Fifth Grade Ancient Mythologies and Civilizations

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These blocks are the hallmark and mainstay of the fifth grade experience for Waldorf students.  They are fun blocks and there are many things you could do with these stories and with Greek history ( if you choose to include Greek history and not push it off until sixth grade).

These blocks go through the mythology of Ancient India, Ancient Persia, Ancient Babylon, Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece and then possibly move into early Greek history.  The Christopherus curriculum has a wonderful block on Ancient China; Live Education includes this in eighth grade.

The resources we used included: Continue reading

The Mood of Celebration–Part Two

I have had numerous requests to share my little monthly lists.  I am happy to share one with you, but I am not sure it will be of service to you other than to provide an example.  This is because these lists are very specific to my Anglican faith, and also to the seasonal changes within the climate and area of the country in which I live, and also to what I have available locally regarding celebration in food, events and  place.

For me, the weaving of the natural and the liturgical year is common to our family. So, to plan, the first thing I literally do is get out My Book of Common Prayer and find out when things such as Lent, Easter and Ascension are, Feast Days of Saints, and things that I just know from tradition within my Parish that happen each year.  I also try to think in terms of attending the Divine Liturgy itself, but  also what speaks to that particular season through nature because that is where  I can more show my children in our home what ties this whole season back to the Holy Trinity.

For example, the days between Easter and Pentecost, (when we celebrate when the church was born), is a time I like to think about family.  We are part of the family of humanity, we are part of the family of the Church, if we make a birthday cake for the church on Pentecost, what could we be doing to talk about the Church and family and us as the broader picture of Anglicans around the globe to lead up to this?  (Please remember that I have older children as well, so things are more direct for them than just the indirectness that goes on for a tiny child under the age of nine!)   The idea of family, of living in communion,  is a huge concept, but there are indirect ways to do this.  Or, for another example,  how about the days after Pentecost as a time of growth?  There are many sweet picture books about nature and growth to have in a book basket, many ways to experience a beautiful garden and how we grow as Christians.  These are just a few examples.

The second thing I do is just start making free form lists with what I associate with each month – bonfire?  certain foods?  certain events in our community? certain craft  or handwork projects?  certain songs?  I get out my memories, my notes from previous years, my Early Years books and make lists.

Then I can take these ideas and plug them into a monthly rhythm and a weekly rhythm.

So, here is an example for you, but you really need to sit down and do this for yourself.  I don’t mean this harshly, but if creating a family culture is important to you, if Waldorf homeschooling is important to you, then you will try to do your own lists after you see this example.  You must be a person of initiative in order to have this be true to your own family.

So, here is my list, for example, for September: Continue reading

The Mood of Celebration

I think one of the main things that we can give our small children is a sense of life as a celebration.  I don’t mean an all-out wild party, the way we often think of celebrating today, but a mood of joy,  a mood of anticipation and wonder and a happy feeling that we are at one with nature and the world.  A mood of celebration in the small child fosters a sense of unity and commonality with nature and others.

Ideally, once you have gone through cycles of celebration with the small child, with its wonder, anticipation and joy, these cycles will continue throughout the life of the people in the family and become an embedded part of that family;s particular culture. Continue reading

Am I “Waldorf Enough”??

This is a question that NEVER comes up with other homeschooling methods.  You never hear another homeschooling mother say, “Gosh, I don’t think I am Montessori enough.” or “Gosh, I wonder if I am Classical  enough.”

What is it about Waldorf homeschooling that brings out this guilt?

I think it is because no one other form of homeschooling is so tied into the universal picture of child development and how the development of the human being impacts parenting and education.  I don’t know as any other form of education has such a strong idea about what leads to good adult health in the future.  It is also more teacher led, than say opening a textbook or workbook and reading that.  It involves a certain initiative.

So, because of that it is natural to wonder if one’s efforts measure up.

“One’s efforts.”  I think that is the first thing we need to ask ourselves when we are wondering if we “measure up” is:

Am I making an effort?  What is my effort toward?    I think almost more than any physical  piece, like do I have a rhythm to my home,  or do I teach Greek mythology to my 11 year old,  the answer to this question lies in what initiation am I taking in adult education and learning about this subject?  What are the why’s beneath the “Rhythm would be good” or “Greek mythology would be good around fifth grade”?  Am I interested in learning more about how a subject that I am teaching would be approached by Steiner himself or by a teacher who really has studied Steiner?  Do I care about the developing human being and do my thoughts on this leave open some room for what Steiner or other secondary Waldorf education literature/pedagogy have to say according to what age my child is?  Does that resonate with me?

There is no “check-off” list for what is “Waldorf enough”.  It is a subjective experience.  So, when you ask yourself about “Waldorf enough”, I think all you can do is look at where you are, and where you want to go.  How do you get there?  Where are you on this walk, and is this actually the path you want to walk on to an extent?

Sometimes we hear in Waldorf Education that we have to digest things and then bring them to our children.  I think that is why so many teachers are reluctant to endorse or write a homeschool “curriculum”, because Continue reading

The Broader Essence of Waldorf Homeschooling

Waldorf homeschooling involves feeling general themes that span several grades, as opposed to “looking in the curriculum for what is for that year”.

What Waldorf homeschooling can bring you, if you let it, is healing but also BALANCE.  If you are interested in Waldorf homeschooling but lean more toward structure and skills and knowing what your child “can do”, Waldorf homeschooling can help you slow down and realize, for example, that an oral report in fifth grade could lay the basis for a discussion of literature in sixth grade.  Waldorf education can put the academic skills children need for life on a timetable that is realistic for development and can place them at a point where these skills will not be like pulling teeth, but will be vigorous and full of vitality.

If you are more unschooling led, Waldorf Education can provide a beauty in form and also help with healthy development as to what nourishes each broad developmental phase through these broad themes.  You have more leeway, I think than just “X story in X grade.”  Waldorf Education leaves time and space for what the child brings, leaves time and space for “a-ha” moments, but this comes after careful preparation by the teacher within these broad themes and meditating on the child in question.  If you are more unschooling led and you don’t feel comfortable taking the lead in teaching your child anything that the child might enjoy and find nourishing but didn’t think of it themselves first, then Waldorf Education might not be a good fit for your family.  And that is okay!

Kindergarten through Grade 2 (grades one through two is ages almost seven through eight or so):  A general theme of Continue reading

Guest Post: A Homeschooling Manifesto

One of my best friends wrote these words, and was gracious enough to let me share these words with the world.  I can see this being printed out and put on refrigerators everywhere for a dose of encouragement.

Thank you to my dearest friend, Andrea Hartman!  These are her fine words:

I remember back to when we were homeschooling, on those really hard days when the house was a mess, and I was a mess, and the kids were a mess, and I would be having the passing thought  that I should send them to school.  School would be better for them than this.

We had to do public school this year.  We might have to again.  You might have to one day.  It’s not the end of the world, but now I see the public school experience not from my own experience, but from the experience of my children.  I feel like I am really blessed with the knowledge of ‘both sides of the coin’ here.  We are planning to go back to homeschooling this coming fall, so I have written a Homeschooling Manifesto. I didn’t write my little manifesto to discuss the negatives of school, but to reconnect myself with the essence of homeschool.  I’d love for you to read it, file it away, and on those crazy days, you can pull it out and remind yourself of what you are really doing.  I promise you, I will be reading it next year, many times.  ;-)  I hope you enjoy it!

 

Today, in New England, it was a beautiful day. Sunny, breezy, low 60’s. Perhaps to my Florida family, this is a chilly day, made for long sleeves and snuggles. But to my northeastern friends, this was a day for opening windows, climbing trees, and running through the grass barefooted.

As I gratefully cracked open my own window over the kitchen sink this afternoon and felt the cool breeze on my face, I realized that these three aforementioned activities are so very symbolic of the choice our family has returned to- homeschooling.

For a variety of reasons, our family tried public school this year. I must say, that of all the public schools out there, this is one of the best. Not because of test scores or academic standards, but because it is old and has character, it is small and cozy, and the principal is there every day, accessible and available to chat with a smile on her face. One cannot say this of many public schools. Continue reading

More Musings On Grade Six

Something has happened to me on my way to planning grade six:

I grew a little.

I don’t mean literally of course, but what I mean is in seeing the essence in the curriculum as we enter into these upper grades.  I am seeing the holiness in the curriculum and how that relates to my children, to me, and to our interconnectedness to the world.

In the Waldorf curriculum, the sixth grader is usually twelve or close to twelve.  And many things begin happening at this time:  turbulence.  A passionate acceptance or rejection of things.

And I was thinking what I had to possibly offer.  Do I have anything?  Sometimes, like many mothers, I don’t feel like I have reserves.  I certainly have not felt like I had much to give this year.  And, this thought is tinged by this being that time of year where almost all homeschoolers I know feel as if the year has been stale or flat.  So we have to sort through how we feel to whether or not within our feelings  lies any truth.

The big picture of sixth grade, to me and from my end as a homeschooling parent includes: Continue reading

What Are We Doing??

I got a unique chance to hear Rainbow Rosenbloom of Live Education (http://www.live-education.com/) speak this weekend.  He almost never comes to the Southeast, so I am filled with gratitude that he accepted our homeschooling group’s invitation to come for our annual Conference/Curriculum Fair.

I think one of the most interesting and provocative things he said was (in going through all the ages from the Early Years through Grade 8 in one day, on Saturday) was how he saw the subjects as the vehicle for teaching the bigger picture of character development, for training soul faculties, and how this corresponded to a child’s developmental age.  This is something that many veteran Waldorf home educators know, but it is always nice to be reminded about this again and again with different stories of children, different terms and vocabulary that reflect a broader picture, and what that  all really means.

For example, in much simpler terms than the four hours or so we sat in lecture about this subject (!), he broke the developmental stages of childhood down into: Continue reading

“Working Material for the Class Teacher Forming The Lessons of Grades One Through Four”

 

This is a little gem,  a document put into a bound book along with the few pages of the working document I mentioned in my last post (“Examining the Waldorf Curriculum from an American Viewpoint”).  On page 18 of this manuscript, there are several “golden rules” for teaching from a Waldorf perspective and I thought I would highlight a few for you.

 

1.  Thinking, feeling, willing – you hear this a lot in the world of homeschooling blogs and literature but the point is to always bring the subject at hand back to the child.  How does this have to do with your child, how does this concern your child? This takes careful child observation and in this, we can tailor our homeschooling to the child.  It always goes back to the human being.

2.  Doing then understanding, whole and then parts.  This is opposite of how many adults function (ie, first we as adults have to understand in order to “do”), so this can take some getting used to.

3.  The world is beautiful!  I love this one, because it sums up my philosophy of life.  Here is a direct quote:    “For the teacher there is the stumbling-block that he sees what is NOT beautiful in the world.  His task and his exercise will be to see the beautiful in everything and point it out.”  Bring everything into a picture. This is why individual biography is so important in fourth grade and up (after the nine year change). 

4.  Rhythm.  Rhythm is still important – movement and resting, listening and speaking, group activity versus individual activity.  How do we work with this in the home environment?  This is an important question.

5.  Practical life.  Waldorf homeschooling is first and foremost an education of beauty, and of beauty in the practical life.

 

One last quote:  “Of course we must take care take care today that the child does not become precocious, that he is not made “old” too quickly, which is that the times and the overall environment want to achieve with force, and so we must develop willing, imagination and warmth of heart as strongly as the intellect.”

 

Lovely thoughts to ponder today,

Carrie