Making Peace With Developmental “Spurts”

In infants, we often talk about “growth spurts”.  These usually occur, in infants, at the age of 3-10 days, between 3-6 weeks, between 2-4 months, and at 6 and 9 months of age.  The exact timetable is up to the infant.  During these periods, the infant may wake more for reassurance, may stool and urinate more frequently, may grow in size/length/developmental ability, may need very frequent feeding and the infant has a higher need to be cuddled and loved.

We often talk about this in connection with babies.  What our society talks about less frequently is developmental “spurts” in older children.  The Gesell Institute talks about periods of equilibrium and disequilibrium that continue from infancy into adulthood.  Every year in your parenting, there will be stages of equilibrium and disequilibrium.

Often the “symptoms” look the same – the need to eat and sleep more, possibly with more waking in children younger than 10, the growth and change in developmental ability (often AFTER the growth is complete…many children are more “clumsy” when they have had a sudden spurt in growth), and the child may need more emotional connection and nurturing.

It is a complete fallacy of our society, a fall-out of children becoming miniature adults in our society, that we tend to view four and five year olds almost as adults with adult regulation skills.  We often forget children are growing and changing all the way through adulthood, and if we are lucky and honored as adults, we will keep emotionally and spiritually.

I think an important part of making peace with parenting is that children are always growing, always changing, always moving forward toward entering adulthood.  The best we can do is provide a scaffolding for trust and connection, love and acceptance and good mental, emotional and spiritual health.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Wrap Up of Weeks Sixteen and Seventeen of Seventh and Fourth Grade

I am trying to post a little wrap-up of each week of grades seven, four and five year old kindergarten year throughout the 36 weeks I have planned for school this year.  I hope this will encourage mothers that are homeschooling multiple children (or who want to but are worried!), and  encourage mothers that even homeschooling children of multiple ages who are far apart in age is doable.  You can find weeks fourteen and fifteen here and further in back posts you can find a post pertaining to the first two days of school this year which gives insight to our general daily rhythm.

Kindergarten:  We have been doing a wonderful morning circle journey about King Winter (which turned a little ironic this week when we had two 65 degree days!).  Our story is still Suzanne Down’s January story about “Old Gnome and Jack Frost” which is always a delight to our five year old.  There has been quite a bit of painting, making snowflakes and cutting and pasting, playing and baking and tissue paper kinds of crafts.  “Earthways” has great detailed instructions if you are looking for something like that for your little one.

Fourth Grade:  We have had a good time with our Norse Myths and grammar.  So far, we have been doing quite a bit of form drawing, clay and beeswax modeling, and drawing with pencils and poetry and writing.  We also did four watercolor paintings.  Our fourth graders drawings of Thor being pulled by his goats, Odin hanging from Yggdrasil  receiving the runes, a picture of Balder and one of the Three Norns were all exceptionally well-done.  We are doing the story of Idun and the Golden Apples tomorrow along with some beeswax modeling.    We finished “The Wheel On The School” and “Little Pear”  last  week and this week  we read “Honk the Moose” and started “The Story of Doctor Dolittle”.

We have still been reviewing a lot of math, which is harder for our fourth grader.  So we are still in times tables, adding and subtracting, and while we haven’t focused as much this week on multiplying/dividing and measurement, we will start to hit that again next week.  We are still plugging away on Jamie York’s worksheets and flashcards as well. 

Choir and practice for a choir collar and ribbon (through the Royal School of Church Music in America)  has been good work in music theory and another way to approach fractions.  We didn’t start any handwork project this week as life seemed busy in the afternoons with 4H and some other activities, but that is on the list for next week.  Playing in our beautiful weather has also been a priority! 

Seventh Grade:  Africa has been a lot of fun and so very interesting. I learned very little of this in school myself, and I have really enjoyed this block.  So far our seventh grader has done a beautiful title page with cut-outs, a picture of the desert and a summary regarding African deserts and the people who live there, a summary about the rain forest and the people who live there along with a picture of the flora and fauna from all levels of the rain forest, a summary about the savannah and the people who live there and the animals, charcoal drawings of the acacia and baobab tree along with a play our seventh grader wrote about the life cycle of baobab tree, a charcoal drawing of Queen Hatshepsut and a summary about her life; and this week we are working on a mixed media drawing/fabric picture of Sundiata, and a map comparing the travels of Mansu Mali and Ibn Buttuta. We also talked about Louis Leakey and his discoveries and the influence he had on people such as Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey.   Next week we will finish up with the countries in Africa,  the different tribes in different regions, some cooking and dancing.

The books I have found most helpful were a book about the life cycle of baobab tree whose title is escaping me at the moment, “Hear The Voice of the Griot!  A Guide to African Geography, History, and Culture” by Betty Staley (a Waldorf resource and the best single resource to get), “Amazing Africa Projects You Can Build Yourself” by Carla Mooney, “African Princess” by Joyce Hansen, “African Beginnings” by James Haskins and Kathleen Benson, “Ancient Africa – Archeology Unlocks the Secrets of Africa’s Past” by National Geographic (ended up being more for me than our daughter), “Sundiata:  Lion King of Mali”, “Mansu Mali” by Khephra Burns, “Traveling Man:  The Journey of Ibn Buttuta, 1325-1354.    Our seventh grader read “Listening for Lions” by Gloria Whelan and also Christian Heroes:  Then and Now’s “Rowland Bingham”.  She was not impressed with either one really.  She is going to read about David Livingstone next through the Christian Heroes series and see if that one is any better, and we are reading Jane Goodall’s “My Life With the Chimpanzees” out loud right now. Jane Goodall’s book is most wonderful for a seventh grade girl.   I am going to check our local library for books about Dian Fossey that might be suitable to read.

Other experiences as of late include putting together a portfolio for 4H and getting ready for poultry judging, and vocal music sessions to prepare for a new ribbon in choir (through the  Royal School of Church Music in America, so there is a set progression through music notation and theory), and lots of time to play.  We have also gone to the track a few times for “homeschool P.E.”

I would love to hear what you are working on! 

Many blessings,

Carrie

Waldorf Homeschooling: An Independent Daughter Movement?

If the platform of  Steiner’s spiritual  work is seen as the “Mother” and the  “daughter” movements are such practical outreach movements as biodynamic agriculture, curative education, anthroposophic medicine, and Waldorf Education in the Waldorf Schools, I think the explosive growth of Waldorf homeschooling has left some of us wondering if Waldorf homeschooling is an independent daughter movement in its own right, not just something  “under” the Waldorf School? 

As homeschoolers, we  often hear how the Waldorf School cannot be replicated in the home environment, but yet the Waldorf Schools give us the ideas of curriculum and implementation.  Unfortunately, first time Waldorf homeschoolers are often concerned about following the curriculum created for the school environment as closely as possible and often drive themselves crazy trying to do this as a parent with no teacher training and no specialized staff – and in the process ignore the way the curriculum could be implemented in the home for the benefit of the development of the child and family..  Steiner was the first to believe that a classroom should be adapted to the place and time in which one lived; therefore a classroom in Germany in one region would look different than a classroom in southeastern America.  Why do we act as if the homeschool environment should be  the same as a generic “model” classroom when this is not what Steiner even wanted for the school environment?

I recently found a link about the differences between the Waldorf School and the Montessori method and was struck by something that I hear over and over from Waldorf School teachers as a concern regarding homeschooling.  This is from the City of Lakes Waldorf School website as an answer to a Frequently Asked Question.  http://clws.org/faq/#difference  and this was the part that caught my eye and stimulated my thoughts about Waldorf homeschooling:

Waldorf education, on the other hand, puts particular emphasis on the development of the young child within a group. Barbara Shell, a teacher who worked in public, Montessori, and Waldorf schools, put it this way:

“Waldorf teachers orchestrate this [social] development by modeling good social behavior with their children, by getting the children to join together in movement activities, by introducing songs and games that develop group consciousness, and by helping children learn to work through disagreements.”

The overall development of the child as a social being and citizen of the world IS a goal in homeschooling as well as in the school.  But we have different methods than a class consciousness to achieve this goal as we work within the context of the family unit and created community.   If we employ methods still rooted within a philosophy of freedom; still rooted within the spiritual knowledge of the developing human being; still within the ideas of bridging the gaps between the arts, the sciences, and religion;  if we nurture the life of the individual in conjunction with having a place in the world, then I would argue that Waldorf homeschooling meets the criteria to be a “daughter” movement within its own right. 

In order to make this a true movement, I feel there would need to be the emergence of more true leaders within this movement and a more inclusive spirit of collaboration between people who are not only rooted within the Waldorf School movement that we DO heavily draw upon as homeschoolers, but who are also rooted in homeschooling environment who really understand homeschooling.  I think we also need leaders in Waldorf homeschooling who have been through the upper grades and high school in the home environment and understand the indications of Rudolf Steiner for education and how this culminates in the home environment.   There are many resources regarding the early grades being written and sold, but this is the very beginning of the path. There is wisdom that comes in experiencing the fullness of the homeschooling cycle in seeing a child to independence.

Waldorf homeschooling also often pulls from outside influences; the  farm, field and forest movement is but one example.  The work of Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate, the authors of “Hold On To Your Kids” is also seen by some in the Waldorf homeschooling movement as a strong influence.  I work with the indications of development from the Gesell Institute, and there are other Waldorf teachers in Australia working with this influence as well who have emailed me.  The religious life of the family who homeschools also pulls into play as a fundamental aspect of many who homeschool, and this would need to be addressed in further detail and work in any daughter movement.

Waldorf homeschoolers remain indebted to the Waldorf School and the curriculum created for this school environment.  However, one wonders what Rudolf Steiner would say about homeschooling in this day and age and what indications he would give that would be different for the home environment.  Despite Waldorf homeschooling having been around for many years now, the explosion of homeschooling in general and “Waldorf- inspired”  homeschooling in specific may now lend itself toward further exploration and clarification of using this method practically in the home with the family and immediate neighborhood/community as the social context within the a family culture that varies from home to home.  There is much interesting work that lies ahead!

Blessings,

Carrie

“I Have a Four Year Old and A 20 Month Old and I Just Found Waldorf….Now What Do I Do?”

This question, or a variation of this, comes up on all the Waldorf Facebook groups frequently. It is a not a bad question, of course,  but also a challenging one for a “sound byte” medium such as Facebook because it deserves a full answer as to what the essence of Waldorf homeschooling is really about.  Waldorf homeschooling is really about much more than the outer aspects of Waldorf that are touted on some of these groups, because it is the “inner” Waldorf life that really creates Waldorf homeschooling.   

So, I am writing today to give some direction to those with small children who have just discovered Waldorf Education and are not sure where to go beyond the outer trappings of “stuff”. 

I think the first aspect is to realize that Waldorf Education in the home first and foremost deals with a basis of attachment between parent and child.  This is the basis of homeschooling in general, and Waldorf homeschooling is no exception.  Therefore, you will need to be able to sort through literature about Waldorf Education and look at it through the lens of the home and family.  I suggest beginning by reading some of the articles from the Gateways Journal through the Waldorf Library.  The Gateways Journal deals with the Early Years child, mainly within a school setting, but much of it is also about development of the Early Years child in general and is therefore very valuable to the homeschooling parent.

Secondly, Waldorf Education is about developmental and holistic education based upon Rudolf Steiner’s pedagogical view of the child.  It would serve one well to delve deeper into this area so one knows whether Waldorf Education matches up to what one really believes. The first seven years are about a gesture of protection over the child, about protecting and developing the twelve senses and the physical body, and about the world being a place of goodness where the child is recognized as a spiritual being of gratitude.  For many parents, this gesture can often takes inner work, and this is an important part of striving for the Early Years parent-teacher.  What will your inner work look like?  When will you do this?

Many homeschooling parents are attracted to Waldorf because of its gentle and holistic nature, but often are not happy with when they discover that Waldorf Education does assume the teacher is the leader and the authority.  It is not child-led.   It is based upon the development of the child, and the observation of the child in front of you and therefore is respectful of the child, but a  homeschooling parent-teacher will lead a rhythm cultivated from a sense of in-breath and out-breath that involves work, play and love.  Therefore, in order for this to work in your home, you have to be okay being the leader in your home and in creating, initiating and sustaining rhythm.

The resources I most frequently recommend include books such as Rudolf Steiner’s lectures gathered in “Kingdom of Childhood” (and even “Soul Economy”, because it shows how the Early Years fits into the entire educational cycle).  The other books I recommend include “Heaven on Earth” by Sharifa Oppenheimer because it gives many practical examples of rhythm that many parents have told me they have found helpful with their small children; and the book “Connecting With Young Children:  Educating the Will” by Stephen Spitalny.  Books about toymaking and the rhythm of the year are also wonderful to have, if you have them and then “do” something with them!

I think this post is a good place to start as well as its focus is on “doing”:  Waldorf in the Home with the Three and Four Year Old.

Many blessings and peace,

Carrie

Peace In An Ordered Home

There are many sayings to the effect of you can have happy children or a clean home but not both.  I think there is some truth in that in a small way.  Right now, I have gymnastics mats that have been made into a large track circling my kitchen counter and the children run “P.E classes” all day on and off complete with laps and push ups and sit ups.  Eventually the mats will have to be cleaned up so I can mop my floor, but I can live with it for a few days.  There is a 2000 piece puzzle on my dining room table that most likely will sit there for some days.  However, the rest of the house is clean and tidy.  The laundry is done and folded and put away.  We have food in the refrigerator and I know what we are going to make for our meals. 

This is for me.  An ordered home that reflects beauty and peace mirrors how I feel inside.  I am a very visual person, and therefore I find that for me, it is easier on me to keep my home clean and orderly for my own mental health.  When everything is strewn everywhere and dirty, I cannot focus on anything else.  I live here all day, and it has to reflect a certain something of myself and what we value as a family.  We value love, and one way we love and nourish each other is to have a home that is livable, where food and clean clothes and cleanliness is apparent.

There has been some studies that suggest cluttered homes actually equate with depression and that clutter in and of itself can make us feel more anxious.

I have come to the conclusion after many years of homemaking, that the foundation of parenting (and homeschooling) is homemaking.  It may be tiresome to do dishes day after day and know there will be more dishes tomorrow.  It may be tiresome to wash, fold and put away five loads of laundry and know there will be more laundry tomorrow. 

Yet, I think this is the foundation of a practice of serenity.  This is one of the biggest spiritual practices we can find, if only we will slow down enough to take up the opportunity.  Trying and doing cultivates the will.  So, knowing how you want to tackle your home – what system works well for you, is important.  Flylady has worked well for me, along with having a specific day to run errands so we have food and other necessities on hand.  I use a home delivery service for eggs, honey, organic produce and  organic dairy; Amazon Prime and Costco helps keep my pantry stocked; and I am trying a meat CSA that delivers about every six weeks in order to keep everything stocked and on hand.  Sometimes it is not in my nature to be organized (except for school work for some reason!) and I have to work hard to try and do and pass this on to our children, who will be running their own homes some day. 

Share with me the homekeeping rhythms that you have established that give you peace.

Blessings,
Carrie 

From Reading To Action: “Waldorf Education in Practice” and Our Next Book!

We are up to Chapter 9, “Math”.  This chapter gives great ideas for practice during the first number block of first grade.  The author recommends counting a long a number line and seeing a number as an entity by itself as the beginning, fundamental capacity of math.  Else Gottgens talks about the importance of speaking and moving, standing still and speaking and finally writing from memory, and then reading back aloud what has been written.  She gives many ideas for counting and working with individual numbers and working from whole to parts and parts to whole.  She also addresses estimation, and how to “structure” a number, the decimal system, and the times tables.  Learning times tables in grade 2 is a major undertaking, and then being able to recite the time tables out of order, randomly, is a task for grade 3.  There is also a wonderful table of math capacities that need to be developed from grade 1 onward, along with typical challenges for these capacities. 

Chapter 10 discusses “Play-Acting”.  Putting on a play with a group is important for developing clear speech, meaningful gesture, enhancing spatial orientation and hearing what the other actor is speaking and reacting to it.  Drama also assists children in having more self-confidence, communicating better socially, gaining help in thinking more clearly, and helping children become better spellers.  It is also an excellent way to strengthen the will as the children work with a play for an extended period of time. 

Chapter 11 discusses “Image” – the most powerful education tool for a child aged seven to fourteen.  An image for whatever the children need to learn requires creativity, and it brings a subject in teaching alive. 

Two chapter remain to be discussed in this wonderful book.  The next book we will be reading will be . “LIfeways: Working with Family Questions:  A Parent’s Anthology by Davy and Boors. If you are on Facebook, the Facebook group “Spirit of the Home:  A Resource for Waldorf Families” will also be .  studying this book beginning in February.  So if you come here and also go there, you will be getting a double dose of “Lifeways”.  Hope to see you all there, and order your books!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Wrap Up Of Weeks Fourteen and Fifteen of Seventh and Fourth Grade

I am trying to post a little wrap-up of each week of grades seven, four and five year old kindergarten year throughout the 36 weeks I have planned for school this year.  I hope this will encourage mothers that are homeschooling multiple children (or who want to but are worried!), and  encourage mothers that even homeschooling children of multiple ages who are far apart in age is doable.  You can find week thirteen  here   and and further in back posts you can find a post pertaining to the first two days of school this year which gives insight to our general daily rhythm.

Rhythm:  We completed week fourteen before our Winter Break, and this week was week fifteen of school.  I made a very simple schedule with times on it for school in January, knowing that we might need to ease back into school.  I am so glad I did since we all ended up with the flu, and I have been the sickest out of everyone.  I didn’t get the cleaning and planning (ie, hunt for images ahead of time for our seventh grader’s block), but I am also so happy I plan all blocks over the spring and summer.  It really saves you when you fall sick over the winter break.  I highly encourage you to start thinking about the grade you will start in the fall and compiling your resources.  I am ready to start ordering things soon.

Kindergarten:  This week was a low energy week for our littlest guy, so it was mainly baking, making snowflakes, coloring and sitting in someone’s lap and playing hide and go seek when he had more energy and wasn’t coughing.  I think that is perfectly acceptable! 

Fourth Grade:  The week before Christmas Break we finished up some fractions – mainly adding and subtracting with like and unlike denominators.  We also worked hard on times tables.  This week, we have been reviewing math every day.  We finally started the fourth grade worksheets from Jamie York’s “Making Math Meaningful”, the fourth grade flashcards, and are still working on times tables every day.  We only do ten problems a day from the worksheets as our fourth grader is not ready to do thirty problems at a time.  Therefore, one day of Jamie York’s worksheets give me three days worth of practice.  We have also been working with measurement and time as well, and baking as a practical application of measurement.  We started Norse Myths yesterday and have gone back through some grammar (see Dorothy Harrer’s grammar book that is a free e-book on the Waldorf On-Line Library).  Today we went over punctuation, what is a sentence, types of sentences and made up sentences from the Norse Myths that we have read so far.  Next week we will review the Three Norns and work on past, present and future tense sentences.  We finished reading “Wheel on the School” this week.  Our cross stitch bookmark is done, so we will have a new handwork project to start next week.  There is still choir at church and we had a big Epiphany Pageant at church that our fourth grader played a part in.  It took quite a few practices, so I count that as drama and music!

Seventh Grade:  We kept plugging along with chemistry the week before Christmas and finished this block this week.  I have to say how absolutely pleased I am with this block. I think it was our seventh grader’s favorite outside of Colonial American History this year.   As mentioned, we used “A Demonstration Manual for Use in the Waldorf School Seventh Grade Chemistry Main Lesson” by Mikko Bojarsky.  This is very excellent, and I highly recommend it, but PLEASE be aware it is solely experiments – great experiments! – but you are going to have to hunt for biographies of chemists, artistic work, poetry, etc. to really bring this block  to life.  I recommend the (Christian, so pre-read if this bothers you) book, “Exploring the World of Chemistry; from Ancient Metals to High –Speed Computers” by John Hudson Tiner as a way to bring in great biographies and the history of chemistry and how chemistry fits into every day life. 

Our chemistry main lesson book ended up being:

  • Title Page/Table of Contents
  • Abbreviations/Symbols for Common Elements
  • The Combustion of Natural and Man-Made Items (table)
  • Wet on Dry Painting of Combustion
  • The Chemical Processes In the Candle
  • Burning Powdered Metals and Making Colored Flames
  • Limestone, Quicklime and Slaked Lime Cycle
  • The Limestone Cycle of the Earth
  • A Poem About Lime
  • The pH Scale
  • Properties of Acids and Bases
  • Cabbage Juice Indicator – what we learned
  • Neutralizing an Acid with A Base
  • The Water Cycle
  • Salt Solutions
  • Crystals from Table Salt
  • Water:  The Universal Solvent (chemistry book I mentioned above was very helpful)
  • Water as a Catalyst
  • The Nitrogen Cycle

Yesterday and today we jumped into our Africa block.  I am very, very excited about this block and really think it will be one of the best blocks of the year.   I introduced the continent of Africa, we talked extensively about the desert regions (and the people who live there – specifically the Tuareg and the San) and the rain forest, the life cycle of the baobab tree, made charcoal drawings of the acacia tree and the baobab tree, and I assigned my daughter to write a play based upon the life cycle of the baobab tree. She also made a terrific title page that I hope to share an image of in the future.

A busy but successful week of homeschooling. 

Many blessings,

Carrie