How to Homeschool with the Waldorf Method
Waldorf style of education is based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. Steiner was a philosopher and social reformer of the nineteenth century. This approach to education emphasizes creativity and imagination at all stages of the child’s development.
Waldorf for the Whole Child
The aim of Waldorf schooling is to educate the whole child. “Head, heart and hands” is a common mantra in Waldorf. Academic head-knowledge is important. But, it is always balanced with practical and emotional intentions.
- Head refers to the ability to think clearly and independently.
- Heart refers to the capacity for feeling emotionally connected to one’s work and the world at large.
- Hands refers to the willingness to take action to achieve one’s goals and to contribute to the world.
Waldorf believes in rigorous academics, but only after the child is developmentally ready. Formal academics, especially in Reading, is delayed till age 7. Early readers and textbooks are not used. The scope and sequence differ from other styles of education. Children are actually taught to write before they learn to read.
In human history, spoken languages developed first. Next, written language developed (think of hieroglyphics); then, reading. Waldorf follows that same pattern for individuals to learn spoken and written language before reading. Academic content in other subjects spirals so that the learning is re-emphasized at intervals. This natural repetition builds mastery.
Storytelling and Art
Oral storytelling is part of early academic development. Language skills are built through the repetition of stories, songs, and poetry. Waldorf students learn a variety of artistic expressions.
- Handiwork: knitting, finger-knitting, crochet, sewing, and cross stitch
- Art: watercolor painting, perspective drawing, and clay modeling
- Music: singing, recorder, percussion instruments and various instruments
- Movement: group games, gymnastics, and eurythmy (an artistic movement art)
Seasonal festivals and celebrations are also emphasized. These activities connect the heart of humanity with the rhythms of nature and benefit the inner life of the soul.
Waldorf style differs from other educational philosophies by limiting all technology, especially television. Technology stifles physical activity and creativity. Instead, the child is encouraged to play with simple wooden toys and props. Open-ended play serves to develop imagination.
Some Waldorf homeschool curriculum has become available with online support as a means to connect with others. But, it is still preferable for the student’s learning activities to be low-tech or no-tech.
Waldorf education also explores the spiritual science of Anthroposophy. This spiritual study is observations aimed at awakening the child’s natural reverence for life. It does not subscribe to any particular religious views, though it can be modified to fit specific doctrines.
The individual balance of “head, heart, and hands” impacts and connects to the world in practical and cultural ways. The Waldorf graduates have a well-rounded understanding of themselves and the world around. The goal is academic excellence, strong character, and involved citizens.
Example of a Typical Waldorf Homeschooling Schedule
Rhythm and consistency are very important to Waldorf homeschoolers, so the daily schedule is designed to flow easily and to give the homeschooling parent plenty of time for their many responsibilities. (This is a sample schedule for a younger child.)
- Circle: The day starts with a 15-minute circle. (Circle time takes place in a special spot in the house. The family lights a candle and says the morning verse. They then sing a Movement Verse, which usually involves finger play, a Closing Verse or song, and then blow out the candle.)
- Main Lesson: The family spends 45 minutes of focused time on reading and writing. (The family obtains these lessons from a Waldorf curriculum supplier).
- Free Time: During this time, the parent attends to their normal responsibilities, like household management or perhaps even running a home business, and the child watches and eventually imitates the parent’s actions. In addition, parents provide opportunities for creative play (like puppets, or art, or building projects).
- Lunch: Children help with preparation and clean-up.
- Afternoon Lesson: Science is done twice a week and math is done three times a week. Science lessons involve frequent outings. Reading lessons are also done during this time, reading from a Waldorf Reader for approximately 15 minutes a day. This afternoon session lasts approximately one hour.
- Free Play: Crafts, imitation activities, and creative play occupy the child until dinner time.
- Dinner: Children help with preparation and clean-up.
- Bedtime Ritual: This usually takes one hour. The parent either reads aloud or tells a bedtime story.
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Read more about Waldorf Education from a personal perspective here.
Kim Andrysczyk – Volunteer Contributor
Kim Andrysczyk is a secular homeschool veteran, homeschool group leader, coffee addict, sarcasm expert, and an accidental blogger. She’s the self-appointed busybody of homeschooling in South Carolina, always on the lookout for new connections to people, places, and resources. Find her at The South Carolina Homeschooling Connection and Facebook.