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Understanding the basics of Waldorf education

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Written by Donna Ashton of The Waldorf Connection

Waldorf is a living, breathing form of education that Rudolph Steiner, its founder, wanted to provide as an antidote to modern times.

Waldorf honors the whole child – body, mind and spirit – through music, arts, handwork, sculpture, stories and movement. It educates the child’s mind, nourishes their soul and meets their spirit at developmentally appropriate stages.

Through these arts, a child first experiences information physically and soulfully. The morning lesson incorporates many different subjects all based around the same theme. Children learn their letters through movement, first by walking the shape of the letter before writing or painting the letter strokes.

The letter is then reinforced through rhymes with actions, stories, and music. By first doing, children come to a concrete, tangible understanding of a concept before they are expected to apply it intellectually.

It isn’t that your child copies only your outer movements, but that they also experience your inner attitude of devotion, care, focus, sense of purpose, and creative spirit.

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Donna’s homeschool day in the life (with 11-year-old twins)

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The following is a guest post written by Donna Ashton of The Waldorf Connection.

We are eight years into homeschooling and having “tweens” is a bit different than when I was schooling seven-year-olds.

Also, running a business from home definitely has its challenges and rewards.

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We are not perfect, but we get to what needs to be done, most of time. I have an established rhythm/schedule to our days so things ebb and flow nicely now.

Here’s my life today.

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A Day in the Life of a Waldorf Kindergarten

A Day in the Life of a Waldorf Kindergarten
Written by contributor Sarah Baldwin of Bella Luna Toys

A note from Jamie: While not technically a homeschooling day, this post provides a helpful look into an early childhood Waldorf classroom, which is largely based on a home atmosphere. Many popular homeschooling curricula spring out of this philosophy, so I greatly appreciate Sarah sharing her expertise with us. Enjoy!

It’s “Soup Day,” in my Waldorf kindergarten class. My assistant and I arrived early to don our aprons and prepare for the day. A basin full of water has been set on the table. Vegetable scrub brushes lay nearby.

A small wooden cutting board, wooden bowl and “crinkle cutter” have been set in front of each chair.

At 8:10, the teachers gather to read the morning verse. We end with Rudolf Steiner’s words, “Receive the children with reverence, educate them with love, let them go forth in freedom.” We are ready to start our day!

At 8:15, the children begin to arrive, each one proudly carrying a vegetable to add to our “stone soup.” Lucy brings a potato, Aidan brings a carrot. Frances brings broccoli, and Max a beet. It takes a village to make stone soup!

Each child finds her symbol above her hook – it might be a bunny, an apple, the moon, or a squirrel. She hangs up her coat, takes off her outdoor shoes and puts on the soft pair of slippers that is kept at school.

Children then put on a small apron and come to the table where I am seated to help chop vegetables. The conversation is lively as we chop. I begin to sing, “Stone soup, stone soup, cook a pot of stone soup,” as we work.

Photo by Sarah Baldwin

As each child finishes, he brings his bowl of chopped vegetables to my assistant, who adds them to the big pot on the stove. Now it is time to play!
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Starting out with the best of intentions (& switching gears along the way)

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The following is a guest post written by Gwynyth Kier of Grapefruit Jam.

When we started this homeschool experiment, I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted to approach learning.

I think I swore up and down that I wouldn’t be sitting at a table doling out lessons, but I also had a voracious appetite for inspiration and validation.

With only one other child, who was a year old, I enthusiastically followed my 4-year-old son’s every whim, with field trips and stacks of books from the library.

After a year, I began to feel a little overwhelmed. There were a lot of hours in the day, and my son’s interests seemed to change faster than I could switch out the library books.

So I ordered a few curriculum materials.

I was drawn to Waldorf for its gentle, delayed approach to academics, and its story- and arts-based foundation.

The plan was to use this very loosely, as a means of inspiration for those times when we needed a bit of guidance — or just something to do.

Around the same time, I met some wonderful homeschooing mamas who used a different Waldorf curriculum. As I listened to them talk about it, I thought, “that sounds better than mine,” and before I knew it I had that on my shelf too.

Funny thing about these guides though — once I started reading them, I quickly slipped into the mind state of needing to complete the program to a T.

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Take home lessons from a Waldorf preschool

The following is a guest post written by Kara Anderson of Quill and Camera.

For three years I had been wondering about joining a particular local weekly homeschool co-op.

And, then, last winter, I got my sign — they were offering a Waldorf preschool class, taught by a trained Waldorf teacher.

We try to be Waldorfy, I thought, as I recalled all the failed circle times and the fact that despite following the “rules” my son started reading at 3.

As we entered that beautiful classroom on the first day, I was so excited. Finally, I will get to see all this Waldorfness in action and transfer it to our life.

While it is true that I learned a lot (I was invited to observe and at times pitch in a bit) the lessons were unexpected. But bringing what I learned home has helped us find a balance that truly works.
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