What Are We Doing??

I got a unique chance to hear Rainbow Rosenbloom of Live Education (http://www.live-education.com/) speak this weekend.  He almost never comes to the Southeast, so I am filled with gratitude that he accepted our homeschooling group’s invitation to come for our annual Conference/Curriculum Fair.

I think one of the most interesting and provocative things he said was (in going through all the ages from the Early Years through Grade 8 in one day, on Saturday) was how he saw the subjects as the vehicle for teaching the bigger picture of character development, for training soul faculties, and how this corresponded to a child’s developmental age.  This is something that many veteran Waldorf home educators know, but it is always nice to be reminded about this again and again with different stories of children, different terms and vocabulary that reflect a broader picture, and what that  all really means.

For example, in much simpler terms than the four hours or so we sat in lecture about this subject (!), he broke the developmental stages of childhood down into:

Early Years through Grade Two:  The Early Years is celebration of life, and this celebration through the festivals and the year should continue throughout one’s life.  This is the foundation.  How being engrossed in a bodily activity moves around the six/seven year change to a shift of being on the crux of self-consciousness.  How small children provide us with the wonder and inspiration to really look anew at the subjects we thought we knew; how do we fall in love with subjects so we can teach with inspiration?  Small children often provide the answer – their wonder in creating a wet on wet painting in the Early Years and Early  Grades  becomes the basis of a study of color in the sixth grade physics block.

My note:  The subjects we use to “teach” this shift into self-consciousness are the things we are bodily doing -not the manipulation of little symbols (numbers, letters, math) but what children get to do with their bodies, not their heads.

Grades 3-5:  We focused on the thought that this age group has to have a voice without being squashed.  We develop moral reasoning beginning in this stage, and nine and ten year olds are all about fairness and justice (which usually means it all works out fair and justly for themselves; the true meaning of fairness and justice comes later with more maturity).  We must pay special attention to the interpersonal relationships at this point – it is very important for parents to be involved in making friendships with families for our children or with the families that our children are friends with because this becomes the basis of discernment in the middle school grades. How our friends treat us when we are this age, the interaction between siblings,  and between friends is exceedingly important for this age grouping.  True discipline and guiding really begins in earnest around the age of nine, because at this point a child can BEGIN to self-reflect on their part in social interactions, to look at what their own responsibility might have been in things.  Boundaries are oh so important!

Our goal at this age, as it is at every age,  should be our deep wish to know our children.  Because we don’t know them at this age.  Maybe we think they do, because we have known them since birth, but their world is shifting, and it is private and inward in many ways. They may let you in and tell you some things. Honor those moments instead of sloughing them off.

My Note:  Life is the curriculum; but also the beauty of the Waldorf pedagogy and how it so meets this age group.  Your child will tell you what they need if you observe them, if you look at things and read it for three days and then decide if you are having an a-ha moment with that material or not and then bring it.  Something straight out of the pages of a curriculum can be dry or hit or miss.  I know  many mothers want a curriculum,  and I am not disrespectful of that. However, part of homeschooling is if we can tailor the subjects we know are great for the third through fifth grader in the curriculum, and see what arises out of that for our specific children and their own development of character, of balance for their adulthood.  Even if you have only one moment like that each month, what a wonder!

Grades Six Through Eight:   Here becomes the painful feelings of perhaps wanted to be loved, accepting, belonging by others outside of the family…and the use of the discernment that began to develop in the ninth and tenth years in order to do this in a healthy way, and is still developing now in these middle ages so when children go to high school and college they have this basis of health in interpersonal relationships.  Really helping our children understand the difference between being desired and being recognized as worthy and loved is a major thrust in this age cycle.  This happens at a subtle level in the teaching of the subjects in the Waldorf curriculum.

One of the examples Rainbow gave was the Pythagoras “riddle” that if you discover and understand the relationship between the numbers 220 and 284  that you could discover the meaning of relationships.  (The factors of 220 add up to 284 and the factors of 284 add up to  220).  Thus the twelve, thirteen and fourteen year olds have little seeds planted through the subjects that help them develop the discernment, the idea of being recognized for worth, the capacities for these virtues and values.

These are the bigger, spiritual and moral developmental stages that happen and the unique way in which Waldorf Education looks at the beautiful, big picture of the healthy development of the human being.

With much love, and with gratitude for the beauty of Waldorf Education,


8 thoughts on “What Are We Doing??

  1. Thank you Carrie for the wonderful synopsis! This will be filed away for me to revisit over and over again. I was so absorbed in Rainbow’s presentation that my notes are hit or miss. It is all living in my heart and hopefully exuding out into my homeschooling and parenting this week. I felt incredibly nourished by this weekend and filled with gratitude that Rainbow came across country to be with us!

  2. I echo Natalie’s remarks. I am thankful to you all for organizing this conference. It was validating and illuminating in so many, many ways. I am still trying to digest/process/assimilate all that Rainbow spoke about – but I keep coming back to what he said about this work being holy.


    I feel blessed to be on this journey with you.

    Love and light, today and always.

  3. Dear Carrie, It sounds like it was a wonderful lecture! Thank you for sharing your notes and reflections. I found your thoughts on taking the curriculum and seeing what arises for our specific children to be especially helpful today. Here is to having moments that meet their particular soul development like that more often! Love, Mrs. Mallard

  4. Dear Carrie,

    I can’t thank you & the Peach Cobblers enough for this life changing weekend. I know that may sound over the top, but Rainbow’s words can have that kind of impact on a person. My family will be receiving the blessings of this weekend for years & years.

    Blessings to you all

  5. Hey Carrie,
    Me again! So many reverberations from this weekend are still going through my mind. IF – and that is a big IF – if you are inspired, would you elaborate on 2 points that Rainbow made? One was about the subjects as vehicles for healing. You mentioned that here (or maybe in your other post about grade 6) and said something about veteran homeschoolers knowing this. I feel like this is just on the edge of my understanding, but I am still not really getting it. And also the concept of extending the experience of the kindergarten for older children. This spoke to me on an intuitive level, but again, I feel this is just out of the reach of my understanding.

    Can I tell you again, how lucky I feel to have been included in the Peach Cobblers’ event? (although once again, I feel like I didn’t get enough time with you!!)

    Love to you today and always.

  6. Pingback: The Path to Now | Sure as the World

  7. Pingback: our homeschool story. part 2.

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