A Waldorf kindergarten is a magical place. Parents are often drawn to the beautiful classrooms and wooden toys without knowing anything about the philosophy of Waldorf Education. Many of them will never have heard of Rudolf Steiner. Parents cite the focus on play-based learning instead of the pressure of early academics, and time spent outdoors as reasons for choosing Waldorf. Increasingly, parents appreciate the lack of screens and technology in the classroom.
All of this is wonderful, but private schools come at a price that is out of reach for many parents. That’s one reason for choosing to homeschool your kindergarten child. Children with special needs, such as those with Autism spectrum disorder, may find a classroom setting too overwhelming, even one as gentle as Waldorf. Lastly, some parents may simply feel that home is the best place for a child aged 5 or 6 to develop, whether they plan to homeschool through all of the grades or not. All of these are valid reasons for choosing to homeschool your kindergarten child.
Where to Buy Kindergarten Curriculum:
If you want to plan your kindergarten year without a purchased curriculum, skip to the Resources section.
- Live EducationThis is the closest you will get to an actual Waldorf kindergarten. It requires preparation and planning on the part of the parent. Best for the Waldorf purist that plans to continue with Waldorf homeschooling.
- Christopherus offers a very relaxed guide to the early years (3-6) at home. In depth information on Waldorf and child development.
- Waldorf Essentials – has two full years, 52 weeks each, of kindergarten planned out with stories, circle time, and handwork. The stories revolve around a gnome named Super Sam. This program offers a lot of support for the parent but some parents may still find it to be more than they want to do for kindergarden.
- Earthschooling – If this interests you, I would advise purchasing the August kindergarten lessons first and seeing if it resonates with you. If you are happy with it, Earthschooling will apply credit for that purchase if you choose to upgrade to the full year of curriculum within 30-days of your original purchase. Introduces the alphabet before it is normally introduced in first grade.
How to Homeschool Kindergarten
The truth is, Waldorf kindergartens are designed to emulate a home environment. Granted, it is a very idealistic and softly lit Waldorf home where Mom bakes, sings, and tells stories with puppets. That is an oversimplified explanation but I want you to understand that kindergarten is meant to reflect life at home with you.
What did Steiner say about kindergarten?
- “We need to remember that class teachers teach, but the kindergarten teacher must show what should be done through her life and being.”
– Rudolf Steiner, From an unpublished article, Rudolf Steiner Asks for Kindergartens, by Elizabeth Grunelius.
- “The task of the kindergarten teacher is to adapt the practical activities of daily life so that they are suitable for the child’s imitation through play. . . . The activities of children in kindergarten must be derived directly from life itself rather than being ‘thought out’ by the intellectualized culture of adults. In the kindergarten, the most important thing is to give children the opportunity to directly imitate life itself.”
– Rudolf Steiner, The Child’s Changing Consciousness
- “For the young child before the change of teeth, the most important thing in education is the teacher’s own being.” – Rudolf Steiner, Essentials of Education
10 aspects of a Waldorf kindergarten that you can do at home:
- Rhythm – keeping a daily consistent routine for bedtime, mealtimes, and other important activities. Develop a weekly schedule: watercolor painting on Tuesdays? Farmer’s market on Friday mornings?
- Play – Provide opportunities for unstructured, self-directed play both indoors and outside. Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers) said of play, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood”.
- Purposeful Work – Let your child help with household chores and gardening. Dusting, sweeping with a child-sized broom, setting the table, and putting away toys are all appropriate for this age group. One day a week, kindergarten teachers bake bread and the children help by kneading the dough and singing a special song. This is a sensory experience not to be missed.
- Nature – The more time spent in nature, the better. Take walks, go to the park, watch the ducks at the lake, splash through a puddle, dig in the garden. Teach your child the common names of local trees and wildflowers. Bring small bits of nature (pinecones, leaves, rocks) home and place them on a special seasonal/nature table.
- Festivals – Waldorf schools observe several annual holidays with special verses, songs and stories. Related crafts may be made. These are traditionally Christian celebrations (Michaelmas, Martinmas, Advent, Candlemas) but have been adapted in Waldorf schools where another religion predominates. Celebrate what is meaningful to you, involve your children, and create traditions that you will keep every year.
- Storytelling – In the classroom, seasonal stories and age-appropriate fairy tales are told to children instead of being read. In a homeschool setting, you still want to be telling the stories more than reading them from picture books. And while puppetry is a beautiful and worthwhile storytelling art, you do not need to try and recreate what is done by kindergarten teachers. Your children will likely be delighted with simple finger puppets on occasion.
- Protection of a child’s innocence (body, mind, and spirit) – This includes all aspects of filtering out the adult world from avoiding screentime to not purchasing toys that encourage violent play.
- Art – In Waldorf kindergartens, the children are taught “wet-on-wet” watercolor painting using only the primary colors of red, yellow, and blue. The children work individually with each color, before adding a second color. There is often a little verse or a story that goes with these paintings. Some schools cut the corners off of the paper, giving it rounded edges. It is important to remember that much of this did not come from Steiner himself and was not done in the first Waldorf kindergartens. Watercolor painting was done in the first kindergartens but it has since evolved into a very ritualized “therapeutic art”. Take as much or as little from this as you want. Some children will not want to paint in only one color at a time and that is okay, don’t force them.
In the same vein as the above, many Waldorf kindergartens have allowed only block crayons in eight colors (and excluding black) for children before first grade. This was unnecessary and unhelpful for children who wanted to draw a picture of someone with black hair or brown skin. Some children like coloring with block crayons and find them easier to grasp and others do not. The one big positive is that they don’t break as easily as stick crayons. The positive of stick crayons is that they help a child to form the grip that will later be used for writing. I would provide both block and fat stick crayons. As for the number of colors, less is better. I would allow black after the child has learned to draw without creating a black shape outline first and then coloring it in. Another reason to not introduce coloring books until after drawing is well established. You should provide a selection of skin colors in a separate basket to be used when coloring people.
- Music – Some parents are very surprised to learn that recorded music is not used in the classroom and its use is even discouraged at home for young children. I encourage you to read more about Waldorf and music in the resources section below and make your own decision. Singing is something to be done every day. Don’t worry if you think that you do not have a good singing voice, your children will not care. One thing that I have noticed is that children with sensory issues often do not like loud singing or singing in a high pitch.
- Delaying formal academics – There has always been confusion about this. Reading is not taught until first grade. This does not mean that you should prevent your child from playing with alphabet blocks or singing the alphabet song. It does not mean that you shouldn’t answer their question when they ask “What does that sign say?” If your child has taught themselves to read, that is fine. Don’t stop them from reading books, just make sure that they are getting enough play and outdoor time. The same goes for math. Arithmetic is not taught until the first grade. That does not mean they aren’t allowed to count now.
Common Questions and Concerns
Help, I don’t have any money to buy a curriculum or supplies and I don’t know where to start.
Don’t panic. Do you have $45 USD? Buy First Steps on the Journey at Home with Children Aged 3–6 from Christopherus. That is their low-income pricing, pay the break-even pricing if you can manage it. You can skip buying the Christopherus Joyful Movement book for now because I have linked to free sources for verses, music, and fingerplays in the Resources section below. Try to buy it later when you can.
Most of the books you really need can be obtained through your public library system or the information can be found free online. It just takes more work on your part to put it all together. Do you have a printer? If not, plan for that to be your next major purchase because you will want it through your homeschooling journey.
No money for art supplies? You can live without Stockmar or other beeswax crayons for now. You can buy regular Jumbo Crayola crayons at the dollar store. “Crayon rocks” are usually easier for small hands to manipulate but try to avoid the cheapest ones as they are very waxy and flake onto your drawing.
Your child does not need every beautiful Waldorf toy out there. They need a happy, calm parent that loves them.
Is circle time required?
No, especially if you only have one child. You could set aside a regular time for “Story Time” every day. Singing can and should be incorporated throughout your day. Verses are usually attached to specific events like waking up, bedtime, and meals. The movement found in “circle time” can be accomplished through outdoor play, movement games any time of day, gardening, and even household chores (yes, really).
Do I really have to knit?
Yes. You will be teaching your child to finger knit in kindergarten and then teaching them to knit in the first grade. You don’t need to be so proficient at knitting that you are knitting sweaters and socks for the whole family, you can get by with being able to knit a simple scarf.
I’m terrible at art and I don’t think that I can do this.
You can do this. There is an artist inside all of us. Don’t let the beautiful art you see inside Waldorf classrooms (or on Pinterest) intimidate you. Waldorf teachers take art classes as part of their teacher training. You are not expected to create the chalkboard art masterpieces seen in the grades classrooms. Your children don’t expect that of you. In kindergarten, you will be doing wet-on-wet watercolor paintings with your child. If they can do it, so can you. You will also be practicing coloring with block crayons. Check the resources section for tutorials. It just takes a bit of practice.
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Child Development and Parenting:
You Are Your Child’s First Teacher: Encouraging Your Child’s Natural Development from Birth to Age Six by Rahima Baldwin Dancy
Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne
Stories and Verses:
Tell Me Another Story: More Stories from the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America Edited by Louise deForest.
For the Children of the World – wonderful collection of 24 stories from around the world. Out of print but Amazon has used copies. Also available as a free pdf from Waldorf Libary.