This topic is going around Marsha Johnson’s Waldorf Home Educators Yahoo list, but it must be something in the air because one of my best friends and I have been having this conversation for weeks. Apparently it is on the collective consciousness of the homeschooling community!
My schedule with having two out of my three children in the upper grades (which I consider grades 5-8) is quite different than it has been in the past. Right now, it essentially boils down to the fact that I DO have to keep an eye on the clock. I am torn about that, because part of homeschooling is the ability to sit and ponder and think and go “deeper” but if I do that with one child who takes four hours and can only do that with me sitting right there, no one else gets what they need. Also, because of our large age gaps, I cannot really combine much at this point. Please see my back post about homeschooling the large family for some talk about combining in Waldorf homeschooling, because there are lots and lots of ways that you typically can combine! There are broader age categories for things than typical in a Waldorf School!
Some mothers are masters at having all children working on main lessons at the same time in the same room. I wish I could do that but I don’t seem to be able to do it; my children can’t concentrate that way and neither can I. So I don’t approach school that way, but it can be a helpful approach for so many. Instead, I approach it as what does that child need from me directly, what can they do on their own and how do I encourage that (which also takes time and planning) (and no, my oldest really wasn’t adept at this until sixth-seventh grade, my now fifth grader is a little more independent, and I have a feeling our third child will be the most independent worker of all – so LOOK at the temperaments and personalities of the children in front of you, and look carefully at how YOU are encouraging independent work from your child once they are past the nine year change), and what is essential in terms of building capacities for that particular child.
So, right now I essentially start with a walk for everyone (which I had given up for a long time and have now come back to it), but I keep it short. By 8:45 our fifth grader and I are doing our main lesson. Our eighth grader is doing independent work (piano practice, outside distance learning Spanish class homework) and then working with her younger brother. At 10:15, I work with our littlest member and our oldest does her independent math work and our fifth grader rests and reads independently for school. (In the past our older children did circle time with our youngest, but not this year. We may go back to that next year). At 11:00 I start with our eighth grader and our fifth grader can finish any work needed and then play with her little brother. We eat lunch at 12:30 and rest. We come back a few afternoons a week for handwork with a read-aloud, and a few one on one times for special subjects for both older child – for our eighth grader this happens to be World Geography and in the spring it will be Civics and for our fifth grader it is extra lesson activities and math. On those days, school does go “long”, but I expect that with an eighth grader in the house! Also, three days a week I work an extra forty-five minutes in with our eighth grader on math that “would be in a block” and/or Life Skills. Know the homeschool laws in your state; are there requirements for hours a day or year to be completed?
I think the key to having less full days with younger children in the early grades is 1- to make sure you really get through the “main lesson” part early on in the day , if having it done early works for you. 2 – do not schedule your home school like a Waldorf School with too many different periods and such – you are one person and will have to be “on” for all those different lessons – remember, homeschooling is and should and will be different than a school environment 3 – be prepared so you can be efficient – have your drawings done ahead of time, but also draw with your child, know what you are teaching, know what your child really needs and is the essential for that child at that time 4 – remember that for homeschooling to work long-term you have GOT to take care of YOURSELF and the family in terms of meals, rest, exercise and so forth – so resting after lunch, having time during the week to do what YOU as a person outside of being a mother and homeschool teacher need to do is VITALLY important! and 5 – remember what pieces of “real life” in your real home nurturing schedule are developing capacities – cooking is so much math; playing games can also be logic and math and reading; writing grocery lists and thank you cards are developing skills – start thinking outside of the school box and finally 6 – yes, you may need to keep an eye on the clock. Some families are content to go all day, but many have other things to do either for other children in the family or for the home, etc. The rhythm of school has to work for all of the family in order to be sustainable.
Please do share your experiences. Help your fellow homeschooling mothers!