Over the near decade we have been officially homeschooling, any time I post about using Waldorf Homeschooling things. I always get flooded with questions. It all boils down to one question : How do people of the Christian faith use Waldorf Homeschool Curriculum? This might be a wordy blog post.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I will chat about what we do and don’t do in our waldorf homeschool. For almost our entire homeschool journey we have used a waldorf inspired method. No matter what curriculum we use, literally every kind, we tend to take inspiration from waldorf schools. But what does that mean?
Before I get into that further, if you’re a Christian, keep this in mind : There are many religions out there. Some are larger and more prominent than others, however, they all fall apart without their main “guru.” For example, if you remove Buddha from Buddhism, all that remains is a set of ideas or morals. There is only one faith where if you remove the central focus, the entire thing falls apart. Christianity has Jesus. We have a Savior. This was something I learned while in Christian college and it has stayed with me all these years.
With that in mind, I am only interested in the parts of Waldorf Education that interest us and that compliment our faith. I do not need to believe everything that the founder of waldorf education [Rudolph Steiner] believed in order to use the good stuff he came up with. Sure, that’s probably not “true” Waldorf, but this is my homeschool and these precious children are entrusted to me by God. They belong to Him and I’m doing the best I can to raise them in the faith that we so strongly hold.
The main issue in the waldorf philosophy is Anthroposophy. You can google it if you want to. I have and I am not interested in that practice at all. I don’t think people realize that you can easily dismantle something and put it back together keeping only what resonates for your family. I promise it is very simple, you don’t need to overthink it, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. You have freedom in your homeschool, your child is not enrolled in a waldorf trained school which – by the way – is not even allowed to teach this philosophy now due to all the religious differences attending the schools.
So how can I use waldorf homeschool things in our very Catholic homeschool?
Simple, it’s like every single other curriculum style out there : Take what works, leave what doesn’t. It’s not hard and I don’t even have to think about it. I have never once taken curriculum or a homeschool method and just blindly followed it. That goes for Charlotte Mason, Maria Montessori, Classical Education and of course, Waldorf. There are things I agree and disagree with in each of those methods mentioned. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about what we use from waldorf that we love.
What We Love + Use in Waldorf Education
- Heart, Head, Hands Approach. This basically means, teaching to the whole person that your student is because homeschooling is not only academics. Just look at how much art and recess has been removed from public schools with an increased focus on testing. It is easy to see that this hasn’t been a great move for the children attending. With Heart we focus on our Catholic faith, prayer and on our love for each other as family – helping each other out. Head is the academic part, which we will cover more below. Hands is the handwork or handicraft and skills focus. Oh do we love this! We learn instruments, watercolor, clay + pottery, knitting, felting, hands on nature study, wildcrafting, survival skills, and so much more.
- Block/Unit Study. We love the focus on one to two topics at a time in our homeschool. There are solo subjects that are done daily, like math fact work, reading, and alternating electives, but we love having a non rushed main lesson where we can really dive into the topic we are studying. It appeals more to my children than the short varied daily lessons often done with Charlotte Mason homeschooling. I will do a separate post on how I plan these unit blocks out for the whole school year.
- Main Lesson Books. Along with the unit studies are these books that my children fill with beautiful artwork, a collection of what they’re learning. We have often called it Art Notebooking, especially within the curriculum I wrote, but it’s the same idea. Get those hands creating something that they will enjoy looking back on! My kids absolutely love flipping back through their old lesson books filled with
baddevelopmentally appropriate art and see how much they have grown! Lots of giggling happens, that’s for sure.
- Simple Imaginative Play. We love the wooden toys, the play silks, the dolls, the gnomes and fairies, capes and wands, and story telling. This is childhood! It is a very short time of their lives and I remember loving my escape to imaginative play as a young girl. For me, in an abusive home, this was my escape. For my children, it’s just fun and creative! Let them be children without social media, without all the bad things happening around us. There is plenty of time for that later.
- Delayed Start to Formal Education. We love taking a slow start to schooling. There is plenty of life for academics. Learning the family rhythm and flow, how to get along with siblings, playing in nature, exploring through imagination and stories, learning about God, these are all more important to us than hammering facts and reading lessons at the age of 4 or 5. Everett knew his alphabet by 1.5 years old and could read entire books by 2. No one taught him. He just learned it on his own. Lorelai could read by 3.5 and no one taught her either. I was the same and no one taught me. Brie needed longer and I think Zephyr is the same. There is nothing wrong with any of those scenarios. The mistake would be to assume that your child needs more academics at those ages. Just let them develop at their speed, no rush. Could they do school at those ages? Sure. It’s just not necessary for their development. Just love them. read to them, and let them play. Play is plenty of learning!
- Quality Supplies. We enjoy our lyra paints, stockmar watercolors, lyra colored pencils, filana block and stick crayons, painting boards and more. When we bought our first waldorf school supplies, we were broke. I mean…BROKE. It was a different time in our lives. We started with Filana block crayons and Lyra colored pencils [the ferby ones in regular colors and skin tones] I had to save for those. We just did not have it in our budget at all. Would you believe that we STILL have those first sets from almost a decade ago?! Not one colored pencil or block crayon broke. Insert mind-blown emoji here, seriously. Out of all the abuse those items have been through, after literally half a dozen or so moves all over the southeast USA, the only tragedy was one lost skin tone lyra pencil. I still have a silly hope it will reappear. I just bought our second set of colored pencils just to have my own set as a teacher to do my own drawings for their main lesson prep. Our budget and lifestyle is different now so I just recently got a few more crayon sets for our kids to share since we have so many students using these materials. One set per two kids is how we have it set up now. Before, all 4 of us [the three older kids and I] used the one set and that was fine, too.
There are many other things we love, but off the top of my head at 11pm while being 34+ weeks pregnant with my sixth at the time of this writing… this is what I have for now.
What We Do Not Use in Waldorf Education
- As pointed out before, anthroposophy is a big NO.
- When we learn about other faiths, we use other resources, especially leaning on our faith to learn about them. It would be incredibly ignorant to not learn about other faiths. We must learn CORRECTLY what other people believe or we cannot possibly hope to have an intelligent conversation about faith, why we are Catholic, defend our faith, or be disciples of Christ.
- History as written in Waldorf Education. We use Story of Civilization by Tan Books for accurate history. There are a lot of anti-Catholic beliefs out there. I used to believe them so I’m very sensitive to it and make sure my kids see all sides of what happened. Tan Books does a very accurate and fair job of what happened backed by facts not feelings. We also love the storytelling format of those books so it fits nicely with our waldorf-inspired school.
- We worship The Creator, not the created. When we do fairytales and other make believe stories, I always make sure I know what is in the story. We do not worship the created earth. It rubs me the wrong way because it goes against what we believe. But like I said before, this is seriously easy to fix : read about God creating all the things and His love for us. There’s an amazing story of creation in the Bible… We also love Beatitales books which are kind of legend like but for Catholic children and connect to the Bible or a Catechism lesson. We still read about fairies and gnomes, but my kids all know these are make believe and. not real. On the same note, we no longer do the easter bunny or Santa as being real. We did when our older three were little, but going forward, we can read the stories and watch the movies with the solid knowledge of St. Nicholas and the Crucifixion. That is what we do in our family and we are fully comfortable with this choice. Also, we don’t let our kids ruin that for other children because every family is different.
- We don’t necessarily follow the topic schedule for development. We have done a lot of grouped learning, however. as my children get older and we have a couple high schoolers, it’s important to me that I make sure they are learning at their individual pace and maturity. While close in age and often in interests, my teen girls will have some overlapping and learn together. However, there is material that is still more suitable for my eldest that my next eldest is not ready for. It is not a good idea for me to force either out of their development level to create an easier homeschool teaching experience for me. It’s a lot of work to create a one room schoolhouse, because you need to have the right materials for each age to learn at their ability/maturity. Lots of solo work happens as our children get older. so it’s not more work for me to just have them do what they each need to do separately.
As with the things we love, I’m sure there are other things I am forgetting that we do not follow or do with the waldorf method. This blog post is long enough so I’ll end it here. I do hope this was helpful and if you have any questions, definitely leave them below!
21 But prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22 From all appearance of evil refrain yourselves.
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 in the Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition