One question I have been getting a lot of is What is Waldorf? I have mentioned in past posts that we are doing this Waldorf activity, or that I bought that Waldorf toy. So, I thought I would discuss today some details of our homeschool and where Waldorf fits in for us. WARNING: This is a pretty long post.
I want to preface with, we are NOT a strict Waldorf Home. I am still learning how Waldorf works, what it means, and all of the ins and outs. I can only share, what made me want to give it a shot, and how it is for us. Also, I am not an extremist in any way so we tend to follow the middle path with our Waldorfness.
I stumbled upon Waldorf Education while doing curriculum research and after discovering it, I just knew that it was something I wanted to incorporate in my home!
Do you ever feel like that? Like you have fallen into the rabbit hole and there is no way you can forget what you have since learned? That is how Waldorf makes me feel.
After reading this and this and this, and watching this… I just felt that Waldorf was a beautiful way to teach children. It just seemed to point the way to a beautiful, simple and happy homeschool for my boys.
At first, it was the beauty of the materials and the toys. It was also the profound ideas regarding how children learn. It was the magic. ( Remember this post about Waldorf Toys?)
Now, it is the wonder. It is watching my boys delight with all of it. It is the calm that it brings to the learning process. This is what continues draw me toward Waldorf Education. Every Waldorf style activity we have added in seems to be a favorite among the boys.
Here is a brief idea of what Waldorf “means”. (There is a lot but I will summarize)
Waldorf education is based around a few principles. First, that children learn certain things and at certain ways at certain ages. They do not push academics upon children under the age of 7. Therefore, I have plenty of educational activities for my youngest to engage in if he so wishes. Funny thing, he wants to learn. He craves it.
Secondly, it operates on the premise that all areas of a child’s brain need to be engaged in order for them to learn. We do a lot of movement, a lot of creative endeavors, a lot of pretend play.
Third, that the world is a beautiful and magical place. Children want to learn and grow in an environment that is full of wonder and beauty.
How do you create this wonder and how do you engage all areas of a child’s brain?
Well, it depends on their age, but there are many many ways. Here is what we are doing.
Sensory Play: Especially for the young children, working the sensory part of the brain is important. Any way you can touch feel or manipulate things stimulates that part of the brain.
Movement: jumping, singing, dancing, climbing …all of these things help them learn. We try to have lots of manipulatives for Ezra’s math. I allow him to do his work standing at a board so he can move around if he wishes. We do our math facts jumping around. We play math games. For Lucas, this includes doing lots of games and rhymes with movement. I will share more of this when I actually get time to get pictures during our homeschool day.
Creativity: when creating something one learns. Children need to feel like the creative part of their brain is being engaged. We paint pictures of our letters and numbers. Ezra recently built and decorated a Pioneer Fort as part of his Social Studies Lesson. Most of all, whenever there is a way to involve making something rather than just writing a report about it, we embrace it. We also have incorporated some handcrafts such as Ezra’s Fingerknitting.
Calm: We also try to reduce the amount of anxiety about learning there is in our day. (This is one thing I found was heightened in public school). We have our entire lives to feel stress. It shouldn’t start in elementary school. I won’t lie to you all, there is definitely stress involved in homeschooling, but we try to keep things cool.
Media: Waldorf education greatly suggests that children do not watch TV or use other media. This is hard for us, because how do you go backwards after your child is used to watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates every friday morning? That being said, we have made a huge effort to put the TV in its place. It does not come on during the school week. There are a few exceptions but for the most part, the boys know that the TV is a weekend activity. I can see the difference in their play, their imaginations, and their willingness to learn.
Rhythm: Waldorf education strongly encourages rhythms. For those of you who are new to Waldorf, this may sound strange, but really, it works! Think of your day having a rhythm that your child can expect. The same with your week, Mondays are cooking days, Tuesdays are preschool friend days, Wednesdays are grandma days, Thursdays are library days. This carries on and on to a larger scale. The seasons have a rhythm as does your year. Waldorf schools and homeschools often celebrate festivals to help children start to understand the rhythms of the seasons as well. Check out our Martinmas post HERE. Creating ways that your child can feel the rhythms of the life around them is very important. It helps with stress and anxiety when children are familiar with the rhythms of life around them. I mean, if life was simply something that was happening to you, if you were told at a moments notice what was expected of you, wouldn’t you be anxious? The rhythm helps them know what to expect, which creates a sense of peace in the home!
Nature: Every day we learn about nature. Even by simply going outside and watching the leaves fall off the trees, children are learning about nature. Every moment spent in nature is a learning experience. Nothing brings out a sense of wonder in a child the way nature does. It has been a challenge during these winter months, but we are finding ways to enjoy the outdoors and be among nature. We do things like build in the snow, go snowshoeing(HERE), snow painting and just taking the dog for a walk.
Waldorf is such a big big word with a big big community and world surrounding it. We are happy to have our little corner of it. As I mentioned, we are incorporating Waldorf elements, but there are many things about Waldorf education that we have not embraced. So far, the Waldorf elements have been a wonderful addition to our home. That being said we have added in some elements of other educational styles in small bits and pieces. There is a bit of Montessori tossed in there, and some traditional style schooling as well when it comes to math. We basically do our own thing with the Waldorf inspiration leading us as much as it can. I am calling our style Leah’s Awesome Homeschool Style… haha.
Hope that answers the questions. I am sure I will have more info, more experience as time goes on. For now, that is all I have.