Woo-hoo boy, crazy question! This question pops up all the time on message boards, on forums (and I always feel bad when mothers get confused and ask on one yahoo group or message board about curriculum that is outside of the list they are on! :))
I have hesitated to weigh in on this matter for quite some time. For one thing, I am not certain there is a good answer because everyone is different and what appeals to one person is completely unappealing to another person. In the end, you know what you like and you know your children, your family, your lifestyle best and will be able to pick what works for you!
The other reason I have hesitated to weigh in is that I create my own curriculum. I write it over the summer and I cherry-pick from different sources.. I learn a lot! This may not work for those of you who want to open and go, but it works well for me. So, as always, I urge you to go and read Steiner’s educational works for yourself, even if you buying an more open and go curriculum. I recommend “Kingdom of Childhood” and “Soul Economy” for those with young children in the first seven year cycle. For those with Grades children, I recommend “Practical Advice for Teachers” and “Discussions With Teachers”
However, I understand this is hard for some folks to create their own, and they don’t know where to start or life is just such they need something pre-planned to get them going. So, I would ask you to read the following paragraphs and see if it resonates with you as criteria to evaluate a pre-written curriculum:
- Does the author(s) have a strong understanding of Steiner’s educational ideas? For me to use someone else’s curriculum or curriculum guide, personally, I would need to know that the author(s) have studied Steiner, that they understand it on some level! and are true to the seven year cycles in their curriculum (even though the study of Steiner and anthroposophy is a long, long journey!) and that they take into account the developmental arc of the human being from that holistic standpoint. Does that make sense? That may or may not be important to you!
- What is the authors’ background? Have they homeschooled their own children at all? Do they understand the dynamics of homeschooling, that things are more intense, that you and the dog and a four year old don’t make a Circle Time, that home has certain advantages that really should play into the curriculum that is different than Waldorf School? Have they ever taught other children or been in situations where they have worked with other children? After all, not every child and family is like your own! Do they have an understanding of the academic and artistic pieces of each grade? That is important in order to educate for academic success!
- Do they have knowledge of the twelve senses and the importance of the protection/development of the twelve senses throughout these seven year cycles? How is movement incorporated into their curriculum?
- The other area that is a bug –a- boo for me is to ask whether the authors are advocating academics within the first seven year cycle? Are they talking about Main Lesson Books for the Early Years and blocks and such? Are they talking about being able to tell a child’s temperament within the first seven year cycle? To me none of that fits, so even if you are looking at grades materials, go back and look at what they propose for the Early Years. This will give you a good barometer as to how true to Steiner the curriculum is!
- If you are an Early Years mother and you are contemplating buying curriculum, please do go through this blog and look at the resources I recommend. There are many posts and reviews on here. Work on yourself, your rhythm for your family, the tone of your home. Look at what you might want to bring in when – see the posts I wrote about the one and two year old in the Waldorf Home and the other post about the three and four year old in the Waldorf home. (Yes, and the five and six year old post is coming at some point!) Create some of these things, and then worry about “curriculum”!
- Lastly, what are the practicalities of using this curriculum? Is it truly open and go, or do you need to do work to put it together? (And both answers are okay, it depends what you are looking for!!) What additional resources do you need? Do you know how you will open school – do you have verses or songs, a longer poem each month for your grades children to memorize and recite? Does the curriculum show how to incorporate the form drawing, knitting, crafts, cooking, gardening, movement, music or what other resources do you need to get? Or does all that overwhelm you, you are new to Waldorf, and you feel you just need the main lesson ideas? Does the curriculum provide samples of what a third grader might write, examples of math problems, etc? Does it give you ideas for the Main Lesson from an artistic standpoint beyond drawing and summarizing? Remember, art is the vehicle through which the lesson is taught! The art is NOT separate! Otherwise the curriculum becomes dry!
- Does this curriculum use a two or three day rhythm? A three day rhythm is what is typically used in a Waldorf school, it is what I use in my own homeschool, but I do notice most of the homeschool Waldorf Curriculums use a two-day rhythm because home is more intense and goes faster than school! Marsha Johnson’s files do use a three-day rhythm. The three day rhythm looks like this: First Day, tell story (and do lots of other things, poem recitation, memorizing, form drawing perhaps!) Second Day artistic piece and things tied to parts of the main story, perhaps extra things like going over vocabulary, spelling, a deepening of a math concept, etc and Third Day the academic piece for the Main Lesson Book. Not every lesson has to have a spot in the Main Lesson though –for some things we have made diaromas or modeled something or painted something – those things don’t fit in a Main Lesson Book!
If you can ask yourself these questions of the curriculum and be satisfied, then you will have most likely found the right curriculum for you!
In the end, I can say that I personally have met, emailed, and/or spoken with by phone both Donna Simmons of Christopherus Homeschool Resources and Melisa Nielsen of A Little Garden Flower and so I feel comfortable recommending you at least spend time on those websites. There are things mothers have told me they liked or didn’t like about both of those curriculums, again, because we are all different people. You will find what works for you and your family! You are the expert on your own family! Join Melisa’s list, look at her curriculum guides, see if that fits you! Join Donna’s forum, (and I have to disclose here that I am a moderator of the Early Years part of her forum and you all have probably seen some of my work on the Early Years portion of the Christopherus website, so we do work together – fair disclosure! :)), look at the samples and see if it fits!
I can also recommend to you to spend some time at Marsha Johnson’s Yahoo!Group – she has a wealth of free files in her FILES section over there for Kindergarten and all grades and it will really show you how to put things together. Some mothers also enjoy Live Ed! as a more complete curriculum… Both of these resources are written by veteran Waldorf teachers…. So, again, I think it is what speaks to you!
In the end, though, realize, it is what you create with these pieces of paper in your own homeschool that matters! It is about family first, joy first, being together first! I know both Melisa and Donna understand that, and I appreciate that!
You will find what works for you! You are the architect of your own homeschool!
Create the joy of this journey for your family!
PS Please know that I do not want to turn this post into a debate regarding specific curriculum, because we all are individuals with our likes and dislikes, so do know the comments to this post will be carefully moderated. Thank you!