The idea of homeschooling fascinates me. For one thing, I’ve had my share of negative experiences with the public school system to know that I want something better, much better, for my children. For another, homeschooling strikes me as an extension of attachment parenting, a way to keep my children in the home when they are young, and not delegating my job to teachers who may not share my values. Finally, I have spent 10 years of marriage waiting for the time when I could be a mother. The last thing on my mind is getting my child out of the house for the majority of most days of the year. Instead, I look forward to the one-on-one time we will spend together, benefitting both our relationship and the child’s education.
What I did not expect was the sense of being overwhelmed by the options of methods (never mind curricula!) available to homeschoolers. Luckily, I do have several years to iron out the details, as my baby is not even due for 5.5 more months. So I’ve taken to writing as a way to figure out where to begin.
The first step, after writing a mission statement to gather our attitudes and beliefs about the purpose of education and homeschooling, is to tackle one grade at a time. What I’m learning from the blogosphere of homeschoolers is that the general trend is not to simply choose a method and a curriculum and stick with it for 12 years. Furthermore, I will have to consider the child’s individual learning style when deciding on the best way to approach learning with her or him. Then, it’ll be a matter of trial and error, committing to a method and perhaps curriculum for one grade at a time and reassessing our needs each year.
With this in mind, I am more relaxed in knowing that this is simply not something I can plan in advance and put away to wait for my child to be “school-aged”. In fact, what is considered school-aged is the first thing I need to take into account. Here, I am attracted to Waldorf and Montessori methods of education, in that both stress the importance of letting little children be little children, and not trying to teach academics before they are ready to learn them. In the same vein, both of these methods discourage exposure to electronic media for young children. One difference between these two approaches at this early stage is that Montessori focuses more on children learning through work, by doing age-appropriate chores around the house, for instance. The Waldorf approach, on the other hand, focuses pretty much entirely on allowing the children to play, thus building the foundation for later academic learning. Another, perhaps inconsequential, difference is that Waldorf would have the child wait until age 7 to begin any sort of concrete homeschooling, whereas Montessori starts a year earlier, at 6 years old.
For the time being, I see that my approach to “Kindergarten” will definitely come from some overlap of these two approaches. Since my child is due to be born in December, I think it’s best to plan to start first grade in September of the year when s/he will turn 7. One benefit of Waldorf is that I have already found ready curricula available for all 12 years (should we end up sticking with this method), and I do feel the need to have some guidance, at least in the beginning of my homeschooling career. Since Montessori is more child-led, the expectation is to focus on what the child shows an interest in learning at the time, so homeschooling parents have to gather their own resources independent of a set curriculum. I certainly appreciate this approach to a degree. However, I also crave structure, and I envision establishing some boundaries within which we can spend more or less time depending on the child’s interests.
The only thing I have found somewhat concerning about the Waldorf approach is its focus on art, since I am not very artistic. I look forward to various arts and crafts we can learn together, but an artist I am not. Still, at the early stage, this is not something to lose sleep over. Therefore, I think I’ll settle into the expectation that we will utilize a Waldorf homeschooling curriculum in the 1st grade, with the understanding that I will most likely pick and choose eclectically to change or supplement as needed. After all, I am looking for a curriculum as a guide, not as a rule-book.
With this matter settled, I can go back to more pressing plans, like a gentle birth and attachment parenting.