Ideas For The Second Week of Advent

The second week of Advent is upon us; perhaps we are fasting and praying in accordance with our religious traditions of Advent being a small Lent.  Perhaps we are feeling weary from having a holiday season that is moving rather fast; the fatigue that comes from trying to create perfect holiday memories for the children or the fatigue of spending.

I invite you this week to go back to the true meaning of Advent.  Perhaps this is the week you really think heartily about that question that truly seems to afflict first-world citizens more than others:  how much do we really need to “get”?  What are we giving?  How much do our children really “need”?  Is that what they are going to associate this season with – getting?

Staring new traditions can be difficult.  I was reading the post on gratitude the other day on the blog A Holy Experience and how they exchange no gifts at all and instead choose gifts from catalogues designed to help others – giving the gifts of animals, trees, seeds, bees.  If you are thinking about new traditions, I don’t think it is ever too late to start.  I saw this post on Simple Mom regarding supporting mothers in need for the holidays here:  http://simplemom.net/csp/  Perhaps a tradition along these lines will be of interest to your family.

Here are some nourishing ideas for this second week of Advent. Continue reading

Taking Stock: The Adult Role In Waldorf Homeschooling

Quick: what makes the difference between a “bad” homeschooling day and a “good” one (bar catastrophic events?) The answer, is, of course YOU.

I was thinking about this today.  This Monday was not a good day for us; many Mondays  are generally not a great-flowing school day for us. ( I think this happens in a lot of homeschooling families, don’t you?).    And then this Tuesday came along and was beautiful- circle and singing, two main lessons done by noon, tea and read alouds about Saint Nicholas by the fire, productive, everyone getting along…and I was thinking, what made the difference between those two days?  Was it really the behavior of the children or was it me?

I think it was me.  If I can start the day Continue reading

The Secret to Homeschooling Children In Multiple Grades

 

I will never forget one of the stories of my husband’s great-grandparents. They were celebrating their seventy-fifth wedding anniversary and people at church asked great-grandma to stand up and say a few words about having a successful marriage.  She stood up, and probably to the chagrin of most of the people there wanting inspirational words, said, “Well, it hasn’t been easy!” and sat back down again.

 

I feel a little like this when readers ask me about homeschooling children in multiple grades, especially in the land of Waldorf Education, where things are often  so….teacher intensive…..

 

It just isn’t always easy.  (I know, not what you want to hear! )

 

Oh, sure, people can give you tips.  I have given out “tips” before, especially in this post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/04/17/crafting-a-homeschool-rhythm-to-work-with-multiple-grades-and-ages/  and in this post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/04/14/homeschooling-children-in-multiple-grades/  and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/05/homeschooling-multiple-children-with-waldorf/

 

This is the thing with “tips”:  they are things that may work for one particular family, and that family is not your family..  So tips may be helpful, but they also may not resonate with you.  It may not work for your family.  You are the only one on this crazy homeschooling adventure that can figure out what works for you and your family!  You are the expert! 

 

Make a plan, keep it loose with plenty of time and space (yes, those of you who read this blog know I love those two words in relation to development and also in relation to homeschooling)…It is hard to know with different children what they will  blow through quickly and what will take more time, especially the older they get. For example, there is a much wider range in abilities in reading, writing and math in second through fourth grades than probably at any other time, I think, which can make it harder to plan the first time through those grades… Every child is different, and you are homeschooling to meet your children’s needs…so you tailor around that, not some blog you read where everything looks perfect!

 

Because there is no perfect way to Waldorf homeschool, and you find differences of opinion even amongst Waldorf homeschoolers.  And there is no life that is so calm and peaceful that it never influences how you feel in the moment about homeschooling…     Today I had a child who needed to get stitches out and whilst I was on the phone with the doctor regarding that, toddler man fell and knocked both front teeth which were now bleeding all over and we needed groceries and one child needed to be somewhere.  (So, theoretically, if I  could teleport, I could have gotten to all four places at once, but since I don’t have a nifty Dr. Who telephone booth, I couldn’t).   I say this to point out that sometimes it is not homeschooling itself that is stressful, especially since all of this happened during the afternoon,  but just the crazy of life that swirls around and that sometimes penetrates into making us feel like life would be easier if we were not homeschooling multiple children!  (Or just that life would be easier if we were sitting on a beach somewhere drinking something fruity with a little umbrella in it! Ha!)

 

But  that my friends, is the secret to thriving with homeschooling:  embrace the chaos.  Can you roll up and down on the roller coaster and smile? Can you keep your footing and calm amidst the wild ride?

 

Because if you have multiple children, multiple main lessons, along with younger children,  it will be a juggle.  And the juggle may extend down to the children: my children often alternate distracting or playing with a toddler whilst I work with one of them; (unless he is nursing or otherwise enthralled near us); there really isn’t all this time and space to just hang out that other homeschooling families often seem to have.  But this season is short, and in a few months it will be something different!  This I know for sure:  things change!

 

So, on my good days , I like to think homeschooling with multiple children teaches flexibility and resiliency.  Oh yes, we have rhythm for creating good health for the future adult (but remember that  it is the rhythm that works for us and no one else!), but we have the flexibility and resiliency that comes with having multiple children of different ages and in different seven year cycles.  We also have great time learning all the time, not just in “main lesson” because there are so many opportunities for learning with different temperaments and personalities and ages within the family. 

 

And on my bad days, it just looks a lot like crazy.  Smile

 

But the one thing that carries me through, and the one thing that I think you really do NEED as the secret to homeschooling multiple children is a strong spiritual footing.  If your inner work, your walk with your Creator is off, than all the days start to look like crazy instead of the beautiful blessings that God provided. 

 

Start your day with prayer, with silence to hear the voice of the Spirit, weave your religion into your schooling and your life…and then just  roll with it.  Crazy, chaos or not!

 

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Our Homeschooling Group Never Makes Those Lists……

(This group has since closed.  There are a number of inclusive homeschooling groups in our state to check out, and a Waldorf-inspired group as well.  Many blessings!)

Oh, you all know the lists I am talking about:  those ones on the big Yahoo! Groups where Waldorf homeschoolers write in and ask about, “Where is there a vibrant Waldorf homeschooling community?”  It always seemed to be answered by some destination in the Northeast or the Pacific Northwest.

I understand.  I mean really, the Deep South is not exactly considered progressive in many respects.  People from the West tend to be shocked by the lack of mandatory recycling when they move here.    It is extremely hot and humid so the air just plain upsets people from other parts of the non-humid country, and I remember being floored by the size of the insects when I moved here twenty years ago.  In fact, I distinctly remember thinking they surely were bigger than my dog.

But there good things too:  decent economic opportunity, a fairly low cost of living, a good stock of older homes and new construction, a good amount of hiking and biking and canoeing, great local farmers, lots of things to do, there are La Leche League, Attachment Parenting and Holistic Mom’s Groups here….And here, in the metro Atlanta area, we also have a very vibrant Waldorf homeschooling community.  It is a close-knit and loving group of really wonderful and wise women; we have supported each other through this journey and have a great love for  each other’s families.  People who move here from other parts of the country notice that and are really impressed with the intimacy, openness and friendliness of our homeschool community!  Always gratifying!

I have written in the past about how our group as grown from mainly meeting just for festivals and mainly kindergarten-type activities to now a full compliment of things for children ages birth through grade six.  This year, for example, we have field trips for each grade, seasonal activities like berry picking and apple picking, festivals with complete puppet shows, weekly co-op days with such things as handwork, German, woodworking and an Early Years group, park and swim days, a new annual trip to the beach to end the school year,  and lots of opportunities for adult learning where each month has a focus on some aspect of Waldorf education with adult classes and roundtables to learn more, adult classes, and a large curriculum fair that last year attracted folks from five neighboring states… We do work hard to reduce, reuse and recycle as a group…Most of our members are into natural foods and natural living.  We even hold classes on such things as how to make your own cultured vegetables.

We strive hard as a group  to provide the right thing at the right time, in accordance to what is traditionally done at a Waldorf School, to our children.  Sometimes we have bumps in the road as we grow…this year we have 46 children in co-op classes alone….  Growing a group can have its own aches and pains,and to address that we recently formed a Pedagogical Committee for our group that is comprised of committee heads and others to help discern the spiritual direction for our group.

We all live very spread out and are committed to driving to support each other and to make events.   If you want your children involved in a like-minded community, sometimes you have to work for it.   This can be challenging for folks who don’t want to leave their neighborhood, so that is always something we ask members to consider:  the balance of their own family life and the benefits of a like-minded community.    The location of things rotate, which sometimes works out well for some people on one side of town,and not so well for others.  Traffic can be not great, just like in any other metro area…

But overall, the ride is a good one.  So I wonder if Atlanta will ever start to show up on those lists?

Blessings,
Carrie

Foreign Languages In Your Homeschool

 

I have written about foreign languages in the Waldorf-inspired homeschool before here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/17/teaching-a-foreign-language-in-waldorf-homeschool/  and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/24/learning-a-foreign-language-in-your-waldorf-homeschool/

 

As mentioned in these posts, most Waldorf Schools teach two languages from Kindergarten onwards and these two languages are typically ones that are from different poles: A Romance language and a language of Germanic or Slavik origin, for example.  In my own homeschool, we are learning Spanish and German.  My oldest daughter has plans to branch out into Russian.  You could bring in whatever language you have knowledge of, or of whatever languages you have in your surrounding area.  It is important to consider what languages are being spoken in your own geographic location, because tapes, recordings and such as not the approach in a Waldorf School, but immersion through a native speaker is the norm.  And the approach of the language is not just to learn the language, but to celebrate and immerse oneself in another culture.  For example, a Waldorf School Spanish teacher may come to school in native dress and do cooking and dance and festival celebrations along with the beginnings of the basic themes in Spanish for the early grades.

 

Some of my favorite resources for small children in Spanish, available through Amazon, are posted on the Facebook page of The Parenting Passageway here:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/TheParentingPassageway.  Another book I use frequently is “Senderos”, available through Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore: http://www.steinercollege.edu/store/product.php?productid=16373&cat=0&page=1  What I find especially helpful in this book is the list of books and stories by grade in the back of the book and the examples of how to teach for each grade.  It has extensive Spanish in it, so if you cannot read Spanish, this book may not be as helpful as you would like. (I see that it ends up on the used Waldorf book lists a lot and I think it might be because either folks don’t know what to do with it or maybe they think it provides comprehensive lessons, which it does not.  This might be one to try to look at ahead of time before you buy if you have other Waldorf homeschoolers in your area).    Many of the books suggested by grade in “Senderos”,  I have found used on Amazon, and they provide a great springboard for Spanish studies, especially for my fifth grader who is working at a middle school level in Spanish.

 

I found German to be harder, simply because I don’t know any German (!!), but I was fortunate to find a Saturday German School in our area and also a very dear friend who is a native speaker from Austria who became the tutor for our children.  This year my youngest will also be taking German in the classes for our homeschooling group, which is a group that seeks to unite homeschooling parents in our area who try to educate according to the tenets set forth by Rudolf Steiner in education.  (And PS, we have a smashing, busy, full homeschooling group – why is it that Atlanta never comes up on those lists of where to move when folks ask this question on the big national Waldorf Yahoo Groups?  Atlanta and the surrounding metro areas is not a bad place to live!  But I digress…guess that is a post for another time!)

 

I have had folks writing to me and asking for resources, preferably books with rhymes and songs that may also have a CD so they can learn the song themselves to teach their children….So, I am asking all my readers:  What languages are you teaching?  What resources do you use?  How do you bring in native culture – dress, festivals, dances, games – into your homeschool?    I have readers especially searching for resources in Russian and Chinese that could be tailored to Waldorf methodology.  If you know of any of these resources, please leave a comment in the comment box.

 

My readers are a big and diverse bunch, so I would love to hear from you in the comment box!

 

Many blessings,
Carrie

Very Simple Homeschool Planning

I have shared with you in past posts some of the little forms I created for homeschool planning.  I am talking to more and more mothers lately who are becoming affected with what I call “a case of the curriculum crazies.”

Please remember to keep things simple.

Pray.

Know your focus.  Know your child, and your top goals for that child and for your family.  What is the ultimate goal you have in mind for the education of your children?  Structure things around that.  You cannot do it all, and nor should you try.

Play a Very Simple Day.  I shared mine already:  gathering the children in song and movement, a main lesson with lots of movement and art, a tea break with read-alouds, another main lesson with lots of movement and art, lunch, a half hour after lunch for one child only per day four days a week for any “extra” work, and three days a week handwork, crafts or religion.  Add in outside time and chores and that is plenty!  We plan four days a week; you may need even less!

Plan in field trips, seasonal activities and FUN. We homeschool to have a joyous family life.  Please don’t forget that!  Homeschooling is first and foremost about having joy as a family.

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

Get Your Planning On! Chores and Movement: Where Do They Fit?

A few posts back, I  shared the daily planning form that I am going to use this year.  Several folks wondered about that all important movement that children need and that I keep talking about, and also about chores.  So here are some of the ideas that work for me personally, and maybe some of it will resonate with you.  Take what works for your family!

MOVEMENT:  Continue reading

Get Your Planning On: A Daily Homeschool Form You Can Use

I want to point out here something really, really important.  You are not trying to re-create a Waldorf School in your home.  Life is the curriculum.  The liturgical year, the birthdays, the appointments, the car breaking down, cooking, feeding the animals – that is all the curriculum for home learners.

There has been bigish (LOL) debate or discussion in the past about unschooling versus Waldorf homeschooling.  This is sort of moot in a way because by homeschooling I think there is automatically going to be “what comes up” as learning.  People have asked me how to reconcile “what Waldorf brings in when” with “what comes up” or “what my child wants to learn”.  I wrote a little about that in this post:  To me, if you are familiar with the development of the child, it is not hard to bring things in a developmentally appropriate way that still fits your family.

So, I am saying all this to say:  you don’t, you won’t, you don’t want to be perfect.  Take a daily rhythm that fits your family and now make your daily planning form.  And know that because you are running your home and your life, and not a school classroom with 30 children, there is room to wiggle.

Maybe on one block you combine all your children together into one main lesson period and rotate around between them.  Maybe you normally combine everyone and on some lesson blocks you try to work with some of the children individually.  Maybe most mornings you start with a gathering time, and today you decide you everyone needs a walk.  Don’t feel like your rhythm is a noose around your neck, and stop abandoning Waldorf because you don’t think you can do it perfectly.

So, since I don’t know what your rhythm looks like, I can only really share with you my daily planning form.  I essentially do plan two main lessons that are not too long, and they may be done outside so my toddler can roam free.  Or I might combine everyone at the same time.  It depends upon my mood.  I try to shoot for one time slot after lunch where I might be able to work on a little “extra lesson” – ie, a different subject.  My second grader will have an extra lesson of math each week on Thursdays, and my fifth grader will have extra lessons scheduled M,T, W to do either grammar, math or whatever it is that we need to get to.  In the past I have done mainly the main  lesson and worked in other things at the end as I needed to, but with a fifth grader this year I wanted to try it this way. That is the joy of homeschooling:  you try things, you tweak things, you go looser, you go tighter.

So my main idea of a rhythm looks like this right now, totally subject to change: Continue reading

Get Your Planning On: A Weekly Homeschooling Form You Can Use

My next step after figuring out the general seasonal and liturgical tone for each block, along with careful observation of my children and goal setting comes in making up a form each week that will entail some of the things that will run each week through our block.

I usually do it in a simple list format, and for me, my weekly list looks like this: (my notes are in the parentheses) Continue reading