How to incorporate the Waldorf Method into Charlotte Mason Homeschool
I have written here how our newly planned Charlotte Mason homeschool schedule had saved my sanity. Also, at the same time, it convinced me to be more consistent with my children. No more flouncing around through the days and the “oh we’ll get to that subject” attitude. You can see my posts on it here:
- Charlotte Mason inspired homeschool schedule
- Day in the life of our Charlotte Mason homeschool
- Year One: Charlotte Mason schedule
However, after several months of implementing our new schedule, it was time to reevaluate and look at what was working, and what was not!
What was working:
- Short lessons
- Many subjects
- The beauty in the literature, music, art, and poetry
What was not working:
- The rush through the mornings and lessons
- Always looking at the clock
- Sitting down for formal phonics work with a workbook
- Feeling that I could not stray from the schedule
- The nagging feeling that I had to get it all done
The days, once again, became a power struggle between me and my son, even while using behavioral techniques from our counselor.
Also on my mind was that my girls deserve to have more of me, and the days, every one of them, were consumed by only my son’s needs.
Time for a change
My husband decided that it was time to at least consider putting him into a school. This was not a step I took lightly! In fact, I have fought the idea any time he has mentioned it. But this time was different. I wanted to respect my husband’s wishes. And also take a moment to think about:
What are my son’s needs?
What are my daughters’ needs?
What is best for each child?
And what is best for our family?
So where could we go to tour a school?
Public school was out. (I have so many reasons for this as a former public school teacher — this will someday become its own post.)
So, I knew that there were two (wonderful) choices in our area: Montessori and Rudolf Steiner (Waldorf).
I have dabbled in Montessori learning throughout my parenting life, and while I haven’t dived into Waldorf learning, I do appreciate the beauty and deliberateness of the method. So, thus, I called both of these schools and set up appointments.
After delving deeper into Charlotte Mason learning, I have realized that my beliefs and methods in homeschooling differ from Montessori, but I still wanted to take a look.
The Waldorf visit came first, lasted two hours, and I cried afterwards. It was perfect. I was so impressed by the deliberateness of the materials, the lovely classrooms, the art, movement, music, handiwork, the lessons. I learned so much.
I think my life’s tagline is:
I am forever teaching and learning.
This is so true. The more I teach my children, the more I learn.
I was not expecting to have a whole new world open up. I was pleasantly surprised! But also overwhelmed! How can I agree with so much of this philosophy? How could I have ignored it all these years?
Well, I haven’t exactly ignored it….
What we have done in our early childhood learning that correlates with the Waldorf Method….
- Little media and no tablets
- Favoring wooden toys
- Nature time outside each day and a nature table indoors
- Cooking together as a family
- Emphasis on singing and music from a very early age
- Taking things slow, never doing too many activities (this is more due to my sense of being an at home introvert, but hopefully, to my childrens’ benefit)
- Little precedence on academics or “reading” before age 6 (Charlotte Mason recommends age 6 for formal learning to begin, while Waldorf recommends age 7 / or the change of teeth)
For Waldorf, teaching is divided into three parts (I highly recommend Christopherus’ Waldorf Curriculum Overview for Homeschoolers to begin to understand the idea of Waldorf Education, it is a wonderful beginning):
Ages 0-7: Hands learning
Ages 7-14: Heart learning
Ages 14-21: Head learning
What we have not done “right” in terms of Waldorf standards for early childhood include:
- We do allow the children to watch some movies (pre-selected by me)
- We have taught the ABCs and sounds
- We read books, books, and more books
- All of our toys are not wood or fabric
- We have delved deep into science and history, both according to their interests and to my preferences; this differs from the emphasis on “wonder” of Waldorf in the early years
Hesitation because of my misguided preconceived notions of what Waldorf education was and was not
My hesitation for learning anything to do with Waldorf was the fact that they don’t use books in early childhood. I could not wrap my head around this. And once I heard this I admittedly thought it was “quacky”.
While I will not adopt the “no illustrated picture books philosophy” in my home (we love books!!!), I do at least now understand their reasoning.
That is, Waldorf teachers express the need for a child to create knowledge and imagination from within and not rely on outside materials or illustrations to bombard their minds.
Some of this makes sense — for if we see a picture of Cinderella in a book — whether Disney or a beautifully illustrated version — this image could remain in a child’s mind for a lifetime. That is the argument. However, I disagree — I looked at and “read” picture books from a very young age and one image doesn’t continue to resonate with me.
But this argument does, at its core, to me, make sense.
And in a perfect world, perhaps the method could work. But for us, books and illustrations in books have provided a plethora of imaginative ideas for my own children. Books and texts have kept children busy in a world where tablets and screen time reign.
Also, in my mind in regards to Waldorf-ing, was a a fairy world full of loose academics and hyper spiritualism. While Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy is concerning, I can appreciate the thoughtfulness in the scope of lessons and all that is right in its approach!
I am so grateful to have had my experience in the Waldorf school — I know it was God leading me there — that we took the plunge and visited this new and beautiful world. What I didn’t realize is that the Waldorf model is very classically based. Children learn history and geography and great art and music all in a very strict sequence of learning.
What were my takeaways from visiting the Waldorf School?
Many changes — for the better— are in order in our home learning. Once again. I am so reinvigorated! Similar to how I felt last year when I discovered Charlotte Mason and her volumes.
The biggest change and “aha!” moment is the realization for art, music, and movement to be incorporated into each subject. INTO the subject, not simply placed before or after it! This is a beautiful part of Waldorf Education. I will continue to learn how this is done through my forever teaching and learning days.
Next, the idea of Main Lesson Blocks, how can I take one text and lengthen it throughout a couple of days, or even the week — incorporating review, repetition, drama, and illustrations? And all the while, still stay true to a Charlotte Mason approach of short lessons? (This topic is too broad to cover here, but I will in a future post!)
How can I create a new schedule that could be true to both methods, Charlotte Mason and Waldorf?
The truth is I cannot. You cannot be a purist of either method while incorporating the other. Each method is so well thought out and orchestrated, from birth through early adulthood — they are beautiful in their intricacies and attention to the needs and development of children.
Waldorf education was created with the larger group, classroom, in mind. Even seasoned Waldorf teacher Sarah Baldwin, when given the opportunity to homeschool her own children, acknowledged, and embraced, that she could not incorporate every aspect of the yearly Waldorf lesson into her homeschool.
And while Charlotte Mason wrote her volumes and publications to teachers and parents alike during the turn of the century, today, we have many more resources than she did, and I deem it acceptable to pick and choose from reputable sources of today as needed.
I am the mother
For I am the mother, I can take a step back and see what is best for my own children. What do they need? Where will they excel? Where will they prosper? What struggles can I support them in?
These are the questions I will continue to ask myself as I hunger for knowledge in how best to educate my children. Please continue to join me as I share what we are learning and doing in our homeschool. Blessings.
Images from Public Domain:
Henriette Browne – Young Girl Writing at Her Desk with Birds, 1829-1901.
Judith Leyster, Boy Playing a Flute, c. 1635.