Five Things Every Waldorf Homeschooler Should Stop and Consider…
By Donna Simmons
I think there must be times in every homeschooler’s life when she (or he) wishes that she could just put the children on the couch and freeze them there for a year or two while she catches up, re-groups, consolidates what she knows, and gets a grip on this wondrous life adventure called homeschooling.
Problem is, it doesn’t work that way. Like parenting, it is On the Job Training (with no coffee breaks or vacations). No matter how well prepared you are, no matter how thoroughly you’ve done your research and created your lesson plans and worked it all out…Life Happens and Things Will Go Wrong. Or even Right – but unexpectedly so.
In terms of learning about Waldorf education, for most people who come to it, it is one mystery after another, a series of ever-deepening strata revealing ways of looking at things, understanding the world and relating to children which are not familiar to most people. For some this is a great adventure but for others it can be incredibly stressful as they seek to reduce the tension between what they have a hunch is right and what they know is right. And if you are the kind of person who’d rather have it figured out first instead of more or less winging it, then this can be a serious challenge.
Of course, following on from what I said above, there really isn’t a way to completely figure it out before plunging into homeschooling (even if your one of those rare people who decided BC—Before Children—to homeschool, the reality of family life and the actual children you have will still bring unforeseen challenges). So we’re back to wishing to step outside of time so we could slow it all down…
If I had a magic wand and was able to help people wishing to homeschool with Waldorf to pause and take stock before getting back to the fray, here are five things I would advise them to stop and consider and implement:
- The Ability to Discern One’s Own Stuff from One’s Children’s Stuff. Whether it’s working out whether one’s fears and concerns about a child arise from careful observation of that child’s being or whether it’s actually one’s own fears and worries pushing to center stage; whether one’s own hopes are clouding the reality of who a child is; or whether hang-ups about academics, art, socialization or any other issues are getting in the way, the ability to differentiate between what is mine and what is my child’s is huge. It is at the root of many discipline and parenting issues as everyone who has heard their mother’s voice come out of their own when they least expected it knows. To be able to homeschool calmly and helpfully, one cannot underestimate the importance of this cornerstone of personal growth.
- The Development of Manual Skills and Flowering of Creativity. Note I did not say ‘artistic ability’. Whilst I fully appreciate that many see the creation of beautiful artwork to be the main characteristic of Waldorf education, I would suggest that it is not the ability to create art per se – but the ability to be creative that is at the core of Waldorf education. Closely allied to this is the ability to do things with one’s hands, and whether one can fix a bike, sew a shirt, bake a cake or bind a book, practical skills done creatively and artistically are a powerful part of Waldorf pedagogy. To be creative is to be flexible and to be flexible in one’s thinking is to be able to face all of life’s challenges, not just what is familiar or known. And we need as many people in the world with that ability as possible.
- The Ability to Work with Rhythm. Rhythm is life. The out breath and in breath of our lungs, the fast and slow beating of our heart—the great Cosmic rhythms of birth and death, night and day and the cycles of Nature can be embraced by the modern human being in full consciousness and appreciation. Modern human beings can consciously work with these rhythms which are so important to the health and wellbeing of all of us, and especially to children. Family life becomes more coherent and meaningful and many discipline problems do not even raise their heads when a gentle and authentic rhythm informs the course of life with children. If it becomes too rigid it becomes sclerotic and dies. If it is chaotic then it loses meaning and also dies. By finding the middle way, by learning the secrets of rhythm, one can form one’s lessons, one’s family life and lives of one’s children with grace and peace.
- The Cultivation of Awe and Wonder. A grace-filled reverential attitude toward the natural world, toward the creativity of human beings and to the essence of the Divine in each human being is sorely lacking from our society. Instead, caustic cynical attitudes which destroy without creating, fill our culture with their heartless nihilistic and fear-based emptiness. By cultivating a sense for awe and wonder, those first steps in true learning, one can overcome the egotism of our consumerist society and build a strong and healthy ethos that can nurture everyone who encounters it, especially children. Fear has no foothold when one is filled with awe and with wonder.
- An Appreciation of a Can-Do Attitude Toward Life. Of course, you wouldn’t be a homeschooler if you didn’t have even a little bit of this in your soul but it is worth reminding ourselves from time to time that at the core, homeschooling is about having a DIY attitude toward life. I can do it and I can learn—and I have the ability to seek help when necessary are all at hand in the homeschooler’s supply kit. This is my family and though I appreciate the efforts and concern of others (family, friends, doctors, educators, social workers) really—this is my business and not theirs. The State is here to assist, not to dictate and professionals are here to assist and not take control. My responsibility when I set out into the world with such an attitude is to be as fully informed, courteous and firm as necessary when confronted by those who think it is their job and not mine to educate my children. Self-directed mutual aid amongst co-ops and groups is a big step toward the creation of a world we want to create – and what a great thing to demonstrate to our children.
Of course, it could be that it is even more powerful and meaningful to tackle the above five points whilst homeschooling and living life and not in an imagined alternative reality…perhaps one of the secrets of homeschooling is just that –that through homeschooling, in the very think of it, come those amazing (often painful, always challenging) life lessons that make it all worthwhile.
If anyone has any comments on this or would like to add their own suggestions to add, please feel free!
Blessings on your homeschool journey,