what is waldorf homeschooling?

Kids Don't Need Socialization, Kids Need Belonging

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Teaching always has been, and I hope will always remain, an intensely human endeavor. We become what we teach and we teach what we are.
— Practical Advice to Teachers, Rudolf Steiner

Across the United States families are planning summer activities and travel, but for many like me, their mind is pointed towards next fall and contemplating homeschooling their children. They search online in groups asking strangers questions and hoping to find the answer to their own very personal query.

  • Should we homeschool?
  • Can I homeschool my kids and work?
  • Can I really teach my own kids?
  • Is homeschooling better for my sensitive child?
  • Will my children have friends?
  • Will they belong?
  • Will I?

Those last questions were on my mind as I spoke to a friend a couple of weeks ago. As working mothers who direct their children’s education, we did not come to homeschooling from a calling per se, but instead because we wanted our children to be able to follow their individual needs. As we spoke about summer travel plans of camps and activities, our conversation turned to one about belonging. Before we knew it, we were asking how do we help our children find their tribe? How do we help them know they belong? How do we? Is that important?

Parents who homeschool are fiercely independent, otherwise, we would not ever consider this as an option. As women with work we love, we also feel the tug of doubt. The little voice that says 'sure they are academically strong, good humans, and creative beings' but what about community and friendships, do they belong?

We did not realize that was the question we were trying to answer, with our cooperative learning days and classes, but there it is right out in the open. How can we help our children feel a part of a community?

Next fall will be our third homeschooling year and fourth grade for our sons. I remember being a teacher and looking forward to that last day of school, but as a homeschooling parent, I am looking for guidance as the boys change and so do their educational needs for the coming year. I am also looking for a place for our family to belong.

To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.
— Simone Weil

It gave me peace of mind to look forward to planning another homeschool year. School as a Journey, An Eight-Year Odyssey of a Waldorf Teacher by Torin M. Finser is a well-loved book by many Waldorf teachers, but as a parent directing our children’s education, I find that it answers many questions. We get a rare look from a Waldorf class teacher as the author shares his innermost thoughts as he too contemplates teaching from year to year. As a parent and a teacher, it inspires me into another year of watching my children grow and learn.

He talks about playing games with the children, and memories of long games of kick the can with neighborhood kids ran through my mind. That one friend at the end of my street was my first and lasting friend. All of these years later, we still check in from time to time by phone and meet for coffee when I visit my family.

In School as a Journey, Torin Finser walks you through his journey as a Waldorf class teacher, but more importantly for me, I start to see how being a Waldorf parent is a place to belong for me and my children. It allows you to see education as a meaningful path of development for your family rather than a list of things to learn. It is a community where you belong.

This first-hand account is part practical advice and inspiration from one educator to another, while he worked to provide teaching that would help children grow intellectually but also grow their inner life through creative teaching. The practice that Waldorf teacher’s stay with their class for eight years is a way to witness the inner and outer changes in human development. It also provides children with a sense of belonging.

They entered the room with greater certainty and confidence, assured of a place in the world.
— Torin M. Finser, School as a Journey

The book provides actionable suggestions with a chapter on each grade level that gives the reader an overview of the goals and content of each year. It also shares the why of the content that is missing in so many books about teaching. This book helped me dive into another season of planning while I watch the two people in the world that my husband and I love most deeply bloom, change, and discover who they are and that yes, they do belong.

School as a Journey, an Eight Year Odyssey, by Torin M. Finser, is available from Steiner Books. It is a book, you will go back to from year to year in your Waldorf homeschool journey, to find your common ground and inspire you into another year of discovery. Get your copy from Steiner Books today.

Practical Training in Thought

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The revolutionary ideas that come to education in the future will come from the hoards of parents leading the experimental movement called homeschooling. 

I am reading a new book that was sent by Steiner Books, one that a few sentences into the first chapter, I said: “oh my…”. 

Books are my favorite way to learn of new ideas, and consider them against my own beliefs and experiences. 

This book had an energy to it. I knew I would want to share it but not in the physical sense - get your own! This one will be on my bookshelf to share with my kids.

I consider books an asset of ideas to pass down to my kids. What if you had a personal collection of books, and notes to tell your kids how it changed your thinking? A hope chest or bottom drawer of ideas to consider has been whirling in my mind for a while now. A physical collection of ideas to consider as they make their way in the world. 

My father was a reader; he loved a good crime novel or book of history. We traded books often when we lived nearby, and later in life when I moved out of state and Amazon became my gift (book) delivery service, I would send him books I thought he would enjoy. 

Home library collections can show the journey of discovery over our lifespan. 

As families dive into the possibility of directing their child’s education, Waldorf education is likely to come into view. As I began searching for methods to consider with my children, the healing power of sunlight diffused rooms, natural materials, beautiful chalk drawings drew me in without even as much as a small understanding of Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy on education. It just felt right.

How many things in our lives just feel right?

The book I chose for my first read was Anthroposophy in Everyday Life: Four Lectures by Rudolf Steiner published by Steiner Books. The book drew me in from the introduction. 

“we find their so-called “practical thought” is often not thought at all but only continuing pursuit of traditional opinions and habits.” Rudolf Steiner

As parents dive into the world of home education, they will find themselves in a sea of opinions and habits of others. Without realizing it, we look to authorities to see our way, not governmental authorities necessarily, but rather individuals that have become an expert in homeschooling. 

I would venture to say there is no such thing. 

We need thought leaders and visionaries to share ideas without authority, much like our hope chest of ideas to consider. I believe in my small understanding of Steiner; he gave indications for learning which is what will bring the revolution needed in education. As a visionary, his thinking was years ahead of others, but it is time we begin to unwrap his thoughtful gifts for the well-being of our children and theirs.

My initial thoughts on Practical Training in Thought Karlsruhe, January 18,1909.

If we embarked on this journey of directing our children’s education through homeschooling to help them retain and discover who they are and what their journey through life will bring to the world, then Practical Training in Thought is an essential foundational skill.    

" When something really practical has been invented, it has often been done by a person without practical knowledge of that particular subject." R.S. 

This statement confirms what millions of parents are doing worldwide for their children by directing their education. The innovations of business, science, the arts, and design thinking are coming together in pursuit of a vibrant, safe education for our children. 

Training your thought begins with practicing in nature. It is something I do without even thinking, but Steiner's words remind me that we must practice objective thinking and nature allows us the perfect connection.

I don't want to ruin the experience for you by telling you every detail, but take a moment each day and look up at the sky. Don't try to define the type of clouds or predict the weather, just observe and you are well on your way to training your thinking mind.

I will share more of my impressions from Anthroposophy in Everyday Life: Four Lectures by Rudolf Steiner by Steiner Books, but why wait? Order your copy and read along with me.