So, we did it! We FINALLY moved and now we are just a short 8 minute drive to the kids’ Steiner school. I can’t really put into words how wonderful it is to live less than 10 minutes from not only the school, but also the Surf Coast and the Great Ocean Road. A bit different from our one-hour-each-way commute last year! While I wouldn’t consider where we live right to be precisely “rural”, if you drive for even just 5 minutes you DO find yourself surrounded by paddocks and cows, horses and sheep, and long, expansive stretches of grass and fields.
I love it.
We have been very busy with the move these past few months, but it has been an absolute winner of a summer. It feels so good to be back near the beach again.
As for my boys, after completing one day a week of Pre-Kinder last year, Master C started in the full 3 day-a-week Kinder program at our local Steiner school at the end of January, which is when the academic year begins here in Australia. This has left Little Man J and I a bit empty nest-ish through the week, since neither of us is used to not having the energy and company of Master C around us for such long stretches of time. It can be a difficult transition for younger siblings, and Little Man J definitely is struggling a bit not having his big bro around all day. I think that with time this will be balanced out as become increasingly more involved in the school community, now that we are local. Little Man J and I attend Craft Circle at the school on Monday mornings, and also Playgroup on Thursdays. Both of these sessions are in the room right next door to the Kinder so perhaps Little Man J won’t miss his brother quite so much if he is near to us by proximity. Here’s hoping.
So, over the past several months I have discovered more online Waldorf communities that resonate with me, and today’s post is inspired by one such group on Facebook. It’s called “Flexible Waldorf“.
But what IS Flexible Waldorf, exactly?
Well, depending on how far down the rabbit hole you have gone in the world of Steiner education and its associated avenues of learning (anthroposophy, particularly), you may have come to realise, as I have, that there are a wide range of individual lifestyles within the Waldorf community. When you are just starting out, particularly, it can be overwhelming to hear that “Waldorf kids are not permitted to watch any TV and most families don’t even own a TV at all ” or “If you are going to do the Steiner thing you can’t have any plastic toys in your home at all – not even Lego!”. Of course, all of that is a bunch of malarkey. Still, the Internet has a way of painting a picture that can look perfect from the outside looking in, where ALL families following this path do things EXACTLY THE SAME WAY, and there are hard and fast rules one must stick to if you take this path. I’m here to tell you there are not.
Of course, there are those that are very strict in their adherence to Waldorf philosophy, and there are those that are less so. For example: if you are someone who only dresses your children in natural fibres without exception; if there is not a single plastic toy in your child’s playroom; and if you don’t permit media use of any kind whatsoever, even during desperate circumstances, then you are probably what I will affectionately refer to here as a Waldorf purist. Especially if you own a pentatonic lyre. 😉 And props to you if this is you! You are my ideal and I have often lamented that I am not “more like that!” as a Waldorf enthusiast. That is, before I catch myself and remember that everyone is on their own unique journey and what I am doing with my family has nothing at all to do with what you are doing with yours, and comparing the two is not only unhelpful, but it takes away from the whole point of this pursuit anyway: to offer our children a protected and nurturing childhood, and that can be accomplished in any number of ways while navigating the “Waldorf path”.
For those that identify with “Purist” description above, and even those who don’t, you should absolutely check out the Facebook group called “Waldorf Life”, which is a very helpful Closed Group comprising of members who are passionate about Waldorf education and Waldorf living. This group has more than 8500 members from around the globe and it is an excellent resource no matter where you are along your Waldorf journey, from complete newbie to seasoned pro. Typical topics of discussion within this group might be assistance with weekly/daily rhythm, questions on child development according to Steiner philosophy, clarification on why things are done a certain way in the Steiner classroom, book recommendations etc. They have a fabulous range of helpful documents in the File section, such as Waldorf 101, tutorials for nature table crafts, great blogs to check out and so much more. And if you are not on Facebook, and unable to join the group, I have good news! This group is so fabulous that it is going to have its own website soon, so check back and see if it’s live in due course: www.waldorflife.com.
On the other hand, if you, like me, are currently a little more lax with all things Waldorf, you might want to check out the Flexible Waldorf Facebook group. You will know yourself to be more of a Flexible Waldorf type if you:
a) have a limited number of plastic or even battery toys still kicking around your playroom (yes, lego counts too) and have no immediate plans to get rid of them
b) permit your child to watch the occasional TV show or movie, as deemed appropriate
c) don’t see the harm in letting your child wear a Spiderman/Elsa/Disney t-shirt from time to time if it makes them happy
d) do not own a pentatonic lyre and have no idea what one is. 😉
In all seriousness though, my point is that it is important to realise that you CAN “do Waldorf” even if your home life doesn’t look like what you might often see online with other Steiner families. I myself am very fluid in my Waldorf-yness. I have been, at times, very strict about maintaining a home and lifestyle that embraces completely the guidelines laid out in Rudolph Steiner’s teachings, particularly in regards to raising and educating children. Especially when we were just starting out on this path. But now….My kids do have a few plastic horrors that have somehow infiltrated the playroom, but nothing battery operated. The boys DO watch the occasional movie on my iPad, but only once every few weeks or so, and they only get to choose from one of three movies I deem acceptable. Master C owns a Spiderman shirt that was passed down from his cousin, and I let him wear it (never at school though, good golly!), but he has no real idea who Spiderman is at all. I do not own a pentatonic (or any other kind of) lyre. I wish I did, though.
So, these days I am more of a Flexible Waldorf mum. Not that labels are necessary or helpful, except in the case of finding “your tribe” online.
And you know what? I have noticed that A LOT of people in the Waldorf community are pretty flexible. Despite the school’s clothing policy (no items with images of pop culture such as Disney princesses or superheroes, and no black clothes whatsoever) and media guidelines (no media at all in the primary years), a good number of people who send their kids to our local Steiner school are much like me and my family: they are trying to strike the balance between the ideal and the reality of our modern world that we also inhabit. It is extremely challenging to be strict with Waldorf. And those who are, and pull this off both financially (wool jumpers and wooden toys don’t come cheap) as well as emotionally (having no TV can be very challenging as a parent when you are having a bad day and need to take a breather from your kids for a half hour), are people who have my admiration and respect. I will continue to work toward my ideal, but at this stage, I am happy with where we are at and I do hope that you are too.
(P.S. Since we’re on the topic of awesome Steiner Facebook groups to check out, I’ll add these to the list:
- Steiner Waldorf Inspired Parenting (Australian group)
- Australian Waldorf Steiner Buy Sell Swap
- Waldorf Adoptions (Buy/Sell of Pre-Loved Waldorf Dolls and accessories)
- Waldorf Craft (Tutorials, Swaps, Ideas)
- Anthroposophy in the Home
- Waldorf Steiner HENS (Homeschool Education Network) – Australian group for those homeschooling in the Waldorf tradition)