Not long ago I read a wonderful book “The Creative Family” by Amanda Soule. It was amazing! Amanda Soule’s parenting approach is Waldorf-inspired, so the book set me off to read more about Waldorf. Waldorf is an education approach that addresses the whole child: artistic, academic and spiritual. It values natural-living, creativity, imagination, and beauty while remaining staunchly anti-consumerist and rather practical. All in all, I feel that the Waldorf approach is a way of life, one that I am already pursuing. Now, I can see how to reflect our lifestyle in our homeschooling approach, and that is truly exciting!
My children are almost 4 and 20 months, so according to Waldorf, homeschooling at this stage is simply having a healthy home life. Ideas for creating a healthy childhood environment, doing arts and crafts, weaving story telling and poetry into our days, as well as communicating/disciplining a young child are all a part of Waldorf. Yes, it’s a BIG subject. But, after my reading (oh, it’s been delicious!), I can summarize the basics of what I’ve learned so far:
Principals for the Waldorf Approach for Children under Seven Years Old
- They are in an imaginative dream state, where make-believe and fairy tales are suiting.
- Disturbing that state to enter the analytical state early undermines the child’s future intellectual strength, because imagination is the birthplace of creativity and problem-solving. Also, early intellectualism robs the child’s spirit of this special stage of life.
- The learn beast by imitation and activity
- They think and comprehend pictorially. Don’t talk “head to head” like you would to an adult. Instead show them in action or pictures.
- They do not discern. Instead, they are a sponge that absorbs their environment whole. This is why such importance is placed on creating a safe, nourishing environment.
- Rhythm (rituals and regular schedules) nourish the child, giving security that supports independence and establishing patterns that yield cooperation.
- Mood (a pure environment and rituals such as candle-lighting, prayer, etc) inspires reverence for life & God, while building good character (serenity, patience, gratitude).
Goals for the Child’s Environment
- Beauty: nourishing, calming
- Natural: beautiful, living, true, real
- Simple/uncluttered: non-consumerist, calming, easier to play in because not overwhelming
- Worthy of Imitation: stories and caregivers should be examples to follow (stories of good character, caregivers who are gentle, kind, respectful, calm)
- To Avoid: plastic, synthetic fabrics, overstimulating colors/sounds, too many books/toys
- No TV, computer, electronic games, etc. Books on tape are acceptable, but reading aloud is preferred, because there is something special about a live human voice.
- No intellectualism: no writing, workbooks, teaching to read or “teaching” directly. Show by example and share pictures, not words/explanations when possible.
- Only a modest amount of open-ended toys and many practical toys (brooms, handiwork)
- No character-based (Care Bears, Dora, etc), battery-operated, or “academic” toys (Leapfrog, for example)
- In art use watercolors not markers when possible and blank paper not coloring books to allow a deeper experience of color and freedom for creative expression.
This really just gets at the bare bones of the Waldorf approach. It leaves so many questions and doesn’t tell you much at all of what you should do with your child. I’m sure I’ll be sharing more in the future! If you’re intrigued, see if your library has “You are Your Child’s First Teacher” by Rahima Baldwin Darcy for detailed Waldorf theory and practical application in your home. Despite the title, it’s a very good book!