Third Grade Old Testament Stories

There always seems to be some kind of controversy on the Waldorf Facebook groups or Waldorf Yahoo Groups regarding the stories of the Old Testament in third grade.  Some curriculums refer to this block as “Stories of the Hebrew People”.  Some go as far as to try to make the third grade a “Hebrew Year” to go along with this. 

I think the title “Stories of the Hebrew People” may be done just  to emphasize that Steiner saw the place of the Judaic stream within Western Civilization as a profound shift of the consciousness of humanity. It was a time when humanity turned inward.  We can look at Moses and the Burning Bush and see how God was in the bush, loudly speaking to Moses, and how the Old Testament prophet Elijah found God not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but in the “still, small voice” after the fire.  In Steiner’s view, this represented a shift from a group consciousness carried by the Patriarchs to a more individualized consciousness.  There are other ideas Steiner had to be examined regarding Creation and the concept  of time within the Jewish psyche of this time that he felt was important.  These may be the details that speak unconsciously to the nine-year-old in an important way.

I think this block can be challenging for some families because despite what anyone says regarding the fact that this is part of the soul development of a nine year old in the  nine year old change that needs to hear stories about separation, loss and redemption; despite the fact that these stories are important literary and foundational references within Western Civilizations, it inevitably brings up for many homeschooling parents things associated with  religion.  It is especially hard when there are associations for parents with negative religious experiences, even if this is not supposed to be a religious main lesson!  In this day and age, however,   I would not expect less examination.  And because in homeschooling each home is like a world onto itself, and because whilst homeschooling is alternative and Waldorf homeschooling may truly be the alternative of the alternative, I think it often makes the diversity of opinions even greater.

Teachers in the school setting  have to work and struggle with the material as well, but in a classroom one may have an entire class of children from different spiritual and religious experiences there and that perhaps reminds the teacher of the archetypal journey of human consciousness of these stories, whereas at home, there is one parent (usually) leading the block with whatever background  and experiences the parent brings.  In some ways I think this makes it harder!  Some religious homeschooling parents (and there are Christian and Jewish families who use Waldorf homeschooling as their educational model!)  struggle because as part of their religion, these “stories” are not just “stories” but full of meaning, wonder and promise within their religious life; however  the goal of this block is not to have these stories associated with religion but with the development of humanity. As a Christian in the home environment, I know I look at the  Old Testament as not just part of the consciousness of humanity shifting, but through a lens of redemptive love found in the New Testament.  So that can be not so much a struggle, but a particular background to deal with.   Some parents struggle due to past negative experiences.  As I said before, this block is  not in any way meant to be a religious main lesson.  You can see more on this in the Christopherus post  on this subject here and also a small mention of this in this post over at Math By Hand.

I don’t know as there is any other answer than for us as teachers, as homeschooling parents,  to do the work.  I have known some homeschooling families that never really came to a place to bring these stories; I don’t think that can be nor should be forced.  The blocks need to flow out of who the teacher is.  It is worth it to look at this and see why it doesn’t flow, and see different points of view, but at the end of the day, all you can do as a teacher is bring what you think would work best for the soul development of the child in front of you and what is in your own inner work.  People ask for recommendations for “substitutions” for this block but I don’t know as there is any really.  You can certainly bring in more of the Native cultures from your area as tied in with the practicalities of the third grade curriculum; some families do creation stories from around the world but I am not certain that that really gets at the heart of why Steiner considered these stories important for children of this age.  It doesn’t mean that doing a block of Creation stories is wrong, I just don’t know as it is a substitute for what Steiner seemed to have intended….. 

I don’t have the answers, but just a few thoughts to share on a situation that often challenges the homeschooling parent. 

Blessings,
Carrie

Seventh Grade Physiology

The seventh grade physiology block takes some thought.  Most of the mothers I have spoken with who are homeschooling this grade are not comfortable just using Charles Kovacs’ book “Muscles and Bones” straight as is and moving through it, and there are not millions of resources available from a Waldorf perspective.  I am going to share with you what I did find and use, so you will not have to re-create the wheel when this block comes up.  I am including Christian resources as I am Christian, and I am sure you will find the resources that work for you!

First of all though, just like with any block, plan and think and dream for awhile. How do you feel about physiology?  How does this tie into the human being on a spiritual and emotional level (there are many more resources out there for the physical level!)  How does this tie into the four elements or your picture of spirituality of the human being?

How do you want to structure this block?   Do you want to include the eye and the ear in this block or work it in with physics or another block?  Do you want to save those subjects or other ones for eighth grade?  For my purposes, I pretty much used the outline that Dr. Rick Tan provided in his blog post.  So, I decided to cover digestion, circulation, respiration and human fertility/reproductive system.  Then I just had to figure out how to bring this from a purely physical, cut down  materialistic way found in most mainstream resources and bring it to the spiritual that fits into my home.

The main books I used were  Continue reading

Wrap-Up of Weeks Twenty-One and Twenty-Two of Seventh and Fourth Grade

I am trying to post a little wrap-up of each week of grades seven, four and five year old kindergarten year throughout the 36 weeks I have planned for school this year.  I hope this will encourage mothers that are homeschooling multiple children (or who want to but are worried!), and  encourage mothers that even homeschooling children of multiple ages who are far apart in age is doable.  You can find week twenty  here  and further in the back posts you can find a post pertaining to the first two days of school this year which gives insight to our general daily rhythm.

Living With The Seasons:  These past two weeks have been very odd in terms of weather  (ice, snow, cancellations of everything and then not a lot of snow, then some snow that melted quickly, etc) and the unexpected things (like my husband getting rear-ended in a car accident that brought us down to one car and having to drive him to the airport, and our oldest daughter getting braces!)  that popped up and  just had to be done during our normal school mornings, so it seems as if we didn’t get as much schooling in as usual.  However, the good news is we are not too far behind where we should be and I think our ending date will be May 22nd.  I hope! (It is typical for schools in the southeastern United States to run on an August through May schedule; in the northeast it is more of September through June).

Kindergarten:  We have really been enjoying our “King Winter” circle extending into dwarves and gnomes – our kindergartener knows so much of this circle and can recite and do so many of the hand motions and such now!  Our story was “The Pancake that Ran Away” for the week of Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, and this week our story has been “The Rabbit and the Carrot”.  This is a tale from China found in my favorite little pink kindergarten book (“An Overview of the Waldorf Kindergarten”), and I have been telling this story with little wooden animals and our kindergartener loves, loves, loves this little tale!  Other than that, we have been doing a lot of our usual painting, coloring, cooking and playing.  I have worked very hard to set up a few times for our five year old to just play with some other five year olds, and have been grateful my husband has been home this week so we could divide and conquer so the bigger children could go to their activities and I could have some playtime for our five year old.  Lovely!

Fourth GradeContinue reading

Talking to Children About Healthy Sexuality and Sex

One often hears the horror stories about parents trying to give “the talk” to their children, complete with mumbling, inaccurate terminology and a look of relief when their child has no questions for them and both parties can flee from the room.

In the United States, 13 percent of teens have had sexual intercourse before the age of 15.  Seventy percent have had sexual intercourse by age 19.  We live in a country founded by people who thought sex was rather evil, and we as a nation are obsessed with sexuality and sex in our media.   It is an odd paradox to say the least.  Our children are bombarded with messages about body image daily.  The freedom of the Internet and media in many families has led the average age of children to see their first pornographic act on the Internet at age 11.

These are serious facts, and the discussions about healthy sexuality and healthy relationships to counteract the messages our children receive every day can only begin with YOU by layering in talks about these subjects from an early age in a healthy, developmentally appropriate way.

First of all, like all things in parenting. these discussion have to start with YOU.  How do you feel about Continue reading

Peaceful Times In Homeschooling A “Big” Family

I personally think a big family is something like six or more children, but most references I see these days consider three children and up to be a “big” family, so for today these ideas apply to any of you with three or more children to teach!

First of all, I think it is necessary to think about Steiner’s groupings of childhood development, and get away from the “one grade for one age” used in a school setting.  So, in line with this, think about grouping your children by development: Continue reading

Finding Peace in the Resentment

Oh, February, you got me again, I think.  I went into winter thinking all would be fine and all I know is for about three weeks I have felt….

Resentful.

Tired.

Without reserves.

Irritated.

A little lost with how to continue to juggle all of it in homeschooling and my own need for self-care and self-nourishment….Even frustrated….

Juggling children of three wildly different ages within the Waldorf curriculum is often difficult.  Going from nursery rhymes and baking and fingerplays  to geometry and algebra  and historical events back to drawings and working on basic early grades skills through mythology to fielding housework, outside activities, the unexpected is a tall order……Oh, February, really, it is too much for one mother at times.

And for everyone, the things that will drive one to darkness will be different.  For me, it is not the cooking or cleaning on top of homeschooling that trips me up.  Those things are fine.  The harder part is the mental exhaustion from the juggling of three very different ages, stages and attitudes.   I am so very tired by the end of teaching time for three separate people that I really can’t combine due to large age gaps…   The harder  and darker part for me is often juggling the “should” for each age and how the “should” would look if  the entire school day was devoted to each child’s  grade or developmental level…. and maybe there would be some hours for me…instead of an all day, all hours being “on” from 5:30 in the morning until 8 at night….Have you ever felt that way? Continue reading

Books About Development of the Older Child

One thing I often hear from parents is that while there seem to be at least a good handful of books about the Early Years (0-aged 7) child, there does not seem to be that many books about development, parenting, and discipline for the older child.  So, today, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite titles regarding development for the older child.

General, Ages 7-14:

  • The Gesell Institute Books cover up to age 14
  • A Guide To Child’s Health by Michaela Glocker and Wolfgang Goebel has sections regarding all ages
  • Phases of Childhood by Bernard Lievegoed
  • The Developing Child by Willi Aeppli
  • Raising A Daughter ; Raising A Son by Don and Jeanne Elium

Specific to the Nine Year Change:

  • Encountering the Self by Hermann Koepke
  • I am Different From You by Peter Selg

Specific to the Twelve Year Change:

  • On the Threshold of Adolescence by Hermann Koepke

Specific to Teens:

  • Between Form and Freedom by Betty Staley
  • The Teenaged Brain by Frances E. Jensen, MD
  • Becoming Peers by DeAnna L’am  (for girls)
  • Education for Adolescents by Rudolf Steiner
  • Kinesthetic Learning for Adolescents:  Learning Through Movement and Eurythmy by Leonore Russell (while a eurythmy book, has great general insight into the stages of the teenaged years!)

Tools to Help in the Teenaged Years:

These books can be very helpful earlier in terms of  your own education and development, but I would not expect the techniques in these works to work well until children develop cause and effect reasoning during the twelve year change.  Read them for yourself and feel free to disagree.

  • Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg
  • How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk – by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
  • Liberated Parents, Liberated Children:  Your Guide to A Happier Family by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

For the Big Picture of Life and Parenting:

  • The Human Life by George and Gisela O’Neil
  • Authentic Parenting:  A Four Temperaments Guide To Understanding Your Child and Yourself by Bari Borsky and Judith Haney
  • Adventures in Parenting by Rachel Ross

There are many wonderful books I have also gone through chapter by chapter on this blog; if you go to the “book reviews” button in the header bar and click, you will see a drop down menu with many different book titles.

Many blessings,
Carrie