Waldorf-Inspired Homeschool Planning: The Big Picture
Planning out your entire year of Waldorf-inspired homeschooling is a big project. Over the next few weeks I want to take you step by step through the same planning process that I’m using to plan the upcoming school year for my rising second grader (Aiya) and my 5-year-old in first year of kindergarten (Sierra). I hope this will be helpful to you no matter what curriculum you use, how old your children are, or how many children you’re planning for!
General tips for homeschool planning:
1. Give yourself plenty of time to plan and get organized. Schedule in your planning time over the late spring and summer so you can start the year feeling prepared. The amount of time you need really depends on your personality, your homeschooling style, and what curriculum or resources you’re using.
2. Find the planning tools that work for you. You might need to experiment! Do you want to purchase a planner, design your own and print it out, or use an online tool like Google calendar? Will you keep handwritten notes in labeled folders in a file drawer or box or would you like to keep your notes in a three-ring binder or use an online tool like Evernote or Google Docs?
3. Use pencil. Things will need to change during the year!
Planning Step One: Look at the big picture.
I want you to get in the habit of looking at your homeschool plans through two different lenses.
The first lens is your child. Your unique and wonderful child is on his own personal and spiritual journey in this world! How will you best guide him? To educate means “to draw out” - it does not mean “to fill with information!” How will you be an educator in the true sense of the word for this child? When you look through this lens you are using your intuition and the vast amount of “data” that you have about your child since the day he was born or even before.
The second lens is your educational philosophy, methodology, or curriculum. If you are choosing to homeschool with Waldorf methods it’s because you are drawn to it in some way or feel it will benefit your family. What can you learn from Steiner’s philosophy and the Waldorf school traditions to guide your homeschooling journey? What does the curriculum say about the development of your child in this year, the subjects and skills that should be covered in this grade, and the stories that will meet your child’s soul needs right now? When you look through this lens you are relying on the accumulated wisdom of a tradition as well as your impulse for self-education.
In other words as a homeschooling parent you are asking yourself two questions when you plan. “What do I feel my child needs?” and “What does the curriculum suggest for my child?”
Start planning your homeschool year by looking at the big picture of what you want for your child and your family. The questions that follow can help you get clear on the big picture (especially if you write down your answers).
Where would you like to see growth for your child this year? As a holistic homeschooler you can think about growth in many spheres of development: Social, academic/intellectual, emotional, physical, behavioral (habits), artistic, and spiritual.
Where do you want to see growth for yourself this school year as a teacher and parent?
What do you want your family life to look like this year? How do you want to grow as a family?
What do you want this homeschooling year to feel like?
During the year things will get off track. There will be a move or baby or something else that takes more time and attention than you planned for. Your child will have developmental spurts and shifts. You will not be able to predict exactly how quickly you can move through the material that you plan out. There will be weeks of losing focus and energy for homeschooling and times when you need to reset and go back to square one.
For those times it is super helpful to know what is most essential to you. For your unique family, what defines successful homeschooling? I encourage you to dig deeper than just what lessons you want to cover and think more about the experience of learning together.
I’ve never done this before but I’m planning to this year: Make a poster or card for yourself to hang up near the space where you do your homeschooling lessons or planning. On it list out your homeschooling essentials. These are the bare bones qualities or activities of your days or weeks that you can cross off and say “Yes, we had a successful day. No, we didn’t stick to the plan I made last summer, but we did what is more important: We covered what is most essential.”
Planning Step Two: Choose your grade level and resources.
Determine your child’s grade level for the coming year. This is obvious if you’ve been Waldorf homeschooling for awhile but it can be a big decision if:
you are moving from kindergarten to first grade you are transitioning from a different method (Classical, traditional, etc.) to Waldorf you are transitioning from school to homeschooling
I’ll give you a general guideline to work with but if you’re feeling stuck you might want to discuss it with people you trust in your homeschooling community, get in touch with your curriculum provider, do some reading online, and also tap into your intuition!
The Waldorf-inspired homeschooling curriculum will be a best fit developmentally if your child is….
Seven years old for most of First Grade Eight years old for most of Second Grade Nine years old for most of Third Grade Ten years old for most of Fourth Grade
….and so on.
Then choose the resources that you’ll use for teaching this year. Will you buy a full curriculum? Will you combine various resources or write your own lessons? What planning support do you need and how will you get it?
If you are new to Waldorf homeschooling I highly recommend two resources for understanding what this method is like and what is covered in each grade:
1. The Files section of the Waldorf Home Educators yahoo group. These files are offered for free by Marsha Johnson and are chock full of inspiration and information!!
2. The Christopherus Waldorf Curriculum Overview for Homeschoolers by Donna Simmons. This is a great book!
If you are looking for curriculum here are some of the options to jump-start your research:
1. Lavender’s Blue Homeschool (K-1)
2. Christopherus (K-5)
3. Waldorf Essentials (K-7)
4. Live Education (K-8)
Next week we will dive into planning out your year - the calendar, festivals, main lesson blocks, and other lessons.