How Waldorf Homeschoolers Always Find a Way to Make It Work
(The Story of the Taproot Teacher Training)
Fourteen years ago, a small but spirited group of parents gathered in central Ohio at Barbara Dewey’s Taproot farm for the first ever Taproot Teacher Training for Homeschoolers. At the end of that long weekend in early August, those parents returned home with a feeling of confidence that they could find a way to make homeschooling work!
They’d spent that summer weekend on a farm among the rolling hills of central Ohio. It was a weekend filled with morning hikes, feeding chickens, outdoor showers, and so much laughter. They’d met comrades on a similar journey and had an opportunity to experience homeschooling as a student themselves. Little did we know that Taproot would become an annual event, reaching hundreds of holistic homeschoolers from all over the world!
“I started this program 15 years ago, so that homeschoolers could get a Waldorf teacher training that met their unique needs. Participants over the years have made it that and much more! Meeting these dedicated parents has given me hope for the future of our children.” ~Barbara Dewey
How Waldorf Homeschoolers Find a Way
The idea for Waldorf homeschool training workshops developed out of a need expressed by many parents in the early 1990s. Parents were attending trainings at various Anthroposophical teacher training institutes all over the United States. But these training workshops were aimed at classroom teachers. They didn’t really meet the needs of homeschooling parents.
The parent-as-teacher is a very different role than that of the teacher in a classroom. And parents at the classroom trainings often felt like their individual questions and needs were not being addressed.
I see a subtle but profound difference between classroom teaching and homeschooling, based on my experiences teaching in both settings.
In a classroom, the teacher is planning lessons with the goal of bringing as many of the children along as possible, aiming for the majority but rarely able to meet the need of every child.
In a homeschool setting, the teacher-parent has the luxury of looking at EACH child and meeting them right where they are. The needs of each child can be considered. And so lessons can be individualized.
I honestly think the homeschool setting gives us a much better chance than a classroom of fulfilling Rudolf Steiner’s directive to “look at the children before you and bring them what they need.“
Early Waldorf Homeschool Trainings
The very first Waldorf conferences for homeschoolers started at the Waldorf School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Rahima Baldwin, author of the wonderful book You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, organized these training conferences, but sadly, the program was short-lived.
Next came a homeschool training held in Toronto called The Chiron Initiative. The founder, Gene Campbell, held these weekend trainings for parents starting in 2001. Barbara Dewey, who would go on to found the Taproot Teacher Training, was on staff. She had worked with Gene on several other programs at the Sunbridge Institute in Spring Valley, New York.
The Waldorf homeschool movement was gaining momentum and reaching more parents and families. It’s so amazing to look back on this time and see how far we’ve come!
The First Taproot Teacher Training
In 2007, Barbara Dewey held the first Taproot Teacher Training for Waldorf Homeschoolers on her farm. For the first few years, Barbara and Gene Campbell traded their talents. Barbara taught at Chiron in Toronto and Gene at Taproot in Ohio. Barbara also hosted family weekends at Taproot Farm four times a year for seasonal festivals which whole families could attend, staying for the weekend.
It’s worth noting, that at this time, Waldorf homeschoolers were being brought together and sharing ideas simply by word-of-mouth, email lists, a few Yahoo groups and such. There was not a visual platform such as Pinterest or Instagram to share inspiration and ideas!
Taproot participants on Barbara’s farm were limited to 20 for a three-day training. Parents stayed in the farmhouses and barn, or camped out on the property. And each participant pitched in for KP duty during the weekend, helping to prepare, serve and clean up for simple meals.
Quite a few amusing mishaps occurred in those early years on the farm, most memorably when Barbara’s dog, Star, had a run-in with a skunk and snuck into all three houses, trying to get away from her horrible smell, which then became the fragrance of the year!
The time was ripe for the Waldorf homeschool movement to grow, spreading its roots and branches to provide support and community for an increasing number of homeschoolers drawn to Waldorf.
Today, more resources, teaching support, leaders, and mentors are available for Waldorf homeschoolers than ever before. The Taproot Teacher Training occupies a small niche in the homeschooling world, but it’s played a big role in forging the way for the Waldorf homeschooling movement.
Taproot has grown so much over the years. After outgrowing Barbara’s farm, the training weekend has found a home at the Shaw Retreat Center of Camp Asbury in Hiram, Ohio. And in 2020, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, Taproot was held online, as so many other group events and conferences were. But as Waldorf homeschoolers, we always find a way!
“Words that come to mind when I think of Taproot: Courage. Connection. Commitment. Taproot has both cultivated these qualities within me and called them forth from me to share with others.” ~Alison
So, the journey continues. Parents have come to Taproot from as far away as California, Oregon, Washington State, Puerto Rico, British Columbia, and Canada. Participants return year after year, with veteran attendees becoming presenters and leaders. They continue to pass on the support and encouragement that meets the unique needs of Waldorf homeschoolers, the need that Barbara Dewey sought to meet when she held the first training on her farm.
Here are just a few of the phrases past participants have used to describe the vibe at Taproot:
- Warmth and community
- Emphasis on the lively arts
- Embracing flexibility in homeschooling with Waldorf
- Like-minded friends
- Teachers who are kind, encouraging, open, and very knowledgeable
- A general energy of positive joy
“I love the space Taproot creates to let go, become grounded, and then fill back up again with ideas, inspiration, and confidence for the year ahead.” ~Rebecca
The Taproot Teacher Training was founded on the principle that Waldorf homeschoolers will find a way to make it work for their children. This principle carries through today because Waldorf homeschoolers are committed, dedicated, and determined to educate their children holistically.
Taproot helped to forge a Waldorf homeschooling movement. And I invite you to come be a part of the movement!
“What I love most about Taproot is the sense of connection and community. To feel such support in this homeschooling journey and to make lifelong friends in the space of a weekend (or several weekends if you come back every year!) has been such a gift to me. I was so nervous to come the first year that I signed up, feeling as though I wouldn’t fit in, but several years later, I know I could not have been more mistaken – there is a place for everyone at Taproot!” ~Amber
Taproot Teacher Training 2021: Online
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