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Integrating Charlotte Mason and the Waldorf Philosophy: Pt.1 Choosing a Curriculum and Resources

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

In a past blog post I talked about how we integrate Charlotte Mason and the Waldorf Philosophy into our homeschool Journey. For that post I mostly focused on what our daily Rhythm looks like as well as giving a brief introduction and overview of both the

Charlotte Mason and Waldorf philosophy as I see them. For this post I’d like to get down to the practical nuts and bolts of what this actually looks like in our homeschool. Because there is so much to cover on this topic, I'm dividing this post into two parts. Part one will cover how I find quality homeschool resources that resonate with my own homeschool philosophy, and part two will cover how I execute the actual teaching of our daily lessons.

Being an eclectic homeschooler (a homeschooler who doesn’t strictly follow one educational philosophy) is so freeing because you get to utilize ALL the quality resources you want, and you are not limited by it being “pure” enough to one philosophy, but it can also be overwhelming. They say collecting books and reading books are two different hobbies, and I think this is never more true than when it comes to curriculum and educational resources (if you know you know). But if you aren't someone who wants to be professional curriculum collector (or you at least want to make sure the books that line your shelves do more than sit there), having a few basic criteria when choosing resources will really help you narrow it down.

First off, Know Your Values:

I think if you are adopting elements from different homeschool philosophies, it's going to help to define which elements of those philosophies resonate with you. When it comes to Charlotte Mason and the Waldorf Philosophy I have narrowed down for myself which aspects of these approaches reflect my own values when it comes to education:

  • Spending time outside as much as possible (Never be Indoors when you can rightly be without- Charlotte Mason)

  • Keeping lessons efficient (Charlotte Mason), but also taking time on learning topics that interest us or have more “meat” (The Waldorf Philosophy) For more information on what this looks like, see my next post.

  • Passing on the stories and rich cultures of the generations past through quality literature (Charlotte Mason) and storytelling (the Waldorf Philosophy)

  • Making our work and everything we do beautiful (Charlotte Mason and the Waldorf Philosophy)

  • Education is a lifestyle, not something we do for a few hours a day (Charlotte Mason) because children learn holistically with their hearts and hands as well as their heads (The Waldorf philosophy).

As you look at Charlotte Mason and the Waldorf philosophy (or any other philosophies and approaches you are inspired by) with a little thought and inner work, hopefully you will be able to decide what your own values and priorities are and let some of the other stuff go (because let’s face it, no one can perfectly follow one philosophy let alone two or three!). Besides, I really believe that what both Charlotte Mason and Rudolph Steiner set out to do was to inspire educators to bring the joy of learning to children, not create purists.

Decide How You Want to Structure your Homeschool:

Once you have defined your own core values, you can start considering what you want your homeschooling days and lessons to look like. If you are seeking to establish a homeschool inspired by Charlotte Mason and Waldorf, probably the two biggest “contradictions” you will have to make a choice about are:

  • How long you want to spend on your lessons: Charlotte Mason emphasized short lessons that the student can finish by noon, whereas Waldorf educators tend to teach a longer main lesson, and then additional practice lessons throughout the day.

  • Decide if you will teach multiple subjects each day and week, or use a lesson block format: Charlotte Mason was not a fan of “Unit Study” type learning, preferring to let children make their own connections. The Waldorf philosophy puts emphasis on staying with the same topic for several weeks, so children can delve into it deeply.

What you decide about how to execute your homeschool, may even change throughout the year depending on your child’s need (again I'm just going to say the flexibility of being an eclectic homeschooler is truly amazing). There are also many unit study type resources out there that integrate Charlotte Mason and or Waldorf elements.

Consider What you Want Your Child to Learn and How you will Decide:

Many home educators prefer to follow their child’s interest for some or all of their topics of study. It is kind of interesting to note that neither Charlotte Mason or Steiner believed that education should be exclusively child led. While the Waldorf philosophy has a pretty set list of topics to be taught in a certain order, Charlotte Mason believed that it is the parent or educator’s responsibility to gather high quality resources and set out a “gentle feast of ideas” believing the child would take from it what was important to them. However, she cautioned letting a child choose their own materials without any adult guidance:

“That children like feeble and tedious…story books, does not at all prove that these are wholesome food; they like lollipops but cannot live upon them.” (From Toward a Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason)

This is actually a part of Charlotte Mason education that really has resonated with me over and over as an educator. I really believe as educators we need to selectively curate the choices we offer and then let our children make their own discoveries within this buffet or "feast" (as Charlotte Mason called it) we set out for them.

If this resonates with you as well, you will need to figure out where to begin so to speak. I really like the "What your--- Grader Needs to Know” series from Core Knowledge for this. The Core Knowledge Website also has an entire scope and sequence for each grade level, but I don't get too bogged down with it. I look at it as a basic guideline for what my child should learn within about a three year margin. For example, I don't personally feel like it matters if we study Vikings in the fall when my child is eight or in the spring when they are ten So I base our choice of what to learn about within these basic guidelines on my children’s interest, development and what is going on in the world around us (I will go more into this in my next blog post). Of course many curriculums will lay this all out for you, and many will need to be done in the order that they are laid out in. While these can be super helpful if you are a beginner, I personally feel the best ones (and the truest to both Waldorf and Charlotte Mason) allow for some flexibility. Both of these philosophies put a huge emphasis on the living breathing quality of education.

Education is a life. That life is sustained on ideas. Ideas are of spiritual origin, and God has made us so that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another, whether by word of mouth, written page, Scripture word, musical symphony; but we must sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food.” (From: Toward a Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason)

So again, when asking yourself if a resource is right for you, ask if it allows freedom for you to put your own inspiration into it, because if not, you may find it hard to pass on any excitement of learning to your child.

Other questions to ask when looking at a resource:

Once you have taken time to consider what you want to teach and how you want to teach it, it is going to be fairly easy to search for curriculum and other resources. However, there are still likely going to be several choices (which is really a wonderful thing!). So here’s a few things that have helped me over the years to find the curriculum and resources that are actually going to be useful to us. (many of these I learned the hard way!). Feel free to add yours into the comments.

  • Do I have to buy this “sight unseen” or is there a sample so I can try the material and see if it works for us?

  • Do I have to commit to the whole year with this curriculum, or can I purchase a shorter version (perhaps one chapter or unit) and try it out with the freedom to switch later if we need to?

  • Does this curriculum or resource provide value by teaching how to execute the material rather than simply telling me what to teach?

  • Am I excited and inspired looking at this material, and is my child excited and inspired by it?

Now keep in mind that you don’t have to answer yes to all of these to decide to buy a curriculum or resources, these are just things to consider!

Still Stumped on What to Teach this Year?

As part of my Threefold Learning Series, I developed my own custom three year rotation for all the topics I feel are important to cover as my children grow. I decided we will revisit them every three years so they can deepen their understanding at each stage of their development. This week only you can download it for free. I have also included a special discount code for the Geology block inside. This coupon is only valid for this week, do don't miss out!

Are you an eclectic homeschooler combining elements of Charlotte Mason and the Waldorf philosophy? If so, I would love to hear about your favorite resources in the comments!

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