This is another post from our archives Blessings.
Some things have been weighing on me as I answer emails and watch questions come across my yahoo group - I thought I should address them a bit at a time. I started last week with the discussions of when to start first grade, today we are going to talk about what is dogma, what is Waldorf tradition and what Steiner actually said.
It can be really challenging to read blogs, listen to some list owners and then try to decide what Waldorf actually IS! Waldorf is something different to many different people. Some moms are only interested in understand Waldorf as far as what the schools would be doing – my question to those moms is…why? The schools can have WONDERFUL experiences associated with them, I have visited many and fallen in love with the beauty of the classrooms, the artistry of a Waldorf teacher’s chalk board, marveled at the selection of books in the classroom… but my reality is at home, so do I want to base my schooling on what the schools do? or is it better to understand what Steiner himself suggested? In the first lecture of “Kingdom of Childhood,” Steiner suggests that each grades class room will look a bit different as each teacher will take the information from what they have learned and fashion it into something that makes their heart soar, all the while staying in line with Steiner’s recommendations.
When I started this path, I couldn’t afford fancy curriculum that cost hundreds of dollars, I worked to create my own based on Steiner’s teachings, blended with my own flair. So when I hear that someone has heard from someone else that something I mention isn’t Waldorf, I have to stand back and ask myself…where is this other person coming from? Is their knowledge from what is done in the schools or is it directly from Steiner. Again, my work comes directly from Steiner, from time to time we have worked out of a school model, but all of our revisions are Steiner and personal experience – experience from homeschooling all of my children with Waldorf and in working with hundreds of families. If you ever wonder about something we have recommended or written, I invite you to ask
So what is tradition? What is dogma? And what did that old guy say anyway? LOL… Well tradition is something that I would say happens in the schools (or even homeschools) and while it has been done for years and years, it isn’t necessarily something that Steiner recommends. For instance, building in the 3rd grade. Steiner says:
“Now you see that the material you have gathered through describing the environment you employ in a free way for forming your lesson on practical occupations. The child of about nine in the third class can very well gain an idea, through such a lesson – I can only give instances – of preparing mortar as it employed in house-building. The child can also have an idea of how to manure and how to plough; what rye and wheat look like. In short, in a free way, you let the child enter into his surrounds as far as he can with understanding.”
Steiner’s suggestion here is to study occupations – something we will be doing a lot of in our revised grade 3 – Steiner isn’t insisting on a lesson block with house building. House building is an example of the method working out of tradition. The point is to imbue our children with an understanding of his or her surroundings. This statement also further cements that the child of grade 3 should be about 9 or 9, this is not possible if the child starts first grade when they are just 6. The age to start school is another thing that is becoming tradition… Donna Simmons in her post at Carrie’s last week suggests that it might be a west coast US phenomena, I don’t know that I can say for sure, but I won’t disagree. I have spoken with many moms who have children that are on target with Steiner’s ages leave the schools they were so in love with because the teacher had too many younger students and couldn’t balance the age range. At home we don’t have this problem.
Two or three day rhythm… tradition or Steiner cannon? Well Steiner mentions this progressive rhythm only once that I have found and it is counter to the way some schools do it and some gurus recommend. Steiner mentions in his lecture “Teaching the Upper Grades,” that science lessons can be done with a two day rhythm. Using these indications though can be helpful when working in a home setting for younger children as well. During this rhythm, you do want to make sure you can engage the three parts – head, heart, hands – or at least this can be your goal as this is education for the *whole* child. Some Waldorf teachers prefer a three day rhythm in the classroom, but we are at home. You should use what works for you – not what is going on in the school or what someone else does, or even from a published curriculum. We try to leave ours open ended enough to allow Mom to work her magic with it, this is one reason we are on moms so much about planning and inner work… it helps so much in ordering your day and finding what resonates with your family.
Why the difference in tradition and Steiner? Well my guess is a few things are at play…in a classroom they have a schedule to keep that is far different from ours at home, this means that both home and school can both look very Steiner but also very different. At home I like the 2 day rhythm for the early grades, it can be really easy I have found to do 2 two-day cycles leaving one day for field trips, library visits, etc. during the week. Some moms have found a three day one works for them. As they get older, even by third grade, this rhythm begins to change and even though we have continued to write a two day rhythm in our curriculum, I have always encouraged moms to do what feels right. During our last two years homeschooling, I really paid attention to how different rhythms felt with our large family, I tried to see how my daughter through 3rd and 4th grade and my sons 5th-8th grades were able to focus during different rhythms – I found some weeks were very much a 2 day progression, while others, in blocks like mapping and local history in 4th grade, lent themselves to different rhythms, while still keeping head, heart and hands as our focus.
When we become too fixed and immovable, it goes from being tradition to being dogma – further when we base our homes on the school or only on what a teacher has counseled, then we aren’t allowing ourselves to fully enjoy the homeschooling experience.
Other things that have been tradition and could easily become dogma are things like beeswax vs. clay, the recorder as the only blowing instrument and how a Waldorf home should look, etc. Steiner’s Waldorf isn’t many of the things we have come to know it by through the Internet and other resources. To really know what he said we have to read him or find someone we trust who has read him. We have to use resources that follow Steiner if we want his work, it is more than tradition. If this education calls to you then you may have to ask some tough questions and take the time to really understand the legacy of this work in your own family.
As you are planning, are you asking the tough questions? Are you taking the time to learn bit by bit? line upon line? Are you overwhelmed? Let us help you. It takes time. Remember that it isn’t a race. I have been at this for years and I still have weeks – sometimes months – that are not what I want, so I go back to my plans, tweak things and start again. It is the best personal growth I could imagine!
Love and blessings to you all!