First Grade Planning By Subject: The Physical Body and Movement

The “physical body” is an important consideration for first grade, as many markers for first grade readiness for academic work are dependent upon the development of the physical body laid in the Early Years.

The book, “The Extra Lesson” by Audrey McAllen, discusses the entering of first grade and how the child “should be six and a half years of age by the school entry date in the fall…With today’s increasing life-tempo and sensory impacts, children are less and less ready for school life at 6 years.  They need another six months to fully complete the last stage of the kindergarten development.”  For more on this topic, please see this back guest post regarding first grade readiness.

There is a list on page 88 of activities to ask the child to do in order to get a picture of the child entering grade school.  I would consider looking at potential fall  first grade child in the spring before first grade and screening them for developmental readiness.

Early Years children who display the following may need extra assistance and extra screening (from “The Extra Lesson, page 92):

  • Floppy, flaccid limbs
  • W-sitting
  • Behavioral problems in group situations
  • An inability to listen and focus
  • An inability to imitate

For the older child already in the grades, but perhaps still for us to keep in mind when we observe children (list from page 24, “The Extra Lesson”)

  • A child who fidgets and disturbs other people continuously
  • A clumsy child who stumbles and drops things frequently
  • A child who runs about wildly and crashes into other children without stopping but cannot engage in play
  • A child who always prefers to play with much younger children
  • A child who stumbles in his speech, especially with omitting or adding extra syllables
  • A child who cannot form sentences well and cannot find the words he or she needs
  • A child who cannot write neatly and cannot hold his pencil comfortably (remember, this second half of the checklist is for children already in the grades)

(From “The Extra Lesson”, page 92)

I would add to this list to look at core strength of the abdomen, ability to walk distances, and the shoulder girdle/hand during activities such as kneading bread dough, stirring in cooking, cutting with scissors and look at specific retained reflexes that may interfere with writing and copying from the board.  General posture also provides clues.

First grade should still be in a heart of movement.  This includes movement in circle time/warm up, in reciting verses and poetry and in drama, in the rhythm of movement found in math, in being able to distinguish left and right and develop laterality of the hand, eye, foot.    The four lower of the twelve senses of the human being include the Sense of Touch, The Sense of Life, The Sense of Balance, The Sense of Self-Movement are still being developed and built upon the foundation laid in the Early Years. Some remedial (Extra Lesson) Waldorf Teachers view excessive unruliness as stemming from a disturbed sense of life/well-being, excessive insecurity as a disturbed sense of touch, and a  lack of inner understanding indicating a disturbed sense of movement and balance.    For more about the twelve senses, please see this back post:  musings on the twelve senses and the twelve senses in homeschooling

Movement should be the basis from which all activity in first grade flows.  I have many ideas on my Pinterest boards, especially first grade and healing education  for you in regards to these areas.

Many blessings,

First Grade Planning By Subject: The Seasonal Year

If you are just starting to  plan first grade, welcome!

First grade is different than the Early Years, but yet as a homeschooling parent you are still  building upon the seasonal year. This in some ways becomes the culmination  of the rhythm of the Early Years, nursery and kindergarten ages, where by discovering by repetition over the years what makes the festivals, holidays and seasonal activities you made the season of the year, month and day your own.

Only YOU know your family’s culture, religion and spirituality and the geography and seasonal changes of where you live.  So those notes you have taken about what you have done and noticed during the Early Years are particularly helpful in planning first grade.  When does the first butterfly come out?  When are the leaves really crunchy on the ground?  What do we do every single year for this festival or that festival?  What do these months and festivals really mean to me on an inner level?   What festivals and holidays make you feel replenished and what festivals and holidays make you feel depleted and in need of a vacation afterwards?   This is  important work that you have done is the foundation for first grade, from both the perspective of the child and from the perspective of the balance needed for the homeschooling parent.   However, now in first grade,  you are embedding and layering blocks into the cycle of the year.

This can be important to think about.  Where does your seasonal year  best tie into your blocks?  For example, the first time I did Form Drawing, our first block of first grade, I chose to do it through a story about beavers and pond life in our area in the autumn.  To do this, I had to know what the animals in our area were doing that time of year and translate that into what I call “movement snippets” of forms.

Where will you put your nature blocks?  What animals and plants will you focus on in the nature blocks, in painting and modeling?  For this, you have to have been an observer of your area.

Making crafts and cooking for the festivals and holidays your family celebrates is still a huge part of first grade.  This develops gross and fine motor skills, attention, balance and a general sense of life needed for more academic work.

The other piece of the rhythm of the year, month and day is BALANCE.  Yes, you have to carve out time for lessons;  but you also still have to care for and nourish your home and the people and animals and plants in  your life as well.  Time needed for first grade may not be extensive, but it is there and needs a set time, place and consistency to be there! The time for direct instruction and teaching has come!

Our next post will be about movement; in the meantime, for first grade inspiration please check out my First Grade Pinterest Board.


What Do Veteran Waldorf Homeschoolers Want You to Know About Planning First Grade? Listen and Find Out!

I recently had the distinct pleasure of discussing what veteran homeschooling mothers would want mothers new to homeschooling the grades to know over at The Waldorf Connection Expo.  You can sign up and listen to my talk for free this weekend!

The Global Waldorf  Expo teleseminar starts TOMORROW May 15-17th.  It kicks off at 4 p.m. EST with a talk by Rainbow Rosenbloom of Live Education!  and free talks will be released every day of the Expo.    Register  here and be sure to tune in:

Some of the things I touch in my talk include:

  • Why veteran Waldorf homeschooling mothers feel Waldorf homeschooling should be a separate daughter movement of Rudolf Steiner’s initial work.
  • How to create a foundation of goodness and beauty in your home
  • How to become an astute observer of your child. 
  • The top 5 things Veteran Homeschooling mothers want you to know.
  • How to plan from the year to the individual blocks to the day.
  • Some of my favorite resources for first grade!

Hope to have further discussions about planning first grade in this space!


This Will Change How You Look At Waldorf Homeschooling Forever…

If you believe love to be the answer in the world, then you must ask yourself the question:  how do we develop the capacities of children, our next generation, to love and to be love in the world?

I found the ability to nourish these capacities in my children through my faith.  That in and of itself is a long story for another time, but that inner work and healing led to an idea.  It was a thought, a coming to believe that we as a family, being attached and connected to our children, would be  the foundation for their ability to love.

What was most important to us is that the overall feeling in our home was that YOU ARE LOVED.   God loves you.  You are loved.  Who you are is enough.  Who you are is just right.  Who you are matters.   You are unconditionally and without question, loved.   You belong.

The longing to develop this capacity for love continued for me when I found Waldorf Education.  I once heard a beautiful lecture by Douglas Gerwin, Director of the Center for Anthroposophy, give a lecture on the Greek terms for love and how this ties in with Waldorf Education.  This is what I see in Waldorf homeschooling and in nurturing the capacities of our children to love:

Birth through seven – an affection and affinity found in the goodness of nature, the goodness of the Earth and of all the things in the Earth.  In the homeschooling family, this love is the Greek “storge” – a familial kind of love and affection. This word was used by the Ancient Greeks to mainly describe familial relationships.  How fitting that a Waldorf Kindergarten re-creates the home environment, and here  in the home with our homeschooling, we live this with our children.

Many parents have to start here because they have lost that affinity for their fellow man, for nature, for the world and because for many parents today, it seems as if parenting a small child is a stressful experience…….  If life has been a hard road, it takes inner work, healing and love for you to come to the place where you can experience storge with your child.  But you can do it!

Seven through Twelve – The building of affection and friendship between friends, family and community.  The Ancient Greeks called this “philios” and it implied a brotherhood of equality.  I think if we protect our children’s childhood, we see this in the way our children feel at one with Spirit, with nature, with the rock over there and the bird over here and with an ease with others in community.  It is a time of great beauty and Oneness with the world.  Many speak of the separation of the child from the world around the age of nine, an inner separation and  leaving the Garden of Eden during the nine year change so to speak, but I often feel that in the homeschooling environment  this period from nine or ten through age twelve or thirteen  is really a slow awakening if the child is protected and nurtured.

The Teenaged Years – We see in  this period “eros”.  In this day and age, we often associate this kind of love with “erotic love”  – perhaps with the idea that teenagers have romantic relationships on their minds amidst many bodily changes!  However, the Ancient Greeks also took “eros” to mean a love of beauty, an appreciation of beauty within a person or an appreciation of beauty itself.  The Greeks saw that this appreciation of beauty often led  to spiritual truth.  We see this in the curriculum so well – the beauty of geometry leading to the truths of numbers and nature, for example.  Another example might be the truths of history, but providing a lens of lightness in the darkness to look at this through; seeing the beauty of humanity even in difficult circumstances.

Between the teenaged years and the age of twenty-one, when the child is an adult, he or she hopefully  is ready to go into the world with an agape love.  A selfless love.  A love without bounds and without condition.  A loving kindness to serve humanity.  A love that wants the other to live in good will. A love that was built upon the family, the community, and seeing the beauty in others.

So, again, if love is the answer, how we develop capacities to get to that answer matters.  What we do matters.


Do You Over-React to Your Preschooler?

The ages of three to five can be such a hard time for many parents.  These ages see a change in behavior from when children were two, especially for first children who previously were interested in being at their mother’s side.  I have had many parents of three and four and a half year olds write me and ask me what is going on with their child that they have changed SO MUCH.  “They were sweet, and now they are not” is a common refrain I hear.

Your child IS still sweet, but now they are realizing they can use their bodies and will forces in all sorts of ways.  Much of it is simply to see what happens without an preconceived ideas of what will result; much of it is repeated since the capacity for memory typically is not well-developed until age six or seven.  Words often are of little help until about four and a half.  For example, a two and half or three year old can often repeat something such as “we don’t hit”, but then will turn around and hit a playmate.

In many developmental phases, it is important to remember that when parents describe children as “bossy, tense, rigid, demanding, explosive” this really covers up the fact that the child may actually be experiencing a sense of insecurity or uncertainty as development shifts.

Ho-hum, ho-hum is your friend! Find your ho-hum and turn it on. 

Consistency and rhythm is so important and the number one thing I see parents struggle to attain.  Much of this stems from the fact that there is societal pressure to exposure small children to many different things – exposure is seen as good for tiny children. Also,  things seem to need to be “bigger, better and more stimulating” because it is exhausting to “entertain” a three to five year old all day long.  But remember…

You shouldn’t have to entertain your child all day long and you shouldn’t have to leave your house in order for your children to be happy.  Meaningful work is the key to this, along with being outside.  I have many back posts on these topics!

Distraction with verses and singing is still your very good friend when you have three to five year olds.  Going outside can also help.

Keep activities outside the home limited.  I know it is the “norm” to have children in preschool and classes  at age three, and I will continue to rally against this.  Even two or three hours out of the home is a lot for a three year old.  They do not need lessons, classes, or structured activities for their own development at this age.  “Play is where it is at!”  Studies have shown that children in play-based settings (again, though, we don’t need a program to play!) have greater academic gains in fourth grade than students who were in academic learning programs from an early age.  Earlier is NOT better.  We CANNOT rush development.  Development of the child has not changed.  If your child has to be in a program because you work, look for a play-based program that involves lots of time outside in all kinds of weather.

Tantrum tally for you!  It often is not about what our child is doing, but how we react because we are exhausted, tired, trying to do too much, alone with a small child many hours of the day.  Dealing with anger is a real part of parenting!Try this back post about regarding dealing with anger and also this one about anger and forgiveness.  .  Also, if you look under “Book Reviews” in the header we went chapter by chapter through the wonderful book, “Love and Anger:  The Parental Dilemma”.

No screens.  Screen do absolutely nothing for the development of a child these ages.  Movement, movement, movement – not sitting still and focusing on a screen.

Lots of love to all my parents of small children today.  You may not hear it enough, but you are doing a wonderful job!


Monthly Anchor Points: May

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 yet 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.

Beautiful May!  Here in the Deep South, the pools are open, people are holding barbeques at the pools and lakesides, everything is in bloom and we are enjoying the sun!

My month will be anchored by these festivals:

1 – May Day  – you can see this  back post  about May Day

10 – Mother’s Day

14- The Feast of Ascension  – please see my Pinterest board here

21 – Saint Helena

24- The Feast of Pentecost  – please see my Pinterest board here

25 – Memorial Day   – please see my Pinterest board here

31 –  Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary


Ideas for Celebration:

  • Strawberry Picking if ripe in your area
  • Lemonade and cookies
  • Make a rhubarb pie or strawberry-rhubarb pie or jam!
  • Watch birds nesting
  • Grilling, backyard barbeques
  • Planning summer vacations
  • Swinging in a hammock or on a porch swing
  • Swimming
  • Gardening, planting
  • Outdoor projects
  • Celebrate Memorial Day with a community event – some areas offer parades or other activities

The Domestic Life:  I think May (and over the summer months) can be a wonderful time to introduce new chores to children and to establish a chore routine in your household. 

Homeschooling:    I hope to have the vast majority of my planning for six year old kindergarten, grade five and grade eight done by the end of June so that  July and the beginning of August can be a true rest.  It is moving along!  Feel free to check out my Pinterest boards by grade for many ideas.  I hope you too are coming along in your planning!

Many blessings,

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,