Waldorf homeschooling involves feeling general themes that span several grades, as opposed to “looking in the curriculum for what is for that year”.
What Waldorf homeschooling can bring you, if you let it, is healing but also BALANCE. If you are interested in Waldorf homeschooling but lean more toward structure and skills and knowing what your child “can do”, Waldorf homeschooling can help you slow down and realize, for example, that an oral report in fifth grade could lay the basis for a discussion of literature in sixth grade. Waldorf education can put the academic skills children need for life on a timetable that is realistic for development and can place them at a point where these skills will not be like pulling teeth, but will be vigorous and full of vitality.
If you are more unschooling led, Waldorf Education can provide a beauty in form and also help with healthy development as to what nourishes each broad developmental phase through these broad themes. You have more leeway, I think than just “X story in X grade.” Waldorf Education leaves time and space for what the child brings, leaves time and space for “a-ha” moments, but this comes after careful preparation by the teacher within these broad themes and meditating on the child in question. If you are more unschooling led and you don’t feel comfortable taking the lead in teaching your child anything that the child might enjoy and find nourishing but didn’t think of it themselves first, then Waldorf Education might not be a good fit for your family. And that is okay!
Kindergarten through Grade 2 (grades one through two is ages almost seven through eight or so): A general theme of celebration of life, especially through the festivals, a strong sense of protection and unhurriedness, and a feeling of unconditional love from the family branching out during the grades into love felt by the child from the “best buddy” and the trusted community. In homeschooling families, the love of a peer or “best buddy” may come later, but the longing is still there and can be seen in children who reside in a stable community each year in the grades.
This comes best from the folk tales, fairy tales, saint stories, and stories of animals that YOU are comfortable with within your family tradition. All of these stories point toward the unconditional love for the child by not only the family but the community and by nature and yes, a general sense of a higher being itself.
In a Christian Waldorf home, the Old Testament stories are very rich and nourishing for all ages, but of course speak very directly to those children in the nine year change if you can work deeper with the stories the children have already encountered as part of family culture.
The seasonal festivals and the doing are most important.
The challenge for the more form led parent will be to remember to teach through art, to provide balance, to not get so caught up with “where their child is academically.” The shift at the six/seven year change toward the parent assuming a more direct role in teaching is also part of this time. This can be a challenge for some truly dedicated unschoolers, but the role of the homeschooling parent as a more direct and loving leader cannot be understated nor overlooked.
Grades 3 through 5 (ages almost 9 through age 11 or so): The broader themes here are still one of love from not just the immediate family, but from the best buddy, from the community and from connection to the community. Philios, the love of brotherhood and the community, is found in these ages. The beauty found in the world through biographies of great people such as George Washington Carver in fifth grade botany or in legends or in the Old Testament stories shows the important strivings of man and of humanity. Academic skills typically increase slowly to include more significant writing, reading and through organization in fourth and fifth grade. The challenge for the homeschooling teacher is to show a calm, steady emotional state whilst the child goes through the nine year change, and to balance the needs of the child to be in community with the need to be home with family.
The challenge for those more structured and formed will be to not rush into academic skills that are normally the realm of those children ages close to 12 and up, and the challenge of the unschooling led parent will be to step up and provide consistency and find the beauty in the stories of the Old Testament, the Norse myths, geometry and math, and finally through Ancient Civilizations and to know to bring these stories to a child after we have digested them and believe in them is nourishing even if the child doesn’t bring up directly that they want to hear about “X” subject.
Grades 6 through 8: The child is dealing with Eros, not just with the awakening provided by the more popular connotation of this term, but with the awakening to perhaps even a larger sense of community and what lies beyond and a larger awakening to themselves. Causal thinking is developing, and this is fostered through accurate observation in the sciences, for example. Even subjects such as math provide a pondering for the meaning of love, accepting and belonging… Things are brought in to balance a typically very black and white view of the world at this age – charcoal drawing, for example, in sixth grade and perspective drawing in seventh grade.
For those form and structured led, it may prove a challenge not to push into a high school level thinking and academic expectations. For those unschooling led, it may be more tempting to abandon any of the broad themes found in history, literature, art and math found during these grades, but then I truly believe the child will miss a picture of beauty in the world and in humanity that is not often found in mainstream co-op classes or computer and on-line classes. It can be difficult to find beauty in the harshness of the Romans, or in some of the things in American history or the explorers, but yet that is the task of the teacher to see and guide the child towards.
High School: The child is moving into discovering truth in the world, and who they are in the world. What is truth, who are they in the world, how do they deal with the unconditional love of family, the love of the best buddy and the love for wanting to be accepted and belong to those outside the family. Idealistic causes are well-served in this time, to warm often cool intellectual thoughts. Art continues to provide the balance between the nervous system of thinking and the system of will and doing. Art is a portal to feeling itself.
Hope that helps provide a broader picture today,