From Reading to Action: “Waldorf Education in Practice”

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

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

At first, the children just hear sounds and not meaning.  The key to helping the children is to provide variation and diversity in what is being brought.  This is done through Continue reading

From Reading To Action: “Waldorf Education in Practice”

Chapter XI talks about how “image” is the heart of Waldorf Education in practice. For the seven to fourteen year old child IMAGE is the most powerful and important tool for education.  We use images to help children grow towards a fruitful and responsible adulthood, and it all begins with images.

A good image brings forth the senses; doing this search for an image and a story to go with that image is great and important work for the teacher.  We must learn to listen to our sense impressions.  We must learn how to pick images and use them.  We often do this through the idea of polarities.  The author gives the example of choosing plants that are polar opposites – rose and lily, holly and ivy, and see what arises in doing exercises with those images.

In the seven to fourteen year old we are looking to develop Continue reading

From Reading To Action: “Waldorf Education in Practice” and Our Next Book!

We are up to Chapter 9, “Math”.  This chapter gives great ideas for practice during the first number block of first grade.  The author recommends counting a long a number line and seeing a number as an entity by itself as the beginning, fundamental capacity of math.  Else Gottgens talks about the importance of speaking and moving, standing still and speaking and finally writing from memory, and then reading back aloud what has been written.  She gives many ideas for counting and working with individual numbers and working from whole to parts and parts to whole.  She also addresses estimation, and how to “structure” a number, the decimal system, and the times tables.  Learning times tables in grade 2 is a major undertaking, and then being able to recite the time tables out of order, randomly, is a task for grade 3.  There is also a wonderful table of math capacities that need to be developed from grade 1 onward, along with typical challenges for these capacities.

Chapter 10 discusses “Play-Acting”.  Putting on a play with a group is important for developing clear speech, meaningful gesture, enhancing spatial orientation and hearing what the other actor is speaking and reacting to it.  Drama also assists children in having more self-confidence, communicating better socially, gaining help in thinking more clearly, and helping children become better spellers.  It is also an excellent way to strengthen the will as the children work with a play for an extended period of time.  Continue reading

Christian Book Review: “The Religious Potential of the Child”

I last wrote a review regarding Christian books around Eastertide of this year.  As always I am reading, reading, reading.  I think I single handedly keep our church library busy!  One book that is full of wonder and thought is the classic, “The Religious Potential of the Child” by Sofia Cavalletti, which I think should be a must-read for any parent interested in children and their relationship to God.  This book was written after twenty-five years of work with children ages 3-11, and offer profound insight into spirituality and religion for the young child. To me personally, religion is first and foremost about love, joy, wonder and a personal relationship with Christ and this book captures this so well.  I read this quite some time ago, and am glad I circled back around to it again as its words are so rich and profound for all of us as human beings.

What this book does to me, is to remind us  that children can lead us to God and that we must not hinder them. Instead, we must envelop both the mystery of God and the mystery of the child. If we start with our own hunger to know and love this child before us, how much easier to find a path to the Divine!

The major themes of this book includes Christ as the Good Shepherd; the Eucharist and how this draws forth a response in us; Christ as a Light and how this transmits to a child through Baptism;  and the mystery of Life itself.  In this book is acknowledged the child’s ability to see the invisible, the child’s mysterious knowledge of God and the joy that can be found in God.  The adult is not the “teacher” – both the adult and the child receive in wonder.

These wondering experiences are based in Christ – Christ as the mediator; Christ as seen from the Incarnation as a bond between man and God.  There are wonderful indications in this book for working with small children using parables from the New Testament, particularly this image of Christ as the Good Shepherd, including modifications and presentation. Communal and personal meditation and art response are all part of wondering.

Interestingly, this book advocates waiting for Old Testament stories until the child is at least Continue reading

From Reading to Action: “Waldorf Education in Practice”

We are up to Chapter Five in this book, entitled, “Reading”.  This is a wonderful chapter that I feel answers many parents’ questions about the Waldorf approach to reading.  Before the child can read, the child’s view of the world comes from his or her own observations and what people have told him or her.  Interactions between the child and others were how the child learned.  In reading, the thoughts of another are revealed to the child, but in a way the child is on his or her own because the person who wrote the words is not there standing in front of the child.  This explains a bit of why Waldorf education moves slowly in reading from whole to parts.

The author does not go into detail regarding how to derive the letters from pictures since that has been covered so extensively in other sources, but instead what to do once the child knows and can draw 6- 10 consonant sounds plus the vowels.

Her method often involves a passage she has chosen – a poem or a verse.  She would invent a story that invokes a mood for that passage and then the child learns the poem by heart.  After the child has learned the poem orally, the child sees it  on the blackboard.  The child copies the poem and then “reads” the poem whilst the teacher slides a stick along to practice the line. Sometimes the teacher stops reciting in the middle of the line and the child sees where they have stopped.  A line might be spoken from the poem and the children search for which line it is on the board, and then many little exercises are invented, such as which word is longest, shortest, has two of the same letter in it, etc.  Individual words are found and copied.

She reiterates that true reading generally happens within the first two and a third years of this process – so sometime generally before the second half of third grade.

“That will seldom be when the standardized tests think it should be.  Mostly somewhat later, but there will then not be any “technical reading”; the child will read with comprehension straight away.  This (Waldorf) method taxes faith and patience —— yours as well as the parents, but the rewards are great.”

We must not get impatient and nor must we do the work for the children who are not reading.  If children come to class reading already, then the author points out they should get the above and also be reading.  The readers should be reading!  The classroom should have books available for the readers to read.  Real reading is silent reading, it is having challenges to copy down and draw pictures of, or the readers can tell the class about a book they finished reading.  If there are readers in the class, then the class has a class of readers and a class of non-readers and the school class should be treated as such.

Love this chapter!

Many blessings,
Carrie

From Reading to Action: “Waldorf Education In Practice”

Else  Gottgens wrote about her experience in observing many Waldorf classrooms in Chapter Three of our book, “Waldorf Education in Practice”.

“So, as a mentor, what did I see in too many classes where I was asked to observe?

Beautiful reverence.

Quiet expectation.

And then, 20 minutes later:  Mayhem!”

The mayhem often began with “circle”. “Circle” , in the grades, is supposed to be a warm-up.  In Else Gottgens’ mind, many of the exercises, such as singing, reciting, finger plays, etc,  actually can be done better behind the desk, facing the teacher!

Surprised?

The author then wrote about including exercises that make the children conscious of their feet and legs and finger games, speech and singing, concentration exercises for listening, and  exercises to nourish the Twelve Senses.  She debunked  the notion that circle is a music lesson, a gym lesson, a speech lesson, a flute lesson and/or a math lesson all in one.  In fact, she wrote:  “The children should be moving a lot more during other parts of the Main Lesson.” This is for grades one through three, and very important!  Imitation as a force in the early grades is waning, albeit a large part of children until the nine year change, but authority comes to the fore in this period of childhood development.    The teacher no longer has to demonstrate and do everything with the child, but show the child and sometimes join in and sometimes step back and observe the child! Continue reading

From Reading to Action: “Waldorf Education In Practice”

We are looking at the book “Waldorf Education In Practice:  Exploring How Children Learn in the Lower Grades” by Else Gottgens, Master Waldorf Teacher and Mentor.  You can see my first post about this book  here.

Chapter 1  “BEFORE”: What Parents Should Know

This chapter is addressed to parents and to the two concerns most parents share about  the first three grades: Continue reading