Discovering Waldorf - 'Traditional School :: Waldorf Home'. - The Magic Onions

Discovering Waldorf – ‘Traditional School :: Waldorf Home’.

When I rediscovered Waldorf education a few years ago, I scoured the internet for anything on Waldorf. Lucky for me, I found Dawn’s wonderful blog, Renaissance Mama. At that time Dawn home schooled her children following a Waldorf curriculum. Renaissance Mama was all about how she did it. It was packed full of Waldorf ideas and philosophies and I instantly fell in love with her gentle, confident approach to educating her children. I devoured everything she wrote and learnt so much from her.

Recently, she and her family moved to a new place and, after careful deliberation, Dawn and her husband decided not to continue homeschooling but send their two children to the local public school instead.
I know that there are so many of us who love ‘the Waldorf way’ but, for many different reasons, cannot send our children to Waldorf schools. A recurring question I have been asked is how to integrate Waldorf philosophies into our lives even with our children in mainstream education. Is Waldorf an all or nothing endeavor? It is my opinion that it does not have to be… purist Waldorf, yes. But many of the Waldorf philosophies and ideas can be followed in the home. A Waldorf home environment can compliment traditional schooling to the benefit of your children.
Lucky us! Dawn, who comes from a strong Waldorf background, has agreed to share with us how she keeps her home Wadorf inspired, while her children attend public school.
* * *
Traditional School :: Waldorf Home.

My children attend public school but our home life is influenced by the Waldorf philosophy. For me, this means that I make an intentional daily effort to address the needs of the whole child…the head, the heart, and the hands.

The head or the intellectual domain encompasses what one might call academics. My kids are now in a traditional mainstream public school that doesn’t do things “the Waldorf way”. It might not be my first choice, but that’s fine. They’re still learning, and their primary influence is still coming from home. My husband and I hold the ultimate responsibility for our kid’s education, but we’ve delegated that authority during the time they’re in school to their teachers. We’ll support their teachers in every way possible to help them do their best. This means for example, that I’m helping my kindergarten son learn to read each evening, even though this goes against traditional Waldorf pedagogy. Since much of their school day is spent in the head, I want to balance this with time at home focusing more on the needs of the heart and hands.

Obviously, learning doesn’t stop as soon as school lets out. Questions are asked and curious minds want to know! Particularly when it comes to how the natural world works. I try to keep explanations developmentally appropriate and simple. A detailed scientific explanation of how the seasons work is not appropriate when a six year asks, for example, why it gets dark so early in the winter. That’s why books that explain the natural world in a whimsical, fun way, such as Mother Earth and Her Children, the Tales of Tiptoes Lightly, and many of Elsa Beskow’s books are read frequently in many Waldorf homes, mine included.

The heart is where I see the three R’s playing an important role. These are a different three R’s….relationships, rhythm, and reverence. One way that we try to nourish relationships in our home is to simply spend lots of time together. We guard our schedules carefully in order to make plenty of space for each other. The hours that I do have with my children at home are precious. That’s one reason we don’t have a television. The kids do watch DVD’s on the computer, but coming home from school and flipping through the channels out of boredom is not an option. Boredom can be a wonderful gift, prompting the most creative, focused, meaningful play. It also opens the door to bickering among siblings on occasion. These are the times that I’m most tempted to get a TV, but again, here’s an opportunity to work on relationships!
An established rhythm to our days is vital to the successful functioning of our household, it provides security and predictability. But this was wonderfully addressed in another Discovering Waldorf post so I’ll move along.
Reverence means honor or respect shown. I try to bring a sense of reverence into our home by setting apart certain times of the day with ritual. A candle lit at dinnertime, prayers said before bed, the same “I love you” hand gesture given each time before we part, “mandatory” snuggles on the couch every morning before breakfast; these are little ways to recognize and bring honor to each other and to our creator, and to address the needs of the heart. A book that has helped me in simplifying my home life in order to make room for these three R’s, is called
Simplicity Parenting. It’s written from a Waldorf perspective, but it doesn’t seem to assume that you are sending your kids to Waldorf school, something I found helpful.
The hands, or physical activity is where I would place activities such handwork/crafts, gardening, housework, cooking, and active play. All these activities have a place in a Waldorf home. Varied practical and artistic abilities are all important in producing well rounded individuals. With my kids in public school and gone for much of the day, I’m finding that I can’t leave time for these things to chance. I have to plan ahead, and take advantage of school vacation days, weekends, and evenings. It’s helpful to have art supplies set out and readily available at all times. Chores are important! Plenty of time for unstructured, free play is an invaluable gift.
Valentines exchange at school…an opportunity to pull out the watercolors.

The needs of the head, the hands, and the heart can not really be separated as simply as I have done for the purpose of this post, they’re all interconnected. I find that when things feel a little off, in our home life, it’s often because these needs are not balanced. For varied reasons, many of us cannot provide our children with full time Waldorf education, but that does not mean that we cannot benefit from applying helpful aspects of the philosophy into our home lives. Keeping a focus on balancing the needs of the head, heart, and hands is a good place to start if you want bring a Waldorf influence into your daily life.

* * *
Thank you for sharing your perspective on this very common struggle, Dawn, and showing us that traditional schooling can coexist with a Waldorf home. In your words, ‘I make an intentional daily effort to address the needs of the whole child…the head, the heart, and the hands… Since much of their school day is spent in the head, I want to balance this with time at home focusing more on the needs of the heart and hands.’ Simplified beautifully!
For more of Dawn’s wonderful wisdom, visit her blog, Renaissance Mama… you will be returning again and again for a dose of her gentle confidence.
Thank you, Dawn… blessings and magic to you.
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Donni Webber is the mom behind the popular natural living Waldorf website and blog, The Magic Onions - where the magic of nature and the wonder of childhood collide to make each moment a precious gift. She is a photographer, writer, crafter, wife and mother of two inspiring young children. Her work has been featured in many popular publications, including HGTV, Better Homes and Gardens, Disney and Apartment Therapy.

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  1. What a lovely post. My daughter is graduating from Waldorf this spring and will be attending a public high school. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I will help her find the balance of head, heart, hands when she enters what I know will be an incredibly heady, competitive environment.

  2. Thank you SO much for this post! As a working mommy (I am a professor at a nearby university) I feel like we have found a wonderful balance while sending our kids to public school and “homeschooling” during OUR time with them. It is also helpful that I have summers off to spend nurturing my girls. So many blogs make me feel guilty for my choice of public school and career…I appreciate that you’ve sought to meet the needs of those of us who use waldorf at home to balance our children’s lives.

  3. Thank you very much for your posting.
    I never homeschooled our children, they are in public schools from K (and preschool before), but we do a lot of enrichment at home, with ideas from homeschooling and Walddorf way (sometimes) to balance school out.
    And I love Kirkland, we almost moved there, but my husband decided against it, unfortunately.

  4. Thank you for this post. We too put two of our three children that are still at home into PS this year. I am doing some kindy with my 5yo, but we are constantly trying to keep our waldorf-inspired home alive:-)

  5. Thank you for the great post! We are a Waldorf family and have also made the difficult decision to send our son to the local traditional school next year. This was a very hard decision for me/us to make as I feel very strongly about the Waldorf pedagogy and our son has enjoyed his Waldorf School immensely. It has just become clear to us that our Waldorf School cannot give our son the additional support that he needs. It is our intention to keep the philosophy alive in our home and in our hearts :)

  6. When my children were young they went to a Waldorf school, then we moved deep into the country, so they had to attend a local small public school,so I had to influence the home with love and light . the Steiner way. When my daughter was older she could take the long bus ride to the school. She got up at 6 and returned at 5, she did this for 6 years, and loved the rhythm it gave her, and the Waldorf school. She is now 19 and about to leave the nest. cheers Marie

  7. This was a lovely post. I am almost at the end of Simplicity Parenting and I am reading it really slowly as I don’t want to come to the end. Thank goodness there are blogs like these to inspire.

  8. Thanks very much for this post,
    Now my children attending public school because my husband and me are foreign and we wish our children have a good English.
    In my country they attended Montessori and Waldorf schools.
    Now at home We intesively expend our time together learning our language, culture, history, traditions, etc.. using as a tool all I’m learning from books and blogs waldorf-inpired.
    My boys can read, speaks and write fluid in two languages ….
    In the future we do not what we will do, for the moment seems this dual education to be working…

  9. thank you, Dawn! wonderful words!

  10. Aww…that was very sweet. I obviously identify deeply with this topic since my kids are a combination of public, charter and Montessori schooled, but we are a Waldorf-inspired home. Dawn is such an amazing mama! ;)

  11. I don’t think I can fully express my gratitude for this post…and even more for the comments that let me know there are lots of people out there who share my ideas. My children have always attended PS, but I have tried to keep a peaceful home, heavily influenced by Waldorf philosophy.

  12. We are lucky enough to be able to send our children to a Waldorf school, but I love to hear more and more people Waldorf “after schooling.” Good work on balancing home with school.

  13. I’m so enjoying this series. Thanks for another great post. I find always inspiring to have a window into how other people apply the Waldorf philosophy in their home life. Dawn is truly amazing.

  14. Thank you…another fascinating look at Waldorf, Donni. I liked reading how Dawn is balancing mind, heart and hands. Fortunately, our boy is getting a wonderful education at a school with very strong arts, but she made me think about how I use after-school time. My primary goal is to provide outdoor playtime for my boy every day unless the weather is terrible. We try to be outside for at least an hour, even if I have to dress like an Inuit to make it possible. But once at home, I am tempted to check my computer. I am trying to discipline myself to use it only when my son is at school or in bed. I would like to know how other parents balance their blog time and family time. Blogging is time-consuming and can be very creative, but if you are using your computer you are probably ignoring the children. I like the way Dawn is putting out art materials and treating this time as something very precious, as it is. Beth

  15. Another great post, and very interesting to me – I’m fairly new to Waldorf and very taken with the teachings, but my son is, and has always been in a traditional school, so I am currently wrestling with the dilemma as to whether to remove him to a Waldorf school, or leave him where he is settled. It was good to read of a conventional schooling/waldorf home and to hear of others too doing this, as it might be our way forward.
    Beth – I strictly limit myself to one hours computer time in the day, which used to be when my younger daughter was napping, and is now time when she knows to play independently and quietly (my son is in school at this point). The rest of the day it’s off, until the children are in bed. It’s hard some days as there is so much I would love to be doing, but if I’m going to make the children go TV free, I figure I should model that behaviour too. Interested to hear what others do though…

  16. Great, thought provoking comments… Thank you!

    Julie… put that way, I have a lot of work to do with my screen time – you are so right… if I expect my children to have little TV, I have to model it with little computer time. Thanks for making me see that I have to change my ways!
    Blessings and magic.

  17. I know this is an old post but I just found it. It seems quite timely. We are deciding between ps and waldorf for our first born. The ps school is so close we can see it from our front door step, my child will be able to come home for lunch, walk to school and of course there are no fees. The waldorf school is quite the drive away and with twin younger siblings dressing them up and getting there seems to be wasteful of both gas and time together. I find this post very inspiring and thought provoking. Thanks!

  18. Anonymous says:

    We’re doing the same thing a didn’t even know it!
    (OK, we kind of knew it).
    No TV, tons of free creative play time, music and when they don’t want to read (always a struggle with traditional schools) we read to them.
    Often it poetry. Who can fault us if we read them Yeats?

    Thank you for writing this, I have a feeling my wife and I will devour all of your posts.


  19. We’re doing this (I’m divorced and the kids father used Waldorf education and homeschooling against me in the custody case).

    Things we do to support a developmentally appropriate nurturing environment:

    No television for any of us – we model a purposeful life and free time is spent reading, doing crafts, making art, and making music, a bedtime that allows them 12 hours before they have to leave for school, limitted after school classes (one out of school class per season – they have chosen dance and theatre).

    I held my summer baby back a year so he started kindergarten right after he turned 6 – kindergarten here is what I remember 1st grade being like!

    Lots of out of doors time. A strong family life rhythm through the week and seasons based on chores, family meals, blessings and prayers, and observance of the seasons.

    We also made a decision that with our children it made more sense to do daily homework in the morning before school rather than having them carry any conflicts about it into sleep.

    We also chose a community with a very small public school and a staff with minimal turnover.

    My kids are in 12th grade, 5th grade and kindergarten, and a 3 yr old waiting in the wings, and while it was an adjustment from our waldorf inspired unschooling lifestyle before, it’s working wonderfully for everyone now

  20. Hi! Do you know if Renaissance Mama is still blogging? The link is no longer there to her blog. I know it has been a while.

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