I wanted to thank all of you who participated and left comments in regards to the post Donna Simmons of Christopherus Homeschool Resources on Catherine’s blog. You can see the original post here (and do be sure to read the comments, because that is where the discussion really is, including an interesting side thread on forming the space between two siblings who are very close in age):
It was also really gratifying to read the follow-up Catherine wrote after she processed the discussion: http://catherine-et-les-fees.blogspot.com/2011/10/breakthrough.html
Donna also wrote a summary of sorts based upon the discussion here: http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2011/10/respecting-the-child.html
I entered the discussion rather late; we have been fighting rounds and rounds of never-ending cold and flu over here it seems, so we have not been in the best of health. However, I did chime in with some of my own very personal observations regarding relaxed homeschooling in my own family (so therefore, because this is coming from my own perspective, it may not work for your family or resonate with you at all!) Here is what I wrote:
I was thinking about relaxed homeschooling in relation to my own children, and I thought of a few things that help me navigate the waters of Waldorf Education at home.
1. For me, to plan is important, but to not be too wedded to the plan is essential. I have to not be afraid to move things around, to throw things out, to move things in relation to continual observation of the child. I was thinking of what you wrote, C, about A refusing to do her work, and I guess as her teacher I would be observing and perhaps changing based on my observation, but perhaps not ! You know things like: how is her vision? What is her pencil grip like? Is the noise level too high and she can’t focus? Is she hungry? Is she a complete perfectionist and needs to draw on separate sheets of paper because a Main Lesson book is daunting? Has she been writing away all week and truly does need the work lessened or does she really need to persist – in other words, is it now really not about drawing a picture, but about her relationship to authority, her need to finish something, her need to do something even if it is not what she would choose? In other words, will doing this help her be the healthy adult I intend for her to grow up and become? Where is the place of this refusal not only in school, but in the family? How does she make restitution for this? It is not all about her, it is also about the impact she has on her sisters when she does this as well…These are the sorts of things I ponder when things get off track in my own homeschooling experience. Some mothers I have talked to with smaller children talk about spending a lot of time in their homeschooling on “maintenance” , ie, managing behavior, and perhaps the smaller the children and the younger the siblings are about more time is spent on that sort of thing (because small people need to eat, or go to the bathroom, or being small and sitting through older sibling’s school is not always fun every day!) but I truly think that is an essential part of homeschooling. Honestly, it really is not just managing, but using those opportunities to see where these children need strengthening, need help, need guidance to meet where they are developmentally and uplift them so their capacities can unfold.
2. So I think my idea of control is not based upon checking off all the boxes or such (more about that in number two), but I think it is about being the teacher and being able to be flexible in relation to what I see the child needs in order to learn, to accomplish our goals. I can change on a dime, but I won’t change on a whim, if that makes any sense at all. I try to continually discern the essential for that child based upon what I see, and what I think will help them most to become a healthy adult. What do they need to hear, to experience, to do? What responsibility do they need to take? So much of this is in the moment of teaching.
3. I have a little running list on my board that includes the work for the day. Even if the child cannot read it herself, it helps me look at what we need to do, even if we don’t get to it that day and I carry it over. I also write a little strip going down the side of my board regarding things “outside” of the main lesson – like on Mondays we have a Nature Story, on Wednesdays we do German and we have handwork in the afternoon. It helps me not to just peter out and end at the Main Lesson.
4. It helps me to have whole days to go to the forest, the beach, to build or to cook. Having a whole day and not just an afternoon lets me relax and feel like these experiences are just as an important part of our homeschooling experience as a Main Lesson Book…and probably more. As Donna always says, homeschooling is first and foremost about family!
5. And by that token,I try to relax and not fall into the trap of always material presentation, drawing, summarizing. There is a place for that, but also a place for all the other wonderful things in Waldorf Education. I try to approach things with love and humor! Homeschooling is fun!
I think homeschooling is ultimately about influencing development of the holistic human being, and using the curriculum to meet developmental needs. It is also about learning to work as a team within the family, to start to take responsibility for oneself and one’s actions, slowly and certainly not as an individual at first…Catherine, I think you mentioned earlier something about the nine year change and perhaps things at that point improve. I don’t think it makes the pushing against the form easier, in fact, I think it is harder because they realize they are separate, that authority can be pushed against, and I think in girls especially they may already form conceptions of being “good” at something or not . They also work in that sympathy-antipathy realm, what they like and what they don’t like and sometimes need a lot of encouraging, and just being a wall whilst they complain about fair, unfair, etc. With a small child, yes ,even a small child of 10 or whatever, they are still not a rational adult who comes to sit down like an adult at the table and “learn”…..and there are things, that as adults, I believe we can authentically guide children…..
So, I do think you have to carry within your heart that what you are doing is the right thing. Sometimes you do not see how things that are in the curriculum affect the child until much later. I like to use the example of when my oldest was in third grade and we did the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in September. She was very quiet about it all, but I came out one morning in January to see her drawing a huge chalkboard drawing of Adam and Eve and all the animals. Sometimes we just plant the seeds, and the wonderful thing in Waldorf Education is how each grade really builds upon each other. The flame of the candle in Kindergarten can become the flame we observe and draw later in the upper grades for science. It is so beautifully all there…
I would love to hear from you all; what does relaxed Waldorf homeschooling look like for you?