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

Guest Post: Botany In The Waldorf-Inspired Homeschool

Our guest blogger today is the wonderful, wise and inspiring Lauri Bolland.  She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Eric, and their three always-homeschooled Waldorfy children who are now 22, 18 & 14. Their youngest, Gracie, recently published her first book, which grew out of their Seventh Grade Creative Writing Main Lesson Block. Gracie can be found on Lulu here:

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/AmazingGrace

I asked Lauri to share some words regarding the “botany” block of fifth grade, and this is what she wrote:  Continue reading

Homeschooling Fifth and Sixth Grade

Due to a variety of reasons, my planning started much later and is coming along much slower than in previous years.  I am up to planning into March of our school year now, but keep plugging away in fifteen to half hour increments each day during quiet time and take an hour to two hours on the weekend to plan as well.  I think I will be where I want to be in no time!

I thought I would share that I went ahead, and even though I am planning fifth grade, I decided to take a peek at sixth grade just to get an idea of where I might want to shift things around…After all, our second geography block that we were going to try to do in fourth grade, got shifted into fifth, and I already know many folks who put the Greek history from fifth grade into sixth…so I thought I would peek.

Of course, I don’t know exactly what I am going to do yet, until we are in it and I see how things are going,  but it is intriguing to be sure.

My preliminary thoughts are along these lines: Continue reading

The Simple Homeschool

I have been talking to more and more mothers regarding planning for the upcoming school year, and one theme has been recurring:  they want simple.

  • They want curriculums that take into account that most mothers are time-constrained, either by activities or by having multiple children.
  • They want to know that when they spend a lot of money on a curriculum, that the curriculum is planned out.  Most mothers seem to want a day by day plan.
  • They want ideas for the magical parts of homeschooling – movement, drawing, music, painting, modeling, and how to bring the academic ideas to life through these vehicles.
  • They do want academic progression
  • They want to know how to take their spiritual and religious life and help their children absorb that in an age- appropriate way in the home environment
  • But most of all, they want simple.

In some respects, many people homeschool, not because they want to make life harder or to stress themselves out with having more complex days, but because they wanted a slower pace of life that allowed for more time and more connection with their children.

I think simplicity can actually start in planning. Planning helps ensure that you are not doing too much, but yet that some of your bases, especially for those past the age of ten, are covered.  For example: Continue reading

Gathering Love

I was thinking specifically about new parents, and parents of children in the age of birth through seven when I wrote my post “Gathering Grace” recently.

One thing I think about with the children aged seven through fourteen, who really are in the heart of childhood, is that they should be gathering love. Continue reading

Are You Raising A Potted Plant?

 

There should be warning signs for parents on every child in America:  “Warning!  This is not a potted plant!  This is a human being that needs sunshine, free play in nature and lots of movement throughout the entire lifespan!  Warning!”

 

Too often our children today are treated like potted plants. Sterile, not moving, in a pot, watching only one view because the inherent nature of the human being to move is essentially ignored by our predominate educational system, our medical system, and our society at large. 

 

Children of all ages, birth through twenty-one, need to MOVE.  Children birth through age seven should be developing their will, their doing.  Movement also is learning.  I have read research estimates that 80 percent of the brain is devoted to taking in sensory information and deciding what to do with that information.    Almost any long-time teacher will tell you that most children are kinesthetic learners. 

 

We know from current research that school aged children need at least three to four hours a day of true rough and tumble outside play. Heavy work benefits ALL children and ALL adults.  We are wired for it!

 

In a classroom setting, just having ten minute breaks to really move every two hours can completely increase learning.  According to a 2006 study in the journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, children with ADHD who take movement breaks for ten minutes every two hours show a 20 percent improvement in “on-task behavior.”

 

In Waldorf Education, we look at movement to be about a third of our learning time if possible.  We play movement games for math, we walk our forms before we draw them, we have eurythmy and Bothmer gymnastics in the Waldorf School setting, we include folk dancing in the curriculum for certain grades, we have drama and gardening.

 

You CAN do this at home and it will not complicate your homeschool, but enhance it!

 

Simple ways to start:

 

Finally, are you moving in your free time?  Are you cleaning, gardening, working? Hiking and biking and swimming and skating?  Or are you sitting down on your computer?  Just sayin’.  Smile

 

Happy Moving!

Carrie

Rhythm: Part Four

I talk to so many mothers who have children of multiple ages and who are very concerned as to  how to fit in multiple main lessons, or what to do with their children when their ages are spread out between the Early Years and the grades.  It can be daunting, and many veteran Waldorf homeschoolers say that you cannot schedule that many main lessons without going insane….but then how to do it?

Let’s start at the beginning.  If you have a first or second grader, and the rest of your children are under the age of 7, then life should be relatively easy.  You can often think in terms of outside time together, a circle for all, a story geared to the kindergartener, perhaps the main lesson for the first or second grader, nap and quiet time (and perhaps do something else for fifteen to twenty minutes with the first or second grader during quiet time),  the work of the day geared toward the kindergartener but including all, and finish with playing outside.   My friend Sheila has a lovely post about her rhythm with her fourth grader and her Early Years child here:  http://sureastheworld.com/2012/03/18/brass-tacks-my-homeschooling-day/

With two children involved in  main lesson work, I think it is still possible to either put them “together” if they are close in age…ie, a first grader and a second grader could both hear folk tales, but work on slightly different academic levels.  If the two children needing main lessons are further apart in age, then you may want to have separate main lesson times.  Then for other lessons, such as foreign language or handwork, you could combine the children but have them work at their own levels.    I think all of that is possible with only two children needing main lessons, even with younger children in tow.  I think this is the sort of thing you must jump in and try and switch around as needed.  It is daunting when I go to the homes of my homeschooling friends who are not using Waldorf methods and their homeschooling is a lot of workbooks, worksheets, independent reading textbooks, and videos.  Waldorf homeschooling is different, and sometimes only by doing it can we wrap our heads around how it will work for our family and what that will look like!

I will have a fifth grader, a second grader, and a two year old turning three in the fall.  I am planning my essential rhythm to look like this:  Continue reading

Late To Waldorf? Overwhelmed?

If you are coming in late to Waldorf homeschooling or feel overwhelmed and overrun by dogma, I have a solution for you!  Please read the lectures given by Rudolf Steiner compiled in “The Renewal of Education.”  This set of lectures, given to a group of Swiss public educators only eight months after the first Waldorf school formed, is so accessible. The foreword is written by a favorite Waldorf educator of mine, Eugene Schwartz, in which he compares and contrasts Waldorf Education to John Dewey and Maria Montessori’s work and sheds light on the hallmarks of Waldorf Education:  the self –renewal and self-development of the teacher, the balance that feeling provides in education, and the approach of Waldorf education to the holistic child.

Waldorf education approaches the child from four different avenues. Continue reading