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

Developmental Fridays: The Thirteen Year Old

(Life got busy, so this week’s Developmental Friday is today!)

“Every now and then, in fact more or less at yearly intervals during the teenage years, Nature puts on the brakes and effects a sudden and sharp turn in the young person’s behavior. So it is for many at thirteen.

All of a sudden, as we have observed earlier at three and a half and again at seven, there is a marked turn toward inwardizing, withdrawal, uncommunicativeness,uncertainty about self and other people and the world in general, almost a slowing down of metabolism.” – from “Your Ten-to Fourteen-Year-Old” by Louise Bates Ames, Frances Ilg, Sidney Baker

Thirteen year olds typically withdraw physically and emotionally, tending to be critical, unfriendly, and suspicious, according to the Gesell Institute books. However, before we despair as parents upon reading this, the Gesell Institute sees these developments as “extremely positive and constructive” and a sign that the adolescent is protecting his or her half –formed, budding personality.    Waldorf Education also tends to take a positive view of the thirteen year old in the throes of these changes, as the book “The Human Life” by George and Gisela O’Neill  points out that the teenaged years are the time when the intellectual forces come to the forefront, but also  that emotional and personal elements also take a role now

Major Features Of The Thirteen-Year-Old

There is worry about physical appearance, and the emotional self is clearly connected with the physical self

Very critical of Mother but also complains that [most] people do not understand him

Although he or she is  not really satisfied with anything ,  friends are often a happy spot (even though a teen of this age may seem to have fewer friends than at other ages)

“Dating” may come into play at this age and smoking, drinking and drug use do come to play at this age – please talk to your children about these subjects!

Thirteen year olds tend to be polite but not very revealing to adults in general. Standoffishness is often a characteristic of this age.

They can be very active in their thoughts and the things they want to do and may need help with balance.

They are often able to sit quietly with little movement, speech is often slower, not many tensional outlets such as biting nails or scratching themselves, and there may also be changes in vision (the reduction of farsightedness is a physiological process in thirteen year olds)

Thirteen year olds are often are nicer outside of the home than in it, sadness may be more intense, anger is better controlled,  and this is not an especially fearful age but they do worry a lot about varying things

Thirteen year olds’  feelings can be easily hurt, and they are increasingly aware of their own feelings and self but are not critical of themselves too badly and often can list their positive traits,

In friendship,  girls will  often cluster in groups of two or three and can be quite critical of one another whereas many boys will hang out with four or five other boys and do things together

There is an overall an improved sense of responsibility regarding school work (more about that below)

A thirteen year old has a more complex ethical sense than a twelve year old and his conscience is now a “part of himself”, starting to be able to admit his or her own shortcomings

 

Comments from the Gesell Institute:

“Thirteen is focusing perceptions into sharp, even piercing insights.”

“Boy of girl of this age is becoming aware of a new focal point, the brain, that seems more than anything else to be the place which is the seat of self.”

Comments from Betty Staley’s “Between Form and Freedom”:

“Many thirteen-year-olds dig into their homework with a strong sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.  During the early teen years, a wide range of interests emerges to meet this new enjoyment of intellectual challenge.

The newly formed intellect, however, lack discrimination.  The youngster uncritically accepts as truth statements made by respected adults and media, and builds a worldview out of the biases and opinions of those around him.  The worldview becomes the foundation of his or her judgment…..Consequently, thirteen and fourteen year olds often rely on half-truths and undigested facts when they try to make sense of the world.”

Other Developmental Features:  “Most girls have menstruated before their fourteenth birthday, and the average thirteen-year old has achieved ninety-five percent of her mature height.”  Age thirteen also brings rapid changes for boys –rapid growth of the genitalia, and about two-thirds of boys appear with pubic and axillary hair, the voice may deepen in some boys, some may have a sudden spurt in height although few boys will have reached their adult height.  

Eating/Sleep: Table manners are good at this age, most eat well, number of total refusals of food may be lower as well, candy is not craved as much.  Bedtime is normally nine-thirty or ten.  They usually sleep soundly.  Awakening in the morning is also usually not problematic.    There is new precision in cleanliness, bathing, keeping and how they dress (although there may be a contingent of boys who will dress only in jeans and t-shirts).  Keeping a room picked up is very difficult for thirteen year olds, but many times they will do chores.  Boys especially enjoy handyman kinds of jobs

Your Role As A Parent: Generally, a parent should respect the thirteen’s need for privacy and isolation (but communicate if you think this privacy and isolation not so much developmentally normal but  due to depression, or  alcohol or drugs!). It is important to be careful with the fragility of the thirteen- year- old in how you communicate with your child.  Most of all, time for connection and keeping the lines of communication clear still is very important.  Talk to your teen about  expectations regarding dating and alcohol, tobacco and drug use.  Provide suitable outlets for your teen to expend his or her intensity and feelings of “everyday life is boring” to help him or her  enjoy life in a safe way if you see that they are longing to escape from the everyday routine.  In this age of self-absorption, provide the balance your child needs between busyness and a steady, calming routine.   Be tactful, be reasonable, talk to your child as you would want someone to talk to you. 

I recommend the book “Between Form and Freedom” by Betty Staley, as mentioned above as a good read for these teenaged years.

Many blessings,
Carrie

A Waldorf View of Thanksgiving

“For most American households the Thanksgiving celebration has lost much of its original significance.  We can remediate the consumer holiday it has become by creating a Thanksgiving gathering and feast in kindergarten for the children and their families, where we give a living example of gratitude and joy for what we have and what we can share together.” – “Celebrating Festivals With Children” by Freya Jaffke

We begin sowing the seeds for Thanksgiving celebration by the observation of all the reverent moments that make up our very ordinary days throughout the entire year.  Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the harvest being in, and this has been done in different varying festivals since ancient times.  The American Thanksgiving is just one festival of many that exemplifies the manifestation of the harvest as a culmination of the gratitude and reverence we share throughout the year with our children. 

Thanksgiving is one of America’s oldest festivals, and one of ten federal holidays declared by the United States Congress.  Although schoolchildren often trace it back to the Pilgrims and a harvest gathering, the first national observation of Thanksgiving was actually proclaimed by President George Washington in 1789.  Thanksgiving was celebrated  erratically after this date by individual states and at different times, and Sarah Hale, editor of the Boston Ladies Magazine and Godey’s Lady’s Book, championed the idea of having a national day of Thanksgiving for nearly 15 years before Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday in the month of November in 1863.   You can read Lincoln’s proclamation here.   It actually took until 1941, when Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national holiday by the United States Congress, to arrive at its current date of the fourth Thursday of each November.

Simple tasks that we can undertake for this festival with small children  include cleaning, cooking dishes such as cranberry sauce and pumpkin dishes, and telling simple stories about our First Americans without turning it into a history lesson.   Stories of the First Americans have a flavor all of their own that American children are in tune with without ever having to state what cultural group this has come from and draw kindergarten aged children out of their archetypal consciousness.

Music is an integral part of any festival, and Thanksgiving is no exception.  Traditional Thanksgiving songs we could sing together after dinner  include:

“We Gather Together”

“Over The River and Through The Woods”

“Turkey in the  Straw”

“Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”

Some families also perform service on this day, ranging from working with their place of worship to prepare and serve a meal to those who would otherwise have none,  to preparing Thanksgiving baskets to be donated to local food banks. 

We can overcome the materialism that currently surrounds this day by focusing on the gratitude that overflows on this special day of the year and  the family traditions (whether that is filling a cornucopia, playing family games outside, making crafts with the children or making music together!)  that we create.  Let us re-claim the American festivals!

Blessings,
Carrie

From Reading to Action: “Waldorf Education In Practice”

We are looking at the book “Waldorf Education In Practice:  Exploring How Children Learn in the Lower Grades” by Else Gottgens, Master Waldorf Teacher and Mentor.  You can see my first post about this book  here.

Chapter 1  “BEFORE”: What Parents Should Know

This chapter is addressed to parents and to the two concerns most parents share about  the first three grades:

1.  How late, in comparison with mainstream, will they learn to read?

2.  What weight is given to the nurturing of capacities in comparison to the drilling of skills?

Else Gottgens believes these conversations between parent and teacher should start when children are in nursery class or kindergarten.  In Waldorf Education, we allow a full seven years for the body to form and develop.  The first 2 1/3 years of life is when the nerve-sense system is really established, then until nearly five years of age we complete our circulatory system and by age 7, the organ-limb system is developed.  We nurture the capacities needed for reading, such as spatial orientation, but not early intellectual work.

Capacities are rooted in the senses.  Visual memory needed for reading is rooted in the sense of sight, the number sense is rooted in the limb movement, auditory discrimination is rooted in the practice of speech and movement.

CHAPTER II :  My Teacher, The Sun!

“Do not believe people who tell you that children nowadays are different; that they lack the faculty of respect, of reverence.  It is simply not true.  However, especially since the turn of the millennium, the behavior arising from these faculties has been seriously eroded.  It has become one of the 1st grade teacher’s new tasks (and challenge):  to heal (detoxify) this condition….”  page 5

The children will find themselves as we find our own sun within us; the children will work and learn when they see the “sun” in us.  We must find this in our own inner work.  The children learn through us.  This is a major tenet of Waldorf Education for all grades.

Blessings,
Carrie

Wrap Up of Week Twelve of Seventh and Fourth Grade

Hard to believe our first “trimester” was over as of Friday!  We have been in school for a full twelve weeks (starting week thirteen today!) and I do have a full thirty six weeks of school planned (although we will see if we stop at thirty four weeks instead).  At any rate, I feel as if we have accomplished quite a bit and I also feel like we are hitting a stride.  Some days are still rough, as always in homeschooling, but many days flow.  I love how so many areas of seventh grade bleed into each other and cycle around.  It really makes for great unity in this grade I think.  Fourth grade with its strong and passionate feeling life has always been one of my favorite grades as well. 

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 week eleven here and  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2014/11/08/wrap-up-of-week-eleven-seventh-and-fourth-grade/  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.

Changes in the Air: During week twelve we did much better starting earlier.  I was talking to a friend of mine who also has three children and we both had come to the realization that at this stage of the game, the start time matters so everyone can get what they need in and also that we can get done at a reasonable hour!

Kindergarten:  During week twelve we were still in Autumn circle, autumn fingerplays and songs, and “The Pumpkin Hotel” by Suzanne Down.   We were busy singing for Martinmas and will move into an extended circle during week thirteen melding elements of our autumn circle with gnomes, King Winter, and Martinmas lanterns and singing to extend our Martinmas celebration.  Despite the chilly weather, it has been prime acorn gathering season down here, and since we have a big bowl we have gathered on our nature walk, we are going to do the story “The Acorn Mill” this last week before we break for Thanksgiving.

Fourth Grade:  Week Twelve saw us diving into summary writing about the piedmont geographic region of our state, discussing and drawing animals from the Mountain regions of our state, and talking about how the rivers and marshes lent themselves to early rice production.  This week, week thirteen, we will be moving into discussing the journey from rice to cotton and how the cotton industry caused our state to think about canals and then railroads for transportation.  Lastly, we will end with a look at airplanes in our local Delta museum since our capitol know holds one of the busiest airports in the world.  After Thanksgiving break, we are moving into a block about fractions and will continue to review measurement.  We are still hard at work on multiplication tables and our fourth grader is preparing a small speech for 4-H about horses.  We are also finishing up reading a biography of the childhood of Teddy Roosevelt, which we will circle back around to in the spring to talk about the creation of the National Park System during our next Man and Animal block.

Seventh Grade: Week Twelve was the week of Cotton Boll and Consumer Judging for 4-H, so that was an exciting day that involved consumer judging, reasoning of  consumer product reviews in front of a judge, and  researching and presenting a thirty second advertisement for cotton or a cotton product.  Our seventh grader did an ad about duct tape! (Did you know cotton is used in duct tape?)  We finished up Colonial History by ending with a portrait of General George Washington, a summary of how the minutemen moved into a Grand American Army during the Revolutionary War, and wrote a summary about the Revolutionary War and the “new order of the ages” once that war was won.  We will pick up with reviewing the Revolution during our Revolutions block in eighth grade and our new nation in eighth grade.  We then moved into Perspective Drawing by working with the horizon line in drawing and painting, overlapping in pencil and charcoal and atmospheric perspective in colored pencil.  This week, our last week of  perspective drawing in block form, will see us painting some more and moving into other areas of perspective.  We also took the end of  last week to review all of our work from the beginning of the year and finish up any stray pictures, summaries or table of contents that needed finishing.  We also are hard at work on math every day, mainly geometry and fraction/decimal conversions this past week.   We finished the book “Ben and Me” and are now on “Eighteen Roses” about the Revolutionary War.

One thing this week we are going to do to extend our Martinmas celebration is to create some lanterns for our school room using a folded paper design.  There are a few tutorials out there to go by!

I would love to hear how your school year is shaping up. Please do leave a comment or a link to your blog in the comment box.  Week thirteen is underway!

Blessings,
Carrie

Developmental Fridays: Questions From the Field About the Seven-Year-Old

Some time ago,  I asked on The Parenting Passageway Facebook page if parents had specific ideas for posts they would like to see and there were two questions about the seven-year-old.  So, in honor of those families with developmental questions, Fridays will be “Developmental Fridays”.  I think it is always comforting to know that our whilst our children are individuals, each with his or her own destiny, the human life is one of stages where others have trod before (and other parents have made it through).

The first question was regarding seven year old girls and their friendships.  This first thing I thought of was something veteran Waldorf Teacher Marsha Johnson shared some time ago on her list about the six/seven change and community.  I hope you find this post to be a good read.

The second thing I thought of was was this post about peer relationships in the six to eight year old  here.  There are many great comments regarding different situations parents were dealing with on this post, so please do take the time to scroll through the comments!.

The second question asked had to deal with a seven year old transitioning to the “real world” – where things are not fair, why do people do hurtful things, why are things not as black and white as they seem….Well, as to the “gray” part of life, I do not think that gets fully differentiated until adolescence and beyond.  Twelve year olds still live in a black and white world, which is why in the Waldorf Curriculum we work with charcoal drawing – to work with and see some of  those shades of gray. 

Seven is about growing up, and about learning rules.  If a seven year old is in a Waldorf School, they may be learning how to be a learner in a grades classroom, and learning how to get along socially, and noticing things as they stand a bit apart from the “oneness” with the world (which I think sees hints now in some children and then it really comes to a head during the nine-year-change).  I think being a listener is very important at this point.  I wrote a post some time back about talking to your seven and eight year old that could be helpful, along with  this one about  a need for protection.  It seems that many times we see cases where folks talk about the six/seven change as the point where the early years end and “then the gates open onto life”….Well, it does open a crack, but you still have a lot of development to go through, including the nine year change, the twelve year change and the sixteen/seventeen year change!  So, I think realizing this time is still rather an extension of the early years, a crack in the door leading to the nine year change, helps to put it into perspective.  First and second graders are still very small and little.   I think this  this post about attachment and individualization could also be helpful here.

Hope that is helpful.  Many blessings,

Carrie

From Reading to Action: “Waldorf Education in Practice”

 

We will be heading through this wonderful book chapter by chapter.  It is by the beloved Master Waldorf teacher Else Gottgens  and focuses on Waldorf education in practice for the first three grades.  (However, I think many pearls can be gleamed out of it for the older grades as well).  Else Gottgens was an amazing Master teacher who was a class teacher for 41 years and then began at age 61 to mentor other Waldorf teachers for the next 20 years.   She was in literally hundreds of Waldorf classrooms.    If you would like to know more about Else’s life and career, please see this article this article. 

This book is about “ensuring Idealism meets Realism in a productive way.”  It is easy to read about Waldorf education, and so much different in practice when you are trying to teach (whether one child at home or thirty children in a classroom).  As a Waldorf teacher, we create moments of learning out of our own creative forces.  Whilst we can gleam examples and ideas in the pages of a book or a curriculum, we cannot find our own creativity there or the relationship with our own child there.  As a teacher, we  look to develop a relationship between ourselves and our child and use education as a force for the health of that child.  The preface of this book asks, “We are each asked to solve this riddle:  How can Ideals and Reality come together in the right way?  When they do, we see the result of common sense.”

If we are Waldorf homeschoolers, we are all here to teach our children from our own inner work and our own inner self with the guidance of the Waldorf curriculum which was created for a school environment and cannot be duplicated at home.  Common sense is a fruit of this labor. 

The Foreward of this book notes that it had been circulating around and amongst teachers and faculties in the form of photocopied paragraphs from 2005 onward and then this book was published.

We will start with Chapter One in our next book post.  I do hope you will obtain a copy and follow along…..

Blessings,
Carrie