Another Word on First Grade Readiness

This article is by Donna Simmons and can be found on Donna Simmons’ Christopherus Blog.  Please see Donna’s blog for more wonderful articles about topics near and dear to your heart as a parent here: http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/home.html  
Here is a link for this special article:   http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2010/06/musings-on-school-readiness-and-older-children.html  

This article addresses not only the six-year-old year but other transition years/grades for older children.  This article is really wonderful, and I encourage you to read it.

For the Early Years section of this article,  I especially and wholly agree with the idea that we are starting children much too early in Waldorf Kindergarten at school.   At home,  we have the opportunity to make the “Waldorf Kindergarten” years the “five-year-old year”  (ie, starting at  the ages of four and a half/five years old) and  the “six-year-old year” (ie, starting at five and a half/six years of age) with first grade starting at six and a half or seven years of age based upon your individual assessment of your child.  I have posts on this blog about the one and two –year- old in the Waldorf Home, the three and four- year -old in the Waldorf Home, and many articles about the six-year-old kindergarten year.  My perspective on the five and six-year old years will be forthcoming.

For those of you with older children, I encourage you to read this article as Donna shares candidly about her high school experiences from her perspective as a Waldorf Educator, now a high school teacher, and as a parent.

I hope you find this article as wonderful as I did…  Donna Simmons has many wise word regarding children and their needs.  Thank you Donna!

Many blessings,

Carrie

How I Adapted “Along The Alphabet Path”

So I wrote a bit about the use of  saints to teach letters in a Waldorf-style for mothers who had asked this question about how to work in Waldorf elements of teaching with a predominantly Roman Catholic/Orthodox focus.  

Now I would like to share a bit about what personally I did when my oldest was in first grade.  Perhaps it will spark some ideas for you and your summer planning!

My oldest was a fluent reader prior to when she turned seven and started first grade.  And by fluent I mean she could read whatever she wanted, so beyond Frog and Toad and all that…People freak out about a situation like this frequently on Waldorf boards and forums, because they don’t realize that the content of Waldorf first grade so speaks to the soul of a seven-year old and the academic skill level can be adjusted up or down.  Also, early readers frequently need the balancing and harmonizing Waldorf first grade provides. 

At that time, I really liked the  “Along The Alphabet Path” that Elizabeth Foss created (see link at end of this post).  I loved Saints, I loved the flower fairies,  but I also liked that archetypal imagery of the fairy tales.  What was a homeschooling mother to do?

Create her own story, of course, in a three day rhythm. 

Here are examples from my story (PS, the Saint book I used was the original one Elizabeth used before she switched to a different Saints book.  I used  “Letters From Heaven: An Illuminated Alphabet” by Susan Kelly vonMedicus.  There are essentially poems to go with each Saint for each letter of the alphabet). 

The Beginning: (we started with Circle Time and alliterative verses for the letters A and B)

“Once upon a time there was a little girl named Lily who lived with her mother and father and her little sister Tess in a far away Kingdom. Today, Lily was very excited – Lily had turned 7 just a few weeks earlier, and in her family, once you were 7 you started training in order to be able to wear a crown…You see, Lily’s mother and father were the Queen and King, and Lily was a princess. But there was no crown to be worn until one was seven.

The King and Queen called Lily into their chambers and told her, “You are now 7, which is a very important age. You will be the Keeper of Knowledge and you will be learning all kinds of things to help you be a kind, compassionate Princess for all the people in our land.

We have a special task for you to complete before you can be crowned. You will travel with the wisest woman in our land to meet 26 of our most loyal fairy subjects. You will learn much about our world and we are proud of you as you undertake this task. We wish you much luck.” And they kissed her.

Lily could hardly believe her ears! What an adventure to be had! 7 is such an exciting age, she thought, and she wanted to be the very best princess she could be and learn a lot. She looked up with her eyes full of wonder and who should she find standing there but Queen Bluebell, the Queen of all the fairies.

“It is time, my dear, to come with me to start your very special task,” Queen Bluebell said. Lily’s eyes shone and then she grew sad. “I will miss my little sister so much,” said Lily to her mother and father and Queen Bluebell.

Queen Bluebell smiled, “And she shall miss you. Please go say goodbye to your little sister and then we shall start our journey.”

Lily ran outside to give her little sister Tess a big hug. She loved Tess so much. Tess looked up at Lily and said, “Take this, and if ever you are scared or lonely, look at this and think of me.” She pressed a tiny sack that fit inside her hand into Lily’s hand. “I shall be happy to see you return once your journey is over, and see you crowned as a princess!”

And so Queen Bluebell and Lily started off on a pathway that went through the Palace Gardens — there were many beautiful flowers there. Lily wondered if that was where they were stopping, but Queen Bluebell continued on, toward a large meadow in front of the woods that surrounded the castle…

“Princess Lily, I would like you to meet a friend of mine – This is the Bugle Flower Fairy.” And there, standing before Lily and Queen Bluebell was a small clump of herbs with purple flowers growing in the shade.

“Umm, excuse me, Queen Bluebell? I do not see a friend anywhere,’” whispered Lily politely. Suddenly, up from the clump of purple flowers rose a tiny purple fairy, a boy with a small purple bugle tucked into his waistcoat.

“Queen Bluebell and Princess Lily,” said the boy, bowing. “Let me be the first to welcome you to your journey. May luck and peace be with you.” Lily fingered the small sack Tess had given to her.

“And every good journey should have a song and story to begin by. “ and he settled himself on the ground cross legged and began to sing the song that all Bugle Flower Fairies sing :(This is from the Flower Fairy Alphabet Book, this is not original by me!):

“At the edge of the woodland

Where good fairies dwell,

Stands, on the look-out

A brave sentinel.

At the call of his bugle

Out the elves run,

Ready for anything,

Danger, or fun,

Hunting, or warfare,

By moonshine or sun.

With bluebells and campions

The woodlands are gay,

Where bronzy-leaved Bugle

Keeps watch night and day. (A Flower Fairy Alphabet, page 165)

And then he said, “Now you shall have your story as well!”

“Once upon a time (Tell story of Snow White and Rose)

** So, there were other things on “DAY ONE” to do in school, but that was essentially the Main Lesson Story.

DAY TWO:

Re-visit  Snow white and Rose Red with child helping tell it in parts, dress up and dramatize it.  Practice writing “B”s in words – BEAR, BED, BET, BEAT, BABY etc.  on chalkboard.   Draw a picture of a bear and the “B” hidden within the shape of the Bear. 

Write a simple sentence on the board such as “The bear was brown.’” and such and have child copy.   A poem about a bear  to orally recite would be nice here as well.  (TYPICALLY, we would only do artistic work here and do a summary of the story or saint for the third day, but I feel it can be a bit different whilst learning letters).  :)

We baked because it was baking day for my kindergartener and  we made B’s with  the dough

DAY THREE:

Recite poem from yesterday, go over b words and read sentences with “B”.  Re tell Snow White and Rose Red  with silk marionettes

Skip the first two pages of the Main Lesson book and on the second page of two page spread, design border with bugle flowers.  On a golden path with stars between the letters, practice writing a line of big B and little friend b’s , think of words from yesterday and add new words that begin with “b” and write on blackboard or sheet of paper.

(Further along in grade, this would be time to draw the picture and if you have an already fluent reader and writer, the child could already be writing short summaries.  You are the teacher, you assess and decide and execute your plan for that particular child.)

Wed – toward end of lesson:  new story – Have ANGEL puppet ready!!

The fairy was very proud of himself for being the first loyal subject to tell a story to the Queen and the Princess. He was puffed up with pride! He put his bugle to his lips, but as he went to blow, suddenly a great light illuminated the area and an Angel, a messenger from God appeared. The Bugle Fairy bowed so low that the point of pointed hat touched the ground. 

“AAAH,” said Lily, who was amazed at the sight of the angel. The light was brilliant and wonderful.

The angle unrolled a scroll and from the scroll he read,  “There has been a heavenly decree that Princess Lily shall hear the story of Saint Brendan for the letter “B”

(Story of Saint Brendan) Use drawing of Saint Brendan with a B for the sail.  There is also a verse that goes with this story from “Letters From Heaven”, recite together and can be left on the board to look at next week and perhaps write in Poetry Main Lesson Book. 

When the Angel was finished with the story, he pulled a beautiful Apple Blossom from his robe and handed it to Lily. It had a golden stem! Lily was again amazed and said “AAAHHH.” Then the angel was gone.

Lily wiped a tear away from her eye. “Those are wonderful stories! Especially Snow-white and rose-red, who were never to be parted…and the Bravery of Saint Brendan! How I wish to be brave as well!” Lily had a lump in her throat as she missed her sister, but as she looked down she saw a bugle-flower in her hand and brightened.

“I will collect a whole bouquet of flowers for my sister” Queen Bluebell patted her on the arm. “I feel amazed at all I have seen! An angel of God!” (Have paper flower with gold chenille stem ready to press in main lesson book)

And she and Queen Bluebell went a little further on…

In Main Lesson book, on first two skipped pages, draw picture of an Angel with Big A and little friend a in one corner and on opposite page, write a sentence to caption the angel picture….. think of A words, write on board, think of sentences with a, such as:  Lily was amazed to see an angel.

Look at b spread on next two pages and be excited and proud. 

**Carrie’s note:  Okay, so there were other things for school on this day, but that was much of the main  lesson story.  

I know a bit more about the three-day rhythm now, and I am not certain this is the best way to divide this up, but it gives you an idea of how to start and create something for your own family.  I have another child coming up to first grade not this coming fall,but next fall, and I am planning on writing her her own story – probably something involving animals and Saints and the fairy tales, unless she falls in love with flower fairies by then..:)

Also, this probably would be WAY too much for many children,  too many tangents of flower fairies and saints and fairy tales, but for a quiet-already-reading- at a high level little girl, it was well-received, and well-loved.  :)

Don’t you all want to know what happened, and how it ended? LOL. 

Thank you to Elizabeth Foss, whose “Along the Alphabet Path” became an inspiration for me to write my own.  Please visit Elizabeth here: http://elizabethfoss.com/ and see her other Learning Ideas at Serendipity.  Readers looking for a direct link to The Alphabet Path, can find it here: http://ebeth.typepad.com/serendipity/along-the-alphabet-path-1.html

Many blessings,

Carrie

Tips Regarding Math in Waldorf Grade One

Hi all!  This is a primer for those of you preparing for Waldorf Grade One next year and the math portion of it, and a few hints for those of you doing Waldorf Grade One right now.

First of all, I think math as very, very important.  I think it is almost more important than reading at this early age because  1 – our society in general is more geared toward alphabet literacy rather than numeral literacy (unlike countries such as Singapore) 2 – the eye fully develops for tracking around age 8, so many of you have time in the future for neural maturation that will improve reading between the ages of eight and ten (and I am not saying do not focus on reading or writing, I am just saying we tend to put math on a back-burner) 3 –there does appear to be a drawing of teachers and homeschooling mothers to Waldorf Education who are artistic, creative, readers and writers but who do not love math and science.   This should make us doubly aware to include math and science in our Waldorf homeschool experiences.

For more regarding Math Phobia please see here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/15/math-phobia-in-the-waldorf-homeschool/ 

Here are a few suggestions for planning:

-For those of you planning Grade One for fall, here is a suggestion:   I like to put the Quality of Numbers block in November before Thanksgiving (that is introducing the qualities of numbers 1-10 or 12), and move into the four processes the week after  Thanksgiving and throughout December.  So, approximately a six-week block on the Quality and Quantities of Numbers.

Then, once you come back from a Winter Break, jump into that third Math block early in the Spring to really practice those four processes.  You could even add a short fourth block somewhere in later spring.  I really do like Donna Simmons’ last math block in her First Grade Syllabus.  It uses fairy tales from different countries to practice the four math processes.  At the very least, it may stimulate your own thought process! 

Another good thing about  introducing the four math processes in the fall is that one can then  practice math every day during non-math blocks during the Spring.  Counting, skip counting, and estimating can be done every day after the qualities of numbers are introduced.

For those of you in Grade One who are  just introducing the four processes this month,  (and I do hope you have another math block to go to really work with a deepening of the four processes), I have some ideas for you:

-Daily math practice for the remaining time you have if you have any non-math blocks left.

-Make your Second Grade math heavy with more blocks based around math than language arts, and to really accelerate math practice.  Practice estimating, counting, the four processes in life, in everyday activities.  There are many resources for integrating math into everyday life.

-Here are Math Goals from Ron Jarman for Grade One:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/29/ron-jarmans-math-goals-for-waldorf-grade-one/

Jamie York says these are Grade One math goals:  (this list is much simpler, Jarman tends to be more advanced.  For greater details as to York’s math goals, please do see his First through Fifth Grade Book that actually has a great deal of detail in it as to progression of learning addition and subtraction facts and more.  It is not nearly as simplistic as laid out here):

“– First Grade  

Quality of numbers.

Counting forward and backward up until 100.

Number dictations.

Rhythmical counting.

Estimating.

The four processes – introduction.

Learning the “easy” addition facts.”

So, I think the main goal for you between now and the end of the school year would be the two, fives and tens times tables and addition facts at least up to 12 to know cold  (and introduce them up to 20!)  Subtraction facts are  usually the goals that hang children up, so put some extra attention to those facts as well.  Movement and games are important.

Feel free to leave me a comment and agree or disagree (pleasantly, LOL) with me!!

Love to all and happy math!  I will post the math goals for Grades Two and Three soon!

Blessings,

Carrie

Readiness for Waldorf Homeschool First Grade

Planning away yet? It is that time of year!   For those of you with six- year- olds who are considering starting Waldorf first grade in your  fall homeschool, this is an important decision.  The standard “rule” in Waldorf education is that your child should have been alive for seven springs/seven Easters  before starting first grade.  I highly recommend starting first grade when your child is as close to seven as possible, so that your child is seven for most of first grade.

There are several reasons I recommend this, and you can agree or disagree.:)  Homeschooling is much different than Waldorf school, as there is no group or older children in the class to “carry” the younger six-year-old at home.   The second  issue with starting first grade at an early age  six, then second grade at an early age seven and third grade at an early age eight  means that you are basically off a year in the Waldorf Curriculum.  The Third Grade’s Old Testament stories are really for a nine-year old, that whole third grade year is to speak to the nine year old change.  The Norse myths of Fourth Grade are pretty dark and are really  best for a child past the nine year change or pretty darn  close to it.  I think the children who are past the nine year change handle the Norse myths better than the ones who have not…just my limited experience.

The last reason for starting first grade at six and a half at the earliest and as close to seven as possible, is that, I hate to see the end of this cycle “cheated” out for lack of a better word.  The first seven years of really being in  the body will lead to greater academic success later on…If parents need help for more ideas for the six year old year, I am sure we can all contribute ideas!

Here are some articles regarding First Grade readiness:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/firstready.pdf

And here:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/Gateways56FINALDRAFT.pdf

And here:  http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/learning-more/articles-on-aspects-of-waldorf-education/articles-by-donna-simmons/first-grade-readiness.html

http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/learning-more/articles-on-aspects-of-waldorf-education/first-grade-readiness-help-your-child-by-getting-the-timing-right.html

Here is a whole book on the subject: http://www.steinercollege.edu/store/product.php?productid=18362&cat=845&page=1

Here is a list and I cannot figure out where I originally found it, so I can’t link you to it; I hope it is okay to reprint it here……

First Grade Readiness Guidelines

 

Bodily Proportions and Characteristics

  • Head to body ratio of 1:6
  • Loss of baby fat and the “pot belly”
  • First stretching growth of legs
  • Waist and neck incisions in the trunk
  • Visible joints (knuckles) and kneecaps instead of dimples
  • Arch in foot
  • Individualized facial features instead of baby features (a child who has not been able to undergo childhood diseases may be hindered in this development)
  • S curve in spine

Second Dentition

Usually a first grade child should have at least one loose tooth.  (If both parents, however, were very slow in reaching dentition, this factor should not be weighed as heavily for this particular child)

Physical Abilities

  • Walk a beam, log (or line) forward
  • Catch and throw a ball
  • Hop on either foot
  • Bunny hop (both feet together)
  • Habitually walk in cross pattern (i.e. swing opposite arm when stepping out with one foot)
  • Climb stairs with alternating feet on each stair
  • Tie knots and sometimes bows; button and zip own clothing
  • Use fingers dexterously (sew, finger knit, play finger games, etc.)
  • Have established dominance (eye/hand dominance most important) though this may not be firmly established until age 9
  • Not be unduly restless or lethargic
  • Shake hands with thumb separated from fingers rather than offering the whole hand

Social/Emotional Development

School ready child develops feelings for others’ needs – social awareness, doing things for others, goal oriented play – planning, thinking things out; does not need objects in play (can now visualize play rather than needing to collect many items as younger children did; this shows separation of concept – the inner world – from precept – the outer world); begins long term friendships; play of horses and dogs (shows readiness for authority of first grade, obeying a master”)

Other social/emotional abilities:

  • Ability to join in offered activities
  • Ability to look after own eating, drinking, washing and toileting needs
  • Ability to share a teacher’s or parent’s attention and wait for a turn
  • Ability to follow instructions and carry through a task or activity
  • Not unduly dependent on a security item (thumb sucking, blanket, etc.)
  • Not regularly the aggressor or victim; accepted by most other children

Drawing and Painting

Conscious goal in drawing pictures

In painting becomes goal conscious, attempts forms or special effects such as dots; paintings become stiffer, less beautiful for a time but may free up again a child consciously discovers how to mix and blend colors and develops designs or forms appropriate to the medium; symmetrical designs similar to crayon drawings may appear

Content of Picture (Primarily Drawings)

Two-fold symmetry, indicating that two-fold function of the brain has come about; symmetrical houses, often with a tree or flower on each side; symmetrical designs in which the paper is divided into halves; symmetrical color arrangements

Change of teeth pictures, containing horizontal repetitions such as birds flying, rows of mountains, etc. reminiscent of rows of teeth

Strip of sky and earth, showing child’s awareness of above and below, rather than the child’s feeling of wholeness

Use of the diagonal (related to perspective).  Frequently seen in triangle form of roof or in drawing of stairs

Square form in base of house

Windows with crosses

Chimney with smoke (birth of the etheric)

People and houses resting on grass at bottom of the page

Soul Life

Signs of First Grade readiness in the WILL

Conscious goals appear in play, drawing, handwork; consciousness of self as creator results in awareness of the distinction between inner (desire) and outer (result).  At “first puberty” this leads to characteristic feelings of loneliness and inability which may be expressed as “I’m bored.”  This is an important stage, as it leads to the basis for natural respect which is to be found in the grade school years – the realization by the child that there are some things he can’t yet do as well as an adult.

Use of limbs is vigorous, active; the child likes to move furniture and heavy stumps and use all available play cloths

The child likes to run errands (again, goal consciousness)

Signs of First Grade Readiness in the FEELING LIFE

  • Stormy period of first puberty proceeding to more calm; can handle feelings better, needs less adult intervention
  • Wrapping of objects as gifts (child “wraps himself around the object”)
  • Loves humor, limericks, rhymes, play on words, silly words
  • May say verse faster than the rest of the group, or hold note longer at end of song (is beginning to grow aware in the realm of rhythm)
  • Likes to whisper, have secrets (distinction between inner and outer)
  • May like to tell of dreams (souls has made a step inwardly), awareness of inner and outer life.  (Be careful this isn’t imitation of adults or just telling a story; don’t question children about dreams.)

Signs of First Grade Readiness in the THINKING/COGNITIVE REALM

  • Development of causal thinking (use of “if”, “because”, and “therefore”, for example).  “If I tie these strings together, they will reach the play stand.” Also shown in the wish to tie things together with yarn (signs of tying thoughts together shows causal thinking)
  • Correct use of verb tense (“I stood”, not “I standed”)
  • Enjoys cunning, planning and scheming
  • Enjoys humor and making up or repeating simple riddles (typical for this age mentality is “Why was the cook mean?”  “Because he beat the eggs and whipped the cream.”)  It is best that the teacher not introduce real riddles at this stage; they are appropriate for older children 
  • Memory becomes conscious; children can, at will or upon request, repeat songs and stories with accuracy
  • Speaks fluently and clearly and can express ideas easily and fully
  • Can concentrate on a chosen task for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Image formation is no longer dependent on objects in play, but can visualize (e.g. may build a house and then, instead of collecting dishes, food, etc., may simply talk through the play).  Conversations and discussions among the children become important to them.
  • Appearance of “real: questions (not the typical younger child’s constant asking of “why” or other questions for the sake of asking)

                                                                                                                                Detroit Waldorf School, 1999                                                                                                                               

My personal  rule is that a child should be seven for most of first grade, eight for most of second, etc and if one must start in January, then aren’t we glad to be homeschooling? LOL.

This is such a really important question, so please think about this carefully.  If you need help, I suggest you arrange a phone consultation with one of the national Waldorf homeschool  consultants  – I recommend Christopherus Homeschool Resources or A Little Garden Flower.

Regarding Waldorf and Reading

Please read on for some encouraging words for folks with both early readers and those who have later readers….

People get very, very wrapped up in our society about reading.  Reading is very important, to be sure, (I have a journalism degree!)   but I hear from mothers all the time who either believe that bringing in reading prematurely is the right thing to do, or from mothers who are following a Waldorf model and their children have taught themselves to read and now they are saying to me, “But Carrie, I can’t do Waldorf First Grade because my child can read really well!”   

First of all, some  children do  read earlier than age six and a half or seven.  Of course!  This is not to be discouraged per se, but in these cases, we must be sure to look at the holistic development of the child first.  For example, can your early reader ride a bike with training wheels?  Without training wheels?  Can your child swim independently with your supervision?  Can your child do the monkey bars with just your supervision?  Does your child know by heart many poems, verses and songs?  Can your child sing and display a sense of rhythm in music?  Can they gallop, skip, hop on one foot?  How is their endurance for activities and  how is their sleeping?  Attention span?  Can they bake, garden, order things, dance?  How are they in social situations with other children?  How are they with adults?     I will write a post on First Grade Readiness in the future!

And I am not saying this to knock an early reader at all!  I have an early reader myself, who could read anything she wanted to read, adult books and newspapers included, at an early age. This is typically the case with children who truly teach themselves to do it.  They just can do it.  We just want to ensure balance!

There is one  issue that I see to be significant  though.  By MOST curriculums, not just Waldorf, the children in First and Second Grade are typically reading Frog and Toad and those sorts of books.  Waldorf at home can certainly involve these types of books.  There is in general a difficulty when your children truly are very fluent readers, that they are beyond those beginner reader kinds of books, there is not much for them to read.  A true “I taught myself how to read” kind of five year old typically goes from reading something simple to being able to read whatever they want (newspaper, portions of grown-up books) quickly.  They are so far beyond Frog and Toad and other books, they want thick books to read, and most of those books are for children much, much older so the themes are much older.

So, I think if you truly have an early reader, you can limit the books and the reading time in general  in the under-7 years until their maturity and understanding can catch up with their ability to read and not feel badly about it.  Some would say, well, you can explain it all to them!  You can go over vocabulary with them!  Why?  First of all, they should be laying that foundation of experience in ALL areas of life for even greater academic success later on!  If they can truly read, they are still reading, they are not going to forget how to read just because they are not reading novels!  And,   It is not all just about reading!  What about math? I personally would rather see a child move ahead in math and numeral literacy, than reading, but in American society we put so much emphasis on reading, almost to the exclusion of other things.  Second of all, if the themes are just too mature, there is no fix for that but TIME.  Nearly EVERY OTHER COUNTRY starts reading when children are 7, again, there are NO studies that show starting early reading is better in the long run for academic or professional success.  Third of all, from a physical perspective, the eye is NOT fully developed for lateral tracking until age EIGHT, so perhaps those countries that are working with starting reading at the right time are based more upon the physiology of the child than the American system is!  So please stop talking about “delayed academics”!  How about talking about bringing in academics at the right time?!

My other issue in general with these books for even a six or seven year old who is reading is that there are rarely beautiful long, thick books with no pictures  for these children to read.  In Waldorf, we try to pick books for the under-9 year old  that focuses less on an individual protagonist because at this point the child does not feel they are an individual.  That doesn’t happen until the nine-year change and to point that out, that separation of yourself as an individual, is rather premature for the six and seven year old.  That being said, I think an eight- year- old can certainly read “B is for Betsy” and that sort of series, some of the older series of books published in this country in the forties and such.  A six and a half or seven year old can certainly enjoy chapter books if you can find good ones!  But please don’t rush your children into it all, and do not neglect reading to them and the oral storytelling, oral verses, singing end just because they can read. 

In Waldorf, what you are building up in the Kindergarten is that treasure trove of oral tradition.  Then in first grade, it is typically  NOT going through the whole alphabet in order, it is “seeing” the letter arise (certain consonants and certain letter combinations that usually travel together) from a picture, just how man probably invented writing (and then reading) in the beginning. It is going over the vowels, those “heart sounds” and what feelings these arise for us within our language. It is faster than one thinks, and children who can read LOVE to make the letter pictures just like those who are not reading yet.  The children are writing simple sentences to more complex summaries  by the end of the first year.  And the oral traditions carry throughout the Waldorf Grades – there are songs and poems to memorize and recite, drama, lines and lines (sometimes up to 400 or more lines of poetry a year!), there are riddles and tongue twisters and such in opening school.  The oral tradition of speech is very important, then the writing down, then the reading.  Reading for each grade may often include the subject that was the focus of the previous grade, and more importantly,  respects the child’s maturity and soul development and holistic development.

If you need to understand how reading and writing and language arts develops within the Waldorf Curriculum:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/10/history-and-literature-waldorf-homeschooling-grades-one-through-twelve/

If you would like to see recommended reading for first grade, please see here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/10/more-great-read-alouds-for-waldorf-first-grade/   and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/11/great-read-alouds-for-waldorf-at-home-first-grade/

For second grade see here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/29/great-books-for-second-grade-in-your-waldorf-inspired-homeschool/

Many blessings!  Be confident in what you do!

Carrie

Peaceful Homeschooling: Needed Resources For Waldorf Grade One

Here is my list for first grade:

  • If you are not a do-it-yourselfer, you will need a curriculum!  The one I most frequently recommend is Christopherus (Donna Simmons).    If you buy Donna’s curriculum, you will need a form drawing resource, and the other resources she recommends for that grade. 
  • I suggest you familiarize yourself  with the FILES section over at Waldorf Home Educators ( many FREE blocks are there!) created by Marsha Johnson for First Grade in the FILES section at www.waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com
  • See the website www.movementforchildhood.com  for movement blocks to bring into your homeschool
  • THe Christopherus curriculum includes the  stories  for Main Lessons, but you may want some extra tales to have on hand to tell during knitting, gardening, cooking or what have you.  I like the Pantheon Edition of The Grimm Fairy Tales, the book “Hear the Voice of The Griot!” for African tales, and you could also use Slovak tales, Norwegian tales, and any others that suit you!  Use your local library for collections.
  • “Learning About The World Through Modeling” by Arthur Auer  would be important to have to understand the juxtaposition of wet-on-wet watercolor painting and modeling in the curriculum.
  • A flute/recorder/pennywhistle and music to teach your child.  I know Jodie Mesler is hard at work on a curriculum for this year that one could use with a flute or pennywhisstle or recorder – check it out www.homemusicmaking.blogspot.com
  • Collections of poems and versese for the day, season, holiday –  I recommend Eric Fairman’s Path of Discovery Grade One if you can get it used, and again, use your library.  Some folks really like the seasonal Wynstones books, but I think to use those books fully, you really need to know how to read music.  Also, check out Candey Verney’s “The Singing Day” and “The Singing Year”
  • General craft supplies for festival crafting.  I also still think many of the projects in “Earthways” could still be used.
  • Bean bags/silks
  • Chalkboard and lap slates
  • Watercolor paper/ Watercolor paint / block  and stick crayons/paper/Beeswax  modeling material
  • Yarn and knitting materials, a needle for yarn to sew up projects 
  • Puppets/story telling props
  • Nature table and all of Mother Nature’s Goodies
  • Math manipulatives (sand tray, stones, acorns, jewels,…)  I also would recommend Jamie York’s “Making Math Meanoingful” for Grades One Through Five
  • Main lesson books unless you are planning to make your own!
  • A jump rope and jump rope rhymes; a basketball

I feel as if I am missing something!  Please add your suggestions in the comment box below!

Blessings,

Carrie

HELP! How to Waldorf Homeschool With My Grades and Kindergarten Child?

Question from the field:

I have an 8 year old second grader and a 5 year old. We all come together for morning lesson and it used to be that my little one had his own work – puzzles, play dough, stringing beads. But recently he has been joining the lesson, drawing the lesson picture into his sketch book, he’s trying out copying letters and he has learned to write his name. He does not want the other work right now. The reality in our home is that there is no separation when I read a second grade story they both listen, when we do second grade work, my 5 year old is right there. It’s been this way since the very beginning. Whatever work or story we’ve been doing for my older son, my younger son is a part of it too. We share our day and I love that! But it sure feels like everything revolves around my older son. I feel guilty! We already include some things in our day that are geared more toward the younger, I guess maybe I should step that up. And I do get little moments in my day to cuddle or play a quick game with my little guy. It’s hard to keep it simple, especially when I think about the future! I visualize a Waldorf-one-room-homeschool-house where both boys get what they need and feel (obviously!) overwhelmed!

This is a great question, and it comes up so frequently that I would like to address it in a blog post for everyone to see and read.

First of all, take a deep breath.  Part of homeschooling is more relaxed than a Waldorf School, and that is okay because there are many other advantages to being home.  One of the main advantages is that instead of being separated from each other all day, your children will form a strong bond by being together day in and day out.  The other thing to think of is not only is there an advantage for the younger one to see what the older one is doing, it is an advantage for the older one to see and be a part of what the younger one is doing.  So, please do start with a very positive attitude that this is very best set up for both of your children.

That being said, I agree with your caution regarding running your homeschool just to suit your oldest.  If your oldest is 9 or under, I think we must be especially careful to allow for time for the oldest to play, play, play and be outside and to do other things.  A 7 or 8 year old is still small and has energy to get out, for sure.  This is an advantage

Several things to think and meditate on:  How long is the Main Lesson?  I would say for first and second grade one  to two hours is typical (don’t forget daily practice of math as part of your Circle/Opening!).  How many days a week are you doing school?  Most people do four days a week in these very Early Grades.

Where do you put the Kindergarten Circle/verses, Kindergarten Story and Activity of the Day for the Kindergartener?  You could do baking one day, soup making one day, etc either in the morning before you start the older one’s school or in the afternoon.  It should be the type of thing that the child can join in on or not, and that the oldest can participate in as well or even lead a few songs or verses for the younger child.

In contrast, the older child should have several days a week to devote to handwork or playing a musical instrument and not work with a different activity each day.  They need consecutive days to get things done, projects completed.

How active is your Main Lesson?  There should be singing, movement, oral recitation, cooking, painting, modeling, drawing (not all at once, of course!)  The movement, etc are all things a younger child could join in on.  And don’t go crazy, keep it simple, short, “economical.”

Some Waldorf homeschooling families also have a “Kindergarten Day” a week, where that day the Kindergartener’s activities move to the forefront for that day and the Grades child joins in. 

I think too, the longer one homeschools, the more one is not afraid to be “rigid”, in other words, if the children are playing well, to let them play and start school in a bit or go hiking if the weather is gorgeous….But then also, on the flip side, to know when your Grades child really does need to buckle down and get to work. 

As far as a five or six year old listening in on the Main Lesson, try not to worry too much.  Children under 7 are at the height of imitation, and they are imitating what they see around them.    Give them a “Main Lesson” book and respect if they want to draw in it, but also respect when they are running off to play and are tired of “playing” school.  Writing one’s name and copying down a few  letters does not mean they are ready for formal Grade One lessons yet!  When it is their turn for First Grade or Second Grade, they may vaguely remember some of the stories, but the stories will speak to them on a much deeper level at that point because they are at the right age for them.  And your older child gets the benefit of listening in to the stories for a second time and deepening how they view things as well.  I think that is a very enjoyable part of homeschooling!

That being said, though, do carry on with typical Kindergarten activities, lots of movement, Circle Time and other things that nourish your Kindergartener’s soul.  Meet them where they are developmentally.

Lots of fun, good times, and holistic educational progress is the key!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Waldorf Homeschooling With Large Age Gaps Between Children

This continues our vein of Waldorf homeschooling, Unschooling, and “What Does Waldorf Look Like In Your Home?”  Today’s post is written by Lauri Bolland, a veteran Waldorf homeschooling mother who is a frequent contributor to Melisa Nielsen’s Yahoo!Group ( see homeschoolingwaldorf@yahoogroups.com to join Melisa’s list).  Lauri has a wealth of experience in this area and I asked her to guest blog for me and share her thoughts about this area that scares so many people away from Waldorf Homeschooling.

Lauri writes:

I have three always-homeschooled children, with 4 1/2 years between the first two and 4 years between the second two. So they were 8 1/2 & 4 when my youngest was a newborn, and they are now ages 20, 15 1/2 & 11 1/2.

It may seem with that kind of age gap (and considering the Waldorf curriculum) that I would be teaching three separate grades all the time, and – for the most part – that’s been true. However, there have often been many times when I could combine my children. When my middle child was in 1st Grade, for example, he spent most of his time hanging out while my eldest did a 5th grade study of the ancients. (With the toddler in the sling or blocked in the room with us with toys.) My eldest was still a non-writer at that point, and a very limited reader, so everything was done aloud – with LOTS of hands on. My middle child now has a tremendous love for history, and I think it was his sideways participation in that year that inspired it. He still remembers how we constructed the Nile River Valley from sand, dirt, seeds, and Legos – and then FLOODED it – and the grass seeds grew like the Delta grows after the rainy season.

When my middle child was in 7th and my eldest was in 10th, I kept them together for a Creative Writing block and a Grammar Intensive Block, both of which I ran like a workshop. We actually had a blast!

Then when my middle child was in 8th and my eldest in 11th, I decided to do Movies as Literature for English/Literature for both of them. 

True, the timeliness of the curriculum was geared more towards my middle child, but I brought the Waldorf inspired thinking and discussion skills to my eldest – so both were well served. I was able to gear questions and discussion toward the developmental level of each child – which sounds very lofty, but wasn’t! LOL! It was a matter of asking one kind of question for one child, and other kinds of questions – according to Waldorf pedagogy – for the other. I required varying amounts of writing, and graded each child’s work differently. Again, I did a “workshop” type of format with discussion, cooperation, shared writing, reading aloud together, and more discussion. Interestingly, when my eldest began college classes in the Autumn, she said her English 101 class was just like homeschooling in that workshop/discussion format!

I put together a semester long block for my eldest’s last year of homeschooling, where we circled the Eastern Hemisphere (Asia, Africa, & Oceana) as a family. It was my choice to do one last thing en masse before she was off to college. For my youngest (4th grade) we focused on the food, clothes, games and Native People’s Myths & Stories of the lands we visited. My 8th grader focused on the geography of the world, weather patterns, native peoples, and the details of these continents – all “on time” for the Waldorf schedule. My 12th grader focused on the beliefs and the great thinkers who arose from these places – or traveled TO these places. We slanted it toward our faith a bit, as she had already covered the historical and geographical sweeps. She (my eldest) lead the majority of the crafts and the cooking for the other two, which gave me a nice break and allowed her to have some teaching responsibility. It was a beautiful way to end our time together, and one of those times I had to go with my “gut” on what to do, but could still tailor it to the underlying philosophies of Waldorf. I think my busiest year was when they were 15, 11 & 7, and I was teaching 9th, 5th & 1st simultaneously – all very demanding years!

I think the primary trick to working with larger age gaps is to be organized. As a woman, I really need our home and our relationships to be running right, or I feel discombobulated and out of sorts. If our cleaning, laundry, meals and shopping are in a shambles, or our relationships are rocky, I just can’t concentrate on school stuff. So I try to be very well organized in regard to what days we do what, and who does what. Also, I’m a bit of a stickler for the way people treat each other. Because it takes a lot of time to run a household and keep relationships pleasant when children are very little, I had to do my best with the small amount of time left for homeschooling.

When they were 9, 5 & 1, for example, I didn’t have two hours for doing the eldest’s schoolwork, so I had to make it a VERY GOOD 45 minutes at the table. Often we needed to move outside for some studies, or to the living room floor for others. It was so much better for my kids in the long run, and helped me to make the most of our days. Steiner had to do this with one of his students when he was a private tutor, and it contributed to his philosophy of teacher preparation.

My second trick for working with large age gaps is planning out every lesson. I know myself pretty well (I’m weak willed) and if I don’t have EVERY lesson planned out, I’ll buckle. As soon as the kids start to balk, I become tempted to drop it all and go do something fun.

I’ve done it more times than I can count! However, if I have all my lessons tidily planned for each and every child, I can hold firmer.

There have been lots of other times we’ve worked together. Believe it or not, we did daily circle time together until just this year. With older children it was more about doing Brain Gym type movement, memorizing facts or poetry, talking walks together, and doing elaborate (and not so elaborate) indoor and outdoor obstacle courses for each other. This year my 9th grader gets started on his High School work early, so it’s just my 5th grade daughter and I. We call it “Movin’ Time” and take walks, do Brain Gym, Form Drawing, etc.

However, she and I did have a two week color-intensive Watercolor painting block which my college student managed to join us for most of! :)

Very often over the years, I found life overlapped with homeschooling and homeschooling overlapped with life. By being flexible and organized, we’ve enjoyed quite a bit of family-centered (and still  Waldorf) learning in spite of the age gaps between my children.

Carrie Here:  I love to hear the voices of veteran Waldorf homeschooling mothers – they have so much to offer!  So, what does Waldorf look like in your home?  Getting over your fears enough to jump in and develop a relationship with this most healing form of education?

Many blessings, and much thanks to Lauri for sharing!

Carrie

My Little One Is Being Lost In The Shuffle!

Many of us have an Early Grades child (ie, Grades One – Two-Three) child we are providing Main Lessons for in Waldorf homeschooling, but also have a Kindergarten-aged child to consider as well.  The number one complaint I hear is that “my (three to six year old) child is just tormenting us during our attempt to do a Main Lesson for the older child”.  I understand! 

Here are some things to kick around and see if any of it helps:

1. Consider doing your Kindergarten work first – ie, Kindergarten Circle, Kindergarten Story, a response to the story if needed.

2. Consider where you are putting practical work in – is that happening or has your routine of Tuesday as Baking Day, Wednesday as Crafts Day, etc, that you had with your older one completely flown out the window now?  Sometimes using the earlier part of the morning to do that and then coming to the Main Lesson for the older child does the trick.

3.  Are you starting your day with physical activity?  I know sometimes it is hard, because once you get out and walk and ride bikes and such and come back in and regroup it seems the whole morning is gone, but perhaps some variation of this will work for you and your family.

4.  Can your older child be flexible?  Can you do something at naptime?  Can you take a day and go hiking during the week and make up that Main Lesson on the weekend at all when Dad is around to help with the Kindergarten-aged child?  The weekend idea may not work well with a three-day rhythm, but might work well for something such as Form Drawing once a week or wet on wet watercolor painting where you need a more meditative quality.

5.  Can you home school outside?

6.  What sensory experiences can you set up inside?  Can you have an indoor sandbox, can you build a fort for the little one to play in, can you have a sensory table inside, can your little one play in the sink, etc?

7.  Could anyone be a mother’s helper for two days a week so you can get more concentrated work done?  Is there an elderly neighbor who would love to garden with your child during the week at one point or bake?  Is  your spouse’s job flexible enough at all to portion out part of homeschooling your Kindergarten-aged child to him or her?

For those of you who have been there and done that, what has worked for you?

I think the most important thing to remember is that homeschooling is about family first, it is also about flexibility and enjoying some of the advantages of homeschooling has to offer – like being outside during nice fall weather!  :)

Most of all, remember that even the Early Grades are still little (First and Second), Third should be a lot of hands-on work perhaps even more than Main Lesson Book and perhaps we should take a hint from our friends Raymond and Dorothy Moore that late is better than early.  Oral storytelling can assist the whole family, plays and puppet shows and the academic pieces will come..

Looking forward to hearing YOUR ideas on this one,

Carrie

Some Quick Thoughts on First Grade Knitting

My daughter is not in first grade, but our knitting really stalled last year, so she just recently completed a sachet and a scarf under the guidance of a Waldorf handwork teacher who is teaching a grades handwork class for our Waldorf home school group.  I actually think perhaps our handwork stalled just for the reason that my child could start in this group this year and learn such wonderful things under such a fantastic handwork teacher!

  • However,  I  do think first and second grade knitting can be the same sorts of projects, so here are some things I have learned and observed and want to share with you regarding knitting:
  • Consider casting on for the first project yourself and letting the child just do the knit stitch first.  With other projects you can cast on part of it, and your child can do part of it.
  • Consider a small first project, and then a bigger project along with several smaller side projects that the child can work on when they are tired of working on said “big project”
  • Know how to fix common mistakes; it is important to be able to salvage your child’s work
  • Consider the social aspect of handwork and knitting; are there other children around that might like to learn to knit?  Part of knitting is the friendships that form for the children.
  • Do not underestimate the importance of the things leading up to  knitting: seeing sheep, washing and carding wool, seeing the carded wool turned into yarn, the dyeing of yarn, finger knitting chains,  making slip knots, making knitting needles. 
  • Know how to sew with yarn for your knitting projects.
  • Have your verses and songs at the ready for knitting! 

If you have a child in Kindergarten, you should be working on your knitting skills now so you can teach your child come First Grade!  If your child is in the grades, please consider learning how to knit as this is an important skill for your child to learn within the framework of the Waldorf curriculum.  If your child goes to school, please consider teaching knitting to your child and giving your child time to do knitting and other kinds of handwork after school or on weekends.  It is very important for boys and for girls!

Peace,

Carrie