Creating A Waldorf Home

Today I submitted our Declaration of Intent to our state to homeschool for another year.  Tenth, seventh, and second grade here we come!  Eleven years of homeschooling! Eleven years of Waldorf at home!

What really makes a Waldorf home or a Waldorf homeschooling experience? Many families who are interested in Waldorf homeschooling and in creating a Waldorf home post on Facebook groups and in forums about creating a Waldorf environment in the home and seem much more interested in adding wooden toys and silks and such to their homes in an effort to make a Waldorf environment.  I have written about this numerous times before on this blog, and I call this the “hands stage” of Waldorf homeschooling.  It is the making of things, and the toys,  that attract many without understanding much depth about Waldorf Education in general.  This is not a bad thing, as this can morph into a greater feeling and thoughtfulness in understand the “why’s” of Waldorf Education in the future.

However, I believe that whilst wooden toys and silks are wonderful and good, it doesn’t take a lot of money to have a Waldorf home focused on simplicity and love.  This is especially true as children age and the days of wooden toys and silks, (although still loved, because who doesn’t love beauty?), are gone.  The basis of rhythm and some of the fundamentals of the Waldorf home still remain.

Some of the favorite things that I identify with a Waldorf home include:

Connection.  If the heart of Waldorf Education in a school is about the social organism that the class becomes, Waldorf homeschooling is about the connection between family members and between family members and the community in which we live. It means developing compassion and kindness for all people; this extends throughout all ages and is a constant source of inner work for adults.

Rhythm.  If one plans rhythm from your family values and according to the needs of all family members, rhythm is something that sustains you throughout all the years. Many of us still have baking day with teens in the house that we held when our children were tiny.  The rhythm doesn’t have to change too much throughout the years, so long as you keep to…

Simplicity.   In terms of time, this means making time for what matters.  Simplicity is a key of Waldorf homemaking, so we can say no to things, even good things, and have time for the things that mean the most to us as a family.  With the  issue of things, it means valuing re-using, recycling, upcycling, and hand making things.

Boundaries. Rhythm and simplicity is also about boundaries, which is an important part of Waldorf Education that many parents overlook. Boundaries help our tiny children grow into self-assured young men and women who are differentiated from us and who can live life purposefully.  Boundaries are not arbitrary, but based upon the understanding of the human being.

Low to no media, and I would add for older teens (high school), being able to see a computer or other tech for what it is – a tool.   Again, this doesn’t have to change a lot with teens in the house.  Tech can still be used and loved but also limited for time or content for the sake of balance, because even adults can have a hard time getting their footing with tech and phones.  Again, working with these things requires a knowledge of the development of the human being.

Nature.  Whilst many children become more sedentary the older they become, it doesn’t have to be that way.  Providing opportunities to be outside many hours a day, working hard and playing hard, is something totally adaptable from tinies up through teenagers.

Work.  Waldorf education not only values practicality and hand-making, but an experiential, working approach to life.  Instead of just sitting and watching, the Waldorf home is about doing.  We all take care of our home, each other, and our animals and plants because we are all connected.

Flexibility and problem-solving, being able to do positive, purposeful things for ourselves and others, clear thinking, creativity, kindness, compassion and connectedness are just a few things that become the foundation of character of children raised in Waldorf homes. This, to me, is the heart of the Waldorf home.

Much love to you all,

Carrie

 

 

 

Boundaries, Empathy, Consequences

So in order to understand how to use a three-fold model of discipline ,one must have a little background about the three terms involved:

Empathy –   Empathy can  be offered non-verbally, by holding a hand, rubbing a shoulder, hugging a child or even a smile.    It can be offered verbally by acknowledging feelings with a word or sound. All feeling are acceptable, but all behavior is not.   Empathy can be offered before or after a boundary is set, or both.   Modeling empathy is an important tool for today’s children.

There is a large push to help tiny  children “name their feelings” these days.  Helping children to name feelings, to me, is not the same as empathy.  To me, this is a separate step. Yes, it is important for older children to be able to express their feelings and know what their feelings are and how to deal with negative emotions in a self-compassionate way.   It is important to understand nuances of emotion as this is a tool for the real world and real relationships.

A back post that may help you: Changing Our Parenting Language

Boundaries – boundaries are particular to a situation/place (the rule when we are at the museum or place of worship or wherever) in society, or particular to your family’s values.   Boundaries are the rules of the house that everyone tries to abide by because we all live together and work as a team.  Boundaries should be stated calmly, and firmly, and described. (For example, “Books belong on the bookshelf, not on the floor” is a simple example of this, when a parent sees a book on the floor).   The child should never be attacked or blamed.  Sometimes  one word will suffice, especially with teenagers.  If your child always sets their smelly sneakers on your kitchen counter and you don’t want them there, you can just point and say, “Shoes!” Sometimes boundaries can be put in writing as well, and this can work well for teenagers.  If the boundary is broken, we state what the expectation (the boundary) actually is again, and decide how to proceed with consequences and restitution.  We need to proceed to this step when we are calm.

A few back posts that may help:

Boundaries for Gentle Parenting

Re-claiming Authority Part One

Consequences – The best consequences are immediate and relatable to what happened.   For small children, this is often easier than with older children.  For example, our little guy tried to hot glue gun his sister’s door shut this week.  She was unhappy with that and felt it was just an extension of him hanging outside her closed door.   So, as a consequence and restitution, the hot glue gun ended up with me, he had to write an apology note to this sister (and I had to sit with him to write it since he doesn’t write very well yet), and he had to clean the door.  Consequences often take our time, our energy, our physical help.  Yelling at a child isn’t a consquence; it shows our frustration, but the child doesn’t get much from that in terms of correcting the original problem.  And what we really are teaching through natural or logical, immediate and relatable consequences is problem- solving for when children are older and we are modeling conflict resolution skills for life.

Parenting can become much more grey the older children become, and the consequences aren’t as immediate or relatable. It is okay to take time with teenagers and think about what would be most helpful in any situation.  Consequences are not there for punishment at all, but as a logical and natural outcome of what has happened.

Restitution – While a  consequence is often external or even natural (I forgot a coat after my mom reminded me ten times, and now I am cold),  I like to think of restitution as a more internal part of the child trying to get this boundary down.  Restitution could be writing a letter of apology, fixing something that was physically broken, doing a kind deed for someone that the child has hurt.  Part of restitution with older children is also working out what will work for the future for both of you, the parent, the family, and the child.   Because when we live in a family, it isn’t just about you.   This is part of the child learn how to rule over himself.

A few back posts that may help:

How To Instill Inner Discipline In A Child

I hope that helps.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

A Discipline Toolbox

The major discipline tools for all ages are

  • Empathy/Compassion
  • Correction (The Boundary)
  • Consequences and Restitution

If you have only empathy/compassion without the correction, then you have an empty discipline toolbox indeed.  All three parts are needed to have a functioning toolbox to help guide children into becoming healthy adults who can have functioning relationships, families, and jobs of their own.

Children may protest boundaries, but yet it is ours to lovingly hold boundaries until are children can internalize the boundaries and hold them for themselves.  Only providing a child with compassion or empathy, and no boundary and no consequence, will not help a child internalize that.   Many parents I work with will protest this and wonder why we need boundaries at all, but boundaries are where I end and you begin.  Boundaries are what enable healthy relationships;  they enable us to be able to take our responsibility for things in life but also to not hold things that are not ours to carry.  We can help our children attain this, using all three of these pieces.

If boundaries are difficult for you, then it  may be hard to teach it to your children and hard for you to hold boundaries. It may be that nothing short of hurting someone else deserves a boundary.  However, there are many tools children need to function in the world that involve more than just not being able to hurt someone, and boundaries are there to help develop these qualities.  We want children to know who they are, what they are responsible for, how to intiate and maintain loving relationships.  Because in the end, you are not raising this child for yourself.  You are raising this child for all of humanity, and for this child’s future family.  Sometimes, this means uncomfortable growth for both us and for the child.  And that is okay.

Always and ever growing,

Carrie

 

 

 

Rhythm Is Peace

Rhythm can sound like that elusive thing.  Sure, other families can have a rhythm and routine to their day, but it seems so unattainable, some parents say.  Yet most parents I know desperately WANT a rhythm and routine in their household.  They want things to run peaceably and they know rhythm is a key to that; it is indeed a key to the functioning of the human body!  Just imagine if our heart decided to beat irregularly or our lungs just decided to not breath for a few minutes. Rhythm is the well spring of life, for the body and the soul.

The top five reasons some mothers have told me they just cannot get a rhythm for their family going, even though they want to:

  1. “I hate rigidity” – A rhythm can be flexible; it can have a flow to it without times attached to it. Rhythm actually helps you be MORE flexible because what is essential to getting done will get done and you will have more time for sponaneous helping of neighbors and for having fun!
  2. “I am unorganized” – All the more reason to have a rhythm; rhythm is a great collector of the soul. A rhythm will help you and your family feel safe, secure, and grounded.
  3. “I am so stressed out” – Rhythm helps take away much of your stress because it acts as an aid to rest and sleep, an aid to gentle discipline, an aid to getting the essential things done, and an aid to helping you take care of yourself.
  4. “I can’t get a rhythm until X, Y,Z changes” – Rhythm is for where you are right here and right now!  Things may not be perfect in your life or in your home environment, but having a rhythm come first can be a big help in taking baby steps toward other goals because you can build time toward these goals in your rhythm.
  5. “I am always behind and can’t get ahead”- Rhythm is a great help in order to break things up into small bits and pieces that feel mother-sized, rather than overwhelming.

I find an easy place to start is often with rising times and going to bed times, and then build rhythm from there.  Some families find it easier to start with meal times.  Whatever the case, you can start small and tailor it to your own family.  Baby steps!

May this be the season of rhythm and renewal for you!

Blessings,
Carrie

Rest As A Task For The Waldorf Homeschooling Parent

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

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

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

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

Blessings,
Carrie

First Grade (Little-Talked About) Resources

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,
Carrie

Building Your Homeschooling Around Rest

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

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

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

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

Blessings and love,
Carrie