I am in the throes of watching another “drop-off” in Waldorf homeschooling. This time around it is the eighth/ninth grade drop-off where many families chose not to homeschool anymore or choose more traditional academic routes. It can be a lonely place to be, but yet in many ways this is reminiscent of the “drop-off” between fourth and fifth grade for many families (and in preparing for first grade before that!) So, if you are sort of struggling to prepare for fifth grade, I would say you are in good company and that it could possibly even be a natural part of the Waldorf homeschooling cycle for parents with children this age. I sometimes wonder if on a soul level we as parents are mirroring the “fractioning” off the fourth graders themselves are doing (remember fourth grade fractions and what that reflects in a class?!)
The reasons families have struggled is varied but seems to boil down into these categories:
Parenting: Differing expectations of “protecting childhood” (much murkier than in the early years!) now that the child has gone through the nine year change. How much should the world really be opening up?
My caution: Make sure the world is opening up in a nine/ten year old way, not a sixteen/seventeen year change way. Ask parents who have teenagers if you are unsure!
The curriculum content: Yup, I am going to say it out loud. Many parents are uncomfortable regarding the amount of anthroposophy underlying the fifth grade curriculum. Whether it is likening different plants to childhood development ( remember, anthroposophy relates to knowing the human being and how the world is a reflection within the human being) or the progression of Ancient Civilizations to reflect epochs and soul development, to the story of Manu and the Flood placing Manu in Atlantis, the content and the underlying pinnings can be challenging.
- Decide what is really authentic for you to bring as a homeschooling parent. I personally do not use the story of Manu and the Flood beginning in Atlantis, for example, because it is not authentic and living for me. I have had some conversations with friends from India regarding these subjects and I want to feel comfortable presenting Ancient India in light of these conversations and thoughts.
- Read some more and see with time and “settling” how things feel for you – which leads back to authenticity, but this time in a more objective and clarifying way then just dismissing things out of hand. I don’t want to bury my head in the sand, and I do want to know what Steiner said about these things. However, many of the things about Ancient Civilizations seem to be more in Steiner’s general writings, not the educational lectures. The educational lectures talk a lot about Greece, for example. It takes time to digest and to decide how deep one wants to read into these subjects.
- Listen to veteran homeschooling mothers and what they discovered going through things. Here is veteran Waldorf homeschooling mother Lauri Bolland’s take on botany. Well-worth reading!
- Understand what Steiner said about the evolution of human consciousness. Whether or not you agree with this is up to you, but again, food for thought.
- Hang in there and breathe. Sometimes the more you can be steady and bring things on a level you are comfortable with for your family, the next time around different things will click in different ways. Hold true to who you are and what your family culture is, and see how you can work with the curriculum as well. To me, sixth and seventh grade are much more straightforward in a sense…
The academic side of the curriculum. Some parents really leave Waldorf homeschooling behind because fifth grade is a big jump in content and in academic content. If you feel pressured about where your child is and not feeling as if the curriculum is working for you in this arena, it is easy to think about abandoning it for another method of homeschooling that is either more traditionally academic or less academic.
My suggestion: Remember, you are homeschooling this way for a reason. What drew you to it, how does it fit your child, be the teacher and get creative!
Tell me your stories about preparing for fifth grade. Did you struggle? How did it resolve?