Some readers may wonder why I am writing about homeschooling on a permaculture blog, however, to me, educating and caring for the next generation is an important part of permaculture. I can learn all I want about caring for the land, about farming using permaculture and/or bio-dynamic principles, about harvesting water and caring for our environment, and the list goes on. But if all of that learning stops with me and I send my children out into the world to live the typical modern-day consumer lifestyle, how have I helped to change anything? So with that in mind, I will be posting occasional posts about our homeschool life.
I’ve chosen to use the Waldorf pedagogy and philosophy for a couple of reasons; it is a beautiful method of teaching that resonates with both myself and my children, I also agree with a lot of its basic principles of teaching children through doing, of teaching the whole child (art, music and movement are just as important as academics) and I also love its focus on nature. The founder of Waldorf, the anthroposophic Rudolf Steiner was also considered the father of bio-dynamic farming, a farming method fairly close to permaculture.
Our school year looks a little different than the typical school year, mostly because we fit what we’re doing into the seasons, especially in relation to what happens on the farm in each season. In our area of the world, late fall to early spring is the time to be doing inside book work. In our short summer season, we want to be outside as much as possible. So our book-work school year begins the beginning of October and goes to the end of April. May through September is our outside hands-on learning. This year I have my daughter S in grade 2 and my son A in kindergarten. So we are still at the stage where we do a lot of story telling and art as well as basic academic skills for grade 2 (the three R’s).
After doing a fun unit on space in the fall, we(hubby and I) decided over Christmas to return to the Waldorf curriculum, in our own way. I don’t believe anything should be followed blindly, to the letter, and we don’t follow the Waldorf curriculum 100%. For example, this year I am doing grade 2 Waldorf math and form drawing as well as animal stories but I am not doing a block on Saints, as would be the norm for a Waldorf school.
Kindergarten is fairly simple as the Waldorf philosophy doesn’t have children learning academics in kindergarten, so we are following the Waldorf Essentials kindergarten which is a collection of stories about a young gnome named Sam and his friends. The curriculum includes suggested activities, music, handwork and recipes and A really enjoys the adventures.
For S right now we are doing a block (Waldorf curriculum is typically divided into blocks, approximately one month in length where something specific is the main focus) on animal stories from around the world. We are having a lot of fun with it! I am using a 2-day cycle where day one we read the story and do some art, either painting, drawing or modeling. Then day two we learn a bit about the country that the story is from through books and/or youtube and do a craft and perhaps some cooking from that country or area of the world. So far this month we’ve made East Indian pronti and a goat dish, we’ve made West African tribal masks, we’ve practiced some Chinese writing and made a paper coral reef on part of our school wall. Tomorrow we will try to do some Jewish dance together. Our last block for this year, in April will be a math block, focusing on money and time.