I find the two areas that stymie Waldorf homeschoolers the most are actually not areas unique to Waldorf homeschooling, but are areas that differentiate homeschooling from a school setting:
1. How do I teach multiple ages?
2. How do I have a life? How do I get things done around my house?
I would like to offer some suggestions and you can choose what resonates with your family life and values.
In regards to teaching multiple ages, I feel this has been thoroughly addressed in many back posts. The things that will assist you in this endeavor is to NOT create a Waldorf school in your home. You will need a new and different way of looking at the curriculum through an idea of blending. This post takes a good look at that. You will need a steady and nourishing rhythm to accomplish that. There are many back posts I have written from the time I had all children under the age of 7, one child in the grades and other younger children, now two children in the grades and one in the last year of kindergarten, and next year all children in the grades. Because of our large age gaps, I feel certain if I can homeschool a kindergartener, fifth grader and eighth grader, any variation in between is feasible! Be up for the challenge of rhythm in your home! Here is one post detailing rhythm for three children in the grades, as this is the rhythm that will serve us through the last year of kindergarten and into grade one.
Next we must learn to set boundaries on our time and energy.. As a homeschooling teacher, teaching multiples ages, you will need your energy for preparation and follow-through, self care and inner work, and your important relationships. So I feel a very important piece of teaching multiple ages is not to take on too much outside your home unless you feel very steady about that. Think very carefully before you commit yourself all over the place. Your home is your priority during the school year.
As far as homemaking and homeschooling, I would like to suggest a simple rhythm of practical work including children, providing older children with chores to do that you have shown them repeatedly how to do and checked in on their work, and using small bits of time. Laundry, for example, can be done as Flylady recommends – one load in the morning before breakfast, hang up to line dry at lunch, fold and put away around the dinner hour. Or, some mothers will save up all their laundry for Saturdays and enjoy doing a bulk laundry day. Cooking can involve small children, but with multiple grades I often find myself without two hours to sit and cook one meal – that is the reality!- but you can chop many things at once and store, you can double batch cook, you can use a crock pot, or you can bulk cook on a weekend. Cleaning can be done much the same way – you can choose to clean on a weekend day, or you can choose to clean one area deeply in different ways throughout the week. There are a variety of approaches parents use, and one size does not fit all.
Sewing, mending, baking, handwork, getting ready for festivals can be brought in during an afternoon session and many parents seem to find this feasible. Having a rhythm to your cleaning during the week is such a blessings and bonus.
Self-care and care of relationships with your most significant others also requires time and energy. Please be sure to put this on the list before you worry about homeschooling multiple grades or cleaning. These things are the foundation of all other things in homeschooling. Again, there are many back posts about self-care, but this one about burn-out in Waldorf homeschooling is one of my favorites.
Would love to hear from you. What is holding you back?
Blessings and love,
At the Magic of Waldorf conference this year Marsha talked a lot about this: it’s ok to combine/mix things up and adjust the levels as needed! We all like folk tales, fairy tales, farming, gardening, nature, animals, and so forth. Even grown ups 😀
I’m blending kindergarten, a second grader, and a fourth grader this year; I’ll be doing a separate Norse Mythology block for the eldest, and go a little more in depth with the Man & Animal block with her as well, but the rest will be combination blocks. I’m using some Russian and Norwegian folktales with the second grader, we all will be studying saints of our church, the older two will be doing math and language work at individualized levels. I actually think the second and fourth grade years are a nice blend.
Absolutely! I think it is really, really important that we think this way. I am so glad others like Marsha Johnson and Jean Miller and other teachers are saying this for the homeschool environment. It is so important for sustainability and learning as a family unit. Russian and Norwegian folktales are some of my favorites for second grade, BTW.
Second and fourth are a great blend; so are second and fifth in many ways. Old Testament tales may speak most strongly to a third grader in the throes of the nine year change, but first graders can do alphabet work off of Old Testament Tales if that is what is happening in the family. These tales are wonderful and can be heard by all…
Blessings and love,
What a great post, Carrie, and yes to finding ways to overlap different grades! I am excited for the 5th and 2nd grade blocks I will be teaching that coordinate so nicely! Finding what works for me and not over-thinking things have helped me address those two puzzles, but it is a careful balance.
Wonderful thoughts! I do think the multiple grades would be a hearty challenge, especially getting started. I had a very strong interest in homeschooling even before I had children and I imagined if I did homeschool I’d have multiple grades- wanting multiple children! However, I’m on the “grass is greener” side with two girls– the same age! Twins 🙂 As they’re turning 7 soon and we are to begin 1st grade, I’m feeling the challenges imposed by years of “unit” thinking. I’ve always been sensitive to the reality that they are two unique individuals, but they have truly been such a seamless pair and we generally do the same things together, they have the same friends, etc. Now as I’m preparing the “same” material for two different people– albeit, the same age, I’m anticipating more of what might work for one, might not as well with the other, etc. A little individualization! Ah, yes, one of the reasons I’m homeschooling! One is eager to read and write, has a very strong hand, can draw for hours while the other will paint one picture for hours, paying wonderful detail to color and design. In any event, I’m reminded that I can adjust for these lovely people and be flexible and to try to see the obstacle as the opportunity! Like with any of our children, regardless of age, it can be so difficult to see them for who they are.
I can only imagine teaching multiple grades in one home! Oy! Hats off to y’all!
Sheila- yes, in your case, seeing the individual temperaments and how academics progress differently will be important. Ancient Hearth’s blog and also Donna Ashton, who home school twin girls, might be good resources for you.
Carrie-thank you for suggestions. I will look into both!
Could you suggest a resource on temperaments? thank you! Sheila
Great reminders, Carrie. And yes, it’s imperative to find ways to combine blocks as well as pick and choose which main lesson blocks to create main lesson books for (not necessarily every one). Also, for similar blocks for different ages say on animals or geography, the stories shared can be the same but main lesson book work can differ depending on age, desired focus and ability. We are so lucky to be homeschoolers! And in order for our Waldorf homeschooling to be sustainable, we need to learn how to implement this approach in a flexible way, while taking care of ourselves, and our relationships! I think this is all true even if we only have one child or twins the same age!
Great reminders, Carrie. And yes, it’s imperative to find ways to combine blocks as well as pick and choose which main lesson blocks to create main lesson books for (not necessarily every one). Another approach is to take similar blocks for different ages say on animals or geography, and share the same stories for both children but have the main lesson book work differ depending on age, desired focus and ability. We are so lucky to be homeschoolers! And in order for our Waldorf homeschooling to be sustainable, we need to learn how to implement this beautiful approach in a flexible way, while taking care of ourselves, and our relationships! I think this is all true even if we only have one child or twins the same age!
I find that my biggest hindrance is all things food…prepping, cooking, cleaning it. I’ve tried to simplify what we do…but it does just take sometime to eat healthful food and feed 5 people. Today I did save some time by batch-cooking/prepping…so one time in kitchen but three meals done.