them aimed at giving Cadet a warm, inviting, safe, and comforting space to learn and grow.
- I’ve sold, donated, or thrown away 99% of the plastic toys which Cadet had. Exceptions were made for a flashlight given to him by McRuger’s parents, a few trucks for outdoor play, and one or two educational toys. All toys with batteries have been banned from the house (except that one flashlight and a white noise doll). I’ve replaced some of those toys with well made/handcrafted wood toys. But, overall, Cadet is down to several toys that he really likes and actually plays with. We have one basket of toys, a train table, a small bin of wood blocks, and a few puzzles/balls out for him to play with. I have a storage bin of toys I can rotate in and out depending on the season or Cadet’s needs.
- I’ve bolstered Cadet’s art supplies: beeswax block crayons, all natural water colors, craft items, and his art easel are all out where he can get them.
- Cadet’s books are now on a small shelf where he can reach them and bring them to us if he wants to be read a story. The rule here is that unless I’m in the middle of something I can’t stop (stirring a pot of polenta or taking a shower)…I will put down everything to read to him….even if I have to read “Little Blue Truck” for 15 minutes straight!
- The living room (our main room) has been redesigned with Cadet in mind. He has access to everything he needs/wants. His PECS board is easily accessible, so he can communicate his wants.
- Meals are taken at the table, candles lit, and blessings said (not prayers, but words of thankfulness). When possible, we are all present….but mostly it’s just Cadet and me, since McRuger’s at work.
- The TV/iPad remains off while Cadet is awake…unless there are special circumstances: sickness, family emergency, or a very long car ride. This is the same for my computer and iPad. I’ve curtailed the amount of TV I watch, and if I am watching it…I try to be doing something constructive.
- I’ve started learning how to make more things, instead of buying them. I bought beeswax at the local farmer’s market, and have started making our own candles. I have learned how to needle-felt wool to make decorations and play mats for Cadet. And, of course, I’ve continued my tradition of preserving food for the winter: we have strawberry jam, dried herbs, and applesauce all tucked away for later. My sewing machine has been out more recently. And I even knitted a toy rabbit for Cadet!
- I’m slowly teaching Cadet how to “help” around the house. He has a stand in the kitchen so he can “help” me cook, he has his own little broom and dustpan, and we make a game of “cleaning up” (there’s a song too!!). Sometimes his “helping” is him pouring water from a little pitcher into a glass or putting beans from one container to another…but he’s learning to use his body.
- While being outdoors has always been an essential part of our lives, it’s taken on a new importance. I have been helping Cadet learn about herbs and plants in the garden. He is watering, digging in the dirt, and we talk about the season of fall (it goes back to the whole “rhythm” piece of Waldorf).
- When we’re home, we keep things quiet and peaceful. Classical music playing in the background or nothing at all. When I have guests over, it’s only one or two people at a time…otherwise it gets too chaotic for Cadet.
And through this all, I’m reading and learning more and more.
Next up….The “down side” to homeschooling….