Where can I find Waldorf resources for parenting and early childhood?

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My introduction to Waldorf education was when I was about 2 1/2 and my mom was attending a Birth to Three group which took place in a Waldorf school. I also remember my mom telling me (when I was slightly older) that if I went to a school like that, I’d have to take my lunch to school in something made of natural material instead my plastic lunchbox. I imagined taking my lunch to school in a wicker basket, fantasized about eating my lunch with fairies and gnomes. As I grew older, I coveted everything in the Hearth Song catalog and cut pictures out to hang on my wall. However, I’ve never actually met someone who has direct experience with a Steiner/Waldorf school.

Flash forward 20 years and I’m expecting my first child. Now that I’m becoming a parent, I have an excuse to indulge my love of Waldorf toys, but I’m interested in the philosophy behind them as well. I’m interested in hearing the experience of Offbeat parents who have incorporated Steiner/Waldorf philosophies into their parenting. What resources (books or online) do you recommend to inform a new parent about incorporating Steiner/Waldorf into their home and parenting philosophies? — Ginny

Comments on Where can I find Waldorf resources for parenting and early childhood?

  1. The book You Are Your Child’s First Teacher is awesome! I’ve been taking the Parent and Tot program at my local waldorf school with my two year old son and we both get so much out of it. Good luck on your waldorfy parenting journey!

  2. I loved Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer – http://amzn.to/tAy13J. She is a Waldorf teacher, and even if Waldorf schooling is not an option, she gives you ways to incorporate that philosophy into your daily life. That book will be a go-to for me for many years.

    I also visit and bookmark projects on Rhythm of the Home – http://bit.ly/51wyJf frequently. My little one is still a little young to understand and do some of the things on there, but reading this site grounds me and reminds me to take it slow and simple in a world that rushes around and adores its technology. While this site is not specifically Waldorf, many of the projects and articles are inspired by it and I think you may also enjoy it as well.

  3. May I also suggest that you look into the wonders of Montessori? Montessori encourages all natural materials, self-discovery, nature, and many other wonderful things. Check out ami-usa.org and ami.org for more info. Waldorf and montessori, are very close in at least the introduction of the profound love of nature as well as the self-directed learning style (though they differ greatly in their practice).

    • Montessori and Waldorf are pretty much opposites. I was a Waldorf kifnergarten teacher so my opinions are a bit biased, I will admit.
      While Montessori is pretty much child lead, Waldorf is actually very structured in that the teacher creates the lesson plans and has a vision of the trajectory of a lesson and how that fits in to the trajectory of the entire grade and the whole educational experience. Waldorf education in early childhood encourages imagination and playing with “blank slate objects” that can be whatever the child imagines them to be. In Montessori school children are encouraged to use a phone only as a phone and a hat only as a hat, bringing a more solid “things are what they are” education to young children. Montessori works for some, while Montessori works for others. IT is unfortunately that so many conflate the two kinds of education because they really are only similar in that they differ from the mainstream approach.

  4. Oh goodness, I’m homeschooling my son with Waldorf. I’d check out Christopherus. That’s where I buy my curriculum, but there’s free podcasts and a great blog too. There are a number of great Waldorf yahoo groups you can join, and I’d second the recommendation for The Parenting Passageway and You Are Your Child’s First Teacher. Look up the anthroposophical society, you may have a local chapter. There are a number of books by Steiner you may be able to find at your local library, they’re heavy, but I’m slowly working my way through a few. Also check out the mothering.com boards.
    There are lots of resources out there once you start digging. Almost overwhelming. But it’s good fun! You don’t have to home school, I may not keep doing it past kindergarten myself, but the homeschooling resources are awesome for the lifestyle, you know?
    Good luck and congrats!

  5. I am in LOVE with Waldorf! I’ve been reading about it for years and am excited to do some Waldorfy things with my little one arriving in a few months.

    First of all — http://www.waldorfbooks.com/ Bob & Nancy’s Bookshop is a WONDERFUL resource for books. Everything I have ever bought from them has been an absolute delight, and they have lots for littles, keeping a home, etc.; also lots of Steiner theory and books specifically on education, but all their books are wonderful.

    Their related pages are http://www.bobnancy.com and http://www.waldorfworld.net. Bobnancy has more theory; Waldorf World has sections for schools, employment, etc.

    I second Christopherus, they are affordable and readable, very practical resources.

    Melissa at http://www.waldorfjourney.typepad.com/ is another great resource — very down to earth and practical, and she makes it her mission to make this lifestyle/education affordable.

    “Lifeways: Working with Family Questions” is another great book.

    About Montessori — I know many more people who are into Montessori. It may be a personal thing; I find their similarities rather superficial. I wish I could remember the name of it, but I can’t — but I read a great article on this a few years ago, explaining that Ruldolf Steiner and Maria Montessori were doing the opposite thing — Steiner was trying to bring imagination and playfulness into the lives of children in an urban, factory setting, whose lives he felt were too brutally realistic. Montessori was working with peasant children whose Italian parents had a tendency to color life with romantic stories and imaginations, and she felt that the children needed to be more realistically and practically oriented in order to be succesful and rise out of poverty. This relates in a different educational approach — although both are whole-child focused and child-led. Not trying to make a judgment on either one here, just pointing that out as you look into them.

  6. wow, that put me into perspective… we have waldorf toys in every toy shop. every town has at least one school and several kindergardens. they do “martini market” and christmas markets where the parents sell homemade toys for charity. heck, every drug store has weleda products, an organic cosmetic company founded by steiner.
    then again, mr. steiner was german, and i am in germany… in parts, anthroposophy is fully integrated in our culture. come over for a visit, maybe?

    • Germany really does have Waldorf products and philosophy everywhere. The Waldorf schools are also amazing – the one I visited went up to 12th grade. It was an old three-story brick building, surrounded by little gardens, kilns, and class projects. I had lunch with some of the kids – homemade lasagna with veggies they’d picked.

  7. Wonderful question!! We are in the exact same situation! I’ll so keen to read any experiences people have had. Plus now I want to visit Germany even more…. 😛

  8. I’m going to be collecting branches to make me a set of those blocks!

    My husband owns an organic cafe in a very steiner area and I have become more and more interested in Steiner philosophies, especially since becoming pregnant with our first. I was unaware of the extreme differences in Montessori vs Waldorf, and will definately look into this further. LOVE OBMama for how much I learn!

  9. i’d love to learn more about the differences in waldorf and montessori if anyone can point me in a good direction to get started. both schools of thought are well represented in my area, but i guess i always sort of lumped them all together. we’re getting a group of girls from a local waldorf school on the jr. derby team i coach so now i’m really interested!

  10. I’m a Waldorf elementary teacher (and hopefully soon-to-be mom) in Chicago… it’s so awesome to see more parents becoming interested in Waldorf education and the principals and values behind it! The first place I’d encourage you to go is the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America’s website, http://www.whywaldorfworks.org. You’ll find a great overview of Waldorf education, links to schools in your area, and recommendations for books and other resources.

    My favorite beginning resource for parents of young children is the book “Beyond the Rainbow Bridge: nurturing or children from birth to seven” by Barbara J. Patterson, Pamela Bradley and Jean Riordan. Wonderful advice on home rhythm, food, play, everything.

    Last plug! Check out simplicityparenting.com, and get empowered to gift your children (and your family!) with a calmer, richer, more joyful childhood.

  11. To offer a different point of view:

    I know quite a few parents (including myself) that have enrolled their kids in Steiner, then withdrawn them due to it not working out.

    For my son the Steiner kinder he went to (in Australia) for approx 6 months was inappropriate for him. Although I liked the idea of Steiner in THE LAND OF THEORY, in the end it did not relate to our life.

    He found it distressing when he would get to be himself at home – a normal. happy, superhero loving kid- to not being able to engage in the same kind of play at kinder – eg playing superheroes, wearing a cape, wearing a black t shirt even though I did all the time.

    Because our values were not strictly in line with the Steiner values, he became unsettled in that kinder environment. This led to some difficult, (but not that difficult) behaviour that the kinder staff were not equipped to deal with.

    The focus was on the Steiner way of doing things, not on what each child might be best suited to- which make sense, it is a particular school of thought. But I prefer my son in an environment where his needs are tailored to individually (as well as the other kids). My experience with this Steiner kinder was that the Way Of Doing Things was put above all else.

    Other limiting factors were that the playground area has lots of sandpits etc, but no space for the kids to run around without tripping- my son needed to be able to exert himself physically more than he was able to at that kinder.

    He was a lot happier when he moved to a mainstream kinder. Other friends of mine have liked the theory but abandoned the practice for similar reasons- their child was not happy at a Steiner school/kinder and was just better suited to a mainstream school. I personally think the fact that my son is best suited in an everyday school environment does NOT make him any less special or unique- he is still a creative, engaging, humourous kid who just didn’t suit Steiner.

    I think it boils down to – Steiner (in my opinion) is an all or nothing type of thing (I have found that very rarely are people ‘little bit Steiner’)- for us, we had to examine the effect of that style on our own son and assess it from that perspective, not from a theoretical point of view. Parenting is about trying to get it right and recognising when to say ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time’. That’s what we did – tried and didn’t buy

    But I still like the toys.

  12. I don’t know, I’d say our household is just partially Waldorf. When my son is in pre k and kindy like he is now, we use Walsorf curriculum, but as he gets older I plan on going a more classical education route. We lead a moderately Walsorf lifestyle, but my son does watch some TV, and has trademarked charcter toys (though I do try to limit both). I personally dislike all or nothing attitudes. I know they are out there in every school of thought, but I find them to be more alienating than anything else.

  13. We are considering sending our son to a Waldorf school when the time comes–we agree with many of the ideas, and it’s the closest school to where we live)–but I have heard some negative things about it. As mentioned above, an acquaintance of mine pulled her son out after only a month or so because it was a bad fit. I’ve also read about some of their beliefs and practices and find some things very out of line with my own beliefs. I read that children are not taught to read until age 7. When I was very young, I was so excited to go to school and learn to read and I was disappointed when my kindergarten teacher didn’t teach reading. I understand not pushing a child who isn’t ready, but don’t understand denying a child who is. I’ve also read that along with no tv, children should only experience live music and nothing recorded, and while I can see some sense in it, I don’t wholly agree. How do the Waldorf families here reconcile their beliefs with the school where they differ? How do I make the decision that this may or may not be the right kind of school for us?

  14. The Waldorf homeschool curriculum I use recommends a number of audio CDs full of music. I think adherence to Waldorf ideals varies from practioner to practitioner. I think no matter where you send your kids to school there’s going to be values clashing. You’re not going to find a school that perfectly aligns itself with your values, unless you want to homeschool (which I’m really only doing because I can’t afford private school), so no matter what you’re going to have to reconcile some clashing beliefs. You just have to find what you can work with, you know? I can’t tell you if Waldorf will be right for your family or not, but I do know that going into any education system expecting to find something that perfectly matches your values is unrealistic. Even in my situation, homeschooling is not perfect, it doesn’t fit all my needs and values perfectly, but I can reconcile with it’s issues better than I can the ones in public schools, so here I am. That’s just life.

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