It’s been quiet around here. Not here, in our family, but here where we share our stories.
Like I assume it has been for you, for us life has been happening at a rate like never before. But stories – those come together at their own pace, especially the ones worth sharing. For me, life becomes a story when the lessons come through and the healing happens. In a world consistently defying the known and challenging me to lay down any truths I’ve built outside my own intuition, the stories have taken their sweet time.
What I wrote so freely last Fall about releasing the plan was definitely an easier process for me when the new path was open but exciting and positive. The air and view is always clearer in the mountaintops, amiright? But like for so many of us, not long after that I was thrust back into a valley of loss and uncertainty with a murky view of the path out. Just like I am that person that has to turn down the radio to find my way when I’m driving, I had to turn down the noise big time to find my way out of this mess.
A break from writing here for a website upgrade became months of quiet from my posting, but I’m able to see how the website upgrade took me into a pause that became an upgrade in my voice, understanding and purpose.
The world “falling apart” revealed a relationship between my intuition and many things I was taught to accept as truth on merit, race, gender and worthiness. My feminine intuition bucked back on the ways I was taught to “Mom”: to do it all, never ask for help and show eager participation and acceptance in a patriarchal economy. What a time to be suddenly in greater authority on my daughter’s school life while needing to re-teach myself so much.
So here we are, a little light on the path emerging (for now) and with stories to share. I’m excited to show you a new place in our house – a tiny corner in our messy world to play through serious questions and nurture the spirit of everyone in the home as we let our inner child remind us that as fast as we’d like the answers, there’s magic in discovery and approaching life wholeheartedly.
“The ‘practical life’ of today is absolutely unpractical in all forms. This will be noticed only when an ever-increasing number of destructive elements enter our civilization and break it up,” – Rudolf Steiner
I packed my daughter’s first backpack for “school” outside our home at six weeks old, so homeschooling is not something I saw for myself. Even when I was taking a break from focusing so intensely on my career outside of family, I’ve never taken more than eight weeks off of some form of work since our daughter was born. Before COVID, I considered myself freshly out of a sabbatical and had been throwing myself into work more than ever before. In a moment, I was a statistic in America’s First Female recession – out of work and out of childcare, the ultimate chicken and egg scenario in terms of what restarts first.
While this has added new stress to our school situation, the transition to first grade has been hard for me from the start. We’re almost overwhelmed with positive school choices in Dallas, very much including our public school- but somehow never felt like we fit in completely with any of them. Our daughter had thrived in an early childhood school with a student body of 16, making any choice to a larger size class a big transition. As our choices began being narrowed by short term situations like my income and the school’s COVID response, it felt like we were being rushed. We hoped our school community would offer our daughter life-long friends, and we felt really sad about that introduction being virtual with the nerves it can bring.
I will admit that energetically I was really resistant to this. I had been working my ass off lately and l-o-v-i-n-g it for the first time in a long time – and treating this situation with the amount of permanence this choice required brought on full existential -risis-level panics. Am I self-sabotaging? Am I single-handedly reversing the women’s movement? Am I smart enough for this?
Listening to this podcast on curiosity with Elizabeth Gilbert really opened me back up to a release to the present moment. My family doesn’t want me to stop creating and working, but a patriarchal economy wants me to leave my family to work. My family is my legacy and my work, and life is my creation. I have mentioned before my love for the motivation from Mary Oliver, “Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” So here we are.
“What kind of school plan you make is neither here nor there; what matters is the sort of person you are.” – Rudolf Steiner
We discovered Waldorf education through the early childhood schools we sent our daughter to for her early childhood programs. The first thing we love about it is its German origins, and how closely the activities that came home from school were projects Markus did in his happiest days as a young child in Heidelberg.
The history of the Waldorf method fascinates me, especially right now as my interest in history has made me feel more surrender to the dark sides of our history right now knowing how we cycle and evolve. The Waldorf method was actually developed by Rudolf Steiner, who first philosophised that the human is a threefold being of spirit, soul and body that develops in three developmental stages: early childhood, middle childhood and adolescence. When visiting the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany, Steiner gave a talk about the social renewal in politics and culture needed to pull the country out of the country’s economic, social and political chaos. By the end of his visit, he was asked by the owner of the factory to develop a school for the children of the company’s employees. I feel so many answers from history emerging right now. The significance of how we speak to our children and frame storylines around these historically cyclical societal upheavals seems clear to me, and I find the answers on how to nurture these “heads, hearts and hands” so often in the wisdom of Waldorf teachings.
I’m drawn to this approach in education that’s in such stark contrast to the ways I was taught growing up. It seems like a potential antidote to what Kim Payne has referred to as our society’s “war on childhood,” focusing on academics and performance over soul nurturing. At the micro level, I see this pace and approach healing our family. At the macro level, I’m curious how a return to this style of education for our children could cure us from the disconnection from self and others we’ve suffered from in a capitalism-focused culture.
With that said, the Zoom life and how fast we’ve adapted to COVID really shows me the benefit of keeping up with the modern world in the right places. As much as I see these times of strife in history, it’s the year 2020 and quite the time to be alive. Sometimes following an education methodology too closely, especially with all of the resources and groups available to homeschooling families now, can become dogmatic. 2020 is the year of intuition-first thinking, which is where I want to stay. So far, modern touches on this beautiful 101-year-old method feel beautiful to me. As Rudolf Steiner explained the method in lecture, “We do not understand the task of education in an absolute sense. Rather, we understand it as emerging from the needs of human culture in the present and near future.”
In terms of what that means for our day, we’re still covering academic foundations but leaning into this space to prioritize pursuits of the soul like art, music, gardening and, in our case, horseback riding and ballet. We introduce most subject lessons with an art experience as Steiner believed creative expression created deeper memory than lecture or rote learning in this age. That feels pretty accurate for myself as well. We’re drawing resources from Blossom and Root and Wild Math and really just seeing what keeps it fun.
A Space for the Child of the Present and Near Future
“Receive the children in reverence, educate them in love and send them forth in freedom.” – Rudolf Steiner
One resistance I had to homeschooling was…what would that even look like? At the same time, our first five months social distancing showed me a heat map of our home – where we used it the most and spaces left completely overlooked even with us all here each day. Our front room – a combination parlor and dining room – sat without much use or a plan, yet still regularly collected clutter and cobwebs to be dealt with.
The solution of how to turn our home into a pleasant and intentional education space for our daughter and her friend joining us became the solution of what to do with what felt like “too much house.”
We needed some fresh paint, to be sure, although the best color for a home classroom that I would also love to see walking through our front door everyday stumped me. Once again I was inspired by the Waldorf teaching, which suggests early childhood and grades rooms in warm pink tones to evoke the feminine spirit in a gently active color. Often, the walls are then gone over with a gorgeous lazure watercolor-like paint treatment, which tempted me to no end before I decided that a flat peach would bring out the same energy while flowing more with our modern home.
The parlor we enveloped in Peach Blossom by Sherwin-Williams and the warm light that pours in when we start in the morning makes everything in here feel safer and more in its own energy than the outside world. Back in the dining area, the femininepeach ceiling comes back into what’s now our atelier/artist studio for both my personal creating and also open art time with the family. I love working with bright colors, so we painted the walls back here in White Flour for crisp contrast to the beads, fabric and other colorful mediums we end up sprawling all over the table. I’ve always been a believer that a gallon of paint can transform a space, and these two areas might be my strongest example yet.
The family musical instruments I previously stored in this room are a perfect addition to our classroom days. I love how two simple bookshelves have split this space nicely into two separate areas that complement each other in creative energy. Our little felt map I found at my favorite Dallas vintage shop Dolly Python gives a traditional classroom feel. I can’t believe that I found it months before we decided to homeschool or picked the color for the classroom walls! While I love the traditional warm wood tones in Waldorf classrooms, the deeper walnut tones in our piano, bookshelves and my thrifted classroom table and chairs feel so beautiful in this space. The art line we hung for creations to dry and be celebrated acts like a little screen between the childhood classroom and my adult atelier, two spaces for inner child work in different forms under one peach ceiling.
We mostly brought in any expressive or educational toys from other parts of the house to fill the classroom, like a play kitchen the girls love to use, play silks for dress up and dance and lots of blocks. Our little rescue rabbit enjoys his new vocation as the classroom pet and the uptick in snacks that have come with it.
Is this what I saw coming? No. Does it feel perfect? Hardly. Is there magic here, to see life in a pile of rubble and see an option to buy peach paint, lean into what’s working and open our palms to receive from there? I see it on our better days.
We can’t wait to create more here – in these rooms and in this online space – and share with you!
Have questions about starting Waldorf inspired homeschooling? Ask away and we’d love to see how we can help!