Question from the field:
I have an 8 year old second grader and a 5 year old. We all come together for morning lesson and it used to be that my little one had his own work – puzzles, play dough, stringing beads. But recently he has been joining the lesson, drawing the lesson picture into his sketch book, he’s trying out copying letters and he has learned to write his name. He does not want the other work right now. The reality in our home is that there is no separation when I read a second grade story they both listen, when we do second grade work, my 5 year old is right there. It’s been this way since the very beginning. Whatever work or story we’ve been doing for my older son, my younger son is a part of it too. We share our day and I love that! But it sure feels like everything revolves around my older son. I feel guilty! We already include some things in our day that are geared more toward the younger, I guess maybe I should step that up. And I do get little moments in my day to cuddle or play a quick game with my little guy. It’s hard to keep it simple, especially when I think about the future! I visualize a Waldorf-one-room-homeschool-house where both boys get what they need and feel (obviously!) overwhelmed!
This is a great question, and it comes up so frequently that I would like to address it in a blog post for everyone to see and read.
First of all, take a deep breath. Part of homeschooling is more relaxed than a Waldorf School, and that is okay because there are many other advantages to being home. One of the main advantages is that instead of being separated from each other all day, your children will form a strong bond by being together day in and day out. The other thing to think of is not only is there an advantage for the younger one to see what the older one is doing, it is an advantage for the older one to see and be a part of what the younger one is doing. So, please do start with a very positive attitude that this is very best set up for both of your children.
That being said, I agree with your caution regarding running your homeschool just to suit your oldest. If your oldest is 9 or under, I think we must be especially careful to allow for time for the oldest to play, play, play and be outside and to do other things. A 7 or 8 year old is still small and has energy to get out, for sure. This is an advantage
Several things to think and meditate on: How long is the Main Lesson? I would say for first and second grade one to two hours is typical (don’t forget daily practice of math as part of your Circle/Opening!). How many days a week are you doing school? Most people do four days a week in these very Early Grades.
Where do you put the Kindergarten Circle/verses, Kindergarten Story and Activity of the Day for the Kindergartener? You could do baking one day, soup making one day, etc either in the morning before you start the older one’s school or in the afternoon. It should be the type of thing that the child can join in on or not, and that the oldest can participate in as well or even lead a few songs or verses for the younger child.
In contrast, the older child should have several days a week to devote to handwork or playing a musical instrument and not work with a different activity each day. They need consecutive days to get things done, projects completed.
How active is your Main Lesson? There should be singing, movement, oral recitation, cooking, painting, modeling, drawing (not all at once, of course!) The movement, etc are all things a younger child could join in on. And don’t go crazy, keep it simple, short, “economical.”
Some Waldorf homeschooling families also have a “Kindergarten Day” a week, where that day the Kindergartener’s activities move to the forefront for that day and the Grades child joins in.
I think too, the longer one homeschools, the more one is not afraid to be “rigid”, in other words, if the children are playing well, to let them play and start school in a bit or go hiking if the weather is gorgeous….But then also, on the flip side, to know when your Grades child really does need to buckle down and get to work.
As far as a five or six year old listening in on the Main Lesson, try not to worry too much. Children under 7 are at the height of imitation, and they are imitating what they see around them. Give them a “Main Lesson” book and respect if they want to draw in it, but also respect when they are running off to play and are tired of “playing” school. Writing one’s name and copying down a few letters does not mean they are ready for formal Grade One lessons yet! When it is their turn for First Grade or Second Grade, they may vaguely remember some of the stories, but the stories will speak to them on a much deeper level at that point because they are at the right age for them. And your older child gets the benefit of listening in to the stories for a second time and deepening how they view things as well. I think that is a very enjoyable part of homeschooling!
That being said, though, do carry on with typical Kindergarten activities, lots of movement, Circle Time and other things that nourish your Kindergartener’s soul. Meet them where they are developmentally.
Lots of fun, good times, and holistic educational progress is the key!