I hope all of you get a chance to relax and refresh yourselves this summer as a family. A large part of Waldorf Education is using sleep – and rest- as a way to further the educational and academic experience of the grades. We see this not only in the use of the three-day- rhythm but also in the use of a summer break. Your children will not lose anything academically, but instead will be farther ahead than where you left them when school starts up in the fall again!
However, from a teacher perspective, I do hope you talk to your spouse, your family members and work out time for YOU to do some planning for fall and next year’s school time ALONE. This is very important for the homeschooling teacher – we have not only school to run, but a household to run, and most importantly, time as a family to be strengthened and enjoyed together! Homeschooling is first and foremost ALWAYS about family!
In the wonderful book, “Examining the Waldorf Curriculum from an American Viewpoint” (Kellman, Staley, Schmitt-Stegman), part of the book entails the translated “Working Material for the Class Teacher: Forming the Lessons of Grades One through Eight” as translated by Mel Belenson and which can be read for guidance and thought on this subject.
“The more the teacher works on his preparations the less demands he will make on the children. He works with their time- not his!- in an economical way. What the teacher can and should do for the children, without their being present and perceiving it in a conscious right way to structure the lesson to daily inner occupation with the individual children, thus going from thoughts to the deepening of the thoughts to meditation. The sequence of these efforts, which for the teacher is economical, must be discovered by each one individually. For the teacher it is again a question of working economically.”
The pointers following this paragraph are briefly entailed here as follows:
1. Study the knowledge of man, meditate on this and remember creatively the knowledge of the study of man. The teacher should always be working out of an understanding of the knowledge of man. In other words, one should be reading Steiner and what Steiner had to say on the blocks you are attempting to prepare before you turn to other sources.
2. Begin early to start collecting material – it takes time to find the right poems, the right verses, to find the right emphasis and presentation of history. We are not trying to overwhelm children in Grades One through Eight with factoids and information, but to pick the things that most greatly illustrate the subject and to light the fires of imagination and learning.
3. Use your overview from material collection and contemplation to fashion your blocks – once you know what you are going to cover and how, it is not hard to put the blocks together.
4. One should always be thinking of how the knowledge of man and how the preparation of material leads to the soul development of the children and the way one will guide the children around this subject.
5. Look at alternating the teacher presentation with the child’s own writings, poems, sketches, pictures during the block. Where is the active part of the lessons?
6. The teacher must also be mindful of the school day, the school week, and the school year – what will be accomplished, if this block was taught before how it resonated with the children. “The value of review is often underestimated due to time considerations. Whoever undertakes a review in a conscious and regular manner will come to see that the preparation can really proceed faster and better because of it.” (page 15). How will you make time for review of the school day, week and year throughout the school year?
There is also a wonderful section of “Golden Rules”, starting on page 18 encompassing such nuggets of “Waldorf Wisdom” as:
1. In Waldorf Education, EVERYTHING connects to the human being. All blocks, even science, are presented in this manner.
2. First the child does and then the child understands. (The Active always proceeds).
3. We work from whole to parts.
4. “The world is beautiful” – “For the teacher there is the stumbling-block that he sees what is not beautiful in the world. His task and his exercise will be to see the beautiful in everything and to point it out. The child himself will then always want to do his work in a careful and beautiful manner and later, in a metamorphosis of this striving, will develop a hearty interest in the world.”
This is so difficult for many parents working with Waldorf: “But the fairy tales are not beautiful!” “The trickster tales show the most awful side of humanity”. “I cannot work with the Old Testament tales.”
Meditate on this for the summer and see where you are! It is that important; a keystone to your work in bringing this alive to your children and giving them the soul development so necessary!
5. We present the material through pictures and warmth.
7. Have a practical life in mind – we develop the willing, the feeling, the imagination and warmth as “strongly as the intellect.” Waldorf Education is a HOLISTIC education focusing on the health of your child not only today but for his or her future as an adult!
8. From knowledge to knowing!
A few thoughts for Summer! Happy planning,