I accuse my friend Alisha of living in a felted house. I have this idyllic picture in my head of her charming setting: winding paths that connect the (felted) houses, vibrant Waldorf-inspired homeschooling co-ops, seasonal festivals complete with happy families and cherubic children. There are probably even gnomes perched under beeswax lamp posts scattered throughout the neighborhood. I know this is not true – well, the paths, co-op and festivals are – I’m not sure about the gnomes. It is so easy to compare, contrast and find ourselves lacking when we think about what Waldorf homeschooling looks like elsewhere.
My house is not felted. My walls are not even lazured. There is no natural wood anywhere, and my boys have never had a Waldorf doll, play stands or knitted gnome hats. Pretty early on, I learned the outward symbols of Waldorf did not impart any of the intentionality, spirituality and simplicity I wanted in our home. Because, trust me, I tried to just “buy” Waldorf in the beginning. I spent a lot of money – this is not hard! – on art supplies, child-sized German brooms and dust pans, anthroposophical books that were (and still are) beyond my comprehension and a myriad of other wooden, silken and beeswax-covered items. I scattered these things around our home and hoped, like fairy dust, they would work their magic. Surprisingly, this did not happen.
The other unfortunate misconception I had in the beginning was thinking Waldorf was more about the boys than it was about me. Three years into this gig and I can say with confidence: it has so very precious little to do with my boys, and so, so very much to do with me. If I can quiet my mind, open my heart and hold the space, things happen. Big things happen. Unfortunately there is not a formula, a catalog, a website or a blog that can tell you exactly how to do this. It’s setting the intention. It’s knowing your children. It’s connecting with the angels. It’s doing all of this over and over and over. Day after day. Some days, hour after hour.
Having said all of that, there are some over-arching tenets that translate and define what Waldorf looks like at our house. My particular way of manifesting Waldorf comes with a healthy dose of Simplicity Parenting. When Waldorf gets too complicated (which is not hard, especially in the beginning) I fall back on Kim John Payne’s advice: less words, less stuff, less choices. From there, it is easier to return to center and continue down the path. Anyway, here is some idea of what Waldorf looks like in my home.
- Seeing the whole child and educating the whole child: mentally, physically, spiritually.
- Taking into account the ages of my children and the corresponding anthroposophical stage of human development.
- Honoring story and art as much as math and science.
- Knowing time outside to be paramount – second only to sleep.
- Limiting screen time to about once a week.
- Using handwork, form drawing, and full body movement to address a variety of physical, emotional and spiritual challenges.
- Utilizing the temperaments as a guide in parenting.
- Encouraging wonder, awe and reverence in myself and in my children.
- Holding a daily, weekly and seasonal rhythm.