Yes, I do know mothers who do Waldorf with other methods, or employ the use of a Main Lesson Book with other homeschooling methods and certain subjects.
But, I have several questions for you if this is something you would like to consider, and please do read this whole post and keep an open mind. This is meant in a spirit of love and support, with questions for you to ponder and meditate on, not a “yes or no” answer.
1. How well do you serve two masters? I don’t mean this in a snarky way at all, I am asking you to consider and ponder this! Something in your homeschool really does need to predominate I think or it can make one a little batty trying to do “the full monty” of all the methods you pick and still have a family life that is joyous and fun! You absolutely can deviate away from the Waldorf curriculum if you feel it is appropriate for your child, (especially I think once your child is over the age of nine), but our first impulse in the home environment for the younger child would see if we could satisfy the child’s need for things in small steps first.
For example, the four-year-old who wants to write letters. We might try to see if the child could be happier doing typical Waldorf Kindergarten things, (ie, redirect) and if that does not work OVER TIME (not just the first time I try!), I have had no problem teaching my four-year-old little girls how to write their first name. They love that, it usually is all they really want to know regarding letters at this point and off they go to play. The other example would be the six-year-old Kindergartner who wants a Main Lesson Book like the big brothers and sisters. So they get a Main Lesson Book, they draw something in it, and then they are tired of it and go off to play. The eight-year-old girl who wants to sew (sewing machines typically come in during the Eighth Grade) – can they be happy with hand sewing, with learning how to embroider by hand, and then perhaps yes, we look at a machine, but we do this with conscious knowing we are deviating from Waldorf indications. How about the ten-year-old boy fascinated by paleontology?
Start in small steps because of time and money and interests can change quickly! It is WONDERFUL to approach a child’s interest with interest and support, but also with a mindful pattern and way to proceed in order to meet that interest! Children try a lot of different interests on , and not all have to be met with the same intensity! Can we work with that in smalls steps as we proceed? We gauge how intense the interest is, because sometimes small things satisfy and sometimes they don’t. And if the child eventually, over time, needs “more” or we do decide to deviate from the typical Waldorf indications it is okay, but we bring a MINDFULNESS to it, and we try SMALL STEPS first.
By the same token, if a child is not ready, we have the luxury of waiting in the home environment. Many of you know the saga of my now second-grade daughter who is a knitting fool who could not seem to touch knitting needles in the first grade without tears starting. She wasn’t ready, and we dropped it and did other forms of handwork, came back to it in Second Grade and boy, was she ready.
2. Why do you want to employ other methods? Seriously, dig down, and see what is holding you back from only using Waldorf. Bring a mindfulness to this, and meditate on it. Steiner homeschooling is PHILOSOPHY driven; we do things for the development of the child and the ENTIRE curriculum builds on each thing during the year and during subsequent years. The curriculum is laid out in such a way that really, really, in my experience, speaks to the child. The child will often ask to study a certain subject that you are coming up to! It really is uncanny! Steiner was an astute observer of children, what children needed, what the human being was and needed to develop. Waldorf Education speaks to that.
In contrast, I see parents of other methods searching for the “best” reading program, the “best” math program, trying to find that logical progression so there are no “gaps”. Waldorf has this already in place, time tested! It all builds on itself.
So what is holding you back?
- Is is that Steiner’s ideas of anthroposophy don’t resonate with your worldview? As a Christian, I do understand your concerns. I address some of that here:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/02/losing-the-forest-for-the-trees/ and here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/27/waldorf-101-do-i-have-to-be-an-anthroposophist-to-homeschool-with-waldorf/
- Is it that you don’t think that Waldorf is academically rigorous? People seem to think that the “pink bubble” of Kindergarten last forever! It does not! The world open up and there is much to learn, to set their hearts on fire with a love of learning. I address that here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/14/waldorf-educating-for-excellence/
- Do you have a problem with “delaying” academics in the Early Years (before First Grade?) I actually consider this bringing academics in at the right time, not “delaying”. It is only “delaying” from a United States public school mentality – compare this to when countries around the world start academics and how much better their test scores are than ours! How many homeschooling forum boards do you read with posts from parents of children under the age of 7 who are frustrated trying to get their child to “sit down and learn”? Learning is more than just the HEAD.. Yes, your kindergarten child needs something MORE, MORE stories, more projects, more gross motor skill development, more of all of it all. If your six-year-old is in their last phase of Kindergarten, okay, try some math. Donna Simmons talks about this in her book “Kindergarten With Your Three-to-Six Year Old” available here: http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/bookstore-for-waldorf-homeschooling/early-years/kindie.html
As a related digression, not only are many countries starting academics later, but many are also spending less time in the classroom than the average United States public school (or some of the homeschooling families I see!!) student. My German friends tell me that in Germany students have about 15 hours of school a week (they go in the morning, go home for lunch and that is it) until the sixth grade when they do return to school after lunch for an hour or so of further instruction. More hours and jamming more facts down their throats in the Early Years and the Early Grades does not necessarily equate to increased knowledge, the ability to problem-solve or a love of learning.
4. Is it that you want to be “eclectic”? What exactly does that mean to you? There are beautiful things in every method, I think, but sometimes we just cannot do it all and remain sane. This is a lesson in life we also need to show our children, especially in this day and age: you can’t have it all, you can’t do it all, sometimes you must choose a path and take it! As homeschooling mothers, our number one priority has to be our family life and they joy that is there, along with providing our children with an excellent education that will guide our children into becoming educated adults who are kind, who are loving, who are compassionate and who can also problem-solve, find information, and handle the stresses of modern life.
I feel Waldorf Education in the home environment prepares children to do just that. There are similarities in subject matter between Waldorf and other methods in some ways, for example, as the child hits 5th grade and starts Ancient History. But even then there are extreme differences in how the subjects are presented. The Waldorf teacher looks at a time period and we cover history through these scenes that BEST typify a historical time period and/or historical person in our Main Lesson Block. We teach in a three-day rhythm, we teach and use sleep as an educational aid. Most of all, we teach through art – art is not an “added in” subject, but the way through which we teach as part of that three-day rhythm.
The Early Years and the first few grades probably pose the most problems for people, but from what I have seen is that many of the children who start academic work in the Early Years (particularly those little girls who want to start and fly ahead) end up with problems around eight or nine because they are just burned out. They missed the experience of DOING things, and the parents went “abstract” too quickly. Children need a solid foundation in the things that they know, the things they experience every day, things that are real to them! The concrete! In my area, for example, first graders are learning about Teddy Roosevelt – it means absolutely NOTHING to them, they have no historical context to put it in, but they have to know it for some standardized test.
I am proud to be a Waldorf homeschooling mother, and thrilled my children get to learn this way. I don’t feel as if my children are missing anything, I feel confident that every academic skill is being covered and that the whole curriculum is complete and my children will be prepared. We also have plenty of time to spend together as a family in joy and love.
Still not satisfied? Here is another voice addressing this subject, have a look: http://waldorfjourney.typepad.com/a_journey_through_waldorf/2009/06/can-waldorf-work-with.html
Happy meditating on this important subject,