Connecting With Young Children: Educating the Will–Week Two

We are back looking at the introduction to this wonderful  book by Stephen Spitalny.  This is a book about waking up our own will in choosing how we will relate to small children, and in understanding that small children are driven by their own will forces.   I urge you to read along!

This book is based upon the way Rudolf Steiner perceived young children. Steiner felt that children came to Earth with an “essential core, the true individuality of the human being [being] spirit” and that this spirit is contained in a physical body.  The gifts and destiny of this human being is our journey on Earth.  The physical body has needs and instincts and sense experiences; the “I” (the essential spiritual core) has a destiny to unfold and the soul is the intermediary between these two things.  The soul of a human being is the housing of our desires, the things we like and dislike, our passions.  Lastly, besides the “I”, the physical body, and the soul , there is an “etheric body” which is the life forces of the body.  Perhaps we know this better in our modern times from the Chinese medical system as chi.  The etheric body, the chi, in Steiner’s view had the ability to help form the physical body and to maintain the physical body.  The etheric body is the “realm of the immune system” and of movement.

This four-fold system is our basis for looking at all human beings, but in the small child of ages birth through seven,  we are especially concerned with these life-forces (the etheric) and how small children develop and use their will forces in a healthy way.

Part of this  occurs through US as adults – how do we relate to and connect with the small child under the age of 7?  Relating to others  is a realm of give and take, it is a process of connecting to that which is within ourselves. 

“For a parent or teacher or caregiver, the core principle is the meeting of the other, and to truly meet an other one must first know thyself.  This is a core principle of Waldorf education.”

A spiritual path allows us to experience connection with the spirit within us, and to experience the spirit in the world around us so we can overcome the separation created by thinking and the intellect. 

Lots of food for thought and more to come,


Wrap-Up of Weeks Thirty Through Thirty-Two

It is hard to believe that I last posted in this series on April sixteenth.  You can find the post about weeks twenty-eight and twenty-nine here.

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 twenty four through twenty six and further in the 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.

Living With The Seasons:  Week Thirty saw our homeschool play on the Norse Myths come to fruition for our middle child.  Other than that, it has been a busy time of endings for the school year.  4-H has ended, along with church choir, the physics class for our oldest, and the church musical is over.  I love the feeling of things winding down and the beauty of Eastertide and May Day.

Homeschool Planning:  Friends, I am working very hard so I do  not have to spend my entire summer planning.  I am mostly through fifth grade, half of the six year old kindergarten year and have various blocks of eighth grade done.  I am hoping to be totally done at the end of June and can just take July to enjoy the summer.  We shall see if that comes to fruition!

Kindergarten:  Kindergarten at this time of year is about playing and developing gross motor skills!  We have been continuing a simple circle and story, fingerplays and seasonal singing.  We are moving this week from a sweet Suzanne Down story of Old Gnome and his friend the frog found in Suzanne’s wonderful book “Old Gnome Through The Year” into a story specifically for The Feast of Ascension on Thursday, May 14 (the story can be found in the back of the book “All  Year Round”).    Most of all we have been swimming, walking a lot and we hope to go strawberry picking in the next few weeks.

Fourth Grade:  It took us several weeks to finish up grasshoppers, bees, ants, and butterflies in our last Man and Animal block.   We did quite a bit of modeling, drawing and poetry with our insect friends, and I also brought in the chapters about bees and butterflies from Charles Kovacs’ “Botany” book.  This week, we have moved  into a review of all four math processes and the fractions introduced in the fall.  I have put together my own lessons for this block based off the few lessons in Dorothy Harrer’s “Math Lessons for Elementary Grades” (free ebook) and Marilyn Burns’ “Lessons for Introducing Fractions”, available used through Abe Books or other used booksellers.  We have been working very hard on math and spelling.  We finished  “Little Bee Sunbeam” and now we are reading “Heroes of the Kalevala:  Finland’s Saga” by Babette Deutsch.  I know everyone extolls “The Land of Heroes”, but I really like Deutsch’s version.   

Seventh Grade:  Hard to believe that seventh grade is coming to an end! 

So far we have done (picking up from the list I began in the previous post):

  • A Summary of Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael that I talked about in the previous post
  • A line drawing in the style of Leonardo.
  • A map of Spain in the time of Ferdinand, Isabella and Columbus
  • A pastel chalk drawing of the boats of Columbus
  • A colored pencil drawing of Martin Luther nailing the 95 theses to the church door
  • A map of the British Isles at the time of Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare
  • A portrait of Queen Elizabeth (colored pencil) with quote
  • A charcoal portrait of William Shakespeare

Forging into Latin American geography and the great Aztec, Maya and Incan civilizations and the Spanish coming to the New World, we have:

  • A beautiful title page
  • A physical map of Latin America with all mountains and highlands, lowlands and coastal plain areas labeled/ discussed as well as the Atacoma Desert
  • A summary of the Andes Mountains and a painting; I want to go back and do a portrait of the people of the Andes if we have time
  • A summary of The Pampas and the gaucho, quotes from “Martin Fierro”, the epic gaucho saga by Jose Hernandez which we read.
  • A summary of the Amazon Basin; drawing of jaguars

In math we are actually reviewing measurement and conversions of all types and she is finishing up The Key To Algebra book 2.  This year we finished up through Book Five of The Key Geometry books, books 1 and now 2 of Algebra, and books 1 and 2 of Metric Measurement.  Still more to do!

We finished reading “The Second Mrs. Gianconda” and my daughter is reading, “I, Don Pareja” herself.  We are now reading aloud “The Secret of the Andes.”

We are entering into a discussion of Mayan civilization and I hope to have a large scale project. 

We are still here plugging away!


Planning Eighth Grade

I have Eighth Grade planning well under way and am very happy to share some ideas with my  readers who are also planning this grade.  Eighth Grade seemed a bit more overwhelming to look at than other past grades simply because the recommendations for blocks seemed to differ from Waldorf teacher to Waldorf teacher and what was included in each block also seemed to differ.  For example, what to include,  in physics?  The recommendations vary. What to include in history – how much modern history, for example?  The recommendations vary.  You get the idea!

I looked at the Eighth Grade section of the Waldorf Inspirations website, which was helpful to me to try to grasp what I was doing.   I looked at the AWNSA chart;  I looked at the Christopherus Eighth Grade Rough Guide.  I looked at the Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore recommendations for Eighth Grade. I talked to a few other mothers also gearing up to plan Eighth Grade.

But most of all, I looked at the child in front of me and what we have built so far.  What connections did we carry through the grades?  What connections can I make in this grade from everything we have covered so far as a culmination to this beautiful curriculum in grades one through eight?  What  foundation do we need to lay going forward?  What passions did she have?

I know an Eighth Grade project can be traditional in some Waldorf Schools, but I decided it was not a right fit for us in the home environment.  I felt like it would be one big stressful experience, to be frank, and  our daughter has already had some experience in putting together presentations for 4-H, so I felt as if she working to develop those skills in other arenas.

Also, because we plan to homeschool in high school, I was not feeling as if we needed to have this big “wrap up”.  Our life together  will go into ninth grade.

What I decided instead was to devote our last block of the year to something our daughter was really interested in.  She had not identified a lot of different passions up to this point, and I  really wanted to give her a chance to explore that and to think about any areas that seemed appealing.  To my surprise, she said she was very interested in epidemics/pandemics – such as the spread of the  plague and other diseases. 

So, I have decided to design a Medical Geography block to intersect epidemiology and geography and focus on a few well-chosen historical events  – the plague, the yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia in the 1700s,  perhaps small pox, the influenza epidemic of 1918, possibly AIDS/HIV or Ebola.  I haven’t totally planned it yet;  it is just in the beginning seeds of germination.  I hope she will find it interesting, and as the Centers for Disease Control is in our backyard, I also hope we can plan a few field trips. I hope this will be a satisfying experience as a springboard into a high school career full of a Waldorf approach but with life experiences also built upon her interests and passions.  I think the teenaged years are the most natural and developmentally appropriate time to explore that.

If you are interested as to some of the other  ideas I have been collecting for Eighth Grade, including some of my own “topic twists” within the traditional and archetypal Waldorf blocks for this grade, please see my Eighth Grade Pinterest board.

Would love to hear  your plans,

Are You Overthinking The Toddler and Preschool Years?

Sometimes toddlers and preschoolers do funny things, and parents ask, “Why is it that I can’t get Little Jimmy to drink anything but chocolate milk with his school lunch?”  “Why is it Little Abby only has worn cowboy boots for the past three months every day?”

And then there are mothers of older teenagers and sometimes their list of worries can be much more serious and upsetting:  sexting, driving home with a drunk driver, car accidents, drug and alcohol use, graduating high school, teenage pregnancy, getting into college, saving money from a job so there will be something to start out in life with, the possibility of rape;  the list goes on.  Even if we have total confidence in our wonderful teenagers and their abilities to make great choices, the list can still be there in the back of our minds.

It is an interesting juxtaposition.

Thinking about some of the bigger issues that older teenagers can face makes the issue of chocolate milk and cowboy boots seem what they are – small issues that will pass in time. It is not that these topics don’t deserve thought and consideration.  Not at all!  But sometimes it can be helpful to hear and see older children in action.  The older child and teenager is where your toddler and preschooler someday will be.

This is not to negate the really important job of raising a toddler and preschooler because these years are the foundation of the years to come.  You may really not be over-thinking it, but just building a long-range perspective can take years.

I remember being a new mother and I DID feel like a deer in the headlights with my toddlers and preschoolers.  Now I have an almost 14 year old and a five year old, with a ten year old in between,  and I am starting to understand where mothers of the older teenagers are coming from with some of their worries and a bigger picture than picky eating or sleeping (although those things are super important at the time and when you are in the middle of it!). I am forever humbled at every turn.

Going back to basics always helps.  SOCIETY makes parenting toddlers and preschoolers MUCH HARDER than it should be.  We have forgotten what tiny children are all about and what the media and often even what  mainstream groups that cater to toddlers, preschoolers and their parents show us as “normal” is actually a version of adulthood brought down and made over for these tiny ages – and  so much of it is commercially driven, at least in American society.

The rules of parenting the toddler and preschooler should simply revolve around rescuing your toddler from near-death several times an hour (exhausting!), rest and sleep, trying to get a toddler to eat and potty train (exhausted yet?), helping guide a toddler’s wants and needs,  and playing!  Where society makes it hard is that it is not child-friendly, and with all the “experts” out there, mothers have forgotten how to be the expert on their own child. Also, there are no longer  great support networks for new parents that provide the “real deal” as to what these tiny ages are about!

Remember, the way to get these things “done” with a toddler or preschooler is

  • Rhythm  – Rhythm and consistency, not over- talking and over- explaining, is the KEY to discipline!
  • Outdoor time
  • An unhurried, happy life
  • Rest and sleep
  • Not feeling as if a tiny child constantly needs bigger, better, to be pushed, more stimulation, more classes outside the home – RESIST the urge to bring the adult world to your child. Ask yourself, did I do this when I was a child of that age or did I do it in middle school and high school??
  • The idea that childhood should be PROTECTED
  • Free yourself from the idea that a small child needs to be entertained.  They need meaningful work and  over time they need to develop the ability to occupy themselves in the home environment with play

Developing a long-term understanding of the development of the human being can be a helpful guide in a society where developmental stages are not valued.  I am so grateful for all the parents out there that do try, that do worry, that do work to help guide their children.  Thank you for being such good parents!


May Day In The Waldorf Home

Here’s a branch of snowy May,

A branch the fairies gave me.

Who would like to dance today,

With a branch the fairies gave me?

Dance away, dance away,

Holding high the branch of May.

–Traditional May Day Song

May Day is such a beautiful day full of cheer!  There are many beautiful cultural and folk traditions around this special day.  One often thinks of the image of dancers around a Maypole.  In the book “All Year Round”, the authors remark that originally the Maypole was a tree, sometimes up to sixty feet high, cut and stripped of all its branches except the top (which then symbolized new life).  It was decorated and set up in an open space.  Ribbons were often added, and then the dancers around the pole move in such a way as to plait the ribbons in patterns.

May Day brings promise:  to the farmer, the promise of kind weather; to the girl who washes her face in the May Day dew, the promise of a fine complexion; to the young people weaving the pattern of creation around the Maypole, the eternal promise of the future.  – From page 84,  “All Year Round”

Some beautiful ways to celebrate the promise of May Day:

  • Make a May Pole and invite children to dance!  Yes, there are May Pole dances on You Tube if you have never seen one in person!
  • Play games – “Celebrating Irish Festivals” recounts that sports at the May Day festival included smearing poles with grease and seeing who could climb to the top the fastest, races on foot, sack races, blindfolded races, wrestling, hopping and jumping contests
  • Make ankle bracelets with little bells that ring when you walk and braided wreaths of flowers for the heads of the children you love. 
  • Make a special May Day cake with a small maypole on the top!  Sponge cake is rather traditional.
  • Learn music for May Day. Here is a link with some song ideas, including one May Day song from the Appalachian region of the United States!
  • Get up early and wash your faces in the morning dew
  • Make beautiful May Day baskets or cones and fill them flowers – leave them on your neighbor’s doors
  • Decorate your own house with wreaths, garlands, ribbons
  • Pick herbs and dry them
  • Go on a picnic – “Celebrating Irish Festivals” has suggestions for food
  • Some parts of Europe hold bonfires – consider a bonfire!

For more ideas see the following books:

  • “Celebrating Irish Festivals”
  • “All Year Round”
  • “Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions”
  • “Festivals, Families and Food”
  • “Spring” – Wynstones
  • You Tube for videos of May Pole dances
  • I have a small “May” Pinterest board that has some ideas as well.

Festivals for small children are in the doing, so please do choose something and start your traditions!




“Sitting Is The Smoking Of Our Generation”

This is a brilliant saying from Nilofer Merchant’s Huffington Post article Huffington Post article  and corresponding  TED talk .  As a pediatric physical therapist and movement advocate, I fully agree.

What can we do as parents?

  • Limit your screens!  Turn those things off and get moving instead!  National Screen Free Week is May 4th – May 10th!  I urge you to participate in this starting on Monday  if your family is not already screen free.  Here is their Facebook page:  Go and check it out!

Here are the tips for screen free week.

Here is a list of 101 Screen Free Activities  Activity is the font of life!

Keep moving!  Here are a few more ideas:

  • Stop sitting so much ourselves.  Cooking, cleaning, gardening, active pursuits all count. Choose walks in the morning and afternoon, less time in a car overall.   Show our children we can DO.  Be the role model!
  • Plan time to get outside every day.  Look for playing and meeting other parents in streams, creeks, large expansive meadows, hiking trails and beaches.  Get children on their bikes (many children CAN learn to ride a bike with no training wheels by 3 and a half if they practice and use a balance bike first!).  Swim, pick berries, walk.
  • If you live in a neighborhood, let your children play outside with other children.  Talk to the other parents in your neighborhood!  Yes, even if you have to put dinner in a crock pot and stand there outside with them all and yes, even if you have to show grades-aged children how to play kickball or freeze tag.  Don’t laugh; I have met children that had no idea how to play either or these games.  Pull out jump ropes and help them draw hopscotch. 
  • If you are homeschooling, schedule in ACTIVE time.  Not just active movement in the “warm-up” part of the day, but during the main lesson itself.  Can you also plan a very active outing each week in addition to being outside each day as well?  Can you kayak, canoe, snowshoe, ski, hike, snorkel one full morning or afternoon a week?

Share your ideas for cutting out or down media and staying active with children in the comment box or on The Parenting Passageway Facebook page!



Choosing Time Outside of the Home Wisely

I think choosing how we spend our time outside of when our children are in school –whether that be in public, private or homeschool – is an important topic.

If your children are in public or private school, I know many families who choose to do no extra activities outside of school.  This gives children time to come home, relax and play, get homework done, eat with the family and go to bed on time.  I know families that adhere to this even when their children are teenagers, despite pressure to “do lots of things to put on a college application.”  If any activities are chosen, it might be one activity at a time that has a short life span – ie, an activity that might span 4-6 weeks and then culminate in an event.

I know many  homeschooling families that will only choose activities that the entire family can participate in (or least all the grades-aged children and therefore the younger children coming up to this age will eventually do). I find this to be especially true of families with four or more children. If the family is very large, for example, I have known homeschooling families with six to twelve children, they may choose two activities such as soccer and dance and the children divide according to their interests.  Even this can start to get a little dicey because of age requirements for different levels, but it still is a way to limit.

I think the families that are running around the most that I see in the homeschooling communities are actually those with one to three children!  There is this idea that every child needs their separate things to do.  Sometimes that is true.  However, I think it takes really careful thought and consideration so it doesn’t turn out that each child has there “own three separate things” so therefore you are running nine places between three children!

I don’t know as children below 12 need much in the way of outside, adult-led, structured activities, dependent upon the child’s temperament and extraversion levels.  Young teens  of 13-15 sometimes struggle because it seems as if many of the activities for “children” are up to age 12 and therefore those ages 13-15 need to be in a teen group of some kind.  My almost fourteen year old often feels left out in a group of older teens at this point and I have noticed this across the board in observing the 13-15 year olds. So I have tried to look for activities that still can include her with her sister and children her age (because 13-15 year olds often seem to feel left out with only smaller children as well) or activities that especially include a good grouping of 13 to 15 year olds.  This sort of grouping  also makes sense to me based upon Steiner’s pedagogy of the sixteen/seventeen year old change.

I would love to hear your thoughts.  How do you handle outside activities?  At what point do you feel children really, really need something to do outside the home?  Not to generalize, but many mothers of 11 and 12 year old girls have told me that is when they really felt their girls needed something more and many mothers of boys told me their boys didn’t care so much to do something until they were closer to 14.

Tell me how many children are in your family that are grades-aged and how you handle outside activities! Let’s have a discussion!