Cultivating a Waldorf Home
by Nicole Justice-Kleeman
“Children were most relaxed and played best if the space was fairly
simple but pleasing to the senses. It should be calming and lovely, but not so beautiful and
complete that the children hesitate to move anything or disturb the order”.
-Joan Almon, Coordinator of the U.S. branch of the Alliance for
Childhood, and former chair of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North
I will never forget the Sunday that I first discovered Waldorf. I was sitting in church before service fingering through a Nova Natural catalog that my friend Sarah had excitedly given me. It was as if time stopped. I just sat in its beauty and was truly bewildered. Everything in the catalog was such a departure from what I had ever seen offered for children before. Something deeply resonated within me on those pages. When I got home I started to dig deeper online. It was then that I first came across Waldorf Education. It couldn’t have been better timing for us either. For months I had become increasingly discontent during my last year of my Master’s in Teaching program. While I loved learning about children, I was very disheartened by what was being done in practice in our schools and by society- which seemed to contradict all of what we had been learning for the past two years. And I did not want that for my children.
Over the next few weeks I devoured books and articles on Waldorf. I found a thriving online community of other mothers who discovered Waldorf. I had finally found a cohesive parenting voice that I had been trying to gather on my own to no avail. Waldorf gave my mothering, home life, and teaching direction that I had been searching for since the birth of my first child three years earlier. I felt at peace.
Transforming Our Home and Home Life
Since I discovered Waldorf when my children were three and almost one years old, my husband and I had already had a way of life and home in place. The journey that led me to Waldorf had already been one of discontent and seeking a different way than what I had seen around me. I had tried to embrace Baby Einstein and Little People, but it never felt right for us. As I looked around my home with new eyes, I knew we needed a change but it was daunting and a bit scary. It meant taking a new reality that was in my heart and mind, and putting it visibly into practice in our home and lives- which could invite more outside scrutiny. It meant making hard decisions to part with possessions and gifts. It meant reassessing everything and possibly offending others who did things differently than we did now. It also meant a bit a sacrifice and having less in the eyes of the world- but truly gaining so much more.
Toys and the Playroom
One of the things that initially drew me to Waldorf was it’s beauty and their toys. As our journey has progressed we’ve come to love Waldorf for more than the fluff, but it ascetics still resonate deeply within us for good reason. Children, and I would even argue adults as well, need beautiful and soothing environments to unfold in. Since Waldorf is centered on nurturing the whole child, it was important that we work on our home life and environment.
I began a process of looking at all of our possessions, not just the children’s toys. We, up to this point, had lots of plastic toys. Tons of little people playsets, electronic learning toys, hard plastic dolls, the whole nine yards. Before our upcoming move, I went through our playroom and got rid of ALL of our plastic toys. All of them. It was painful. I saw as a donated and sold many of our sets the money I had spent on these things. I felt guilty. I also felt silly for spending so much time, energy, and money on all of that junk- most of which my children never played with! I asked myself these questions with each toy I came across, “Is it beautiful? Do I even like this? Do we need this? Can this be played with in more than one way? Was this made sustainably or ethically?”
We kept very few toys. I was worried that my children would be upset or be missing out. But much to my surprise they did not ask about the old toys. They mostly did not seem to notice. They also began to play more and for longer periods of time. I also began making them new toys which they treasured. They were very intrigued by mommy making things- since up to that point I had never knitted or done any sort of wood working!
I let family know about our preferences and why we were doing things differently now. Many of them respected that. Some did not. I came to a good compromise that if a plaything did not fit our homelike, that it would either be returned, donated, or it could live at their house and not ours. I am happy to say after 3 years of this approach our holidays go very well. I also taught my children why we don’t do plastic at home and they don’t ask for it to come in anymore either. Instead of giving lots of gifts at holidays we try to get one big gift that all the children will love and one smaller homemade gift for each child.
I did not just stop with their toys, I went through the whole house. I reassessed all possessions. I parted with many of mine. We phased out plastic in the kitchen. We did with less. Life became lighter and simpler. But it was still tough. I went through my clothes and we adopted new buying habits with all of our things. I asked many of the same questions when it came to our clothes and household items, “Is it beautiful? Do I like this? Do we need this? Was this made sustainably or ethically?” I also rearranged our rooms so that all spaces were well used and inviting to the children. We has a dining room that we hardly ever used and it became our school room. It was one of the best decisions I made!
We started cloth diapering, homeschooling, and raising some of our own animals for food . I learned to knit, sew, quilt, and do some woodworking. I let the kids play in the mud and rain. Craig became a composting fiend. We began to eat healthier, do with less, and make more of our own things from jam to laundry detergent. The kids stopped watching TV at home and my husband and I began to watch much less- and we got rid of cable. We adjusted our perception of more is better in regards to not only the children but ourselves and began on a path on being contented with what we have and having less. We stopped feeling as if we and the kids must keep up with and beat the Joneses. I said no to more activities and yes letting my children just be kids. We bowed our of the race altogether.
Everything in our lives came together. I had more free time that wasn’t being consumed by so much stuff. Our child rearing, teaching, eating, living, and doing synced all under the umbrella of Waldorf. Instead of our home life feeling like a guilty disjointed race, it began to ebb and flow peacefully from one stage to the next.
Waldorf gave practical ease and direction to our lives, but more importantly it also gave me my voice as a mother and as an educator. The confidence and validation that it has given me is immeasurable. The uneasiness that I experienced for so many years before of what society was telling me and what my heart felt was validated . It never felt’ right’ to let the babies watch a DVD. It never felt right to put them into preschool for socialization. All of what I spent six years studying was confirmed. My intuition was spot on and my uneasiness was warranted. And for that I am so very grateful to Waldorf.
No matter where you are on your Waldorf journey, you can cultivate a Waldorf home. It will and should look different for each family. Big or small changes, you know best where your family is and what is right at which time. While the ways in which I went about some change was drastic, as with our toys, others took time- like phasing out all TV and introducing a strong rhythm. There are also stages in life where things change and that’s OK too. There is no need to let guilt eat you up and make you feel like you’re not Waldorf enough. When I was pregnant with my third child and suffering from severe hyperemesis, my little ones watched more TV than I would have liked. But once I was better, we happily readjusted. I hope this empowers you to begin or continue cultivating a Waldorf home. It is never too late to start and I haven’t missed our old way of life yet. In fact, I am enjoying my life more fully than I ever thought possible.
Thank you for this wonderful article, Nicole. Your Waldorf journey is so similar to ours. Reading how you first found out about Waldorf education brought tears to my eyes as it was that same feeling of hope that resonated though my own soul on the day I discovered it too. You have created a beautiful life for your family.
Nicole writes a fantastic blog called Doting on Deirdre… full of Waldorf crafts, sweet stories and meaningful advice… check it out.
If you want more information on Waldorf Education, please visit my Waldorf Page and all the other super articles in the Discovering Waldorf Series.
Blessings and magic,