Many, possibly even most, homeschool mamas have this worry at some time or another. How do I know what I should be teaching my child?
It’s one of the most common questions I see asked by prospective homeschool mums in online groups. And it’s a fair question. When we send our children to school we are placing our faith in the system and its teachers to impart the ‘necessary knowledge’ at the optimal time for our kids. But what happens when we decide to homeschool and we no longer have this system to rely on?
Suddenly, the responsibility for making sure our child knows everything they need to know is all on us. But how are we supposed to know?
You have a few choices. You could rely on curriculum providers to make the choices for you, and simply order curriculum at the year level of your child. You could try to emulate the school system, checking their guidelines and teaching the same topics at around the same time. Or you can be guided by your homeschool philosophy. You could even use a combination of those three.
There are many benefits to having a home education philosophy to guide you and when it comes to knowing what to teach when, a homeschool philosophy is worth its weight in gold. Here at This Whole Home we are guided by a holistic philosophy of education that draws primarily from Steiner-Waldorf pedagogy.
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The concern around what to teach when generally boils down to a worry over your child having ‘gaps in their knowledge’. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. Everyone, regardless of the education they receive, is going to have gaps somewhere.
We all do.
Maybe you missed a lesson because you were sick. Maybe you were there and it went completely over your head. The class moved on and you never learnt that tidbit of information. Or you changed to a school that had taught that year’s lessons in a different order, so you went over some things twice and never came across quadratic equations at all.
The fact is, in deciding to spend time teaching one topic, another is by necessity left out. There are only so many hours in the day and days in the school year. So when you next worry about gaps in your child’s education, remind yourself that we all have gaps and we’re doing just fine. The important thing is to have a love of learning and the ability to teach ourselves later on in life if we decide there is a particular gap we want to fill.
Bottom line- don’t stress about the gaps!
Now that we have that out of the way, we can stop worrying about we aren’t teaching, and focus instead on what we do want to teach this year.
This is where having a guiding philosophy really helps.
For us following a Steiner-Waldorf pedagogy means I know ahead of time roughly what I want to teach each year. The curriculum is mapped out to match up to a child’s development, as per Rudolf Steiner’s indications, rather than their academic level (you can, and should, adjust the degree of difficulty of the work within each block to match the level of your child though). Having this already sorted our for me means I can spend my mental energy on choosing our resources and planning out our days so that we have time to cover all of the fun activities we want to include for the year.
Where do you find this information?
To understand what is brought to the child when, as well as the why, it is best to go straight to the source and read Steiner. That said, he isn’t always the easiest read, and he hasn’t neatly mapped out the information for us in a parent-friendly manner. Additionally, not everyone who is following a Waldorf-inspired path is interested in reading Steiner. That’s ok too. I’m not here to tell you what you have to do, just to give you some tips 🙂
There are other resources aside from reading Steiner that are really helpful though. Dare I say, even more helpful for the home educator at times.
These are my go-to online resources for planning. In my next post, I will be summarising the information in grades one through six from the Steiner Education Australia website. There is a lot of information on there so I hope the overview will be helpful. Still check out each individual grade file on their website when you are planning though. It’s a goldmine!
You can find the the Australian Curriculum Framework here. For FREE! This is the ACARA approved scope and sequence for Steiner schools in Australia, outlining which topics are taught when and with the suggested outcomes. Even if you are an Aussie, please don’t feel you need to slavishly follow this framework. Schools individualise this information, adapting where necessary, and you can too. This is my absolute favourite resource, and one I would be loathe to homeschool without.
Carrie Dendtler is a well-respected Waldorf homeschool blogger with Foundational Training in Arts and Anthroposophy. She offers insight and suggestions into the planning of individual blocks right throughout the grades. I always read through her planning posts for inspiration when I sit down to plan our blocks.
There are a few Waldorf inspired curricula on the market now. Having a nosey around their websites will provide you with a lot of the basic information on what topics are covered in each grade. There are differences between each of the curricula, so take a look at more than one to garner more ideas.
These are my 3 favourite resources for understanding the what, when and why of Waldorf education. Keep an eye out on the youtube channel as I will have reviews of these books coming up in the near future (make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss those).
Understanding Waldorf Education by Jack Petrash
The Tasks and Content of the Steiner-Waldorf Curriculum by Martyn Rawson
Rudolf Steiner’s Curriculum for Steiner-Waldorf Schools by Karl Stockmeyer
If you want to give reading Steiner a go, this list will get you started and keep you occupied for quite a while. I recommend breaking up the reading into manageable chunks. Read your ‘chunk’ through once and let is rest. Come back to it, possibly the next day, reread the section and take notes. Read your next section, let it rest and repeat the cycle. I have found this a really effective way to absorb and understand the information.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will set you off in the right direction 🙂
Have I missed one of your favourite resources?