It is not just about Main Lesson Books. And in fact, in homeschooling, we have much more leeway for how we approach subjects than probably even in a Waldorf School.
Many times people want to compare a Waldorf School and Waldorf homeschooling. I don’t think it is that simple. In fact, it is a bit like comparing apples and oranges, as the saying goes…or perhaps it is more like comparing grapefruit and oranges. You know, we are related a little, we are all in the same fruit basket, but there are very different things about grapefruits and oranges!
Here is some of the “Very DIfferent”:
Waldorf homeschoolers are first and foremost homeschoolers. We homeschool to put family first, and if we have multiple children, we might have to bend the way schools do things. Rejoice in that! Embrace that and live! That is part of health! I was thinking the other day about astronomy in sixth grade and how this is a “block” and there is this main lesson work…and how at home it might be more like camping out under the stars in the backyard, it might be watching the sunrise with a cup of tea, it might be about doing this over the summer too, it might be about going on field trips to museums or the local astronomy club in town, and it would certainly include telling some great fables about the sky and the stars. I guess what I am trying to say is that Waldorf at home sometimes is a bit more loose, it may not fit into a Main Lesson Book. And that is okay!
When we Waldorf homeschool, we put our family culture first and foremost because homeschooling is about family. So whether you are Jewish or Christian, roaming travelers or love to be home, musicians or gardeners or bakers..your homeschool has the unique flavor and culture of you! I guess this may not be much different than a teacher who imprints themselves and who they are on a class, but it is different in terms that we are building a family culture through homeschooling.
Waldorf homeschooling doesn’t always fit in a neat little main lesson book. It just doesn’t. We are currently working on the geography of Mexico in our fifth grade homeschool, and we are cooking our way through all the different regions and making a recipe book. At the end of our block on Mexico, we will have learned about the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico, and we will make giant salt dough map of North America and put in all the geographic features. None of that really and totally fits into a Main Lesson Book, but we still keep it “Waldorf” through a two or three day rhythm, through bringing in a block at the time in development when that subject will hit the deepest and the most intimately, and we observe our child and bring in the active and the artistic. Traveling is also a wonderful homeschool adventure, and doesn’t fit in a Main Lesson Book. Do not be so concerned about this, but live and breathe within what is really right and appropriate and fun for this age in terms of subject matter and presentation!
Which leads me to…. at home, we have the task of observing the child (like at a school), but also really thinking about when the best time is to bring something in…and we have the flexibility to really act on this. If your child starts going through the nine year change and needs some of the Old Testament tales at the very end of second grade, then I think you can do that for the therapeutic indications we have, and continue through third grade. We can decide to wait and stretch out some of the history of the middle grades if we are homeschooling into high school, because it will all work out. If your child can’t knit, hates knitting, then perhaps you do something different in handwork. Knitting is very important, and usually the first handwork skill we teach, but I have known children who had a really hard time with knitting and started to knit after the nine year change. Handwork encompasses more than just knitting. These are just a few examples of not getting stuck into what would be done in a school and making it work for you at home. Make sure things are never stale or sour, but vibrant and living. If it is all a drudgery, then re-evaluate and change. And do make sure that it is not just what you are doing in “official homeschooling” that needs change – in homeschooling, we always have to consider the big picture of child development against the backdrop of the entire family!)
The home has a real give and take to it. Most parents find this hard to think of: how will all my children get what they need? Yet, they will and more. They live life, they live your family culture and the opportunities in the community, and the indications for education and health set forth by Rudolf Steiner weave in and out of that. It is healthy, and perhaps the ultimate reason we choose Waldorf homeschooling is for the health of our children once they become adults. Perhaps it is to help them be balanced, but for our children to be encouraged and not discouraged in this process. Help them discover their wonderful talents and gifts, and how to be wonderful and talented in the world whilst having fun and being together. Perhaps that part is not so different than a loving school community, but how wonderful to be able to offer this at home!