3.24.2015

Our Second Grade Waldorf {Christoperus} Homeschool

Today I wanted to write about homeschooling.  We love homeschooling!  I don't generally post much about it here, though I've been posting more about our daily life on Instagram.  But occasionally I do like to share how things are going, mostly because I have learned so much about homeschooling by reading blogs.  And also because some of you have asked what we do.

We mostly follow a Waldorf approach in our homeschool.  If you are wondering what Waldorf education is, here is a good, brief summary.  This year we chose a curriculum called Christopherus and it is the perfect fit for Indigo.  I really can't say enough good things about it.  We love it so much.

We've adopted Waldorf principles in our home for several years now and it's helped me on a practical level.   But more than that, it has brought so much beauty to our days.  It's so much more than an educational philosophy.

beeswax gnome
gnome by Indigo :: beeswax modeling


Waldorf education is so inspiring and wholesome.  It really gives children a magical childhood.  I'm so thankful we found it.  So I thought I would share what our Waldorf homeschool day looks like.  For the sake of length, I'd like to focus on Indigo's day today and share Jude's another time.  I'd also like to talk about what we do with Tia and Iris, but in another post.

watering plants and the dog 

A disclaimer first.  One criticism of Waldorf education is that it's too secular for Christians and too Christian for secular folks.  Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, was loosely Christian, with some non-orthodox beliefs.  However, Waldorf education was created to be implemented in German schools and was never intended to be associated with any religion. To quote Waldorf educator William Bard, "Waldorf schools seek to cultivate positive human values of compassion, reverence for life, respect, cooperation, love of nature, interest in the world and social conscience, as well as to develop cognitive, artistic, and practical skills."   It's adaptable to any belief system and if something offends you, it's very easy to leave it out.  However, I understand that some people are purists on either side of that spectrum, so I just wanted to mention it.

Rhythm is important to the Waldorf philosophy.  Rhythm is not the same thing as a schedule.  A schedule is inflexible.  It doesn't breathe.  A schedule says: "You start x at this time, whether you're ready or not!"  Rhythm, on the other hand, is a predictable flow for the day.  It flexes but it's not completely unstructured.

school sched
Our day never looks exactly like this  - we use this as a general guide

It's recommended to balance activities that expend physical energy, what they call 'out-breath' activities, with more introspective work, called 'in-breath' activities.  So a brisk morning walk (out-breath) is then followed by some school work (in-breath) which is followed by free play (out-breath).  That just makes good sense, doesn't it?

Part of the Waldorf rhythm is to start the day with a candle and a verse. Jude takes great pride in being the one to light the candle.  Waldorf philosophy encourages children to take "risks" like this, under parental supervision until they are old enough to be trusted without it.

morning candle

The Waldorf verses are a little earth mama for me so we read something from this children's book of Psalms.
  morning verse

Then we get ready for our morning walk.

morning walk 

When we get back from our walk, we start our homeschool work.  Sometimes the kids get a head start on their work while I am getting Hazel and/or Iris ready for the walk.  See, rhythm vs schedule.  :)

Waldorf philosophy suggests engaging head first , then hearts, and finally hands.   Like so much of Waldorf philosophy, that just works for us.  So we always start with math.  We use Singapore Math.  Waldorf schools 'rest' from math, taking a few weeks off at a time, but we choose not to follow that part of Waldorf pedology.  We do math 4 days a week, taking only two school weeks off per school year.

singapore math

Next we take a break for play.  On this particular day, Indigo had snuck away into Tia's bedroom to work on her knitting.  But usually the kids play outside and knitting comes later.


Then Indigo works on her Main Lesson drawing or assignment.  Waldorf Language Arts stories are designed to meet children exactly where they are in their development and there's an esoteric purpose behind the stories that are being read - they aren't just being read because they are good literature, though they are that, too.

main lesson

Part of Waldorf philosophy is that the second grader needs and wants heroes to admire and emulate. So we should provide them with strong and powerful examples of humanity at its best.  Many Waldorf school focus on the Catholic saints, but actually every culture has saint stories and the curriculum we use includes saint stories from countries all over the world.  (I consider that social studies, too!)  Often times these stories are mixed with legend.

saint drawing 
St. Genevieve of Paris

On the other hand, Steiner was not naive to the dark and shadowy side of human behavior.  We show children this side through fables and trickster tales.  Again these stories are ubiquitous across all cultures.  And actually we spend twice as long studying these stories as the saint stories.  The idea is that children should see the consequences of bad choices through these tales rather than the parental tendency to solely lecture and moralize.  Also, you never, never tell students the 'moral of the story' but rather let them take the stories to sleep with them and then work them out through play, drama, painting, etc.

aesop's fable : the lion and the mouse
Indigo's beeswax modeling of the lion and the mouse :: aesop's fables

We also read the 315 page book The King of Ireland's Son, which has seven different storylines that overlap into one overarching story, almost like a Celtic knot.  Jude joined in on this read aloud too - and loved it!

1A2A2814-Edit 
a rather gruesome battle between the king's son and a giant

We end the day with handwork - modeling with beeswax, clay, watercolor painting, or knitting.  (I actually don't knit, so Dan took Indigo to a few knitting lessons as something special they could do together.)

watercolor painting

And most of the time, the little girls join in too.

watercolor sidekick

In Waldorf 2nd grade, children would play the recorder and the lyre.  We played the recorder last year and it was not Indigo's thing.  But she loves to play the piano and started formal lessons this year.

1A2A2815-Edit-2

This semester she also is also taking an introduction to violin class where we rent a violin and she attends a group class as a trial run to see if she likes it.


Finally, on a more practical note, Waldorf philosophy encourages that kids take responsibility around the house.  This was really huge for our family.  I think it was 2 years ago now that we started doing a 15 minute clean up together near the end of every day where we all clean the house together.  Now that I have 2 kids who are old enough to make a significant contribution, this helps me tremendously.  They also help out throughout the day. I think many parents underestimate what their kids are capable of doing.  I know I did.  But many studies show the positive effects of having children do chores.  So I say, go for it!

This has been such a great year homeschooling for all of us.  Indigo has blossomed with this curriculum and absolutely loves it!  I am eager to watch  her grow as we continue on this path next year with the Christopherus 3rd grade curriculum.

If you're interested in what we did last year (1st grade and 3rd grade), I wrote a post about that HERE.

If you're interested in tips that helped us homeschool with a toddler last year, I wrote about that HERE.

20 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this post! I am homeschooling my 9yo starting next fall and the options are overwhelming. I love seeing the day-to-day life of homeschooling. I find it extremely helpful (and reassuring)!

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    1. I am so glad it was reassuring to you! It really is so doable and FUN! I was terrified - terrified! - to start homeschooling. I just had so many nerves about it all. And it has turned out to be one of the best choices we have made for our family, at least for right now! It suits us so well!

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  2. Thanks for sharing. We homeschool too, just don't blog about it...yet!

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    1. I always love to read about what other homeschoolers are up to! I hope you do share your story, too!

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  3. Thanks for posting this, I love reading your homeschool posts and as a new homeschooler, I find the details of your day very valuable. There is a lot that intrigues me about Waldorf education though for now we have adopted sort of a hodgepodge approach to homeschooling. I may look into it for next year (my oldest will be in 1st grade). I am looking forward to your posts about Jude's day and what you do with the younger ones too.

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    1. Thanks, Masha! We also do a hodgepodge approach with Jude and it works for us! I found our second year of homeschooling has been even better than our first!

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  4. Rachel, what a great non sewing related post!
    I would never home school my kids but I would love to find a school that would work with Waldrof education near my home. My daughters went to a pre-school with a method inspired by Waldrof and it was amazing! And, when Teresa started first grade, her teacher was amazed with not only all she knew but also the way she expressed herself and the way she worked. Now, though her school teacher is really good, I think the way she is learning things is quite boring and not very inspirational.
    By they way, after reading one of your previous posts we have started going to school walking or by bicycle and we are loving it!

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    1. Marta, I am so glad the morning walk/bike ride is working for you! I cannot take any credit for the idea, as it was not my own, but it has worked so well for our family, too! We still do it almost every day. Such a great way to start the day!

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  5. As usual, I absolutely adore reading about your home schooling experience. It looks and sounds like you've chosen the project curriculum indeed. I appreciate your thoughts as well on the too secular/not secular enough debate and I love how you are making it your own, in accordance to your beliefs. My oldest daughter attended a Waldorf school when she was four but we pulled her out at the end of the school year because of the elements of Christianity that were being taught. In our case, this was a public non-denominational school and we were looking for secular teachings. So the Waldorf methodology did not work for us in this context. But I can completely see that in a homeschooling setting, you can adapt the curriculum to your beliefs and reap the benefits of what is a really beautiful philosophy for teaching and learning.mmthank you for sharing Indigo's journey so far this year... Can't wait to read about Jude's journey, and figure out what you did with the three little ones during the day! :-).

    Natalie
    XXX

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  6. Oops... Meant to say "perfect curriculum", second sentence above...

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  7. Rachel, I really loved reading about your year with Indigo! The curriculum sounds like it was a perfect fit for her. It's such a pleasure to see our children growing and developing, isn't it? I'm also really looking forward to reading about what Jude's day is like and what you do with the little girls. Next year I'll be adding a kindergartener to the mix, and it's already been a bit challenging the last month with our two little girls. I love seeing someone else's days and perspective!

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  8. What a great post! I enjoyed it all. Indigo has been given the gift of knitting. I learned in grade 3 and dropped it for several years until I was pregnant with my first. I so enjoyed knitting for my children. When we homeschooled, I taught all my boys to knit a scarf. I figured it was a good skill to have so as adults, they could do it if they chose. Enjoy your day my dear ; )

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    1. How did I not know you homeschooled ??!! And I taught Jude to crochet last year! (fist bump!)

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  9. Great post! My son went to a preschool inspired in Waldorf. I mean all the elements except Christianity elements. Then, I look for a school and in my country (Chile) there is only three and no close to big cities and government don't approve this education, so it was no an option. Then, we move to Canada dreaming about my kids could assist to a Waldorf school but in the city I live there is only one not close to where I live and it is very expensive and almost no one know about it. Did you follow anthroposophical medicine too? TY

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  10. I want Em to come to your school!!! She would ADORE having Indigo be her partner and classmate. Music, crafts, dance, foreign language, math, playing outside...all her jam. Following a strict schedule, not so much.

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  11. I loved reading about your day! Our days are a lot more "eclectic" at the moment, but I'm working on it. Having the kids so close in age makes it weird. There's a very loose rhythm going on here, but you'd have to pay close attention to find it. Lol. I tried doing oak meadow with clover, and it was either bad timing age wise or just not her thing. I think a bit of both. She loves to draw and imagine now, but she really didn't enjoy the crafts then. And she wanted things to be a bit nerdier, I suppose. She seems to be ok with the current charlotte mason inspired stuff we have going on at the moment, but she's a huge lover of listening to good stories, so that isn't too surprising. Plus it also revolves around a lot of free play outside. She loves that too. And I've seen her taking a lot of initiative with her own projects lately. It's pretty awesome. She'll decide she wants to make something and then finds a way to make it happen!

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  12. I meant to comment on this before, I love learning about how homeschooling looks for you. You do make it seem quite idyllic! I love the Waldorf philosophy. Joe has recently expressed more of a love for and fascination with music, and I have been wondering if he might like to start learning an instrument ... the recorder and the lyre? That is so very ... specific! But fascinating! I love seeing Indigo at the piano and with her violin.

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  13. I love reading these stories of your days! I'm not sure if I will go back to being a public school teacher but if I do I'd want/need to change the way I teach. All students deserve the peace, rhythm, space, and magic you describe here.

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  14. I love reading your homeschooling posts! (Unfortunately) we can't have it where I live, although I'm certain that would be the best option for my 3 kids - they all have different rhythms and learning paces and it's a challenge to find the proper balance within the traditional teaching system. We follow the Waldorf philosophy since my older boy was born and it has been really helpful for us as a family (I second your input on the chores). Thank you for sharing :)

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  15. About homeschooling I understand your story of Second Grade Waldorf! It was really amazing and I think my kids would like those reading. I was seeking forward to know about this entry. Thanks for this allocation.

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