Waldorf, of Waldorf Education was developed in Germany in the early 20th century by Rudolph Stiener. If you’re super interested in the finer details of all of it, I encourage you to google it. It’s a little controversial. It has been called a cult, and some people seem to think that the schools are indoctrinating families. I don’t know about all that, it seems pretty easy to take what you like about it and leave the rest if it doesn’t suit you. I never once felt that cultish vibe in the three years my daughter attended preschool at the local Waldorf school.
Without getting into the whole history, which I will totally get wrong, I will simply tell you what elements of my homeschool classroom make it “Waldorf” education. I am not at all a certified Waldorf teacher. I am a preschool teacher, but that’s all. So here we go:
Natural Materials Waldorf Education stresses the use of simple, natural materials. Silk, wool, beeswax, cotton, wood, stone, etc. While my kids do have some plastic toys and some cartoon character stuff, the items we use when it is school time are as natural as I can afford. I make many of them, or get them at thrift stores. The big photo at the top is our Nature Table. It’s a small, seasonally themed table that is at child height. I put items on this table that summarize the season, so, a fall colored gnome, wooden horses, fall leaves in a vase ( these are fake, I have kittens!) a fall colored silk that my daughter made, a pumpkin, a wool bunny, an apple.
Simplicity I don’t have letter posters or numbers or sight words plastered in our learning space. I don’t have 6400 colors of crayons. There is no desk. Just our family table. We use 3-4 colors to do seasonal art. We tell stories or play them out with figurines more often than we read lots of books. ( We do also read books together). We make simple things with our hands like rolling candles, and later we will finger knit. We chop vegetables and water plants and fold napkins to develop the hand strength we will need for writing later on. I do simple themed illustrations with hidden items to signal the letters and sounds we are learning. Here is the drawing I did for fall, harvest, and the letter B. Can you spot B?
Outdoor is our classroom We spend most of our time outside. We go on hikes and play outdoors a lot more than other schools. Outdoor science, like dandelion elastic, rotting tree stumps, fall leaf collection, that is our lesson. We count chickens, we look for things that start with the letter of the week, like Barn and Boat, and Boy and Berries.
So in what ways is it not Waldorf? Well, we do allow small amounts of educational television. We do allow things like Hello Kitty. We do use more than a 2 colors in our artwork. We do read to the kids from books. Those things are not part of a traditional Waldorf kindergarten. But I’m doing what works for us all.