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.
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.
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.
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.
The Waldorf verses are a little earth mama for me so we read something from this children's book of Psalms.
Then we get ready for our 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.)
And most of the time, the little girls join in too.
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.
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.