charlotte mason waldorf approach homeschool

Our Eclectic Homeschool: How We Blend Charlotte Mason and Waldorf Together

In my last two posts, I shared with you my favorite elements from the Charlotte Mason approach (click here to read) and the Waldorf approach (click here to read.) Many people find that these two approaches compliment each other very well, especially when given flexibility and an open mind concerning educational philosophies. Here’s how that looks for us:

waldorf charlotte mason combined homeschooling approach

Generous Blending of Books and Storytelling

My love affair with beautiful books blends beautifully with my passion for face-to-face storytelling when the two approaches are combined. We snuggle over books from our morning and bedtime baskets, sneak them into just about every lesson, every day, and step around piles of them in every nook and cranny of our apartment. But we also pepper our day with storytelling. Sometimes I do the telling, spinning a rich tapestry of myths and fairytales as we hike or bake together. Sometimes my daughters are the ones enchanting me with their stories, oftentimes doubling as casual narration since the plot lines from our “lesson stories” will show up in their spur-of-the-moment tales.

waldorf charlotte mason combined homeschooling approach

Charlotte Mason’s Short Lessons Combined with Waldorf’s Artistic Approach

One of the best parts of the Charlotte Mason approach, for us anyway, is the short duration of the lessons. We’re often finished with school for the day no later than noon, but still enjoy a variety of subjects every day. Over the past year, I’ve experimenting with providing a Waldorf-inspired main lesson book and high-quality beeswax crayons for my daughter to document her learning. Nothing formal–I just leave them on the table and invite her to add to it as she wishes throughout our morning. She took to it quickly, adding in drawings of beetles, bees, and the butterfly life cycle as we wandered through our insect study, and drawing pictures from different fairytales we read. It really is a lovely combination, and perfect for our relaxed, artistic approach.

waldorf charlotte mason combined homeschooling approach

Narration Through Play-Based, Hands-On Storytelling in the Early Grades

I LOVE that Charlotte Mason advocated for narration over formal testing. But oral and written narration can be difficult for children in the early grades sometimes, as they begin to learn how to organize, process, and offer information they’ve received. I signed up for a subscription to Earthschooling‘s first grade level at the beginning of the summer, because I wanted to add in more handicrafts and celebrations throughout our next year, and I really don’t have extra time to organize these for myself. As I sifted through the photographs and ideas on their website, I found myself very inspired by prop-assisted storytelling.

I decided to try it with my girls in place of oral narration one morning. I handed my oldest daughter a basket full of rocks, sticks, unpainted peg dolls, and cheap 50-cent handkerchiefs from the craft store and asked her to make a little play to tell me the story of The Wild Swans, which we had read the night before. Her eyes lit up as she quickly got to work setting up the “world” of the swans with the props. For the next half-hour, I was treated to her rendition of the story and was surprised how many details she recalled. Her narrations had always been rather curt, jumping from major plot point to major plot point, often skipping over the best bits in the name of brevity so we could move on with our morning. But not this time.

We don’t use prop-assisted storytelling instead of oral narration every time, but it’s definitely become a regular feature in our homeschool.

charlotte mason waldorf combined homeschool approach

Nature-Based, Unhurried Rhythm to the Day, Week, and Year

Both approaches are very pro-nature, so this (for me) is where combining them is basically effortless. However, there is a subtle difference between the two, and this difference makes for a delightful experience when you embrace both philosophies in your homeschool. The Charlotte Mason approach is a naturalist’s dreamworld, brimming with meditations on everything from dragonfly anatomy to constellations to the names and origins of the local wildflowers that grace your home. Waldorf loves to celebrate the cycles of nature, the ebb and flow of the seasons, the sensory experiences that come with each in turn. It makes time for things like crafting flower crowns in the late summer and beeswax candles in the winter. It brings music to each season, and ritual, and reverence. It’s almost like they’re sisters from the same wild-hearted family–CM is the brainy, Edwardian sister curating dead butterflies for a careful-crafted display case and Waldorf is the barefoot, sun-kissed, free-spirit dancing around her in circles, singing a springtime verse. I love them both, and embrace both of their approaches to nature and our connection to her.

charlotte mason waldorf combined homeschool approach

Handicrafts, Baking, and Helping to Care for the Home and Garden

Another arena where the two philosophies meet is the life of the home itself. Both the Charlotte Mason approach and the Waldorf approach insist that a child’s home-world matters a great deal when it comes to education. After all, education is not simply a matter of arithmetic and language–it’s the preparation of a child to create their whole life. We want our children to be able to care for themselves someday, and for others. We want them to know how to feed themselves, heal themselves, and keep their surroundings clean and welcoming. We want them to know how to talk about their feelings when they are hurt or troubled. We want them to take care of their things. We want them to value their family, peers, and fellow community members. We want them to LOVE to learn, and to know how to do it, and to pursue it for their whole lives! Including things like handicrafts, baking, and helping around the home and garden in the early grades is the best way to set that stage for lifelong happiness and success.

charlotte mason waldorf combined homeschool approach

Valuing the Journey of Learning and the Relationship Between Child and Parent-Educator Above Academic Checklists

Finally, the cornerstone element from these two approaches for me is the emphasis on relationship and the journey of learning. I think the heart of this is best summed up in the following quotes:

The question is not, “how much does the youth know?” when he has finished his education, but “how much does he care?” And “about how many orders of things does he care?” In fact, “how large is the room in which he finds his feet set?” and, therefore, “how full is the life he has before him?”  – Charlotte Mason

Our task is to find teaching methods that continually engage the whole human being. – Rudolf Steiner

Get Your FREE Trial Issue of Book Seeds By Blossom & Root!

This FREE issue, inspired by the book The Three Sunflowers by Janet Lucy, includes two weeks of activities including nature study, STEAM, art project, recipe, and exploring language and poetry. Suitable for ages 3 - 8. Grab yours today!

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit
Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Kathy June 6, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    So this approach has always appealed to me but I’ve never found any blogs on how to do this for older kids. We’re on our last child who will be 8th grade in the fall and this approach would be great for him especially because of his ADHD. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Reply Kristina Garner June 9, 2019 at 4:42 pm

      Hi Kathy! I would say the use of a main lesson book or something similar to record what they’ve learned would be an easy way to tie in some of the creativity from the Waldorf approach. And Charlotte Mason approach’s use of rich literature over textbooks and incorporation of nature and the arts would apply really well to that age. I wish I had more to offer, but my experience with that age group is a bit lacking compared to my work with younger children. It would be so wonderful to see examples with older children and I’ll definitely keep my own eyes peeled for it.

  • Reply Crystal Curtis January 19, 2020 at 5:29 am

    Hi there! I loved your blog post and have been looking everywhere on how to combine CM and Waldorf! My only question is do you use CM scope and sequence or Steiners?

    • Reply Kristina Garner January 19, 2020 at 4:16 pm

      Thank you! I really don’t use either. Both have influenced the direction we go, but I don’t commit to following one or the other.

  • Reply Tori March 17, 2020 at 4:15 am

    This was so great! I have leaned heavily Waldorf this past year and have realized more and more that I want to blend Waldorf and CM next year, because I too love books but also because Waldorf takes so much prep time. Thank you for your blog! I am eagerly anticipating using some of your curriculum next year.

  • Reply Ember July 11, 2020 at 3:17 pm

    This is a fine approach to homeschooling, but the elements described as “waldorf” are only the most superficial that it really is a misnomer to call this Waldorf at all. Waldorf is a very spiritually rich method of study, this doesn’t begin to graze the surface.

    • Reply Kristina Garner July 18, 2020 at 7:52 pm

      Yes, I agree that these are merely surface-level elements of the larger Waldorf method. However, many people are looking for ways to incorporate these particular elements into their homeschool, when the larger philosophy does not necessarily align with what they’re wanting. My intention is not to say this is Waldorf or Charlotte Mason homeschooling, rather I am sharing which pieces from both approaches speak to me and how I have used them in my own eclectic approach to homeschooling. 🙂

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.