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

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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

 

 

What Are Waldorf Grades 6-8 About Anyway?

In the Waldorf School, there is often a sharp drop-off at sixth grade (the twelve year change), and then again as children enter high school in grade nine, as many parents switch to different forms of education.  This is also happens in Waldorf homeschooling. I know very few people who are Waldorf homeschooling grades 6-8 in the manner in which they homeschooled grades 1-5.  For many homeschoolers, this coincides with an uptick in outside activities of their children with just not enough time to plan or implement something lengthy, the want/need for children to do something more independently, or simply a dissatisfaction with the middle school curriculum as it is often said the true “thinking” part of Waldorf Education begins in high school.

I personally think it may be more of a daunting teaching problem rather than anything else.  I found this interesting quote regarding a more esoteric view of the human being  from  January 2002, Volume 7 #1: Did Rudolf Steiner Want a Seven-Grade Elementary School Configuration? – Waldorf Library in discussing whether or not a teacher should be with a class for all eight classes:

Waldorf education is not only about educating but about “awakening” the children. If a teacher does not possess the powers of awakening a certain age group, should one not accept that and instead work with the principle of specialization?

I think this problem of “awakening” children sometimes is daunting not only for teachers in a Waldorf School setting (who really might be better served by being with early years children) and who don’t want to awaken older children, but also for homeschool teachers as well…if we don’t awaken children by throwing facts and judgment at their heads, then how do we awaken them in the middle school grades?   How do we teach?  As the days with older children grow busier and more out of the home, these grades are not spoken about nearly enough compared to first and second grade, at least in the homeschool world. How do we get sixth through eighth graders ready for high school?  Still, though, in my observation of my own children and in looking at other children from even non-Waldorf families and what those children are ASKING to study during those years, the Waldorf curriculum meets those needs in a lovely way.

I found this interesting quote regarding a more esoteric view of the human being  from  this article:

The four upper grades deal with the same aspects of the human being in reverse order. In the fifth grade, the great individuals of Ancient History stand as a polarity to the Norse Myths, because they both deal with the human ego. The sixth grade topic of Romans, especially Roman law, is polar to the Hebrew Law because law shapes the astral. The seventh grade topic of Age of Discovery is polar to the topic of animal fables; both are connected to the life of people/ animals or to the etheric in general. The eighth grade topic of cultural history is polar to the archetypes found in Fairy tales of the first grade, because both describe the nature of human archetype thus representing the physical body level of the curriculum. A teacher who masters such interrelationships has mastered the content, form, and organic wholeness of the entire curriculum, and is thereby able to give the children the sense that all the subjects are interconnected and taught for a purpose.

Steiner did give indications of what to bring in these upper grades and it all culminates beautifully in the high school curriculum, where tenth grade is back into Ancient History, eleventh grade is back into Medieval and Renaissance topics, and twelfth grade is back into modern scenes.  A beautiful balance of the working of the will (cultural geography), working with the heart (history and literature), and working with clarity of thinking (math and sciences) permeates all grades.

I urge you to think about how the curriculum that served your children so well in the younger years serves them even better in the upper grades and high school.  I see children in the middle school years who are asking about the exact topics that the curriculum provides! It doesn’t change just because a child is past 12 or even past the 15/16 change.  The curriculum meets the child in front of you.

Many blessings,

Carrie

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