Grammar In The Waldorf Curriculum

This morning Mrs. Johnson posted a wise response on her list (waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com – please join if you are not on this list) to a mother.  This is a post regarding spelling/ grammar within the Waldorf Curriculum:

“Waldorf is just so different, often. This is one of those areas.
Here are a couple insights to get you thinking inside the Waldorf box.

1) the spelling words come from the curriculum. They are part of the block, part of the ‘story’, part of the telling you are doing in your story-sharing time. They are not ‘disconnected’ random words. They certainly can lead to word family lessons and discussions to cement and explore spelling and phonemes. So the grade three child is hearing the Old Testament and the Practical Arts block stories all year long and the spelling words come from these areas.

2) the grade three child learns about Naming words (nouns) and Doing words (verbs), most often in the telling of the story of Creation as Adam names each animal as they are created.
You are Rabbit! Rabbits jump!
You are Goat! Goats leap!
You are Snake! Snakes slither.
You are Fox! Foxes slink.
And so on. Simple Naming and Doing, great basis for movement exercises, too.
3) In the grade 4, we begin with the nine parts of speech. We bring this from the Nine Worlds of the Norse gods, the Nine Days that Odin hung on the tree to obtain the ability to write, and the inclusion as we can see for that post-nine year change child of being able to step back and divide things into their parts now….fractions, music, and so on. So we have the ability to divide a bit and that is when we bring the Nine Parts of Speech. But we do this with games and directly from the curriculum as well.
He is Odin.
He is the wise Odin.
He is the wise Odin who sees.
He is the wise Odin who sees so clearly.
He is the wise Odin who sees so clearly and speaks so calmly.
etc etc

Dissecting abstract language concepts into diagrams is meant for the middle school child. The younger ones need to stay in their imagination and in the story of the moment. We can see with each Norse god, unique characteristics that create a personality and a ‘type’. This is also true of our spoken language, each one has a personality and even a culture embedded in every single sound. Some languages do not have all the elements of English, others do. In some, the word order is quite different. In English we say I I I at the first, I am the most important. In others, the I is hidden or unspoken or ignored….

Children can be taught many things. We know this, but it is HOW we bring it that makes it Waldorf or not. Creating images, living pictures, in our hearts before we bring it to the children is very important.

For example….why are some verbs regular and others not? What are irregular verbs like, then> I am, you are, he is, she is, we are, they are………why, they are a bit individualistic aren’t they? Yes, why they are quite independent and not very easy to rule over, they are like the sons and daughters of Moses who don’t really pay attention to what he says when he is not there! They go their own way…and over here, so many good little words….I fly, you fly, he and she fly, we fly and they fly. Good little fly, way too obedient! Good two shoes? Or a good student? Always minds his manners, that fly.

And so we can see, can we create a town or a land where these characters live, some decent and easy to understand, others quite persnickety and rebellious but cute as bedbugs! Little rascals. Well we must make friends with them all, shan’t we?

Yes, bring in the materials, but do bring it on a platter of the imagination and this will create in the child a mood of play and drama and pure fun.
Mrs M”

Hope this brings blessings to you,

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

Where Do I Go Now?

What do you do when you realize your method of homeschooling has been more detrimental  than the goodness you thought it was bringing to your child? Or that your child just has tremendous imbalances between their body, their head, their social and emotional skills?   I am talking about parents of very,very bright children who were reading at age three fluently, the very smart child who is so incredibly “gifted”, the children who are so ahead of themselves and so logical…..

Until the parent begins to notice that this very bright child can relate to no one of his own age at all.  That the child has poor gross motor skills.  That the child is only drawn to books and textbooks and such.  That this child has very little creative ability, is very serious, has difficulty playing.  That the child seems very in their head, worried about adult things, in fact seems more like an adult than not…..

In my experience many of these children do  feel isolated, depressed, anxious – and they are still children and whether they can verbalize it or not, they are looking to you to take the lead, to make it better.  They are still small, they still need your protection.

And the parent is thinking now this child is 7,8 or 9, what to do, what to do?  Can Waldorf education help this child?

My first recommendation is this:  Call one of the national Waldorf consultants for a consultation.  This is important, because  sometimes you are dealing with an out of the ordinary situation, not just where the child is coming in late to Waldorf, which also may have its own challenges, but there may be therapeutic issues to be dealt with.   Here is the link with all the names of consultants I know:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/03/waldorf-consultants/

My second recommendation is to look at yourself!  This will take hard work, change, motivation, being matter of fact and peaceful with your child as things change and they complain about the change!  Can you:

1. Stop talking and putting adult decision making on them?   Do not ask them if they want to “do Waldorf homeschooling.”  It is not their choice at this point.  They should have completely limited choices at this point on life issues.  They already have had enough pressure and the decision making process has worked on their psyche to the point where they are no longer children.  Help them reclaim their childhood by being the Authentic Leader in your home. You set the tone right now.

2.  Can you read some of Steiner and really penetrate what teaching first, second or third grade is  about?  What level these children are normally at in these grades in Waldorf? And there is more than academics at stake here – where are they gross motor wise, emotionally, socially, artistically, fine motor wise?     It is probably going to be very different than what you are used to.    Can you be okay with that while you take a year to heal and to shift toward balance?

3.  Can you be okay with balancing the child without the use of textbooks in these early grades, with the use of outside time, hiking, gardening, being in nature without identifying trees and bushes to death?  Woodworking, knitting, dyeing things, having an aquarium without all the plant and fish identification, having an art farm or worm farm, looking at the stars with the naked eye with Native American legends and stories as the backdrop would all be healing.  Apple picking, berry picking, making jelly, going to the zoo and aquarium (without writing reports or taking one of the those damned nature journals around with them to draw and identify everything by the latin name? just looking and being and seeing how those animals move), swimming, singing and jumping rope would all be very healing.

4.  Can you show them how to play by setting up stations for playing in your home?  Most eight year old girls still like to play with dolls.  Maybe your child has forgotten how to play!  Copious outside time will help.  Can you set up a woodworking bench, a knitting area, a sewing area, an area for art?  Can you work on some handwork yourself for an hour in the afternoons and set up that model, that expectation for your son or daughter?

5.  Think about warmth – less words, stop explaining, can you show your delight in your child WITHOUT words at all?  Smiles, hugs, fun!  Can you as a family go and have fun?  Hiking, ice skating, roller skating, picnics, – is this child’s seriousness coming from you?  This child is small and needs to be joyous!

6.  Think about early bedtimes, consistent meal and snack times with warm food.  Lots of fresh air and fresh unprocessed foods.

7.  Bring in stories to heal your child’s soul – fairy tales, legends, nature stories, stories from your childhood and from when your child was very, very small.  Lots of storytelling.  Remember, the academics in Waldorf can be adjusted to where your child is, but the stories for each grade is designed for the child’s soul development.  And while we would want to focus on what a child needs for that age, and not go backward, I see nothing wrong with lighting a candle and telling a fairy tale at night to a third grader!  Adults love fairy tales too!

8.  Can you bring in music?  The joy of having music as a family?  This is so important.

9. Can you make a big deal about preparing for festivals where school does not go on as usual?  Festival preparation is an integral part of life for the Early Grades child.

Your Waldorf consultant will have other suggestions based upon your child’s needs.  Waldorf is a healing method of education, but it takes commitment and a matter of fact peaceful kind of energy.

Peace and may goodness go with you,

Carrie