or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Education › Learning at Home and Beyond › Unschooling › How would one go about unschooling Waldorf style?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

How would one go about unschooling Waldorf style?

post #1 of 78
Thread Starter 
Our son Kai is 18 months old, so we still have awhile to figure his schooling out. We feel really drawn to unschooling, and letting Kai learn about the things he is interested in. One of my many and infinite dislikes about public school education is that students are taught a little of everything (most of will be memorized for testing purposes and eventually forgotten), and emerge knowing nothing. The teachers also usually teach in a style that is called the banking method, in which the children are thought to be empty and in need of being filled with deposits of knowledge from the teachers, and these deposits are thought to be correct and are not to be questioned. Any way, we are also really drawn to Waldorf schooling, and we love the daily/weekly rhythms, adults modeling, open ended toys, connections to nature, etc.
For all of you unschooling Waldorf inspired families out there, how do you go about combining the two? I mean, I assume that following a homeschooling Waldorf curriculum would violate unschooling, as most likely the child would not be interested in everything being taught.......
post #2 of 78
We are Waldorf unschoolers with a touch of Montessori, and in my opinion, in this combination you get a fantastic mix that works great for our dd. Our home and lifestyle are modeled loosely upon Waldorf (rhythms, seasonal awareness, emphasis upon nature) but we also like to throw in a little Montessori for variety (doing easy plant growing projects to explore root systems, doing transfer activity games, exploring the concept of maps and talking about geography, etc.). I don't have a ton of time to post, but here is what I wrote for another thread that wanted to know about combining Waldorf and unschooling:

Generally speaking, we take the parts of Waldorf that we like and leave the rest that have (in our opinion ) no pragmatic value. DD doesn't wear wool nor does she play with just silk or natural toys (we have some imaginative plastic and metal objects for play, for instance). I interpret Waldorf very loosely. Here's a quick synopsis of us: DD wears comfortable, non-character, cotton clothing that is appropriate to the season. We have lots of open-ended toys both structured (cash register, wooden kitchen and food) and non-structured (seashells, nuts, rocks, animal figurines). We have a fabric basket filled with a variety of fabrics--velvets, silks, satins--instead of playsilks, which I think are limiting. We don't push academics but dd is very self-driven and is learning to read at age 3 by her choice. We tell lots of stories, we act out stories with figurines, we read lots of stories (some by Waldorfish authors, others not). We do lots of creative art and have an entire wall covered with paper with art supplies nearby for whenever the mood strikes, as well as structured art time. We do all-kinds of painting, including but not limited to wet on wet (the reason behind this is some rather woo-woo Anthroposophical color theory in which spiritual beings inhabit color and stuff--a belief that I do not abscribe to). We are TV-free (unless we're sick, and then we do watch the occasional DVD). We honor the seasons and celebrate festivals by making special decorations, reading/telling special stories, cooking special foods. We have a daily and weekly rhythm that keeps our life moving and sane. We sing a lot and encourage musicality (but I do not believe in limiting children to the pentatonic scale). We don't have oodles of money nor time nor space nor equipment to make a lot of our own toys so I have no problems with well-made, open-ended plastic toys (Schleich animals, Mega Bloks, Playmobil, etc.). For us the key is open-ended, but with that said, I am continually surprised with dd's creativity even with supposedly non-open-ended toys. Her music box, for instance, has been everything from a merry-go-round to a massager to a hair dryer.

I highly recommend "Heaven on Earth" for some practical ideas. I think this is a great read. However, there are some assumptions that the author makes that she never explains--like why wood has a better tactile feel than porcelain, for instance. This is an example of a personal judgment that she presents as fact. But, if you're looking for a good way to incorporate some Waldorf ideas this is a great book to start with.

One of the great things about being an unschooler is that I totally don't feel guilty when my dd doesn't fit the Waldorf mold. So she became obsessed with letters at a year old? Fine. She's reading at 3? Great. She wants to draw with markers and have forms in her drawings? No prob. She doesn't like me lighting candles at meals? We can work with that. Saying the same verses over and over at specific times annoys her to no end? Yay. I hate memorizing verses and feel sort of artficial saying them anyway. She wants to pretend she's a computer game? Okay, not my favorite, but I can work with that. Etc. Etc.

For us Waldorf and Montessori ideologies form our environment, and unschooling forms how we and dd interact with that environment, if that makes sense. We buy the toys and offer the techniques and experiences but it is up to dd to choose them and we don't sweat it if she wants to think outside of the box and do things differently. Both Waldorf and Montessori when done in a purist fashion, I think, can be rather limiting (e.g., in Montessori the "jobs" are supposed to be completed in a certain way and in a certain order, and in Waldorf a child isn't supposed to do line drawing or play with plastic, etc.), but being an unschooler we have a full amount of freedom to allow her to explore life on her own terms. We also strongly believe in learning through living so modeling housework, cooking, manners, etc., is just a natural progression. With unschooling, the idea, as you probably know, is that children will learn what they need to learn when they are interested, but the trick with unschooling is giving them opportunities to pique their interest, and that is where Waldorf and Montessori fit in for us because these pedagogies allow us to choose open-ended creative toys, have a vibrant awareness of the cycles of nature, celebrate festivals that encourage family tradition and seasonal changes, and have a home that is warm, peaceful, and quietly inviting.
post #3 of 78
We use a combination of Waldorf, unschooling and Charlotte Mason methods. Charlotte Mason was an educator in the late 1800's early 1900's who believed strongly in children being real people, in not dumbing things down for them and ultimately in them being educated by what she called "real" books as opposed to dry textbooks and "twaddle" (ie dumbed down stuff).

So we follow a sort of Waldorf rhythm. We have tons of "Waldorf" stuff because it fits our beautiful natural lifestyle. We celebrate the seasons and don't do plastic (well, except for the disney princess cellphone that dd got for Christmas and loves but she gets it w/o the batteries ).

We also spend tons of time every day reading and have done so since she was less than 1 wk old. At 3 and 1/2 she sits thru chapter books and has a great attention span. We try to find books that have beautiful illustrations, good vocabulary, none of those popular obnoxiously illustrated and stupidly written stories so popular for kids today.

In addition to the many many beautiful children's books we own, we also regularly visit the library. We get out whatever she likes along with ordering in books on a certain theme each month. So this month she's been saying she wants to learn about beavers. So we'll order in story books and informational books or picture books about beavers. She can already tell you that they have oil in their coats to keep them dry and warm and that they have strong teeth to chop down trees to build their houses. She then will go on and pretend all sorts of things about how she is going to have a pet beaver when she grows up and it will help her chop down wood for it's house.

As for unschooling, I'm of the unschooling philosophy that follows her interests and then sets up learning scenarios, So if she's into letters, I'll buy her an alphabet puzzle and let her learn her letters mostly on her own that way. Tho sometimes we'll play find the letter. I am also into unschooling in that I firmly believe that learning is an all the time thing, not something reserved for special school projects or school hours. So we are always talking about how things work, just observing things, whatever.

For example, today we saw a bald eagle while driving, turned around and pulled over to watch it roosting on a tree branch. She asked if we could stay there a few minutes to see it and we did. When we took off, I explained that I was so excited about it because they were almost extinct not long ago, explained what extinct was. That led to a brief discussion, spurred by her questions about pollution. Then Daddy explained that the bald eagle is the symbol of our country America. To me, that's education - indistinguishable from living. And that's unschooling to me.
post #4 of 78
This is great!
::
post #5 of 78
Hi! More unschoolers with some Waldorf and Montessori ideas thrown in. They really go well together! We are very into nature, planting, seasons, etc. We don't do mama-enforced rhythms...the kids have develpoed their own over time.
Many of our "things" are Waldorf-y, though I like to think of them as natural instead. Why should Waldorf have a monopoly on such things?? Silly.
We also have many things arranged in a Montessori fashion...child-sized tables, chairs, jacket racks, etc. The kids carrya nd move ht e chairs and table as needed.

I like the mix...
post #6 of 78
My experience is that Waldorf is pretty much unschooling until 1st grade.... it's really about preparing the enviroment, and then allowing the child to unfold. I mean, we do take an authoritative (not authoritarian, ha-ha) approach to daily rhythms because ds really seems to thrive with that, but he pretty much does what he likes except for meals and bedtime/bathtime kind of stuff. Oh, and he's beginning to be expected to help out now, instead of just encouraged.

We have some friends with children in the grades who are doing what I would call Waldorf unschooling, and what it looks like is this: Mama introduces concepts, girls decide what they want to do with them. Now this mama is lucky enough to have a family that LOVES circle time, handwork, crafts,and fairytales. But they wouldn't know that if she hadn't presented them, kwim?
Most of the day, the kids spend doing what they like in a lovely, Waldorfy-enviroment. And much of what they do, they would be doing in a Waldorf school, but they're doing it by choice. oh, and their 6-year-old kindergartener reads and writes, which the mother neither encourages nor discourages.(the same tack we're taking at our house)
I think really most of it is turning your home into a Waldorf home, and then letting the kid loose. if the culture of the family is strong, then it will hold.
post #7 of 78
Can I say this thread rocks?
DS is 22mo so there's no rush but we're heading towards waldorf unschooling and it is very inspiring to read you all.
thank you!
post #8 of 78
Next week I'm going to take some pictures of our play area anyway if anyone would be interested in seeing our interpretation of Waldorf in a physical space. As I said, Waldorf looks very different in our home than in a more purist Waldorf one but the underlying principles are still the same. I will post the pictures here in this thread when I get them done, if that's all right.
post #9 of 78
Subscribing:
post #10 of 78
great idea!
post #11 of 78
Thread Starter 
lots of great ideas embedded in this thread-i have a file on my email where i keep ideas for making things and odd n ends, and these ideas are definitely going in! yeah, for me as a parent it is really important to teach kai critical thinking skills using critical pedagogy, which is essentially teaching him to question the status quo and take action! i strongly believe that teaching children this way will lead to a global culture that is more harmonious with all life on earth. that is why i think it is so important to combine waldorf with other ways, such as unschooling........
post #12 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by LuxPerpetua View Post
Next week I'm going to take some pictures of our play area anyway if anyone would be interested in seeing our interpretation of Waldorf in a physical space. As I said, Waldorf looks very different in our home than in a more purist Waldorf one but the underlying principles are still the same. I will post the pictures here in this thread when I get them done, if that's all right.
That would be AWESOME! I also love the ideas in both Waldorf and Montessori, and I especially want to do more with creating rhythms in our home.
post #13 of 78
my thread is making me

My husband won't agree to us unschooling our LO's at home so they are going to a regular school. I am gutted about this. But he refuses. This thread has made it worse b/c it is suchan inspiring thread.
post #14 of 78
Thread Starter 
That is a serious bummer, but please do not despair, mamaUK. While my life partner and I are in absolute agreement in regards to unschooling our son Kai, I also have 6 & 7 year old daughters with my ex-husband. They were both fortunate to spend a year in a Waldorf kindergarten, but after that, my ex refused to having them in Waldorf school(even though he is wealthy!) and insisted on public school education. They go to a public school that is considered top notch as far as testing goes. Thanks to No Child Left Behind, they spend most of their time memorizing useless facts. After the divorce, I used to worry that they would be "ruined" by public schooling and by the constant exposure at my ex's house to media (such as high school musical-where is the art?-ugh!) and computer games, processed foods, and uncreative toys such as Bratz Dolls and Polly Pocket. I even used to have natural toy catalogs sent to my ex's house and I would email him articles about how unhealthy media is to the healthy development of a child, which most assuredly ended up right in the delete bin. Needless to say, it has become even more important now to surround my girls with beautiful open ended playthings and activities, such as making jam and beeswax candles and taking our nature bags to the river to sketch. I am currently planning to keep bees with them and get a flock of chickens, the possibilites are truly endless! What I have found is that it is actually wonderful that the girls are getting exposure to both worlds, because they are starting to critically question the contradictions they are seeing. For example, they may ask their "teachers" why recess is only 30 minutes long or why they spend most of their time studying for tests (the amount of money the school gets is based on their students test scores). My girls noticed when they opened Christmas gifts at my ex's house that most of the toys were from China. That has led to discussions about where things are made, sweatshop labor(i am looking for a video to show them of this in action, anyone have any recommendations?), pollution, etc. We used to think that we couldn't talk to children about these things, but they want to know and when they do they want to change things! The discussion on where food comes from led to us engaging in conversation about factory farming chickens, which then inspired me to write their school principle, and I have posted an excerpt below(sorry, it's really long!).One thing that I have come to understand lately is that the world is our school, and there are teachers everywhere you go. What is really important is that you make the most of the time you have with your children when they are with you......

PS And as it turns out, the ex had factory farmed eggs(this statement will soon make sense)!!!


Excerpt of letter to principal:

So why am I trying so hard to convince you to study critical pedagogy? Well, I am convinced that if you do, you will be motivated to reevaluate Eagle Crest on many levels and create positive changes. For one, you may reconsider where your cafeteria food comes from and how it is served. I have attended lunch many times at Eagle Crest, and can attest that the way the food is served is very disconnected from community and nature. The children are quickly ushered in to get food and are given a very limited time to eat it, and are then ushered out in order to make room for the next wave. I have never witnessed the children taking more than a few bites of this "food", before it was thrown into the garbage, to ultimately become methane gas in the local landfill. According to Ecocycle Times, methane is "now understood to be 72 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year period." I have also attended meals with my daughters many times when they went to a Waldorf preschool, and love the fact that the children sit down together for a simple meal, and are in no rush. Each bite can be enjoyed to its fullest, and there is plenty of laughter and sharing during the meal. Most children finish every bite and enjoy seconds and sometimes even thirds. The children help with creating the meal, serving it, and cleaning up. They are given positive choices and are part of the process, and there is not a feeling of disconnection that one feels after attending a public school lunch. It has long been known that public school food is not meeting the best dietary needs of the children. For thoughts on changing school lunches, one could turn to Michael Pollan's recent article in the New York Times called Farmers in Chief. In it, Pollan states, "To change our children's food culture, we'll need to plant gardens in every primary school, build fully equipped kitchens, train a new generation of lunchroom ladies (and gentlemen) who can once again cook and teach cooking to children." Not only is this a fabulously inspiring idea, but it can benefit children on many levels. The children at your school currently enjoy approximately thirty minutes of recess each day, which is absolutely unacceptable and does not promote healthy child development, especially in a culture that is getting more obese by the second. Eagle Crest could implement a thorough gardening curriculum, which could encompass every subject matter, and children could spend a significantly more amount of time out of doors while satisfying the ever demanding requirements of No Child Left Behind. You could even include composting as a way of teaching children to reduce production of methane gas in landfills and encourage sustainability by producing compost that will enrich the garden soil.

I do recognize that Eagle Crest has attempted on some level to connect children with nature. I know that you have a unit at the end of kindergarten where children are part of the process of incubating and hatching baby chicks. While this is definitely a wonderful start, this unit on baby chicks could benefit young children greatly by being more in depth and fostering more of a connection and awareness with nature and our food source. If teachers applied critical pedagogy, they would see the baby chicks unit as an amazing opportunity to explore where our food comes from and why. They could have various experiential activities in the classroom centered around this, and take a field trip to a chicken factory (I believe there is a chicken/turkey factory conveniently located in our city) where the majority of our eggs come from, and could also show our children farms where laying chickens are allowed to roam free and live out their days happily. As homework the teacher could ask the children to find out where the eggs in their home originated from, and then have a class discussion on the conditions of the chicken that layed the egg. At our house, I had the girls and some of their friends sit in a box that was large enough to contain them but did not leave room for them to move around. I told them to pretend they were chickens that would live their whole lives in this box, and gave them eggs to "lay". We talked about how it might feel to live their whole lives this way, and they did not appear thrilled at this prospect. In the middle of this activity, one child needed to get out of the box to use the bathroom. This led us to ponder what a chicken might do in this situation. We also went outside and pretended we were chickens, and the children had a great time flapping their "wings" and looking for worms to munch on. Your teachers could do these simple exercises, and they could even further empower the children by teaching them about an ordinance that is hopefully going to pass in Longmont any day now allowing chickens in backyards (it is currently illegal to have chickens within city limits, although there are many secret, underground chickens in Longmont). After all, action for social justice is one of the most important aspects of using critical pedagogy, and if action is not part of it then it is not true critical pedagogy. The children could write letters to Longmont City Council in support of having backyard chickens (Kaitlin and Macey proudly did, while munching on cage-free scrambled eggs), and have their voices heard and help create positive change in their community. Assuming that the ordinance allowing chickens passes, teachers could conclude the unit by inviting parents to gather with their little ones for guest speakers that would talk about how to care for chickens in their backyard and how to build predator proof shelter. This would empower parents and children to be directly responsible for some of their food source and is also a great way to foster community.
post #15 of 78
we are waldorf-inspired homeschoolers. for us, waldorf is woven into our lives much in the way that religion is woven into the lives of some religious unschoolers we know. the rhythm of our lives--the verses, poems and songs, delayed academics, no television or characters, lots of fairy tales, storytelling and puppet shows, handwork, reverence for nature, observation of the seasons, our playthings, etc would all be considered "waldorf", but we also listen to lots of recorded music, my almost 5yo is interested in writing and reading(my 6yo isn't), read lots of books about whatever subjects interest my children, and let them lead the way as far as what we are learning--this weekend we went to an archeological fair and to the art museum because i presented a variety of ideas to the ideas to the kids and those weer the things that resonated with my children. most things we are flexible about, but there are things that are "waldorf" that we don't budge on, not because of the dogma of waldorf, but because they really work to for our family.
post #16 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamaUK View Post
my thread is making me

My husband won't agree to us unschooling our LO's at home so they are going to a regular school. I am gutted about this. But he refuses. This thread has made it worse b/c it is suchan inspiring thread.
It's hard when you're not seeing eye to eye. But why is a "regular school" the default? Why is it that b/c he won't agree they are going to school? Why isn't it that you don't agree with regular school, and so they are being homeschooled?

ETA: I'm not meaning to say that either is right, just pointing out the opposite. I could just never imagine allowing something to happen that is that huge of a choice, just b/c my partner said so. Not meaning to be harsh, but I think it sounds like you need more communication. Not to convince him of your point of view, but to discuss and be a team in deciding what feels right for your family.
post #17 of 78
MamaUK, might he agree to homeschooling that was not unschooling? ie. some set curriculum or schedule? Or just call it something other than unschooling . . . like unit studies, and you'll know that the unit studies are what your kids choose and implement. I think unschooling can sound awfully alarming to someone who isn't even comfortable with homeschooling. I am an unschooler, btw, so don't mean to dis the method!

I don't know how old your kids are, but maybe you could do a one year trial of this, and by then he would see that they are learning! I think this is easier to negotiate when your kids are preschool or kindergarten aged because then missing one year of public school doesn't seem as crucial.

OP, I think that if you are unschooling, than influences like Waldorf (or Montessori) are just that--influences. I feel like I get a lot of inspiration from this Waldorf forum--more than I do from the homeschool forum, in fact. And I feel like I try to create a home that is Waldorfy (taking what I love and leaving the rest), and do activities that are Waldorfy (because they are fun, and beautiful, and in tune with nature, etc), and pick out beautiful, quality stories and books which Waldorf families might choose also. But we don't do a curriculum, or have any plans for what we will learn this year or today. Whatever we end up learning is good enough for us! :
post #18 of 78
Great thread.

My DD currently attends a Waldorf-inspired home nursery school, which she will attend (along with her younger brother) next year and from there we're not sure if we will send her to the wonderful Waldorf school nearby or continue doing what we are doing now at home which I think could definitely be described as Waldorf unschooling.

I periodically subscribe to the Little Acorn Learning monthly guides and have found them very helpful, not as a curriculum but just for inspiration! I started subscribing last year and mostly just read through them myself, without even attempting any of the stories or activities, just kind of getting myself in the energy of that month/season. This year I find myself kind of going back to the activities and pulling what works for me or finding my own twist to it that works with my kids. Lots of good stuff in there.
post #19 of 78
starspiral? you have a lot of great ideas! That's awesome that you are making the most of a less than positive situation by still homeschooling them in addition to public school, showing them that learning can be a lifelong, ongoing process! I'm not sure I'd want my 6 or 7 yr old to go to a chicken factory on a field trip tho!! I would find that traumatic at 33 yrs old and think I'd have been scarred at 7. But then I do admit that both I and my dd are rather sensitive. For some kids it might be ok.

For chickens, you might want to look for "pastured" not "cage free". The wording and laws are certainly confusing! Cage free is most definitely better than caged, but they do not necessarily have access to the outdoors. The law for "cage free" or "free range" says they must not be in cages and must have "access to the outdoors". This outdoor access can be all of 20 feet for several 1000 chickens. (I don't remember the exact footage but it's small!!!!) Since they are not given the access the first few weeks, are creatures of habit, and there is nowhere near room for all of them out there, only a few lucky birds ever see the light of day. Pastured chickens, on the other hand, must be raised on pasture - outdoors in large pens or better yet, in moveable "chicken tractors" which are portable open air pens that get moved to fresh pasture every day or so. These sorts of eggs/chickens are usually available at farmer's markets and they sure are yummier!
post #20 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by starspiral? View Post
That is a serious bummer, but please do not despair, mamaUK. While my life partner and I are in absolute agreement in regards to unschooling our son Kai, I also have 6 & 7 year old daughters with my ex-husband. They were both fortunate to spend a year in a Waldorf kindergarten, but after that, my ex refused to having them in Waldorf school(even though he is wealthy!) and insisted on public school education. They go to a public school that is considered top notch as far as testing goes. Thanks to No Child Left Behind, they spend most of their time memorizing useless facts. After the divorce, I used to worry that they would be "ruined" by public schooling and by the constant exposure at my ex's house to media (such as high school musical-where is the art?-ugh!) and computer games, processed foods, and uncreative toys such as Bratz Dolls and Polly Pocket. I even used to have natural toy catalogs sent to my ex's house and I would email him articles about how unhealthy media is to the healthy development of a child, which most assuredly ended up right in the delete bin. Needless to say, it has become even more important now to surround my girls with beautiful open ended playthings and activities, such as making jam and beeswax candles and taking our nature bags to the river to sketch. I am currently planning to keep bees with them and get a flock of chickens, the possibilites are truly endless! What I have found is that it is actually wonderful that the girls are getting exposure to both worlds, because they are starting to critically question the contradictions they are seeing. For example, they may ask their "teachers" why recess is only 30 minutes long or why they spend most of their time studying for tests (the amount of money the school gets is based on their students test scores). My girls noticed when they opened Christmas gifts at my ex's house that most of the toys were from China. That has led to discussions about where things are made, sweatshop labor(i am looking for a video to show them of this in action, anyone have any recommendations?), pollution, etc. We used to think that we couldn't talk to children about these things, but they want to know and when they do they want to change things! The discussion on where food comes from led to us engaging in conversation about factory farming chickens, which then inspired me to write their school principle, and I have posted an excerpt below(sorry, it's really long!).One thing that I have come to understand lately is that the world is our school, and there are teachers everywhere you go. What is really important is that you make the most of the time you have with your children when they are with you......

.
Thank you for making it seem better, we have a waldorf inspired home environment so at least it is a very positive atmosphere for her at home. I talk alot with her aswell, for example, recently she has been asking about rockets (she's 3 1/2) so I have been trying to get some picture books from the library about them, I have found a clip of one taking off on You Tube (we're TV free but sometimes, with things like this, its great for them to see it when it is unlikely she will see a rocket in 'real life') Thanks for your understanding.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Unschooling
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Education › Learning at Home and Beyond › Unschooling › How would one go about unschooling Waldorf style?