What is the Waldorf Method of homeschooling?
The Waldorf method is an educational strategy of holistic liberal arts education through a broad curriculum, including academics, art and music education, physical education, and emotional and social education. The stated goal of the Waldorf Method is to produce individuals able to create meaning in their own lives.
One of the most unique aspects of the Waldorf philosophy is that it includes a spiritual element called anthroposophy, which postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world, accessible to human experience. While anthroposophy forms the philosophical and theoretical basis of Waldorf teaching methods, it is not taught as a subject.Rather, this element is incorporated through the arts, which open the heart to the beauty of creation, and instill a sense of wonder and reverence for all creation.
The earliest stage of the Waldorf method focuses on creative play and moral principles. Imaginary play is considered critical, and students don’t begin formal academic instruction until the second grade. Textbooks are not introduced until sixth grade.
The second stage spans childhood to puberty, and focuses on a child’s emotional development by way of creative expression and cooperation. Children are encouraged in practical learning, like knitting, drawing and homemaking skills. The arts and foreign language learning are emphasized over academic learning in general.
The third stage guides students into independent thinking. The Waldorf method encourages interest-led education, as well as learning for the joy of learning, instead of for the sake of testing or grades. Waldorf proponents do not give grades.
The History of the Waldorf Method:
Austrian philosopher, social reformer, playwright, artist and scientist, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) is the developer of the Waldorf method. He initially gained recognition as a literary critic and for publishing philosophical works like The Philosophy of Freedom.
He worked in a variety of artistic media, developed eurythmy (a new artistic form of movement), and collaborated with other artists to build the Goetheanum, a cultural center to house all the arts. He became a well-known and controversial public figure around this time.
Following WW1, with Germany teetering on the brink of economic and political chaos, Steiner worked to establish various practical endeavors such as Waldorf education. Steiner advocated new ways to organize the political and cultural societies — social renewal — and was asked by Emil Molt, the owner of the Waldorf Astorica cigarette factory, to establish and lead a school for the children of the employees.
The first Waldorf school was opened in September 1919 in Stuttgart, Germany.
What does a Waldorf method homeschool look like?
Children in Waldorf homeschools typically play with simple, unfinished, wooden toys rather than bright plastic ones, in order to allow their imaginations to develop. Imagination is seen as the key to creative thinking later in life.
Parents choose toys that will nourish the senses, such as toys made from natural fibers and materials, because they believe that children absorb the whole world through their senses. Toys should be open-ended in nature and leave room for imagination.
Waldorf dolls are a good example, as they usually have minimal features. Waldorf puppets typically have no face at all, allowing children to use the children to explore emotions through the puppets.
Children are allowed ample time for unstructured, imaginative play without adult interference. You might witness tea parties and puppet shows, dress-ups and building with wooden blocks. Free play is the heart of a lower-grade Waldorf homeschool. Academics don’t begin until age 6.
Screens are very limited for older children and banned for younger children, because they are thought to hinder the development of thought and imagination. You might see calculators used for middle grades and screens used for educational purposes in upper grades, but limited for entertainment purposes.
Languages are emphasized from the age of six, along with daily mental arithmetic. Children are also engaged in practical activities such as cooking and cleaning. Children learn life skills while becoming confident and capable helpers.
Handwork, such as embroidery, doll-making, knitting and more is encouraged. The finished product leads to a sense of pride in accomplishment, but another purpose is that brain development has been linked to the the development of fine motor skills.
Waldorf homeschools consciously consider the idea of rhythm in their daily, weekly and seasonal schedules. They are intentionally predictable in order to feel familiar to children, with the idea that children feel confident and secure in knowing what to expect.
Waldorf homeschools prioritize regular times for meals, bath and bedtimes. Rituals and traditions, such as prayers over the meals or holiday-linked traditions, are an important part of of the regular rhythms of daily life.
Waldorf Homeschool Curriculum:
Oak Meadows. Curriculum by subject, geared toward the Waldorf method.
Bella Luna Toys. Beautiful Waldorf toys from a Waldorf teacher and expert.
Wee Folk Art. Fun patterns for Waldorf style crafts, along with homeschooling curriculum connections and information.
Christopherus Homeschool. Waldorf curriculum developed by a Waldorf-trained and educated, homeschooling mother of two.
Waldorf Earthschooling Earthschooling uses the Waldorf curriculum as a framework and thus it includes lesson plans, instructional videos, MP3’s, Eurythmy lessons and core curriculum created by certified Waldorf teachers for grades pre-K through high school.
Waldorf Books. The original independent Waldorf bookstore.
Want to know more? Waldorf Resources:
You are Your Child’s First Teacher: Encouraging Your Child’s Natural Development by Rahima Baldwin Dancy
Today’s society often pressures us into overstimulating young children with flashcards, workbooks, videos, and electronic gadgets in a well-meaning attempt to give them a head start. But children are not little adults—they learn and grow in radically different ways at different ages, and what we do to help could actually hurt instead. Some of the most important learning years happen before your child reaches school. Respected Waldorf educator Rahima Baldwin Dancy explains the different stages of learning that children go through from birth to age six, giving you the wisdom and understanding to enrich your child’s natural development in the right way at the right time.
Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching from the Inside Out by Jack Petrash
Written by a teacher with more than 25 years of experience, this book offers a jargon-free view of Waldorf education and its philosophy of the importance of a three-dimensional education. Through learning experiences that involve all of the senses, children use a variety of intelligences to develop thought, feeling, and intentional, purposeful activity. Whether you’re Waldorf parent or teacher, or you just want to learn more about these innovative educational concepts, this book contains important ideas on learning that you can apply today
Waldorf Education: A Family Guide by Pamela J. Fenner
Waldorf Education finds itself catapulted from its humble beginnings 80 years ago into the midst of the central educational and social issues of this decade. This book is a first look for parents and educators into the history, philosophy, curriculum, and traditions of this unique approach to education. This comprehensive book is a collection of articles describing the world of Waldorf Education – the fastest growing independent school movement in the world.
Helpful blogs about the Waldorf method:
The Online Waldorf Library Created for Waldorf teachers, parents, homeschoolers, and anyone interested in Waldorf education. Our aim is to make visible all the available book resources on Waldorf education that are currently in print and where to purchase these. Also included are an ever increasing number of eBooks in pdf format that can be downloaded to your PC or electronic reading devices. This site includes an incredible amount of information with a handy search feature.
Rudolf Steiner Archive Steiner’s lectures, books, and articles can be read here online as well as summaries of his books.
Waldorf Education The official website for the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America.
Anthroposophical Society in America (ASA) supports and furthers the work of Rudolf Steiner in the United States. We are an open membership organization that fosters self-development and inspired social engagement. Society members automatically receive library membership at no additional charge. The library has over 27,000 volumes.
Similarities and Differences Between the Waldorf Method and Other Homeschooling Methods:
That’s a lot of information in ridiculously tiny print. I can’t read it myself! But I tried a dozen ways to make it readable, and it’s just too much information. If it’s too difficult for you to read, feel free to download the Homeschooling Methods Chart pdf. That way you can zoom in if you need to.
Which Homeschooling Method Is Right For My Family?
The best possible advice you can receive from anyone who has been homeschooling for awhile is that you need to create your own unique approach to homeschooling. As you can see from the chart above, the various homeschooling methods have more similarities than they do differences.
Pick and choose the elements you like from each (the eclectic approach), or do something completely different. This is your homeschool. What’s your vision?
Would you like to know more about the other homeschooling methods?
Click the links to learn more about each of the following Homeschool Methods:
Reggio Emilia Approach(also known as project-based homeschooling)
Unit Studies Approach
Do you use elements of the Waldorf approach in your homeschool? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!