My Homeschooling journey away from Waldorf

What a year it has been! We have really been around the block, which has been difficult and lonely at times, but we are in a really exciting place now, and I finally feel ready to share my journey.

We started really questioning Waldorf after a few weeks of Grade One lessons were leaving all of us frustrated and sad. On much reflection, I have found that, for me, Waldorf had led me to look at all the things that are not perfect with myself or my children, and really accentuate all of my perfectionistic tendencies. I know that others use Waldorf in a more healthy way–I have seen it–but on much reflection, and trying and re-trying, I saw it was not a positive influence in my own life.

We left true Waldorf homeschooling some time last Fall, and eventually tried out Radical Unschooling for a bit. But that didn’t work for us, or for me. We had worked so hard to develop these strong family pillars, rituals, routines, which held us all together, and I found RU was destructive to that. Those pillars were deeply supported by Waldorf, and were also supported by current developmental psychology and other sources. But more importantly I feel so deeply the benefits these pillars have brought me and my family.

So I had a few months feeling very much adrift. No longer at home in Waldorf communities, and not in line with Radical Unschooling communities, I had no label, no Yahoo group, no Google search terms to describe where I was! No mentors! It was scary. But it led me to my own values.

This Spring I sat down and wrote out a list of what I longed for in a curriculum: that it be open-ended, that it would serve both of my kids where they were, in a way that would not separate them by age or ability, that it be flexible and adaptive, hands-on and challenging, but also that it would support my own values without making me feel that I was “not enough”. Tall order! But I found what I was looking for!

Where it has led me is called Project Based Homeschooling, led by the engaged, funny, wise Lori Pickert, who has the blog and book by the same name. The method is based on Reggio Emilia, but extended to support all ages (even adults). It is perhaps in a similar vein as unschooling, but more structured, with the parent acting as mentor to the student, helping them develop learning skills as they extend their deep interests into projects. The best thing about it is that you can use these strategies alongside any curriculum you choose. However, it is child-led, so many Waldorf families would not be comfortable with that aspect.

You can check out Lori’s website for more information (no affiliation or benefit received in this link):

Have you been around the block with homeschooling styles? Ever felt adrift from labels and communities? I’d love to hear your story.


7 thoughts on “My Homeschooling journey away from Waldorf

  1. Hi! I’m here from the PBH roster… I’m curious about the pillars and rituals you’ve built in your family. We have been unschooling (not so radically though) and we are comfortable with it. But I long to have more rituals and traditions in our family. I just can’t seem to figure out what I want us to do and often the day sneaks up on us. I also find it interesting that you felt radical unschooling damaged those traditions. Anyways, I’d love to hear more.

    1. Maybe eroding would be a better term 🙂 We have a lovely bedtime routine which has become a ritual, and a beautiful mealtime moment of silence and blessing. Sometimes the kids push back on those, but they are such important points of connection in our day. I found the Radical Unschooling folks pushing me to question all of those family times, which made me really really sad. I find if I am questioning, then the kids will often push more than if I am forming things with confidence.

      So now having tried out one extreme and the other, I find myself celebrating the middle! It is lovely to have found a community that supports that, with PBH.

      And please understand that I am not trying to criticize either Waldorf or Radical Unschooling, or the folks in those communities. I am just finding my own way, and learning how the alchemical mix works in my particular family and self 🙂

    2. I will also add that within Waldorf circles you will find great resources for adding more rituals to your family life 🙂

  2. aw, what a lovely description of pbh! 🙂 thank you SO much. ❤

    dogmatic approaches make me itchy. i want to feel free to explore and take what works for me and maybe circle around to check the rest out at a later date. i think that’s the way most people learn best — and i would much rather actually *learn* it (by doing it, gathering my own experiences and data, and forming my own opinions) rather than just take someone else’s word that it’s the golden path.

    i don’t think there’s anything wrong with the various approaches, only with the purists who demand that you follow them to the letter. the nice thing about letting go of that is that you can begin to build something truly authentic to your needs, values, and goals. the bad part, of course, is that it’s hard to find a “tribe” when you eschew labels. until you find the pbh’ers, of course. ;o)

  3. Oh I have such a similar story, although I can tell by your lovely chalkboard drawings you got much further than I;-) Waldorf has great wisdom, but I’m still not convinced you can successfully “do” Waldorf without true, anthroposophic training…it needs to come from a strong belief system and I didn’t have that. I was forcing something unnatural in the long run, but picked up nice habits. Radical Unschooling seemed even more dogmatic. We are pbh/unschoolish and love that I don’t feel the need to “answer” to anyone 🙂

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