Homeschooling Children In Multiple Grades

Ah, this is the million dollar question, isn’t it?  Waldorf Main Lessons are wonderful, but doesn’t the rub occur when you have MANY of those to do?  How does one get everything done and keep true to the spirit of Waldorf Education?

Here a few of my favorite tips:

  • Plan ahead, and remind yourself that unless you are creating things from scratch that the curriculum you bought will need to be tailored to your family, and that many times the authors of curriculum write it to be “very full.”  You may not be able to do everything that is in there, even if you had only one child!  So release that guilt!  This happens in almost every “kind” of homeschooling – for example, I have many Christian friends who use Sonlight (not Waldorf) …Sonlight is famous for having Instructor Guides with all these little boxes to check off and lots of material.  As a homeschooling mother, only can decide what “boxes” to check off in your homeschooling, and only you can free yourself from guilt if you don’t do everything in a certain curriculum.
  • Also remind yourself that sometimes in the home environment the lessons can really be on fire and go quickly, and the child is enthused and “gets” it all, and sometimes the child does not. Leave some breathing room for those times in your planning.  Extra days planned in your schedule here and there in case you need catch-up are important.
  • Waldorf homeschooling is not like a workbook that one opens up and just does lesson A, B, C, etc from beginning to end.  It is more like a range of  possible topics and artistic and academic skills for the age and development of the child.  So, don’t be afraid to pick and choose.
  • If you read Steiner, understand the seven year cycles, then you can tailor things faster and easier because you understand child development.  Waldorf homeschooling in a big family of five or more children will look different than school – and that’s okay!  Just knowing what speaks to the soul of each age will help you combine and tailor things though.
  • Things go “faster” at home than in a school setting.  For example, a main lesson for a first grader will most likely take under an hour on most days. 
  • Don’t forget the movement!  Lots of movement to start school, lots of movement before you actually put something on paper.  Form Drawing starts with walking forms, drawing them with your toe in the sandbox, all different ways…and then the writing.  The activity of writing always proceeds the reading.  Active math games and bean bag tossing and jumping rope and clapping games before math.    Movement can span multiple grades, with every child working on their own level.  Handwork, crafts, music  can also be places where everyone is working on these things at the same time either rotating turns if they need assistance or working together. 
  • Don’t forget the advantages of home – cooking and gardening, morning walks, days spent berry picking, going ice skating and roller skating, hiking.  These activities also promote learning and span multiple ages.  Practical skills, and having everyone in the homeschooling family is so important.  It cannot be just mom as the teacher on top of every household chores.  The children must work with you for the good of the family and mom’s sanity. Smile
  • Do have your homeschool space set up so your younger children can play and still be in sight, even if you  have to gate things off or have a rule that during school everyone stays on the first floor of a two-story house or whathave you.  Also, consider homeschooling outside so the younger children can practice moving and play. I think I did the vast majority of my oldest child’s first grade in the garage and driveway so my younger one at the time could practice riding a bike and scooter.  This year we will be in the backyard quite a bit with a sandbox and a play set and garden.  Thank goodness for chalkboards with wheels!
  • Your third graders and up can start to do some independent work.  You can throw in a load of laundry whilst they start on a math problem or copy something in a main lesson book.  Fourth graders and up should have something to do independently every week to practice that skill of working independently – it may be something small, but we start there and build up for later ages.
  • Your older children can help entertain toddlers and mobile babies whilst you are working with another child.
  • You can find lessons that span multiple ages, and put everyone in doing at least the same kind of main lesson at the same time – everyone is doing math, now everyone is doing language arts.
  • Draw your chalkboard pictures the night before.  Write out your spelling words on the board.  Put up what form you are doing the next day.  This makes life go so much more smoothly.
  • Don’t forget your toddlers and babies.  Put a few songs and  nursery rhymes each month on the homeschooling schedule and teach your older children these.
  • Constantly turn to prayer, to inner work, to personal development.  Some of the most important lessons of homeschooling are not to be found in main lesson books at all, but in the way the children treat each other, in how they respond to stress and when things are not going their way, in the common sense they display in situations.  Anchoring your children in faith, in something bigger than themselves, in morality, is the biggest part of  Waldorf  homeschooling.  In Waldorf homeschooling, care is taken in every subject to present “man” as an upright, moral human being.
  • Own your authority as the leader and teacher in your home; maintain your calm center through prayer and inner work, cultivate that when the children need this most. Working in the moment is an important part of teaching and life.  Can you adapt a bit on the fly if you need to go down a rabbit trail?  Can you reign it all back in  if it needs to be reigned in?

If you are Waldorf homeschooling children in multiple grades, please share your greatest tips for success in the comment box below!

Many blessings,

Carrie

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10 thoughts on “Homeschooling Children In Multiple Grades

  1. Great post! You know we’ve got a video about this on our youtube site… http://www.youtube.com/alittlegardenflower.

    Homeschooling a houseful can be a challenge, but it is also very rewarding. My oldest was reading Kovacs book “Muscles and Bones” while my daughter is ready “Human Being and the Animal World” – I walked in an such an interesting conversation between a 14yo and a 10yo last week… all about how awesome the human body is… they were both quoting Kovacs books… I had a great laugh. Only in a Waldorf house!

  2. Yes! This post just really speaks to where I am at right now-worrying about how I will manage a child in third grade and one in first grade (the reading year), while trying to keep a 4 year old content. I think that all of these ideas are wonderful and I will think about them as I continue to plan for next year. I also think that it is important to understand that HS life, even with the best plan, can be chaotic at times. I love this; “maintain your calm center through prayer and inner work, cultivate that when the children need this most”. Thanks for knowing what I needed to hear right now!

  3. This was my first year homeschooling two grades aged children (with a 5 year old kindy and a toddler to boot!). I won’t say I have it all figured out, so my advice is to be flexible!!!! I had way too high of expectations on what we would be able to accomplish and that only set me up to be a stressed and grumpy mama. I agree- some curriculums have a lot and not everything will be able to be covered when you have several children. I will just say for my family, my first graders main lesson was no more than an hour and my third graders was no more than an hour and a half. Then the rest was just “life”!

  4. This is my 19th year homeschooling and I am still amazed at how well the grades can transition together. This year I have a 5th, 9th and a Kinder. When I am planning I look at the year as a whole ;) and always find main lessons that can go together. My 15 yo boy still loves to do circle time with the littles. I have him help me plan and excute some mornings in the week. He will take charge in lead form drawing etc…
    I love the way Waldorf works!

    • Tracie — Your comment made me SMILE today. I think there are many positives with working with multiple children in Waldorf homeschooling. Thank you for sharing your wisdom!
      Many blessings,
      Carrie

  5. This is just what I needed to hear Carrie. Homeschooling even in the garage or the backyard. As a slight perfectionist this frees me a bit and eases my mind of worries trying to do it ‘perfect’, in the perfect setting with the perfect tools and materials. Ha, am I in for a surprise, right!
    Thank you!

  6. Tracie – I loved your comment. So neat to hear about the workings into the future (mine are 7, 3 and 7mos).

    Carrie – Thank you for this post. I will stretch myself to do a main lesson outside.

  7. Pingback: It’s That Time Of Year!! Questions About Waldorf Homeschooling! « The Parenting Passageway

  8. Thank you for this great article. I will be teacching my third grader and my preschooler this fall. I have found a number of great resources for circle with my younest, but i am having trouble finding songs to sing with my eldest. Do you have any recommendations for third grade songs?
    Thank you

  9. Pingback: The Secret to Homeschooling Children In Multiple Grades | The Parenting Passageway

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