Tuesday, 1 September 2009

The Joys Of Being A Waldorf Parent

My sister and I chuckled on many occasions over being good Steiner mothers (Steiner in Oz, Waldorf in Europe), which saw her trying all sorts of crafts over the years. Now that my daughter has started school I am really starting to understand what that means.

Starting school in Sweden is weird, at least for an Aussie mum who only knows one way of doing things. Firstly kids start school the year they turn 7, which in some cases means they are almost eight years old. Compare that to starting at 5 in Oz. Then there is no list stating exactly what the school uniform should consist of, which pieces are compulsory and which are non-compulsory, as well as where to buy it, there is no school uniform. There is no list outlining exactly what pens, pencils, writing books and even text books to buy, no fees to be paid before school starts (not even non-compulsory fees as in Oz). These kids don’t even need a lunchbox, a thermos or a drink bottle. All their food is provided by the school and the after-school centre, free of charge.

Instead of the list we have to make sure she has two pairs of slippers, or inside shoes, for both school and after-school care - the no-shoes in the classroom policy is also weird when you are not used to it.

Swedish education law says schools are to provide children with what they need, and they are not legally entitled to charge fees of any description if they are teaching according to the Swedish curriculum. It is all in the name of Sweden’s socialistic roots, in the name of equality. No child should be disadvantaged because of their family’s financial status. Every child should be guaranteed one hot meal a day. It is all about taking care of children, no matter what their lot in life is.

So while most parents have little to organise for their children starting school (I’m assuming), the Waldorf parents amongst us are busy, busy, busy. With Makaila starting Grade 1 we were given two important tasks back in the spring – a name-tag and a crayon case, along with detailed instructions as to how these tasks should be completed.

Naturally, like all enthusiastic, well-prepared parents we did not use the summer wisely, nor did we con one of Ty’s talented aunts into doing it for us – we left it hanging over our heads until the pressure built sufficiently!

Once I finally got started on the name-tag, I decided it wasn’t all that bad - although it is tough to embroider when you haven’t really done it before. I bought one of those cross stitch kits when I was about 11 years old, the ones where the pattern is printed on the fabric and all the colours are chosen for you. It was of a clown and I’m not sure what possessed me to buy it but I clearly remember my dad giving me a hard time, telling me I would never finish it. Guess whether or not I did……

Anyway despite struggling with the stitches I actually enjoyed sitting doing this handcraft in the evenings. Then one night when we were discussing how on earth I was going to embroider her most beloved animal, a killer whale, it was taken from me. Ty took over. After all, equality is the name of the game in this country.

We found a great picture on the net which we were able to copy and he did it over two nights. A friend even called in and was so inspired when he saw Ty sitting embroidering at the kitchen table last night that he went home and got started on his daughter’s name tag (gotta love these Swedish men!). We (both) added the finishing touches (water) and hey presto – it was done! Here’s the final result. Not bad huh!

The next task was the crayon case and I knew that would be fairly easy – which does not explain my procrastination! It took me the better part of the afternoon-evening but I got it finished and I’m pretty pleased with the results. Just so long as no one looks too closely at the stitching because it is extremely amateurish.

The kids were so amazed to see me pull out a borrowed sewing machine that they watched my every move and questioned all I did. Kieran tried to get an understanding of exactly how the machine worked and was so fascinated he snapped a few shots of me in action.

Counting to make sure I've left enough space.

The finished product aims to reduce classroom noise.

Tied up ready to be put away.

What started off as a “Oh no! How are we going to manage these little projects” has ended with a “Well that was fun. What’s next” kinda feeling.

Makaila was totally and utterly thrilled with both pieces – and I think kind of amazed by her parents. Now that brings joy to these Waldorf parents!


  1. Can you please whip up 3 costumes for Book Day on Friday??? - Nelson would like to be Geronimo Stilton - a mouse detective who wears a green 3 piece suit!!!!! Bronte would like to be a 'Little Miss Character' and Rosie is yet to decide - will probably wait until Friday morning to spring something on me!! (very impressed with your ability to use a sewing machine - I actually own one that I have never used!!! Darren's gift to me many years ago and given with high hopes.... he even made sure it could do button holes - ha!)

  2. Wow... I am impresed... had you sown before or was this the first attempt???

  3. Wasn't Steiner that guy who thought he was clairvoyant and who put forward rather controversial views regarding racial differences ?

  4. @Michelle - Haha! Don't you have enough talented aunts around to help you with that one? Good luck getting that sorted out - costumes tend to be a lot more low key here in comparison - thankfully!

    @Fiona - thanks! I've always sewn the odd tablecloth, curtains or pillow case so I know my way around a machine but it has been 10 years. My actual sewing is pretty sloppy so I could do with a little more practice (better not say that too loud!),

    @Dave - not sure if you are genuine or just trying to stir the pot. If you want more information about Steiner there is plenty of information about - portraying him both in a positive and negative light. You can start here:

  5. I'm not especially stirring. Its interesting how worthwhile organisations can often spring from dubious individuals. The scout movement, for instance, was founded by Baden Powell who, it was alleged, had an unhealthy interest in little boys.

  6. Wow... what a cute case for the crayon you have there. Love the idea :)
    Regards from Stockholm

  7. Great Blog! (I found you randomly while I was clicking links from other expat blogs) :)

    Lucky kids of yours! :) Waldorf schools are fantastic in Scandinavia, my partner is Norwegian and of all his 985875249885 friends, the ones who went to Waldorf schools are the ones who've made something of themselves as adults they have become well known artists, musicians, scientists, architects and engineers...

  8. Ooh i've been trying a pattern for that crayon case... now I know to add waldorf to it and it'll probably pop up!