Attachment And Individualization

I think as homeschooling families, one of our  main goals is always the connection of the family and how we stay attached to each other in a society that sometimes doesn’t seem to value that at all.  Some of the homeschooling families who read my blog, many of them, are also what has been termed and made popular in the common literature by Dr. Sears as “attachment parents.”

But what I want to talk about today is the development of the independence of the child  within the context of attachment.  I don’t think attachment and becoming more of an individual, more independent and more capable are mutually exclusive at all – we can still be attached but have separate psychological identities.  In fact, I would argue,  in order to become an adult that has a meaningful role within their own family and and as a citizen of the world, this has to happen.  We have all heard the jokes or seen instances of people whose adult lives were totally enmeshed with their parents.  It is funny for a television show, but not so funny in real life.  Enmeshment prohibits a child and an adult from reaching the fullness and freedom of who they are.

I think healthy attachment starts not only with connection, lots of connection and including but not being limited to extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping, but with loving authority and boundaries.  I think if you have read this blog for any length of time I have made that abundantly clear.  I think I have also talked a fair bit about boundaries.  Boundaries, in its essence, is not just how “strict or loose” your parenting style is; it is about how you GUIDE your child to HEALTH as a growing, developing SEPARATE individual.  It is also about creating balance, and creating opportunity for right growth, especially for those children where self-growth and self-development are not initiated.

Separation, to me, starts around the child is age three and says “I” for the first time.  That is the beginning, the spark of recognition that “I am myself.”  I may not know or understand all that means yet, but I am me.  Bernard Lievegoed, author of “Phases of Childhood,” marks this as a stage of self-awareness.  This can also be a phase of negativity from the child; by pushing against the outside world the child begins to develop the self.

It continues with the six/seven year old change.  Some parents write me and say, “My child went through the six/seven year old change.  They slammed doors, said they hated me, said that I was not the boss of them.  Then they were done.”

Okay, but let me put this out to you:  the six/seven year old change, to me, is not just about “you’re not the boss of me.”   It is about finding a psychological identity that is separate from parents – that they have a role in the family or at school, they know what that treasured and valued role is, and that they do  feel accepted and loved but also a bit “separate”, a bit ready to take a view on something…there is a shift toward the child having real opinions about the world, that may be different than the parent’s view, and that in this view that the child has a continuous self and therefore can participate in learning.   At this stage, children in the six/seven year change usually  also are interested in having friends, being a friend, in having community outside of their family.  I think many times this is neglected and not mentioned in Waldorf Educational literature, because the assumption is the child is at the school in community.  I think this is an important point for homeschooling families when looking at the development of their child.  To me, turning outward toward community and peers and not just within the family, is a hallmark of the six/seven change.

This process can take up to a year and a half, I think especially for sensitive children who haven’t had a lot of opportunity to be around  other children, or just children who develop a little bit slower.  They may not be as interested in peers until the nine –year change, but then I have personally observed that that change may be a much more difficult one than the six/seven year change.

I think one way we can gauge where are children are in the six/seven change is to look at their play(see the many, many back posts on play on this site about how play changes during the six/seven year old change), and to  look at their drawings of human beings, a house and a tree.  Here is an interesting, brief look at drawings made by two thousand German five and six year olds prior to school entrance, comparing drawings made by those who did and didn’t watch media, those who did and did inhale passive cigarette smoke, and those with psychological disturbances:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/images/stories/articles/RB13_2rittelmeyer.pdf  There are whole books on working with children’s drawings in Waldorf Education; you can check Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore or Bob and Nancy’s Bookshop for those titles.

For the nine/ten year old going through this change feels utterly and sometimes desperately alone, apart from humanity, out of the Garden of secure family.  They have an experience of self and it is a tragedy; there is no shelter of the family or of being with friends. Therefore, I believe firmly that children who do not have a strong sense of community and belonging built up through early childhood through family, extended family and strong friendships can have an even more fragile nine year change.  Boundaries and loving authority can also make this change better, along with loving connection.  The child is becoming an individual.

From the viewpoint of Waldorf Education, three things are traditionally seen as helping a child become an individual:  childhood diseases, what author Edmond Schoorel in his book “The First Seven Years: Physiology of Childhood” calls “naughtiness” (which made me chuckle!), curiosity, and we develop memory.  One that Schoorel mentions briefly, and that Bernard Lievegoed discusses further is that of the force of antipathy.  “Very often there is the tendency to concentrate only on positive feelings.  This is impossible.  It destroys  the drama, the basic law of feeling.  Any attempt to present only positive feeling results in superficial sentiment.  Feelings are brought forth from contrast and the nature of their polarity…It is not a matter of guarding children  from negative feelings or denying them as such, it is a matter of presenting the feelings as opposites in the correct way.” (Lievegoed, page 170).

I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but I do want to leave you with a few teasing comments by Edmond Schoorel:

  • “Children do not need to understand everything; it is even better when they don’t..It is essential for children to have the opportunity to ask questions; yet they do not need answers on the level of their understanding.  Mysteries are interesting because we do not have an answer.”  (page 260)
  • “When children have too little curiosity, we face the question:  can we stimulate curiosity?  I think that we can do this only in an indirect way.  When weakness has to do with the child’s constitution, we may have to work with movement development.” (page 248)
  • “Naughtiness can be a first exercise in waking up.  With naughtiness, the child turns away from the order of which he or she was a part.  It is a first step toward freedom and individuality.”  (page 246)

And this process of connection to others, and connection to ourselves,  continues as we grow and change throughout our lives. And sometimes we realize, yes, our circumstances and such may have been specific to us, but the tumult of different ages was by no means unique but being part of the human race.

Many blessings,

Carrie

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

At The End Of The Teaching Day…

Did I put as much movement as possible into my Main Lesson?

Did I stir a feeling in my child through the pictures, stories and images I presented?

Did my child put forth effort and work, thereby developing his or her own will?

Did we have fun?  Did we laugh?  Did I hug my child and love them?

Did I teach my child something new?  New can also be nuances on an existing subject or theme…

Did I use sleep as an aid to my teaching?  Did I keep reviewing what my child needs to review?  One time is not enough!

Did my children and I do something practical for the nurturing care of our home?

Many blessings,
Carrie

A Little Taste of The First Day of Fifth and Second Grade

WP_000110Folks all over have been posting about their first day of school.  As usual, I am late to the party. We started school three weeks ago in an effort to have some time off around the date we move into our new home.  Here in the Deep South, school tends to start in August, sometimes as early as the first of August, so we were in the company of many children we knew who had already been going to school for weeks!

Our first day of Fifth and Second grade was welcomed by the children, and the older girls insisted upon wearing matching outfits as their “uniform.”  We took a picture of the all the children by the front door.  Usually Daddy takes the children out for breakfast on the first day, but this year he was traveling, so we decided to jump in anyway.

I always start with a bit of review from the previous year, (or  begin with something that we didn’t finish!  LOL).  And I usually start with form drawing.  So, this year my second grader began with running forms.  Some of you may be familiar with a story by Donna Simmons in the Christopherus Form Drawing book that incorporates quite a few running forms for first grade (http://www.christopherushomeschool.com/Form-Drawing-For-Beginners-p/chr0007.htm), and I decided to start there since we didn’t use that particular story last year.

My second grader can have some challenges with spatial relationships, so we warmed up with quite a few exercises where I peeked at overall body dominance and hand-eye tracking, hand-eye-foot tracking and then moved into practicing these forms with chalk on the driveway, walking the forms with our eye on a fixed point facing various directions, drawing the forms on each other’s back and guessing what they were, drawing them in the air, drawing them on the blackboard and scrap paper and then finally placing them in our main lesson book.  We also began a review of math – numbers and counting, skip counting, Roman Numerals, all four math processes.  After running forms, we moved into the mirrored forms typical of second grade with some Trickster Tales from the Cherokee, found in this book: http://www.amazon.com/How-Rabbit-Tricked-Otter-Trickster/dp/0930407601/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346611672&sr=8-1&keywords=cherokee+trickster+tales

Our fifth grader started with some geometric forms found in the Christopherus Fourth and Fifth Grade syllabi ( http://www.christopherushomeschool.com/Fifth-Grade-Package-p/CHR1005.htm).   One of the first forms we tackled was the (not-so-simple) circle.  I garnered some grand inspiration from the book, “A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing The Universe” (http://www.amazon.com/Beginners-Guide-Constructing-Universe-Mathematical/dp/0060926716/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346458910&sr=8-1&keywords=beginner%27s+guide+to+constructing+the+universe).

We started with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson found in the above book:   “The eye is the first circle/The horizon which it found is the second/And throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end.”  So we looked at each other’s eyes, and we looked at the horizon.  What circular things did we see in each other and in the cosmos?

We read the book, “North Star:  St. Herman of Alaska”, as a read aloud for all of us, and looked carefully at the picture of the Northern Lights, such a circular pattern in the painting in the book, and such a grand representation of the cosmos.  We liked it so much we got out our paints and painted it.

Here is the book’s picture of the Northern Lights, and here is what we painted below.

We then looked back at the sky, and wondered at this idea that if we took the trajectories of the planets around the sun, the moon around the planets, the galaxies itself and tracked that around a fixed point, it would also look rather circular..There is a good picture in the “A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe” book…So we painted this (blue watercolor paint over the trajectories done in yellow beeswax crayon):

We dropped rocks into water to look for the dispersion of energy, which to our eye can look like a circle, and talked about other things we could find in nature that is circular.

All shapes are possible within the circle, and one person that came to mind was the great artist Giotto.  I pulled out this book and we looked at Giotto’s famous frescoes and then I told this story:

A long time ago in the country of Italy, a little boy was born to one of the village blacksmiths. As he grew it was apparent he had a certain light about him. He observed everything in great detail, and had such merry eyes and inquisitive countenance that made everyone in the village love him. His name was Giotto, and he helped his family by watching the sheep of the family amongst the rolling hills of the Italian countryside.

One thing Giotto loved to do was draw and paint the things he observed. He was a keen observer, and he could draw things in such a lifelike manner that it would make all the villagers stop and admire his talent. One day, the greatest Florentine painter Cimabue discovered Giotto drawing pictures of his sheep on a rock. They were so real, they looked like they could wander off the rock and start grazing right then and there! Cimabue was astounded, and asked Giotto’s father if he could take Giotto on as his apprentice.

Giotto went on to do such marvelous work and he kept his funny sense of humor and merriness. Once when Cimabue was absent from his workshop, Giotto painted such a lifelike fly on a painting that Cimabue was working on! When Cimabue returned to his workshop to pick up his paintbrush again, he saw the fly and kept trying to brush it off! Giotto broke into laughter and the two had a merry chuckle over the painted fly that was so lifelike Cimabue was convinced it was real!

As time went on, Giotto painted beautiful frescoes on the walls of many chapels throughout Italy and became known as the most important Italian painter of the 1300’s. But yet, when Pope Benedictus the XII contacted him and asked him to send a painting representative of his skill in order to come to Rome and paint for the Roman Catholic Church, Giotto only drew a beautiful and simple circle and sent that back by messenger to the Pope.

Why would the greatest artist in Italy do that?

So we talked about that, about what that perfect “O” really symbolized to mathematicians, artists and theologians alike – the prefectness of the circle, how all shapes can be accommodated within the circle, how the circle became the symbol of heaven and paradise.  We worked with drawing round circles freehand.  Ours were not nearly as perfect as Giotto’s!  After this, and over the next few weeks, we moved into other geometric shapes – the triangle, the quadrangle family- and then into lines, points, and rays.

And we off to the races in fifth and second grade!  We have since move into a block on Botany for our fifth grader and a Saints and Heroes block for our second grader, which I hope I get a chance to write about soon.

If you have posted your first day of school on your blog, I would love to read it.  Please leave a link below.  If you don’t have a blog but would like to share your first day with my readers, please leave a comment in the comment box!

Many blessings on a new school year,

Carrie

Guest Post: Botany In The Waldorf-Inspired Homeschool

Our guest blogger today is the wonderful, wise and inspiring Lauri Bolland.  She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Eric, and their three always-homeschooled Waldorfy children who are now 22, 18 & 14. Their youngest, Gracie, recently published her first book, which grew out of their Seventh Grade Creative Writing Main Lesson Block. Gracie can be found on Lulu here:

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/AmazingGrace

I asked Lauri to share some words regarding the “botany” block of fifth grade, and this is what she wrote:  Continue reading

Guest Post: Using “A Donsy of Gnomes” In First Grade Homeschooling

My original post on the book “A Donsy of Gnomes” stirred quite a bit of interest!  You can read the original post here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/07/09/a-donsy-of-gnomes-7-gentle-gnome-stories/ .  One of my wonderful readers wrote in with her story of how she used “A Donsy of Gnomes” in her daughter’s first grade experience.  Thank you to my reader Kristen from Vermont for sharing with all of The Parenting Passageway’s readers!

Here is what Kristen wrote, and I hope it will spark some creative ideas for your own homeschooling experience:

At the end of my daughter’s first  grade year, I decided to incorporate Sieglinde De Francesca’s sweet book of gnome stories into our Nature Block.“How to Create a Spring Nature Block for Grades  1-3”.  I loved her ideas but being the busy mama that I am with a small farm  to ‘manage’ and two  young girls under my constant care, I couldn’t possibly figure out how to find time to write my own stories.  Here in northern Vermont, we have seven to eight months of winter and relative ‘rest time’ but once it warms up, we are like crazed squirrels running here and there trying to fit everything in before it snows again!  I learned an important lesson this first year of homeschooling:  don’t leave any planning for spring undone before spring arrives.   You will never find the time once it’s warm enough to venture outside again and enjoy longer stretches of fresh air and the warmth of the sun.

So, I cheated.  I’ve been telling Sieglinde’s stories all year, with needle felted characters for each story, and my daughters have enjoyed them immensely.  (In fact, when I told the last story of the book, which occurs in late spring, my girls cried and I had to reassure them that they’d hear the stories all over again beginning in late summer!)  My plan was to tell the last two stories over the course of a month and tweak each story just a wee bit, adding bits of natural history here and there.  For instance, when I was in graduate school studying forest ecology, I loved reading about microhabitats and the ‘pillows and cradles’ you often see on the forest floor in mature stands.  Why not have the gnomes enjoy a rollicking time running up and down that lumpy ground, just for fun?  I also love wildflowers, especially the ephemeral ones in spring that look really groovy, like Jack-in-the-pulpit.  So why not have a gnome take shelter beneath a Jack-in-the-pulpit “roof” during a quick rain shower?   And, since I’m a bit obsessed with birds, why not have the gnomes comment on some of the bird songs as they scampered through the woods during the story?

The rhythm of our weeks was simple and was basically the same as telling the fairy tales, except that we incorporated nature walks into our afternoons to look for pillows and cradles and Jack-in-the-pulpits and notice what birds were singing their springtime songs.   We kept a nature journal which included a picture of the story and a short summary.

I also drew my own picture for story and hung them below our blackboard.  On these, I wrote words that my daughter could learn to write in her MLB and then practice reading.  We also incorporated a game in Peggy Kaye’s wonderful book “Games For Reading”.  It involved writing a short sentence related to the story, cutting up the sentence into pieces so that the words or phrases were separated, and asking my daughter to put the pieces back together in the right order to make a logical sentence.

She had already seen most words on my drawing and written many of them in her main lesson book so this was not as difficult a task as I thought it might be.  She is having a hard time learning to read and is not the type of kid who will sit down and try to figure it out herself.  A late bloomer, perhaps, but a child who loves to hear and retell stories!

Overall, I think this block was a stunning success and for weeks afterward my girls played with the needle felted gnomes (and other animal characters from the stories that I needle felted).    They both attended a garden camp this summer and during one of their walks in the forest  they gleefully showed their friends how much fun it is to run up the pillows and down the cradles in the forest, just like little gnomes do!

Many blessings, and much love,

Carrie

The Simple Homeschool

I have been talking to more and more mothers regarding planning for the upcoming school year, and one theme has been recurring:  they want simple.

  • They want curriculums that take into account that most mothers are time-constrained, either by activities or by having multiple children.
  • They want to know that when they spend a lot of money on a curriculum, that the curriculum is planned out.  Most mothers seem to want a day by day plan.
  • They want ideas for the magical parts of homeschooling – movement, drawing, music, painting, modeling, and how to bring the academic ideas to life through these vehicles.
  • They do want academic progression
  • They want to know how to take their spiritual and religious life and help their children absorb that in an age- appropriate way in the home environment
  • But most of all, they want simple.

In some respects, many people homeschool, not because they want to make life harder or to stress themselves out with having more complex days, but because they wanted a slower pace of life that allowed for more time and more connection with their children.

I think simplicity can actually start in planning. Planning helps ensure that you are not doing too much, but yet that some of your bases, especially for those past the age of ten, are covered.  For example: Continue reading