Welcome to our little corner of the Internet! We are a small family of four (and a half) living and growing where ever the Army sends us.
C is a musician. It's a lovely thing (most of the time!) to be married to a musician. Our house is full of music, and our children consider it a way of life. My love is art. Any art, any craft, and I'm there. Music and art. What could be better? Which led us, ultimately, to Waldorf.
When E was born, it became immediately clear that he was a different sort of cat. What he required of us pushed us beyond anything we ever felt capable of and completely changed the way we view children, parenting, diet, education, and life. We entered the world of co-sleeping, baby wearing, elimination communication (look it up and have a good laugh), extended breastfeeding, delayed/non-vaccination, and food allergies/intolerances. Rashes over much of his body that would blister and bleed, super high fevers, screaming for hours and hours...and hours. Aggression, rages, anxiety, bowed legs. Extreme sensitivity to light, sound, and touch. Pneumonia, bronchitis, pertussis, strep, over and over.
By the time e was born, we thought maybe we had it figured out. We ate no soy, dairy, gluten, or peanut butter. We were more comfortable with this whole parenting thing. She was happy in her Ergo 8 hours a day. But she had her own list of crazy physical symptoms, like blistering from a short amount of time in the sun and skin pigment changes from celery juice (kudos to the pediatric dermatologist who finally figured that one out!). She introduced us to the world of tree nut allergies and epi pens. And of course her personality was entirely different than her brother's.
E continually perplexed us. He made up his own words and fully expected us to understand him. He was convinced that he was equal to us; he did not view us as older, more experienced, or more knowledgable. If I knew something he did not (red and blue make purple) he'd fly into a rage. Fairy tales terrified him, and he could not follow a storyline. So we came to Waldorf slowly, over time. No gnomes, princes, or fairies.
I bought (and sold) Oak Meadow kindergarten when E was four. I didn't understand spending time with each letter and its story, or snapping a twig in half to demonstrate "two". E knew this. He was the brightest, deepest child I knew. The stories were too detailed and drawn out for E to follow, and the whole method seemed too...simple.
Over the next year, I read every Waldorf blog I could find. How does this method work? Why does it work? Because what I haven't said is that I was a teacher; I taught students with learning disabilities and behavior disorders. I spent five years trying to remedy the damage done to these kids by the school system, finding gaps, solving problems, trying to fit big square pegs in teeny round holes. I didn't want that for my child. I knew he was a gigantic square peg, and to force him into an itty bitty round hole would destroy him. Nothing conventional seemed right for him. He threw workbooks across the room and could not tolerate being directly taught anything. He was always on the move, creating, singing, worrying, demanding that his presence be acknowledged.
For kindergarten, we played. Played, played, and played. I answered his one million questions a day, each one followed by "How do you know?" and often a request for my phone so he could check with someone more knowledgable. We tested him with the CAT, a standardized test from California, to put our minds at ease. Let me say that was a hell of a week! He ripped up seven copies of the answer booklet. In the end, he scored well above grade level. We relaxed a bit.
First grade consisted of a journey inspired by Waldorf Essentials curriculum and The Wise Enchanter. Our first main lesson book. 26 five-minute stories, drawn out over ten months, usually done after e was in bed. Letter by letter. That is when I began to believe in Waldorf. I saw the change in E: the joy of story, the discovery of each letter in nature, the way he owned each letter. Mid-year we moved to Alaska and chose to be part of an umbrella school for funding. Thinking a curric from the list was required, I ordered Oak Meadow. Immediately E's drawings lost their depth and I found it very difficult to set it up so E thought he was leading. His resistance built. Within a few months, I switched to Christopherus, and the magic returned. I breathed a sigh of relief.
I continued on with a very unschooly version of Waldorf with Christopherus as our guide, following themes but only touching on each lightly. We created very few main lesson book pages, visited the library often, and filled our days with art and music and nature. Anything I wanted him to learn had to appear that I was learning it alongside him.
E decided to read when he was near the end of second grade. We told him it was time, and he rebelled (I think he thought one day he'd just pick up Lord of the Rings and read it like daddy). I told him that I knew what I was doing, I had taught hundreds of kids to read, and I would teach him, too. He told me I'd do nothing of the sort. Three months later he'd figured it out himself and was reading above grade level.
The same thing happened with math. He enjoyed skip counting in rhythm with motion, but everything else made him angry. How do mom and dad know how to do math, when E doesn't? He raged over math daily. Finally I knew I had to remove myself from the equation. Math isn't something I could "learn alongside"...it was something he had to be directly taught. I bought Teaching Textbooks. He screamed at the computer. He yelled at the narrator. He had to be told repeatedly to treat the keyboard nicely. But eventually, he realized he couldn't argue with it and settled for yelling at me every once in a while about what a stupid program it was. Ultimately he came to like it quite a bit, although now he opts to do the workbook version rather than the computer program.
Then came e. She did her journey in kindergarten because she was determined. She couldn't wait one moment longer. Every step of the way, she has been chomping at the bit. When I taught her to knit during the summer before first grade, she told me it had been a loooong three years in coming and picked it up quickly. She knows what is ahead of her because she watched E do it. Best part is that she wants it all! Every story, every project, every anything. Bring it on! It took E only a month to figure out that e was doing all sorts of things he hadn't. He listened in on the stories he'd missed, and, eventually, started thinking about what he might be currently missing. He began resisting a little less. It has been such a journey with him! But one I wouldn't have missed for anything.
E is a competitive gymnast; he spends 16 hours a week in training. Even when he is home, he is never still and frequently upside down. Last year he told me that the reason commissary trips are so difficult and overwhelming is because he has to stay upright! He has amazing coaches who have figured out that for E, gymnastics is a personal venture. He isn't interested in competition, he does not care about rewards. It's about the movement, the skills, the strength and training. He eats, sleeps, and breathes gymnastics.
e has found her niche in a children's chorus. She exudes joy when she sings! Her director informed us that she will be tough on e because a singer with e's strength has the power to derail the entire chorus. The other kids follow her, for better or worse! So far for better. e is also taking swimming lessons, and recently asked about swim team. She is strong and confident at everything she does.
I started this blog because so many people were asking me what we do for school. My answer: very little. We mainly just live life. Not a whole lot of time is dedicated to "school" because kids are always learning. I don't do phonics, nor handwriting or spelling (until 5th grade). I don't know at what level they read, and don't require them to do book reports. They read what they are interested in, or not. Each spring we administer the CAT/TerraNova, and they always, always score above grade level across the board. The inner drive to learn does not end at 2 years old. The same motivation and process of experimentation that leads a baby to crawl and a toddler to talk continues on throughout life.
There are as many ways to homeschool as there are children who are homeschooled. This is the way that works for us; each family finds their own way. My hope is that you find in our story an inspiration, a new idea, a realization, a shared joy, or a common struggle. Because we are all on this parenting journey together, right? Cheers.