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!


The Unsupportive Spouse

One thing I have heard frequently in parenting and in supporting other parents is this area of the “unsupportive” spouse.  Whether it be breast-feeding, co-sleeping, homeschooling, eliminating media – it seems like this comes up a lot.  “I would like this, but my partner is not supportive.”

I can only offer you a few suggestions from other mothers  that I have heard over the past fourteen years or so…

1.  Remember your spouse is a parent too.  Sometimes we are fortunate enough to have been breastfed/have been raised with no media/were homeschooled ourselves.  Then we bring that to the table as part of us, and our future spouses and partners KNOW this about us.  However, many of us were only exposed to these ideas AFTER we had children and now it is almost like changing the rules of the game in a sense.  We feel as if we have better information and knowledge to make a better choice for our families, but we are bringing something totally new to the table for our partners or spouses…which leads to….

2.  Communication; have the honest dialogue. Communication is really important. If you set it up as “I am right and you are wrong in “X” parenting matter” ….well, you probably aren’t going to get very far.  But a heart-felt conversation in which you address your partner’s fears, assumptions, wishes in a respectful way…that can go a long way.  Be a team together.  Share information and support each other.  Talk about how you came to the conclusion you are now holding as truth; maybe that will help your partner’s journey as well.

3.  Can you respectfully compromise?  There are two of you, and you have to parent like it.  Are there baby steps?   

4.  Can you offer alternatives that  protect your child?  What compromise can your spouse make to help meet you? 

5.  Give it time.  Some families start out with a specified time frame to try things out – three weeks seems like a good time frame – and see what happens! Is everyone happier? 

If the time passes, and your spouse is not happy but overall the family seems more happy, ask yourself:  is this a parenting problem or a relationship challenge?  In other words, is this really about breastfeeding/cosleeping/media-free/homeschooling/etc. or is it really about something else? See point #7 below.

6. Be respectful.  Mothers often are the ones researching things and wanting to move things in a certain direction; be respectful and again, allow communication and time for your partner to work on this issue that you have raised.

7. How is the rest of the relationship?    I read an article once about “The Unsupportive Spouse” by Gregory Popcak in “The Nurturing Parenting”  (1996) and he wrote about how we cannot use these issues as a shield to avoid each other or not work on our relationship with our partners.  If you need help, get help. A great therapist or counselor can be the wonderful third party and objective sounding board.  You may grow even closer having worked through some of the challenges inherent in parenting!

I would love to hear your stories….how did you and your spouse handle big issues that you disagreed upon?

Blessings and love,

Differing Expectations Between Waldorf Curriculums

The last post I wrote about language arts through the Waldorf homeschooling curriculum  brought out some terrific comments by veteran homeschooling mothers regarding finding differing expectations between Waldorf homeschooling curriculums.  One of my long-time readers wrote this brilliant comment:

Thanks again, Carrie, for your thoughts on this. There can be such a discrepancy not just between what’s done at school or home but also in comparing home ed. curriculums. Looking at Live Ed, say, or Path of Discovery, and then comparing it to much of what Christopherus suggests is do-able at a certain age for example. The expectations of the child, not just in language arts but in all areas, are quite different.
I agree with what you say about home educated children – I think they develop to their own individual time-tables, regardless of what experts might say or what other children are doing.
Perhaps being allowed to linger in a stage of development allows them to really complete it in a way that being hurried on to the next thing does not.

Yes! Oh, yes!

So always go back to basics:  read  Steiner’s lectures and  look at your child.  Know the general ideas of artistic and academic goals for each grade and know that if you are using curriculum, they do vary fairly significantly at points.  Most of all, look at the child in front of you because when it comes down to it, that is what you have:  the child in front of you and where they are and you can only build from there!  That is the reality of teaching!

Why is it that  you often hear about children in the homeschooling environment (and not even just Waldorf homeschooling, you  ofen hear this across homeschooling methodologies  unless a child is really being pushed in the academic areas or the child is just naturally brilliant) is  that sometimes a child didn’t read until 12, or they just didn’t get math until all of the sudden when they turned 14, etc. ? I think this may, like my reader suggests above,  have to do with the  time and space that homeschooling affords.  In my experience, it seems that many times the only children that meet many of these  “pre-set milestones”  are the eager beaver first-born girls.  Maybe in a group some of these children would be the little ones sort of ahead of the class in general or who get it easily and help their classmates.  Maybe  it has to do with a more esoteric reason, such the guiding hand of Spirit over  homeschoolers as a group across the land.  I don’t know, other than it just seems to be.

So, be careful with curriculums.  They can be a great guidepost to help brand-new mothers who have never seen a Waldorf classroom nor heard transition verses nor seen main lesson books.  However, I notice many mothers coming up are buying ALL the curriculums. ALL the different curriculums on the market! Are you the type of the mother that can sort through all of this?  Is there one that really matches your family better and where your child is?

At the point you are sorting through all of this, why not buy resources and make your own curriculum since the curriculums are all different anyway?  Yes, each curriculum has its gems, each one has its own voice.  But so do you! You have your own voice, your own style – and this is EXACTLY what happens in a Waldorf classroom with a teacher.  Every teacher is different and brings their own twist to the subject material.   Every teacher will design a block in a different way.

Being a homeschooling parent means being a teacher.  You are learning to be a teacher, and it will come.


Progression of Language Arts Through The Waldorf Curriculum

This is a big subject as entire books have been devoted to this matter.  I recommend that Waldorf homeschooling parents first of all read Steiner’s lectures regarding language arts. The lectures compiled in “Genius of Language”; lectures also found in “Discussions With Teachers” and “Practical Advice to Teachers”.

In the Waldorf homeschooling world, we also books of secondary pedagogy such as “Living Language” from Christopherus Homeschooling Resources, Inc which I think is very helpful for grades one through five if you are putting together your own blocks, the smattering of lessons for grades 2 through 8 such as Dorothy Harrer’s  book “An English Manual” (free as an ebook over at Rudolf Steiner Library On-Line) which includes mainly grammar (but not so much writing or progression to writing).  Also, brand new this year are little grammar workbooks from a Waldorf perspective for grades four and up here (but I think only grade four is out right now).  Unlike “Waldorf math” where a scope and sequence is laid out by such authors as Jarman or York, I have not found a true scope and sequence for language arts (writing, spelling, grammar, punctuation) other than “Living Language” (– especially for the upper grades, since, again, “Living Language” covers grades one through five).

All of this is important because, after all, in Waldorf homeschooling, we have those summaries (I say this partly with my tongue in cheek – read on).  You know, the summaries that run through all the grades in trying to summarize information in the upper grades and sentences in the lower grades.  We do use what we write to learn to read and to practice our letter and word –finding abilities in the lower grades, and in how we work with grammar and punctuation and spelling.  We find this work  in our rhythm of practice, in recall, a deepening of the subject using art as the vehicle and yes, writing as an academic piece.  (Not that this rhythm of “material-drawing-summary” should be the way to do every thing!  Trying to decide what to put in the main lesson book is part of being the teacher, and not everything has to go in the main lesson booktrying to put everything in there is a sure recipe for burn-out on both your part and the student’s part!  Is the goal of Waldorf Education writing summaries? Is art the secondary step to get to the summary?   NO, I say emphatically!)

I find that writing in and of itself is an activity that involves much thinking, and therefore I believe we really see the maturation of writing when we see the maturation of the human being.  Being able to think about a subject and write  about it clearly in order to communicate to other people involves the twelve senses – I think especially in the choosing of words, punctuation, grammar, how we phrase things, how we analyze things and can synthesize this on paper – this involves being able to put ourselves in the place of another “I” on so many levels, to be able to communicate with the “other” in our audience and in our clarity.  To me, good writing is part of the hallmark and culmination of  these senses.

In the homeschooling environment I think this takes place later than in the school setting from what I have seen and heard in working with other homeschooling families.  Therefore,  I am always a bit baffled by this push for more mature “writing” in composing summaries in the grades four and below – to me, this is more the realm of copying sentences and then copying summaries  of a paragraph or two, dictation in perhaps end of fourth and yes in  fifth grade, yes, perhaps working together to go over ideas orally first in these grades so the child can get a sense of how to start compiling things….and then composing summaries gradually and gently in middle school with excellent writing towards the end of eighth grade and in high school.  That is my  own progression in my own  homeschooling, but certainly every child is different, and you as a homeschooling teacher will need to figure out what is right for your family.

I hope to write a series talking about language arts in each grade with a few ideas.  As I have pointed out, there are many books on these subjects and it is worth your time to think about the progression normally found in Waldorf Education and how your progression will be at home. My vote and inclination is that the things we find in Waldorf Education often, again, happens later in the home environment, especially for the very active boys and girls. 

Just my two cents!




How To Put A Block Together–Part Four

In our last post in this series, we left off where after reading all of our resources, we have ideas, a general flow  of topics or stories for a block and set them on paper.  I find this especially simple for the lower grades. For the upper grades with subjects where I have to write and condense information,  I may take notes on paper from different resources and then gather them into one document on the computer – “The Silk Road”, “Charlemagne” etc.    This is especially  because I may have to combine sources to write a complete picture of something in history through a biography.   I have found that  I have to be careful and confirm things one source says against another source…just to be sure of accuracy for the upper grades – every author has a bias.  

With the early grades, it may be simpler in a way because you are choosing stories, not sifting through historical data or experiments to illustrate ideas in science, but the stories also have to be tailored to be the best story for your child through pedagogical storytelling.  For example, I can add in little details that appeal to my child’s temperament.  I also can also write little nature stories based upon the plants and animals in our area;  I can also put together verses and little songs.  (We do this tailoring in the upper grades too when we tell great biographies to our children and really tailor it for their temperament or what they need to see as a consequence positive and negative of certain choices in a historical figure’s life!) 

Then on to really work on the artistic.  Many times, this starts with chalkboard drawing.   I always had images “around” in  my head and could draw on a chalkboard fairly quickly, especially in the early grades of 1 through 4 or 5 or so….However, the drawings of the upper grades are much more intricate, and some of the drawings for seventh grade have taken three to four hours.  I do not think my chalkboard drawings for seventh and eighth grade are as up to par as some Waldorf teachers in the Waldorf Schools for the upper grades at this point.  I realize also that  those chalkboard drawings can take a weekend to put together and I don’t know as that is always a realistic or efficient  experience of time for a homeschooling mother, to be honest, especially with multiple children to homeschool….  So I would say I have used some chalkboard drawings this year, but  I have also had more the experience of creating on paper with charcoals, pen, pastels, colored pencil, veil painting, etc.   It seems quicker and a better use of my limited time to work in the medium my child will be working in (ie, the child is not working in chalkboard drawing).    Modeling also is still important – in eighth grade we will be tackling modeling the head!  Guess what I will be practicing this summer??

As we move up in the grades, I  find I also have to rely  in some ways more on images from other people – because, for example, I can’t just do a portrait of Lincoln anyway I like.  It has to look like Lincoln.  So when my plans are on paper then I may need to go back and add in specific images or ideas for imagery sources.   This is where books, pinterest, image searches, etc can come in handy.  However, you still have to bring your own creativity into it as far as layout and ideas.  Do you want charcoal drawings for this subject or how will you set the subject up to bring something new artistically into the layout, the title, etc?…. But back to the chalkboard drawing and artistic endeavors in general..

For some mothers who are just starting out, they may have to really work  the proportion of their chalkboard drawings and simple people and animals.  This is okay.  It is  important to be able to break it down into simple shapes with block crayons, stick crayons, chalk.   So the chalkboard can be a great medium for a homeschooling parent to work with!  What children in the home environment often need most, however, is you to sit down and draw with them when the time comes.  They are not in a classroom where they can look around and see other first graders drawing and how that other child is approaching it!  So in the home environment, don’t panic and do remember that if drawing or modeling or whatnot is difficult for you, remember the forms in grade one are simple!  They are for a first grader!  However, even children in grades 6-8 like you to draw with them in charcoal and later in pastel chalks, etc.  So plan to have finished products in a folder that you have done over the summer (or your own main lesson book) but also plan to sit down and do the artistic projects with your child.  

The  end of the lesson normally is new material or leaving with a deepening question or idea regarding the same topic.   Steiner often talked about leaving students with a question to think about…. 

I hope this helps you see that putting together blocks is actually not that difficult, but it takes doing it. You can do this!  I am  planning right now at night….hard work especially for eighth grade, since I am learning everything I forgot from school (LOL), but well worth the time.

I hope this helps.

Many blessings,

“Connecting With Young Children: Educating the Will”

This book, by Stephen Spitalny, one of my favorite authors, is just wonderful and I have chosen this book to be our next book study on The Parenting Passageway. I hope you will all consider getting a copy and following along week by week!

Here are some tidbits from the introduction in which I hope to appeal to you WHY this is such a very important book.  The second sentence really grabbed me, and I agree with its essential truth:

The challenges we face as early childhood educators and parents of young children are, by and large, the result of diminishing will capacities of the young children.  One of the causes is the proliferation of technological gadgets that are promoted as necessary for modern life, and specifically those marketed for children.  Consumer culture has conspired to deliver to the young child exactly what is most detrimental for its development (foods and gadgets) while advertising wizards spin these very same products in such a way that parents line up in droves to make sure their child is not left out.

Gadgets take our children out of their willing,which is where tiny children live.  Explanations, instructions, the million questions that parents ask children take children out of their will lives and prematurely awaken children. 

The goals we look for with small children is to be able to imitate, to be able to live in their bodies comfortably, and to be able to “do” something with themselves.  The will of the adult is the answer.  We must be active in what we do – we must become makers, says the author.  Making food, gardens, toys, dolls, etc is healthy for a young child to be.

Please come with me as we explore this wonderful book that will change how you think and live with small children.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCE, besides the book “Connecting With Young Children:  Educating the Will” by Stephen Spitalny is ‘Toymaking With Children” by Freya Jaffke. 

RECOMMENDED ACTION THIS WEEK:  Get rid of all screens for your children under 12 this week.  Turn them off and be done with it cold turkey.  I have many, many back posts on this topic if you will search.


How To Put A Block Together–Part Three

In Part Two of this series I commented: “ Once I get a general flow, I start  thinking….. Which biographies or stories will I pick to accomplish these goals?   What will our warm –up be, our practice be, what will our recall be from the day before and deepening this older material be, what will the new material be?  It sounds daunting, but once you get into it and start planning, it will flow..”

This is where you get to be an artist.

A great artist for the child in front of you.

So, for example, if I am looking at the Fifth Grade story of Gilgamesh, I will be thinking of academic capacities (what does my child need to work on with conjunction of this story and what will lead up this  — for example, are there forms that would tie in with Gilgamesh that would prepare the eye for writing, things we could do to prepare the body and hand for writing if writing is our goal or rhythm if our goal is skip counting, etc).    You really need to know what you are trying to accomplish academically in each grade and in each block.

I will also think of artistic capacities  in conjunction with the story, biography or subject matter (will we model in clay?  Paint?  Make a diorama?  Carve clay flat or model in some other way? What is needing deepening or a foundation in using art to express the inner qualities of ourselves and the saga of Gilgamesh?).  Lastly, I think about moral or spiritual capacities – does my child need to hear about the spiritual descending to earth of this culture, the despair of Gilgamesh and what happened to overcome it, the anger of Gilgamesh and the aftermath of that (– look at the child in front of you and that will tell you what you need to spend more time or detail upon in telling this story! A good storyteller can read his or her audience!) 

And I think of the spiritual capacities….Where does this really fit in with the archetypal journey of human development and with my specific child?? Am I developing goodness, truth and beauty? Wonder and awe?  Love? 

Once you read through all the materials pertaining to a subject, you let it rest and digest it, I think the answer will come as to what you want to emphasize.  The parts that you emphasize are the parts that you end up working with and deepening.  This cannot be found in a curriculum, but by looking at your child.