Fairy Tales, Books and Storytelling With The Little Ones

Some wonderful mamas have asked about storytelling with the little ones- how many stories, what kinds of stories  to bring in when, how often, so I thought I would quickly address this and then I have a writing deadline for something else to get to!

We look at building an oral basis of language first and primarily (this later extends into the grades because we first write what we know orally, and then we learn to read off of what we write.  The lectures in “Practical Advice to Teachers” by Rudolf Steiner elucidate this very well).

For one to three year olds, I would suggest mainly nursery rhymes, singing, singing, singing, little rhymes or short verses,blessing before meals, verses regarding animals and plants you might see on your nature walks.  For a three year old, some folks would start to add fairy tales, but I feel a little  bit differently about those tales for the three-year-old.  I often feel the “list” of fairy tales was designed for a mixed age Waldorf Kindergarten, and if your oldest is three, they are not going to have those older ages to really carry those tales.  So, you have to know your child well.  Sometimes introducing children to these fairy tales goes better in a song format, called a story circle, by many Waldorf Kindergarten teachers.  I tend to say for three year olds at home with no older siblings, how about using Juniper Tree’s “Around the World With Finger Puppet Animals” by Suzanne Down?  Also, simple stories you make up…  Then, at four, you could move into Suzanne Down’s nature stories, other nature tales, and other fairy tales and more complex stories you make up.

The fairy tales, whilst the hallmark of the Early Years and first grade, don’t have to go away completely!  We can always circle back around.  There is a book called “The Pancake” made up of repetitive fairy tales and such  that could be an effective reader for first or second grade.  Mrs. Marsha Johnson has a free “Russian Fairy Tales” block on her Yahoo!Group  that involves creating readers and such for second grade – this expands vocabulary quickly!  It also takes something the children know through the oral tradition, we write it, then we make readers and read it!  In Third Grade, that whole series collected by Andrew Lang (The Pink Fairy Tale Book, The Blue Fairy Book) could be readers or read-alouds.  There are collections of fairy tales and folk tales from all over the world.  This then later moves into mythology and finally into other great works of literature. 

The other place I differ is that all the stories have to be memorized.  This makes no sense for those of us who have small children, as the memory is part of the etheric body and that is being depleted when we have small children  as we share our life forces with them as they are still connected to us.  Donna Simmons always talks about using two beautiful watercolor paintings and making a beautiful, special book that the tales are written down in.  I have seen that work.  You can also try a bag of props to help you remember the story.

Yes, the stories in a Waldorf Kindergarten are usually brought for anywhere from two weeks to a whole month, the same story.  If you see the story coming out in their play, or they can chime in on the story and the story’s repetitive phrases, then you know it is sinking into them and doing good work!  Puppets, drama, music, props, all enliven the experience. 

As far as books, we know the first seven years are truly for the development and protection of the lower four of the twelve senses.  This is for interaction with people, and yes, reading to a child is interaction, but we would like to see even more in the way of singing and storytelling than books. 

For example, for children from birth to three, they don’t necessarily need books at this point.  A bedtime routine could be singing or storytelling and oral traditions.  I think many of us with multiple children admit to reading far more books to our first child as a baby than our subsequent children; we didn’t always know or have at our disposal the wonderful songs, nursery rhymes, etc that we build up over time.  There are some lovely books for babies, but is this an indispensible part of building literacy?  I don’t think it is; I actually think oral recitation,  singing and rhymes are.  Children who lack fluency in reading, children who have dysarthria (speech expression), etc actually  often need to go back to recitation of oral material in a rhythmic manner.

What babies need is human contact, being carried, being in a sling, being talked to and sung to and rhymes and learning to enjoy and play in silence as well, and to listen and hear the sounds of nature!  If you are going to read something, how about beautiful poems or things out of the Bible or the Koran or whatever fits your religious traditions?

For ages three to five, ideally, the books are kept up on a shelf and brought done with reverent care when it is reading time.   Perhaps you  have a  set reading time before quiet time and then  again at bedtime.  Rhyming, repeating books are wonderful for this age, such as the story of  Chicken Licken or Henny Penny or The Gingerbread Man. The other kind of book  is ones of  simple stories of every day life where not much happens. Books such as Ezra Jack Keats’ “The Snowy Day” and other by him.   You want the same books to be around for one whole season if possible, and then change them out with some new ones.  And yes, that means you read the same books over and over and over, but that is really what small children need to develop vocabulary and a sense of sequencing in the story line.

For ages five to seven, we can now add some weightier stories and books.  More complex fairy tales, more formal story times where we sit and light a candle and listen to this story.  This is where you look at that list of fairy tales by age and read them and see which story speaks to YOU and then you tell that.  If it doesn’t speak to you, pick a different one!  Here is the list:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/20/the-importance-of-fairy-tales/

Chapter books most likely are something that should wait, I think, until at least age six and more ideally, probably grade one and being seven years old.  Don’t rush this, there really is time.  Here are some back posts with books for the under-7 crowd:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/20/more-books-for-children-under-7/   

One thing that always baffles people about Waldorf is starting things a bit later. ( I actually don’t consider it later, I consider starting it at the normal, appropriate time) This is what  EVERY country almost around the world does except us and England at this point. Yes, the children go to school early, around age 3 or 4, but no academics are taught until the first grade.  There is no rush, and those children beat our children on every kind of standardized test and our educational system is particularly failing boys who often have trouble sitting still during those first seven years.  There are NO studies that back up introducing “academics” at an early age, and in fact, children are play-based programs for the first six years excel ahead of children introduced to academics early!    But I digress here, back to the main subject at hand….

Someone asked what I personally do with my under-7s.    My oldest, as I have repeatedly written about on this blog, pretty much taught herself to read around age  five and a half.  I have some posts on  here about doing Waldorf First Grade with an early reader.  The thing no one tells you about early readers, is that there are few things for them to read that are worthy!  The things they can read have themes that are way too mature, and the rest are series that are short and not beautiful – sorry,  Captain Underpants does not count to me.  :)  So, her books were limited and that was a source of complaint, but I am glad we stuck to it.  Before the nine-year change, you really want more of the archetypal, life is beautiful and good and safe and orderly kind of books.   My second five-year-old is not yet reading, but likes to be read to and loves stories and can sing, sing, sing. She is picking out letters and letter sounds, and that is okay (and it would be okay if she were not).    My third little guy is just a wee baby, so he is enjoying songs and hearing passages of the Bible hear and there..:)

As far as storytelling within the Waldorf homeschool, I did stick to the same story for usually a month, unless there was a special story I really wanted to bring around for a festival.  I know many of the Waldorf schools stick to one story every two to four weeks, but bring in a separate  story for baking and/or gardening or nature walk day.  That may very well be way too much for a mother tending to multiple small children at home, so I think you must do what resonates with you.

Hope some of that helps; take what resonates with you.

Many blessings,


Peaceful Homeschooling: Resources For Waldorf Grade Two

Here are my suggestions  for  essential resources for Grade Two.  Investigate for yourself and take what resonates with you!

  • Again, just like Grade One,  if you are not a do-it-yourselfer, you will need a curriculum!  I like Christopherus for a full everything ( handwork, music, everything!) -included except the need for a form drawing book- curriculum (although you can buy the Second Grade Math, Saints and Heroes and Animal Tales books separately).  Everything is very detailed and step-by-step, and you can tailor it to what your family needs.  Live Ed! is also a possibility;  I am not sure what extra resources one would need with Live Ed!  though regarding such things as handwork,etc or how much extra work it is to create your own rhythm out of it……My recommendation with choosing any curriculum is just to  make sure you know how much work it will take to put together if that is a concern for you and what other resources you will need outside of that curriculum to flesh it out!  Those two, plus the guide for second grade by Melisa Nielsen and the blocks by Marsha Johnson, are the only ones I that I can suggest to you in knowing that the authors work off of an anthroposophic basis that understands and respects the seven-year cycles and the three-and-four fold human being.  On the whole other hand, I honestly don’t think second grade is that hard to piece together yourself because there are quite a few resources for these kinds of stories. 
  • Also be sure to check out the free blocks in the FILES section under Second Grade on Marsha Johnson’s Yahoo!Group waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com.   There are at least two math blocks there that are free and also a Russian Fairy Tale block that could be useful for this grade. 
  • If you are going to put second grade together yourself, you may consider checking out Melisa Nielsen’s “A Journey Through Waldorf Homeschooling Grade Two” which  has some lovely articles in it to set the stage for second grade, ideas for how to approach the saints, verses and a paragraph of explanation for  many of the Saints,  many of the Aesop’s fables in their entirety and a sample  order of possible Main Lesson  blocks for the year with an idea or two  for each day of the week using a four-day week, and some  forms for second grade form drawing.   The extra resources you would need are listed within this guide. 
  • Samples of work at this stage can be important; there can be wide variation in the skills and abilities of second graders.  Check out the Grade Two Main Lesson Book pictures available to download for a fee  at the Millennial Child website by Eugene Schwartz here:  http://www.millennialchild.com/and also the second grade work on display at Christopherus:  http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/resources-for-waldorf-homeschooling-and-conscious-parenting/gallery-of-student-work/2nd-grade.html   
  • Check and see if you will need a form drawing resource or a traditional drawing resource for yourself.  Drawing, whilst still about color and gesture and filling up the page,  is becoming more formed and with more variety (how will you draw the animals for those fables?!)  and if you need help in this area, now is the time to get cracking and practice!
  • Yarn, knitting materials, a needle for sewing and ideas for projects.  I feel strongly about leaving purling until Third Grade and the nine-year-old change  because purling  is a gesture toward the body, a gesture of inwardness.  This is an area you will have to search your heart and decide what is best for your family!
  • The heart of this year is fables, folktales, American tall tales fit well, and also things like Russian fairy tales,  trickster tales, more African tales from Betty Staley’s “Hear the Voice of the Griot!”  What Native American tribes were or are in your area?  Some families bring Native American tales here and in third grade as well; some families wait until fourth grade and do these Native American tales along with local geography. Follow your heart, and do have a plan for this year that meshes with the coming years.  Themes run through the year, and everything builds upon everything else.
  • For music curriculum, pentatonic flute/recorder is traditional.  My friend Jodie over at homemusicmaking.blogspot.com is hard at work on curriculum; there are also resources available through David Darcy and Prometheus Press.
  • Movement is a big part of second grade between active, imaginative ways to bring the subtraction and addition facts and the multiplication tables  and also doing movement in blocks as found on the Movement for Childhood website.
  • Wet-on-wet painting is important, and so is modeling.  I like “Painting in Waldorf Education” by Bruin and Lichthart  and of course Arthur Auer’s “Learning About the World Through Modeling.”  Excellent!
  • One thing I have found a lot of fun is to bring in some Eurythmy-inspired lessons; verses and songs and poems with gestures.  I love “Come Unto These Yellow Sands” for that.  If you are not a trained eurythmist you cannot bring the speech eurythmy gestures and do them justice, but you can bring movement and fun to your homeschool with this wonderful book that covers Kindergarten through all twelve grades with great ideas!  There is also an article on copper rods on the Movement for Childhood website available here:  http://www.movementforchildhood.com/copperrods.pdf
  • Some people have asked me if they should get Donna Simmons’ “Saints and Heroes” book versus “Stories of the Saints” – the traditional Waldorf resource.  They cover different saints; please look for an upcoming blog post on this since it is a common question! 

IMPORTANT NOTE:  If you have a second grader who is “advanced” you can  keep moving ahead on academic skills, but please, please, please do NOT bring the Third Grade Curriculum until your child  is NINE or pretty darn close to nine.  The Third Grade Curriculum is really a year of DOING, a year that speaks directly and eloquently to the nine-year-old change.  If you bring it in too early two things will happen:  1.  The stories and activities of the Third Grade  just will not speak to your child’s soul, they become a rather empty gesture because they are being offered prematurely and 2.  You will be causing an avalanche effect for the coming years because the Grade Four Norse Myths are VERY dark!  (ie, everyone dies!)  I think a child really should be close to ten to deal directly with the content in the Norse myths; the themes are mature.  When we do academic work, we have to be sure to enliven it with lots of DOING, lots of music, art, painting, sculpting, modeling, gardening, doing, doing, doing.  Otherwise the academic work just sits there, dead and useless.  The teaching through art is the vehicle, the stories and the art and the movement and the doing are the way for the development of the soul.  If you need further clarification on this, I so highly suggest Steiner’s “Practical Advice to Teachers”.  Even just reading the forward will explain this so well!

Just a few thoughts for second grade!

Many blessings,


Peaceful Days: More About Homeschooling Waldorf Second Grade

I wrote a pretty detailed post regarding second grade planning  here:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/07/planning-waldorf-second-grade/   but wanted to recap half-way through this grade what I  have learned in the doing.  (I did this for first grade as well, please check under the first grade tag).

Here is a list regarding some things I have learned along the way in teaching second grade  that I think would be valuable for other parents:

1.  Regarding math, I think second grade is (and not to sound scary at all!)  a bit of a make or break point because your child starts to size up in their head whether or not they are “good” at math or not.  In other words, it seems like it could be the time for a child to generate a “math phobia”.   Much of this, I think has to do with temperament and personality.    Are they the type of child who will persevere and try and try again and be okay with trying to figure something out or does that just  make them fall apart?  I think this is something you can tuck in your hat and work with in math.

2.  Daily math practice is very, very important when you are not doing a Main Lesson Block on math.  The math  facts often seem rather floating around and up and away in the mind’s eye of a child….In third grade, these facts should be more well-solidified, but I think it is worth practicing in second grade.

3.  As far as language arts, I do not think you need to jump into spelling and grammar as of yet, but we had to because my daughter is learning German and in the German language,  grammar is the heart of it all (nouns are capitalized in the German language, for instance) and my daughter was starting to bring German grammar into English..so we had to go there a little bit.  I used some of the lessons from Dorothy Harrer’s “An English Manual”  book and those were helpful.

Other things to think about include writing utensil (we have been using stick crayons, but I do know Second Grade parents who are using other utensils).  Also, when will you be bringing in cursive?

4. Keep carving out time for baking, gardening, cleaning and allow more consecutive days for project completion.  How about music, painting and modeling?

5. I strongly believe that there are anthroposophic indications for saving purling in handwork until the third grade.  Just a thought.  Go read through Steiner and see what you think. 

6.  Form drawing and movement are important.  For movement suggestions in block form see here:  http://www.movementforchildhood.com/classroom.pdf

7.  After dealing with Saints and Heroes this year, I am not totally convinced that they should be part of the curriculum for the homeschooling family unless the parent is really comfortable with them and those stories.  On the one hand, the saints were not part of the original Waldorf school curriculum, and whilst I think it is worthy and important to look into them and see why you don’t connect with them (because there are plenty of Hindu, Islamic, African saints in many places, also heroes of people who were otherworldly, figure who had a connection to the spiritual world that an eight-year-old with one foot on the bridge and one foot on earth could really relate to!), I also don’t think people should bring these stories if they are not comfortable.

Before you give up Saints, though,  you might want to check out the Saints and Heroes book by Donna Simmons here: http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/bookstore-for-waldorf-homeschooling/publications-for-grades-1-through-5/saints-heroes-a-2nd-grade-language-arts-block.html

There are saints and heroes from many different cultures in this resource.

We personally did enjoy saints and heroes along with fables, Native American tales, more fairy tales (Russian ones this year, and I know some families who did a block of Celtic tales).  I think second grade could be just  those animal trickster tales, fables (no telling the moral please, please let the child figure it out!), more fairy tales, folktales.  (King of Ireland’s Son is also traditional in many Waldorf schools).   However, I think we still need to show the eight-year-old the duality of man, which is why I think so many schools do use the saints and heroes (otherworldly wonderful qualities close to the spiritual worlds) and the fables or trickster tales (the baser parts of being human).  Food for thought anyway. 

7.  If you are feeling overwhelmed and ready to give up Waldorf, please don’t.  You really can do the very essential – opening things (an opening song, a seasonal verse, a longer poem to memorize), do your mental math if not a math block and jump into Main Lesson work and be done.  It is better than giving up this great healing education! And, you eventually go through a cycle and time when you can add more back in!

8.  Plan for summers OFF.  Your child will make so much progress if you just let this material rest, rest, rest.

Hope that helps your planning!


HELP! How to Waldorf Homeschool With My Grades and Kindergarten Child?

Question from the field:

I have an 8 year old second grader and a 5 year old. We all come together for morning lesson and it used to be that my little one had his own work – puzzles, play dough, stringing beads. But recently he has been joining the lesson, drawing the lesson picture into his sketch book, he’s trying out copying letters and he has learned to write his name. He does not want the other work right now. The reality in our home is that there is no separation when I read a second grade story they both listen, when we do second grade work, my 5 year old is right there. It’s been this way since the very beginning. Whatever work or story we’ve been doing for my older son, my younger son is a part of it too. We share our day and I love that! But it sure feels like everything revolves around my older son. I feel guilty! We already include some things in our day that are geared more toward the younger, I guess maybe I should step that up. And I do get little moments in my day to cuddle or play a quick game with my little guy. It’s hard to keep it simple, especially when I think about the future! I visualize a Waldorf-one-room-homeschool-house where both boys get what they need and feel (obviously!) overwhelmed!

This is a great question, and it comes up so frequently that I would like to address it in a blog post for everyone to see and read.

First of all, take a deep breath.  Part of homeschooling is more relaxed than a Waldorf School, and that is okay because there are many other advantages to being home.  One of the main advantages is that instead of being separated from each other all day, your children will form a strong bond by being together day in and day out.  The other thing to think of is not only is there an advantage for the younger one to see what the older one is doing, it is an advantage for the older one to see and be a part of what the younger one is doing.  So, please do start with a very positive attitude that this is very best set up for both of your children.

That being said, I agree with your caution regarding running your homeschool just to suit your oldest.  If your oldest is 9 or under, I think we must be especially careful to allow for time for the oldest to play, play, play and be outside and to do other things.  A 7 or 8 year old is still small and has energy to get out, for sure.  This is an advantage

Several things to think and meditate on:  How long is the Main Lesson?  I would say for first and second grade one  to two hours is typical (don’t forget daily practice of math as part of your Circle/Opening!).  How many days a week are you doing school?  Most people do four days a week in these very Early Grades.

Where do you put the Kindergarten Circle/verses, Kindergarten Story and Activity of the Day for the Kindergartener?  You could do baking one day, soup making one day, etc either in the morning before you start the older one’s school or in the afternoon.  It should be the type of thing that the child can join in on or not, and that the oldest can participate in as well or even lead a few songs or verses for the younger child.

In contrast, the older child should have several days a week to devote to handwork or playing a musical instrument and not work with a different activity each day.  They need consecutive days to get things done, projects completed.

How active is your Main Lesson?  There should be singing, movement, oral recitation, cooking, painting, modeling, drawing (not all at once, of course!)  The movement, etc are all things a younger child could join in on.  And don’t go crazy, keep it simple, short, “economical.”

Some Waldorf homeschooling families also have a “Kindergarten Day” a week, where that day the Kindergartener’s activities move to the forefront for that day and the Grades child joins in. 

I think too, the longer one homeschools, the more one is not afraid to be “rigid”, in other words, if the children are playing well, to let them play and start school in a bit or go hiking if the weather is gorgeous….But then also, on the flip side, to know when your Grades child really does need to buckle down and get to work. 

As far as a five or six year old listening in on the Main Lesson, try not to worry too much.  Children under 7 are at the height of imitation, and they are imitating what they see around them.    Give them a “Main Lesson” book and respect if they want to draw in it, but also respect when they are running off to play and are tired of “playing” school.  Writing one’s name and copying down a few  letters does not mean they are ready for formal Grade One lessons yet!  When it is their turn for First Grade or Second Grade, they may vaguely remember some of the stories, but the stories will speak to them on a much deeper level at that point because they are at the right age for them.  And your older child gets the benefit of listening in to the stories for a second time and deepening how they view things as well.  I think that is a very enjoyable part of homeschooling!

That being said, though, do carry on with typical Kindergarten activities, lots of movement, Circle Time and other things that nourish your Kindergartener’s soul.  Meet them where they are developmentally.

Lots of fun, good times, and holistic educational progress is the key!

Many blessings,


Waldorf Homeschooling With Large Age Gaps Between Children

This continues our vein of Waldorf homeschooling, Unschooling, and “What Does Waldorf Look Like In Your Home?”  Today’s post is written by Lauri Bolland, a veteran Waldorf homeschooling mother who is a frequent contributor to Melisa Nielsen’s Yahoo!Group ( see homeschoolingwaldorf@yahoogroups.com to join Melisa’s list).  Lauri has a wealth of experience in this area and I asked her to guest blog for me and share her thoughts about this area that scares so many people away from Waldorf Homeschooling.

Lauri writes:

I have three always-homeschooled children, with 4 1/2 years between the first two and 4 years between the second two. So they were 8 1/2 & 4 when my youngest was a newborn, and they are now ages 20, 15 1/2 & 11 1/2.

It may seem with that kind of age gap (and considering the Waldorf curriculum) that I would be teaching three separate grades all the time, and – for the most part – that’s been true. However, there have often been many times when I could combine my children. When my middle child was in 1st Grade, for example, he spent most of his time hanging out while my eldest did a 5th grade study of the ancients. (With the toddler in the sling or blocked in the room with us with toys.) My eldest was still a non-writer at that point, and a very limited reader, so everything was done aloud – with LOTS of hands on. My middle child now has a tremendous love for history, and I think it was his sideways participation in that year that inspired it. He still remembers how we constructed the Nile River Valley from sand, dirt, seeds, and Legos – and then FLOODED it – and the grass seeds grew like the Delta grows after the rainy season.

When my middle child was in 7th and my eldest was in 10th, I kept them together for a Creative Writing block and a Grammar Intensive Block, both of which I ran like a workshop. We actually had a blast!

Then when my middle child was in 8th and my eldest in 11th, I decided to do Movies as Literature for English/Literature for both of them. 

True, the timeliness of the curriculum was geared more towards my middle child, but I brought the Waldorf inspired thinking and discussion skills to my eldest – so both were well served. I was able to gear questions and discussion toward the developmental level of each child – which sounds very lofty, but wasn’t! LOL! It was a matter of asking one kind of question for one child, and other kinds of questions – according to Waldorf pedagogy – for the other. I required varying amounts of writing, and graded each child’s work differently. Again, I did a “workshop” type of format with discussion, cooperation, shared writing, reading aloud together, and more discussion. Interestingly, when my eldest began college classes in the Autumn, she said her English 101 class was just like homeschooling in that workshop/discussion format!

I put together a semester long block for my eldest’s last year of homeschooling, where we circled the Eastern Hemisphere (Asia, Africa, & Oceana) as a family. It was my choice to do one last thing en masse before she was off to college. For my youngest (4th grade) we focused on the food, clothes, games and Native People’s Myths & Stories of the lands we visited. My 8th grader focused on the geography of the world, weather patterns, native peoples, and the details of these continents – all “on time” for the Waldorf schedule. My 12th grader focused on the beliefs and the great thinkers who arose from these places – or traveled TO these places. We slanted it toward our faith a bit, as she had already covered the historical and geographical sweeps. She (my eldest) lead the majority of the crafts and the cooking for the other two, which gave me a nice break and allowed her to have some teaching responsibility. It was a beautiful way to end our time together, and one of those times I had to go with my “gut” on what to do, but could still tailor it to the underlying philosophies of Waldorf. I think my busiest year was when they were 15, 11 & 7, and I was teaching 9th, 5th & 1st simultaneously – all very demanding years!

I think the primary trick to working with larger age gaps is to be organized. As a woman, I really need our home and our relationships to be running right, or I feel discombobulated and out of sorts. If our cleaning, laundry, meals and shopping are in a shambles, or our relationships are rocky, I just can’t concentrate on school stuff. So I try to be very well organized in regard to what days we do what, and who does what. Also, I’m a bit of a stickler for the way people treat each other. Because it takes a lot of time to run a household and keep relationships pleasant when children are very little, I had to do my best with the small amount of time left for homeschooling.

When they were 9, 5 & 1, for example, I didn’t have two hours for doing the eldest’s schoolwork, so I had to make it a VERY GOOD 45 minutes at the table. Often we needed to move outside for some studies, or to the living room floor for others. It was so much better for my kids in the long run, and helped me to make the most of our days. Steiner had to do this with one of his students when he was a private tutor, and it contributed to his philosophy of teacher preparation.

My second trick for working with large age gaps is planning out every lesson. I know myself pretty well (I’m weak willed) and if I don’t have EVERY lesson planned out, I’ll buckle. As soon as the kids start to balk, I become tempted to drop it all and go do something fun.

I’ve done it more times than I can count! However, if I have all my lessons tidily planned for each and every child, I can hold firmer.

There have been lots of other times we’ve worked together. Believe it or not, we did daily circle time together until just this year. With older children it was more about doing Brain Gym type movement, memorizing facts or poetry, talking walks together, and doing elaborate (and not so elaborate) indoor and outdoor obstacle courses for each other. This year my 9th grader gets started on his High School work early, so it’s just my 5th grade daughter and I. We call it “Movin’ Time” and take walks, do Brain Gym, Form Drawing, etc.

However, she and I did have a two week color-intensive Watercolor painting block which my college student managed to join us for most of! :)

Very often over the years, I found life overlapped with homeschooling and homeschooling overlapped with life. By being flexible and organized, we’ve enjoyed quite a bit of family-centered (and still  Waldorf) learning in spite of the age gaps between my children.

Carrie Here:  I love to hear the voices of veteran Waldorf homeschooling mothers – they have so much to offer!  So, what does Waldorf look like in your home?  Getting over your fears enough to jump in and develop a relationship with this most healing form of education?

Many blessings, and much thanks to Lauri for sharing!


Science in the First and Second Grade Waldorf Homeschool Curriculum

There is a wonderful article here regarding the approach toward science within the Waldorf curriculum:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/ScienceDavid.pdf

As a science person, I also wrote an article on this blog regarding how I view the rigorousness of science as presented throughout the Waldorf curriculum and also traced what subjects in science are brought in when here:


Science is a very important subject to me and to our family.  I think Waldorf education provides a very rigorous and age-appropriate, developmentally- appropriate way to science education.  For First Grade and Second Grade, many parents wonder what they should be doing within the curriculum for Science since most of the emphasis is placed upon Language Arts, Math and Form Drawing.  Let me assure you there are plenty of places to work science in!

Here are some ideas and suggestions:

  • Form drawing off of simple nature stories. This is especially effective during these early grades.
  • Tell spontaneous made-up stories regarding the animals around your home and in your area.  A wonderful reference is Anna Comstock’s “Handbook of Nature Study.”  Read up on what animal or plant you would like to make a story about and work those characteristics into your story.
  • Do several short one to two-week blocks on backyard nature each season.
  • Spend lots of time outside just feeling, observing, using the 12 senses every day and in every kind of weather.  Look at how the weather affects plants and animals throughout the seasons.
  • Do get Joseph Cornell’s “Sharing Nature with Children” and work nature games into your school year.
  • Do plenty of festival preparation – this is part of science:  the cycle of the year.
  • Do plenty of arts and crafts involving natural materials on your craft days.  Look at things such as the cycles of wool from visiting sheep at a farm to raw fleece washing to carding and spinning to dyeing yarn and knitting as part of your handwork.
  • Start a garden!  Garden throughout much of the year.  See my review on “Gardening with Young Children” by Beatrys Lockie here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/07/book-review-gardening-with-young-children-by-beatrys-lockie/
  • Cooking provides many opportunities to observe chemical phenomenon.
  • Visit farms, orchards, aquariums, zoos, beaches, mountains, grasslands and other places.
  • Start terrariums and aquariums.
  • Catch small animals and keep them overnight and then let them go! We currently have a snail that we found and have enjoyed watching the snail move with its one foot, seeing the snail’s eyes on the end of the stalks up close, finding out what  a snail loves to eat, how to build a snail habitat. 
  • Feed the birds throughout the winter, put up bird boxes, bat houses, owl houses. 
  • Get your little outdoor  space certified as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat.
  • Read stories that have to do with nature.  Donna Simmons has great lists in  her book “From Nature Stories to Natural Science” available here: http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/bookstore-for-waldorf-homeschooling/essential-christopherus-publications/from-nature-stories-to-natural-science.html
  • In first and second grade, provide opportunities to work through the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water.  Some second grade families do an entire block on these elements through toy and craft making.
  • Look at thing with the NAKED eye to really develop observation skills – you have years left in which to use microscopes, magnifying glasses and telescopes. You do not need these things yet!  Save your money until you really need these things in later years!
  • Work through poetry and movement.  Choose seasonal fingerplays, songs, circle time work that looks at animals and plants in the seasons.  Move like these animals.
  • Work with any pets you may have to train them.  Clicker training is just wonderful, and works with pretty much any animal from dogs to cats to Oscars (the fish).   If you google “clicker training”, lots of resources will come up.  Help your child to do such  things  as feed and brush the dog, but do NOT expect the child to take full responsibility  for a pet yet!  Work to include your animals in the rhythm of your day.
  • Other appropriate blocks to work in science include a block of the four seasons, length of year, length of months in First or Second Grade.  A good resource for stories involving the seasons is Dorothy Harrer’s
  • Blocks that include work with the Four Elements are great sources of inspiration and scientific thinking.
  • Blocks that include stories that revolve around the animals and plants of a specific habitat – mountain, desert, ocean.

Hope that sparks some ideas for you as you plan,


Planning Waldorf Second Grade

There are several things to keep in mind whilst planning second grade for a seven and a half or eight-year old: one is what academic and practical skills one will be teaching, and the other is through what vehicle one will be teaching through.  The “vehicle” in second grade is the stories of Saints contrasted with the trickster tales of the animals, perhaps Celtic fairy tales or the wonderful King of Ireland’s Son, nature stories for Science, a few gnome or other types of stories for math.  The way you “drive” this vehicle is through art, movement, rhythm, in-breath and out-breath. 

There can be a wide disparity where second graders are academically.  I have a very fluent reader who can read anything she would like, (including things I have to hide because I feel the themes are just too mature at this time as they involve great sympathy with a main protagonist!).  Remember, we are still working within fairy tales to a certain extent, and moving into fables and folklore as our main thrust this year due to the spiritual and soul development of the eight year old.  For my second grader, we will continue to introduce some simple grammar and punctuation, writing longer summaries and paragraphs, higher level vocabulary.  Another child may still be working on reading what they have written and more simple phrases. 

For math, one is most likely working with a  deepening understanding of the times tables  as taught rhythmically and by heart, mental arithmetic,  place value, simple money sums, development of symmetric form drawing, translating large numbers into words and vice versa, moving from the horizontal kinds of math problems to the vertical.

For science, one is looking at more pointed nature tales with characteristics of the animals.  I personally am also looking at bringing a Spring block of the 4 elements with lots of play and building of projects (again, may not completely coincide with the Waldorf curriculum at a Waldorf school). 

For social studies, one is still looking at  local geography through actually being outside and using the 12 sense to observe local flora, fauna and weather,  and through the tales of local folklore, including local American Indian stories.  For example,  I live in an area where the Cherokee used to live, and we will be doing a block of Cherokee Trickster Tales.

Other activities that may round out your curriculum may include continuing with a pentatonic instrument or learning a pentatonic scale on a blowing instrument, kinderlyre instruction, knitting with knit stitch and purling, introducing three secondary colors with wet-on-wet painting, modeling with beeswax, games including jump rope, hop scotch, rhythmic games, seasonal festival preparation and arts and crafts and cooking and baking.

Once you decide what academic or practical skills one is teaching, then one must decide HOW to bring this.  Will you use Fables as a Nature Block, or a Language Arts block?  Will you use Trickster Tales as a way to pick forms out of the stories for Form Drawing or will you use Nature Stories?  These are the questions that make the curriculum come alive for you and your family.

Here is an outline of what I am planning as I write my own curriculum, and this is not set in stone as I have only written September and October so far!!  I do try to plan each day around Head, Heart and Hands and also to find the ACTIVE part in all the lessons.  Very important!

(Totals are around  8 weeks of Form Drawing plus weekly Form Drawing some blocks, 14 weeks of Math, 9-10 weeks of Nature, 13 weeks of Language Arts which may very well not be enough for some children if this is a weaker area.  Eugene Schwartz has his second grade divided between 16 weeks of Math and 16 weeks of Language Arts, 6 weeks of Form Drawing and doesn’t include Nature/Science in the tally.)

September:  2 weeks of Form Drawing from Cherokee Trickster Tales and 2 weeks of Math (review Roman Numerals, moving from horizontal to vertical, review of 2s, 5s, 10s multiplication tables).  Family play for Michaelmas

Other work:  Wet on wet painting of geometric forms, Introduction to Kinderlyre, German and Spanish, Seasonal Arts and Crafts, gardening, cooking and baking

October:  4 weeks of a Nature/Language Arts  Block with writing in Main Lesson Book  from the Fables, work on simple grammar and punctuation and a bit longer summaries, will also wet on wet watercolor paint and model with beeswax as part of this block, pentatonic flute and singing, Seasonal Arts and Crafts, more gardening, cooking and baking, knit stitch to make hat, German and Spanish

November:  4 weeks of a Math Block, more Kinderlyre and  knitting, German and Spanish, cooking and baking and gardening (terrarium making!), weekly Form Drawing

December: 2 –3 weeks of a  Nature Block/Language Arts Block   from Saint Francis of Assisi, Advent Crafts, cooking and baking and such, German and Spanish.  Family Play for Advent. 

January:   end of December – January 2 weeks of Form Drawing,  4 weeks of Math Block, Kinderlyre and Sewing,  cooking and baking, German and Spanish, preparation for Candlemas, weekly Form Drawing

February:  3 weeks of a Language Arts block from Saints, Pentatonic flute and singing and more hand sewing,  cooking and baking, German and Spanish

March:  3 weeks of a Nature Block from the 4 Elements, probably no Main Lesson Book, will include nature games,    German and Spanish, cooking and baking, gardening, Easter Crafts, weekly Form Drawing

April:  4  weeks of Form Drawing from Jataka Tales, wet on wet watercolor painting, Knitting , Woodworking  and Gardening, German and Spanish,  cooking and baking

May:  4 weeks of Math, Pentatonic flute and singing, Gardening, cooking and baking, seasonal crafts for May Day, Whitsun, Ascension, German and Spanish.

June:  3 weeks of Language Arts from Saint Stories where cursive may be introduced ?? (still deciding!), Wet on Wet Watercolor Painting and Gardening, German and Spanish, cooking and baking, weekly Form Drawing, festival preparations for St. John’s Day.

As I have said, I have not written all of it yet, so I don’t  know everything yet!  It is just a skeleton work in progress!

Some resources that may assist you:

Grade 2 Curriculum Package from Donna Simmons:  http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/bookstore-for-waldorf-homeschooling/curriculum/2nd-grade.html

Grade 2 from Melisa Nielsen:  http://alittlegardenflower.com/store/

Eugene Schwartz Grade 2:  http://knol.google.com/k/eugene-schwartz/the-waldorf-curriculum-grade-two/110mw7eus832b/18#

Saints and Heroes from Donna Simmons:  http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/bookstore-for-waldorf-homeschooling/curriculum/2nd-grade.html

Grade 2 Math from Donna Simmons:  http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/bookstore-for-waldorf-homeschooling/curriculum/2nd-grade.html

Animal Tales from Donna Simmons:  http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/bookstore-for-waldorf-homeschooling/curriculum/2nd-grade.html

Teaching Mathematics in Rudolf Steiner Schools for Classes I- VIII by Ron Jarman

Hear The Voice of the Griot!  A Guide to African Geography, History, and Culture by Betty K Staley (Trickster Tales, Saint Stories, longer fairy tales for Grade 2)

Stories of the Saints – Siegwart Knijpenga

Teaching with the Fables: A Holistic Approach by Sieglinde de Francesca

Read-aloud List herehttp://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/29/great-books-for-second-grade-in-your-waldorf-inspired-homeschool/

Various festival books and book regarding tongue twisters and riddles to “warm-up

Books of Games, singing games are especially nice

Gardening and Baking Resources

Norwegian, Jewish, African  and Swedish folktales and such – I am telling a tale for about three days in a row before Quiet Time throughout the year.

Sources of Nature, fables, King of Ireland’s Son if you are bringing that book as a block.

After you know how your blocks are laid out, you  can start going through and picking what stories and activities resonate in your soul, what you feel your child needs to hear and you fit it into a three-day rhythm of telling the story on the first day, artistic activity, and the academic piece on the third day.  You are always searching for the active, and adding in the artistic, the senses, the different ways to approach this.

For example, should you choose to use the fable “The Lion and the Mouse,” you may start the first day with a story of mice that incorporates their general characteristics and the modeling of a mouse out of beeswax and tell the story (Do NOT tell the moral to the child – that is for them to draw the conclusion!).  Flesh out the short fable so it is a real story with detail.  The second day you may re-visit the story and make a beeswax lion to go with the mouse.  Perhaps you act out the story with your child (only two characters, lends itself nicely to drama in a homeschooling environment!)  Perhaps you found a short poem about a mouse or a lion to share.  Then, the third day you can  re-visit the story with movement (how would the lion move and sit?  how would the mouse move?  what do their voices sound like?), draw a picture and have your child re-visit the story with you writing down what the child says and then distill this into two or three sentences on the blackboard for your child to copy.  Perhaps you play some rhyming games with the words, point out punctuation, look for doing words if you decided to bring the different types of words to second grade (or not!  perhaps you wait on that until Third Grade).  Much of this depends on what speaks to you as a family and to your child.  You are the parent, and you are the expert on your child and what they need to hear!

I am just a homeschooling mother like you, and planning just like you.  I suggest if you are very confused you contact one of the national Waldorf consultants (Barbara Dewey, Donna Simmons, Melisa Nielsen, David Darcy, Eugene Schwartz) to help you.  The little bit of money for a half hour consultation may save you so much money in curriculum spending and in  time.

Happy Planning,


The Wonder Years: Waldorf Homeschooling Grades One Through Three

There seems to be a perception amongst mainstream parents that children within the first, second and third grades should be “buckling down and getting to work”, which essentially means loads of worksheets and sitting with pen and paper in hand.

I have a different view, one that coincides with the way the grades are laid out in Waldorf Education, and one I would like you to seriously consider.

You will never get the ages of 7,8 and 9 back.  Seven, eight, and nine-year olds are still small, believe it or not.  The way they learn best most likely is not pen and paper and workbooks.  This only involves the head, and  nothing about the rest of the body.  Most of us learn best when we involve as many senses as possible, so why would we not offer the option of learning through movement, art, music and yes, paper and writing as well to the smallest members of our schooling community?

Seven, eight and nine are still ages of wonder!  These are not the ages for stuffing facts into their heads.  This is the age for igniting interest, for providing those valuable hands-on experiences that stimulate wonder.

Some of the physiologic parameters are not even there yet for true “sit down learning.”  A seven-year –old can still be fairly distractible, an eight-year-old finally has the development of the eyes completed, the nine-year-old is starting to be on the threshold from feeling as if he is one with the Universe and everything in it.  To treat these seven, eight and nine year olds any differently is not in accordance with their developmental level.  It is rushing, it is putting the horse before the cart, and it will set you up for problems as you actually reach the stages for greater “head-oriented” learning.

Here are some simple suggestions:

1.  Find and plan the ACTIVE part of each and every lesson!  A Main Lesson does not mean just sitting and writing!

2.  Have respect for the attention span and fatigue factor of the seven, eight and nine-year old!

3.  Realize that not every block calls for a Main Lesson Book creation.  Third Grade is full of hands-on projects, building and farming and gardening.  These bodily experiences are just as important, if not more important, than sitting and writing.

4.  Ignite the WONDER!  You are not there to stuff facts, you are there to distill the essence of the subject down into your Main Lesson, you are there to give SPACE to the child to let them form their own conclusion. 

5.  Leave your adult baggage BEHIND!  They don’t need it (and truth be told, do you really need it as well?)  Saints are wonderful other-worldly beings that the eight-year-old can still relate to as they do battle with the more heavy side of being human, the Old Testament Stories are stories of a people and how they dealt (or didn’t) with such concepts as authority and law and place in society. 

6.  Utilize REST and SLEEP as the true learning aids that they are to education.  Waldorf Education utilizes a three-day rhythm (some Waldorf homeschool curriculums utilize a two-day rhythm simply because Waldorf at home is not Waldorf at school).  This is vital!

7.  Understand the big picture for the 7 and 8 –year old, and also for the nine-year change.  I guarantee it is not textbooks and worksheets and workbooks that will speak to their heart, their soul development and their developmental stage.  I recently had the pleasure of speaking to a young lady who just finished public school first grade and she told me excitedly that her teacher had made snow in their classroom!  (Yes, making snow is a BIG deal in the Southeastern United States because we don’t really get any that lasts for any length of time).   That was the thing she mainly remembered from first grade, that is the one thing she really carried with her from the whole school year!

Work for creating wonder, for respect for the fact that 7 and 8 and even 9 year olds are still small.  Plan ahead with your 7 and 8 year olds for what they will need for the nine-year change.

Happy pondering,


Great Books for Second Grade In Your Waldorf- Inspired Homeschool

Here are some suggestions for Waldorf Second Grade read-alouds:

From “The Waldorf Student Reading List”:  (and do get the book so you can read the complete list, I picked and  wrote here out of what resonated with me!)

Aesop’s Fables (LEAVE THE MORAL OUT AT THE END) – These are usually done in a main lesson block, so I would NOT consider these bedtime reading or anything!  Maybe these really shouldn’t be on this list, as they are usually told, not read……I will write a post on Fable Main Lesson Block soon!

Thornton Burgess Nature Stories – all of them and there are many!

King Of Ireland’s Son” – again, if you are not doing this as a Main Lesson Block

Susan Cooper’s “The Selkie Girl” – a picture book, but definitely with second-grade content

Tomie De Paola – Clown of God, Big Anthony, Stregna Nona, etc.

Wind In the Willows” – a classic!

George MacDonald’s “The Light Princess”, “The Princess and the Goblin”, “The Princess and Curdie”

Any of Gerald McDermott’s Trickster Tale kind of picture books

Arthur Ransome’s “Old Peter’s Russian Tales

Winnie the Pooh” if you have not read those stories yet

Jakob Streit’s “Animal Stories” (available through Waldorf booksellers)

Isabel Wyatt’s “The Book of Fairy Princes

Some suggestions from Donna Simmons in her works:

Barefoot Book of Pirates

Ballet Shoes – N. Streatfield (there is a whole series available)

John Henry” as illustrated by  Julius Lester and also “The Adventures of Bre’r Rabbit” also illustrated by Julius Lester

King Arthur by Roger Lancelyn Green

Robin Hood also by Roger Lancelyn Green

Donna has a bookstore on Amazon where you can see titles for second grade here:  http://astore.amazon.com/christopherus-20

Some Suggestions from Carrie:

Little House on the Prairie, but do save “Farmer Boy” for third grade!!

The Moomintroll Series

Any sort of Jataka tales if you are not doing these for a Main Lesson Block

Any of the appropriate stories from “Hear the Voice of the Griot!” by Betty Staley and available through Waldorf booksellers.    A great resource for all grades; see the review on this blog!

Any sort of American Tall Tale or Native American trickster tales

Mungo, which is a story of a Saint found through Waldorf booksellers.  I have not read it myself but I have heard from others that this would be appropriate for Grade Two.  (Update I do not agree with this for grade two. I would put it much, much  later – it has complex themes, including a rape).

The German classic now in English, “Peter and Anneli’s Journey to the Moon” available through Bob and Nancy’s Bookshop www.waldorfbooks.com

Peaceful and happy reading together,


Where Do I Go Now?

What do you do when you realize your method of homeschooling has been more detrimental  than the goodness you thought it was bringing to your child? Or that your child just has tremendous imbalances between their body, their head, their social and emotional skills?   I am talking about parents of very,very bright children who were reading at age three fluently, the very smart child who is so incredibly “gifted”, the children who are so ahead of themselves and so logical…..

Until the parent begins to notice that this very bright child can relate to no one of his own age at all.  That the child has poor gross motor skills.  That the child is only drawn to books and textbooks and such.  That this child has very little creative ability, is very serious, has difficulty playing.  That the child seems very in their head, worried about adult things, in fact seems more like an adult than not…..

In my experience many of these children do  feel isolated, depressed, anxious – and they are still children and whether they can verbalize it or not, they are looking to you to take the lead, to make it better.  They are still small, they still need your protection.

And the parent is thinking now this child is 7,8 or 9, what to do, what to do?  Can Waldorf education help this child?

My first recommendation is this:  Call one of the national Waldorf consultants for a consultation.  This is important, because  sometimes you are dealing with an out of the ordinary situation, not just where the child is coming in late to Waldorf, which also may have its own challenges, but there may be therapeutic issues to be dealt with.   Here is the link with all the names of consultants I know:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/03/waldorf-consultants/

My second recommendation is to look at yourself!  This will take hard work, change, motivation, being matter of fact and peaceful with your child as things change and they complain about the change!  Can you:

1. Stop talking and putting adult decision making on them?   Do not ask them if they want to “do Waldorf homeschooling.”  It is not their choice at this point.  They should have completely limited choices at this point on life issues.  They already have had enough pressure and the decision making process has worked on their psyche to the point where they are no longer children.  Help them reclaim their childhood by being the Authentic Leader in your home. You set the tone right now.

2.  Can you read some of Steiner and really penetrate what teaching first, second or third grade is  about?  What level these children are normally at in these grades in Waldorf? And there is more than academics at stake here – where are they gross motor wise, emotionally, socially, artistically, fine motor wise?     It is probably going to be very different than what you are used to.    Can you be okay with that while you take a year to heal and to shift toward balance?

3.  Can you be okay with balancing the child without the use of textbooks in these early grades, with the use of outside time, hiking, gardening, being in nature without identifying trees and bushes to death?  Woodworking, knitting, dyeing things, having an aquarium without all the plant and fish identification, having an art farm or worm farm, looking at the stars with the naked eye with Native American legends and stories as the backdrop would all be healing.  Apple picking, berry picking, making jelly, going to the zoo and aquarium (without writing reports or taking one of the those damned nature journals around with them to draw and identify everything by the latin name? just looking and being and seeing how those animals move), swimming, singing and jumping rope would all be very healing.

4.  Can you show them how to play by setting up stations for playing in your home?  Most eight year old girls still like to play with dolls.  Maybe your child has forgotten how to play!  Copious outside time will help.  Can you set up a woodworking bench, a knitting area, a sewing area, an area for art?  Can you work on some handwork yourself for an hour in the afternoons and set up that model, that expectation for your son or daughter?

5.  Think about warmth – less words, stop explaining, can you show your delight in your child WITHOUT words at all?  Smiles, hugs, fun!  Can you as a family go and have fun?  Hiking, ice skating, roller skating, picnics, – is this child’s seriousness coming from you?  This child is small and needs to be joyous!

6.  Think about early bedtimes, consistent meal and snack times with warm food.  Lots of fresh air and fresh unprocessed foods.

7.  Bring in stories to heal your child’s soul – fairy tales, legends, nature stories, stories from your childhood and from when your child was very, very small.  Lots of storytelling.  Remember, the academics in Waldorf can be adjusted to where your child is, but the stories for each grade is designed for the child’s soul development.  And while we would want to focus on what a child needs for that age, and not go backward, I see nothing wrong with lighting a candle and telling a fairy tale at night to a third grader!  Adults love fairy tales too!

8.  Can you bring in music?  The joy of having music as a family?  This is so important.

9. Can you make a big deal about preparing for festivals where school does not go on as usual?  Festival preparation is an integral part of life for the Early Grades child.

Your Waldorf consultant will have other suggestions based upon your child’s needs.  Waldorf is a healing method of education, but it takes commitment and a matter of fact peaceful kind of energy.

Peace and may goodness go with you,