Sometimes I find this quiet, post-Holiday time when the weather is not always as nice a good time to think ahead for the next school year. I have written many back posts about planning, but I will keep writing new ones because I want mothers new to homeschooling or thinking about homeschooling to know that homeschooling is really possible, and that if you want to homeschool using the pedagogy laid forth by Rudolf Steiner, that is possible too. In the same breath, however, the world is full of possibilities, but it takes work and follow-through to make it come to fruition. You have to have the will to plan, and also the ability to follow-through on any given day with the plans you have made. This is what makes homeschooling a successful endeavor.
Despite the bad press that buying “curriculum” gets in the Waldorf homeschooling world (because Waldorf Education is a living, breathing art that flows between a particular teacher and a particular student in a particular time and place), I do believe there can be a place for curriculum, Maybe you are trying to get your feet under you or maybe it is a particularly bad year due to personal illness or other circumstances. I don’t think we should feel guilt about that. Resources in Waldorf homeschooling are important, whatever “resources” might mean to you, and I want mothers to know that you can put your year together yourself. It is not hard, and if you work at it, it gets easier each year.
One way I like to start for those working from scratch is to look at the year as an entirety – the cycle of festivals – and sketch that out with ideas for celebrating with music,food, crafts or activities. That is a good place to begin.
Then, I like to look at a calendar and look at when we might start school and end school for the school year 2015-16. When might our vacations be? Things change over time as well – when my older two children were smaller we took a lot of time off in December, and now we have more of a break somewhere toward the end of September and we take less time over December. If you know your state laws and know how many days you have to school, then that will help you figure out how many weeks of school that you need and how many days a week.
Those under the age of 7 are really just in the rhythm of life and the family and that is a constant, nourishing presence. Know what ages you need to start reporting to your state for “school hours” – many states do not have reporting requirements for those under a certain age. Grades 1-4 or 5 can probably get school done in 4 days a week, sometimes grade 6 as well, depending upon how long your days are. Grades 6 and 7 and up often really need all five days.
Then spend some time thinking, really thinking, about your child or children. What do they really need this upcoming year? What can you plan out ahead of time or are there areas that are changing so rapidly you cannot predict what this child will need so far ahead? That is valid too. What could you do now to lessen your summer planning? What might be most important for balancing your child, addressing strengths, weaknesses, capacities? What academic, artistic, and soul content material would you like to develop?
With this in mind and knowing the number of weeks you will have in the school year, you can see what blocks you want to include. Blocks can run as short as two weeks to six or eight weeks. Only you and your experience as a teacher, and looking at the child IN FRONT OF YOU, can figure that out. This is something that absolutely NO curriculum can tell you, and this is part of being a homeschool teacher! What I advise is to leave space in the rhythm of the school year – so if you have 36 weeks of school planned, DON’T plan blocks to cover all 36 weeks. Leave some wiggle room in there and plan maybe 33 or 34 weeks of block material. It probably will take you 36 weeks!
Lastly, start gathering lists of books and supplies. A good place for new Waldorf homeschoolers to start is to look at places such as Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore and Waldorf Library On-Line and see what things are listed by grade. More experienced Waldorf homeschoolers seem to gather many books, Waldorf and not Waldorf, by topic, and can “make it Waldorf”. That is something that also comes with experience.
Anyway, this is food for thought for this month of new beginnings. I recently planned the first block of first grade for our third child, and I am planning on writing a post on that so you can see one mother’s experience (mine) of putting a block together.