Planning Second Grade Waldorf Homeschooling–Part Two

I find second grade one of the most delightful grades to teach.

Major resources/blocks to think about:

Physical Movement:  See Part One of this post.  All rhythmic games are so important.  In the home environment, I would also consider morning walks, “recess” before or after lunch and limiting school hours so you can have long afternoons of hiking, biking, skiing, swimming and being outdoors.

Gardening:  Developing the twelve senses through gardening, stories of elemental beings

Eurythmy:  We don’t have a lot of options for this in the home.  You can try Cynthia Hoven’s website.

Music:  All manner of folk songs and pentatonic songs, pentatonic flute.

“Woodworking”:  stories of woodland creatures and gnomes, building little structures out in the woods

Handwork:  Crochet is usually what is done this year.  “Will Developed Intelligence” writes:  “Second grade handwork also begins with a series of projects using the continuous thread.  This time the children learn to crochet using bright colored balls of cotton yarn thick enough for a size seven  crochet hook.  Crocheting emphasizes one hand instead of two.  The balance is different, although both hands are busy.  It takes a new, more intense kind of concentration.  This is another rhythmical, repetitive activity with the hands that strengthens the will and brings clarity to the thinking.”

Modeling:  Modeling simple shapes with beeswax. 

Painting:  Painting with all six colors, animal forms arising from the interplay of color, choosing the right paints for which ones help each other and how not to have one color dominate too much, specific paint names and lighter/darker/warmer/cooler, how to place a figure in the painting and echo the color of the figure in the background,

Drawing:  For form drawing – I like running forms (I sometimes put this as the very last block of first grade, sometimes beginning of second – depends on your child – LOOK at your child!); symmetry and mirror drawing, using block and stick crayons.

I like this passage from “Drawing With Hand, Head and Heart”:  “Second graders are only just on the cusp of leaving early childhood’s dreamy at-oneness with the world.  In second grade drawing is similar to that of first grade but a bit more detail begins to appear (both in the teacher’s drawings and in the student’s work) in simple fashion.  Facial features on people and animals may appear, and backgrounds can include more detail, but still no foreshortening, linear perspective, or play of shadows.”

Mathematics – Whole numbers, patterns, times tables, place value,  lots of ACTIVE games (see my game-oriented math board on Pinterest), some sources say adding in columns and some sources say to stick with horizontal problems for now (again, LOOK at your child!), time (although many folks do a block on this in third grade), money – thinking in mathematics really comes in here.  The beginnings of mathematical reasoning.

  • Do check out Multiplicando by Howard Schrager
  • Grandfather Tang’s Story by Tompert

Sciences – Nature studies based on nature stories; stimulation  of the Twelve Senses in nature, Cooking

Some of my favorite resources:

  • The Little Gnome Tenderroot by Jakob Streit
  • Among the (Forest, Night, Meadow, etc) People

Languages (foreign) – in the school setting this would include imitation of songs, verses, games, poems, plays, counting, names of animals, family members, body parts, foods, the seasons, the colors, months of the year – usually in two different foreign languages.   I find in the home environment the study of foreign languages rarely happens unless the parent has a particular skill in a language.

English and Grammar – reading from the Main Lesson books the child has written, simple sentences in writing, working on small letters if not already introduced in first grade, rhyming words and word families.  See back posts on “Waldorf Education in Practice” for more information (book review section).  If you have times to practice reading simple books, which I am  not sure if the Waldorf Schools make time for this or not, but this is common in the home environment,  I suggest looking at these books (again, look at your child and these books and see where they are!)

  • Sam Cat and Nat Rat (and other titles) by Shelley Davidow
  • Lazy Jack (and other titles) by Kelly Morrow
  • Hay for My Ox and other stories:  A first reading book for Waldorf Schools edited by Isabel Wyatt and Joan Rudel
  • The Pancake by James Fassett
  • Fee Fi Fo Fum! by Arthur Pittis
  • Voices of Nature:  Stories for Young Readers Whole Spirit Press
  • Little Wolf by Ann McGovern could be a possible reader or read aloud.

Sources of Literature/History: 

Fables – Aesop’s, Celtic, African, Latin American, American Tall Tales, Norwegian and Swedish Folks Tales, Chinese and Tibetan Folk Tales, Folk Tales of Eastern Europe, etc.

Some of my favorite resources:

  • Russian Fairy Tales Pantheon Fairy Tales and Folklore Library; also individual books such as “Masha and the Firebird” by Bateson and Wilson
  • Favorite Children’s Stories from China and Tibet by Lotta Hume
  • Norwegian Folk Tales by Asbjornsen and Moe
  • Hidden Tales from Eastern Europe by Barber and Hess
  • Anansi the Spider Man by Philip M. Sherlock
  • The Boy Who Drew Cats and Other Japanese Fairy Tales by Hearn and others
  • Tales of A Chines Grandmother, Tales of A Korean Grandmother
  • Bantu Folk Tales
  • The Dancing Palm Tree and Other Nigerian Folktales – Walker
  • “Why the Sun and Moon Live in the Sky” in “Hear the Voice of the Griot!” by Staley

Legends of Saints – I feel very strongly that figures such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr do NOT belong in this grade.  I think the figures in this grade, which is under the nine year change, need to be more archetypal and more figures with one foot in legend and one foot on earth, so to speak. 

Some of my  favorite resources:

  • Saint Odelia by Jakob Streit  (he also has a small book about Saint Francis of Assisi)
  • For a reader in this block, perhaps “Bless This Mouse” by Lois Lowry
  • Perhaps Pollack’s book about the Ba’al Shem Tov’s proverbs could go in fables or in saints
  • Main Lesson free book with Saints and Animals (Christian):  The Book of Saints and Friendly Beasts
  • Any number of good resources about Saint Francis of Assisi and Orthodox/Anglican Saint Saint Seraphim of Sarov; also Saint Felix and the Spider, and The Saint and His Bees by Jackson
  • You can tell simplified stories of the Saints found in “Hear The Voice of the Griot!” by Staley, including the Christian Saints St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Marcarius The Elder of Egypt, St. John the Little, St. Moses the Strong Man; Islamic Holy figures of Sidi Ahmed El Kebir, El-Magharibi, and Holy Man Kintu and the Law of Love,

Local folklore

American Indian stories – great for nature stories!  I have some titles on my Second Grade Pinterest Board

The King of Ireland’s Son by Padraic Colum (and along this vein, I like the book “Where The Mountain Meets the Moon” by Grace Lin).

For General Reading Aloud:

  • I love Carolyn Haywood’s sweet books about Betsy, Eddie, etc.
  • The Paper Crane by Molly Bang
  • The Clown of God by Tomie de Paola
  • “Little House In The Big Woods” and “Little House On the Prairie”
  • “Gwinna”

Please leave your second grade suggestions below –

Blessings,
Carrie

Planning Second Grade Waldorf Homeschooling–Part One

I have actually written many back posts, including ones that focus on such diverse areas as handwork and science and examples of main lesson book work within the second grade curriculum.  My favorite back post about second grade is this one.

I think now that I have been through second grade twice, I have a few more things I would like to say regarding second grade.

Second grade is still a continuation of the rhythmical foundations of the year.  It is important to make margins of space and time in your schedule for the doing associated with festivals. Festivals, crafting around the festivals, baking and cooking are all still necessary.  These activities help build gross and fine motor skills that are important for later academic success.

The Gross Motor Skills second graders are still developing include:

  • Overall strength, flexibility, stamina and endurance.  LOOK at your child.  If your child is constantly tired, cannot walk long distances, has a floppy sitting posture or still wants to sit in a “W” position, has poor ability to sit still, tends to lean their head on the desk whilst they are trying to write – all of these things point toward needing more gross motor strengthening and strengthening of the lower foundational four senses.  It may or may not also point to retained reflexes that could use further evaluation.
  • Developing the sensory system.  I have quite a few back posts on this topic.
  • Agility, balance, spatial awareness.  Eurythmy is so wonderful and it is too bad there are not more resources for more homeschoolers.  You can try Cynthia Hoven’s website here.
  • The Sense of Hearing – listening to directions, following directions.
  • Accurate ball throwing and catching, walking (watch the arms and the legs during walking),  running, galloping, side-galloping, jumping rope, skipping, high jumping, long jumping, leap frog, hopscotch, rhythmic games.  We are also looking for dominance of hand, foot and eye. 
  • There is a full assessment for second grade movement from a Waldorf prospective at the Movement for Childhood website.  Here is a link to the PDF.  http://www.movementforchildhood.com/uploads/2/1/6/7/21671438/dutch_manual.pdf
  • Here is a great article about “Movement and Child’s Play”  “Movement and Child’s Play”
  • And this one with goals for Movement/Gym for Grades 1-8   by grade.

Other areas we are working on in second grade:

  • A social consciousness.  According to the “The Waldorf School Curriculum” Chart published by AWNSA, part of second grade is “the “social being” of the class must be carefully nurtured”.  Since we are in the homeschooling environment, I ask you to meditate and ponder how to nurture the life of your family and your family culture.  Can the movement that is so inherent in the small child be a means to this social nurturing in the home?

In Part Two, I will be delving into other points regarding second grade in the home environment.

Blessings,
Carrie

5 Ways To Have A Calm Family Life

I hear about harried  families almost every day – those who are completely overscheduled due to running children everywhere, those who have to “car school” because they are on the road running children everywhere, those you are searching high and low for the “simple” life promised in magazines and books….and wondering if such a thing really exists!

I think a calm family life can exist, but you do have to create it.  Here are the top five ways I feel you can have a calm family life:

1.  Take charge of your family’s schedule.  In the United States, it seems that children’s activities are often “driving the boat” of family life.  Is it more important that your children be a part of every activity known to man or is it more important that you enjoy the years you have with your children in an unhurried manner?  Sometimes we can answer what our activities and priorities should be by creating or looking back at our Family Mission Statement.

Our own personal Family Mission Statement at this time is KIPPA: kindness, integrity, positive attitude, patience and adventure.  Something short and sweet that everyone can say and begin to model works well. We haven’t updated ours in awhile, so that is on the list to do this summer to think about.   I would love to hear about your Family Mission Statement if you have one!

2. Let things go.  You can say no!    Make sure you are not keeping yourself so busy so that you don’t have to look too deeply at yourself, your family life, or other areas in life that really need your attention.

Letting go can also include the physical – like the physical clutter of the home, or as FlyLady says, the “body clutter”.  It can also include relationships or communities that are no longer nourishing you.  It is okay that things change over time!  Life is a series of changes –  big and small.

3. Build in time and space around activities.  If you are out one day, be home for two days around that out day.  This can especially work well for younger children.    Take time and space for yourself.  Where is your rest time, your down time, your vacation time?  Can you teach your children to be comfortable with space and time and not “busy going” all the time?  What a wonderful gift you will be giving them to teach them that through your modeling!

4.  Devote time to yourself.  I see so many mothers who are spending all of their time at their children’s activities, and fail to put a priority on their own eating, sleeping and exercise.  Your physical health is really, really important.  Why not make this summer the summer of your  health?   Put in the time it takes to make healthy and from -scratch meals; to daily exercise (yes, I said daily!),  to sleep and rest and for your inner work in whatever capacity this means to you.    I would love to hear your success stories!

5. Positivity.  Being a positive mother, partner and friend can reverberate throughout all the communities and relationships of your life.  Surround yourself with positivity, think positive, be generous with your encouraging words and watch the calmness come into your family!

Many blessings and love,
Carrie

Struggling With Preparing For Grade Five?

I am in the throes of watching another “drop-off” in Waldorf homeschooling.  This time around it is the eighth/ninth grade drop-off where many families chose not to homeschool anymore or choose more traditional academic routes.   It can be a lonely place to be, but yet in many ways this is reminiscent of the “drop-off” between fourth and fifth grade for many families (and in preparing for first grade before that!)  So, if you are sort of struggling to prepare for fifth grade, I would say you are in good company and  that it could possibly even be a natural part of the Waldorf homeschooling cycle for parents with children this age. I sometimes wonder if on a soul level we as parents are mirroring the “fractioning” off the fourth graders themselves are doing (remember fourth grade fractions and what that reflects in a class?!)

The reasons families have struggled is varied but seems to boil down into these categories:

Parenting:  Differing expectations of “protecting childhood” (much murkier than in the early years!)  now that the child has gone through the nine year change.  How much should the world really be opening up?

My caution:  Make sure the world is opening up in a nine/ten year old way, not a sixteen/seventeen year change way.  Ask parents who have teenagers if you are unsure!

The curriculum content:  Yup, I am going to say it out loudMany parents are uncomfortable regarding the amount of anthroposophy underlying the fifth grade curriculum.  Whether it is likening different plants to childhood development ( remember, anthroposophy relates to knowing the human being and how the world is a reflection within the human being) or the progression of Ancient Civilizations to reflect epochs and soul development, to the story of Manu and the Flood placing Manu in Atlantis, the content and the underlying pinnings can be challenging.

My suggestions:

  • Decide what is really authentic for you to bring as a homeschooling parent.  I personally do not use the story of Manu and the Flood beginning in Atlantis, for example, because it is not authentic and living for me.   I have had some conversations with friends  from India regarding these subjects and I want to feel comfortable presenting Ancient India in light of these conversations and thoughts.
  • Read some more and see with time and “settling” how things feel for you – which leads back to authenticity, but this time in a more objective and clarifying way then just dismissing things out of hand.  I don’t want to bury my head in the sand, and I do want to know what Steiner said about these things.  However, many of the things about Ancient Civilizations seem to be more in Steiner’s general writings, not the educational lectures.  The educational lectures talk a lot about Greece, for example.   It takes time to digest and to decide how deep one wants to read into these subjects.
  • Listen to veteran homeschooling mothers and what they discovered going through things.  Here is veteran Waldorf homeschooling mother Lauri Bolland’s take on botany. Well-worth reading!
  • Understand what Steiner said about the evolution of human consciousness.  Whether or not you agree with this is up to you, but again, food for thought.
  • Hang in there and breathe.  Sometimes the more you can be steady and bring things on a level you are comfortable with for your family, the next time around different things will click in different ways. Hold true to who you are and what your family culture is, and see how you can work with the curriculum as well.  To me, sixth and seventh grade are much more straightforward in a sense…

The academic side of the curriculum.  Some parents really leave Waldorf homeschooling behind because fifth grade is a big jump in content and in academic content.  If you feel pressured about where your child is and not feeling as if the curriculum is working for you in this arena, it is easy to think about abandoning it for another method of homeschooling that is either more traditionally academic or less academic.

My suggestion:  Remember, you are homeschooling this way for a reason. What drew you to it, how does it fit your child, be the teacher and get creative!

Tell me your stories about preparing for fifth grade.  Did you struggle?  How did it resolve?

Blessings,
Carrie

The Cost of Overscheduling Your Children

There was a very good post  recently over at “Becoming Minimalist” entitled “How To Slow Down Your Family’s Schedule” which did a great job in pointing out some of the problems with over-scheduling children in our world. I wrote a post some time ago about choosing time outside the home wisely.  In that article I mentioned several points, specifically in reference to the homeschooling community, where because children are not out at school all day, parents often feel the need to get their children out after homeschooling is done.  Here are a few of the discussion points:

  • I don’t think children under 12 need anything, although many parents of 11-12 year old girls have told me they felt their girls “needed something to do” whereas boys seemed to not care until age 14 or so.
  • Teens ages 13-15, somewhere in that time frame, really do seem to need something.  If you haven’t overloaded them with activities up until this point, then adding one or two activities may seem like enough to them.
  • Families with one child seem to vary on how they approach things – read the comments from the previous blog post.
  • Families with four or more children seem to pick activities where all children can participate at once, whereas families with one to three children seem to run around a lot more with the children all doing separate activities!
  • The DRIVER (parent) is often the one who is tired out!
  • Many parents noted they would love to stay home and have informal play with other children, but no children  are at  home in their neighborhood or they may live far out in the country and there are no children.  Children are interacting in structured activities these days, not in playing street games, tag and riding bikes like thirty years or so ago.

I think it could possibly take a full-on public health campaign in the United States to really change the perception of parents that there is value in UNSTRUCTURED play and to not sign their children up for every activity.  I am so glad to know so many of you are trendsetters and are pointing the way toward family being home!

If you want to pare down your schedule, here is a list of suggestions that other parents have told me works:

Discount activities that meet over the dinner hour.  Don’t be so willing to trade a structured, led by an adult outside your home for the benefits of the family dinner hour.  (and there are many benefits; there have been studies).

Let each child pick ONE thing per semester.  Many things now, at least in the United States, seem to run all year round, but see what you can find.

Delay the starting ages for doing activities outside the home.  “In our family, you get to pick an activity to do outside the home when you are “X” years old.”

Figure out when is YOUR day with your children if you are really busy with activities.  How many days do YOU need to be home to feel happy, to have the house the way you want it, etc.

You can try my method:  I put a big X over certain days of the week and do not allow myself to schedule anything on those days.  I have talked about this is in back posts.

Can you let go of guilt?  Every article, including the “Becoming Minimalist” post above, mentions how wonderful free, unstructured play with other children is, yet most parents say there are no children to play with!  Can you feel okay with your child playing by themselves or with their siblings for many days of the week?

The reality is that most homeschooling parents, at least most Waldorf or holistic homeschooling parents, do not want to be out every day and see the value in being home.  They see the value in space and time for development.

I think part of the problem is that most parents are working, and therefore no one is home and the child has to be somewhere.  Also, the ending time of school can vary and take away the down time of the afternoon.  For example, the middle school (grades 6-8) in my area get home around 5 PM, at which time they must eat and do homework.  So, part of this question I think becomes what do we do until economics – attitudes- amount of homework changes? A  tall social order!

Love to hear your thoughts and your thoughts on the “Becoming Minimalist” blog post.

Blessings,
Carrie

Monthly Anchor Points: June

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.

June is the month with the longest amount of daylight hours for the Northern Hemisphere (and the shortest days for the Southern Hemisphere – how are all my Down Under readers faring?)

These are the festivals that will anchor my month:

21 – Father’s Day

24 – The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

29-  The Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul

Famous Saints I will be taking to my inner work this month –

9- St. Columba

10- St. Ephrem of Syria (lots of great reading to do here)

14 – St. Basil the Great

22 – St. Alban of Britian

Aside Note – I have had a few folks ask me about the Calendar of Saints in the Episcopal Church…The Episcopal Church USA is part of the Anglican Communion, which is an international association of churches composed of the Church of England and national (such as Canada, Japan, Uganda, for example) and regional (collections of nations) Anglican churches.  Each province, as it is called, is autonomous and independent with its own primate and governing structure.  So, different feast calendars within the Anglican Communion share the Feast Days and Fast Days listed in the Book of Common Prayer, but there may be “lesser feasts and fasts” as well.  The Archbishop of Canterbury is our “primus inter parus” (first among equals) but holds no direct authority outside of the England, but is instead a force of unity, vision, persuasion,  for the entire Communion.  We don’t really govern off of creeds, for example such as the Westminster Catechism in Presbyterianism, but find “the law of praying is the law of believing and therefore The Book of Common Prayer is our way.  The Anglican Communion has in it elements of the Reformation and Anglo-Catholicism, depending upon the individual parish, but it is not “Catholic Lite”.  We pray for the unity of the Church (the whole of Christendom) and therefore “Anglicans have preferred to look for guidance to the undivided church, the church before it was divided by the Reformation and especially to the first centuries of the church’s life….to “tradition”, the worship, teaching and life of the church in its early days.” (page 65, Welcome to the Episcopal Church by Christopher Webber))

Ideas for Celebrating June:

  • Here we are tubing down rivers, camping, going to water and splash parks
  • Blueberry Picking – Strawberries are about done, but blueberries are coming soon
  • Try out different popsicle and cold drink recipes
  • Gardening – especially with an eye to our friend the bee
  • Hunt fireflies at night
  • Stay up and gaze at the stars
  • Have bonfires and camp fires and make s’mores
  • Summer theater outside!

The Domestic Life:  I love June for going through and re-organizing the school room, throwing out papers that have accumulated, going through closets and drawers, re-vamping meal plans with cooling foods in mind.

Homeschooling:  We ended this week, (week thirty-five), as everyone’s concentration was down (rightfully so for our geographic region and climate).  The children are outgrowing clothing at a rapid pace, and I could tell their forces needed to be directed to growth and rest.  I will be writing a post soon detailing a binder I put together for seventh grade to wrap up the year from a teacher  perspective, and what I am doing differently in planning fifth and eighth grades than I have in previous years.

I would love to hear what you are up to this ending of May and looking ahead to June!

Blessings,

Carrie

Connecting With Young Children: Educating the Will Week Three

This is our third week in looking at Stephen Spitalny’s wonderful book, “Connecting With Young Children:  Educating the Will.”  In Chapter One, the author writes:

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.

In the spiritual world, and at birth, the child is experiencing an “interconnectedness” of everything.  There is no experience of the self and the other, and the child slowly develops this over time in childhood development.  Education is about more than academics; indeed if the fundamental task of  being an adult is the ability to relate to another and connect to others, then education must start with this goal in mind

The task is to help the child relate to and connect with all aspects of life in ways suitable for their development, so that later as an adult many realms of connection are available to him.  This is a social path toward cultural renewal and a more peaceful word, one individual at a time.  (page 17)

This is why Waldorf Education is structured around approaching a child with love, and I would add through loving boundaries.  Because being human is not about “you”; being human ultimately is about being able to see and hear the other;  being able to so love and serve the world.  Our current educational system pushes children further and further into academic skills, and away from seeing the connection between all subjects, all of humanity, and from the goal of true education in living as a human being. 

Love and warmth are the keys to this type of education.  If we can truly connect with giving and receiving, speaking and listening, with true empathy for someone who is completely different in many ways than ourselves, then that is true education.  We nurture ourselves and others through warmth – in warmth we show our attention, our enthusiasm, our understanding.

This chapter brings up the following questions for me:

  • How can I truly know myself?  If I know myself, how do I then bring this to others in an authentic way, my children included? 
  • How can I show my child how to connect to and relate to people, in seeds however so small, in ways that are appropriate for his or her developmental level?
  • How can I renew my own balance, my own sense that all things  within the world are interconnected?
  • How can I be a true adult human being and serve others through love and through warmth?  How can I start within my own family?

I would love to hear what Chapter One brought up for you!

Many blessings,

Carrie