Peaceful Times In Homeschooling A “Big” Family

I personally think a big family is something like six or more children, but most references I see these days consider three children and up to be a “big” family, so for today these ideas apply to any of you with three or more children to teach!

First of all, I think it is necessary to think about Steiner’s groupings of childhood development, and get away from the “one grade for one age” used in a school setting.  So, in line with this, think about grouping your children by development:

In your head, divide your children between “Early Years” and above age seven.

In your head, divide your children in your between those aged over seven but under age ten.

In your head, divide your children between those over ten and under twelve and those over twelve and under age sixteen/seventeen.

These divisions mark the “changes” that one hears so much about in Waldorf Education and parenting – six/seven change. nine year change, twelve year change and sixteen/seventeen year old change.

Hopefully by dividing your children into these groupings, you will start to see how many “main lesson topics” you really have to teach.  So, ALL the children in the group under 9 but past the six/seven year change could be in the same group and have the same lessons – yes, for example, your first grader can hear Old Testament stories!  I have heard numerous Waldorf Educators, including Rainbow Rosenbloom of Live Education and others, speak on  this at conferences  when they speak of their time teaching children of multiple ages in one group.  These stories will speak most STRONGLY to those of the “proper” age, but it does not mean younger children cannot hear them and draw or paint or model.  Of course, the “academic” and “artistic” level would have to be adjusted up or down.

If you have children all of one age grouping but one just on the cusp of  turning into another age grouping, I have a few suggestions.  For example, if all of your children are Early Years,  the rest are ages seven to nine and then you have one who is ten years old, I could see an Early Years time, an ages seven to nine  time that could mainly include your fourth grader and then just a few blocks or practice times that would be separate for your fourth grader – introduction to fractions may be one, perhaps you would want to bring Norse Mythology separately.  I think something like “Man and Animal” could be mainly brought to your fourth grader, but certainly smaller children will enjoy watching and drawing birds, having poetry about different animals, stories about animals and working on artistic and other skills in this way.   You could also choose to make something like Norse Mythology the very last block of the year, if you have, for example a third grader who will be entering fourth grade in the fall and your fourth grader is coming to the end of the school year. That could also work with something like Old Testament stories.

If you have a child above age twelve and the rest of the children are younger, then I think you are going to have to run a separate track for the older child.  I find these upper grades to be a different ball of wax.  You are really out of mythology land and into history and cause and effect and different capacities.

I hope that helps.  There are many Waldorf consultants out there with whom I am sure you could talk with who could give you even more ideas than what I have mentioned here.  You really can bring Waldorf homeschooling to all of your children, but I think you must start grouping the children and teaching economically.  You can embrace the joys of the home – you are not to create a Waldorf School in your home, but instead to create your home life and adapt the Waldorf curriculum for your home with developmental reasoning.  Understand the “why’s”  and development behind the curriculum and you will be able to do this!

Many blessings,


15 thoughts on “Peaceful Times In Homeschooling A “Big” Family

  1. I have come around to this way of thinking and it has made our lessons more interesting and opened my eyes to the levels of all stories. I have five children and like to call us a medium sized family. : )

    • Violicious,
      This is great to hear! And I too, think five is about “medium” sized as well…I have only three and I think that is really small. LOL.

  2. Dear Carrie,
    I wanted to respond to your post yesterday but wanted to let it sit with me a while. I hope that being able to express how you are feeling has created a shift for you. Homeschooling is such hard work and I truly don’t know how you do it sometimes with 3 children (to me that is a big family – I only have one, but that comes with it’s own “challenges” ☺).
    I too am struggling at the moment but for me it is not winter but getting started with my new year. For the first time I found I just didn’t want to start.
    What is hard is that everything is constantly in flux. Just when I think I’ve got it all planned out everything changes and I have to readjust: learn new skills, solve new problems, figure it out, adapt. Such is life!
    As I find myself making some (repeating some) mistakes, I have to take a step back. Stop. Reflect. And rather than seeing this as time wasted, falling behind, I have to tell myself it is exactly what is needed right now. So we are taking a break from Waldorf homeschooling, hopefully not for long but long enough for me to find my joy in the process again.
    Your post today has made me think, perhaps “falling behind” is not such a big deal. I have been so concerned about bringing blocks at the right time, yet sometimes this feels like we are rushing through, there is no breathing space – at least not for me. Last year we had our best year of homeschooling so far so it is perhaps ironic that I feel this way, but maybe it is just too big an ask to sustain that level of satisfaction and achievement? The pressure is on to have an even bigger, better year…
    Thank you, Carrie, for sharing your own struggle. I think it’s so important for those who follow along this path to be real about our experiences. Perhaps one day I will start a blog or write a book about all the things I would do differently if I had my time over but, for now, I’m still trying to figure it all out.

    • Cathy –
      Hugs and love. There is not perfect. There is no topping last year. Some years the blocks fall flatter for whatever reason. Some years life happens and we get “behind”. Not even a Waldorf teacher can fit everything in. So, perhaps, yes, take the pressure off yourself and find the joy again in a pace that is manageable. Some families, just due to temperament, move slower and some move faster due to temperament and I don’t think that is acknowledged enough…
      Lots of love, hoping for a wonderful month for you!

  3. Would you consider combining main lessons for a fifth and second grader? Developmentally they are in different places but academically they’re not that far apart, especially in maths and language arts. They’ve asked to do main lessons together (right now, they combine for french) and my eldest could use reviewing third, fourth and fifth grade maths because he really struggles beyond simple sums, and they do both work better together than apart – he wants to excell his little sister and she wants to keep up, and they shared a geography main lesson today as an experiment and frankly, an outsider couldn’t tell their work apart, except that Ds wrote quicker and added an extra sentence without my help. I’m a bit wary of combining 2/5 and 3/6 in the autumn, but it would be easier for me in terms of structuring our day, going deeper etc. What do you think, Carrie?

    • Lucy – I still their soul development is different, you know? I think he could work with his sister as “extra” or to be her “helper” but at this point he is past the nine year change and should be challenged with the themes of fifth, even if his academic work is challenging for him. Many of us homeschooling face this, you are not the only one. I would not combine them much, except for seasonal crafts, nature/weather related things. She can tag along on his botany – the Christopherus Botany book has good suggestions regarding including little ones, etc but they really are in different spots.
      Hope that helps.

  4. Great conversations going on here, Carrie! This is one of the biggest issues with Waldorf homeschooling and to me it’s not just for “big families” but any family with more than one child! I have three children and I’ve often said that as Mamas, getting in more than two main lessons a day might be beyond us. And even that takes a lot. Even, as Cathy says above, one main lesson a day, year after year, can wear us out. I think the important thing to remember is that we are also learning and growing and changing along with our children! And as I used to say to my kids, this has to work for all of us. So finding ways to hold the rhythm of the main lesson but then also mixing that rhythm up a bit in between blocks and combining children in different ways is crucial. And for sure, this looks different in every family, and from year to year. I too am exploring the idea of main lessons before the nine year change, and main lessons after, and look forward to more conversations around that concept. (The summer Taproot Teacher Training that I do with Barbara Dewey will be organized with this in mind!) Teaching economically so that we can stay the course and find the joy is the key. Always a balance.

    • Jean,
      I think this is where curriculum for Waldorf homeschooling should be headed in general…these developmental changes.

  5. Pingback: Working Out the Curriculum ⋆ Waldorf-Inspired Learning

  6. I am loving this conversation, and look forward to learning and thinking more about these things as the dialogue continues. Thank you!

  7. I am loving this conversation, and look forward to learning and thinking more about this as the dialogue continues. Thank you!

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  9. Pingback: The Two Things That Stymie Waldorf Homeschoolers The Most | The Parenting Passageway

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