Veteran homeschool mamas often make it look easy, but we all know that starting out is scary. How on Earth do you create the homeschool dream living in your head? The idea of creating this perfect something out of nothing is just so terribly overwhelming. I know. I’ve been there.
To fight the overwhelm we need to start off by accepting that nothing is ever going to be perfect. Once that pressure is out of the way we have a much better chance in creating a homeschool we love. Then we set out to create a homeschool that both fits with our ideals, and feels comfortable to wear.
For the fourth and final week of this year’s NOT Back To School Blog Hop, we are talking transitions. How do we manage those times of flux, when we are changing rhythm, moving towards a new philosophy or just starting out? I like to use a technique I’ve dubbed ‘layering in’. So what is it and how does it work?
Put simply, layering in is consciously deciding to focus on introducing and establishing one new element to your homeschool at a time. It’s perfect for starting out, or for transitioning to a new approach.
How do you do it? Pick one thing you would like to bring into your homeschool and focus on that. It could be anything. Establishing a new rhythm, introducing a new resource, adding a new subject or learning area. Introduce the new element, work on making it familiar and tweaking it until it feels comfortable. Have it become a firmly established part of your home learning before adding in the next element.
Keep going, bringing one new aspect into play at a time, building and building until you have created the homeschool you set out to achieve. This is much more comfortable and more likely to stick than making broad, sweeping changes all at once. Trying to do it all at once is hard. Layering in makes life easier.
You can layer in on your own timeframe. Some people might like to add one new aspect each week when they are establishing a new style in their home. Others, like me, may prefer to take their time and focus more on layering in the big picture elements. There is no one way to do this- make it work for you.
You can use this technique with any homeschool philosophy. For example, in Charlotte Mason you may first establish a culture of reading aloud. Next you might work on learning the skill of narration. Copywork could come next, and then nature study. Once you are comfortable you might like to add in artist and composer study. You might like to do all that in completely the reverse order. It really doesn’t matter- just choose one ingredient to add to the mix at a time.
Our first yearhomeschooling we tried on a lot of new hats, experimenting with different homeschooling styles. We discovered what we did and didn’t like about each approach and importantly, connected as a family in a way we hadn’t before. It was a…well, let’s say ‘interesting‘ time 😉 In all honesty, that first year was a lot of ups and downs because we needed to deschool and I hadn’t yet discovered the concept of layering in.
By the end of that school year we had a pretty good idea of what had gone wrong and where we wanted to go next. Jumping feet first into new philosophies and methods had been expensive, exhausting and in the end nothing stuck. In hindsight I should’ve embraced deschooling from the start. I now knew what I needed was to be true to my emerging personal educational philosophy and to then layer in the elements I wanted.
In our second year we had two major focuses. The first being to establish a foundation to our new holistic approach. The second was to focus on community and our place within it.
Our foundation needed to be layered in first. We needed to establish a rhythm. And you know how I love a good rhythm! This really is the key to holding it all together. Regardless of the homeschool path you choose, I believe rhythm is paramount.
The next layer of our foundation was working with the main lesson structure. It didn’t take long for Nikolai to learn what to expect and to look forward to the lessons. By the end of a block when enthusiasm sometimes began to wane (at times for both of us), we were both always excited at the prospect of the next block beginning. This main lesson structure has been hugely beneficial in both my planning and in maintaining momentum throughout the year.
One at a time we then introduced some of the more artistic elements of the Steiner/Waldorf approach. We began by bringing in beeswax crayons, followed by painting then modelling. Even though we focused on bringing these elements into our homeschool, there was no rush in learning technique. At this point in time the idea was to focus on familiarity with the various media, as well as establishing their use in our rhythm.
It became apparent that we were missing those elements of Charlotte Mason that had appealed to us, so the focus shifted on bringing those things into our rhythm. More reading aloud, poetry teatime (or picnics in our case), and folksongs reappeared in our weekly rhythm much to everyone’s pleasure. One thing at a time, until it was established and felt comfortable.
Our second major focus of the year was on building community. It took trial and error to find which activities were enjoyed and how many outings a week was just enough but not too many. I’ll admit there were times when the balance was so off that either Nikolai or myself (and for one fortnight in the middle there-both of us) wanted to chuck the whole thing in and re-enroll in school. It went so far as looking at schools and emailing principals. In the end we stuck it out and we’re glad we did. It was hugely important that we gave this so much focus. Establishing our place in the community took precedence over everything.
So by now we have discovered our philosophy, found our place in the community, established our rhythm, become at ease with the main lesson structure, added in ‘feast’ elements from CM and become familiar with those quintessential Waldorf tools. What’s next?
Our focus next year will be formally learning techniques for using our tools with weekly drawing and painting lessons added into our rhythm. Our second focus will be on introducing formal nature studies, another element we are borrowing from Charlotte Mason. Time will tell what our layers for semester two will be 🙂
Adding just one detail at a time made the process less daunting. Our homeschool is now comfortable yet rich, firmly established yet growing and evolving. Just as it should be.
What elements would you like to layer in to your homeschool?
Joining in on this year’s NOT Back To School Blog Hop has been so much fun!
If you missed the first week’s posts, you can go back and find them:
Week One here
Week Two here
Week Three here
And don’t forget to go check out what the other mamas have to say!
Thanks for joining us over the past month.
Happy Homeschooling xx