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

From Reading to Action: “Waldorf Education in Practice”

 

We will be heading through this wonderful book chapter by chapter.  It is by the beloved Master Waldorf teacher Else Gottgens  and focuses on Waldorf education in practice for the first three grades.  (However, I think many pearls can be gleamed out of it for the older grades as well).  Else Gottgens was an amazing Master teacher who was a class teacher for 41 years and then began at age 61 to mentor other Waldorf teachers for the next 20 years.   She was in literally hundreds of Waldorf classrooms.    If you would like to know more about Else’s life and career, please see this article this article.

This book is about “ensuring Idealism meets Realism in a productive way.”  It is easy to read about Waldorf education, and so much different in practice when you are trying to teach (whether one child at home or thirty children in a classroom).  As a Waldorf teacher, we create moments of learning out of our own creative forces.  Whilst we can gleam examples and ideas in the pages of a book or a curriculum, we cannot find our own creativity there or the relationship with our own child there.  As a teacher, Continue reading

Let’s Read: Simplicity Parenting

 

 

We are up to Chapter Six in Kim John Payne’s “Simplicity Parenting” entitled, “Filtering Out the Adult World”. This is my favorite chapter in this book for so many reasons.  It really sums up to me the difficulties with parenting in this day and age and gives some great concrete suggestions for parenting.  The chapter begins with the story of a mother and how she said her feelings toward motherhood could be summed up with the word, “worry”.  The author goes on to detail stories of parents where the parents are wondering if their children are being tended to enough by coaches or teachers.  He doesn’t address homeschooling families, but I think worry can be doubled in homeschooling families where parenting and teaching hats are shared!

 

“Worry and concern are sewn into the cloth of parenting; they’re integral parts of the experience…..Worry may be an aspect of parenthood, but it shouldn’t define it.  When it rises to the top of our emotions, coloring the waters of our relationship with our children, something is not right.”

 

Simplifying the daily life of both you and your child often helps in decreasing worry and anxiety.  However, another place to simplify may be just how involved we are with our children.  Societal pressure has turned some parents into helicopter parents; and it is not just in the United States but all over the world.  Here is an interesting article from the NY Times about the “the cure for hyper-parenting” and how “hyper-parenting” is occurring all over the world.

 

Kim John Payne’s suggestions include: Continue reading

How Old Are You?

 

I had a wonderful week last week visiting St. George Island in Florida.  We did the typical beach things – built sand masterpieces (not castles, but mainly sea turtles and mermaids), jumped and dived in the waves, flew kites, walked to the lighthouse on the island, shopped a little (only a few stores), played board games, ate seafood and otherwise relaxed, rested and read a lot of books.   It was a much needed break and time to be together as a family.

It also gave me some time to look at the feelings I have been carrying around this school term.  I adore homeschooling, but I  have lately been more wanting more time to myself, .  I have vacillated between feeling a bit resentful of not having more time to myself and then thinking what would I  even do with this time –   a vocation?  a job? a midlife crisis? (Insert cheeky grin here).   I love homeschooling, adore it, but  often what I want is a few hours a day where I am not on call so to speak and can devote time to my own interests without any of the outside world intruding.  I have  also had this same conversation with many veteran homeschooling mothers, and I know many other homeschooling mothers feel this way (especially, it seems,  those of us in our mid-40s).

I wonder if this is partially just midlife – that strange time and feeling where you wonder is this what life is?  What different path would have taken me somewhere else?  Where is the future really headed?  In past generations, many women had children earlier and often their children were headed off to lives of their own by the time a woman hit her mid-40s.   At this point, a woman really had the time to re-discover herself.  My mother- in- law remarked to me awhile ago that most women in her generation hit menopause by their early 40’s (ie, when she was 40, many of her friends were already menopausal), another sign that life was taking a different turn than previously. Contrast that to this day and age when so many of us in our mid-40s are still in the trenches raising small children or even having babies.  So, part of me wonders if this is programmed from the past – this need to re-discover one’s self apart from children – and if we as a generation are not yet caught up yet  to the reality of having children later.   I feel for me as if these thoughts and feelings started with the seven year cycle that began around age 42, but now is in full swing at age 44.  I keep being drawn back to the words of Betty Staley’s book “Tapestries” about the years 42-49 here.  here..  I am even looking into the years ahead ahead.

Sometimes I also wonder if  this feeling of wanting more and needing to be alone something specific to homeschooling mothers?  We spend so much time and energy as a homeschooling family on our children (and hopefully on our spouses as well, but I guess that is a whole different post!); perhaps it is only natural after some time to feel or want a bit more for oneself.    I don’t feel like a “veteran” homeschooler by any means, but my oldest is in seventh grade and we have been at this for some time without any interruptions.  Perhaps this stage of homeschooling  just contributes to restlessness in general?

I don’t feel burned out or worn out, just thoughtful about the developmental process in adults.  Where are you, and just you alone, these days in your thoughts and feelings?  How old are you and do you think that plays into how you are feeling and what you are wanting at this point in your life?

Love,
Carrie