This is a topic near and dear to my heart as there really does not seem to be a number of people blogging about using Waldorf homeschooling with their older children (especially middle school aged and up) anymore. I don’t know if this is really because there are so few of us left or just that the folks who are really doing it and in the trenches don’t have the time to blog! (And, as I head into sixth grade, third grade and four- year- old land this fall, I can totally understand that lack of time, so there is no judgment there, just an observation!)
Yet, I feel a need to point out that just because few of these blogs exist (which again, could mean there are more families out there doing this than we think!), this way of homeschooling does not have to lead to burn-out. It can become a long-term way of homeschooling, not just for for the “pink bubble” of the kindergarten years. In fact, I think one can see a real pulling together of the curriculum and how it all ties together starting especially in fifth grade and up and it is beautiful and amazing to see the connections and the way these subjects are so enlivened!
So, my theory is that in order for Waldorf homeschooling to continue beyond the ‘”pink bubble”, I think it is important to understand what Waldorf homeschooling really is. I think “burn-out” or being worn out with something often occurs when our expectations do not match the reality of what is at hand. Children are the text in Waldorf homeschooling, but the teacher is the leader in Waldorf homeschooling. We meditate on the child, we look at the development of the child in a holistic way, but we decide what we need to choose for stories and other things within the framework of the curriculum during the grades, how to work with these things on behalf of the child with help from the spiritual realm. Again, the teacher works with the child and on behalf of the child, but is the decided loving authority throughout grades one through eight. If this is uncomfortable to you, and there are of course degrees along this continuum, perhaps it is better to say Waldorf Education does not fit your family and to talk about what path is better suited to you. I personally find that a much more honest take than saying Waldorf homeschooling doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work for you, than I think that is okay, and BETTER than okay, because then you are on the path to finding what IS better for you and your family. Life is too short to not be happy!
Secondly, I think burn-out often has to do with lack of boundaries. I went through some experiences this year where I wrongly felt like I had a lot of things to hold, and I had this long-time volunteer commitment I was not feeling very dedicated to on top of everything else. It was not the fault of the volunteer organization, it was ME! Once I started clearing away the clutter in my life, stopped trying to hold things for people that I had no business holding, then I could see that this volunteer commitment was not that big after all and still sustainable for me. But boundaries are what got me to that realization!
In homeschooling, boundaries are doubly important. You HAVE to have time for YOU and YOU alone if you are going to sustain this for a long period. This means, practically, if you have a spouse that works super long hours or travels and is gone a lot or you work part time in addition to homeschooling, you are going to have to be double and triple careful what commitments you make outside of homeschooling. The most successful homeschoolers, the ones who really homeschool at home (as opposed to families who homeschool by enrolling their children in many classes, which I am not knocking per se but it is different then when you are homeschooling at home), need to actually BE HOME. Usually that means at least three days during the week where they have no commitments to be ANYWHERE at all, including no running errands and such. This becomes very important as one moves up in the grades. I found fifth grade to be this breaking point for myself.
Outside of scheduling, homeschooling this way also requires boundaries at home regarding NEGATIVITY. If you yourself feel consistently fearful, anxious, negative, full of judgment towards others, irritable and full of hatred towards a particular person or situation, or if you have anxious, negative, judgmental emotions or angry emotions flooding into your life or the life of your children, then it is really very difficult to be centered enough to actually teach. If the emotions are coming from you, then you may need a great deal of inner work or counseling in order to be centered enough to homeschool this way. If the negative emotions are flooding in from outside, then you must put boundaries on this so your household is peaceful. This can involve letting situations or people go out of your life. That can be hard, but so necessary. You must find the nourishment in yourself and your life for this to work. You must surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, for what you are, and who nourish and heal you. It is not that there is no place to help others, but also that it cannot be completely unbalanced where you are being covered in negativity from those you want to help. There is a prayer one of my spiritual elders and mentors, a gentle spiritual giant, from church recently gave me that I am working with daily:
May I be at peace.
May my heart remain open.
May the light of my true essence be unveiled.
May I be healed.
May I be a source of healing for others.
Most of all, choosing to homeschool can require making choices in other areas of your life in order to facilitate that. People get really angry and frustrated when I tell them that, because they want to hear they can still do it all, but the reality is, especially as their children grow and move up in the grades, that they cannot do it all well and homeschool well, at least not in a Waldorf Way.
Straight talk from me today,