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

Silence

For many meditating during these nights, silence is a theme for yesterday.  I am meditating on silence today as I think of the polarity between myself and St. John the Evangelist, whose feast day is today.  How do I bring silence and stillness into my life so I can have a more fruitful inner life?  I find it hard to deepen that if there is nothing but noise or clutter or chaos swirling around me.  So, having time to be home, to not rush, to have space and time is so important.  How can I construct the rhythms of my family and of my heart in order to have this space this coming year?

And when do I boldly proclaim the truth in words, the way St. John proclaims the Logos?  Do I speak truth when it is needed?  Do I do that boldly, tactfully or timidly?

While so many people say they want to quit homeschooling in November and February, I find that a bit ironic for me personally since I perceive those months to be ones of silence and stillness and I love that aspect.  Solitude is so different than taking a knowing break to replenish the soul.

How does silence manifest itself in your life?  Do you welcome it?  How does silence work with courage?

Blessings,
Carrie

Courage

The Twelve Days of Christmas and the Twelve Holy Nights is a time when we slow down and listen to our deep inner selves, and what the Divine Creator and spiritual world is presenting to us as we silence and still ourselves enough to listen.  It is this time of year, that if we are open, we can see the year that is coming and wonder at some of the things of virtue of humanity in the world.

I was meditating today on the virtue of courage.  In the Christian calendar, we see this virtue in the life story of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the church. This is also a traditional virtue for many who  meditate during the twelve Holy Nights.

Courage encompasses so many things – courage helps us forgive the unforgiveable.  Courage helps us to be honest in tough situations.  Courage helps us to stick to our values and morals even when it is not popular.  Courage helps us try things we are unsure of which is a way to grow and change.  Courage helps us chart a new path and direction.  Courage doesn’t promise safety, but the ability to move forward in strength even under the worst of circumstances.

Parenting takes courage.  Boundaries are very important in parenting, and it takes courage to set a boundary and help children achieve a healthy balance between form and freedom.

I would love to hear your thoughts about courage and the role it plays in your life.  How do you see courage within yourself for the upcoming year?

Blessings,
Carrie

Let’s Read: Simplicity Parenting

 

We are at the last of this wonderful book, the epilogue, in which we see many of the principles of simplicity parenting applied to real-life cases.  The epilogue opens with the case of six-year-old Carla, who is full of aggressive and controlling behavior.  Kim John  Payne notes that the parents wanted to “please and appease” and that the six-year-old was well on her way to complete domination and control of the home.  Yet, this story is here because it shows that there is not an “ideal family” candidate for simplicity parenting and that any family can benefit.  Simplicity is not just about simplifying stuff, but clearing out the space to be in each other’s hearts and to nurture each other.  Increasing rhythm in the home, having more consistency in daily life is nothing but calming to the families of today.  Meals and bedtime routines are still the hallmark of making a house into a home.  He talks about the “sliding” we can do as parents into the company of our children. 

It all takes time and energy, but the benefits of balance can be so outstanding for family life.    I would love to hear your story about attaining balance and a simpler life!

Blessings,

Carrie

A Special Offer for Parenting Passageway Readers!

 

Although it is only September, we  have already endured bouts of cold weather around the United States and  The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a colder than usual winter, especially for the eastern part of the United States.  Warmth is so important for our children.  Warmth allows our children to settle in, to not be restless, to rest and sleep and grow better, and to reach their fullest potential as human beings.

We see this in many cultures all around the world in the  dressing of babies warmly, even in subtropical and tropical climates.  When our children are warm enough, then energy will not be diverted from the growth and maturity of the nervous system  in order to just keep warm. 

As a rule, three layers on the top with one layer tucked in, and two layers on the bottom is recommended.  Here in Georgia I like two layers on the top and two layers on the bottom, just depending upon how cold and windy it is.  Contrary to popular belief, the Deep South does see snow and we do get freezing temperatures.   My favorite article about warmth by Mary Sutton, MD, appears in this back post  as reprinted with permission. 

Because of the importance warmth plays in the health and well-being of our children, I am excited to announce Green Mountain Organics (my favorite place to get woolens)  is offering the readers of The Parenting Passageway 20 percent off woolens for winter through next weekend with the code pp20.

Many blessings, happy woolens,

Carrie

Let’s Read: Simplicity Parenting

 

We are up to my favorite chapter!  Chapter Five, entitled “Schedules” is well-worth reading for yourself.  I don’t believe parents in the United States intend to overschedule their children, yet that is where so many families are in reality, and this chapter offers a hard look at what we are doing, why we are doing it and what we could do differently.

This issue is not a new one.  Kim John Payne points out that David Elkind’s book “The Hurried Child” first asked the question as to whether children were being pushed toward adulthood in the form of “super-competency” because parents lacked the time or interest for parenting.  This was in the early 1980s.  The latter half of the 1980’s saw a real focus on the child’s accomplishments and achievements.  These trends are not new. 

How do children spend their time?  According to this chapter:

  • Children ages 6 to 11 spend many hours in front of a television screen and a computer screen
  • School takes 8 more hours than it did in 1981
  • The amount of time in structured activities has doubled
  • Time spent doing homework has also doubled – with the implementation of No Child Left Behind, students are averaging an hour and twenty minutes a night of homework.
  • Children have 12 hours less free a week than they did – about 25 percent of a child’s day is “free” on average; in 1981 the average child had about 40 percent of his or her day free.

 

Kim John Payne points out that, “And it is really so bad to be busy?  Why aren’t their busy kids seen as fulfilled rather than frantic?  What is wrong with wanting your children to have as many opportunities as possible?  I don’t think the central issue of “overscheduled” kids is motivation – either the parents’ or the kids’.  Most parents are driven by good intentions…In wanting to provide for their children, here again parents act with generous motivations.  But just as too many toys stifle creativity, too many scheduled activities may limit a child’s ability to direct themselves, fill up their own time, to find and follow their own path.”

 

Some children really do not know what to do with even moments of spare time because they are used to having every minute structured.  Kim John Payne points out that interest in an activity can be real and sustained over time for children but that time, leisure and other interests often help a main interest to  grow.   Children need unstructured time.  This is coming out in more and more studies and childhood psychology literature  regarding the development of executive function in children – things such as working memory, mental flexibility, reasoning, judgment – are enhanced by non structured activities, not by structured ones. 

 

Awareness is the first step in stepping off the overscheduled  burden.  Play happens in unstructured time and opening up schedules lends itself to spontaneous moments .  If a child has fewer activities, then a parent’s schedule (who is often a driver) will also open up as well.  This can impact the entire family  in a positive way.

 

How do you simplify your outside activities?  Does your family need help in this area or is the balance easy?

Blessings,
Carrie

Multicultural Reading Lists

 

 

These are a few of the reading lists I have for multicultural children’s literature for the English speaking reader:

 

Children’s literature by Native American authors – from preschool through high school/adult reading: http://www.slj.com/2013/11/collection-development/focus-on-collection-development/resources-and-kid-lit-about-american-indians-focus-on/#_

 

One of the best sites I have found for African American children’s literature:  http://www.best-childrens-books.com/african-american-childrens-books.html (by grade and also award winners by year).

 

For Asian/Pacific Rim children’s  literature:  http://childrensbooks.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=childrensbooks&cdn=parenting&tm=103&f=20&su=p284.13.342.ip_&tt=3&bt=5&bts=75&zu=http%3A//www.nea.org/grants/29506.htm  and here:  http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/lit_resources/diversity/asian_am/asian_am.html (if you look on the sidebar there are links to books of Chinese heritage, Japanese heritage and Korean heritage).  There are also literature  awards focused on Asia/Pacific Rim Children’s Literature.  The award winners for 2013 are here:  http://www.apalaweb.org/2013-asianpacific-american-award-for-literature-winners/

 

For children’s literature by Latino authors, by grade level:  http://ccb.lis.illinois.edu/Projects/Additions%20on%209-20-07/CCB/CCB/mhommel2/Booklists.htm

 

For children’s literature regarding the Middle East:  http://www.pragmaticmom.com/2011/08/top-10-arabic-american-childrens-books/  and an extensive list here:  http://bernadettesimpson.com/Childrens-YA-Books-MiddleEast.pdf

 

If you have a list on your blog of your favorite children’s literature as related to your religion or your cultural heritage, please leave a link in the comment box so my readers can find it!

Thank you,

Carrie