Extending Indigenous Cultures Throughout The American Waldorf Curriculum

I wrote posts some time ago about multiculturalism in the Waldorf School curriculum, about extending African studies through the curriculum, and about extending Latin America, particularly the study of the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec tribes, throughout the curriculum.

I  am not sure how many Waldorf homeschooling families subscribe to “Renewal:  A Journal for Waldorf Education”.  It really is a wonderful journal, and brings up many interesting ways of keeping the curriculum open, up to date, and inclusive.  I was very pleased to see the most recent Fall/Winter 2017 issue of “Renewal:  A Journal for Waldorf Education” had an article entitled, “Indigenous Cultures and the Waldorf Curriculum:  Suggestions for Grades One Through Eight” by Adam Jacobs and Ronald Koetzsch.  This article grew out of the 2016 Rudolf Steiner College’s conference on the “California Indian Curriculum and Stories.”  There were suggestions in this article how different pieces of the indigenous cultures fits into every grade of the Waldorf curriculum, and where it views might  be discongruent.  This is especially important as Waldorf Education is now established both on the Pine Ridge Reservation (Lakota; United States) and on the Six Nations of the Grand River Reservation (all six Iroquois nations living together; Canada), and I imagine will continue to expand over the coming years.

Suggestions included:

Grade 1 – Native American tales.  Of course the expectation is to find Native authors who have told these tales, not European versions of these tales.  One book recommended included “A Broken Flute:  The Native Experience in Books for Children” and the website American Indians in Children’s Literature.

Grade 2 – Possibilities for the Saints blocks included Deganawida (Iroqouis), Black Elk (Oglala Lakota), and Wovoka (Northern Plains).  Animal stories are always used in second grade, and this article talked about the disparity between the western view of animals as less developed and the Native view of animals as “models of behavior to be observed and integrated.”  This is important to know as we teach.

Grade 3 – Creation stories (Although important for the teacher to note that  in a Native American framework, creation is always present and occurring). Many North American homeschoolers combine Native American studies with the shelter and fiber  blocks of Third Grade, which was not mentioned in this article.

Grade  4 – Trickster tales where the trickster is crossing the boundaries between good and evil, heaven and earth are often found in Native American tales and appropriate for those in fourth grade and past the nine year change.  (And yes, we often hear about trickster tales in second grade. The first time I heard about trickster tales in fourth grade was in the Math By Hand curriculum, which is also out of California.  I found this interesting!) According to the article, another place to consider integrating Native Americans includes the biographies of great Native leaders in local geography.  There were suggestions for dealing with colonial encounters with the book, “American Indian Myths and Legends” and Thomas King’s “A Coyote Columbus Story.”  I have not personally seen these books, so I have no recommendation. I tend to tread lightly on colonialism and its horrors in fourth grade and really delve into depth with these topics in middle school and high school, so I think every homeschooling family will decide what is right for them.

I find it interesting there is no mention of Native American views integrated with the Man and Animal block.

Grade  5 – It was acknowledged that there are “at least three cradles of civilization that are not usually emphasized in Waldorf schools – the North China Valley, the Andean area, and Mesoamerica.”    This article suggests including the Classic Mayan civilization for certain, and talks about how many Waldorf schools are already including China.  You can see the link to the back post I linked above regarding Latin America as to how I have integrated the Mesoamerican and Andean civilizations into our homeschooling.

Grade 6 –  The article mentioned the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederation could be an intersting political model in addition to the Roman Empire.

Grade  7 – Noted that “The Age of Discovery” and  such terms are very Eurocentric (and, in my view, no longer needed). Do bring in stories of Ibn Battutu ( see my back posts on Africa to delve deeper into this), Zheng He, and the Polynesian people. I think most Waldorf homeschoolers I know have been doing this for years, but glad to see it mentioned here.

One lovely thing mentioned here is that the “spiritual destiny” of the Americas was not to have indigenous people subjugated and their lands taken away and their resources exploited. I also was very glad to see this in print and hope all Waldorf schools and teachers take note of this.  This is an Age of Colonialism, and the bad things that went along with this and also the contributions of the Native Peoples (farming, navigation, diplomacy, etc) to the very survival of the colonists can be noted. Such a duality!

Grade 8 – One other duality  mentioned in this article to bring in during block  regarding the Industrial Revolution and Westward Expansion is the duality that while the genocide of Native Americans was occurring on American soil,  the ideas of the  Haudenosaunee Confederacy were helping to shape governmental structure.

Over all of the intermeshing of the ideals of both some Native American tribes and Waldorf Education is ethical individualism,  where every act of the individual is  seen as one of spirituality and one of responsibility.  This is embodied in the Great Law of Peace and as an ideal  in Waldorf Education as the pinnacle of the developing human being.

Many Blessings,
Carrie

 

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An Outline of Fifth Grade Ancient Mythologies

Fifth grade Ancient Mythologies is an interesting block. I find it to be one of the more anthroposophic blocks of fifth grade in a way, because the platform underneath this block is really in tracing the development of the spiritual consciousness of  (Western) man through several different civilizations.  Typically this starts with Ancient India, Ancient Persia, Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt (and I always include more about Ancient Africa here!),  and landing in Ancient Greece.  Some Waldorf schools include Ancient China, which doesn’t really fit into Steiner’s original nod to the development of the Western consciousness, but I think is important before getting to sixth grade history proper.  So this isn’t really about history per se, but a child is getting a great feel for these cultures, how the people thought and lived at the time, what the land was like and how people lived on the land, and how the consciousness of people changed over time.

Some of my favorite resources for this block includes:

  • Any of the Live Education books on these subjects
  • Chapters From Ancient History  by Dorothy Harrer
  • Ancient Mythologies by Charles Kovacs
  • The Christopherus Ancient Mythology book (Ancient China is included in the main fifth grade syllabus, but not this separate book).

So I think in trying to combine all of this in a broad, sweeping view one must, like in any block about a place, time or culture, look for the things that are the incredible hallmarks that one finds in these civilizations that provide the big picture keys to the land, the people, the thinking process of those people and how the thinking changed or evolved.

Here are some of my brief notes on each of these areas that might help you:

At the beginning of this block, I like to talk about time  and some ideas about how we look at large blocks of time, BCE, millenia, century, generation, etc.  You can get into this a little more in mineralogy and such, but I think it is worth a mention before you look at these very ancient stories!

Ancient India:

The Land -Basic Ideas:  The vastness; the Himalayas – the throne of the gods; the Indus and the Ganges Rivers; I touched on Harappa not so much as a history proper lesson but to plant the idea that civilizations often spring up around rivers just like we saw in our local geography in fourth grade;  six major climatic subtypes.  I find painting to be a good way to express landscape variety in fifth grade.

The People /The Thinking – as illuminated best by the great stories : The Creation Story (About Hinduism website); a story about Indra comes next in the Kovacs book but I could not find that on the About Hinduism website so we moved into story about the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.  Some of the major concepts of Hinduism. The story about Brahma and his four heads; Vishnu and Lakshmi;  Shiva;  we did the story of Manu and used the story of Manu and the Flood; the caste system; the laws of Manu; the sacredness of the cow; the story of the sons of Pandu from the Mahabharata.

The story of Rama and Sita is in Live Education, Dorothy Harrer’s book and Christopherus has a play version.  The story of Rama and Sita is often told at Diwali, so a community celebration may also bring this to life.

Experiential Learning: a field trip to your local mandir would be fantastic, especially around Diwali.  Cooking.  Ancient Indian Music.  Make a 3D map of India.

General Ideas:  The book “Come Unto These Yellow Sands” has “Look to this Day” from the Sanskrit, the Dorothy Harrer book has “The Song of Creation” from the Rig Veda.  “A Journey Through Verse and Time” also has part of the Rig Veda in it. The  “Story of Brahma” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  There is a poem regarding the caste system on page 221 of “A Journey Through Verse and Rhyme”

Free Resources to Love: Waldorf Inspirations Fifth GradeHomeschooling Waldorf blog post

Read Alouds:  The Iron Ring by LLoyd Alexander.

Ancient Persia:

The Land: A land of extreme heat and cold,  flat plains that caused Persia to be invaded over the years; no major rivers for travel; the Zagros Mountain area,

The People/The Thinking – as illuminated by the great stories -“Knowledge of self is knowledge of God”; Zoroastrianism, which is considered an early influence on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and one of the first monotheistic religions; the Avesta (the holy book of Zoroastrianism) and the battle between Ahura Mazdao and Ahriman; how people moved into farming.  I think the best stories for this part are those found in Kovacs’ book. The Wise Men are also a good story to include.

Experiential Learning:  Drawings of the stories of Zarathustra; find a family or communal celebration of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Paintings of the land, modeling of stars or daggers; dioramas of first farming; cooking Persian food.

General Ideas:   I find this a good time to review writing fantastic sentences and paragraphs.   Verse on page 222 of “A Journey Through Time in Verse and Rhyme.”

Free Resources to Love:  There is a play about Zarathustra in the Hawthorne Valley Harvest Elementary play collection, available for free here.  Sheila has a lovely post with ideas here

Ancient Mesopotamia:

The Land:  The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers; the impact of this on the Sumerians, Babylonians, and the Assyrians.  Farming and domestication of animals.

The People/The Thinking:  The story of Marduk in Kovacs; the story of Hammurabi; ziggurats and astronomy; the famous hanging gardens; the story of Gilgamesh; the irrigation system of the Mesopotamia; Cuneiform writing; Hammurabi’s Code; the invention of the wheel.

Experiential Learning:  Clay tablets; ziggurat models or paintings; paintings of the land, glue painted plaques from Pinterest, make sand clay, drawings of Gilgamesh.

Free Resources/General Ideas:  This is a nice blog post from Five of Us

Read Alouds: Gilgamesh, of course!

Ancient Egypt:

The Land:  The Land of Egypt; The Nile, The Flooding of the Nile

The People/The Thinking – as illuminated by great stories:  The Creation Myth; The Birth of Osiris and Isis; The Terror of Sekmet; Ra’s Secret Name; any of the other many Egyptian Mythologies; life in Ancient Egypt; the pyramids; Hieroglyphics and the Rosetta Stone;  mummies (why?  what does this have to do with the afterlife?)

I like to extend into Ancient Africa here – there are more pyramids in Sudan than Egypt!  Places to begin might include Nubia and artistic work around that and how Egypt was conquered by  Nubia (this National Geographic article might be helpful with this idea); the Zaire Basin and the Mbuti; The Creation Story of the San People.

Experiential Learning:  Drawings and paintings of the Egyptian stories; drawing and paintings of the pyramids and the landscape; working with making paper;  visiting Egyptian artifacts at your local museum; making an Egyptian feast

Resources:  Tales of Ancient Egypt by Roger Lancelot Green; Hymn to Ra; background reading for the teacher might be this article:  Waldorf Journal Project #4. There are also some free resources on Main Lesson.Com. “Pyramid” by David Macauley.

Read Alouds:  The Golden Goblet or Mara of the Nile

That is just a bit to start you on!  It isn’t hard to put together these blocks, and the library often is an incredible source of free resources.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

Preparing for Advent 2017

Advent is a time of anticipation and waiting in the Christian tradition.  In the tradition of the Waldorf schools, however, Advent is accessible to all faiths as a season of hope and waiting; a season of lightness in the dark.

One thing I love to do around Thanksgiving is to start to gather greens that we will use to build an Advent wreath. Many families find an Advent wreath with a verse to be a comforting daily or weekly ritual.  The verse that many Waldorf families use with their Advent wreath is this one:

The first Light of Advent It is the Light of stones:
The Light that shines in seashells In crystals and our bones.

The second Light of Advent It is the Light of plants:
Plants that reach up to the sun And in the breezes dance.

The third Light of Advent, It is the light of beasts:
The Light of faith that we may see In greatest and in least.

The fourth Light of Advent It is the Light of humankind:
The Light of hope, of thoughts and deeds,
The Light of hand, heart and mind.

Each week, one can choose to add the things mentioned in the verse – seashells and crystals; plants; wooden animals or other representations of the animal kingdom and then lastly representations of the human realm.

There are so many wonderful Advent ideas and books out there.  Some of the favorites I have had from over the years include the ebooks from Little Acorn Learning and from Annette over at Seasons of Joy.  You can also see my Nativity Fast/Advent Pinterest board and my General Advent board.

Here are some back posts about Advent, Winter Celebrations, and the first week of Advent:

Advent For All Ages

The Mystery of Advent

The Inner Work of Advent

Advent and Winter Celebrations

The First Week of Advent 2009

The First Week of Advent 2010

The First Week of Advent 2011

The First Week of Advent 2012

The First Week of Advent 2015

The First Week of Advent 2016

 

Please share your Advent traditions!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Thanksgiving Fun

I have to be totally honest. Thanksgiving is not really one of my favorite holidays.  I mean, I enjoy the attitude of gratitude, but I really don’t enjoy the whole sit around and eat. First of all, I don’t love sitting that much.  And I don’t enjoy that Thanksgiving in the United States has become really no more than a prelude to the crazy commercial holiday season of December, and that makes me sad.

So, this year, I would love to see people making Thanksgiving about connections and gratitude (not just food). I would love to see more people boycott Black Friday in favor of getting outside with their family.  I would love to see some meaningful traditions that involve more than copious amounts of food.

How about any of the following:

  • Volunteer to help others.  
  • Invite someone who would otherwise be alone to be a part of your Thanksgiving feast.
  • Pick out a charity to support until next Thanksgiving.  Share your favorites in the comment box!
  • Go to your place of worship
  • Make a gratitude jar, or have a gratitude tree where things one is grateful for are written down and read at dinner
  • Take a walk and get outside.  My ultimate dream is actually to camp on Thanksgiving.  Maybe one year!

If you have small children, really do think ahead. Sometimes Thanksgiving can feel rather “adult” with the adults just sitting around and talking.  Not much fun for children!  Bring crafts for the children to do, get a copy of the book “Cranberry Thanksgiving” and make cranberry bread (you can see the recipe here), help the children be involved in cooking and setting the table, learn some Thanksgiving music (you can see suggestions in this back post, “A Waldorf View of Thanksgiving.”) that you all can sing and play after dinner.

Please share with me your favorite family traditions!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

November Beauty

I shall not sing a May song.

A May song should be gay.

I’ll wait until November

And sing a song of gray.

I’ll wait until November

That is the time for me.

I’ll go out in the frosty dark

And sing most terribly.
And all the little people

Will stare at me and say, “That is the Crazy Woman Who would not sing in May.”
-“The Crazy Woman” by Gwendolyn Brooks

 

I know for some people the days in November get too dark and too gray, but  I always try to remember that November is a lovely month in so many ways.  It is a month full of gratitude for the season and it has that snuggly,cozy feeling as the days become longer and darker.

This month we are celebrating:

  • November 1 All Saints Day
  • November 2 All Souls Day
  • November 10/11  Martinmas and Veterans Day (technically both on the 11th but our town had a community celebration for Veterans Day on the 10th)
  • November 19 St. Elizabeth
  • November 23 Thanksgiving
  • November 27  I have it in my calendar to make Advent Wreaths in preparation for the first Sunday in Advent, December 3rd.  (Hard to believe Advent is almost upon us!  If you want a little peek ahead, try my Advent Pinterest Board)

Learning and celebrating:

  • Learn songs for a Martinmas Lantern Walk
  • Use transparency paper to make window silhouettes and transparency cut-outs and lanterns.
  • Bake bread on the cold days
  • Look for bird’s  nests as the trees lose their leaves; make feeders start to be filled all the time, make treats for the birds
  • Dip leaves in glycerin or beeswax and preserve them
  • Cook things with cranberries, corn, and pumpkin.
  • Learn some Thanksgiving songs and practice so you can play them after Thanksgiving Dinner!
  • Find a place to volunteer to serve Thanksgiving dinner
  • Make Thanksgiving Baskets and leaving them on your neighbor’s doorstep!
  • Gather greens and natural items to use for an Advent Wreath.  We do this at church from the areas surrounding the church and it is quite lovely!
  • Find books, cozy blankets and pillows, and mark off half days for just reading and lounging around. Pull out candles, homemade Martinmas lanterns, salt lamps  and scatter them around.  Cuddle up and read with some fabulous tea or hot chocolate.
  • Find handwork projects that you will love and get started.

Other Ideas for this month:

  • Get a small jump on gifts for the holidays. Here is my Pinterest Board of holiday gifts to make
  • Make sure you are still getting your Vitamin N and get out in nature!
  • Dream a little about the next school year in homeschooling ❤

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Nurturing Parenting: The 12-14 Year Old

One interesting thing that Waldorf Schools typically do in sixth grade (at least in the United States) is to have the students make dolls.  These are  not put together the way a professional dollmaker would put a doll together,  but more from an organic process that almost follows the development of the embryo itself and forshadows the physical development of the human being as it comes to life.  From loving nothingness to a small tightly wrapped ball (the head), expanding into the universe as a defined trunk  then with limbs taking shape (arms with a thumb and legs with feet)  and finally  a little being with twinkling eyes,  beautiful hair and clothes.

This fulllness of the human being is then echoed in seventh grade physiology, in eighth grade studies of reproduction, and in tenth grade in the studies of embryology.  This beautiful expanse of the human being is coming at a time of intense fragility of the 12-14 year old.

It is easy to think that once one is through the nine/ten-year-change, that the floodgates open wide. I have discussed some of these issues before in a series on portals.  And yet, there is still a twelve-year-old change to follow, and a fifteen/sixteen year change, which to me may be the most dramatic of them all.

Much like the toddler stage of life, young people of this age need protection at this time.  This is the time of the middle school grades in the United States, and often noted to be a very difficult time due to differences in physiological development, peer cliques, and I believe that the use of social media has compounded these issues. Being rather stuck between wanting to be more adult-like but also have the freedoms of childhood is difficult for the child, but also for the parent!

There is a certain fragility and uncertainty in these years that are like no other. Balancing the freedoms often provided to these group and the structure is a navigational process. I believe this age group needs protection from their limitless energy and wanting to do too much.  The limits of this age group in doing activities has essentially been eliminated. In the past, one might start playing sports in middle school (and you didn’t get much play until 8th grade) or doing more than one activity in high school. Now children in middle school have been playing sports for years and doing many activities.  They need help setting guidelines for sleeping, healthy eating, and more, and helping in meeting those guidelines even when they would rather stay up extraordinarily late or eat only sugary snack food.

So, in parenting this age group, please consider limits.  Children of 12-14 should not be treated like an older teenager with all the fun and none of the responsibilities.  While there is a campaign to“Wait Until 8th” for a smartphone , many twelve to fourteen year olds are navigating social media sites and media usage.  Media should not be limit-free for this age group!  Sending nude pictures, sexting, and using social media and texts in order to bully  a peer is sadly not uncommon in this age group because again, many of the children this age have no limits in terms of hours on their devices, and parents are not checking phones and computers.  One way to think about setting limits on media is to use a device like a Disney Circle; you can see a review from 2015 here; I believe now certain sites can be more easily blocked than what this review has stated.  Some parents have no idea what their child is doing on line or that they have multiple used profiles on Instagram or are on Snapchat or other sites. Devices such as these can trail usage across multiple devices.

Children of this age may need help being active in a free and easy way.  Many children this age like to “hang out” but the days of 12  and 13 year olds zooming bikes around a neighborhood or playing pick up games may not happen as much in the past.  How can this child be active without or in addition to an organized sport?  This typically requires free time that has no agenda. Having time to just be protects children and gives them space in this fragile state where they are emerging and trying to hear their own voice and may even give them time to connect with you, the parent.  You are still more important than peers at this age. In fact, I think the ages leading up to the fifteen/sixteen year changes may be one of the times you have the greatest influence.  So don’t give up! 

Lastly, help your child not to be a terrible human being with peers.  No, we can’t police everything, and yes, perhaps we were not policed in our peer relationships at this age in the past, and yes, friendships come and go in the middle school years as middle schoolers try to find their own voice and where they belong.  However, I think because so much of the free group play of the early years and early grades has been lost and replaced by adult-led, structured activities, children this age are coming into the more socially difficult middle school years with even less social abilities than in previous generations.  Help your child to learn what a loyal friendship looks like; is that friend really a friend or not; what bullying and toxic behavior looks like, talk to them about peer pressure in the areas of drugs and alcohol and sexuality.

Provide areas where children MUST show responsbility, whether that is nurturing the home, helping to care for a younger sibling, help with elders in the family, run a tiny business from the home.  Too many of the children this age have many toys and a run of what they want to do with no limits, but yet have no responsibility outside of themselves in terms of contributing to the family.

Most of all, just love them.  These years bring many changes in development in all areas being human.  Remember that this age is not 17 or 18 though, and as opposed to guiding an older teenagers with check-ins, they may need more parenting and limits than an older age group.  Being involved in this fragile, almost back to toddlerhood stage of needing protection is how it should be. It is a fine line between hovering and meddlesome and being helpful; boundaries are key to navigating this.  If you need help, I highly suggest you make friends with parents who have older children that you admire.  It can be helpful to hear what worked really well at this age, especially in those older teenagers that might have a similar personality to your younger child.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

Rhythm Renewal!

I am very excited that this may be the week that some things straighten out and we will have less emergency driving for medical issues amongst our family members. Being closer to home is ALWAYS helpful in re-establishing rhythm.  I have heard from many of you that this autumn has been difficult for varying reasons, and that we all need a rhythm reboot!

The benefits of rhythm are so astounding in forming a peaceful family life.  Having a clear flow to the day ( a flow, not a rigid minute-by-minute schedule) helps everyone approach the day with understanding and cooperation.  The only person who can determine the rhythm that is right for your family is YOU and your family members.  No two families are alike, and no two families have the same daily and weekly rhythm.

I can’t totally guess what our rhythm will look like once we have our four-legged family member home and the amount of care that will entail, but I do know basically for now our rhythm looks somewhat like this:

Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays:

  • Morning Rhythms
  • High School Main Lesson
  • Second Grade Main Lesson (includes physical activity outside)
  • Seventh Grade Main Lesson
  • Lunch and Rest
  • Writing or Health
  • All together projects
  • Barn Life for the older two children on Tuesday, possibly other days as needed. Fridays I usually stay home and clean and get ready for a peaceful weekend.

And on Wednesdays it looks like

  • Morning Rhythms
  • High School Main Lesson
  • Seventh Grade Main Lesson
  • High Schooler Outside Class/ Lunch
  • Barn Life

And on Thursdays, our crazy day

  • Morning Rhythms
  • High Schooler at outside class
  • Second Grade Main Lesson
  • Seventh Grade Main Lesson
  • Lunch
  • Music classes/Music Lessons

I wrote a seven-part series about rhythm in 2012 that might be of help to you if you are trying a rhythm reboot!

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven