Guest Post: Learning By Observing At A Waldorf School

 

My guest post tonight comes from long-time reader Bonnie.  Bonnie recently had the good fortune to go and observe a first grade main lesson period,  a second grade German class and a second grade Handwork class at a Waldorf school. I asked if she could write a guest post and explain what she learned as a homeschooling parent from observing these classes at a Waldorf School.  Here is what Bonnie had to say:

 

My visit to a Waldorf school as a homeschooling mom….

Last week, I had an opportunity to visit an open house at a prominent Midwestern Waldorf School. As a homeschooling mom to a 6.5 year old daughter and a 4 year old son, it took a lot of planning to make this happen, since the school is quite a distance from our house. But, I knew I had to go – I had to EXPERIENCE the Waldorf classroom for the grades.

Just to back up a moment, I should share with you that I have been a loyal fan of Waldorf and its lifestyle since before I even had kids. So much so in fact, that I visited an open house for a Parent-Child class when I was still pregnant with my first child. The teachers were shocked and all commented on how I was “starting early”. But, for me and I’m sure many of you, reading the blogs, books, and curriculums is not enough. I need to EXPERIENCE it – FEEL it – LIVE it. I want to have a deep sense internally of the beauty and feeling world of the classroom mirrored with the ideas and knowledge a Waldorf-trained teacher exhibits and exudes while working with the students – no matter what the age.

Currently, my daughter is finishing up her second year of kindergarten and will start first grade in the fall. I have been collecting information, curriculums, and ideas for first grade over the years and have a general sense of what is taught at this level. I’ve seen beautiful pictures of alphabet letters and chalkboard drawings on the internet and in curriculums, but I struggle with not only how do I bring this to my child, but what does it really look like, and more importantly, feel like? The ages of 7-14 are the feeling years – so this must be considered at some level. Hence, why I signed up to attend an open house.

So, without further ado, the morning of the open house…. I got there bright and early and was greeted by so many friendly parents and staff. Naturally, they shake your hand, make eye contact, and make you feel right at home. They walked me to a classroom where I met Mr. K., the first grade teacher, and whose class I would be experiencing for the next two  hours as he taught the main lesson. He was happy and full of energy. We chatted a bit and then he excused himself so he could meet and greet each child at the door. What I found amazing was that he greeted twenty plus children and every single handshake was not rushed, was authentic, and the child was met with sincerity and reverence. The children put their coats away, took their chairs down from on top of their desk, and then were eager to see the three new numbers he placed on the chalkboard for a “number puzzle”. Once everyone was sitting at their desk, they reviewed the numbers and looked for patterns. After this, attendance was taken. And, I don’t mean the teacher just checked off a name on his attendance sheet or monotonously said one name after the other waiting for a “Here”. Oh no, no, no……after all, this is a Waldorf school. The teacher sang, in a pentatonic scale, “Child’s name, are you here?” And, then the child sang back, “Yes, Mr. K, I am here.” And if a child wasn’t there, the whole classroom sang, “No, Mr. K, she’s not here.” I had goose bumps. Who knew taking attendance could sound so beautiful and magical?!

After attendance, the children stood up and did some stomping, clapping, and jumping jacks focusing on different numbers. Then, it was time for an in-breath. The children stood with their arms crossed over their chest and Mr. K turned off the lights. It was candle time – and a child lit the candle and they said their first grade verse. The candle was then blown out and he played the pentatonic flute, while the children hummed and sang, “Good morning sun. You’re looking through my window….” Once again, I was blown away, not just by their angelic voices but by also hearing singing coming from another classroom. I had read that in a Waldorf school, one could hear singing all day long. That’s great – but, I had no idea what that would feel like at a soul level, especially in a pentatonic scale.

After singing, the children pushed their desks/chairs out of the way and sat on the top of their desk, so there was room in the middle of the classroom for circle time. The teacher turned the lights on, signaling an out- breath. He started to sing, Continue reading

Where to Find Information About Waldorf Homeschooling

 

In the past, many mothers found information about Waldorf Education by attending something at a school, a Steiner playgroup, or attending a curriculum fair at a Waldorf homeschooling group.  It was an in-person experience and it was an experience that perhaps built through a school year or through seasons.  There is something so wonderful about experiencing Waldorf education in person through a group, a workshop, a study group.  It may be at a “school” and yes, school is different than homeschooling children of different grades, but it is not a bad starting point to gleam ideas and understand the atmosphere a great teacher can hold.

 

At some point, gathering information seems to have moved from an in-person experience to an experience of Yahoo groups or forums and then into blogs.  Now it seems the information gathering has moved to mainly Facebook groups.  I am not currently on ANY Waldorf homeschooling or Steiner-related Facebook groups due to the tone of these groups and the lack of information presented in a detailed way.

 

  • If you are truly interested in Waldorf homeschooling and want to learn more, here are some ideas to support and encourage you:
  • Look for programs based from a Waldorf school, a Waldorf farm program or other Waldorf based program where trained teachers could be helpful.
  • You could also look at trainings through Lifeways, Sophia’s Hearth, a Foundation Studies program that has come to your city, or  other training program.
  • You could read Steiner, and look at curriculum and resources for yourself and decide what is right for you and your family after you discern what you are looking for.  In the United States,  you can join the Rudolf Steiner College Library to see even more books, including many that are out of print.   There are also many free e-books available at the Waldorf Library On-Line.  Many, many free ebooks!! Check there before you buy something because you may be surprised that it is there!  Get with other Waldorf homeschooling mothers in your area, and look at each other’s resources.
  • You could contact a Waldorf homeschooling group or even a single Waldorf homeschooling family in your area.  Christopherus Homeschool Resources Inc keeps an international list here: http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/resources-for-waldorf-homeschooling-and-conscious-parenting/networking-for-groups-and-individuals.html
  • I maintain an impartial presence regarding curriculum. or curriculum providers.  Again, some are more true to Waldorf pedagogy than others so if you are looking for curriculum that is true to Steiner’s work, do your research for yourself.   If I use something and I love it, I will say it in my posts on different grades.    Different curriculum and different resources speaks to different people.  Do your research. If you want this path, then you will find places to ask questions and take the time to study yourself.
  • The free files at Marsha Johnson’s waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com are wonderful and show how a homeschooler could put a Main Lesson together,  but I do not recommend any Yahoo!Groups nor Facebook groups.
  • A curriculum consultant could be helpful, if it is the right person for where you are.  Again though, I  STRONGLY feel more that the tools for this path lie within you and less within outside people.  I absolutely will not comment on curriculum consultants because I feel you can do this!

 

If you really want to do this, like anything in life, you can do it with some work and striving.  I have been homeschool planning on and off since February, and I am a busy person.  You can do this too!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Links to Change How You Think

 

Here are a few lovely links to start your week.  This one is about the danger of  children specializing in sports at a young age with many supporting references:

http://changingthegameproject.com/is-it-wise-to-specialize/

 

It is planning time for homeschoolers, and many of the Waldorf homeschooling Facebook groups are full of threads about choosing curriculum.  So, I  love this post from Rachel over at Ducks in the Pond for her reminder that YOU are the curriculum.  In Waldorf Education, YOU are the teacher and the guide.  YOU matter.   YOU are the curriculum.   Here is that post:  http://ducksinthepond.com/2014/03/20/therealcurriculuminawaldorfhomeschool/

 

Reluctant cursive writer?  Try Sheila’s post over at Sure As the World: http://sureastheworld.com/2014/03/25/cursive-writing/

 

Lisa’s post here about pulling in children closer when they are having challenges is spot on: http://www.celebratetherhythmoflife.com/2014/03/pull-them-in-closer.html

 

Many blessings,
Carrie

March: Time To Plan!

 

I wrote a little note about planning for homeschooling back around Candlemas.  You can see that post here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2014/02/04/time-to-plan/

 

This Lenten time is such a spiritual spring for the soul, and such a time for the birthing of possibilities.  In February’s planning post referenced above, I mentioned sitting down with a calendar and starting to plan start and end dates, and to really look at the festivals your family celebrates throughout the year.  I really urge you to do this now if you haven’t already.

Some people make a wheel and pencil in the major points of the year seasonally with the solstices and equinoxes and add in descriptors for other festivals and the months; some people take a large piece of paper and divide it into twelve months and write down the festivals and how the months make them feel.  I also suggest to  go through and make notes of how your children were during different  months and what you could plan as a family for everyone during the next school year as the “glue” that hold everyone together.  Were the children bouncing off the walls in January?  Did the children fight a lot with each other in May?  These things are so specific to your family and to the success of your homeschooling. 

I also recommend that you think back – did you take any field trips?  Did you spend as much time outside each day, week and month that you wanted to?  Did one point in the year end up being much busier and stressful than you thought it would be?  Why was that? What activities outside the home will you cut out or include this year?  What would be most helpful for your family?

Finally, after you think about the months from a seasonal perspective, a perspective of inner mood, and then from the perspective of your children and the overall energy level in the family, I ask that you look at the months from your own perspective.  Where was your self-care?  Did you do anything for yourself this entire school year?  Did you nurture yourself in any way by learning something new, doing something new artistically?  How did you feel holding the space in your homeschooling during different months?  What could be done differently in order to make you feel wonderful during your homeschool adventure?

These are the sorts of things to really think about because they help you make a plan.  If you want some things that are different for your family during this next school year, but keep doing the same things over and over, the outcome is not likely to change.

Observe, ponder prayerfully, and seek change with solutions.  It will come, and the answer is inside of you.

Many blessings and peace,

Carrie

Puberty Part One

Often on Waldorf lists and groups, I see threads regarding puberty.  These threads typically concern the outward signs of puberty, or perhaps issues not of puberty but of sexuality, such as a discussion on what to tell a six-year old or a nine-year old about sexual relationships.

I have already discussed in an earlier post how the development of the child during something such as the nine year change is viewed from a spiritual place that looks at the development of the soul, and how the curriculum and parenting in a Waldorf way meets the child during this point whether outward, physical signs of puberty are taking place or not.

This is one of the best articles I have read regarding puberty Continue reading

The Nine-Year-Change and Puberty

I have gotten some private emails lately regarding the nine-year-change and puberty, so I wanted to write something for this space for other parents searching for support and information during this time.

In the view of Waldorf Education, the soul is coming down into the body.  However, I think the outward manifestation of puberty (odors, even breasts budding or getting hair in private areas) doesn’t change the course of the curriculum, nor really the developmental level that you are parenting in.  A nine-year old is still a nine-year old, whether she has started her menstrual cycle or not.    Puberty is an outward manifestation of the body, but the nine-year change is more an inner crisis of the soul and of middle childhood.

I hear a lot from parents of eight year olds and they are sure they are in the nine-year change.  Well, the child could be, but what I often find is that Continue reading

Time To Plan!

Hello Waldorf Homeschooling Mothers,

We are in a beautiful time of year right now.  Candlemas, February 2nd, has just passed.  This quiet day is a festival that I love and we live into in our home. In the book “All Year Round”, the authors write:

At the beginning of February, when the infant light of spring is greeted thankfully by the hoary winter earth, it seems fitting that we should celebrate a candle Festival to remember that moment when the Light of the World was received into the Temple, where the old yielded to the new.

I have been thinking about this passage for several days.  Elsewhere in “All Year Round”, the authors also wrote about tapping into “much deeper sources of hope and inner confidence.”

So, I feel this time of year is a gentle and renewing time to look to the upcoming school year.  If you are new to homeschooling, you will need to yes, look at your state’s requirements and laws.  You will probably sit with a calendar for a while and sketch out your year of festivals and holiday dates.  This back post may be of service:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/06/10/get-your-planning-on/  and this one:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/05/23/planning-tips-for-homeschooling-kindergarten-through-grade-four/

You may then even start to plan out the blocks for each grade or monthly work and play for your children in the Early Years.  For the grades, I always suggest checking with the AWNSA chart to see what is listed for each grade.  Homeschooling parents complain about this and say, “Well, our homeschools are not Waldorf Schools.”  No, this is of course true.  However, without the schools we would have no models to even really work from as the schools have done a huge amount of work to put Steiner’s pedagogical conclusions based upon the spiritual human being into practicality.  So, I think there is balance and truth to be gained by looking at whatever you are teaching from both angles in  a way – what might be done in a school, what would work at home and taking what resonates with you for your unique child.

Then, you can start to slowly and carefully compile your resources and read them a bit and let them sleep.  You will return to them again in a few months’ time to begin planning in earnest.

Many homeschooling parents rely on curriculum or curriculum guides and then agonize over the best one to choose.  I personally pull from a wide variety of resources, and take each block and make it my own.  Waldorf homeschooling is a vibrant, living path and requires a good amount of will forces from the parent to really make it work.  I wrote a post on choosing curriculum some time ago and I think it still stands:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/13/which-waldorf-curriculum-should-i-use/

This fall (of 2014) I will be teaching seventh grade, fourth grade and an early years child who will be 4 turning 5 in the fall.  These are three separate developmental stages to plan, and two grades with a good amount of material to cover, so I hope to begin now so I can have hope and inner confidence.  I hope you will as well.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Sixth Grade Mineralogy

This is an interesting block to plan and do.  We actually started this block with a trip my sixth grader took to Luray Caverns in Virginia over the summer before our school year officially began.  We also took several trips to places of geographic interest in our state.  I think this is the best student and teacher preparation for this block – to really identify what is in your own state and go there!

The resources I used to plan this block included:

  • The Christopherus Homeschooling Resources “ A Rough Guide to Sixth Grade” by Donna Simmons – free
  • “An Environmental Science Curriculum For Middle School” by Craig Holdrege of The Nature Institute — free
  • AWNSA Waldorf Science Newsletter Volume 5, #10  – free
  • The Living Earth by Walther Cloos  – available through anthroposophic booksellers
  • Roadside Geology of Georgia by Pamela J.W. Gore and William Witherspoon
  • All  About Rocks And Minerals by Anne Terry White (an old book but worth the find) – used
  • Geography From A to Z:  A Picture Glossary by Jack Knowlton  (used)
  • The series by Jean Craighead George “One Day In The (Woods, Prairie, Desert, etc)  (all used)
  • The Story of Salt by Mark Kurlanksky and S. D. Schindler   (all used)
  • Books on fossils
  • Samples of coal – free from Coal Association
  • Samples of rocks for testing hardness – Amazon
  • “Geology and Astronomy” by Charles Kovacs

I took the broad view with this block, which was inspired by the Christopherus Curriculum “Rough Guide to Sixth Grade”, where Donna Simmons mentions to try to “weave” geology, biomes and weather together.

I  mapped out the major themes in this way, starting back with fifth grade botany:  plants —>biomes—> geography /geographic features influenced by —> water, wind, climate —>climatic change using glaciers as an example —>moving into more traditional mineralogy starting with granite and ending with a summary of rock cycle, metal ores and salt.

So, we started  by  picking up our botany main lesson book from fifth grade and reviewing plants.  We spent time outside looking at different habitats and biodiversity of plants and the animals that  we drawn there because of those plants.  We reviewed ecology terms (what is ecology?  what is biome?  a habitat? biodiversity?  a climax community?) .  Using the Nature Institute’s free plan, we talked about plants as food and a what a food web looks like in different habitats and investigated the introduction of the European Rabbit into Australia and other cases in our own state where the food web became altered by introduction of non-native species. We spent time talking about plants as producers, and plants that we eat and who/what are decomposers or consumers of plants.

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That was our first week and a half or so.  During our second week we moved into talking about how plants are found in certain geographic locations in the world and are grouped into biomes.  We talked about succession and made a biome map of North America.  We also started reading the Jean Craighead George series of books (very easy to read aloud, thin with pencil drawings) and our daughter has been working on drawing or painting each biome.  (This project has extended on past when the mineralolgy block officially ended, as have some other pieces that I mention toward the end of this post).

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Biomes depend upon climate and weather (rainfall).  Biomes are distributed throughout the world and are a way we can describe parts of the world.  The other way we can look at the world is through geography.  So we reviewed geographic terms and did some modeling of different geographic forms.  No  landform is static, of course,  and is affected by wind, water and weather. Our daughter wrote an original composition about the water cycle from the standpoint of a raindrop and also drew this in oil pastels.  We also talked about wind – trade winds, equatorial winds, westerlies, polar easterlies, etc in map form and lastly about weather and the five zones of the earth from a climatic standpoint.

The poem “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost became our theme now, and we worked with this poem in movement and copper rods and finally captured it in our Main Lesson Books: Continue reading

Gallery of Work From Sixth Grade Ancient Rome

We have finished a block on Geometry, Ecology/Biomes/Mineralogy and Ancient Rome so far.  We started Physics this week, and still have quite a bit left for the school year, including European Geography, Medieval History, Business Math and hopefully a few weeks to fit in a small block on American Colonial History.  Hopefully we will continue to move at a careful and steady pace through this semester and finish up all we need to finish!

Ancient Rome was a block that I have laid out in some detail regarding resources, and what we read and did here  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2013/11/20/sixth-grade-ancient-rome/  and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2013/12/16/sixth-grade-ancient-rome-2/

Here is the title page for the first main lesson book of Rome:

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I mentioned in a previous post that we began with the story of The Aenid.  This drawing was done completely in hatching, and took quite a long time to accomplish.  There was no outlining at all.  Hatching is worked on in the Waldorf curriculum beginning in the fourth grade, and I think you can start to see the fruition of that technique in these more complex drawings in the sixth grade:

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We worked on maps of the Seven Hills of Rome and painting the Seven Hills of Rome:

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We then moved into such things as “Horatius Keeps  The Bridge” in painting, and the crossing of the Alps by Hannibal:

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We did some black and white drawings in pencil (not charcoal, although we will be doing charcoal drawings this semester) with shading from the book detailed in one of the previous posts “When The World Was Rome.”  In the Waldorf curriculum, it is important to get adolescents to work with grey areas of shading.  The suggestion of drawing from photographs of busts was in the Christopherus Roman History Unit Guide, and I recommend it.  Portraiture is difficult, and really comes into play more eighth grade and high school from what I understand, but it was a worthy endeavor.

Here is our daughter’s Julius Caesar and my Julius Caesar: Continue reading

Sixth Grade Ancient Rome

(For the first part of this block, please see this post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2013/11/20/sixth-grade-ancient-rome/).

I detailed in a previous post how we tackled our first three weeks of Rome, including drawing, painting, and mosaics, along with the resources we used.  The first three weeks also included, toward the end, an assignment to read “The Bronze Bow”, as suggested in the Christopherus Roman History Guide (http://www.christopherushomeschool.com/Sixth-Grade-Roman-History-Bundle-p/chrb0010.htm – however, I do not have this newest version but only the older version so do be aware there has been a revision!)  and we orally discussed this book and its major themes.

So, our major work in the first three weeks included drawing a beautiful Continue reading