Core Phase: Creating a solid foundation for ages 0-8

Core Phase- Creating a solid foundation for ages 0-8
Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool, also blogs about motherhood at Steady Mom

This post is the first in an ongoing series I’ve planned about the educational philosophy Leadership Education (also known as A Thomas Jefferson Education.)

“Core Phase is the basis of a life. A good Core Phase naturally provides the foundation for a good life, a great Core Phase for a great life, and so on.”
~ Oliver and Rachel DeMille, Leadership Education, page 40

I stared at the desktop screen late one night, engrossed in a popular homeschooling forum where members could ask for help and receive advice. Someone had asked a question–I don’t even remember what it was–and one of the responses said something like this:

“I recommend you check out A Thomas Jefferson Education.”

It included a link to an overview of the method, which I clicked. Then, as sometimes happens in the midst of epiphanies, I sat up straighter as I began to read. In a flash of insight, I absolutely knew that this was part of what I was looking for in our homeschool.

The method combined the freedom of unschooling with a balance of structure, responsibility, and academic focus–especially in the teen years–that resonated with me.

Though my kids were all young at the time, I ordered every book I could find about it and began to internalize its principles. And it turns out I had plenty of time to focus on my own education–because all my kids were in Core Phase.

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A Day in the Life of a Waldorf Kindergarten

A Day in the Life of a Waldorf Kindergarten
Written by contributor Sarah Baldwin of Bella Luna Toys

A note from Jamie: While not technically a homeschooling day, this post provides a helpful look into an early childhood Waldorf classroom, which is largely based on a home atmosphere. Many popular homeschooling curricula spring out of this philosophy, so I greatly appreciate Sarah sharing her expertise with us. Enjoy!

It’s “Soup Day,” in my Waldorf kindergarten class. My assistant and I arrived early to don our aprons and prepare for the day. A basin full of water has been set on the table. Vegetable scrub brushes lay nearby.

A small wooden cutting board, wooden bowl and “crinkle cutter” have been set in front of each chair.

At 8:10, the teachers gather to read the morning verse. We end with Rudolf Steiner’s words, “Receive the children with reverence, educate them with love, let them go forth in freedom.” We are ready to start our day!

At 8:15, the children begin to arrive, each one proudly carrying a vegetable to add to our “stone soup.” Lucy brings a potato, Aidan brings a carrot. Frances brings broccoli, and Max a beet. It takes a village to make stone soup!

Each child finds her symbol above her hook – it might be a bunny, an apple, the moon, or a squirrel. She hangs up her coat, takes off her outdoor shoes and puts on the soft pair of slippers that is kept at school.

Children then put on a small apron and come to the table where I am seated to help chop vegetables. The conversation is lively as we chop. I begin to sing, “Stone soup, stone soup, cook a pot of stone soup,” as we work.

Photo by Sarah Baldwin

As each child finishes, he brings his bowl of chopped vegetables to my assistant, who adds them to the big pot on the stove. Now it is time to play!
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And then they hated math: My journey into unschooling


Written by contributor Amida of Journey Into Unschooling

remember the first time I called myself an unschooler. I had just read John Holt’s Teach Your Own and was impressed with his vision of an alternative educational style in which children were encouraged to learn outside of school.

He saw children as scientists, eager and capable of exploring and experimenting with the world around them. Yes, I thought, that is exactly what I wanted my children to experience.

I had visions of them spending their days wandering through nature, collecting and identifying leaves, filling notepads with their amazingly original stories, learning math, engineering, civics, and science through a year-long project of designing and building a cardboard, solar-powered city.

It was learning at its fantastical best — fun, natural, and meaningful.
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Teaching kids to bake–the whys and hows

Teaching kids to bake, the hows & whys
Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and writer at Steady Mom

About a month ago, I started teaching my children to bake. For years they have watched and “helped” me in the kitchen, standing around the center island with their own mixing bowls. But recently I felt my kids were ready to bake on their own.

I expected this would be fun–but I had no idea how much of a positive impact it would have on our homeschool.

Baking is now a core component of our school day on Tuesdays. (Doesn’t this bring to mind Little House?!)

“Ma used to say: Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, Mend on Wednesday, Churn on Thursday, Clean on Friday, Bake on Saturday, Rest on Sunday. Laura liked the churning and the baking days best of all the week.”
Little House in the Big Woods

Want to know how and why we’ve added baking to our curriculum?
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Starting out with the best of intentions (& switching gears along the way)

The following is a guest post written by Gwynyth Kier of Grapefruit Jam.

When we started this homeschool experiment, I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted to approach learning.

I think I swore up and down that I wouldn’t be sitting at a table doling out lessons, but I also had a voracious appetite for inspiration and validation.

With only one other child, who was a year old, I enthusiastically followed my 4-year-old son’s every whim, with field trips and stacks of books from the library.

After a year, I began to feel a little overwhelmed. There were a lot of hours in the day, and my son’s interests seemed to change faster than I could switch out the library books.

So I ordered a few curriculum materials.

I was drawn to Waldorf for its gentle, delayed approach to academics, and its story- and arts-based foundation.

The plan was to use this very loosely, as a means of inspiration for those times when we needed a bit of guidance — or just something to do.

Around the same time, I met some wonderful homeschooing mamas who used a different Waldorf curriculum. As I listened to them talk about it, I thought, “that sounds better than mine,” and before I knew it I had that on my shelf too.

Funny thing about these guides though — once I started reading them, I quickly slipped into the mind state of needing to complete the program to a T.

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