Homeschool Methods – Beautiful & Creative Waldorf Education

Homeschool Methods – Beautiful & Creative Waldorf Education
This week, I’m exploring my thoughts on Waldorf education.  I am drawn to Waldorf, for its beauty and respect for life and human spirit.  But, could I homeschool this way?

Waldorf education, much like Charlotte Mason education, is based on the ideas and theories of one person.  In this case, Rudolf Steiner.  He started the first Waldorf school in the early 1900’s in Germany, based around a philosophy called anthroposophy. Something I admit I know relatively little about.  At the risk of getting it wrong, as I understand it, anthroposophy is based on the concept that every person is a spiritual being, and deserves respect.  It embodies what I see as a lovely reverence for human life and individuality.

Waldorf appeals to me in an immediate, and slightly jealous way, that says, “Wow!  I wish I had been educated like that.”

In fact, I was lucky enough to grow up in a home where individualism and creativity were highly regarded.  And, no surprise, my sisters and I all ended up as creative types.  When I think of what I can share with my kids, this is one of the things I want to pass on to them.  And one of the focuses of Waldorf education that makes it so appealing.

Specifically, here are some of the things that interest me about Waldorf education:

  •  It is focused on developing the mind, body, and soul of a person: one’s entire being.
  • In a Waldorf school, children start later (a whole year later for Kindergarten in some cases), and there is no focus on academics (learning the alphabet, numeracy etc) during the preschool years.
  • The early experiences Waldorf seeks to enhance are all play and creativity-based.
  • There is also a focus on the exploration of, and appreciation for, the natural world.

What else?  Waldorf is beautiful.  Waldorf toys are beautiful.  As are Waldorf activities (handicrafts, rituals, daily rhythms).  But so are the ideas behind these things.  The idea that children want to learn what adults model for them.  That they thrive in an environment that is beautiful, simple and un-cluttered.  That they are all unique and individual souls that should be respected.  That practical, hands-on activities facilitate learning.  That the arts can be infused into any subject.  And that children should be given time to process learned concepts through play, artistic pursuits, and narrative.

As a librarian, Waldorf also appeals to the storyteller within me.  The way in which concepts are introduced to children through story and song supports what I know about brain research and child development.  That children will best learn language skills through hearing stories, being read to, and being immersed in conversation about what is going on all around them.

In discussions of Waldorf education, I rarely hear the term, “what skills they’ll need to be successful in college,” but rather “what skills they’ll need to become a successful person.”  This, to me, is so much more important.  An education that focuses on helping my children be the best people they can be.  Not the best scholars, not the most successful, not the most talented.  Just the best human being.  I love this.

I have a lot of questions about Waldorf education.  It is based on a complex philosophy, and I wonder, how much of it I would really need to know in order to homeschool my kids using these methods?  And, does the Waldorf philosophy even translate authentically in a homeschooling environment?  Am I drawn to it as an educational philosophy, or simply as a way of adding beauty and creativity to my home and life?

What are your thoughts?  Are you a Waldorf homeschooler who embodies the philosophies of Rudolph Steiner?  Do you dabble?  Do you hate it?  Do you love it?  I’d love to hear your perspective.


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  1. When my son was young I was also drawn to Waldorf, and we did try, we joined a Kindercircle and tried to do a lot of the activities. But it was not a good fit for him. While the idea of not pushing academics early fits with what I believe my son wanted hard science and early (I used to read earth science books to him as bedtime stories). Also the sort of stories that are used with Waldorf we not interesting to him, nor was the repeating of the same activities and stories or the soft spiritual nature of the style. We’ve strayed far from Waldorf following his interests and needs. I think it is a beautiful way to live but in the end I realized that it was the architecture and visual style that attracted me not the substance.
    I also felt a little odd trying to teach a little Jewish boy so many Christian tales. I know that they are supposed to represent archetypes but in the end we’ve discovered those same archetypes in some many different places, and often ones with less violence (we are a pacifist family). We have many friends who homeschool using Waldorf and modified Waldorf methods who love what they do but for our family it wasn’t a good fit, and in the end that is what is most important.

  2. Hi Stacey! Welcome, and thanks for your comments. Reading them really made me think. I suspect what I love about Waldorf is also, “the architecture and visual style,” not really knowing enough about the substance. Although, I can easily relate to the storytelling and song aspect because I do a lot of that as a children’s librarian already. Interesting. I’ve heard a lot of people say Waldorf has many Christian elements, even though, I, too, thought it was secular.

    Your comments on science interest me, too. We share a lot of hard science with my son (4) already, too. I’m not sure I agree with the Waldorf approach that says kids don’t need to be introduced to the facts of science until later. My son has a lot of interest in the solar system, how things are made, science experiments, gravity etc. We have such a great time sharing it.

    Thanks again for your thoughts.

    • I was you twenty years ago. I also had some problems with all that Christian stuff at the beginning. But now a bunch of years later and having survived starting a charter school and going through the teacher training and a bunch of other spiritual training I understand the philosophy a lot better. One does not have to emphasize the whole Christian story line. it is not that narrow actually and has no sects or beliefs about anyone being superior to another. The curriculum can be used all over the world with no problems if one understands the development behind the child and their own individualism and spiritual aspects of what we present to our children as what they should develop first. The heart and social forces with one another are so important to develop first, Their brain will follow. The problem we have with stuffing facts into your child is that it doesn’t serve them to not be able to use their imagination to explore their own answers in their own mind when they are little. You can teach them about science and I think if a child is asking questions about their world on their own it is not a problem to teach them this. Children are innocent and led easily. Why not have fun with the world before you get into the cold hard facts through simple observations and many exposures to natural world phenomena? IT HAS TO DO WITH THEIR BRAIN DEVELOPMENT.oops sorry bad caps lock key. Anyway if you want more information I would encourage you to explore it on your own and do what works for you but don’t just scratch the surface and love your child because that is the most important thing that Waldorf has to offer.

      • Thanks for your thoughts, Erin. It’s great to hear your perspective. I actually, enjoy that Waldorf can work well within a faith-based family, but I had never thought of it as a “Christian” model of learning. I find it interesting that others have seen it this way.

        I agree wholeheartedly that imagination is paramount, particularly while children are young. My son has already taught me so much, simply by the way his mind is open – in a way mine is not. Early childhood is a magical time that I wouldn’t want to spoil with too many “facts.” For me, Waldorf is right, in believing that the heart comes first. A philosophy grounded in love is a beautiful place to start!

  3. There’s a lot about the Waldorff philosophy that I really like, too – the emphasis on beauty, nature and art. But I could never keep to the rhythms that they heavily believe in and my daughter taught herself to read at age 3 and there would have been no way I wouldn’t have answered her questions or stopped her from doing so.

    But it’s good to know about a lot of diferent philosophies so you can draw from them what works for your kids.

    • I know what you mean about the rhythms. I go back and forth between desperately wanting them, and then deciding they’d be too constraining for a life of true free learning.

      I doubt Waldorf educators would discourage a child from reading if they were interested, just that there is no pressure or formal instruction at such a young age (which, obviously, there wasn’t in your case, either!).

      Yes, I seem to find gems in every philosophy, and do hope to draw things from all them as we continue our learning life!

      • Waldorf teachers frequently refer to “The Three Rs”- rhythm, routine, and reverence. The rhythm of the day is about arranging the daily activities to create a healthy “breathing” for the child. Every activity can be viewed either as an “in-breath” or an “out-breath”. A healthy rhythm is created when they are alternated with one another.

        Routine (which seems to be what you are pondering) is simply adhering to that rhythm from day to day, even if some of the activities themselves vary. When children don’t have to worry or wonder about what is to come next, they are truly free to be fully present in the current activity. Routine also assists children in those daily transition times that can often be quite difficult for them.

        I believe there is a lot of wisdom (as well as common sense) in this approach. Hope this is helpful.

        • Thanks, Susan. That’s a very clear way of describing it. I mostly agree with the concept. I’ve seen my kids thrive in our daily rhythms, that include regular eating, resting and sleeping times, mixed with free play and activities (which are a bit more variable). I love the idea of a day being akin to breathing. I know I need those in and out times myself. I, do, however, love having a day open and free, and full of possibility. And being able to decide that we’ll take off and go if the moment catches us. Sometimes, that, too, is something we all need. Perhaps there is no real conflict there, though?

  4. We just had our first Waldorf playgroup at the school my children will go to. It was really lovely. The room is set up beautifully with calming colours, and lots of open ended homemade toys.

    The morning started with free indoor play and preparing morning tea which was freshly baked bread and fruit salad. After eating we sang some songs before heading outside to play in the sandpit. We finished up by watching a puppet show and singing goodbye.

    We are really enjoying exploring Waldorf and use many elements from Waldorf in our days, although we do incorporate a lot of child led learning as well :-)

    • That does sound beautiful, and wonderful, and all of the things I love so much about Waldorf. I know, I love incorporating Waldorf elements and ideas where we can. There is something so lovely and grounding about them. Thanks for sharing! =)

  5. ..many years ago….I decided to “educate” my 2 children at HOME, in and around the barn, in the fields, woods, on the shore and “in” the water, hills and villages, also in the workshop and most important in the KITCHEN, around the table. In the early years, all I offered and nurtured was the surrounding, the space, which required my caring.
    Like the work in the garden: the plant grows and thrives in an environment which I prepare and nurture….without fussing solely on the little plant, pulling it up prematurely.
    Until the moment my impatient son scolded me one morning, after the milking of the cows:” Oh, Mom, I need to go to a real school. I need different teachers.!” He was 13 1/2 years old. Now he is 45 and a teacher himself, able educate children in a Waldorf school.

    So if, you wish to share and have questions in regards to Home Schooling, please write to me. The times NOW are very different. So are the parents, perhaps. The little children still have to go through all the stages of development. They still need Warmth and Light from their parents, Caretakers, Environment, to thrive and become HUMAN BEINGS, knowing the difference between the Good and the Bad, choosing the GOOD.
    All the very BEST to you. Kind regards Helga.

    • Thank you for your wonderful comments, Helga. Your children’s learning experiences sound beautiful. I love the story about your son. =)

      I agree, although times change, children’s developmental stages remain the same. I’d love to pick your brain regarding Waldorf education, and will email you.

      Many thanks,

  6. Kelly,
    You pose great questions. I had similar questions, and in my quest found wonderful answers, but not simple ones. It is each to dismiss Waldorf as “not believing” this or that, and stopping at that and labeling Waldorf as ‘dogmatic’m but one has to go deeper. Our culture is not really into ‘deep’ these days, is it? But once someone learns the view of child development and the WHY of not introducing this or that at a certain time, it all makes so much sense.
    If you send me your email, I’d love to share an article with you about answering children’s questions, from a Waldorf perspective, and relates to the ‘science’ question.

    In my journey to learn more, I’ve cofounded a school, trained to be a Waldorf early childhood teacher, teach parent-child classes now, and after a decade, it has been the most rewarding, enriching, and most fulfilling life path that my family has embarked upon – and I am a researcher to begin with – so I had a LOT of questions. I have never stopped asking them, there are always new ones to ask. Isn’t that how life is?

    Practically, though, for support, right now, there are several yahoo list-serves that you can join, for support, inspiration and information:
    My favorite one is:

    There are three fundamental things for parents in early childhood to understand:
    1) nature of human development
    2) importance of rhythm
    3) importance of warmth

    For information about these three, start with the book –
    Beyond the Rainbow Bridge : Nurturing our children from birth to seven
    Then move on to –
    Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children

    Warm wishes on the journey,

    • Hi Monica,

      Thanks for your comments, and resources. I’m sure other readers will find them fascinating as well. I have read Beyond the Rainbow Bridge (and loved the picture it presented, but found myself wanting more), so I will now get my hands on Heaven on Earth.

      Questions are wonderful. As a librarian, I think lifelong learning (and lifelong asking questions) is about as close to perfect as one can get. As a creative soul, I am warmed by so much about Waldorf.

      I’d love your article about science. I suspect it’s a bit like how I feel about art – teach a child too much too soon, and they lose the ability to experiment with techniques and materials on their own… Anyways, I will email you.

      All the best,

  7. One of my lifetime friends was taught with the Waldorf method while the rest of us were put into a seventies “gifted” program that was more like unschooling but with nastier “teachers”. When we reached college age, the difference in creativity level was astounding and he is still following the rhythm of nature and creating beautiful, natural things. I am trying to implement as much of the rhythm and joy of the Waldorf learning style in our home as possible.

  8. Kelly, Great post and excellent questions! I love the idea of Waldorf education but homeschooling, for us, has been a tidal experience. No child and no two weeks are the same. Interests come and go. Energy levels rise and fall. Sometimes we are very relaxed and indulge in day after day of unschooling. Other times we are very much schooling-at-home with percentage grades, reviews, and tests (especially for my reward seeking son). The Waldorf rhythms don’t always sync with our rhythms. We’ve found that encouraging curiosity and maintaining respect (the kind that Waldorf speaks of) works better than trying to find any one system to devote ourselves too. Respect, curiosity, and love of learning produce our very individualized education.

    Read more about Melissa Wiley’s idea “tidal homeschooling” here:

    • Respect, curiosity and love of learning. I love it! And, I’m curious myself about the idea of tidal homeschooling. Will check it out. Thanks for your comments!



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