If you're tired of the same old science texts, over and over, and need a change of pace, consider Donna Simmons' new book entitled From Nature Stories to Natural Science: A Holistic Approach to Science for Families
. A science book in part, this book also offers homeschool encouragement and insight from a homeschooling mom.
As Simmons says in the preface, "This was a book that wanted to be written! I had started out writing a general overview of Waldorf education for homeschoolers, but my love of working with children in nature came to the fore and before I knew it I was writing From Nature Stories to Natural Science
This 150-page spiral bound book includes topics such as:
An introduction to Waldorf Education with a special look at Hands, Hearts, and Heads approach to education (similar in concept to the Charlotte Mason approach of Knowledge of God, Man, and The Universe).
A special excerpt on Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy (see note below)
A discussion on Goethe's Way of Science (Steiner translated the writings of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
An explanation of Science in the Waldorf School Curriculum
Suggestions for Setting the Scene - cultivating a child's awe for science in your own back yard
A look at Your Garden
Detailed explanations for each grade:
Early Years Through Kindergarten
First Through Third Grades
Fourth and Fifth Grades
Sixth Through Eighth Grades
Simmons closely follows the Waldorf approach to science, with suggestions for each grade. For example, in fourth grade, students are taught a Man and Animal block (a block is similar to a unit study). This block teaches the differences and similarities between humans and animals in a conceptual sense (swift as a deer, eyesight like an eagle, courageous as a lion, etc.). In high school, Simmons tells us that most teens study biology, physics, astronomy and geology, which are being revisited from more conceptual elementary and middle school introductions to these courses.
This book, while very Waldorfy in concept, can be applied to science activities in any eclectic homeschool. Simmons makes practical suggestions for the homeschool that has multiple children and, as always, in her pragmatic and creative style, she suggests ideas such as field trips to observatories, rivers, and gives a plethora of reading and web site suggestions for each level. While I was reading this book, I felt like she was sitting beside me, talking to me in a casual, conversational style.
A very personal and hands-on teacher, Simmons has a background in education. She has been involved with Waldorf education since she was four years old, when she was sent to a Waldorf kindergarten and continued this education through graduation. She later studied child development and taught at two Waldorf Schools in England. She eventually became a youth worker, drawing on her rich childhood experiences to find creative ways to work with some very challenging inner city youth. Donna's perspective on Waldorf education is largely colored by this work, and as a pragmatic homeschooling mom. She is eager to find "what works" in different situations. Children come out occasionally to the hobby farm in Wisconsin where she and her husband, Paul Newton, a homeopath, live and learn with their two sons, 12-year-old Daniel and 10-year-old Gabriel.
To get on-the-spot information from Simmons, one simply needs to join her Yahoo!Group, entitled Waldorf_at_Home, and visit her web site at www.christopherushomeschool.org
Donna and Paul recently set up Christopherus Homeschool Resources with the aim to help homeschooling parents find a relationship to Waldorf education at home, one that will vary according to each family's situation. Christopherus provides a telephone consultation service with Donna, a correspondence course in writing, an informative and ever expanding website, and a series of curriculum materials written by Donna. Parents are encouraged to sign up for Christopherus' free monthly e-mail newsletter, The Homeschool Journey
Please note that some people involved in Waldorf education study a philosophy known as Anthroposophy, based on the writings and lectures of Rudolf Steiner. There are concepts in Anthroposophy that are based on Christian beliefs, so there are references to Christianity in Waldorf education. For example, school festivals often follow the Liturgical Christian calendar, and children learn about saints in the second grade and Old Testament stories in the third grade.
On the other hand, not all of Steiner's esoteric ideas are accepted in, and some run counter to, traditional Christian theology. Consequently, there are problematic areas that cause some Christians to shy away from Waldorf education as a whole.
As a Christian and an eclectic homeschooler, I have not found the practical Waldorf teaching methods to be incongruent with my Christian walk. The introduction of art, music, and movement in a curriculum based on a child's development brings richness to its delivery. The use of physical activity with recitation helps my son's ability to process information. Hence, I am comfortable taking what I want, leaving the rest, and adding my own Christian beliefs to the spiritual aspects of Waldorf education.
Some people, especially those who are new to Christianity, may not be comfortable doing this. It is always wise to prayerfully use discernment when reading any Waldorf-based materials, in order to separate the wheat from the chaff.