Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Transitioning

I've mentioned many times that we're shifting the way we do things around here.  In the beginning, we did what we knew how to do, and planned to slowly branch out and relax from there.  It worked.  We found our groove, tried out lots of different ways of doing things, and it worked for us.  Until it didn't.  I don't know if the holidays wore me out or if it was something else, but my heart wasn't in it anymore, and Ella began to push against everything I tried to do with her.  I started looking for some magical one-size-fits-all answer to our problems.  Of course, there isn't one.  I knew that.  But I was tired and feeling a bit desperate and figured there had to be a better way for us.  And you know what?  There was.

The more I read, the more I realized that many Waldorf ideas either mimicked what we were already doing or fit in well with the things I'd like to be doing (more on those later). What I like most about it now is that subjects and activities are purposefully chosen to match the developmental age of the child, not to put up competitive scores for someone behind a desk to use to justify funding.  (Ahem, off my soapbox now.)

Like many homeschoolers, we needed to address more than just the standard academic issues.  When we brought our daughter home, we had to deal with anxiety and sensory troubles.  Things got better as the months went by, but there was still a lot of latent stress holding her back and causing her to cling to those problem coping mechanisms.  The wonderful thing I learned about Waldorf is that instead of treating school and "therapy" activities separate, Waldorf is in itself a healing education.  Its focus on art, movement, color, simplicity, music, and nature means it already incorporates all of the things we were trying to squeeze into our free time once we were done with "school."  In Waldorf,  those things are already part of your school day.

I really like that the yearly calendar is broken up into monthly blocks of teaching.  We liked working in chunks or units, and I generally tried to do 3-6 weeks around a core subject anyway (usually science or social studies), so this already feels comfortable.  Plus, ever since she could write, Ella has been making her own "books" on whatever subject captured her fancy for the moment.  Her room is filled with them.  With Waldorf, you don't use a textbook (I've mentioned before how I despise textbooks, right?) or even workbooks.  Instead, the students take the information they are taught and make their own books, called main lesson books.  Once again, this fits right into what we were naturally doing anyway.  Also, handwriting trouble?  Meet form drawing.

Now, I'm not completely sold on everything.  And, while I agree with so much of what he said, I still question sometimes whether or not Rudolf Steiner was completely off his rocker.  I still like teaching some history to younger kids.  And I don't think I'll ever be able to wrap my brain around Waldorf math, so we're sticking with Singapore Math for now.  And reading . . . ah, reading.  That's a whole Waldorf debate by itself, and one I'm not going to engage in right now.  Ella is already an excellent reader and I don't yet know what we'll do with Harper, so it's nothing I have to have a clear opinion on at the moment.  But I can pick and choose with this the same way we've done with everything else.  For now, we're developing some good daily and weekly rhythms, and while things are certainly not perfect, life feels so much better this way.  Each child and family is different.  For us, for now, this works.

In case you're wondering, these are a few of the articles that cleared up some of the myths about Waldorf for me, and made it feel more like something I could connect with:

Hopeless With Waldorf? - Wait, it won't make me Mary Poppins on valium?  Crud.
Is It Too Late? - Simple changes to make before you even get to the academic stuff.
Head, Heart, Hands - I'll talk about head-heart-hands another day, but this is a nice, brief overview of Waldorf.

2 comments:

  1. I am VERY interested in reading about how homeschoolers implement the various education philosophies. I am still trying to find my way and have discovered that both interest-led AND classical resonate with me. A relaxed method coupled with a rilly, rilly strict method? I think I might have finally found a direct route to Make Myself Mad-ville.

    Looking forward to reading more about how you will incorporate Waldorf into your day.

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  2. Oh, Deb, you sound just like me. We started out classical/unschooly.

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