Ways To Encourage Your Child

Look for the positive things in your child, and love and encourage your child.  There is a saying of something to the effect that we do not teach a toddler to walk by berating them every time they fall, but we encourage them when they make it onto their feet and stagger a few steps.  This is the same for older children; the things they are trying out and doing are different than learning to walk, but they are still learning to be a part of humanity!

Here are some encouraging words:

I knew you could do it! Continue reading

My Favorite Links To Love This Week!

I love pretty much anything Annette Fronz writes…lately she has been writing about the grain of the day often incorporated in Waldorf Education and she utilizes this in her home with her six children: http://ourseasonsofjoy.com/in-the-kitchen/a-month-of-mondays-monday-is-rice-day/

I like Sheila’s Grade One Qualities of Numbers block here….and Happy Birthday Sheila! http://sureastheworld.com/2013/01/21/grade-1-numbers-block/

I love to find how people have combined Waldorf Education with their religious life.  Here is a list from “Flowing With My Ducklings” regarding Judaism and Waldorf:  Continue reading

Revolutionize Your Family For Health

Do you feel happy and joyful most of the time?  Or consistently exhausted and overwhelmed?

Are you in good enough shape to bike, run and chase your children around?

I have spoken with so many families this month who are in the position of having too many things to do, too little time…and what frequently suffers is the basic need of the body and soul for health.  Sleep, cooking from scratch, having time to relax and rest, time to exercise, time to just BE can all be really difficult to come by when you have small children, (and I think especially when one is homeschooling and has small children about all the time).  There is no turning a walk into an aerobic exercise with a small child in tow who wants to stop and examine every cute little ant on the ground.  That is just the reality!

But, the other reality is that one cannot neglect one’s health for years on end either.  Some mothers seem to have this idea that if they can just wait until their youngest child is “X” age, then this is when their family will be getting into shape and will take better care of their health then.

My husband and I are working on revolutionizing our family life this year toward even better health.  We have always been fairly health conscious in terms of our food, using alternative health care, getting outside daily, not watching media (which is time you could spend in getting outside!), but this year we really wanted to put some specific things into place.  And sometimes that is hard, because we are apart most of the week, every week, all year long due to my husband’s work.  It is harder to urge each other on to do healthy things, like exercising without the children,  when you are not even together to support each other in person!  So, here are some things we are trying: Continue reading

Part Two: Attachment Parenting: What’s Going On?

The first part of this series can be found here, including some really interesting comments regarding attachment parenting and enmeshment, attachment parenting and children learning to have self-reliance:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2013/01/23/attachment-parenting-whats-going-on/

So, on with my list of the ways I feel attachment parenting as sometimes been misconstrued and misunderstood, coming from my experience of being in the attachment community for the last 11 years:

Number Two:  The only way to guide a child is to talk to them, and talk some more, no matter what the child’s age.  I think if we look at the child as moving through the stages of imitation, short explanations, needing a loving authority figure,  going into cause and effect reasoning around the age of twelve and then moving into mentorship, apprenticeship, and such during the teenaged years, a completely verbal approach cannot and should not be the answer for children of all ages.  I have written about the idea of combining thinking, feeling and willing for the guiding of a child many times and in many ways on this blog.

Sometimes I think attached parents use excessive talking to a child to not only communicate and explain, but, (in all honesty!) in hopes that the child will agree with them. This way we can still all be friends!  This can be a very passive way to set a boundary.

Just because you are attached and connected to your children doesn’t mean they are always going to agree with you!

So, I wish the attachment parenting community would Continue reading

Cursive Writing

 

Cursive writing in the Waldorf homeschool has come up three times this week, so I figured I needed to write a little post about this subject. Friends, I can find nothing anywhere about what Rudolf Steiner thought about cursive writing.  My guess is that it could be that Steiner didn’t really think about it much!  I mean,  if you think about that time and place, German writing in cursive seemed to be pretty well established and in use. If you use a search engine, you can find images of German cursive writing.  (Perhaps my German readers can tell me how much cursive writing has changed in their country over the years).

 

Fast forward to the twenty-first century here in the United States.  Cursive writing is being phased out in many public schools and if cursive is taught at all, many schools do not have specific instruction in cursive after the third grade.

 

Many Waldorf Schools seem to have adopted use of the Vimala Handwriting.  I understand, because the soul qualities of Vimala is about learning the hidden soul qualities of each letter, of transforming your self-esteem, healing old wounds, and expressing your creativity.

 

I know many Waldorf  homeschooling parents who have chosen to bring Vimala to their children and cite that their own handwriting is much better than it was.  I understand this, so I feel badly telling you all this: I don’t especially love Vimala as the choice for cursive writing, as many are using Vimala for that purpose.  I think I am the only one in the entire Waldorf world, LOL.  So, feel free to disagree!!   I think much as many Waldorf students practice writing the Russian alphabet in conjunction with the Russian fairy tales, the Greek alphabet in fifth grade, Latin in sixth grade, calligraphy and such, the Vimala alphabet could be used in this way for fluidity and flexibility of the brain.  However, here is why I personally don’t love Vimala as a cursive writing tool:

 

I like the fluidity of using a traditional cursive script for fine motor development:  really working on cursive writing helps strengthen hand-eye coordination, and other things such as how much pressure one must apply to the paper (ever seen a child who puts a hole in his paper every time he goes to write?), directionality, spacing between words since all the letters are linked and the spaces are between the words and not the letters, and fluid cursive decreases reversals of letters.  It also increases fluidity and speed, once a child masters cursive. 

 

One thing I never thought of is that some proponents of cursive writing point out that a very simplified, print-style signature is easier to forge than a cursive one.  I never thought of that, but it does make sense.  Also, some things still are written in traditional cursive writing, and it would seem a shame to me that a child or young adult would not be able to read an invitation to a wedding or other formal function or historical documents because they never learned a fluid form of cursive writing!

 

However, my caveat to all  of this is that in teaching cursive writing the instruction and practice should carry on for YEARS.  It shouldn’t be that the child is “taught” cursive in second or third (I generally prefer third for the most complete development of fine motor control and then not expect cursive writing in a main lesson book until the end of third or fourth grade),  and then that is “it”, but that this practice should continue on through (and this is just my opinion!) into sixth and seventh grade with several practice sessions a week.  These lessons can have the qualities of those meditative middle lessons in a Waldorf school, with a  really beautiful beeswax candle lit and that smell permeating the school room, and to really sit and focus on each letter for fifteen minutes or so after the cursive letters have been introduced in a block. 

 

I essentially teach cursive from my own writing, which looks probably closer to Palmer handwriting.  I was raised by grandparents and that is also what I grew up mainly reading in terms of letters and notes. I know people who really like to have alphabet cards hanging in their school room – the website Educational Fonts has many.  Find the font that looks closest to yours if you want something “standardized” or if not, make your own alphabet cards! 

 

This post is already too long, so I will just leave you with the idea of using form drawing and forms to work toward cursive.  That topic will need to wait for another post.  Many Waldorf teachers teach the cursive letters as being ones of the sky, the earth or dipping into the water.  It is a great pictorial image!

 

I would love to hear how you teach cursive in your homeschool!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

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Humor: Day Fourteen Of Twenty Days Toward More Mindful Mothering

(For those of you new to this blog, we have gone/are going through the series “Twenty Days Toward More Mindful Mothering” for the second time; you can find the back posts under the “General Wisdom” tab in the header).

 

Humor is such an important tool in mothering and in generating positive outcomes in behavior that it had to have its own separate day! I think this is one place where many mothers, including myself, can fall short if we are not truly careful in cultivating this.

Is everything in parenting really that serious? So many times I think we see a behavior in a small child and feel we must somehow change it because otherwise our teenager will have this behavior. So many times I think the expectations we have for our children are so high for their age that it leads to joyless and humorless interaction with our children.

Using humor does not mean we never set clear boundaries. However, it does mean that we use warmth and love to set boundaries. We can say no gently, and stick to our “no” even through the persistence of a child. Boundaries are okay. Humor and playfulness does mean Continue reading

Attachment Parenting: What’s Going On?

I wrote about the intersection of attachment parenting and Waldorf education some years ago in a back post, but it has been on my mind again lately…And then, just this week, there was a wonderful thread regarding this topic on Marsha Johnson’s waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com list.  Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie of Wonder Of Childhood (http://thewonderofchildhood.com/) had some particularly wise and insightful things to say about the journey of the parent  as a part of Waldorf parenting  (which we often see in the work of biography in Waldorf Education, as we, the teacher and the parent, strive to heal and understand ourselves because we are not just teaching academic subjects but teaching how we view the world and who we are!) and how this intersects with attachment parenting.

My husband and I have attachment parented three children ages 11 to 3 as of this writing.  I have been involved and am still involved in attachment parenting at my local community level, and I receive a lot of mail and questions from attached parents all over the world, so I think I am in a unique situation to know what’s going on in the world of attached parents.

So, today I want to write about some of the ways I  personally think attachment parenting has been misunderstood and misconstrued.  Again, this is my opinion, so please take what resonates for you, and leave the rest behind.  There really are no road maps for the attachment parenting of the older child; I believe there is a book out by Isabelle Fox on this subject and I think I read it a long time ago but yet I have little impression of it at this point Therefore, these are just some of my observations from seeing attached children that are now over the age of seven, up through the teenaged years.

The attached mothers I have spoken to who have children over the age of 7 or 8 wouldn’t change the fact that they are attachment parenting but many of them would change HOW they did it.  Most of the things they would change has to do with rhythm, how they communicated with the young child, and boundaries for the entire family.

So, without a road map for the older child, here is my perspective after being in the attachment community for eleven years now:

Number One: Some feel that in order to be an attached parent, the approach must be completely child-centered – ie,  the child sets the rhythm, whatever the child wants to do the parent does their best to make it happen,  anything the child says and does requires the attention of the parent.   Yet, Jean Liedloff herself wrote about the unhappy consequences of being completely child-centered here:  http://www.continuum-concept.org/reading/whosInControl.html

Actually,  I think the attachment literature that has sprung up has done Continue reading

Television, Screens and What Else To Do

 

The wonderful families who read my blogs are often in varying relationships to media and screens in their lives…some have no TV, but their computers are certainly on a lot, some work from home where this is a necessity, some do allow their children media access or computer access and monitor it carefully.

 

I have written many back posts about limiting our own time on the computer or with the TV; it really can be such an obstacle towards “doing”.  If you are on the computer, you may not be cooking, making the crafts you want for your seasonal table, having friends over, doing artistic activities, making music, etc. 

 

I also find the more harried and rushed and stressed families are, the more they are likely to use computer or media as their “downtime” relaxation.  And some mothers of small children who need attention every moment still do wonder how they will garner a moment to themselves without a little electronic help, especially in a month that is often bitterly cold around much of the United States.

 

I just want to put out a gentle reminder that there are many things children can do besides something involving a screen.  Here are a few of my favorites for you to try out in your own homes this week:

 

First of all, two children are easier than one!  So seek out some friends within your community!

 

Second of all, as the saying goes, there is no bad weather, just bad clothes..so make sure you have the right clothes for the weather and go and enjoy being outside.  The older the children become, they also can enjoy more athletic pursuits in the snow and cold.

 

Have the basic, open ended elements of play in your home:  silks, scraps of fabric, yarn, towels and blankets for fort-making, old scarves, cardboard boxes and brooms that can be used for playing house or riding a horse!

 

For children a bit older whom you can trust around art supplies, try an art corner or station of wonderful art supplies, paper, fabric, paints, sandpaper, feathers, and other various supplies for artistic fun!

 

For toddlers, how about asking for their help with cooking or cleaning?  How about a bath when all else fails? I gave our three year old a morning bath the other day and we did some homeschool in the bathroom whilst he happily splashed about in the master tub.

 

For three to six year olds:  salt dough is a favorite in our house as well – I try to make up fresh batches that have interesting essential oils or textures in them.  Bubbles are also a hit anytime of the year!

Natural blocks are always fun for building – you can make your own and sanding can be another project!  Singing, dancing and making music also comes naturally to this age group.

 

For those ages six to twelve,  I think about making tents or forts, telling jokes, playing games and cards, making collages, creating art, cooking, building, reading, and  making models of airplanes or cars.

 

Cooking is another one of those projects that never gets old!  Cookies, bread, comforting soups and stews, even things in the dehydrator for my families who eat a higher percentage of raw foods.  Cooking definitely gets my vote for fun!

 

I think it boils down to having fun as a family during this cold weather, and doing what we can to boost each other’s joy.  I wrote a post sometime back about Joy In January, perhaps it could another source of inspiration:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/01/joy-for-january/

 

In Joy!

Love,

Carrie

Waldorf Homeschooling Fifth Grade Reading List

 

I have compiled a reading list for each grade we have been through in our family so far.  This year, I am teaching fifth and second with a cute three year old in tow, and I realized I never put out a fifth grade reading list!  Here is the fourth grade list:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/06/02/waldorf-homeschooling-fourth-grade-reading-list/.

 

Here are few recommendations for fifth, compiled from the appendices in the Path of Discovery books by Eric Fairman and the Waldorf Student Reading List book.  I notice as we move up in the grades, there tends to be more overlap between grades  in terms of books recommended which is most likely due to each individual child being at different reading and maturity levels.  As always,  preview if you have a sensitive reader!

 

Pretty much anything by Enid Blyton  – for this age,  The Secret Seven are fun British mystery!

Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and  Trixie Belden…My current fifth grader likes Trixie Belden better than Nancy Drew.

The Hobbit – my voracious reader really only has been interested in this book this year; she attempted to start it last year but she didn’t get very far.  I wonder if different temperaments would devour this more readily.

I would add in here The Chronicles of Narnia if your child has not read those

The Island of the Blue Dolphins and the sequel Zia by Scott O’Dell

 

These are from the Waldorf Reading List for Fifth/Sixth Grade, we have not read all of these:

Padraic Colum The Children Of Odin:  The Book of Northern Myths

Sharon Creech:  Walk Two Moons

Karen Cushman:  Catherine, Called Birdy

Robert Stevenson:  Kidnapped and Treasure Island

Isabel Wyatt books

Ella Young Celtic Wonder Tales ; The Tangle-Coated Horse

Lois Lenski:  Prairie School; Strawberry Island

Patricia Maclachen:  Sarah:  Plain and Tall and the sequel is Skylark

Rosemary Sutcliff:   Light Beyond the Forest

TA Barron’s The Ancient One (my daughter also read TA Barron’s books regarding the Lost Years of Merlin and enjoyed those)

Ron Jones:  The Acorn People

Madeliene L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time, The Wind In the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, etc.

Anything by E. Nesbit

Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series

The Redwall series by Brian Jacques  (many children seem to find these monotonous after they read the first few)

Susan Coolidge:  What Katy Did and others

Ursula LeGuin:  A Wizard of Earthsea, etc.

The Root Cellar by Janet Lunn

Lucy M. Boston The Castle of Yew, The Children of Green Knowe, The Chimneys of Green Knowe, etc.

Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer

Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark

All of a Kind Family series – Sydney  (these are recommended for Third Grade as well)

Caddie Woodlawn

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

The Golden Goblet by Eloise McGraw

Books by Jean Little

 

I would add:  any books in the Little House series that you deem appropriate, and for botany I would add “Girls Who Looked Under Rocks:  The Lives of Six Pioneering Naturalists” and the books by Jean Craighead George such as “One Day In the Alpine Tundra” etc…some of these were recommended in the Christopherus Botany guide here: 

http://www.christopherushomeschool.com/Fifth-Grade-Botany-Bundle-p/chrb0011.htm

 

There are also, of course, many books that go along well with the them of Ancient Civilizations and Mythology as well.

 

I would love to hear some of the books your children really enjoyed in Fifth Grade, and what you all really enjoyed as a family.

 

Many blessings,

Carrie

Part Two Of Neurologic Development: Opportunity, Experience And Encouragement

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In our last post, we looked specifically at gross motor and fine motor development for the early grades aged child.  I posted several articles about fine motor skills.  Fine motor skills are especially important, because when fine motor skills are delayed, then many times speech, social skills, and such academic skills as reading and writing are also delayed.  They all are tied together.

 

Here are a few more areas to consider:

 

Speech: Is your early grades age child’s speech UNDERSTANDABLE by those around him or her that are outside of your family? In most children, speech problems disappear by age five or six according to many Waldorf resources (see the article “The Wonder of Acquiring Speech” by Michaela Glockler, MD for an example), but this of course has to be taken in accordance for each individual child.  I have been reading that there are some specific sounds that may not be mastered until ages seven or eight or even nine, but I think there is a difference between specific sounds (a few) not being well-pronounced and the whole of a child’s speech not being understandable!  ( However, certainly even the inability to pronounce single consonants once a child is over the age of 7 also leads to difficulty in linking consonants for consonant blends).   

If a grades-aged child is behind in other areas besides just speech, it may be more pressing to get an evaluation and get started on some therapy at this age rather than wait until age nine or later.  I  find that the older children become – ie, if a child is eight or nine or ten – speech and other delays really can affect the child’s social life and self-esteem because other children that age may have less patience with the delays, the child  starts comparing him or herself to others and sometimes no matter how nice the children they may not be as social with the child who has speech problems and is not understandable. Therefore, if delays are affecting your grades- aged child’s feeling of being accepted and loved outside of their family, especially if they are getting close to age 8 or so,  I think that also deserves a closer look and perhaps not just letting it ride.

What opportunities are you giving your grades-aged child for reciting poetry, tongue twisters, working with rhyming sentences, and speaking and expressing himself clearly and cleanly? How does your child communicate? Does your  grades-aged child who is closer to nine look children and adults in the eye if that is part of showing respect to others in the culture in which they live? Does your early grades age child know how to greet adults? Part of dealing with speech is opportunity, helping your child to navigate and make sense of the experiences of communicating with others (the feeling life), and also ENCOURAGEMENT to use clear words, clear sounds, clear thoughts.

Emotional Life: The “soul life” of the child is considered extremely important in Waldorf Education. Young children under the six/seven change often have strong emotions that quickly dissipate. Children who are school aged often find a deeper well of emotions, and emotions and impressions hang on longer than before, but still often in a undifferentiated way (things are “good” or “bad”) until past the nine year change.

Art is the most important vehicle for the school-aged child to deal with emotions. This, to me, is understanding that movement, speech, vocal and instrumental music, modeling, drawing, crafts and painting are paramount at this stage. As Michaela Glockler and Wolfgang Goebel write in “A Guide To Child’s Health”:

“These activities allow the children’s feeling life to express itself in the tension between beautiful and ugly or successful and unsuccessful artistic efforts. When children of this age lack artistic opportunities (my bolding), their natural tendency to make judgments based on sympathy and antipathy shifts to the intellectual level and is applied to people’s appearance and actions, and the result is criticism, grumbling, and an unpleasant degree of resistance to adult requests.”

The other piece of dealing with the emotional life is setting a balance through rhythm and habit. Drs. Glockler and Goebel again; “Unless they’ve already established good habits, their only motivation for doing “boring stuff” like tidying up or clearing the table is their desire to do the adult a particular favor. Their assessments of everything around them are based on their personal likes and dislikes, sympathy and antipathy – in other words, on feelings.”  This passage reminds of how a child needs to have roots in order to have wings – rhythm, ritual, habit, are not the chains that bind but the tools that provide a foundation to fly!

Being a “beloved authority” is also of extreme importance to a child of this age.  I have already discussed boundaries and that too is of importance.   

Social Life: Again, Drs. Glockler and Goebel: 

“Raising a child to be loving is based on cultivating a rich interpersonal life – relationships to other people, to surroundings, to objects and events.  In this process, learning to cope with yes and no, with being allowed to do some things and forbidden to do others, plays a decisive role, because the ability to love also involves respect for other people’s life situations and hence the ability to see the positive meaning of a “no”.  How many relationships in later life suffer from the face that we never really learned to deal with yes and no, with sympathy and antipathy, or to accept failures and errors as part of life?” 

Does your child have a rich interpersonal life?  Does your grades-aged child play well with children of his or her own age or are they only attracted to being with adults?  Can they also play with children of other ages?  Can they handle one on one play, playing with two friends, playing in a group?

Spiritual Life:  An adult who has a “religious” approach to life in the sense of Waldorf Education is one who approaches life with a sense of trust, gratitude, a sense of goodness, a sense of harmony.  I love this quote from Drs. Glockler and Goebel

Today, many people believe that religious education should be avoided because it manipulates children and takes away their freedom of choice.  In fact, however, children who are not allowed to experience qualities such as reverence,admiration, and devotion grow up “unfree” with regard to religion…People who establish undogmatic, independent relationships to the contents of specific religious traditions find in them ever new incentives for inner development..As adults, these people radiate the peace and certainty that children need…”

If you are interested in this subject, I highly recommend the essay “Learning Through Celebration”, found in the book, “Offering The Gospel To Children” by Gretchen Wolff Pritchard.  It offers many interesting things to think about. 

When we think of the child and their spiritual life, what images do you think of?  How do you think your child views the larger and greater world?  Is the world a place of goodness and beauty or one to be feared? Does the natural world convene upon the liturgical year at all in your household if that is the spiritual nature of your family?  Do your children get to experience the spiritual year?  Experience is so important for the child; not to analyze but just to experience the wonder of it all.

 

Many blessings,

Carrie