Waldorf education seeks to do things differently, treating the kingdom of childhood as sacred and recognizing that each child is an individual all the while endeavouring to educate children in a way that works for that individuality.
A WISE OLD OWL
A wise old owl sat in an oak,
The more he heard, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard;
Why aren’t we all like that wise old bird.
-Traditional Mother Goose Rhyme
I do not profess to be wise (nor old!), but as I head into my ninth year of Waldorf homeschooling, the sentiment of this rhyme resonates with me more and more. I used to feel as if I had pat and succinct answers for the questions families asked regarding Waldorf Education. I could talk about the work of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, and his work into looking at the development of the spiritual human being throughout the lifespan. I could talk about how Waldorf Education was a holistic method of education that Rudolf Steiner helped to develop in order to address the head, heart and hands of the child. I could talk about the eight artistic pillars of Waldorf education that works to develop the capacities of the child in a holistic manner that incorporates the art of speech, drama, drawing, painting, modeling, singing and musical instruments, movement, and handwork.
I think once upon a time, if you had asked me why our family had chosen Waldorf homeschooling, I think I would have talked to you about the advantages of Waldorf homeschooling over a school setting. I think I would have talked about the appropriateness of the Waldorf curriculum for the holistic development of the child, and the academic rigor and well-roundedness that this curriculum could bring. I think today, after homeschooling our oldest child kindergarten years and now entering eighth grade, and homeschooling our middle child kindergarten years and now entering fifth grade, and with our youngest child getting ready to embark on one final kindergarten year, I would tell you that the root of Waldorf homeschooling is love.
It is not the pink bubble of kindergarten with the gnomes and fairies and goodness and reverence, although that is beautiful as well. It is not the feeling life of children in the grades, and the opportunity to present to them the beauty and love that is in the world, although that is wonderful as well. It is not the careful cultivation of truth and a feeling that the world can be met with courage and dignity for our teenager, although I am completely honored to be a part of that process.
No, I would tell you that the root of the Waldorf curriculum is love.
It can sound paradoxical when one hears that Waldorf Education is teacher-led, yet meets the child’s needs. It can sound oppositional to say that the Waldorf curriculum covers the archetypal journey of the human being, of all human beings, yet is completely about the individual child standing right in front of the parent-teacher. How can one work with these polarities? It is through the rich love of the parent. Love becomes the intermediary between these things, and crafts a curriculum in the home based upon who and what the parent is themselves. It calls for a rich inner spiritual life of the parent to teach.
So, I would say that the Waldorf curriculum is first and foremost about love. We teach our children so that in the end they will love and serve all of humanity with a sense of responsibility. They will be able to give and receive love. They will be a positive force in the world. These are the forces of the heart that stream through Waldorf Education.