Rest As A Task For The Waldorf Homeschooling Parent

There is an interesting article entitled, “Sleep As A Task Of Waldorf Education,” by Peter Loebell available here. If we view sleep as an essential component not only of education, but as a way to gain inspiration and intuition from the spiritual realms, how much more vital is sleep and rest for the homeschooling parent who is not only parenting 24/7 but teaching multiple main lesson blocks to children of different ages?

The three ways this article discusses engaging children in the curriculum in order for it to carry positively applies to us as teachers as well.  The three conditions are:

  1.  Use of creative tasks that require symmetry and sense that the child, (or we), want to “finish.”  This implies, that we, as teachers, should be finding time for our own artistic pursuits – music (singing and instrumental), form drawing, drawing, painting, sculpture, movement, and having an impulse to finish things.    The article mentions: “The active urge to finish incomplete forms stimulates the body of formative energy to pulsate further during sleep. The child has, through this, the tendency to finish what was begun so that through the night a permanent ability can be attained from the practiced activity.”
  2. Engaging both the physical body and the life-forces of the body through an outer activity such as eurythmy.  We often don’t have eurythmy at home, but we do have physical activities as part of rhythm, and we do have use of the word and gesture through poetry with movement.  These things can be carried into sleep and help form the next day’s energy.
  3. Lastly, we teach ourselves when we are preparing for a lesson and we carry this into how we present things to our children. ” If we do not stimulate the children to their own physical activity during a lesson, then there is a third aspect to consider. We must stimulate the deliberate, understanding perception of the children when we teach from a phenomenological science experiment or describe a historical event in such a manner that they direct their full attention to the lesson content so that they are constantly coming to conclusions.”  This is also why we often have a day that invokes “feeling” work (artistic work in a Main Lesson) and another day for the formation of concepts, the academic work.  The work we do with our children can inherently be restful to ourselves so long as we are not rushed.  If we have many children who need main lessons, we combine as much as possible, and then we can also choose to offer  main lessons three to four days a week so we have no more than 2-3 main lessons on a day.  Many mothers say they cannot teach more than two main lessons; I personally know many mothers, including myself, who have to teach three main lessons.  It is doable, but only with rest as a priority.  I do not think teaching more than three main lessons would be doable for anyone; and many could not teach three separate lessons, so combining down to two lessons would be the best way to do this if possible. If you would like ideas about combining main lesson blocks for grades, please email me at admin@theparentingpassageway.com

Joy, creativity, learning, and rest are all interwoven.  We chose to bring the artistic component into our own inner work and lives in order to become better teachers and better human beings.

Blessings,
Carrie

First Grade (Little-Talked About) Resources

I wrote a post some time ago, in 2010, about first grade resources.  That was seven years ago!  I did first grade for the third time last year, and have a few updated notes to add.

First of all, I suggest you take all questions regarding, “What curriculum should I use?” to the Waldorf Homeschool Curriculum Discussion Facebook group.  There are so very many back posts comparing all the major curriculums and what resonated with people (or what didn’t).  Curriculum, to me, is very , very tricky.  What appeals to one person will not at all appeal to another.  My advice, as always, is to look at curriculums in person if that is at all possible, and look to further your own knowledge of Waldorf Education through in-person  workshops and trainings.  My very simple three requirements for Waldorf curriculum can be found here.

But today I would like to mention a few very helpful  resources that are often over-looked for first grade (I am not in any way shape or form affiliated with these products; I just like them):

  1. “Waldorf Teachers’ Companion to Poems and Speech Exercises for Grades I and II” by John Cyril Miles of Promethean Press.  I have the fourth edition, and it is 141 pages of lovely speech exercises, tongue twisters, and then poems divided by categories:  morning, evening, the seasons (Michaelmas, Fall, Halloween and Martinmas, Advent and Winter Solstice, Spring and Summer), animals and plants, nursery rhymes, fable poems, elementals, people, number poems, miscellany, prayers, story poems.  The last two sections are finger exercises and riddles.  My only wish would be that it included jump roping  rhymes and clapping games, but overall a really thorough resource to carry you through two grades.  You can look at it here , along with other selections.
  2. “Spelling By Hand”  by Jeremy Harrmann.  I hope to write a complete review of this book. It is new to the market, and I think quite good for its 55 paged-size.  There are sections in this book about alliteration in grade one, the spelling of regular words in grades one and two, rhyming and hand spelling in order to make gestures part of the spelling of words, CVC words, finger spelling, the use of writing in grades one and two.  There are also learning objectives for grade one (essentially, such this as the children are able to rhyme and alliterate, they are able to properly spell CVC words, during independent writing they try to break words down phonetically even if they don’t spell them correclty, and that when the children encounter unknown words when reading they try to sound them out phonetically).   I would say these goals could easily extend into grade two for some children (two out of my three have been/are in this category going into section grade where these skills are still emerging), but there are also goals listed for second grade as well. There are many ideas for spelling word games,  and there are spelling word lists of rhyming fun, regular words (CVC or consonant-vowel-consonant words in English), consonant blend words, and then moving into CCVC, CCVCC,silent E words (words ending in long e, a-e words, e-e words, i-e words, o-e words, u-e words), consonant blend words, common vowel pattern words, tenses, common error words, and then “sophisticated errors”, ending with common prefixes and suffixes.   It is a very reasonable price, and I suggest it be on your shelf to help you grasp not only the sequencing of spelling from grades 1-8, but how to bring this is in an experiential way that makes it “Waldorf”. From Waldorf Publications here
  3. The resources available through Lemon Tree Press by Waldorf Master Teacher Howard Schrager.  This includes a variety of wonderful math stories that don’t involve gnomes; the book LMNOP and more. For a full discussion of these materials, head to the Waldorf Homeschool Curriculum Discussion page.
  4. For those of you with first and second graders mixed with having early year children in the house, I recommend Celebrate the Rhythm of Life  by Master Early Years Teacher Lisa Boisvert MacKenzie, who is on the Board of Directors for Lifeways of North America, is on the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America task board for birth through three, is a Simplicity Parenting Coach, and more.  Her monthly e-program is a reasonable cost, and will help you with rhythm and festivals.

Please share your favorite off-the-beaten path resources for first grade!

Blessings,
Carrie

Building Your Homeschooling Around Rest

This topic has become so important to me  I devoted an entire Pinterest board just to rest.  And I discovered, in the process of gathering pins and thinking about rest and relaxation, the reason I couldn’t make a homeschool schedule for the year yet.  I wasn’t coming at the rhythm of the day or week from a place of REST. Instead, I was coming at it from a place of how to cram all the things three children of wildly disparate ages (ages 7-16) needed into a week or a day or a school year.  I still don’t have a rhythm for the school year yet, partially because I don’t know when some of our outside activities will be meeting, but when I do sit down to look at what we can realistically do, I know it will be from a place of  what we need in terms of rest and relaxation as the foundation for our school year.

Here are some of the things I am thinking about, and maybe some of these will resonate with you….

  1.  Rest during the day.  I see many homeschoolers blogging about  taking rest during the day, like from 2-4 in the afternoon.  This is probably possible for many of you with small children.  We always rested after lunch and still tend to have a rest period, but I am guessing in order to take an entire afternoon , people who are able to rest from 2-4 each day either are not homeschooling multiple children in grades 7 and above, or perhaps don’t have high schoolers, (or maybe they do, but perhaps their children aren’t super involved in outside activities or taking any outside classes?). So perhaps, like me, you need to think creatively  about the day and week in order to acheive rest.  For example, a four day  school week would allow for a day of rest.  Rest could be after lunch or before dinner in a daily schedule, even if it isn’t a huge span of time.
  2.  NAP.  Yup, take a half-hour nap every day.  Even this small amount of time can be beneficial!
  3. It may not work for you, but when my children were smaller, early bedtimes were really helpful.  And even now, I feel no need to entertain the children who are grades 7 and up.  I may head to bed before them, we may relax together and we usually do talk at night, but I also rest and pursue my own creative interests before bed as well, and so do they.
  4. Choose a weekend day to rest and relax without commitments to be somewhere.  We are busy on Sundays, so Saturdays are our restful day, and this school year I intend to really guard that day as much as possible.
  5. A restful morning and evening routine to begin and end the day.  I would like to write more about this in a coming post,  but in the meantime if you have a restful morning or evening routine, would you care to share it in the comment box?
  6. Leaving time and space in the margins of life.  Scheduling less days of school per week, less weeks of school per school year, and scheduling in time to do next week or next block’s lessons each week (NOT on the restful weekend day), and vacations.
  7. Work in seasons.  For our family, horseback riding doesn’t really work in seasons, so we don’t get much rest from that, but some activities do work in seasons of six to eight weeks and you don’t have to fill every six to eight week period up!  This is a great thing about an activity like 4-H.   Working in seasons also means we rest more in the summer to balance out a busier school year.  We cannot go all out, all year round.  So, choose your extracurricular activities and volunteer commitments wisely.
  8. Build your school routine around self-care; do not leave self-care to be last on the list.  Self-care are the beginning and end marks to your day.
  9. Use planning ahead of time to increase your sense of relaxation. For me, part of this is keeping my house clean and the laundry done each day (this may not be your thing).  If I do a little each day, and my children help each day, then it is relatively neat and clean.  I also like to food prep for the week on Sunday afternoons.
  10. Use tools to increase relaxation .  Things that help  me include:  healthy meal prep, exercise, yoga and stretching, relaxing music, essential oil diffusions, Epsom salt baths, creating.
  11. Create routines around mindfulness – these can be built into those morning and evening routines, and  the special routines that you develop so you can rest and relax when the moment is more stressful (emergency stress routines).
  12. Enjoy being with friends without children involved.  Sometimes, especially as children get older, having time to talk without children present is really valuable.  Socialization and play for mothers is just as important as it is for children.

I would love to hear your favorite restful strategies or comments.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Homeschooling With Renewed Light

I often find myself wondering at the beauty of light.  The day of sunshine, the light peeking through the clouds after a storm, the beautiful sunrise over the beach, the sunset over the lake.  I feel so fortunate to be able to stop on so many days and savor this light and drink it in.  The strength of the sun pours in, and makes me think of this verse by Rudolf Steiner:

The light of the sun is flooding

The breadths of space,

The song of the bird is sounding

Through realms of air,

The wakening plants are springing

From depths of earth,

And filled with thanks the souls of men are rising

To spirits of the world.

Upon hearing Steiner’s words, I always think:   shall we be able to carry the sun and light with us into unknown?  I find this is often the question in education as well – can I prepare my most precious children, the best thing I have to offer this world, a way to carry light into the unknown of their growing times?

In the end it isn’t really about the trigonometry of tenth grade or the writing in seventh grade or the second grade nature stories, but this spirit of love that will sustain them through the hard times.  I think this is why many of us are attracted to a slower pace of life and perhaps to homeschooling in general; with that we can hold on to this tenderness in time.

What I hope most to offer to my children and to others is this love for humanity and the world and all the fun things in it; a compassion and kindness for others; to have our children grow up to be ethical, kind, and loving human beings who are healthy in every sense of that word.  This is what keeps homeschooling from going stale every year and provides a renewed focus.

As we all plan and ponder, let us not forget the most important large picture of gratitude, love, and duty; goodness, beauty and truth; and health of the ever-growing and ever-changing human being.

Blessings,
Carrie

Discussions With Teachers – Discussion Two

Please remember particularly that when we are dealing with the temperament of a child, as teachers we should not assume that a certain temperament is a fault to be overcome.” – Rudolf Steiner

There is great, very specific wisdom in this lecture about how to teach with the temperaments and more.  This lecture fields questions, beginning with how to work with chidlren of the sanguine temperament.   Steiner talks about how a teacher explains something to a sanguine child and the “child has taken it in, but after some time you notice that the child has lost interest- attention has turned to something else….What would you do with a child like this?” he asks the original questioner.

Steiner talks about giving the child individual treatment, and to work on the sanguine group by showing them the melancholic response to such things (because the melancholic child most likely will also NOT be thinking of something the teacher just said, but  will be thinking about something from very far before and will be stuck ruminating over whatever the past thing was!)

Then Steiner moves on to a question about the phlegmatic child, and how we can work with temperaments via music, and by relating Biblical history from the different Gospels to affect temperament (remember, Steiner’s works on the Gospels provide esoteric insights).

  • Phlegmatics:  Choral singing, harmony, piano, (The Gospel of Matthew for variety)
  • Sanguines:  Wind instruments, melody, playing with an entire orchestra (The Gospel of Luke for inwardness of soul)
  • Cholerics :  Percussion and drum, rhythm, solo instruments (The Gospel of Mark – force and strength)
  • Melancholics:  Stringed Instruments, counterpoint, solo singing (The Gospel of John -deepening of the spirit)

However, Steiner also goes on to say:  “But it wouldn’t be as good to delegate the four arts according to temperaments; it is precisely because art is multifaceted that any single art can bring harmony to each temperament.” So notice Steiner finds four arts, and that he believes a child need not specialize.    “In any single art it is possible to allocate the various branches and expressions of the art according to temperament.”

Steiner goes on to take another question about phlegmatics, and how the ideal treatment may be to have the mother wake the child up at least an hour earlier than normal and during this time keep the child busy with all kinds of things.  He also talks about  while teaching in classroom, the teacher can essentially jar keys or otherwise rouse the phlegmatics as he or she passes by the student’s desk!  “You must continually find fresh ways to jolt the phlegmatics…”  Other questions answered include the relation of the temperaments to food; the fact that melancholic children get left behind easily and how they are slower to develop and retain impressions and imitate longer than other temperament types.  He goes on to say:

“The melancholic lives in a strange condition of self-deception.  Melancholics have the opinion that their experiences are peculiar to themselves.  The moment you can bring home to them that others also have these or similar experiences, they will to some degree be cured, because they then perceive that they are not the singularly interesting people they thought themselves to be.”   So, biography of great people who have gone through struggles are very important for melancholics.

Other points include relating of four body types to the temperaments (there is a diagram), how to deal with a choleric temperament and more. He points out that the human being is always becoming, is always changing and developing.  There are also specific temperaments associated with stages of development – childhood is a sanguine time, adolescence is a choleric time, mature life is a melancholic time, and old age is a phlegmatic time.  Our creative qualities depend upon the youthful qualities in a human being, our economic life depends upon the qualities of old age (phlegmatics), and  Steiner talks about how some people remain adolescents until they die because they preserve this phase of adolescent life within themselves.

Such an interesting discussion!  Let me know what you thought!

Blessings,

Carrie

Entitled Children?

Entitlement is another one of those words thrown around these days without much sense of what it really means, kind of like the words “adulting” or “toxic” (you can see my back posts on these words).

Entitlement,to me, is not only necessarily is a lack of work ethic, because that usually is what people mean when they say someone is entitled – they didn’t/don’t have to work and everything is handed to that person.  I don’t think that is the whole picture.

The definition of entitlement, at least according to Webster’s Dictionary is:   the belief that one is deserving of  or entitled to certain privileges. The world “entitle” itself is having proper grounds to seek or claim something.

To me,  entitlement often begins in childhood and  is that feeling that the world owes us because we had a terrible childhood OR we had the most special childhood ever that should continue indefinitely.  It seems to come from a place of lack of self-awareness, and often a true ignorance of how people around are affected by this attitude.  Entitlement is often a sheer ignorant selfishness that later in life goes on to destroy families and the next generation of children if the adults of the family continue to hold on to this.

One antonym of “entitlement” is actually “disqualify.”  So, if we don’t want to entitle someone, we want to disqualify him or her? I am not sure that is what we mean either.  Perhaps instead of thinking of “disqualifying”our children, we can look at other options:

Raise children who are empowered in the struggle of life, and who are not victims.  There are true and legitimate unjust social structures in this world; there are true victims in this world.  Many people I know, however,  who think they are victims  of everything and everyone in life are this way because they believe they are so special that only good things should happen to them, and that there should be no struggle.  We can choose our response and own it. As our children grow older, it is important that they experience the natural consequences of their actions.  This is much harder to watch in teens than in three year olds, but it is part of maturation and growing up.  Guiding an older teen (15/16 change and up) is much different than controlling so nothing bad happens to that teen.

Raise children who know life is up and down and that’s okay. Very few things in life are linear and without struggle and effort.   I have this little picture on my desk; I am sure many of you have seen it somewhere along the way. The top shows a bicyclist traveling a straight line to an end flag (a goal). which is our vision, and the  bottom half of the page shows reality of trying to reach a goal with  the same cyclist and the road is marked with mountains and valleys to get to the end flag.  Struggle is real and honest.

Help your children be resilient. It is okay for them to wrestle, struggle, work hard, and fail.  In fact, it is imperative.  It is important to know that sometimes we do work hard and we fail anyway.  Hard work doesn’t mean we won’t fail. So, in that note…

Teach your children failure is okay.  Teach a growth mindset where children know that failure can be one step closer to success;  a mistake can turn into a success.  Look at all the wonderful inventions that started as “mistakes.” I think starting with the twelve year change, we should be talking about growth mindset directly, we should be talking about stress management directly. I usually start in seventh grade.  If you are Waldorf homeschooling, the physiology block is a nice place to start to work some of this in and then to use growth mindset and mindfulness techniques daily as part of your warm-up for school.

Raise children who know the special of ordinary.  Movies and mass media tend to depict life as a series of highs; one event must top the next in an ever-ascending spiral.  This is not life.  Life is full of ordinary, quiet, mundane, and there is joy in that.  It is not your job to give your children sheer magic every minute of every day.  Being bored is okay too. Having regular is okay.  Finding joy in quiet is okay.

Train responsibility.  In this day and age, that can be harder than it seems.  There are very few things that “have” to be done for survival anymore  as far as chores (ie, few of us have to haul water or get food ready for winter).  Many teens in the United States are no longer even  getting summer jobs, (see back posts about this), which used to be a great place to learn responsibility outside the family.  Structure the environment so some things HAVE to be done before pleasure.  We expect small children to weave in and out of work in the Early Years, but we should expect a teenager to have much more  responsibility than a small child.

Train accountability.  Accountability is being responsible for one’s own actions.  This can be particularly important for teens and the area of social media.  Watch how your teens treat friends,  watch how your teens treat their younger siblings or those younger in general. Watch how they treat themselves.  Remember what integrity really means, and intervene as needed.  Many teens need guidance.

Volunteer together; explore together the fact that life is not equal nor fair and what this means in terms of our response to humanity.  Empathy for others and a feeling of responsibility for the least among us  may be the biggest turning point against what we term “entitlement.”   

Don’t enable or rescue.  There comes a point when kids really do have to take the boundaries and structures that have been in place and start to internalize these things and carry it as their own, and they only learn this through practice. If you child can do something, don’t do it for them.

Help them learn to deal with conflict.  Not many people love conflict, but life is not conflict-free and learning how to not only set boundaries, to  be assertive but kind, fair, able to take responsibility for one’s own actions, and to ask for and give forgiveness is part of this conflict resolution.

Do give your children love, attention, encouragement, and laughter.  That is the foundation of health, and the foundation that your grandchildren will build upon.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Discussions With Teachers- Discussion One

This lecture was part of the afternoon sessions given to the teachers of the very first Waldorf School.   Steiner begins this lecture talking about the important of the relationship to the children and notes, “The important thing for us to remember is the diversity of children and indeed that of all human beings.”  He goes on to talk about the four fundamental types of temperaments within the diversity of all human beings – the sanguine, the melancholic, the phlegmatic, and the choleric – and the four-fold development of the human being (the “I”, the astral body, the etheric body, and the physical body).  The development of the four-fold human being ties into the four temperaments, because the domination by one of the four bodies leads to a primary temperament type.  In this way, the dominance of the “I” leads to a melancholic temperament, the astral body dominance leads to the choleric temperament, the dominance of the etheric body to the sanguine, and the physical body leads to the phlegmatic temperament.

Steiner goes on the describe the four temperaments in this way:

  • Interested in different things but only for a short time and  quickly loses interest – sanguine
  • Inner reflection and brooding, active inwardly, not easy to give them impressions of the outer world – melancholic
  • Not actively inwardly but also no interest in the outer world (least amount of strength and attention)- phlegmatic
  • Expression of the will in a “blustering way”; strength of response and attention easily aroused – choleric

Steiner talks about how to group the children by temperament, which is of course, near to impossible in the home environment, but he gives wonderful examples of which temperament to turn to in order to illustrate particular lessons or to teach a certain way.  He also talks about how the teacher must develop their own attitude in dealing with different temperaments, and how the worst thing to do is to take the opposite qualities of one temperament and try to force this on the child.  Choleric and phlegmatic temperaments are opposite to one another, and melancholic and sanguine temperaments are opposite of one another; other temperaments are next to each other and therefore merge into one another (there is a diagram in this part of the lecture).  He talks about how by the tenth year the temperaments will be gradually “overcome.”  

Steiner  then talks about in the “main lesson ” portion of things:  the first year is mainly fairy tales, the second year animal life in story form (fables), the Bible as general history apart and different from religious lessons is the third year (and remember, teaching “religion” in a Waldorf School at that time was due to government requirements, not Steiner’s wishes), and then scenes from ancient (fourth class), medieval (5th class), and modern history (6th class), the discovery of different cultures within a country and  around the world (7th and 8th classes), and art lessons as training of the will. He also mentions the arts, gymnastics, eurythmy, drawing, and painting to all work on the will and how languages will be taught separate from the Main Lesson and how specialty teachers will be needed for the art subjects and the language lessons (so good for us to hear as homeschoolers!  We weren’t meant to do all the pieces of this!)    He talks about no more than three and a half hours of school per day (main lesson for hour and a half, telling of stories for half an hour, and then an hour for artistic work) up until the age of 12.  

As you can see, what is laid out by Steiner has been adapted into traditions by Waldorf Schools around the world, but these are the basic  indications that Steiner gave for what is to be taught in what grade and age.

More to come!

Blessings,
Carrie