Why I Chose Waldorf Homeschooling Over Distance Learning

Back to Waldorf

By Courtney Daly-Pavone January 29, 2021

*This article is a 6 minute read.

I attended a Waldorf school for eight years. I must confess that I was a reluctant learner. I preferred ballet and tap over classroom life, but somehow I still I learned. Education was so natural at Waldorf that for years I couldn't remember how I learned to read. At one point I assumed that I taught myself, but that wasn't the case. 

At Waldorf, teachers read stories to children multiple times. Eventually, students create their own copies of these stories in notebooks. The teacher writes sentences on the blackboard, and children copy the information into their notebooks, and illustrate them. This approach to learning is five-fold. 

What Are Children Learning in This Process? 

Literacy, vocabulary, penmanship, how to tell a story, and art. In conventional public schools, literacy is taught though a method of phonics and sight words.

Thematic Learning

At Waldorf, each year has a theme. Remember I was a daydreamer, but more than four decades later I still remember learning about Ancient Greece and having our own version of The Olympics. I remember studying Greek mythology, learning about Vikings and Norse mythology

Even when I wasn't listening, I was learning. How was this possible? 

The Waldorf approach is to nurture the whole child. By choosing a theme for the year, that theme is woven into every subject. While studying Ancient Greece, in science we learned about Archimedes and Hippocrates, the architecture of the parthenon, and Greek mythology. We were learning history, science, art, and geography simultaneously. Waldorf was my first introduction to global citizenry. Conventional schools teach abstract subjects, and prepare students to be test takers.

Environmental Studies

Our school had a nature trail. I recall going on walks with my class. The teacher encouraged us to pick and smell fresh mint, and rosemary. We were studying Botany and instead of solely staring at a textbook, our studies came to life. 

Nature was always an important subject. I recall learning a Native American prayer, "Earth who gave us all this food, sun who made it ripe and good. Dear is earth and dear is sun we've not forget what you have done." We were learning gratitude, where our food came from, never taking anything for granted. We painted landscapes and sunsets in watercolors. We would take class trips to a camp in New Hampshire for one week during the school year to be even closer to nature. 

We had orchestra and woodworking class. Our artwork adorned the hallways. Our school plays were in my opinion pretty good. Many of these subjects were once taught in schools across the board not just private ones, but they are now absent from today's schools due to budget cuts, or they are no longer considered essential.

My son attended both public and charter schools where the school play has been replaced by "the talent show." Students and parents are left to scramble on their own to pay for music, and dance lessons, skills that were once taught in school. I often wondered what are they teaching kids in school all day? Time is precious.

Distance Learning Doesn't Work For Everyone...

Distance learning did not work for my active child. That's why I chose a Waldorf inspired curriculum during the pandemic. My son loves art, nature, science, history, music, and crafts. I make sure he does math and grammar everyday, but it is cleverly woven into his studies. I see this time as an opportunity to give him the rich education that I was afforded years ago. I have to be creative using resources from the library, but I still remember what I learned in 5th grade, and there's something to be said for that.

No Screen Time

When I attended The Waldorf School in the seventies and eighties, we were advised not to watch television. Even educational TV programming in their opinion promoted distractedness in children making them less creative thinkers. Today a bigger threat looms, Youtube which isn't as regulated as television, provides short fast paced clips of the most inane "entertainment." At times violent, and immoral, Youtube is not where your child should find themselves. Many parents have found their children on Youtube instead of attending their distance learning classes. This was another reason I went back to my Waldorf roots where books, a pen and paper are the only items on his school desk.

After Waldorf I attended parochial school, then boarding school. At every school I learned something new. Parochial school taught me to take responsibility and ownership for my actions. Boarding school taught me to grow up. My parents weren't there to make sure I attended class on time, or remind me to do my homework. Fully matured by college I excelled in my studies.

I was a late bloomer, but I love learning. I wanted to instill a love of learning in my child early on. Reading for pleasure, going for hikes, visiting museums, zoos and aquariums, creating art, playing an instrument, maybe he'll even knit!

What does my son's fifth grade curriculum look like? He's studying Ancient Mesopotamia, Landforms, Art, Spanish & Italian, World Geography, Civics, American History, Grammar, and Math. We no longer have a tug of war to get him to focus online. He no longer has hours of homework after attending online school all day. I can design his curriculum to his areas of interest so that he is engaged and learning.  My son is a visual learner, so writing and creating art and visual models for each of his subjects helps him retain information. I can track his progress, and address gaps in his education. Most of all he is having fun! At times I am learning along with him. 


I love history (my father was a former history teacher in New York City public schools), but my love of history goes beyond books. I love recreating historical recipes! This is another layer I added to my child's curriculum that makes learning even more fun, hands on and engaging. 

Join Us On Our Journey...

I will be posting more articles about my experiences as a homeschool parent. Feel free to share your homeschool or distance learning stories with me. 


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