Defending Oak Meadow

(here is a post from my yahoo group, Waldorf At Home which I wrote about Oak Meadow)
I think there is much to recommend OM and I also have found useful information in reading some of their materials – as I have found useful information from the likes of Charlotte Mason, John Holt and Maria Montessori.
But being holistic and respecting the child, while being characteristic of Waldorf are not solely hallmarks of Waldorf – the same characteristics could be said to be hallmarks of the educational philosophies founded by the people I mention above. But Montessori, CM and unschooling, whilst all sharing a few characteristics with Waldorf are, at essence, planets away. And this is not (necessarily!! – grin!) a value judgment – it is a statement of fact in terms of the grounding of these educational approaches and their very different foundational cores.

Likewise, OM, although founded by Waldorf teachers – and so having a few small things in common with Waldorf – is not, at essence, Waldorf.  And despite some people’s reluctance to define Waldorf out of fear of perhaps sounding dogmatic, it is entirely possible to  say "what is Waldorf"! One can easily identify things about Waldorf pedagogy which are clearly discernible and which do not feature in Oak Meadow.

Again – this does not mean that by using OM someone forever loses any karmic Waldorf cred they might have ever had or might ever earn in future!! I , for one, have used all sorts of things – and adapted them as I see fit. One could imagine a model Waldorf homeschooler (you all do realize I’m being playful here I hope!!) who uses no Waldorf curric of any shape or kind! She might be able, out of her own relationship to anthroposophy and to Waldorf to be able to create a wonderful Waldorf homeschool for her children! So it’s not the materials themselves, necessarily, which determine whether one is really working deeply – or at all – with Waldorf.  In all my publications I repeatedly stress where I think things from Waldorf might or might not be easily adapted at home and give suggestions for how one might do that.  And I often suggest materials that are not Waldorf in the slightest.  Further, I also list OM as a possible resource for people to use so that they can truly create the homeschool they want.

So for me, this is not a matter of purity – it is a matter of clarity. For instance: OM  use form drawing, but do not put it into a proper context (which could only be done with a clear explanation of Waldorf pedagogy). One is therefore left with a very shallow and misleading relationship to this therapeutic art. Again, in the kindergarten book there is a paragraph where Steiner is actually mentioned – but misleadingly so, leaving one with the impression that he advocated teaching letters in kindergarten!So there are these fragments of Waldorf  – but no summary of their relationship to Waldorf is printed in the books or in their catalogue so parents who are looking for Waldorf buy OM thinking they have found it. This is what I have a problem with. If parents buy and use OM because they like it, because it’s right for them – and know that it’s not Waldorf but that’s fine with them – then that’s wonderful!

So for me the point is not "Is OM a holistic curric?" or not – it clearly, in its own way, is. And that’s fine. But it has this unclear relationship to Waldorf which is not explained – and although one might be able to find articles like the one posted on their web site which give something of their background, there is no clarity about this either in their catalog or in the books themselves – or at least not the many volumes from the grades which I have looked at. And for me the problem is that parents are left thinking that OM is a Waldorf curriculum when it is clearly not.

Lastly, the fact that Oak Meadow has recently cheerfully embraced an on-line format means that they have more clearly broken whatever tenuous links that have had with Waldorf.  I can’t see how anyone could say that they are "doing Waldorf" and use an on-line curriculum – even with high school students! I would, of course, like to give OM the benefit of the doubt and hope that the materials on the computer are for the parents, not for the students. I am interested in hearing people’s experience of this.

Posted on October 10, 2006 in General Homeschooling, Waldorf Curriculum

  • Lucie says:

    Hi Donna,
    I just read this post and wanted to applaud your clarity on this. I have used parts of Oak Meadow in the past and found them useful, but after wider reading, I began to feel more aware of what I wasn’t getting with OM compared to traditional Waldorf – and vice versa. (Not a value judgement just the basic fact that they are different.) Comparing Waldorfy science curricula such as yours to OM is one place to see a vast difference. Compare their sixth grade science curricula (page 24 I think here: to your own much more holistic approach ( – absolute night and day, IMHO.
    Still, some parents find OM a great base, and it truly began from a holistic place – even from the heart of Waldorf teachers. I think in some ways they have passed away from Waldorf, but I honestly can’t find where they call themselves Waldorf anymore – just that others still do.
    I agree with you, they are still holistic in their own way. Recently I corresponded with a disabled mom who was considering using OM’s computer-based curriculum for her older child. What a nice solution it provided for her.
    To each her own, but clarity such as this can help families make those difficult decisions.
    Best wishes,

  • I’m so glad you addressed this, Donna! Having purchased your Kindergarten Waldorf book, I was super inspired. I’ve also felt the same way after reading The Well-Trained Mind and Karen Andreola’s books about Charlotte Mason (most specifically Pocketful of Pinecones). While I try to eat organic, provide natural toys, and do other things that fit well with more relaxed homeschooling methods and lifestyles, I recognize in myself a strong streak of “Type A” behavior. Doesn’t work real well with my whirlwind daughter who is a hands-on, high-energy child whose spirit I want to train without breaking. UGH! I wanted the academics of WTM and the holistic feel of Waldorf — something to teach her but also keep ME in line as a parent and remind to SLOW DOWN and let her be a kid. ;-P
    I ended up deciding on Oak Meadow, with plans to supplement on the three R’s, where she’s already (by her own devices, not my pushing, I promise!) ahead of her age group. My hope is that OM’s parent-teacher manuals will get me to slow down, and their craft lessons pull in enough of the Waldorf touches that we’ll both learn new things.
    On the flip side, I specifically recall you mentioning in your Kindergarten book that OM is quite far from “real” Waldorf. As I examined it closer, before buying the 1st grade package from them, I came to realize that I think of Oak Meadow as this: Waldorf INSPIRED. I can see the basics of Waldorf in it, thanks to your book, but I also see that they don’t take it anywhere near as far as a “pure” Waldorf curriculum would. It works, however, for my needs at this point, and I figure I can keep learning from the pros. *very big grin*
    Best wishes, and thanks for all you do! I wouldn’t have considered Waldorf originally had it not been for the great info I found via Chrisopherus a few years back!
    Melonie K.
    (formerly Melonie Murray)

  • Alexander Landsworth says:

    Hi Melonie,
    I agree with you…I too purchased Donna’s kindergarten Waldorf book and was inspired.
    My wife and I decided to buy curriculum from Oak Meadow for our 4th grade son and 2nd grade daughter because we liked the fact that it was so flexable in context. We have very different learning styles between our 2 children and it’s easy enough to modify for the both of them. We will however need to supplement the three “Rs” as well, Oak Meadow seems to be weak in that area. If you have any links that would be useful, we’d love some input.
    What really drew me into Oak Meadow was the fact that I recently came across Roger Woolger’s website for Deep Memory Processing (DMP)and realized that Lawrence Williams, who is the co founder of Oak Meadow School also does DMP. For those of you who are into shamanic studies, ancestral voices and past life regressions, redeathing, you may find his new website very informative. I know they are looking for new members:
    Wishing everyone well in their homeschooling journey,
    Alexander, Kay, Joshua and Evelyn

  • Liz says:

    The OM kindergarten online and it is not aimed at the child. It does introduce letters and I would definitely say OM is not Waldorf but I do like it although we did not use it. The online allows you to subscribe and pay monthly for the whole year which could be very useful.

  • Nurture says:

    I actually don’t know very much about Waldorf education. I found this article when researching opinions about Oak Meadow. We started our homeschooling journey with unschooling, but my children wanted more structure. This year we tried using Sonlight because I liked the idea of a literature based curriculum. Unfortunately this, also, does not suit my children, who need something a bit more hands on. Somebody recommended Oak Meadow to me. I checked out the website and liked what I saw. However, before I make a purhase, I want to find out whether other people are happy with it or not (leading me back to this website lol).

  • Jennifer says:

    Please clarify: You say that “it is entirely possible to say “what is Waldorf”! One can easily identify things about Waldorf pedagogy which are clearly discernible and which do not feature in Oak Meadow.” Yet you do not do so. So please, can you, clearly, perhaps in a list comparison format, indicate just where Oak Meadow and Waldorf diverge? Is it because it is more structured than the Christopherus curriculum? You have mentioned the ‘online’ element but what else?
    Thank you

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