Connecting With Young Children: Educating the Will–Week Seven

We are up to page 34 of the wonderful book “Connecting With Young Children:  Educating the Will” by Stephen Spitalny.  We begin with the physical development of the child.  In Waldorf Education, we see the development of the young child as the most important task for the years of birth through age 7.  And, this task is the child’s to hold and own, not for us to push and force. We, as parents, help this unfold by providing a safe environment, physical warmth and by assisting with protection of the nervous system because an infant’s nervous system is not fully developed at birth and it continues to develop throughout the early years.  There are many neural connections that are forged in the first three years of life, and in Waldorf Education, we feel protection and repetition, as the way to enhance this development.  From page 35:  “Repetition is a key element in neurological development, in the development of neural pathways and their myelination. There is a faint neural path at first, through repetition it becomes more distinct, and then becomes covered with an insulating sheath of myelin.”

Random physical movements of the infant give way to the development of the brain that allows for the control of movement.  Controlled movement leads to developing capacities for speaking as finer and finer motor activities are developed – speaking involves motor activity of the  tongue, mouth, larynx and lungs.  Out of speech develops thinking, because thinking is in words. Flexibility in movement during the early years leads to flexibility in thinking in the later years.

The first three years especially are the time for walking (movement), speaking, and thinking – in that order.  All of this comes from the child himself or herself, watching the example of human beings engaged in movement, speaking, and thinking.  Thinking is founded on the development of speaking because after the early years we speak in words, not images.  It is essential for the child that they not be “pushed” into walking, sitting up, etc  and that child accomplishes this on his or her own.  Therefore, baby walkers and such as not seen as helpful.  Sometimes additional support is needed to help children who are struggling to overcome reflexive patterns by professionals, but many children would just be helped by spending less time in car seats, bouncy seats, baby walkers, and more time in movement.  The step after learning self-directed, self-achieved movement is to learn how to care for his or her own body – self-feeding, washing, toilet training, basic hygiene and then learning how to take care of the garden and home as an extension of the body.  All of this is learned through imitation,  and not so much verbal instruction.  Verbal instruction is the hallmark of the grades, ages 7 and up.

From page 44, “Play has the utmost importance in the development of the young child.  For him, there is no difference between work and play…all varieties of play are the essential avenue by which the young child comes to grasp the physical and social worlds.”  Play, not being instructed, is how a child’s brain develops.    Direct connections and interactions between adults and children and children and children in play, develops the brain.

Blessings,

Carrie

Biography: 45

This is what I know for sure:  the decade of the forties, of which I am quite almost half-way through, are enlightening, entertaining, joyful but also heart-breaking in so many ways.  My husband and I were discussing the other day how the calls and conversations we have with friends and family is no longer about weddings and babies (although we do have a few weddings to attend this year!), but more about other things – disease, death, caregiving, divorce.  What  are these  mid-40’s really about?

It might be:

not being where you thought you would be

about some marriages crumbling and some staying through storms

about elderly parents needing care and love and still having small children at home

about teenagers and young adults  and the things that happen along the way to growing up

about learning to love yourself and the relationships in your life in a deeper way

about giving yourself the gift of supportive people and letting go of people and relationships that no longer serve you and not feeling guilty about that – it just is.

about learning to give yourself space and time

about understanding you are more than a parent or a spouse

about finding time for you and you alone and finally understanding the importance of that

about finding joy  and sheer fun in the ordinary moments and being more willing to spend your time to create those moments

It might also be about learning  boundaries.  It is about what you can and cannot solve for someone else.  It is about what you can and cannot solve for yourself,  and learning what people and ideas and things fuel you in you life and making that the priority and being okay with saying no to other things – you finally learn it is okay to not scatter your energy every which way but to focus on the truly important. I think it can also be about hanging on to what matters most, even if it isn’t as perfect as you thought it was going to be when you were younger – whether that is your career, your relationships,  your marriage, your values, your homeschooling – and finding the joy that exists in the imperfect, and the fun and joy that can be there if you choose to put it there and be open to that.

It can also be NOT hanging on to what you thought it was all about and letting it all go and starting anew.  Different people I know have chosen different paths. Some have had different paths forced upon them. This is a time where some of my friends have already lost their spouses through death, for example.  Not where we thought we would be in our forties! What the mid-forties has forged for them is new strength, new courage, bravery, flexibility and hopefully new happiness to eventually be found.

I have heard it said that the 40s can be about healing your demons.  Perhaps, but I think it can also be about realizing those demons are part of you and who you are and your journey and they are okay where they are, because you are okay.  It is not black and white, but grey.  So perhaps that is healing in and of itself to be able to see the grey more clearly than ever before and still be able to move forward and not be mired or tethered to the negative.

I would love to hear your perspective!

Blessings,

Carrie

The Two Things That Stymie Waldorf Homeschoolers The Most

I find the two areas that stymie Waldorf homeschoolers the most are actually not areas unique to Waldorf homeschooling, but are areas that differentiate homeschooling from a school setting:

1.  How do I teach multiple ages?

2.  How do I have a life?  How do I get things done around my house?

I would like to offer some suggestions and you can choose what resonates with your family life and values. 

In regards to teaching multiple ages, I feel this has been thoroughly addressed in many back posts.  The things that will assist you in this endeavor is to NOT create a Waldorf school in your home.  You will need a new and different way of looking at the curriculum through an idea of blending.  This post takes a good look at that.  You will need a steady and nourishing rhythm to accomplish that.  There are many back posts I have written from the time I had all children under the age of 7, one child in the grades and other younger children, now two children in the grades and one in the last year of kindergarten, and next year all children in the grades.  Because of our large age gaps, I feel certain if I can homeschool a kindergartener, fifth grader and eighth grader, any variation in between is feasible!  Be up for the challenge of rhythm in your home!  Here is one post detailing rhythm for three children in the grades, as this is the rhythm that will serve us through the last year of kindergarten and into grade one.

Next we must learn to set boundaries on our time and energy..  As a homeschooling teacher, teaching multiples ages, you will need your energy for preparation and follow-through,  self care and inner work, and your important relationships.  So I feel a very important piece of teaching multiple ages is not to take on too much outside your home unless you feel very steady about that.  Think very carefully before you commit yourself all over the place.  Your home is your priority during the school year.

As far as homemaking and homeschooling, I would like to suggest a simple rhythm of practical work including children, providing  older children with chores to do that  you have shown them repeatedly how to  do and checked in on their work, and using small bits of time.  Laundry, for example, can be done as Flylady recommends – one load in the morning before breakfast, hang up to line dry at lunch, fold and put away around the dinner hour.  Or, some mothers will save up all their laundry for Saturdays and enjoy doing a bulk laundry day.  Cooking can involve small children, but with multiple grades I often find myself without two hours to sit and cook one meal – that is the reality!- but you can chop many things at once and store, you can double batch cook, you can use a crock pot, or you can bulk cook on a weekend.  Cleaning can be done much the same way – you can choose to clean on a weekend day, or you can choose to clean one area deeply in different ways throughout the week.  There are a variety of approaches parents use, and one size does not fit all.

Sewing, mending, baking, handwork, getting ready for festivals can be brought in during an afternoon session and many parents seem to find this feasible.  Having a rhythm to your cleaning during the week is such a blessings and bonus. 

Self-care and care of relationships with your most significant others also requires time and energy.  Please be sure to put this on the list before you worry about homeschooling multiple grades or cleaning.  These things are the foundation of all other things in homeschooling.  Again, there are many back posts about self-care, but this one about burn-out in Waldorf homeschooling is one of my favorites.

Would love to hear from you.  What is holding you back?

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Monthly Anchor Points: July

Anchor:  a person or thing that can be relied on for support, stability, or security; mainstay: Hope was his only anchor.

When we work to become the author of own family life, we take on the authority to provide our spouse and children and ourselves stability.  An effective way to do this is through the use of rhythm.  If you have small children, it takes time to build a family rhythm that encompasses the year.  If you are homeschooling older children and also have younger children not yet ready for formal learning, the cycle of the year through the seasons and through your religious year becomes the number one tool you have for family unity, for family identity, for stability.

July is my most hated month after February.  There.  I have said it out loud!  I feel as if I start with a good amount of energy at the beginning of the month, and then by the middle of the month it is just so hot and whilst we are happy in the lake and pool, we are also a little tired of going to the lake and the pool.  That part hasn’t been so bad for me this year, but there is still always the challenge of children’s behavior in July.  It seems as if after awhile the expansiveness of the month just catches up to children, and bickering or other unpleasant behavior begins. 

So, my efforts this month have really centered on not overdoing.  Which was challenging, as both older children had a jumping camp for horseback riding and it was our month for Vacation Bible School as well.  Overall, however, I think we have fared better than previous years and did a good job taking it slow otherwise  with our hot steamy days at the barn, beach and  pool.

We had some beautiful festivals to anchor us, including:

4 July- the beautiful celebration of America.  I hope my American readers did celebrate!

11 July- St. Benedict of Nursia.  I love this book by Tomie dePaola  here .

19 July – St. Macrina .  There is children’s book about St. Macrina here

25 July – St. James the Apostle

Ideas for Celebration:

  • Swimming at the beach or in lake or rivers
  • Grilling and barbeques
  • Catching fireflies if you live in an area where there are fireflies
  • Finding a place to pick sunflowers – sunflower fields are just, just starting to bloom here
  • Having a lemonade stand
  • Camping and going to National Parks

The Domestic Life:

I always find July a great time to take stock of linens and items we might need for winter.

Homeschool Planning:

I am done with fifth grade planning and rapidly finishing kindergarten planning. I have most of the fall semester done for eighth grade and a good portion of the spring semester planned for eighth grade.  I also went ahead and laid out blocks for sixth and ninth grade so I can collect resources as I go along this year, especially for ninth where I don’t really own any resources yet.  I have also done that already so I can start thinking about high school credits and how that will go – giving myself the year jump. 

Since here in the Deep South, school starts back in August and some outside activities will start this week or next in preparation for the school year, I am also thinking about choosing my time outside the home wisely.

Self-care:

I have a lot to say about this..I always took great care of myself until my early 40s, and now I am feeling the drive to return to that now that I am nearing 45.  More about those impulses soon.

I would love to hear what you are up to this month and where you are in life!

Many blessings,
Carrie

Planning Kindergarten

This is my third and last time that our family will be doing a six-year old kindergarten year. At this point, if you count “nursery” years being when a child is ages three and four, and “kindergarten” years being ages 5 and 6, I have done 12 years of kindergarten planning!

So, with that many years under our belts, it may seem as if there would be nothing new to plan or do but there always is!  Every year is new!   Every year our children are different, each child’s temperament is different, each child’s interests are different.  The rhythm of the year and the seasons remains constant, but each year is new and builds upon that foundation.

If you have a good idea of your seasonal changes and how you and your family feel during the months of the year, your festivals throughout the year and such,  then you are down to picking out stories and song, making up circle times, using fingerplay and foot play and figuring out simple work for each day.

Our  daily rhythm for kindergarten this year will look essentially like this:

  • Opening Verse/ Seasonal Songs
  • Circle
  • Nursery Rhymes with gesture or gross motor movements with rhyme
  • Fingerplays and footplays
  • Our Story
  • Work of the Day.  (We have drawing/cutting/pasting materials out during the Main Lesson time of the older children, so I don’t have a day specifically devoted to drawing.  On Mondays we usually paint or model, Tuesdays we bake, Wednesdays we have handwork/crafting or preparation for some seasonal festival or Feast Day, Thursdays we have a Nature Walk and Fridays are either painting, free play or a field trip day for the older children that my little one gets to tag along upon…Fridays are flexible).
  • If there is a special Feast Day related to our religion, then there may be a book for our older children to read to  our kindergartener on that day as well. 

Right now I have everything about the months August through March planned out, except for the stories… I am still in the midst of picking out stories for those months and then I need to go back and finish up April and May.

How is kindergarten planning coming along for you?  Don’t make it too difficult – keep it simple.  In the home environment, simple is best. The rhythm of life  is the kindergarten.

Blessings,
Carrie

Drawing and Painting Skills in Grades 6-8

“At around the age of twelve, girls and boys stumble into a period of developmental crisis, of pre-puberty and puberty.  Strong upward growth of the limbs leads to ungainliness or awkwardnesss in their whole movement organism.  Psychologically, their judgments become both fierce and emotional.  Another aspect of childhood is lost, and as yet no terra firma is in sight.  Drawing at this point can open up a new world of representation, offering a solid ground upon which new skills and abilities can be discovered…To put aside watercolour paintings for a while, with their more naïve pictorial experience, and to work instead with nuances of light and shade between black and white, is a way of coming to meet the pupils’ violently fluctuating soul life at this age.”

-Painting and Drawing in Waldorf Schools by Thomas Wildgruber

Some of the drawings in sixth through eighth grade take one and half to two hours to complete.  New approaches to art, design, color and accurate representation are found in these grades.  New materials are used as well.  In sixth grade, one finds the use of charcoal, graphite and pencils, gouache, and pastels.    In seventh grade, black and white drawing becomes more interesting by using grey paper instead of white paper and the black and white subject matter turning from the stereometric solids of sixth grade to natural still life arrangements.  Color perspective through landscapes and color studies are also worked with in seventh grade, and of course, perspective drawing comes in with an entire block devoted entirely to this way of drawing.  Seventh grade also finds a more precise construction of the human figure and portraiture as seventh graders are capable of mastering techniques and styles.   In this way, seventh grade moves toward the spatial concepts and constructions found in eighth grade. 

Wildgruber writes, “At around age 14, not a great deal has altered in teenagers compared to the previous year.  Practising accuracy in perception and clear thinking can continue to help them form a clear relationship with the world around them and their own mental abilities…..”  Eighth graders work with frontal perspective with a vanishing point, shadow construction, modeling and drawing, color contrast studies, lino print and scissor cut collages.  Van James mentions in his book that “Work with black and white drawing continues through sixth, seventh and eighth grade with experiments in charcoal, conte pencils, china markers and wax crayon.”

Eighth graders often also work with Chinese/Japanese brush painting and all black and white drawing techniques including contour, circular scribble, pointillist, and vertical-stroke, horizontal stroke, slant-line and cross hatch.

In Waldorf Schools, these techniques are often worked on during a weekly art class period, along with handwork and woodworking in other sessions.  In the home environment, I find these techniques need to be brought into Main Lesson Work and with plenty of time allowed in the morning or continuing into the afternoon to work on these pieces. 

I would love to hear your experiences.

Blessings,
Carrie

Fifth Grade Block Rotation

This is my second time through fifth grade this fall so I wanted a block rotation plan that was a little bit different than my first time around, and I also wanted to  build more of a foundation for things that we will be seeing in the upper grades. So, this time around I have chosen to do blocks in this order:

  • Botany
  • Ancient Civilizations (India, Persia, Mesopotamia)
  • Math block based upon Marsha Johnson’s History of Chocolate math block, but I really worked hard on it and expanded it into a bit more about the Toltec, Aztec and Maya of Mesoamerica
  • Geometry
  • Christmas Break
  • Ancient Civilizations II (Ancient Egypt, Ancient Africa, Ancient China)
  • Greek Mythology/History
  • Introduction To Metric System through our neighbor Canada
  • United States and Neighbors (United States, Review of Mexico and Canada from previous blocks, Caribbean) (I chose to combine Central America with South America in seventh grade geography). 

It is going to be a very fun year!

Blessings,
Carrie