Main lesson books contains a child's very best work. Time, care, and attention is poured into each page. When students work through workbooks or worksheets, sometimes they rush through, with the goal being to finish them as quickly as possible. With main lesson work, the opposite approach is taken. Children are encourage to slow down, to work with intention. It becomes the cultivation of a discipline.
Third Grade Old Testament Block :: Watercolor Painting the Days of Creation
Another thing I love about them is that they are a record of the child's work for the year. As homeschoolers (or maybe just as parents?), it's so easy to feel like we're not doing enough, especially when we can view the highlight reels of other homeschoolers on social media. Don't get me wrong- I love seeing what other families are up to and being inspired by them. I am so grateful for all I have learned through social media! But it's easy to feel like we should be doing more.
It's just as easy to fall into the comparison trap in "real life," too. My kids were just telling me over lunch about their neighborhood friend, a kindergartner who attends a classical charter school and has already memorized the complete water cycle and can label all the parts of the brain, with their individual functions. The temptation to feel inadequate is ever present.
But no one 'does it all'. It is simply not possible. We all have our own unique school and family cultures that are true to ourselves and our values. The main lesson books can remind us how much our children have accomplished. You can easily see the progress each child has made in a given year.
For example, the picture below on the left is Tia's work at the beginning of the school year. You can see her stick figure people as well as her struggle to write the letter B. (In Waldorf education, students work off of a drawing done first by the parent or teacher, so that is my B/bear on the right. Don't judge! :P)
And this is Tia's written summary and illustration of a fairy tale we read just last week.
She has come a long way in just 6 months!
For the past three years, I have used traditional Waldorf main lesson books - large notebooks with blank sheets of paper inside. But this winter, I changed my approach after listening to a podcast by Jodi Mockabee. She described her method of using individual pages of card stock for illustrations and narrations, which she then laminates and places in a three ring binder. (I use this laminator and this laminating paper.)
There are several advantages to doing main lesson books this way. For one, because the sheets are laminated they are well protected from the wear and tear of being paged through repeatedly. But they are also protected from the damage that can occur when younger siblings get their hands on a main lesson book that has been accidentally left out. I can assure you that big tears have been spilled when Hazel has colored on main lesson work, after so much time has been spent on it.
And even if you are not homeschooling, the lamination and three ring binder method is a great way to preserve your child's best artwork.
Another advantage of working with individual card stock pages rather than in a main lesson notebook is that there is always the chance to start again when mistakes happen. I have one child who takes great care in her work. If something isn't done exactly as she envisions, she will gladly start again. For her, a perfectionist, having a main lesson book with mistakes would not be satisfying. In a traditional main lesson book this would mean tearing out pages.
I have other children who need to be reminded to slow down and put forth their best effort. They need to learn the discipline of doing things correctly, of persevering and developing grit. Dan tells them, "Go slow to go fast." The classical Greeks said it this way: Make haste slowly. If their work is not done correctly the first time, they need to improve upon on it or even start again and this can mean tearing out more notebook pages.
Finally, from a practical perspective, I found I was having to buy so many main lessons books (see my previous paragraphs about ripping out pages!). Waldorf uses block scheduling with main lessons for each block. Below are the books my girls completed during our previous semester alone.
The shipping costs add up and it started to become difficult to keep track of all of the different main lesson books. My kids don't want to store away any of their main lesson books, so we were starting to accumulate a rather large stack of them on our bookshelf. Having the kids' work in their own individual three ring binders has made things simpler and more streamlined. I am all about that!
Waldorf main lesson books have worked beautifully for our family. We do use workbooks for math and grammar, but have enjoyed using main lesson books for our other subjects. I am so grateful to have this collection of my children's work. And more than that, these books hold so many memories of our days here at home, learning together.