Waldorf In The Home

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Why I Homeschool

Whenever anyone asks me "Why I homeschool?";  without hesitation I reply "I love the lifestyle."   My eldest daughter is entering the third grade, so this year will be our fourth year at it.  When she was of kindergarten age and all our neighbors were busy preparing their children for school, the big yellow bus, and buying cool lunch boxes and backpacks,  I admit I felt a little awkward because I was sitting back, relaxing and looking up recipes for homemade all-natural playdough, and buying supplies at the thrift store for our mud kitchen.  It felt like I was diving off a high dive. There wasn't a line of people, or friends waiting to dive in with me. It was aspirating and defying. I was diving into the deep unknown and landed in a beautiful, warm ocean.

When the private and public schools students returned back in the Fall on our first year of homeschooling, our morning walk ritual turned into waving to all the kids on the school buses that drove past us as we trotted along. It felt weird, and I wondered how did this make my children feel? Then our attention would quiet  down and we were drawn elsewhere, like the day we spotted a blue heron in the creek behind our house or the time we met Helen, our neighbor, walking her dog Sasha, and invited us to a tour of her beautiful garden. 

School and their buses became a distant memory. 

My eldest child did ask me if she could go to school at the beginning of that first year.  It turns out she really didn't want to go to school, she just wanted to ride on that spectacular yellow bus. Our trip on public transportation cured her of that desire. I also bought an orange punch buggy that we drive around in and it is very hard to feel unhappy in it.  When parents who are on the fence about homeschooling their children because they tell me that their kindy child really wants to go to school and has shown such a strong interest. I chuckle. I bet that kindy child really just wants to climb on that amazing gym structure on the playground, drink from that big kid water fountain, or like my child, ride the big yellow bus. Kindy kids don't really want to go to school, they don't know what school is just yet.  Kindergarten is no longer what it was designed to be. In our school district it is full day with many hours at desks.  I believe that most children, not all, would rather stay with their parents and discover about life at home and be outside and more and more parents are doing it. Homeschooling is no longer taboo. 

Socialization seems to be the first concern about homeschooling. There is no need to worry about socialization. Socialization is not sticking your child in a classroom with  twenty other children and one teacher for eight hours a day. Socialization starts at home. Learning to be a healthy, happy, contributing member of the family is socialization…and at its very best. Yes, we also have friends. Of course we do. 

 I want to preserve childhood as much as I want to preserve family life. I am raising children who will know what it takes and how to enjoy caring for their families. I want my girls to know that they can do it all just not all at once. There is a season for each one of our ambitions as women, motherhood being the most important. This is a  very short season of our lives and not only do I want to be present for it, I want to be calm and enjoy it. Homeschooling provides that for me. It gives my family the time to create and live the lifestyle that my husband and I desire.  

 Serving meals is the most challenging part of my days. My daughters, ages 6 and 8  both know how to prepare a meal, take care of sick family members and care for our home and pets. In order for our home to function smoothly we all have a hand in it. It is part of our daily rhythm. We don't pay our children to do chores, they do chores like Mom and Dad, out of necessity and desire to provide ourselves a nice, clean home to live in. 

My family doesn't homeschool out of necessity or because of the questionable school system.   I feel blessed that I can stay home and we can manage on one salary. I am aware that it is not a reality for many families.  We homeschool because we believe in preserving our children's childhood. We homeschool because we enjoy a slow, homestead-family life and I love my role as Mother.  I also believe that I can give my children a better education than I received, and a very compassionate connection to our earth and all living things. School can teach kids to sharpen the brains,   I am more interested in softening their hearts.   

I don't believe homeschooling is for everyone and I wish that those Mamas who want to homeschool but feel they can't because of their economy could find a way like we have. We do not live fanciful lives, we pinch every penny to make this lifestyle work. We love being at home and in our gardens. The sacrifices we make are merely a good practice of mindfulness and simplicity. We both work very hard and our luxurious vacations happens at home. 

 School officially starts with Kindergarten. Kindergarten at home is helping in the garden, raking the leaves, walks in the neighborhood, baking bread and mud pies, climbing trees, painting, listening to fairy tales, chasing chickens, finger knitting, painting, napping, imaginary play and working side by side with Mom and Dad doing chores. This is how kindergarten was meant to be except in a school setting  and with a teacher. The grades at home are just like Kindy, just a little more structured and with Donna Simmons curriculum, very interesting and age-appropriate. 

I had no prior knowledge of Waldorf education before I had children.  However, I did have a copy of Rahima's "You are Your Child's First Teacher" which led me to the way I parented. I discovered Waldorf-inspired homeschooling through a blog that I had stumbled upon during nap time when my eldest was three.  My family's life was forever changed. I learned everything I could about Waldorf education, Rudolf Steiner and some Anthropospohy. I am still learning. It is a process that I enjoy and it reveals itself deeply to me. The most important aspects of educating in the home is understanding  the developing child and the inner work I have to do to create and sustain our space and our vision. I visited Waldorf schools, joined festivals,  joined online support groups run by Lisa Boisvert-Mackenzie from Celebrating the Rhythm of Life In Caring for Children, read Mrs. M posts from her infamous yahoo group,  and supplemented my books with wonderful articles written by Carrie Dendtler from Parenting Passageway. I use Donna Simmons wonderful homeschool curriculum Christopherous and just recently I met Barbra Dewey from Waldorf Without Walls. She gave a wonderful workshop  for a group of Waldorf-inspired homeschooling Mamas and Papas. 

These men and women that I mention are not brands to promote. They are real people, with a real passion and desire to share their knowledge and preserve family life and real education.   This way of life isn't a new trend, and it isn't living back in time, it is a life of reverence and awe in the here and now.  

I started my blog Redbeet Mama which opened up an whole new world for me. It became a network for me and I've met so many wonderful people because of it. I also learned how to use a camera, and then fell in love with photography. Blogging has also given me a creative outlet that really encouraged me to write and express myself. Celebrating life and finding beauty in everyday life is the most satisfying therapy in my world. 

Being a Waldorf-inspired homeschooling family was  quite lonely at the beginning of our journey.  Our first year of homeschooling took a turn for the worst, as  Tropical Storm Lee came in early September and flooded our property.  It was a very traumatic experience for all of us and it took awhile for us to recover from it. We had to rebuild the mud kitchen. 

The breakthrough of loneliness came when my talented friend and music teacher Tara  and I offered a suzuki-style Violin Club at my house for homeschooled children that January. Twelve families, most of whom I've never met,  signed up.  Those weekly meet ups were so healthy and vital for me and my girls. The violin players would practice their violins with Ms. Tara and Mamas and siblings would gather in my backyard to converse and play.  It became a miniature support system for me and the kids loved playing in the yard.  Kids of all ages playing. It was beautiful. We played in every kind of weather which surprised and exhilarated my new friends.  No day was too cold or too wet to be outside. They all went home happy and reenergized. Being outside does that. 

The club lasted nearly three years and many bonds were created. Needs changed and some moved on to the orchestra at a local private school and enjoyed the transition. This year I am hosting a new Cello Club for my youngest daughter, and five other children. We are excited. 

 I use the term Waldorf-inspired because we are not pure Waldorf and we can never really be true Waldorf. Rudolf Steiner developed Waldorf Education for  group learning in a school setting.  So we are inspired by his teaching and philosophy and bring them both into our home environment and our lives.  It has become a lifestyle rather than a teaching method. I believe the most important elements in Rudolf Steiner's that finds its way into homeschooling is the inner work of the parent (which in his writings was meant for the classroom teacher) and the knowledge of the developing child. 

This coming September homeschool will be a little more structured in our house as my youngest is entering first and my eldest is entering third. I imagine a typical day where I continue to rise hours before them, and I can't imagine the day starting off any other way as I enjoy this time immensely but also need it.  I practice yoga, read, and wake up the house slowly, side by side with my husband.  The girls usually are happy to come down at 7. I start  breakfast, we eat together and off they go to get ready for the day while I set the mood for  our lessons.  I put on my apron, throw in a load of laundry, feed the cat and meet them outside.   We spend time outside in the garden, do outside chores, play, and connect. We return inside for some tea and circle time, which is just really a gathering of the minds. We'll practice tounge-twisters, read aloud poems, recite times tables, stretch, read seasonal stories, fairy tales, bake bread and prepare for lessons. I will sit reading aloud with my youngest while my eldest reads independently. We will switch up and my youngest will practice her cello,  then it will be my eldest daughters turn to practice her violin. I will work independently with them and help with their main lessons books.  We will break for a homemade lunch and play outside, while I keep the house humming along. There is always a sink full of warm, soapy dishes to wash. I especially enjoy listening to music when I am in the kitchen.   Depending on the day, we will indulge in wet on wet watercolor, form drawing, nature journalling, knitting, on-going handwork projects and this year building projects for my third grader. She wants to build a looking tower.  I am all for it. Then it is time for me to hang up my apron.  We all enjoy a quiet time, which includes independent reading and playing in their own rooms. I meditate and enjoy some screen time.  Then our day is open to whatever feels right. Our days will continue to be like our breath, slowing breathing in and exhaling out. We don't follow a schedule we follow a rhythm. This is how I imagine how our days will look like this year and I am really looking forward to it. 

We will have days out of the house when we have swim and orchestra and we have days in when we have a handwork teacher and music teacher come to us.  It is another nice in and out flow that I find very enjoyable but also very helpful for me supplement areas that I feel weak in.  I am not stressed or overloaded but by no means is homeschooling entirely a causal swim in the ocean. We have really awesome days and really crappy days. Just like everyone else. Maintaining a nice, constant in and out breath is the key to our happiness.  

This slow, intentional life that we have created for ourselves and our children would be lost if we sent our them to school. When curious people reply with their "I could never homeschool", I beat them to the punch and I say "I could never do it any other way."  Unless of course our needs change. This lifestyle works really well for us. 

The water feels good.


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