The Waldorf forums have been abuzz with talk of curriculum and supplies lately, haven’t they? What do you really need? Well here are my thoughts, somewhat geared to the newer-to-Waldorf mom. I think by your third or fourth year you’ve come to a place of equilibrium and buy less out of an impulse to “arrive” at that peaceful Waldorf life you imagine, and more out of a seasoned knowledge of what will really compliment your own family culture- perhaps by trial and error (but do not fear, Waldorf supplies hold their value well and there is a great new facebook group to buy and sell used items here).
First of all, you need confidence. Confidence in the direction you’ve chosen, confidence in your intuition, confidence in your children. No one can really sell this to you, because confidence just doesn’t come “in a bottle”. Support, yes- and there are some wonderful mentors and consultants who can offer guidance and a hand to hold when you need it. But confidence needs to come from within you. You need to really feel it, and cultivate it- this, I think, comes from your inner work and meditation. In the moments we connect with out Source of Being, we connect with our inner knowing. From this springs forth clarity of purpose, and confidence! When you have this, you won’t doubt yourself as a teacher should you lack any of those “Waldorfy” specialty items.
It is easy to come to a philosophy with so much depth and rich tradition and feel a little intimidated or bewildered- we’ve all been there, I think. So our challenge is to move away from these low energy vibrations of intimidation and overwhelm, and channel our sense of adventure; develop our momentum for growth. We must not forget the lesson the cosmos and all of creation offers, that same “breathing in, breathing out” rhythm we guide our children into- and allow ourselves a rest of contraction following a burst of expansion into knowledge and skill. I think this is where the sense of “burn out” comes into our lives- for we are not altogether different creatures than these children we guide. We so easily recognize the over-stimulated two year old; do we recognize this same tendency for too much expansion, not enough contraction, in ourselves? Collecting armfuls of curriculum and supplies can also be a very expansive event, and we need to consider what time we have for the actual putting to use. We need only purchase what we can actually “will” to use- and sometimes, we can buy with our thinking and our feeling, without considering what we have the will to fully utilize.
For beginners collecting supplies, the three things that come to mind are block crayons, wet-on-wet watercolor supplies, and modeling beeswax. If you are a busy mama with a lot on your plate, start with just one of these, and really master it. Then move on to the next. I think block crayons and good drawing paper- one with a bit of “tooth”, or slightly rough texture, like this, are really the first things you need to get started. For paper, look for “90 lb” or around 150 gsm weight. Keep padding under your paper for best results (otherwise you may pick up the texture of your table or drawing surface). Teach your child to make halos of color and shade with the long side, or “papa side”, or the short side, or “mama side”, but not so much the corner or point. Block crayon drawing is an art discipline, and Sieglinde De Francesca has some great resources, here. I have asked if I can offer her products through the co-op- and am still waiting to hear back. *7/20 UPDATE*- Yay! Heard back from her and Cedar Ring Circle members can now find her wonderful block crayon manual, dvd’s, and other books in the member catalog! I watched one of her dvd’s a year ago and it transformed my understanding of block crayons. I consider an understanding of block crayons, and a simple set of at least the three primary colors (carmine red, lemon yellow, ultramarine blue), a first step in having a solid foundation in your Waldorf homeschool. They can be obtained cheaply from several sources, like my supply co-op or from Pamela at http://www.meadowsweetnaturals.com. My friend Elisabeth, who is in Waldorf teacher training, recommends a sets of 12, with a light and dark red, orange, light and dark yellow, light and dark green, light and dark blue, purple, and light and dark brown. Individual block crayons can be ordered from Pamela or my co-op as well. Elisabeth also explains that children should have plenty of time to draw as they wish, but during lessons, we are instructing them in art, and showing them techniques- leading. We present them with a chalkboard drawing, and sit beside them in our homeschool to teach them to draw certain forms and gestures during Main Lesson. The beauty of block crayons is the simplicity of the gestures in the beings we draw, and “halos” of color we create around the picture.
After drawing with block crayons, wet-on-wet watercolor is a wonderful technique to introduce. Here, the paper is also important. 140 lb, or 300 gsm, is a lovely weight, but can be expensive- and in European schools, the paper Mercurius says is most popular is only 150 gsm. I’ve used this and with careful sponging flat to the painting board til dry, and stacking books or heavy items on it after it dries, you can achieve minimum buckling. However, I’m so excited to have just found a great supplier for Fabriano’s wonderful 140 lb, 300 gsm watercolor paper pads. You can find them here – and members get a great discount on these, so hopefully good quality paper will be more affordable for your homeschool. I also love the postcard size ones for creating your own seasonal post cards and placing them in card holders near the nature table.
You only really need three Stockmar paints (again, carmine red, lemon yellow, and ultramarine blue). I recommend making your own painting boards with 5 ply plywood- birch or maple. It is very cost effective, as you can get a 4 x 8 foot board Lowe’s for under $25, and get 4-6 boards depending on sizes you cut. Round the edges and sand a bit, sealing with linseed oil if you prefer a finish. The Waldorf cow’s hair paintbrushes are nice and last forever, but I would not get hung up on having them if money is tight. Likewise, the cute painting trays with jars are nice, but baby food jars will work just as well for mixing and storing your paints in the fridge between uses to start out. Two great books (just pick one! Simplicity is best!) for learning the techniques are Painting In Waldorf Education and Painting With Children. Have I convinced you *not* to buy a bunch of stuff yet? 😉
And next, in coming to Waldorf, there is modeling. It is so important and therapeutic for the child! “Learning About the World Through Modeling” by Arther Auer is truly a must have. I would buy this book before I bought modeling beeswax, it is that good… if you have a limited budget, get this book first and use it with homemade play-do until you can spring for some modeling beeswax sheets. One fun project to make with the modeling wax is these lovely flower children- here is a link to the instructions!
Once you’ve got a good handle on modeling beeswax, you can explore more modeling media. Clays are wonderful; there is something so earthy, something that truly inspires the creative aspects of the human being to emerge when we model with clay. I am trying to really set aside time to model with my children so that they can see me doing it and be inspired to love it as well. I feel that my boys, who love legos and can build for hours, may benefit from the very soothing, will-building process of working with modeling wax and clay more often and it is going to be a big focus for us this year. It is certainly a more sensory experience than touching hard, unyielding plastics! New to the member catalog are two types of clay, natural modeling clays in 5 lb quantities of red or white, which can be glazed and kiln dried or used straight from the box, and colorful non-hardening clays. We are excited to use these in our family for a caterpillar project, where we will make realistic looking caterpillars, dangle them from the underside of tree branches near leaves, and then return in 24 hours to see how many “beak marks” birds left in trying to eat our caterpillars before realizing they are decoys, as suggested by our caterpillar field guide.
In our kindergarten, we have a drawing day, painting day, modeling day, and baking day. So these things are really all you need; no curriculum necessary, although I think many newbies prefer to have a guide as they set off on unchartered territory. Find something simple that doesn’t complicate your day, that helps you establish rhythm and enjoy the simple things in life with your kindergartener.
Lastly, the Auris glockenspiels are wonderful. I would save this for Christmas or birthday. The sound is truly enchanting and I’ve never met a child who wasn’t entranced with them! You can use them to direct attention during transitions, and to begin to practice pentatonic melodies, as each note is engraved in the keys. My friend Elisabeth says this is strongly encouraged in her teacher training, as a teacher can tap a melody while giving instructions. It lends a more musical quality, a softeness, to our spoken leadership.
When we come to first grade, we can add main lesson books, colored pencils, and chalks to our repertoire. Flutes can be gifted in the first grade year, woven into the lesson and received at a birthday or special holiday. You will need two of these, as the teacher needs to model the flute. Some families have decided on pennywhistles in place of flutes. Music Through The Grades is another must-have book once you reach the grades, as it provides developmentally appropriate music for grades 1-8 by a seasoned Waldorf teacher, with invaluable notes and 3 cds of songs to learn with. I don’ think Stockmar stick crayons are vital to doing Waldorf homeschooling (whereas block crayons really are), but they are very nice and not too expensive to acquire somewhere along the line. You will need a sharpener for the wax crayons and triangular pencils from Lyra or Mercurius.
How much handwork supplies you need is really dependent on how much you love to do handwork and how much time you can carve out for it! I aim for one knitting project per quarter, and one sewn felt item per quarter right now. That seems doable for us. In my personal crafting I love to needle-felt, too.
As crayons and pencils become worn or broken, you can set them aside in a special basket for when friends or toddlers wish to draw, and at Christmas, birthdays, or beginning of school present your child with a new set for their lessons and artistic pursuits. Or, perhaps you take excellent care of yours and replace individual broken crayons/pencils- there is no “right” way. I’ve sourced some great new wooden storage chests for supplies, and these will keep your organized, keep you portable to go outside, and protect things from younger siblings.
Well, there is my manifesto for building your supply cabinet. If you need some cheap-o storage space, I bought wooden crates from Joanne Fabrics and Crafts when they were on sale. I think I paid about $7 per crate? And I stacked them up 2- 5 crates tall and screwed them together, and into our wood floorboards. Instant shelving!
In my “office”, I have some rustic shelving thrown together from inexpensive wood from the local Amish sawmill. I keep the things I don’t want my three year old to get into, up high here. Yes, my felt stash and beeswax sheets supplies look a bit excessive, but that is because I have the extras, leftovers, and damaged products from 3 years of running a co-op. I like to make sure members get the best 😉
Speaking of members, I am finally accepting new members at Cedar Ring Circle… I stopped last October when I started wondering if I would want to continue coordinating Cedar Ring Circle after the baby. Well, I do love my work with all of the wonderful members, and my husband has just left the comfortable salaried position he accepted last fall in favor of being an independent contractor and entrepreneur, so I am thinking I will be continuing for several more years, at least. Save $10 on a Lifetime Membership with the code EARLYBIRD, now through Sunday, the 21st at midnight only (when our July order is due). You’ll receive a welcome letter with information about deals, access to our private catalog with exclusive brands, the ability to request anything our suppliers offer to be added to our catalog, & details on our ordering schedule within 24 hours. If a co-op does not appeal to you, I do recommend Pamela at Meadowsweet Naturals- we’ve gotten 25 new members in the past few days since I opened memberships again, so I am just too busy to accommodate any orders from non-members the way I was in the past few months, but I know she welcomes new customers and does a wonderful job taking care of Waldorf homeschoolers’ needs. 🙂