Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom
I had an incredible summer blogging sabbatical, and totally enjoyed the guest posters and contributors who shared in this space while I was away. I know you did, too!
It’s nice to “see” you again here, and I have a question to ask:
Do any of you ever find the grumbles have infiltrated your homeschool?
I hope it isn’t just me. There are different types of grumbles: sibling rivalry grumbles, complaints about chores, hearing ourselves grumble about our own role, or grumbles about schoolwork in general.
Recently we’ve entered a season of sibling rivalry grumbles, which is a subject for another post! But as I’ve been learning how to deal with this newest test of a mother’s fortitude, it has helped me to remember that we’ve gone through other trying seasons and come out of them successfully.
Take this winter, for example. I found myself in a bit of a rut, and really not enjoying the day-to-day routine and the grumbles that accompanied it. Hoping for some inspiration, I flashed an email off to my friend, contributor here, and Waldorf educator, Sarah Baldwin of Bella Luna Toys.
It went something like this:
“My kids and I have always had a pretty strong rhythm to our days, but recently I’ve found lots of grumbling coming from them:
They grumble when it’s circle time, when it’s story time, when it’s learning time, when it’s video time, when it’s chore time, pretty much any time except run around and play like crazies time.
I know a lot of this grumbling and opposition is developmentally normal at this age; what’s challenging though is that all three of mine are pretty much at the same developmental stage. So it’s like development on steroids! And I feel like I’m failing at times when I’ve worked so hard to create a “rhythmical, simple, flowing, gentle” pace to the day and they are still complaining about it!
I wondered if the Waldorf philosophy offers any guidance about a situation like this or just if you have any advice as a seasoned mom!”
Sarah’s response gave me such encouragement that I knew I wanted to share it with you.
“What you describe is exactly the experience I had in the first few months of homeschooling, and what I tried to describe in my post, Learning to Let Go.
I was trying to incorporate circle time and other elements from a Waldorf school day. My kids began to sulk and groan, and act out. Pretty quickly I began to learn how homeschooling is different from teaching in a classroom in an institutional setting.
I became less fixed and rigid about what we did when, while still striving to keep a rhythm to our days. Our rhythm became more like: Get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, learning, outside time, lunch, artistic activities, free time, dinner, clean-up, reading, bed.
The big thing that changed for me was our learning period. I made the shift from strict lesson plans, to more spontaneous activities inspired by the children’s interests:
“We heard that great talk on owls and eagles yesterday at the nature center. Let’s go to the library today and get books to learn more about them!”
I learned to let go of formal circle time and instead incorporate singing throughout our day. I discovered that circle time at home with three children did not have the same quality as it does in a classroom full of children. It felt forced and artificial. The kids felt self-conscious.
What are the important elements of circle time? Movement, language and song. We can weave those elements into our days in so many other ways.
The more I let go of a fixed curriculum and my expectations on what we were “supposed to be doing,” the happier we were, and the more enthusiastic we all became about learning.
But when we are so busy reading curricula, making lesson plans, and reading other’s opinions of what our children need, we often miss their cues and run the risk of turning them off.
If we can find ways of bringing joy and love to our days with children (which might mean taking time alone sometimes for self-care), they will find joy and delight in learning.
Remember that a Waldorf classroom setting (or any classroom) is an institutional model and very different from learning at home. A teacher with a class of 25 students is not able to tailor her lessons to every individual child’s needs and interests. Her tools will be very different in terms of trying to motivate students.
But don’t we choose to homeschool so that we can give our children the individual attention that a school setting can’t? As a parent, we know and love our children better than anyone.
If we allow ourselves to, and trust, our intuition will guide us in best meeting our children’s needs.”
Ah, deep breath out. Just what I needed to hear to overcome the grumbles! How do you conquer them in your home?