How Old Should My Child Be For Dry Needle Felting?

My wonderful handwork teacher Judy Forster noted to me the other day that the control and sharpness of the needle for dry needle felting are challenges that are just right for the physical and emotional changes that occur in middle school (typically 7th and 8th grade). 

From my observations of the development of the child at different ages, I agree with her. I also think there are many, many projects one can be busy with, so why be in such a rush to get to that rather hardening gesture?  This is an important point for Waldorf homeschooling parents who may be guiding their children’s handwork program without having a Waldorf-trained handwork teacher to assist them!

Wet felting is a wonderful alternative, and children in the grades can knit, crochet, macrame, cross stitch (fourth grade, age 10), sew (typically grades six and seven for projects) and do many other types of work with their hands.

If you have small children under the age of 7, I like to think about color and freedom.  The small child should be able to choose colors and materials and turn them into whatever suits the child’s fancy of the moment, whether that be a ghost or an elephant.  They may imitate you, but often they are just a wellspring of creativity.    I remember I had one good friend whose little boy made a whole bunch of creatures and critters from sheets of felt when he was around four or five.  The colors and shapes and what they were called were all his and he loved them.

Even in older children, seeing what colors the children pick and what they want to make is fascinating.   My Third Grader is currently drawn to blues and greens and I feel this is meeting her temperamental traits and where she is.  Color and form is fascinating!

If you need help determining what project comes when within the Waldorf curriculum,, please look at this back post that Ms. Judy Forster was so kind to write for this blog:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/28/handwork/

Many blessings to you all,

Carrie

A Review: Autumn Tales by Suzanne Down

The funny thing about doing reviews is that I can tell you what I like or don’t like about something, but those may not be the things YOU like or dislike.  So, like everything else on this blog, please filter it through the fact that you are the expert on your own family and you will find in your heart what works best or does not work best.  Find what resonates with you!

Onto the review!  This is a paperback, spiral-bound little book of about 38 pages or so entitled “Autumn Tales:  A seasonal collection of poems and stories to be a helpful resource for teachers and parents.”

This book begins with 11 pages of verses that cover all the things one would see or associate with fall:  leaves, wind, farm animals and worker archetypal characters, geese, Harvest moons, pumpkins, spiders, witches for Halloween, apples, acorn fairies, ponies, Michaelmas swords and taming dragons, lanterns, Jack Frost, scarecrows and more!  The verses would be especially wonderful for ages 3-6, and perhaps you could even stretch them into using them for the grades or using the suggestion of movement from a verse for Form Drawing or  poetry or handwriting practice for the grades after the children learn the verses orally.  (yes, there is that oral work to handwriting to reading practice again!) .  I also like the idea of taking these verses and using them as a basis for your Nature Table or even taking the verses and crafting a fine story out of them.  For example, there is a sweet verse about a spider and a mouse living in a warm, snug little pumpkin house all winter that would be easy to make into a longer story.

The stories themselves are: Harvest Moon Magic, Piper’s Wild Plum Pie, How Witchamaroo Became the Pocket Witch (this story is a Halloween tradition in our house!  Who does not like Witchamaroo?), The Star House (great for visits to the apple orchard to pick apples), The Apple Elves, Star Kisses, Mother Earth’s Children, Little Boy Knight (a Michaelmas tale for young children), Why Trees Turn Color in Autumn, How Corn Came to the World, The Wise Ant  and Autumn Bear.

The stories themselves would most likely appeal to the four to six year old crowd, although a three-year-old could follow “Autumn Bear”.   I find many of the stories delightful myself as an adult, so again, I think it would all depend how you decide to work with them and bring them into gardening or seasonal traditions. 

There is one page at the back of the book with some simple patterns for a maple leaf, a pumpkin, a red apple and a mouse in order to make some finger puppets.

If you are interested in learning more about this book, please see this link over at Juniper Tree School of Story and Puppetry Arts:  http://junipertreepuppets.com/books/

I had the great fortune of once attending a workshop with Suzanne Down; my secret dream is to one day go through her puppetry arts training.  Ah, the big dreams of life!

Many blessings,

Carrie

The Story Apron

My dear friend and fellow Waldorf Homeschooling mother, Natalie, has been busy making and dreaming about making several  “story aprons” of different types.  She has so inspired me, and I wanted to share that with you all.

One type of apron reminds me of “The Pocket Lady” from our local Waldorf School’s Holiday Faire.  Essentially, the Pocket Lady at the Faire has a long coat made with many pockets filled with little crafted treats that the children can pick.  My friend is making a simpler version of this – taking an apron with pockets, embellishing the pockets with a beautiful design and filling each pocket with a needle-felted creation or nature item that represents a verse or song for her Kindergarten-aged child.  The child gets to pick the pocket and hear the verse or song that goes with the object.  What a cute idea!  A type of apron that may work for something like this would be this one at Dharma Trading Company:  http://www.dharmatrading.com/html/eng/7559578-AA.shtml  or to make your own!

The second kind of apron that we are both dreaming of making is one my friend saw over at Suzanne Down’s beautiful puppetry blog in the following post:  http://junipertreepuppets.com/story-apron-wool-magic-article/ .  You can see a photo of The Story Apron in action here:  http://junipertreepuppets.com/the-power-of-language/   and more pictures here:  http://junipertreepuppets.com/puppet-story-apron-class/

Essentially, my thought was to wet felt a circular, pizza -dish sized wool for the top, to embellish that with dry needle felting and then to sew it onto a silk I have dyed.    My plan is to make an apron  for Fall, Winter and Spring (ie, our school year) and use those seasonal backdrops for a variety of needle-felted puppets.

Has anyone done this and have experience to share?
This is such a lovely idea, thank you so much to my dear friend and to Suzanne Down for the inspiration!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Waldorf In The Home With The Five-Year-Old

MY CAVEAT TO THIS POST:  I write these posts from the perspective that the one-year-old, the two-year-old, etc is your OLDEST child in your homeschool, without older siblings to carry things… that may help explain my perspective on wet-on-wet painting and other such animals.  You can see the comments below as well…

We talked a bit about planning for fall in a recent post, and I wanted to make sure my mothers with under-7 children didn’t feel left out.  We are up to the five-year-old now!  I still hold some maverick views compared to much of the Waldorf community, so please take what resonates with you and leave the rest from this post.  If you are searching for the other posts in this series, here is the one- and two-year old in the home:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/06/waldorf-in-the-home-with-the-one-and-two-year-old/      and here is the three- and four-year-old in the home:  http://www.theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/13/waldorf-in-the-home-with-the-three-and-four-year-old/ .  If you review those back posts, you can see life is focused on rhythm, bodily care, singing, work around the house, being outside – no curriculums needed, although you may like some sources for verses, Mother Goose rhymes and songs.  I did do a review of one Kindergarten source here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/13/a-review-kindergarten-with-your-three-to-six-year-old-by-donna-simmons/

So here comes five!

Five can be such  an odd age.  It is the age that is considered a “golden” age by traditional perspectives, but many mothers of five-year-olds tell me they are pulling their hair out over their child’s behavior.  I think this is mainly because some five-year-olds are still in the four-year-old “out of bounds” stage, and some five-year-olds are beginning that six and seven-year transformation.  Here are some back posts about the five-year-old in general if you need some developmental help: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/10/the-fabulous-five-year-old/ 

Here is what I think a five-year-old should be working on with Waldorf In The Home:

RHYTHM!  Here is a lovely article detailing a rhythm in a Waldorf Kindergarten by Ruth Ker:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/blessingker.pdf

Meal times.  Think unhurried, unrushed, singing, having your child help with preparation and clean-up.  Use your meal time now to  work on things to develop their movement – kneading bread, using a rolling pin, sweeping the kitchen floor, scrubbing a countertop, etc.

Rest Times.  I honestly don’t know many five year olds who still nap, and that is a shame.  If your child is not a  “napper” at this age, you can still have a quiet time each day.  Your child  may not be able to do this well  on his or her own (although some will happily play with a play scenario you have set up), but this may be a time to read a story, a time to tell a story, a time to sing soft songs whilst massaging their hands or feet, and just dim the lights and be together and rock in the rocking chair for a bit.  You may also catch some down time for yourself at this time or during outside time if your child gets engaged.

Bath times.  Singing, finger plays and toe plays, gentle rub downs with the towel (those textures again).

Outside timeBeing outside is of extreme importance and to provide opportunities for physical movement outside.  If your child is a reluctant woodsperson, try the following posts:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/25/nature-day-number-8-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/  and this one:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/24/connecting-your-children-to-nature/

I think really three hours a day outside is not too much, and you could do more.  It is important.  Some homeschooling mothers arrange to hold almost their entire school day

Participation in household life.  Your very gesture is so important, it should not be you rushing around trying to get the whole house clean in one day!  It really  is about  taking each article of laundry and smoothing it out, folding it tenderly, putting it in the pile to be put away with love for your family. What is important is not only that the child sees the work being done, but imitates that gesture of love and care.  That extends into caring for plants and animals, this is the very first “environmental education” that a child gets with you, right at home.

To this we add the thought that physical work is very important, not only outside, but inside as well.  Can your wee one help you wash lettuce?  Peel carrots?  Peel an apple? Grind wheat? Knead bread?  These experiences are the first form of handwork for the young child.

Music – as mentioned many times, music and rhymes and verses should take precedence at this point over any written word. 

Inner Work/Personal Parenting Development:  The most spiritually mature people should be the ones coming into contact with the youngest children.  This is a very important time for your own work and  development.  If you are anxious, practice being calm.  If you are impatient, practice being patient.  If you talk in a stream of conscious way, practice being silent.  This is a time to develop your spiritual and religious beliefs.  It is a time to become more aware of the things unseen. 

We continue to  work on building up the first four of the twelve senses:

The Sense of Touch: Holding, cuddling, taking baths together, swimming, piggy back rides, games that involve holding hands and singing, wrestling and roughhousing, tickling games if your child likes that, rolling around on the floor together,  being outside in nature, natural materials to touch and play with and wear

The Sense of Life:  RHYTHM, humor and joy!

The Sense of Movement:  crawling, any sustained movement over time such as learning to ride a bike or swim,

The Sense of Balance: RHYTHM again, swinging, rolling, and now working toward more complex gross motor skills – riding a bike, trying the monkey bars and climbing structures,   skipping

If you need to know realistic expectations for a five-year-old, please see here: 

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/29/more-realistic-expectations-day-number-ten-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/

PLAY.  In the imitative phase of the first seven year cycle, your child may very well need some help from you in play without a group around to carry it.  You can see the back posts on fostering creative play and the progression of play by age and suggested toys.

People ask about play dates for this age.  I think play dates need to be structured with the adults doing something that requires taking turns and modeling the behavior you would like to see, and then moving into free play with the adults really in tune as to what is going on with the children (not off chatting in a corner ignoring the children).    I think play dates should be kept short.  If you would like to see more about social experiences, here is a post about the four-year-old I like:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/09/more-about-social-experiences-for-the-four-year-old/  I think much in this post holds true for the five-year-old.  Five-year-old boys also may really not be ready for group situations until they around are seven years old.

Preparation for Festivals. This is a great time to help children participate by DOING, not explaining in words.  There are lots of posts on this blog about individual festivals. 

Art/Creative Experiences

  • Painting –  Some five year olds may do well doing wet on wet watercolor painting  and some may have much difficulty in this  area.  I personally like the idea of starting wet on wet painting during the six-year old kindergarten year, as something special and new for that final year of kindergarten.  Wet on wet painting, to me, should have a very quiet, contemplative and meditative quality. 
  • Coloring with crayons  — you can see this book about Drawing with your child here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/04/drawing-with-your-four-to-eleven-year-old/  And here is an article about block or stick crayons in the Kindergarten from the “Gateways” Journal:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW3606.pdf
  • Carding wool – can be a hit as it is repetitive sensory movement.  You can buy fleece to wash and dry and card it with little dog brushes.  This is great.   You could also consider dyeing with plants…here is an article from the “Gateways” journal here:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW57grant.pdf
  • Sanding wood might be good as well.  Any thoughts?
  • Modeling – I like the idea of modeling with sand, salt dough, snow, kneading bread.  I would save  beeswax modeling  for the six-year-old children myself.  Again, this differs from Waldorf school.
  • Sewing – I disagree strongly with the kindergarten aged child using a needle to penetrate cloth.  I  know that is not especially popular opinion right now, but oh well.   :) 
  • Wet felting is a fun activity for five year olds.
  • Finger knitting – can try with the OLDER  five and six year old.  
  • Other Arts and Crafts – some can be successful, especially in preparation for a festival, but I think for the  most part recommendations in books such as “Earthways” the age range is always put lower than what I would put it.  Why be in such a rush to do all this? Six, seven and eight are still good ages for crafts.

Storytelling and Puppetry – If you have not had a time where you light a candle and tell a story, now is the time to begin.  Pick a story, memorize it, and tell it at least three days a week for two weeks to a month. 

Here is where you can start bringing in some traditional fairy tales.  See here for a list of recommended fairy tales by age, but pick one that that resonates with you: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/20/fairy-tales-books-and-storytelling-with-the-little-ones/  and here:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/20/the-importance-of-fairy-tales/

You could also make your five year old year your Nature Tales year (there are many on http://www.mainlesson.com ) and then bring in more fairy tales in your true Kindergarten year (your six year old year).  And don’t be afraid to repeat stories from year to year – your children will ask for them!  That repetition is wonderful!

My other thought is to create those stories to address challenging behavior.  There are several examples here in this article from the “Gateways” Journal:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW55brooks.pdf

Circle Time is the heart of the Waldorf Kindergarten, but can be a complete flop at home.  I love the book “Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures” (see this post for the review: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/29/favorite-waldorf-resource-5-three-resources-to-help-you-get-more-movement-into-your-homeschool/ ), but at home it can really flop.  Still, I think it is worth a try if you can convince your five-year-old to “teach” your younger child, LOL.  Still stick to the verses and songs you have in daily life, and add seasonal finger plays and seasonal songs.

Hope this helps you as you plan.  Please do take what resonates with you.

What concerns or challenges are you facing with your five-year-old?  Please do feel free to leave a comment below. 

Many blessings,

Carrie

Some Quick Autumn Ideas For Waldorf Homeschool Kindergarten

I wrote a post some time back regarding tales for Autumn for Kindergarten here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/03/favorite-fall-tales-for-waldorf-kindergarten/

I was thinking about that post, and thinking about things I personally associate with Autumn.  It seems as if almost every Waldorf-y resource includes squirrels, chipmunks, leaves and acorns.  But here are a few other ideas:

  • How about a mouse and an apple house?  My homeschool group is getting ready to do some wet/dry felting to make a little apple house with two mice.  I also like the verse in Suzanne Down’s “Autumn Tales” book about  a mouse and  a spider who live in a little snug pumpkin house.  How cute is that for October!  You could turn that into a whole story – practice those storytelling skills!
  • How about something to do with deer in the forest?
  • For those of you at the beach, what is changing with the color of the water or the animals you are seeing?  Perhaps you could reflect that in your homeschool tales or nature tables.
  • I love geese and turkey for November, and notions of bears getting ready for a long Winter’s nap.
  • How about a groundhog (woodchuck) eating apples from the orchard and getting ready for Autumn and Winter?  I saw this idea in this sweet little book:  http://www.amazon.com/BLEST-CELEBRATION-Mary-Beth-Owens/dp/0689805462/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1282352427&sr=8-1   There is essentially just a short poem to go with each month of the year.  I think you could easily turn this into a sweet little story. 

What do you associate with Autumn in your part of the world and how will your homeschool reflect that?

Many blessings,

Carrie

Waldorf Homeschooling With a Kindergartner, Third Grader and A Baby

Yes, this is where I am these days.  Planning away, dreaming and thinking.  And de-cluttering my house.

I saw a post recently on Marsha Johnson’s list regarding doing Waldorf homeschooling with a First and Third Grader;I think one of  the responses was something along the lines of try doing the Main Lesson for the First Grader first thing and make the traditional Middle Lesson for the Third Grader.  I thought that was interesting.

I am trying this rhythm ( below)  this year for my Third Grader and Kindergartner.  Essentially I used my Word program to make a table with two columns with the older children’s names in it because even if one child is working with me on something there has to be something going on for the other child.  Does that make sense?  I cannot leave my Kindergartner to wander about and have nothing planned whilst I am working with my older child, and vice versa.  Or if they are playing or doing something on their own, when that runs out and they need something to do, I have to have something ready to go!

So, the general flow of the day and my chart looks a bit like this:

  Third Grader Kindergartner
Main Lesson

(one to one and a half hours)

Days One through Four here

Movement last 10 minutes or so

Activities to do during Main Lesson, Days One through Four

Movement with Third Grader last ten minutes or so

Kindergarten Story

(15 minutes or so)

What will Third Grader be doing during this time? Listening to the Kindergartner story or working independently? Days 1-3, story, puppet shows Day 3 of last week of story

Day 4  Wet on Wet painting and Bible story

Lesson A (half hour) 10 minutes Movement

plus whatever I put here – math or grammar practice, form drawing, music etc.

10 Minutes Movement with Third Grader

Ideas for Creative Play here

Practical Work (half hour) We can do this together, but I am also thinking:  What can my child do around the house to help today that would be specific to a nine-year-old? DAY ONE-Craft DAY TWO Gardening; DAY THREE Housecleaning; Day four baking
Lesson B

(half hour or so)

Days 1-2

Day four out of house

Days 1-2 Art

Day three Music

Day four out of house

Lesson C (this would be after lunch)

(forty five minutes)

Hands – cooking, painting, modeling, handwork, etc.

Some of this will be done together; Crafts and festival preparation we will do together

Six Year Old Projects
Directed Movement

anywhere from 15 minutes to an afternoon adventure)

   

 

The length of time is approximate, there will be rest breaks and snacks and lunch and quiet time in there….I am not saying this is how YOU should do things, this is just what I am experimenting with.  LOL.  If you are wondering where the whole lessons A, B, C, originated from,   I actually liked the lessons A,B,C that Christopherus Third Grade  had, and I only have two children to work  with, so I thought I would give it a go.  As usual, I am taking some things from some pre-created curriculum and creating some blocks myself and melding it all as I see fit.

This is the big idea though:  the more children you have, the more you will have to integrate lessons and not have things be so separate. There are some of you who read this blog who have five or more children,and I am sure you can attest to this! Your Waldorf homeschool will not look like a Waldorf School with everyone having a separate Main Lesson, and that is okay!  Home has so many advantages, and family is first and foremost. 

I am also making lots of plans revolving around the liturgical year; these traditions are precious and dear and another excellent reason we homeschool, so sometimes things will be pared down to a Main Lesson and maybe one other thing involving crafts or  cooking or putting on a play for that particular festival. 

I hope this stimulates some ideas for you all, I hope some of you will share on your own blogs what your planning looks like to help other mothers.  We are all here to help each other and learn.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Talking In Pictures To Small Children

A small child under the age of seven needs to hear you paint a picture with your words instead of a direct command.  This can really be a very difficult thing for us to do as adults, and as such we find ourselves barking commands (politely, of course :)) at our small children all day long.  “Come to breakfast!”  “Use the potty!”  “Get your shoes on!” “Now please!”  “Stop doing that!”  Even if we frame things positively and say what we do want, the point is that a million times a day we are asking our child to do something.  And when we only use a command, we are essentially giving the small child a chance to think, a chance to decide their behavior, and then we get angry when they don’t do what we want when we want it.  How funny how that goes.

Small children are often in a fantasy, imaginative world much of the day as they play and create games.  They are not adults, they do not view time as adults do, they do not have the sense of urgency that you do.  And nor should they.

A small child lives in the physical realm and in their bodies.  So, to most effectively parent, we must reach to that for the small child as often as possible instead of playing commander, or worse yet, trying to drive the car with our horn by yelling at the small child. 

Here are some examples:

  • Think of animals that involve what you need.  Can the child hop like a bunny, run as fast as a roadrunner bird, swim like a fish?  Can they open their big  crocodile mouths to have all those teeth brushed?  Can you be a bear that needs a big winter coat ?  (And as you say this, you help put the child’s arm into the coat)….It is the imaginative movement plus the physical piece that gets it all done.
  • Can you involve their dolls or their imaginary friends?   Quietly take their favorite doll and start to get it ready for bed and sing to the doll. “ You and Tim (the imaginary friend) can sit right for dinner “( and lead the child by the hand to the table).
  • Can you employ gnomes, fairies, giants, leprechuans?  Today a four- year- old and I looked for leprechuan shoes by my back door….  Oh, look at these leprechuan shoes sitting here, do these fit YOU?  Oh my, look at the turned up toes on your shoes, I wonder if those shoes will lead you to a pot of gold!  How about gnomes exploring the mouth cave for teeth brushing?  Big giant steps to settle into a big giant bed?

You do not have to do this to the point where it is tiring to you, but do try here and there, because I find most parents employ very little imagination with their children during the day and the children really do respond to it well and do just what needs to happen.

Your part though, is to plan enough time so things are NOT rushed.  Rushing is the death of imagination and the beginning of stress.  Please plan ahead! 

Also, rhythm is your friend.  It is in that space to help you and your child.  If you do something different every night to get ready for a meal, to get ready for bed, what cues does your child have for when things are going to happen?  Again, their sense of time and urgency is not that of an adult.  Also, please seriously evaluate how many places you are dragging a small child.  Are these places for them or errands and would your child just rather be home?   I am just asking you to consider this piece of the puzzle; only you know the answer for you and your family. 

The last piece is the physical end of it, DOING something with a child whilst using the imagination and movement goes much better!  Yes, it is tiring that that is what small children need.  But better to do that than to complain and moan and groan that your small child, who is perfectly  normal, is “not listening”. :)

Try it out, I think you will find life to be much easier. 

Many blessings,

Carrie