Visual Challenges–Part One

I have been receiving a bit of mail regarding visual therapy and what to do about visual challenges, so I thought I would address that topic here.

Waldorf Education, both in school and in homeschooling,  is often known as “that method where the children learn to read late.”  This is true in one sense, as we start academics directly in first grade the way many schools in Europe used to do, and the progression through the first few grades is slower than what we might be accustomed to in the United States in public school.  In fact, it is true that many Waldorf teachers find children, especially boys, do not become fluent writers and readers until ages 9-11.  Many of these children are active, healthy, normal children.

However, I want to look at this a little closer for homeschoolers.  Noted Master Waldorf teacher Eugene Schwartz has stated  in many of his lectures that two-thirds of a third grade Waldorf School classroom typically is reading at a third grade level.  If this is true, then one must believe that there is progress in the first few grades toward reading.  Progress toward reading includes movement with cross lateral integration (more about that in a minute), oral recitation with memory, writing and then reading is being made in first, second and third grade, if the parent is working with the child in a Waldorf way.

The corollary of this, is of course, that if this is true that the majority of children in third grade are reading at grade level, then we also know one-third of the class will not be reading at grade level by the end of third grade.  In Waldorf homeschooling communities, we often hear of children who were not reading, not reading, and then suddenly around the age of 11 or 12 or so the child can suddenly read everything and anything.

So the challenge for the homeschooling parent often becomes one of  – is this just a normal pace of development for this particular child and I  just need to leave it alone or – is there something going on that needs to be addressed earlier?

I think to answer this question we must first look at Continue reading

The Twelve Year Old

Here is the picture of the true physical being of a twelve year old:

The forces of growth now become active in the bony system of the body.  The muscles, which were previously bound up with the rhythmic system, become part of the mechanical working of the skeleton….Limb activity appears clumsy when this process begins, and this is made more complicated by the further accelerated growth of the physical body.  The girls have already shown growth in their height and weight, but now it is the boys who take a turn and begin to make visible changes.  If you watch closely, you will notice that the girls start to develop hips and the indentation of the waist, also the breasts begin to form.  Other changes that are not as easy to see are fuller lips and the cheekbones, which begin to emerge from the skull. – Eurythmy for the Elementary Grade by Francine Adams

Rudolf Steiner talked about how this time, the sixth grade year, is a time where the bones are first perceptible.  The child is moving into a heavier, more muscular, time of development.  In this way, things like copper rod exercises as done in eurythmy in the Waldorf Schools show that the rod is indeed the extension of this perceptible bone and provide the challenge and precision a twelve year body needs.  This year of sixth grade and being twelve is a time of challenge, precision, looking forward.

Many twelve- year-olds seem to detest movement outside of a favored sport or two, but they also seem to love a challenge. Something specific such as hiking,  or learning a skill such as how to paddleboard or kayak, can really fill the child’s need for challenge.  They really need you as a model to get out and be physical, and to be outside and be physical as a family.  They need you to help initiate it all.  In Waldorf Schools, gymnastics becomes an adjunct for geometry (Bothmer Gymnastics).  We cannot bring that at home, but we can do our best to bring in movement and also a social experience, so important for twelve year olds.

So, there is this heaviness of the child on the earth that I just described, but there is also Continue reading

Beginning of Third Grade

I am doing  third grade for the second time this year, and I have to be honest and say it is much more fun this time around.   I revised my starting plans several times almost up until the last minute, so we have ended up starting with Native Americans.  I am so glad we did!

We start each day with a time of the heart as a whole family.  We use the Morning Devotionals from The Book of Common Prayer, we recite Prayers of the People (form three from The Book of Common Prayer), recite Psalm One (because when that is memorized by each of our older girls they will get a necklace with a tree pendant!).  We then usually do Circle Time and practical work for the smallest member of our family, our three-year-old.

Next up is movement and math for my children in the grades.  We play a lot of games, and do a lot of movement to keep going over addition and subtraction facts and multiplication/division tables.  I bring form drawing on Mondays.  Usually I start with a whole block of form drawing, but this year I decided to combine  forms and movement with a block on cursive writing.  One of my dear friends told me about this book, and it was a great inspiration for this block: Continue reading

Games Children (Should) Play

A large part of Waldorf Education includes an actual curriculum for games, that leads into sports in the middle school years.  There is a wonderful book called, “Child’s Play 1 &2” by Wil van Haren and Rudolf Kischnick that goes through what games correspond developmentally with what ages, and I thought I would detail some of this for those of you planning your homeschooling year, or even just for parents who don’t remember many childhood games or what ages they played certain games!

I love this quote from page 114 of this book:  True games are a source of health in which the child’s soul is repeatedly submerged, if he is not to miss our on the most valuable things.  However, this is not the only requirement.  In order to build up and play games and activities which are close to real life, it is important to have a thorough knowledge of the child’s essential core, on the one hand, and the moral value of the game relating to the particular stage of the child’s development, on the other.  The metamorphoses in the child’s development sometimes require one thing, sometimes another.  We should not lose sight of the child and his experiences of the world around him.  In themselves, games are worthless if they are not played at the right time and with the appropriate spiritual attitude.

From about ages four to seven, Continue reading

The Five Things About Waldorf Homeschooling I Want You To Know

I hear from many families who are interested in Waldorf homeschooling.  I do think the home environment is much different than the Waldorf school environment; it is much like comparing oranges and grapefruit in a way. A Waldorf school and Waldorf homeschooling are related with Waldorf Schools giving us a model of the curriculum for the school environment but homeschooling has a different flavor!

It is also different because it is up to us, as homeschooling parents, to hold things – to really create that form for the day, the month and the year.  Parents often become interested in Waldorf homeschooling because it is perceived as gentle, based in nature, the better-late-than-early category. It is those things, but there is more. We often hear how we take Waldorf homeschooling and what resonates about this with us and then it is Waldorf education.  However, I think there is more than this.

Actually, I think there are five essential truths that should be worked with regarding Waldorf homeschooling.  If you can get through these five things and feel like it resonates with you, then I think Waldorf homeschooling could be a success for you! Continue reading

Burn-Out In Waldorf Homeschooling: Part Two

This is a topic near and dear to my heart as there really does not seem to be a number of people blogging about using Waldorf homeschooling with their older children (especially middle school aged and up) anymore.  I don’t know if this is really because there are so few of us left or just that the folks who are really doing it and in the trenches don’t have the time to blog!  (And, as I head into sixth grade, third grade and four- year- old land this fall, I can totally understand that lack of time, so there is no judgment there, just an observation!)

Yet, I feel a need to point out that just because few of these blogs exist (which again, could mean there are more families out there doing this than we think!),  this way of homeschooling does not have to lead to burn-out.  It can become a long-term way of homeschooling, not just for for the “pink bubble” of the kindergarten years.  In fact, I think one can see a real pulling together of the curriculum and how it all ties together starting especially in fifth grade and up and it is beautiful and amazing to see the connections and the way these subjects are so enlivened!

So, my theory is that in order for Waldorf homeschooling to continue beyond the ‘”pink bubble”, I think it is important to understand what Waldorf homeschooling really is.  I think “burn-out” or being worn out with something often occurs when our expectations do not match the reality of what is at hand.  Children are the text in Waldorf homeschooling, but the teacher is the leader in Waldorf homeschooling.   We meditate on the child, we look at the development of the child in a holistic way, but we decide what we need to choose for stories and other things within the framework of the curriculum during the grades, how to work with these things on behalf of the child with help from the spiritual realm.  Again, the teacher works with the child and on behalf of the child,  but is the decided loving authority throughout grades one through eight.   If this is uncomfortable to you, and there are of course  degrees along this continuum, perhaps it is better to say Waldorf Education does not fit your family and to talk about what path is better suited to you. I personally find that a much more honest take than saying Waldorf homeschooling doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work for you, than I think that is okay, and BETTER than okay, because then you are on the path to finding what IS better for you and your family.  Life is too short to not be happy!

Secondly, I think burn-out often has to do with lack of boundaries. I went through some experiences this year where Continue reading

Guest Post: Burn-Out in Waldorf Homeschooling And A Special Offer For Parenting Passageway Readers!

My guest poster today is a wonderful homeschooling mentor many of you are familiar with:  Melissa Nielsen of Waldorf Essentials (A Little Garden Flower)! You can see her website here:  http://waldorfessentials.com/

Melissa is talking today about the topic of burn-out, blame and what to do!  Melissa writes:

I want to thank Carrie for this opportunity to guest post as this topic is close to both of our hearts and it is so funny how it comes up again and again this time of year.  We both felt like it would be a good blog topic.

 

Burn- Out. As a Waldorf homeschooling consultant, I am seeing more and more of this.  More and more moms that I know love Waldorf but some how have decided that it is too hard so they opt for “Waldorf-lite”, falsely believing that is all they can do.   I have taken some heat before for saying that I don’t believe in burn- out. I suppose I should qualify that and say that I don’t believe that Waldorf homeschooling is the cause of the burn -out.

Let me back up. This job is hard. It is dang hard. I think it could be harder than giant monsters fighting giant robots like in my sweet husband’s new favorite flick. It is hard. This job takes work.  I have been mothering for just over 16 years now. Children don’t come with manuals. They don’t know how to turn off on our bad days. They don’t understand menstrual cramps or a fight with our mother. They are just generally happy to be in their bodies and they don’t have a clue why we want them to stop jumping on the sofa or hitting their brother!   In my parenting career, I have been through a bunch – sometimes I stepped in the hole willingly and other times someone dragged me into it.  Each time I climbed out, I got up, made breakfast and we walked on.  I am their rock.  Without me time might just stand still for them.

I knew I wanted to homeschool before I had children. I discovered Waldorf education early on and like most moms that are new to it, I feel in love with the beauty of it.  Waldorf is a delight for the senses for certain! Like many of you, I had no support system.  I had an husband (now former) who was battling wars I couldn’t join him in.  I was alone. I made friends with Waldorf teachers that could direct me.  They gave me all kinds of advice on the curriculum, but none of them had really done this at home and certainly not with this many children. I had to figure it out on my own.

A bunch of children. No manual. All alone.

I learned that Waldorf, while it wasn’t easy, it was SIMPLE.  I learned that simple didn’t have to be easy.  I made goals for each child, goals for myself and then I learned to plan.  I firmly believe that it doesn’t matter how many children you have, you can do this. You just have to want it.  You have to be ready to wrestle some things to the ground – those things have NOTHING to do with Waldorf and everything to do with you.  I found that Waldorf could be this tremendous mirror for me. I learned to take care of myself for the first time in my mothering.  I learned to connect with Spirit in new ways.  I learned that I was a dynamic person, I just had to find her and let her out. We are ALL talented.  We just have to find those talents.   As long as I kept my temperament balanced and my inner work in check, then I had the time to do what I wanted and what I needed.  Sure there were years when it was not so easy, but those times are short.

Be a family with a purpose.

If you read Carrie’s blog regularly, then you know she promotes living ON purpose. Living on purpose takes effort.  It takes a plan.  It takes knowing what you want from life for you and your family. Do you have these Continue reading