Monthly Anchor Points: July

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.

July is my most hated month after February.  There.  I have said it out loud!  I feel as if I start with a good amount of energy at the beginning of the month, and then by the middle of the month it is just so hot and whilst we are happy in the lake and pool, we are also a little tired of going to the lake and the pool.  That part hasn’t been so bad for me this year, but there is still always the challenge of children’s behavior in July.  It seems as if after awhile the expansiveness of the month just catches up to children, and bickering or other unpleasant behavior begins. 

So, my efforts this month have really centered on not overdoing.  Which was challenging, as both older children had a jumping camp for horseback riding and it was our month for Vacation Bible School as well.  Overall, however, I think we have fared better than previous years and did a good job taking it slow otherwise  with our hot steamy days at the barn, beach and  pool.

We had some beautiful festivals to anchor us, including:

4 July- the beautiful celebration of America.  I hope my American readers did celebrate!

11 July- St. Benedict of Nursia.  I love this book by Tomie dePaola  here .

19 July – St. Macrina .  There is children’s book about St. Macrina here

25 July – St. James the Apostle

Ideas for Celebration:

  • Swimming at the beach or in lake or rivers
  • Grilling and barbeques
  • Catching fireflies if you live in an area where there are fireflies
  • Finding a place to pick sunflowers – sunflower fields are just, just starting to bloom here
  • Having a lemonade stand
  • Camping and going to National Parks

The Domestic Life:

I always find July a great time to take stock of linens and items we might need for winter.

Homeschool Planning:

I am done with fifth grade planning and rapidly finishing kindergarten planning. I have most of the fall semester done for eighth grade and a good portion of the spring semester planned for eighth grade.  I also went ahead and laid out blocks for sixth and ninth grade so I can collect resources as I go along this year, especially for ninth where I don’t really own any resources yet.  I have also done that already so I can start thinking about high school credits and how that will go – giving myself the year jump. 

Since here in the Deep South, school starts back in August and some outside activities will start this week or next in preparation for the school year, I am also thinking about choosing my time outside the home wisely.


I have a lot to say about this..I always took great care of myself until my early 40s, and now I am feeling the drive to return to that now that I am nearing 45.  More about those impulses soon.

I would love to hear what you are up to this month and where you are in life!

Many blessings,

Planning Kindergarten

This is my third and last time that our family will be doing a six-year old kindergarten year. At this point, if you count “nursery” years being when a child is ages three and four, and “kindergarten” years being ages 5 and 6, I have done 12 years of kindergarten planning!

So, with that many years under our belts, it may seem as if there would be nothing new to plan or do but there always is!  Every year is new!   Every year our children are different, each child’s temperament is different, each child’s interests are different.  The rhythm of the year and the seasons remains constant, but each year is new and builds upon that foundation.

If you have a good idea of your seasonal changes and how you and your family feel during the months of the year, your festivals throughout the year and such,  then you are down to picking out stories and song, making up circle times, using fingerplay and foot play and figuring out simple work for each day.

Our  daily rhythm for kindergarten this year will look essentially like this:

  • Opening Verse/ Seasonal Songs
  • Circle
  • Nursery Rhymes with gesture or gross motor movements with rhyme
  • Fingerplays and footplays
  • Our Story
  • Work of the Day.  (We have drawing/cutting/pasting materials out during the Main Lesson time of the older children, so I don’t have a day specifically devoted to drawing.  On Mondays we usually paint or model, Tuesdays we bake, Wednesdays we have handwork/crafting or preparation for some seasonal festival or Feast Day, Thursdays we have a Nature Walk and Fridays are either painting, free play or a field trip day for the older children that my little one gets to tag along upon…Fridays are flexible).
  • If there is a special Feast Day related to our religion, then there may be a book for our older children to read to  our kindergartener on that day as well. 

Right now I have everything about the months August through March planned out, except for the stories… I am still in the midst of picking out stories for those months and then I need to go back and finish up April and May.

How is kindergarten planning coming along for you?  Don’t make it too difficult – keep it simple.  In the home environment, simple is best. The rhythm of life  is the kindergarten.


Drawing and Painting Skills in Grades 6-8

“At around the age of twelve, girls and boys stumble into a period of developmental crisis, of pre-puberty and puberty.  Strong upward growth of the limbs leads to ungainliness or awkwardnesss in their whole movement organism.  Psychologically, their judgments become both fierce and emotional.  Another aspect of childhood is lost, and as yet no terra firma is in sight.  Drawing at this point can open up a new world of representation, offering a solid ground upon which new skills and abilities can be discovered…To put aside watercolour paintings for a while, with their more naïve pictorial experience, and to work instead with nuances of light and shade between black and white, is a way of coming to meet the pupils’ violently fluctuating soul life at this age.”

-Painting and Drawing in Waldorf Schools by Thomas Wildgruber

Some of the drawings in sixth through eighth grade take one and half to two hours to complete.  New approaches to art, design, color and accurate representation are found in these grades.  New materials are used as well.  In sixth grade, one finds the use of charcoal, graphite and pencils, gouache, and pastels.    In seventh grade, black and white drawing becomes more interesting by using grey paper instead of white paper and the black and white subject matter turning from the stereometric solids of sixth grade to natural still life arrangements.  Color perspective through landscapes and color studies are also worked with in seventh grade, and of course, perspective drawing comes in with an entire block devoted entirely to this way of drawing.  Seventh grade also finds a more precise construction of the human figure and portraiture as seventh graders are capable of mastering techniques and styles.   In this way, seventh grade moves toward the spatial concepts and constructions found in eighth grade. 

Wildgruber writes, “At around age 14, not a great deal has altered in teenagers compared to the previous year.  Practising accuracy in perception and clear thinking can continue to help them form a clear relationship with the world around them and their own mental abilities…..”  Eighth graders work with frontal perspective with a vanishing point, shadow construction, modeling and drawing, color contrast studies, lino print and scissor cut collages.  Van James mentions in his book that “Work with black and white drawing continues through sixth, seventh and eighth grade with experiments in charcoal, conte pencils, china markers and wax crayon.”

Eighth graders often also work with Chinese/Japanese brush painting and all black and white drawing techniques including contour, circular scribble, pointillist, and vertical-stroke, horizontal stroke, slant-line and cross hatch.

In Waldorf Schools, these techniques are often worked on during a weekly art class period, along with handwork and woodworking in other sessions.  In the home environment, I find these techniques need to be brought into Main Lesson Work and with plenty of time allowed in the morning or continuing into the afternoon to work on these pieces. 

I would love to hear your experiences.


Fifth Grade Block Rotation

This is my second time through fifth grade this fall so I wanted a block rotation plan that was a little bit different than my first time around, and I also wanted to  build more of a foundation for things that we will be seeing in the upper grades. So, this time around I have chosen to do blocks in this order:

  • Botany
  • Ancient Civilizations (India, Persia, Mesopotamia)
  • Math block based upon Marsha Johnson’s History of Chocolate math block, but I really worked hard on it and expanded it into a bit more about the Toltec, Aztec and Maya of Mesoamerica
  • Geometry
  • Christmas Break
  • Ancient Civilizations II (Ancient Egypt, Ancient Africa, Ancient China)
  • Greek Mythology/History
  • Introduction To Metric System through our neighbor Canada
  • United States and Neighbors (United States, Review of Mexico and Canada from previous blocks, Caribbean) (I chose to combine Central America with South America in seventh grade geography). 

It is going to be a very fun year!


Switching to Colored Pencils

I had a dear friend of mine email me to ask about when to switch to colored pencils; what brand, and the ins and outs of pencils!  So I thought I would just share our experiences over the years as we have been through many colored pencil experiments at this point.

First of all, the timing to switch to colored pencils is rather individual, so do observe the child in front of you in the homeschooling environment.  Many do switch to colored pencil for writing only (with the drawings in Main Lesson Books still in block and stick crayons) in the second half of second grade or the beginning of third grade and the pictures/drawings in third grade are usually a combination of pencil and crayon.  By fourth grade all the drawings are typically in pencil with perhaps block or stick crayons for special parts of drawings or occasional drawings.  You will discover which picture calls for what as you teach!   

To be honest,  my  soon to be eighth grader is still using colored pencils to write.  We never switched to fountain pens, (GASP! the horror!) except for calligraphy work on certain assignments, because we both love the color and the ease of pencils.  I will try to take pictures of some of the really amazing work our daughter did in seventh grade and show  the differences between things written in calligraphy versus pencil.  It brings forth different aesthetics and feelings. This year,  in eighth grade, our daughter’s Main Lesson Book work will include colored pencils, graphite pencil, calligraphy pen, perhaps we will try our  fountain pen for some of the history summaries.  I know some Waldorf Schools use even some regular pens but to me, they really are not pretty and don’t appeal to either of the sanguine pieces of myself or my daughter though – just being honest! We will do a few pieces that are typed (typing typically comes in during ninth grade in the Waldorf Schools but we are home and will probably do some typing this year).  We are also unorthodox in that we never switched to using a regular sized three ring binder for seventh and eighth grades like most Waldorf School classes do…because neither one of us liked the aesthetics of it so we just continued to use the main lesson book style we loved…..but that is another post!

So what brand of  pencils??

The gold standard in Waldorf Schools seems to be the Lyra pencils.  We have used both Lyra and Primsacolor over the years.  At first, we didn’t like the Primsacolor as much as they seemed to break easier, but recent batches we have bought didn’t seem to have these problems (or maybe they just work well with middle school aged children??).  Now we pretty much only buy Primsacolor, but certainly have a HUGE stock of Lyras in varying shapes and colors from over the year, and we use both brands readily and for different things. You will get to know the hues of your pencils!

This post was very, very helpful to me when we were starting out:  Lyra versus Primsacolor  You can compare the hues of the colors by viewing this post.

Here are a few more of my suggestions regarding writing utensils:

  • Remember, that in the early grades, no matter what utensil you use for writing, you are working in tiny increments with lots of aids for borders, lines, spacing, etc…Remember those golden paths, golden stars between letters, using a three pronged sky-earth-water line for cursive, etc.  In the middle years of grades three through six is when most people switch to writing in cursive with fountain pens.    So it doesn’t have to come in third.  Fourth is the most typical grade to move from writing in crayon to fountain pen.
  • You can start out writing with the giant triangular shaped Lyra pencils in the second half of second grade or beginning of third grade.    They can really help grip.
  • Do NOT buy the giant boxes of 24 to 100 colors for small children!  More is NOT better!  They really need nothing more than red, blue, yellow and green, sometimes purple,  for second grade.  You can add in one color at a time, which can be very sweet!  The writing typically is more stick crayon and moving into pencil in second grade, so it is a gradual process.
  • Fingerplays throughout first through third grades are important, as is writing with the feet.  That really has nothing to do with pencils, but thought I would throw that in there!   And remember, probably one of the peaks in fine motor control for these earlier grades is actually in FIFTH grade, so don’t expect too much in second or third, especially out of those poor, eager little first born girls!  It can be easy to push but please don’t!
  • The triangular giant Ferbys can help a child get a good grip, but I think also look carefully at hand strength, core strength, posture…some children seem to need the weight of a colored stick  crayon to hold them back and drag along the paper so they make careful letters and some really need to move to a colored pencil.  Observe your child!
  • Cursive writing is usually practiced in second grade, but not used in writing things in the Main Lesson Book until third grade or even beginning of fourth grade, depending upon the child and the fluency and ease with which they write in cursive. 
  • Third graders can be pretty careless with writing in general, no matter if you use colored crayons or think about how much you are asking for, if you are setting good boundaries about the work being done in a careful way..but don’t ask for so much! Not everything needs a summary, and pick and choose what blocks you are going to require writing for…
  • Grade Four is typically when the child has 12 colored pencils plus stick and block crayons.  Sometimes you really need those block crayons,even in the upper grades, for something where it is just right.  Middle school grades is where one can expand into even more colors.

Hope that helps some of you in your planning,


The Root of Waldorf Homeschooling Is Love….

Today I am fortunate to be over in Tiffany’s space at Live Learn Love Eat. Here is  the opening of that post:

A wise old owl sat in an oak,
The more he heard, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard;
Why aren’t we all like that wise old bird.

-Traditional Mother Goose Rhyme

I do not profess to be wise (nor old!), but as I head into my ninth year of Waldorf homeschooling, the sentiment of this rhyme resonates with me more and more. I used to feel as if I had pat and succinct answers for the questions families asked regarding Waldorf Education. I could talk about the work of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, and his work into looking at the development of the spiritual human being throughout the lifespan. I could talk about how Waldorf Education was a holistic method of education that Rudolf Steiner helped to develop in order to address the head, heart and hands of the child. I could talk about the eight artistic pillars of Waldorf education that works to develop the capacities of the child in a holistic manner that incorporates the art of speech, drama, drawing, painting, modeling, singing and musical instruments, movement, and handwork.

However, I think today, after homeschooling our oldest child  now entering eighth grade, and homeschooling our middle child now entering fifth grade, and with our youngest child getting ready to embark on one final kindergarten year, I would tell you that ….. to read the rest, please go visit Tiffany’s blog, Live Learn Love Eat.

Many blessings and thank you to Tiffany!


Connecting With Young Children: Educating the Will–Week Five

We are up to page 27 in this glorious book by teacher Stephen Spitalny.  He talks about the development of self consciousness from birth or before birth and how we experience ourselves as separate until in our 30’s we may have “feelings of isolation and deep separateness”.  This is a very personal and inner experience of aloneness irrespective of our life circumstances.  At this point in our lives, we have the choice and option to forge our own spiritual path that re-creates the connectedness to the spiritual world that we were born with. 

In order to see this development of self-consciousness, we look at children in the early years of Waldorf Education are seen as having two fundamental processes at work:

  • First, the physical development of the body
  • Second, the increasing awareness of self.

Author Spitalny details the development of the infant to the toddler to the preschool-aged child.  He describes how during all of the early years children have a need for repetition and sameness.  Repetition, in Waldorf Education, is seen as building the will of the child.  From page 31:  “Adults need to be aware of this and support the child’s desire for having the same things over and again, because it serves a developmental need.”

The role of a toddler’s “no” is fully described.  This is a very large leap toward awareness of self in a young child that sets the child on a path that ends eventually around the age of 21 in which the young adult is connected to the core essence of themselves (the “I” or “ego”)

One thing that is pointed out that can be of interest in this age of selfies and documenting almost every aspect’s of a child’s life with pictures, video and social media is the idea that children birth through seven should not be shown pictures of themselves over and over as this is a prematurely awakening experience.  Children should love in the eyes of their caregivers, and from this becomes their beginning experiences of consciousness.

Children have the innate ability to experience things adults do not find accessible, such as forces within nature at work, or sensing the thoughts of others. “The arising of the intellect and the awareness of the self as a separate being from all that is around it leads to a gradual diminishing of the faculty of sensing thoughts and feelings of others, and a loss of the direct experience of nature.”

Many blessings,