Written by contributor Sarah Baldwin of Bella Luna Toys
When one discovers Waldorf education, there can be a wide variety of first impressions. My own introduction was hearing that “the arts are incorporated into every subject.” That resonated with me, and I was eager to learn more.
Others may be introduced to a Waldorf craft activity, learn about Waldorf dolls, or attend a seasonal festival. These are all important elements of Waldorf education, but there is so much more to it beyond the art on the walls, silk curtains, or beeswax crayons.
What stands behind Waldorf education is a worldview called anthroposophy (an-thro-POS-o-fee) developed by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and founder of the first Waldorf School during the early 20th century.
Anthroposophy means “knowledge of the human being.” Central to Waldorf education is Steiner’s view of child development and recognition of the human being as an individual consisting of body, soul and spirit.
Waldorf schools aim to teach not only the intellect, but rather to educate the whole child: “head, heart and hands.”
When I decided to become a Waldorf teacher, I requested information on teacher training. Among the material I was sent were two brochures: one on the Foundation Year in Anthroposophy, the other on Teacher Training.
I put the first brochure aside, thinking, “I’m not interested in that philosophy,” (whose name I couldn’t even pronounce). “I want to work with children!”
At the time, I didn’t understand that the foundation year was not only a pre-requisite to teacher training but also essential to it. This amuses me now since over the course of my journey, I have learned how inseparable Waldorf education and anthroposophy are.
My experience in foundation studies was a turning point in my life. Through study and artistic activities, my eyes opened to a new, enlivened view of the world and an appreciation of the life purpose and potential of every human being.
Steiner stressed that self-development and the inner work of a teacher are essential to Waldorf education. Anthroposophy is not a religion (there are Waldorf teachers of all faiths), but rather a path of spiritual development.
Now after all my years of teacher training, studying Rudolf Steiner, and teaching in a Waldorf school, I can tell you that there are so many deep layers to Waldorf education that cannot be grasped in a nutshell. Or in a year, or a decade, or even a lifetime!
What does this mean to a homeschooling parent?
Should you give up the notion of Waldorf homeschooling because you lack teacher training and can’t pronounce anthroposphy?
Photo by Bella Luna Toys
Even though elements such as handwork and seasonal festivals may be the outer manifestations of the Waldorf tradition, they are activities that children will benefit from and that families can enjoy together.
I encourage you to incorporate any elements of Waldorf education that have meaning for you. If something doesn’t make sense or resonate, don’t offer it simply because you’ve heard that it’s “Waldorf.”
Must one enroll in teacher training and spend years studying Steiner before attempting to educate one’s own children?
The most essential rule of Waldorf education is also the simplest to grasp: Teach with love and joy. No one loves your child more than you. Who could do a better job at that? It’s also important to bring joy to our days with children, so that means taking time for self-care and renewal.
How do I choose Waldorf homeschool curricula?
In this electronic age, there has been an explosion of information available to Waldorf homeschoolers through websites, blogs, and discussion groups, not to mention the vast number of books and articles that have been published during the past decade.
There are many quality books, guides and websites created by teachers that demonstrate a deep understanding of Waldorf education and knowledge of child development. There are also materials that have been created by others with varying levels of knowledge and limited experience. Some are true to the ideals; others may be more eclectic or mainstream with a “Waldorf flavor.”
How can one determine which resources are true to the heart of Waldorf education?
In education there is no one-size-fits-all, so it’s fortunate that there are so many choices. At the same time making a selection can be confusing. There are books, guides, e-books, and whole curriculum packages.
For those interested in Waldorf homeschooling, I recommend asking the following questions when deciding what to use:
- Who is the author?
- Does the author have a degree in education?
- What is his or her background in Waldorf education?
- Has the author completed Waldorf teacher training?
- Does the author have classroom teaching experience? How many years?
- Does the author have homeschooling experience? If not, does he or she understand what it’s like to juggle daily household activities with teaching one’s children?
- How familiar is the author with the work of Rudolf Steiner? Does he or she have a living relationship with anthroposophy and work out of its insights?
- How long has the curriculum provider been in operation?
- If it is a curriculum package, what kinds of support are available beyond the printed resources?
These questions should help you choose quality materials that will give your child a true and meaningful experience of Waldorf education, and bring light and joy to your own journey!
Are you familiar with Waldorf education? What are the elements that resonate with you?