Top Ten Ways to Make Waldorf Homeschooling Work For Your Family

I see many families who start along the path of Waldorf homeschooling.  Some embrace it fully, some families weave in and out of it for quite some time.  Some families choose to go a different path, some go a different path and then steer back towards Waldorf homeschooling around the time their children go through the development shifts of ages nine and ten.  And yes, some become absolute haters of Waldorf education, which I frankly feel many times is not due to Waldorf education in and of itself, but how that family approached it all.  Are there ways to avoid pitfalls in Waldorf homeschooling?

I don’t know for sure, but I do have a few ideas.  So here are my Top Ten Ways to make Waldorf homeschooling work for you!

1.  Do not get so hung up on the “right and perfect way” to do Waldorf education or the “right and perfect curriculum” that will be the “magic” for your home.  YOU are the magic.    In the home environment, there are few guideposts and roadmaps.  The main thing is to know development, observe your child and strive yourself, have joy and keep things vibrant.  If you are trying for “perfect” it is all drudgery and you will soon abandon Waldorf Education.

2.  In the Early Years, be  wary and careful of doing way too much way too soon.  Far better to live within the rhythms of the year, the seasons, the liturgical year, your own home and develop those things fully than to spend hours creating perfect handwork projects and charming things for your children (unless creating perfect handwork projects is part of what nourishing YOU).  Do not stress over every little thing trying to make it “Waldorf perfect.”

3.  Remember the  wisdom of the forest kindergarten movement.  I really feel this is where a child birth through aged five or so should be centered more than anything, in nature and in that movement, in the musicality of creation. Around that shift of five and a quarter, five and a half I think is where you can really observe your child and see what skills they still need to develop in order to be successful in the early grades.  You can search “Nokken” in the search engine on this blog and learn more.

4.  Look ahead.  Yes, there are differences between a Continue reading

Waldorf Homeschooling Fifth Grade Reading List

 

I have compiled a reading list for each grade we have been through in our family so far.  This year, I am teaching fifth and second with a cute three year old in tow, and I realized I never put out a fifth grade reading list!  Here is the fourth grade list:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/06/02/waldorf-homeschooling-fourth-grade-reading-list/.

 

Here are few recommendations for fifth, compiled from the appendices in the Path of Discovery books by Eric Fairman and the Waldorf Student Reading List book.  I notice as we move up in the grades, there tends to be more overlap between grades  in terms of books recommended which is most likely due to each individual child being at different reading and maturity levels.  As always,  preview if you have a sensitive reader!

 

Pretty much anything by Enid Blyton  – for this age,  The Secret Seven are fun British mystery!

Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and  Trixie Belden…My current fifth grader likes Trixie Belden better than Nancy Drew.

The Hobbit – my voracious reader really only has been interested in this book this year; she attempted to start it last year but she didn’t get very far.  I wonder if different temperaments would devour this more readily.

I would add in here The Chronicles of Narnia if your child has not read those

The Island of the Blue Dolphins and the sequel Zia by Scott O’Dell

 

These are from the Waldorf Reading List for Fifth/Sixth Grade, we have not read all of these:

Padraic Colum The Children Of Odin:  The Book of Northern Myths

Sharon Creech:  Walk Two Moons

Karen Cushman:  Catherine, Called Birdy

Robert Stevenson:  Kidnapped and Treasure Island

Isabel Wyatt books

Ella Young Celtic Wonder Tales ; The Tangle-Coated Horse

Lois Lenski:  Prairie School; Strawberry Island

Patricia Maclachen:  Sarah:  Plain and Tall and the sequel is Skylark

Rosemary Sutcliff:   Light Beyond the Forest

TA Barron’s The Ancient One (my daughter also read TA Barron’s books regarding the Lost Years of Merlin and enjoyed those)

Ron Jones:  The Acorn People

Madeliene L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time, The Wind In the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, etc.

Anything by E. Nesbit

Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series

The Redwall series by Brian Jacques  (many children seem to find these monotonous after they read the first few)

Susan Coolidge:  What Katy Did and others

Ursula LeGuin:  A Wizard of Earthsea, etc.

The Root Cellar by Janet Lunn

Lucy M. Boston The Castle of Yew, The Children of Green Knowe, The Chimneys of Green Knowe, etc.

Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer

Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark

All of a Kind Family series – Sydney  (these are recommended for Third Grade as well)

Caddie Woodlawn

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

The Golden Goblet by Eloise McGraw

Books by Jean Little

 

I would add:  any books in the Little House series that you deem appropriate, and for botany I would add “Girls Who Looked Under Rocks:  The Lives of Six Pioneering Naturalists” and the books by Jean Craighead George such as “One Day In the Alpine Tundra” etc…some of these were recommended in the Christopherus Botany guide here: 

http://www.christopherushomeschool.com/Fifth-Grade-Botany-Bundle-p/chrb0011.htm

 

There are also, of course, many books that go along well with the them of Ancient Civilizations and Mythology as well.

 

I would love to hear some of the books your children really enjoyed in Fifth Grade, and what you all really enjoyed as a family.

 

Many blessings,

Carrie

Attachment And Individualization

I think as homeschooling families, one of our  main goals is always the connection of the family and how we stay attached to each other in a society that sometimes doesn’t seem to value that at all.  Some of the homeschooling families who read my blog, many of them, are also what has been termed and made popular in the common literature by Dr. Sears as “attachment parents.”

But what I want to talk about today is the development of the independence of the child  within the context of attachment.  I don’t think attachment and becoming more of an individual, more independent and more capable are mutually exclusive at all – we can still be attached but have separate psychological identities.  In fact, I would argue,  in order to become an adult that has a meaningful role within their own family and and as a citizen of the world, this has to happen.  We have all heard the jokes or seen instances of people whose adult lives were totally enmeshed with their parents.  It is funny for a television show, but not so funny in real life.  Enmeshment prohibits a child and an adult from reaching the fullness and freedom of who they are.

I think healthy attachment starts not only with connection, lots of connection and including but not being limited to extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping, but with loving authority and boundaries.  I think if you have read this blog for any length of time I have made that abundantly clear.  I think I have also talked a fair bit about boundaries.  Boundaries, in its essence, is not just how “strict or loose” your parenting style is; it is about how you GUIDE your child to HEALTH as a growing, developing SEPARATE individual.  It is also about creating balance, and creating opportunity for right growth, especially for those children where self-growth and self-development are not initiated.

Separation, to me, starts around the child is age three and says “I” for the first time.  That is the beginning, the spark of recognition that “I am myself.”  I may not know or understand all that means yet, but I am me.  Bernard Lievegoed, author of “Phases of Childhood,” marks this as a stage of self-awareness.  This can also be a phase of negativity from the child; by pushing against the outside world the child begins to develop the self.

It continues with the six/seven year old change.  Some parents write me and say, “My child went through the six/seven year old change.  They slammed doors, said they hated me, said that I was not the boss of them.  Then they were done.”

Okay, but let me put this out to you:  the six/seven year old change, to me, is not just about “you’re not the boss of me.”   It is about finding a psychological identity that is separate from parents – that they have a role in the family or at school, they know what that treasured and valued role is, and that they do  feel accepted and loved but also a bit “separate”, a bit ready to take a view on something…there is a shift toward the child having real opinions about the world, that may be different than the parent’s view, and that in this view that the child has a continuous self and therefore can participate in learning.   At this stage, children in the six/seven year change usually  also are interested in having friends, being a friend, in having community outside of their family.  I think many times this is neglected and not mentioned in Waldorf Educational literature, because the assumption is the child is at the school in community.  I think this is an important point for homeschooling families when looking at the development of their child.  To me, turning outward toward community and peers and not just within the family, is a hallmark of the six/seven change.

This process can take up to a year and a half, I think especially for sensitive children who haven’t had a lot of opportunity to be around  other children, or just children who develop a little bit slower.  They may not be as interested in peers until the nine –year change, but then I have personally observed that that change may be a much more difficult one than the six/seven year change.

I think one way we can gauge where are children are in the six/seven change is to look at their play(see the many, many back posts on play on this site about how play changes during the six/seven year old change), and to  look at their drawings of human beings, a house and a tree.  Here is an interesting, brief look at drawings made by two thousand German five and six year olds prior to school entrance, comparing drawings made by those who did and didn’t watch media, those who did and did inhale passive cigarette smoke, and those with psychological disturbances:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/images/stories/articles/RB13_2rittelmeyer.pdf  There are whole books on working with children’s drawings in Waldorf Education; you can check Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore or Bob and Nancy’s Bookshop for those titles.

For the nine/ten year old going through this change feels utterly and sometimes desperately alone, apart from humanity, out of the Garden of secure family.  They have an experience of self and it is a tragedy; there is no shelter of the family or of being with friends. Therefore, I believe firmly that children who do not have a strong sense of community and belonging built up through early childhood through family, extended family and strong friendships can have an even more fragile nine year change.  Boundaries and loving authority can also make this change better, along with loving connection.  The child is becoming an individual.

From the viewpoint of Waldorf Education, three things are traditionally seen as helping a child become an individual:  childhood diseases, what author Edmond Schoorel in his book “The First Seven Years: Physiology of Childhood” calls “naughtiness” (which made me chuckle!), curiosity, and we develop memory.  One that Schoorel mentions briefly, and that Bernard Lievegoed discusses further is that of the force of antipathy.  “Very often there is the tendency to concentrate only on positive feelings.  This is impossible.  It destroys  the drama, the basic law of feeling.  Any attempt to present only positive feeling results in superficial sentiment.  Feelings are brought forth from contrast and the nature of their polarity…It is not a matter of guarding children  from negative feelings or denying them as such, it is a matter of presenting the feelings as opposites in the correct way.” (Lievegoed, page 170).

I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but I do want to leave you with a few teasing comments by Edmond Schoorel:

  • “Children do not need to understand everything; it is even better when they don’t..It is essential for children to have the opportunity to ask questions; yet they do not need answers on the level of their understanding.  Mysteries are interesting because we do not have an answer.”  (page 260)
  • “When children have too little curiosity, we face the question:  can we stimulate curiosity?  I think that we can do this only in an indirect way.  When weakness has to do with the child’s constitution, we may have to work with movement development.” (page 248)
  • “Naughtiness can be a first exercise in waking up.  With naughtiness, the child turns away from the order of which he or she was a part.  It is a first step toward freedom and individuality.”  (page 246)

And this process of connection to others, and connection to ourselves,  continues as we grow and change throughout our lives. And sometimes we realize, yes, our circumstances and such may have been specific to us, but the tumult of different ages was by no means unique but being part of the human race.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Taking Stock: The Adult Role In Waldorf Homeschooling

Quick: what makes the difference between a “bad” homeschooling day and a “good” one (bar catastrophic events?) The answer, is, of course YOU.

I was thinking about this today.  This Monday was not a good day for us; many Mondays  are generally not a great-flowing school day for us. ( I think this happens in a lot of homeschooling families, don’t you?).    And then this Tuesday came along and was beautiful- circle and singing, two main lessons done by noon, tea and read alouds about Saint Nicholas by the fire, productive, everyone getting along…and I was thinking, what made the difference between those two days?  Was it really the behavior of the children or was it me?

I think it was me.  If I can start the day Continue reading

Russian Creation Poem and the Joy of Learning

I have had a lovely time so far in the second year of my Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy and The Arts.  I feel blessed to be there, and I am excited for our homeschooling group since we have one mother who has already completed her Foundation Studies, there are three of us finishing up this year, and two to four mothers planning to start their Foundation Studies in January.  That seems a significant number for our smaller homeschool group, and I think speaks to the dedication of the families within our group to an education based upon Steiner’s curriculum.

As a physical therapist, one of the most joyous things I have found Continue reading

At The End Of The Teaching Day…

Did I put as much movement as possible into my Main Lesson?

Did I stir a feeling in my child through the pictures, stories and images I presented?

Did my child put forth effort and work, thereby developing his or her own will?

Did we have fun?  Did we laugh?  Did I hug my child and love them?

Did I teach my child something new?  New can also be nuances on an existing subject or theme…

Did I use sleep as an aid to my teaching?  Did I keep reviewing what my child needs to review?  One time is not enough!

Did my children and I do something practical for the nurturing care of our home?

Many blessings,
Carrie

A Little Taste of The First Day of Fifth and Second Grade

WP_000110Folks all over have been posting about their first day of school.  As usual, I am late to the party. We started school three weeks ago in an effort to have some time off around the date we move into our new home.  Here in the Deep South, school tends to start in August, sometimes as early as the first of August, so we were in the company of many children we knew who had already been going to school for weeks!

Our first day of Fifth and Second grade was welcomed by the children, and the older girls insisted upon wearing matching outfits as their “uniform.”  We took a picture of the all the children by the front door.  Usually Daddy takes the children out for breakfast on the first day, but this year he was traveling, so we decided to jump in anyway.

I always start with a bit of review from the previous year, (or  begin with something that we didn’t finish!  LOL).  And I usually start with form drawing.  So, this year my second grader began with running forms.  Some of you may be familiar with a story by Donna Simmons in the Christopherus Form Drawing book that incorporates quite a few running forms for first grade (http://www.christopherushomeschool.com/Form-Drawing-For-Beginners-p/chr0007.htm), and I decided to start there since we didn’t use that particular story last year.

My second grader can have some challenges with spatial relationships, so we warmed up with quite a few exercises where I peeked at overall body dominance and hand-eye tracking, hand-eye-foot tracking and then moved into practicing these forms with chalk on the driveway, walking the forms with our eye on a fixed point facing various directions, drawing the forms on each other’s back and guessing what they were, drawing them in the air, drawing them on the blackboard and scrap paper and then finally placing them in our main lesson book.  We also began a review of math – numbers and counting, skip counting, Roman Numerals, all four math processes.  After running forms, we moved into the mirrored forms typical of second grade with some Trickster Tales from the Cherokee, found in this book: http://www.amazon.com/How-Rabbit-Tricked-Otter-Trickster/dp/0930407601/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346611672&sr=8-1&keywords=cherokee+trickster+tales

Our fifth grader started with some geometric forms found in the Christopherus Fourth and Fifth Grade syllabi ( http://www.christopherushomeschool.com/Fifth-Grade-Package-p/CHR1005.htm).   One of the first forms we tackled was the (not-so-simple) circle.  I garnered some grand inspiration from the book, “A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing The Universe” (http://www.amazon.com/Beginners-Guide-Constructing-Universe-Mathematical/dp/0060926716/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346458910&sr=8-1&keywords=beginner%27s+guide+to+constructing+the+universe).

We started with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson found in the above book:   “The eye is the first circle/The horizon which it found is the second/And throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end.”  So we looked at each other’s eyes, and we looked at the horizon.  What circular things did we see in each other and in the cosmos?

We read the book, “North Star:  St. Herman of Alaska”, as a read aloud for all of us, and looked carefully at the picture of the Northern Lights, such a circular pattern in the painting in the book, and such a grand representation of the cosmos.  We liked it so much we got out our paints and painted it.

Here is the book’s picture of the Northern Lights, and here is what we painted below.

We then looked back at the sky, and wondered at this idea that if we took the trajectories of the planets around the sun, the moon around the planets, the galaxies itself and tracked that around a fixed point, it would also look rather circular..There is a good picture in the “A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe” book…So we painted this (blue watercolor paint over the trajectories done in yellow beeswax crayon):

We dropped rocks into water to look for the dispersion of energy, which to our eye can look like a circle, and talked about other things we could find in nature that is circular.

All shapes are possible within the circle, and one person that came to mind was the great artist Giotto.  I pulled out this book and we looked at Giotto’s famous frescoes and then I told this story:

A long time ago in the country of Italy, a little boy was born to one of the village blacksmiths. As he grew it was apparent he had a certain light about him. He observed everything in great detail, and had such merry eyes and inquisitive countenance that made everyone in the village love him. His name was Giotto, and he helped his family by watching the sheep of the family amongst the rolling hills of the Italian countryside.

One thing Giotto loved to do was draw and paint the things he observed. He was a keen observer, and he could draw things in such a lifelike manner that it would make all the villagers stop and admire his talent. One day, the greatest Florentine painter Cimabue discovered Giotto drawing pictures of his sheep on a rock. They were so real, they looked like they could wander off the rock and start grazing right then and there! Cimabue was astounded, and asked Giotto’s father if he could take Giotto on as his apprentice.

Giotto went on to do such marvelous work and he kept his funny sense of humor and merriness. Once when Cimabue was absent from his workshop, Giotto painted such a lifelike fly on a painting that Cimabue was working on! When Cimabue returned to his workshop to pick up his paintbrush again, he saw the fly and kept trying to brush it off! Giotto broke into laughter and the two had a merry chuckle over the painted fly that was so lifelike Cimabue was convinced it was real!

As time went on, Giotto painted beautiful frescoes on the walls of many chapels throughout Italy and became known as the most important Italian painter of the 1300’s. But yet, when Pope Benedictus the XII contacted him and asked him to send a painting representative of his skill in order to come to Rome and paint for the Roman Catholic Church, Giotto only drew a beautiful and simple circle and sent that back by messenger to the Pope.

Why would the greatest artist in Italy do that?

So we talked about that, about what that perfect “O” really symbolized to mathematicians, artists and theologians alike – the prefectness of the circle, how all shapes can be accommodated within the circle, how the circle became the symbol of heaven and paradise.  We worked with drawing round circles freehand.  Ours were not nearly as perfect as Giotto’s!  After this, and over the next few weeks, we moved into other geometric shapes – the triangle, the quadrangle family- and then into lines, points, and rays.

And we off to the races in fifth and second grade!  We have since move into a block on Botany for our fifth grader and a Saints and Heroes block for our second grader, which I hope I get a chance to write about soon.

If you have posted your first day of school on your blog, I would love to read it.  Please leave a link below.  If you don’t have a blog but would like to share your first day with my readers, please leave a comment in the comment box!

Many blessings on a new school year,

Carrie