Ha! Long title, but it reflects exactly what I want to talk about today. I have been talking to other mothers of nine and ten year old little girls, and it seems we all have a common problem…The nine year old girls seem to either cry and crumple with many of their studies at that age, and the ten year olds do their work but with the pacing of a slug. Is this happening to anyone else out there? For those of you with nine and ten year old boys, is the behavior similar or different?
I have found for my ten year old personally, the lessons have to be extremely enlivened. Art, music, poetry, movement are all exceedingly important to teaching. Those things are the learning. Today we practiced fractions through an invention of my dear friend Samantha Fogg who is a dog trainer, by looking at the number of trials our dog got right in different tasks. What fraction of the trials did she get right? What fraction did she get wrong? Can we add fractions across trial tests to garner totals? At the same time, my first grader painted giant letters with washable tempura paint and a roller, walked the letters, and then walked the letters with our dog, training her to walk on a loose leash and not pull. This, of course, would not be any kind of a main lesson in a Waldorf school, but in a home environment it was very enlivening and very practical. I think Rudolf Steiner might have liked it.
However, don’t we always worry? We think, well surely there also has to be a point, “that something has to get done!” Not that art, music, poetry, movement, cooking, etc are not “doing something” but that sometimes perhaps just as adults, we like to see something of our own traditional learning background in Main Lesson Book entry and pencils.
It can be easy to get into a very dry two or three day rhythm: present the material, work with the material artistically, draw in the Main Lesson Book and write a summary and yet this is not all that a Waldorf teacher would do at school and it is not all we should be doing at home. (And I am not suggesting we abandon a two or three day rhythm here – sleep is an integral part of learning in Waldorf Education! However, I am rallying against only a Main Lesson Book. Maybe you do a puppet show as part of your block and it arches over several weeks; maybe cooking over several weeks fits in..etc)
At home, we want to keep things simple. I think we must face it that by the time we get through a long and complicated opening of verses, songs, poetry, flutes with older and younger children present that someone will need to go to the bathroom, someone will need to eat, someone is crying! Have you all ever experienced that? I sure have! Meredith, a sixth grade Waldorf Teacher, has some fine tips here for managing a classroom that I think could work well in the home environment as well: http://www.awaldorfjourney.com/2011/10/managing-the-masses/
But, it is good to keep in mind: how can this be enlivening? What needs to go in a Main Lesson Book or is there another way to do this? And, when do I need to push a bit – does this child really need to complete this artistic presentation, this summary? Because sometimes it becomes more about life than just the simple lesson.
I also like to go back and review the parts of the Main Lesson on Meredith’s blog:
New Content, the end of a Main Lesson: http://www.awaldorfjourney.com/2011/01/new-content/
The Warm-Up (the beginning of the Main Lesson): http://www.awaldorfjourney.com/2010/12/warm-up/
I would love to hear your experiences and thoughts.