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

A Guest Post: One Mother’s Experience With Curative Waldorf Education

(Carrie here:  I am so grateful to Stephanie for sharing her experiences and journey here.  I think those of you who have children with differing abilities and who are wondering what to do with Waldorf Education at home will be very inspired!  Stephanie writes:)

Carrie invited me to share some of the interesting ideas we’ve learned so far on our special needs path with our micropreemie daughter, who is now eight years old. When our daughter was born on the borderline of viability, we knew that learning and developmental problems were likely to arise. When we met in the office of a preemie researcher at Harvard, Heidi Als,  we asked what we could do to support our daughter’s healthy development. One of Dr. Als’ first suggestions to us was to use Waldorf Education.  At the time,  I had no idea what that was.

In retrospect, I consider our time before finding out about Waldorf Education to be our Dark Ages! I say this because our daughter is a child for whom living a  Waldorf lifestyle and using the Waldorf School curriculum makes all the difference in her emotional stability and  her ability to function in life. As a parent, it has been one of the hardest things to know that children like her need Waldorf Education the most and yet there are so few Waldorf resources available to families like ours. We took up the challenge in our family and started with making the changes suggested in the book  “Simplicity Parenting,” by Kim John Payne.

In looking for further ideas and resources, we found the Otto Specht School (named after Rudolf Steiner’s first student), where our daughter started First Grade. These are some of the elements that the teachers have shared with us:

1. The teachers do not try to cover the entire curriculum each year, but they try to get to the essence of the curriculum for each year. I think this point sounds deceptively simple on the surface – until you actually try to pin down the essence for the child with whom you are working!

2. The teachers are not harried or rushed, ever, as far as I have seen. My daughter’s teacher is found of saying Continue reading

Having A Successful Homeschooling Group Experience

I don’t know as I have much advice in this area as the homeschooling group that I helped   found closed this past spring. This group lasted six years and it was a gratifying experience in that it led to some wonderful mothers connecting to each other and some of the children finding wonderful friends.  So, I guess in that sense, it was very successful.

From experiencing the life cycle of a group,  which really is similar to the life cycle of almost any group, here are my suggestions for you to think about if you are in the process of forming or growing a Waldorf homeschooling group: Continue reading

Computers: A Waldorf Perspective

This post is about computers within the curriculum of the Waldorf schools.  Most Waldorf schools obviously do not have a computer lab or computer classes in grade one through eight, but computers are used in high school.  Each high school seems to be putting together their own curriculum as they see fit at this point in time, as you will see below.

For a general reference, we have the AWNSA curriculum chart.  According to the “Waldorf School Curriculum:  An Overview for American Waldorf School Teachers” chart from AWNSA Publications,  the development of skills goes as follows: Continue reading

Homeschooling Multiple Children –The Lesson

I have often said on this blog that part of homeschooling is knowing when to continue and get some things done, and when to know to leave it and go to the park that day!  Those of you who homeschool in a Waldorf way probably are nodding your heads right now!  I  myself was having a harder time toward the end of  this week with my little almost four year old during some of the main lesson time for his older siblings.  It is an almost universal theme when I talk to homeschooling mothers.

I also get quite a bit of email regarding what to do with younger siblings (ie, nursery aged of ages 3 and 4, and kindergarten aged of ages 5 and 6) during main lessons for the older, grades-aged children.  I have written about this subject again and again, so there are many back posts you can run a search for and see under the “Homeschooling” tab.

This is the main lesson for homeschooling life though:  if you are so harried and so busy trying to fit “school” in that there is no time for your littles, then you simply must sit down and think through what needs to change.  I had to do that this week.  There is no shame in re-assessing, re-evaluating and tweaking things to run more smoothly!

The fact is that if we are trying to run our homeschooling as if our smallest children  don’t exist or matter and are only there to “hang out” whilst we work with the older children, then this is not laying a good foundation for family life  (nor is it laying a good foundation for  grades work when the time comes for this child!).

This is because this is the curriculum for the young child is absolutely laying a foundation.  This is done through: Continue reading