Role of Non-Teaching Spouse
Many couples that do Waldorf inspired homeschooling share similar values on education and adopting a Waldorf inspired rhythm to homeschooling. There are times, however, when one person "discovers" Waldorf and is determined to augment it into the family lifestyle, which often involves some changes in family dynamics. As families transition to a Waldorf homeschooling lifestyle, some of the issues surrounding TV and computer use, bedtime and mass market toys can come up for the couple. Sometimes, a spouse or partner readily agrees to these lifestyle changes; other times, it can be a source of friction for the couple and inevitably the family. Learning to work together as a team, even when the couple is not necessarily in complete alignment on these lifestyle choices, becomes an important factor in homeschooling success. It is challenging enough to begin a new homeschooling rhythm ; it is very difficult if spouses/partners are not supportive of each other's efforts. Here are some suggestions on "team building" between partners.
Good Communication: Make sure that each of you talk through the areas of concern about homeschooling and work to resolve differences. A common area of concern ( especially for some husbands) is that the child will not be " on par" with other children of the same age if the family adopts Waldorf homeschooling. I have had several consultations with husbands where most of the conversation involved answering the husband's reservations about homeschooling. My primary goal in that instance is to help a parent understand the developmental nature of the curriculum. A child may read a bit later in a Waldorf environment, or not focus on some of the same areas as a public school child, but there are good reasons for the layout of the curriculum based on the development of childhood. Once concepts like an imaginative immersion in a main lesson, or using a biographical approach to aspects of history are explained carefully, most concerns are resolved. Also, I have had the benefit of seeing my homeschooled children become young adults that attended college. This does help lend a certain credibility to my words!
Openness to new ideas: A couple in a Waldorf inspired homeschooling environment must learn to be flexible and to stay open minded. Sometimes it takes a little while for a family to see the results ( especially if a child has previously been in public school) of Waldorf homeschooling. Eventually, however, the proof is in the reactions and results observed in the children themselves. A sense of enthusiasm for learning, a joyful spirit of adventure, a relaxed, less hurried pace begins to be clearly observed in the children's behavior, which is reassuring to any parent. There is nothing like seeing the results of a lesson sink deep into the heart and mind of a happy child! It's important to give the family some time ( 1-3 months) to really allow these changes to take effect. Eventually, the creative, rhythmic nature of Waldorf homeschooling makes everyone feel more harmonious about the commitment to homeschooling. A young child may resist the restriction of TV time if he/she watched TV daily, but gradually, the busy and happy child creates a whole new rhythm and loses the need for this type of daily entertainment crutch.
Involvement of both partners in homeschooling: In many cases, only one partner (and often the mother) takes on the primary responsibility of homeschooling. At times, one parent has left a high paying job in order to devote more time to the family and homeschooling. In those instances, the other parent may feel more pressure to support and provide for the family and ends up working longer hours, often away from the home. Even in those instances, however, it is still important for both partners to be involved in the homeschooling process. One of the simplest ways to stay involved is to have the non-teaching parent review the academic work of the children. The way that we accomplished this in our family was by giving a special presentation to my husband after a main lesson. This involved not just showing our main lesson work, but giving demonstrations of mental math, memorized poetry, songs, puppet shows, arts and crafts, and trying to see if dad could answer our posed riddles! Dad was included in all festival celebrations and we made sure that a very special presentation was given at the end of the school year ( and sometimes half way through the year) that involved a longer presentation and a deliciously prepared meal or snack for him. As my children grew, I taught academic co-op classes, especially in History and English. We had quite an elaborate "Presentation for Parents" night where parents came to hear the children read from their main lesson work, attend one of our plays, see our arts and crafts, and learn in greater depth about all the work the group as a whole had accomplished. Each child contributed a dish to the event so we had wonderful pot luck suppers as a result. I remember one late afternoon when parents were coming to hear the co-op's Botany presentations. The children were still in my yard, finishing up their tree sketches. The parents were a bit noisy coming into the house so I got them to stop and just quietly observe their child at work. There was such a feeling of peace and reverence that came over the group as the parents quietly watched their children carefully finish their sketches in complete silence.
I wish you much success in building a successful homeschooling team as parents and a wonderfully warm and supportive homeschooling rhythm for your family! ~ Barbara Benson