Kindergarten Homeschooling: The Essentials!
Choosing to homeschool kindergarten with Waldorf-inspired methods is more about allowing your children to have a magical childhood than anything else. To me, that means giving young children the time and space to have a normal childhood, full of active play, imagination, and a strong connection to family, something which is anything but normal in the modern world!
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 "just" playing, click here to read more.
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. That's because movement is not just critical for physical development, it's absolutely key for proper neurological development.
Movement is encouraged simply by protecting time and space for creative play and going outside every day. Young children who are playing all day are very busy moving their bodies, using their hands, and engaging with their senses. Learning is active....just the way nature intended.
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.
To read more on gardening in kindergarten, please click here.
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 activities, language, manners, social skills, how you treat others, how you treat yourself, how you eat, how you take care of your body, how you demonstrate reverence, and much more.
Imitation is one of your most effective tools for discipline in peaceful parenting. It's also a starting point for encouraging creative play, movement, rhythm, and hands-on active learning. When you do purposeful work around the home or make beautiful things with your hands, they are watching, imitating, and learning.
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!
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.
For much more on how to create rhythm for your kindy child, see these back posts on Rhythm in the Early Years and Rhythm in the Kindergarten Years. I also have a Rhythm Quick Start Guide to help you figure out a rhythm that works for your family. Sign up below and I'll send it to you right away!
Curriculum is actually not an essential for Waldorf-inspired kindergarten. For many families, though, a gentle guide to creating daily and weekly rhythms that support their child's development in the early years is such a weight off their shoulders. I created the Lavender's Blue Kindergarten curriculum to provide you with guilt-free support as well as circle times, stories, and more for a peaceful, playful, nature-inspired early childhood.