Third Grade Old Testament Stories

There always seems to be some kind of controversy on the Waldorf Facebook groups or Waldorf Yahoo Groups regarding the stories of the Old Testament in third grade.  Some curriculums refer to this block as “Stories of the Hebrew People”.  Some go as far as to try to make the third grade a “Hebrew Year” to go along with this.

I think the title “Stories of the Hebrew People” may be done just  to emphasize that Steiner saw the place of the Judaic stream within Western Civilization as a profound shift of the consciousness of humanity. It was a time when humanity turned inward.  We can look at Moses and the Burning Bush and see how God was in the bush, loudly speaking to Moses, and how the Old Testament prophet Elijah found God not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but in the “still, small voice” after the fire.  In Steiner’s view, this represented a shift from a group consciousness carried by the Patriarchs to a more individualized consciousness.  There are other ideas Steiner had to be examined regarding Creation and the concept  of time within the Jewish psyche of this time that he felt was important.  These may be the details that speak unconsciously to the nine-year-old in an important way.

I think this block can be challenging for some families because despite what anyone says regarding the fact that this is part of the soul development of a nine year old in the  nine year old change that needs to hear stories about separation, loss and redemption; despite the fact that these stories are important literary and foundational references within Western Civilizations, it inevitably brings up for many homeschooling parents things associated with  religion.  It is especially hard when there are associations for parents with negative religious experiences, even if this is not supposed to be a religious main lesson!  In this day and age, however,   I would not expect less examination.  And because in homeschooling each home is like a world onto itself, and because whilst homeschooling is alternative and Waldorf homeschooling may truly be the alternative of the alternative, I think it often makes the diversity of opinions even greater.

Teachers in the school setting  have to work and struggle with the material as well, but in a classroom one may have an entire class of children from different spiritual and religious experiences there and that perhaps reminds the teacher of the archetypal journey of human consciousness of these stories, whereas at home, there is one parent (usually) leading the block with whatever background  and experiences the parent brings.  In some ways I think this makes it harder!  Some religious homeschooling parents (and there are Christian and Jewish families who use Waldorf homeschooling as their educational model!)  struggle because as part of their religion, these “stories” are not just “stories” but full of meaning, wonder and promise within their religious life; however  the goal of this block is not to have these stories associated with religion but with the development of humanity. As a Christian in the home environment, I know I look at the  Old Testament as not just part of the consciousness of humanity shifting, but through a lens of redemptive love found in the New Testament.  So that can be not so much a struggle, but a particular background to deal with.   Some parents struggle due to past negative experiences.  As I said before, this block is  not in any way meant to be a religious main lesson.  You can see more on this in the Christopherus post  on this subject here and also a small mention of this in this post over at Math By Hand.

I don’t know as there is any other answer than for us as teachers, as homeschooling parents,  to do the work.  I have known some homeschooling families that never really came to a place to bring these stories; I don’t think that can be nor should be forced.  The blocks need to flow out of who the teacher is.  It is worth it to look at this and see why it doesn’t flow, and see different points of view, but at the end of the day, all you can do as a teacher is bring what you think would work best for the soul development of the child in front of you and what is in your own inner work.  People ask for recommendations for “substitutions” for this block but I don’t know as there is any really.  You can certainly bring in more of the Native cultures from your area as tied in with the practicalities of the third grade curriculum; some families do creation stories from around the world but I am not certain that that really gets at the heart of why Steiner considered these stories important for children of this age.  It doesn’t mean that doing a block of Creation stories is wrong, I just don’t know as it is a substitute for what Steiner seemed to have intended…..

I don’t have the answers, but just a few thoughts to share on a situation that often challenges the homeschooling parent.

Blessings,
Carrie

An Introduction to Waldorf Homeschooling

 

To me, there are five main areas which come together to compose a Waldorf homeschool:

The Inner Work and Inner Life of the Teacher – this is of paramount importance, and the basis and foundation of Waldorf homeschooling.  Who you are and where you are on your inner path and spiritual work  is more important than the subject you teach.  Your will, your rhythms, your outlook, your spiritual work, will determine far more for your child than anything else – especially in the world of homeschooling where you are both parent and teacher.

An Understanding of Childhood Developmental Phases – I write about childhood development extensively on this blog.  Suffice it to say the view in Waldorf Education is that the human being is a spiritual being and that we continue to change, develop and grow throughout our lifetime.

Temperament of the grades-aged child (and in the teen years, emotion and personality) – We need to recognize not only the temperaments associated with the various developmental stages, but also the temperament of  our own child and ourselves and how to bring balance to that within our homeschooling experiences.

An Understanding of the Curriculum and How to Adapt it to Your Child and Homeschool:  We can start with such things as Steiner’s lectures and the secondary literature of the pedagogy.  However, the time we live in, the local geography, customs, language, local festivals and cultural events are all points in which the learning experience starts within the child and the child’s world. So, therefore, we must be familiar with not only the curriculum, but also with our own child and our own observations and meditation as to what that child needs, and then how to have the curriculum fulfill the needs of the child.  Dogmatic story-art-summary rhythms are often not helpful in the home environment and there are many ways to bring the rhythms of Waldorf Education to the home.

An Ability to “DO”, rather than just read.  This includes not only the ability to hold a rhythm and be organized, but also the ability to learn new things for oneself both in the area of the arts and in academic subjects.  For example, few of us were taught geometry the way the curriculum is outlined, and one most be willing to take a subject, even a familiar subject and see how  to dig into it and look at it from a spiritual perspective and to view art as a spiritual activity.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Third Grade Resources

 

I have written quite a few posts about Waldorf homeschooling in third grade.  Each time I teach third grade, it varies depending upon the child.  With our first child, it was more of a year centered around the Old Testament stories.  With our second child, we centered our year more around Native American studies and farming.  Whatever you decide as you observe where your child is and what direction within third grade to focus on, I wanted to share some of our favorite resources from over the years.

 

Farming and Gardening – Continue reading

Notes About Third Grade

 

I am finishing up third grade for the second time right now.  The two children that have completed third grade are very different people.

Our first child  was reading and writing in three languages at this point.   Very, very language oriented.

Our other child had definite talents in movement,  science and the natural world,  and music.

 

All children are individuals, and although there is a “curriculum” in Waldorf education, such as laid out in the schools and on the chart published  by AWNSA, the main thing we are prescribed to do as teachers is to OBSERVE the child, UNDERSTAND child development, be interested in the world around us (keep learning) , to not go stale (in  other words, what worked before may not work again!).  The template of the school and the secondary pedagogical literature of Waldorf education has been helpful to me personally, but I also have read an awful lot of Steiner’s lectures and work.  I  steer a lot  by my strong philosophical orientation of Christianity, attachment and Waldorf.

 

This year, I started the year with a block Continue reading

The Nine-Year-Change and Puberty

I have gotten some private emails lately regarding the nine-year-change and puberty, so I wanted to write something for this space for other parents searching for support and information during this time.

In the view of Waldorf Education, the soul is coming down into the body.  However, I think the outward manifestation of puberty (odors, even breasts budding or getting hair in private areas) doesn’t change the course of the curriculum, nor really the developmental level that you are parenting in.  A nine-year old is still a nine-year old, whether she has started her menstrual cycle or not.    Puberty is an outward manifestation of the body, but the nine-year change is more an inner crisis of the soul and of middle childhood.

I hear a lot from parents of eight year olds and they are sure they are in the nine-year change.  Well, the child could be, but what I often find is that Continue reading

Third Grade Native American Block

We started our third grade year with a little block of form drawing and handwriting, which I wrote about here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2013/09/06/beginning-of-third-grade/  and that morphed into a full-fledged Native American block focusing on how the First Peoples lived and continue to live traditionally on the land.  I based this block around the Christopherus Homeschool Resource’s notion of the “People of the Plains”, “People of the Desert”, “People of the Land and the Mist”, etc as I really wanted to tie the different Native American tribes into their shelters and daily life as influenced by the land.  This is a major theme for third grade work on a developmental level for the nine-year-old.

We made many projects, including a leather pouch with fringe, a talking stick with feathers, small miniature tipis and canoes for our four year old’s play, a diaroma of a People of the Woodland scene, a model of a chickee for the People of the Swamps, a clay totem pole for People of the Land of the Rain and Mist,  and a large clay adobe dwelling based upon instructions in “Learning About the World Through Modeling” by Arthur Auer.  We also sang many songs, played songs on our Choroi flutes, played Inuit games for People of the Land of Snow and Ice, painted watercolors for People of the RIce, People of the Plains, People of the Land of Snow and Ice, and People of the Desert.  We also went to a Native American Pow Wow in our state.  This is also a great block for shelter building, gardening, cooking, natural plant dyeing and weaving.  We are still planning to build a large loom and tie it into some reading about the People of the Desert and their sheep even after this block ends…It was a lot to fit into one block, but we had a really good time!  We are also fortunate in our state to have a preserved Mound Dweller site that we visit at least once a year and will be doing that after this block ends as well.

I painted a narrative of  the land for each region and each region’s tribes, and also told stories from different tribes from each region.  I used the stories to review vowel sounds, word families, consonant and vowel blends for my third grader.  This is easy to do from the stories because these consonant and vowel blends are everywhere in written word  This can lead to word families such as a wigwam word village, a village of igloos, etc all with word families written on them.  My third grader created and wrote summaries with a  focus on these word families and phonics blends, and worked with spelling words each week from the stories of different tribes.

Resources that I found useful were: Continue reading

Third Grade Read Alouds

Our third grader has heard quite a few read -alouds during this almost two months of homeschooling this year, and I wanted to share a few of our favorite titles with you.

The Third Grade curriculum focuses largely on how humanity lives on earth, being here on earth and our connection to the divine and authority and  the journey we make as human beings.  It is a beginning foray into a protagonist a child can identify with, as opposed to solely archetypal characters, but  I would urge you to hold off on literature with darker and more mature themes. This is a bridge year with literature for children who nine or almost nine.  Waldorf parenting and education, I feel at its core, is often about keeping children as “young” as possible as long as possible. A good rule of thumb is to help your child choose literature where the protagonist is about the same age as your child, and if you have a sensitive child, to always pre-read.

Here is what we have read so far this year: Continue reading