At the crack of dawn on a recent Sunday morning, my husband and I -- and our 9-year-old son -- piled sleepily into our car in Los Angeles and started driving across the Sonoran desert to watch a baseball game in Arizona. About 3 hours later, we crossed into our neighboring state and made note of the meandering border between us: the Colorado River, glistening gold and blue.
After experiencing some highs and lows (low: the Dodgers lost; high: the acquisition of a game ball) we drove 5 hours home. On the same day.
Why would we do that, you might ask? Well, there are two answers to that question.
One is, we had to work on Monday.
The second is, we are a homeschooling family.
We follow the Steiner tradition of education, and in his words: “the children are the curriculum” (Tasks and Content of the Steiner-Waldorf Curriculum, pp. 15).
I take that to mean that our children and their interests, abilities, and experience of the world cannot and should not be segregated. In order for our son to truly get a feel for distance and time, we felt that it was important for him to see the expansive desert for himself and experience it by day and by night. Our hope when he is a father, is that he too will be inclined to make sacrifices for his children, and do things that they will remember for the rest of their lives, even if they are tiring and inconvenient for him. Love is action, and education encompasses not only knowledge but character-building.
I was clear about the fact that school was not going to be happening on Monday morning after a 18-hour day on Sunday. However when we did return to our school work, I had a good idea of what I wanted him to explore.
"A variety of ways and means are needed to bring vital skills and useful knowledge to young people so that they feel inspired by and invested in learning: education is a process through which culture becomes personalized, and in becoming personalized, culture is also changed and re-charged." (Tasks and Content, pp. 14)
The first involved his love of the Japanese language and his favorite baseball player, Dodgers pitcher Kenta Maeda. I printed out a screenshot I’d taken from Maeda’s Instagram story on game day and my son got to work translating his message. Maeda, born in Osaka, writes almost exclusively in his native language. The abbreviated nature of Instagram Stories made it a suitably brief passage for translation.
"...heart, head, and hands [form] the primary educational paradigm at a Waldorf school. Rather than focus the educational work solely around the objective of acquiring knowledge, creating a meaningful learning process itself becomes the focus." -- Jack Petrash, Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching From The Inside Out, pg. 24
The second thing I asked of him, after we studied the southwestern United States in our atlas, was to record a blind contour drawing of the Colorado River in his Geography main lesson book, then write in landmarks on either side of the border. It was interesting to watch him decide what to include, and moving to see him join the great human endeavor of understanding ourselves and our places by putting pencil (and in this case, a beeswax block crayon) to paper.
Routine is essential, but so is variety. Check the boxes, but think outside the box. None of the activities described above were directives found in a pre-packaged Waldorf curricula (not that I do not love and make use of several, I do!), but I believe that they are aligned with Steiner’s ideas about education.
Steiner emphasized a creative framework above all else. No matter what your sources, have fun and trust yourself!
(photo credits: Cristina Havel)
Cristina Havel lives in Southern California where she and her husband have worked together for nearly 2 decades. They homeschool their son using the Waldorf pedagogy as a guide and believe in the transformative powers of art and nature.