As we all gear up to start the school-year I thought I would send everyone some encouragement from Alan Whitehead and some “Earthschooling hints” that can make the curriculum more flexible for you…
Alan Whitehead, Waldorf teacher and previous director of the first Waldorf teacher training facility in Australia says, “The following is the most important sentence for supporting self-esteem in the homeschooler in this whole book: YOU ARE ALREADY A TRAINED TEACHER. So, have I got your attention? From the moment you were born you began learning about the world. Every year older than the child you are, increases your qualifications to teach. An 8-year-old can’t teach a 7-year-old a great deal, but a 30-year-old can, no matter the background.” – A Steiner Homeschool, Chapter Five
Earthschooling Hint #1
You do not need to start in ‘August’: We have numbered our monthly planners. However, some people get concerned about timing because we have also added recommended months. This is intended as a guideline only. You will find that 95% of the block is suitable or easily adaptable to any season or holiday. We even include recommendations or alternate verses/stories if you are not using the block in the ‘recommended month’. We do this to keep our curriculum flexible for the people we work with all around the world. If you need additional seasonal or holiday material everyone has access to our Cultural Enrichment pages and Member Blog which are abundant in extra resources. You can start your school year any month of the year!
QUICK TIP: Set a start date but feel comfortable moving this date up if you are not ready to start when the time comes around. This is the beauty of homeschooling! You can be flexible.
Earthschooling Hint #2
You do not need to finish all the lessons: The challenge in creating the Daily Planners that so many parents love is that it also creates a bit of stress about ‘finishing’ ever lesson on time and in the planner. Keep in mind that the planner is only a guideline. You can skip lessons or even extend the first lesson of the week and skip the later lessons. This is because your ultimate goal is teaching your child the concepts. We may introduce 3 lessons in one week, but you will notice they all focus on one concept. Always remember the concept you are teaching and don’t get stressed about the lessons.
QUICK TIP: I always circled or highlighted any lessons I didn’t finish with the kids and would then go back to any circled lessons if I found we needed extra material any day during the year. Inevitably there would always be a slow day where I (or they) wanted more and I was thankful I had an extra lesson I had not done before.
Earthschooling Hint #3
Start slowly: Don’t do a full schedule on your first week of homeschooling. Not even experienced teachers do that! Remember when you were in school and teachers spent the first week of school just getting everyone organized? We recommend starting slowly as well. Perhaps just do the verses and nature walk the first week, then add in one main lesson the second week. Then add in making the bread and snack together the third week and finally, the fourth week add in the afternoon handwork. Use my “circle things” tip to keep track of lessons you didn’t do and add them in anywhere and at any time during the month or the year – give yourself freedom to find your own rhythm!
QUICK TIP: Start your first week with the kids doing circle time, taking nature walks, and setting up the classroom. Give everyone a chance to feel confident and enjoy the new experience!
Earthschooling Hint #4
You can use lesson blocks: You do not need to use the daily planners. These are intended to be used by people who want extra guidance in their teaching. But perhaps you tried to use the planners, and even with the tips above the entire schedule just throws you in a panic? Me too! That’s why it took us so many years to even introduce planners. Our original lessons are still available on the website under your ‘lesson blocks’ tab and allow you to do one lesson block at a time and work through it at your own pace. We have this description on the website that talks about our lesson blocks: Lesson Blocks are lessons arranged by subject where each subject is contained in one set of files. To use these files the teacher, parent, or (older) student will work through the provided lessons in order. The block system functions on the principle that the teacher/parent/student will be able to work through the materials at their own comfortable pace. Parents and teachers who work best with this system may have students who work more slowly or more quickly than the average student. These lessons also lend themselves well to student-led study or style of learning. This style also allows room for creativity when planning and space for outside lessons, field trips, and student additions to the subject being taught. Using one block at a time is also ideal for students that may have issues with focus, transitions, or other learning challenges.
QUICK TIP: Take some time to evaluate if you are a ‘daily planner’ person or a ‘lesson block’ person and then give yourself permission to change your mind.
Earthschooling Hint #5
You can substitute, mix, and match: You have the freedom to mix and match! Remember the circles above? Well, you can use a big X as well. Perhaps you don’t like the knitting project but you have an amazing one that you know how to do? You can make a substitute. Perhaps you just saw an amazing story online or just purchased a book with a story about the letter A and you really want to use that one instead of ours? Substitute! Perhaps you want to use Montessori math or another math program instead of ours? Just X out all the math or don’t use our math block and use yours instead. Your child will benefit most by your guidance as to what is best suited for them. And the best teaching comes from what you are enthusiastic about.
Earthschooling Hint #6
You can substitute, mix and match: Wait…didn’t I just say that? Yes. However, this time I mean within Earthschooling itself. You might be doing a daily planner and come across a lesson that you and your student really love and want to focus more on. Perhaps the pace is too slow in the planner or you want more? Or perhaps you want to read through the entire block at once so you can get a better perspective? You can simply pull out the lesson block for that subject from the website and enjoy!
Earthschooling Hint #7
Focus on the goals and not the lessons: Ultimately all you need to do is keep your goals for the year in mind. What do you want your child to learn this year? We start every block off with a summary of the goals for the year. Print this out and read it every once in a while to help you stay focused. You can see a mini version of our grade-focused goals here.
QUICK TIP: You can see a sample of a detailed list of the goals of the year (and a chart to keep you on track) HERE: First Grade Complete Guide. All members have access to one of these documents for their grade. It can be found on the Introduction page of their curriculum area.
Earthschooling Hint #8
You can use the planners for four days a week instead of five! As I was planning out the daily planners I always made Fridays the least intense day of the week and most often a review day. You can skip Fridays without any loss to what your child is learning. Usually Fridays are a day to finish up handwork, do something extra with a lesson, or wrap things up in some way. I never had a lesson start on Friday. If you do glance over at a Friday and see that at some point there is anything seemingly new or important, you can add it to the previous day, circle it to do it later or skip it entirely.
QUICK TIP: Try a four day week instead of a five day week!
Do you have any tips for new Earthschooling members? If so, put them in the comments below…