I will never forget one of the stories of my husband’s great-grandparents. They were celebrating their seventy-fifth wedding anniversary and people at church asked great-grandma to stand up and say a few words about having a successful marriage. She stood up, and probably to the chagrin of most of the people there wanting inspirational words, said, “Well, it hasn’t been easy!” and sat back down again.
I feel a little like this when readers ask me about homeschooling children in multiple grades, especially in the land of Waldorf Education, where things are often so….teacher intensive…..
It just isn’t always easy. (I know, not what you want to hear! )
Oh, sure, people can give you tips. I have given out “tips” before, especially in this post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/04/17/crafting-a-homeschool-rhythm-to-work-with-multiple-grades-and-ages/ and in this post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/04/14/homeschooling-children-in-multiple-grades/ and here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/05/homeschooling-multiple-children-with-waldorf/
This is the thing with “tips”: they are things that may work for one particular family, and that family is not your family.. So tips may be helpful, but they also may not resonate with you. It may not work for your family. You are the only one on this crazy homeschooling adventure that can figure out what works for you and your family! You are the expert!
Make a plan, keep it loose with plenty of time and space (yes, those of you who read this blog know I love those two words in relation to development and also in relation to homeschooling)…It is hard to know with different children what they will blow through quickly and what will take more time, especially the older they get. For example, there is a much wider range in abilities in reading, writing and math in second through fourth grades than probably at any other time, I think, which can make it harder to plan the first time through those grades… Every child is different, and you are homeschooling to meet your children’s needs…so you tailor around that, not some blog you read where everything looks perfect!
Because there is no perfect way to Waldorf homeschool, and you find differences of opinion even amongst Waldorf homeschoolers. And there is no life that is so calm and peaceful that it never influences how you feel in the moment about homeschooling… Today I had a child who needed to get stitches out and whilst I was on the phone with the doctor regarding that, toddler man fell and knocked both front teeth which were now bleeding all over and we needed groceries and one child needed to be somewhere. (So, theoretically, if I could teleport, I could have gotten to all four places at once, but since I don’t have a nifty Dr. Who telephone booth, I couldn’t). I say this to point out that sometimes it is not homeschooling itself that is stressful, especially since all of this happened during the afternoon, but just the crazy of life that swirls around and that sometimes penetrates into making us feel like life would be easier if we were not homeschooling multiple children! (Or just that life would be easier if we were sitting on a beach somewhere drinking something fruity with a little umbrella in it! Ha!)
But that my friends, is the secret to thriving with homeschooling: embrace the chaos. Can you roll up and down on the roller coaster and smile? Can you keep your footing and calm amidst the wild ride?
Because if you have multiple children, multiple main lessons, along with younger children, it will be a juggle. And the juggle may extend down to the children: my children often alternate distracting or playing with a toddler whilst I work with one of them; (unless he is nursing or otherwise enthralled near us); there really isn’t all this time and space to just hang out that other homeschooling families often seem to have. But this season is short, and in a few months it will be something different! This I know for sure: things change!
So, on my good days , I like to think homeschooling with multiple children teaches flexibility and resiliency. Oh yes, we have rhythm for creating good health for the future adult (but remember that it is the rhythm that works for us and no one else!), but we have the flexibility and resiliency that comes with having multiple children of different ages and in different seven year cycles. We also have great time learning all the time, not just in “main lesson” because there are so many opportunities for learning with different temperaments and personalities and ages within the family.
And on my bad days, it just looks a lot like crazy.
But the one thing that carries me through, and the one thing that I think you really do NEED as the secret to homeschooling multiple children is a strong spiritual footing. If your inner work, your walk with your Creator is off, than all the days start to look like crazy instead of the beautiful blessings that God provided.
Start your day with prayer, with silence to hear the voice of the Spirit, weave your religion into your schooling and your life…and then just roll with it. Crazy, chaos or not!
Blessings and love,