Recently I have been looking back on our earlier homeschooling days, when Harmony and Iris were younger, to reinspire a sense of rhythmn to our days that the younger girls (and myself) so desperately crave. These earlier days were heavily Waldorf-inspired and were filled with plenty of quiet time at home, reading books, doing artwork, tons of uninterrupted creative play and following me around helping with chores along with some outside of the house activities like park and library days, playdates with good friends, walks, swimming at the reservoir, river or lake and quick errands. While we still do plenty of this still, it can be tricky to not let the older kids schedules dictate the entire day for the younger kids, throwing their entire emotional and physical rhythms way out of balance. Too much time traveling back in forth stuck in car seats, waiting around, errands that are no longer quickly accomplished due to a growing family...these things do not make for a pleasant toddler or preschooler. They do not set these little growing bodies up for success, but for exactly the opposite. Crying, whining, negative behavoir, restlessness..these all prevail when you are out half the day, in and out of the car, seated in the stands at a two hour track meet, basketball or volleyball game, weaving through crowded stores missing a naptime, not moving their limbs freely as nature had intended. So here I am with our current situation of Harmony choosing to go to middle school, Iris homeschooling and choosing to attend a one day a week homeschool enrichment program, a 3 and 1 year old, and trying to accommodate the varying-aged needs of the four, beginning with just a few things that will naturally mark points in our day for the little girls, just for a place to eventually grow from. For us an earlier bedtime routine and a morning arts and crafts time naturally fell into place as a starting point. It is a quiet contemplative time inbetween some of the more active parts of our mornings and we are all involved. I don't use this time to catch up on housework or check email, I create alongside them and them me (although I did get kicked to the kitchen counter). My creative life is not separate from theirs, theirs is fostered through mine, and then from an older sister, by imitating it while they are young. The same goes for reading, writing and math, I did not "teach" my kids phonics or word families, we lap read when they were young, have a large library of books available at all times at home, took weekly trips to the library for them to check out insane amounts of books ( fiction, nonfiction, childrens or adult, always self chosen unless they asked me for advice or to help), never forced it and let them read whenever, wherever(yes even upside down on the couch) and whatever they chose, told them what a word was when they asked instead of making them "sound it out"(stupid, although if an adult asked me what a word was I may make them sound it out), but most of all they saw me read, every day, all kinds of subjects just for the heck of it, not because I had to, but because I was genuinely interested in expanding my own knowledge and you know what...they learned how to read. No repetitive, out of context worksheets, just plenty of time, access to books and help from mom, dad or an older sibling or friend when they asked.
For the sake of helping others who are on their own homeschooling paths or maybe those curious, but still contemplating, I will put a label to my homeschooling/educational philosophy, although with some hesitation. There is much misinformation out there about many of the different philosophies of educational paths that one may take, especially unschooling and some of the other more educational alternatives to traditional schooling, many from those who misunderstand home education and child development altogether. Before I go any further I first want to say that I have not come across that much negativity about homeschooling in the area we live. There is a fairly good size homeschool community here, spanning a wide range of philosophies, and with the negative comments I have heard, I find come from those who are the most ignorant of the topic,( you will know this immediately because they will bring up the s word, do I dare need to say it...socialization....if you are a homeschooler you may have just laughed...because most of us know this is the most ridiculous comment we hear against homeschooling). So here goes.. in the early years we use a more Waldorf inspired approach to homeschooling and as the kids get older we take a more unschooling approach, but there are aspects of both at each age. There are many great resources and books available...right now the books that are inspiring me are "Kindergarten with your Three to Six Year Old" by Donna Simmons through Christopherus Homeschool Resources and "You are Your Childs First Teacher" by Rahima Baldwin Dancy for a Waldorf approach and pretty much anything written by John Holt to learn about the concept of unschooling. He worked for school reform in the 60's and 70's before becoming an advocate for the homeschooling movement in the early 80's. Some of my favorites are "Learning All The Time"(this was his first book I read 12 years ago and is still my favorite), "Teach Your Own", "Instead of Education", "How Children Learn", "How Children Fail" and "Escape From Childhood". All his books are excellent! So I guess if you had to you could call us waldorf unschoolers, but I hate labels and I prefer life learning to the term unschooling. We just try our best to go with the flow of each of our needs the best we can and to respect each other where we are individually.