**Disclaimer: All information on homeschooling methods will be just a generalized and very brief *if I can help it* overview of the method. Every family who uses these methods will of course work them to fit their needs. After each overview I will discuss some of the things I do and don’t like about the method in relation to our family. **

Sorry about the delay ladies and gentlemen, things have been busy in this homeschooling family’s house. Tons of fun, but extremely busy. Here is the fifth installment of A Method to the Madness.

Waldorf is more of a philosophy and a way of addressing child development than an actual method. Waldorf breaks child development into three blocks. The first block is from birth to age 7, then the second block covers ages 7 to 14, and finally you have the high school years *14-18*.

During the first block of the Waldorf method the child doesn’t receive any formal lessons. Waldorf philosophy believes that a child in this stage needs to be able to explore and be active, while still having some sort of balance in their homes. Waldorf pulls strongly on the rhythms of the day, and on the parents setting the rhythms to give the child equal amounts of active/creative time and down time/quiet time. In place of the formal lessons children learn through imitating their parents, older siblings, or any one else who is frequently present. They also learn through imagination, which is why during this stage it is important to provide plenty of objects to be used in imaginative play during active time.

Due to the lack of formal lessons during this stage Preschool as well as Kindergarten are skipped. The first formal grade is 1st grade and it starts at age 7. Now it doesn’t have to start exactly on the child’s birthday, and it can even start a little bit before the birthday. It depends on if the child has exhibited readiness for 1st grade or not. The second stage takes advantage of the child’s feelings, since it is seen as the feeling stage where children learn through their emotions. In this stage children use artistic mediums *paints, pencils, clays, ect.*) to express the feelings that their formal reading lessons evoke. Main Lesson Books also known as “Good Books” are introduced during this time. These books are used to keep track of the work that the child has done. These books are created by the child and features their best work, hand picked by the child him/herself.

Lessons from this stage through the third stage are taught in intervals of 3-6 weeks. With the first couple of hours of the school morning begin designated strictly to in-depth learning on the topic being covered in that interval. After that the other lessons tie into the main topic. During the early morning lesson the child will usually work on their Main Lesson Book for that topic, since this is the time when the main lesson is covered thoroughly.

As you move to the third stage artistic expression is still strongly encouraged, but the child must also use their intellect and the work must be noticeably more difficult. In the third stage rhythms are still used like in the previous stages, and Main Lesson Books are still made, since the interval approach is still used.

Now you may be asking, what about religion and the Waldorf method…is it secular? The Waldorf philosophy asserts the belief that every child is a spiritual being. Waldorf pulls strongly from anthroposophy which is a religious philosophy that holds spiritual development as humankind’s utmost concern. So naturally one of the main components of Waldorf is developing the child’s spiritual being. Which is why a lot of artistic expression is used throughout the method, and science is taught more of a way to appreciate nature, by being “one with nature”, versus just formal lessons on various science topics. When approaching science in the Waldorf method it deals greatly with connecting the child to god’s creation and adding spiritually to science.

Now obviously this would pose a serious problem for us, but it’s an ignorable component, especially because we can see the beauty in a child actually connecting with nature. Not in a “spiritual” manner, but in a respectful manner. Which can naturally instill a sense of appreciation for our world, a desire learn about it, and a desire to take care of it. So this sense of oneness with the world has its’ positives to it for us.

So a quick run through: Waldorf is a philosophy that breaks development and educating into 3 stages. It relies heavy on artistic expression and a oneness with nature. It also advocates for children being spiritual beings that must have their spiritually nurtured over everything else.

Now what won’t work for us? Well the idea of putting off formal lessons until seven doesn’t sit well with us. We started actively homeschooling Child #1 because, the public school system said he was too young to attend even though, intellectually he was beyond capable of completing the work. We also feel Preschool *while not anything formal* is great for kids. The way they are introduced to concepts they will need later on, taught the importance of routine/structure in your day, and increasing given more responsibilities/chances to be independent, is great for developing future independent intellectual beings. So for our family Preschool as well as Kindergarten have a place in our home, even if on an informal level.

The method for teaching lessons once formal lessons start doesn’t work for us either. We prefer to spread the intense lessons out over the course of our day, keeping more with the rhythms technique in the first stage, rather than doing the interval plus rhythms technique advocated for the second and third stages. The rhythms technique is a part of the philosophy we really like. It is natural for us to move from periods of activity to periods of quiet relaxation. So what else works for us? The idea of making a Main Lesson Book or “Good Book” is very creative and a great way to reinforce what is being taught. So that is something we could easily work into our daily routine *we had already planned to do it for our history lessons* and benefit from it greatly.

The spiritual element doesn’t work for us as mentioned before, but we can see the beauty in nature and have a reverence for it. We will still teach formal, in-depth, sit down science lessons though, because there are elements that are needed to be taught formally. So Waldorf can be used to some degree in our secular home.

The Waldorf method like all the other methods mentioned before, isn’t a prefect fit for us, but there are bits of it that we could use and benefit from greatly.

Of course there are still three other methods to pick through, and hopefully when it is all said and done we will emerge with a greater understanding of our own personal homeschool.

Copyright (c) 2010 Rayven Holmes


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