Wrap-Up of Weeks Twenty-One and Twenty-Two 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 twenty  here  and further in the 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.

Living With The Seasons:  These past two weeks have been very odd in terms of weather  (ice, snow, cancellations of everything and then not a lot of snow, then some snow that melted quickly, etc) and the unexpected things (like my husband getting rear-ended in a car accident that brought us down to one car and having to drive him to the airport, and our oldest daughter getting braces!)  that popped up and  just had to be done during our normal school mornings, so it seems as if we didn’t get as much schooling in as usual.  However, the good news is we are not too far behind where we should be and I think our ending date will be May 22nd.  I hope! (It is typical for schools in the southeastern United States to run on an August through May schedule; in the northeast it is more of September through June).

Kindergarten:  We have really been enjoying our “King Winter” circle extending into dwarves and gnomes – our kindergartener knows so much of this circle and can recite and do so many of the hand motions and such now!  Our story was “The Pancake that Ran Away” for the week of Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, and this week our story has been “The Rabbit and the Carrot”.  This is a tale from China found in my favorite little pink kindergarten book (“An Overview of the Waldorf Kindergarten”), and I have been telling this story with little wooden animals and our kindergartener loves, loves, loves this little tale!  Other than that, we have been doing a lot of our usual painting, coloring, cooking and playing.  I have worked very hard to set up a few times for our five year old to just play with some other five year olds, and have been grateful my husband has been home this week so we could divide and conquer so the bigger children could go to their activities and I could have some playtime for our five year old.  Lovely!

Fourth Grade:  We started the second block of Man and Animal.  Our first block we focused mainly on the threefold human being and this idea that some animals act like our heads, our trunks and then which animals are the limb animals or this something special and particular to us?  Our second block has started with more of  a look at this picture but through the lens of the human being have a metabolic-limb system, a rhythmic system and a nerve-sense pole.  So far we have looked at the American bison and cow as an example of the metabolic-limb system, the lion and the dog has an example of rhythmical animals, and the eagle as the example of the nerve-sense pole.  Next week we shall move into groupings of animals into discovery and look at examples of those animals from the habitats in our state to tie more into our local geography.  We are still reviewing math – especially adding and subtracting facts, times tables 2-8, money, time and measurement.  Grammar is another large area for us and we are working on present/past/future tense, along with working on nouns, verbs, pronouns, articles, adjectives, adverbs and examples of all of those.  We finished reading “Little Pear and His Friends” and also “Doctor Dolittle” and now we are reading “Thorkill of Iceland” by Isabel Wyatt, which I highly recommend after you finish your Norse Mythology block.   We haven’t had much going on in the way of handwork or music, but looking forward to that starting again.   Both our fourth grader and seventh grader are in the spring musical at church, so that will be a lot of rehearsals and singing….

Seventh Grade:  We are in our Physiology block.  I have quite a lot to say about this, so it probably will be a separate post.  So far we have done an introduction to the holistic spiritual human being, the digestive system, and the circulatory system.  This coming week will be the respiratory system and then we will move into human sexuality and the reproductive system.    We have also been working hard on math – especially reviewing and practicing ratios, metric measurement and geometry.   Her 4-H presentation is coming up, along with the spring musical at church.

I would love to hear what you are up to -

Blessings,
Carrie

Talking to Children About Healthy Sexuality and Sex

One often hears the horror stories about parents trying to give “the talk” to their children, complete with mumbling, inaccurate terminology and a look of relief when their child has no questions for them and both parties can flee from the room.

In the United States, 13 percent of teens have had sexual intercourse before the age of 15.  Seventy percent have had sexual intercourse by age 19.  We live in a country founded by people who thought sex was rather evil, and we as a nation are obsessed with sexuality and sex in our media.   It is an odd paradox to say the least.  Our children are bombarded with messages about body image daily.  The freedom of the Internet and media in many families has led the average age of children to see their first pornographic act on the Internet at age 11.

These are serious facts, and the discussions about healthy sexuality and healthy relationships to counteract the messages our children receive every day can only begin with YOU by layering in talks about these subjects from an early age in a healthy, developmentally appropriate way.

First of all, like all things in parenting. these discussion have to start with YOU.  How do you feel about sexuality and sex?  Do you view sexual activity as an awesome thing or a negative thing?  Do you think or know about communicating with a partner, loving your body, and healthy relationships?  That your partner can be your “best friend plus sexual desire”?   Think about how you want to answer personal questions, because teens may ask you – were you only with my father/mother/your partner sexually?  what was your first sexual experience like?  So, think about how you would want to answer these questions.  Think about how you would like to develop your child to go on and be happily involved in a passionate, intimate and committed marriage or relationship.

Talking to children about sexuality is not a one-time talk.  It is an ongoing modeling of our values; it is an ongoing discussion about life, love, communication and how we relate to others.  It builds up throughout all the daily interactions we have with our children every day and how we love them unconditionally and show them the world is a good place.  Sexuality is  (can be)  part of that good world!  This can take a lot of work if one has negative sexual experiences and experiences of abuse.  Hard work.

These ongoing interactions involves talking in a healthy way about the beautiful diversity of bodies and how wonderful all different sizes and shapes of bodies are.  It is using correct terminology for all body parts and treating ALL of  those body parts as though they are beautiful.  It is talking about privacy – this is especially important in this day and age as these early conversations about privacy lead into what a child does with sexuality on the Internet and through texting and other media.  Talking about sexuality means guiding how children how to love their bodies and themselves.  Loving oneself and understanding that we are made up of  a beautiful body, soul and spirit is healthy sexuality as we are sexual beings,  and knowing one’s body, how it feels and functions and yes, eventually, how to deeply share that within an intimate, passionate, committed relationship.  It is also important to remember that being a sexual being and being sexually active are two separate things.

Watching for how inclusive our language is can also be important.  Sexuality is made up of gender identification, gender expression, and sexual orientation.  Most sexual educators look at “commonly understood labels” for sexual orientation such as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and perhaps the not so common labels as well. The following are listed in the book “For Goodness Sex:  Changing the Way We Talk To Teens About Sexuality, Values and Health” by Al Vernacchio:   omnisexual or pansexual (attracted to all gender identities and expression), asexual (having little or no natural sexual or romantic attraction to anyone), demisexual (developing strong sexual or romantic attraction only after establishing a strong emotional connection), MSM (man having sex with men but not identifying as gay or bisexual), and WSW (woman having sex with women but not identifying as lesbian or bisexual).  It is important for you as a parent to know and understand about human sexuality and what are facts, what are your opinions and what are your values so you can talk to your teens.

Modeling healthy relationships are so important, and so are conversations about what is a HEALTHY relationship.  Al Vernacchio, again in his book  “For Goodness Sex:  Changing the Way We Talk To Teens About Sexuality, Values and Health”, lists aspects of a healthy relationship:

  • A healthy relationship is equitable.  He gives the example in the book of his own experience teaching high school and how a relationship between a senior and freshman in high school is not equitable, and why. Very interesting take on a common situation in this section….
  • A healthy relationship is one in which you can maintain your own individuality and your own space, hobbies, interests and friends.
  • A healthy relationship is one in which you can express your positive and negative emotions, comments, opinions.
  • A healthy relationship means a real, in-life relationship with an imperfect person!  (and no, teens, you cannot develop that just by texting each other no matter how often you text!)

Talking to our children about sex means that we help them,  and that we  share with them what our family’s values and boundaries are about sexuality.  What are your boundaries??   Our values help guide us with why we do what we do, and it is something that publicly we don’t feel ashamed about.  This requires thought ahead of time and a lot of discussion.

So, instead of thinking of just “the talk” think about the ways you can layer in all of these topics and discussions over time. Most of all, get really clear about your own experiences, opinions, values and boundaries for your children.  They really do want that from you – even if they walk out of the room.

Blessings,
Carrie

Peaceful Times In Homeschooling A “Big” Family

I personally think a big family is something like six or more children, but most references I see these days consider three children and up to be a “big” family, so for today these ideas apply to any of you with three or more children to teach!

First of all, I think it is necessary to think about Steiner’s groupings of childhood development, and get away from the “one grade for one age” used in a school setting.  So, in line with this, think about grouping your children by development:

In your head, divide your children between “Early Years” and above age seven.

In your head, divide your children in your between those aged over seven but under age ten.

In your head, divide your children between those over ten and under twelve and those over twelve and under age sixteen/seventeen.

These divisions mark the “changes” that one hears so much about in Waldorf Education and parenting – six/seven change. nine year change, twelve year change and sixteen/seventeen year old change.

Hopefully by dividing your children into these groupings, you will start to see how many “main lesson topics” you really have to teach.  So, ALL the children in the group under 9 but past the six/seven year change could be in the same group and have the same lessons – yes, for example, your first grader can hear Old Testament stories!  I have heard numerous Waldorf Educators, including Rainbow Rosenbloom of Live Education and others, speak on  this at conferences  when they speak of their time teaching children of multiple ages in one group.  These stories will speak most STRONGLY to those of the “proper” age, but it does not mean younger children cannot hear them and draw or paint or model.  Of course, the “academic” and “artistic” level would have to be adjusted up or down. 

If you have children all of one age grouping but one just on the cusp of  turning into another age grouping, I have a few suggestions.  For example, if all of your children are Early Years,  the rest are ages seven to nine and then you have one who is ten years old, I could see an Early Years time, an ages seven to nine  time that could mainly include your fourth grader and then just a few blocks or practice times that would be separate for your fourth grader – introduction to fractions may be one, perhaps you would want to bring Norse Mythology separately.  I think something like “Man and Animal” could be mainly brought to your fourth grader, but certainly smaller children will enjoy watching and drawing birds, having poetry about different animals, stories about animals and working on artistic and other skills in this way.   You could also choose to make something like Norse Mythology the very last block of the year, if you have, for example a third grader who will be entering fourth grade in the fall and your fourth grader is coming to the end of the school year. That could also work with something like Old Testament stories.

If you have a child above age twelve and the rest of the children are younger, then I think you are going to have to run a separate track for the older child.  I find these upper grades to be a different ball of wax.  You are really out of mythology land and into history and cause and effect and different capacities.

I hope that helps.  There are many Waldorf consultants out there with whom I am sure you could talk with who could give you even more ideas than what I have mentioned here.  You really can bring Waldorf homeschooling to all of your children, but I think you must start grouping the children and teaching economically.  You can embrace the joys of the home – you are not to create a Waldorf School in your home, but instead to create your home life and adapt the Waldorf curriculum for your home with developmental reasoning.  Understand the “why’s”  and development behind the curriculum and you will be able to do this! 

Many blessings,

Carrie

Finding Peace in the Resentment

Oh, February, you got me again, I think.  I went into winter thinking all would be fine and all I know is for about three weeks I have felt….

Resentful.

Tired. 

Without reserves.

Irritated.

A little lost with how to continue to juggle all of it in homeschooling and my own need for self-care and self-nourishment….Even frustrated….

Juggling children of three wildly different ages within the Waldorf curriculum is often difficult.  Going from nursery rhymes and baking and fingerplays  to geometry and algebra  and historical events back to drawings and working on basic early grades skills through mythology to fielding housework, outside activities, the unexpected is a tall order……Oh, February, really, it is too much for one mother at times.

And for everyone, the things that will drive one to darkness will be different.  For me, it is not the cooking or cleaning on top of homeschooling that trips me up.  Those things are fine.  The harder part is the mental exhaustion from the juggling of three very different ages, stages and attitudes.   I am so very tired by the end of teaching time for three separate people that I really can’t combine due to large age gaps…   The harder  and darker part for me is often juggling the “should” for each age and how the “should” would look if  the entire school day was devoted to each child’s  grade or developmental level…. and maybe there would be some hours for me…instead of an all day, all hours being “on” from 5:30 in the morning until 8 at night….Have you ever felt that way?  Perhaps not, but that is where my feeling life has been the past few weeks.

I talked to some dear friends on Friday, which left me feeling more cheery – to have just laid my soul bare in an honest, almost angry-sounding way and to have people not judge or try to fix it but just to say that they often felt the same way.  This was,  in and of itself so very freeing.  This beautiful freeing gift.  Because then what I could find in it all this weekend was the peace.

Peace that what I am doing and striving to do IS enough, even on the days I fail.

Peace that it is okay to juggle things, to move things around, to ponder.  To plan anew or to cut things out.

Peace that it is okay.  Just okay is certainly enough.

Peace that I am human…..

But the peace is also coming in seeing the whole, big, wide picture.  The big, wide, picture is what often carries me through….. Coincidentally,  I was today reading  the “Teacher’s Manual” for a Waldorf fourth grade grammar program (“The Teacher’s Manual for English Workbook for fourth grade” by Ted Warren).  One thing that struck me was this beginning sentence: “The main goal with teaching is to guide our children into a healthy relationship with their thinking and willing between the years of seven and fourteen…”

Am I doing that for my children to the best of my ability?  The big picture prevails. 

Is it perfect?  No, of course not. Nothing in life is.  But is it acceptable?

Can I always strive and change things to flow better, feel better? Of course.

February, you have not won.  I am finding the peace in my weeks of feeling darkness toward the endless juggling.  I can continue to juggle for a bit longer.  At least until the end of the school year!

In the meantime, friends, I am going to encourage you to start planning now.  Planning really saves you in times of February darkness.  Planning, rhythm and community help you shore up what meager reserves you may feel you have left until you feel restored again.

Because you will.  February doesn’t win forever. 

Many blessings,
Carrie

Books About Development of the Older Child

One thing I often here from parents is that while there seem to be at least a good handful of books about the Early Years (0-aged 7) child, there does not seem to be that many books about development, parenting, and discipline for the older child.  So, today, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite titles regarding development for the older child.

General, Ages 7-14:

  • The Gesell Institute Books cover up to age 14
  • A Guide To Child’s Health by Michaela Glocker and Wolfgang Goebel has sections regarding all ages
  • Phases of Childhood by Bernard Lievegoed
  • The Developing Child by Willi Aeppli
  • Raising A Daughter ; Raising A Son by Don and Jeanne Elium

Specific to the Nine Year Change:

  • Encountering the Self by Hermann Koepke
  • I am Different From You by Peter Selg

Specific to the Twelve Year Change:

  • On the Threshold of Adolescence by Hermann Koepke

Specific to Teens:

  • Between Form and Freedom by Betty Staley
  • The Teenaged Brain by Frances E. Jensen, MD
  • Becoming Peers by DeAnna L’am  (for girls)
  • Education for Adolescents by Rudolf Steiner
  • Kinesthetic Learning for Adolescents:  Learning Through Movement and Eurythmy by Leonore Russell (while a eurythmy book, has great general insight into the stages of the teenaged years!)

Tools to Help in the Teenaged Years:

These books can be very helpful earlier in terms of  your own education and development, but I would not expect the techniques in these works to work well until children develop cause and effect reasoning during the twelve year change.  Read them for yourself and feel free to disagree.

  • Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg
  • How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk – by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
  • Liberated Parents, Liberated Children:  Your Guide to A Happier Family by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

For the Big Picture of Life and Parenting:

  • The Human Life by George and Gisela O’Neil
  • Authentic Parenting:  A Four Temperaments Guide To Understanding Your Child and Yourself by Bari Borsky and Judith Haney
  • Adventures in Parenting by Rachel Ross

There are many wonderful books I have also gone through chapter by chapter on this blog; if you go to the “book reviews” button in the header bar and click, you will see a drop down menu with many different book titles.

Many blessings,
Carrie

From Reading to Action: “Waldorf Education in Practice”

We are on the last chapter of this wonderful book.  Chapter XIII is about teaching a foreign language, which is a topic I have seen asked and wondered about on many of the Waldorf homeschooling Facebook groups as of late.

Rudolf Steiner wanted first graders to be able to hold a little conversation in that foreign language by the end of that first grade year.  Writing in a foreign language is not introduced until the fourth grade, so in grades one through three, through two or three fifty minute periods a week, foreign languages are introduced orally only.  Poems, songs, and verses are used with NO English whatsoever.

At first, the children just hear sounds and not.   meaning.  The key to helping the children is to provide variation and diversity in what is being brought.  This is done through finger plays, instructions, songs, recitations and speech exercises, little plays, games, skipping rhymes in jump roping, story telling and hands on activities.  Gestures, objects, use of body geography and miming (“put your hands on your head”), using props, singing are all used.

In using songs, the song is song by the teacher for at least three class periods before the class attempts to join in (and movements accompany the song!)  Poems and verses can be accompanied by objects and props.  Again, the poem is said for two or three lessons before asking the children if they could guess what the poem is about.  With speech exercises, the children repeat after the teacher (not with the teacher) and often is done not only with the entire class but row by row in a classroom.  Plays are taught, but not 100 percent chorally as individual children are asked to speak.  “Here is a rule that is worth adopting:  “Whatever I do in the whole group, I shall also practice in smaller groups – and also individually,” writes the author on page 121.  Texts should not ALWAYS be rhythmical and rhyming since real life speech is not always rhythmical and rhyming.

With games, the children are introduced to the concepts of the game through a story and drawing pictures and then the game itself.  Games offer social skills, spatial orientation, rhythm and more.  Repetitive stories, rope jumping, and DOING things, more than sitting and listening. 

Foreign language classes can be built upon a six week rhythm for 12 or 18 lessons total.  Within the lesson, just like within the Main Lesson itself, there are periods of concentration/relaxation, shorter/longer, quick/slow, quietly/loudly, listening – doing.  This artistic way of teaching is Waldorf Education!

Our next book, most appropriate for this Lenten period of soul cleansing, is working with the questions that families ask, in “Lifeways”.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Finding Peace in Lent

Several years ago I heard the bishop of Massachusetts, M. Thomas Shaw, speak at the cathedral in Boston of his experience of being in the Holy Land for Lent that year.  There it is summertime during the weeks before Easter, with the desert in full bloom, the trees laden with olives and figs, the hazy smell of ripe fruit and sound of buzzing insects filling the air.  As he moved through the days of prayer and reflection before Easter in the midst of such abundance and beauty he came to understand Lent as a time of being refreshed by a loving God instead of a time of arduous effort to improve.”  – page 52 from “Welcome to the Church Year:  An Introduction to the Seasons of the Episcopal Church” by Vicki K. Black

I think of Lent as both a time to be restored and renewed, and also a time of taking stock.  It is a time to strengthen the spiritual life.  It is a spiritual “check-in” and can be a time of healing in the most profound of ways.  It is time for a re-awakening of our spiritual life,  and for Christians this leads up to the renewal of our own baptismal vows on Easter as catechumens are baptized into Christianity.

These weeks of Lent are simpler, quieter and more harmonious than other weeks of the year if we let them be.    This can be a busy time of year in the school  year calendar for those of you with children, but it is so important to have simplified rhythms as much as possible at home for yourself and for your children. 

I was hunting for something else today, but in the process came across an article about celebrating “Carnivale and Lent” by Andrea Gambardella in my favorite little “pink book”, entitled, “An Overview of the Waldorf Kindergarten:  Articles from the Waldorf Kindergarten Newsletter 1981 to 1992”.    Andrea writes:

“The subject matter of Lent and Easter are deeply personal and engage our thought life in its most mature development.  Bringing their essence into family life is to bring forward the simple symbols that indicate its universality.  Lent in the Church is a time of fasting, reflection, prayer and almsgiving.  These elements engage our whole being – our physical selves, our thoughts, our feelings, and our activity in the community.”

She goes on to mention how Lent is a personal experience of death, “an examining and passing away of our outer selves; recognition of our own highest potential and seeking to identify what work is needed to realize this more fully.”

I would love to hear about your inner spiritual work during this time.

Many blessings,

Carrie