The Rhythm of the Waldorf Homeschool Day

The following post was an email I wrote to my homeschool group. I wrote it in August of 2010.

After attending the Waldorf homeschool conference in Santa Cruz this summer [July 2010], my understanding about how to implement this philosophy has become clearer, and I have a better understanding of why certain subjects and activities are introduced at specific times.

For instance knitting is introduced in 1st grade (age 7 yrs.) to help the brain develop (the cross body activity is important for later reading), also since 1st grade is the first formal education is taught in waldorf schools (prior to that it’s all about imitation, tradition, rhythm, storytelling, playing, cooking, bread making, gardening, exploring nature and cleaning, etc.), knitting is important because it is the manifestation of knitting ideas together in the brain, when thoughts and brought together to make ideas, etc.

Also, waldorf education is whole education:  meeting the child as a whole person (thinking, feeling and willing), so the presentations in 1st grade and beyond meet a child based on thinking, feeling and willing.  For example, after opening activities (brief lesson in grammar, mental math, memorization of a poem, singing, balance work, etc. (not all, all the time)), the main lesson follows.  There is only one main lesson a day and subjects rotate in block manner (3-4 weeks of arithmetic, then nature studies, or for older kids: geometry, then ancient history, etc.).

The main lesson is about 2 hours long.  The first 1/2 hour is the thinking part: review.  Every lesson begins with a review of the previous days’ lesson, or even farther back.  (for instance, when we were studying the previous prophets, we would review the previous days’ lesson plus 1-2 other prophets).

Then comes the feeling:  the main lesson content is introduced in the form of a story.  This is sooooo captivating. When I’ve prepared well, the light is so bright in my kids’ eyes!

Then the willing comes in:  the activity.  This can be twofold: every lesson is illustrated with high quality all natural materials: crayons for young kids (limited colors), moving into more colors in crayons, then large color pencils, then thin color pencils.  The teacher usually draws on the blackboard using colored chalk (makes such a difference!).  The child illustrates what the teacher has drawn and/or depending on the lesson and hands-on activity may be included.  (For instance, my 11-year-old just finished his 1st geometry block…amazing! And we both needed to make a 3-4-5 triangle out of string…waaaaay harder than it seems, it took us 2-3 attempts each!).

The willing part is when perseverance comes in.  And when you a finished with your beautiful drawing, a sense of accomplishment is seen in the child’s eyes and body more so than any worksheet, lol!

Lastly, the writing of the lesson comes in.  This happens on the third day of the cycle.  First day: introduce material, second day: introduce new material and review yesterday’s work, third day: introduce new material (new stuff, not yesterday’s new material), review yesterday’s material, and write first day’s material.  The three day process is really important as it helps deepen the learning.

The first: introduce material, let it seep in, let in sink into the subconscious, then revive it the following day, just to let it sink back down (also forgetting, but not quite), then revive it again.  This process of sinking in (sometimes negatively viewed as forgetting) is really important.

Remember, this is brand new material for kids.  Have some sympathy and compassion for the wear and tear it takes these young minds to grasp a new concept.  Don’t be deceived by their excellent memories, that has an important place/function, but it doesn’t necessarily equate to intelligence.

The following are a list of good books:

Teaching as a Lively Art by Marjorie Spock

Storytelling and Art of Imagination by Nancy Mellon

Teaching Mathematics in Rudolf Steiner Schools for classes 1-8 by Ron Jarman

The Four Temperaments (lecture by Rudolf Steiner)

Children and their Temperaments by Mareike Anschutz

In 2017, I attended the Waldorf homeschool conference Summer Seminar hosted by Live Education. It was just was transformative as the first time I attended. I’m sad to announce that this summer (July 2018), will be the eleventh and final year this seminar will take place.

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2 thoughts on “The Rhythm of the Waldorf Homeschool Day

  1. So is this a constantly-revolving 3-day cycle, so, for example: Monday is Day 1, Tuesday Day 2, Wednesday Day 3 with new material plus writing from Monday’s lesson, Thursday new material and write from Tuesday’s Lesson, Friday new material and write from Wednesday’s lesson? Or do you schedule it so the main lesson takes up 3 days a week and you do the cycle once each week? Does my question even make sense? Lol!

    1. Jessica, great question! Ideally, I’d want to continue the cycle continuously week to week. I suppose in some school settings, maybe there are only three main lessons in the week. Practically speaking, we rarely if ever actually follow this rhythm quite this perfectly. In reality, I’m taking the main lesson time of the day to do whatever work we need to get done. Sometimes that means a single lesson takes days and overlaps with other lessons in a seemingly chaotic way. That’s just our homeschool life. I would prefer it to be more structured though. Let me know how it functions in your homeschool!

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