Waldorf Without Walls

High School Options

by Barbara Dewey

Where does my creative, Waldorf-educated child go for high school?

Very few children have the luxury of a Waldorf high school.  What are the options, other than public school or another private school that are developmentally appropriate for a Waldorf educated, creative 14-18 year old?

At age 14, the child learns through interest in search of truth.  Hidden behind the contradictions often seen in the teenager is the question, “Who am I?” At this time, the child develops the faculty of independent judgment and begins to explore her own values, attitudes and emotions.  Early in this period, home, school and peer influence have motivated the child.  A healthy teenager will begin to take responsibility for her own direction in life.  Some may want to acquire a particular skill, while others may want to explore options.  All this is preparation for the birth of the adult self or the ego of the mature human being.  For further information on this third seven year cycle, read Between Form and Freedom, by Betty Staley.

At this time, the teenager is ready to learn from experts, which she would do in high school and college.  It is impossible to imitate a Waldorf high school at home.  However, keeping in mind Steiner’s theory of child development and the need to work with others, it is possible to design a learning plan to serve a student of this age group.  It takes a lot of organizing, but the student herself can be responsible for much of that.  It may involve setting up apprenticeships or internships with local professionals, part time attendance at a local high school or college, an occasional computer course (carefully selected), the responsibility of a paying job, travel, etc.  The possibilities are unlimited.

One ingredient lacking for most of today's youth is a feeling of being needed, of being useful in the world. An education which incorporates usefulness goes a long way toward motivating and enhancing a child's education.

I just spent some time with a family in Michigan where they have been homeschoooling their children, 17 and 13 for the past 9 years, using Waldorf methods.  It is a home where my  daughter, Karen and I go for our inspiration!

The 17 year old daughter, with her parents, has designed her own educational program.  She has been doing ballet for many years and now takes part in University of Michigan and Detroit University ballet courses.  Her father teaches her algebra using the Saxon series.  Her mother guides her reading, according to her interests, of classic and modern novels, biography and informational material and helps her with creative and researched writing.  She studies Biology and Russian (along with her brother) interactively on the computer.  The family has horses, chickens, two dogs and several cats which the children care for and train, as well as a large kitchen garden.

The daughter has many social contacts in her ballet work and also in their nearby church, where they are active volunteers.  Both children have done volunteer work according to their age and ability throughout their homeschooled years, making a difference in the lives of those around them. Both also take part in homeschooling groups for learning, including creative writing, book discussions, etc, and social activities.

For more information and lots of ideas on this kind of high school age learning read Teenage Liberation Handbook, by Grace Llewellyn.

By keeping in mind the needs of the 14–21 year old and being open to opportunities, a young person can create a meaningful, living education than can often be infinitely more satisfying and successful than a traditional school program.  It is amazing what the universe will provide for us when we open ourselves to the possibilities!