One of the things that I take great pains to emphasize throughout our Christopherus publications is advise on how to teach and how to organize one's lessons. Drawing from my background as a Waldorf teacher and homeschooling mother, I try to think into the different challenges that a parent has as she tries to figure out how to use materials and how to order her schedule and so offer a range of suggestions to make it work.
In each of our publications you will find sections on teaching and also ideas on how to change lessons or schedules around so as to "make them your own". We do not believe in "school in a box", a one-size-fits-all approach to education! And as one gets to fifth grade and beyond, individualizing becomes more and more necessary if one is going to truly work with the impulse of Waldorf education.
Here is an excerpt from a section on scheduling from our upcoming 5th grade curriculum (available mid August):
· Whilst it is important that your child has some lessons outside the home, it is very easy to rip the heart from one’s homeschool by leaving the home too often for other lessons. Be judicious in your choices and cultivate the ability to just say no. Don’t allow yourself to succumb to the fear that so many modern parents have of not giving their child enough “experiences”. Your child will not miss out. He has the rest of his life to (rock climb, folk dance, play the ukulele, speak Russian… and so on). If too much of his time is spent being ferried from one lesson to another, then his homelife can hardly be the bedrock of his homeschool education. And then he truly will miss out.
· Do not forget to base your seasonal rhythms on your family’s religious/spiritual life. The fact that we do not include specific mention of festivals in no way means that this is somehow less important than in earlier years. Rather, this is a reflection of the fact that this is an individual family matter, as well as the fact that your child’s relationship to spirit is now a step more conscious and does not primarily reside in the realm of nature tables and stories. Thus it is entirely up to each family to decide how to approach this. We hope that you are able to find ways to build upon your child’s earlier experiences of the turn of the seasons to provide a way to sustain and nourish your child’s spiritual life throughout his entire journey toward adulthood.
· Find that elusive balance between “must do” and “let’s skip it”. There is no one answer to this dilemma and it shows its head in all realms of parenting and education, not just in creating a doable and meaningful schedule! Your homeschool schedule is important and sticking with weekly math drill, finding time to start AND finish handwork projects and making regular time to practice the piano are critical. But… there are also times when a hike in the woods or making a cake is more important. Only you can find the right balance for your child.
· Work to achieve a balance between bookwork, hands-on experiences, artistic work, silence and discussion. All these elements are important, but only insofar as they find their complement in the other elements. See more on this under Teaching.
· Our schedule is based on a five-day week but only four days involve one-to-one work with you. Day Five is the day for your child to work independently. From sixth grade onwards this becomes increasingly important as your child needs to work independently for part of every day. This year is your transition year. See page X for more on this.
· Have a properly worked out schedule for the day, but also leave some parts of your child’s work for “non-school” times. Discussions arising from main lesson work on karma, life after death, the role of women in Sparta and all the other fascinating things you’ll want to talk about with your child do not necessarily have to take place during lesson time. Especially if you have other children, you might often need to say “Tonight’s our turn to cook supper together. Let’s get back to this discussion then” or similar. Learn to “set your child up” with work. Do a form drawing with her and then leave her to finish it and copy a best version over while you see to another child.
· A fifth grader is old enough to be expected to not merely entertain a younger sibling while looking after him. She can also work with him, both in terms of household chores and lessons. While you are busy (perhaps with another child) your fifth grader can teach her sibling how to make certain craft or handwork projects; read to him; draw or model or even, possibly, paint, with him; play math games or other games with him; and do things like cook lunch together once a week or do specific household or yard chores.