From Reading to Action: “Waldorf Education in Practice”

We are up to Chapter Five in this book, entitled, “Reading”.  This is a wonderful chapter that I feel answers many parents’ questions about the Waldorf approach to reading.  Before the child can read, the child’s view of the world comes from his or her own observations and what people have told him or her.  Interactions between the child and others were how the child learned.  In reading, the thoughts of another are revealed to the child, but in a way the child is on his or her own because the person who wrote the words is not there standing in front of the child.  This explains a bit of why Waldorf education moves slowly in reading from whole to parts.

The author does not go into detail regarding how to derive the letters from pictures since that has been covered so extensively in other sources, but instead what to do once the child knows and can draw 6- 10 consonant sounds plus the vowels.

Her method often involves a passage she has chosen – a poem or a verse.  She would invent a story that invokes a mood for that passage and then the child learns the poem by heart.  After the child has learned the poem orally, the child sees it  on the blackboard.  The child copies the poem and then “reads” the poem whilst the teacher slides a stick along to practice the line. Sometimes the teacher stops reciting in the middle of the line and the child sees where they have stopped.  A line might be spoken from the poem and the children search for which line it is on the board, and then many little exercises are invented, such as which word is longest, shortest, has two of the same letter in it, etc.  Individual words are found and copied.

She reiterates that true reading generally happens within the first two and a third years of this process – so sometime generally before the second half of third grade.

“That will seldom be when the standardized tests think it should be.  Mostly somewhat later, but there will then not be any “technical reading”; the child will read with comprehension straight away.  This (Waldorf) method taxes faith and patience —— yours as well as the parents, but the rewards are great.”

We must not get impatient and nor must we do the work for the children who are not reading.  If children come to class reading already, then the author points out they should get the above and also be reading.  The readers should be reading!  The classroom should have books available for the readers to read.  Real reading is silent reading, it is having challenges to copy down and draw pictures of, or the readers can tell the class about a book they finished reading.  If there are readers in the class, then the class has a class of readers and a class of non-readers and the school class should be treated as such.

Love this chapter!

Many blessings,
Carrie

Creating An Advent Spiral For The Waldorf Home

I recently participated in my eighth year of preparing an Advent Spiral with community.  Walking an Advent Spiral is often traditional for children in the older kindergarten and  early grades within the Waldorf School.   The spiral is not a religious ritual  and it is also not explained to the children.  Instead, walking the spiral is an experiential spiritual act to commemorate the lighting of our own inner light to carry us through the dark months of winter, and letting this let shine out through the darkness of humanity as well.

Within the Waldorf School environment, the Advent Spiral is set up already and magically appears before the children. Sometimes there is an Angel Guide to guide the children through the spiral to the center candle.  The children usually hold an apple that has a beeswax candle in it, and then after their candle is lit they set it down on a spot within the spiral as they walk out.

In the home environment, there is a bit more to it since the spiral often needs to be assembled on the spot whilst families are present, especially because often families inspired by this type of festival are spread out throughout a geographic area and coming together from far distances. There are many ways to construct a festival for community; below follows just one way I have seen work well  in the past.

So, before the spiral: Continue reading

Tips For Parenting and Homeschooling When A Spouse Travels

I meet many homeschooling parents whose spouses travel extensively for a job.  We have been in that position in our family as well.  Every family and every travel schedule is different, but our situation was that for three years my husband traveled every week Monday through late Thursday night and then worked in town on Fridays.  This schedule has lessened over the last two years, so I am glad, but over the way it certainly shaped the way I parented and homeschooled to an extent.  I wanted to share some things that helped me survive the travel beat. Continue reading

Wrap Up of Week Thirteen 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 twelve  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.

Changes in the Air:  We took the week of Thanksgiving off, and I used a little bit of time during that week to play with the idea of a schedule with activities for each child in a time slot.  I have not been a real “time” person before, but what I have found with having three children doing school this year, our five-year-old wanting more structure and needing more physical activity, both our older children tackling things that are demanding for them and needing me, and me needing some time for self-care, it seemed a schedule with times might be helpful.  How many hours are realistically available to us in a day anyway?  Could all of this even happen in a day?   How long do all these activities and things take anyway?   These were the questions I had when I started out.  I found, yes, there are enough hours in the day and that assigning times and figuring out what each child was doing when and with whom and for how long actually was a helpful process to go through.  I don’t feel like the timed schedule is a noose around my neck at all, and I feel comfortable jumping in if we are running late or things come up, but the older children have surprisingly embraced having a more “time exact”  written down schedule and we are actually getting to extra foreign language, handwork , knitting for me and other things much more this week than before when we had a loose rhythm.  So, time will tell if it holds!

Kindergarten:  One of the days over Thanksgiving break, our five year old walked two miles to play at a nearby park in the morning and then we also hiked in the afternoon.  This is the amount of activity he really needs to be happy.  Our older children definitely had this and more when they were his age, but the trick has been trying to do this for our youngest whilst our older children need different things.  So, having a schedule as mentioned above has helped.   One morning I also have Continue reading

Homeschooling Middle School: Socialization and the Future

Several mothers of middle schooled homeschooled children whom I have spoken to recently (with children ranging from almost 13 to 14 and a half), have said that their children have asked for either classes with a peer group or expressed an interest in someday attending school.  My own older daughter recently told me she would like a Latin class in a group of peers, which I thought was interesting timing on the heels of some of the conversation between myself and other parents.

This question  has also given many of us  as parents a small wondering pause.  Many of the parents who have planned to homeschool through high school are wondering if the pull towards peers is going to become stronger and stronger and will our teens be happy homeschooling high school or will they want to do something different?  And then there is always that delicate balance of how much does a child get to decide for themselves what course their education is going to take during the teen years?  Much like many children do not have a choice whether or not to attend school, many homeschoolers feel a traditional academic school is not a good fit for their family, even in high school.  These are the delicate issues that must be grappled with.

And I think this wanting to be  in a peer group for classes and learning also points to a different piece – being with peers socially.  My daughter told me the other day that she loves homeschooling and wouldn’t change a thing about it, but she does wish she could see her friends more during the week.

Because there is a big change that happens in middle school homeschooling, I think.  Continue reading

A Special Guest Post For Developmental Friday: The Fourteen- Year- Old Boy

I am so honored to have author Lea Page, a longtime homeschooling mother and veteran parent, here with us today.  Lea raised and homeschooled her two children in rural Montana. She now lives and writes in New Hampshire.  Her new book, “Parenting in the Here and Now”, promises to be an amazing read for all parents.  Her book has a page on the Floris book website here.  This book is scheduled for publication in the UK on April 16th, and will be available from Steiner Books and other bookstores in the US a few weeks later.  It is available now for pre-order on Amazon.  Enjoy Lea’s beautiful post about Advent, waiting, and the fourteen year old boy.  I am so pleased she is here with us!

The 14 Year Old Boy—or—Waiting for Him to Emerge from the Cave

Advent is the perfect time to consider the fourteen-year-old boy. Think of the classic gesture: he withdraws into his room, which he now prefers to be unlit and untouched by any human hand, most especially yours. When he responds to you—IF he responds—it may be monosyllabic.

For parents, this time can be challenging and frustrating. We want him to come out and… do something! Say something! Reassure us that he is…. what? who? The delightful thirteen-year-old that he used to be? He can’t.

This withdrawal is how—in his messy, unmade bed way—your fourteen-year-old walks into the mystery of deep reflection and infinite possibility. The whole year is a transition. It will be, for him, a journey into and out of the Advent spiral. He walks into darkness alone, in search of that single flame at the center. And then he tips his candle to that light and kindles his own. If you have watched a child walk an Advent spiral, you know that they emerge lit from within.

Advent is a time of waiting and of faith. And so it is with our fourteen-year-old boys. We must wait, and we must have faith. And more than that: we must hold them in our hearts with reverence, even when the smell of their socks is staggering.

The fourteen-year-old still sees the world as black or white, either/or, good or bad. He is beginning a journey where he will discover that most of the world operates in the grey area and that there is a positive and negative aspect to everything, depending on the circumstances. It’s all relative. Continue reading

From Reading to Action: “Waldorf Education In Practice”

Else  Gottgens wrote about her experience in observing many Waldorf classrooms in Chapter Three of our book, “Waldorf Education in Practice”.

“So, as a mentor, what did I see in too many classes where I was asked to observe?

Beautiful reverence.

Quiet expectation.

And then, 20 minutes later:  Mayhem!”

The mayhem often began with “circle”. “Circle” , in the grades, is supposed to be a warm-up.  In Else Gottgens’ mind, many of the exercises, such as singing, reciting, finger plays, etc,  actually can be done better behind the desk, facing the teacher!

Surprised?

The author then wrote about including exercises that make the children conscious of their feet and legs and finger games, speech and singing, concentration exercises for listening, and  exercises to nourish the Twelve Senses.  She debunked  the notion that circle is a music lesson, a gym lesson, a speech lesson, a flute lesson and/or a math lesson all in one.  In fact, she wrote:  “The children should be moving a lot more during other parts of the Main Lesson.” This is for grades one through three, and very important!  Imitation as a force in the early grades is waning, albeit a large part of children until the nine year change, but authority comes to the fore in this period of childhood development.    The teacher no longer has to demonstrate and do everything with the child, but show the child and sometimes join in and sometimes step back and observe the child! Continue reading