Wow, I didn’t realize how long I’d been away from this space until I actually looked at the dates! My absence here was never intentional, and I honestly couldn’t say why I ever ended up taking a break. I think perhaps it was a mix of pregnancy exhaustion, keeping up with the kids, general business, and truly not feeling like I had anything to say.
However today I felt like there was a post that I really needed to get out of my head and onto hard copy (of sorts). Many have asked us what homeschooling looks like for us, and my typical response is to give a dry, sort of by the book answer. I never wanted to go into it too much because I know homeschooling can be extremely personal and individualized, and that often when you open yourself up you end up with a myriad of questions and eventually critiques. However, I’ve been asked so much that I decided I’d write it down in ONE spot, lol, and I’ll direct anyone who’s curious to this post in the future!
I want to make it known before I get into this though that even though I do things this way, I will NEVER EVER judge a parent who chooses to do it differently. I think that’s the beauty of homeschooling and parenting in general, we all get our own chance to do it our way. I only ask that anyone who reads affords me the same courtesy and pretty please not judge me for following my own instincts. My goal in all of this is simply to help any curious onlookers understand our family a little better. Thanks friends! Lets begin!
(This is going to be a comprehensive list of the 4 different homeschooling philosophies we enjoy…what we like AND dislike about all of them.)
As most of you know, our family has been very heavily influenced by Waldorf education for quite a few years now. When I first found Waldorf, I was blown away by the beautiful classrooms, the peaceful rhythms, the emphasis on getting kids into nature as much as possible, the beautiful handcrafted toys, etc. Even the sub-cultural ideas of using and surrounding yourself with natural materials, and feeding your family natural unprocessed foods was so amazing to me. I couldn’t get enough! Then as I dived further into preschool-kindergarten “curriculum” I felt as if I had truly found home. I absolutely loved (and still do) the idea that a child’s main work is play. That through open ended play they can better develop their mind, body and soul. That life is the curriculum. I also love that academics aren’t encouraged until the child is truly ready for them. There’s just time to be free, to be a kid.
Along with those listed above, there are many other pieces of Waldorf education that speak to me: The idea of little to no t.v time during the week, daily circle times, celebrating the natural rhythms of the year (our family LOVES celebrating the solstices and equinoxes, such fun!). Also, the ideas of holding the space, the use of handwork (that gets progressively more involved as the child moves up the grades), and the all around love of simplicity that comes with the “culture”. The idea of keeping a solid rhythm, however, has got to be my absolute favorite thing that I’ve learned. In breaths and out breaths throughout the day, week, season, and years. Love it!
However, during this last year I’ve really started to look into the upcoming grades a bit more. Particularly first and second. I guess you could say after 3 years of Waldorf early childhood study I finally decided to leave the “honeymoon” phase and do some digging. It was so easy for me to get wrapped up in all that I loved about Waldorf (I’m quite shamed to admit) that I just assumed that I would agree with everything they’d be learning in the grades, including the timing of things. Yeah, not so much. There is still so very much that I love about typical Waldorf grade school education, but I’ve come to find that there is also so much that I dislike, and even strongly disagree with. I will keep these opinions to myself, but I hope any readers, especially Waldorf enthusiasts, will realize that I have done my due diligence on all of this. I understand the different points of view (Specifically the developmental and anthroposophical reasons) behind why Waldorf schools do certain things the way they do, and I respect any family that chooses to go along with all of it. Its just not for us. Not all of it, anyways.
So what do we plan to do? Well for starters, our family has really been looking into the Oakmeadow curriculum lately. Its what many would call, “Waldorf-ish” in the grades, which I personally like. However, who knows if it is what we will stick with as our base curriculum? I might choose to go back to Christopherus, or maybe even use Live Ed, and tweak them to fit our needs. Or maybe even make it up myself with the right resources. We will just see how we feel as we go. And as you will see if you keep reading, we plan on going on many “tangents” throughout the year, no matter which base curriculum (or sets of curriculum) we chose!
Another thing that we will be doing differently when it comes to Waldorf is letting our kids guide us with their academic interests, starting around age 5. This is just a personal preference. Before 5 feels too young to do much of anything academic really, but I personally feel like 5 (or a year or two before first grade) is really a great time to start slowly exploring some of their academic interests, without the structure of sitting down at a table for hours. It feels so very wrong to me to deny my kindergarten age child the opportunity to explore his interests (My son has been begging me to learn how to read) based on the opinions of others, professional or not. My own mothering instinct tells me that squashing his passion for something simply because some say he is not developmentally ready for it is far more dangerous in the long run than the alternative. So this fall our mini school will be in session! We have such fun things planned!
2. Unit Studies and Child Led Learning (Child led unit studies )
When Josh and I first came up with the crazy idea to home school our kids (When Logan was just a tiny baby) we came up with this really fun, alternative way to teach our children. In fact, we didn’t even believe a method like this really existed, only that it spoke to both of our hearts and was exactly to our teaching styles. The only way I can explain it (or the way WE plan to approach it) is through the subject of trains. Yes trains. Bear with me.
Say your child is interested in trains. Like REALLY truly loves them. Like asks you to watch train shows and read train books and talks about trains all day. So what you would do is take that passion, and use it as a catalyst to dive into other subject matter. So, one day you’ll go on a field trip to see some trains, or perhaps to an old train museum. Then another day (or week preferably) you’ll start exploring the history of trains. Then, you use their love of trains to read various books about types of trains, or train adventures. After that, you could transfer it into handwriting practice (writing stories about trains perhaps) and then even do math problems involving trains. Perhaps eventually after that draw pictures of different trains. So by the end of it, you’ve taken a child’s passion for something and created a “Unit” out of it, encompassing as many subjects as possible. Thus, unit studies! Get it? GET IT!?
Unit studies are great for hands-on, visual learners and teachers. They “approach a theme topic from several angles, encouraging activity and love of learning as well as discipline and responsibility. Units work best when the main topic is studied in the areas of Bible, History, Science, Health, Physical Education and the Arts,” found here. However, language skills and math themselves are not typically able to be taught alone through a unit study because there are so many preliminary rules that have to be learned first. However, when basic language and math skills have been mastered, they can easily be implemented into various unit study topics.
I should make it clear that not all homeschoolers approach unit studies this way. Many (or maybe most) do not approach the “Unit” by what the child is interested in, but instead by what they feel like the child should be learning that year. This allows them to plan out all the units in advance. While I understand this approach, I want my children’s learning to be a little more… organic. At least in the beginning. I want them to be able to pick the subjects that they are most interested in, whether it be from their own encounters or simply something that we come across in our “base curriculum,” and then we will go from there. That’s where, I’d say, a bit of child-led learning comes in. We will tweak it as we get further into it all (we won’t be starting unit studies until grade 1) but eventually I’m sure we will find an equilibrium between our unit study tangents and our boxed curriculum.
Tangent ALERT!: I also LOVE the idea of creating a unit study out of a travel experience. I recently read a blog article by a mom who took their family’s car trip to Wyoming and made a fun, loose, unit study experience out of it. This is the kind of thing I’d LOVE to do when the kids get older! Such a great way to learn!
(By the way, I recently re watched a video by Sarah Baldwin of Bella Luna Toys on her experiences with Waldorf homeschooling. A seasoned Waldorf teacher herself, she was extremely surprised to find that what worked best in their home school was more a mix of unschooling and unit studies, mixed with some Waldorf core basics. As I was listening I thought, “THIS is exactly what we want to do!” haha. Anyways, if you are interested in watching it, you can find it here.)
3. Charlotte Mason
A few years ago I went to the Utah homeschooling curriculum fair in Provo. There were so many different companies there selling their products, but the one (the ONLY one) that caught my eye was Charlotte Mason. I bought a 3 part book series on it that day and devoured it. Initially I thought Charlotte Mason would be our base. I agreed with so much of what she said! Initially, anyways. Then like everything else, I tried to take myself out of the “honeymoon” phase and really picture myself teaching this way. It turned out that it didn’t all fit (Though I can’t remember why… I’ve forgotten almost everything I read that I didn’t absolutely love!! Lol). However, I did realize that there were 4 main areas that I DID want to integrate into our home school: Delayed education, getting the kids into nature and nature journaling, incorporating religion into daily studies, and the use of “Living books” in our school days.
If you don’t already know, living books are basically the opposite of textbooks. They are “Usually written by one person who has a passion for the subject and writes in conversational or narrative style. The books pull you into the subject and involve your emotions, so it’s easy to remember the events and facts. Living books make the subject “come alive.” They can be contrasted to dry writing, like what is found in most encyclopedias or textbooks, which basically lists informational facts in summary form,” found here.
I love this idea, and can’t wait to incorporate more living books in the future.
4. Faith based homeschooling
Our faith is central to our way of life. I’ve noticed that when I busy myself with other things and don’t weave Christ’s message throughout my days, everything in my life suffers, including our homeschooling. Its crazy how that happens, isn’t it? Really at the end of the day I think that if my children leave home with a strong faith in the gospel and a strong conscience of right and wrong, the curriculum we choose won’t make a difference. If i fail however to make our religion central to our days or choose to neglect it in our schooling, I’m certain my children will suffer. No matter how beautiful or balanced the style of education we use, it wouldn’t be worth it.
To be perfectly honest though, I’m still working on ways to incorporate our religion a little more into our homeschooling days. Yes, we say prayers at our meals and read scriptures before bed (well, sometimes), but I’d really like to do more. Like focus on a particular scripture story, and the morals that go along with it for a few weeks or perhaps monthly. Like I said, I’m not exactly sure how I want to go about it, only that it is extremely important to me to get started…soon!
Ok, so there they are. The top 4 pillars that our home school is built on. Whew! That took a lot more time than I thought it would (I’ve been writing this now for two weeks!). To end this post, I thought I’d show you what our upcoming Autumn home school looks like, and how I plan to incorporate a lot of this in! Note: Since we are still in the early childhood stages and still very heavily Waldorf, this won’t look too academic. I’ll be interested to see what this looks like in a year or two from now!
Our Homeschool This Autumn:
Monday- *Morning Routine. Circle time. Free play for girls/ Letter or number of the week for Logan. Outing: Park. Lunch prep together and then eat lunch. Nap. Snack. Baking day. Dinner prep. Play out front. Dinner. Board games/ Handwork/ free play. **Bed time routine.
Tuesday- *Morning Routine. Circle time. Free play for girls/ Letter or number of the week for Logan. Outing: Library. Lunch prep and eat lunch. Nap. Snack. Seasonal craft day. Dinner prep. Play out front. Eat dinner. Board games/Handwork/Free play. **Bed time routine.
Wednesday- *Morning Routine. Outing: Home school coop. Lunch. Nap. Snack. Painting day. Dinner prep. Play outside. Eat dinner. Board games/Handwork/free play. **Bed time routine.
Thursday- *Morning Routine. Circle time. Free play for girls/ Letter or number of the week for Logan. Outing: Meet up with friends. Lunch. Nap. Snack. Yoga day. Dinner prep. Play outside. Dinner. Handwork/ Board games/ Free play. **Bed time Routine.
Friday- *Morning Routine. Outing: Farm School. Lunch. Nap. Snack. Cleaning day & folding towels. Dinner prep. Play outside. Dinner. Board games/ Handwork/ Free play. **Bed time routine.
*Morning Routine: Wake up. Go for 5 mile walk MWF (kids in stroller w/snacks). Go outside and say morning verse. Water Plants. Do stretches/yoga. Make and eat breakfast together. Scripture story or kiddy devotional.
**Bed time routine: Clean up toys. Drink sleepy tea or tart cherry juice. Bath. Read scriptures. Say prayer. Lights out by 7-7:30!
— For those interested, though I originally planned on using Oak Meadow’s lessons for teaching Logan his letters, I have since decided to make up my own mini curriculum for him this year. Every week he will explore the same letter in different ways (including sign language…which he already knows) to help them stick. Some days the activity will take place outside. Sometimes it will be a sensory activity. Some days it will be on the chalk board or at his desk for a bit. By spring next year the goal (if he still wants to, that is) is to have him be able to write and sound out all of his letters, and then slowly begin to write and read short words before summer starts .
So that’s it, folks! That’s what homeschooling looks like for our family now. Thanks for reading! Till next time!
p.s- I am going to try to post weekly from now on, if anyone is interested . I also plan to start our family blog back up again so that this can simply remain a space of encouragement and ideas. My family blog is where I will be shamelessly talking about my kids nonstop, while simultaneously posting waaay too many pictures (for relatives and friends). Stay tuned