Welcome to Sheila P from Sure as the World for this month’s guest post. Sheila is a personal
friend that I met through my business a few years ago. She has 2 wonderful boys she homeschools
and she lives on the exact street I want to move to… Thanks for this wonderful inspiration
on Homeschooling Two Grades.
When I started homeschooling with Waldorf-inspired methods, Vincent was in third grade. And although Jude was a squirrelly 5-year-old at the time, I only had to plan, prep and teach one main lesson. This changed two years ago when Jude started grade 1. I remember wondering how in the world I was going to do this. Where was I going to find the time? How was I going to organize our day? What would our rhythm look like? It took us awhile to find our groove, and some days still work better than others, but I have discovered several strategies I wanted to share.
#1 Set some boundaries. When I am in the schoolroom teaching, there are some rules. The only acceptable reason to disrupt a main lesson is in the case of blood or fire. Both boys know not to come and ask, “What’s for lunch?” “Where is the origami paper?” or my favorite “Are you done yet?” This cuts down on most interruptions, although there is still the occasional question about something or other. The one time I don’t take any questions at all is when I am reading a story. (The rule here is lots of blood and a really big fire!) Nothing ruins the spell cast by a great story better than an interruption.
#2 Look for overlap in the curriculum. When I am doing my planning in the summer, I am always on the lookout for what blocks (or parts of blocks) I can teach together. This year, as I was preparing to teach grades 2 and 6, I was pleasantly surprised that geometry figured in both grades. Of course it wasn’t exactly the same concepts, but there were quite a few lessons that the boys did together. Over the years, I have found form drawing, handwork and seasonal activities can be taught easily to both boys simultaneously.
#3 Take time for each child individually. For me, it is important to have a least some time set aside everyday to check in with each child individually. This happens daily during main lesson and also weekly during Scout meetings. When Jude is at Scouts with Dad on Mondays, I have Vincent all to myself. This reverses on Tuesday when Vincent has his Scout meeting. Sometimes I sneak in some reading, but mostly the time is spent just being together or playing by themselves. I think it is also important for the boys to have time alone independent of each other and me. Homeschooling means you are together a lot! Having the legos all to yourself is a rarity – I definitely let them take advantage of that when it happens.
#3 Have realistic expectations. This took me awhile to figure out. When Jude started grade 1, I tried to do circle time with both boys. Vincent was in grade 5 at the time, and although he went along with it for a few months, he started balking about the time he turned 11. My expectations of an 11-year-old doing finger plays and reciting nursery rhymes were not realistic. And although I didn’t see it this way at the time, he was not being uncooperative for the sake of being uncooperative; he was honestly acting his age. I find it helpful to review Steiner’s stages of development and the Gessel Institute’s summaries by age.
#4 Deliberately plan activities everyone can do together. This is different from looking for overlap and it can occur monthly, weekly or daily. One activity we do every day is afternoon snack and story time. (You can find more details here.) I either read aloud or cue up an audio book version of classics such as Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Greene Gables, The Wind in the Willows or anything by Beverly Cleary. These stories appeal to everyone, regardless of age. After having separate main lessons in the morning, it is nice to come together in the afternoon. (I highly recommend Make Way for Reading, Latimer and Fenner (eds.) as a great resource for story time suggestions. It is organized by age/grade and corresponds to the Waldorf curriculum.)
#5 Give everyone their own space. I like having a separate shelf, cubby and desk for each child. It makes life easier for everyone, knowing where to find books, main lesson books and other resources. I have even gone so far as to assign a color to each child. Vincent is green and Jude is blue. When I am doing my planning in the spring/summer, I use corresponding post its in their color to mark things I want to remember. This makes my life much simpler during the school year.
#6 Relax. Barbara Dewey of Waldorf Without Walls hosts a wonderful homeschool teacher training every summer. She always begins by referencing and lauding the concept of the one room schoolhouse. There is a symbiosis that happens when multiple ages come together to learn. It is not the stratification of a modern-day classroom – Waldorf classrooms included. It is something else entirely. Embracing this and seeing it as a strength rather than a hindrance helps to redefine the notion of what is ideal.
These are some solutions I have found to make our days flow more smoothly. You will find your own. Trust yourself and give it time.
PS I wanted to say “Thank you!” to Donna for inviting me over to the Waldorf Connection. It’s been a lot of fun.
Sheila Petruccelli is a homeschooler, homemaker and homebody at heart. She believes a fancy pair of cowboy boots is just about as good as a superhero cape, even though her husband, two boys, their dog and the old farmhouse in which they live frequently test the limits of her theory. She blogs to find out what she really thinks about things at sureastheworld.com.