Why I Love Waldorf

Hannah and her wonderful teacher in front of the long house

Yesterday our family headed way, way up Bathurst Street to the Toronto Waldorf school where we took part in a ceremony with both the grade three class from our school (of ten kids) and their grade three class of thirty!

Our kids had the opportunity to visit their northern buddies several times this year, and one of the projects they engaged in was building a long house (a long, low structure with walls lined with cedar boughs modeled on the traditional Iroquois family dwellings of the 17th century). The parents scheduled some time with their child and their teacher in this long house for an end-of-year ceremony, and then joined in on the potluck feast where we all brought fruit or veggies to compliment the epic amounts of pizza.

I’d heard lots about the Toronto Waldorf School, so I was really excited to check it out. The campus hosts a nursery school all the way through to grade twelve. They have a huge ravine, a vegetable garden, and a small farm with animals to tend. It was everything I expected, and I wanted to stay there.

A birds eye view of Toronto Waldorf School

For those of you who don’t know much about the Waldorf approach to education, here’s a brief overview about why I love it so much:

  • Each classroom is a community, and there is a strong focus on building and nurturing that community, and really sharing in the care for their classroom ‘home’.
  • The teachers are charged with integrating the curriculum across all levels and really injecting life and their own passion into it.
  • The focus is on encouraging children to develop their own thirst for knowledge, and to use their creativity at every turn. Children are taught how to think, not what to think.
  • The classroom environments are very serene and beautiful. Natural materials are used for furnishings and toys, they are free of excessive clutter, and the walls are even painted in particular colors to promote peace and harmony.
  • There is much focus on the importance of a relationship with nature. Students in younger grades get extensive outdoor playtime, regardless of the weather. Older students tend gardens, enjoy ravine walks, and in some cases tend animals. The cycles of the seasons are honored at every grade level.
  • Lessons are tailored to each students level and learning style with lots of individual support for any kids who need it.
  • Mythology plays an important role in the curriculum for all of the lower grades.
  • There is a ‘no media’ agreement that parents are asked to sign, pledging to keep the children from exposure to media during the school week. There are countless reasons why I think this is essential, but that feels like another blog post.
  • The children create all of their own lesson books, which are meticulously hand drawn and carefully crafted. Even math and science books are incredible works of art and precious keepsakes.
  • It’s a non-denominational environment, and even though some of the Rudolf Steiner (the founder of Waldorf Education) methods are rooted in Christianity, the schools work to integrate all faiths, and families of all configurations are welcome.
  • The grade one teacher typically carries their class all the way through to grade eight. A mindful meditative practice, where they hold each child in their hearts and minds is part of their teacher training.
  • Only nutritious foods are permitted for lunches and celebrations.

Tuition isn’t cheap, but there are now public schools popping up who are modeling their approach on Waldorf, and of course there’s homeschooling for those of you who can invest that time and energy.

Our ceremony yesterday was beautiful. Hannah’s teacher is unbelievably awesome, and it’s really breaking my heart to take her away from that class. Her teacher has so much love for her, and her reflections during the ceremony were so thoughtful and specific to Hannah. She shows such care and consideration in all she does. I really hope we can stay in touch, because she’s a completely inspiring woman.

It’s hard to believe we won’t be seeing all of the children and parents we’ve really come to love. I hope our path will lead us back to Waldorf because I so badly want Noah to benefit from this incredible environment and method the way his older sisters have, and I’d love to see the girls carry on through high school. Every time I’m in a Waldorf school, even our tiny one here downtown, it just feels magical.

Maybe I’ll just need to get a job at a Waldorf school so we have one more good reason to head back in that direction.

I’ve attached a video that I found a while back which distills the Waldorf approach quite beautifully.


Making Our Beds


This past weekend, we ran away from the city to begin work on our vegetable garden at the Niagara house. Our goal was to build four raised beds – three for veggies and one for cut flowers – using this tutorial from the awesome Pioneer Woman blog. We packed up the car and a small mountain of laundry (our city dryer has been broken for over a month and it’s hard to keep up with the laundry demands of six people) and we set out at seven p.m. which is the time to travel on the Friday of a long weekend.

Saturday was a late start. I needed the extra sleep, because the Noodle has taken to waking as of 2:30 each morning, and then every hour or so after that. At first, he was just interested in eating during these waking moments, but now he’s into trying out all of his new moves; scooting, crawling, sitting up, standing, all with his eyes closed and mostly still asleep. Thankfully, on Saturday he was into sleeping in, and when he was done, extra hands made it possible for me to get a little bit of extra rest. After a leisurely breakfast, Nekky and I set out for the Home Depot at around noon, while Mamma S stayed behind to tackle the epic chore of lawn mowing. Both adventures turned out to be day-long investments.

The finished product

The finished product

Nekky and I took Noodle with us because he’s a fussy monkey these days. His little teeth are ready to burst forth, and he can fight a nap with UFC flair. Once he was secured in his car seat, he was k.o’d and remained that way for the two hour duration of our Home Depot visit, where he slept in a cart, still in his car seat. He really must be a man’s man (whatever the hell that means) because the smell of sawdust and paint and dudes really lulled him into deep sleep. Not even my stacks of garlic and onion bulbs disturbed him from his reverie. Also, if you want to see cute, take a wee baby to a hardware store. Even the burliest men were cooing at him, and straining to get a look inside the cart to watch him sleep.


We cut down on some material costs by choosing untreated fir over cedar or pine, and we’ll be sealing it with an Eco wood treatment. Our real surprise came in seeing just how much wood we ended up with. There was no way it was fitting in the car, so we had to rent a Home Depot van to drive it back to the house, ten minutes away.

Of course the baby’s car seat wouldn’t work in the cargo van, so I hung behind with the Noodle, who was still out. I grabbed myself lunch at Subway, and got three quarters of the way through it before the baby woke up, all smiles and game show host charm for the seniors lunching around me. Man this baby can work a room!

He can also work his shorts, and so after I finished lunch, we wheeled back into the Depot for a bum change and some boobie. By now we were on a first name basis with the staff, who were all happy to see the awake Noodle, riding in the cart like a pageant queen on a pride float, clapping his hands and squawking with glee. (Our baby is so happy to have everyone’s eyes on him. I don’t know where he gets that from.) The restroom was kitted out with a big comfy leather chair so we had more privacy than the patio furniture section afforded – this is where I’d scoped out some breast feeding real estate earlier.

After Noodle’s snack we waited for daddy (and Ayla, who decided to come for phase two of the shopping excursion, which was Costco) in the garden centre. Noodle loves flowers, birds and old ladies and all were plentiful in the garden centre.

So, yes we tackled both Home Depot and Costco on a long weekend Saturday and lived to tell the tale. Needless to say, not much building got done on day one, though us three parents ran outside after dinner to take advantage of the waning sunlight and cooler temperatures. We got quite a lot of the more tedious stuff knocked out too – measuring and drilling pilot holes and such. There was also some beer drinking, which we all know is essential to any home improvement project.


Sunday was building day, for real. We got a much earlier start and got a lot of work done before noon, when the sun became unforgiving. There isn’t a lot of shade at the Niagara house, so our veggies will be happy, but us laborers were not. Coconut water has become a staple for us and the kids. It’s a greater source of electrolytes than those sports drinks, and it’s delicious, especially with vodka and a twist of lime. No, the kids don’t get vodka.

We took a break for lunch, and then hit Home Depot again, because one trip is NEVER enough, no matter how thorough you think you’ve been. After lunch I got to learn how to use a jigsaw (terrifying) and a drill. Yes, it’s true, I’ve barely used power tools. I’m more of a sanding, staining, finishing, painting kind of worker bee. I’m also really good about planning, and I quite like being the foreman.


I’m very pleased with the results of our efforts. Lulu got in there and worked with daddy, and was very proud of herself. She was also thrilled when I pointed out that she’d been in homeschool wood working class all day.

Next we’ll need to seal the beds and line them with landscaping fabric, then order dirt and compost and get planting. I can’t wait to get my hands in there and plant our little seeds. I’ve never attempted a vegetable garden before, so I have no idea how successful this project will be, but it’s really been wonderful working together towards a common goal.