This Will Change How You Look At Waldorf Homeschooling Forever…

If you believe love to be the answer in the world, then you must ask yourself the question:  how do we develop the capacities of children, our next generation, to love and to be love in the world?

I found the ability to nourish these capacities in my children through my faith.  That in and of itself is a long story for another time, but that inner work and healing led to an idea.  It was a thought, a coming to believe that we as a family, being attached and connected to our children, would be  the foundation for their ability to love.

What was most important to us is that the overall feeling in our home was that YOU ARE LOVED.   God loves you.  You are loved.  Who you are is enough.  Who you are is just right.  Who you are matters.   You are unconditionally and without question, loved.   You belong.

The longing to develop this capacity for love continued for me when I found Waldorf Education.  I once heard a beautiful lecture by Douglas Gerwin, Director of the Center for Anthroposophy, give a lecture on the Greek terms for love and how this ties in with Waldorf Education.  This is what I see in Waldorf homeschooling and in nurturing the capacities of our children to love:

Birth through seven – an affection and affinity found in the goodness of nature, the goodness of the Earth and of all the things in the Earth.  In the homeschooling family, this love is the Greek “storge” – a familial kind of love and affection. This word was used by the Ancient Greeks to mainly describe familial relationships.  How fitting that a Waldorf Kindergarten re-creates the home environment, and here  in the home with our homeschooling, we live this with our children.

Many parents have to start here because they have lost that affinity for their fellow man, for nature, for the world and because for many parents today, it seems as if parenting a small child is a stressful experience…….  If life has been a hard road, it takes inner work, healing and love for you to come to the place where you can experience storge with your child.  But you can do it!

Seven through Twelve – The building of affection and friendship between friends, family and community.  The Ancient Greeks called this “philios” and it implied a brotherhood of equality.  I think if we protect our children’s childhood, we see this in the way our children feel at one with Spirit, with nature, with the rock over there and the bird over here and with an ease with others in community.  It is a time of great beauty and Oneness with the world.  Many speak of the separation of the child from the world around the age of nine, an inner separation and  leaving the Garden of Eden during the nine year change so to speak, but I often feel that in the homeschooling environment  this period from nine or ten through age twelve or thirteen  is really a slow awakening if the child is protected and nurtured.

The Teenaged Years – We see in  this period “eros”.  In this day and age, we often associate this kind of love with “erotic love”  – perhaps with the idea that teenagers have romantic relationships on their minds amidst many bodily changes!  However, the Ancient Greeks also took “eros” to mean a love of beauty, an appreciation of beauty within a person or an appreciation of beauty itself.  The Greeks saw that this appreciation of beauty often led  to spiritual truth.  We see this in the curriculum so well – the beauty of geometry leading to the truths of numbers and nature, for example.  Another example might be the truths of history, but providing a lens of lightness in the darkness to look at this through; seeing the beauty of humanity even in difficult circumstances.

Between the teenaged years and the age of twenty-one, when the child is an adult, he or she hopefully  is ready to go into the world with an agape love.  A selfless love.  A love without bounds and without condition.  A loving kindness to serve humanity.  A love that wants the other to live in good will. A love that was built upon the family, the community, and seeing the beauty in others.

So, again, if love is the answer, how we develop capacities to get to that answer matters.  What we do matters.

Blessings,
Carrie

Do You Over-React to Your Preschooler?

The ages of three to five can be such a hard time for many parents.  These ages see a change in behavior from when children were two, especially for first children who previously were interested in being at their mother’s side.  I have had many parents of three and four and a half year olds write me and ask me what is going on with their child that they have changed SO MUCH.  “They were sweet, and now they are not” is a common refrain I hear.

Your child IS still sweet, but now they are realizing they can use their bodies and will forces in all sorts of ways.  Much of it is simply to see what happens without an preconceived ideas of what will result; much of it is repeated since the capacity for memory typically is not well-developed until age six or seven.  Words often are of little help until about four and a half.  For example, a two and half or three year old can often repeat something such as “we don’t hit”, but then will turn around and hit a playmate.

In many developmental phases, it is important to remember that when parents describe children as “bossy, tense, rigid, demanding, explosive” this really covers up the fact that the child may actually be experiencing a sense of insecurity or uncertainty as development shifts.

Ho-hum, ho-hum is your friend! Find your ho-hum and turn it on. 

Consistency and rhythm is so important and the number one thing I see parents struggle to attain.  Much of this stems from the fact that there is societal pressure to exposure small children to many different things – exposure is seen as good for tiny children. Also,  things seem to need to be “bigger, better and more stimulating” because it is exhausting to “entertain” a three to five year old all day long.  But remember…

You shouldn’t have to entertain your child all day long and you shouldn’t have to leave your house in order for your children to be happy.  Meaningful work is the key to this, along with being outside.  I have many back posts on these topics!

Distraction with verses and singing is still your very good friend when you have three to five year olds.  Going outside can also help.

Keep activities outside the home limited.  I know it is the “norm” to have children in preschool and classes  at age three, and I will continue to rally against this.  Even two or three hours out of the home is a lot for a three year old.  They do not need lessons, classes, or structured activities for their own development at this age.  “Play is where it is at!”  Studies have shown that children in play-based settings (again, though, we don’t need a program to play!) have greater academic gains in fourth grade than students who were in academic learning programs from an early age.  Earlier is NOT better.  We CANNOT rush development.  Development of the child has not changed.  If your child has to be in a program because you work, look for a play-based program that involves lots of time outside in all kinds of weather.

Tantrum tally for you!  It often is not about what our child is doing, but how we react because we are exhausted, tired, trying to do too much, alone with a small child many hours of the day.  Dealing with anger is a real part of parenting!Try this back post about regarding dealing with anger and also this one about anger and forgiveness.  .  Also, if you look under “Book Reviews” in the header we went chapter by chapter through the wonderful book, “Love and Anger:  The Parental Dilemma”.

No screens.  Screen do absolutely nothing for the development of a child these ages.  Movement, movement, movement – not sitting still and focusing on a screen.

Lots of love to all my parents of small children today.  You may not hear it enough, but you are doing a wonderful job!

Blessings,
Carrie

Monthly Anchor Points: May

Anchor:  a person or thing that can be relied on for support, stability, or security; mainstay: Hope was his only anchor.

When we work to become the author of own family life, we take on the authority to provide our spouse and children and ourselves stability.  An effective way to do this is through the use of rhythm.  If you have small children, it takes time to build a family rhythm that encompasses the year.  If you are homeschooling older children and also have younger children not yet ready for formal learning, the cycle of the year through the seasons and through your religious year becomes the number one tool you have for family unity, for family identity, for stability.

Beautiful May!  Here in the Deep South, the pools are open, people are holding barbeques at the pools and lakesides, everything is in bloom and we are enjoying the sun!

My month will be anchored by these festivals:

1 – May Day  – you can see this  back post  about May Day

10 – Mother’s Day

14- The Feast of Ascension  – please see my Pinterest board here

21 – Saint Helena

24- The Feast of Pentecost  – please see my Pinterest board here

25 – Memorial Day   – please see my Pinterest board here

31 –  Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

 

Ideas for Celebration:

  • Strawberry Picking if ripe in your area
  • Lemonade and cookies
  • Make a rhubarb pie or strawberry-rhubarb pie or jam!
  • Watch birds nesting
  • Grilling, backyard barbeques
  • Planning summer vacations
  • Swinging in a hammock or on a porch swing
  • Swimming
  • Gardening, planting
  • Outdoor projects
  • Celebrate Memorial Day with a community event – some areas offer parades or other activities

The Domestic Life:  I think May (and over the summer months) can be a wonderful time to introduce new chores to children and to establish a chore routine in your household. 

Homeschooling:    I hope to have the vast majority of my planning for six year old kindergarten, grade five and grade eight done by the end of June so that  July and the beginning of August can be a true rest.  It is moving along!  Feel free to check out my Pinterest boards by grade for many ideas.  I hope you too are coming along in your planning!

Many blessings,
Carrie

Connecting With Young Children: Educating the Will–Week Two

We are back looking at the introduction to this wonderful  book by Stephen Spitalny.  This is a book about waking up our own will in choosing how we will relate to small children, and in understanding that small children are driven by their own will forces.   I urge you to read along!

This book is based upon the way Rudolf Steiner perceived young children. Steiner felt that children came to Earth with an “essential core, the true individuality of the human being [being] spirit” and that this spirit is contained in a physical body.  The gifts and destiny of this human being is our journey on Earth.  The physical body has needs and instincts and sense experiences; the “I” (the essential spiritual core) has a destiny to unfold and the soul is the intermediary between these two things.  The soul of a human being is the housing of our desires, the things we like and dislike, our passions.  Lastly, besides the “I”, the physical body, and the soul , there is an “etheric body” which is the life forces of the body.  Perhaps we know this better in our modern times from the Chinese medical system as chi.  The etheric body, the chi, in Steiner’s view had the ability to help form the physical body and to maintain the physical body.  The etheric body is the “realm of the immune system” and of movement.

This four-fold system is our basis for looking at all human beings, but in the small child of ages birth through seven,  we are especially concerned with these life-forces (the etheric) and how small children develop and use their will forces in a healthy way.

Part of this  occurs through US as adults – how do we relate to and connect with the small child under the age of 7?  Relating to others  is a realm of give and take, it is a process of connecting to that which is within ourselves. 

“For a parent or teacher or caregiver, the core principle is the meeting of the other, and to truly meet an other one must first know thyself.  This is a core principle of Waldorf education.”

A spiritual path allows us to experience connection with the spirit within us, and to experience the spirit in the world around us so we can overcome the separation created by thinking and the intellect. 

Lots of food for thought and more to come,

Carrie

Wrap-Up of Weeks Thirty Through Thirty-Two

It is hard to believe that I last posted in this series on April sixteenth.  You can find the post about weeks twenty-eight and twenty-nine here.

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 four through twenty six 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:  Week Thirty saw our homeschool play on the Norse Myths come to fruition for our middle child.  Other than that, it has been a busy time of endings for the school year.  4-H has ended, along with church choir, the physics class for our oldest, and the church musical is over.  I love the feeling of things winding down and the beauty of Eastertide and May Day.

Homeschool Planning:  Friends, I am working very hard so I do  not have to spend my entire summer planning.  I am mostly through fifth grade, half of the six year old kindergarten year and have various blocks of eighth grade done.  I am hoping to be totally done at the end of June and can just take July to enjoy the summer.  We shall see if that comes to fruition!

Kindergarten:  Kindergarten at this time of year is about playing and developing gross motor skills!  We have been continuing a simple circle and story, fingerplays and seasonal singing.  We are moving this week from a sweet Suzanne Down story of Old Gnome and his friend the frog found in Suzanne’s wonderful book “Old Gnome Through The Year” into a story specifically for The Feast of Ascension on Thursday, May 14 (the story can be found in the back of the book “All  Year Round”).    Most of all we have been swimming, walking a lot and we hope to go strawberry picking in the next few weeks.

Fourth Grade:  It took us several weeks to finish up grasshoppers, bees, ants, and butterflies in our last Man and Animal block.   We did quite a bit of modeling, drawing and poetry with our insect friends, and I also brought in the chapters about bees and butterflies from Charles Kovacs’ “Botany” book.  This week, we have moved  into a review of all four math processes and the fractions introduced in the fall.  I have put together my own lessons for this block based off the few lessons in Dorothy Harrer’s “Math Lessons for Elementary Grades” (free ebook) and Marilyn Burns’ “Lessons for Introducing Fractions”, available used through Abe Books or other used booksellers.  We have been working very hard on math and spelling.  We finished  “Little Bee Sunbeam” and now we are reading “Heroes of the Kalevala:  Finland’s Saga” by Babette Deutsch.  I know everyone extolls “The Land of Heroes”, but I really like Deutsch’s version.   

Seventh Grade:  Hard to believe that seventh grade is coming to an end! 

So far we have done (picking up from the list I began in the previous post):

  • A Summary of Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael that I talked about in the previous post
  • A line drawing in the style of Leonardo.
  • A map of Spain in the time of Ferdinand, Isabella and Columbus
  • A pastel chalk drawing of the boats of Columbus
  • A colored pencil drawing of Martin Luther nailing the 95 theses to the church door
  • A map of the British Isles at the time of Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare
  • A portrait of Queen Elizabeth (colored pencil) with quote
  • A charcoal portrait of William Shakespeare

Forging into Latin American geography and the great Aztec, Maya and Incan civilizations and the Spanish coming to the New World, we have:

  • A beautiful title page
  • A physical map of Latin America with all mountains and highlands, lowlands and coastal plain areas labeled/ discussed as well as the Atacoma Desert
  • A summary of the Andes Mountains and a painting; I want to go back and do a portrait of the people of the Andes if we have time
  • A summary of The Pampas and the gaucho, quotes from “Martin Fierro”, the epic gaucho saga by Jose Hernandez which we read.
  • A summary of the Amazon Basin; drawing of jaguars

In math we are actually reviewing measurement and conversions of all types and she is finishing up The Key To Algebra book 2.  This year we finished up through Book Five of The Key Geometry books, books 1 and now 2 of Algebra, and books 1 and 2 of Metric Measurement.  Still more to do!

We finished reading “The Second Mrs. Gianconda” and my daughter is reading, “I, Don Pareja” herself.  We are now reading aloud “The Secret of the Andes.”

We are entering into a discussion of Mayan civilization and I hope to have a large scale project. 

We are still here plugging away!

Blessings,
Carrie

Planning Eighth Grade

I have Eighth Grade planning well under way and am very happy to share some ideas with my  readers who are also planning this grade.  Eighth Grade seemed a bit more overwhelming to look at than other past grades simply because the recommendations for blocks seemed to differ from Waldorf teacher to Waldorf teacher and what was included in each block also seemed to differ.  For example, what to include,  in physics?  The recommendations vary. What to include in history – how much modern history, for example?  The recommendations vary.  You get the idea!

I looked at the Eighth Grade section of the Waldorf Inspirations website, which was helpful to me to try to grasp what I was doing.   I looked at the AWNSA chart;  I looked at the Christopherus Eighth Grade Rough Guide.  I looked at the Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore recommendations for Eighth Grade. I talked to a few other mothers also gearing up to plan Eighth Grade.

But most of all, I looked at the child in front of me and what we have built so far.  What connections did we carry through the grades?  What connections can I make in this grade from everything we have covered so far as a culmination to this beautiful curriculum in grades one through eight?  What  foundation do we need to lay going forward?  What passions did she have?

I know an Eighth Grade project can be traditional in some Waldorf Schools, but I decided it was not a right fit for us in the home environment.  I felt like it would be one big stressful experience, to be frank, and  our daughter has already had some experience in putting together presentations for 4-H, so I felt as if she working to develop those skills in other arenas.

Also, because we plan to homeschool in high school, I was not feeling as if we needed to have this big “wrap up”.  Our life together  will go into ninth grade.

What I decided instead was to devote our last block of the year to something our daughter was really interested in.  She had not identified a lot of different passions up to this point, and I  really wanted to give her a chance to explore that and to think about any areas that seemed appealing.  To my surprise, she said she was very interested in epidemics/pandemics – such as the spread of the  plague and other diseases. 

So, I have decided to design a Medical Geography block to intersect epidemiology and geography and focus on a few well-chosen historical events  – the plague, the yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia in the 1700s,  perhaps small pox, the influenza epidemic of 1918, possibly AIDS/HIV or Ebola.  I haven’t totally planned it yet;  it is just in the beginning seeds of germination.  I hope she will find it interesting, and as the Centers for Disease Control is in our backyard, I also hope we can plan a few field trips. I hope this will be a satisfying experience as a springboard into a high school career full of a Waldorf approach but with life experiences also built upon her interests and passions.  I think the teenaged years are the most natural and developmentally appropriate time to explore that.

If you are interested as to some of the other  ideas I have been collecting for Eighth Grade, including some of my own “topic twists” within the traditional and archetypal Waldorf blocks for this grade, please see my Eighth Grade Pinterest board.

Would love to hear  your plans,
Carrie

Are You Overthinking The Toddler and Preschool Years?

Sometimes toddlers and preschoolers do funny things, and parents ask, “Why is it that I can’t get Little Jimmy to drink anything but chocolate milk with his school lunch?”  “Why is it Little Abby only has worn cowboy boots for the past three months every day?”

And then there are mothers of older teenagers and sometimes their list of worries can be much more serious and upsetting:  sexting, driving home with a drunk driver, car accidents, drug and alcohol use, graduating high school, teenage pregnancy, getting into college, saving money from a job so there will be something to start out in life with, the possibility of rape;  the list goes on.  Even if we have total confidence in our wonderful teenagers and their abilities to make great choices, the list can still be there in the back of our minds.

It is an interesting juxtaposition.

Thinking about some of the bigger issues that older teenagers can face makes the issue of chocolate milk and cowboy boots seem what they are – small issues that will pass in time. It is not that these topics don’t deserve thought and consideration.  Not at all!  But sometimes it can be helpful to hear and see older children in action.  The older child and teenager is where your toddler and preschooler someday will be.

This is not to negate the really important job of raising a toddler and preschooler because these years are the foundation of the years to come.  You may really not be over-thinking it, but just building a long-range perspective can take years.

I remember being a new mother and I DID feel like a deer in the headlights with my toddlers and preschoolers.  Now I have an almost 14 year old and a five year old, with a ten year old in between,  and I am starting to understand where mothers of the older teenagers are coming from with some of their worries and a bigger picture than picky eating or sleeping (although those things are super important at the time and when you are in the middle of it!). I am forever humbled at every turn.

Going back to basics always helps.  SOCIETY makes parenting toddlers and preschoolers MUCH HARDER than it should be.  We have forgotten what tiny children are all about and what the media and often even what  mainstream groups that cater to toddlers, preschoolers and their parents show us as “normal” is actually a version of adulthood brought down and made over for these tiny ages – and  so much of it is commercially driven, at least in American society.

The rules of parenting the toddler and preschooler should simply revolve around rescuing your toddler from near-death several times an hour (exhausting!), rest and sleep, trying to get a toddler to eat and potty train (exhausted yet?), helping guide a toddler’s wants and needs,  and playing!  Where society makes it hard is that it is not child-friendly, and with all the “experts” out there, mothers have forgotten how to be the expert on their own child. Also, there are no longer  great support networks for new parents that provide the “real deal” as to what these tiny ages are about!

Remember, the way to get these things “done” with a toddler or preschooler is

  • Rhythm  – Rhythm and consistency, not over- talking and over- explaining, is the KEY to discipline!
  • Outdoor time
  • An unhurried, happy life
  • Rest and sleep
  • Not feeling as if a tiny child constantly needs bigger, better, to be pushed, more stimulation, more classes outside the home – RESIST the urge to bring the adult world to your child. Ask yourself, did I do this when I was a child of that age or did I do it in middle school and high school??
  • The idea that childhood should be PROTECTED
  • Free yourself from the idea that a small child needs to be entertained.  They need meaningful work and  over time they need to develop the ability to occupy themselves in the home environment with play

Developing a long-term understanding of the development of the human being can be a helpful guide in a society where developmental stages are not valued.  I am so grateful for all the parents out there that do try, that do worry, that do work to help guide their children.  Thank you for being such good parents!

Blessings,
Carrie