Waldorf Perfect Re-visited

 

I wrote a post awhile back about this whole notion of  Waldorf guilt,  and the dangers and impracticality of striving for perfection here :  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/05/16/waldorf-perfect/

 

I find this is the time of year we need to  re-visit this topic.  Curriculum fairs are popping up all over,  and mothers are starting to look toward planning for fall again whilst trying to finish up this school year.

 

I want to reiterate here that homeschooling is about family.  It is about love, warmth, laughter and joy, and spending time together.  If you find that your homeschool rhythm, or the things you are trying to learn or do with your homeschooling are consistently draining to you in your quest to be “Waldorf Perfect”, warning signs should be going off.

 

Waldorf Perfect is a perfect recipe for burn-out and for leaving Waldorf homeschooling altogether. 

 

Yes, Waldorf homeschooling is about inner development balanced with doing.  I see a lot of imbalance out there – mothers who are doing, doing, doing, doing and then that turns to drudgery, or mothers who are involved with inner work but no doing, or mothers who are just researching and not putting anything into action.

 

Please know that just as every class teacher has different strengths and weaknesses, so does each and every individual homeschool.  We have to try and learn and expand in the areas where we are not strong, but I also don’t think we should abandon the things that make us feel joyous and nourished.  I love to draw, paint, model, and make needle felted creations.  I don’t love to knit; I do it when I need to in order to work alongside my daughters, but I don’t spend a lot of my free time on it.  I like to try to garden, but my garden has its share of successes and failures.  I love movement and being outside, and I love movement games with music.  My homeschool reflects me, my joys, my strengths. Your homeschool will look different. 

 

There is no perfect recipe for Waldorf homeschooling; but there are essential truths of childhood development to work with.  Goodness, Beauty and Truth.  Head, Hearts and Hands.  Willing, Feeling and Thinking.  There are skills to be worked with and learned.  Most of all, there is an opportunity to know yourself, to know and observe your child and know what special things you can bring to your child to help them, guide them and teach them. 

 

But there must be warmth, laughter, love and enjoyment.  We are not creating a Waldorf school in our homes but our own family life with a homeschooling experience.  Your religion, your culture, all of that should be reflected within your homeschool.

 

Don’t try to be perfect.  Try to love.  Try to learn.  Try to strive and do better each and every day.  Be faithful in the small things. 

 

Have fun exploring each new seven year cycle and knowing that in respecting the child’s development, you will know what will come in when. 

 

In Joy,

Carrie

First Grade Wet On Wet Painting For Saint David’s Day

Today is one of my favorite feast days:  The Feast of St. David of Wales!  There are many wonderful stories about Saint David.  I decided today to use an element from one of the many stories about St. David to bring wet on wet watercolor painting to our first grade daughter.

There seems to be a lot of confusion and mystery regarding wet on wet painting for those families new to Waldorf.  Watercolor painting, in and of itself, has been around for quite some time – think of brush painting from Asia, and the watercolors of the German Renaissance Master Albrecht Durer.   Waldorf Education has a beautiful of approaching watercolor painting for children in the kindergarten and the grades.

In first grade, we go through each color one at time by itself  (which is very beautiful and reverent….I mean, in this day of visual bombardment how often do we get to experience the pure beauty and joy of one color?), then two colors and then some first grade teachers will move into three colors.  Eric Fairman , Master Waldorf grades teacher, discusses the approach he took in his first grade Path of Discovery guide if you are looking for more information.  If you are looking for other resources to help you discover wet on wet painting, please do have a look at this back post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/02/resources-for-wet-on-wet-watercolor-painting/

So, today I had heavy watercolor paper soaking in a tray of water whilst I told some brief stories about St. David, including how he went into Wales to spread the message of the Gospel, how the monastery he founded was very simple where the monks pulled the ploughs for sowing the fields, how he and his monks ate no meat, and how St. David was called the “waterman” not only because he would only drink water but because he would often pray submerged up to his neck in cold water in those Welsh lakes.  I also talked about the miracle of the ground lifting him up so people could hear his message.

Then, to lead up to our painting, we ended with the story of  the battle between the Welsh and the invading Saxons. Legend has it that the Welsh were losing until St. David pointed out that the dress of the two sides was so similar they could not be told apart in battle. He suggested each of the Welsh put a leek in their hat or dress, and the Welsh went on to win the battle.  When a Welsh leek flowers, it looks like a daffodil, so we worked together to create the beautiful colors of the daffodil in our painting.

First we painted our whole page yellow.

(There was once a beautiful daffodil standing as bright as the sun itself.  The daffodil was so lovely that everything in God’s creation wanted to be close to this sunny, lovely daffodil.)

Even the sky moved closer in to see the daffodil, but dared not to get too close to touch the daffodil.  The sky did not want to mar the daffodil’s radiant springtime beauty!

(Paint blue creeping in at the edges, round and round on the page, circling in, until a patch of yellow daffodil is still present).

And all the sky, and all the meadow, rejoiced in the daffodil’s beautiful light.

(If you look carefully at this painting, you can see the darker blue on the outer border, green like meadow as the blue and yellow mixed, with a yellow center as a daffodil).

The main thing to wet on wet painting is to just get the supplies and paint! Paint yourself first and then bring it to your children!  They will thank you!

If you need more help, here are two free resources I suggest:

http://thewonderofchildhood.com/2011/06/wet-on-wet-watercolor-painting-set-up-2/  (multiple parts)

and this resource by Sarah Baldwin, with multiple parts:

Many blessings and joy!

Carrie

A Mother’s Checklist For A Day Of Homeschooling

 

Did I  get up `early enough to feel steady, calm and unhurried?

 

Did I put on my apron or other attire to not only protect my own vital life forces whilst I am teaching, but also to set the stage that now we are in school?

 

Did I set the space of my work area where I will be with the children?

 

Did I center myself with a verse, a prayer, lighting a candle?

 

Did I cheerfully and lovingly greet the children for school?

 

Did we clean up at the end of school what could be cleaned up and close with a verse?

 

At the end of the day, did I review the day and meet my child again in prayer as to what that child needs from me in their  schooling, in their character development, in their life?  Was I prepared, and what could I do differently to be even more prepared?

 

Am I going to bed early enough to get up and do this again tomorrow?

 

Many blessings and much love,

Carrie

Homespun Waldorf Winter Carnival

 

Today I am kicking off a week of posts regarding the topic of “Pondering” over at the Homespun Waldorf Winter Carnival.  Here is the link so you can check out my post and the forum:  http://homespunwaldorf.com/wordpress/2012/02/ponder-a-vision-for-your-family/

 

I like the Homespun Waldorf forum; it is run by mothers who are veteran Waldorf homeschoolers.  I enjoy that this forum is not connected to any particular curriculum, so mothers write very honest reviews of books and curricula and how it worked for their family.  There are also great threads on homemaking, and how mothers combine Waldorf with other methods.

 

Come join us to brighten up your winter days!

Many blessings,
Carrie

Homeschooling Question From The Field

This question from the field came in today, and I wanted to share it here:

Hi Carrie,
Do you yourself follow a 3-day rhythm for homeschool? I like the 3-day rhythm (we do a 4-day school week) but it seems all of the major waldorf homeschool curricula follow a 2, 2-day rhythm. I feel like a 3-day rhythm would give us more time to work with a story but worry we wouldn’t fit enough in in a year (this is my first year homeschooling). In first grade, would you just introduce one letter or number per week (with a 3-day rhythm) or would you cover more than that? Continue reading

One Mother’s Experience With “Thinking–Feeling- Willing”

 

“Thinking –Feeling-Willing:  Bringing The Rhythm Home” is a fairly new program put forth by A Little Garden Flower.  I know rhythm is of interest to many of the mothers who read my blog, and one of my readers wanted to share her experience with this program.  Thank you to Sheila, homeschooling mother of two, for writing about her experiences.  I know some of you are concerned about smaller children being lost in the shuffle whilst homeschooling grades-aged children, and Sheila writes about this in this review.  I think you will find it interesting.  This is from my reader Sheila:

When I first came to Waldorf, I was overwhelmed by all the information out there: books, blogs, websites, suppliers, curricula. I honestly didn’t know which end was up. I was even confused by the vocabulary: rhythm, circle time, fingerknitting, never mind the 7 year cycles, the 3 fold nature of the human being and the 12 senses. It’s a lot to learn and there are a lot of people to learn it from. One person who has helped me to craft my mothering and my homeschooling is Melisa Nielsen. Her new program “Thinking, Feeling, Willing” is that elusive primer that I searched, googled, posted and prayed for, but at that time did not exist.

 

I think the real genius behind “Thinking, Feeling, Willing” is that the program is split into separate sections: one for the child and one for you, the mom. This is a cornerstone of Waldorf that I am realizing only in retrospect. You can’t focus on the “things” of Waldorf (and here, I am not even talking about the material “things” like wooden toys, play silks and Stockmar crayons; but even things like circle time, baking day and festivals). What I have found is that these things cannot come into your home in any real way until you have prepared yourself first. Melisa knows this and stresses this to everyone in her yahoo group, her consulting practice and those who use her curriculum. “Thinking, Feeling, Willing”  can thoroughly prepare you to homeschool your children with Waldorf-inspired methods.

 

The first lesson for Mom is all about rhythm. Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm . . . when I first came to Waldorf I kept hearing this word. I knew I wanted to have this gentle order to my day, but how to get there? (I have to mention Carrie here, because she is the one who helped me to solidify my rhythm, back before Melisa’s program existed. Check out this back post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/01/05/rhythm-for-the-irregular/Her advice dovetails nicely with Melisa’s.) And even though I feel our rhythm is pretty solid now, it is not something static or finished. Through TFW, I have looked at our daily rhythm through a bigger lens and I am now working on bringing in a seasonal sense of rhythm to our year.

 

The monthly lessons for the child are seasonal and simple. I have a 6 year old kindergartener who seemed to be just floating along in the wake of our 4thgrade lessons. Our days were fine, but I wasn’t being intentional with my little guy. I knew it was important to stress the seasons, sing songs, recite verses and do things just for him, but that made me think I had to totally shift my homeschooling focus and recreate a Waldorf kindergarten in my home (ironic, because a Waldorf kindergarten is modeled on the home!) Melisa’s book suggestions, her continuing gnome story, her outrageous (!!!) recipes, and easy handcrafts have allowed me to simply augment what I was already doing. I can honestly say my fourth grader enjoys these aspects of our day just as much as his younger brother does.

 

TFW also provides handwork lessons that teach you how make many of those items so indicative of Waldorf: dyed silks, little gnome figures, paper lanterns, not to mention knitting! I learned how to knit pretty easily a couple of summers ago, but for some reason fingerknitting seemed beyond me. I have watched youtube videos and tried to figure it out through books with no success. Melisa’s video tutorial had me fingerknitting within about 2 minutes. In turn, I taught my boys and we now have chains and chains of fingerknitting waiting to decorate our Christmas tree come December.

 

 

Like everything Melisa Nielsen does, “Thinking, Feeling, Willing”  is comprehensive and budget-friendly. With a couple of books (some of which can probably be found at your local library), a few craft supplies, and some yummy additions to your shopping list, you can honestly get started with Waldorf in a real way. You will not waste time searching endless blogs, buying books and supplies you really don’t need or feel like you are out there reinventing the wheel by yourself. The program also includes a year of email and personal phone consultation with Melisa – she is literally there every step of the way with you. I think TFW is a great place to begin for those who are just coming to homeschooling with little ones, those who are coming to Waldorf with older children and even those who want to bring about a more rhythmic, seasonal focus to their time at home – homeschooling or not.

 

Thank you Sheila for this review.

Many blessings to you all,

Carrie

Real Life Resources For Children With Challenges

I just wanted to thank all of you who have been so supportive of my recent postings on children who have challenges in the realm of sensory modulation, and also regarding my postings on our twelve senses.  This work is really important to me as a physical therapist and in how I see the generation of children coming up now who are really struggling in these areas.

Many parents are looking for resources that could be helpful in real life for their children with sensory challenges, children who have been diagnosed along the autistic spectrum, or children who are facing other challenges that are deemed “medical” but as we know from a holistic perspective involve the whole being.

Here are some resources I have been gathering since the workshop I attended on the twelve senses: Continue reading

Squirrel Fun

 

I know much of the Northeastern United States is currently buried under snow and even some power outages, so I feel almost bad for saying that fall is finally here in all its glory in the Southeastern US.

I love fall; I always have.  Crunchy leaves of many splendored colors, smoke rising from chimneys, crisp air and sunshine, squirrels and chipmunks scurrying about, fall foods such as apple, squash, greens and pumpkins!  Oh yes, my favorite time of year!  I am gathering up Thanksgiving recipes and getting ready to start on some holiday crafting as well.

So, in that vein, I wish to bring some fun poetry, verses and movement about squirrels to our homeschooling this week, especially for my sweet little toddler who has finally figured out that not every four legged animal is a doggie like his giant Leonberger!

Here are some squirrel ideas for this week if you would like to play along with me: Continue reading

Need Homeschool Planning Ideas? A New Forum

There is a relatively new forum called “Homespun Waldorf”, put together and run by a group of experienced homeschooling mothers.  I don’t get to personally participate a lot due to time restraints, but I have noticed many threads zooming around on there about combining grades and how to do it from veteran homeschooling mothers.  It may be helpful to some of you who are thinking that you need to teach separate main lesson blocks for everyone in your family; that truly is not the case.  The number of children in your family is akin to the social environment created in a school classroom; you really can get to know your family and what will work best for them all as a group and as individuals.  Homeschooling rarely looks like it does in a school setting.  We are at home.  Our homeschooling experience is first and foremost about family, about the things that unify us as a family in love, the activities we do as a family… and the learning in love as well, of course. 

 

At any rate, without further ado, here is the link so you can join yourself: 

www.homespunwaldorf.com

 

Kudos to Sarah for starting this and to all the volunteers who keep it running!

 

Hope that helps some of you who are planning,

Carrie