Until this year, I have relied heavily on Waldorf materials in our home school plans. I had songs, poems, fingerplays, gross motor games, etc, planned every morning to start our day. This was followed by a nice long lesson on one particular subject, and we would focus on the same subject for two to three weeks. After this long lesson, we would have some more music, some handwork, and/or some art. I did this because I thought it was right, because I felt this was a gentle approach to school that allowed for a dreamier absorption of the information. I did it for the children.
Here's the problem- they did not take to it. Ezra would openly rebel in spurts, but last year, Phaedra was almost impossible. I think in a classroom, she would have been fine. She would have done the songs and poems and games with a group of kids as long as she did not feel put on the spot. But, when it's just her, me, and her brother, she felt too observed. Then the long lessons often became a muddle. I would say what needed to be said, they would seem to understand it, and we would still have 45 minutes to an hour left to "finish". Logically, I should have called the lesson over when it was over, but I kept thinking I was missing something, somehow the children were supposed to be doing more so that it took longer.
This year our school morning looks more like a traditional school, and everyone is happier. By traditional, I mean I am using more prepared materials, and the children spend more time working on their own. They do handwriting, math, and fiddle every morning. That is followed by some reading, whether history, culture, science, or literature. After each reading, they present something to show they grasped what they read, to show that they own some portion of it. They might simply tell me about it or draw a picture or write a few sentences in the Book of Centuries. We do German three days a week. We do art. We do science or nature "lab" once a week. With all this variety, I should be doing more work, but I am not. Also, we finish all of this in two hours on a good day and three hours on a rough day. They ask for more work. It's wonderful.
I also feel like this curriculum has room in it to share things I like with the children. For example, we have been reading some of my favorite poets this term- Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, and A. A. Milne. We are entering literature in a way that I feel real enthusiasm for. Ezra and I are reading Oliver Twist and Last of the Mohicans; Phaedra is listening some, but definitely gets bored. She is reading fables, Paddle to the Sea, biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Columbus, and so much more.
Maybe I am doing something wrong, but I doubt it. The best laid home school plans are pointless if no one feels excited by them. So, this is all more academic than I thought we would be; it lends itself to more "head" than "heart", but we are all much happier. I can add some "heart" more easily when I am excited by the material.