WOW! I guess I am resurrecting ye old blog! On a yahoo group (editing to say that Carrie of Parenting Passageway asked me…her well-known and expansive blog is here: http://www.theparentingpassageway.com), I was asked to repost something I wrote there….about Waldorf homeschool curriculums and “what to do” every day with little kids. So…I post it here, perhaps this blog is taking a more homeschooling route instead of my inner spiritual ramblings…so here it is:
I wanted to first chime in on Oak Meadow…it is definitely not Waldorf, although slightly influenced by it. I too suggest it to non-waldorf-y homeschoolers that are looking for a more hands-on (less workbook, less school at home) style curriculum.
ANother major difference besides the early introduction to intellectual activity…is that they don’t do unit studies/blocks in the way that waldorf does. All subjects are done all the time, like in a mainstream school. Oak Meadow was in part (I believe) designed to take waldorf “style” (materialistically) and structure it in a way that followed a mainstream school’s academic schedule.
There are two words that we confuse a lot I think…or interchange when we shouldn’t….Waldorf and Anthroposophical. The Waldorf schools were created based on Steiner’s teaching of anthroposophy and childhood development. They were also created to meet the need of urban children whose parents were working in a factory. Here we are decades later, and we have waldorf schools, which also meet the particular needs of their communities. They are filled with classrooms that have multiple same-aged children, and are also lead by teachers who generally consider themselves to be anthroposophical in philosophy (which at the center puts the teacher’s own inner work at the front of the line). In a Waldorf Kindergarten, there is usually a lead teacher that holds the room energetically, leads the circle, etc…and a teacher’s assistant who often attends to the “chores” of the room, setting up the bread dough, cleaning making sure the soup is ready, etc… and they are all managing a group of 12-20 kindy aged children who are generally in similar stages of development, interest/way of play, etc…
We CANNOT emulate a Waldorf school classroom in our home, in no way, shape or form…..except in materialistic way (ie, having the right toys, singing the right songs, even lazuring our walls in a pretty peach colour). When we get focused heavily on this outward and materialistic part of “waldorf”, we are throwing out the “anthroposophy”, and making ourselves generally miserable. It is from here we end up with the frustrations and questions like “but my child doesn’t like to fingerknit….how will I ever get him to do handwork?!” or “My five year old hides under the table during circle and refuses to sing in front of others!” (that’s one that I wrote).
Back to Oak Meadow…I would venture to say that even the more “authentic” curriculums (ie, Christopherus and Live Ed) can be “not Waldorf” when approached in a materialistic way. When we take a step back and look to Steiner’s teachings and the underlying philosophy to “why” fairy tales, circle songs, etc… we begin to be able to dig deep into the culture of our home, and our individual souls….and create an authentic holistic approach to “education”, “home” and our day to day lives.
I realize this sounds all very nebulous…and the question still exists….”but what do I DO every day?” It is exactly that question that led me to have Oak Meadow K when I had a four year old, 2 year old and barely one year old. I quickly realized it wasn’t for us, then switched to Live Ed (and shamelessly I will tell you I have tried MANY other curriculums as well)….but anytime I approached the curriculum as a curriculum, as opposed to a guide….I made myself completely nuts, and lived in constant frustration that I wasn;t able to do it all.
We CAN’T do it all…..and stay away from any “system” that tells you that you can if you just “a, b, c or d”….and then sells you a way to do it!!!! That is why I love and support what Lisa is doing here (www.thewonderofchildhood.com)….she is giving all the great resources and basic scaffolding to enrich your life, NOT mold it.
Your home is already a “waldorf kindergarten” the moment you put your personal inner work at the forefront, deeply observe your children, make a quiet life and do everything you can to preserve their innocence…and not awaken their intellects too early. It isn’t the toys, the curriculum, the finger plays, etc….those are just wonderful things that ENRICH a Waldorf home, not make it. It is a philopophy and a Path, not a THING. Your personal home and culture should be the soil in which your “kindergarten” is planted.
I wish that I had relaxed more when all I had was littles….and not worried so much about how to fill my days and structure them in the most perfect way….to be sure that my children hear all the right stories, did all the right handwork, etc… My 9 year old just read “Little Women” and “Anne of Green Gables”, and she obsessively writes poems about fairies and nature…..and I can’t ever remember actually teaching her to read lol….AND I was never ever perfect in following a curriculum. The kids get there on their own, and sometimes when we think we need more, that is actually a sign that what we really need is LESS….to slow down and see what wonderful moments we can make out of the most mundane.