Flexible Waldorf?


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.

First day of Kinder | We Do Waldorf blog

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. ūüėČ 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. ūüėČ

We Do Waldorf blog

What – a BLACK spiderman shirt on a Steiner kid?? Surely not!

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:

Waldorf Amidst Personal Struggle

To anyone paying attention, it will be immediately clear that I have not been active¬†on¬†the blog for the better part of the past year. It has not been for lack of anything to say, or lack of desire to write, or a dwindling commitment to Waldorf education for our children. Thankfully, our dedication to Steiner philosophy has not changed and, if anything, has been strengthened by some of the challenges we have faced as a family this past year. But, it hasn’t been easy to carve out time and energy for pretty much anything aside from those things that must come first: my children, my husband, my home and myself.

Just before my birthday in August, I had news that my much-loved step-mother had passed away. It is a very complicated story and one that I won’t share here, but the circumstances of her death and the means in which I received the news were unusual and profoundly upsetting. Maralyn was a part of my life for 33 years Read More →

Storytelling with Props

Have you had the privilege of witnessing a story being told at a Steiner kindergarten?

I can still remember vividly our first day at Master C’s Steiner playgroup, when the group leader, Leanne, began her soft song of ¬†“it’s time to tell a story, it’s time to tell a tale…”,¬†and watching in amazement as all the children immediately stopped¬†their boisterous play, rushed over to a corner of the room¬†where Leanne had settled in front of a candle and some objects concealed under a silk cloth. The focus and curiosity radiating from the children was palpable. With smooth, deliberate movements Leanne lit the candle and carefully removed the covering cloth to reveal a scene beneath which included a small needle felted doll sitting on a beige scarf, alongside a blue scarf that clearly represented water or the ocean. She began to weave her short story, a verse about a boy named Sammy who was playing with his ball on the beach before kicking it accidentally into the sea, and the kind fisherman who retrieved it for him. The children craned their necks to get a better look, rising onto their knees; yet they were totally silent and absorbed. Even Master C, who had never seen a story told in this way with this kind of ceremony, seemed to sense the “specialness” of the moment and remained quiet and riveted to the story. At its conclusion, Leanne held the candle snuffer to her ear, listened for a secret whisper from the candle fairy, then smiled sweetly and extended the snuffer to the chosen child. He came forward very carefully, grasped the candle snuffer and proceeded to extinguish the flame of the candle with utmost care. With this, the spell was broken and the children seemed to take in a great breath of air before jumping up to run off to play outside while the mothers began a craft. Read More →

Life Without TV

Once you have decided that Steiner Education is right for your family, you will start to field a great number of questions, not least of which is in regards to TV, media and technology use for children.

The most prevalent (and most contentious!) topic of conversation surrounding Steiner Education, without a doubt, is the restriction of television and media in the home and classroom. Even if you are only just at the very, very beginning of your path toward investigating Steiner Education for your child, you will already undoubtably be aware that media use of any kind is strongly discouraged until adolescence within the Waldorf framework, and even then only in small, well selected doses. This extends to computer/device/tablet use of any kind, to the extent that computers themselves are not introduced into¬†the classroom until the students are in…wait for it…HIGH SCHOOL (gasp! ūüėČ ).

This approach is so counter to the current accepted norm that many of those who have not read much about Steiner educational philosophy (well meaning grandparents, family friends with young children themselves, etc) regard these concepts occasionally with suspicion, dubiousness and skepticism. In my experience at least, there will be many opportunities to explain “why” things are done this way in the Steiner classroom, and why most parents sending their children to these schools often make dramatic lifestyle changes to align with these beliefs. Below I will share our unique “why”. Read More →

Our First Day of Steiner Kindergarden

Last week I experienced one of those parenting moments that will be eternally burnt into my memory forever: the day my first child started school.

In the months leading up to this event I wondered many times how Master C would go, whether he was ready; should I keep him home instead? We had attended playgroup at this same Steiner School for a few terms last year in an effort to create an easy-enough transition for our little man, but there were some challenges I wasn’t sure we were ready for yet. And when I say “we”, I mean just that. The decision to send Master C to (Pre) Kinder at our not-so-local Steiner School was not an easy one. Let me share with you why, and how we reached our decision to move ahead all the same. Read More →

A Birthday Fit For a Prince

Master C is 4.

The night before his birthday we tucked him in bed and recited this beautiful verse that was included in the orientation papers from our local Steiner School, where Master C begins pre-kinder next week:

When I have said my evening prayer
And my clothes are folded on the chair
And my mother switches off the light
I’ll still be 3 years old tonight
But from the break of day
Before the children rise and play
Before the darkness turns to gold
Tomorrow I’ll be 4 years old
Four kisses when I wake
Four candles upon my cake.

I had planned to read Master C The¬†Little Angel’s Journey that night as well; a birthday story that tells the tale of a young angel’s journey across the Rainbow Bridge to a new life and incarnation on earth as a precious and much wanted child. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to track down a copy of this beautiful book in time for Master C’s birthday this year, so instead we decided to spin our own tale. Big Daddy and I¬†sat with Master C quietly in his darkened room and told him about the night four years before when I had been woken in the night with the knowledge that the time was nearly here to meet our baby boy. We told him all about our peaceful journey in the very early hours of the morning, driving through the deserted streets of Melbourne to the hospital in the city where he was to be born; about how excited all of the nurses were at the hospital when we arrived, knowing that little Master C would be joining us soon. We told him about the moment I first held him in my arms and we first gazed upon one another. He lay quietly in his bed, listening intently, enrapt with the wonder of his own anticipated arrival on earth and into our arms. This birthday, I have put a big emphasis on letting him know just how loved, wanted and cherished he is – in our family, in our lives and on this planet. Read More →

Nature Table Crafts (Part 3): Felted Fairies

Happy New Year!

This post is the last in a 3-part series, presenting a few simple, quintessentially Waldorf crafts that anyone new to Steiner can undertake when first starting out, with little or no previous craft experience. These crafts are easy enough to make, take minimal time to finish and best of all, once completed, they will take your Nature Table from modest to magical. In part one, we made a felted ball mobile or garland, part two was the well-loved wooden gnome and now, in part three, we will have a look at felted fairies.

My first felted fairy was made on my first day at our local Steiner playgroup nearly a year ago now. I admit that I had no idea what I was doing other than trying to copy what the other mums were doing around me. The result was a fairy with hair growing from her neck somehow, wearing a gown that did nothing to improve her appearance. Nonetheless, one had to start somewhere and ‚ÄúNeck Hair Fairy‚ÄĚ has lived since that day perched in a tree on our back deck. It’s all about the journey, folks! Since that time I have been wise to pursue a bit of instruction (Thank you YouTube!) and the results have improved significantly.

Neck Hair Fairy :)

Neck Hair Fairy ūüôā

Read More →

We Do Waldorf, and YES, We Do Santa!

Today is the 30th of November and, in our home, that means the Christmas tree and all of the associated festive decor are being awakened from their year-long slumber. Master C burst into our room at no less than 5.45AM this fine Sunday morning (no yoga on Sundays!) and exclaimed: “It’s Christmas tree day!!”. Yes, it is my darling. Today we will deck the halls with boughs of holly, or their close enough artificial equivalent, and set the stage for the month of magic that Christmas entails. Advent calendar, advent spiral, nativity scene and, yes, Santa Claus. We even “do” Elf on the Shelf (Gasp! Bear with me, my friends, I will justify this below).

EOTS | We Do Waldorf blog

I am a member of a number of online Waldorf communities, as well as one real-life one, and the question of whether or not families “do” Santa has been a hot topic this year, though this is hardly a concern that is limited to the Waldorf crowd.¬†I have noticed in the wider population over recent years (especially within more left-wing, progressive circles) that there is a growing disdain for the Santa tradition among many young parents, who battle with what choice to make over Christmas traditions within their own home. Read More →

Nature Table Crafts: Wooden Gnomes

Last post was the first in my Nature Table Crafts series, which shares a few ideas for super simple crafts that any newcomer to Waldorf (or crafting generally) can whip up quick smart without too much difficulty. Last post I shared my Felt Ball mobile, and this week…we’re taking on the gnomes.

There are few things more quintessentially Waldorf than the humble wooden gnome. Indeed, it was the very first craft I was introduced to when we began playgroup at our local Steiner School. They are cute, perfect for little hands to hold, and best of all, they aren’t hard to make and you can easily finish a simple one in an hour or so (longer if you are going crazy on the embellishments).¬†Gnomes feature heavily in the folklore and methodology of Steiner Education – among other things, gnomes are even used to teach math sums in the Waldorf classroom!

Gnomes are great for your nature table because they help bring a kind of story to life in what might otherwise be just a table with flowers, rocks or pinecones on it. Add a gnome or two and voila! Waldorf whimsy. Read More →

Nature Table Crafts: Felt Ball Mobile

Since it is our first year “doing Waldorf”,¬†creating a nature table is a new thing for me.

Our first nature table was for Autumn, and at the time I liked the idea of adding a felt ball mobile, in Autumn colours, to hang above the nature table to bring the scene all together, and also to represent the falling leaves. A few months later, I decided to do the same thing for our Winter nature table, this time as metaphor for the falling snow and rain.

Both times, I admit, all I did was string pre-made felt balls that I had purchased through Winterwood Steiner Inspired Toys onto transparent string and attach them to some driftwood. Voila! Easy as. This time, for our Spring nature table, I decided that it was time to stop being so lazy about it and make my own felt balls to create my seasonal mobile from scratch.

Today’s blog post is the first of a three-part series sharing a few simple Waldorf crafts you can do when first starting out, and which are perfectly suited to¬†the task of adding some whimsy and homemade charm to your new nature table! Read More →