Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia And Waldorf Homeschooling

There are often posts about children who have dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia on the Waldorf homeschooling facebook groups.  One of our children was diagnosed with all three of these some years ago,  so I have some experience with dealing with this in combination with Waldorf homeschooling. I say “some experience” simply because one child does not a generalization make!  In speaking with other parents whose children also have dyslexia, I find the symptoms of dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia play out very differently from child to child, so one must be super careful.  What works for one child with dyslexia may or may not work for another child.

However, I would like to share some general tips from my experience:

  1. Consider testing.  It typically is not the be all and end all in terms of being a shocker as to what it going on, but if your  older child does need accommodation for testing or wants to transfer into a school setting for middle or high school, testing is really important.  Testing usually also leads to suggestions for therapy or concentrations for remedial work/tutoring to focus on, which actually can be helpful. It can also help pinpoint things such as is working memory deficits or slow processing part of the picture, which can be helpful to know in teaching.
  2. Waldorf Education, with its experiential foundation, movement focus, and whole language development is great for all children, including those with dyslexia.  However, as children get older, don’t be afraid to incorporate products geared toward children with dyslexia.  We started with  “All About Spelling,” which seems to work well for some dyslexic children in fifth grade after a year of visual therapy  that took up part of third and fourth grade, but in looking back, I think we should have used some of these things earlier than we did. Our family was mainly searching for math and spelling help, since reading and comprehension were strengths,  but  some children really need an Orton-Gillingham based product such as “All About Reading” or  “Logic of English” for reading.  For dyscalculia, I recommend Ronit Bird’s work, which is based in games and  number flexibility and fits into Waldorf metholodolgy nicely.  She has a lovely You Tube Channel, where you can see some of the games in action.  For working specifically on how to write in the upper grades, I have had recommendations for “Writing Skills” by Diana Hanbury King.  I think there is supposed to be three books, but I can only find one book published so far, and although Book One says grade 4 or something like that, I wouldn’t be worried about working through it with a middle schooler. Hopefully the other books will come out!
  3. Don’t be afraid to adjust the response required from the new content, especially as the amount of content increases in grades five and up.  For example, children with dysgraphia will generally also have trouble with drawing pictures or other artistic responses such as modeling or painting, they may have difficulty free hand maps which is typically part of the middle school curriculum,  and obviously the physical act of writing summaries.  The physical difficulties in writing also impedes the flow of writing,  which can be fixed with the use of technology for typing, but some dyslexic students have  a really hard time with ordering and developing ideas and need a lot of work there.   For the upper grades, I typically require less written work than I did for my student without dyslexia.  Sometimes I modify things completely to eliminate much of the writing or drawing for some blocks.   For example, for some of the mineralogy work in sixth grade, we did more of a cut and paste approach to make a lapbook as a response or instead of making freehand maps that were detailed, we worked together to be able to draw the map or we skipped map making. I find it important to alternate work like this with blocks that require writing or artistic work. Because normally writing and artistic work takes these children a much longer time, these strategies are important in Waldorf homeschooling.
  4. However, in the same token, don’t neglect a path of improvement of academic  and artistic capacities in terms of writing summaries and artistic work in Waldorf Education. Don’t completely give up!  In general,  from my own experience and in speaking with other Waldorf homeschooling parents of children with dyslexia, you can expect the path of improvement to be very slow to nearly nonexistant in grades 1-3 . Some children in grades 1-3 have incredible behavioral issues associated with school, and it can be really discouraging as a homeschooling parent.  Our first three years in the grades was really rough, but if you stick with it,  you will get through it!  There usually is  some upswing at the end of third grade or over the summer between third and fourth grade and then heading into grades 4-6  even more progress (some parents report incredible changes, but other parents say it is still slow going).  In fifth through seventh grade I think there can be a sense of whilst things are much better from the starting point, “there is no catching up”  because in these grades one often sees the gap widen even further from what public school children and children without dyslexia are doing.  It can be difficult not to compare or wonder how the high school years will go. The balance of pushing, accomodations, and letting things blossom is a delicate combination and often a difficult juggle for the homeschooling parent handling this for the first time.
  5. Know when to start accommodations.  We started typing for our child in the spring semester of sixth grade (typically in a Waldorf School setting typing might be in eighth or ninth grade);  some families may start earlier.  The plan typically is the typing or technology as a response for main lesson material the following year or next semester, much the way one starts out teaching cursive and expects to see it in a main lesson book later.   Many parents of middle school students also end up investigating voice to text programs and how to record lectures in place of note-taking and so forth.  This will be very important for high school work.
  6. Consistently consider movement, vision, and therapeutic support.  We only have one eurythmist in our entire state, so curative eurythmy is not an option for us, but this might be for many of you.  The Waldorf Education books “Extra Lesson” and “Take Time” have many wonderful ideas and support.  Visual therapy can be helpful for some children if that is available, and I think movement and crossing midline in general is important.  Some children with dyslexia seem to resist movement and midline crossing, even in the middle school grades, so I think it is an important part of their education to consider what movement options are available.
  7. Get support for yourself.  There are days when I truly worry about what my child will do in a world where writing is required for nearly everything, and just need to talk to another parent who understands.  I know some parents who accept their child having dyslexia really in stride, especially if it is mild and easy to make accommodations, but some homeschooling parents really struggle as parents and teachers, especially in the early grades when one is just figuring out what is going on.   It can also be hard to be surrounded by a sea of homeschoolers on- line and in real life who are gifted and multiple grades ahead and doing college work at age 12 – you know the drill!  There is a huge push in the homeschooling world for dual enrollment, CLEP test, etc so for the older students with dyslexia it can be a bit daunting.   It is wonderful when other parents see and acknowledge the important gifts that your child brings, and of course, dyslexia and the like doesn’t define a person, but it does make us worried as parents – will they be able to do their own personal finances? What will they do for a job?  These are things that are hard for parents of children without dyslexia  to  really understand.  So find a like-minded soul or two that you can talk to on the really bad days.  There are also Facebook groups for homeschooling children with dyslexia as well.

I don’t think Waldorf Education in general does a good  job in discussing how to develop academic skills for  children with differing abilities in the upper grades.   This is also an issue not highly discussed in the Waldorf homeschooling community; all those beautiful pictures and blogs and Pinterest photos in the Waldorf world don’t tend to show the achingly hard work that goes into teaching children who learn differently.  Yet, Waldorf Education calls us to look at the child in front of us and respond to that child.  That is the very heart of Waldorf Education.  So be brave and full of courage!  You are doing the right things for your child!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Conversations With My Daughter

A long time ago, when my oldest daughter who will be sixteen in a few weeks was around ten (!!!), I wrote a blog post about some of the things I hoped to impart to her.  In this post, I talked about how since my mother died when I was young, she never had a chance to talk to me about any of the things about navigating being a  teenager or young adult, so I felt as if this conversations were really important and how I hoped to layer in discussion over time.

Since then, my surprise is that many women whose mothers were or are alive also didn’t receive ANY direction or guidance about navigating being a young adult!  There were no discussions on how to navigate choosing a career, finances, living on one’s own, choosing a partner for life, raising children, creating a family.  It was almost as if the child or teen would pick it up by osmosis, or figure it out for him or herself.  It rather floors me!

I had a little list in the blog post I linked above, and like to think I have imparted some guidance on each of these areas at this point.  This is very personal to our family since it includes living as an Episcopalian and in accordance with our baptismal vows since this is our family’s faith and often influences our politics as well; the foundation of Christian life; talks about marriage and children; serving others; boundaries; respecting oneself; healthy communication; the facets of health including whole food nutrition, homeopathy , herbs, movement and chiropractic care and how a woman changes throughout the life span;  money and finances.  You can come up with your own list based on your own family’s values, and that is really much of the fun! What do you think is super important that your teen needs to know to thrive in our world as a young adult?

Lately, we have been focusing on finance and insurance. Personal finance can be an area that is difficult for parents to discuss with teens. Sometimes it comes up when a  teen gets a job and opens a bank account or has to save for a large purchase such as a car.  However, it is also wonderful to talk about saving and types of saving, contributing to charities, and types of insurance that one has to carry, and how finances change over the life span. One thing I have recently pointed out to my oldest is that many people my age (47) don’t have much in the way of savings for retirement because either they weren’t interested in that in their 20s and 30s or life happened and much of the savings is now gone or that they really went out and bought too large a house and too many new things when they were starting out.  Some people my age are also still saddled under large student loans from college.  So, I have stressed that is important to start saving even in your teens and throughout the 20s and 30s and ways to free up enough money to do this (one: don’t live above your means!).  One resource some homeschooling moms of teens  use to discuss finance are the free materials from  The Actuarial Foundation.   Such things as developing a budget and the use of credit (or not) can also be discussed.  Credit ratings for buying a home is another area of interest.   The other point we have been talking about includes all types of insurance.  Many parents discuss car insurance with their teen drivers, but often don’t talk about homeowners insurance, medical insurance, life insurance ( and the difference between whole and term insurance), disability insurance, and long-term care insurance.  We plan to use the personal finance things in eleventh grade, so that should be interesting.

In the last few years my teen will be home, I also want to talk more about choosing a partner in life and the course of marriage. I find this is one area in which many women say they received absolutely no guidance other than they would date and fall in love…and from there, things were rather nebulous.  What traits should one look for in a spouse?  Why do some marital relationships fail over time and why do others thrive?   What boundaries should one have in intimate relationships?  What really does  make  a marriage thrive?  How do marriages change  if you have children?  Some resources I have found include the “Boundaries” book series, (this is  Christian, and I am certain there most be secular versions of this type of material).  The Gottman Institute also has a number of good articles on their blog and in their books regarding this subject.  I also have plans to discuss some of the concepts in this article and some things about narcissism  as many women my age are telling me they are married to narissists or have identified their own fathers as one.

The other area of focus I am also thinking about recently  includes child development, developing a family culture, taking care of a home, and how to guide children by developmental stage.  This is, of course, something that has been modeled all of these years, but I think it is important to say it in words and to really talk about it.  We will be doing health this year, so  some of these facets  will be part of our health class.

I would love to hear what you are talking about to your teen lately!  If you have found any great articles or resources that would be a terrific springboard for discussion with daughters, I would love to hear about it!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Celebrating August

I love August; not only is it my birthday month, but it is a month of beautiful shooting stars (and this year a solar eclipse!).  It is a time of blue skies,  pebbly beaches, starry nights and campfires, lake days, sunflower, lavender, and bees and honey.  I can sit outside and watch the hummingbirds and dragonflies and enjoy the loud sounds of many frogs and toads, and find grasshoppers and giant praying mantises.  Summer is at its peak around here! Continue reading

Homeschooling From Rest: The Morning Routine

One of the biggest challenges in homeschooling multiple children is coming to homeschooling from a place of rest, and holding rest as a value throughout the school year.  I wrote post about this subject with some suggestions, and today I would like to focus on the morning routine and having a beautiful morning

I think if you want peace in your home, then you have to think about the morning routine.  It is hard to get up and have children or other household members bombarding you with things they need before you are barely awake and not ready to face the day!  Many homeschooling parents do not consider themselves morning people, so I think the morning routine could be even more important in these cases because it is much easier to be more of a morning person if the morning goes well.

So, the creation of a beautiful morning requires some reflection. Many of my readers co-sleep with children, so everyone is up at the same time, but if you have the luxury, it is nice to think about what time you would like to be with your children and start the day.  What would peace in the morning look like for you – does it mean you need to prepare things the night before? get up before others in your family?  start your day with exercise or meditation or prayer and then deal with people?  take a family walk first thing?  Only you, as the architect of your family, can decide these things. Every family is different,and I think it is important to explore what works for you personally.

 

Here are possibilities to consider for the morning outside of care for others:

Spiritual tasks – prayer, meditation, yoga, gratitude journaling

Physical tasks – exercise, drinking lemon water, eating a nourishing meal

Mental tasks – looking at the day ahead,  setting forth ideas and intentions about the day that is beginning, list top one to three priorities to accomplish for the day

I would love to hear about your morning wake-up times and how you structure your morning routine!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

The Amazing Birthday

Above my head the stars do shine

Each star is like a flame,

And one is mine, that o’er me shone

When to this earth I came.

Upon this Earth my step is firm,

The stones are ‘neath my feet

I see the birds and beasts and flowers,

And loving people greet.

And every year the day returns

When my star shineth bright,

And I receive within my heart

The glory of its light.

-from “Waldorf Education:  A Family Guide”, page 130

Birthdays  in the Waldorf tradition for small children often involve a cape and a crown, lovely homemade cupcakes that are not too sugary, wishes from others for the development of character traits or the simple things in life, simple gifts of unusual stones, shells, flower petals.  It may involve a story of the child’s birth.  As the years go by, the cape and crown and simple gifts may recede, but the sentiments remain the same.

Today is my birthday, and I find it is an amazing day full of gratitude.  I am so grateful for all the things I learned in the last year, even the hard things!  I am grateful to be here for yet another birthday (47 today!), and grateful my husband has celebrated 29 birthdays with me.

Being in the late 40’s is empowering.  The crisis of 35-42 is gone, and I find these late 40s  on the cusp of a new cycle to be one of imagination, newness, warmth, and confidence.  I am so looking forward to this year and to 49 next year – the beginning of a new seven year cycle of 49-56 which I hope will bring more fun, more adaptability and humor.  My husband expressed to me this morning that life is a journey and how we enjoy the ride together.  This may sound like a cliche, but not at our age.  There are so many new possibilities to be open to, and the ability to grow and change together.  I have ideas just flowing into my head lately, and hope to be able to make at least a small part of them reality!

I hope when you have your birthday, you remind yourself of your own special energy, your own special thing that you bring to this short walk on earth, the wonderful gifts that you bring, and all the possibilities that life has for you.  It should be no less special to have  birthday when we are fifty  than when we are four.  Let us not forget!

Many blessings to you, my friends, and thank you for reading here.

Carrie

Discussions With Teachers: Discussion Three And Four

There are just certain written works or lectures that Waldorf teachers and Waldorf homeschooling parents re-read each summer before school starts.  For me, I usually choose between “Discussions With Teachers”, “Practical Advice to Teachers” or “Human Values in Education” (all by Rudolf Steiner). This year, I have decided to go through the lectures found in Rudolf Steiner’s “Discussion With Teachers” and to just share my notes as I go along with all of you.

So, Discussion Three  begins with questions about storytelling according to temperament. Steiner remarked, for example, that sanguines need to hear pauses in a story because their attention wander, and melancholics need emphatic details.  He then goes on to answer discussions about form drawing according to temperament; forms moving outward for the choleric, contrasting colors for the sanguine, starting from a circle and drawing inward for a phelgmatic child.    Steiner also talks about how to describe things so they are of interest to phlegmatic children, using the example of a horse, and in taking the description of the horse again,  telling it to involve the choleric children.  He also says something interesting at the end of the discussion about the importance of  developing the social will of the class, and how it is important to develop “social instincts.” Much of what is done in Waldorf classrooms is to connect the class together in a social way of community, and I often wonder what Steiner’s indications would have been for homeschooling in the day and age that we and our children are facing!

Discussion Four is primarily about math, so for those of you feeling lost in teaching math, I think this is a terrific lecture to read!  It begins with talking about introducing fractions, and moves on to whether or not a child who slouches has more difficulty understanding spatial and geometric forms, but then quickly gets into the heart of teaching the four processes according to temperament.

For example, Steiner talks about how to introduce adding.  He assumes that the children can count (so those of you with six year old kindergarteners, work on jumping rope rhymes with counting in them!) and talks about proceeding from the sum. If a child counts a number of objects, the total amount is the sum.  Then one can divide the objects into little piles, and all together those piles equal 27.  One immediately begins working with flexibility with numbers as a teacher in math.  Phlegmatics do best with this sort of working from the sum, whereas choleric children enjoy adding all the piles together to get the sum.  The melancholic children work well with subtraction, and then the sanguine can reverse this (ie, if I take 5 away from 8, I have 3 left).   He allows that the reverse temperaments should be doing the mathematical procedures in reverse.  Adding is related to the phlegmatic temperament, subtraction to the melancholic, multiplying to the sanguine, and dividing to the choleric.   He talks about going from plane geometry to solid geometry.  Form drawing with examples is further discussed, and storytelling for phlegmatic children, and how to use an element of surprise for the sanguine children.

One of the last things Steiner talks about in this discussion is the imbalances of the temperaments and how “if the melancholic temperament becomes abnormal and does not remain within the boundaries of the soul, but rather encroaches on the body, then insanity arises.”  He goes on to discuss the same with all the different temperaments, and also how to deal with exclusionary behavior, and how punishing children is never the answer.  “The aftereffect is not good,” said Steiner.

Discussion Five talks even more about the temperaments, so please come back for that discussion.  As teachers and homeschooling parents, it is so good that we re-read these lectures every year and bring them to life within us for the health of our children.

Many blessings,
Carrie