Saturday, June 14, 2008

Waldorf on a Shoestring - the early years

People think Waldorf homeschooling, or enrichment, or raising kids "the Waldorf Way" is expensive. I know its a combination of things - the private school tuition, volvo driving, organic fashion, crunchy upper middle class older mom image that goes along with who chooses Waldorf Education when they have a choice about these things, but lets take it back to the bare bones.

The first school was for the children of the Waldorf cigarette factory workers. Urban shift workers, not rich folks.

So, first things first - The Waldorf Kindergarten ages 4-7. It didn't originally exist! The Kindergarten mimics the healthy rhythm of the home, so all you need to do is focus your attention on a healthy home life and include your children in that. What is a healthy home life? Okay that really isn't something that can be glossed over quickly so I'll come back to it, but a healthy home life doesn't involve a curriculum or any expensive paraphenalia.

You want details though!

Oh, okay. What do you need to get started, to undertand the philosophy? I'd recommend you go to the library and get out Rahima Baldwin Dancy's book "You Are Your Child's First Teacher" and then if you feel you need more help establishing some simple traditions with verses and stories and simple ideas for new traditions get out Shea Darian's book "Seven Times the Sun" I think this book is the greatest example of "How to Do Waldorf Early Childhood". Thats it.

Now, about those waldorf toys you're supposed to have. Stop worrying about it.

A basic list of natural playthings:

beach glass
seed pods

With all of that available in their natural environment how many toys can they possibly need?

I'd like to put forth the thought that if you didn't provide any toys, and your child was never exposed to advertising for toys, that they would seek out 10 basic playthings.

a doll
a ball
some way to play kitchen
things to help them build a shelter of their own
a small scale dollhouse of some kind
a farm of some kind
a nature collection
art making materials

As I've written about before, they'll create all of these things on their own if you don't provide them. They really will. But if you want to provide these toys please consider making them yourself with your child. You don't need to buy any of them.

Over the next month I'll try to post tutorials for each of them.

In the meantime - the most simple rag doll YOU make from recycled materials will be far better than the most expensive handcrafted waldorf doll you could ever purchase.

But today I'm going to post about the thing people seem to choke on - the art supplies. In Waldorf education, children are given artist quality art materials and there's some sticker shock when you face a box of 8 crayons that cost 12.00 or more. Three things to understand, the box of 8 block crayons you buy your child now, will be the same box of block crayons they use their entire childhood. I'm totally serious. They don't break, and they last forever, well atleast a very long long time - my kids are using crayons I bought 10 years ago still. Once in awhile you can sit down with some vegetable oil and a piece of rag or paper towel and clean them. I do it once a year. The stick crayons you'll want eventually, and in a wider range of colours don't break either (unless you work at it and there are some valid reasons to make them smaller!) and you'll eventually need to replace specific well used colours. You can buy them *individually* as needed though. The second thing to understand is that rather than buying 64 fashion colours of crayons, most blended with white to make pastel tints, you have an artist's spectrum of colours that allow your child to blend the colours they want, they even sell "blenders" if you want to get fancy. The third thing to understand is that you don't NEED beeswax crayons to incorporate the Waldorf philosophy into your home or homeschool! You can use whatever crayons you have available to you right now!

The same applies to the watercolour paints. There are all sorts of great reasons to get child safe artist quality watercolour concentrates, but you don't need them, any watercolours will do.

Same thing with the modelling wax. Now, modelling wax is kind of a specific material and no one else really makes it for kids so here's a simple recipe for making your own. This isn't exact, because beeswax comes in several different grades from soft and flexible to kind of flaky and crumbly

Lets say a cup of beeswax

2 tbsps olive oil

2 tsp lanolin

In a double boiler or a can in a pot of water melt your beeswax

Mix the lanolin and the olive oil together and add to the beeswax til its melted - remove from heat and keep stirring and pour into a walled cookie tray you have lined with tinfoil. Let it cool until you can tear it into quarter sized pieces. Let these cool completely. Take a piece and warm it in your hand and roll it into a ball, then press it out flat, umm this more of a pulling it out flat, and fold it. Can you do this without it flaking? Can you do this without it crumbling? Is it too hard to do it at all?

If it feels "good" its ready. If it is flaking apart or crumbling then you need to add a bit more wax. If its too hard to work, add more oil or lanolin.

If you want coloured modelling wax melt crayon shavings in with small batches of your quarter sized pieces and pour out to recool.

If this seems like a lot of work - homemade playdough is fine too!

If you want to make a petroleum free version of plastercine it is easy too, and you'll use it in the upper grades.


1 cup of modelling wax

2 cups vegetable oil (olive is good because it doesn't go bad easily)

2 tsp lavender essential oil

3 cups powdered clay from the beach, the yard, or the health food store (it needs to be DRY or it'll get funky. So if you collect your own, crumble it up and put it in a PAPER bag to dry, then pound it up in a mortar and pestle (this is a fabulous thing to get the kids to do for you btw!) )

Melt down your wax, add the oil, and slowly add the clay to the mix, stirring well. Take it off the heat once all the clay is combined, not before, and pour it out on a cookie sheet to cool. Then, treating clay like flour, knead it til its all well mixed up and again, feels "right". With this one, you can always knead in more clay, but it won't melt up easily to start over with k?

So there you go, add a bread recipe and start gardening and you've got birth to seven covered!


dottyspots said...


Thank you for the modelling wax recipe, that's really helpful.

Funnily enough, looking at the cabbage baby, my 2 and 4 year old were making 'babies' from large skeins of yarn yesterday (my 4 year old had been doing some weaving with me using some old huge skeins I was given a while ago). The were cuddling the skeins and patting their backs etc. - it was very sweet, but just goes to show, a child can make a 'baby' out of pretty much anything!

amy said...

Thank you!

I've always thought children deserve good quality art materials, so that doesn't bother me at all. I have an art minor, and my kids already love going to the art supply store (not that we can find beeswax crayons there, though). We'll be doing Enki in the fall, and I'm incorporating aspects over the summer, and as I see it, it's more about simplifying than bringing specific items into the home--although I do have my eye on a couple of things. Mainly, though, I'm trying to clear out the stuff we don't need. It's shocking how quickly it accumulates, especially as gifts.

And the local Waldorf school is so far out of our realistic price range it's laughable.

zoom said...

You're such a good mom.

Poppy & Mei said...

I've been slowly culling what I call "the crap" out of our lives since my first was born.
We are now doing an overseas move so it's a great chance to do even more.
Thanks for sharing such great thoughts...Xxx

Bonny said...

I was JUST TODAY wondering what to do with that last glob of beeswax in my cupboard, leftover from making calendula salve eons ago -- well when I had diaper rash to deal with, anyways.


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Em said...

Thank you for theses recipes - I made the modeling wax yesterday and it works a treat :)

boatbaby said...

I came over from Soulemama, this is a fabulous post, thank you! I am saving it to pass along!

quailsinthebushes said...

love this! it's so funny, I'm from Wolfville!