Carrie Dendtler of the Parenting Passageway
The Waldorf Journey
Waldorf education has grown enormously in the past few years, especially among families with young children. The internet, more specifically the blog world, has also grown and is bringing a picture of Waldorf education to families all over the world. Today many Moms have taken up blogging and blog about Waldorf education, family life and homemaking .
Perhaps the best known and most loved of Waldorf homeschooling bloggers is Carrie Dendtler of The Parenting Passageway. Carrie has been blogging for three years and will share with us how her blogging has changed over those years.
I am fortunate to have been able to interview Carrie and delighted to bring this interview to you dear readers.Thank you Carrie. Enjoy dear readers!
What brought you to Waldorf education?
I really came upon Waldorf Education as I was looking at different types of homeschooling, so it was rather capricious. However, when I started to investigate it – and the first thing I read was Rudolf Steiner’s “The Education of the Child” followed by “Soul Economy” – it so met my need for a form of education and homeschooling based upon the development of the child. This picture of the child as a spiritual being also deeply resonated within me: how can education be based upon anything less than our humanity, our interconnectedness, our love and respect for the child?
What inspired you to start blogging?
I started blogging because I wanted to share some of the things that were challenging to me in my own parenting, and I didn’t want anyone else to feel unsupported and alone the way I had felt. I felt at times as if I were trying to re-create the parenting wheel and failing! So, The Parenting Passageway was really borne out of love for other families who were trying to be mindful, who were trying to swim upstream in this hectic world. In fact, that was the first tagline of my blog: “Peaceful parenting for a hectic world”.
Over time, besides parenting, my blog became about Waldorf homeschooling because that is a large part of my life. It also has become about my spiritual leanings and faith and how that has vastly shaped my inner development and my family life. But mostly, I try to write things that parents have questions, concerns or challenges with, because I really wanted The Parenting Passageway to be less about me and more about others.
What was the blog world like then compared to now, do you notice a difference?
I think blogging has changed in three short years. The blogs are more beautiful than ever, there are more resources for homeschooling and parenting in them than ever before, but I think we are also seeing blogging trend into other social mediums such as Facebook and Twitter. So, it will be interesting to see where all of that goes.
The Waldorf homeschooling community, in particular, has seemed to really explode with vibrancy. I only hope that parents new to Waldorf homeschooling can decipher what is authentic, what are the essential truths of childhood development to really work with, what is true, from everything that is out there! I think it is easy for new parents to become overwhelmed with it all!
What made you decide to homeschool with Waldorf education?
You know, when I started homeschooling, I did not know one single Waldorf homeschooler. Everyone I knew was doing either “The Well-Trained Mind” or Sonlight, a boxed curriculum. However, I just knew that Waldorf homeschooling was for us; the morality and the sacredness that is so infused throughout the curriculum, the learning through art, the way every grade built upon each other….I just felt this form of education could not be missed for my children. And whilst there is a Waldorf school in my area, I wanted to really have us all together. To live and strive and have fun together!
How does it impact your life?
That actually is a hard question, because I think homeschooling with Waldorf has caused me to look at so many things, to question so many assumptions I had had…it really filled in the blanks in regards to childhood development from an attached perspective, in regards to discipline and living and how to really raise a healthy adult. I had to think about what the child really could understand, really where the child was from a holistic perspective, and I had to look at myself and see myself as an ever-changing, ever-growing, ever-developing being as well. Waldorf homeschooling also became a catalyst for my own spiritual beliefs, and growing within my own religion. I am a member of the Episcopal Church, and am just continuing to grow and walk more deeply spiritually and within my own parish, and within the traditions and thoughts of the early church fathers….
Are you still working in the NICU? How does that work into life with Waldorf, does one influence the other?
I worked in the NICU as a neonatal physical therapist doing developmental and feeding evaluations up until two years ago. I am sure I will go back and work some odd hours eventually, because that pull is there. I think my experience in observing for a living, observation for needs of the infant or child, was an important foundation for teaching in Waldorf and in Waldorf parenting. Working with Steiner’s ideas surrounding the twelve senses has also been huge in my work as a therapist and as a parent. I also love being able to dialogue with parents, whether it is as a board- certified lactation consultant or as a therapist or just parent to parent. I love listening to people’s stories and thinking about what connections might be helpful for them.
What advice do you have to parents who are new to Waldorf education, feeling overwhelmed and seeking some perspective on the big picture?
I think there are several things that could be helpful to parents new to Waldorf education. First of all, I think it helps to actually read Rudolf Steiner for yourself, or at least some very tried, true and trustworthy books about Waldorf Education by other authors.
Then, I would recommend baby steps. The early years of birth through seven is where there can be such huge guilt for families, and I always say you were doing the best you knew how to do with the information you had at the time. The point is in the striving, the doing, the process. That is what the children see and that is what matters. Take your time and work in what works about Waldorf Education into your life and your children. Really observe your children, and take the time to understand childhood development and the spiritual formation of the child. Let what you discover sit with you, and see how you really feel about it.
For those coming into Waldorf Education in the grades and not the early years, I would say to start where you are. If you have a fourth grader, look at fourth grade and do not mourn the years your child missed with Waldorf Education. You and your family are right where you need to be. Look at your home life first, see how you feel about the relationship between you as a teacher and your child as a learner, see what works for you and what does not and move into it all with grace and love and confidence.
Homeschooling is first and foremost about family, about living and working and playing together and having fun. It is important not to lose sight of that in order to do everything “Waldorf perfect.” Waldorf at home is not the same as a Waldorf school, just like homeschooling and checking off all the little boxes is different than relaxing into teaching and adjusting and guiding. Take your time, it will come.
Thank you Carrie.
Carrie Dendtler is author of The Parenting Passageway blog, a resource for peaceful parenting, and a Waldorf homeschooling mother of three children ages 10, 7 and 2. As a neonatal/pediatric physical therapist, lay breastfeeding counselor and board-certified lactation consultant, Carrie has observed, worked with and counseled thousands of families. Her time working with families and especially with parents of children with special needs has given her a unique perspective and foundation through which to view not only the importance of attachment but also the framework of Rudolf Steiner’s Twelve senses and the seven year cycles as a foundation for a healthy childhood. She is a member of the Anthroposophical Society in America and is currently enrolled in a Foundation Studies program. She has been married for nineteen years to her wonderful husband, and most enjoys spending time with her family in nature.