This article first appeared in the Homeschool Journey newsletter, June 2005
By the time this newsletter gets to you all, it’ll be late June ... and many of you will be starting to collect your thoughts about next year. Many people — whether on my Yahoo group or on the phone during a consultation — ask for help in creating a schedule. The following are a few notes that might be useful and are intended as questions on might ask oneself whilst pondering making a schedule. Please note that the most important preparation one can do before pulling together the children’s school year is one’s own inner work: study, prayer, meditation and the transformation of one’s own ‘issues’ that get in the way of successfully homeschooling.
- What is usually taught in a Waldorf school for my children’s grades? Why are these subjects taught — why in this grade? How do the different subjects (such as creative writing, Renaissance history and perspective drawing in 7th Grade) relate to one another?
- Which Main Lessons will we do — which additional subjects, not usually found in the Waldorf curriculum, might I add in? Which usual Main Lessons might I skip? Why do I want to include certain things and why do I want to skip others?
- Do I understand what stage of development my children are at and what their needs are — not necessarily their outer wants, but the true needs of their souls, which they may not be able to articulate. Can I ‘read’ my children sufficiently to be able to understand what they need?
- What other lessons, those not usually covered by Main Lessons, shall we do this year? Will we do form drawing, recorder or other musical instruments, foreign language, painting or handwork? Can I weave such subjects into my Main Lessons or do they needs to stand separate?
- How will I inject movement and activity into every lesson, every day? How will I teach via activity, not just adding in a bit of movement?
- Do I understand the “hands, hearts and heads” rhythm so that I can ensure that, as much as possible, they children are first actively engaged in expressing their lesson material, then express it artistically, then deepen the experience intellectually?
- Do I ensure that my lessons breathe, that there is a rhythm whereby I present material on Day 1, then help the children recall and remember on Day 2? Do I make our schedule breathe too, ensuring that there are, for instance, periods of several weeks when no math is done so that my child can return to it refreshed?
- Where can I combine the children and teach them together so I don’t go mad teaching several different Main Lessons?! Can I expand into weekends and other odd times so that there are periods where an older child, for instance, can do form drawing without being disturbed by a younger sibling?
- Have I ensured my schedule is doable, that my expectations do not exceed reality? (Don’t expect to be able to learn and teach knitting, form drawing, recorder and wet-on-wet watercolor painting all in the same year if all of these are new to you! Give yourself — and your child — a break. Take it slow!)
- Does school time feel so separate from home life that it’s a strain? Have I found a way to integrate household responsibilities along with academic work? You are, after all, homeschoolers, and the number 1 priority is to make sure everyone helps, everyone pitches in and everyone works around the house. Integrate Circle Time and/or movement and singing time with real chores around your real house.
There is a lot more that can be said about all of this! Please refer to my Waldorf Curriculum Overview for Homeschoolers and Kindergarten with your Three to Six Year Old for much more on scheduling. The latter book, of course, takes a slightly different approach as the point of kindergarten is to include your child in your nurturing work around the house and yard — the Waldorf kindergarten is, after all, modeled on the healthy home environment. Our book is all about how to create such an environment.
Our new First Grade Syllabus also has a very full and detailed section on schedules ...