Planning, Planning, Get Your Planning Here!

 

For those of you who are homeschooling, NOW is the time to start planning.  It is easy to plan if you do it in increments.  I started a few weeks ago and am here to give those of you homeschooling a gentle nudge to think about next year (I know my Down Under readers are just starting a new school year now, so all of you can tuck this post away for September or so!)

If you are like me and have been through the curriculum, you probably have a good idea what you are teaching in blocks for each grade or general thematic ideas by month for kindergarten. If not, grab some resources and start figuring out the big picture and the big themes for the year you are teaching!

Get out your calendar! And know your homeschool laws!  How many days do you have to teach?  What do you have to document and turn in?  When will you stop and start and take vacation?  How many days a week will you teach?   Do you need extra time around the holidays or at the end of the school year when the energy is expansive and everyone is just “done”?

Now plan out your blocks.  Just what block will come first, what block will come second, etc.  How many weeks will each block take?

Start making lists of needed books and supplies by block.  Think about your budget and what you can order when.

I have started.  You start too!

Many blessings,
Carrie

From Reading To Action: “Waldorf Education in Practice”

Chapter XI talks about how “image” is the heart of Waldorf Education in practice. For the seven to fourteen year old child IMAGE is the most powerful and important tool for education.  We use images to help children grow towards a fruitful and responsible adulthood, and it all begins with images.

A good image brings forth the senses; doing this search for an image and a story to go with that image is great and important work for the teacher.  We must learn to listen to our sense impressions.  We must learn how to pick images and use them.  We often do this through the idea of polarities.  The author gives the example of choosing plants that are polar opposites – rose and lily, holly and ivy, and see what arises in doing exercises with those images. 

In the seven to fourteen year old we are looking to develop memory, the power of discernment (not judgment but discernment), habits, how to deal with urges, balanced use of one’s temperament and many other areas.  What we do in Waldorf Education is to help lay a healthy foundation for an adult life in these areas.    The children also need to acquire academic skills by the end of this phase – by the age of 14. 

This is such an interesting chapter that really gets to the heart of Waldorf Education in both the school and home settings.  Such important things to think about as we plan for next school year.  I wish this chapter had been longer and held more examples!

Chapter XII is about “Story Telling”.  We often work over the summer holidays to learn stories for the following school year.  We read, sleep on them and re-read and sleep again…we let it lie and rest and then see what we can bring forth to the children.  We can prepare the night before for the story we are bringing the next day.  Often we can do this through the idea of images (again, that concept!).  This chapter also talks about going deeper: what do the images of the story mean and hold for the children? 

For small children below school age, we tell the same story day by day with the same  words.  The author gives a great example of “judgments” in a story versus telling with pictures. 

There is a good checklist on page 107 regarding what to think about when you cannot hold a child’s attention with a story and some suggestions for how to start a story based upon the temperament of the child/class.  Also, some great reminders about clear speech.  We, as teachers, should be doing speech exercises.  There are also suggestions for “Saints and Beasts:  the peaceful battle”  for second grade and suggestions for third grade when we are in-between image and history.  If you read the section on Third Grade, you may find it important to end your Old Testament stories with Elijah, where the small, still voice is now inside of us.

The last chapter is about teaching a foreign language.  We will dive into that next week and then move into the book, “Lifeways”.

Blessings,
Carrie

Making Peace With Developmental “Spurts”

In infants, we often talk about “growth spurts”.  These usually occur, in infants, at the age of 3-10 days, between 3-6 weeks, between 2-4 months, and at 6 and 9 months of age.  The exact timetable is up to the infant.  During these periods, the infant may wake more for reassurance, may stool and urinate more frequently, may grow in size/length/developmental ability, may need very frequent feeding and the infant has a higher need to be cuddled and loved.

We often talk about this in connection with babies.  What our society talks about less frequently is developmental “spurts” in older children.  The Gesell Institute talks about periods of equilibrium and disequilibrium that continue from infancy into adulthood.  Every year in your parenting, there will be stages of equilibrium and disequilibrium.

Often the “symptoms” look the same – the need to eat and sleep more, possibly with more waking in children younger than 10, the growth and change in developmental ability (often AFTER the growth is complete…many children are more “clumsy” when they have had a sudden spurt in growth), and the child may need more emotional connection and nurturing.

It is a complete fallacy of our society, a fall-out of children becoming miniature adults in our society, that we tend to view four and five year olds almost as adults with adult regulation skills.  We often forget children are growing and changing all the way through adulthood, and if we are lucky and honored as adults, we will keep emotionally and spiritually.

I think an important part of making peace with parenting is that children are always growing, always changing, always moving forward toward entering adulthood.  The best we can do is provide a scaffolding for trust and connection, love and acceptance and good mental, emotional and spiritual health.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Wrap Up of Weeks Sixteen and Seventeen of Seventh and Fourth Grade

I am trying to post a little wrap-up of each week of grades seven, four and five year old kindergarten year throughout the 36 weeks I have planned for school this year.  I hope this will encourage mothers that are homeschooling multiple children (or who want to but are worried!), and  encourage mothers that even homeschooling children of multiple ages who are far apart in age is doable.  You can find weeks fourteen and fifteen here and further in back posts you can find a post pertaining to the first two days of school this year which gives insight to our general daily rhythm.

Kindergarten:  We have been doing a wonderful morning circle journey about King Winter (which turned a little ironic this week when we had two 65 degree days!).  Our story is still Suzanne Down’s January story about “Old Gnome and Jack Frost” which is always a delight to our five year old.  There has been quite a bit of painting, making snowflakes and cutting and pasting, playing and baking and tissue paper kinds of crafts.  “Earthways” has great detailed instructions if you are looking for something like that for your little one.

Fourth Grade:  We have had a good time with our Norse Myths and grammar.  So far, we have been doing quite a bit of form drawing, clay and beeswax modeling, and drawing with pencils and poetry and writing.  We also did four watercolor paintings.  Our fourth graders drawings of Thor being pulled by his goats, Odin hanging from Yggdrasil  receiving the runes, a picture of Balder and one of the Three Norns were all exceptionally well-done.  We are doing the story of Idun and the Golden Apples tomorrow along with some beeswax modeling.    We finished “The Wheel On The School” and “Little Pear”  last  week and this week  we read “Honk the Moose” and started “The Story of Doctor Dolittle”.

We have still been reviewing a lot of math, which is harder for our fourth grader.  So we are still in times tables, adding and subtracting, and while we haven’t focused as much this week on multiplying/dividing and measurement, we will start to hit that again next week.  We are still plugging away on Jamie York’s worksheets and flashcards as well. 

Choir and practice for a choir collar and ribbon (through the Royal School of Church Music in America)  has been good work in music theory and another way to approach fractions.  We didn’t start any handwork project this week as life seemed busy in the afternoons with 4H and some other activities, but that is on the list for next week.  Playing in our beautiful weather has also been a priority! 

Seventh Grade:  Africa has been a lot of fun and so very interesting. I learned very little of this in school myself, and I have really enjoyed this block.  So far our seventh grader has done a beautiful title page with cut-outs, a picture of the desert and a summary regarding African deserts and the people who live there, a summary about the rain forest and the people who live there along with a picture of the flora and fauna from all levels of the rain forest, a summary about the savannah and the people who live there and the animals, charcoal drawings of the acacia and baobab tree along with a play our seventh grader wrote about the life cycle of baobab tree, a charcoal drawing of Queen Hatshepsut and a summary about her life; and this week we are working on a mixed media drawing/fabric picture of Sundiata, and a map comparing the travels of Mansu Mali and Ibn Buttuta. We also talked about Louis Leakey and his discoveries and the influence he had on people such as Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey.   Next week we will finish up with the countries in Africa,  the different tribes in different regions, some cooking and dancing.

The books I have found most helpful were a book about the life cycle of baobab tree whose title is escaping me at the moment, “Hear The Voice of the Griot!  A Guide to African Geography, History, and Culture” by Betty Staley (a Waldorf resource and the best single resource to get), “Amazing Africa Projects You Can Build Yourself” by Carla Mooney, “African Princess” by Joyce Hansen, “African Beginnings” by James Haskins and Kathleen Benson, “Ancient Africa – Archeology Unlocks the Secrets of Africa’s Past” by National Geographic (ended up being more for me than our daughter), “Sundiata:  Lion King of Mali”, “Mansu Mali” by Khephra Burns, “Traveling Man:  The Journey of Ibn Buttuta, 1325-1354.    Our seventh grader read “Listening for Lions” by Gloria Whelan and also Christian Heroes:  Then and Now’s “Rowland Bingham”.  She was not impressed with either one really.  She is going to read about David Livingstone next through the Christian Heroes series and see if that one is any better, and we are reading Jane Goodall’s “My Life With the Chimpanzees” out loud right now. Jane Goodall’s book is most wonderful for a seventh grade girl.   I am going to check our local library for books about Dian Fossey that might be suitable to read.

Other experiences as of late include putting together a portfolio for 4H and getting ready for poultry judging, and vocal music sessions to prepare for a new ribbon in choir (through the  Royal School of Church Music in America, so there is a set progression through music notation and theory), and lots of time to play.  We have also gone to the track a few times for “homeschool P.E.”

I would love to hear what you are working on! 

Many blessings,

Carrie

Waldorf Homeschooling: An Independent Daughter Movement?

If the platform of  Steiner’s spiritual  work is seen as the “Mother” and the  “daughter” movements are such practical outreach movements as biodynamic agriculture, curative education, anthroposophic medicine, and Waldorf Education in the Waldorf Schools, I think the explosive growth of Waldorf homeschooling has left some of us wondering if Waldorf homeschooling is an independent daughter movement in its own right, not just something  “under” the Waldorf School? 

As homeschoolers, we  often hear how the Waldorf School cannot be replicated in the home environment, but yet the Waldorf Schools give us the ideas of curriculum and implementation.  Unfortunately, first time Waldorf homeschoolers are often concerned about following the curriculum created for the school environment as closely as possible and often drive themselves crazy trying to do this as a parent with no teacher training and no specialized staff – and in the process ignore the way the curriculum could be implemented in the home for the benefit of the development of the child and family..  Steiner was the first to believe that a classroom should be adapted to the place and time in which one lived; therefore a classroom in Germany in one region would look different than a classroom in southeastern America.  Why do we act as if the homeschool environment should be  the same as a generic “model” classroom when this is not what Steiner even wanted for the school environment?

I recently found a link about the differences between the Waldorf School and the Montessori method and was struck by something that I hear over and over from Waldorf School teachers as a concern regarding homeschooling.  This is from the City of Lakes Waldorf School website as an answer to a Frequently Asked Question.  http://clws.org/faq/#difference  and this was the part that caught my eye and stimulated my thoughts about Waldorf homeschooling:

Waldorf education, on the other hand, puts particular emphasis on the development of the young child within a group. Barbara Shell, a teacher who worked in public, Montessori, and Waldorf schools, put it this way:

“Waldorf teachers orchestrate this [social] development by modeling good social behavior with their children, by getting the children to join together in movement activities, by introducing songs and games that develop group consciousness, and by helping children learn to work through disagreements.”

The overall development of the child as a social being and citizen of the world IS a goal in homeschooling as well as in the school.  But we have different methods than a class consciousness to achieve this goal as we work within the context of the family unit and created community.   If we employ methods still rooted within a philosophy of freedom; still rooted within the spiritual knowledge of the developing human being; still within the ideas of bridging the gaps between the arts, the sciences, and religion;  if we nurture the life of the individual in conjunction with having a place in the world, then I would argue that Waldorf homeschooling meets the criteria to be a “daughter” movement within its own right. 

In order to make this a true movement, I feel there would need to be the emergence of more true leaders within this movement and a more inclusive spirit of collaboration between people who are not only rooted within the Waldorf School movement that we DO heavily draw upon as homeschoolers, but who are also rooted in homeschooling environment who really understand homeschooling.  I think we also need leaders in Waldorf homeschooling who have been through the upper grades and high school in the home environment and understand the indications of Rudolf Steiner for education and how this culminates in the home environment.   There are many resources regarding the early grades being written and sold, but this is the very beginning of the path. There is wisdom that comes in experiencing the fullness of the homeschooling cycle in seeing a child to independence.

Waldorf homeschooling also often pulls from outside influences; the  farm, field and forest movement is but one example.  The work of Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate, the authors of “Hold On To Your Kids” is also seen by some in the Waldorf homeschooling movement as a strong influence.  I work with the indications of development from the Gesell Institute, and there are other Waldorf teachers in Australia working with this influence as well who have emailed me.  The religious life of the family who homeschools also pulls into play as a fundamental aspect of many who homeschool, and this would need to be addressed in further detail and work in any daughter movement.

Waldorf homeschoolers remain indebted to the Waldorf School and the curriculum created for this school environment.  However, one wonders what Rudolf Steiner would say about homeschooling in this day and age and what indications he would give that would be different for the home environment.  Despite Waldorf homeschooling having been around for many years now, the explosion of homeschooling in general and “Waldorf- inspired”  homeschooling in specific may now lend itself toward further exploration and clarification of using this method practically in the home with the family and immediate neighborhood/community as the social context within the a family culture that varies from home to home.  There is much interesting work that lies ahead!

Blessings,

Carrie

“I Have a Four Year Old and A 20 Month Old and I Just Found Waldorf….Now What Do I Do?”

This question, or a variation of this, comes up on all the Waldorf Facebook groups frequently. It is a not a bad question, of course,  but also a challenging one for a “sound byte” medium such as Facebook because it deserves a full answer as to what the essence of Waldorf homeschooling is really about.  Waldorf homeschooling is really about much more than the outer aspects of Waldorf that are touted on some of these groups, because it is the “inner” Waldorf life that really creates Waldorf homeschooling.   

So, I am writing today to give some direction to those with small children who have just discovered Waldorf Education and are not sure where to go beyond the outer trappings of “stuff”. 

I think the first aspect is to realize that Waldorf Education in the home first and foremost deals with a basis of attachment between parent and child.  This is the basis of homeschooling in general, and Waldorf homeschooling is no exception.  Therefore, you will need to be able to sort through literature about Waldorf Education and look at it through the lens of the home and family.  I suggest beginning by reading some of the articles from the Gateways Journal through the Waldorf Library.  The Gateways Journal deals with the Early Years child, mainly within a school setting, but much of it is also about development of the Early Years child in general and is therefore very valuable to the homeschooling parent.

Secondly, Waldorf Education is about developmental and holistic education based upon Rudolf Steiner’s pedagogical view of the child.  It would serve one well to delve deeper into this area so one knows whether Waldorf Education matches up to what one really believes. The first seven years are about a gesture of protection over the child, about protecting and developing the twelve senses and the physical body, and about the world being a place of goodness where the child is recognized as a spiritual being of gratitude.  For many parents, this gesture can often takes inner work, and this is an important part of striving for the Early Years parent-teacher.  What will your inner work look like?  When will you do this?

Many homeschooling parents are attracted to Waldorf because of its gentle and holistic nature, but often are not happy with when they discover that Waldorf Education does assume the teacher is the leader and the authority.  It is not child-led.   It is based upon the development of the child, and the observation of the child in front of you and therefore is respectful of the child, but a  homeschooling parent-teacher will lead a rhythm cultivated from a sense of in-breath and out-breath that involves work, play and love.  Therefore, in order for this to work in your home, you have to be okay being the leader in your home and in creating, initiating and sustaining rhythm.

The resources I most frequently recommend include books such as Rudolf Steiner’s lectures gathered in “Kingdom of Childhood” (and even “Soul Economy”, because it shows how the Early Years fits into the entire educational cycle).  The other books I recommend include “Heaven on Earth” by Sharifa Oppenheimer because it gives many practical examples of rhythm that many parents have told me they have found helpful with their small children; and the book “Connecting With Young Children:  Educating the Will” by Stephen Spitalny.  Books about toymaking and the rhythm of the year are also wonderful to have, if you have them and then “do” something with them!

I think this post is a good place to start as well as its focus is on “doing”:  Waldorf in the Home with the Three and Four Year Old.

Many blessings and peace,

Carrie

Peace In An Ordered Home

There are many sayings to the effect of you can have happy children or a clean home but not both.  I think there is some truth in that in a small way.  Right now, I have gymnastics mats that have been made into a large track circling my kitchen counter and the children run “P.E classes” all day on and off complete with laps and push ups and sit ups.  Eventually the mats will have to be cleaned up so I can mop my floor, but I can live with it for a few days.  There is a 2000 piece puzzle on my dining room table that most likely will sit there for some days.  However, the rest of the house is clean and tidy.  The laundry is done and folded and put away.  We have food in the refrigerator and I know what we are going to make for our meals. 

This is for me.  An ordered home that reflects beauty and peace mirrors how I feel inside.  I am a very visual person, and therefore I find that for me, it is easier on me to keep my home clean and orderly for my own mental health.  When everything is strewn everywhere and dirty, I cannot focus on anything else.  I live here all day, and it has to reflect a certain something of myself and what we value as a family.  We value love, and one way we love and nourish each other is to have a home that is livable, where food and clean clothes and cleanliness is apparent.

There has been some studies that suggest cluttered homes actually equate with depression and that clutter in and of itself can make us feel more anxious.

I have come to the conclusion after many years of homemaking, that the foundation of parenting (and homeschooling) is homemaking.  It may be tiresome to do dishes day after day and know there will be more dishes tomorrow.  It may be tiresome to wash, fold and put away five loads of laundry and know there will be more laundry tomorrow. 

Yet, I think this is the foundation of a practice of serenity.  This is one of the biggest spiritual practices we can find, if only we will slow down enough to take up the opportunity.  Trying and doing cultivates the will.  So, knowing how you want to tackle your home – what system works well for you, is important.  Flylady has worked well for me, along with having a specific day to run errands so we have food and other necessities on hand.  I use a home delivery service for eggs, honey, organic produce and  organic dairy; Amazon Prime and Costco helps keep my pantry stocked; and I am trying a meat CSA that delivers about every six weeks in order to keep everything stocked and on hand.  Sometimes it is not in my nature to be organized (except for school work for some reason!) and I have to work hard to try and do and pass this on to our children, who will be running their own homes some day. 

Share with me the homekeeping rhythms that you have established that give you peace.

Blessings,
Carrie