It is that time of year when families are gearing up for homeschooling, and many times there is anxiety that goes along with that first year. One thing that repeatedly comes up is this notion: Will it be enough? How do I know that I am doing enough in homeschooling? Essentially, am I preparing my child enough for life, for adulthood, to be a productive and happy grown-up? Or will I fail and take my children down with me?
I was talking today to a dear friend of mine about homeschooling and about Waldorf. I think as Waldorf homeschoolers we are very lucky indeed because there is such an overarching philosophy where the curriculum is intricately tied into childhood development. These stages of childhood development are so pronounced that I have had homeschooling friends and friends with children in public and private school remark upon it. “Six and seven were so hard, Susie didn’t want anyone to be the boss of her.” “Nine was when my child really woke up and started noticing how different they were from family members and friends.” “It was so hard to teach my five year old to read. It just seemed like they couldn’t remember anything.” If you know anything about Waldorf, these statements will make you smile a bit. We can take comfort as Waldorf homeschoolers that this layout of what comes when and why really provides such a solid foundation for life.
This is what I wish I could impart to inexperienced homeschooling mothers when they have this worry: you will worry less if you know where you are headed in a big picture kind of sense. I think one thing I would encourage new homeschoolers to look at is the difference between curriculum and philosophy. Philosophy, in a sense, is how one looks at how one thinks education should be. This may even include the sort of “what comes when”
but hopefully more than that it will help you sort out the “WHY something comes when” and the “HOW” of what that something looks like, and how the approach you use will change over the grades, and will match how you view children, development, etc. Curriculum may be what you use to fill in pieces of the philosophy. However, I encourage you to look at curriculum in a broader sense than just little bits and pieces of paper. Waldorf Education certainly does this, but with any homeschooling method there are wonderful things about the home environment and life that go far beyond what is contained on paper that can be used to support any philosophy that you choose. So new homeschoolers talk a lot about “curriculum”, but I think
philosophy is a big thing that helps in sorting through all the products out
( And as a complete side note, I do think one other thing to consider is if the philosophy you choose to answer your “enough” question has implications for how you live your life at all. For example, many Unschoolers bring Unschooling philosophy into their daily lives, and so do many Waldorf and Montessori homeschoolers. In all types of homeschooling, the entire family, home, trips, etc can easily revolve around what the family is learning about. In homeschooling, the needs of the family are first and foremost. The relationship between you and your children is first and foremost).
There are several other ways to look at this worry as well. If we compare our homeschooling experience to a traditional experience, the school teacher there has an assessment process for each student and goals for skills of the students (as homeschoolers you can also look up the standards for each state on-line), an idea of possible content for each grade from state standards, and then they make up lesson plans and decide how to best bring these concepts to the children. The teacher will decide how much time is going to be spent where, and this will be adjusted according to the needs of the class.
Homeschooling is different than traditional school, but it is easy to see in the
above scenario that a classroom teacher must pick and choose just the way a
homeschooling family chooses what is worked with, how deeply, and in what way. In the homeschooling family, there are many ways to work with your child’s interests and to figure out how far to go off on rabbit trails.
Finally, a last consideration to help you answer the “how much is enough” question may be to see what support there is for your homeschooling from mothers who are homeschooling older children the same way . I think it
can be very difficult to get the big picture of what you are doing if you are
only hanging around with mothers who are doing preschool or kindergarten. If
you can see where some of the mothers with older children are headed and what that looks like, it helps you make better decisions and choices for the
preschool and kindergarten levels. Some of this can be found on-line, such as
through Yahoo Groups specific to a philosophy of homeschooling; some can be
specific to XYZ math program or for users of ABC reading program. Even better yet, finding in-person support is vital. Check out what homeschool groups are in your area and how you can connect with other mothers. If you are a Waldorf homeschooler, you are still a homeschooler and it is also very important to keep abreast of your State’s laws as pertaining to homeschooling –you are part of a larger homeschooling community when you choose to homeschool.
If you are interested in why we chose Waldorf homeschooling, please see here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/06/wonderful-waldorf/
If you are interested in my thoughts as to Waldorf School versus Waldorf homeschooling, please see here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/30/waldorf-homeschooling-versus-waldorf-school/
Set your worries to rest. Just as you are enough as a mother, just as you are the perfect mother for your child even if the journey has its bumps, you will provide a homeschooling experience that is just right. You can do this. Pray, meditate, open your mind and your heart and really look at your children. The answer will come along with a quiet confidence that this is the right way for your family.