As I have said before, I adore “Waldorfian ideologies” but I do like to incorporate our Orthodox Christian faith into the mix as well. The concept of the Waldorf nature table is absolutely precious–what a sweet way to settle your children into the idea of seasons and celebrations. (Here is a good explanation of the nature table concept.)
Something that I love about Children’s Garden of the Theotokos is that they use the idea of the nature table as a basis for the family icon table. Instead of having the table scarf be of a seasonal color, it is of a liturgical color coinciding with the church calendar. We have placed winter branches on the table as well as some candles and the icons of Christ and the Theotokos. (Candles are a great way to instill a feeling of reverence for children making an event rhythmical and special–they can be used during prayers or on the dining table during meals etc signifying a time when they are to act with respect and good behavior.)
And so our family icon table meets nature table to create a special place signifying a season or celebration where the family can gather together throughout the day.
We are supplementing our Oak Meadow curriculum with Children’s Garden of the Theotokos this year. The reason being, is I wanted my children to learn more about the church. We are an Orthodox family and while I adore Waldorf teachings, I want my kids focused on their spiritual needs throughout the day as well as their educational needs. Something that Children’s Garden of the Theotokos does so well is daily rhythms. They implement their curriculum very similarly to Waldorf so it ties in perfectly.
Each day we start our school day with morning prayers which brings the children around the icon table with a sense of importance and reverence for the day ahead. We then move on to circle time and do a few poems out of Oak Meadow’s books as well as those provided in the Children’s Garden of the Theotokos. Then we learn about the Saint celebrated for that day. (This is an amazing recourse for this.) Then we read a lesson in the main lesson book and do a craft (usually coloring icon pages from this resource.) From there we move on to the more in depth schooling using Oak Meadow for my third grader.
Children’s Garden of the Theotokos is geared mostly toward younger kids around ages 4-10 but it’s been easy to make it work for a 3 year old and an 8 year old. I also think it would be easy to gear it toward older children.
This is the curriculum that keeps our rhythm throughout the day. The Book of Hours is essential to keeping our daily routine–we use it in the morning before school, at lunch and after school. This curriculum has been very informative for my 3rd grader but I’ve been amazed at how it has influenced my preschooler. She is asking questions about God and grasping on to the seasons of the church, the saints and prayers.
I absolutely love how it is tied in with the church year. We learn about a saint or a feast every day and then the kids know what is going on in church that week! Very similarly to Waldorf schooling, it brings a sense of excitement and anticipation around each holiday or season that is celebrated in the church year. It brings the church calendar alive and makes it personal.
I would recommend this program to those that are homeschooling or not. It is used as a Sunday school program and could easily be used at home to teach the entire family about the church.