The Cardinal Rules of Waldorf Homeschooling

I was thinking recently about what  would MOST help people new to Waldorf homeschooling or those struggling with burnout who need to re-center.  Sometimes we need this re-centering in February!

My personal “cardinal rules” of Waldorf homeschooling:

  1. Make LOVE the core of your homeschool.  This is always more important than any academic progress or Main Lesson or artistic focus.  This is the foundation of becoming and being human.
  2. Always work with not only your WHOLE child (physical body, life forces through rhythm, the feeling life and the spiritual life) but with the WHOLE family.  Homeschooling is about family.
  3. The homeschooling parent needs to feel stable in order to have successful lessons.  It is may be necessary to unschool, use a workbook, or do something else to get through a truly difficult or horrific season.  If you homeschool  long enough, I think it it will come out in the wash.  The homeschooling parent may need to work on his or her own baggage in order to bring this type of homeschooling successfully and it  may take time.
  4. Do what you can.  You cannot have a Waldorf School in your home.  Waldorf homeschooling follows in the traditions of the Waldorf School, but is not Waldorf School at home. It is Waldorf homeschooling; it is holistic homeschooling for all the human beings in the house!
  5. Celebrate the rhythm of the day, week, and year and hold on to it in a simple and sustainable way.  Celebrate the festivals, even with teens.  They will thank you later.
  6. Work from the local and innocent child in front of you to your home to your local area to your local state or province to your country to your region of the world to the world.  It will all come in time.  If you get nervous, look ahead to the later middle grades and the high school grades.  It is ALL there.
  7. Get a spiritual path for your family and KEEP it. Draw strength from it!
  8. Get out in nature every day and take time to camp, hike, swim, pick fruit, farm, be with animals, look at the woods or beach and wonder in awe together.
  9.  Remember goodness of the world –> beauty of the world –> truth in the world; gratitude  —> love —> duty (a love of the whole world with a desire to help humanity) as the most important things in the  basic seven year cycles of the child.
  10.  Keep striving to improve yourself and your interest in the world.  As your children grow,  you may feel more able to expand or practice art or develop other skills that will be used in your homeschooling adventures.

Many blessings and love tonight,
Carrie

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Planning Waldorf Homeschooling Third Grade

On The Parenting Passageway Facebook page, I have posted a few microblogging type posts about planning third grade.  I am starting withplanning  third grade now as I will have two other (older) grades to plan, and third grade is not completely foreign to me as this will be my third time through it.

I started with planning our tentative start and stop dates and vacation dates, and then mapped each week out on a piece of paper so I know how many weeks we will have in August, and how many in September, etc. and noted where days off or festivals will be occurring.

Then, I pulled out my FREE resources and started looking through them to help me remember third grade.  Any free resources will do, and you don’t need a lot to plan!  I pulled out some free blocks from Marsha Johnson’s files (which are still accessible if you join waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com) and the East Africa training manual PDF on teaching third grade.

Next, I mapped out my blocks and jotted down any extra things that came to mind for each block.  This is like the brainstorming stage.  Here is what I have so far:

August- Practical Work/Occupations of Our Area (also, Math Review, Form Drawing, Poetry)

September  Farming and Gardening , Preserving (thinking about mass and volume) (cursive)

October- Housebuilding and Shelters (Native American stories, nature studies) (cursive)

November- Farmer Boy Math (time, four processes)  (cooking) ( cursive)

December-  Old Testament Creation (painting, grammar) (speech, acting, poetry) (cursive)

January- Language Arts Old Testament(Abram, Jospeh, possibly Moses) (modeling, drama, cooking)

February-  Linear Measurement, Mass (Noah’s Ark, animals)

March-  The Story of Joshua (or Moses or Elijah), writing

April-  Math/Money, Four Processes

May-   Textiles/Practical Projects in Garden

Now I am at the point where I want to see what I want to put in each block.  This is the part, of course, that takes the longest!  Sometimes what helps me is to figure out what will flow through each day of each block?  So I am thinking right now about a flow to our Warm-Up time and to our Math Review time.   Right now I am thinking our flow will be

  • Opening Verse
  • Song or Poetry or Speech Exercise
  • Jumping Rope Rhymes or Zoo Exercises
  • Rod Exercises or Beanbags
  • Rhythmical Walking to Verse
  • Hand-clapping or String Games
  • Math Review – (maybe work in with weather) (Still thinking)
  • Number of the Day
  • Addition and Subtraction Games and/or Multiplication/Division Games
  • Memorizing Math Facts
  • Mental Math
  • Opening Main Lesson Verse

Once you have a little template, it just becomes sort of filling things in with a progression.

As I am planning this little flow, I am thinking about progression of academic capacities and practice.  For example, once I have looked at a progression of math, I will also look at Language Arts skills that I know we will need to practice in blocks and in between blocks.  This is things like phonics, sight words, spelling words, readers and read-alouds.  The vocabulary words will come from the blocks.  I know some teachers are totally awesome and pull their spelling words from the block itself, but I have found it better for myself and my children if I use something a little more structured according to spelling words and let the vocabulary words be the organic language part from a block. That’s just me. I was an organic speller, but I have found two out of my three children needed much, much more instruction and progression than pulling out random words.

When this is done, I will plan the nitty gritty of each block by day – the review activities, the story and how I will present  it (I actually love using puppets in third grade!), the  artistic activities and yes, make sure that we are covering the academic capacities.   The blocks sort of balance each other, so I don’t make each block heavy with writing, for example.  That is why we have to look at the whole year.

Many folks get bogged down with Third Grade Old Testament stories; I don’t feel the need to tell every story in the Old Testament!  Some teachers use the Old Testament; some use Hebrew Legends.  I pick which stories I feel are most meaningful; for my son it will be a little about creation and going out into the world but more about the Patriarchs.  More on that later.

I will post more as I go; I think it will come together quite well and then I will get moving on Grade 8!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Celebrating Valentine’s Day In The Waldorf Home

February is consistently labeled as the month where all homeschoolers want to quit.  The dreary weather often makes those of us in the Northern Hemisphere want to head for warmer locations and sunshine, and get rid of school altogether!

But really, Valentine’s Day can be our little spot of sunshine!  There are all kinds of things to make and do, and it can be a lovely pink and red time of showing love for one another.  I love Lisa’s Valentine’s Day post over at Celebrate the Rhythm of Life and would like to add some resources so you can have an amazing  handmade Valentine’s Day celebration!

Verses –

Good morrow to you, Valentine.
Curl your locks as I do mine,

Two before and three behind,

Good morrow to you, Valentine

-From “Festivals, Family, and Food: Guide to Seasonal Celebration” by Diana Carey and Judy Large, page 9

Games:  The book mentioned above has a suggestion for a Valentine Ring Game ( so you would need a group large enough to form a ring).  It is sort of a version of “Duck Duck Goose” involving a handkerchief and song.

Stories: The book “Tell Me A Story” from WECAN  has the story “A Million Valentines” by Suzanne Down; Suzanne Down’s Juniper Tree Puppetry website also has an entire book of Valentine Day stories here.

Activities:  Making Valentines out of red, white, and pink paper, lacey doileys or leftover lace is a fun activity.  Also,  making little felt hearts with a string, sort of like a pendant necklace is fun, or to sew two little felt hearts into a brooch.  One year we found heart shaped buttons and made little bracelets with buttons.

You could also consider the Swedish-type hearts made out of paper that sometimes one sees around Christmastime.  They are really sweet and may appeal to older children.

“All Year Round” has a suggestion of making bird biscuits and hanging them from a branch.  You can try my Pinterest Board for more suggestions, including biscuits to feed the birds, felt heart garlands, little lanterns, and more.

One thing we like to do is to have a pretty breakfast table with flowers and fun decorations.  Little garlands of red felt hearts are easy to make last minute and are very sweet hanging up.  Many of the crafts on my Pinterest board would make a pretty table.

When we think of activities, we also include acts of service.  If there is anyone in your neighborhood that is alone, elderly to visit, or a food bank that needs donation, those are all great ways to spread Valentine’s Day love and cheer.

Food:  Having a tea party seems to fit in well with this day.  On The Parenting Passageway Facebook page, I posted a picture of the flowering tea we had at Candlemas.  These would be fun at Valentine’s Day too, and everyone enjoys watching the flower unfurl in the hot water of a clear tea pot.

If you have wonderful pictures of your Valentine’s Day fun, please do post it over on The Parenting Passageway Facebook page or share a link below.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Blooming

Throughout the ages, spring has been a time of renewal and coming alive after a fallow and inward winter.   The significance of “forty” for the forty days of Lent coincide to this awakening and renewal and is not to be underestimated.  Forty days are in many scenes from Biblical History.  One only has to think of Noah and the Ark, Moses and the forty days after he killed the Egyptian, Moses in the desert, Joshua and his forty days to the Promised Land, Elijah walking for forty days and forty nights, and the time of Jesus Christ and His temptation in the desert.

And, after each of these fallow, anguishing, waiting periods, renewal occurs afterwards.  So I have been asking myself:  “What is my forty?  What regrowth, renewal, or positive change is going to come out of this time?”  Just like the way disequilibrium gives way to equilibrium in development, the way the rain turns into the sun shining,  fallow periods or even times of hardship often lead to  amazing new beginnings; a  blooming and blossoming, just like the branches of the flowering trees here in the south.

 

 

Sometimes we get stuck and can’t see our way out of the fallowness. If you live long enough, then you will have plenty of fallow periods or periods where things just aren’t going well.   How we get unstuck depends upon us.  Some of us need to start in the physical plane, with exericse or changing our nutrition or seeing a healthcare professional. Some of us need to start in the emotional plane with counseling, checking our values, putting in boundaries. Some of us need to start on the spiritual plane and as our spirituality and connection to everything around us deepens, we feel a new burst of energy and direction.

Even if you don’t celebrate Lent for religious reasons, I invite you to take some time during Lent for renewal and spiritual deepening.  I would love to hear your plans!

Blessings,
Carrie

Dynamic Development

Childhood development is never static and is ever unfolding. Sometimes the big joke in parenting is sort of, “Wow!  I just figured out this stage and now my child is on to something new!”

In my approach to development, I combine my ideas from when I worked as a pediatric physical therapist,  studies from The Gesell Institute, and Waldorf education’s view of the child.  Periods of equilibrium and disequilibrium routinely occur throughout development, typically with disquilibrium around the half-year marks, and pronounced differences  in development typically most dramatically noted around 3 – 3 1/2, 6/7, 9 (talked about an awful lot in Waldorf literature) ,  12 (although I don’t hear much about this one in parenting circles), and 15/16.  I think 15/16 is by far the most difficult transtition.

Parents often ask what they need to be successful throughout all these changes as their child unfolds.  In my personal opinion of working with families over the years, I  think there are four things, mainly, that help this process of helping a child grow:  having your own “stuff”  under control (ever tried living with an alcoholic parent, narcissitic parent, etc?    And not all of us have these things, but most all of us have wounds from living; just some of us own those wounds and try to make this woundedness better for ourselves and the people who love us); affectionate  love and connection to our children (and to your partner if you have one); loving boundaries;   rhythm (which is a defining hallmark of whatever your own family culture is!).  I don’t think it is is about perfection; I don’t think it is about doing everything just right.    A child growing up is also a family growing up and adults developing and changing too.

It is never too late to do these four  things.  All of us can become more self-aware and work on what our wounds and triggers are; nearly all of us can work to become more peaceful and compassionate.  It is never too late to  connect to and love your children.  Children have love languages just like adults do, but most children I know certainly perceive love in time and attention.  I read a few psychology sources that state even just 15-20 mintues of concentrated time a day is important; other sources like this Washington Post article from 2015 talk about how quality is more important than quantity, how family practices like dinners together do matter, and how teens need to spend time with their parents.   We can learn how to hold boundaries; I think I started seriously writing about boundaries back in 2008 and have written many posts on boundaries since then.  This one and  this big list of boundaries are among my favorites.   Finally, it is never too late to discover your  values as a family and prioritize those with your time (this is the beginnings of rhythm and habit!).

In this month often associated with love due to St. Valentine’s Day, let us love our children enough to help them grow in the healthiest ways possible!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

The Art of Waldorf Homeschooling

No matter how many curriculums and resources you buy, at the end of the day, Waldorf homeschool teaching is an art.  There may be times when things will be more rote due to life – long-term illness, stress or other things may take over – but the best lessons for our children grow out of a centered, artistic space and reflect not only the journey of the archtypal human being, but the immediate geography  of our area and  the beautiful child in front of us.

If you are new to Waldorf, this seems incredibly daunting.  I have talked a lot with mothers who have never even seen Waldorf Education in person; only images from the web.  How does one bring this to life?

I think there are four  loose guidelines for the art of Waldorf homeschooling:

Know yourself.  Where is your spiritual work?  This is important in Waldorf Education because the teacher is the vehicle in which the curriculum lives, and the curriculum flows through the child in front of you.

Know your children.  What needs balancing?  What is unfolding?  What is interesting to them?

Know your place in the world.  Where are those tiny seasonal changes, what is the geography of your state, your province, your part of the world?

Know the curriculum of the Waldorf School.  No, you may not follow it exactly, and I often wonder if Steiner’s indications for homeschooling would look different than the school curriculum,  but I think the big iconic blocks that really reflect the archtypal development of the human being should not be missed. You may add things dependent upon where you are in the world, but I wouldn’t ever miss the great stories that make up the curriculum

Find your space in whatever way works for you in order to create.  In order to create off the curriculum, you have to actually read things ahead of time and digest them.  This can be daunting in the upper grades, but it is still a necessity.  Eighth grade is revolutions and modern history, for example.  That can be a lot to create off of!  But if you break it down into a reasonable flow, and even if you have to look at images around these events to get your creative juices going, the easier it is to get going. When my children were very small, I would set up an ironing board in our room with all the things to wet on wet watercolor paint so when I got out of bed, I could spend ten minutes painting with no set up time.  There are a million different ways to get this time in, and if you can start with small increments, even ten mintues a day  or half an hour a week and work up from there, you can do it.

Waldorf homeschooling is not for everyone due to this artistic creation and finding the time to do this.  It is hard to draw from an empty well, and some people stay centered better than others during time of stress.  Some people are dreamers, but never get around to the execution part.  Whatever is holding you back, I would urge you to tackle it.  I think not only do children deserve this beautiful education, but also we as adult human beings deserve to rememeber and find our own creativity for our own healthy becoming.

Many blessings and much love,
Carrie

Candlemas

“If Candlemas Day be fair and bright

Winter will take another flight.

If Candlemas Day be cloud and rain

Winter is gone and will not come again.”

The February second coming of Candlemas, in an agricultural sense, was often viewed as the first day of Spring.  How fitting to have a beautiful idea of light come into the world on this day, and to celebrate by eating sunny foods and making candles.   Many Christians bring their candles to their parish to be blessed as well.  This day in Christianity is known as the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord,  and commemorates the Christ as the Light of the world.

We plan to have a brunch with friends on Candlemas, full of sunny foods,  and to roll and dip beeswax candles.   Earth candles are also lovely and fun to make!  One of the things I love about this particular festival is that it isn’t really complicated and can be quite simple.  There have been many years where we dipped candles just around our kitchen counter!

This is also the day I love to put some first sign of spring on the Nature Table.  If you live in an area where you might see a hint of budding on the trees or the first pussywillows of the season, you might enjoy doing this as well.

Here are a few back posts for inspiration:

The Magic of Candlemas

The Quiet Beauty of Candlemas (with instructions for dipping candles)

Candlemas is Coming!

You can also see some beautiful projects on my Candlemas Pinterest Board as well.

Blessings,

Carrie