What do you do when you fall in love with not one, but two different methods of home education?
You combine them of course!
Seasoned homeschool mamas often talk about the importance of choosing a homeschool method that resonates with you and then letting it guide you. I am all for this.
Having a philosophy helps you block out a lot of the noise online. Home education is gaining momentum at an incredible speed and as it grows so does the amount of information online. There is so much out there now. It can all feel too much. Too overwhelming.
Once you decide to embrace a philosophy you can narrow down your choice of curriculum, resources, facebook groups and even blogs to follow (I may be shooting myself in the foot with that last one 😉 ).
The noise dies down.
You can breathe again.
I’ve talked a little over the last year about how we identify primarily as holistic homeschoolers. For us this looks a lot like Waldorf homeschooling, but we do intentionally include elements of Charlotte Mason methodology into our homeschool too.
We aren’t alone.
Consciously combining these two methods seems to be growing in popularity, at least if Facebook and Instagram can be considered reliable indicators.
A lot of you have been asking me just how this works…
There are some challenges to combining two homeschool methods. When you chose just one method it helps keep planning straightforward. You don’t need to decide which elements from each to keep or discard. You don’t need to shuffle things about to fit both in. Sticking to one method can help you find your people.
The downside to this may be that you feel like you are missing out. Many people who are drawn to a second method yet don’t use it have said to me that they are always second guessing their choice. They don’t feel like they belong in online groups when they aren’t 100% sold on one method.
Combining allows you to take the elements of each that resonate with you, and that your child responds best to, and combine them in a thoughtful way to make a new, creative whole. Combining allows the strengths in one method to balance the weaknesses in the other. It allows you the space to create something uniquely suited to your home and your children while still offering you the guidance of a philosophy. This is why we combine.
This is a little different to eclectic homeschooling in that we still have a framework and a philosophy. It’s more about seeking balance rather than variety. For me, holism is the base, Waldorf methodology is my framework and Charlotte Mason’s teachings are the trimmings.
Waldorf and Charlotte Mason come at education from different directions, but there is enough overlap that people who are drawn to one are often drawn to the other. Combined they seem to balance each other out. This is great for kids who just don’t seem to fit neatly within one paradigm. This approach tends to be easier if you are drawn to Waldorf but not necessarily to anthroposophy.
No formal lessons before 6 or 7; academic lessons in the morning with free time and artistic pursuits in the afternoon; holding story, art and music not just in high regard, but as essential elements of a good education; a focus on time in nature…these are just a few of the elements that are shared by the two methods. Finding those things that are shared and then making those your cornerstones will get you off on a solid start.
From my own experience, and the many conversations I’ve had with mamas who combine these two methods, this seems to be the easiest way to go about combining; choose one method as your frame and then add elements from the other.
Now you could go ahead and pull the two methods apart and put them back together in a completely new way. If you can manage this, tell me how! For most people though, choosing one method as your base and adding on is the easiest way to go about things. Which gives us two main ways to combine Waldorf and Charlotte Mason methodologies.
You can start with Charlotte Mason, the shorter lessons, the choice of subjects, the afternoons of masterly inactivity. To this you can add what is commonly (but affectionately) known as ‘Waldorf fluff‘. The beautiful materials. Think beeswax crayons, lyra pencils, wet-on-wet painting, playsilks and a nature table. These things all nicely compliment a Charlotte Mason way of living and learning.
Miss Mason calls for the children to engage in handicrafts and many find the specific Waldorf progression to be a comprehensive way to implement this. Morning circle is another element associated with Waldorf that is easily added to a CM homeschool. You can fill your morning circle with morsels of Charlotte’s feast alongside your movement and maths. Adding drawing or painting to narrations works seamlessly as well.
The other way, the way we currently use in our home, is to bring Charlotte Mason’s feast into a Waldorf-inspired homeschool. Commonly this is done by using the Waldorf school day structure, teaching in main lessons and usually by using Steiner’s indications for what is to be taught each year. To this you can add artist study, composer study, poet study, nature study. You can embrace the ethos of “education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life”. Supplementing oral story telling with living books and assigning classical literature for read alouds or independent reading is another common way to bring CM into the Waldorf home.
I’ve also known families to use Steiner’s indications for which stories/topics to cover each year, but have presented the stories in short lessons rather than blocks. It can also work the other way round if you do not agree with Steiner’s indications for a curriculum based on the recapitulation of Western cultural development. You can use Charlotte Mason’s topic recommendations and cover them in main lessons rather than in short lessons. This can work particularly well for children who have a difficult time with transitions.
As you follow this path the common elements will begin to stand out more and this becomes the glue that helps hold it all together.
We add a little Charlotte Mason flavour into our homeschool in many ways. First and foremost, I find reading her to be a comfort and a joy, despite our differences in religious belief. Her respect for children and their personhood is uplifting. She gives so much practical advice for mamas and inspires me to make my home a place of peace and learning. I personally don’t get that from Steiner.
There are SIX other elements of Charlotte Mason’s methodology that we actively incorporate in our home on a daily/weekly basis.
Living books: Confession. We are book mad in our home. It’s bordering on the ridiculous. Most people declutter clothes and toys each year. For us it’s books. And we still have no space for them all.
I really enjoy creating and telling stories, but I try to balance this with using living books, particularly picture books, in our main lessons. For the most part we stick to Steiner’s recommendations for topics each year and I find books that match up. I also assign several children’s classics to be read each term as independent reading.
Of course there are all those wonderful living books laying about the house for the children to pick up any time they want, and they make an appearance at bedtime too.
Artist study: Artist study is really informal in our house. I wrote about it a couple of years ago when we first started incorporating it into our home. You can read that post here. I love leaving coffee table books full of famous art out for the kids and my son especially enjoys the Can You Find books from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is really low-key for us at the moment and centres around enjoying the pictures and becoming familiar with the artists. Next year I plan to formalise this a little more and begin looking at composition and technique.
Composer study: Composer study is possibly the easiest CM element to add in to your homeschool. I simply choose a different composer each term and play his/her music in the background during our school day. From time to time I will mention who the composer is. If Nikolai is interested I will tell him some interesting facts about the person who created our beautiful music. That’s it. Again, this is something we plan to go more in depth with in later years when we begin formal history, but for now love and familiarity is the aim.
Nature study: This is one of those areas where there is a little overlap in the two methods. I’ll confess we have tried keeping journals from time to time but we haven’t made them a regular feature. I am saving this for 5th grade botany study. I think that will be the perfect time for formal journalling. That doesn’t mean we aren’t actively engaged in nature study though!
Fridays are devoted to nature in our home. Together with some other local families we get together to experience the wonders in our region. Working in four week blocks, we get to really know a place, it’s plants and animals, its hidden pathways, before moving on to the next place. The children are encouraged to explore and wonder, and then to follow this up at home with art, books and other activities. Fridays are absolutely our favourite day of the week!
We love nature study so much in our home that I am currently working on a nature guide for junior primary students. It should be ready in time for the start of Australia’s next school year! Make sure you are subscribed to the blog to get word on when it becomes available.
Folksong: Charlotte Mason felt it was important for children to learn the folksongs of their heritage and so do I! We learn 2-3 folk songs each term, many of them Australian but not all, and like Miss Mason we co-ordinate them with our other studies. Charlotte had the foksongs match up with history and geography studies for her students, we match ours to the current theme of our main lesson block. For example, we just finished up a third grade block on fibres and textiles, and learnt ‘Jumbuck Shearer’ to compliment our work. Folksongs are simply added into our morning circle time and sung 3 times a week for the duration of the block.
Poetry: Poetry is already a big part of Waldorf-inspired homeschooling. Morning circle is full of poetry. Which makes it really easy to incoporate Charlotte Mason’s ideas here too. Our morning circle includes a Waldorf verse, a seasonal poem, a poem which ties in with our main lesson work and a Waldorf closing verse at the very least. We make sure we are including quality poetry, not just pretty rhymes. We also enjoy a weekly poetry picnic and read nursery rhymes and other short poems together of an evening.
One last aspect of our home that you would recognise from Charlotte Mason is narration. Waldorf’s ‘retelling’ and Mason’s ‘narration’ are more alike than different, so I haven’t included this one in my six today. Instead, I will talk about it more in depth another day.
Do you combine both methods in your homeschool? Let us all know how it looks in your home by leaving a comment below.