Wrap-Up of Week Twenty-Four 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-three 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:   We are still in Lent and enjoying the beauty of this quiet season.  I was in a family Sunday school class last Wednesday night.  We gathered on the playground and  then the children climbed to the top of several different playsets in order  to gaze at the beautiful full moon.  We talked about the Cherokee names for the full moon, prayed for the children’s needs, went to the Memorial Garden (a contemplative garden) and by flashlight read a hand-cut paper book based off the song, “What a Wonderful World” and prayed again with each child holding a prayer stone.   Several children knew that song and sang the words.    What a lovely night, and a quiet, still time of year to feel close to God and His creation. 

I transitioned our Winter nature scene to St. Patrick and his deer.  What a joy to remember St. Patrick’s words and life this season. 

Kindergarten:  We are back to Suzanne Down’s “Old Gnome Through The Year”.  Our son said he missed Old Gnome and his friends, so for March we are doing the story, “Old Gnome’s St. Patrick’s Day Fun”, and a movement journey for circle written by Nancy Blanning called “A Pot of Gold” .  The weather has been mostly nice, and there were opportunities to play with friends many days this week out in nature, so that was nice.  Painting, drawing, cutting and coloring rounded out the week.   

Fourth Grade:  We have moved beyond the head-trunk-limb classification of animals we began in the first Man and Animal block, and now past the metabolic-limb/nerve-sensory/rhythmic system classification we started in this block into categories of animals.  We have done birds and spent a good deal of time here looking at classifying birds in a way that would make sense to a ten-year old (you could do just land/water birds, songbirds, birds of prey but I had a few more categories of birds).  We looked closely at the eagle – in Kovacs’ book, but also in Jim Arnosky’s “Thunder Birds” and Jean Craighead George’s “The Eagles Are Back”.  With help, our fourth grader composed a little report about eagles, which she dictated to me and I wrote on the board.  We corrected it, and she copied it.  We also spent time looking at and listening for our state bird, the Brown Thrasher.    I then used the description of birds and fish found in Roy Wilkinson’s little booklet “The Human Being and the Animal World” as a gateway into the land of fish  and some of the ideas in the Christopherus “The Human Being and the Animal World” book to look more closely at fishes.  We are moving into the talking about the watersheds of Georgia and the fishes of our state, particularly the bass family (the largemouth bass is our state fish), that lives there , and then we will talk about the oceans off our state’s coast and our state whale. 

Seventh Grade: This was a big week in learning about the human sexuality and the reproductive system.  The main resources I used included Linda Knodle’s “Human Fertility” book and the wonderful ebook from Rick Tan over at Syrendell, “Let’s Talk Biography and Biology” (see Syrendell for more details  http://www.syrendell.com/).  I also used some of the ideas in my  back post about sexuality, and a document from the Antioch Orthodox Church regarding friendship and deeper topics here:  http://www.antiochian.org/PVC   I especially enjoyed the part about genuine versus artificial friendship and the different levels of friendship.    More about this block in a separate post as it really is too long to discuss here.


Wrap-Up of Week Twenty-Three 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 twenty one and twenty two   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:  In our home, this is the season of Lent.  We have been at church more, and I have been doing some extra inner work.  Things have been peaceful and calm in Lent, (even with extra choir practices for the musical!).  When we really put the extra effort into ourselves and our own inner work, it really does radiate out into our families. 

Kindergarten:  This is the last week of our “King Winter” circle and our “The Rabbit and the Carrot” story.  Next up will be a Spring circle and the “The Little Red Hen” (the Irish tale in which there is a mouse, a cat, a little red hen and a fox).   We have been painting, whittling, and taking long walks in the morning with the nicer weather.  There has been an upswing in play and being outside overall.

Fourth Grade:  This week we finished up our look at the human being and animals through the lens of the metabolic-limb, rhythmic and head and nerve-sense systems. For this, we looked at the American bison and the cow for the metabolic-limb system, the dog and the lion for the rhythmic system, and the eagle for the head and nerve- sense system.  Our exploration of the eagle has now led into birds.  We are looking at groupings of our feathered friends, we have read the book “For The Birds:  The Life of Roger Tory Peterson”.  We spent some time looking at the general characteristics of birds, the different environments in which birds live and how they adapt, our own state bird, and the prairie and water birds.  We have done a good amount of drawing, painting and poetry to go with this week.

We are still reading “Thorkill of Iceland” as our read-aloud and are also painting different scenes  from this book.  Spelling has come from our main lesson and also sight words.  In math we are still working on subtraction, addition, multiplication and division.  Lastly, we have started a new handwork project.  Our daughter also earned one of her levels in choir and was very happy to see her hard work pay off.  Practices for our church’s spring musical and a play with friends are continuing.

Seventh Grade:  We are hard at work on our physiology block.  I discussed this in a separate post.  This week we finished up the digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems, spoke in length regarding nicotine addiction, and are now moving into Human Fertility and the Reproductive System. 

Our daughter has been working on math quite a bit and has finished the Key To Geometry books 1-5, Key To Algebra 1 and 2, and Metric Measurement 1.

Choir, church musical practice, 4-H and horseback riding are still going along…

Would love to hear what you are working on this week.



Parenting Toddlers: A Hands-On Adventure!

Toddlers (which I deem ages one through three, with ages three and four being “nursery school” aged, and ages 5 and 6 being kindergarten aged) are in a very special place in life.  They are all about movement and doing!  They are developing speech!  They are discovering their world.

Parenting toddlers is a hands-on adventure.  It is not one to be embarked upon by yelling from the sofa, “Don’t do that!”  Get up and get moving with your toddler.  A toddler needs constant supervision and reasoning, and punishment does not have a positive effect. Spanking is harmful!  This  is a bulletin from 2012 from the American Psychological Association regarding spanking.  Thirty countries have banned corporal punishment in all settings, including the home. 

There has been much debate in the parenting of older children regarding the use of  rewards or even punishment in terms of  the use of “taking something away”.  (Of course if there is a safety issue with an object, it may need a boundary and a rest!)   I bring this up now, because if you are parenting a toddler for the first time, you are figuring out your parenting style and learning what works and what doesn’t.  You can see an article about the link between materialism and this style of parenting  here.  Here is an article about  “Rewards and Punishments” from the Natural Child Project.  Alfie Kohn has an article about “The Risks of Rewards”  here.   However, if one also searches Pub Med and other places for articles regarding the effects of rewards, I have found the research to be more conflicting and much of the research to be associated with either food/diet related or with children with ADHD.  More work is clearly needed in this area as it applies to real, in-life, parenting.

So, back to the present moment of living with a toddler who in turn is mainly  living in their physical body and who is exploring everything in the world new.  Here are some tools that may be of great assistance:

An Ongoing Loving Relationship with YOU.  That is huge.  Children need to feel connected and loved.   You are not going to do everything right in parenting a toddler, but you can still hold your child and love your child.  You can tell your child positive things, and you can actively respond to your child’s needs. You can listen!   Here is a bulletin from 1991 from the Pediatric Clinics of North America regarding active listening, natural consequences and logical consequences:  the importance of active listening and natural consequences.  Consequences are harder with toddlers (ie, rarely is a toddler refusing to brush their teeth choosing to get cavities and rarely is a toddler who won’t wear a jacket wanting to be cold or get sick), so we also need strong doses of loving limits housed within the following areas….

A Strong Rhythm to your day.  This means that you, as the parent, should be getting up at the same time each day, going to bed at a rhythmical time, providing meal preparation and meals about the same time each day and having a routine that your toddler can settle into. Work, play, rest and love are so important.

The Environment.  It is important that you look at the things in your home with an eye for beauty, order, and yes, putting things up you don’t want a toddler to get into unsupervised up.  Simplicity is key.  Toddlers do not need a million toys, but they do  some open ended toys along with doses of love, sunshine, work, play and rest.

Work.  Toddlers love to work and they need to move their bodies.  Everything will take more time, yes, but what else are you really doing?  Many parents whose toddlers watch a good deal of media have told me they do it because they need to fill up the day with something.  There is a beautiful post here about working with your toddler.

Play outside.  Going outside in the  morning and in the afternoon is not too much for a toddler – (and not just in a stroller or being worn either, let them run and play and get energy out and move!

And when things go wrong?

Distraction can help.  Distraction with singing, humming and moving through things can be helpful. 

Time-in for tinies.  If a temper tantrum ensues, try a  time in for tinies

Have strategies before the time of a melt-down.  Think it through.  Almost every toddler challenge known to man is listed in this back post, along with  ways to solve them.

Movement and singing.  If you want your toddler to put on his or her coat, try helping your toddler’s arm into the coat whilst singing a song about going outside. 

Always go back to the basics of sleep, rest, hunger.

Respect the need for protection for your toddlers.  Toddlers are not miniature adults.  They are wide open to the world and as such do not need a lot of stimulation.  Being in their own homes and neighborhood is enough of a world for a toddler.

Blessings and love,

Third Grade Old Testament Stories

There always seems to be some kind of controversy on the Waldorf Facebook groups or Waldorf Yahoo Groups regarding the stories of the Old Testament in third grade.  Some curriculums refer to this block as “Stories of the Hebrew People”.  Some go as far as to try to make the third grade a “Hebrew Year” to go along with this.

I think the title “Stories of the Hebrew People” may be done just  to emphasize that Steiner saw the place of the Judaic stream within Western Civilization as a profound shift of the consciousness of humanity. It was a time when humanity turned inward.  We can look at Moses and the Burning Bush and see how God was in the bush, loudly speaking to Moses, and how the Old Testament prophet Elijah found God not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but in the “still, small voice” after the fire.  In Steiner’s view, this represented a shift from a group consciousness carried by the Patriarchs to a more individualized consciousness.  There are other ideas Steiner had to be examined regarding Creation and the concept  of time within the Jewish psyche of this time that he felt was important.  These may be the details that speak unconsciously to the nine-year-old in an important way.

I think this block can be challenging for some families because despite what anyone says regarding the fact that this is part of the soul development of a nine year old in the  nine year old change that needs to hear stories about separation, loss and redemption; despite the fact that these stories are important literary and foundational references within Western Civilizations, it inevitably brings up for many homeschooling parents things associated with  religion.  It is especially hard when there are associations for parents with negative religious experiences, even if this is not supposed to be a religious main lesson!  In this day and age, however,   I would not expect less examination.  And because in homeschooling each home is like a world onto itself, and because whilst homeschooling is alternative and Waldorf homeschooling may truly be the alternative of the alternative, I think it often makes the diversity of opinions even greater.

Teachers in the school setting  have to work and struggle with the material as well, but in a classroom one may have an entire class of children from different spiritual and religious experiences there and that perhaps reminds the teacher of the archetypal journey of human consciousness of these stories, whereas at home, there is one parent (usually) leading the block with whatever background  and experiences the parent brings.  In some ways I think this makes it harder!  Some religious homeschooling parents (and there are Christian and Jewish families who use Waldorf homeschooling as their educational model!)  struggle because as part of their religion, these “stories” are not just “stories” but full of meaning, wonder and promise within their religious life; however  the goal of this block is not to have these stories associated with religion but with the development of humanity. As a Christian in the home environment, I know I look at the  Old Testament as not just part of the consciousness of humanity shifting, but through a lens of redemptive love found in the New Testament.  So that can be not so much a struggle, but a particular background to deal with.   Some parents struggle due to past negative experiences.  As I said before, this block is  not in any way meant to be a religious main lesson.  You can see more on this in the Christopherus post  on this subject here and also a small mention of this in this post over at Math By Hand.

I don’t know as there is any other answer than for us as teachers, as homeschooling parents,  to do the work.  I have known some homeschooling families that never really came to a place to bring these stories; I don’t think that can be nor should be forced.  The blocks need to flow out of who the teacher is.  It is worth it to look at this and see why it doesn’t flow, and see different points of view, but at the end of the day, all you can do as a teacher is bring what you think would work best for the soul development of the child in front of you and what is in your own inner work.  People ask for recommendations for “substitutions” for this block but I don’t know as there is any really.  You can certainly bring in more of the Native cultures from your area as tied in with the practicalities of the third grade curriculum; some families do creation stories from around the world but I am not certain that that really gets at the heart of why Steiner considered these stories important for children of this age.  It doesn’t mean that doing a block of Creation stories is wrong, I just don’t know as it is a substitute for what Steiner seemed to have intended…..

I don’t have the answers, but just a few thoughts to share on a situation that often challenges the homeschooling parent.


Seventh Grade Physiology

The seventh grade physiology block takes some thought.  Most of the mothers I have spoken with who are homeschooling this grade are not comfortable just using Charles Kovacs’ book “Muscles and Bones” straight as is and moving through it, and there are not millions of resources available from a Waldorf perspective.  I am going to share with you what I did find and use, so you will not have to re-create the wheel when this block comes up.  I am including Christian resources as I am Christian, and I am sure you will find the resources that work for you!

First of all though, just like with any block, plan and think and dream for awhile. How do you feel about physiology?  How does this tie into the human being on a spiritual and emotional level (there are many more resources out there for the physical level!)  How does this tie into the four elements or your picture of spirituality of the human being?

How do you want to structure this block?   Do you want to include the eye and the ear in this block or work it in with physics or another block?  Do you want to save those subjects or other ones for eighth grade?  For my purposes, I pretty much used the outline that Dr. Rick Tan provided in his blog post.  So, I decided to cover digestion, circulation, respiration and human fertility/reproductive system.  Then I just had to figure out how to bring this from a purely physical, cut down  materialistic way found in most mainstream resources and bring it to the spiritual that fits into my home.

The main books I used were  Continue reading

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 GradeContinue reading

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 Continue reading