To those of you who don’t know me, I am a homeschooling mom who has homeschooled one child essentially K-11th grade with some outside high classes (senior year all out), homeschooled a second child K-8 with high school out, and now am K-6 grade homeschooling (so far! We are finishing up sixth grade) for our third and last child. I have mainly Waldorf homeschooled with a lot of emphasis on movement and nature and with some modifications for our family.
I read Rudolf Steiner’s lectures on childhood development a long time ago, circa 2005. So this was before I even discovered Waldorf homeschooling and it struck me as very compatible with how I viewed childhood phases and development, right down to the different shifts and changes that Steiner noted. It sort of coincided a bit with Piaget, which I had studied as a pediatric physical therapist. I have since gone on to read more and more of Steiner’s work, and to earn a certification in The Arts and Anthroposophy. Although not all of Steiner’s ideas jive with my personal religious beliefs, I will say it is never dull and always makes me think! I also love Steiner’s lectures on bees, agriculture, handwork, health – so many areas!
So fast forward from when I began homeschooling with our oldest child’s five and six year old kindergarten years in 2006/2007 to now. I am still here and homeschooling! Our oldest is at a very competitive and well known university, our middle child is now a junior in high school and looking at colleges and different career paths, and our youngest is finishing sixth grade.
What has changed in this time has been amazing! Our oldest two children got really into horseback riding, and little by little we got sucked into the horse world and now have three horses. I went back and got my clinical doctorate and a specialty certificate and began working more. We bought a farm last year and have been taking care of horses, boarding horses, managing work on this property that needed everything from water pipes to heat to insulation to pasture management on up plus juggling work and homeschooling. My husband and I are coming up on 30 years of marriage, and we have changed a lot in thirty years!
So, I gave and give myself permission daily to modify what I need to in order to care for myself and my family. There is no Waldorf police in homeschooling, and I think this is what Rudolf Steiner would say is correct in the home environment without a group of teachers to shepherd a child through all main lessons and specialty classes. So while I do stick to what I feel goes best subject wise by development (often seen reflected in the curriculum of different Waldorf schools, but I also add my own blocks), this is what I do to modify the middle school years to help myself out in the midst of crazy life!
- We live in an area where there are hybrid schools/classes just for homeschoolers. That is very fortunate for us! So our sixth grader is in a two day a week outdoor program for middle school boys where they do a ton of living history and do things like building catapults, blacksmithing, gardening, experience buoyancy by building boats, cooking, etc.
- I do use a formal math program in addition to blocks. So I do the traditional math blocks for each grade found in Waldorf Schools, but also an outside program. This year I used Saxon, but I am not afraid to pull problems from a variety of game based and regular based supports. I do not have the time and energy to sit and make up daily math problems and I am not a math specialist. This isn’t my strong suit, even though I have had university level math, so I do what I need to.
- I try to keep an emphasis on doing – art, building, cooking, etc and make that a cornerstone first and then think about the teacher presentation part next and the art and writing piece. So I sort of flip the traditional order of the main lesson on its head a lot. Middle schoolers have short attention spans and like to be doing (at least mine do!)
- Like all homeschoolers, we try to tie in field trips or different experiences to what we are studying.
- I am not afraid to meet my child. I have children with dyslexia and dyscalculia, attention deficit challenges, etc and they need support and I will get them what they need. This might be outside tutoring, programs that cater to that, etc. No apologies.
- I am not great at handwork, and we no longer have a community handwork class, so I prioritize farm life and nature, cooking, gardening, fine arts (the things I can do). Your homeschool may look very different from mine and that is ok! We used community resources for choir and instrumental playing up until Covid hit, so that is also on the back burner until I see what is coming back!
- In the midst of modifying I try to remember the hallmarks of our educational philosophy – to see and observe the child, to understand development and what that truly means to be human, to bring balance to the child and the family, to move from whole to parts in teaching, to tie every subject back to man/humanity, to keep sharpening myself, to keep an order and rhythm in the chaos the best I can as we go through renovations or animal care that takes a whole day or whatever is happening.
- I prioritize love and connecting with each other. That’s what keeps kids who were homeschooled from not looking back and hating the experience. If you hate homeschooling and it’s a big yelling time, email me! You want your children to look back and be glad they were homeschooled!
- I try to foster community as best we can, but it isn’t really a Waldorf community. I find not many people homeschool middle schoolers and high schoolers this way, at least where we live. So, we love 4H, horseback riding, and this summer our little person is going to try his hand at sailing. Find where you fit and where you are welcomed and loved.
What are ways that you make homeschooling work for your child and family?