A Guest Post: One Mother’s Experience With Curative Waldorf Education

(Carrie here:  I am so grateful to Stephanie for sharing her experiences and journey here.  I think those of you who have children with differing abilities and who are wondering what to do with Waldorf Education at home will be very inspired!  Stephanie writes:)

Carrie invited me to share some of the interesting ideas we’ve learned so far on our special needs path with our micropreemie daughter, who is now eight years old. When our daughter was born on the borderline of viability, we knew that learning and developmental problems were likely to arise. When we met in the office of a preemie researcher at Harvard, Heidi Als,  we asked what we could do to support our daughter’s healthy development. One of Dr. Als’ first suggestions to us was to use Waldorf Education.  At the time,  I had no idea what that was.

In retrospect, I consider our time before finding out about Waldorf Education to be our Dark Ages! I say this because our daughter is a child for whom living a  Waldorf lifestyle and using the Waldorf School curriculum makes all the difference in her emotional stability and  her ability to function in life. As a parent, it has been one of the hardest things to know that children like her need Waldorf Education the most and yet there are so few Waldorf resources available to families like ours. We took up the challenge in our family and started with making the changes suggested in the book  “Simplicity Parenting,” by Kim John Payne.

In looking for further ideas and resources, we found the Otto Specht School (named after Rudolf Steiner’s first student), where our daughter started First Grade. These are some of the elements that the teachers have shared with us:

1. The teachers do not try to cover the entire curriculum each year, but they try to get to the essence of the curriculum for each year. I think this point sounds deceptively simple on the surface – until you actually try to pin down the essence for the child with whom you are working!

2. The teachers are not harried or rushed, ever, as far as I have seen. My daughter’s teacher is found of saying Continue reading

The Rant: Development of the Whole Child, Part Two

I think one thing parents should be very aware of is how the development of movement takes place.   Movement of the ages before birth to age three is especially tied to relationships with other human beings.   I love how Rahima Baldwin Dancy writes about this time period:

This change in consciousness from infancy to three years involves waking up, in the sense that the participatory consciousness of the newborn gradually becomes replaced by a strong sense of self (just try opposing the will of a two-year-old!).  Before this strong sense of I can emerge, the child must first develop language, thinking and memory.

Penetration of the body, which culminates in walking, is a fundamental task of the baby’s first year.  Talking is a key task of the second year. And thinking and memory are areas of tremendous development in the third year.  -You Are Your Child’s First Teacher,  page 67.

If we think about this from a sheer physical, materialistic perspective, the brain starts to develop around the third week of gestation and continues to develop throughout the lifespan of the human being.  By age 6, the brain has about 90 percent of its adult volume.  The characteristic gyri and sulci of the brain develop between the weeks of gestational week eight and gestational week 36, with some  development extending into the post-natal period.   The human brain is an unfinished organ,  and Rudolf Steiner saw this and wrote about it — quite a remarkable idea for the early twentieth century, especially considering that the decade of the 1990’s was the decade labeled the “decade of the brain”.  What Steiner added to this thought about the unfinished brain being influenced and developed by movement and the development of the senses was that the soul and spirit within our bodies works on the brain itself, and that the environment works on our internal organs.  The limbs and dexterity of the limbs has much to do with the health of the child in  the physical, social, emotional and intellectual realms.

If one talks to pediatric therapists, they can outline a pretty set standard of  physical development that  they learned in school.  Not every child will go through this path of development, but the pieces children do accomplish is beneficial.  Every self-initiated movement and accomplishment  not only brings development of the body and the brain, but develops the will of the child and his or her own satisfaction.

The quality of movement is most important, and the physical path typically looks something like this, (as an example we will use the progression of an infant who is on his or her back): Continue reading

Having A Successful Homeschooling Group Experience

I don’t know as I have much advice in this area as the homeschooling group that I helped   found closed this past spring. This group lasted six years and it was a gratifying experience in that it led to some wonderful mothers connecting to each other and some of the children finding wonderful friends.  So, I guess in that sense, it was very successful.

From experiencing the life cycle of a group,  which really is similar to the life cycle of almost any group, here are my suggestions for you to think about if you are in the process of forming or growing a Waldorf homeschooling group: Continue reading

Great Links To Love and Make You Think!

I LOVE this one about not complaining and how to stop.it.now.    Here it is:  http://www.becomingminimalist.com/complain-less/

My Christian readers might enjoy this one about marriage: http://www.rickthomas.net/2013/10/14/youve-lied-marriage/

Ancient Rome is on my mind; it is a mainstay of sixth grade in the Waldorf curriculum and we are starting this block next week!  Here is Sheila’s post about her experience with Ancient Rome:  http://sureastheworld.com/2013/10/21/grade-6-roman-history-block/  (For those of you keeping track, I wrote about our geometry block already but still have yet to write about our mineralogy block.  Hope to get to that soon!)

Such a sweet Martinmas sweater here:  http://seamless.typepad.com/my-blog/2013/10/create-22-october-2013.html     I am thinking about Martinmas as well, and making new lanterns this year.

Moving into the season of Light,

Carrie