I can only talk about our own personal journey regarding homeschooling. This is an individual walk, and I can only give my experience. Once people “get over” the hurdle and accept homeschooling as a viable option for the younger years and even the early grades, I agree that I often hear “well, I plan to homeschool until middle school” or “I plan to homeschool until high school”. Many homeschooling parents, at least in the Waldorf community, have told me they feel not only is there a huge decline in folks homeschooling this age group of children, but that also the number of resources drops off dramatically. It can be a hard and isolating road.
One of my Dutch friends was explaining to me the other day that in the Netherlands they say those ages are “being between the napkin and the tablecloth”. You are not a child, yet not an adult. You are not really treated as an adult, but you don’t really feel like a child.I
Something that is well accepted in developmental circles is the fragility of the budding self that occurs around the age of 12 and 13. Bodies start changing, voices start changing in boys, limbs are long and heavy. And there is this beautiful and vibrant fragility I see in the teenagers ages 13 and 14 that I get the pleasure of being with. They are finding themselves and their own passions and their own opinions. To me, it is almost like a butterfly struggling to come out of its cocoon. The Gesell Institute writes about the needs for privacy often seen in a thirteen-year old: “by withdrawing and refusing to share, Thirteen protects something far too fragile and half formed for others to see, his budding personality.”
So, I think there are two sides to this. In American society at least, I think the idea of the sullen, withdrawn teenager has gone much too far. Space is important, but it must have a balance of space within the community. And to our family, the most important thing for this period for their overall education is for our children to be with family as their community and with the well-trusted adults and friends they have developed. Eugene Schwartz recently gave an interesting lecture at the 5th Annual Waldorf Homeschool Expo entitled, “Expectations for Curriculum in Middle School and High School”. In it, he talked about homeschoolers getting their children involved with their peers and how there is a natural pulling away from the teacher and parent. (You can see here for the other talks: http://globalwaldorfexpo.com/2014/; I am not affiliated).
But remember, there is a HUGE difference between “having friends’’ and being in a supportive community rather than being “peer-oriented”. Remember this back post from “Hold On To Your Kids”: http://theparentingpassageway.com/category/book-reviews/hold-on-to-your-kids/. There is also a lot of “recent” attitudes about teenagers being different in development, whereas for most of history, the teenager become a responsible adult able to marry and hold a household and job around sixteen or earlier. There is great precedence in history for the child of this age being a major part of the family, not being separate from the family.
So, for us, that is a lot of the why. The how is something different. I think there will continue to be a growth of Waldorf-friendly homeschool products available as the number of people homeschooling this age continues to grow. Eugene Schwartz, in his talk, made a prediction that Waldorf homeschooling could even turn to an on-line proposition for the high schooled years with regional events. High School was the age that Steiner and schools talk about having specialists in their fields teach each and every subject, so it is much different than the grades.
The domain of the middle schooler will most likely remain in the hands of the parents, so that is a path that many of us and those who have gone before us are charting today.