This post is a part of Waldorf Wednesday. See all the links here.

When I hinted about my January panic, I ended with the line “and then, we move forward.” Well . . . not really. It didn’t turn out to be quite so simple. That post did give me an appreciation of our accomplishments so far this year, but I still had a nagging doubt. And it wasn’t a little doubt, it was a Big Doubt. The kind of “what the heck are we doing?”-“does it really matter that my kids can knit?”-“who really cares if they can cook and bake?”-“Penny whistle? Really? Penny whistle?”-kinda doubt. Which, when I could catch my breath, all boiled down to “Is Waldorf the way? Is it enough?” And if it is the way and if it is enough, was I up to the challenge of bringing it all to my boys.

In the midst of my Doubt, I talked to Tom who let me babble on and on one night until I couldn’t even hear myself talk anymore. I talked to Andrea who patiently and empathetically listened to my crazy chatter. Finally, I reached out to Jean Miller, who is a Waldorf homeshooler, friend and consultant that I met at Taproot. Jean sent me a consulting form that included three questions asking how I came to Waldorf, what inspires me about Waldorf and what exactly I was looking for in our consulting relationship. Answering these questions allowed me to quiet my mind and listen to my heart. Below you can find my answers to Jean’s questions. If you are feeling unsure about your own way forward on this path of Waldorf-inspired homeschooling, I would encourage you to answer them for yourself. Talk to your spouse. Talk to your supportive friends. And, maybe if it feels right, contact Jean. I’m talking to her tomorrow night.


How did you find your way to Waldorf Education?

When Vincent was 8 (2009), I was having a crisis of parenting. I honestly didn’t know what to do, and it was a mess. For some reason the title Simplicity Parenting jumped out at me on a homeschooling yahoo group. I NEVER blindly order hardcover books – but for some reason, some little whisper told me this was the way forward. That is really how I discovered Waldorf and Waldorf homeschooling.

What inspires you most about Waldorf?

I love the holistic approach and the quest towards balance. Vincent is so geared in his head and possesses that kind of intelligence that can be seen as “the goal.” When I was first reading about Waldorf, I had this image of him (and more of him seeing himself) as just a walking brain. It broke my heart because I knew he was/is/can be so much more than that enormous pile of facts that resides under his hair.

I also love the stories, the art, the methodical progression of the curriculum and the emphasis on beauty and reverence. I have seen first-hand the healing possible with this kind of education. I think it is holy and true and right.

Please list your questions and describe the help you are looking for:

You are a light to me. You know this. When Andrea and I left Taproot in August, I had such a desire to take my understanding of Waldorf and Steiner to the next level. I honestly think you can help lead me.

The impetus to email you came out of the January panic that I know every homeschooler feels. I know my children are learning. I know they are doing great things by knitting, cooking, hearing stories and having lots of time to play outside. However, fifth grade seems to be some sort of threshold. All our friends have children who will attend traditional middle school next year, and they are trying to make the right decision as to where their children should go. These conversations have found their way into my head until I couldn’t see the forest for the trees as to what the heck we are doing every day and if it all really matters. Does the fact that Vincent can make yeasted cinnamon rolls from scratch really make a damn bit of difference when all of his traditionally educated friends are going to come out with printed transcripts that look normal and make sense? These are the panicked and not-so-pretty thoughts that have been in my head lately. They are NOT what I believe in my heart, but they are there nonetheless.

I am coming up to that crossroads where continuing down this path feels like a statement. Not a big “hey-look-what-I-am-doing” statement. (I left such loud pronouncements behind in my thirties.) But more of this is what I believe is best. I am going to continue down this path that I cannot see the end of, but one on which I want to keep quietly walking forward.

23 thoughts on “Doubt

  1. I love the way you stated things here, and I hope you keep us informed on what comes from your talk with Jean. It sounds like she is really a light and a sounding board for you. Good luck!

  2. Follow your heart Sheila! I think only great mom’s question themselves and have doubts. Only you know your children and what they need.

    • Thanks Yvonne. I don’t think we can really do anything else except follow our hearts. Unfortunately, those little babes don’t come with instructions or guarantees!
      Hope you are having a good day.

  3. Waldorf works for you and Vincent and Jude because it works for Sheila, Vincent and Jude. Waldorf is not magic nor important. It is magical and important to the three of you. Why? Because it encapsulates so much of what is your own joy and a wise wise woman once boiled down all of everything in this homeschooling journey that we must teach out of our joy — and, I would add what I think is already implied — that which brings our darlings joy is in our joy to teach out of as well.

    To my right is a picture of Vincent cooking (“What’s Cooking?”). Look at that face. Pure, unmitigated, undiluted joy. So, does it Matter that Vincent makes yeast cinnamon rolls from scratch? YES! Because it matters that people can make yeast cinnamon rolls from scratch? No. Because it’s Big and Important to Vincent. And if it is with the inspiration of Waldorf structure and ideas and ways that you create a space where Jude can play outside so much, Vincent can cook, Sheila can read out poetry and beautiful books to calm and contented children eating a homemade goodie from a lovingly created tray while knitting — well go confidently, if quietly, down the road that fits you all so well. And also know that the transcript that you can order from your high school registrar is filled with so much that doesn’t matter at all.

    • Yes, and on my best days, I know this. However I think it is so important to talk about those other days.

      Vincent is making molasses candy while I type this (back to the pioneer cooking!!) and yes, that is a good thing.

      Thank you for your kindness and your friendship.

  4. Sheila,

    I appreciate that you are willing to share about your feelings of doubt. I come to this place of fear and doubt over and over again and have had conversations with my husband much like the one you describe.

    One thing that stood out for me when we were all at Taproot this summer is that most of us, regardless of where we live, we are doing this on our own, that there just is not a local community of Waldorf homeschoolers where we are living. That helped me to feel less alone, but also made me really appreciate what a challenge that is. Talking with the women who are further along in the journey was tremendously helpful to me, as it is for you. It relaxes me to see that no two families are using Waldorf methods in their homeschools in the same way, that a positive outcome can be achieved in a variety of ways. I think for each of our families there will be Waldorf ideas that are a good fit, and ones that aren’t. Flexibility is one of the benefits of homeschooling so we may as well use what we can and leave the rest.

    One of my challenges in these moments of doubt have been to resist the urge to make big changes. Sometimes a small change is needed but often when I can get quiet and check in with myself I find that what I am really up against (again) is the challenge of doing this mostly alone and looking around at others on a very different path. I have more and more respect for how hard that really is.

    Thank you again for having the courage to talk about this. I am sending you my best wishes.

    • Thank you for your words Kelley.

      So much of what you said resonates with me, especially about the small changes. That is exactly what I did – a couple little tweaks here and there. But sweeping changes sound so appealing don’t they? Starting over and maybe getting it all right this time instead of muddling along and hoping for the best.

      Yes, that community at Taproot is a lifeline for me as well. Will you be returning this year? I hope so.

      • I’m glad to read that others do the same thing that I have done and am working so hard, like an addict, to stop doing — Making Big Changes So That I Can Get It Right THIS TIME! — “Resist the urge” _-I’m putting that in my rolodex of meditative reminder phrases. Resist the urge, Resist the urge. Thank you guys

    • Kelly, I just loved your comment and I think one of the best things about Taproot was hearing from families that were going through what we were. I learned so much that weekend about myself, why I love Waldorf homeschooling so much and it was great to know that I didn’t have to go it alone anymore. Blessings to you and your family.. Andrea

  5. Sheila, when I look back on my schooling and think about what has been useful and what turned out to be a waste of time I come up with this list: useful – reading, writing, elementary math, cooking. Not useful – everything else. Obviously now that I’ve made the choice to be a home educator I will have to dig deep and my high school trigonometry might come in handy after all. But in real life cooking has been the really useful thing, and it has brought joy to myself and others. And when I think back to my schooling and the thing I enjoyed most of all it is always music. As it turned out, I didn’t continue with music because when I moved school aged 10 the lessons ended, but it really was the highlight of my education: playing the recorder and violin.
    If there was a way to do a survey of homeschooler’s right now, I wonder what percentage of them are going through something like this? I certainly know that I always have little niggly doubts and sometimes big debilitating doubts about the lifestyle we have chosen. Even when I know in my heart that what I’m doing is the right thing – we tried school so I know that’s not the best fit for us – I still have that little voice which says, “Are you mad???” And there are plenty of people around to tell me that I am LOL! It is so hard to do something so totally different to what everyone else is doing and not have doubts. Homeschooling is one thing, but Waldorf homeschooling? I’m in a minority group of a minority group! Surely those other folk who live their lives so differently to me can’t all be wrong? It can be so lonely to walk this path. But then I see how happy my son is, he sings all day long, how can that be wrong?
    Thank you for writing honestly about this (as always, your honesty is so refreshing) because I know your journey will help so many others, including myself.
    Blessings, Cathy

    • Yes, I think voicing these doubts is so powerful, because we think no one else ever doubts what they do. We probably are all mad, but so be it. The minority within a minority is an apt observation. But again, the evidence is so clear in our children. Why can’t we hold onto that? Maybe it wouldn’t be normal if we didn’t question what we do? I don’t know. All I know is that I am so, so grateful for this online community of Waldorf homeschoolers. It really makes a difference.
      Thanks for your kind words Cathy.

      PS Whenever I am at my sewing machine, I always think that I use all the sewing classes I took in high school so much more than Algebra!!!

  6. like everyone else here, i thank you for your refreshingly honest post. and i, too, look forward to hearing what comes of your talk(s) with Jean. btw, don’t forget to take a moment to pat yourself on the back – while enjoyng a delicious cinnamon roll, while your at it! ; ) – because you have accomplished so much already.

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