I was a guest speaker at the La Leche League of Georgia Area Conference over the weekend. What good providence that Sharifa Oppenheimer, author of “Heaven On Earth: A Handbook For Parents Of Young Children”, was the keynote speaker! It was lovely to meet her and spend time with her in person. I so appreciate authors such as Sharifa and Kim John Payne who are really doing their best to bring the healing and therapeutic sides of Waldorf education to broader audiences.
Whilst I was driving Sharifa back to the airport, she and I were talking about the translation of Waldorf Education from the classroom, where the class becomes a social organization of its own, to the homeschool. It is interesting to think about and it was an interesting discussion!
I truly believe that the Waldorf Curriculum stands well with individual homeschooling students. After all, Steiner himself was aware of education in both group and individual settings through his own life experiences. I feel what can be more challenging to translate is the “one room schoolhouse” situation where mothers are homeschooling students in different seven-year cycles.
If you think about it, Waldorf teachers go through training to become a teacher dealing with children in ONE of the seven year cycles. For example, one is trained as an Early Years educator or a grades teacher or a Waldorf high school teacher. One teacher does not have to cut across all the seven year cycles as a homeschooling mother may have to if she has children who are 16, 10, 6 and 4 years old!
So what is one to do? Here are some of my suggestions!
1. As always, we must work with ourselves. We work to become authentic human beings. We work to learn how to set boundaries in a loving way. We work to understand how we speak and work with a 4-year-old and how that is different when we work and speak with our 10-year old. We work to understand the seven-year cycles.
2. We learn to juggle. There is no reason that Waldorf education cannot work within this one room schoolhouse model! However, it may look different than in a traditional Waldorf classroom. There has to be more of a back and forth flow between the children of different ages so that all of their needs are met. This is absolutely true no matter what homeschool method you choose.
3. We work to preserve what homeschooling is all about – and that is family. We work to foster relationships between all family members and to create a rhythm that works for all family members. We include boundaries as to what is needed for a teenager is not what is needed by our under-7 child and we know when we can be flexible and do things on a bit of a different timetable that is still appropriate, but perhaps not exactly what one would experience within a Waldorf school. I like this post by Donna Simmons on that subject: http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2005/07/how_to_do_it.html
4. We utilize the advantages of learning within the home environment. Home is a great place to cook and to garden, for example. Make the most of your environment!
5. We garner support: a homeschooling group, the use of other family members or friends or neighbors who could help you if you do need some uninterrupted time, some more meditative time with your sixth grader.
6. We guard our time. If you are rushing around and always leaving the house and going here and running there, that is not going to be peaceful or conducive for good learning or home stability for ANY age.
I would love to hear your ideas and experiences; please leave them in the comment box!
Many blessings and much love,