waldorf homeschooling

Finding Inner Security

“Knowledge in respect of the human self — that is, self-knowledge — is one of the means of ensuring inner security and our true alignment in the order of life's development. The impulse to self-knowledge is found in every soul; it may be more or less unconscious, but it is always present. It may vent itself in quite indefinite feelings which, welling up from the depths of the soul, create an impression of dissatisfaction with life. Such feelings are often wrongly explained, and their alleviation sought in the outer circumstances of life. Though we are often unconscious of its nature, fear of these feelings obsesses us. If we could overcome this anxiety we should realize that no external measures, but only a thorough knowledge of the human being, can prove helpful. But this thorough knowledge requires that we should really feel the resistance of the two obstacles which human knowledge is liable to encounter when it would enter more deeply into the knowledge of the human being. They consist of two illusions, towering as two cliffs, between which we cannot advance in our pursuit of knowledge until we have experienced their true nature.” - Rudolf Steiner, Stuttgart in 1908, CW 35

I found this quote after my weekly talk with Christopher Bamford. I shared that six years ago my husband and I downsized into a family life where we all could be together and be ourselves, a life that feels like a favorite pair of jeans.

We opted out of Kindergarten with our boys to explore the world of homeschooling in 2014. We began with the support of the Treehouse Learning Community, a Waldorf-inspired class for homeschoolers in Georgetown, Texas and found a group of families who celebrated the freedom to guide their children according to their needs and to nurture them through nature, storytelling, and the arts.

We did not know why handcrafts and storytelling were so crucial in nurturing the spirit and minds of children. We did not realize that homeschooling with the indications of Rudolf Steiner nurtures the entire family.

We found a subtle gift that weaves into your life with new rhythms and seasonal festivals. We found a philosophy of life that allows each parent to take the ideas into their mind and spirit and decide for themselves what that means to them. It is never imposing, but rather encouraging and enriching in so many aspects of your life.

It changed how we see education.

We are still homeschooling, although earlier this year my husband took responsibility for the daily lessons. The boys are learning that to be guided in learning by someone that loves you and loves the subject matter has the most significant effect on your success. They are excited to share their latest math discovery or a tale of the middle ages. After a long spring Saturday outside, running from backyard to backyard with friends, they are ready to come in and share their new kitchen skills and their latest recipe - pad thai anyone?

“The soul has a natural trust in thinking. It feels that it would inevitably lose all certainty in life if it were unable to have this trust. Healthy soul life ceases when doubt in thinking begins.” - Rudolf Steiner, The Threshold of the Spiritual World: Aphoristic Contemplations (CW 17), Chadwick Library Edition

Our children come to us to teach us that to be happy, truly happy, we must pursue our self- knowledge to experience our true nature and push away the noisy modern world of doubt. It is they who show us that we once had that natural connection to certainty and will bring us by the hand back to ourselves.

The Task of Education is Connected with the Development of Humanity

Now that I am at the beginning of what I actually want to dis-

cuss about education, you can see that I do not wish to begin

with some theoretical discussion, but rather with a feeling. We

cannot begin with a pedagogy of rules, but with a feeling. We

must feel that the content of the human soul has been given to

those who are to teach and educate young people. It is healthy to

feel within ourselves the future of humanity. That is the proper

starting point, not whether we know one thing or another, but

when we feel that the entire task of education is connected with

the development of humanity. - Rudolf Steiner


The beauty of the educational ideals espoused by Rudolf Steiner can be seen in his reverence for human development. He crafted his lectures and shared his indications for an educational model that is responsive to the needs of children and the world in which they live.

As I read Steiner’s lectures, I am encouraged to read and then think about how those words can change the way I feel about the children I am guiding as a parent. It must begin with the sense of feeling if we are to support the development of future generations. I encourage you as teachers, parents, grandparents, and community members to read Steiner’s words on education and then allow them to transform your individual gifts as a guiding force in your communities.

Kathy Donchak


THE TEACHER AS SCULPTOR OF THE HUMAN SOUL

Rudolf Steiner

Basel, April 23, 1920

Everything depends upon your working inwardly with what such books or lectures offer as a thread. - Rudolf Steiner

Up to now I have tried to show how we can approach the human being from the outside. Today I would like to approach our task from the other side, from the side of inner experience. Through this way of considering things—the way of science in the future—the human being becomes transparent from the outside. In a sense, this kind of consideration of the human being, of the activities of the organs and all of human nature, can lead us to discover a person’s inner experiences, what he or she experiences as thinking, feeling, and willing. The commonly held perspective confronts us with a dark, impenetrable, incomprehensible being.

At the same time, we are concerned with more or less abstract inner experiences of thinking, feeling, and willing that we cannot perceive or feel concretely. We have seen that the human being has three aspects: thinking, feeling, and willing. Let us look at these three aspects from within. We will soon see how the inner and outer paths of consideration are connected. The content of thoughts is essentially very abstract. As teachers, we cannot approach the developing human being through these thoughts. In a certain sense, there is an impenetrable wall between us. That wall exists in social life and brings us many social problems. It also exists in areas such as teaching and education.

Through the scientific materialism that has taken over all our thinking and, to an extent, our feeling, everything we have to say about the soul or spirit has slowly become empty words. We cannot work out of empty words. We can find no relationship to other adults through empty words, nor can we find a relationship to children through them. We need to move forward to reality. We cannot encounter reality if we have only the abstract intellectual reasoning that modern science has implanted in us. We do, however, come to the spirit through this reasoning. The entire content of reasoning within our intellectually oriented education is spirit, but it is a filtered spirit. It is a spirit that in a way cannot break out of its own confines, which cannot experience itself as real content, and thus remains brutal. This spirit controls our lives. This spirit penetrates nothing; it is a spirit that in art creates only the external form instead of developing the form out of the material itself. It is a spirit that wants to force itself upon the external social relationships connected with the shape of human society instead of developing those relationships directly from living human beings. We can arrive at a very different position in regard to the spirit if we hold to what spiritual science can give us. The way spiritual science approaches things is much more important than its actual content. If you stay with what is knowledge today, you will find that it simply reflects what already exists. That is how we have arrived at a kind of naturalism that only recreates the external world in art, because our understanding does not penetrate beyond the external world; it has no independent content. We move about in a mere copy of the external world. We do not understand how living content can germinate from the human being, since this living content cannot arise from anything other than the spirit. Let us contrast spiritual science and conventional science. When they first hear what spiritual science has to say, many modern people understand it as something silly, a fantasy. Why? Simply because people are not accustomed to hearing in the way that spiritual science speaks. People are accustomed to speaking about the world so that it is possible to compare what is said with what we see, with what the eyes perceive or we perceive in other ways.

Spiritual science presents things to which we cannot find any correspondence in the external world, things we cannot find when we observe only with our senses. It presents things we can understand only when we work out of our own spirit. Of course, what we create comes from a deeper aspect of the world, but we must actually produce that out of the spirit. This creation out of the spirit is important. When we study spiritual science, we do not wait until we encounter a tree or an animal that we can then conceptualize. Instead we form the concept in our inner life. In a moment, we will see some examples of how we create concepts inwardly through spiritual science and how they can become alive in the human being. We can therefore say that our intellectual reasoning has slowly lost all meaning, and that spiritual science gives our reasoning something through which it can regain some content. If you take my book An Outline of Esoteric Science and read it like any other book, you may not understand it. Today, even with art, we ask ourselves where in the world we would find something like it. In dramas and novels, that is, in products of our imagination, we demand that their content can be found in exactly, or nearly exactly, the same way as in the world. You cannot do that with the content of Esoteric Science. You have to do something else, which is why there is so much opposition to spiritual science: people must do something quite different than in modern conventional science or art. You need to carry out an inner activity for each step described by the writer of such a spiritual scientific book. You will gain nothing from reading such a book if you do not produce something from yourself according to the directions in the book. In this way spiritual science runs quite counter to our modern way of thinking. Today people love to attend lectures that present what they are to learn through slides or other perceptible means. People go to movies because they can see something there. They do not value the fact that there are also some words. People want to remain passive; they just want to be people who watch. You will gain nothing from a spiritual-scientific book or lecture if you allow these modern habits to predominate, as spiritual scientific lectures or books contain nothing of that sort. Everything depends upon your working inwardly with what such books or lectures offer as a thread.







Education and the Moral Life

Today we have anthropology and we have psychology.

Anthropology’s main concern is the abstract observation of the

physical aspect of the human being, while that of psychology

is the abstract observation of the human soul and spirit as

entities separate from the physical body. What is missing is the

anthroposophical perspective, which observes the human

being—body, soul, and spirit—as a unity; a point of view that

shows everywhere how and where spirit is flowing into matter,

sending its forces into material counterparts.

- Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy Part 2


Education and the Moral Life

Rudolf Steiner

STUTTGART — MARCH 26, 1923

Everyone involved to any degree at all in social life will certainly feel that the moral aspect is one of the most important aspects in the entire field of education. At the same time, one realizes that it is precisely this aspect that is the most subtle and difficult one to handle, for it relates to the most intimate area of education.

I have already emphasized that educational practice needs to be built on real knowledge of, and insight into, the human being. The comprehension, perception and observation that I tried to characterize last night will give the knowledge necessary to train the child’s cognitional capacities. Practically speaking, knowledge of the human being, supported by the science of the spirit, will enable one to reach, more or less easily, the child’s powers of cognition. One will be able to find one’s way to the child. If, on the other hand, one wishes to appeal to a child’s artistic receptivity as described yesterday, which is equally important, it is necessary to find a way to each child individually, to have a sense for the way various children express themselves from an artistic comprehension of the world. When it comes to moral education, all of one’s skill for sensitive observation and all of one’s intimate psychological interest must be kept in mind, so that all the teacher’s knowledge of the human being and of nature can be put at the service of what each child brings forth individually. To reach children in a moral way, the only choice is to approach each child on an individual basis. However, with regard to moral education, yet another difficulty has to be overcome—that is, an individual’s sense of morality can only be appealed to through full inner freedom and with full inner cooperation.

This requires that educators approach moral teaching so that, when later in life the students have passed the age of formal education, they can feel free as individuals in every respect. What teachers must never do is to pass on to developing students the relics of their own brand of morality or anything derived from personal sympathies or antipathies in the moral realm. We must not be tempted to give our own ethical codes to young people as they make their way into life, since these will leave them unfree when it becomes necessary that they find their own moral impulses. We must respect and acknowledge the young person’s complete inner freedom, particularly in the realm of moral education. Such respect and tolerance truly demand a great deal of selflessness from educators, and a renunciation of any self-interest. Nor is there, as is the case in all other subject matters, the opportunity of treating morality as a subject in its own right; as such, it would be very unfruitful. The moral element must be allowed to pervade all of one’s teaching.

Feel the Nervous Energy of Counterculture and Homeschool Anyways


There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium. It will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

You do not even have to believe in yourself or your works. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive.

— Martha Graham to Agnes De Mille

Rudolf Steiner wrote about Nervousness and I-ness in a short lecture in January 1912. It was his words that drives home what Martha Graham was saying to Agnes De Mille.

It is this “nervousness made up of precisely of the unused potential of the self” that Steiner describes as being without a goal that keeps us spinning in wonderings and wanderings of our inner storyteller that takes such pleasure in making us second guess ourselves. My inner storyteller has been quiet lately as I have clear goals aligned with my mission, but it was not always this way, and I am sure as every trail has forks my inner lizard will rejoin me again.

Self-doubt in the form of nervousness is alive and well in our modern world, but some remedies can help us overcome it. In this lecture, Steiner describes the importance of attention and the essence of the human being through its connection through the world. It is by connecting to the natural world, where we can quiet the inner dialog that distracts us.

Self-doubt is an attention thief. It keeps us from making decisions and trusting our intuitive knowledge. It casts doubt on everything.

Children learn from watching those who care for them. Nervousness is like a virus that is quickly spread. Taking time to connect with yourself through a daily nature practice will help quiet the voices of doubt and build your immunity to the dis-ease of nervousness. It will strengthen your child's immunity to self-doubt too.

You can strengthen your resistance to nervousness by finding practices that require no decision making. Taking a few moments each day to sit and connect with nature in the same spot is a decision. Practicing this decision process builds the muscles while also resting the mind.

All you have to do is sit still, close your eyes, and be with nature. The earth will take care of the rest.

This post originally appeared on Kathy Donchak's personal blog on March 25, 2018.