Choosing to homeschool kindergarten with Waldorf-inspired methods is more about allowing your children to have a magical childhood than anything else. Kindergartens in Waldorf schools have a peaceful rhythm filled with soulful and intentional activities, and a unique and palpable aesthetic. But it’s really important to understand that the rhythm, activities, and aesthetic are the outer manifestations of an underlying philosophy. And the philosophy doesn’t have to manifest in the same way in your home as it does at your local Waldorf school. In fact, the Waldorf schools are doing their best to create a nurturing, home-like, family-like environment for their early childhood programs. But you are at home, and you are a family. If you’re considering Waldorf-inspired homeschooling for your young child (under age 7), here are some of the essentials to consider:
Waldorf-inspired early childhood education is entirely play-based. Children have a natural instinct to play because play is their best tool for learning! So play-based education goes with the grain of how your child learns best.
Another way to say it, is there are no academic lessons in Waldorf-inspired kindergarten. Children in our modern culture often pick up academic skills (such as beginning writing) through imitation because they’re surrounded by print culture – and that’s fine. But structured academic lessons actually get in the way of the learning goal for this age, which is to build a solid foundation for life-long learning. This goal is best fostered through days full of open-ended, creative, and active play. (If you’re curious how children learn while they’re playing, click here to read more.)
Waldorf homeschooling is nature-inspired and this is especially true in the kindergarten years and early grades. Since learning is an active sensory experience, it’s hard to imagine a better classroom than nature itself. Spending time outside every day in all weather year-round is a full and rich sensory experience and an excellent way to foster creative play, movement, imagination, reverence, calm, and a feeling of connection. Kindergarten children love to take nature walks and collect treasures to bring inside and display. And nature provides beautiful inspiration for stories, songs, crafts, and seasonal festivals.
Children need to move their bodies, and in Waldorf-inspired kindergarten movement is not an afterthought (like a physical education class or a twenty-minute recess); it’s central to what children do all day. Young children who are playing all day are very busy moving their bodies, using their hands, and engaging with their senses. Learning is all “hands-on” and active.
Young children naturally imitate and this is an important part of the human learning strategy! Imitation is especially strong in early childhood, so Waldorf-inspired kindergarten is largely about giving children good things to imitate. Young children learn from imitating your language, manners, social skills, how you treat others, how you treat yourself, how you eat, how you take care of your body, and much more. When you do purposeful work around the home or make beautiful things with your hands, they are watching, imitating, and learning.
One thing that distinguishes Waldorf-inspired homeschooling from other play-based methods is the emphasis on rhythm. Children need plenty of time every day for open-ended (child-led) play, but they do best when all that freedom has some form around it. So the parent’s role is to create forms, or rhythms, which shape the flow of the day. And that intentional structure for the day actually does support creative play! There are many ways to bring more rhythm into family life, including crafting a daily rhythm which balances more active and more quiet times, adding in little rituals (such as singing a song before meals), and creating special family traditions.
There’s a crucial ingredient for successful homeschooling (or for teaching in any setting for that matter!): Relationship. A Waldorf kindergarten is designed to imitate a healthy home life, with peaceful rhythms, purposeful work, creative play, and most importantly, a nurturing, loving teacher. You can do all of these things so wonderfully at home! And you can do one thing better: You can spend your days together as a family. I’m mentioning relationship last, but really your connection to your child is the most important thing (and that’s why I write so much about peaceful parenting on the blog). If you are focused on connection, you and your child will both have a joyful kindergarten!
Now it’s your turn…
Are you considering Waldorf-inspired methods for homeschooling kindergarten? What are you most excited about – what makes it a great match for your family? Whether you are considering homeschooling or you’ve been at it for awhile, I would love to hear from you in the comments below!
Curriculum is NOT an essential for Waldorf-inspired homeschooling….but if you want more guidance on these topics, and if you’re looking for support with the kindergarten years, then I hope you’ll check out the Lavender’s Blue Kindergarten curriculum!