I’m often asked about how we homeschool our two children, ages 4 and 7. And while I’ve shared quite a bit about our homeschooling experience in past blog posts, I haven’t given an update in quite a while.
Last year we gathered every Friday with a few other families for a Waldorf-inspired mixed ages kindergarten consisting of circle time, crafts, story, and seasonal celebrations. While we still gather on Tuesday afternoons for a totally informal, fun playdate, and we still try to celebrate festivals and holidays together, we are no longer meeting for “school.” Several of us had children entering into First Grade this year, which is a really big deal if you follow the Waldorf philosophy, as academic work begins in earnest in First Grade! Our time and energy didn’t allow for co-creating a larger, structured weekly gathering.
However, something new developed: My neighbor and I decided to try a co-op like format where we share the responsibility of educating our two First Grade girls. So far, it has worked out really well for all of us. My neighbor has taught all of the Language Arts blocks, plus some French and Recorder, and I have taught Math, Knitting, and Form Drawing. Every few weeks we intersperse Nature with formal Nature Exploration with either a Dad, or another neighbor. When school is at my house, preschool-aged Everett tags along for the ride; when it’s down the road, Everett stays home and has one-on-one parent time.
We both use a curriculum to guide our instruction, although we pull from many other resources as well. We both have and use the Christopherus First Grade curriculum. I also am using the Lavender’s Blue Homeschool First Grade curriculum for teaching Math, and I’m loving it so very much.
While I am still very inspired by the Waldorf educational philosophy, I have come to terms with the fact that I’m not a purist. What really resonates with me is the artistic, holistic, seasonal, and community aspects of Waldorf education, as well as the fact that technology is completely de-emphasized for so much of childhood. But I really have struggled with not fitting into the “perfect mold” of a Waldorf homeschooling family. To be honest – we have NO daily rhythm. We have weekly commitments and seasonal flow, but for the most part, each day is invented as we go.
I also find myself being very drawn to child-led learning, which many refer to as Unschooling. I see my children engaged in learning every single minute of the day, whether they are creating elaborate Magna Tile structures, drawing fairies, sounding out words, practicing math with recipes, or playing with friends. I really want to honor their natural affinities and skills and allow them ample time to develop their own interests, just like I love to spend time knitting, reading, performing, and writing about homesteading!
The overall structure of schooling this year thus looks like this: Part-time structured/formal Waldorf homeschooling, led by myself or my neighbor 8-12 hours per week, a few extracurricular actives such as gymnastics class and swim lessons, occasional Nature activities, and a whole lot of life learning.
Because we live on a homestead, our collective life learning is very heavily weighted towards the natural world and sciences. Over the past two weeks the kids have:
- Identified multiple species of woodpeckers and other birds at our feeders
- Sowed pepper and onion seeds for the garden
- Learned how to plant a pineapple for regrowth
- Gone on a walk in the woods to collect sap, and helped boil it down into black walnut syrup
- Walked and played on our frozen pond, torn apart cattail fluff and tossed it into the wind, noticing how wind dispersal works for seeds
- Prepared and cooked food such as green smoothies and scrambled eggs
- Shared in the care of our chickens, cow, ducks, and cats, thus learning animal husbandry and responsibility
They also spend hours drawing, creating mud sculptures and fairy villages, putting on shows, building train tracks, listening to Musical Theater soundtracks and attending live performances (my influence :)), and the list goes on and on and on.
Because Missouri law requires a certain number of homeschool hours, with particular emphasis on core subjects, I do carefully track our learning hours. We will easily exceed the required hours by the end of the school year, because we are constantly learning and doing. I also really appreciate that my kids live in a very stimulating community, full of adults who are engaged in meaningful, world-changing work.
I’m sure this will all change next year, but this is what is currently working for our family – a diverse learning experience that balances structure with freedom, and relies heavily on community cooperation to make it all possible.
Do you homeschool? What does your learning experience look like?