I have been thinking the “drop- off points” in Waldorf homeschooling (if families get through the second and third grade then it seems many drop- offs occur between fourth and fifth grade, again around sixth grade, and then again before high school. Lots of drop-off!). I find lack of curriculum and understanding how to develop academic skills a Waldorf way is a reason many parents cite.
I don’t think this should be so; Waldorf Education is supposed to be a rigorous education. However, skill development is often something that seems to be more of a subject of discussion in the “early grades” with Waldorf Education . For example, for the early grades, many of those “How Does Waldorf Education teach children to read?” or “What is the Waldorf approach to learning math?” articles abound. In general, I think we see less regarding academic skill development in the Waldorf community for grades 5 and up, and even less discussion for Waldorf homeschoolers regarding what needs to be done to prepare seventh and eighth graders for high school.
And yes, there are products on the market for some of these areas. However, I do not consider having only ONE product ( or even two!) that may or may not resonate with a Waldorf homeschooling family to be enough! Waldorf homeschooling families would also like to hear a variety of experiences and “how we really did this” for the upper grades especially, because these upper grades can vary considerably in experiences and skill levels. Waldorf homeschooling is not Waldorf School!
What I hear over and over from Waldorf homeschooling mothers regarding what they want in ” subject-specific ” curriculum is:
- Something for spelling by grade and block . Yes, the spelling words should be pulled out of the blocks, but I think homeschooling parents are searching for what spelling rules are taught when, how a spelling word is different than a vocabulary word,. and how spelling can be built upon year after year, block after block in a systematic way.
- Something for grammar by grade and block. This is a constant source of difficulty for most parents.
- Something for math, that includes MANY creative practice problems for daily use . Yes, there are guides, yes, there are Waldorf math books, but I think a few more options on the market to help parents along would be well- appreciated for the upper grades and high school. The amount of topics needing to be reviewed gets intense, and for those parents less well-versed in math, even something like mental math can be difficult to make up on one’s own. (For that matter, even parents with children in the early grades would like some more laid out mental math options. If a homeschooling parent has a child in first through third grade, chances are he or she may also have a kindy aged child and maybe a baby. We are sleep deprived! It is hard to create number journeys about gnomes and fairies for second graders when we are sleep deprived. :))
- Something for developing great writing skills for the middle school years. This is particularly needed for grades seven and eight as students look to transitioning into high school subjects. Between the idea of an “animal report” in fourth grade and a “state report” in fifth grade, and the standard “Wish, Wonder, Surprise” block in seventh grade (which sometimes works well in the home environment and sometimes not!), I think parents are often left wondering what they should be doing step by step in writing instruction, especially if writing is not their forte.
- Along this vein, more ideas for general preparation for high school.
- For the upper grades, more ideas for blocks and how a block can look very different from homeschool to homeschool… More of the “how” to teach these blocks and the academic skills that should be intertwining in these blocks. Many of these subjects in grades 6-8 are foreign to parents. Some parents never had Roman History, for example, in high school or college. It is a lot to put together every block with no background, and it is a lot to learn about every subject from scratch well enough to teach it to your child (plus figuring out HOW to teach your students the academic skills using this subject as vehicle). Parents get frustrated or simply are scared off because they think Waldorf homeschooling is no longer for them because they don’t know much about these subjects, let alone how to teach these vast subjects in a “Waldorf Way”. I personally want Waldorf homeschooling parents to feel very supported in these upper grades and high school so they don’t give up!
- In that vein, we could use more high school products to choose from.
What products would YOU love to see on the Waldorf homeschooling market?
Blessings and love,
Completely agree with you Carrie!!! On all of the points you made.
Whenever I talk to Waldorf teachers the favorite reply is, you have plenty of time, just wait until you get there… And than you get there and try to pull in a frenzy things together and know that you are missing some things and that some subjects just do not have enough substance.
For example, like you mention, how does a parent get the child from grade four writing style animal reports to 6th grade style scientific reports? That is quite a huge jump for a child and it is somehow expected that the parent and child knows how to do this.
I have found a couple of good math resources, but like you said there are only two or maybe three out there for middle and high school. But I just could not find something in English that would make sense to me, so basically I did what most Waldorf homeschoolers do for the upper grades, that is to find a classical style approach to writing. The same goes pretty much for the sciences.
It took me a while to wade through all this and I am just happy that I like to plan way ahead and am not listening anymore to “…just wait until you get there.” This might work for Waldorf teachers, who have plenty of support from other teachers, but it does not for Waldorf homeschoolers. I think that is the point where a lot of parents will give up on Waldorf homeschooling and understandably so. I always look ahead into the next two to three years when planning the following grade.
I think this post really hits the problems of Waldorf Homeschooling right on the head. Now that we are getting in the middle school grades, we are really experiencing many of these aspects from your list. Do we have a resource list for middle and high school grades? Much of my own research turns up resources for the younger grades and drastically dwindles out. I know many
Waldorf educators feel that high school should not be at home and that may be a contribution to lack of sources as well. I believe Eugene Schwartz has something in the making for high school and I am keen to find out more about that. All in all, I agree with many of the frustrations from your list.
Great comment, Kristin W!
I think I should put together resources for middle school and high school. I try to list some in individual block posts, although in seventh and eighth grade I did more posting by week than by specific block. However, I think this could be a really helpful idea!
Have you seen the free 6th, 7th and 8th rough guides that we offer on on our website? Each guide provides an outline of lessons for each grade as well as an extensive resource list of books, websites etc…Also, our consultant, Barbara Benson, (who has homeschooled her own 5 children through high school) has posted many detailed main lesson block outlines for both middle and high school on our Homeschool Journey blog..
At some point, these rough guides and blog posts will become part of the middle grades curriculum which is currently in development but for now, they are free resources for all!
I definitely agree 100%. I would like to see more sharing of homeschoolers’ high schooling experiences, as well as more practical information for teaching, more guides, etc. But I’m hesitant about considering professional products, as they can often be very highly priced and then need a lot of adapting to fit into the individual homeschool anyway.
I wad a great articole …you are right in every sentence. Thank you for you time.
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Thank you for a wonderful post!
Yes to everything!
A few experiences:
Making Math Meaningful is a great older grade math resource unless you have remedial or average math students. It is very much geared to students with higher skills – and time consuming.
I find very few Waldorf curriculum sources that help to demonstrate the progression of writing skills needed to get to high school/college level writing (let alone the 4th grade animal report which we were not at all ready for with my children’s writing skills). I am already searching out some classical/rhetorical writing curriculum to supplement our Waldorf homeschooling.
If anyone has anything to recommend on that front I’d be greatly appreciative.
Not very ‘Waldorfy’ my suggestion, but you might want to look into Memoria Press. They have a good selection for English grammar and composition.
I agree with you on Making Math Meaningful, it is what we are working with in mathematics at the moment.
I think both, Memoria Press and Making Math Meaningful require quite a bit of work from the student but also from the parent, at least in middle school.
Thank you Carrie, for writing this post. This has been on my mind because I love the Waldorf curriculum and hope to continue as long as possible.
For language arts, we’ve really enjoy Bravewriter. They are not a Waldorf source, but I’ve modified it by going slower. For example, their product, The Wand, is intended for grade 1. I just used each of the 3 levels for grades 2, 3 and 4.
My favorite aspect of this curriculum is how they separate out the cultivation of voice and the mechanics of writing. I remember hating how the writing coming from my soul were marked up with a red pen for grammatical mistakes.
I don’t have a financial relationship with the company. I’m just grateful to be pleasantly surprised by my 9-year-old, autism-spectrum daughter’s writings.
What a great post, Carrie! I’ve read through it (and the comments) several times and have taken notes :). I plan to share the post to our Christopherus facebook page and encourage folks to comment here.
Here at Christopherus, we’ve seen a huge increase in sales of our middle grades materials. As reflected in the comments here, requests for more 6th, 7th and 8th grade resources are on the rise. The middle grades is definitely a current area of development for us and we’re excited to offer a new 6th grade publication before the end of the end of the year.
Requests for high school materials are also on the rise. I believe more families are homeschooling through high school than ever before. Your high school journey will be so helpful to so many, Carrie!
I think that our “Living Language – A Language Arts Curriculum for Grades 1 – 5” book fits the need for spelling and grammar by grade and block as it does indeed cover the “what and when” of both spelling and grammar and how they progress through the grades. I believe its the only publication of its kind and is a invaluable resource for families using the DIY approach to building a curriculum.
My intention isn’t to plug, but to be helpful. We’re always interested in hearing what Waldorf homeschoolers need. Thank you again for the post, Carrie!
From the Christopherus Homeschool Resources
I just started this year in teaching Grade 6 (in Australia, so our school year began in Jan) using the Christopherus Rough Guide, continuing the Steiner education my son had had previously. It was really good for putting main lesson blocks together, but I found myself a bit lost for a good, progressive maths programme, & for progressing literacy skills. I’ve also started using parts of the Bravewriter materials, & am excited to be starting with Making Maths Meaningful.
I noticed there is a lot of help & support for people who start homeschooling their very little kids, but not much for those of us who come to it later. & plan to go through high school. At times I’ve felt quite a lot like I’m trying, if not to invent the wheel for myself, certainly to build one after hearing a vague description from someone who heard about one from a friend! It’s completely worth every headache & moment of stress & personal growth though, when I see my child thriving, and I love the way that in some units our learning has been one of shared discovery, with the curriculum giving us an idea of the direction we are moving towards. That said, I really did feel more relaxed with the units (like Rome) where Christopherus gave us more materials & a basic plan to work from, & I’m pretty nervous about the science we need to cover in Grades 7 & 8.
This is such a great post. My experience of homeschooling (and I’ve only ever done Waldorf-inspired, but maybe it would be the same for any method) is that it’s like spinning plates – when I’m working on one plate, it’s hard to be working on spinning the others. That means that if I’m busy planning a juicy main lesson on history it’s very hard for me to think about track lessons in math or language arts. And whilst for some people being advised to “work on practicing fractions this week,” for example, is enough information, I would personally prefer having the actual practice problems laid out for me for the full year so that I just don’t have to reinvent the wheel at least in that area! I think it always comes back to having a fully laid-out curriculum which is open and go is judged to be not very Waldorfy, yet most busy moms need a bit more of that kind of thing to help them stay sane and have the time to give their attention to the people in their lives rather than spending that time coming up with fraction problems from the Kalevala. Better to use a non-Waldorf math curriculum that is all laid out for you and feel you are on top of things than struggle to have everything 100% Waldorf while your life falls apart, for example. We simply cannot do it all!
With middle school, for me at least, it feels like more of a priority to be focusing on those academic skills because suddenly it feels that we are running out of time, or maybe we should have covered, or mastered, those things already and not be scrambling to fit them in to a main lesson. I don’t think anyone could argue that Waldorf is not great at the inspirational factor, the deep and meaningful factor, the “wow” factor, but when the focus has never been on skill building and those skills have not yet metamorphosed as if by magic we are left scratching our heads (or panicking) and worrying about how to bring our child up to grade level. My own educational experience was one of focus almost entirely on the 3Rs with repetitious (boring) daily practice. And whilst I really don’t want that, at the same time it did work when it came to skill building. Going back to the spinning of plates, if we focus on the skill building there is often not enough time in the day for the wonder of the main lesson material. Or the art work (which often takes way longer than we plan for). So, for me, it’s not just about having the resources (open and go or any other kind) but also about fitting it all in. Especially when you’re also trying to live your life because homeschooling IS life. They are one and the same.
Sometimes I think the big lesson in homeschooling is figuring out “What are the priorities in life?” “What IS a “good” education?” and “What does my child really need, above all else?” So, for me, there is something here about sitting with my discomfort around how it will all turn out, having that huge responsibility – both for my child AND in demonstrating that homeschooling works – whilst at the same time still needing that support around getting the job done. Both through access to great resources and practical and emotional support from those around me.
I think your post is spot on! I found your comments to be totally true in my family. Great comment.
I completely agree with your comments licoricelovinglady!
I am finding that even in the “early grades” especially 2nd and 3rd, whilst there are *plenty* of resources, inspiration (especially artistic), curricula, guides, etc. there is still a lack in the practical scope and sequence of the main areas, and especially in math. I love Jamie York’s approach to math, I find his MMM very inspiring and helpful as far as knowing *what* to be teaching, but when it comes to the actual daily progression of skills, there isn’t anything out there that lays out a true map for the homeschooling teacher. It is one thing to know that the child is supposed to have all the facts memorized by the end of third grade, and another thing entirely to know how to get them TO THAT POINT. So yes, like licoricelovinglady brought up, the spinning plates plus the inner work plus the practical life plus multiple ages/stages….clarity is something that would help so much in mathematics! Not even asking for an “open and go” curriculum, honestly. If I wanted that, there are plenty of curricula on the market for that. What I want is to know how to progress weekly towards the goals within a Waldorf context. Give me mental math problems because my brain cannot always manage to make them up on the fly! Give me stage-specific movement, games, stories, etc. and show how to use them through the block. Second grade is like a mathematics hole, where we’re supposed to “continue and deepen the work done in grade one.” Okay (??). Then we get to third grade and feel both a sense of relief at the more accessible math blocks (time and measurement – yay, that I can do lol!) – but also a growing panic if we don’t feel like our child has mastered what they “should”. Much of this content is out there in about 10 different places and bits and pieces, but the pulling together and constantly feeling like one is grasping for ideas is a frustrating place to be! And can definitely contribute to parent burn-out which then I think leads to the homeschooling drop-off points. It is a topic/question that comes up a LOT in the groups…