Top Ten Tips For Homeschooling Waldorf Kindergarten

It is easy to get caught up in the external trappings of Waldorf kindergarten – the pretty silks, the wooden toys, and even things like the color of the day or the grain of the day or gnomes.  Not that we don’t love those things, but I think if that is where we stop, we are truly missing the heart of the Waldorf kindergarten.  So, here are my top ten tips regarding Waldorf kindergarten for the three to six year old at home:

1.  Be prepared to hold a daily and weekly rhythm, and firm and loving boundaries consistently.  This can be very difficult for parents as many parents have no rhythm to their days or are constantly on the go and too busy.  A healthy home life involves slowing down, being present, holding boundaries with love.  And doing it day after day.  This is our sacred work in parenting.

2.  Work provides the basis for healthy play; be prepared to stick to the rhythm of work even if your child does not participate. Older kindergarteners will participate; younger children may imitate in play; but either way the work is done because it is IMPORTANT work for the nourishment of the home.  My only caveat is that in the home environment we also should have the time, space and freedom for snuggles, for love, for being able to just be with our children.  It should all  have a balance to it, an inbreath and outbreath.  Conversely, if your whole day is following your child around and nothing is being led by you, then that is an area to look at and bring in the important work of the home.

3.  Create space and time for play; have warm natural objects for play.  It doesn’t have to be expensive wooden toys!  It can be boxes with stacks of seashells, stones and pinecones!  But the space and time for a child to learn how to play by themselves, from their own initiative, is important.  You can be a “character” in the play, but keep your hands busy.  This is your child’s work.

The other piece of this is the cues that we can take from our friends involved in farm and forest-based education.  Being in nature is the true place for beautiful play and the development of the senses and gross motor movement and core strength we are looking for in the kindergarten years.  This is the true preparation for the academic work that will take place in the grades.

4.  Your child needs more silence, more time to themselves,  and less of your hovering and words and direction.  It doesn’t mean that your children don’t need  you, but that it is part of the health of the individual child to have time and space to self-initiate, to learn in their own world of play as they imitate your work and your inner attitudes.

5.  Speak in verses and songs;  provide pictures with images as you speak with clear speech.  Silence provides time and space for your child to initiate his or her own words. Stories and songs are the food of the Waldorf Kindergarten.  The stories you make up about the little things around your home and neighborhood are the best stories.

6.  Protection is the key to the Waldorf Kindergarten – questions and answers and explanations for the child, more questions for the child, so many choices, the use of so many gadgets and screens to entertain children all takes away a child’s self-initiative, their own ability to modulate and self-regulate their own emotions, the unfolding of their own development, and their ability to imagine and problem-solve.  Protection is an important neuro-stimulator.

7.  Boundaries relax children.  They may kick and scream against it,  you may have to gently hold them while they scream and kick, but they will relax into it eventually.  Waldorf teachers vary on the use of the phrase “You may” do something versus  “You will” do something, but  no matter how you say it, a boundary still needs to happen.  A strong rhythm is the best boundary holder of all.

8. Help children learn how they can love and support each other.  We often don’t have this in the home if it is just a young child and us, without mixed age ranges. I don’t know as a three or four year old needs much in the way of “socialization” outside the family unit, but I think by five and six most children would like to have a friend or two and I think this is important for social development.  Building up community is important for the homeschooling adult and the children.  This may be done by you starting a homeschool group, a playgroup, or just an outside day at a park with friends. 

9.  And after saying all of this, I am going to sound paradoxical when I tell you that who we are is more important than what we do.  Are we truly loving and kind or do we bad mouth people behind their backs?  Do we approach our tasks lovingly and with joy or are we bitter and full of resentment?  How are we working to develop the inner qualities we want our children to emulate?  This involves taking up spiritual initiative within our own lives in whatever capacity that means to us.  Rudolf Steiner laid out a path with his ideas, I use a path of Christianity through my religious denomination, and different people have different ways, but the point is that you work on cultivating the spirituality that is within in you that connects you to other people and to the world and causes you to see how things are interrelated.

10.  Remember that the ultimate goal of Waldorf Education is that the human beings once again learn how to live with each other, that we can connect with the “other”, that we see how things are interrelated, that we can serve humanity with love.  It helps to begin with the end in mind.

I have very specific back posts about Waldorf in the Home for the one and two year old, the three and four year old, the five and six year old, along with posts on puppetry, festivals, stories, movement and gross motor development, the development of the hand, modeling and wet on wet painting.   You do not need a fancy curriculum.  Save your money for art supplies, and child-sized tools for work in nourishing the home or a membership to your state parks. 

Many blessings,


Connecting With Young Children–Educating the Will: Week Nine

This week we are looking at Chapter Four, entitled “Imitation, Life Activities, and the Role of the Adult as Example and Guide.”  What a great title!

This chapter begins with a lovely quote from Rudolf Steiner:

The task of the kindergarten teacher is to adjust the work taken from daily life so that it becomes suitable for the children’s play activities.  The whole point….is to give young children the opportunity to imitate life in a simple and wholesome way.

Imagine if that was the point of every kindergarten in North America! Just imagine!

So, in creating this type of environment at home for the kindergarten (ages 3-6) child, we need rhythm in daily life activities, safe and healthy boundaries, and adults’ consistency in maintaining the boundaries and rhythm.

These can all be very difficult things for the adult who is homeschooling.  We don’t live as rhythmic a life as in the past due to advances in technology and more urban lifestyles.  You will have to work on this.  However, as the author also points out, is that WHO we are is what is most imitated and has the deepest impact on the child and any attempts we make to better ourselves becomes important and worthy of imitation.  What we DO in response to given situations is what the young child imitates. 

Young children are about doing  – the older kindergartener will help and participate, the younger children imitate the activities in their play.  This is healthy.  It is worthy for you to do the work even if your children don’t participate.  The author writes, “If you are simply doing something so that the children will join in, and then when you they don’t you put away materials and tools, then clearly it was not something important that needed to be done.”

Suggestions for work in a “kindergarten home”:  washing, cooking, ironing, sewing, planting, weeding, pruning, repairing chairs, tables, dolls and other toys, making toys for the kindergarten and more. (see page 65).  In the homeschooling “kindergarten home” we could add in things such as care of pets and plants, cleaning with scrubbing and dusting, homesteading activities – the list is truly endless.  These tasks must be attended to with love, joy and care.  Our inner attitudes matter to the children!

As kindergarten teachers, we believe that imitation helps form the physical body.  This is part of the wisdom of the ages streaming down into the child, it is part of the spiritual work of the adults in the environment, it is part of what we show children through our habits .  We teach our children habits for health and hygiene, and also habits for resilience and how to handle challenges or when things don’t go quite right. 

A child’s education is rightly done when the child achieves something for himself.  We create situations where the child develops his or her own capacities.  This is so closely linked to the environment, and this is where lazured rooms, wooden toys and such come in to create a warm and engaging environment full of possibilities.  We may not have this in the home environment.  The most important thing is to have open-ended things to manipulative into different possibilities – things from nature, such as acorns, shells, seed pits from fruits are all ideal.  We also create spaces where a child can touch, climb, and just be without hearing “don’t” all the time. 

Plenty of time for free play should be worked into the schedule, along with time for nourishing songs and stories.  Quiet and silence are also very important.  No stream of consciousness humming or constant singing!  The author interestingly notes on page 73: 

The adult must be sparing with their attention and with their “I” contact with  young children, as it can easily overpower the young child.  The adult has a strongly developed sense of self, and the young child does not.  For some children, eye to eye contact is intimidating.

I think this is the area where most parents I know stumble.  The infant has a biologic need to have every need promptly attended to and met in a loving and gentle way.  However, once the shift comes to “Wants” versus “Needs” I think many parents of today continue patterns established in infancy and toddlerhood and do not provide the three to  six year olds enough time and space in silence.  How do we encourage resilience in our children by having our child play by himself or herself?  This is very difficult for some children.

We will come back to this theme and the rest of Chapter Four in our next post. If you need to see what we discussed in Chapter Three, please see the back post here.


Weeks Three Through Seven of Eighth and Fifth Grade

It is hard to believe that my last post on eighth and fifth grade was back in August; you can read that post here and see what we were up to!

Six Year Old Kindergarten – I described in my first post the joys of our liturgical year and August; for September we have moved into so many of the traditional Autumn things that I love – songs and verses about squirrels, chipmunks and apples; Suzanne Down’s sweet story about “There’s a Bear in Our Plum Tree!” and now the story “The Princess of the Flaming Castle” found in the red book, “Let Us Form A Ring”.  This month, we have focused on Saint Helena and Holy Cross Day, celebrated in the Episcopal tradition on September 15th, and reading lots of stories and saying verses about angels in preparation for the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels.  This has been a fun time of starting church choir for our little one, attending Sunday School and finally being old enough to go to Cloverbuds in 4-H when his big sisters attend our homeschool 4-H meetings.  So lovely!  Mainly we have been enjoying baking, painting, modeling, playing in the dirt, and being outside with the change of weather.

Fifth Grade – This botany block is stretching out to be the longest block we have ever done,much like the way our Native American block of Third Grade went on forever (same child as well!).  At any rate, once we got settled in, we enjoyed moving into algae and lichens and their varying connections to animals from our fourth grade Man and Animal block.  We moved into mosses and ferns with painting and modeling and walking in the woods.   We read “One Day in the Woods”, also by Jean Craighead George, and looked at the beautiful fern family in modeling and painting.  We went apple picking, and used the process of drawing and describing the apple tree and orchard as a basis for talking about the steps in writing – pre-writing, draft, revision, edit and final stage – and types of writing.  For conifers we have extensively discussed the ecology of the longleaf pine, which we will also be visiting this coming week; and how this habitat is intricately intertwined with the red cockaded woodpecker, one of the first animals I learned about when we moved to this state, and also with the keystone species of the gopher tortoise that we learned about in our fourth grade Man and Animal block and reviewed here. “Ecology of a Cracker Childhood”  by Janisse Ray is a great read for teachers looking to know more about this unique habitat.   We will have a field trip and poetry to look at trees, and a final look at botany with the flowering plants and an introduction to biomes.  It promises to be a full  last (hopefully last!) week. 

We have been reviewing a lot of math and spelling.  Music theory is going full force again with our choir director from church, along with choir practice itself and swimming and 4H.  Busy days! 

Eighth Grade – We finished our Platonic Solids (Stereometry) and Loci block.  Loci were great fun and we looked at the basic building blocks of loci and then moved into creating parabolas, hyperbolas and ellipses.  We then did some work with HOW one gets those formulas of volume.  Then we moved into American History.  We had done a Colonial/American History block last year in seventh grade, so in this grade we picked up with Thomas Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark and moved onward.  We have talked about the changes in transportation with the steamboat, the Golden Age of Canals, when Texas was an independent Republic and the Mexican-American War, the Pony Express,  and the inventions and changes that helped shaped America. I assigned a paper regarding Eli Whitney as I feel this ties into the pre-Civil War Era nicely.  We moved into the Civil War at the end of this week.

We did a more exhaustive literary analysis of Scott O’Dell’s “Sing Down the Moon”, looked at Navaho songs, and are now reading “Sacajawea” aloud.  There are many wonderful books to read about this time period in American history, and just not enough time!  We have continued with math, vocabulary and Spanish, and finally did start that World Geography, which will have enough hours at the end of the year and be rigorous enough to be a high school level course.  So far we have looked at types of  geographers and  their areas of study, the five lenses of geography, a review of globes, maps, latitude, longitude, different types of maps, and then delved quite deeply into Antarctica (where there is an island named after my husband’s family!), the explorers of Antarctica and its wildlife and now into North America.  

4-H has been busy with forestry judging (tree identification, tree diseases and insect identification, saw timber estimation and pacing) and now wildlife judging, along with choir and other activities. One interesting activity my eighth grader found through 4-H is Walk Georgia – for each certain number of minutes of movement, one “unlocks” one of Georgia’s counties on an interactive map and with this, pertinent attractions for that county are listed. What a fun way to review all of the counties of our state and stay active!

It has been a busy year so far…


Life Skills For Seventh and Eighth Graders

I think both as parents and homeschoolers, we are always working on “life skills”.  After all, it is the goal of most parents that their children are able to live independently and know how to maintain a house, take care of their own finances, and be able to care for a home or a family!

I made a list of life skills for seventh grade through high school, and I keep adding things to it , as I go along so this is not an all-inclusive list.  Please feel free to use it as a base for your own list and modify and add it to it so it reflects the things that are important in your family. 

AUTO SKILLS:  (more high school)

  • Auto care (change the oil, jump the battery, replace fluids, change oil and filter, change a flat)
  • How to drive a car; defensive driving and the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • How to buy a good used car
  • How to look for and deal with auto insurance, what to do in case of an accident

PRACTICAL SKILLS:  (seventh grade and up)

  • Carpentry and woodworking
  • Knife skills (whittling and carving),
  • Mending holes/hemming pants/sewing buttons,
  • Replace a bike tire and do basic bike maintenance and repair
  • How to vote
  • How to take good notes from a lecture or sermon
  • Packing a suitcase for a trip independently
  • How to tie a neck tie and bow tie
  • Manners/fine dining – how to introduce people and start a conversation
  • How to organize and host a party without help
  • Phone etiquette (ordering, returning, asking for info, answering)
  • Self defense
  • How to knit, crochet, cross stitch, hand sew and machine sew; how to make patterns
  • First aid and CPR, basic herbal and natural remedies for common ailments; how to put together a “natural” medicine toolbox, the role of allopathic health care and how to access it; how to deal with medical bills and insurance
  • How to dance  – whether that is square dancing or line dancing or formal ballroom dancing is up to you!
  • Homesteading skills, care of livestock, hunting or fishing skills might also come here if you do that in your family life
  • Buying a house, homeowner’s insurance, buying versus renting
  • Pet Care – care of puppies or kittens, how to dialogue with a vet, healthy feeding and exercise, housebreaking, positive clicker training,  typical health and behavioral  problems and how to help, lifespan of a pet, making end of life decisions for your pet

Home Skills: (all ages)

  • How to “deep clean” a house from top to bottom
  • How to maintain a home during the week
  • Air conditioning/heating and plumbing basic trouble shooting
  • How to paint rooms
  • How to unclog a sink or tub drain
  • How to can/freeze/dry/ferment food
  • How to write a list and follow it at the grocery store; menu planning
  • How to do laundry from start to finish, ironing
  • How to organize a house
  • How to prepare a variety of healthy meals from scratch
  • Basic fix-it skills and troubleshooting for the home


  • How to write a resume
  • Typing and computer skills
  • Job interview skills
  • How to build and work with a team
  • How to work with difficult people
  • How to resolve conflict
  • Effective communication skills; difference between communication and conversation
  • Picking a career that is right for you – Myers Briggs testing or other personality trait testing, how aptitudes and strengths can play into a good career choice


  • How to apply for a mortgage, steps of buying a house
  • How to write a check and balance a check book, how to manage on line banking
  • Budgeting/money management
  • How to invest and save for retirement
  • How to understand parts of a paystub


  • Basic infant development, basic principles of baby care – pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, sleep rhythms, baby wearing, gentle discipline, how to bathe, how and when to start solids, value of rhythm and outside time, warmth, normal attachment and what contributes to family-infant attachment, microflora in the gut and how to cultivate that in the most healthy manner 
  • Normal stages of development  ages 0-5, how to identify challenges
  • How to talk to your infant’s health care team


  • Essentials of self-respect and self-love, which is a foundational skill to bring to relationships
  • Differences between assertive, passive and aggressive behavior and communication
  • Discussions on dating violence; affects of verbal abuse
  • Effective communication skills
  • Take your own Myers Briggs test and how to use this information in relationships
  • How to resolve conflict
  • What to look for in choosing a person to share your life with, what factors help make a successful partnership, how to nurture a partnership or marriage

Skills for Personal Health:

  • Finding types of exercise that can be done throughout a lifetime
  • Addiction issues; addiction myths
  • Healthy sexuality
  • Use of alternative methods for health (herbal, homeopathic, healing foods)
  • Sleeping  – its importance, health sleep habits
  • Positivity; dealing with baby blues, depression, anxiety
  • How to deal with stress in a healthy way
  • Physical health issues specific to gender

I am certain there are many other things you can put on this list or that you can create your own categories.  I have a category for Christian Life as well if any of my Christian readers are interested.

I will list some specific resources we used in seventh grade and that we are using this year in the next post.



Homeschooling High School

I am writing quick updates as I go along to mark our journey and hopefully to show how much further along we will be when we go through this process with our subsequent children! (Poor little first child guinea pig!)  You can see my previous thoughts in a back post about pondering homeschooling high school.  I have been doing a little bit of research since then, and thought I would share a few things.

  • One thing I did was pull curriculum from a wide variety of Waldorf High Schools to see what is taught when at different schools.  I was particularly interested in where the curriculum differed or was adapted for a regional area.
  • I read two small books by Lee Binz: “Setting the Records Straight:  How to Craft Homeschool Transcripts and Course Descriptions for College Admission and Scholarships” and “How to Homeschool 9th and 10th Grade:  Simple Steps for Starting Strong”.
  • Based upon the suggestions in Lee’s book about crafting transcripts, I wrote a description of our high school and our eighth grader and  I named it.  Unlike many others, we have never had a “school name” before!   Very exciting!  Because we are focused on a holistic, artistic, interrelated curriculum and  experiential style of learning with Waldorf Education, these were heavily considered in the  description of our high school.
  • We looked at the “requirements” of credit hours in order to apply for college.  I looked at the requirements for the University system of our state, and then several colleges I handpicked in other neighboring states and one private school just to get a feel for requirements in our region.  Most students applying to high school have 24 credits or so, but the actual state requirement for graduation is only 17 credits for four years of high school – 4 in English, 4 in Math, 4 in Natural Sciences, 3 in Social Studies, 2 in Foreign Languages.  Some universities asked for specific things, such as “fine arts elective – 1 credit”; some asked for “American Economics and Government – 1 credit or “general electives – 2 credits”.
  • Some universities want a brief description of the course the student has taken, required texts, sample of work, and HOW the course was graded – ie, the grade was comprised of  1/2 homework assignments, 1/2 quizzes and test, etc.    Again, because of the experiential nature of our schooling, I am having to think about what part “experiences” will play in the grading of courses.
  • I found out a general timeline for taking the PSAT, SAT, ACT and also how to access AP classes.  This is more important for some universities than others – for example, if Georgia Tech was a goal, ninety-something percent of incoming freshman have taken AP Calculus or equivalent, and the average incoming student has taken  9 AP classes or more.  Important things to know!
  • I am still sorting through the science end of high school –>While the typical Waldorf High School still does science in blocks and has a multi-disciplinary focus in science all years (ie, ninth grade could contain anatomy and physiology, geology, physics and chemistry, for example), the credit hours don’t add up well until one has complete all four years as far as I can tell…ie, you may not have all the hours for “biology” until senior year of high school.  And, most college applications want to see 1 credit biology with lab, 1 credit chemistry with lab, etc when students apply…So perhaps others out there can enlighten me how this normally works at home or if most Waldorf homeschoolers just decided to go a more traditional route for high school sciences in terms of biology one year, chemistry one year, etc?


Monthly Anchor Points: September


Anchor:  a person or thing that can be relied on for support, stability, or security; mainstay: Hope was his only anchor.

When we work to become the author of own family life, we take on the authority to provide our spouse and children and ourselves stability.  An effective way to do this is through the use of rhythm.  If you have small children, it takes time to build a family rhythm that encompasses the year.  If you are homeschooling older children and also have younger children not yet ready for formal learning, the cycle of the year through the seasons and through your religious year becomes the number one tool you have for family unity, for family identity, for stability.

Welcome, September! One of my favorite months because it is a month of new beginnings, which I love.   I wrote a  post regarding September and some of the wonderful things in this month here

Here are the things that we are celebrating this month:

  • September 1 – Labor Day
  • September 8 – The Nativity of St. Mary, the Theotokos
  • September 14 – Holy Cross Day
  • September 29 – The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels

Ideas for Celebration:

For Labor Day, we enjoyed a camping weekend this year that was a lot of fun.  Last year it was boating on the lake.  I would especially love to find a parade, but these seem to be most common in the northeastern part of the United States and not particularly where I live.  If you look at last year’s post I linked to above, I talked about finding things that were built in your community and sharing that with your children for Labor Day.

The Nativity of St. Mary and for Holy Cross Day, for us, are days primarily for celebrating in church and through prayer and  literature.  There are some lovely books about St. Mary and St. Helena for Holy Cross Day as well. 

The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels is of course a big feast day in the church and also in Michaelmas in Waldorf Education.  You can see my Michaelmas Pinterest board for some ideas I collected.

The Domestic Life:

September is the month in which I like to de-clutter and make room for fall things.  It can also be the time of fall garden clean-up and time to make lists of needed winter clothing.


Kindergarten:  We are mainly going through our six year old kindergarten year working through the feast days.  Last month we focused on St. Herman of Alaska, The Dormition of St. Mary, and St. Aidan, along with the life of monks.  This month, we are focused on stories of St. Michael, stories of angels and St. Helena.  It is so rewarding to see the excitement on my little one’s face about the liturgical year!

In our circle we are focused on songs and verses regarding Michaelmas, and our fall friends the apple tree and the squirrel.  Our circle is lovely with rich Michaelmas and Autumn songs.  Our stories this month were Suzanne Down’s “There is a Bear in Our Plum Tree!” (I hope that is the actual title!) and “The Princess In The Flaming Castle”, which can be found in the back of the red book, “Let Us Form A Ring”.   We have been baking cookies and baked apples, drawing apple trees and telling stories and songs about the star inside the apple and the five little rooms inside the apple, playing with modeling materials and watercolor painting, and planning a field trip to go apple picking!

Fifth Grade: We are still working with math concepts, spelling and handwriting.  Our Botany block is coming along– we have mainly covered roots, stems and leaves; fungi, algae and lichens, mosses and ferns with hopes to finish up with conifers, trees and flowering plants.  I have had some particular epiphanies about ways to approach this block and hope to share that at some point.  Our reading has been focused on the work of Holling C. Holling (two books), “Girls Who Looked Under Rocks” as an independent reader, and “A Day in the Alpine Tundra”, “A Day in the Woods” by Jean Craighead George.

Other than that, life has been busy with choir, horses and swimming for our fifth grader.

Eighth Grade:  We finished our math block focusing on stereometry and loci and have moved into an American history block.  We are reviewing a lot of math and working out some formulas for area and volume, which we also did last year but this year is more in depth and practice. We also are doing some separate work putting together a main lesson book on World Geography.   Our eighth grader is busy with a typing program on-line and is submitting work to an Oak Meadow teacher for high school Spanish I.    Other than that, much fun and busy life times with 4-H, horses, choir.

In the meantime, I have started naming and writing a description of our high school for future high school transcripts.  I think we have decided what to tackle in ninth grade and how “grading” for those courses will occur, since that is something that some colleges want spelled out on paper when looking at a homeschooler’s admission paperwork.  Much more to think about there!

Self-Care:  I wish I had more to say about this, but it is still a struggle.  I find time for myself early in the morning or late at night and have had very little success in doing anything during the day or later afternoon or early evening hours just for me.  I don’t see that changing in the forseeable future!

Please share your successes, ideas and plans for September!  I would love to hear from you!


The Non-Eager Learner

Many families have children who are so smart and so eager to learn.  They talk early, they read early, they are full of interesting questions about the world around them.  They are easy to teach and really,  they practically teach themselves.

And then there are other children who are not so eager to learn.  And I find amongst this “category” there are different groups of children…There may be the type of child that may not be interested in much outside of their own bodies and when food will be served.  They do not display  much interest in those abstract letters on signs or in books, and are not too interested in writing or math.  These are the kind of children that want to eat their way through any kind of main lesson.   The second type of child I have observed are the children that are very dreamy children.   Perhaps they are living in a little world of their own and are not too interested in coming out of that.  We probably all knew very dreamy children growing up.  Maybe we were those children growing up ourselves.  They don’t seem to have a lot of questions about the world around them, at least on the surface.  Maybe they do inside but they don’t ask the questions outwardly, and don’t give too much of a reaction to the things you try to bring as a teacher.  

I think perhaps the third type of child, whom I would NOT consider a “non-eager” learner are the “do-ers”  who really have so much to do that they just cannot sit down to any sort of book work.  I think these children come along just fine, and homeschooling gives them the time and space to be who they are.  They often seem to come into their own in the later middle school and high school years.  I would like to talk about that group in another post.

The typical advice I see for this on the Internet and in talking to teachers about “non-eager learners”  is one of two avenues.  For children in school, the recommendation is to volunteer in the classroom, dialogue with the teacher, sit with the child for homework.  In the homeschooling camp, the advice more often seems to be expose your child to a lot of things, take note of what a child likes to DO and see if you can build off of that, and don’t worry about a “passion” until high school years.

I think any of these pieces in and of their own can be helpful, but as always LOOK at the child in front of you.  Here are a few of my ideas to ponder as well:

For tiny children, under the age of 7, you probably know what I am going to say.  The American school system has now changed to the extent of what I studied in second grade as a child is now the kindergarten.  I feel there is far too much “academic” head work in kindergarten and PreK right now.  In fact, there was a recent article in the Washington Post discussing how the emphasis on academic skills is at a great cost to the child in terms of social-emotional skills and the development of the bodily senses.  If your child is in school, look at grade placement closely.  At this point in time, I have to say older age for the grade is better because of the ridiculous work level. Also, look at rhythm and  routine – is your child getting energy out and having time for free play in the hours after school?  Can you look at alternative schooling situations that match development?

The flip side of this, I think is to establish a good RHYTHM of work.  If your child is in school and expected to do homework and such, this is important, but this is especially important in the homeschool environment for children under the age of 7.   Your child can weave in and out of your work in the Early Years, and absolutely have plenty of time for free creative play and outside play,  but they should not just wander all day long with no adult input if you intend to do some sort of grades schooling that involves sitting down and doing something that you help to direct.   There should be things that are theirs to do in the family, and they should be able to imitate what you are doing and want to join in.  Rhythm in the early years is the key to easier homeschooling in the grades, especially in the beginning grades when children are learning how to be more academic learners.

For children between the ages of 7 and 9 in the homeschool environment, I offer you the ideas of Rudolf Steiner in his lectures, (not  in the school form).  Ages 7 to 9 should still be a good amount of bodily movement – look and see where your child’s physical development really is.  Lack of core strength can really impede writing, for example, and also affect visual convergence and speech.  Look at your child.  Also, think about how much DOING you are asking for versus just sitting and doing something.  It may seem easier to have story, drawing, summary, but I feel this is not at all what Rudolf Steiner intended.   If children this age are able to sit for long periods and don’t want to move, I worry, quite frankly. 

The main challenges I hear from mothers of children this age is a complete disinterest in academic skills (practicing writing, reading,  etc); lack of memory for academic skills; inability to sit still for academic work. Sometimes learning challenges are apparent in this stage, and little things together can add up to a bigger picture of learning skills.  For example, for children who are non-eager learners, maybe reading and writing is difficult in any way or shape or form, but puzzles and mazes are also difficult, crafts are not welcomed, there is not an attention to a task such as cooking.  This could be something bigger than simply “not wanting to.”  If you are concerned about the possibility of learning disabilities or visual problems, I suggest you speak with your health care team.

If you feel there are no challenges, I think one way to approach this age group is two-fold:  working within the physical body and then short bursts of practice as you see your child respond to best.  Choose what you require to be written carefully, and know that in many children academic skills involving lots of writing may not blossom until later ages.  You can introduce, keep it short, be persistent,  circle round and build on things, but you are waiting for development to unfold.   Build great vocabulary and concepts through storytelling and wonderful stories.   Watch and observe your child, use the things your child enjoys within the context of the curriculum, read together, do real-life math and games and know that it really is sinking in.  Focus on doing, and short practice. 

For children between ages 10 and 14,  this should be when interest in the outside world and  academic skills are typically increasing.  For some children, this academic leap will be in fourth and fifth grade, for some children this will be in fifth and sixth grade (I am talking about a homeschooling environment, where we have more time and space to let things ride).  Usually by seventh and eighth grade, many things are evened out and there is a greater ability to start “true academic work” of writing, more examples of critical thinking and original work.   Again, always be on the lookout for any learning challenges that are impeding the way and have not yet been worked with. 

I personally  find the often quoted, “Everything evens out by fourth grade” to be a fallacy in homeschooling.  Many times, children are reading around fourth grade, but some do not read well or are  not really interested in that until age 12.  Sometimes math has sort of evened out, but many times children don’t seem to “get math” until they are 12 and more abstract reasoning has developed.  I myself didn’t develop good math skills until I was a junior in high school and suddenly it all clicked in a way where I really understand the why’s behind what I was doing.  I have no doubt that this was some sort of developmental window  that was personal to me.  So, the years between 10 and 14, and especially  between ages 10 and 12,  require a good amount of patience and persistence and observation of the child on the part of the homeschooling teacher.

For children ages 14 to 16, I feel things should really be coming together at this point.  I know many mothers have talked about the “hibernation” of children at this age, but I see many homeschooled teenagers at this point developing or at least trying on emerging passions and interests in real life and then developing the academic skills they need to support that.    Many academic checklists cite the grades 8-12 as a time of “emerging abstract skills”, so that means that every child could have a timetable that is individual to himself or herself within that time frame.  It may not all click in eighth grade, but it might click in tenth grade or eleventh grade. 

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences regarding working with “non-eager” learners.

Many blessings,