Raising Siblings As Friends

In many sitcoms and movies, it is almost taken for granted that the siblings of any family hate each and throw snide words at each other. Like this is normal, and good. Like it is better to like friends more than your own flesh and blood.  Like it is better to not want your brother or sister around.

My children have gone through definite phases of needing more space from one another, partly due to age differences (16 down to age 8), and partly due to personality differences.  To me, those phases are kind of like a little dust storm or a big rainstorm.  I may not be able to see my destination clearly, through the sand or rain, but I know it is there.  And the big destination for me is to make sure my children adore each other and take care of each other.  I want to make sure they know that when my husband and I are gone, they will be there for each other. There will be things between them that my husband and I will never know, because siblings are the best bond ever.

As an only child, I often wondered if it was a big fabrication in my head that I built up that having siblings is truly wonderful (especially when they were fighting!). However, I  can say without hesitation in watching our own children, even through the phases of more distance, that yes, yes it is truly that wonderful.  Every time I see them all playing together, helping each other, doing fun things together, I feel that flush of happiness for them.

How do you get help them get that close bond?  Here are some of my top ways, in no particular order:

Don’t ever let them treat their friends better than they treat their siblings.  Call them out on that.  Every. Single. Time.  Part of being with friends includes being nice to a brother or sister if friends are at our house, and part of being with friends includes being nice to a brother or sister when you are home.  If you cannot do that and handle your relationships at home with kindness and love, then you are not ready for much in the way of friendships outside the home.

Make interdependence happen.  Help the children learn to work as a team in whatever way that happens in your home – cleaning up, having fun, taking a trip together, making food. Part of this is also making sure that activities outside the home don’t trump spending time with siblings and family.  It is all part of being a family, and part of learning what makes relationships tick is learning these first relationships at home.  All relationships, if you want them to last, require time well-spent, and kindness.

At the same time, allow for space.  Some developmental phases just simply require more space than others.  And like other relationships in life, sometimes one sibling feels rejected, the other just needs space, some siblings are closer at one point or another, etc. Space and individuality are important, and it makes interdependence work. I find when an older child is 10 or so and has younger siblings that sometimes they just simply need space away from the siblings.  Teenagers who are 14-17 sometimes have a hard time relating to younger siblings as well, especially those aged 8-12, and may need help to remember what it was like to be younger.

Encourage that equal doesn’t equate to fair.  I find this idea of things having to be “fair”  usually peaks for children between 7-10 years of age.  Usually the best thing you can do is empathize with whomever is upset, and have solid reasoning behind what boundaries you are setting and why. Sometimes having “this is just the age you can do X thing in our family” is helpful because it is a more generalized rule.  For younger children where things like taking turns or who gets to hold the special toy are problematic, I find using a timer or counting aloud for “fair turns”  is usually helpful.

In sibling fighting and drama, for younger children,  I usually start with helping the victim of the situation without much attention to the aggressor.  Sometimes just not giving attention for negative behavior helps.  Usually the aggressor has to help the victim by doing something nice for the victim :).  Kindness wins.

In sibling fighting and drama for older children, I try to listen to both sides with active listening techniques and empathy but then help guide them toward problem-solving the challenge themselves.  Stock phrases usually include, “What would you like to see happen?”  “How would that work out for your brother or sister?”  “How could we have an agreement that both of you would like?”

Take the hard knocks in stride.  Just because they don’t like each other at this moment, doesn’t mean they never will!  Keep working toward fun and positivity and help them see each other’s needs are valid.

I would love to hear your best suggestions for helping siblings get along!

Blessings and love,



Your Children Are Exactly Who They Should Be

We can spend a lot of time in parenting trying to change our children, or thinking about how we could change our children.

You know, like  when they are babies we hope and try to help them sleep longer or walk earlier or eat solid foods when they don’t care.  As they grow and become toddlers and preschoolers, we hope they aren’t too clingy or too fussy or have too many temper tantrums.  As they grow even older, we hope and try to help them with their tempers, their shyness, their this or their that.  Then we spend time shaping even more of their habits so we hope that they will do well in the adult world.  There isn’t probably anything inherently wrong in any of this; boundaries and guiding are part of parenting and so are hopes and dreams for our children.

However, sometimes it  is easy to forget that our children are exactly who they should be!  Sometimes children have traits that are just uniquely them, and make them so wonderful.  Some children have traits that really do make it harder to parent, but will serve them so well in the adult world and the adult world needs them so badly.

Boundaries and guiding are beautiful things.  Balancing things to help a child unfold is also a beautiful thing.  But let us also never doubt the sun we see shining in our children’s eyes, and let us never diminish that.

If you feel like all you notice or call attention to  are the bad things a child is doing, take a deep breath.  Get a break from someone you love and trust.  Or bundle everyone up and go take a walk together  out in the sunshine and just reset.  Do something fun and just love each other!

You are all on the journey together and becoming together.  I hope to be sitting around years from now with my adult children and their beautiful families and I hope we are having a great time and laughing.  Because that’s what it is about.  The light that shines so brillantly in all of us that the world so desperately needs begins right at home.

So balance and guide, but never forget that your children are wonderful with all their unique strengths, abilities, talents, and love to share.  Perhaps they are meant to be in this time and place.  May we all grow and shine together!


Dyslexia + Waldorf

I wrote a post some time ago entitled,“Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia and Waldorf Homeschooling”   regarding working with the dyslexic child within the Waldorf homeschooling curriculum.  This first post was much longer, and there is a lot of information about movement and visual therapy and other things on this blog.  This post, today, is sort of the quick and dirty in terms of how many parents homeschooling with Waldorf feel.  Remember that dyslexia covers a wide range, and that it can “bleed” over into handwriting or math, some people use different terms for that as I did in the post linked above, but some people just term it all under an umbrella called “dyslexia”

In the post above, I mentioned that most homeschooling parents end up using a more structured reading and/or spelling resource that is outside of Waldorf because these children NEED and HAVE to have explicit instruction.  And, I stand by the point that part of teaching IS to provide this explicit instruction to all children.  Yes, some children learn to write, read, and spell from making up summaries.  But I would venture to say that most children need more than that unless they are a good organic writer. Our oldest was a good organic writer and I have had to work much harder with our other two children.   Most of the Waldorf curriculums do talk about the whole language approach, summary writing, using a combination of phonics, word families, sight words, and spelling rules.  Not all curriculums go into much detail about how to do this, however.

So, the  parts of teaching a child with moderate to severe dyslexia, to me, means several things in these stages:

The “something isn’t quite right” stage.  This may mean going forward with the idea that you are teaching to dyslexia or learning challenges without having had formal testing, or this may be the stage where your child has been tested and you have an official diagnosis.  This may also be the stage where other therapies are involved, such as visual therapy for visual convergence insufficiency, or occupational therapy to help with handwriting.    Resources for Waldorf homeschoolers may also include Extra Lesson Work, Eurythmy, working with an anthroposophic doctor and more. This stage usually for Waldorf children  is anywhere between Grades 2-4.  Hopefully with more Waldorf homeschoolers aware, we can start catching dyslexia earlier and providing the most effective help.

Intervention for direct reading, writing, and spelling instruction.  Waldorf families often add mainstream products to their homeschooling day, which means they are doing separate programs on top of a Main Lesson.  This is hard, and because the timetable in which children with dyslexia unfold, this can be years of extra instruction on top of main lessons, which takes a lot of time. Sometimes dyslexia really affects things like drawing or modeling or painting if handwriting is also affected, in which case some Waldorf homeschoolers feel like their children are missing the “best parts” of Waldorf homeschooling. One thing I want to say here, is not that art instruction isn’t a goal of Waldorf Education, but the ultimate goal is art as a spiritual activity, so keep heart!    More on that in a later post!  Unlike many mainstream homeschooling methods, we probably aren’t reaching for assistive technologies right off the bat due to the younger age of our students and our strong belief in bringing in technology at a later time for overall development.  We may, however, as a family, use some audio resources, and we continue to read aloud a lot as a family.

Looking for accommodations.  There may be a point of some catch-up, but as the workload increases in sixth grade and up, many families are hunting for reasonable accommodations even as they continue to work on reading, writing, spelling, comprehension.  It typically takes a child with dyslexia a longer time to learn to type, even though typing is most people’s answer to slow handwriting in the dyslexic child.  This great post talks about some of the tools for dyslexia, some of the new technology out there, and how to adjust those typing programs to be more effective!

I am in the journey with you, and am currently hunting for technological accommodations to try out in preparation for eighth grade and high school!  Will let you all know what we love.

Blessings and love,

The American Waldorf Homeschooling Curriculum

Those of you who have followed this blog for years know that when I could come up for air from the busy times of being in the trenches with my own three children I have been dreaming of what an American Waldorf homeschooling curriculum would look like.  There is a chart compiled by the esteemed David Mitchell that many schools and homeschoolers use entitled, “The Waldorf Curriculum:  An Overview for American Waldorf Teachers” with the sub-statement in large letters:  “These course descriptions present possibilities for the American teacher to expand upon.”  This is the place where many American Waldorf homeschoolers look, and it can be a good overview for those looking to familiarize themselves with some of the things Steiner said, and some of the traditions of the Waldorf School.

I have written before in these posts about some of the American impulses I can see or visualize in the Waldorf curriculum:

Extending Inigenous Cultures Throughout the Waldorf Curriculum (Specifically for the Americas!)

Extending Africa Through the Curriculum (one of my favorite posts, suggestions for extending African history and culture all the way through tenth grade!)

Designing Eighth Grade American History Blocks

High School American History

Third Grade Native American Block

The American Impulse in Waldorf Homeschooling  (from 2013, that is quite some time ago!  I have been thinking about this subject for a long time!)

I appreaciate those of you who ask questions, who ask about the curriculum.  Because, in case you haven’t noticed, Waldorf homeschooling isn’t really popular. Yes, wooden toys and handmaking and nature is popular.  The idea of being “Waldorf-inspired” is often popular for kindergarten through second grade, but drops dramatically after that. I know of very few middle school and high school Waldorf homeschoolers – they are spread out around the entire United States.  Waldorf homeschooling itself is fairly unpopular.  You never see a Waldorf curriculum provider at a state homeschooling conference!  It is often mentioned in homeschooling how-to books as one of the methodologies of homeschooling, but not much beyond that.

Homeschoolers are a fiercely independent lot, and they want to tease out what Rudolf Steiner really indicated and in what lecture (was it in the educational lectures, the general anthroposophy lectures?  where?) and how this actually fits the child in front of them in this day and age.   It is teacher-intenstive for parents who are stretched for time, and it is specialist-intensive from the school model with separate teachers for so many of the subjects that make up what homeschoolers see as the beauty of Waldorf education – foreign languages, games and eurythmy, handwork, orchestra and voice and band, drama.  All of these things are hard to come by at home and are negatives for most homeschooling parents trying to distinguish between methodologies of homeschooling.  Perhaps the traditions of the Waldorf School, in the large sense are a wonderful fit for every child, but in a small sense some of it is very difficult for the average homeschooler. Some Waldorf teachers have gone on to argue how Waldorf homeschooling shouldn’t really exist, because Steiner was laying out indications for a school setting and how this model is not possible for home for one child, let alone multiple children of different grades being taught at the same time.  But then, we also hear that the Waldorf Curriculum is living and breathing as well and is adaptable to different geographic locations around the world – so why would it not be adaptable to homeschooling?   It can all be quite confusing, especially to those unversed in the traditions of the school or who haven’t read Steiner.

I started homeschooling my children for HEALTH.  Nothing was more important to me than their spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional health.  I have always felt Waldorf was the best educational vehicle to meet this goal.  It has very specific indications for the developing child, who is seen as a holistic being and it  is taught through the model of head, hearts and feeling life, and hands and practical work.  The stories for each grade meet that child, and we tailor our stories and curriculum to our particular locality , our particular place in the world!  This is such a hard thing to put in any Waldorf curriculum!  A Waldorf curriculum writer is not going to know about my tiny location in the Southeast, our particular ethinic and cultural background as a family, our particular interests, our health challenges,  and what is around me regarding places of geographic, cultural, and historical interst!   There will not be enough resources in any homeschooling curriculum to bend to all of that, so I write my own  year after year.

However,  I would like to see Steiner’s original indications for a breathing curriculum outline for American homeschoolers to love and be attracted to.  Otherwise, the healing impulse of Waldorf Education is going to miss most of a generation of homeschoolers in a time when our children’s health is more threatened than ever before.  This seems a complete shame to me at a point when what I care most about is the health of my children’s generation. I have been asked by several readers to write some blocks for specific content areas for specific grades in order to meet some of the American needs of the curriculum and I am contemplating that. 

Stay tuned for more.

Many blessings,


Suggestions for Dental Trauma in Children

So, unfortunately our family has a lot of experience in this area and we recently gained some more experience when our little 8 year old fell on a concrete floor, didn’t put his hands out, and fractured both front teeth and nearly knocked them out.  This happened a month ago, and the dentist was surprised at our follow-up appointment yesterday that our son hasn’t had to have double root canals yet nor has he lost the teeth.

So, I am NOT a doctor or a dentist or anyone important. I am just a mom and sharing my experience in case this ever happens (hopefully not) to one of your children so you can be prepared.

If you don’t know much about teeth, this is my understanding of dental trauma.  The tooth is covered by white enamel and a hard layer under that called the dentin.  Inside of the dentin is a soft layer called the pulp that contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue.  The pulp extends from the crown of the tooth to the tip of the roots where it connects the tissues surrounding the pulp. Usually adult teeth that have been dislodged  will need a root canal.   A tooth can survive without the pulp, which is the basis for something like a root canal.  The root canal, especially in adults,  is usually started within a few days of the injury. The pulp is cleaned out ( so all those vital structures such as blood vessels, nerves, etc are removed, because if things are traumatized or dying or dead, it generally leads to infection, the body reabsorbing the nerves and losing the tooth permanently and other things) and a medication is put in with a permanent root canal filling placed later.

However, children ages 7-12 may or may not need a root canal since the nerve roots are still developing. In this case, the child needs very careful long term follow up because sometimes the nerves of the teeth will die off without a lot of symptoms, the body will re-absorb the root and the permanent tooth will fall out.  So, in a way, a root canal “saves” a tooth, but the tooth is not alive and becomes a  sort of a placeholder.  There is new research (I am guessing experimental still at this point???)   that in young people stem cells present in the pulps of the teeth can be stimulated to complete nerve root growth and heal the pulp, but I don’t know anywhere doing this in practice in my area.

ANY dental injury should be seen by a dentist immediately.  Again, I am not a dentist but it seems that you cannot tell from the tooth or the bleeding how damaged the pulp is.  Neighboring teeth that were not directly  hit are often affected as well.   If a tooth is completely knocked out, is it important to handle the tooth gently, not touch the root and it needs to be placed back into the socket immediately by the dentist.  There are solutions you can buy at the drugstore to keep the tooth in until you can get to the dentist.  If the teeth are luxated, or moved, due to trauma, you need to see a dentist right away as well.

So, before something happens, talk to your dentist.  What do they advise you to do in dental emergencies?  Do they have emergency hours?  An emergency phone number?  If a 6-10 year old knocks out or badly hits a permanent tooth, do they treat it different than a 12-15 year old knocking out a permanent tooth?  Would you need to follow up with an endodontist right away?  What does the endodontist they refer to typically do?

So, now I want to share some things that we did that I think were helpful,things that were  a little out of the box.  Traditionally, since we don’t have stimulation of stem cells in teeth present in my area that I know of, which is probably experimental I guess but being mentioned in literature,  is just sort of  “wait and see”.  This is very stressful, and I  personally couldn’t accept that the nerve roots might just die or he might just lose his permanent teeth at only 8 years old. I thought even if I could save one tooth from a root canal that would be important.   So, the three main things we tried included cold laser therapy, chiropractic adjustments, hyberbaric oxygen therapy, and ozone therapy. Mainly we tried these things because I was familiar from hyberbaric oxygen therapy from working with burns and wounds and injuries, and the other things we learned about from friends and health care professionals.

One thing I would recommend is to locate who does ozone therapy for teeth in your area. If injury happens, you want to run to your pediatric dentist right away because most likely the teeth need to be splinted and xrays taken. They may use a local numbing agent as well because with this type of injury, especially to both front permanent teeth, it is exceedingly painful.

We had an ozone shot one week after injury but I wish I had known about it and done it within 48 hours after injury.  I learned about ozone therapy, not through our dentist, but through the place where we initally went for hyperbaric oxygen some days post-injury, but then it took me time to find a dentist who did it and to get an appointment.  There doesn’t seem to be much of a protocol on using ozone with injured teeth, but it does increase circulation and healing.  We only had it once, and I am not sure about whether or not it would be effective now that we are one month post injury to have it again.

We started cold laser therapy about 36 hours after injury. Our chiropractor happened to have one available so that is how we got to start so soon.   Many cold laser protocols say 10 sessions as a general protocol, but consult with your practicioner as there are different protocols out there and different cold laser systems.   We also started using hyperbaric oxygen therapy 72 hours after his injury. We went to a hyperbaric oxygen place for the first few sessions, but I  had a wonderful friend who let me borrow her tank so we can use it at home.    Most hyperbaric oxygen places seem to say “40 hours” in response to many traumas, so we are aiming for 40 hours or more during the next few months. We have about 15 hours in so far as we had some lag time in between what we could afford and in receiving and setting up the tank that we borrowed.

We went back to the dentist yesterday, one month after injury, and the splint was removed.  The teeth still feel a bit wobbly, which the dentist said is not totally unexpected after splint removal.  Our little guy will have to be carefully followed up through the next six months to a year with xrays to make certain that the root hasn’t died (which you can’t really tell by an xray, but you can tell if the body is re-absorbing the nerve that at that point must be dead).

We also had follow up with an endodontist and will have to continue to see him as well over the next six months to a year as we don’t know for sure if root canals will be needed or not (although it’s a good sign they were not needed yet!).  The first endodontist we went to wanted to do double root canals one week post injury due to lack of sensation to cold but the second endodontist we went to said that sometimes this is not completely uncommon one week after injury and in a small child there would need to be other indicators in addition to lack of cold sensation.  So, again, sometimes things can happen with the nerve root with no symptoms,which is why close follow up with xrays is important,  but many times there are symptoms of nerves dying such as discoloration to the tooth, pain with hot or cold liquids, pain with eating.  I think although a root canal only takes a small amount of time, because it cleans out vital structures, it is important to have more than one opinion and if necessary, to have someone who will be willing to follow your child closely, especially if they are under 12 years of age.

The homeopathics we used  for the first 72 hours after injury included arnica pellets, hypericum pellets, and yes, old fashioned ibuprofen for pain relief.  I didn’t have any helichrysum essential oil (it is expensive), but a knowledgeable friend knew it was good for inflammation and helping nerves heal. I had a topical only blend for skin care that had helichrysum in it and used that topically on the upper lip area, but will be getting this oil soon and will use it in a mouthwash type preparation to help over the next few months.

The other thing we had was a lot of prayers and healing touch from people we knew who were prayer warriors, positive wishes from many, and healing touch practicioners who healed from afar.  Our son was even prayed for at the Kurst Root Icon, which comforted me to no end, and I thank my Orthodox readers.  Our parish has said healing prayers  (he was also bit by a dog several weeks ago above his upper lip and needed stitches), and we had a wonderful discussion with our Children’s Director who  was invaluable in knowing just what to say!   Our parish has healing services with holy oil, so that also is comforting to us.

We have a long six months to a year ahead of us, but I hope by sharing this experience it helps someone else if their child is hurt in this way. Get second opinions, and don’t ever accept just “wait and see.”  We are made wonderful, and while complete healing is not always possible, it is always possible to try.

Blessings and love,

The Human Being and Animal

This is a typical fourth grade block for Waldorf Schools, and it confuses many homeschooling parents!   I find it to be based in a deeply anthroposophic approach that transcends much more than zoology and takes some familiarity to really carry this approach.  I think the main assumptions of this block are very foreign to many people.  You can find the roots of this subject in Steiner’s lectures, particularly references sprinkled throughout “Discussions With Teachers.”  One thing Steiner says is that “...we should remain clear in our minds that a human being is really the whole animal kingdom.  The animal kingdom in its entirety is humankind.  You cannot, of course, present ideas of this kind to the children theoretically, and you certainly should not do so.”

So, we think about bringing this through example.  Steiner talks about  studying the animal world before the plant world, which Waldorf Schools typically do, and he talks about using cuttlefish, mouse, horse and a person as good examples.  He also talks about (in “Practical Advice to Teachers”, lecture 7), about relating all animals to the human being.  He advises animal study in third grade (which most Waldorf Schools and most homeschoolers don’t do), and then in the fourth grade  looking at the animal kingdom scientifically in its relationship to the human being, and then in fifth grade adding less familiar animals, and then moving the study into plants in the fifth grade, and more botany in sixth grade plus mineralogy in conjunction with geography.  Then one moves into physics, chemistry, and physiology of the human being and back into high school biologic sciences in grades 9-12.

So, the first place to start is to look at the human body.  What is the head like? What is the trunk like?  What makes human beings different than animals?  Eventually, through study, we find that what makes us different is our ability to be upright, which frees our hands to help and serve others.  Animals are wonderful, and very specialized!  Human beings are not so specialized, we are generalists.  We will never have the keen eyesight of the beautiful eagle, nor the incredible body that is so much a head and can do so many interesting things as an octopus, but instead in a way carry around these different aspects within ourselves and all the aspects of the specialized animals make up humankind.  We can look at different animals and see are they chiefly animals of a “head nature” or a “trunk nature” and look at different types of limbs…Charles Kovacs postulated in his book that human beings are the only true limb animals in a sense because our hands are then free to serve all of humanity.

I think the confusion comes in as some anthroposophic resources divide the animals by whether or not they are head, trunk, or limb animals OR through a look at the threefold nature of animals – are they mainly “ruled” by their metabolic/digestive system, such as a cow or bison; or by their  rhythmic system, like a dog, or by their nervous/thinking system?  Again, these are generally foreign ways to look at animals for those of us raised without a spiritual scientific look at the human being and the animal kingdom, so it takes some getting used to to decide if one or both of these approaches resonates.  I like to do both of these approaches in the first block of the Human Being and Animal. You can see how I do this in the notes of these blocks below.

After this introduction and tying in of the animal kingdom to the human being, we can then  move into a second block that shows all of the differen types of animals in perhaps a more traditional manner, but always keeping in mind sympathy and antipathy.   Where do different groups compare and where do they contrast?  This block usually contains a researched report as well.  So, one would cover birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, mammals, etc as suitable for a fourth grader.  For this block, I like to tie it into our state’s animals, such as our state reptile, our state fish, etc to further illustrate the local geography a fourth grader has been studying during this year.   I also like to include a few weeks study on ocean animals specifically because we live in a state that has a coastline, and this furthers our study of local geography.  You have the upper grades to get into more specific zoological considerations if you add a zoology block in seventh grade, study animals along with geography of the world, and then of course in high school  you will have the biological sciences throughout the high school years.

The art opportunities in these blocks are amazing!  You can paint, draw, model with clay, create dioramas and origami and more.   Speech work with amazing poems, tongue twisters, and riddles is also so much of this block!  Field trips are also a wonderful part of this block, and we can do many!  We have done farm, aquarium, zoo, animal rehabiliation center, vet all as field trips for this block.

My favorite resources for this block include:  “Drawing From The Book of Nature;”  “The Human Being and the Animal” by Charles Kovacs; the free files from Marsha Johnson at waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com,  many library books about the specific animals I have chosen to present, “Learning About The World Through Modeling” by Auer, “Painting and Drawing in the Waldorf Schools”, the Christopherus “The Human Being and Animal” booklet; and there are free resources in the East African training manual for Waldorf teachers and Waldorf Inspirations.

So, in practice, just as an example, the last time I did fourth grade my blocks were structured somewhat like this:

Block One, Week One – 

Poetry for the Creation in the World, (we are Episcopalian so we used a prayer from our Book of Common Prayer).  I usually have the student lay down on a large piece of butcher block paper and we trace each other and have everyone fill in their own bodies with crayons or pencils.    We take a good look at ourselves, and write down what are some of the things we can do?  What can our younger sibling do?  What can adults do?

We also do a picture of ourselves as a round head, a crescent-shaped body, and limbs that are raying out at the hands. This idea came from Marsha Johnson, Master Waldorf Teacher, in her free fourth grade files available within her Yahoo Group waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com and she has more details on the why’s and how’s of presenting this in her files.  Once the drawing is done in crayon, we paint over it in watercolor paints and it makes a beautiful resist painting.

We talk about our heads and how our head sits quietly even if we are running and jumping around, how the head is along for the ride taking in everything around us as we process the information that comes in through our senses.  There are some animals that act almost wholly like a human head.  The cuttlefish is a prime example of this as the cuttlefish hardly moves but has to take water in and squirt it out in order to propel himself, and the cuttlefish takes in what he sees with his large eyes, and even his skin changes color in response.  Snails are another great choice, and fun to model with a sea shell and beeswax.    We have also looked at the squid (great fun to paint!) and talked about giant squid.

Week Two –

For animals that seem especially adapted to their environment due to their trunk, we first looked at the seal. This animal is mainly found in the United States far away from our state, but most children love the idea of seals so it seems like a good place to start.  Seals are fun to draw, and there is a wonderful poem by Rudyard Kipling called, “Seal Lullaby”.  We also talked about the  Eastern Harvest Mouse, since that is more specific to our region (but not as exciting as a seal! LOL).

Finally, we looked at the different limbs of different animals and connected these animals with how the limbs are specialized for the environment the animal is in.  The mole is a wonderful example; one of my children did a report on elephants and her interest in the elephant stemmed from our discussion of the elephant’s limbs.  We compared the padded feet of the elephant to the hooves of horses as well, and drew horses. Finally, we can compare this to the human being who doesn’t have specialized hands for flying, digging, or swimming but instead we can use our hands to serve others and the world. This is beauty in the world, and we can create it with what our hands do.

Week Three –

You could end as above, (some families do and that’s fine!) , or move into a threefold look at the animals.  I usually use the American bison as an example of an animal associated with  metabolic/digestive  forces, and this can lead to great modeling, dioramas, and probably rabbit trails into geography as the first thoroughfares of North America were traces made by bison and deer in seasonal migration and between feeding grounds and salt licks.  Many of these routes were followed by Native Americans and then later by explorers and  settlers (see how this all fits together as a foundation for the upper grades? )  I also like to mention our National Park System; most Waldorf homeschoolers in America have camped and explored different National Parks so this idea of protecting and preserving our lands is an important American concept.

We can then look at a the discerning, thinking American Eagle (beautiful poetry), and the rhythmical system that the dog is so associated with.  Great opportunities for modeling and making dioramas!  Lastly, we can create the very iconic Waldorf picture of the human being with the animals representing these realms superimposed on the human being. If we, as human beings are not specialists or ruled by one particular area, then what do we have?  We are generalists, and we can look briefly at the development of the human being.  Many fourth grade children are astonished to know that adults are still developing too throughout the life span!  We receive gifts from the animal kingdom, and have relationships with the animals kingdom for food, domestication, pets, and more but our gift to the animals is our abilities in conservation, in our stewardship, in our ability to wonder and awe at the beautiful planet we live on! We can talk about concrete ways we can help the animals.

The second block, at least the way I do it, is very specific to our state.  I live in the Southeastern United States, so I picked our state and regional animals to represent general animal categories.  The richest biodiversity of reptiles and amphibians in the United States is concentrated in the Southeast, so I usually start there.  This is a great time to paint, and to look at these creatures closely.  Salamanders are a great study.  For reptiles, I usually look at the American Alligator as this is a keystone species ( a keystone species is a species that has a very large affect on its environment even though the abundance of the species may be small, and it supports other species in its habitat). I find keystone species to be good subjects for reports as well.  For reptiles, I also like looking at turtles and tortoises, (finding out the differences!), and if you are in a coastal state, the types of sea turtles.  This also incorporates a lot of discussion about geography.  For example, our state has barrier islands, which hosts a large number of sea turtle nests.

In the second week, we usually look at birds.  This is also a good time to look at the biographies of such greats as James Audoban or Tory Peterson.  We can get a good general look at birds, visit falconers, places that rehabilitate injured birds, go to birds of prey shows, and more.  We also take a close look at our state bird and look at water birds as well.

Week three  and four is generally mammals, which is a huge and diverse category ranging from moles to flying bats to whales to manatees to donkeys.  Again, I try to stick more local as I think this makes the most sense to a fourth grader.  The American marsupial the opossum is very interesting to study, and I think educational as many people carry about misconceptions about the opposum.  We also usually look at beavers as those are right outside our neighborhood, and coyotes and bobcats as those are also close. Primates I tend to save until our seventh grade geography studies, but also can be looked at.

For week five, because we are a coastal state, we look at our own coast and animals in the coast.  I usually start with ideas about waterways (which end in the ocean in our state). So, as we find out about the watersheds in our state, we find out about the bass family as that is common.  Then we look at oceans.  We read about Jacques Cousteau and Sylvia Earle, and learn about the different ocean zones.  Ninety percent of marine life lives in the sunlight zone, but some that live in that zone dive down into the twilight or midnight zone (Sperm whales are a great example!).  We talk about the hatchet fish, the lantern fish, bioluminescence and some of the animals that live in these deep zones.  We also talk about the ocean floor and the trenches, which is a great foundation for  geography and mineralogy in the sixth grade.

Lastly, sometime in May to go along with our gardening, we look carefully at insects.  Which insects are creatures of the dark, which ones are hard versus soft, what is the metamorphosis of the butterfly and other life cycles?  Which insects are social?  How do pollinators work and what kinds of pollinators can we offer as a family to our insect friends?

These are just some ideas from my experience.  I hope you and your student have a wonderful time in this block!

Blessings and love,



Growth Mindset + Waldorf Homeschooling

Waldorf homeschooling and Waldorf Education is amazing in that it teaches and guides children to be true “Renaissance People” – ones who can nurture themselves, humanity and the environment, provide compassion for others, explore all of the traditional arts and handicrafts, music, drama, academics and more.

Growth Mindset is the idea that individuals can develop their talents and their learning through hard work, good strategies,  repeated mistakes and growth from those mistakes, and input from others, as opposed to just “I was born smart” or “I was born dumb.”  This idea is one that is certainly trending in both education and in business. So,  I want to be very clear that to me all the talk about “growth mindset” as a growing educational trend in public schools has been in Waldorf Education all along through such things as  repeated attempts at mastery, repeated resilience to do and try things that are foreign, not just  doing the things that are comfortable, the use of a strong classroom organism to help an individual grow and more.

So where does the idea of growth mindset fit into Waldorf homeschooling?  Sometimes it is harder at home, I believe.  We may have a second grader comparing him or herself to much older siblings.  We may have children that seem unmotivated no matter how much vigor we bring to designing a lesson, and with no peer group to carry it along, it can be harder.  These are a few of the realities that homeschooling families face in the day to day of being in the trenches with our children as teachers and as parents.  However, we can certainly impart a growth mindset to our children and we can do this in accordance with the developmental features of Waldorf Education.

For those under the age of 9, we MODEL growth mindset for our children.  We look for times when we make mistakes and bring what we have learned that to the forefront as in incredible model.  We can use words to describe the process and the hard work of creating rather than focusing on the outcome, and we can use  brillant phrasing -short and concise- to help our children.  If you don’t know what to say, try the list here.  We don’t need to psychoanalyze what growth mindset is for our six-year-old, but we just do it in our actions and in the way we approach thing. We help find strategies that help our children be successful, and help them develop the skills to try again.  Ways to do that include not just “book work” but problem solving in outdoor play in a group of children and allowing plenty of time for free play and exploration.  If you absolutely MUST read books to your children about growth mindset, please let it be a little more sideways than what you would use with a ten-year-old.  I like books like “Flight School” by Lita Judge; “Whistle for Willie” by Ezra Jack Keats; “Brave Irene” by William Steig, “Extra Yarn” by Barrett, “the Dot” and “Ish” by Reynolds as examples of growth mindset that don’t hit you over the head but show the model of resilience and perseverance.

For those ages ten and up, I think you can start to delve a little deeper, especially for those children that are struggling in this area due to perfectionism or due to learning disabilities and who have already realized they are not quite where their friends are academically.  We still model, we still use the great words, but we work hard to help THEM develop their own strategies to be successful.  This is what they will need in the upper grades.  I like books like “Hana Hashimoto: Sixth Violin” by Uegaki and Leng  as an example of the hard work needed to shine.    I think it can be important for both of these groups of children to hear this.

For those twelve and up,  you can get a little more heady since they have more skills to see cause and effect readily.  “Your Fantastic, Elastic Brain” by Deak and Ackerly is a good place to start, and there are some wonderful resources for growth mindset for middle schoolers available on Teachers Pay Teachers.  I have used this ten lesson unit by Angela Watson with our upper middle and lower high schoolers.  Books for children this age include “Salt In His Shoes” by Dolores Jordan, “Nadia, The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still” by Karlin Gray, “A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin,” and all the wonderful biographies we bring through history in the sixth through eighth grades as teachers.

For those past the 15/16 change and adults: They might enjoy Dweck’s “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” and some of the other books about growth mindset available in the business section.   If a teen this age is not motivated, sometimes a gentle push toward a class or experience might just change their whole life for the better. This is the part of parenting that is hard – knowing how much to push and how much to let go when older teens are on the cusp of adulthood.  However, sometimes even older teens need an objective eye to encourage them to go for something great and to get a chance to stretch their growth mindset wings.  It will serve them well later in adulthood.

How are you nurturing growth mindset in a developmentally appropriate way?


Planning Eighth Grade

So I started planning  Third Grade first, since it will be my third time teaching third grade and therefore has a sense of familiarity. I wrote several posts about the planning process for third grade here.  Now I am looking at planning eighth grade next, since it will be my second time teaching eighth grade.

I really like eighth grade and am looking forward to it. This particular student has very strong opinions about what she will or won’t participate in, and she won’t really try to do anything with a block she doesn’t want to do. So I have had to think long and hard about what I really think is essential in eighth grade for soul development and what blocks will be well-received as well.

It doesn’t help that I think eighth grade seems to me one of the years with the least amount of “must do” soul material.  Yes, there is a Revolutions block, but some schools put that in ninth.  There is an idea of “modern” and getting children up to present-day, but again, many schools also spread that into ninth grade if they have a high school program.   The AWNSA chart for the Waldorf School curriculum includes The Industrial Revolution to the Modern Day; American History; Shakespeare and poetry; stories about different people of the world and their folklore and poetry; reviewing all grammar; writing including newspaper reporting, business writing, writing a short play and spelling; Latin and Greek and vocabulary building exercises; World Geography and geography of Asia, Australia and Antarctica; Chemistry, Physiology, Physics  including aerodynamics and meteorology; Three Dimensional Geometry.  “Making Math Meaningful” by Jamie York for Grade 8 includes geometry and platonic solids as a block (which I did the first time around in eighth grade but I will not do this time);  and number bases and loci as another block.

You can see some of the ideas I planned the the first time around in eighth grade  for our oldest child.  You can see how I planned high school American History between eighth and ninth grade in order to earn a high school credit in American History (this is something that would happen in homeschooling, not a Waldorf School setting). You can see my post about Eighth Grade Chemistry here, and  I went through each week of eighth grade beginning here, with weeks one and two.

So, my tentative –  totally subject to change-  plans right now include:

August and September – Physics and Meteorology

October – Oceanography

November – Short Stories

December – Short Stories

January – Revolutions

February – Two weeks of aerodynamics;  American History

March – American History

April/ May -Energy,  Carbon, Climate, and the Environment (my own invented block)

Each of these blocks will work closely on academic skills.  I am not doing the typical eighth grade Chemistry block which focuses on the human body or cooking and fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, we are not doing the typical Physiology block either, and we  will do Shakespeare in High School.  We will be doing World Geography one day a week and go through all regions of the world, including the typical eighth grade geography block countries.

My main idea for the week’s rhythm is to bring four days of being together as this student will have an outside academic math class one day a week.  Three days will be main lesson work, and one day will be geography.  We will do math daily together and a lot of math investigation as a family.

I would love to hear what you are planning! Have you started planning your block rotations yet?





5 Steps For Raising Children To Have An In-Depth Life

In this day and age, it seems as if sometimes the most intimate and horrific things can be reduced to an emoticon.  There are not enough emoticons in the world for tragedy, outrage, and horror. And, in cases of serious challenges with rights and wrongs on both sides, there is no clear button to push on social media to express the grey.  So, instead of raising our children in an environment that expects easy and shallow answers to life’s grey questions, let’s raise them to become deep and intimate beings with capacities for willing, feeling, and thinking.

Keep your children close.  Not to micromanage, not to hover, but to be present and attentive to what the true deep needs of children are.  All children have little wants that they think are needs, but it is our job as parents to figure out what is it that this child truly and deeply needs. And we can only do that if we are paying attention over a long course of many years.    We learn to read this child through all their changes, just as when we live in one place we learn to read the signs of each season in the sky and land.  Attention leads to depth in relationships and the first ability of the child to empathize with another human being.

Keep your children outside.   Connection with nature is the foundation of emotional and mental stability, the foundation of academic greatness in many subjects due to developing keen observation skills for minute changes, but it also becomes a time when a child can learn to be with themselves. Only when we can rest peacefully in ourselves (and perhaps in  the things that are bigger than us)  can we truly have deep intimacy with others and the challenges confronting humanity.

Keep your children off of social media as long as possible.  Social media devalues things to a click, an emoticon, a passing by glance.  As much as I enjoy social media for myself, I also didn’t grow up with it and become a rich thinker through debates on all kinds of issues right at our dinner table.   Encourage reading, dinner time discussion every night, and meaningful conversations with real people.

Keep your children with great role models.  Of course, be the best role model that you can be, but I think it does take a village to help raise children,  especially as a child grows.  We never know what other teacher, what neighbor, what other adult at a place of worship or in an activity that a child loves that might spark a light in our child’s soul. Sometimes it is something that seems so small to us that makes such a big impression on them.  Build up great relationships between your children and the mentors, neighbors, or extended family they love.  I know in this day and age, where coaches are not trustworthy, neighbors are not what they seem,  etc. that this can seem scary.  However, I think it is worth the effort to find the adults you love and that your children really can be guided by.  Different seasons may need different role models outside of the family, but it is worth persuing.

Keep your children even in their relationships.  As children age into the middle grades, and early high school years, it is easy for friendships and crushes to come and go. Help your child sort out their  capabilities for emotional intelligence, how they treat people fairly, how sometimes old friends are actually the best friends, what to do when friends hurt them, how to react to conflict, how to be assertive and set boundaries and more.  This is another thing that seems simple, but if you do not have time due to outside pressures of your own, you will not be present to help your child navigate this piece of life that is becoming more and more important in today’s world.

Slow down, and embrace being unbusy.  Children are in your home for 18 years usually. It is a long time, but also short.  If you don’t slow down, you might just miss it.

Blessings and love,

planning + Waldorf + simple


So, I have homeschooled quite a long time – from Kindy second year to tenth grade this year that is 11 years.  And in doing this, I have found that some years were just simpler than others. We aren’t a Waldorf School at home, we don’t have a staff, and we have real life things to attend to – meals, housework, perhaps outside activities with older children.  And in a year of overwhelm, we also have divided energies.  The very real and hard thing about Waldorf homeschooling is it often isn’t possible for a student to progress super independently in main lesson book work.  Students need, and deserve input of their homeschooling teachers, just like all students do.  This isn’t like passing off a textbook and workbook and assigning problems.

So, in an great effort to keep thing as simple as possible, let me share with you some ways Waldorf veteran homeschoolers plan.  It IS different than a Waldorf School, and that is okay.

  1.  Health and family relationships take priority.  So this might mean we get to one less block a year than a school setting.  It may mean our school year looks longer, or shorter.  So long as we are in compliance with the homeschool laws of our state or province, we are doing okay.  But homeschooling first and foremost is about sustainability.
  2. We combine ages for main lessons.  I don’t advise anyone to teach more than three main lesson periods a day.  It is exhausting!   If you have six or more children, you might have four main lesson periods, but I would look for ways to combine, rotate days for some children, and school mostly year-round to fit in blocks for everyone.
  3. We put most everything in the main lesson period we are having with a child or children.  Some people do put handwork separate, and some families have only one to two children and they can do a lot of “separate” periods for painting or handwork or cooking or whathave you.  Most of us who have older children and multiple children must economize and make these things part of the artistic or practical response to a main lesson.
  4. We find many resources at the library.  Yes, there will often be need for some specific Waldorf resources, but I find the longer people Waldorf homeschool, the more they are not afraid to take resources from any stream and they can make it Waldorf.  Waldorf Education is a living and breathing entity specific to the child in front of us and to the specific geographic place where we live.  We follow the curriculum of the school setting, and honor the major impulses of experience before head thinking, sleep as an educational aid and more, but again, we are not and cannot be a school at home.
  5. Rhythm is key.  It takes a lot of energy to hold Waldorf main lessons; holding that space takes a lot, and we need to make sure as homeschooling parents we have time for OURSELVES.  This is also a key to sustainability over the years.
  6. We are committed to this.  The Waldorf homeschooling market is TINY.  You won’t find Waldorf materials at state homeschooling conferences.  You won’t find a lot of us around even to have community.  Many Waldorf homeschoolers have never seen a Waldorf School in real life.  We need to be patient with ourselves as we learn.

When I think about simple, I also try to think beyond the big picture and see how this will in reality, flow every day.  I wrote a post a little while back that had a little planning form for homeschooling parents to use.  It had two main lesson periods on it and more.  Here are some more ideas for putting together rhythms.

Ideas for rhythm #1:  (Two  Main lessons)

  • Family Breakfast/Chores
  • Circle Time for those under 9 or Warm Up time for the entire family
  • Math warm up for the whole family or divided by level (Personally, I think grades 1-5 could go together and grades 6-9 could go together).
  • Main Lesson Period #1 (what will other children be doing?)
  • Walk, play or tea break or Lunch if you start later in the day.
  • Main Lesson Period #2 (what will the other children be doing?)
  • Walk, play, or tea break or Lunch
  • Practical Activities ( could include music as a family, handwork, crafts, baking, gardening)
  • Free Reading or Reading Aloud
  • End of School Day

Ideas for Rhythm #2: (Two Main Lessons)

  • Family Breakfast/Chores
  • Music Practice or Movement
  • Main Lesson #1
  • Practice Period for handwriting, math, or individual music practice
  • Tea or Lunch
  • Main Lesson #2
  • Handwork

Ideas for Rhythm #3: (Kindy plus 3 Main Lessons)

  • Family Breakfast/Chores
  • Circle Time with littles/Kindergarten story
  • Main Lesson #1 (includes movement and art)
  • Main Lesson #2 (includes movement and art)
  • Lunch
  • Main Lesson #3 (rotate so not every day has three main lessons, on the off day put in kindergarten practical work)

Ideas for Rhythm #4:  (Three  Main Lessons, Grades)

  • Family Breakfast/Chores
  • Main Lesson #1
  • Tea
  • Main Lesson #2
  • Movement, Cooking, Practical Arts
  • Lunch
  • Main Lesson #3 – some days have this be an extra practice period for math or language arts

The ideas are infinite!  Please share with me your favorite rhythm for the grades that has worked well and is relatively simple!

Many blessings,