I talk to so many mothers who have children of multiple ages and who are very concerned as to how to fit in multiple main lessons, or what to do with their children when their ages are spread out between the Early Years and the grades. It can be daunting, and many veteran Waldorf homeschoolers say that you cannot schedule that many main lessons without going insane….but then how to do it?
Let’s start at the beginning. If you have a first or second grader, and the rest of your children are under the age of 7, then life should be relatively easy. You can often think in terms of outside time together, a circle for all, a story geared to the kindergartener, perhaps the main lesson for the first or second grader, nap and quiet time (and perhaps do something else for fifteen to twenty minutes with the first or second grader during quiet time), the work of the day geared toward the kindergartener but including all, and finish with playing outside. My friend Sheila has a lovely post about her rhythm with her fourth grader and her Early Years child here: http://sureastheworld.com/2012/03/18/brass-tacks-my-homeschooling-day/
With two children involved in main lesson work, I think it is still possible to either put them “together” if they are close in age…ie, a first grader and a second grader could both hear folk tales, but work on slightly different academic levels. If the two children needing main lessons are further apart in age, then you may want to have separate main lesson times. Then for other lessons, such as foreign language or handwork, you could combine the children but have them work at their own levels. I think all of that is possible with only two children needing main lessons, even with younger children in tow. I think this is the sort of thing you must jump in and try and switch around as needed. It is daunting when I go to the homes of my homeschooling friends who are not using Waldorf methods and their homeschooling is a lot of workbooks, worksheets, independent reading textbooks, and videos. Waldorf homeschooling is different, and sometimes only by doing it can we wrap our heads around how it will work for our family and what that will look like!
I will have a fifth grader, a second grader, and a two year old turning three in the fall. I am planning my essential rhythm to look like this: Bible reading and prayer with all children, a walk with the dog or carting with the dog with all the children, circle time and story geared toward my little one with the older girls helping along with prayers/singing/poetry, main lesson for my second grader (fifth grader to practice guitar, play with her little brother and start math practice), snack, main lesson for my fifth grader (she can play with her little brother, practice piano), lunch and quiet/nap time, whilst our toddler is sleeping we are going to come back for a “heart” subject (religion two days a week, Spanish one day a week, and form drawing one day a week), read-aloud and snack, and “hand” lessons at the end of the day (handwork two days a week, music one day a week, and painting/drawing one day a week), end verse. I anticipate it will take us until three o’clock or so to finish everything each day.
What I hear from mothers in the trenches is that it is more difficult when you have three or more children needing main lesson work. I think in this situation you could keep everyone on the same subject, and rotate in a set fashion between children, presenting each one with main lesson work. I think if you were very organized with chalkboard drawings ready to go ahead of time and the like, and some of the children were old enough to do some things independently, this could work out fine. You could try to combine the children who are close enough in age in main lesson topics, and combine as much as possible for any “heart” and “hand” lessons. If you want to talk about this further, I would recommend logging on to A Little Garden Flower’s Yahoo!Group (email@example.com) because Melissa Nielsen is homeschooling five children, and some of the veteran homeschooling mothers on that list have homeschooled anywhere from three to eight children. It is all possible, but I think you need to talk to people who have done it and gone before you. If you have more than three children in the grades, I do hope you leave a comment as to how you are making it work for your family!
Some mothers say by the time they get through the main lesson, it is lunch and things just fall apart after that and they never really get to do those “heart” and “hand” lessons. It may be that the main lesson work is starting too late to fit everything in, or that the younger children don’t have a good rhythm as to what to do whilst the older ones are working. Here are some suggestions for the smallest ones in your family whilst you are doing more of sit-down work with your older children: you can homeschool outside so the younger ones can run around, you can schedule your fourth grader to play with the younger siblings whilst you work with the first grader, you can have toys that rotate out during the lesson, or you can serve snack to the younger children whilst working with the older children, you can move your rhythm around to include doing some things during a nap time or on a weekend when a spouse is around too!)
I have written quite a lot in the past about homeschool planning, and here are some of my favorite back posts:
Hope those help, and many blessings upon your homeschooling journey!