A review of the popular, secular, Waldorf homeschool curriculum
We're not strangers to Waldorf philosophy here.
We chose a local Waldorf charter school for O's TK year of school, as a transition from preschool. I knew we eventually wanted to end up at one of the hybrid homeschool charters available, but I just didn't feel like they were the right fit for him at that age bracket. I'd heard wonderful things about the Kinder program at the local school, and there is a LOT I love about the way Waldorf approaches early childhood education.
They don't believe in forcing early academics and take a gentle approach that protects childhood imagination and innocence. You find lots of handiwork, nature exploration, music and storytelling... what more could you ask for in your child's early years. (ultimately, we LOVED that year of school but our family was just not built for early mornings and car lines, so we did move to a hybrid the following year)
If you aren't lucky enough to have a Waldorf school close by, you can bring it into your own home, thanks to all of the wonderful resources that Oak Meadow offers! Now, if you really want hand-holding, Oak Meadow also offers a complete distance learning option with a teacher that you submit work to, and check in with on a regular basis. They also keep records for you, which can be wonderful if you're worried about that. (please note that it looks like their distance learning option is closed for this year)
If you just want the Waldorf approach, all on your own, Oak Meadow offers a full range of curriculum and supplements, as well as books, art materials, and anything else you would need to jump right in. They offer complete packages for all of their grade levels, which means it can be a literal one stop shop, and you don't have to spend time searching down the books and supplements you need to go along with the curriculum. (though you can also order everything a la carte!)
For those finding yourself new to homeschooling right now, and really just need something that is 'open and go' (something I find gets a bad reputation at times, or attributed to a lot of curricula that really isn't set up that way) I think this would be a really convenient option for you. Though I opted to stick with the math curricula that is already working for us, they do offer a math component and it looks great as well! So this truly contains every subject needed and comes pre-planned out into each lesson, without you needing to do any of that yourself.
Now to jump into the actual 4th grade curriculum!
4th Grade is a big leap, in the Waldorf world, and this curriculum reflects that by being focused on teaching to the student directly. If you love the idea behind the philosophy, but not the parent-heavy approach of the earlier years, this might be a great year to dive in! This shift is what really appealed to us and finally had me taking the leap to jump into it, even though it had been on our radar since we began homeschooling.
The Coursebook speaks directly to your child, and the beginning of each week (called 'Lessons') includes a checklist of the assignments, broken down into subject, so that your kiddo can keep track and take responsibility for moving through the material.
For those finding yourself new to homeschooling right now, and really just need something that is 'open and go'...
This is set up in clearly marked subjects and lessons throughout the week, with each component clearly instructed. (The teacher manual also offers additional prompts, tips and answers, for that bit of extra guidance, so yes you do need both!) Each weekly lesson covers the full range of subjects each week, including Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Art and Music. It also contains an assessment at the end, which is a great way to follow up if your child IS using it mostly independently or to keep track if you need to turn records into your state.
Now that said, with multiple learners, I still find it to be laid out in a way that *I* can teach the majority of it, and we can approach the science, social studies and art in a family style format. But my 4th grader can do his own language arts supplement with the provided instruction, and start to gain a little bit of independence, at the same time. It's very adaptable in this way.
As far as the way the individual subjects are taught, they're presented in the gentle way that Waldorf philosophy introduces subjects, especially where Science and Social Studies are concerned. They both begin centered closely to the child, and then spiral out from there. Science eventually goes on to cover Health, Animals and Space, while Social Studies begins with a Native American study and moves onto states, and the westward expansion.
**Update on below subject as of 7/24/21- Oak Meadow is making strides to change the whitewashed/colonizer focused issues present in their curriculum. For the below level, they have removed 'Sign of the Beaver' and replaced it with a different book. While that is a great start, they also recognize that changing the outlook entirely is a long process, and not a short fix. And it IS one that they are working on. They're working with consultants to ensure that they get it right, and are in process to update any problematic material or focus within their curriculum. I truly believe they're taking the right approach to ensure they get it right and continue to be happy support them and their work towards more inclusive, diverse curriculum.
Here's where I do wish that things were presently differently, however. What they do get right is by beginning US history with Native American life, before diving into settlers and 'pioneers', but I want to be perfectly honest that there is a lot of problematic and whitewashed material presented in the wording and resources. If teaching accurate, diverse, and inclusive, history is important to you, I would encourage you to tread very carefully where the Social Studies (and even some of the Science) is concerned. For one example, "Sign of the Beaver" is one of the literature studies used for Science and it's considered very problematic by Indigenous educators, and not something I would personally recommend using. The curriculum does either gloss over or glamorize events like the westward expansion, gold rush and people like Daniel Boone, for instance, without mentioning the ensuing genocide that followed, or the problematic nature of those events. I would recommend vetting all of the resources carefully, and double checking materials with Native American educators. Or, (what my plan was) teach Blossom & Root's River of Voices US History concurrently, so that there's a balance of the perspective from the oppressed communities effected by colonization and the westward expansion. I have a full review here, if you'd like to learn more about that curriculum. In that way, you could talk about the events and people presented in the Oak Meadow curriculum from a different viewpoint (ie: why were people like Daniel Boone mythologized and glamorized? What happened to the Native Americans during the gold rush? etc) and have that balance to keep from perpetuating harmful myths or gaps in US history.
I want to be fair, in that I do know that Oak Meadow is on the side of social justice. They have a page here with resources on teaching social justice to kids. They also offer a downloadable course that you can teach called Foundations in Social Justice, and I believe are committed to decolonizing their curriculum (keep in mind, OM has been around for a long time!). Hopefully they can get some of the more problematic resources and materials updated sooner rather than later! This is a subject that very few curricula companies do get right, unfortunately, so this is not something that is limited to being an issue just with Oak Meadow. The more we, as the consumers, keep asking for things to be updated and changed, the more, and faster, it will happen!
If the Waldorf philosophy is something you want to learn more about, or you are just more interested in shifting to a child-centered learning method, I would also highly recommend starting with The Heart of Learning! It's a wonderful resource for the homeschool teaching model.
You can also find extensive samples for every curriculum level here on their site! That would be a great place to start, if you think Oak Meadow might be for you!
As always, feel free to drop questions down below, or on the related Instagram post on my page! (that's the best place to get quick answers!) I also did cover a bit about Oak Meadow in my 'Curriculum Week' series on my IGTV channel, so you can also pop over there to check out those videos for more information as well.
Happy Teaching, friends!!