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

Talking to Children About Healthy Sexuality and Sex

One often hears the horror stories about parents trying to give “the talk” to their children, complete with mumbling, inaccurate terminology and a look of relief when their child has no questions for them and both parties can flee from the room.

In the United States, 13 percent of teens have had sexual intercourse before the age of 15.  Seventy percent have had sexual intercourse by age 19.  We live in a country founded by people who thought sex was rather evil, and we as a nation are obsessed with sexuality and sex in our media.   It is an odd paradox to say the least.  Our children are bombarded with messages about body image daily.  The freedom of the Internet and media in many families has led the average age of children to see their first pornographic act on the Internet at age 11.

These are serious facts, and the discussions about healthy sexuality and healthy relationships to counteract the messages our children receive every day can only begin with YOU by layering in talks about these subjects from an early age in a healthy, developmentally appropriate way.

First of all, like all things in parenting. these discussion have to start with YOU.  How do you feel about Continue reading

Books About Development of the Older Child

One thing I often hear from parents is that while there seem to be at least a good handful of books about the Early Years (0-aged 7) child, there does not seem to be that many books about development, parenting, and discipline for the older child.  So, today, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite titles regarding development for the older child.

General, Ages 7-14:

  • The Gesell Institute Books cover up to age 14
  • A Guide To Child’s Health by Michaela Glocker and Wolfgang Goebel has sections regarding all ages
  • Phases of Childhood by Bernard Lievegoed
  • The Developing Child by Willi Aeppli
  • Raising A Daughter ; Raising A Son by Don and Jeanne Elium

Specific to the Nine Year Change:

  • Encountering the Self by Hermann Koepke
  • I am Different From You by Peter Selg

Specific to the Twelve Year Change:

  • On the Threshold of Adolescence by Hermann Koepke

Specific to Teens:

  • Between Form and Freedom by Betty Staley
  • The Teenaged Brain by Frances E. Jensen, MD
  • Becoming Peers by DeAnna L’am  (for girls)
  • Education for Adolescents by Rudolf Steiner
  • Kinesthetic Learning for Adolescents:  Learning Through Movement and Eurythmy by Leonore Russell (while a eurythmy book, has great general insight into the stages of the teenaged years!)

Tools to Help in the Teenaged Years:

These books can be very helpful earlier in terms of  your own education and development, but I would not expect the techniques in these works to work well until children develop cause and effect reasoning during the twelve year change.  Read them for yourself and feel free to disagree.

  • Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg
  • How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk – by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
  • Liberated Parents, Liberated Children:  Your Guide to A Happier Family by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

For the Big Picture of Life and Parenting:

  • The Human Life by George and Gisela O’Neil
  • Authentic Parenting:  A Four Temperaments Guide To Understanding Your Child and Yourself by Bari Borsky and Judith Haney
  • Adventures in Parenting by Rachel Ross

There are many wonderful books I have also gone through chapter by chapter on this blog; if you go to the “book reviews” button in the header bar and click, you will see a drop down menu with many different book titles.

Many blessings,
Carrie

The Sensory World

One of my favorite places to visit and check out is the website, The Sensory World http://sensoryworld.com/.  It has a wonderful magazine, and many free articles and resources for parents.  I saw the latest issue has suggestions for indoor sensory play.  I haven’t had a chance to read the article yet, but wanted to put together a list for parents for this winter season.

This time of year is in one way, wonderful, because we are over the often over-stimulating holidays.  However, in another sense, this time of year can be difficult for parents and for children who have sensory processing challenges due to the cold weather.  I am all for having children go outside when it is cold, but it also another thing when I am getting letters from readers in Canada and other places where the HIGH temperature for the day is –40 degrees Fahrenheit.  That is cold no matter what wonderful clothes one has for their child!

One aspect I think that often gets overlooked in sensory processing literature and by parents is that one of the best sensory things to do is not to find another thing to play with or buy (not that these things and gadgets are not fun!)  but to involve children in meaningful work.  Pushing against resistance is proprioceptive input, and proprioceptive input is wonderful for balancing all aspects of the sensory system.

Examples of meaningful proprioceptive work includes: Continue reading

Making Peace With Developmental “Spurts”

In infants, we often talk about “growth spurts”.  These usually occur, in infants, at the age of 3-10 days, between 3-6 weeks, between 2-4 months, and at 6 and 9 months of age.  The exact timetable is up to the infant.  During these periods, the infant may wake more for reassurance, may stool and urinate more frequently, may grow in size/length/developmental ability, may need very frequent feeding and the infant has a higher need to be cuddled and loved.

We often talk about this in connection with babies.  What our society talks about less frequently is developmental “spurts” in older children.  The Gesell Institute talks about periods of equilibrium and disequilibrium that continue from infancy into adulthood.  Every year in your parenting, there will be stages of equilibrium and disequilibrium.

Often the “symptoms” look the same – the need to eat and sleep more, possibly with more waking in children younger than 10, the growth and change in developmental ability (often AFTER the growth is complete…many children are more “clumsy” when they have had a sudden spurt in growth), and the child may need more emotional connection and nurturing.

It is a complete fallacy of our society, a fall-out of children becoming miniature adults in our society, that we tend to view four and five year olds almost as adults with adult regulation skills.  We often forget children are Continue reading

A Special Guest Post For Developmental Friday: The Fourteen- Year- Old Boy

I am so honored to have author Lea Page, a longtime homeschooling mother and veteran parent, here with us today.  Lea raised and homeschooled her two children in rural Montana. She now lives and writes in New Hampshire.  Her new book, “Parenting in the Here and Now”, promises to be an amazing read for all parents.  Her book has a page on the Floris book website here.  This book is scheduled for publication in the UK on April 16th, and will be available from Steiner Books and other bookstores in the US a few weeks later.  It is available now for pre-order on Amazon.  Enjoy Lea’s beautiful post about Advent, waiting, and the fourteen year old boy.  I am so pleased she is here with us!

The 14 Year Old Boy—or—Waiting for Him to Emerge from the Cave

Advent is the perfect time to consider the fourteen-year-old boy. Think of the classic gesture: he withdraws into his room, which he now prefers to be unlit and untouched by any human hand, most especially yours. When he responds to you—IF he responds—it may be monosyllabic.

For parents, this time can be challenging and frustrating. We want him to come out and… do something! Say something! Reassure us that he is…. what? who? The delightful thirteen-year-old that he used to be? He can’t.

This withdrawal is how—in his messy, unmade bed way—your fourteen-year-old walks into the mystery of deep reflection and infinite possibility. The whole year is a transition. It will be, for him, a journey into and out of the Advent spiral. He walks into darkness alone, in search of that single flame at the center. And then he tips his candle to that light and kindles his own. If you have watched a child walk an Advent spiral, you know that they emerge lit from within.

Advent is a time of waiting and of faith. And so it is with our fourteen-year-old boys. We must wait, and we must have faith. And more than that: we must hold them in our hearts with reverence, even when the smell of their socks is staggering.

The fourteen-year-old still sees the world as black or white, either/or, good or bad. He is beginning a journey where he will discover that most of the world operates in the grey area and that there is a positive and negative aspect to everything, depending on the circumstances. It’s all relative. Continue reading

Developmental Fridays: The Thirteen Year Old

(Life got busy, so this week’s Developmental Friday is today!)

“Every now and then, in fact more or less at yearly intervals during the teenage years, Nature puts on the brakes and effects a sudden and sharp turn in the young person’s behavior. So it is for many at thirteen.

All of a sudden, as we have observed earlier at three and a half and again at seven, there is a marked turn toward inwardizing, withdrawal, uncommunicativeness,uncertainty about self and other people and the world in general, almost a slowing down of metabolism.” – from “Your Ten-to Fourteen-Year-Old” by Louise Bates Ames, Frances Ilg, Sidney Baker

Thirteen year olds typically withdraw physically and emotionally, tending to be critical, unfriendly, and suspicious, according to the Gesell Institute books. However, before we despair as parents upon reading this, the Gesell Institute sees these developments as “extremely positive and constructive” and a sign that the adolescent is protecting his or her half –formed, budding personality.    Waldorf Education also tends to take a positive view of the thirteen year old in the throes of these changes, as the book “The Human Life” by George and Gisela O’Neill  points out that the teenaged years are the time when the intellectual forces come to the forefront, but also  that emotional and personal elements also take a role now

Major Features Of The Thirteen-Year-Old Continue reading