My Homeschooling journey away from Waldorf

2 Jul

What a year it has been! We have really been around the block, which has been difficult and lonely at times, but we are in a really exciting place now, and I finally feel ready to share my journey.

We started really questioning Waldorf after a few weeks of Grade One lessons were leaving all of us frustrated and sad. On much reflection, I have found that, for me, Waldorf had led me to look at all the things that are not perfect with myself or my children, and really accentuate all of my perfectionistic tendencies. I know that others use Waldorf in a more healthy way–I have seen it–but on much reflection, and trying and re-trying, I saw it was not a positive influence in my own life.

We left true Waldorf homeschooling some time last Fall, and eventually tried out Radical Unschooling for a bit. But that didn’t work for us, or for me. We had worked so hard to develop these strong family pillars, rituals, routines, which held us all together, and I found RU was destructive to that. Those pillars were deeply supported by Waldorf, and were also supported by current developmental psychology and other sources. But more importantly I feel so deeply the benefits these pillars have brought me and my family.

So I had a few months feeling very much adrift. No longer at home in Waldorf communities, and not in line with Radical Unschooling communities, I had no label, no Yahoo group, no Google search terms to describe where I was! No mentors! It was scary. But it led me to my own values.

This Spring I sat down and wrote out a list of what I longed for in a curriculum: that it be open-ended, that it would serve both of my kids where they were, in a way that would not separate them by age or ability, that it be flexible and adaptive, hands-on and challenging, but also that it would support my own values without making me feel that I was “not enough”. Tall order! But I found what I was looking for!

Where it has led me is called Project Based Homeschooling, led by the engaged, funny, wise Lori Pickert, who has the blog and book by the same name. The method is based on Reggio Emilia, but extended to support all ages (even adults). It is perhaps in a similar vein as unschooling, but more structured, with the parent acting as mentor to the student, helping them develop learning skills as they extend their deep interests into projects. The best thing about it is that you can use these strategies alongside any curriculum you choose. However, it is child-led, so many Waldorf families would not be comfortable with that aspect.

You can check out Lori’s website for more information (no affiliation or benefit received in this link): http://www.project-based-homeschooling.com.

Have you been around the block with homeschooling styles? Ever felt adrift from labels and communities? I’d love to hear your story.

The Nixie of the Mill Pond: a Waldorf chalkboard drawing

20 May

Here is my Nixie on the blackboard today, showing the letter N.

Please share your drawings too! I would love to see what other folks are drawing on their chalk boards.

The Rabbit’s Bride: a Waldorf chalkboard drawing from the Grimm’s Fairy Tale

12 May

Not my best drawing, but I didn’t find anything online for this story, so I figured I would put it out there :) Please, if you improve on this drawing, send me a comment! I will post some more of my drawings from back in the Fall soon!

Hansel and Gretel and The Willow Wren and the Bear

8 May

This week we studied letters B and D, and the Waldorf way is to do that through stories: in grade 1, Grimm’s fairy tales. According to our curriculum the story for D is Hansel and Gretel, and the story for B is The Willow Wren and the Bear. Here are my chalkboard drawings for those stories:

The Willow Wren and the Bear, Waldorf letter B

Hansel and Gretel, Waldorf letter D

I am determined to work on my drawing skills over the summer, as I enjoy making nice blackboard drawings for our stories, and I look forward to continuing this and getting better at it. I have really benefited from others’ chalkboard drawings that they have shared online, so I’m sharing mine in the hopes that other Waldorf homeschoolers can get some ideas from mine as well. (Indeed, these drawings are copied from other people’s posted work! I hope this is accepted as flattery!).

Meal Planning Step 2: the Inventory

2 May

If you’re following along, you have probably made great strides in thinking more intentionally about your meals, whether or not you have actually done any formal planning. I think that attention and intention are what really produce the results, especially in the beginning. I don’t think the exact method you choose makes as much difference as simply the decision to start paying more attention to what you eat and how you shop.

So now that you have your list of meals you and/or your family like, the next thing to do before planning your meals is to take an inventory of the food you have on hand.

What it is
A list of all the food in your cupboards, drawers, fridge, freezer, pantry, cold room, root cellar, etc.

How to do it
There are many printables out there with other people’s pantry lists with little squares that you can check off, but I’ve never found one that is useful for me. I just take a peek in every place I have food stored, and write it down in my meal planning/grocery list notebook. Make a list of how much of something you have, how many cans, and so on, so you know at a glance what might be good to use up.

Why do it?
I know I’m not the only one in the world who stockpiles things and never uses them up, but each week instead buys more to stockpile. Well, no more! While it makes sense to me to buy sale items in bulk that I regularly use, and take advantage of bulk discounts and price clubs, it only saves you money if you actually eat some of that stockpiled food once in awhile! Then you are actually taking advantage of that sale price :)

Another even bigger advantage of starting with an inventory is that you will certainly reduce food waste. I am so guilty of wasting food that I forgot to use up, so it spoils. Shopping in my own fridge/pantry/etc. first helps me use things up before they expire.

Allows you to think up creative meals when you see items listed together.

Helps you notice what items you do not actually use. If that giant bag or quinoa appears in your inventory week after week after week, never growing any smaller, you will probably have the good sense to pass up that “amazing” deal on quinoa at Costco the following week. It’s not a deal if you’re not going to eat it!

Remember: the cheapest food you can eat is food you’ve already paid for!

Ready for more? Stay tuned for step 3.

Meal Planning Step 1: the list of meals

1 May

Now that you’re all motivated to start meal planning, here is the easy first step. Just by doing this one step, you will be 90% of the way to an easy weekly meal plan.

What it is
A list of all your favourite, usual recipes and meals.

How to do it
Simply brainstorm and list out all of the meals and recipes you usually make. You can do this for breakfast, lunch and dinner if you wish, but it is best to start with the largest meal of the day (in my case, dinners). Now is not the time to add new recipes; just focus on things you make regularly, or have made that you and/or your family have enjoyed.

Simplicity is underrated
When I was in Junior High (grade 7 and 8), and maybe even into high school, I had this bizarre notion that I could not under any circumstances wear my hair the same way twice. It goes without saying that I came up with some pretty weird styles. Thank goodness I snapped out of it; I don’t think my current Homeschooling Mom schedule would allow for that kind of maintenance! Now I wear my hair the same every day, with a slightly fancier ‘do on the rare occasions that I dress up & go out.

I think some folks have a similar impression regarding meals, no doubt spurred on by the exploding cookbook industry and Food TV, etc. Contrary to all of that, I think it is perfectly fine to rotate a rather small number of meals over a month. Everyone and every family needs to discover their comfort level regarding variety, but my way has been to start simple and branch out only if & when people start complaining.

Okay! All done your list? Treat it like gold, because it’s going to save you time, money and energy.

Stay tuned for Step 2.

Meal Planning: why do it?

29 Apr

If you’ve never meal planned before, take heart: it can be super easy! And even a little effort in this area can have great benefits.

Why meal plan?
1) It saves you time
When you know what you are making for the week, you will make sure to buy all the right ingredients when you shop. So when it comes time to make dinner, you won’t have that agonizing “It’s five o’clock, and oh my goodness, what are we having for dinner tonight?!” panic. You won’t need to run out to the store, or as I sometimes do, ask my partner to stop at the store on his way home, setting back our whole evening routine.

2) It saves you money
Nor will you have to resort to “We don’t have anything to make for dinner, we need to order a pizza!” That kind of decision brings our dinner bill up around $40. Not a frugal habit.

But the other way that meal planning saves you money is that it allows you to think about all the different meals you tend to make, cost them out, and figure out ways to alternate more-expensive meals and less-expensive meals during the week. Then if you have a finance crunch, you will know at a glance what your more frugal options are for meals to get you through that tight time.

3) It brings you peace
In the scenarios mentioned above, we have seen panic and stress, not to mention the ongoing anguish of tough finances. Using these simple tools will reduce that stress by a lot. It’s true.

The problem is, it doesn’t eliminate it fully. There will always be that little moment of anxiety when you sit down to make your meal plan, facing the blank page, the stress of needing to spend no money this week obliterated by the fact that you have to buy groceries.

That moment of stress is probably why I dropped this great habit. That moment of stress is probably why so many people don’t meal plan.

But the truth is, by front-loading your stress to one five-minute panic per week while you make your list, you streamline your whole week! You get a seven-fold return on your investment (or more).

Now that you’re motivated, stay tuned over the next few days to learn some really easy, low-tech and cheap-as-free strategies to start (or re-start) meal planning and saving money!

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