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

Where to Find Information About Waldorf Homeschooling

 

In the past, many mothers found information about Waldorf Education by attending something at a school, a Steiner playgroup, or attending a curriculum fair at a Waldorf homeschooling group.  It was an in-person experience and it was an experience that perhaps built through a school year or through seasons.  There is something so wonderful about experiencing Waldorf education in person through a group, a workshop, a study group.  It may be at a “school” and yes, school is different than homeschooling children of different grades, but it is not a bad starting point to gleam ideas and understand the atmosphere a great teacher can hold.

 

At some point, gathering information seems to have moved from an in-person experience to an experience of Yahoo groups or forums and then into blogs.  Now it seems the information gathering has moved to mainly Facebook groups.  I am not currently on ANY Waldorf homeschooling or Steiner-related Facebook groups due to the tone of these groups and the lack of information presented in a detailed way.

 

  • If you are truly interested in Waldorf homeschooling and want to learn more, here are some ideas to support and encourage you:
  • Look for programs based from a Waldorf school, a Waldorf farm program or other Waldorf based program where trained teachers could be helpful.
  • You could also look at trainings through Lifeways, Sophia’s Hearth, a Foundation Studies program that has come to your city, or  other training program.
  • You could read Steiner, and look at curriculum and resources for yourself and decide what is right for you and your family after you discern what you are looking for.  In the United States,  you can join the Rudolf Steiner College Library to see even more books, including many that are out of print.   There are also many free e-books available at the Waldorf Library On-Line.  Many, many free ebooks!! Check there before you buy something because you may be surprised that it is there!  Get with other Waldorf homeschooling mothers in your area, and look at each other’s resources.
  • You could contact a Waldorf homeschooling group or even a single Waldorf homeschooling family in your area.  Christopherus Homeschool Resources Inc keeps an international list here: http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/resources-for-waldorf-homeschooling-and-conscious-parenting/networking-for-groups-and-individuals.html
  • I maintain an impartial presence regarding curriculum. or curriculum providers.  Again, some are more true to Waldorf pedagogy than others so if you are looking for curriculum that is true to Steiner’s work, do your research for yourself.   If I use something and I love it, I will say it in my posts on different grades.    Different curriculum and different resources speaks to different people.  Do your research. If you want this path, then you will find places to ask questions and take the time to study yourself.
  • The free files at Marsha Johnson’s waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com are wonderful and show how a homeschooler could put a Main Lesson together,  but I do not recommend any Yahoo!Groups nor Facebook groups.
  • A curriculum consultant could be helpful, if it is the right person for where you are.  Again though, I  STRONGLY feel more that the tools for this path lie within you and less within outside people.  I absolutely will not comment on curriculum consultants because I feel you can do this!

 

If you really want to do this, like anything in life, you can do it with some work and striving.  I have been homeschool planning on and off since February, and I am a busy person.  You can do this too!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Links to Change How You Think

 

Here are a few lovely links to start your week.  This one is about the danger of  children specializing in sports at a young age with many supporting references:

http://changingthegameproject.com/is-it-wise-to-specialize/

 

It is planning time for homeschoolers, and many of the Waldorf homeschooling Facebook groups are full of threads about choosing curriculum.  So, I  love this post from Rachel over at Ducks in the Pond for her reminder that YOU are the curriculum.  In Waldorf Education, YOU are the teacher and the guide.  YOU matter.   YOU are the curriculum.   Here is that post:  http://ducksinthepond.com/2014/03/20/therealcurriculuminawaldorfhomeschool/

 

Reluctant cursive writer?  Try Sheila’s post over at Sure As the World: http://sureastheworld.com/2014/03/25/cursive-writing/

 

Lisa’s post here about pulling in children closer when they are having challenges is spot on: http://www.celebratetherhythmoflife.com/2014/03/pull-them-in-closer.html

 

Many blessings,
Carrie

March: Time To Plan!

 

I wrote a little note about planning for homeschooling back around Candlemas.  You can see that post here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2014/02/04/time-to-plan/

 

This Lenten time is such a spiritual spring for the soul, and such a time for the birthing of possibilities.  In February’s planning post referenced above, I mentioned sitting down with a calendar and starting to plan start and end dates, and to really look at the festivals your family celebrates throughout the year.  I really urge you to do this now if you haven’t already.

Some people make a wheel and pencil in the major points of the year seasonally with the solstices and equinoxes and add in descriptors for other festivals and the months; some people take a large piece of paper and divide it into twelve months and write down the festivals and how the months make them feel.  I also suggest to  go through and make notes of how your children were during different  months and what you could plan as a family for everyone during the next school year as the “glue” that hold everyone together.  Were the children bouncing off the walls in January?  Did the children fight a lot with each other in May?  These things are so specific to your family and to the success of your homeschooling. 

I also recommend that you think back – did you take any field trips?  Did you spend as much time outside each day, week and month that you wanted to?  Did one point in the year end up being much busier and stressful than you thought it would be?  Why was that? What activities outside the home will you cut out or include this year?  What would be most helpful for your family?

Finally, after you think about the months from a seasonal perspective, a perspective of inner mood, and then from the perspective of your children and the overall energy level in the family, I ask that you look at the months from your own perspective.  Where was your self-care?  Did you do anything for yourself this entire school year?  Did you nurture yourself in any way by learning something new, doing something new artistically?  How did you feel holding the space in your homeschooling during different months?  What could be done differently in order to make you feel wonderful during your homeschool adventure?

These are the sorts of things to really think about because they help you make a plan.  If you want some things that are different for your family during this next school year, but keep doing the same things over and over, the outcome is not likely to change.

Observe, ponder prayerfully, and seek change with solutions.  It will come, and the answer is inside of you.

Many blessings and peace,

Carrie

Puberty Part One

Often on Waldorf lists and groups, I see threads regarding puberty.  These threads typically concern the outward signs of puberty, or perhaps issues not of puberty but of sexuality, such as a discussion on what to tell a six-year old or a nine-year old about sexual relationships.

I have already discussed in an earlier post how the development of the child during something such as the nine year change is viewed from a spiritual place that looks at the development of the soul, and how the curriculum and parenting in a Waldorf way meets the child during this point whether outward, physical signs of puberty are taking place or not.

This is one of the best articles I have read regarding puberty Continue reading

The Nine-Year-Change and Puberty

I have gotten some private emails lately regarding the nine-year-change and puberty, so I wanted to write something for this space for other parents searching for support and information during this time.

In the view of Waldorf Education, the soul is coming down into the body.  However, I think the outward manifestation of puberty (odors, even breasts budding or getting hair in private areas) doesn’t change the course of the curriculum, nor really the developmental level that you are parenting in.  A nine-year old is still a nine-year old, whether she has started her menstrual cycle or not.    Puberty is an outward manifestation of the body, but the nine-year change is more an inner crisis of the soul and of middle childhood.

I hear a lot from parents of eight year olds and they are sure they are in the nine-year change.  Well, the child could be, but what I often find is that Continue reading

Time To Plan!

Hello Waldorf Homeschooling Mothers,

We are in a beautiful time of year right now.  Candlemas, February 2nd, has just passed.  This quiet day is a festival that I love and we live into in our home. In the book “All Year Round”, the authors write:

At the beginning of February, when the infant light of spring is greeted thankfully by the hoary winter earth, it seems fitting that we should celebrate a candle Festival to remember that moment when the Light of the World was received into the Temple, where the old yielded to the new.

I have been thinking about this passage for several days.  Elsewhere in “All Year Round”, the authors also wrote about tapping into “much deeper sources of hope and inner confidence.”

So, I feel this time of year is a gentle and renewing time to look to the upcoming school year.  If you are new to homeschooling, you will need to yes, look at your state’s requirements and laws.  You will probably sit with a calendar for a while and sketch out your year of festivals and holiday dates.  This back post may be of service:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/06/10/get-your-planning-on/  and this one:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/05/23/planning-tips-for-homeschooling-kindergarten-through-grade-four/

You may then even start to plan out the blocks for each grade or monthly work and play for your children in the Early Years.  For the grades, I always suggest checking with the AWNSA chart to see what is listed for each grade.  Homeschooling parents complain about this and say, “Well, our homeschools are not Waldorf Schools.”  No, this is of course true.  However, without the schools we would have no models to even really work from as the schools have done a huge amount of work to put Steiner’s pedagogical conclusions based upon the spiritual human being into practicality.  So, I think there is balance and truth to be gained by looking at whatever you are teaching from both angles in  a way – what might be done in a school, what would work at home and taking what resonates with you for your unique child.

Then, you can start to slowly and carefully compile your resources and read them a bit and let them sleep.  You will return to them again in a few months’ time to begin planning in earnest.

Many homeschooling parents rely on curriculum or curriculum guides and then agonize over the best one to choose.  I personally pull from a wide variety of resources, and take each block and make it my own.  Waldorf homeschooling is a vibrant, living path and requires a good amount of will forces from the parent to really make it work.  I wrote a post on choosing curriculum some time ago and I think it still stands:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/13/which-waldorf-curriculum-should-i-use/

This fall (of 2014) I will be teaching seventh grade, fourth grade and an early years child who will be 4 turning 5 in the fall.  These are three separate developmental stages to plan, and two grades with a good amount of material to cover, so I hope to begin now so I can have hope and inner confidence.  I hope you will as well.

Many blessings,
Carrie