Usually homeschooling begins with a basic question: why do we want to homeschool? Sometimes this is for academic reasons, for lifestyle reasons, for religious reasons, for reasons of attachment within the family being prioritized. When a family decides to “try out homeschooling,” many times the next step is to “pick curriculum.” Often, in order to pick curriculum one finds an attraction (or aversion) to a way of teaching. Sometimes families don’t know, and they have to spend a lot of time sorting through what is out there – classical, Thomas Jefferson, unschooling, Charlotte Mason, wildschooling, Montessori, on-line schooling, school at home (public school books), Waldorf, eclectic, secular or religious…. While I find most families generally end up in the eclectic camp over the years, or sometimes people have to pull across methodologies to find products that help them meet their children’s needs, these attractions and aversions can be helpful into picking specific curriculum support in the beginning.
A thought I have had lately is that what may better serve the hunt for a homeschooling methodology that fits is much like Stephen Covey says: begin with the end in mind. Begin with the biggest, broadest picture of the developing human being as an adult. What kind of adult will your child be? This is bigger than just supporting academics. I started our homeschool journey with the general idea of supporting health in a way that coincided with developmental unfolding. I choose Waldorf homeschooling as our means to this end in homeschooling, but there are different paths to health for different families.
Where this idea of “what will the adult be” impacts homeschooling to me is in the day to day implementation of whatever homeschooling methodology one chooses. So, in my day to day implementation of Waldorf homeschooling, thinking of “the end in mind” may make my Waldorf homeschool look differently than other Waldorf homeschools because I am specifically thinking about our family and the children in front of me. What can I do today to support the health of my adult child tomorrow? What do my spouse and I hope for that adult child? My spouse has definite ideas, for sure! So there begins the principle-centered homeschool. Here are my principles, and maybe it will stimulate you to make your own general list that is for your family and your children:
**I have a general picture in my head of an adult who has moved from the idea of belonging to God (our religious beliefs) and belonging to family, and then belonging to a community and then belonging to the world as a positive force. And this is not just a feeling of belonging as a taking, but the idea that the adult will act sensitively in their belonging in order to help others belong. As an adult who knows themselves and their priorities and values , they can take care of themselves (physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually), and care for the environment (local and world) and other people, but can also receive and accept care. Again, this is within a family, community, and world context. We want them to know that belonging is being part of something bigger than themselves and bigger than what they personally want, and about what is right and ethical and moral? Self-control and self-denial is often part of it and not to be feared but to be embraced.
**An adult who can solve conflicts in a meaningful way, including using emotional intelligence and empathy, listening skills, and boundaries for intimate relationships and in understanding other people. An adult who respects the dignity of all human beings and who will work in a larger context for social change and supportive environmental change when injustices occur. We expect a high level of ethics, morality, and thinking about other people. This is reinforced in our homeschooling, but also in our place of worship as the idea of supporting social justice is in our baptismal vows. Purpose and meaningful experiences are a huge part of building these skills.
**An adult who has a growth mindset and who can see the difference between stretching potential through hard work and perseverance but also the need to stop spinning wheels and try a different approach if something isn’t working well; the ability of discernment.
**An adult who understands play, fun, spontaneity, movement, and joy for overall health and as part of being even-tempered. This is an important balance to the first three areas I mentioned.
So, in my homeschooling, I work hard to make our day-to day choices in the curriculum reflect these ultimate principles through our shared family experiences on each child’s level. These meaningful experiences is what it is all about, and cannot be contained in any curriculum book.
I would love hearing how other families think about what is important to them while homeschooling.