Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Waldorf Unschooling Through the Teen Years: Final Thoughts

(The final essay in a series on Waldorf Unschooling Through the Teen Years)

One of the hardest parts of parenting and therefore homeschooling was to learn to trust that each child was unfolding in the way they needed to unfold. The tragedy comes from both ends of the spectrum – shifting the responsibility to our children at too young an age as well as not ever shifting the responsibility to them. It was hard to not push sometimes. We knew that if they wanted to matriculate in a traditional institution of higher education at some point in their future they would need to show four years of English, three-four years of math and science each, three years of social studies and two years (sometimes four) of a foreign language. While we didn’t want to abandon them to their own devices, somehow we had to figure out how to move the onus of responsibility for their education onto their shoulders even if that meant later they would have to deal with certain consequences. We had to trust and respect that their unique, individual educational process was right for them.

I have come to completely believe that there is much happening deep inside them even when I cannot see any immediate outward results. The hours my oldest spent digging in the yard or my youngest spends now pouring over his comics are not lost hours. Daydreaming and times for introspection are needed during these teen years. And, sometimes boredom is the impetus for great leaps in learning. Agatha Christie said, "We owe most of our great inventions and most of the achievements of genius to idleness, either enforced or voluntary." Maybe we actually owe it to our teens and society then to give them that time of idleness, of impasse and indecision. My daughter Jenn said once, "most people don’t really waste their own time, but most people don’t mind wasting other people’s time."

Our days were a mish-mash of laughter, work, tears, doubts but our schooling became just a part of the process of our lives together. There wasn’t a day that went by without something academic being accomplished but we didn’t do school at home. Our lives continue to be guided by Anthroposophic principles. Through the years some days that looked amazingly like "Waldorf" while other days it probably didn’t look like "Waldorf" at all. I look back on these almost 15 years with wonder and awe. It has been an amazing journey to be privileged to share with our children. We rarely did all I saw in my mind’s eye. Some days were bumpy. Sometimes it seemed we weren’t doing enough. I had moments of doubt and loneliness. But often it was the most difficult moments that led to the most powerful outcomes. I believe it is in the striving that we find ourselves; it is in the striving that we bring forth that which wants to be. Sometimes along the way it was helpful to look back and remember where we were 2, 3 or 5 yrs ago. I was usually amazed at the growth that had taken place somehow unfolding because and despite of the choices, decisions, twists and turns we had taken.

You never quite know where your child’s interests, abilities and opportunities will lead them. Looking back I can clearly see how each of mine has reached their current adventures in life but it wasn’t always clear looking ahead. On a plane to England during the summer of 2004, Sarah turned to me and asked "what would I have to do to become an eurythmist?" I was flabbergasted but on reflection of who she is and the path of her journey this made perfect sense. She is now in the middle of her third year at Eurythmy Spring Valley. As of right now, her plan is to finish her eurythmy training and then stay on at Spring Valley to do a fifth year of eurythmy training or be a member of the eurythmy troupe; after that she hopes to teach in a Waldorf school setting. She found a job at the local co-op, works in the costume shop on campus and progresses with her eurythmy studies; she is cooking her own food and navigating life in a dorm far away from the family base.

Jenn is now in the middle of her junior year at the University of Missouri, Columbia. She is majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies with a minor in Leadership and Public Service. She continues to thrive in an academic environment maintaining her 4.0 while become ever more involved with campus and community activities. She is holding down four jobs and continues with her community volunteer activities while carrying a full academic load. Future plans have her looking into any number of graduate programs and vying for various fellowship opportunities in the public service arena. This fall she coordinated a fashion show to raise money and awareness to combat human-trafficking. Her efforts made this event a rousing success with standing room only and raising over $2000.

Josh is now the only one in the homeschooling fold in the middle of his junior year of high school. He successfully navigated the PSAT this fall and is turning his thoughts towards college decisions and tests. His love of the Japanese culture is influencing his thoughts about what to study in college, thinking he will major in Japanese Cultural Studies. A trip to Japan is planned for this fall after all college applications are in. While he plans to apply for college, he is also exploring the possibility of a year’s deferment and has his eye currently on the Artistic Year at Eurythmy Spring Valley. And, so even my youngest, who claims to have the least Waldorf connection, is considering a year of eurythmy training before heading off to college full time.

I think back to the days when all three were under foot and wonder where those days have gone. In a little over one year, our official homeschooling days will come to an end when Josh graduates. But I sincerely believe that we will continue to enjoy each others’ company and continue to learn from each other no matter where the next steps on our journeys take us.

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