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

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

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

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