Getting Started: Research

Since we have talked on and off about homeschooling for a couple of years now, I have had plenty of time to think about what “philosophy,” if any, we might use to educate our daughter.

While I was, at first, drawn toward Waldorf education, my daughter was (self-taught) reading chapter books by the time she was six. I didn’t see how an educational philosophy that didn’t even begin to teach reading in a formal way until third grade would work for her. But, there are some things I love about Waldorf, like the “real work” and home arts — baking, sewing, knitting, etc — and so I will be using some of them in our program. I also have a lot of books and materials leftover from my daughter’s year at a Waldorf kindergarten, and from a Waldorf-based professional development course that I took several years ago.


Lillia at her Waldorf kindergarten May Day celebration.

I’m also intrigued by something called Place-Based Education, which is a method for teaching children using the local environment as a classroom. We have a conservation area right behind our house, which consists of a pond and miles and miles of hiking trails. I can’t wait to implement some of the Place-Based Education activities using our own yard, and extended spaces beyond it.

may7lilandzane copy

My kiddos engaged in unintentional Place-Based Education.

Most recently, I came across the work of Charlotte Mason, and I fell in love! Using literature to teach core subjects? Genius! I think this approach will work especially well for our daughter, who is a very advanced reader. I’m also looking forward to helping her improve her handwriting with “copywork.” I found a link to this site that allows you to create your own copywork sheets using print or cursive handwriting. I already made our whole three week’s worth, and it only took me about 20 minutes or so this afternoon. I’m also definitely going to do nature journaling with Lillia, which kind of goes hand in hand with the Place-Based Education, if you ask me.

I try to do what I can to avoid being dogmatic, about anything in life, really. That was one of the reasons why we left the Waldorf school system. I had questions, and I felt it was frowned-upon to ask questions. We were just supposed to accept what Rudolf Steiner said as law. Personally, I want the freedom to choose what feels right, using my intuition and my intellect as a guide. I would love to hear from anyone who uses any of these methods, or who has created a hodge-podge of theories.


Filed under Methods

  • I’m just beginning to think about how I will go about homeschooling my sonwho is now 2. I think I am most comfortable with the approach you are taking. I want to learn a lot about Waldorf and Montessori and then pick and choose what seems to work best for us. Any educational program that doesn’t invite questioning, and even discourgaes it, raises major red flags for me.

    • Hi Karen! Thanks for your comment! I hope I didn’t turn you off from Waldorf. I think homeschooling using a Waldorf-style curriculum would be amazing. And, there seems to be a lot of support for that out there. Two resources that come to mind are Oak Meadow and Christopherus. My concerns were with the formalized Waldorf education system, and how much pressure there was to be “the perfect Waldorf family” (not to mention the cost, ouch!). Sometimes, my daughter watches non-educational television. She knows how to use a computer. She taught herself to read. Sometimes, I let her eat candy and potato chips (*gasp*), though preferably not in the same meal 🙂 All of these things are highly frowned upon by the Waldorf establishment, but everyone does them in secret, which I just think is weird. Also, I think Rudolf Steiner was an absolute genius when it came to education, and I have found so many of his insights into child development to be spot on. But, Anthroposophy (his personal philosophy/religion) is pretty out there. I won’t go into detail, but I will say that Atlantis and people living on Saturn are involved! Waldorf and Montessori actually have many things in common, but diverge when it comes to the role of “imaginative play” in the lives of children. Waldorf really emphasizes the fantasy/free play aspect, whereas Montessori encourages children to play through doing real work only. I suppose I should explain that I know all of this because I used to be a preschool teacher 🙂 We also have a little one, so if we do end up homeschooling, it will be interesting to devise ways to nurture both kids. They will obviously have very different needs. Best of luck in your journey, and I’ll be sure to check out your blog!

      • You didn’t turn me off. I totally understood that you were referring to the formalized Waldorf experience. I have heard those things from other sources as well, and if it weren’t financially impossible I still wouldn’t go there, because I could never live up to the standards, but it isn’t in my personality to act the part but not live it. (Not to mention I don’t want to teach my son to live that way.) However I agree with you about the benefits of the educational philosophy. I didn’t realize that Montessori frowned upon imaginative/free play. How sad. I think there is definitely a place for both. I’ve lately been feeling convicted about keeping my son from real work. We have various issues going on here that I won’t address in this comment, but we have a toddler gate keeping him out of the kitchen and dining room. I want him to have access to the kitchen now and to start having these experiences, but the dining room is my sewing and craft center full of everything dangerous. Due to the layout of the house I can’t give access to one but not the other. I’ll figure it out, because I think it’s high time we start cooking together!

  • I wouldn’t say that Maria Montessori didn’t want children to play, but she was more practical about it. I think this illustrates her ideas better than I can Also, since your son is so young, the resources I suggested above are probably not applicable, as they are more for school-aged children. Lifeways is a good resource for young children ( as is Waldorf in the Home ( You might have already heard about those, but I figured I’d link to them anyway. Something I always took to heart from my Waldorf training (I took some professional development courses) is just to be authentic. Whatever you’re doing, do it authentically. It’s not WHAT you do, but HOW you do it. It’s your intention. No one is perfect, and your children don’t need to see perfection, they need to see YOU. So, if you’re not doing “real work” 24-7, it doesn’t matter, as long as you are authentically there for them. Just my own thoughts on the subject 🙂

  • Eclectic Homeschooling……because no child fits in a box, so their education shouldn’t either 🙂

    • I love it! That’s EXACTLY what I was thinking, I just didn’t have the word for it!

  • Go check my blog—–there are a few posts on there that will interest you I think. 1. You’re doing it all wrong 2.) I see you over there….making that list and 3.) Vision and Purpose. Off hand those are the only related posts I can think of but I am sure there are more :p so just check it out and browse around, we create our own curriculum 🙂

    • Great advice! I love that you write with a sense of humor and, most importantly, from your own experience. Like you, I am definitely a “planner by nature.” I have this fear that, without my lists, we would never learn anything. But, then I tell myself that children learn just by being in the world. How they DO NOT learn is by sitting in a classroom all day trying to finish their stack of boring worksheets. I have already given up on the idea of “scheduling” anything, because I also have a nine month old, so life can be…unpredictable.

      I especially admire your Vision & Purpose. I think that you and I have similar long-term hopes and dreams for our kids. You have inspired me to put more thought into these aspects of our homeschool experiment (which hopefully becomes a permanent way of life). In fact, I think I’ll do a post about that next week! 🙂 Again, thank you for all of your advice, and for sharing your excellent blog!

      • Glad you enjoyed them- I think there is a portion of THORN IN THE FLESH you could appreciate- My husband’s heart changing towards hs’ing.

        Off to church and then fellowship picnic for Memorial Day


  • I’m enjoying your posts and DARN do you write well! Looking forward to more.
    Regarding your husband’s thoughts on homeschooling, at first my husband wasn’t totally on board either. For several reasons. Mostly, both he and I are highly-educated, white color workers and we both struggled hard to get here…didn’t want to see our kids drop back. Also, as the parents, we WANT TO DO THE RIGHT THING…LOL.
    I was waaay on board with it. My husband read a book that totally changed his mind and made him pro-homeschool. And now, ten years later, he is a huge advocate for the lifestyle!

    Good luck and PEACE, Karen

    P.S. and NO, I can’t remember which book he read because I read about a million of them…LOL

  • Also, one last thought…We, too, consider ourselves “eclectic”.