Thursday, August 14, 2014

Homeschool Planning





A few weeks ago I shared a photo of my evening of homeschooling planning which sparked a lot of interest, so I thought I would share my process. First, a little background. We are a Waldorf homeschooling family. Last year was our first year of kindergarten, and this coming year will be our second year of kindergarten. In Waldorf, children do not start academics until the age of seven, until then there is a focus on nature connection, outdoor play, indoor play and rhythm. We tell a lot of stories, have fun with verses, finger plays and songs, and enjoy crafting on a regular basis.

I start my planning with the big picture, the year ahead. I fold a piece of watercolour paper into twelve, and then paint it with some watercolour paints. When it is dry I write the month in each rectangle. In each month I list the festivals we will celebrate and the date, I write the theme for the month, and any ideas I have for things we will do. I also right in birthdays, and any other dates that are important to us.

Once I have the big picture I move on to our weekly rhythm. Again, using a piece of watecolour paper, I fold it in half lengthwise, and then in five. This gives me a two week homeschool schedule, over five days. I write in the three days we will homeschool, and the rhythm for those days. We homeschool on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Each morning follows the same rhythm....breakfast, free play, circle time and story, nature walk, snack, theme work, free play, and lunch. After lunch each day there is outdoor play before coming in for a little quiet time. After quiet time we have afternoon tea and a snack and them move into the activity of the day. The activities follow this rhythm...Monday is our handwork day, Tuesday is baking day and Thursday is watercolour day. We then finish the day with more free play.

On Wednesday's we spend the morning with friends in the woods, and the afternoon is dedicated to errands. Friday's change on a two week rotation. On week 1 we skate or swim in the morning and do some sort of community service in the afternoon, and on week 2 we spend time in nature in the morning with our nature journals and then head home for an afternoon of games, reading and playing.

Reece and I are fortunate to have another little one that joins us on Monday, Thursday and Friday. She arrives at 8am, in time for breakfast, and gets picked up at 4pm. This has been wonderful for Reece in so many ways, and has been a joy for me.

With the weekly rhythm determined I move on to monthly planning. I first plan out our circle time songs, verses and finger plays, and create a little seasonal song and verse book so I can work at memorizing them all. I change the circle time monthly. I use Wynstones Press Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter Books and A Child's Seasonal Treasury to plan our circle time. Next I work on finding handwork ideas, crafts, and recipes for baking, and creating little stories for our watercolour days. Once all of that is done I check the yearly calendar for festivals and start to think about how we will celebrate.

The last thing I do is write a to do list. The list will include things I might need to pick up for our crafts, things I need to make for our story, nature table, or festival celebrations, recipes and craft ideas I need to find, and any other things I need to do to ensure I am ready for the month ahead.

At this moment I have completely planned September and October. I am working on November, and would like to have both November and December done before we start school in three weeks. Once we are into our school year I will start planning for the winter months.

I am a planner by nature, and actually enjoy this process. Is it totally necessary for the kindergarten years? Maybe not. But by planning this way over the last two years my hope was to cement what works for me so that as we move onto grade 1 next year, I can focus on other things and have my planning method solidified.

For those of you who were intrigued with the photo a few weeks ago, I hope this post has helped. I am more than happy to answer more questions, share more or even help a little if you need it. Just ask.

47 comments:

  1. You have no idea how happy this post made me!!! :-) I will be back with more thoughts later when the baby is settled but I couldn't not say a big thank you! :-)

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    1. You are welcome, happy it helps :)

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  2. My question is not necessarily one you'll have an answer to yet. Do you have any thoughts so far as to whether you're hoping to homeschool Reece throughout his entire school time? And if not, any thoughts on when/how you'd be thinking about integrating him back into school? I appreciate quite possibly you'll be taking each year as it comes and responding to what Reece needs/wants as he grows. I'm asking because these are issues I'm thinking about with Maria at the moment. My older 3 all went to school, we have a lovely, little village school near us, which I'm also very involved with, and they were all happy there and did/are doing well. Maria would have started last year full time, but it didn't feel that it was working for her, partly because she is very young for her year group and her age. Since she wasn't going to be 5 until the Summer, she technically didn't have to be there and we just took her out a couple of weeks into the year. She still went to a lovely Montessori pre school a couple of mornings a week, and the rest of the time she and I had lots of fun together, and loads of incredible learning happened very naturally. It was so much the right thing to have done with her last year that we are very much questionning whether it might not be right for her this coming year too. But it feels a little strange given that my other 3 are happily at school! And I don't think I want to try and homeschool her throughout her entire school life so I'm thinking about that aspect too. At the moment I think it's most likely we'll flexi school her and she'll do part of the week at school and part at home, but I'm feeling torn both ways with this. So any long term thoughts and ideas you have would be very interesting.

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    1. I actually do have an answer for you because our plan is to homeschool all the way through. That may change, of course, over the years, but at this moment we look at this as a long term commitment, to both him and our family.

      We have some very big issues with the current education system here, and unless something drastic happens those issues won't go away, and so sending him to school isn't something we see doing. There may come a day when he asks to go to school, and we will cross that bridge when we come to it, if we do.

      I love that you can flexi school in the UK, I have read about that in a few of the UK magazines my friend sends me. That is so awesome, kinda the best of both worlds.

      I hope that helps.

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  3. You are so organized and make it seem so easy, which I am sure it is not. Looks like fun!

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  4. This is fantastic information! Thank you Kim! I'm wanting to homeschool as well and I'm just starting to delve into the Waldorf handbooks and websites for information. I'm finding it a bit difficult to begin this process so removed from so much nature (like woods and hiking trails etc). I feel like that aspect would certainly be missing if we stayed here. Yes, we have the ocean so close and the beaches and there are areas of nature but they are always a drive and never really within walking distance. I think being a preschool teacher for so many years, I instinctively want to teach Ellie things or expose her to so much and I know I need to slow down and connect more with what we already have around us. May I ask what your days looked like when Reece was a lot younger? Did he just follow your rhythms of the day? We have a daily rhythm but living in an area where everyone keeps asking me, "when will I sign her up for x, y and z?" or " why not put her in preschool (daycare) a few days a week to ensure she doesn't get bored at home with you." It's tough. And I'm not always sure I'm doing the right thing (even though I feel we are)...

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    1. My pleasure Summer, always happy to share.

      I think you can find nature wherever you are. We are lucky to have the forest at our doorstep, but you don't need a forest. A simple walk around the neighbourhood reveals so much...bugs, flowers, leaves, feathers, and even animal tracks :) And the backyard is awesome for nature connection too.

      I am all for slowing down, it is something I constantly have to remind myself to do with his education and learning. I have really grown to trust him, and myself, and to let things unfold in their own time. I am not saying this has been easy, especially in our world of too much, too fast and too soon, but as we move further along this path, it is something I am seeing the benefits of every single day. And that makes me very happy.

      When Reece was younger, yes he was part of the rhythm of my day. He was always in the kitchen with me...at first in the sling, then the booster seat and finally the counter. He helped, or played, and we talked and sang. Laundry was always fun, and he has been sorting socks for years. Sometimes he would roll around in the laundry, and just have some fun while I folded, other times we would pass me things to fold up. Time in the garden would find him playing on a blanket, or running around the yard. We spent a lot of time outside, in the yard and in the woods. My boba was my best friend on our hikes.

      It is hard when people constantly question why they aren't in preschool, or in my case kindergarten. I often just say that I enjoy being at home with him, and think that home is the best place for him right now.

      I am not sure we ever know if we are doing the right thing, we can only do what we feel is right, and hope for the best. We have long term goals and visions of our future, and the young man that will stand before us in 15 years, and the decisions we make now are based on those goals and visions. Will those visions come to fruition...we don't know. All we can do right now is what we think we lead us there, and if the time comes for a change, have the confidence to make the change.

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    2. I have a follow-up question about your rhythm when he was younger - I'm assuming that was up until age 4 or so? Anyway, pre-kids, I definitely didn't have a whole lot of rhythm to my days (in hindsight I wish I did!), and after B was born, I felt like I was in "survival mode" for awhile, and then along came O. Anyway, now having gotten down on paper a daily/weekly rhythm for our family, I am seeing the disconnect between what *I* am doing, particularly in regards to chores such as laundry/making meals, and what they are doing. But I can't see either of them consistently focusing on a shared task at hand like you mentioned.. Any times I've tried folding laundry with them, they usually end up running amok causing chaos. It seems like it's easier when they've been a part of it since birth, being worn, or being rather immobile anyway.. do you have any ideas/thoughts/suggestions on trying to gather them into those tasks at age 20 months & 3.5 years? Thanks :)

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    3. Don't get me wrong Amy there are days Reece doesn't want to help with the laundry or the cooking, or the gardening, or whatever else I am up to. For me the key was, and still is, to be open to having him help, and also understand that there will be times he isn't interested. Those times he isn't interested I still continue with whatever it is that needs to be done, and he will play along side me, or somewhere close by. And yes there are days too, when that won't work either, and whatever it is that needs to get done, doesn't, or it waits for a time when he is otherwise occupied.

      I think all you can do is keep trying, find ways to make what you are doing fun (Reece used to love dusting, he thought it was the greatest thing to have a spray bottle and a cloth to dust with), and be open to having them help or not. If they are not interested bring something to them that will give them something to do while you finish what you need to do. In the kitchen for example if Reece was not interested in helping, I would give him pots and pans, a few wooden spoons and sit him on the floor at my feet. He would happily play, even now, with a few pot lids, spinning them around on the floor, or creating some kind of strange city that his cars can drive around in. Even as he plays at my feet, his is still involved, we still talk, or sing, and most times at some point he asks to hop up on the counter to help.

      I can imagine it might be a little more difficult with two, especially if they are playing off of each other, I might try to really engage one, in hopes the other might follow.

      I am not sure that helps at all. I hope it does.

      Shoot me an email, I don't have yours, and am not on FB at the moment, we can set up a time for tea and chat more :) kimcorrigan_oliver at hotmail dot com.

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    4. I hope I'm not butting in, but I wanted to insert some encouragement to you, Amy here. (Kim, feel free to kick me off if you get tired of my comments!) When I read your question, I laughed. I am a mom to three: a 5 year old, 3 year old and a 1 year old. And yes, what you mentioned is definitely my younger two. I have found that a longer attention span comes more and more as they mature. Another year does wonders. Also, I've found it very helpful to spend a bit more time with the eldest. Younger siblings love to copy and it'll be much easier working with your second if he or she sees older sis or bro working with you too. :) To give you an example: my 3 year old folds her own clothes now... because older bro does too. It's serious business to her and she loves showing mama her work at the end. Anyhow. You are doing a great job trying to get them involved. They will naturally come more and more as they get older and more interested in what's going on. Keep at it and don't worry! (There! I'm finished for good!)

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    5. Not butting in at all Alexa, thanks for sharing. xo

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  5. Just wonderful... I'm inspired by much of what you do. I won't be homeschooling for many reasons that my husband and I have considered, but I do want to continue on with education at home for the things that I find to be lacking in the public school system. The big one if ties with nature. I love all the seasonal festivals you guys have integrated into your yearly planning. This year, we want to specifically celebrate solstices and equinoxes. I really want to start including a more natural way of exploring the passage of time with my kids... living more and more seasonally with starting our homestead has had a major role in that.

    Thank you for sharing your process.

    Question, do you think one could incorporate Waldorf teachings while still sending children to school? I know the time frame isn't the same, but could we have, lets say, Waldorf inspired week-end activities? Or would that be just too sacrilegious?

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    1. After reading your comment, I think we're in a similar situation. I am not homeschooling formally, but I do spend time with them during the week on various "subjects". (I use that word loosely...) And I'm totally with you regarding promoting more ties to nature. Aside from using the seasons instead of the calendar or clock, I have been trying to brainstorm ways to make education more organic. I would love to hear from you (or anyone else!) on ways to accomplish this in a big city. In the meantime, I am hoping to incorporate nature journaling this year. Nothing formal, just a family book where we can press the leaves and flowers they find during our walks, glue in feathers (they find lots of those), draw insects, and just generally record life in nature as we say it during the day-to-day.

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    2. Thanks Yanic. Waldorf, I have come to see, is a lifestyle. But, in saying that, many families incorporate bits and pieces of Waldorf with their children. Some homeschool, but like aspects of Waldorf and incorporate those, others have kids in school and bring some Waldorf to their every day lives.

      In the younger years the one thing you can do daily is creating a rhythm around your mornings, meal times, and bedtimes. You can use verses in the morning, and at night, and a blessing at dinner. You can pick and choose the festivals that appeal to you and add them to your yearly rhythm. All of that is possible, and I think it a wonderful way to live with the seasons.

      Obviously the academic stream would be different, but you could still incorporate the wet on wet watercolour, the handwork, storytelling, form drawing, etc into your weekends.

      I love homeschooling for many reasons, but one is that we can pick and choose what works for us and change things as we need to, to best fit the needs of Reece and our family. And with the school system the great thing is you can add what is missing at home, expanding your child's horizons with the things you feel are missing.

      So that is the long answer, the short answer, most definitely yes you can! Hope that helps.

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    3. Alexa, I think education becomes organic when we follow the lead of our children, and that can be done anywhere, big city or country. Follow their interests, let them try things out, and leave their free time open for exploring and playing.

      The family nature journal is a good idea, did you see the free download on my side bar :) I will be doing another family nature journal for 2015 too, and have it on the site for downloading.

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    4. Than you Kim for that... do you have a resource/book/site that would give me more information on the notion of "rhythm" the Waldorf way?

      Thank you again for taking the time...

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    5. Seven Times the Sun is a wonderful book with a lot of helpful information, and a ton of verses and songs for the different times of the day.

      Donna Simmons Kindergarten for your 3 to 6 year old is also lovely, and provides lots of great information.

      Heaven on Earth is also wonderful, and it often highly recommended as a get place to start for Waldorf information in the early years.

      You can find links to Seven Times the Sun and Heaven on Earth on my recommended reading page, and here is the link to Kindergarten for Your 3 to 6 Year Old...http://www.christopherushomeschool.com/Kindergarten-With-Your-Three-To-Six-Year-Old-p/chr0005.htm

      Hope that helps, and let me know if you have questions, always happy to help :)
      xo

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    6. I just got this reply and wanted to say thank you! I didn't visit your sidebar, but I will now! Hurray for help! :) Thank you for the advice and support.

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    7. You are most welcome. We are enjoying our journal this year, hope you do too!

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  6. Yes, very helpful and interesting!! Thank you for sharing! It answers a few of the many questions I would still love to ask you over tea one day :)
    Just trying to understand your daily homeschool rhythm - when you mention "theme work" in the mornings, what kinds of things are you referring to?
    Thanks :)

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    1. Happy to share Amy. And let me know when you want to come for tea :)

      Theme work is something I am adding in this year. I have given each month a theme, for example September is trees. So we will observe trees, do some bark and leaf rubbings, use field guides to identify trees and leaves, discuss why trees lose their leaves, and why some don't, and so on. During theme work we might be outside, we could be inside sketching or reading a book about trees or we could be using leaves, apples, branches, etc for a craft. Last year this time in our daily rhythm was used for drawing together, this year I just wanted to step it up a notch and thought this was a fun, not too stressful way of doing it.

      Some other themes we will incorporate over the year...our forest friends, on the farm, the sun and stars, snow and ice, winter birds, seeds and the plant cycle, water animals, bugs and bees, etc.

      Does that help?

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    2. It does, thank you :) Sounds like lots of fun!

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  7. When I read your statement "I am a planner by nature" I had to laugh. This is me to a T! Thanks for sharing your process here. It's always helpful to see how others are going about teaching their children. And the inspiration and ideas flow from there. By the way, I love that you write your plans/goals on watercolour paper. The artist in me is clapping her hands like a kid in a candy shop! Except it's visual candy. :)

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    1. Haha, watercolour paper is the best, I love using it for my planning, and other things.

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  8. looks like an amazing curriculum so far...I had the privilege of visiting the waldorf school in nelson, bc... and was awestruck by the beauty in everything throughout the school... the journals, the classrooms, the gardens...did you train as a waldorf educator? it takes someone as organized as you to make it seem so easy!!! thanks for sharing

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    1. Waldorf is beautiful in so many ways, and I have been drawn to it even before I really knew about it, if that makes sense. It just seemed we were living many of the philosophies of Waldorf and didn't even know it.

      I have not train as a Waldorf teacher, everything I have learned, and am learning comes from reading, reading and more reading. I have attended a few workshops here and there that have been offered by Waldorf schools around here, but that is it.

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  9. Planning a new year is enjoyable for me, too. There is so much possibility!

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    1. I think that is what I like about it too, the excitement and possibility of a new year.

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  10. I love how you put thought in your school year and that nature is a big part of it (I would be surprised if it wasn't!) I enjoyed reading your process :)

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  11. That planning sheet certainly looks familiar! :) Such a good habit to get into and one that I am happy to have started this year (and wish I had done sooner)! Seeing your plans makes me wish even more that we lived closer by. It would be fun to meet up and do some festivals (and other fun things) together! xo

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    1. So happy to hear you got your planning done and feel good about it Shel. It is nice to have some ideas down on paper, and a little plan for the year.

      I feel the same way my friend. xo

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  12. I don't think I've ever commented before but I just wanted to pop in today and let you know how much I enjoy and appreciate reading about your family. Your writings express a real serenity and peace which is such a balm for the soul. My children are all grown now so I don't have to school them anymore, however I glean inspiration from you for ideas on how to create rhythms and rituals as a family (they all still live at home) and connecting with the world around us.
    Blessings to you and your family from us here in Australia.

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    1. Awe, you are making me tear up Leisa, happy tears of course :) Thank you for your very kind and thoughtful words.

      I love that the blog connects us all, and makes the world seem so much smaller. Blessings to you and your family as well. xo

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  13. It looks like you and Reece are going to have such a fantastic year Kim. I am a planner too and will be hitting the books next week to prepare for lessons. We begin after Labor Day and while I have high school classes that must be taken I hope to add some fun classes in there too. Alex will be a Junior this year so my homeschooling day are fast coming to an end.

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    1. I sure hope so Tracey. We had a lot of fun last year, and not too much is changing, so my fingers are crossed for a fun and exciting year.

      It fills me with so much hope to know other moms out there who have homeschooled right through Tracey. There is so much doubt out there that it is possible, that a child would want to do it, not too mention all the questions about what we will do for post secondary, if that is what Reece wants to do. I think as we travel along this path, I might be leaning on you for a little support along the way :)

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  14. This was really helpful! Thanks Kim. We are starting our first year of proactive homeschooling this year and I am still trying to get organized. :)

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    1. No problem KC, glad it helped :)

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  15. I love this - even as a non-homeschooler, this is a great way to approach how we ground ourselves to each of the seasons and tie it to the curriculum of our home. Waldorf really is a lifestyle, and I love seeing the same themes throughout your year that are present in our year.

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    1. Thank you. It took me a while to connect the dots and see Waldorf as more than just a way to educate. It truly is a lifestyle, and for us right now, a way of life we are happy to be living.

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  16. Just wanted to come back and tell you that l devoured this post and all the follow up discussion.
    My daughter, who is now 6, started kindergarten this year, which is the first year of formal schooling here in Australia. I can't tell you how disappointed l am with our first year of school.
    I wish l could homeschool, but l have to work so it's not an option for us. The alternative we're trying to work towards is us working with and encouraging her teacher, and us filling in any gaps and doing a tonne of revision at home. But it's not easy.....

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    1. Thank you Chrisy, I am glad you enjoyed it, and found it useful. I am sorry your first year was disappointing, that is hard to swallow. I can appreciate that is isn't easy, especially when you have to be at work all day, and then filling in gaps at home later.

      What gaps are missing, and why the need for so much revision?

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  17. Thank you so much for sharing! Do you have a chart of your daily and weekly rhythms hung up for your son to see or does he just follow your lead?

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    1. It is my pleasure, happy you found it useful. I don't have a chart hung up, I have thought about it, but I have never found it necessary. He follows my lead, and so does the little one that join us. The two of them are very use to the rhythm, and know exactly what we are doing on what day without me even telling them.

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  18. Excellent post! This very much how I feel about it and how without even realizing it I have been teaching my son since birth. Schedules and programs didn't work for us when he was an infant and they still don’t. Attachment parenting felt right and so does allowing the learning to be for the most part directed by him. We then find opportunities to learn through online.

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