Ideas for a Waldorf-inspired Homeschool Group
Well hello there. I have been planning away for the upcoming school year, and in addition to planning for my own two children I have a Waldorf-inspired homeschool group to plan for. This is not a co-op, but rather a drop-off group where the children meet at my house for one day a week. It started as an in-home toddler/preschool class a few years ago and has evolved into a full day of activities as the children have gotten older. This year I will have pre-K through second grade, which is very exciting. When I advertised my group to the public (not just friends) a few years ago I started that September with a 2.5 month old baby in a wrap on my chest (insert wide-eyed emoji here). It worked out wonderfully though.
Last year I didn’t have an official theme for the group, but in hindsight it was definitely the year of making things from scratch. We made our own recycled paper, soy paint, candles, pottery, ink, baskets, and even processed a fleece! In addition there were other activities throughout the year such as mapmaking, printmaking, learning about the water cycle and pond systems. For this coming year I wanted something cohesive that we could really sink our teeth into, and I’ve found it.
I had been thinking about our little homeschool community and brainstorming ways I could build upon it or add to it. I wanted something that would be valuable to do as a group with the children at my home, and that would spill over into everyone’s family life and strengthen the bonds of friendship. The overarching theme that came to mind for me was the yearly festivals. Some Waldorf families do crafts and special meals around these days, some may decorate a nature table and spend time outside. I began to research the history of these days and came across a book entitled “The Ancient Celtic Festivals, and How We Celebrate Them Today”, by none other than one of my favorite nature authors Clare Walker Leslie. From there I found a lot more exciting information and a concrete idea was born. There are eight festival days every year: the solstices/equinoxes, and the midpoints between them called the fire festivals. For example Beltane, or May Day as it’s commonly referred to, falls between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. So during our once a week class, we will be learning about the festivals, making nature crafts, baking, hearing stories, and more leading up to the day. Then I would like to get all the families together to celebrate in a meaningful way.
So, why are the festivals important? Firstly, they create a sense of belonging to something larger than ourselves. They mark the rhythms of the year, and provide comfort in the fact that they reoccur at the same time each year. Festivals are a way to deepen our connection to the earth, the four seasons, and the constant changes in nature. Festival celebrations also strengthen bonds and bring people closer together. But perhaps my favorite reason is that they help us to create special childhood memories. We all agree that extended, uninterrupted time in nature is healthy and beneficial to our children, and I would argue that the positive sensory input is immeasurable in it’s ability to add deeply joyful memories to their lives forever. Think of celebrating the seasonal festivals as the icing on the cake to these nature experiences.
Another theme I have been researching, which I believe relates to the festival theme, is time orientation. Now this might seem abstract so bear with me! This theme includes things like the seasons, months, days of the week, etc.- but of course with a Waldorf twist these become much more alive and beautiful than they may seem at first glance. Some of my ideas around this theme include making a map of our day; days of the week poems; charting the sun throughout the day; seasons art; months of the year and their moons; lunar cycle; constellations activities; charting a plant’s life through the year; sundials; solar calendars; phenology wheel. Some of these would be woven throughout the year, and a handful would be done together during the winter when there is less nature to work with outside.
So to conclude, I brainstormed a title of sorts to sum up my plan for the year:
A Year of Magic and Celebration: Focusing on festival preparations, the ever-turning wheel of seasons, and how we use nature to orient ourselves in the world. The main goals of this theme are to build up our connections with nature and each other, to learn a little of the history and origins of the festivals, and to cultivate a deeper understanding of the earth in a holistic way.
I am very excited for this theme and I plan to share a lot of what we do on instagram starting in September. I hope you’ll follow along with us!