Our Homeschooling Group Never Makes Those Lists……

(This group has since closed.  There are a number of inclusive homeschooling groups in our state to check out, and a Waldorf-inspired group as well.  Many blessings!)

Oh, you all know the lists I am talking about:  those ones on the big Yahoo! Groups where Waldorf homeschoolers write in and ask about, “Where is there a vibrant Waldorf homeschooling community?”  It always seemed to be answered by some destination in the Northeast or the Pacific Northwest.

I understand.  I mean really, the Deep South is not exactly considered progressive in many respects.  People from the West tend to be shocked by the lack of mandatory recycling when they move here.    It is extremely hot and humid so the air just plain upsets people from other parts of the non-humid country, and I remember being floored by the size of the insects when I moved here twenty years ago.  In fact, I distinctly remember thinking they surely were bigger than my dog.

But there good things too:  decent economic opportunity, a fairly low cost of living, a good stock of older homes and new construction, a good amount of hiking and biking and canoeing, great local farmers, lots of things to do, there are La Leche League, Attachment Parenting and Holistic Mom’s Groups here….And here, in the metro Atlanta area, we also have a very vibrant Waldorf homeschooling community.  It is a close-knit and loving group of really wonderful and wise women; we have supported each other through this journey and have a great love for  each other’s families.  People who move here from other parts of the country notice that and are really impressed with the intimacy, openness and friendliness of our homeschool community!  Always gratifying!

I have written in the past about how our group as grown from mainly meeting just for festivals and mainly kindergarten-type activities to now a full compliment of things for children ages birth through grade six.  This year, for example, we have field trips for each grade, seasonal activities like berry picking and apple picking, festivals with complete puppet shows, weekly co-op days with such things as handwork, German, woodworking and an Early Years group, park and swim days, a new annual trip to the beach to end the school year,  and lots of opportunities for adult learning where each month has a focus on some aspect of Waldorf education with adult classes and roundtables to learn more, adult classes, and a large curriculum fair that last year attracted folks from five neighboring states… We do work hard to reduce, reuse and recycle as a group…Most of our members are into natural foods and natural living.  We even hold classes on such things as how to make your own cultured vegetables.

We strive hard as a group  to provide the right thing at the right time, in accordance to what is traditionally done at a Waldorf School, to our children.  Sometimes we have bumps in the road as we grow…this year we have 46 children in co-op classes alone….  Growing a group can have its own aches and pains,and to address that we recently formed a Pedagogical Committee for our group that is comprised of committee heads and others to help discern the spiritual direction for our group.

We all live very spread out and are committed to driving to support each other and to make events.   If you want your children involved in a like-minded community, sometimes you have to work for it.   This can be challenging for folks who don’t want to leave their neighborhood, so that is always something we ask members to consider:  the balance of their own family life and the benefits of a like-minded community.    The location of things rotate, which sometimes works out well for some people on one side of town,and not so well for others.  Traffic can be not great, just like in any other metro area…

But overall, the ride is a good one.  So I wonder if Atlanta will ever start to show up on those lists?

Blessings,
Carrie

Foreign Languages In Your Homeschool

 

I have written about foreign languages in the Waldorf-inspired homeschool before here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/17/teaching-a-foreign-language-in-waldorf-homeschool/  and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/24/learning-a-foreign-language-in-your-waldorf-homeschool/

 

As mentioned in these posts, most Waldorf Schools teach two languages from Kindergarten onwards and these two languages are typically ones that are from different poles: A Romance language and a language of Germanic or Slavik origin, for example.  In my own homeschool, we are learning Spanish and German.  My oldest daughter has plans to branch out into Russian.  You could bring in whatever language you have knowledge of, or of whatever languages you have in your surrounding area.  It is important to consider what languages are being spoken in your own geographic location, because tapes, recordings and such as not the approach in a Waldorf School, but immersion through a native speaker is the norm.  And the approach of the language is not just to learn the language, but to celebrate and immerse oneself in another culture.  For example, a Waldorf School Spanish teacher may come to school in native dress and do cooking and dance and festival celebrations along with the beginnings of the basic themes in Spanish for the early grades.

 

Some of my favorite resources for small children in Spanish, available through Amazon, are posted on the Facebook page of The Parenting Passageway here:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/TheParentingPassageway.  Another book I use frequently is “Senderos”, available through Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore: http://www.steinercollege.edu/store/product.php?productid=16373&cat=0&page=1  What I find especially helpful in this book is the list of books and stories by grade in the back of the book and the examples of how to teach for each grade.  It has extensive Spanish in it, so if you cannot read Spanish, this book may not be as helpful as you would like. (I see that it ends up on the used Waldorf book lists a lot and I think it might be because either folks don’t know what to do with it or maybe they think it provides comprehensive lessons, which it does not.  This might be one to try to look at ahead of time before you buy if you have other Waldorf homeschoolers in your area).    Many of the books suggested by grade in “Senderos”,  I have found used on Amazon, and they provide a great springboard for Spanish studies, especially for my fifth grader who is working at a middle school level in Spanish.

 

I found German to be harder, simply because I don’t know any German (!!), but I was fortunate to find a Saturday German School in our area and also a very dear friend who is a native speaker from Austria who became the tutor for our children.  This year my youngest will also be taking German in the classes for our homeschooling group, which is a group that seeks to unite homeschooling parents in our area who try to educate according to the tenets set forth by Rudolf Steiner in education.  (And PS, we have a smashing, busy, full homeschooling group – why is it that Atlanta never comes up on those lists of where to move when folks ask this question on the big national Waldorf Yahoo Groups?  Atlanta and the surrounding metro areas is not a bad place to live!  But I digress…guess that is a post for another time!)

 

I have had folks writing to me and asking for resources, preferably books with rhymes and songs that may also have a CD so they can learn the song themselves to teach their children….So, I am asking all my readers:  What languages are you teaching?  What resources do you use?  How do you bring in native culture – dress, festivals, dances, games – into your homeschool?    I have readers especially searching for resources in Russian and Chinese that could be tailored to Waldorf methodology.  If you know of any of these resources, please leave a comment in the comment box.

 

My readers are a big and diverse bunch, so I would love to hear from you in the comment box!

 

Many blessings,
Carrie

Fall Stories For Puppets!

 

For those of you looking for ideas for Autumn puppetry, here are some wonderful links to check out:  

 

Here is a sweet look at puppets to go with the story “The Star Apple”:  http://webloomhere.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-star-apple-puppet-play-story.html

 

Here is a puppet making tutorial for Jeremy Mouse and Tiptoes Lightly:  http://joygrows.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/tiptoes-and-jeremy-mouse-marionette-puppet-tutorials/

 

And a sweet Autumn story from 2009 that deserves a closer look:  http://domesticallyblissed.blogspot.com/2009/08/autumn-story.html

 

More about making marionettes: http://teachinghandwork.blogspot.com/2008/08/6th-grade-or-kindergarten-teacher.html

 

You can see a list of my favorite Autumn tales by age for children under the age of 7 here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/03/favorite-fall-tales-for-waldorf-kindergarten/ and some ideas for Autumn in the Kindergarten:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/08/20/some-quick-autumn-ideas-for-waldorf-homeschool-kindergarten/

 

Many blessings as you bring sweet Autumn dreams to your wee little ones,

Carrie

“Overcome Gridlock”: The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work

 

Dr. Gottman begins this chapter by writing that many couples actually handle “gridlock” well. You want children, he doesn’t; you want to go to church, he doesn’t; you are extroverted and want a party every night and he is introverted and wants to be home with a good book.  These problems seem insurmountable but yet some couples handle them exceedingly well and it does not tear them apart.  How do they do that?

 

Dr. Gottman asserts that the goal in dealing with gridlock is not always to get to solving the problem (believe it or not!) but to open a dialogue.  There are many problems in marriage that are just not solvable, but yet, we can still love each other and live in harmony. 

 

Sometimes the gridlock is caused by underlying feelings and dreams of things from childhood.  Perhaps the things you want most in life is being caused by wanting to emulate or distance yourself from your own childhood experiences.  Dr.  Gottman offers a helpful list on page 218 of people’s most common wishes,dream and desires that sometimes fuels gridlock in a marriage.

 

If we can communicate with each other and respect each other’s deepest dreams and wishes, then happy couples are often willing to overcome gridlock to help their partner be happy.  If the partner does not respect or find significance in their spouse’s dream or deep-rooted need, then this can cause severe marital problems. 

 

Sometimes when couples have opposing dreams regarding an issue, the only hope is to openly talk about why you feel that way and to listen as to why your spouse may feel another way.  When the real issues are out in the open, then you can have a dialogue and find a middle ground that feels okay to both of you.   Compromises are hard to accept, and yet, marriage is a field of compromise if the other person’s happiness matters as much or more to you than your own. 

 

Dr. Gottman notes on page 224: “Keep working on your unresolvable conflicts.  Couples who are demanding of their marriage are more likely to have deeply satisfying unions than those who lower their expectations.”

 

He provides a list of steps for those ready to move beyond gridlock in a series of exercises starting on page 225.  In Step One, Dr. Gottman lists common scenarios, and leaves us to fill in the dream that could possibly be found within the conflict.  One example he provides is a couple where the husband believes the wife is too neat and tidy and controlling.  The dream within this may be that the husband grew up in a very strict home and that the husband actually wants to be able to challenge authority; he wants his children to be able to challenge authority.  And perhaps the wife, who wants a neat tidy home, has as her dream a need for security because her home life was chaotic growing up.  She wants her children to feel safe; she wants to feel safe. 

 

In Step Two, Dr. Gottman guides the reader through picking a gridlocked issue in his or her own marriage and delving into the possible dreams beneath the conflict.  He asks that each person receive fifteen minutes to talk and explain his or her position without  attempting to solve the problem.  Listening is the first key to understanding. 

 

Step Three involves soothing each other, and goes back to the exercises found in the chapter, “Soothe Yourself and Each Other”, Chapter 8.  Step Four involves making a temporary compromise and living with that compromise for two months.  Dr.  Gottman provides the steps to work through  this in the exercise “Finding Common Ground”, found in Chapter 5.   He then instructs couples to live with that temporary solution for two months and then review.  He cautions readers not to expect the problem to be solved, but only that you and your spouse can live with the problem more peacefully than before.  Step Five is then to say thank you, in order to end on a positive note, and he provides an exercise for this on page 240-241. 

 

Another interesting chapter to read and think about!

Many blessings,
Carrie

Guest Post: Botany In The Waldorf-Inspired Homeschool

Our guest blogger today is the wonderful, wise and inspiring Lauri Bolland.  She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Eric, and their three always-homeschooled Waldorfy children who are now 22, 18 & 14. Their youngest, Gracie, recently published her first book, which grew out of their Seventh Grade Creative Writing Main Lesson Block. Gracie can be found on Lulu here:

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/AmazingGrace

I asked Lauri to share some words regarding the “botany” block of fifth grade, and this is what she wrote:  Continue reading

Day Nine of Twenty Days Toward More Mindful Mothering

 

I think for many parents the ability to set limits and boundaries in a calm manner can be such a hard thing.

First of all, as a first-time attached parent, we have to learn how to surrender to this wee being and share our bodies, our time, our lives. We have to make the transition from being perhaps an outside-the-home career woman who has a schedule and deadlines to meet  and control over time to an extent to slowing down to the home environment where we are lucky to get a shower! We have visions based upon parenting books we read that the baby will sleep a lot and we will have all this time to clean our house and walk on our treadmills or something and quickly realize that is not reality with an infant. It can take time to transition into relaxing into our baby’s cues for breastfeeding, for sleep. Once we do that, and are nursing and sharing proximity in sleep and realizing that the child does not view himself as separate from us, we learn to surrender and have an ebb and flow of connection with our child.

However, then there comes the assertion of will from the child. We start to realize that the child is pushing against the forms of the day, the rhythm we have so carefully crafted. It seems so unfair after we worked so hard to learn to surrender and to connect!   Some people see this transition point as defiance, but in the land of Waldorf Education and even in the land of traditional childhood development pushing against the forms of the day is not seen as caused by  the child being malicious or trying to be devious! The child is learning, the child is realizing they are a person onto themselves.  However, this can be a frustrating time in parenting a small child because the child does have an idea of what they want, and  they do live in the moment without much thought of what happens before or after an action.    If you need further help, here is a post to help you: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/16/a-few-fast-words-regarding-defiance-in-children-under-the-age-of-6/

 

With our first child, we may slowly start to realize the child is not the same as us; not a psychological extension of us. We start to realize that the needs of the whole family absolutely do count and not just the needs of the child. Some parents realize these things earlier than others. Some parents come to this rather late, and because they are totally fed up and feel as if they must have done everything wrong as a parent because why else would their child act this way?

 

Some parents get truly frustrated and they say to me things such as: “I tell them what to do and they run the other way!” or other parents say, “I get frustrated because I am so mad and ready to lose it and they SMILE at me or LAUGH!” Continue reading

Guest Post: Using “A Donsy of Gnomes” In First Grade Homeschooling

My original post on the book “A Donsy of Gnomes” stirred quite a bit of interest!  You can read the original post here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/07/09/a-donsy-of-gnomes-7-gentle-gnome-stories/ .  One of my wonderful readers wrote in with her story of how she used “A Donsy of Gnomes” in her daughter’s first grade experience.  Thank you to my reader Kristen from Vermont for sharing with all of The Parenting Passageway’s readers!

Here is what Kristen wrote, and I hope it will spark some creative ideas for your own homeschooling experience:

At the end of my daughter’s first  grade year, I decided to incorporate Sieglinde De Francesca’s sweet book of gnome stories into our Nature Block.“How to Create a Spring Nature Block for Grades  1-3”.  I loved her ideas but being the busy mama that I am with a small farm  to ‘manage’ and two  young girls under my constant care, I couldn’t possibly figure out how to find time to write my own stories.  Here in northern Vermont, we have seven to eight months of winter and relative ‘rest time’ but once it warms up, we are like crazed squirrels running here and there trying to fit everything in before it snows again!  I learned an important lesson this first year of homeschooling:  don’t leave any planning for spring undone before spring arrives.   You will never find the time once it’s warm enough to venture outside again and enjoy longer stretches of fresh air and the warmth of the sun.

So, I cheated.  I’ve been telling Sieglinde’s stories all year, with needle felted characters for each story, and my daughters have enjoyed them immensely.  (In fact, when I told the last story of the book, which occurs in late spring, my girls cried and I had to reassure them that they’d hear the stories all over again beginning in late summer!)  My plan was to tell the last two stories over the course of a month and tweak each story just a wee bit, adding bits of natural history here and there.  For instance, when I was in graduate school studying forest ecology, I loved reading about microhabitats and the ‘pillows and cradles’ you often see on the forest floor in mature stands.  Why not have the gnomes enjoy a rollicking time running up and down that lumpy ground, just for fun?  I also love wildflowers, especially the ephemeral ones in spring that look really groovy, like Jack-in-the-pulpit.  So why not have a gnome take shelter beneath a Jack-in-the-pulpit “roof” during a quick rain shower?   And, since I’m a bit obsessed with birds, why not have the gnomes comment on some of the bird songs as they scampered through the woods during the story?

The rhythm of our weeks was simple and was basically the same as telling the fairy tales, except that we incorporated nature walks into our afternoons to look for pillows and cradles and Jack-in-the-pulpits and notice what birds were singing their springtime songs.   We kept a nature journal which included a picture of the story and a short summary.

I also drew my own picture for story and hung them below our blackboard.  On these, I wrote words that my daughter could learn to write in her MLB and then practice reading.  We also incorporated a game in Peggy Kaye’s wonderful book “Games For Reading”.  It involved writing a short sentence related to the story, cutting up the sentence into pieces so that the words or phrases were separated, and asking my daughter to put the pieces back together in the right order to make a logical sentence.

She had already seen most words on my drawing and written many of them in her main lesson book so this was not as difficult a task as I thought it might be.  She is having a hard time learning to read and is not the type of kid who will sit down and try to figure it out herself.  A late bloomer, perhaps, but a child who loves to hear and retell stories!

Overall, I think this block was a stunning success and for weeks afterward my girls played with the needle felted gnomes (and other animal characters from the stories that I needle felted).    They both attended a garden camp this summer and during one of their walks in the forest  they gleefully showed their friends how much fun it is to run up the pillows and down the cradles in the forest, just like little gnomes do!

Many blessings, and much love,

Carrie

Part Two, Day Eight: Twenty Days Toward More Mindful Mothering

 

(You can see the first part of Day Eight here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/06/25/day-eight-twenty-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/)

 

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Watching a flower bloom is like watching a child grow in nature….their bodies growing bigger and stronger, developing all of their senses.

 

A wonderful exercise that I did in my Foundation Studies course was to draw a flower every day, bud stage through the final phases of the petals dropping.  I was drawing tonight and thinking about how our children blossom outside…

 

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Please give your children the gift of being outside – crossing streams on logs, hiking up hills and mountains, over rock and gravel, rolling down grassy hillsides and sitting in meadows and mud.  It is so important.

 

Have a blessed week,

Carrie

The Parenting Challenge: Gimme 5!!

 

It can be very easy to slip into a negative pattern of looking at our children’s behavior and to spend our days barking out what needs to happen:

 

“Please put your shoes away!”

“How many times do I have to ask you to take your plate up to the counter when you are done eating?”

“Get ready now!”

“Brush your teeth!”

 

and the list goes on.

More critically, sometimes we also approach our children with the “BUT’s” of life:

 

“Well, you did a pretty good job, but…”

“I was pleased with what happened, but..”

“It was a decent grade, but I know next time…”

 

Sometimes what we don’t say also sounds criticizing to the child and the messages they “hear” are I’m not athletic, I’m not smart, I’m not like my older brother, I’m not cute like the baby, I never do things right.

 

If we want to hold onto our children, and if we know that connection is the first and foremost basis of discipline, then take my Gimme 5 challenge!

 

5 times a day, say these words to your children:

“I like when you……”

“I appreciate when you…”

“You are (smart, funny, caring, loyal, helpful, kind, etc!)

Hug, kiss, pat your child on the back , put your arm around them– 5 times a day!

 

For tiny children under the age of 6, it is not so much about your words but your overall demeanor and attitude:  they don’t always need the words a child ages 6 and above need, but they do need sunny smiles, warm hugs, singing, and you saying short and positive phrases that confirm just how wonderful they are.

 

Because they really are!

Try five a day; it can take the most challenging child and the most challenging discipline season and turn it around.

 

I can’t wait to hear your results!

Blessings,
Carrie

Last Minute Homeschool Planning

 

In my neck of the woods, many of my homeschooling friends are planning to start school in the next few weeks.  The Deep South runs on a bit of a different time table than much of the country, who traditionally starts school after Labor Day.

 

Some mothers are still searching for curriculum to buy, or are realizing that there really is not a lot of money to buy curricula.  Others are wondering how to put it all together.

 

I always start with a calendar of the year, an idea of when we want breaks and a general idea of starting and ending and then decide what block I would like to do when.  I tend to stick to form drawing and math blocks that are shorter than language arts or history blocks.

 

Think about your child’s interests in planning blocks.  A Waldorf homeschool is not a Waldorf School. Sarah Baldwin, owner of Bella Luna Toys, wrote a lovely post about this very topic from her own experience here:  http://simplehomeschool.net/waldorf-homeschooling-learning-to-let-go/  If you know the curriculum and child development along with your child’s interests, you really can’t go wrong.  Bring things in at the right time, but look and observe your child – not only what they like, but what they really need to be balanced and to grow up healthy and strong and capable. 

 

Once you have an idea of your blocks, you can move into what your weekly rhythm looks like and your daily rhythm.  I shared a number of homeschooling forms that I used to plan my school year this year:  http://simplehomeschool.net/waldorf-homeschooling-learning-to-let-go/  and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/06/16/get-your-planning-on-a-daily-homeschool-form-you-can-use/

 

Start plugging things in to your form – what verses will you use for your child to recite?  Can you get a poem related to your subject from the library?  What will you use as the basis for your block – fables, stories from history, etc?  Can you get these from the library or can you afford to order something you would like to have on your book shelf?

 

Where is the rhythm of using sleep as an aid?  Where is the movement, the arts (see this post to remind yourself: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/12/21/more-about-the-artistic-pillars-of-waldorf-education-a-virtual-tea/) , and the academic piece?  Where is the practice for the academic pieces:  your  daily math practice and your reading aloud or having your child read to you? I find most families do put these things in daily and do not let them go with no practice for a whole block…Again, this is the reality of how families do things, not some dogmatic way of approaching things.

 

And finally, where is the FUN?  Festival preparation, field trips, going out with your homeschool group, family outings or whole mornings or afternoons at the park or on a hike?  Get your fun going on so you won’t be burned out by the holidays!

 

Happy planning!