Discerning Parenting

045 - Homeschooling the Waldorf Way with Dr. Catherine Read

November 15, 2023 Victoria Ang-Nolasco, MD Episode 45
Discerning Parenting
045 - Homeschooling the Waldorf Way with Dr. Catherine Read
Show Notes Transcript

Today, we're diving into the Waldorf method of schooling with a true expert—Dr. Catherine Read. A Ph.D. in developmental psychology, she not only brings academic insights but is also a mom who successfully homeschooled her two kids using the Waldorf approach.

Join us as we explore the principles, impact, and personal experiences that make Waldorf homeschooling unique.

If you're curious about alternative education or want firsthand wisdom, don't miss this insightful conversation with Dr. Catherine on Discerning Parenting!

About our guest:
Dr. Catherine Read, a renowned developmental psychologist and Waldorf education advocate with a Ph.D. from UCLA, serves as a Visiting Scientist at Rutgers University and an Associate at Ithaca College. As the editor of "Evolving Explanations of Development" (1997), her expertise shines. Beyond academia, Dr. Catherine homeschooled her daughters with the Waldorf curriculum, conducted workshops, and actively contributed to the Waldorf community. Her commitment to education and adherence to Rudolf Steiner's principles have left a lasting impact on developmental psychology and Waldorf education, inspiring educators and students alike.

Check out Dr. Catherine's book, "The Genius of Home: Teaching Your Children At Home With The Waldorf Curriculum".
Check out Dr. Catherine's website.

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 Let's say they've heard something about Waldorf and they're interested in it. What's important is that they see that the child is here and see what is the child interested in. What, what are they interested in? Because individual children really do have specific interests. You know, they're not little generic cut-out things that you just do, that you just do X, Y, and Z for.

And, and you see, what are they interested in? 

 Today, we have an exciting episode at the Discerning Parenting podcast. I've been receiving a lot of questions about the Waldorf method of schooling. And today, we have someone who is not just an expert, a Ph.D. in developmental psychology, and an expert in the Waldorf method, but also a mom who homeschooled her two kids who are now adults.

Both of them were homeschooled using the Waldorf method. And it's such a privilege to bring to you today, Dr. Katherine Reed.    

Are there days you feel you've had it with the sleepless nights, the temper tantrums, the constant fatigue of trying to keep up with an active baby? Does it feel like you're always working so hard as a parent, trying to do everything for your kids and family, and yet it never feels enough? We get it. You love your child more than anything, and yet parenting is also exhausting and challenging.

Especially when you're bombarded with criticism and pressure to be the perfect parent. Which, spoiler alert, does not exist. That's why we created Discerning Parenting, the podcast that helps you cut through the noise and focus on what truly matters in your parenting journey. This podcast is jam-packed with valuable insights and practical tips specifically tailored for parents of kids aged 5 and below.

So join us and discover how you can use the combined power of science, knowing your child, and your own intuition in making the best parenting decisions for you and your family.   

 Hi, Catherine. Thank you so much. And it's really a privilege to have you here today. And for our listeners, Dr. Katherine Reed is a renowned developmental psychologist and she's a passionate Waldorf education advocate.

She has a Ph. D. from UCLA and is a visiting scientist at Rutgers University and an associate at Ithaca College. And Dr. Katherine's expertise is evident because she wrote a significant work in developmental psychology. She's the author of a piece that really brought a lot of thought and mindset shift, an important mindset shift to the field of developmental psychology.

She's actually here today, not just someone from the academe, not just as an expert, but she herself homeschooled her daughters in the Waldorf curriculum. And she pursued extensive Waldorf teacher training and has conducted workshops. She's an active contributor to the Waldorf community has served on the board of the Lyre Association of North America and teaches in Waldorf programs.

So, it's really amazing how Your commitment to education and your adherence to Rudolph Steiner's principles. So that's a lasting impact, not just on developmental psychology, but also on Waldorf education. And she inspires educators and students alike. So Catherine thank you so much for being here.

And it's really a privilege to have someone who is both an expert and a parent who has done it herself. And who has seen it from both ends? I have listened to your book and it's amazing how you start from when your kids are preschoolers and all the way to the end when they are accomplished adults, so welcome to the show.

Thank you. Thank you for such an incredible introduction.  Thank you. So a lot of parents, myself included, are curious about the Waldorf method. So can you tell us more about this? What makes this unique? And also, I guess, on a personal note, why you decided to do a Waldorf education for your kids? Yeah. Okay.  Yeah, there's, there's two ways to go.

I'll start with why I did it. How it came into my life. Let's say that how, how Waldorf came into my life. So, Waldorf is the term used in the United States for the curriculum that was originated by Rudolf Steiner in Germany in the early 1900s. That's where the first Steiner school was.

It was called in Europe and other parts of the world. They're called Steiner schools in the United States. They're called Waldorf schools. So  I knew nothing about, I didn't know anything about Waldorf education. I never, you know, encountered it in my life. I grew up in the Midwest and in Colorado here in the States.

And, you know, I went to state university, I went to graduate school. I became a professor. I'm, you know, doing developmental psychology and. At one of those positions, which was in Ohio, I met a person on the faculty who had gone to the Waldorf School as a child in Edinburgh. So, that school had been started like, just at the, I think just at the beginning of the Second World War, and he had been in that school from the beginning.

So, we kind of got to know each other as faculty, and then he,  I just noticed that, you know, he had certain really interesting views on things, and I said, Where, where are you coming from with these, you know, these ideas and he said, well, I went to a Waldorf school. I'm like, okay, what's that? What does that mean?

And he gave me a book called Education Towards Freedom, which was written in the 70s by some English Waldorf teachers. And it has a lot of artistic illustrations in it of the children's work in these, in these English Waldorf schools. And it talks about how this school works and how the curriculum works.

And I read through it and I just was so impressed. I just thought, Oh my gosh, I've never seen anything like this. It was, it was beautiful, beautiful to look at. And the children's work was beautiful. And you could tell that they, they were supported as. As, as full human beings as whole human beings, not just concentrating on, the intellect.

That's amazing. Yes. And in America, that is the concentration, you know, intellect is school. That's what school is. You know, you're supposed to pour some, some facts into people's heads. They're supposed to regurgitate them. And if you get even a little further, maybe they can analyze a little, but you know, that's education and that's all I knew.

And so I was so impressed with this book and I thought, this is the right kind of education for my children. If I have children, okay. I didn't even have children then. And then, a little while later, we had our first child. This was 1990. And I just kind of had it in the back of my head. Okay, we're going to go to a Wilder School.

That's, that's just taken care of now. We'll, we'll go to our Wilder School. And we ended up moving to Connecticut. And she gets a little older and I start looking around and I realize there is no Wilder School. I didn't understand that they were so few and so small. I mean, again, this was 30 years, not 30, but yeah, almost 30 years ago.

So... There were many fewer Waldorf schools then, even then than there are now. It has, it has really built. And so I realized, okay, this is not a possibility. And I started going to a little Waldorf preschool group or playgroup, a little playgroup. And so I started to, some of these things from this book became alive, you know, because we had.

The circle where we stood in a circle and we sang songs and we did movements and, you know, we listened, we had musical instruments and, and then we played and then we did snack and then we had a closing. So there was a certain rhythm to it. And it was coordinated with the seasons. And we had seasonal festivals, we had the maple, this was all at a person's house.

This was amazing. That's amazing, Katherine. You are a pioneer. Well, this person was too. The person who started this place had gone to a Waldorf school herself in Switzerland until third grade. So she had a little, you know, sense of it and she had had a European upbringing, but she had the maypole in her backyard.

I didn't even think about this, but this was kind of a kind of a, giving me an idea, you know,  that you could do this at home. and so I did that for a couple of years and my daughter, you know, became part of that. She loved it. She loved it. She loved the other children there. They had free play in the backyard.

There was this rhythmic thing of like, you come close together, and you concentrate, and then you expand out, and you don't even have to think about it anymore. And then you come back in, and you do something a little bit more, you know, close work, and then you expand back out. And then there's a closing, where you say, okay, now we're done, and it's clear, and you go on to the next thing.

And that was the playgroup. So she and I were both learning a lot from that. And in terms of, the seasonal festivals and everything too. And that's when I started into a Rudolf Steiner study group. It didn't have to do with Waldorf education, but it was, you know, different topics. And then we had to move to Southern California and that became a completely different way of life.

So we were living up in the hills. It was not a concentrated,  you know, downtown city kind of experience. We didn't, we didn't really want to live that way. So we lived up in the hills a little bit. Away from my husband's work, but there was a welder school, but it was 45 minutes away on a freeway and we went there for the playgroup once a week.

But once it got to be time for her to go to kindergarten, the older one. I just couldn't face putting her in the car for an hour and a half a day to be down there for a few hours and also have the baby with me because she has a sister who's 3 years younger. I had been going to the playgroup there.

I saw how they did the classroom, you know, the nature table and how it reflects the seasons and the organization of the classroom, the organization of the playgroup. And I, I even led a playgroup there and I thought. This is kindergarten, you know, I mean, what we're doing here is kindergarten. and so it just became a kind of crisis because it was August of the year that she would go into that kindergarten.

And I had to sit down and say to myself, am I going to drive an hour and a half a day on the freeway with these two, you know, girls to do this? And I just couldn't do it. I just couldn't do it. I said, no, I can't do that to them. And so my husband and I sat down and we had to go through this and say, I said, I can teach kindergarten.

I know I can teach kindergarten. I've seen how this is done. I can get a little wooden flute. I can work something out, you know, and so he said, all right, I said, I'm going to need you to take them in the evening so that I can prepare for the next school day.  And he said, okay, and we said, all right, just kindergarten.

That's all just kindergarten.  Okay, and we did it.  We did kindergarten. Just kindergarten, quote, unquote. Yeah,  exactly. But at that point, I was separating myself from the playgroup because everybody else went into the school. But there were a couple of families also who didn't. And that meant that there were three families who were working together.

And then some other families who were in the school joined, and we did seasonal festivals together. So the mothers would study once a week in a park, while the babysitter watched the children right around us, and then we would prepare for the festival, and we did the festival together as a group. So in the fall, it's Mickleness.

Mickleness is something that's kind of known and common in Europe, but it's not, not very well known in the United States, but it has to do with You know, what's happening with the earth, but also what's happening with human consciousness at the time of fall, you know, the transition from summer to fall. I don't know what your seasons are like in the Philippines.

My gosh, I'm sorry. Well here, it's just hot and hotter, so they say.  Okay, what latitude? And here, yeah, and here it is normal.  To sit in the car for even two or three hours a day going back and forth. So to the parents who are in this situation, listening to this and the kids are getting antsy in the car.

So it's not really the fault of the kids, but kids aren't really meant to sit in the car for such a long time to get to and from school. So definitely not, definitely not. So do you know what latitude you're at? Like, where in North America? Do you, do you come to Central America? Is that, is that where the Philippines is?

Yeah, something, yeah, something like that. It would be around closer there. And so, I realized that You actually had two decisions there. So first, the decision that you made way back to follow the Waldorf method of education. And the second is the decision to homeschool, which I think you did year by year. 

That's exactly right. That's exactly what it ended up being year by year. So that first one was just this one child, just this one year, you know, and the younger one is three years younger. So she was just in a backpack on my back. I mean, she followed along with everything, you know, and I think that is possible.

That's come up as a question from other Waldorf homeschoolers. How do you incorporate such a big age difference, but younger children? Really just want to imitate and if you can give them their level of materials They'll just imitate with their level of materials, you know, like play-doh instead of clay or yeah, you know, whatever I mean, they will do what they are trying to do at their level, you know,  so I had this Younger one on my back while we just did everything that we were gonna do for kindergarten now that Taught me how to have a rhythmic day how to have a rhythmic week This is all very much a part of Waldorf that you're conscious of the rhythm of everything.

So that taught me I had my school days. Well, we had school Monday through Friday, but the in-home actual, you know, working together right there in the home days were only Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. So Monday was nature day when we went out in nature and we could do that.  If that's not possible, I really don't know.

I'd have to think about how to possibly do that if you get out into nature, but that's what we did. We just said this is a school day. This is the 1st school day of the week and we're going out in nature. And that's what we did. And I never talked to them other than, you know, if they asked me something, I never did any instruction.

I didn't even do any guidance. We went to places where they could just take off and do what they wanted to do. I mean, I have to say,  I know it is amazing. I had to stay in sight of them though, in Southern California, because there are mountain lions around and they really are dangerous for little children.

So, you know, I couldn't let them go completely far away from me, but I could kind of stay back. So they had the feeling that they were, you know, on their own. And, that's what that day was like until they were done playing. When they were done playing, then we'd have a snack where, you know, depending on where we were, we could go to a bookstore or go to a library.

That was Monday. And we maintained that through 10th grade. Wow, that is such a complete departure from how the majority of kids are schooled and I can imagine how it will really build their independence, their curiosity, their love for nature, and their connection with nature. And their holistic development.

Yes, exactly. Their action, they get to act, they get to move, they get to, you know,  develop their balance and their courage and the whole thing. I mean, that's, that's a feature of fall actually of Nicholas being courageous, you know, feeling like you can do this, you can do this, you can, you can do this challenge.

And I let them, I mean, I stayed with them and I was watching what was going on. Nothing bad ever happened, but. I wanted them to have that feeling. And the thing is, I think they also really understand some things about nature from that long time period. And sometimes we were going to the same place, the same place, over and over and over.

So they saw the actual seasonal changes because there are seasonal changes here in Pennsylvania. So we moved here when the older one was going into fifth grade and the younger one was going into second. So That's how many grades we had here in Pennsylvania, which is really does have seasons and really, you know, we could have these beautiful wood, wooded places that we could go to.

And then they would see the whole how the plants change and how the whole landscape changes. And, you know, the animals that they would see, and every time, every one of those days. had a certain drama to it, you know? You would go, and you would be there, and it's fine, and you'd be looking around, you'd be looking around, and then something would happen.

Something would happen. And that would be the key thing. It's like, Oh, that's what was supposed to happen today. You get that feeling. It's like, it's like the denouement, something happened. And then, okay, well, you're kind of done then. And you're just kind of, you know, going away. That was the feeling. I mean, that is so interesting because neurologically speaking, that's really how we learn best through experiences.

That's how they get embedded in our brains.  Yeah. Yeah, the whole, the whole course, of an experience. Yes. Yes. And I mean, one of the places that we used to go to in the hills in Southern California. We went there, and you know, California doesn't have very much seasonal change. It's, there's some, but not much.

And so we'd often be going there, and you know, everything's pretty much the same. It's just the same. Every time. There are only subtle differences. But we got there one time, and this giant tree, this giant pine tree that had been there every time, every time, and all of a sudden, it had crashed down. It was, it was lying on the ground.

And it was just like, whoa! How can you imagine that?  That, that tree has always been there, now it's down on the ground, this huge thing happened, you know, and we didn't see it, but you have the feeling of that, and if you don't go to the same place over and over and over, you don't have the possibility of that, of that experiencing something that's a huge change in that place.

That sounds amazing. So Dr. Katherine, who do you think Waldorf homeschooling would be perfect for? As a parent, I know it can be confusing with all the options out there. Parents often ask, there's traditional, and then there's progressive, and then there's progressive, sometimes it's called Montessori, and then there's Waldorf, and then there's also homeschooling, and there's the traditional schooling, so there are really, and then there are all these hybrid options, and there are all these schools that are progressive, but also incorporate elements of the traditional curriculum, so all these educational systems can get to be confusing, so If you're a parent deciding how to, how would be the best way for your child to learn what are the things that a parent would look for what are the questions they would ask themselves, and are there specific characteristics that would make a method like Waldorf work for a family?

 Yes, I've been thinking about that. That's a really good question.

It's such a hard decision to make a decision about your own children. if you feel that you're affecting their destiny in a way, you know, you feel that. There's something important for them for their future, but what is it? I mean, you know, how can you possibly know?  I just want to say at this point, I don't know if you know that there's a YouTube video of an interview with me on the book.

Oh,  we'll link to it in the show notes. Yeah, you should do that because that is where I talk about some of these questions that you're asking. You know, this young man did an interview shortly, shortly after the book came out. So it might be a good idea to kind of link to them. 

But I think what is important for people, if they, if they're interested in Waldorf, let's just start there. Let's, let's say they've heard something about Waldorf and they're interested in it. What's important is that they, 

see that the child is here and see what is the child interested in, what, what are they interested in, because individual children really do have specific interests. You know, they're not little generic cut-out things that you just do, that you just do X, Y, and Z for. And, and you see, what are they interested in?

 So as they're growing up, as they're toddlers, as they're little children, you know, before you have to make a decision about their education, what are they interested in?  And then you can kind of... Imagine, if you can find out enough about it, you can imagine what it would be like to have a day with them where you are structuring the day a little bit, you know, and it's not just around the adult.

You're not just structuring it around the adult. You're not just saying, I need to go to the grocery store. I need to have this for dinner. I need to, you know, go buy some clothes, whatever. It's not just the adult world. You're going to structure it around the child, let's say. And so then you say, well, how would we do that?

How would we structure the day in such a way that the child's interests could be part of it? And, then the person who's interested in Waldorf needs to do a little study. They need to also be interested in study. Because this is something we haven't talked about, and I meant to say this. When I was teaching kindergarten the first time, It became possible for me to take courses in being a kindergarten teacher in a Waldorf school.

And so I started doing that. And it was kind, but it wasn't, it wasn't just kindergarten. It was kindergarten in the early grades. They were teaching people who might want to become Waldorf teachers. So I started taking those classes. And once I started taking those classes, I started saying, Oh yeah, this is how you do it.

And this is why, this is why. Because of the classes.  Talk about how children experience the world at different ages. It's, it's not just a question of, no, they don't know much at that age and then they know a lot more later. You know, the standard intellectual approach. It's not that. It's how they actually experience the world at different ages.

And that is what is different about Waldorf. And that really ties into what we learn in developmental psychology. Yes. Yes, I hope developmental psychology eventually gets there.  I really do.  But, but,  Waldorf is always, always has been focused on what is developing in children's experience. What is their awareness? 

And what will support their awareness at this age, as it transforms into a different awareness at a later age. And that's why it's so rich.  It's so supportive. I don't even know how to say it. The curriculum will guide you. The curriculum will guide you if you are interested in it and you see that your child's interests are important and you have access to the material so that you can study it and and work with other people about it.

It's an incredible support. It's an incredible support for how to help your children, how to teach your children, and how to live a rhythmic life. And I would just say, for me, as the teacher, and you know, I, I had an academic career, and I basically stepped back from that to teach my children, you know, for 15 years.

And I have to say, and I've now gone back to that academic, you know, career in a way, but, but that 15 years of teaching them and learning to be the. The Waldorf teacher myself was an incredible education for me. I mean, yes, the parent is saying the child is the focus. The child is the reason I'm doing this.

They need their start in life. They need, you know but I have to just say, you will get an incredible education. The parent gets an incredible education in doing this, no matter how long. I think even if you only did it for a few years, it would, it would be the same. The absolute same.  I guess a huge concern that I encounter. 

When it comes to these quote-unquote less traditional methods of education, parents worry about whether this will prepare them adequately for life after school. So they will worry something like, Oh, they're just playing. They're just in nature. But that's not what life is all about. They have to know all of these academics.

Will they get into the college they want? Will they be able to pursue what they want after? Graduation can feel like a different path for so many that it feels scary and there are so many what-ifs sometimes they feel pressured because they might hear that, okay, some other kid in some school is already learning the ABCs at age four, and then  Here am I being told to just let my child explore and play.

So there are all of these worries and I'd love to know your thoughts on this. Well, I definitely went through that myself. I mean, talked about that Monday as the exploring day, but then Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were the school days where it was much more structured and I was presenting the material.

And again, that went from kindergarten, which is fairy tales all the way through grade 11, which is, you know, physics. I mean, My Waldorf teacher training was in physics, physics and English, and English literature, and, you know, the academics are there, they are there, they're just presented in a different way, and the children work with them in a different way, the students work with them in a different way, because they're never reading textbooks, they're never taking tests, well, at least in my school, there were no grades, there were no tests, There were no textbooks.

That is going to scare a lot of people. Like what? No tests. Will they know how to take tests when they get to college? Okay, lemme tell you. Okay, lemme tell you. Yeah. Spoiler alert. Yeah. So spoiler alert. Exactly. So now I have to get back to my thoughts.  Okay. So, because of that, I did that because the focus is on their own work and not comparing them with other people. Yeah, all right. So we are using primary sources. I know how to find primary sources. And that's what I presented to them. And then they would do their own writing from my presentations and then make their own books.

That's why they're not just reading textbooks. They're not reading something that's so digested already. We're working on something that's already complex. And, and the Waldorf curriculum is incredibly rich in terms of the material that's presented to the children. Incredibly rich. Now, I didn't use grades and tests because I didn't want that to be the focus of education.

Comparing them with other people is not the focus. You know, helping them develop is the focus. That's the point. So that's what we're doing. But I'll just tell you this because we got this far along. My older daughter, when she got to 10th grade, she said, I want tests. I want tests and grades. I said, okay.

You know, I'll give you tests and grades. I mean, I gave her quizzes, I gave her grades. I gave her overall tests, you know? Okay. She did it for that one year. It was like, okay, now you see what that is. You know, it's, it's just nothing. It doesn't help you. and then she took the SAT and, you know, that was when the SAT was still a pencil, still a pencil test. 

You weren't using the computer. I didn't have them using computers or screens or seeing screens at all until they were 13. Then they started using computers and you know, it doesn't matter because that stuff, I think you probably know this too, is not easy. It's not hard to pick up. Yeah. You get to it. You get it.

You know, it's not like it's going to take years. You are protected from it when you're little so that you don't become so I don't know, kind of machine like yourself,  you become older and you have been protected from it. You just take it up. I mean, it's, it's no big deal. And so she, then she decided she wanted to go to a traditional school for her last year in high school.

She never said exactly why. And I never asked her explicitly why, but she wanted to go to a traditional school. So we found a prep school near us, a small private school. Aimed at, you know, getting children to college, and it was a liberal, politically liberal school and it was in driving distance. And that's where she went.

She did her 11th grade again and then their 12th grade. So she basically did 12 years and a gap year, which is another school, another year at their school. And she graduated from there with honors and she, you know, she went to college. And like I said, she went to vet school at Cornell. Yeah.  I get to say that because I get to brag.

So we're hearing from someone who. Can tell you from the other side. Like it works out. Yeah. And the thing is, I thought about the other people in our group And, and it didn't just work out, but it worked out so well. Because of that foundation of critical thinking, like, are you telling me that you learned from primary sources, because, you know, in a world where information sometimes gets digested in a way that you miss all of the nuances, they learn to appreciate the richness of things, the complexity, they learn to think critically and form their own conclusions instead of other people telling the conclusions for them.

Yes. And I'll give you another example. This is another 10th grade.   So 10th grade, I'm reading to her from the introduction of the Odyssey because In the 10th grade in the curriculum, Wild Rift curriculum, you go back over the ancient cultures, they, they, they have ancient cultures again, which they had had in the 5th grade, but they have it now at a much more complex and kind of more thinking level.

So anyway, I'm reading to her this introduction to the Odyssey because we're going to go over the Odyssey and it's, you know, we've been looking at different translations I mean the translations are very different but here's an introduction by a Yale literature professor that's who's written this introduction.

And I'm reading it to her and she's listening. And he makes some claim like, Oh, you know, what he goes through on his travels is just a small part of what happens when he gets home. And she goes, that's not true. And  I thought to myself, okay, she's getting ready for college. 

 It's like, she's not going to just take some authority statement, you know, say that to him, to his face, but you know, she was willing to say it like.  Well, I don't, I don't agree with that, And then, you know, but anyway, I also wanted to say that in each one of these places, Southern California, Pennsylvania, there were always groups of parents working together.

So we were not just sitting in our own house and then going out in the woods. That's, that's not what we were doing. Parents work together too, and we have a wide range of children. And we would study together. The parents would study together and we did festivals and plays together. We did a play every year for every class.

So we would help each other. We'd be in each other's plays, you know, on these different plays and these festivals together and studying together, the parents. So thinking back over that group of people, I'm not in touch with everybody. I don't know how everybody turned out, but the ones who wanted to go to college did go to college.

I mean, other ones went to Cornell too, undergraduate. You know, this is because where we are on the East Coast my younger daughter went to Skidmore, which is a You know high-level prep school in upstate New York, and she wanted to do art. She's an artist. She's not a scientist. She's an artist, a beautiful visual artist.

And she went to school there and she got two degrees, one in psychology and one in German.  She then afterward got two master's degrees, one in art. Art therapy and counseling. So she's now a specialized art therapy counselor. And that's, that's typical. Other people went to McMaster University, you know, in the Midwest, and the University of Pennsylvania, another, you know, Ivy League school.

So I think that if students if that's what they want to do, if that's their path, you do it. I mean, you find the way.  Everybody has their path. I really do think they have their path and they have their destination, and it's just a question of helping them get there. And it doesn't have to be what you think it's going to be when they're really little.

You just don't know. Yeah, that's such a beautiful insight that as parents, we're here to nurture them and help them find their path.  not to dictate or this is also something that I've been advocating here in discerning parenting to really recognize the individual strengths of each child instead of having them try to fit into the mold that this child should be doing maths at this age, this child should be reading at this age.

This is the definition of what a successful child is, somebody who gets high grades in school, but there are really many different kinds of success. There are really many different strengths and it's amazing how you talked about your support group, the different kids your two kids who both chose different paths and both of them were honed by the education that they had.

That's right. So, yeah. Dr. Catherine, is this an all-or-nothing? Can a parent decide to incorporate aspects of the Waldorf method, even if they're following another curriculum, and any tips for parents who maybe want their kids to benefit from the Waldorf approach, but might not yet be ready to go all in, or maybe for whatever reason they might not have Like here, I know it's tough to find these open spaces where kids can just play and it sounds like you also had an entire village of support.

They say it takes a village. So for parents who want their kids to benefit from this approach, but might not have the full structure any tips? It's definitely possible to use parts of it. I wouldn't at all think of it as an all-or-nothing. I mean, what's important is just to look into the curriculum, to look into the curriculum, to somehow make an entrance into that, to make a connection with the curriculum.

And, and then I haven't so far said another piece, which is that art is very, very important in the curriculum in the sense that it comes into every lesson. It's not separated out. Like you have your academics and then you have your art lessons.  Art comes into every lesson. So every lesson involves visuals music, or art, one way or another.

And that can always be brought in. That can always be brought in. And the materials are beautiful. Again, I would just say, somehow connect with, look at some of the books. You know, there are photos in my book too. of the children's artwork. Just look at some books on this topic, and you get some ideas. And the materials are available.

You know, there are retailers that sell the different materials that you'd use to do this kind of artwork. That can be brought into anything, any way of schooling. And, as far as finding the group or just finding other people, I mean, you said there's a Waldorf school not too far away. The Waldorf schools usually have some, some events that are open to the public, you know, sometimes their festivals are open.

So people that go to the school can go, but guests can go too. And you could maybe go and visit some, some things there at the school because you'll get some ideas also just from seeing how they do the classroom. You know, it's the physical surroundings that matter too. It's not just the, again, the intellectual at all.

It's the physical surroundings and the activities of the children. Those can always be modified by the parent. And you know, I should just say, while they're homeschooling in the United States anyway, is, is now more accepted than it used to be. But when I was first starting. It, there was the attitude, it was, it was growing and there was, you know, there was more interest and more acceptance, but there was still the attitude that no, you can't really have a Waldorf education unless you're in a Waldorf school, that, that was really the attitude.

And I obviously didn't agree with that. I didn't agree with that. I don't think it has to be in a school. And so I really think parents can do what they, they can. to, to bring it into their child, children's lives one way or another, whether the child is homeschooled or not. And homeschooling doesn't have to be just like a Waldorf school.

That's not the point either, obviously. You know, the homeschooling is, is what it is. It's, it's having school at home. That's the way I see it. That's not how everybody sees it, but that's the way I see it, is having school at home. And that means the parent You know, the parent structures the home life, but they structure the school life too.

They are a parent and they are a teacher, but if you're doing it in a Waldorf way, you make it very clear when you're the teacher and when you're not. And there's, you know, there's whole stories around that too, but some of that is in the book. Yeah, there's this distinction between the parent as a parent and the parent taking on the teacher role at that time.

So tell us more about your book. Who is it for and where our listeners can get it? And if you're listening, check out the show notes. I'll also link to the book. Yeah. Well, the easiest way to go to my website. The website is thegeniusofhome. org. And. There are links for where to buy the book, but it, but it's also out as an audiobook and the content of the audiobook is just a little different than the physical book.

So there's an extra chapter and there are songs from the, yeah, I just want to say I have the audiobook. I love it. I love the music. Yeah, yeah. There are examples of the songs from the different grades of what would be music. You know, as part of the part of the teaching. So, yeah, the audiobook is a little bit different than the physical book.

So in some ways it. Might be good to have both, but, you know, the audiobook is available on the usual platforms, Spotify and Audible and those things, and those links are also on the website. And the website also has some articles that are on specific topics like the different seasonal festivals and things like that, or the, the home plays.

So there are some articles that give a lot more detail on those specific topics. And there are other podcasts. There are links to other podcasts and some videos and, you know, just basic information. And the book is for the, really the book is for anybody who is thinking about school at home. I would say that it's really for anybody who's thinking about school at home and specifically has some interest in what the Waldorf curriculum might be.

You just will find out more by looking at the book. You'll find out more about what the curriculum is. Yeah, I love the book. And I think as a homeschooler homeschooling parents would have some flexibility. So even if you're not planning to follow the entire Waldorf curriculum, I think there's so much in the book that we can incorporate and I know even parents who are sending their kids to maybe a traditional school sometimes would look for other activities or they would think of what else can I do to enhance what it.

My child is learning in school and I just want to share that very commonly they would enroll kids in these rigorous worksheet-based programs. I mean, they're already in class doing lessons and worksheets, and then you provide enrichment activities that are also worksheet-based and also very academic, I guess, because of all this pressure for a child to keep up with a hurried curriculum.

Well, this is an entire topic in itself. So Maybe this book can provide some alternatives and what we want to build actually would be their holistic development and their love of learning their process of learning how to think and learn, which I'm sure all throughout the interview, you've seen how  Dr.

Katherine's kids really showed how they are able to think and process. I guess it's something that we can take for granted learning isn't just about knowing the facts, but knowing how to think and analyze and learning how to learn. Yes, that's true. And that thinking and analysis come much later than we usually think of for children.

I mean, it really develops around this 10th, 11th, 12th grade, you know, it doesn't need to be worked on before that. It's, it's almost like you plant the seed in the ground and then you dig it up to see what it's doing instead of letting it grow. So there are experiences that they have when they're very young.

If you could just,  just leave alone, just wait until their mind and their consciousness.  And if that development develops to the point where that thinking is possible, they'll be able to do it. They'll be able to do it. You just have to you have to hold, hold the hold against that pressure, you know, from society that they should be, that they should be taught so young about those intellectual things.

Yeah. And  I guess. Whatever educational system or educational philosophy you choose we want it to be something that brings out the strengths of your child and not a system where the child every day feels like they're failing. And yeah. Yeah. Every day they feel like learning is a chore.

I mean, I hear, I guess, if there's one thing that I'm hoping to parents listening to this, if it can be also a mindset shift, because there's this viewpoint that, of course, school has to be unpleasant, learning has to be unpleasant. If you're enjoying school, that means you're not being challenged enough.

There's even this fear that kids are going to be spoiled. If the school gets too enjoyable. So well, I mean we're both parents and also we're both in the field of child development. So if you know, usually parents at the back of their mind, they don't want their kids to enjoy school, but I guess they were hearing all of these voices doubting themselves.

So if you have all of these doubts then don't doubt yourself. If you feel that.  Your child is enjoying school it's okay. Let your child enjoy school.

They should want to. They should want to do what they are going to be doing, but it's not that it's always easy. I mean, yeah, I mean,  I haven't talked about it, but, but it is important that these things are challenges.  So there's just the right amount of challenge.  Like the zone of proximal development in our language. 

Because they're challenged, but they're not overwhelmed. Okay. So it's not always easy and they don't always succeed, but they. They know that they will, you know,  that the next time they try, it'll be good. And like your daughter, the one who was a scientist, the one who became the vet was not good at math or she thought she wasn't good at math.

Okay. So math wasn't easy for her. Math didn't just come like that. Right. So we had to work and work and work. And when she went to college, the same thing, stupid chemistry class. Ah, you know, and but it's a question of persevering of just saying, no, I'm going to do this. I have to do this. This is a hurdle.

This is a hurdle on the way, and I'm going, and I'm going to get over it and just do it and keep trying. And, you know, she didn't get an A on the chemistry test. But okay, she did it. She did the class and she kept going, you know, that shows grit and perseverance. Yes, exactly. But you have to think you have to have this, you have to have this understanding and a deep level that you can, you can face a challenge that you can get through a challenge.

And so it's not. And that's what happened in our lesson.  She, there'd be a challenge and she wouldn't get it and she'd be frustrated and whatever, but we'd come back to it the next day and we just would come back to it the next day. And it was not an issue of a grade. It was an issue of getting through this lesson, and you know, I would assign, this is what has to go into the book.

You, this is your topic, and you know you have to get this far. You have to write this out, and you have to do these problems, and they have to go in the book. So, it's not that it's always easy, but it is, I don't know, it's like encouraged, let's say. Yes. Yes, it's encouraging. Yeah. Wow. So, Dr. Katherine, that was such an enriching discussion that we had.

 We went into so many issues, so many different topics, and answered so many different questions. So is there anything else that you'd like to share? Well, I did think about that ahead of time, and I, I guess I, I just like to say again, what an incredible education it was for me, and I never would have thought.

That I would have been choosing that. I mean, I, I thought I was just going to go into academics and be in academics. I thought I was just going to be a professor my whole life. And, you know, that's what, that's what it would be for me. And I'd be, you know, publishing these papers and teaching these classes and whatever.

That's my life. No.  This other thing happened, you know, I had these children and it's like they shunted me off in this completely different direction that I cannot ever have seen myself choosing. Just on my own, but that direction that they, they shouldn't be off into looking back on it after I, I finished that whole section of learning about the teaching and teaching them and then writing the book, which also took a while.

I mean, it took me a while to write that book. I see. Oh, what an incredible enriching to my own life that was to study all those topics that I studied to teach them all those different main lesson blocks over all those years. The curriculum is built up so that you come back to a topic in a different way when they're older and they can, they have a different consciousness.

This, I, I mean, I experienced this. I did it. I did it from a young ages. And then I come back to it again from the, it's like I'm getting the Waldorf education.  at the same time, I'm getting this incredible education about parenting and home life and you know, the whole thing. And. I can't, I mean, I really can't believe how, how, what a gift that is, what a gift that is.

I really think the teachers, the parent-teachers who take this up are going to be incredibly enriched in their own lives. They can't even imagine until they do it.  And that shows that our kids can really lead us to paths that we may not have expected. Yes, definitely. Thank you so much, Dr. Catherine, it's really such a privilege to have you here and have this wonderful discussion with you.

And I know that our listeners feel inspired and enriched. So check the show notes for the links to Dr. Catherine's book and also to the  DiscerningParenting. com website where we have articles about parenting and also a free parenting toolkit.  📍 And don't forget to like and follow the Discerning Parenting podcast and share it also so that our advocacy on helping parents make their decisions known.

the different options, being empowered in a way that will ease their stress and pressure and bring more joy. So thank you so much, Dr. Catherine. Thank you. Thank you for being such a well-prepared host.  Oh, thank you.