Why We Waldorf
Our Waldorf Ways
We’ve chosen to raise our daughter in a Waldorf home and school. There are so many wonderful appealing things about the Waldorf world and we have embraced them and made them work for our family. My former boss, mentor, and friend Chris, fist introduced me to the world of Waldorf. Waldorf education is a pedagogy that emphasizes calm, beauty, nature, and routine to raise free, secure, happy children. Waldorf education is based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner who in my opinion was a deeply flawed man. One need only look to his writings about race, and technology to see that he was a product of his time. But as my grandmother always said, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day” and the man was a gifted observer of children and student of child development. Many of Steiner's “theories” have later been proven by child development experts. When people hear that we’re raising E Waldorf, they usually have lots of questions and want to know how “strict” we are in adhering to the doctrine. Here’s what being a Waldorf home means to us.
How We Waldorf
Simplicity. I always say that we have no choice but to live a simple life. We have a tiny, 800 sq. ft house and minimalist sensibilities. Having a simple life is a cornerstone of Waldorf life. It’s hard to raise children in the rhythm, peace, and beauty of the Waldorf lifestyle if your house is cluttered, your TV is always blaring, and your days and weeks are as packed with appointments and activities as your garage is with stuff. We are pretty anti stuff so simplicity is easy for us. I purge at least 100 tings from ur house every season/quarter, and we’re rutheless about what we let come into the space. You can wreck a 10/ x 11 ft living room in about 5 minutes if you have tons of stuff. We also limit the running around we do. This means we spend weekends at home in our garden or at the Natural History Museum or the Aquarium where we are members. We may take an art class, swim lessons, or music appreciation with my brother Jeremy who is a gifted pianist, but we limit any lessons or activities to one at at a time. Once the series of art classes wrap up, we can go back for another series of swim lessons. We play music and board games instead of watching TV. In fact we don’t have a TV and have a media plan that works for our family which I’ll explain down below. There is a pattern to our days and we have a sweet, gentle home life. I know it can be a struggle to cultivate a simple lifestyle, but for us with our natural preference for quiet and order it was easy. If simplifying is important to you, there’s no limit to the resources out there to help you from decluttering, to unscheduling.
Rhythm. Waldorf is nature based and everything follows a seasonal pattern. This idea appeals so much to me. Even as a poor college student I would swap out my dollar store kitchen towels and pot holders each season in order to honor the change I felt in the weather, and outdoors as well as in myself. I have always felt connected to focusing on seasons and do so even in my beauty routine. This nod to the changes in nature, cycles, and patterns lends itself to the idea of rhythm in Waldorf. Waldorf children are raised with a rhythm - a pattern of predictability to their days which helps them to feel secure, know what to expect, and find peace in that security. This is NOT a schedule. It’s less important that dinner is served at 6:00 pm the dot every day than that dinner is always preceeded by hand washing, and followed by at bath. In our home, which is very small, E can hear the bathtub filling as she finishes eating at the dinner table every evening. Her drawing pad and beeswax crayons are laid out on the coffee table during her bath and once in pajamas, she enters the living room for drawing time, cookies and milk, and Sparkle Stories before bedtime. When the story ends, it’s time for bed. In our family evenings roll out like this - play, hand washing, dinner, bath, story time, dessert, bed in the same predictable, secure rhythm every day even if not at exactly the same time. I honestly believe that this is why almost never have bedtime fits or requests for more time. There’s no room to argue! One activity flows into the next every day in a peaceful, loving, beautiful way. This idea of rhythm helps children know what to expect and leave no room for tantrums or argument.
Beauty. Beauty is a value in Waldorf life. In our home there are always fresh flowers even if they are the $2.99 gladiolas from the Albertson’s floral section, though they are usually very inexpensive blooms from our Saturday Farmer’s Market trips. The way that bread is served at the table, or the seasonal changing of the placemats or nature table are all examples of ways to bring beauty into the home.
Quality Toys. Waldorf children play with wholesome toys that ae open ended and invite the child’s imagination to br front and center. These toys are often made of wood and other natural materials. They are not fixed like action figures or character based toys so they can do and become anything the children want them to be. Smooth sanded wooden blocks become buildings, castles, and food for stuffed animals. Small pieces of naturally dyed silk become capes, scarves, landscapes, and teddy bear hammocks. Dolls without fixed facial expressions and who are not directly from television or movies can become and feel whatever the children want them to be. Much is made of Waldorf toys. In our family we certainly embrace Wadorf toys, but we also have some plastic blocks like legos for building and plastic doll accessories for our Calico Critters “mouse house”. We're less strict about this aspect, but we do value simpler toys and keep the plastic to a minimum. We go outside every day - no matter the weather which is easy in Southern California. Much of Waldorf living comes easily to us as quiet, simple people, and we've found a lot of joy in creating a Waldorf home.