Thursday, August 9, 2012

Teaching to the CHILD, not the curriculum

If you read my previous post, you know that I've been struggling with some of my homeschool planning this year. It all started about two months ago. We were moving along nicely with our plan to school through the summer and I got summer fever. I also started to notice some things that weren't working in our homeschool and I started to second guess.


Then, we moved onto just plain old "Summer School".

Then, we moved onto just plain old "Living" ~ coupled with reading aloud, reading independently, lots of library trips, play dates, homeschool group activities and free play around the house.

My school thought process has run the course all the way from:
  • Doing a Waldorf 2nd grade with the Princess and a pretty rigorous Charlotte Mason 4th grade with the Hippie, to ...
  • Keeping it Simple and Natural and just making sure we read something every day, write something every day, connect with God every day, do some math every day, DO something every day (with our hands), to ...
  • God first, Read Aloud, DO, Play, Live, Get Outside, Enjoy, to ...
  • Organic Homeschooling, to ...
  • Ruth Beechick, to ...
  • Modified Ambleside Online, to ...
  • Five in a Row, to ...
  • Back to Waldorf for the Princess and Charlotte Mason for the Hippie, to ...
  • 100% Waldorf across the board for the entire family, to ...
  • Full circle, back to Waldorf 2nd grade for the Princess and more Charlotte Mason-inspired for the Hippie ...
I think you get the idea.

I was truly a mess for about a month there. Then, I thought I got it settled.

Then, I got confused again.

What it boils down to is this ~ my two children are as different as night and day. As much as I wanted to choose the right curriculum or method for our family, I have to face the fact that there is not a blanket way to do things in this family.

The Princess is still dreamy. She is still very much a little princess. She needs gentle. She needs time to play. She needs stories. I interviewed her at the beginning of this charade and she told me that for math she would love to hear stories (Waldorf). She told me that she really doesn't care about history yet (Waldorf again). For "science" she told me she wanted to study animals (Waldorf 2nd grade puts us with animals). Ultimately, I've known in my gut for quite some time that she needed the gentle beauty of a Waldorf 2nd grade year. It is my responsibility to put that together for her.

The Hippie, on the other hand is ready for more. She loves Math U See and has looked rather worried when she saw me looking at Waldorf math ~ "You're not getting rid of Math U See are you?" She really wants to do MUS. Period. She likes to read. She likes to read about things that really happened ~ historical fiction and history, nature, about artists and all sorts of things. She likes Shakespeare and Classical Music and Artists. She seems to be a good candidate for a more Charlotte Mason education. Of course, she still loves all things magical and fantasy ~ she loves fairies, gnomes, believing in everything. She got excited about the Norse myths that would be in a 4th grade Waldorf curriculum. She loves animals and would love to study them this year. A 4th grade Waldorf curriculum would have her starting to work with Geography and map skills this year, and wouldn't you know she has been all about her compass and directions and maps lately. Ultimately, I know in my heart that I need to put together a custom-made curriculum that will meet her where she is developmentally, include the stories and ideas that Waldorf suggests she needs for her spiritual development, but I also need to balance that out with lots of beauty and living books.

So, if you wanted to know what was confusing me recently, there you have it. When you decide to teach to your child(ren) and not to a particular method or curriculum, decisions and plans become more complex than just buying that one-size-fits-all curriculum and making a schedule.

I need to find a way to fit in the gentle rhythm of stories and baking and painting and nature and God and lots of time to play to meet my Princess where she is. And, I need to find a way to fit in the slightly more rigorous structure that my Hippie is ready for.

Above all, though, I must remember what is most important to me and my family (all "experts" aside). No matter where my mind wanders, I know that the most important things in this home are:
  • God and family first, always.
  • Forming and keeping strong relationships between my girls and me, between these two sisters and between them and Daddy
  • Developing Godly character.
  • Peaceful home life that includes cooking and baking from real, whole foods, keeping a clean and orderly and above all COZY home and having fun together.
  • Getting outside and observing nature, learning from nature and cultivating true reverence for nature.
  • Reading aloud to them ~ classic literature, poetry, fables, myths, legends, fairy tales, biographies, nature stories, etc.
  • Developing an appreciation for quality music, art and literature.
  • Time to play and explore and get bored and create.
  • Basic skills so that they can learn anything they want ~ reading, writing and math.
  • Creating memories and traditions around holidays and festivals that matter to us.
  • And so on ...
I had a bit of an epiphany this morning. I remembered how just a few months ago I was telling my husband that I finally felt like I knew what I was doing with homeschooling. I may have been struggling to manage other areas of my life, but I had this homeschooling gig figured out.

My epiphany was this ~ if I felt like I really knew what I was doing before, then whatever it was I was doing must have been working. So, in reality, I should really just leave well enough alone, right?

At that time, we were doing our own thing ~ predominantly Charlotte Mason and Waldorf inspired. But, our own way of doing it.

And, we were happy with it.

The only exception was my little feeling that things weren't quite right for the Princess. My little feeling that she needed me to slow down and honor her childhood a bit longer.

So, that epiphany tells me that I need to revisit the drawing board. But, not to start over from scratch. All I need to do is figure out a way to continue on the path we were already on, with a bit more relaxed and gentle Waldorf flair for the Princess.

Stay tuned for my thoughts on how to make that happen.

If you're still with me after this long stream of consciousness rambling, I applaud you. I apologize if I've bored you. But, if you are a homeschooler, I have a suspicion that you could relate to much of what I've said.

It's funny how we can do this for years and still come back to that feeling of not having a clue!

Until next time, 
   ~ IrieMomma 



  1. Hi! I'm not sure if I've commented here before, but I have read your blog faithfully for quite a long time now...ever since you first posted on the SCM forums, in fact. I LOVE your writing and your family and really enjoy hearing about your homeschooling...your approach is so similar to what I hope to do myself. We are starting Oak Meadow this year with my five-year-old son, and so far it has gone wonderfully. (We are supplementing with a few other things to fit his specific needs.) But I agonized and agonized all summer about what to do with him. He is a unique little boy (all our kids are!), and I want more than anything to give him EXACTLY what he needs.

    So I can absolutely understand how you feel about your daughters. I think you are doing an amazing job. You are one of the most conscientious, intelligent homeschoolers I know, and I am confident that you will make all the right decisions for the girls' education, and that you will all have an amazing year. Your current plan sounds perfect for both of them, and as someone who finds myself more and more drawn to Waldorf philosophy as time goes on, I honestly believe you are headed in the right direction. :)

  2. Thank you so much for your encouragement, Amanda. It's nice to "meet" you. I do love to make new friends on here. I'm glad to hear you have something for your little one. I assume you are using Oak Meadow Kindergarten? I've heard nothing but wonderful things about that program! As far as I understand it, you can really make that one feel natural and just do some of the activities throughout the daily routine and he won't even realize he's having "lessons". :) The hard part is when your children get older and you feel like they need more, but what you really want is to still live that Kindergarten rhythm, lol. :) Thanks for stopping by.


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