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More About Methods: The Waldorf Approach

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 6, 2011

        In my last post, I shared about my belief in the importance of balance when it comes to preschool/homeschool “teaching methods”.  I also promised to introduce you to a few of the more popular methods, and help you glean their best ideas for use in your home.  I’m going to start with Waldorf method.  But before I do, I’d like to share a little more about “method obsession.” 

        I disagree with the idea that there is any “perfect” method (or curriculum, later), OR any one method that we should become obsessed with.  Every child–every mom–every family–is different, and must choose the methods/philosophies that fit their needs, goals and beliefs.  I mention this because while I’ve been researching various methods, I’ve discovered that some proponents of certain methods go “over the top” with their enthusiasm.  For example, a book I read about the Montessori approach referred to the fact that early teachers of the method were thought of as  “goddesses” who were “worshipped” by their devoted followers (even if that is “just an expression”, that is NOT O.K.)  Others referred to the results of the approach as “magic”…but we all know that there is no such thing as “magic”.  As I say in my book:

 “…Not only is there no perfect curriculum, but there is no perfect or magical method or way of teaching that can guarantee success.  The most magical thing I can think of is simply the love, time, and attention of a patient parent who wants to help his children learn.  Because the truth is, homeschooling is more about relationship than curriculum or methods.  Parents can and do make just about anything work as curriculum if they have to.  More than the perfect curriculum, what learning takes is your time. Learning takes repetition, work, and discussion with an involved parent. Every method, book or text has its own strengths and weaknesses, but it is you-the “teacher”-that teaches, not the text or method.  What you bring to your homeschool is most important.”

        Another thing I’ve noticed that disturbs me: Many method enthusiasts vehemently object to any criticism of their preferred method, and take the criticism personally.  Instead of debating calmly or even “agreeing to disagree”, they become rude and hateful…even to the point of trying to take “revenge” on other people, putting them down, or trying to harm their reputations.  I’ve even seen people who claim to be Christians do this…this very un-Christian behavior.  I feel sure that my regular readers have more integrity than to behave that way, and I trust that new visitors to my site will behave accordingly.

        It is not my intention to initiate a fire storm, especially with me at the center of it.  I don’t want to get burned.  Nevertheless, I am determined to share my own personal opinions about these matters.  If you believe that I am in error, please feel free to comment about it—but do it kindly, gently, and in a spirit of Christian love and concern, which is the same spirit in which I endeavor to write.

        Finally, you should know that when I examine any “method”, I examine the main ideas it is known for, but I also go deeper and examine the method’s “founder” (if there is a single person famous for the approach), and his or her goals (what should the method achieve?) and world-view.  Is this person a Christian?  Does the method intend to impart any certain religious view or message?  If so, what is the message?  Is it Biblical? 

        Personally, I am extremely suspicious of any philosophy or “method” that is based on any ONE PERSON’S ideas. 

        The Word of God is our standard, and it is the only “perfect” method. 

What I Like and Don’t Like About the Waldorf Method

        The Waldorf method is gaining in popularity, and so it is a name that you may hear discussed in homeschooling circles.  It is an international movement, based on the writings of Rudolf Steiner.  The Waldorf method is best known for its most positive elements—the things I like about Waldorf (although they are NOT unique to Waldorf):

-A home-like environment filled with natural objects

-An emphasis on creative play and the imagination, including dramatic play, dress-up, etc {also used in the Creative Curriculum and the Charlotte Mason approach.}

-Lots of time spent outside, gardening and exploring nature {also used in the Charlotte Mason approach}

– Following a daily rhythm (routine), and following the rhythm of the year in regards to activities and stories (seasons, holidays and “festivals” are important in the Waldorf method; most homeschooling families make a big deal out of them, too.)  {These methods are also used in the Creative Curriculum approach.}

-The planning of specific activities for each day of the week (there is no rule about this–Monday could be painting day; Tuesday baking day; Wednesday nature walk day; Thursday dress-up day, Friday is cooking or hands-on science day, etc)  {a slightly different take on routines that would work with ANY method.}

– Encourage the use of imagination through stories and dramatic play (prop boxes are great for this.) {Creative Curriculum} 

-Emphasis on the arts: Singing, chanting, making music, painting and ceramics (sculpting/clay) and knitting (yes, even in the early years) are especially encouraged.  {Creative Curriculum, Charlotte Mason again.}

-Teachers stay with their students several years in Waldorf schools (often 8 years; of course, when you homeschool, your children will always know who their teacher is!)

-Television and computer time should be kept to a bare minimum (always a good idea.)

        As you can see, Waldorf has some ideas that are applicable to homepreschoolers/homeschoolers.  However, I cannot recommend the “Waldorf method” since it contains new-age, occult elements (reincarnation, pagan rituals, “karma”, clairvoyance, etc).  Even if/when these elements are not taught directly to the students, they are at the heart of the philosophy.   Waldorf also contains some very odd beliefs about education.  From the sources linked below, I’ve learned that, in general:

-“Outlining” (i.e. “drawing” or “sketching”) is discouraged; painting is preferred, wet-on-wet;

-No black or brown colors are to be used;

-No felt-tipped pens are allowed;

-Oral storytelling is preferred over picture books (oral storytelling is fun, but you know how adamently I feel about the importance of picture books!);

-Fairy-tales, myths, and legends (along with fairies, gnomes, and “gods”) are introduced to young children and presented almost as fact;

-Listening to recorded music is discouraged during the early years (I disagree; young children need to be introduced to classical music!)

-Only natural materials are to be used for clothing and in the classroom/home (no plastic toys, only toys made from natural materials such as wood, silk, or cotton is allowed/child-made/homemade is encouraged);

-Academics are delayed even if readiness, interest, or self-teaching exists (until around age 7, or the loss of the first tooth?!)

-“Spirituality” is emphasized, but only in reference to Waldorf beliefs, NOT Christianity (many beliefs and rituals are introduced, all on equal footing)

        According to Wikipedia, “The educational philosophy’s overarching goals are to provide young people the basis on which to develop into free, morally responsible, and integrated individuals, and to help every child fulfill his or her unique destiny, the existence of which anthroposophy posits.” (Huh?! Anthroposophy  is the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf’s founder.) 

        Some people claim that Waldorf is based on Christianity.  I disagree.  It is based on Steiner’s theories about child development, and his occultic philosophy of anthroposophy.  In my opinion, Waldorf is the ultimate in syncretism, or the blending of Christianity with other religions, beliefs, and gods—and humanism (the idea that man can better himself, without God.)  There is even a racist element to Waldorf. 

        The positive and best-known tenants of this method are  appealing at face-value, if they are separated from all occult content, but they are NOT unique; they are important parts of several other “methods” (I put them in brackets { } above.)  Therefore, even though I see the value in some of Waldorf’s ideas, in light of Waldorf’s occult content, I could NEVER call myself a proponent of the Waldorf method.  I also would NEVER choose to go ANY deeper into ANY of the Waldorf philosophies…or participate in ANY Waldorf-method training, due to those concerns…and I warn you not to, either.  For some other opinions and facts about Waldorf, check out the links below:

Warldorf’s twisted treatment of mythology and history

Spiritual aspects/ occultist teachings/Racist elements, written by a Jewish parent

Waldorf Watch:  The goal of Waldorf teachers—to become clairvoyant (with quotes from Steiner)

More information about Steiner, and his theories/beliefs

One family’s experiences in a Waldorf school (some interesting insights into the philosophy)

In Steiner’s own words:  His lectures  




        And finally, for another take on Waldorf, through a couple of popular Waldorf sites (they look so appealing!  Remember, there are many takes on the Waldorf method; but the philosophy behind the method is NOT Christian. Some Christians chose to identify themselves with the method anyway…hopefully, they “pick out the bones and use the meat”…separating themselves and the positive elements/methods from the spiritual beliefs of Steiner. 

The Magic Onions

Waldorf Homeschoolers        

Next post:  The Montessori method

© 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Some of this post was taken from the book, Homepreschool and Beyond; used with permission.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.


3 Responses to “More About Methods: The Waldorf Approach”

  1. Daisy said

    Excellent article.

    • Thanks! I enjoyed your last entry a lot, too. And I loved the pictures you took at Hart Park…we’ve been there recently, too, and plan to go back to see all the new babies (and watch for more Comorants and storks!)
      Hope to see you soon!

  2. You are doing a great job! We have home schoolers in our family.

    Kenneth Alford


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