Making A Waldorf Curriculum Work For You!

There is so much chatter on the Facebook groups and on IG regarding Waldorf Curriculum and finding a curriculum that matches the family. Usually this means a family wants a more open and go curriculum where they don’t have to spend hours putting things together or adding to a curriculum, or it may mean they are searching for a more multi-cultural approach than what is out there currently.

This is a challenge, because at its heart, Waldorf Education is a way of educating and developing yourself, as the teacher, a way of understanding the development of the human being as a spiritual being and THEN bringing to life the indications that Rudolf Steiner left behind to the specific student in front of you also tailored to the specific place and culture in which you live.  On top of that, the indications most developed was in this work was developed by the Waldorf Schools, and as we all know, school is not home.   Certain blocks, which may or may not reflect your heritage or culture, are matched to the archtypal developement of the human being, but perhaps don’t resonate with you.   What a challenge!

To make things more complex. there are not many choices on the Waldorf homeschooling market compared to homeschooling curricula and products in general.  I think there is room for more products to emerge, not less.  Each curriculum has a different voice, just as in a Waldorf School each classroom teacher has a different voice and way of doing things. True Waldorf Curriculums are not really open and go as they are supposed to guide a teacher toward creating their own stories, finding the things that really speaks to that teacher/classroom or teacher/student dyad.  In this way, it is a lot like parenting and finding your own empowered voice to bring this to life for your children.

However, I understand:

  • Being new, never having seen a Waldorf School and trying to Waldorf homeschool
  • Living in a place that has ZERO support.  There are absolutely no other homeschoolers Waldorf homeschooling!
  • Wondering why things are they way they are – why are there Hebrew Stories in Third Grade?  Why are there Ancient Mythologies in fifth?  Why can’t we find much about America in the curriculum and as an American what can I do with that?
  • What can I adjust/change and what do I really need to leave into the curriculum for my homeschooled student?
  • Making main lessons work for our family – Waldorf teachers often can’t imagine teaching three main lessons a day or combinbing main lessons, yet Waldorf homeschooling mothers do this EVERY DAY. We rock!

It can feel frustrating!  So here are my ideas about curriculum and making it work for you:

  1.  Look at the blocks brought by the schools in your region.   You can easily search Waldorf Schools all over the world from your computer.   Many blocks are the same across the world, but sometimes there are different ones tailored to place and culture.  These give us the glimmers into what can be that also had a solid pedagogical foundation.
  2. That being said, don’t give up on the traditional blocks completely- find a way to bring in what your family needs.  I wouldn’t eliminate a traditional block because there are specific reasons for that block to be there as it relates  to childhood development, but I would consider adding a block or adding stories for handwork, painting, modeling, cooking, festivals that reflect our individual place and time within an understanding of the development of the child.  I have done back posts tracing what I see as some of the ways to put Latin America and Africa into the blocks here:  Extending Africa Through The CurriculumExtending Indigenous Cultures Throughout The Curriculum Extending Latin America Throughout The Curriculum
  3. Stick to a curriculum and do your best to make it work. Work with the author(s) of that curriculum in consultations!   It is much easier than skipping around in the long run.  You will develop a system (and it will be simpler than trying to gather from 20 resources unless  you use 20 library books to put a block together, which is what I do a lot).  You can see more about choosing a curriculum here: Which Waldorf Curriculum Should I Buy?
  4. Read Rudolf Steiner’s lectures.  Yes, I know for some people they are difficult.  Or you don’t agree with everything in them.  That’s okay. His work will change you and your view of the human being regardless.  I suggest “Discussions With Teachers”, “Practical Advice To Teachers”, “Education for Adolescents” for the grades, and “Kingdom of Childhood” and “A Child’s Changing Consciousness” for those of you with small children.
  5. Work with art.  I used to set up an ironing board in my bedroom with paints mixed, water ready and paper and jump out of bed in the morning and paint for ten minutes when I had tiny children. If you aren’t a little bit hungry and willing to DO something, this form of education may not work for you and your family in the long run.  And that’s okay, but if your goal is to make this work for your family, you are going to have to work a little.
  6. Work with your own biography.  The book I used in Foundation Studies, which is the introductory training you must complete before Waldorf teacher training,  was “The Human Life:  Understanding Your Biography,” by George and Gisela O’Neil.  I also have gone chapter by chapter through Betty Staley’s book, ““Tapestries”,” which is another good one.
  7. Consider community.  You may find non-Waldorf people who can knit and help you and  your children learn.  You may form a study group to read Steiner’s lectures or books related to Waldorf Education or a group to paint together or a group for festivals.  All the workshops and study groups I have been in have really helped by journey and even if I stopped doing Waldorf Education tomorrow, I wouldn’t regret that time because it helped me understand myself and the human being better.
  8. Patience.  “Doing Waldorf” isn’t add -water instant.  It is a journey and a growth process.  Your Waldorf may not look like someone else’s.  Capitalize on your strengths and slowly work to bring in the things you are less sure of.

If you need help and would like a consult with me, please email me at admin@theparentingpassageway.com.  I do phone consultations at different points during the year, and will be opening up a few slots in December for a mid-year check in.

Lots of love to you all,

Carrie

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Book Study: “The Winning Family: Increasing Self-Esteem In Your Children and Yourself”

For those of you following along with our book study, we are looking at Chapters Five and Six today.  This is an incredible book by Dr. Louise Hart that I feel gets at many of the issues affecting parents and how they discipline their children today.

Chapter Five begins with the baggage that many of us lived through – the era of “children should be seen and not heard.”  Dr. Hart points out that with this style of parenting, many children were “deprived of the opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions and to gain confidence in their own abilities.  Many of them came to believe that what they had to say wasn’t important, that they weren’t important, or even that no one cared about them.”

I personally think this may have led to some of the present problems I see with the number of narcissists on the rise.  If it was never about them when they were children and there was a severe lack of attachment, and everything was shut down communication-wise as they grew older, I think perhaps many of these people never received the guidance or ideas as to how to integrate into a family grouping.  Of course, some people withstood this and grew up to be amazing, sensitive and fabulous communicators.  The author points out she didn’t feel really listened to until she was seventeen years old, and then by a friend, not her family.  That just seems a shame!

“Real listening expresses interest and caring.  It is a powerful and intimate experience that enhances self-esteen and friendship.” Parts of listening are listed on page 35-36  in my book and I urge you to look at this list.   Good communication also involves taking turns (so no interrupting or going completely off the topic in order to be an effective communicator on either side), and it involves giving feedback.  It involves practice to really be able to communicate in this way!

Chapter Six is about asking and refusal skills, and talks about the three simple ways people to try to get what they want:

Monster Ways – shouting, venting anger, hitting, manipulating, intimidating others.

Mouse Ways – crying, whining, begging, pouting, hinting, hoping someone will read your mind.

The author points out that stereotypically, males are taught aggressive ways of communicating and females are taught a very passive way of communicating.  I am so happy about this generation of parenting, because I think the parents that are teaching communication skills to their children are teaching their girls and boys assertive communication skills.  It involves knowing what you want and asking for what you want, with a timing that is SENSITIVE to the other people in the household or group (the last part may be the most  left out part when we teach our children).

We also need to teach children to ask questions when they don’t know the answers or understand.  This is especially important in tweens and teens that believe they know all the answers, and therefore have no need to ask more deeply. This is especially important to teach childen who have special needs, so they can advocate for themselves the older they get, but I think it is important for all children.

The other side of this asking, though, is the answer.  If someone is consistently wishy-washy and without boundaries, that can also be frustrating.  In this age of teaching children to say “no” to various things, we also need to be on the lookout for ourselves as to what we need to say “no” to as well.  “No” is a perfect word all by itself, and parents have to be able to say “no” in order to set boundaries for children.  If you can’t say no to things without couching it with a paragraph, why?  What negativity does no mean to you? How you say no makes a difference, of course, but no is important as it helps us develop our own freedom, our own power, our own control, our own self-definition.   A simple no in parenting works better than threats (“I’m going to do x if you don’t stop y.”)  How much better is just “No!  You may not do that!”   The flip side of this is that if you are saying “no” all the time, then perhaps you need help with your environment, your support network, your own baggage.  If your toddler is touching everything in the house, and it’s a constant “no”, maybe you need to re-evaluate what kinds of things are out in your house for a toddler to get into.  If you say “no” to every request from everyone, maybe you need some support.  If you can’t say “no” at all, maybe you need to explore why you can’t.

Next up, dealing with feelings!    It’s a great chapter full of insight.

Blessings,
Carrie

Using the 168

There are 168 hours in the week.  Once we take out hours for sleeping and eating, my goal this school year has been to use the remaining hours well. So what does this look like?

I think for our family, it means making good use of rhythm.  Rhythm is an important part of strength for individuals and in the family at all times, but I have found it even more important this year as I am working toward regaining my health and with having three children in very different levels to work with in homeschooling.

The main parts to rhythm for our family are-

  • Rest and sleep – we don’t skimp here and will cancel things in order to rest!
  • Warming meals –  I usually prep food by roasting large pans of veggies, making salad that will last several days, batch cooking any meat. We connect over our meals together and eat three times a day together most days of the week.
  • Movement, play  and FUN- movement and play is super important, so that is a priority. Play and movement most often happens outside for us, so we can lap up the Vitamin D and being in nature.
  • Work in nurturing our home (aka, chores) but also creating beautiful things to make our home lovely. Many of the chores I work around school times, bath times (ie, clean the bathroom while one child is showering, pick up downstairs before dinner whilst things are cooking)
  • School is important as well, but overall health is the greatest priority.
  • Outside activities

Something that really has shifted for me over the past  few years was a realization that I was essentially spending only one to two hours a week on me in a conscious way.  Sure, there was the downtime after everyone went to bed but there was very little conscious thought about things for myself and if there were things for myself, inevitably something else needed my attention and what I planned to do for myself was tossed to the wayside and cancelled.

So, deciding to spend up to 10 percent of the 168 hours on ME was quite a perception-changing event. That’s 16 -17 hours a week?!!   I could focus on my own health for 16-17 hours a week?  What would that look like?  Where would those hours come from?  Would it only happen at midnight (Hahaha)?  What would I do with those gift of hours? Right now I am mainly spending those hours in medical appointments and in physical activity, but I can see things expanding in the future!

Prepping is VITAL to making the best use  of our 168 hours. You can see below for what it looks like for us.  I am actually reluctant to put it out there.  Some will be aghast and say it is too much out of the home.  Remember, when all my children were under 14/15 years old, we homeschooled most mornings and went out only in the afternoons.  Now it is much more chaotic with the addition of outside classes for our high school junior that are all over the place in addition to having two horses to help care for, but this is real life, and I want to be transparent as to how homeschooling evolves the older children get!  We also have three out of five of us  in our family who are extroverts, and need time to connect with community and other people!

So, this is how we do it, and what it looks like for us!  Take what works for you and your family and leave the rest behind!

Mondays – (Crockpot meal) (Laundry)

  • Homeschool third grader at barn whilst older two are in lessons
  • Come home and finish third grader and homeschool eighth grader
  • Eleventh grader has outside class/third grader and mommy at park in sunshine/eighth grader homework
  • Music lesson for third grader with Dad; Rest for everyone else
  • Yoga at night for the mommy

Tuesdays – (Fast grilled meal/roasted veggies/salad)(Laundry)(Vaccum)

  • Waldorf homeschool enrichment program for eighth and third graders
  • Homeschool during this time with eleventh grader
  • Grocery shopping/Medical appointments as needed after 3:15
  • Rest
  • Gym for me at night

Wednesdays-(Meat/roasted veggies/salad)(Laundry)(Dusting)

  • Homeschool all children
  • Eleventh grade outside class (park time for third grader or gym time for me or meet a friend out)
  • Rest
  • Barn time
  • Exercise if didn’t happen earlier or Coffee with friends as able

Thursdays (Crockpot) (Laundry) (Vaccum)(Kitchen)

  • Homeschool third grader
  • Check in with eighth grader
  • Outside class for eleventh and eighth grader
  • Rest
  • Music for all/ music plus karate third grader (all in same place) (grocery store/errands for me)
  • Barn with Dad as able for eleventh and eighth graders
  • Yoga as able

Fridays- (Homemade pizza or breakfast for dinner)(Bathrooms)(produce and egg delivery)

  • Homeschool all children
  • Medical appointments late morning to early afternoon as needed (chiropractor)
  • Barn
  • Rest
  • Possible date night with husband
  • Some Fridays are days off with friends or field trip day

Saturdays (Clean house)(Laundry)(Fast cook chicken meal)

  • Yoga or gym early morning/ Rest/Barn or something fun with family

Sundays

  • Church/Sunday School
  • Rest/Prep for week ahead
  • Soccer for third grader
  • Eleventh and Eighth Grader Music Rehearsal/Youth Group

Tell me what you do with your 168!  Make it count, and most of all, have fun!

Lots of love to you all,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

Homeschooling High School – Should You?

There are quite a few good resources out there for homeschooling high school, (not for homeschooling a Waldorf-inspired high school per se, but homeschooling high school in general).  Many parents whose children are in seventh or eighth grade wonder if homeschooling high school is for them.

We are three years into homeschooling high school with our oldest child now, and looking at options for our eighth grader for high school next fall.  I think it is important to at least look at options for several reasons…

  1. I don’t know how it is in your area of the world, but here while every student can be “accepted” to public high school in the later high school years, the school system does not have to accept the credits already completed and may make the student re-do classes.  This is important to know.  At least  in my area, it is much easier to enter into high school when it begins in 9th grade and pull out and finish up homeschooling than it is to start homeschooling and then try to enter public school  in 10th or 11th grade!
  2. Homeschooling, for the most part, can be a very decentralized process – so that could mean a lot of driving and extra money toward classes or things that might normally be “free” in school and wouldn’t involve you driving.  For example, our oldest has taken some AP classes.  This involved extra time in finding these classes, and extra money to pay for the classes and the driving to and from the classes.
  3. Is you child super extroverted or introverted?  I know some extroverts who are still happy to homeschool high school, and some extroverts who are happy to do something like dual enrollment, but there are many extroverts who want to be a in a school environment and be involved in all the traditional high school things withinin a more traditional high school community.  Some want a much bigger social pool than the sometimes small numbers that homeschooling high school leads to, depending upon your area, so that may also be a factor to think about.
  4. How well do you and your teenager work together?  If it is going to be nothing but you nagging your child to get work done, or if  you feel your child tends to withdraw and not want to work hard for you, you might consider a more traditional high school plan.  It is hard to facilitate something with only one other (reluctant) student, and sometimes a group does lead to more interesting projects, more interesting perspective, and more interesting conversations.  You can create this with work at home for sure – open up your house to all homeschoolers for projects or perspectives around a study area, for example, but some students thrive in a more traditional environment.
  5. In this vein, does your child prefer in-person learning or do they prefer to learn on-line?  Not every student enjoys on-line classes, and while there are on-line high school classes for subjects, some students want or learn better in  a classroom experience.
  6. Are you decent at keeping track of records?  Do you know when things normally happen as far as standardized testing, financial aid deadlines, college applications?These things are important if your child wants to apply to a four year college as you will be playing guidance counselor along with your other roles in homeschooling.

If you think it sounds like I am against homeschooling high school, I am not. We are homeschooling high school, after all, and looking at doing it again!   However, I think some of the homeschooling high school sites tout homeschooling high school as this thing where the student works independently and you have interesting conversations, and  that’s about it, and are not pointing out some of the larger issues to think about.  Homeschooling high school takes time and availability of the parent, and it also depends somewhat upon finances, ability to get your student to places if options for homeschooled high schoolers in your area exist as far as outside classes or activities,  the homeschooling high school community in your area, and your student’s goals  for what they want to do after high school.  Sometimes post-graduation goals are best met in the home environment, but sometimes a more traditional path can also work, and some students prefer this.

For those of you homeschooling high school, what are the things you thought about with this decision?  Share your wisdom!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

The Pelvic Floor – Everyone Has One!

Yesterday I went to a course about fucntional rehabilitation of the pelvic floor.   For a long time, pelvic floor was associated solely with “female issues” and while urinary and fecal incontinence are the number one and number two reasons for admittance of the eldery to nursing homes, many people didn’t seem to be willing to look into options for treating the challenges.

I am happy to see that times are changing.  Physical therapists (and hopefully doctors) are screening the genitourinary (so urinary, colo-rectal, reproductive systems)  system just the way physical therapists screen all systems of the body.  (For the record, this includes the integumentary(sking), neurological, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems for therapists plus gastrointestinal and genitourinary systems along with general constitution, eyes, ear/nose/throat, hematological, immune, endocrine, and pyschiatric systems).

The pelvic floor is a region with over 20 muscles in 3 distrinct layers, and yes, men have a pelvic floor as well.  The pelvic floor provides support for the pelvic organs.  Genitourinary and reproductive function includes excretion, urination, urinary sensations, sexual functions, menstruation, procreation, genital sensations.  Many doctors seem to forget that men have a pelvic floor as well.   The pelvic floor also provides sphincteric control for the bladder and bowels, supports sexual function, supports stabilty of the back as part of the core muscles of the body, and supports the lymph system.

Some of the main issues pelvic floor physical therapists work with include elimination disorders of the bowel (constipation, incomplete emptying, incontinence), pelvic organ prolapse (when the pelvic organs are no longer in the right place due to loss of muscle, fascia, or ligament support), pelvic pain,  nerve pain.  Incontinence also rises with diseases such as insulin-dependent diabetes, chronic pulmonary disease, and more.  Low back pain is also associated with pelvic floor problems, and EVERY low back pain patient should be screened for pelvic floor problems.  You would hate to have a back surgery when the real problem is something in your pelvic floor that a back surgery will not fix! Pre-existing incontinence, gastrointestinal problems, and breathing disorders are also associated with developing low back pain.

Incontinence is a big deal because it is a huge independent predictor for falls and injuries, depression, and nursing home placement.  But you don’t need to be over 65 to have incontinence.  There have been studies on  elite athletes and incontinence.  17 percent of elite female athletes are noticing incontinence for the first time in JUNIOR HIGH and 40 percent of elite athletes are noticing incontinence in HIGH SCHOOL.   You are actually 1.37 times to have urinary incontinence in middle age if your strenuous activity exceeded 7.5 hours per week during the teen years.  Leakage of urine is failure of the tissue to handle the repeated load put upon it – if you keep straining the pelvic floor muscles repeatedly, the incontinence will just grow!

There are many ways to rehabilitate the muscles of the pelvic floor, and Kegel exercises (which most people do INCORRECTLY) are not the only way.  Anyone having pelvic pain or leakage incontinence or suspiciion of prolapse should be evaluated by a therapist instead of just throwing a Kegel exercises at it. You will need more than one exercise to fix any of these situations, and “exercising” for pelvic pain might just make the pain worse.  Pelvic physical therapists will work on posture (of the body and the posture/positioning of the pelvic organs), strength and endurance and coordination of the pelvic floor muscles in order to help challenges.

It was an interesting course, and nice to see physical therapy moving in the right direction in recognizing the pelvic floor as an integral part of core stability and as a body systems and a neuromuscular region that responds the way to rehabilitation as any other region of the body.  There is hope!

Blessings,

Carrie