Monthly Anchor Points: February

Anchor:  a person or thing that can be relied on for support, stability, or security; mainstay: Hope was his only anchor.

When we work to become the author of own family life, we take on the authority to provide our spouse and children and ourselves stability.  An effective way to do this is through the use of rhythm.  If you have small children, it takes time to build a family rhythm that encompasses the year.  If you are homeschooling older children and also have younger children not ready for formal learning, the cycle of the year through the seasons and through your religious year becomes the number one tool you have for family unity, for family identity, for stability.

February and I have a love-hate relationship.  On the one hand, this is the month of LOVE and LIGHT.  It is a month about thinking about our own inner light and how do we let this light shine in service to others; how do we show our love for others?  We have no greater calling than to love our fellow human beings, beginning with those we live with right in our own homes.  On the other hand, February seems to be the month I least want to serve anyone.  It seems to be a rather cranky month for me at times, much like my July Doldrums….Many homeschooling mothers I speak with seem to feel the same way. 

This month really does have an often quiet beauty about it.  So, let us all try to celebrate the positive aspects of this month of light and love.  It really can and should be beautiful!

My month will be anchored by these festivals:

St. Brigid  of Kildare– February 1st  This back post talks about St. Brigid and  ways to celebrate this special day.

Candlemas, or   Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple – February 2nd

You can seem this back post about the quiet beauty of Candlemas.

St. Valentine’s Day – February 14th – this is actually a very low-key festival in my house.  Last year I made little painted heart shaped boxes with peg people gnomes.  I think this year we will bake and we may have something small for the children at breakfast. 

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent – February 18th.  We will be in church that day and watch as we wind through the Lenten season the increasing quiet and simplicity in the church.  I have many back posts about Lent, including books, celebrating with children, homemaking during Lent and many more.  Here is a post about celebrating Lent in the Waldorf home.

St. Polycarp – February 23rd – this is more of an inner remembrance for me on this day for certain personal qualities I wish to cultivate.

Ideas for Celebration:

Winter Sports!  If you live in an area where you can snowshoe, cross country ski, ice skate on a pond, sled, downhill ski and sled, please do!  Sometimes we get snow down the Deep South in February or the first week of March, but it seems to be unusually warm recently.  So, if you live in a climate like mine, perhaps you can hike, bike, roller blade or walk.

Make music!  Such a lovely month for making music. 

Gather a group of mothers and exchange beautiful ideas about creating the family life, rhythms, routines and habits that you really want.  Gather a group together to exchange ideas about homeschooling and planning if you are a homeschooling mother.

The Domestic Life:

Dipping and rolling candles seems to be a natural fit for the month in which Candlemas is celebrated!

Planning the garden.  Are you dreaming with seed catalogues and ideas yet?

Spring or Lenten cleaning

I would love to hear from you and how your February is unfolding. 

Many blessings,
Carrie

Wrap-Up of Weeks Eighteen and Nineteen 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 sixteen and seventeen  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, but I have extended it with many verses, songs and fingerplays about gnomes and dwarves working under the earth now that the year has turned past Candlemas.  It has been great fun!  We moved our story  from Suzanne Down’s January story about “Old Gnome and Jack Frost”  to her February story about Old Gnome and the candle,  which incorporates the nursery rhyme of “Jack Be Nimble/Jack Be Quick/Jack jump over the candlestick”.  We have been painting red winter berries and snowy skies (sprinkled with salt), and collecting items on nature walks.    I am also currently thinking about what our six-year old kindergarten year will look like in the fall (our kindergartener has a fall birthday).

Fourth Grade:  We have been reviewing a lot of math.  I tried to forge ahead to what I feel is on target for fourth grade math, but we really just are not there yet, so we are still working in building up confidence where we are.  We have done several form drawings these past weeks, and also have  gone over  more grammar and made some grammar pages for our Main Lesson Book from examples in the Norse Myths.  We have also been working on spelling and are mainly spelling sight words right now and making sure we know all of those before we move on to other commonly used words.   We did some modeling for Idunna and her golden apples, along with modeling Thor for “The Theft of Thor’s Hammer”, along with some other rollicking tales of Thor.   We have drawn a scene from the death of Balder, painted a wet on wet painting  of the night before The Twilight of the Gods, and have a little more work to do in expressing Ragnarock and the new beginning that follows.  I am hoping tomorrow we will finish a summary about the death of Balder and I have a picture in mind for drawing Ragnarock and the new beginning.  Our little fourth grader is feeling under the weather, so we shall see how far we get. 

Seventh Grade:  We have been working quite a bit in math each day to review fractions, decimals, ratio and metric measurement, but the main thrust of our time has been to finish  up our Africa block.  This included a map of Ancient Africa with some of the ancient cities and kingdoms marked, a timeline of Ancient Africa, a picture and summary of Sundiata, the Lion King of Mali; a summary and two pictures about Mansu Mali and King Abubakari; a veil painting representing the travel of Ibn Battuta in China and a drawing; a simplified map of Africa as divided into pieces for colonization and a summary regarding the horrific slave trade, how this affected Africa and the differences in how countries approached colonization.  We then moved into re-capping and expanding on some of the tribes we studied in connection with geographic regions and into looking closer at a country in each region – for example, we looked at North Africa and West Africa and in West Africa we looked at Nigeria and the three dominant ethnic/tribal  groups, and briefly where Nigeria is today as the most populous and highest economic power in Africa and how those groups interact.  I did not enter into the current conflict with Boko Haram, but next year we will be focusing on current events, so I wanted the background there for what might be found and seen in the newspaper.   Our daughter drew a beautiful picture of a Yoruba woman carrying pottery to market that took several hours.  In East Africa, after review of different ethnic groups and tribes, we focused on Ethiopia – a little about where Ethiopia is today,  especially about coffee production, but also about the legends of Ethiopia in terms of King  Solomon and Queen Sheba and King Lalibela –  his life, the parallels of his life with the life of Jesus Christ in some ways and the amazing stone churches still in use in Lalibela.  Today was the day of  hardest discussions as we talked about Central Africa, an area which breaks my heart, and we traced some of the difficult and troubled history of Angola and the Central Democratic Republic of Congo.  We also looked at the countries in  South Africa, where we talked about  the biography of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu from our own religion and the history of apartheid in the country of South Africa.    It was a day of many thoughts and questions from my daughter, and  I was happy to be homeschooling so we could talk about these troubling things together.   I think this is a very important region to understand and a region I feel will become more and more important during my daughter’s lifetime so I am glad for her to have a foundation that we will expand upon in eighth grade and high school. 

My suggestion for this block if you are coming up to it is to include plenty of extra time for drawing; the drawings our seventh grader did routinely took two to three hours a drawing (not including the summary writing and the play she wrote about the life cycle of the baobab tree). 

I am disappointed that there are not more curriculums that include Africa to be studied in the seventh grade for Waldorf homeschoolers. We will also be studying Latin America before we leave this school year.  We did European Geography last year, and will look at Asia, Australia and Oceania next year.   I highly recommend planning out how you will tackle geography in the middle school years.   

More to come as we move into different blocks….Many blessings,
Carrie

The Sensory World

One of my favorite places to visit and check out is the website, The Sensory World http://sensoryworld.com/.  It has a wonderful magazine, and many free articles and resources for parents.  I saw the latest issue has suggestions for indoor sensory play.  I haven’t had a chance to read the article yet, but wanted to put together a list for parents for this winter season.

This time of year is in one way, wonderful, because we are over the often over-stimulating holidays.  However, in another sense, this time of year can be difficult for parents and for children who have sensory processing challenges due to the cold weather.  I am all for having children go outside when it is cold, but it also another thing when I am getting letters from readers in Canada and other places where the HIGH temperature for the day is –40 degrees Fahrenheit.  That is cold no matter what wonderful clothes one has for their child!

One aspect I think that often gets overlooked in sensory processing literature and by parents is that one of the best sensory things to do is not to find another thing to play with or buy (not that these things and gadgets are not fun!)  but to involve children in meaningful work.  Pushing against resistance is proprioceptive input, and proprioceptive input is wonderful for balancing all aspects of the sensory system.

Examples of meaningful proprioceptive work includes:

  • Carrying or pushing a laundry basket full of heavy clothes
  • Carrying in or pushing wood for the fireplace
  • Vacuuming
  • Washing windows
  • Transferring wet laundry to the dryer if you use a dryer
  • Carrying groceries (or ingredients to the kitchen counter)
  • Mopping a floor
  • Wiping down a shower, tub or sink
  • In cooking – stirring, pressing, kneading

Have a rhythm to your week so each day there is opportunity for this for your Early Years children and everyone in the family!

For “play as proprioceptive activities”:

  • Any sort of crawling game
  • Jumping on a mini-trampoline, jumping into a bean bag (supervise!!)
  • Wrestling and rough-housing – just watch for signs of overstimulation. Some children with sensory processing challenges can’t handle this activity.
  • Crab-walking – can crab-walk in races, or kick a balloon with feet and see how long you can keep the ball up in the air
  • Wheelbarrow race or wheelbarrow around obstacles
  • Scooter board races on stomach
  • Tug of war with rope
  • Potato sack races (large pillowcases work well)
  • Twister  (middle grades children)
  • Any climbing or hanging toys

For developing the shoulder girdle and hands for academic work:

  • All practical work mentioned above develops core strength needed for stability of the shoulder girdle and hands for academic work
  • Playing dress up and holding arms out to put on bracelets, rings, etc
  • Drawing and erasing on a chalkboard (especially if chalkboard is on the wall so the child has to stand upright)
  • Using clothespins,
  • Spraying down windows, doors, etc with a spray bottle and wiping
  • Using scissors to cut snakes of salt dough, paper, etc
  • Using rolling pins in baking or with salt dough

Please share your best ideas! I didn’t include jumping and swinging activities, but those could also be included in this list for both proprioceptive and vestibular input.

Many blessings,

Carrie

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