I get a lot of questions about homeschooling, how we do it, what books/curriculum/ideology we use. Early on I very much identified with the Waldorf homeschooling movement; mostly because it rested on the same framework in which I believed most: warmth, rhythm, and natural playthings. For those of you who have known me since those Are So Happy years, you will remember my extensive posts there about warmth, rhythm, and natural playthings: they were my most popular posts in all the years I spent blogging there. I don’t think you need the crutch of Waldorf to cultivate a beautiful early childhood experience, but it can help when you are feeling alone and bewildered to have a little like-minded community, even if just online, and that was once a good way to find other people who could support you.
As the girls have gotten older, the intense need for that experience has shifted. Of course Molly is not quite out of that window yet, but her experience of early childhood is necessarily different from that of her sisters. As each year has come up and I enroll the girls one by one into “official homeschooling” with our local school district, I have alternately tried on many different homeschooling ideologies (Waldorf, classical, project-based, literature-based, Charlotte Mason, sometimes I think you could literally name anything and I’ve tried it) and had moments of terror in which I fear that I am failing them in every way. Vacillating wildly between a strict schedule and despair is exactly what I want to avoid; remember, I’m the world’s biggest advocate for the peace that comes from a regular rhythm. For many people, that sense of rhythm and calm comes from attaching to a specific method, and I admire that! I don’t really think that there is a better or worse way to do things. I trust that children can learn and thrive in every circumstance. However, I love Big Ideas and I hate being Told What To Do (I was a real joy in school myself, obviously), so eventually I had to let go of the black/white right/wrong of applying methods, and come to a place where the ideology of our homeschool was my own.
I came to the realization at some point that what children’s literature had taught me about mothering applied to homeschooling as well. Gentle guidance, trust in my children, doing my best, cultivating a spirit of warmth, all of these things give me strength and courage on this path. In the end, I have three goals in homeschooling, which is to say, lifeschooling:
- allowing them to engage in meaningful work
- cultivating a sense of belonging
- giving them opportunities to create connections
If you know me at all, you know I could write volubly on each of those points, but I am making an effort make this post readable, so I will stop there for now.
I know that most people who ask me questions about homeschooling are looking for concrete answers, not theoretical ones, and I am happy to go more into specifics in future posts, but I wanted to start here with a little bit of my journey. The number one thing I wish I had understood when I signed Maya up for first grade four years ago was that I would not regret any of the choices I made, I would only regret my constant worrying over the choices that I made. If I could give advice to new (or seasoned!) homeschoolers, I would say: have faith. Cultivate your own confidence and your trust in your children. Take your time. Love one another! An atmosphere of joy and camaraderie goes a long way.