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waldorf inspired unschooling?

post #1 of 44
Thread Starter 

I know the two can seem to not mix in a lot of ways, but much of Waldorf really resonates with me. I'm moving toward a more Waldorf inspired home, yet we are still unschooling. Anyone out there experiencing this or have an opinion or two? I have 2dds one 4 one 12m. Cheers!

post #2 of 44

Ooh, I'm also interested in whatever anyone has to say about this.  Up until a few weeks ago, my husband and I were planning on sending our daughter to a Waldorf school once the time came but then we discovered unschooling and fell in love.

post #3 of 44

Yes, the two absolutely can go together.  Waldorf embraces the entire family life, not just "schooly" things.  The biggest question I can think of is how do you visualize your family embracing Waldorf?  Are you okay w/ it if your kids decide not to follow the Waldorf ways?

 

In our house, we embraced Waldorf before unschooling, so we basically have a v simple rhythm that we all enjoy, almost all of our toys are Waldorf-style, we value spending a lot of time outdoors, and we are usually incredibly light on the tv viewing.  Other things, too, but those are the basics.  We also practice consensual living, so I do have to work on being comfortable w/ the choices dd1 makes about how to spend her time.  My biggest area of difficulty is tv viewing.  I really hate for her to watch it but she really loves it.  Waldorf pulls me in one direction, unschooling in another.

 

Waldorf education is entirely teacher led.  That is the main area, as far as academics, where the two butt heads.  Young children do learn incredibly well from imitation, so I do believe that Steiner was onto something when he emphasized adults engaging in meaningful work around the house for kids to observe & participate in.  Otherwise, as of right now, we do not do anything formal as far as learning goes.  DD1 is also only 2.5 yrs old, so there was no need anyway :)  I think this is a great article summing up Waldorf kindergarten & how easily it can be replicated at home: http://wildculturecafe.blogspot.com/2008/06/waldorf-on-shoestring-early-years.html

post #4 of 44

check out the blog of Amanda Soule

 

www.soulemama.com

 

it is great and this is how they live. She also written two books with another on the way.

 

we have also been looking at Steiner schools but we are really leaning towards unschooling with Steiner lifestyle rather than strict philosophy as a basis.

 

C

post #5 of 44

i bought the enki kindergarten materials for my kids - though they are still too young. i LOVE them! my daughter loves stories so this is a great way to expose her to some stuff. and i am not at all handy but they have great projects. i like the nature oriented philosophy and i am not going to do it as curriculum but more as fun projects...ya know?

post #6 of 44

subbing!

post #7 of 44

Waldorf inspired unschoolers here! My oldest is 12 and we've been going this route for the last few years. Works great for us!

post #8 of 44

I think Waldorfers do great things with kids and in their family lives, but having read about Steiner and his philosphy, I really do believe that what attracts most people to Waldorf, namely fondness of nature and resistance to dehumanizing technology among other things, has nothing essential to do with Steiner's work.

 

One of the main reasons we choose to unschool is that we believe the vast majority of education offered in our society is based on a certain ideology, the need to maintain authority, to guide people into their proper place in society (which is a society we consider oppositional to true human nature). This has in every civilization been the primary purpose of education, so it's not my subjective interpretation at all. Our choice of education is influenced entirely by the idea of our children as truly free, in every aspect of life (from the political sphere down to the personal).   

 

My interpretation, however, is that Steiner worked for the 'greater good of society' (a society dominated by a distant authority). Just because in his teachings he touches on many truths about human nature (such as the importance of observation and imitation, which has always dominated informal education in hunter and gather societies) does not automatically make his central thesis right.

In fact, it's impossible to convince anyone of a theory unless the basis is made up of 'universal' truths. Any good leader is very much aware of that. If you read Hitler's take on education without knowing he had written it, you would perhaps guess the author was a contemporary champion for unschooling! Seriously. However, his motives were to dumb down the German curriculum, which he was successful in doing.

 

A big component of Waldorf education is incorporating imagination into learning. I don't feel like this carries any weight at all in its favor since imagination is inherently human and I think Steiner was simply introducing a much smarter way to educate/indoctrinate otherwise unwilling kids. This method was used a lot in Sweden when I went to school, and still is in public schools and I don't think it makes up for the actual (inappropriate) content of the education given. I learned a lot of messed up ideas about humans and the world around me. I don't agree with the humanist approach to life, the philosophy on which the Waldorf model is based (as well as pretty much all educational trends today).  

 

Judging by the fact that three of his main philosophical inspirations were Pestalozzi, Fichte and Hegel, I make the conclusion that he worked mostly for acheiving social change which favored the dominating class and not for the advancement of 'true' freedom for all. As Hegel make very clear in his writings, commoners need a master, it's human nature. I think for all my years in school, this was one of my most persistent insights--I didn't need a master to tell me what was good for me. And so I allow my child to unschool. Steiner wrote a lot about 'freedom', to me in a pretty twisted way.

Just to clarify, this doesn't mean that I abhor order, as I do see an important place for it, but it should come out of a communal desire, in small-scale settings, as a collaboration of free individuals. Which is the opposite of western democracy.

 

I think the outer expressions of current Waldorf 'trends' combine well with unschooling, just as it does with any other aspect of natural living, but on a philosophical level, I feel the two clash perfectly.

post #9 of 44

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kmamma View Post

 

I think the outer expressions of current Waldorf 'trends' combine well with unschooling, just as it does with any other aspect of natural living, but on a philosophical level, I feel the two clash perfectly.


This is it for me too. We've used many of the trappings of Waldorf education ... art materials, stories, rhythms, etc., ... but have steered entirely clear of the philosophy. 

 

Furthermore Steiner's dogma on academics flew completely in the face of who my children turned out to be as learners and people. As kindergarteners my eldest was an advanced self-taught reader, and my next kid was a natural encyclopedia of science facts, my youngest a passionate and advanced mathematician. 

 

Miranda

post #10 of 44

Very intresting Miranda, about your kids. In what way did this fly in the face of Steiner's philosophy? I've never incorporated Waldorf education in our lives (I made attempts but it always felt contrived and strange) so I don't know all the details of his idea of how learning happens. 

 

I wanted to add some more points to my previous comment. At the moment I happen to be researching various forms of education as we're considering returning to homeschooling after a year of 'exile', and so this discussion caught my interest.

 

I react to the contrived nature of Waldorf, which at its heart is child-centered. I feel that this is very at odds with what children need and want. How can you learn when you're made the center of attention? Unschooling is learning through life, not pretend life, make-believe. But real life, and in real life, work revolves around the community with the adults leading it. Child-centered learning situations are designed to keep children in a dependent position, where it's either difficult or impossible to become truly independent, fully mature adults (independence starts when a child desires it, and is not taught). Again, such a subject is useful in a hierarchical society.

 

I think it's valuable to draw knowledge about child education from various sources. For me, learning about education in tribal settings has been most useful as I've found a lot of similarities in attitude and expectations between different non/pre-industrial societies. Child-rearing and education have much in common with the unschooling philosophy, without getting into Waldorf dogma. And of course, as their lives were intertwined with the natural world around them, one can find a lot of inspiration in there for that.

post #11 of 44

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kmamma View Post

Very intresting Miranda, about your kids. In what way did this fly in the face of Steiner's philosophy? I've never incorporated Waldorf education in our lives (I made attempts but it always felt contrived and strange) so I don't know all the details of his idea of how learning happens. 


Well, the idea is that until the cutting of the first permanent teeth (around age 6 and a half in my kids' cases) children inhabit the "physical body" as opposed to the "etheric body" of later childhood or the "astral body" of the pert- and post-adolescent years. During the physical body phase, they should exist in a world of imagination, not facts. Reading instruction and reading should be delayed until after the permanent teeth come in. Learning should focus on realizing imagination, through story-telling, arts, crafts, and music. All of which are great things, and we did a lot of them. But a 4-year-old boy who is a little engineer, obsessed with memorizing hundreds and thousands of dinosaur facts and figuring out the science of how things in the real world work, and a five-year-old girl who wants to do almost nothing but read books -- well, Steiner doesn't give you any way of nurturing those passions, and instead suggests that these pursuits will damage their development:

 

"People will object that the children [in Waldorf education] then learn to read and write too late. That is said only because it is not known today how harmful it is when the children learn to read and write too soon.It is a very bad thing to be able to write early. Reading and writing as we have them today are really not suited to the human being till a later age - the eleventh or twelfth year - and the more a child is blessed with not being able to read and write well before this age, the better it is for the later years of life."

 

Rudolph Steiner, "The Kingdom of Childhood."

 

I felt very strongly that my children were who they were, and that their interests and passions should be nurtured and supported, not discouraged and devalued in keeping with Waldorf principles. Those same kids are immensely creative today: the dinosaur-obsessed boy is an amazingly musical violist and a tenor in an advanced youth choir, and the precocious reader girl is a gifted fantasy writer and exceptionally advanced violinist. They are sensitive and passionate human beings, now 14 and 16, who make excellent choices and care deeply about doing well and doing right. So "allowing" them to read all day and obsess over scientific facts during their early years did not seem to ruin them. 

 

Miranda

post #12 of 44

Yes, right, I do remember those silly ideas. Of course, pushing a child to read before his time is detrimental, but that's entirely different from encouraging an established desire.

 

Beautiful, the way you supported your children, and how they turned out:). I believe children, if let to choose their own path, will be attracted to the real world around them (the work of adults in our time). Not some made-up fantasy life created carefully and scheduled by their caretakers.

 

My oldest also memorized lots of scientific facts already at that age (4), and has loved math from the start--counting from an early age, just for fun and now way ahead of his class. 

I also was an early reader, and started off entirely of my own, at 5 or something (early for Swedish kids of my time). What an amazing experience, figuring it out all myself. I wanted to know what those letters were all about. But then my son, he knows how to read, thanks to school unfortunately, but resists it and does not find it exciting at all. He loves stories but wants them told to him. He also has amazingly good memory. So I do think there's value to 'illiteracy' (people of illiterate societies generally have better memories than us), but there is no one way that we should be or turn out. 

 

The Steiner quote you referred to is a perfect example of the dogmatic thoughts that scare me about Waldorf. Soooo counter to unschooling.

post #13 of 44

For us, inspired Waldorf complements our unschooling life. My approach with Steiner is evolving. I actually really like the quote listed above. I look at it a little differently than most purists. Taking into consideration the history of education & Steiner's view on it, our current state of culture in the states... I seem to pull things out of that quote that really does have some weight. Do I agree with everything Steiner says? Nah. That's why we are inspired by Waldorf. There is a very primal aspect to it (you mention hunter gather) that is very counter culture here in the states. Our choosing to unschool in this light is definitely going against the "machine". It's complete opposite, IMO, of putting us into our proper place. Especially if looked at as a juxtapose. Kmamma, your thoughts on imagination are interesting. Waldorf's ideas of imagination, for me, are one of the most beautiful aspects of this type of learning. I always looked at it as going hand in hand with an inner unschooling, allowing a child to experience and learn without any pre-formed pictures in their minds. Much deeper for me than whether a child is allowed to read books or not before their milk teeth are lost.  Interesting thoughts ladies!

post #14 of 44

I think observation-imitation has been part of our society well beyond our 'primal' stages.

 

What do you take from the quote? I'm assuming you read Steiner the same I do, that reading and writing before 11 or 12 is detrimental regardless of whether the child has been made to do it, or has chosen it on her own. And what happens to the child who is told she cannot read or write before this age? How do you even stop them from doing it? I can see for someone like my son, this 'rule' would cause no harm since he has no interest in reading.

 

Another reason I'm weary of Waldorf is because it's an educational system created in the brain of one person, it's not an educational system that has grown organically within an egalitarian society. Borrowing ideas from hunter-gathering societies feel safer for me personally. The stories I hear from ex-Waldorf families also make me very cautious of this philosophy.

post #15 of 44

I think that quotes like that can lend a lot of comfort to parents of late readers. While society puts a ton of emphasis on the importance of the timely attainment of literacy, that quote says "hey, maybe early literacy comes at a cost." And that's kind of a nice message if your child is 7 or 8 and not yet reading. It reminds you that there may be skills and perspectives that your child is having an opportunity to develop more fully than all those fluent-reading little kids.

 

I certainly agree that kids who read later are more likely to have strengths in aural memory, for example, while the early readers are likely to, oh ... develop large vocabularies, for example. There's a trade-off. 

 

But the Steiner quote goes far beyond saying that there's a trade-off. He's saying "it is very bad to read early; it produces harm." That's not a message that promotes the supporting of a child's individuality, developmental imperative, interests and learning style -- not if your child is a self-taught, passionate early reader. So while I can see why part of the message might resonate for some parents, I don't buy into that take on things at all myself.

 

Miranda

post #16 of 44

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

I think that quotes like that can lend a lot of comfort to parents of late readers. While society puts a ton of emphasis on the importance of the timely attainment of literacy, that quote says "hey, maybe early literacy comes at a cost." And that's kind of a nice message if your child is 7 or 8 and not yet reading. It reminds you that there may be skills and perspectives that your child is having an opportunity to develop more fully than all those fluent-reading little kids.

 

I certainly agree that kids who read later are more likely to have strengths in aural memory, for example, while the early readers are likely to, oh ... develop large vocabularies, for example. There's a trade-off. 

 

But the Steiner quote goes far beyond saying that there's a trade-off. He's saying "it is very bad to read early; it produces harm." That's not a message that promotes the supporting of a child's individuality, developmental imperative, interests and learning style -- not if your child is a self-taught, passionate early reader. So while I can see why part of the message might resonate for some parents, I don't buy into that take on things at all myself.

 

Miranda



Yes, very well put. I don't find this any less harmful than the dogma in public schools dictating that all children read at the same, albeit earlier, age.

post #17 of 44

subbing 

post #18 of 44

A lively discussion!  I'm subbing, too. 

 

While on the surface, I do like some of the Waldorf philosophy, I agree that Steiner can be "out there" and there is a lot of it that I don't subscribe to.  So I would never say that we are a Waldorf family, and we are only brand-new to homeschooling, so I can't offer much opinion on that!  What I can add is that when it comes to Waldorf, we take what works for us and we leave the rest.  We like: natural toys, no pressure on early academics, a minimal amount of media exposure, lots of time in nature, a rhythm-filled home life and plenty of free play and unstructured time.

 

I spent a lot of time in the first few years of my mothering feeling very inadequate that I wasn't doing Waldorf "correctly" and just gave up on the whole thing.  Now, 6 years later, I can see that I can simply do what works for us and not beat myself up about it.

 

So I say, follow your own path.  Take some time to figure out what it is about Waldorf that appeals to you, and use it.  If you are Waldorf inspired unschoolers, so be it.


Edited by MamaScout - 1/7/11 at 7:20pm
post #19 of 44

Hi! Just a quick brief note! If you are in NC, VA, NY, or even TN, would you give me a little message! We sold our half finished house today in HI.. relocating is not actually going to happen until we are living out of a mini-van/family homes and they ALL want us to move to THEIR state, LOL! I love them.. I am thrilled. I have a 3 year old son and a 1 year old daughter. 

 

My homeschooling journey began watching my sister's kids (near Charlotte, NC) grow up. When Athena was born with some sort of colic, I put Fred in a Montessori school fast and it helped out a lot. Things were warm there, but way to many rules for my sweet toddler! He asked to stay home a lot and we played sick a lot. We didn't see the point anymore.. but we literally felt like we were in the a sort of lifestyle for an unschooler - real life stuff (chem sets, microscopes, but then all the teachings tools too).. the kids were encouraged to do real life stuff, very many true world field trips etc. I learned a lot from there. I wouldn't want my house filled with all of the tools, but many of them - I just don't see the harm if a child, well you know unschoolers! 

 

We also had a blessing happen - I got a Waldorf Kindergarden teacher as a nanny from 7-1pm! This was awesome because I felt pretty shoved to wake up this slumbering toddler and put him in preschool while DH went off to work by 8 am and Athena was still in bed sleeping (or just needing holding - can't do everything with a 2 year old getting ready for school). She also cleaned my house as part of the "mom is around" deal and we loved it! Truth is really... I also had to do a serious healing process during that time.. all better, but my husband was amazing for really seeing all this and supporting me. She loved us and took half what she got from her last job. She is still my friend and pregnant with her first now! We spent minutes here and there talking, but when Freddy got home at 12:30, she would be like this whole different person to him! It was actually really cool to watch. It makes me very inspired to train myself.. but we talked about the Steiner stuff and she really spoke clearly that very few schools reaaaallly teach that.. but she had read his books. She told me to read "the uses of Enchantment" and I had a hard time at the moment (book got returned to the library). I still want too... BUT when she left she said I had taught her a lot about thinking positively and being happy.. I really am a person that leads my little ones into sunshine and happiness, while I love all the organic offerings that Waldorf has to offer, I would never teach my kids out right about "the dark side" to protect them.. I don't feel like kids really get enough sheltering even in schools. I am such a happy news kind of person. Dangers, real ones, falling off a cliff on the hike, etc  come up - you know what I mean, another unschooling thing.. I want to teach it when it needs to be. I kind of feel this shove inside like you all posted really! While I am caught up learning about the methodologies, my kids will have grown and I may have guilted my way through unschooling trying to Waldorf and I really just want them to be vibrantly them and happy! 

 

This thing about the Waldorf inspired unschooler  - I think I am one!!! Funny! I really think I understand almost exactly what we are all about, lol! I bought my family a whole Etsy Christmas, plus others from Nova Natural toys AND a RC shark car for my son :D and a pirates playmobil small ship. If we could all move to one community - I would move there! Thank God for mothering! HUGS! (Dude, where are you?)

 

My nanny friend explained to me the different age groups for fiber arts and I got a book called "Summer" and "Painting with children" from Nova toys.. Plus I got a book called "Wee Folk Art" for me mostly. My kids went crazy for the basket of playsilks and the little toddler we hang out with a lot begs to play with them. We got them all the stockmar paints and some other natural paints and I really get the lessons at this age about "less being more" - it is all so new and we use a little a day (when ever one is home, fed, napped.) Still so new for us, but I love this direction of arts supplies being fine arts.. so do I love our piano and (later, much settled down later) I will get Fred into a co-op or community class of his choice and one that I like (classic music) that I will try to get him to try a couple classes, while I take the real thing.. kind of leading but not forcing. We are seriously thinking of family music classes at the house with someone that plays many and isn't strict, just good....man sometimes inspiration is the first class we all need! 

 

Yes, inspiration! Waldorf inspired unschooling is playing a huge role in my relocating! You can probably agree on all the malls and sprawl I am not into, so the flip side is either a major cultural center or the countryside. The countryside in a very organic county is where I am finding the whole "your children become their community and learn from them" to be out right true! The people in organic communities are open to teaching groups or have schools! Seems almost like the whole package! I am creating a calendar of fiber art festivals, Renaissance Festivals along with organic counties and homeschooling co-ops in the countryside to map it. Oh and an abundance of U-pic farms. I am getting really sensitive about the areas that buy a lot of organic food.. picking up really strong good Earth loving vibes and that is deep to me, like faith. I am really into this actually. I unschool, but my kids are going to raised with strong values.. I see the beauty of teaching it to them within a community that values these things and also less of the ones that don't. I was actually thinking of Ithaca, NY (but really into everything else liberal) or the Hudson Valley (mostly because it is located to all the hip New England cities and towns for adventures). I am having a harder time finding a place in the southeast. I would really love to connect. My dearest family is trying to get me to move to Asheville. I like the place, but I really wanted a vibrant organic or else a little organic small town with not much else.. we are going to go see on foot (again). 

 

 

Ever wonder if we are more like Organic Unschoolers who like playing with Waldorf toys? :D I gave my kids magic rocks (from a Lake in NY /colorful) and put a tie dyed rainbow silk down, put the rocks over a river of blue (other silk) and put one or two wooden trees. I then took a little boy and mother doll and had a flower (crocheted) with a wee little wood doll fairy (the really tiny wood peg dolls) and then I had the mother give the boy some seeds and he went out and planted them with a stick (we do chopstick gardening here) and then the boy went home, went to bed, and then he woke up and went for a walk and noticed sprouts, then he went home again and slept and (the timing was for a 3 and 1 yr old) he woke up the and went outside to see flowers everywhere (I pointed at the colors in the tie dye and said a flower name - "yellow tulips") and then he went and took a nap on the green grass ( other playsilk) and then his mother came too and they fell asleep. A fairy was just about to have her flower bloom open (crocheted flower slowly opens to reveal this little one marveling about the new world) and she went and found the sweet boy and sprinkled fairy dust on him that felt like 1,000 I love you's and she kissed him on the head, and his mother got the whole deal too for the seeds. Then the kids wanted at the dolls.. it just came inspired by my whole Etsy Christmas! And I love this "product" of childhood - great for us - just a little balance.. they toys are really worth it. I see it mixing well with the real world stuff. But I think I want a community were a lot of the values about nature are not so pretend and that play is real and free, and unschooled. 

 

Cheers! Aloha! 

Leslie

 

 

post #20 of 44

Love this thread!  This is where I am at also.  I'd say MamaScout's list of "we like" is about exactly what we like too!  Altho I'm still not sure about the 'rhthym' part...but I feel like we are doing fine with whatever our 'rhythm' happens to be these days.  DD1 is only 2.5, so ... you know, it's all pretty unstructured!  

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