I found the Waldorf method when my twins were 3, so I had a few years to get immersed in the concepts and ideas of what Waldorf was. But, it was still very intimidating to me, as someone who had never heard of Waldorf Education before!
The following are 5 mistakes I made when I started out. (though I am sure there were more!)
1) Not “getting started” due to fear. I had collected so many references, books, ideas, curriculums I was unable to sort it all out! It was information overload and it kept me frozen for awhile. One day, I set all my resources out and picked the ones that really spoke to me (or the ones I could understand) and the rest I put on a shelf for later. Then, I could follow a few plans until I picked what worked for my lifestyle and my family.
2) Not pre-mixing the Stockmar paints. O.k. No one told me this until I had 2 different sets of paints dry up before we used them all. I met a mom who said she mixed the batches up at the beginning of the school year and they lasted! Here is what you do: Get 3 large glass jars (I used pasta sauce jars with lids) Pour all of one color in and fill to about half full with water. (I used filtered water from my fridge) *Note: I used less water in the yellow and more in the red. You can mix to whatever hue desired and you can add more water later. Mix well, put lids on and keep in the refrigerator. I mixed ours in late August and it is June now and they are still great! And, we still have plenty left. Now, I use small baby food jars and just pour small amounts in when we need them.
3) Trying to replicate “school at home” I think this is something that many homeschool families may fall into. Most of us were schooled and that’s all we know! I had the tables, the blackboards, a ABC chart., etc.. I even had a bell I would ring for lessons to begin! Once, I realized school could start at 10am or 2pm whatever worked for us, I relaxed. Sometimes we read on the couch, instead of behind a cold table. Our circle time is done on our livingroom rug where I light a candle, we say our verses, etc.. I do have the main lesson in our school room, as that is where all the supplies and chalkboards are. But, taking a nature walk, painting outside, hopscotch on the driveway, even bouncing a ball back and forth learning letters or numbers is all part of school. With young children, it is all about movement and learning, and its really hard to move while sitting behind a desk! Have fun with it.
4) Not being flexible to go with the flow of things. Sometimes I would tell a story and at the end one of my girls would ask a questions like, “How do caterpillars turn into butterflies mommy?” In the beginning, I might have said something like “Oh, we’ll study that later..”, brush her off and stick to my plan… Then, one day I took the “cue” and we ended up with a makeshift lesson based on their interests that was wonderful! Now, I am not saying to scrap your lesson plans every time a question arises. But, if it is spring and I had science planned anyway..catching tadpoles in the creek is better than reading about them in a book. A few times, an idea came up that I knew would go along with my lesson and really compliment it. Now, I am more flexible to weave that in, if possible and it always works nicely.
5) Being intimidated by Circle Time. For some reason, this was a huge stumbling block for me. I just couldn’t understand what this was “supposed” to be.
I read some info and at first just played a cd I found with a few songs and I added finger plays and movement to them. When, Kindergarten started, I found a verse I really liked and we said that first each morning. I also use the poem “The Crowning of the Year” by Juliet Compton-Burnett and we say the 2 line verse for each month. We sing a few songs, a seasonal verse and a “run-around-verse”. I found this very important for my rambunctious girls. This is a verse I would say in a sing-song-way that required them to run, skip, gallop, whatever, around the house! It got all the energy out and then they could sit still for a story. Circle time is whatever works for your family. If you have young children, it may just be a verse, a song, and story you tell. As your child enters the grades, you can use circle time to practice recorder or numbers & spelling by tossing beanbags. I believe it will change year-to-year, but the main idea is to come together and share a few moments of fun.
My advice to anyone getting started is just to go for it. Once you try things out, they become a bit clearer and you can tweak your routine to fit you. Making mistakes is how we learn and I am learning right along with my children.
I am always nervous (still) when we begin a new year. Then after a few days, I settle in and become “me” again.
Donna Ashton has devoted over 5 years to learning Waldorf Education and homeschooling her twin girls. She brings her experience with raising her 8½ yr olds in a mindful way to help struggling homeschoolers and parents trying to balance their daily rhythm and get clarity in homeschooling.