The time is upon us again. Time to begin our homeschool year.
This year, I will not only be schooling Autumn, but Kesa will officially start grade one now that she is seven. I am excited about what the year will bring and am hoping all will go smoothly. For me, it is mostly a matter of keeping Serafina occupied, but that is one of the beauties of homeschooling, the freedom and flexibility. Even though Craig’s shift change every two weeks, we can manage to get things done when there is time for him to keep an eye on her while I teach the lesson for the day.
Sure, homeschooling and having your kids around you nearly 24-7 is not for everyone. But it is for some. There is a tribe of mommas out there who know that it is their duty to teach their children. They feel it instinctively as a part of their role as a mother and nurturer.
I knew from the start that this would be a part of my mission. I sent my first-born, Autumn, to school because that was the thing to do, even though I knew I didn’t want to. I was afraid I couldn’t teach her. I was afraid that it would be hard. I was afraid of the judgement that I would receive from others. So we tried things the “normal” way and it didn’t work out for many reasons.
I am grateful for making the decision to go with my gut and take her out of school to begin our homeschooling journey. Yes, it can be tough. Yes, it can be stressful. But the rewards of watching your children learn and grow, instilling in them morality and justice, a sense of confidence, and a storehouse of values, far outweighs the the stress and fears that accompany this huge responsibility.
I still get asked questions about our homeschooling from time to time, but over the years I have become more confident in my role as a mother and as a teacher. (I am pretty sure I have those inquisitive people to thank for toughening me up.)
And although a lot of people can be pretty judgmental and have a lot of things to say against homeschooling, as though I am doing my children serious harm and am completely incompetent, I have to remind myself that these people know nothing about myself, my children, or what we do. I also have come to realize that a lot of the women who are very inquisitive about my homeschooling and act so against it are the ones who really deep down have resentment about not being able to stay home with their own kids and homeschool, either because they can’t afford to stay home, their husbands don’t agree with them being the teacher of their children, or, they want to stay home and homeschool, but are afraid that they really wouldn’t be able to do it.
I often think of the many reasons why I love being a homeschooling mother and teacher. There are really so many reasons that this just makes sense for us as a family. I am grateful that I have a supportive husband and my mother on my side when it comes to being my children’s teacher. I am grateful to be able to watch my children learn and grow and to have the opportunity to learn and grow along with them.
Here are 13 things I love about our Waldorf-inspired homeschooling:
1. Waking up when we are ready. We can all wake up in the morning when we feel rested. I do not have to wake the kids up, rush them to eat and get them dressed and out the door. When I used to try and make my homeschooling like school, I would wake them up. I stopped doing that years ago, when I decided to homeschool and mother more intuitively, knowing that sleep is so important for their development. I really believe in trusting our bodies, so usually they all wake up around 8:30 am-9:00 am on their own.
2. Freedom to eat when hungry and to not have to rush eating. I am glad that my kids can be home and we can prepare and eat meals and snacks together in peace, without having to feel the crunch of the ticking clock upon us. We are free to eat mindfully together and even take picnics outside in the yard, or by the river to enjoy our food. The girls also get to help out with the cooking and baking and learn how to prepare meals, which is a life skill I want them to have when they grow into women.
3. Same thoughts as above: freedom to use the bathroom when you need to. No having to hold up your hand, wait in line, or wait until break. I really think these little things that we do to ignore our bodies natural instincts have a bad affect on us, especially when we are kids. If at such a young age we are already trained to ignore our intuition about listening to our bodies hunger and bathroom cues, I believe we carry that on later in life and lose touch with our bodies messages.
4. Limitless outdoor play. No limit on how long you can play outside. I love seeing my kids go outside and play, making up all sorts of fun, imaginative games with what is right outside their door. Everyone needs fresh air and sunshine!
5. Being able to observe my children. I get to watch how my girls change and grow every day! That to me is such a blessing! And in being the teacher of my children, I think it is so important to know them. I love how in Waldorf schools the teacher from kindergarten remains the children’s teacher all throughout that child’s time in school. If only all schools could do this, it would be of great benefit to the children, to be able to feel comfortable with the same teacher for all of their years and for the teacher to really know the children and to have watched them learn and grow. As the mother of my children, this is something I feel extremely grateful for. I get to be their teacher throughout all the grades and all ages and stages of their development.
6. Knowing my children. Knowing my children’s strengths, weaknesses, learning styles, interests, temperaments, and even astrology. I know these kids pretty intimately and that enables me to be able to know how to teach them. I know how to get them interested in something that maybe they naturally do not have an interest in and can make it fun and captivating for them because I know them. I think schools can only do this to a degree. With so many children in a class, it is pretty impossible to get to know the children too intimately and to teach each child specifically according to their unique temperament and learning style. Usually once a teacher and child do get to know each other, sadly the child is ready to move on to another grade and teacher.
7. School time can be any time. We do not have to have school at the same time as school or at a certain set time. We can create our own schedule and take any opportunity to learn together. Autumn and I do a lot of mental math when we go out for a walk in the morning. It is a great way to learn and use your brain, while keeping rhythm with your body as well. Much better than sitting at a desk doing sheets of math. Other times we do math problems in bed or cuddle up and read together.
8. Freedom to travel and explore. We have the ability to visit with friends or family or go different places during the day, like the beach or a park. I love that freedom and flexibility! And I love the fact that we can enjoy nature so often.
9. Block teaching. I teach in blocks and am so happy to have found this method as a part of Waldorf education. We take a single subject and learn it thoroughly for about 4-6 weeks (or however long we need), until it is grasped and then we move on. No time table. No multiple subjects mixed in the brain, creating confusion and inhibiting actual absorption of the material. This way you know that your child has actually learned the subject material, whereas in school with the many mixed subjects in a day and the limited time frame for each one, you have to wonder how much children are actually absorbing.
10. Incorporating art into education. I love that music, dance, painting, drawing, and all things creative can be pursued and even be the central focus of all of our unit studies.
11. Watching milestones reached. I get to be there for the moments when something that has taken my child a long time to grasp finally clicks and comes together. It is like watching a baby learn to crawl, walk, and talk. When you homeschool, you get to see all of their learning milestones as well.
12. Knowing and choosing your children’s influences. At school, you have no idea what or who is influencing your children. Some people would say that this is being too protective, but in my opinion it is during these young years that our children most need protection. Children should not be knowledgeable about sex at age 3 or 5 and should not be around so many unwholesome influences. These young children from age 0-7 are wholly sense organ and everything goes into them. Can we feel at ease not knowing who or what is shaping who are children are to develop into in the future? Children ages 7-14 are looking for an authority figure to admire and look up to, someone whom to model after. Children of all ages are always watching and learning from all of those around them. I know that it is my responsibility to protect my children from unwholesome influences and to be a loving authority, worthy of imitation and admiration.
13. No tests and experimental psychology. Just because you pass a test or meet certain standards, does not mean that you have actually learned anything and is not a sign of a person’s intelligence. By forcing children to all learn the same things, test them and grade them, we teach them that there is one way of looking at the world and that we are all to think the same way and call it intelligence. By grading them, we place emphasis on the importance of getting the best marks and make them feel as though they have to compete with others, or that their self-worth or intelligence as a person hinges greatly on their test scores. I like that I provide a setting for my children to think freely and outside of the box and not have to feel pressured to get good grades or pass tests.
Happy homeschooling year to all of the homeschool families!