Visual Challenges–Part Two

I like this quote from the Christopherus Living Language book, page 258:  “One of the main premises of this book is the belief that early academics are not healthy for children and that it is perfectly normal for many children, especially boys, to not learn to read or write until 9,10, or even 11 years old.  In my experience, the vast majority of these children are perfectly healthy and there is no problem. However, it would be irresponsible of me to not remind people that there certainly are those children whose inability to read/write stems not from a picture of normalcy and health, but because of one of a range of challenges or problems.”   

Exactly!  In my last post, I laid out some of the foundations of learning to read, write and spell – through movement, through vision including a screening checklist for visual challenges even if acuity is 20/20 for grades-aged children (ie, those seven years of age and up), and looking at hearing and speech.  That post is here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2013/09/19/visual-challengespart-one/

So, continuing with our focus on vision, what do you do if your child is identified as having visual challenges?

This topic has come up a bit in my email this week, and interestingly, was also the topic of an article in the Renewal:  A Journal for Waldorf Education, Spring/Summer 2013 entitled, “Seeing and Learning:  Identifying and Ameliorating Early Vision Problems” , written by Susan Johnson, an anthroposophic allopathic physician.

In this article, Susan Johnson discusses the necessity of both visual tracking and visual convergence in reading and writing.  She writes in the Renewal article , “Eyes that are tracking or converging asymmetrically will create images that are distorted and/or doubled.  Equal vision is also necessary for depth perception.”

Dr. Johnson writes about Continue reading

Simplicity Monday: The Five Secrets to Setting A Rhythm For Your Home

Rhythm is one of those things that many parents talk about, wonder about, and can have such trouble implementing.  Here are my top five secrets to garnering a rhythm that supports a peaceful home life.

Visualize your home and walk through a day in your head.  Where was it smooth and flowing and joyous?  Where was it sticky and difficult and everyone fell apart?  I don’t think a rhythm is about throwing out who you are, who your family is,  what your family culture is in order to replace it with something that someone else does, but rather to build upon the successes in your own home.  Every family does something really well, so what is your thing that you do really well that you could build upon? Continue reading

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