Home Schooling is more than School at Home

OK.  I’m crossing my fingers that I got enough sleep last night to write this without sounding…preachy…self-righteous….you know, all that icky stuff.  (Our youngest daughter is lactose intolerant, and loves to help clear the table.  I suspect she chugged her cousin’s milk Sunday night while helping him clear his dishes.  Last night was the first night she slept solidly since then.)

We started our very own Kindergarten-at-home this week with our oldest daughter.  We chose to do this at home for lots and LOTS of reasons.

  • She is already reading exceptionally well.  As in, 3rd grade level.  Getting behind academically is not an issue for her.
  • I can’t find a compelling reason TO enroll her in public school right now
  • It’s TONS of fun.  Why send her off to school to read stories and sing songs when we can do it here, and have fun as a family?
  • I have a lot of things I want her to learn this year.
  • Simply put, it’s the Right Decision for her, for right now.  And really, that’s all the reason I need 🙂

As I’ve prepared for this year, I’ve been heavily influenced by the Waldorf methods.  Developed by Richard Steiner, some of them are a little wacky to me (hello reincarnation and astral beings) but out of all the methods I’ve read about, it’s the one most focused on the child and the family as a whole.  I really, REALLY like that.  I like that it develops in the child a sensitivity to the world around themselves, and an appreciation for nature and all the beauty in this green earth.  I like the idea of life, home, and the seasons have rhythms that we can join and appreciate.  If some people who practice these methods of education get perhaps a tad carried away in the imaginative side, well….I suppose there are worse things you could do that convince your children that flower fairies are actively engaged in the garden every night.  Right?

(Background: There’s a belief that we all live in 7-year cycles.  The first seven years of life should be lived in a “dream-like” state, free from distractions like too many facts and too many words.  Toys should be natural materials, and minimally detailed.  Stories should be told, acted out, and enjoyed often…but not read to or by the child.  Scientific processes are DEFINITELY out of the picture until later.  Given that we are all individuals, some people are more fanatical about this than others.  I follow my daughter’s lead and curiosity- if she wants to know why stars shine, I certainly tell her the truth.  I’m really not fully “Waldorf” at all 🙂  But then, so many Waldorf instructors or families I’ve found online freely acknowledge that we should use what resonates with us, and leave the rest behind.  So perhaps I’m perfectly Waldorf 🙂

I posted on Facebook this morning that I was pretty stoked about the day’s “Daily Activity.”

Quite possibly my favorite day of the week! Today’s big school activity is…CLEANING! Kids are stripping their sheets, and just started the dishwasher for me 🙂 They’ll wash the windows while I vacuum….am I plain evil, or an evil genius? Yes.

Quite a few friends wrote to in say things like “yay!  Child labor!”  or “Yay!  You’re a rock star!”  An aunt wrote in to say

“What does doing chores have to do with school?”

I think that’s just the point.  While most took my elation to mean “Hooray!  Kids are cleaning my house for fun!” (and believe me, that IS a fabulous feeling) for me this is so much of why we’ve chosen to home school this year.  I don’t want to simply recreate “school” at home, with desks and shiny new pencils and worksheets.  While we certainly intend to do all of that this year, I want my kids to be fully involved in the home, and to be cognisant of the work that goes on to maintain a home, grateful for what we have, and to develop a desire in them to be part of something bigger than themselves and to really immerse them in the rhythm of our home.  THAT is why I consider myself heavily influenced by Waldorf methods, with all their talk of rhythms, and all of their intentions of almost zero sit-down academic work in the kindergarten year but rather a year full of exploration and wonder and stories and imagination and being immersed in and internalizing the rhythm of what goes on around them.  I see our Wednesdays not as chore day, but as an integral part of our curriculum for the year and for life.

This is what I told her:

“Aunt- Every day we have “circle time” with songs, scriptures, and stories. Each day of the school week is assigned a special activity- Baking Day, Craft Day, Cleaning Day, Painting Day, and Music Day. The activities and stories and songs all tie together to whatever theme we’re working on, which are in turn based on the season of the year we’re in (holidays, planting, harvesting, etc.) We bring in skills to the activities, like penmanship, spelling, math, story telling, etc. Since this is our very first week, we’re just establishing the rhythm, and I want to make sure that our home is not forgotten in the rhythm that we set up. :)”

Yes, yes.  I know.  I am now three days into a nine-month-long (at least) project.  I’m positively ebullient, none of us are bored or tired (well…except right now.  Today was L.O.N.G) but you know, we’re pretty excited to do school at home.

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7 Responses

  1. interesting. I’d never really considered Waldorf much and from my brief perusal it looked to me rather like Montessori. Sounds like it’s actually somewhat different.

    • Ticia- they’re similar in their focus on children, and the children’s environment and growth. Different methods, though 🙂 Montessori seems very focused on learning skills and following the child’s lead. Waldorf is more focused on developing imagination and following a rhythm that the child will be drawn into, at least at the beginning.

  2. Well, I think it sounds like you have a great plan and are doing a great job. If you were trying to duplicate public school Kindergarten that would be silly. You would have to have lots of boring filler activities and then give the kids two cheese crackers for a snack. Oh and there would have to be some bullying and some copied behaviors that make you want to pull your hair out.

    Yeah, you aren’t missing anything. Keep up the good work!

  3. In the younger years, cleaning(housekeeping) is a part of learning life skills, the names and uses for things, fine motor skills, cooperation, helping others(social skills), home economics, hygiene, time management, obedience, exercise, and , and…… There is so much more! Helping put the laundry away develops sorting and matching skills, counting , etc. You actually need to use your brain doing housekeeping and for little people this builds new neutral pathways. It’s all new to them. Schedules are great for small children. It gives them a sense of security – rhythm to their day. Helping mom clean can be a part of it.

    I bet your kiddos feel important when they help momma. How wonderful!

  4. How are you incorporating the Nearly Two Year Old into the school part of the day? Do you think the activities would be VERY different if you weren’t taking Meems into consideration?

    (I’m asking this question seriously. I’m not sure how long I can last doing MW’s schooling ONLY during “quiet time.”)

    • No. I think it’s better with The Mimster around- the girls feed off of each other for activities, they play outside together, etc. Story time and singing time, they both love. M is learning to sit and listen for a few minutes while we do the prayer and opening song and scripture, so she’s learning the rhythm and knows what comes next. They both love to paint and craft and bake. We’ll see how music goes, but M is free to wander away if she wants to, and I’m not requiring her to do anything with us- it’s like so much else, I create the rhythm in the home, and children are drawn into it because they WANT to be with everyone else. If M isn’t learning to write and isn’t learning the same skills as E, that’s fine- they’re both learning skills! Remember, we’re not focusing on workbooks, etc. E pulls them out when she wants to, she practices spelling by writing e-mails to friends and family (Ming Wai is next on her list!), and I help her when she wants help. This is only Kindergarten- it’s pretty low key, and we’re only in the first week. Does that answer your question?

  5. Good for you Myrnie! I’m selfishly considering home schooling because I miss my kids so much during the day. They really like the schools they are in (littlest one in Montessori) and need the socialization more than anything. Plus I’m not sure I could be disciplined enough to stick to a curriculum. I’d throw my hands up and just head to the zoo.

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