The Beginner’s Guide to Beautiful Beeswax Modeling – Part One

Modeling is one of the oldest basic human activities and brings us to some of the most essential parts of being human – the spiritual activity of art, the grapple with the will and transformation of problem solving.  Modeling is a part of the  rhythm of work in a week for children in the Early Years, and is used extensively in the grades.  In seventh grade, hands and feet are often modeled as part of the journey into physiology, the Renaissance, and perspective and often the head is modeled in eighth grade. High School moves into more serious sculptural design as the student discovers the sculptural forces within himself.

Modeling strengthens many forces in the children.   Modeling is wonderful tactile experience to strength the Sense of Touch, one of The Twelve Senses often mentioned in connection with Waldorf Education.  It is a way to strengthen the will forces of the hand, provides an exploration into flexibility and visual perception and forces of conceptual strength and incorporate the Sense of Smell.  The Sense of Life is strengthened as a child handles materials as the materials are sometimes not the easiest to work with.  Beeswax can be hard at first and needs warmth and softening; clay can be wet and sticky.  But yet, if children move through this with willing, this medium can become moments of triumph.   You can read more about the connection of the life forces of the body to sculpture in Waldorf Journal Project 6.

For small children, beeswax modeling material is often used to strengthen the Sense of Warmth.   This article by Rahima Baldwin Dancy explains why beeswax modeling material is used when children are younger than the nine year change, and how this does not mean that small children should never play with clay, but why beeswax modeling materials are often preferred below fourth grade.

There was a book that created quite a stir a few years ago regarding using clay with grades-aged children below the nine year change. You can also see this article regarding the use of clay in the early GRADES.  This article points out that there is a lot of dogma around this subject and that Steiner did indeed talk about clay for the early grades (but not the Early Years!)  However, I will say at least in my experience, Waldorf teachers in the American Waldorf Schools that I have met are not at all open to using clay for children below fourth grade.   I am not sure if this is changing or not, so if you are a Waldorf teacher in a Waldorf School, please chime in.

Some people ask at what age should an Early  Years child begin with beeswax modeling.  I have seen some say as early as two or three years old.  I think in the home environment of Waldorf homeschooling, early experiences with modeling would include being outside with sand, beach, river clay, and also with domestic experiences such as bread dough shaping. I find bringing beeswax modeling to a five and six year old to be a good place to begin (unless you have older students and your four year old is clamoring to have a piece too!)

In our next post, we will look at how to begin.

Many blessings,

The Normal Stages of Sleep For Children

This is the third part of looking at normal stages of sleep for children. 

Part One covers children ages four through nine.

Part Two covers children ages eight through twelve.

Today, we are going to look at teenagers and sleep.  While infants and children are often “larks” – waking up early and going to bed early, many adolescents are “owls” who wake up late and stay up late.  Sleep patterns are controlled by hormonal factors and brain signaling related to development, so this transition to a time of being “owls” is often followed back to a transition of being a “lark” again as maturation occurs. 

Early rising for school doesn’t mean that teens will feel ready to go to sleep from a hormonal and brain development standpoint, so what often occurs is actually a shrinking in the number of hours a teenager gets.  And unfortunately, a teenager needs more sleep than either adults or much younger siblings.  They still need about nine to  ten hours of sleep a night!

In the book “The Teenage Brain:  A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults” by Frances E. Jensen, MD with Amy Ellis Nutt, the authors note, “Memory and learning are thoughts to be consolidated during sleep, so it’s a requirement for adolescents and as vital to their health as the air they breathe and the food they eat.” (page 89).  There are some very interesting studies in this book noted in regards to learning, motor learning and sleep.  It has been found that studying or practicing something and then “sleeping on it” really does increase retention and performance. 

Melatonin is released about two hours later in a teenager’s system and it also lingers longer, causing a teenager to be drowsy in the morning.   There are also interesting differences in amount of slow-wave deep sleep cycles in teenagers as compared to adults, and differences in the pruning of brain synapses as related to learning and sleep.

From the book “The Teenaged Brain”, page 96:  “It [lack of good sleep] can have profound and lasting effects on teenagers and could contribute to everything from juvenile delinquency to depression, obesity, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.  Studies have shown that teenagers who report sleep disturbances have more often consumed soft drinks, fried foods, sweets, and caffeine.  They also report less physical activity and more time in front of TV and computers.  Another study found that teenagers who had trouble sleeping at ages twelve to fourteen were two and a half times more likely to report suicidal thoughts at ages fifteen to seventeen than adolescents with good sleep habits.”

Ways to help your teen’s sleep include:

  • Taking away electronic devices before bedtime.  Those should be locked down for the night.
  • The bright LED light of a computer screen should be turned off an hour before bedtime.   The lights suppress melatonin
  • Have your child do “non-tech” activities at night and do the same activities at the same time at night.
  • Make lists of things that need to be done to help decrease any anxiety.
  • Avoid television in the bedroom – associating television and food with bedtimes is often cited by experts as problematic for healthy sleep patterns.
  • Keep the house as peaceful and emotionally stable as possible.  Arguments and tension disrupt sleep!
  • One epidemiologist recommends that teenagers should have a bedtime that is 10 PM or before, according to sleep studies.   Keeping bedtimes and awake times consistent are helpful.
  • Check to see what caffeinated drinks your teen is drinking during the day to stay awake.  Cutting those out may be helpful in a quest for sleep.
  • And as always, speak to your teenager’s medical team if you feel the fatigue or sleep challenges your teen is facing seems different than the norm.


Connecting With Young Children: Educating the Will–Week Four

Our last post regarding Chapter One of this book can be found here.  One of the major premises in Waldorf Education for the Early Years is that the child is working on the growth of his or her own physical body and that this work continues for a longer period than we might otherwise think.  For example, respiration and pulse rates do not establish consistent rhythms until the child is six or seven years old.  Eye muscles for tracking take at least eight years to develop according to this chapter (and many of the optometrists who specialize in visual therapy will tell you this is still developing up until age fourteen), the frontal lobes of the cortex are still developing throughout the teenaged years, etc.  Therefore a fundamental truth of Waldorf Education is that:

To allow the child’s forces of growth and formation to do their task without hindrance allows him to build a solid foundation for physical health throughout life.  These are the same forces that power the intellect, and as they are gradually released from their body forming activities, the intellect develops.  However, the intellect can be forced into early functioning at the expense of the developing physical body. 

The child is seen as a gradually awakening being who is born with a “dream consciousness” and children are seen as attaining and coming to self-consciousness at their own pace. 

The NEEDS of the newborn are seen not just as the need for food, warmth, dryness, being kept clean but the “soul needs” of attention, affection and nourishing touch, the need for acceptance and welcome and appreciation.  This is the basis for the child in growth to develop a basic trust in the world and in other people.

I would love to hear your thoughts on any of the topics in this book up to page 27.

Hope you are reading along,


Rhythm With Wee Ones

If you hang around at all in the world of Waldorf parenting and homeschooling, I think you quickly discover rhythm is frequently discussed and seen as the answer to many of the challenges that parents of tiny children face.

It is also something that can lead to a feeling of guilt for many parents – I was nursing on demand, and now I have to transition to having more set times on things?  I was following my baby’s lead, and now I have to lead, and how do I do that and still respect my child?  What do I do when my (older) child doesn’t “follow” what I thought/had planned?

Nursing is a separate topic from this – nursing is always on an infant and toddler’s lead.  If you need more ideas in this area and how to craft a rhythm around this, please do look up the terms breastfeeding, toddler eating, etc in the search engine box on this blog.  There are many ways to hold rhythm for a nursing infant and toddler and yet hold the whole family in a rhythm as well.

Rhythm can be your  lifesaver. Not only does it solve so many behavioral and discipline challenges just by having a rhythm of what normally happens when, it also can free you up to be helpful to not just your own family members, but  to neighbors and community outside of your immediate family.  If you feel like you are drowning in your own home under meals, diapering and potty training and sleep times, rhythm is your friend and ally to help build this ability to help yourself and others.   If you are convinced of this, it takes away much of the guilt that you are doing something that is not respectful “to” your child.  To the contrary, rhythm is the most respectful teacher of your child and in integrating the family as a whole.  Rhythm is also a way mothers can learn to be content and happy AT home, rather than having to go out every minute.

Rhythm is about helping your child meet their capacities in a developmentally appropriate way.  Rhythm is about getting the needs of the whole family met; which is very important as children mature and grow.  Rhythm is about the child being part of the family, and the family in unity.

Rhythm helps foster boundaries,  for a child who sees that parents have work within the home that nourishes the entire family and also has the time and space for patience with small children.

Rhythm helps you to learn to say “no” to fast tracking childhood through too many outside activities.   Rhythm helps you realize the limitation of one parent, multiple children, and length of time things take with small children. Rhythm gives one a sense of time and space.

Rhythm isn’t set times – it can be a general flow with plenty of  time and space around the margins.  However, it can also provide a needed push toward regular meal, bathroom and rest/sleep times.  This can be such a wonderful thing for families where this does not come naturally.

Rhythm can be built from where you are.  If the only thing you have that is rhythmical in your family is a waking up time, you can build from there.  If the only thing you have going is that you tend to eat dinner with the other adults in your family at a certain time, then you can build from there.

Rhythm can take into account your goals.  Perhaps your goal is to get your toddler to go to sleep earlier – rhythm can help you work towards that.  Rhythm can help you with potty training and also with meal times.

Rhythm  can be flexible depending upon the seasons, the day of the week and account for differences in the weekdays and weekends.

There are many, many back posts on this blog regarding rhythm, but one you might enjoy is the five secrets to setting a rhythm for your home and this seven part series regarding rhythm that begins with this post.

Many blessings,

The Daily Rhythm for Three Children in the Grades

I have thought ahead to what our rhythm will look like in the fall with a six year old kindergartener, an eighth grader who needs not only block lessons but “track” lessons, and a fifth grader.  I think this rhythm would work well for those whose third child is in grades 1 –3 as well.  For those with three children or more in the upper grades, there would need to be more tweaking I think – please be sure to go back to this post about homeschooling Waldorf with large families:

This is just what worked for us last year when we were really “on task” and what I have had to add to it for eighth grade.  It takes most of the day – 8:30 to about 2:30 or 3.

Here is our sequential order, but no particular times attached:

  • Daily Walk with six year old kindergartener twice a week, fifth grader will work on any independent math work or reading associated with school, math with eighth grader twice a week (like the math that should be in a math block but we don’t have time in the year for three math blocks) and once a week “life skills” with eighth grader ( I did that in seventh grade too, where we read books related to our faith or related to emotional intelligence, or the more “traditional” life skills such as personal finance, etc) .  The times we are walking either the older children will go or will be finishing main lesson book work, especially the eighth grader if we are in intense blocks.  It would be nice to have enough time for all of us to take a long, long walk but quite frankly I would rather get school done earlier and have more time in the afternoon.
  • Main Lesson  with fifth grader – Eighth grader has piano practice, independent work such as writing rough drafts of summaries, finishing drawings or painting, independent math practice and also will be doing some crafts and play with our kindergartener.
  • Circle, story and work of the day with kindergartener; fifth grader and eighth grader will relax or do whatever chores need to happen. I normally do our kindergartener first, but I think moving his things to the more mid-morning could work better for us at this point.
  • Main Lesson with Eighth Grader – Fifth grader has  music practice and playing with our little kindergartner.
  • Lunch
  • Rest
  • After lunch, some days each week I will work with our fifth grader on different track activities such as movement and math games and some days I will work with our eighth grader on world geography or American civics.  Our little kindergartener can play then.
  • A few days a week we will have handwork and woodworking or other practical arts and our little kindergartener can join in.
  • Closing verse and done!

It sounds like a lot on paper, but it really is fairly casual in terms of the fact that I don’t mind being flexible and letting things go depending upon our sanity level and what we feel up to.  I used to always try to end by lunch when my older two are younger ( and many times, most of the time have not felt successful in getting everything back together after lunch,  but last year with a seventh grader by necessity things went longer)  but with an eighth grader I feel like she needs a bit more as you just cannot fit everything into blocks…and with a lack of outside classes, I feel we really should get to our practical arts (outside of the kitchen, which we always manage to get to!)

Things change every year as they grow, so we will see if this is successful or not.  I am always willing to be flexible in trying out rhythms.

Would love to hear your daily rhythm, especially those of you with seventh graders and up!

Many blessings,

A Rogation Heart

I have been thinking a lot about “Rogation Days” lately.   Rogation Days in the Anglican Communion is celebrated on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before The Feast of Ascension and then the Sixth Sunday in Eastertide is Rogation Sunday.   These are the days in the Anglican Communion in which we pray for the blessing of  bountiful harvests of those who work with the land, for the earth and the seas and for our place as good stewards.  There are prayers offered for seeds, for animals, for tools, for water and for rain. As time has gone on, I think perhaps the strict agricultural blessing has widened in some areas and even includes an idea of praying and being grateful for all the fruits of labor within humanity.

This custom began in about the fifth century England (most sources put this tradition coming from France originally).  From my understanding, this often involved “beating the bounds”:   walking the boundary of parish lands.  This procession often included figures of Pontius Pilate in the form of a dragon, Christ in the form of a lion, and varying  images of Saints.

Some in the Episcopal Church have pointed out that “beating the bounds” points to boundaries in general for life, even in our modern times….I have pondered this.  Does having a rogation heart mean I am to ask myself if I am using boundaries in order to have a healthy life?  Am I using boundaries in order to expend my energy on what is closest to my heart in caring for my family and neighbors?  Am I being called to reconciliation as part of setting boundaries? 

Another source I read about Rogation Days pointed out that there is something in Rogation Days that reminds us of the Creator and that even Job needed reminding of who created the Cosmos when God finally spoke to Job out of the whirlwind (Interesting commentary on this particular passage here).  So, I find myself praying for humility; for the ability to never lose a sense of wonder and awe regarding this wonderful planet and yes, its people too.  To have a heart of gratitude.   Sometimes we all need reminding of that.

And for some reason, the image that pops into my head when thinking of a rogation heart is that of the sunflower.  My favorite flower for summer is the beautiful sunflower.  There is nothing like standing in fields of sunflowers in the Deep South of the summer, the sun and humidity beating down on your back with yellow smiling faces as far as the eye can see.  Smiling in the sun and the rain and happy to be part of Creation and to be loved by the humans in the fields.    May we all have grateful hearts of wonder and find the sunshine in each other.


Planning Second Grade Waldorf Homeschooling–Part Two

I find second grade one of the most delightful grades to teach.

Major resources/blocks to think about:

Physical Movement:  See Part One of this post.  All rhythmic games are so important.  In the home environment, I would also consider morning walks, “recess” before or after lunch and limiting school hours so you can have long afternoons of hiking, biking, skiing, swimming and being outdoors.

Gardening:  Developing the twelve senses through gardening, stories of elemental beings

Eurythmy:  We don’t have a lot of options for this in the home.  You can try Cynthia Hoven’s website.

Music:  All manner of folk songs and pentatonic songs, pentatonic flute.

“Woodworking”:  stories of woodland creatures and gnomes, building little structures out in the woods

Handwork:  Crochet is usually what is done this year.  “Will Developed Intelligence” writes:  “Second grade handwork also begins with a series of projects using the continuous thread.  This time the children learn to crochet using bright colored balls of cotton yarn thick enough for a size seven  crochet hook.  Crocheting emphasizes one hand instead of two.  The balance is different, although both hands are busy.  It takes a new, more intense kind of concentration.  This is another rhythmical, repetitive activity with the hands that strengthens the will and brings clarity to the thinking.”

Modeling:  Modeling simple shapes with beeswax. 

Painting:  Painting with all six colors, animal forms arising from the interplay of color, choosing the right paints for which ones help each other and how not to have one color dominate too much, specific paint names and lighter/darker/warmer/cooler, how to place a figure in the painting and echo the color of the figure in the background,

Drawing:  For form drawing – I like running forms (I sometimes put this as the very last block of first grade, sometimes beginning of second – depends on your child – LOOK at your child!); symmetry and mirror drawing, using block and stick crayons.

I like this passage from “Drawing With Hand, Head and Heart”:  “Second graders are only just on the cusp of leaving early childhood’s dreamy at-oneness with the world.  In second grade drawing is similar to that of first grade but a bit more detail begins to appear (both in the teacher’s drawings and in the student’s work) in simple fashion.  Facial features on people and animals may appear, and backgrounds can include more detail, but still no foreshortening, linear perspective, or play of shadows.”

Mathematics – Whole numbers, patterns, times tables, place value,  lots of ACTIVE games (see my game-oriented math board on Pinterest), some sources say adding in columns and some sources say to stick with horizontal problems for now (again, LOOK at your child!), time (although many folks do a block on this in third grade), money – thinking in mathematics really comes in here.  The beginnings of mathematical reasoning.

  • Do check out Multiplicando by Howard Schrager
  • Grandfather Tang’s Story by Tompert

Sciences – Nature studies based on nature stories; stimulation  of the Twelve Senses in nature, Cooking

Some of my favorite resources:

  • The Little Gnome Tenderroot by Jakob Streit
  • Among the (Forest, Night, Meadow, etc) People

Languages (foreign) – in the school setting this would include imitation of songs, verses, games, poems, plays, counting, names of animals, family members, body parts, foods, the seasons, the colors, months of the year – usually in two different foreign languages.   I find in the home environment the study of foreign languages rarely happens unless the parent has a particular skill in a language.

English and Grammar – reading from the Main Lesson books the child has written, simple sentences in writing, working on small letters if not already introduced in first grade, rhyming words and word families.  See back posts on “Waldorf Education in Practice” for more information (book review section).  If you have times to practice reading simple books, which I am  not sure if the Waldorf Schools make time for this or not, but this is common in the home environment,  I suggest looking at these books (again, look at your child and these books and see where they are!)

  • Sam Cat and Nat Rat (and other titles) by Shelley Davidow
  • Lazy Jack (and other titles) by Kelly Morrow
  • Hay for My Ox and other stories:  A first reading book for Waldorf Schools edited by Isabel Wyatt and Joan Rudel
  • The Pancake by James Fassett
  • Fee Fi Fo Fum! by Arthur Pittis
  • Voices of Nature:  Stories for Young Readers Whole Spirit Press
  • Little Wolf by Ann McGovern could be a possible reader or read aloud.

Sources of Literature/History: 

Fables – Aesop’s, Celtic, African, Latin American, American Tall Tales, Norwegian and Swedish Folks Tales, Chinese and Tibetan Folk Tales, Folk Tales of Eastern Europe, etc.

Some of my favorite resources:

  • Russian Fairy Tales Pantheon Fairy Tales and Folklore Library; also individual books such as “Masha and the Firebird” by Bateson and Wilson
  • Favorite Children’s Stories from China and Tibet by Lotta Hume
  • Norwegian Folk Tales by Asbjornsen and Moe
  • Hidden Tales from Eastern Europe by Barber and Hess
  • Anansi the Spider Man by Philip M. Sherlock
  • The Boy Who Drew Cats and Other Japanese Fairy Tales by Hearn and others
  • Tales of A Chines Grandmother, Tales of A Korean Grandmother
  • Bantu Folk Tales
  • The Dancing Palm Tree and Other Nigerian Folktales – Walker
  • “Why the Sun and Moon Live in the Sky” in “Hear the Voice of the Griot!” by Staley

Legends of Saints – I feel very strongly that figures such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr do NOT belong in this grade.  I think the figures in this grade, which is under the nine year change, need to be more archetypal and more figures with one foot in legend and one foot on earth, so to speak. 

Some of my  favorite resources:

  • Saint Odelia by Jakob Streit  (he also has a small book about Saint Francis of Assisi)
  • For a reader in this block, perhaps “Bless This Mouse” by Lois Lowry
  • Perhaps Pollack’s book about the Ba’al Shem Tov’s proverbs could go in fables or in saints
  • Main Lesson free book with Saints and Animals (Christian):  The Book of Saints and Friendly Beasts
  • Any number of good resources about Saint Francis of Assisi and Orthodox/Anglican Saint Saint Seraphim of Sarov; also Saint Felix and the Spider, and The Saint and His Bees by Jackson
  • You can tell simplified stories of the Saints found in “Hear The Voice of the Griot!” by Staley, including the Christian Saints St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Marcarius The Elder of Egypt, St. John the Little, St. Moses the Strong Man; Islamic Holy figures of Sidi Ahmed El Kebir, El-Magharibi, and Holy Man Kintu and the Law of Love,

Local folklore

American Indian stories – great for nature stories!  I have some titles on my Second Grade Pinterest Board

The King of Ireland’s Son by Padraic Colum (and along this vein, I like the book “Where The Mountain Meets the Moon” by Grace Lin).

For General Reading Aloud:

  • I love Carolyn Haywood’s sweet books about Betsy, Eddie, etc.
  • The Paper Crane by Molly Bang
  • The Clown of God by Tomie de Paola
  • “Little House In The Big Woods” and “Little House On the Prairie”
  • “Gwinna”

Please leave your second grade suggestions below –