Block Layout Plan for Sixth Grade Waldorf Homeschooling

This fall will be my second time through sixth grade.  I have a plan made of our block layout and thought I would share for anyone else getting ready to start planning sixth grade.  This is only one way of many ways to do this, of course, but perhaps it will stimulate some of your own ideas as well.

This is what I am planning on doing:

Physics – 4 weeks

Geometry – 3 weeks

Business Math – 3 weeks

Roman History – 6 weeks

Christmas Break

Medieval History – 4 weeks

Astronomy – 3 weeks

Medieval Africa and Japan – 3 weeks ( an out of the box block!)

Mineralogy – 4 weeks

European Geography – 3 weeks

 

How is your planning coming along for fall?  If you get your start dates, end dates and vacation dates planned, you can start planning out your blocks and how long you think they may last.  Then you can start getting resources and digging in to the flow of a block!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

Weeks Nineteen and Twenty of Homeschooling Eighth, Fifth and Kindy

This is the week of Candlemas, the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, and I find us just turning past the halfway point of our total number of school weeks this year.  If you want to know what we were doing in weeks seventeen and eighteen, try this back post http://theparentingpassageway.com/2016/01/21/weeks-seventeen-and-eighteen-of-homeschooling-eighth-grade-fifth-grade-and-kindy/.

Kindergarten –  I really cracked down on our rhythm in week nineteen and we have worked hard to stay on task with meaningful work and festival preparations for Candlemas.  One of our favorite activities for this week’s Candlemas festival was making little beeswax walnut boats with candles.  We also made earth candles at our homeschool classes, and rolled beeswax sheet candles at home.    This week was the beginning of our two day a week forest kindergarten program and our kindergartener was very happy to spend time with friends and be in the woods.  We feel extremely fortunate to have such a program available in our area.

Fifth Grade – Last week we finished up Ancient Africa.  I mainly focused on Nubia, Kush, Meroe, the Mbuti and the San, with more to come in sixth and seventh grades.   Our fifth grader did a beautiful pastel picture of the African pharaohs that ruled Egypt and we talked about how there are actually more pyramids in Sudan than there are in Egypt.  Ancient African history is so fascinating!   We then  moved into Ancient China and talked about the geography of the land, and extensively about the Gobi Desert and the Bactrian camel  and camel caravans.   Our fifth grader wrote a little piece from the first person perspective about being a camel puller on a caravan and also modeled a camel in clay.  We reviewed some Chinese legends and learned about the biographies of  Confucius and Lao Tzu, and the Great Wall of China.  My original plan was to move into math and the Ancient Americas this week but my fifth grader is begging to start Greek Mythology, so we started at the end of this week with the land of Greece and introducing Mount Olympus and the battle of the Titans.  I don’t mind moving blocks around at all.  This year has just been like that, so I am just going with the flow of it.

We finished reading “The Golden Goblet”  for our Egyptian studies and now we are reading “Understood Betsy”, which to me is a rather regional New England book that was one of my favorites when I was a child.  A lot of the read-alouds I have chosen for this second half of the school year have to do with regions in the United States in preparation for our final block which will be North American Geography.  We are still working hard on math – all four processes, fractions, a little bit with decimals.  We are also working with spelling and spelling rules.  Our fifth grader is also doing some handwork in a class that meets the same time as our kindergartener is in forest kindergarten, and working hard in choir and for the church’s spring musical.  Our fifth grader will also be taking part in a play some homeschoolers are putting on for studies in Greek Mythology, and of course, the beloved barn shows are starting back this month as well.

Eighth Grade  – We wrapped up physics with making flying objects and learning about gravity, lift, thrust and drag, and about wings and rotors.  Great fun!  We studied many, many biographies of aviators, as I mentioned in the last post in this series, and our eighth grader completed a pencil drawing of Amelia Earhart that turned out well.

We started our Geography of Asia block with a review of the geography and some of the history of China, along with a pencil drawing;  then we mainly focused on the Chinese Cultural Revolution and a comparison and contrast of  Mao Zedong/Tse-Tung and Chiang Kai -Shek.  After that,  we moved into Korea and a discussion of the geography and history of Ancient Korea and more modern history including the division of North and South Korea, the DMZ,  and what life may be like in North Korea.  We are now talking about Japan and Japanese history.  We will have Vietnam, and Borneo to talk about and then we will move into Oceania.  After this block, we will jump into Oceanography, which my inner marine lover is heartily looking forward to!

We finished our read aloud, “The Brooklyn Bridge” by Karen Hesse (please, please pre-read for your eighth grader as it is a wonderful book but has some more mature themes and may not be wonderful for very sensitive children) and we are now reading “Water Buffalo Days:Growing Up in Vietnam” , obviously about Vietnam, which we will cover next week.  I also have the books “Red Scarf Girl” and “The Good Earth” tapped to read for this block.

We are also working hard on ratios, direct and inverse proportions for math, and high school Spanish.  Choir and preparing for the  church musical and now a fortunate turn to have a class in doll-making for our eighth grader, is  also keeping us busy.  Horse shows are starting up again this month, so we are also busy at the barn.

I would love to hear what you are working on.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Depletion and Hibernation

Today is Candlemas, also known to some as Groundhog Day.   I often think of that little groundhog this time of year, venturing out to see if winter will continue for another six weeks.  It made me think of the periods of winter in my life and how sometimes I felt ready to venture out of the hibernation hole to test the waters, and how sometimes I decided I needed longer in my hibernation hole or, conversely,  that yes indeed, now was the time to seize the day!

Have you ever gone through periods where you just felt so….shy? inward? … depleted?  like you needed a break from other mothers in real life or beautiful blog pictures that make you feel unworthy as a mother?  Periods where you needed a break even from extended family?  So much judging goes around mothering in our culture.  We are all like little isolated islands without much in the way of support so what should be a cooperative endeavor ends up as a competitive event! Sometimes we just need a break from anything outside of our families and our homes because we are plain burned out.  Have you ever been pulled that way and honored it for a season?

A little hibernation and shutting out of the outside world can be a way to lie fallow for awhile.  Pulling in allows a little of the pressure to slide off, a little pace of slowing down, and a release of not having to put oneself “out there” for anything but the most supportive listening of the closest and most intimate of family members or friends.

We are coming up to Lent soon.  Perhaps during this Lenten season, you will take the time to pull in and hibernate, but not due to any outside pressure or insecurity.  Perhaps this time you will pull in and take this time to restore yourself.

Restore your confidence.

Restore your feelings that you worthy of love.

Restore your feelings that you matter.

Restore your feelings that you are just right the way you are.  If you want to improve or change something do it  because you feel illuminated and led to, not from any feelings of unworthiness or shame or guilt.

Restore your physical health.  Sleeping enough, exercising, eating healthy food, taking care of yourself are all things to be done so you can be a light for your family.  And your children notice.  You are modeling for them how to slow down, how to get enough rest and how to be healthy.  It is worthy.

Restore your positive attitude.  Life should be joyful; there should be joy in ordinary moments.

Restore your sense of fun!

Restore your faith in something much, much bigger, wider and deeper than yourself.  Where do you find light?  Seek out your light.

Restore your sense of love, compassion, empathy.

Restore your sense of the big picture.

Restore your vision, mission and priorities.

Don’t be afraid to hibernate, but do it to restore, renew, refresh yourself.  I will be hibernating with you, and refreshing myself and my deepest intentions and priorities.  Please share your hibernation journey with me.  What has helped you restore the most in your moments of hibernation? What helped you come out of your shell again?   What did you learn in the fallow periods?

Love,

Carrie

 

Beautiful, Meditative Candlemas

Candle candle burning bright

Winter’s halfway done tonight

With a-glowing we are knowing

Spring will come again

-Candlemas Verse, Unknown Author

Have you ever been just so weary?  So exhausted?  If you have tiny children you see those sweet little bodies to fill with warming foods and coaxing into rest and sleep; if you have elementary-aged children  you are helping to balance burgeoning minds with wonder and bodies with rest and exercise; if you have teenagers maybe you are dealing with restless energy heading toward an uncertain future…and in between all of this you are cooking, cleaning, nourishing a spouse or partner perhaps, and maybe trying to take care of your own physical, emotional and spiritual needs so you can be on your game to do it all again tomorrow.

I feel your weariness.  I feel your exhaustion .  I feel you trying to hold on in order to nourish everything and everyone in your life.

I think Candlemas (February 2nd) feels this too.  Candlemas is this beautiful, quiet, still pause to remind us of hope.  Spring will come again.  Light will come to the world.  Newness can grow out of old.  Growth can come out of weary.

Candlemas can be the most lovely day to start with a beautiful breakfast of sunny yellow pancakes or crepes.  Candle dipping is such a meditative activity for the day; a gesture of bringing light into the winter of the world and the winter of our souls.   Other ways to work with candles include making earth candles, floating candles, or rolling beeswax candles.  We can offer stories of our friends the bees who give us fragrant, smooth beeswax as their offering.  We can offer this as a time of the half-way between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.  If you could have a bonfire, that could be a beautiful way to end the day.

If you are looking for some more ideas regarding this festival, here are a few back posts regarding the Feast of St. Brigid, Candlemas and Groundhog Day.

I have a few other suggestions for this day.  Perhaps this would be a beautiful half-way point to survey yourself.  What is your self-care?  Where are things between you and your spouse or partner?  How much sleep and exercise are you eating?  What can  you do to nourish yourself on this special day of light and love so you can shine light on and love your little corner of the world?

Love to you on Candlemas,

Carrie

 

 

 

Three Reasons I Need Rhythm…

I find many of us are still trying to get our rhythm back at this time of year.  I know I am!  Actually, in my world of the Anglican Communion, we are still in the season of Epiphany and now coming up to Lent, so there is this sense of still being in the middle of things in a way….and many of us find our children grow and change over the holidays, so whilst the work of the day may remain, perhaps meal times or outside times or bedtimes needs to shift around.  Never be afraid to make a rhythm that works for you!  I always start by looking at what pattern we are in, and then seeing if it needs to change…or maybe it is a real pattern that remains..

Rhythm is this idea of a flow to the day; it is not a schedule because it is  flow -oriented and not as time-oriented perhaps as a schedule (although there may be times assigned to meals and bedtime).  It provides an order to the day and a sense of strength for the parent because it takes away some of the thinking involved with every single decision we have to make in a day.  If you know your errand day is on Friday, then you don’t need to go out on Tuesday, for example.  If you know you always put your boots after your walk in one spot as part of cleaning up from your nature walk each day, then you don’t have to round up boots that land in various places.  Rhythm just IS, like the tide coming in and going out or sun coming up and setting.

The three reasons I  particularly need rhythm are:

To continually remind me of the importance of the home. In a society that often does not seem to value being home except for short pit stops between activities (even for small children), rhythm in my home reminds me of the time and care it takes to create a nourishing environment and that there is value in that for the health of all of us in the family.  Ideally, in a home full of rhythm, a small child would be able to tell what day of the week it is by the meaningful work being done in the home on those days.  For example,  perhaps Tuesdays are always ironing days or Thursdays are always bread making days or Mondays are always the cleaning of the home from the weekend.  Traditionally, Waldorf Education has assigned different work to different days based upon more planetary influences (does that sound esoteric enough?!), so there are suggestions from Waldorf kindergartens for different activities for different days of the week.

It reminds me of the importance of what I call “soul hygiene” – that there should be a time and place in the day for inner work, for physical activity outside, for sleep and rest.  This helps remind me to pace myself and to honor these activities.  This helps me remember my main goal of parenting is to help my children be healthy adults – healthy physically, emotionally, in how they see light in others and how they communicate with others, spiritually.

We set up the environment with care, which teaches me attentiveness to activities and models this for my children.  We might have a song or verses to go with the activity.  We put things away  and clean up with care.  Again, it forces me to slow down and see the value of the activities we are doing for the physical, emotional and spiritual realms.

Lastly, (yes, I couldn’t resist sneaking in reason number four!) is that rhythm is your aid to discipline.  When we know when things will happen and how it will happen, it cuts down arguing.  This time of year, that can be valuable.  It is even valuable for teenagers and older children.

How is your rhythm valuable to you?

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Four Steps Toward Parenting Together

I have heard it said that parenting involves not just thinking alike, but thinking together.  Parenting in a relationship means that the needs and thoughts of both parties have to be considered and communicated and compromised upon.  It is hard work, but I encourage you to do the work.  If I have parents reading this who are in their 20s and early 30s, I really want to encourage you to do this work now.   I am in my 40s, and unfortunately there are many divorces going on amongst beautiful couples that we know – but most of the divorces had roots from when these couples were in their late twenties or early thirties.  So, I would like to share five tips for those working toward parenting (and unifying other aspects of their life as well!) together.

  1.  Parenting is just one aspect of how a couple communicates, respects and appreciates each other. I think “parenting” comes up as this hot button – whether it is breastfeeding, c0-sleeping, educational choices, discipline – but it really is a facet of: how do we communicate as a couple; does my spouse or partner respect me by listening to me and respecting my ideas and opinions as well; do we appreciate what each one of us brings to the table in this process?  What do we both really value most for our family life?
  2. If communication skills and compromise are difficult and you both feel as if you are just going over the same thing in a circular fashion with no compromise or resolution, get help from a third party (earlier rather than later!).  Many counselors work on a sliding scale, and many places of religious worship offer counseling as well. This chapter (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/08/26/overcome-gridlock-the-seven-principles-for-making-marriage-work/)  in Dr. Gottman’s book about overcoming gridlock could also be helpful to you as a process at home.
  3. Have a set time to address challenges that are coming up in family life.  When is actually a good time to talk through things that are important, where you can focus together without being interrupted?
  4. Cultivate some patience.  Not every issue in attempting to co-parent or be unified always works out in compromise; sometimes the differences are still there but they are livable differences.  Sometimes opinions change as one partner models things and shares with the other partner.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Stop. Yelling. Forever.

Kindness begins in our homes and in our own hearts.  Yelling sometimes happens, but yet there is nearly always another way to handle situations rather than yelling at our children.  Yelling often reflects our own inability to control our own frustration, or fears, or the helplessness and frustration we can feel if the child is repeating the same behaviors over and over despite every boundary.

This is the time of year when there are many “stop yelling” challenges or promises of so-many-days-to-stop-yelling.  I guess there can be merit in kick -starting something and bringing it to the forefront, but just like “diets” and “working out”, one has to choose to make this a lifestyle, a consistent habit, a way to approach things for all time, not just for a designated period.  This is because how we respond to our children matters. It really does.  We will not be perfect, but we can make not yelling the absolute standard we are trying for, and replace that with connection to our children.

To stop yelling, there has to be a commitment that yelling is  just NOT the way to handle things.  There typically is not much productive communication with yelling.  Usually that is just the end stage when everything has “gone beyond” where the parent wanted it to be.  It is the last resort, the last car of the train.    The other piece needed in this quest is the forgiveness of oneself and the grace to keep to that ideal when things don’t go as we want and we make a mistake.  Parenting involves grace.  And trying again.  And trying harder.

With small children ages 9 and under, you can replace yelling with these things:

Rhythm.  There are so many back posts on rhythm on this blog.  Rhythm is discipline. Rhythm helps you set boundaries, make decisions, lets children know what is to come so they can relax and be secure in that.  Rhythm is your friend, yet few parents in this day and age seem to view it that way.  I promise that rhythm will help you feel more relaxed and confident in your parenting.  It will help you not yell out of frustration or feeling overwhelmed!

Talk in pictures to your child, and use physical movement with your pictures and rhymes embedded in your rhythm of the day.

Inner work for yourself.  Getting up before the others in your house, or catching quiet time after lunch, so you can recharge mentally and emotionally is really important.  Having small children can be a great time for hands-on growing in patience.

Commitment to your own health (and not perfection in outside things). I find many times mothers are yelling, because quite honestly, they are not getting any help from their spouse or partner.  They are not sleeping enough, they are trying to do way too much with tiny children about.  This is not a race, it doesn’t have to be perfect. In the world of Waldorf, there are jokes about how everything has to be organically grown and processed by hand and all this.  Yes, in a classroom, with a team, with beautiful things that have been made over a span of twenty years, this is possible.  It may not be possible at home with four tiny children under the age of six.  Be easy with yourself.   Listen to your own voice.  What is most important for you?  What is MOST important for your child?  You are not a bad mother!

Calm.  Can you keep things calm, especially for the 7-9 year old?  They don’t need a million classes or  a million places to be.  That is just stressful for everyone!  They need time in nature, time to freely and deeply play, and time to just be.  Can you give them that?

Have a plan for the bad moments.  When everyone is yelling and screaming, what is your plan?  When you are trying to get dinner on the table, what is your plan?  What triggers you the most and what can your response be instead of yelling?

If you cannot find a compassionate response to your child, what does it take for you to get to that compassionate response?  Can you delay talking about things?  A boundary can be the most compassionate thing that needs to happen, but can you be calm in setting the boundary?   That is the key.

For children ages 9 to teens:

Space.  Children this age can still be on top of  you and chattering.  Sometimes we just need space. A walk.  A bath alone.  Ask for help.  Ask for space.  Check your own health.  I still find many mothers with children of this age (who may also have little ones still) can be very  depleted  health-wise, which impacts how they feel toward chattering and mess and everything else!  What are your thyroid and hormone levels? Your Vitamin D levels? Are you sleeping?  What are doing for yourself?  It becomes vitally important to re-discover pieces of yourself if you lost this along the way with younger children.

A rhythm of how to do things, including cleaning up.  Yes, it  takes work to get to that point, but I find one reason mothers of children this age yell is that the children create a trail of mess from building forts or legos or skateboard ramps …and leave a trail of half finished projects every which way that somehow ends up the sole responsibility of the mother to clean up .  Everyone can clean up, everyone can pitch in, and  it is okay to set boundaries on where mess will take place.  In the family, we all work together.

Opening the outside world.  Some yelling for parents for this age group seems to happen in regards to pushing boundaries about the “outside world” over and over and over…especially for those ages ten to twelve (and I think girls more than boys? Boy moms, please comment!).  Decide ahead of time — Yes or no?  Decide how important it is for  you to keep things low-key in this  age -range, and why and how you will do that.  What are the boundaries? What is the balance between child activities and family activities or adult-alone activities?  If you open things more widely  now, what will the “openings” be in the teen years?  Decide things now.  Older children of 11-12 and through the teenaged years may not feel like they fit in anywhere, and it is your job to hold steady.

Inner work for you.  What are the values of your family?  What does your child really need at this age?  What is most essential?  How are you walking the walk for what you most want to see in your children?  Rhythm is an essential key to reflecting what is most important in your family – if it is important, but no time goes to it in the rhythm of the day or week, then it is a great sign for re-alignment.

Younger Teens (ages 13-15):

Communication in conflict. The number one reason parents write to me about yelling at their children in this age range is how teens immaturely try to communicate when they are in conflict (ie, talking back, trying to use “logic” but they don’t really have stellar logic yet, etc).  Teens need help knowing how to resolve conflict, how to apologize – the parts of an apology, how to be an effective communicator.  It takes time to develop these skills, and the neurobiology of the brain needs to catch up.

Anger.  Teens often get angry with their parents and feel misunderstood.  How will you handle the anger of your teen?  Does this call forth triggers for you that cause you to yell?   How can you turn anger  on both the sides of you and your child into communication?

Responsibility and Accountability.  Teen are often headed into a phase where things “count”.  Grades may count for college, projects count towards grades, etc.  Time management skills are still being learned, and parents often are yelling when everything is down to the wire for projects or things.  Pressure can make everyone feel snappy. How can you diffuse this?

Rhythm and physical movement are still really important for the teenaged years.  This can really decrease stress, decrease anger on all sides, and lead to reduced frustration.

I would love to hear your best tips for not yelling.   Please share and help all the other mothers out there.

Many blessings,

Carrie