(A continuation of a series of essays on Waldorf Unschooling Through the Teen Years)
Because the Waldorf curriculum of the high school is often one of delving deeper into something already studied in the grade school years, we weren’t afraid to revisit a resource we had already used in the earlier grades. In this essay, I will highlight some of the many resources we used over the course of our children’s high school years.
A couple of Waldorf resources that I used a lot for inspiration and understanding during the teen years were Will-Developed Intelligence: Handwork and Practical Arts in the Waldorf School Elementary Through High School by David Mitchell and Patricia Livingston and Stages of Imagination: Working Dramatically With Adolescents by David Sloan.
We found numerous reading lists from various high school/college websites. We used them as a starting point for what to study within language arts. Often we would read plays aloud with each other taking different parts, and then taking advantage of a live performance at a local theatre. We wouldn’t hesitate to read the cliff notes while we read the classics especially if there was something we struggled with understanding together. When we read Gilgamesh together, we found it more helpful to read a quality children’s version together. But my children never understood their public school counterparts who would read the cliff notes just before a test or to help them write a paper on a particular book in lieu of actually reading the book. Sarah saw this often when down at the theatre. Indeed one year she read The Three Musketeers by Dumas because many of her friends were assigned that book for a class and she wanted to prove to herself that she could read what her peers were being assigned in class. While she devoured the book in short order despite the fact that she had really just awakened to reading, few of her peers who had been assigned the book for a class actually completed the book. She never understood that!
We didn’t use Saxon math for any of our three children. For our reluctant math student, it was too overwhelming; for our eager, talented math student, it was too boring. Instead we found the Key To series of workbooks were a good start with the higher level math as our children moved into the late grades. From there, we used many books from the Key Curriculum Press catalog. Our reluctant math student found those books that were most practical to be the most valuable as she worked through such titles as The Only Math Book You Will Ever Need by Stanley Kogelman and Barbara R. Heller and Practical Problem Solving published by Key Curriculum Press. Our eager math student worked through about 60 math books on her own from texts to popular press math books found while perusing the math section of popular bookstores. Josh is now wending his way through the higher level math areas and finding it helpful to explore on his own as well as utilize his dad’s skills in this area. Once again, their particular learning styles dictated what worked best for them.
All three of my children love to write but we never bade them write for us. They kept journals and filled reams of notebooks with their writing. If we were asked to read something we did not critique it (spelling, grammar or content) unless we were asked to do that. All three participated in NANOWRIMO several times over the past several years. While we read Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss and other grammar books on that same order, I believe they learned best how to use the grammatical rules and write well by being exposed to all kinds of literature from early on. All three continue to write from fiction to non-fiction. Jenn has become a writing tutor at the university and has even been published in a couple of writing lab journals. When she needed to write a research paper on a college level, she had no difficulty with that task and indeed her professors often comment that her papers are graduate level work despite the fact that she is still only an undergraduate.
We dabbled in foreign language throughout our homeschooling years. Our best experience was when we were able to live in Germany for a couple of months early in our homeschooling journey. We weren’t afraid to use the various media – tapes, cds, computers, videos – to aid our quest of learning foreign languages. While we didn’t achieve fluency in another language, many German, Japanese and Spanish phrases have crept into our family lore. Jenn easily kept up with her schooled counterparts during her semesters of Spanish at the college level. Josh continues to study Japanese planning a trip to Japan in the fall of 2008.
For science we started with the Phenomena-based Physics workbooks and New Eyes for Plants: A Workbook for Observing and Drawing Plants by Margaret Colquhou and Axel Ewald and then moved on from there. We went to the local community college bookstore to see what they were using for various biology and chemistry classes. Science is probably one area that we veered from the most from the Waldorf approach using such things as Cartoon Guide to Physics by Larry Gonick. We also used the various science coloring books by Wynn Kapit and Lawrence Elson. As a family we watched the videos of the PBS series Connections for science and The Story of English for history and geography and also read the companion books.
Each of our children had their own strong attraction to a particular subject. Sarah loves history and probably knows more British history than many her age in England but she also knows a lot about the history of Russia, France, ancient Egypt as well as the United States. She read a lot of biographies and historical fiction. Jenn’s love is math – from game theory to knot theory and several theories in between. Josh has dived into everything Japanese from its ancient history to language.
This is just a smattering of the resources we used. There are so many resources available and many can be borrowed from a library or read on the net. Many times I was asked how I found the necessary resources to educate my three children in the home. In fact, what was more difficult was whittling the many resources available down to just the right ones!