Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Expanding the Pillars and the Conversation

As a person who has straddled the worlds of the Waldorf homeschooler and the Waldorf school, as parent and as a teacher, I notice in some Waldorf homeschool circles, that there can be some feelings of resentment towards those who have worked in schools, or embrace a Waldorf homeschooling that is consistent with what Waldorf schools bring.

I know and can attest to a way of being with my children as parent-teacher in the home that is distinct from school life. The children can sleep late, eat warm meals, eat more, take time on a project, take it deeper and explore it without the constraints of moving on. A child may take all the time in the world to work on something while the parent teacher can see where the need is for focused attention.

When the weather is glorious we can be outside and "school" out of doors. We can do real meaningful work that contributes to the family and the homestead as part of our daily life. When it is really cold we can build a fire and "school" in its warmth.

A child in a classroom of thirty may not be seen, and may be left behind. A child sitting next to other children may get whacked with a bamboo lunch mat by the girl sitting next to him, and smacked with the lunchbox of the girl sitting on the other side of him. When he whacks them back with his hands, he may get blamed and made out to be the villain, because he has not yet learned not-to-get-caught and to-be-sneaky, like the girls who flank him in the front row.

The girls go home and complain about him, yet neglect to tell their parents that they had been smacking him. The parents don't know to ask, "and what were you doing?" The teacher misses the whole thing because she has twenty seven other children to teach or maybe she believes it is a karmic relationship that the children need to resolve on their own.

Yet the children get to experience Eurythmy, French and German, celebrate festival life together, and do class plays. They have the challenge of the social situation to negotiate. Sometimes this can be healthy and help build resilience. Other times, like in the scenario I described above, it can be very harmful to a child, and for all who inhabit this social dynamic.

Back to the Waldorf homeschooling versus Waldorf School schooling via the curriculum.

Some folks seem to think it is enough to bring certain stories at certain ages and create a main lesson book.

Today, my friend Carrie, over on The Parenting Passageway brings up the importance of including three arts with homeschooling in her lovely post today, on The Three Artistic Pillars of Waldorf Homeschooling, in which she addresses the arts of Drawing, Painting and Modeling for the homeschooler and gives a description of each.

I wish we could get together for tea and have conversations about how we homeschool and why and what's important. So often I read a blog post and want to say more, keep the conversation going. So this is my humble attempt to build a conversation via blogs.

In addition to these important artistic activities of Drawing, Painting and Modeling, I'm going to humbly suggest we include Speech, Singing and playing music, Movement, Drama and Handwork and make a picture of a sturdy eight pillared education. Story is the vehicle for much of the curriculum and these pillars bring story to the children.

Waldorf education is a lively artistic education that is process, not product, oriented. The Main Lesson page is a glimpse into something larger that has taken place. The rest of the story that cannot be seen or captured on paper but lives within the human being. At home we are capable of incorporating all these elements. While we may not bring Eurythmy or foreign languages we can bring these other artistic pillars in the course of a day's homeschooling experience.

These other pillars are:
Singing and Musical instrument playing

Speech through story, song, verse, rhyme, blessings, prayer, moving into tongue twisters and memorized verse in the grades. Clear, articulated speech. Conscious speech. Playful speech. Speech in movement, Speech in harmony. What is being lost in speech in our time?

We sing through the day with the young child, then sing festival songs, folk songs, rounds in the grades, the musical instrument used by the adult in early childhood: the kinder harp, the pentatonic xylophone, the flute all used by the adult with the child free to play with the instruments from time to time but no lessons until first grade, then the pentatonic flute. Music connects us with the spiritual world.

Movement is fundamental to learning. Movement is the basis for all learning. The kindergarten and nursery years are steeped in self initiated movement of the child. Children learn better when they move. (see Carla Hannaford's book, Smart Moves ~ not Waldorf per se yet very good and practical information on movement and the brain and learning) Homeschoolers have so much more freedom with movement yet our challenge is to bring rhythmic and harmonious movement to our children (think math and movement games) Our challenge is to create situations for movement within a group, especially important in kindergarten and the first three grades. Waldorf education is a social education and movement is a lovely opportunity to develop that with others.

Drama gives the child an opportunity to bring speech, movement, singing and music together in an artistic and social experience. It is very important in the grades. We can bring drama with storytelling and puppetry and perhaps with a community of others, neighbors, homeschoolers, cousins, friends.

Handwork is work that is done by hand. It can involve crafting useful objects and it can be work to sustain daily life, gardening, milking a cow, churning butter, washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, brushing the dog, chopping, stirring, kneading, this is the handwork of the child under seven. An excellent article on the Waldorf handwork and Craft curriculum is here.

For more support with wet on wet watercolor painting or any other pillars of the curriculum, join my interactive Homeschool/Homemaking Curriculum Program, this is a lively, interactive way to bring daily, weekly and seasonal rhythm to your home and to delve more deeply into activities that nurture wonder and imagination in a magical way.  Click here for more.

Thanks for coming over for tea, let's meet again soon.

Happy Christmastide all!


  1. Thanks you Lisa. There seems to be so much to learn as a parent about and implementing a Waldorf environment. Your articles are very helpful.

  2. You're welcome Kris. Yes we are learning too. It's as much about our journey as it is about the children. I am glad to be of help.

  3. You have a gift of showing what feels complicated as something less difficult and yet still important. Thank you Lisa.


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