The Type of Family That Thrives in Waldorf Homeschooling

 

(This is geared specifically to preschool/kindergarten ages)

Some Waldorf schools will send out a letter to parents of prospective children ages 3-6 to explain the goals of a Waldorf Kindergarten:  to nurture a sense of wonder and curiosity, to instill confidence and discipline, and to encourage reverence for a world that is good.  Letters such as these also often mention children that thrive in a Waldorf preschool/kindergarten environment may share certain traits.  For example, this may include little to no media exposure, healthy sleep rhythm, the ability to follow and comply with teacher’s directions, being independent in the bathroom, etc.

 

I have been mulling this over quite a bit. What are the goals of a HOMESCHOOL Waldorf kindergarten?  What kinds of families really thrive in using this type of education, designed and made for schools, at HOME?  I am sure those of you who are experienced Waldorf educators will come up with many ideas!  Please feel free to add to this list in the comment box as I think my list is just a beginning.

 

The goals of a Waldorf HOME kindergarten program, in my opinion: Continue reading

Wrap-Up Of Week One of Seventh and Fourth Grade….. (And How to Handle Life)

 

After I wrote my last post about the first two days of school, I had a comment by one of my sweet long-term readers who asked if every day went as smoothly as those two days.  Those two days did go smoothly, but certainly it is not always smooth. Sometimes it is super rough and awful.  Or one child is having a hard time and it is impacting the flow of all the other children and our day.  That is life homeschooling multiple children.

Part of life in homeschooling is also just life.  This week involved going to the barn, our family attending (and me leading) a breastfeeding support group session, numerous calls and emails and such that needed to be returned after said meeting, two visits by friends to our home on separate days, a run to the allergist and grocery store, a visiting aunt who is here through the weekend to teach machine sewing and work on a  mini-quilting project with my seventh grader (which is normally more eighth grade in a Waldorf School, but this particular aunt lives far away so I am happy to take her up on it now!), (our fourth grader also doing a mini project to help brush up on measurement skills and look at textiles and then will  have a turn machine sewing in eighth grade for her very own),  a husband who traveled out of state the majority of the week, and the pet care of two hamsters, fish, frogs, and a large dog plus meals and housekeeping.  That is all life and part of homeschooling as well.  Especially as your children grow older, they may have more activities or passions they are investigating and have distinctly different needs than the children in grades one through four.   Life may expand outside the home, but being within the home is still the basis of homeschooling and the more you are home, the more smoothly things will run, in my experience.

So, how does one manage life and homeschooling?  Continue reading

First Two Days of School: Seventh Grade, Fourth Grade and Kindy

 

People who are curious about homeschooling always want to know how it rolls with multiple children and how it works teaching multiple grades using Waldorf Education at home.  It is undoubtedly different than a Waldorf school, and yet I feel indebted to the schools and the resources the Waldorf school teachers use as I gleam so much from the teachers and their resources.

We celebrated our first day of seventh grade, fourth grade and kindy (our four year old will be five in October, so this is his five year old year) yesterday.  What follows are two days in the life of our homeschooling adventure.

On most of the “first day of school” in years past our older girls would dress alike in something new or wear something pretty from what they already had.  This year they dressed up in something they already had, took the dog and their little brother for a quick walk (all barefooted) and came back and we took first day of school pictures (still barefooted).  They quickly checked on their hamsters, fish and frog and then came to the school room.  We opened our school day around 8:15 with prayers and confession, and then a reading from “Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends” (Christian book). We are alternating this book in the morning with some of the writings of St. Theophan the Recluse.  Next we moved into singing and fingerplays for our four year old and ended with a story from Juniper Tree Puppets’ Old Gnome Through The Year book.  I had wet on wet watercolor painted a very large background with a pond and frog puppets on sticks that move within the painting and had needle felted a gnome for the telling of this story.  The older girls then grabbed their folders of independent work (fourth grader reviewing coinage in math and seventh grader reviewing United States geography) and the little guy and I went downstairs.  He worked on tying his apron in the front, measuring ingredients,  and stirring with one and then both hands to make a big batch of yellow, lemon essential oil scented salt dough.  After we cleaned up, I took him outside (still in his heavy apron) to hunt for beautiful sticks and presented him with a very small pocketknife. (If you would like to know more about this, please see the writings on the Forest Kindergartens in Germany and Europe, and also the woodworking book for 3-5 year olds by  Master Waldorf teacher Marsha Johnson.) I demonstrated and modeled the use and care of the knife and how to whittle and  he very carefully whittled the bark off the end of a small stick to be a fishing pole for the Old Gnome puppet in our story under supervision.  Once the whittling was complete for the day, I put the knife away in a very safe place. Our seventh grader then took over the supervision of her brother  whilst I worked with our fourth grader.

Our fourth grader began with Continue reading

Creating Your Own Forest or Farm Homeschool Kindergarten Experience

 

I have written about my  fascination with the forest kindergarten/farm school movement in back posts with detailed links.  I recently found this link interviewing Erin Kenny, founder of Cedarsong  Forest Kindergarten.  You can read that interview here:  http://www.safbaby.com/forest-kindergarten-a-better-way-to-teach-our-young-children.

I think the models we have for this  movement within Waldorf Education are places such as Nokken with Helle Heckmann (please see back posts on Nokken on this blog and also this link regarding  farm-based educator inspired by Waldorf Education:   https://www.biodynamics.com/farm-based-educators).

 

The major benefits of Forest School, as listed in the book, “Forest School and Outdoor Learning in the Early Years” by Sara Knight are increased confidence and self-belief; social skills with increased awareness of the consequence of their actions on other people, peers and adults and the ability to work cooperatively; more sophisticated written and spoken language; increased motivation and concentration; improved stamina and gross and fine motor skills; increased respect for the environment and increased observational skills; ability to have new perspectives and form positive relationships with others; a ripple effect to the family.

 

I have been thinking lately Continue reading

Are We Doing It All Wrong?

 

 

Here are some great links this week to make you stop and think.  Let’s all be the change we wish to see, advocate for our children, and keep the momentum I see happening in so many places at the grass-roots level in different states keep going.  This is how change often happens in the United States.  Be the change!

 

Do American parents have it backward?  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-grossloh/have-american-parents-got-it-all-backwards_b_3202328.html

 

This article is a MUST-READ for all parents of small children.  Children do need rhythm, repetition, time to be outside, time to play in an unstructured manner.  They do not need lessons, or rigid adult-created games.   The adult is there primarily to “un-stick” play and to guide, to provide help for the ideas the children create, to have the environment and the rhythm in place.   Read more about the differences between what the differences between academic and play-based preschools bring here: http://www.janetlansbury.com/2012/06/dont-let-your-preschoolers-forget-how-to-play/ Continue reading

Notes for Preschool Planning

 

“I also did not like the word “preschool” since it implies that somehow the learning done before age 5 is not valid.  In my mind, there is no such thing as “pre” school.  In most European countries, there is not even such a word as preschool.  The children attend daycare until age 6 and then start formal education at age 7.  When I attended an international conference, the European participants thought it was quite humorous that I kept referring to our young preschoolers as students.  This showed my cultural bias in that we think of even our youngest children as responsible for measurable learning.

- From “Forest Kindergartens:  The Cedarsong Way” by Erin K. Kenny

 

If you are planning for preschool, (and you can see more about what I think about “preschool” here:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/11/waldorf-101-waldorf-preschool/),  focus on a strong component of rhythm to your days being present together at home.  The things that preschoolers are working on – washing themselves, using the bathroom, the gentle rhythm of setting things up for a snack or lunch and then washing dishes and clearing plates – those extraordinary moments of everyday life is what the core curriculum for preschoolers should be. Continue reading

Guest Post: Learning By Observing At A Waldorf School

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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