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?
Teri! Thank you thank you thank you! On a whim last night I typed in homesteading vermont and found your page! I live in Vt and my family wants to live off the land and I found this beautiful article about homeschooling! My son is 2 and I have always known I wanted to homeschool but had no idea where to start, so I thank you dearly for this article!
Teri Page says
You’re most welcome! There is a great homeschooling community in Vermont. We are now sending the kids to school, but loved our homeschooling days!
The thing I love most about homeschooling with Waldorf is the way it affects the entire family, especially our daily and seasonal rhythms. It just feels so right. In the past, when I was homeschooling my older two (with a toddler in the middle of it all), I tried too hard to be “purist” in my Waldorf approach and it was exhausting. Now, years later my youngest is starting first grade and our approach is much more relaxed and our days flow better. I’m glad you shared your flexible approach, I think more of us need that encouragement to be flexible and create a way that works best for our families, rather than being stuck with the dogma of the various approaches.
Teri Page says
Yes! I think there is way too much dogma out there, and it will make you crazy! I really enjoy using what works for us, and leaving what doesn’t. But the gentle and peaceful and artistic spirit of Waldorf education is deeply ingrained in our homeschooling and I love it.
We’re unschoolers here. I looked into Steiner before we started but it didn’t offer enough freedom, and my kids need that freedom. They are 12, 8 and five now and living as we do is wonderful! I’m noticing my eldest now turning to more academic persuits all bounded by her passion, horses!! We do have others who unschool near us, and several families who co op like you do. I think if you can find hat support it is great! Thanks for sharing how you guys learn!
So, I am in missouri and have decided to use waldorf in my home. I’m married to a farmer. My son is very young yet but I am worried that it will be hard to find local resources and other families. Any recommendations?
Teri Page says
I’d be happy to share my thoughts. If you prefer to email me, I’m at email@example.com
Depending on where you are located, there may be a Waldorf community you can tap into. However, I won’t lie – finding a Waldorf inspired community in NE Missouri has been one of my greater challenges. If it weren’t for our neighbor (who we already knew and moved to live near) and one or two other families, we would have no Waldorf community here. I have traveled over an hour to hang out with other Waldorf homeschooling families.
That said, you can tap into local resources that might not be “waldorf” and hold the space in your own home for a Waldorf education. We attend homeschool PE class, local swim lessons, dance/tumbling, etc. None of which are waldorf. But in our home, and in our homeschooling, we are very committed to a Waldorf-inspired approach.
Feel free to email me and let me know where you are and I’ll see if I have any more specific feedback for you.
Jude Smith says
My daughter and son-in-law are living off the grid in NC. My two grandchildren, 3 and 1 yrs old, will hopefully be home schooled. I loved this post, it was very inspiring. As a retired elementary science teacher (who loathes the institutional model in which I worked) I can’t wait to get these little guy out in nature and have some fun with them. I love the idea of ‘community’ education, having neighbors and friends involved in the education process, sharing their talents with the children. Best wishes, Jude Smith
Teri Page says
I’m glad you liked it! I feel so grateful to be able to raise the kids in such a beautiful place, and surrounded by amazing adults.
My kids are 2 and 4, so aren’t technically school age yet. For the last couple years I assumed we’d unschool, but recently I’ve become very interested in Waldorf. I’m guessing I’ll pick and choose to create or own unique education journey as you are, sothank you for sharing!
Teri Page says
what a lovely post..you have summed up my feelings pretty well..i am not a purist, only have a 4 yr old but wish to follow some structured work, but mainly unschool.. I have always felt it would be lovely to join with another, or a few families to share time and skills but find I am struggling to find another committed family in my area who has a similar vision.. Lots of homeschoolers in my area of Tasmania, but most seem to lean very much one way or the other..I wonder how many others have similar issues..
Teri Page says
I have heard of very few homeschoolers that have ALL of the support and connection that they desire. It seems to be a very common challenge. I hope you find some like minded folks to connect with! And thanks for writing!
Annie B says
Thanks for sharing this Teri!! This is so helpful to read how you’ve approached homeschooling on your homestead!
Teri Page says
I’m so glad!