Launching Into Life

I am Christian, and today is the first day of Lent.  Many people are familiar with the custom of receiving ashes on this day, Ash Wednesday.  It is a day where we hear the refrain, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

But Ash Wednesday is more than that, it is a promise of light coming to shine out of darkness.  It is a promise of joy to come.  It is a promise of things that we cannot see, but that will move us and change us for the better forever.

I find this season of waiting during the last semester of senior year much like this.  Senioritis, slogging through that last bit of school, waiting for college acceptances, can all feel a little uninspiring or like a very long path without a lot of variation in the days.  But there is promise and joy to come.

Our oldest has an amazing brightness ahead of her, and we are thrilled for her new journey and adventures.  But that hasn’t blinded me to the gamut that mothers feel around this time with their seniors because sometimes it can feel dark or at the very least like a gray path that no one else is taking in the rush of the “lasts” of senior year.

If your child is going on to trade school or the military, I see you.

If your child is in the throes of addiction and trying to get healthy, I see you.

If the bad choices and lack of responsibility of your teenager have been difficult this year, I see you.

If you are worried that your child is socially immature or easily swayed by peers and now headed away from home, I see you.

If you are worried because your child is fighting anxiety, depression or anything else, I see you.

If you feel like you are losing your best friend and you aren’t sure what you are doing after this because you have put so much into parenting, I see you.  Graduation is a change for parents too.

I see you all and I love you.  Change is inevitable; some seasons are easier than others.  Children do grow into adults that also have responsibility and choices to make in how they live their lives and we cannot do that for them but that transition between their responsibility and how much to step in can be a blurry line at times.

May we all look forward to the promise of spring, the promise of renewal, the promise of good days to come.

Many blessings on this Ash Wednesday,
Carrie

Fifth Grade Homeschool Planning

Our youngest is going to be a FIFTH GRADER in the fall!  It doesn’t seem possible that we will have a high school graduate/college attendee, a high school sophomore, and a fifth grader this year! So exciting!

Fifth grade is one of my favorite years in the Waldorf curriculum and I can’t wait to tackle it for the third time!  I have an idea of approaching it in a different way in the past, and have essentially divided the curriculum by semester.  This is because I fully understand the  developmental reasons and anthroposophical reasons that the main stream of fifth grade in a Steiner School is the consciousness found developing though the Ancient Civilizations covered, but I always grappled with having to fit in North American Geography as well.  I felt that as an American, Ancient Africa and the Ancient Americas were not fully represented,and that  this was a disservice children. And yes, there is time for this in further grades in middle school and high school, but I was still bothered by it.

So this year I am doing things a bit differently and sort of dividing things into two semesters where we spend almost an entire semester on the North American geography part of the curriculum and a semester on Ancient Civilizations in the manner of most Waldorf fifth grades around the world.

August – North American Geography/Social Studies – Mexico and Central America, stories of the Olmec and the Maya ; Math Review in practice sessions

September – Botany; practice sessions devoted to freehand geometry

October – Math/Practice of Decimals and Fractions; Metric System using Canadian Geography –  3 weeks

November/December – Language Arts – The Stories of Hawaii – American Geography – The West, Southwest, Midwest, and Alaska

 

January – North American Geography – Great Lakes Region, Northeast, Southeast

February – Stories of Ancient Civilizations – 7 weeks, including Ancient Africa and the Nahua and Aztec as similar to Egptyian consciousness – see the book “Riddle of America” at the Waldorf Library On-Line for more about this

March – Botany

April – Greek Mythology

May – Greek History; practice sessions gardening and math

I am really looking forward to planning this out in detail.  I will be happy to share these blocks for sale once we have gone through them and of course look for notes for these blocks here on the blog, as well as previous posts from when I went through these blocks two other times!

Blessings,

Carrie

Waldorf Homeschooling: Early Foundations and Raising Functional Adults

We definitely don’t want or need to run our homeschooling experiences like a brick and mortar school, and if we are Waldorf homeschoolers we cannot recreate a Waldorf School experience that takes a main lesson teacher and a host of speciality teachers in our home.  Nor should we!

However,  I think good habits does lay a good foundation for the future in homeschooling.  In Waldorf homeschooling, I see a lot of people give up around the third grade year as they get frustrated with the curriculum content, and then again at the middle school mark as the amount of teacher preparation really goes up and there are more outside activities.

One of the main unspoken things about this time period of third grade and up, though, can be this notion of “my child won’t do anything that I ask.” (So, therefore, we need to change the curriculum)

There are certainly ways to get around that – what parts of this subject ARE interesting to your child? Are they getting enough movement and sleep?  Are they on a screen all the time?  Nothing excitement-wise seems to compare to screen adventures.

And, is it really the curriculum or is it a responsibility/good habit kind of issue?

It can be that we didn’t really lay down good habits in the early grades to prepare for what’s coming, and we failed to keep any enthusiasm for learning our child had.  I have three children with different personalities – one loved school, one hated it, and one tolerates it.  I totally understand different personalities.  But, if we are being honest and taking 100 percent responsibility for what happens in our homeschooling, then we need to go back and look at our part in things.  One quote has really resonated with me over the years:

In first seven-year period child develops through imitation: in second through authority; in third through individual judgment – Study of Man, Rudolf Steiner

So, in those early years are we setting up good habits? What are we showing our children?  Are we always on our screens , do we hold a rhythm, how much actual work are we doing around the house?  This rhythm and work sets the foundation for what happens in the years 7-21.

In the years of 7-14, are we setting the tone for a loving authority?  There are some things that just have to be done.  If the child is complaining, do we just back off and say never mind…. which teaches nothing…. or do we follow through that I am asking you to do this, we will do this, I can help you and will be here for you?  This is an important step!  To think ahead, and really mean what we are asking the child to do in school (not busy work) and to follow through even if they are complaining.

And lastly, in the period of 14-21, are we giving opportunity for individual judgment?  Sometimes, yes, for learning, I find this easier for an outside teacher in whatever form that takes – and it may be in sports or outside activities, not in homeschooling, but I think teens really need that experience of making something count.  This can be a part time schedule of classes in your public school system if your state allows that, an online class, a tutor, a hybrid school if your state has that, etc.  but I think it is important that the teen get a taste of accountability and failure and success in the world in something that matters.  This is also why I think teenagers holding jobs  and being involved with something that is “team” (sports, marching band, theater, a team) are really important.  Individual judgment needs to be exercised within a realm of accountability.   This is how individual judgment and being a functional young adult occurs.  But it all begins with those early year and early grades foundation!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

Finding the Balance Between Being A Parent and Being A Homeschool Teacher

What is this elusive balance of which people speak about?

We are all searching for it, like it is the holy grail (that no one can really find).

So here are the truths about balance as I see it, after many years of homeschooling and preparing to graduate our first homeschool graduate  in the spring:

There are seasons.  Some seasons of parenting are just busier than others, and some seasons of teaching are busier than others.  There were years were I went to every homeschooling conference I could find, read every homeschooling book and lecture I could find because I was hungry for it all.  With Waldorf homeschooling, I had to learn the arts-based end of things that I had never learned or refine the skills I did have.  It was a lot of work.

Some seasons are more intensive in parenting.  Our two high schoolers  really, really need me right now.  Perhaps not as much for academics –  I farmed some outside classes out for our oldest high schooler, and our middle child is technically  homeschooling but is in a hybrid school so I don’t really feel as if this is the homeschooling with all the planning and teaching I am used to! – but emotionally availability is important for our adolescents. I think as parents, we always want to be the soft space for our children to land.  So, it can be a constant check-in – do they need me more as their emotional guide right now than as their homeschool teacher?  Do I have the bandwidth to do both well right now, or do I need to focus on one area?

It’s okay to not do everything.  Outer balance for the family and yourself comes at a cost; there is a cost to wholeness.  Sometimes you have to say no to something in order to be able to go away with your spouse for a long-needed, long-neglected few nights away because you have both been just pushing and grinding out 12-14 hour days.  Sometimes you need to say no to something fun because you really need to be home and regrouup. Sometimes you need to say no to push yourself out of the house and connect with community. I think this is why there will never be a defining “this is how you do balance” because everyone needs something different for their own kind of balance on the outside.

Balance for the inner self is another kind of balance.  There is a lot of talk about self-care and also about designing a life that doesn’t feel exhausting.  Again, there are seasons in life and some seasons are just exhausting and you get through the best you can.  Balance for self can really be divided into not just caring for our physical bodies, but for our emotional and spiritual selves as well.

Investing in this for ourselves takes time, and often takes the support of our family and friends.  It is hard to invest in self-care if you can never catch a minute to yourself, especially if you have been running on empty for years.  The emotional toll of parenting and homeschooling can be high – the constant worry of am I doing enough?  Am I not doing enough?  What does the future hold?   My main suggestion in this is to look at sustainable routines and habits when your children are smaller that involve more than just you doing and directing everything – sustainability that involves others besides you sets a great habit as your children grow and their lives outside of the home become more intensive and more adults are involved. If you are a single parent, do you have friends like are like family?  Get over not wanting to ask for help!  Plan some time for just you to recoup in a rhythmic way – weekly? monthly? quarterly?    You will be a better parent and teacher for it, and the years can fly by with no time to touch base within yourself or with your partner alone if you don’t plan at all. (And if you make this your resolution for 2020, I want to hear about it and how it goes!)

Know yourself, and know your children.  That is the true key to providing balance.  Some children are self-motivated; some are not.  Some thrive on a more strict schedule; some don’t.  If you know yourself well and your children well balance is much clearer to see.

If you are a new homeschooler, my greatest piece of advice goes back to sustainable routines and rhythms for the family.  You can plan all these wonderful lessons and take all weekend, and every night before teaching to work on these plans (and you may have a very compliant child that will follow your lesson plans – many of us are not that lucky!), but do not neglect your greater role within your family and in your own humanity.  You are more than a homeschool teacher, you are a wonderful parent and human being who also deserves to have a life outside of homeschooling if you want that (some are perfectly happy solely homeschooling, and that’s awesome too! However, I think for many of us close to 50 or early 50’s, we are earning for something more outside of that. Just my experience. If you are in your 20’s to mid 40’s, this may not resonate).  For some, this outside life may be small, like seeing a friend a few times a month or it may be large, like homeschooling parents who still work or are in  school or who are very active in their communities.  Only you can decide how that balance will play out, but you have the choice in how you do it.  Don’t just keep piling more on your plate without conscious thought.  Know yourself and what really fuels you as this is your life too, not just your children’s life.

I would love to hear your ideas about balance in homeschooling and parenting.

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Supporting Young Adults Past High School Graduation

This is such a hot topic amongst my friends right now since many of us have young adults in the age range of 18-20.  We have debated responsibiity and freedom, future plans and goals or lack thereof, and how we help our young adults transition into being healthy, happy, independent adults.

We all kind of know the options – four year college, two year college, vocational or trade school, military, gap year, or full time employment.  The teenaged brain isn’t a mature one, and many teens have developmental needs that impact the timeline of further independence as well.  There really aren’t easy answers, and every young adult is different in what they need in terms of support.  It can get a little crazy at this age and almost becomes a pressurized comparision time just like it did way back in the  baby and toddler years of who is sleeping through the night first, who is walking first – only now it is who knows what they might like to do for a career, are they going to college, if they aren’t going to college what does that transition to independent living look like?

Things are different now than when we started out.  Financial constraints are real.  A full time job that pays federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour would require a 94 hour work week in order to afford a one bedroom apartment (typically).  You can see a breakdown of this by state here.  Also keep in mind employees that are tipped could make more or less than the minimum wage.  I also find many young adults who are used to a certain standard of living from their family (my area is a suburb that definitely has a mix of poverty and wealthy), are reluctant to try to branch out on their own  because they essentially want and expect what their parents have and probably built up over many years.

Student debt is real.  The student debt figures from 2017 stood at $1.4 trillion overall, with the average student loan debt in 2017 being $34,000.  Some students, depending on their major, have reported being underemployed or with difficulty entering the job market.

So, perhaps for some of these reasons, for  the first time in 130 years, according to the Pew Research Center, those 18-34 are more likely to be living with parents than married or living with a partner (see article here).  There was also a  super interesting article here at The Washington Post that pointed out another potential cause.  It suggested that there are many young able bodied men without college degrees that are happy being underemployed or unemployed, living with their parents and playing video games.   In part, this article said, ” The paper attributes one-third to one-fifth of the decline in work hours by less-educated young men to the rising use of technology for entertainment — mainly video games. The new study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, and the researchers say they are continuing to refine the precise figures. But other prominent economists who reviewed it for this story said it raises important questions about why so many young men have abandoned the workforce….[ He added], “They find evidence that a portion … of the decrease in work time of less-educated young men can be a result of the appeal of video games.”

So, if you are supporting your 18-19 year olds, or you are coming up to that age in a few years, what are some things you could be thinking about for this transitional period?

1 – Actually making it a transition.  Can they pay you rent if they are living with you?  How will you handle that?  What about responsibilities around the house?  Do they hold a job?  Why or why not?  Are they playing video games in place of employment?

2 – How can you help them with further training for employment?  What do they need to go to trade school or a two or four year college? Or will they work a job and get on the job training?  Is the cost of training/education realistic debt-wise in comparison to a salary that can be made?

3-What are their relationships like?  How can they tap into community? Is there something beyond screens that is healthy and satisfying?

4- Are you rescuing them?  The best way to prepare for life isn’t just a high school diploma or a GED, but  to learn is from mistakes and natural consequences.

5 – Do you trust your young adults to create their own lives, even if it looks different from what you envisioned?  

6- Do you know your own boundaries? What works for you and your family in relation to your young adult.  What are your expectations, your attitude, your ideas?  It’s easier to think about this before the situation comes up and you are in the middle of it.

Everyone has different stories and experiences.  Leave me a note in the comments and tell me what worked or didn’t work!  Would love to hear your tips and ideas!

Blessings,

Carrie

Eighth Grade Meteorology

I will be the first to admit meteorology isn’t my favorite subject and I don’t think I am the best at teaching it.  I love oceanography though, and I usually place meteorology at the end of that block in eighth grade for about a week and a half.  My resources for this block usually include whatever used college meteorology textbook I have on hand, an understanding of the human being in front of me who is in eighth grade (what would be appealing?  Interersting?  Enlivening?  Meets that need for the idea of revolution or rebellion ore extremes?)  And, I think about all the past experiences we have had with weather throughout all the early grades – this is the culminating experience in a way in understanding all of that.

So I usually start with an opening on an extreme weather incident.  In the past, I have used Hurricane Katrina because it was in the Southeast where I live, and it was easy to trace the human impact of the aftermath right to our own city.   I think one of the main points to get across is that the United States has the greatest variety of weather of any country of the world.  Severe weather events such as tornadoes, flash floods, and intense thunderstorms, as well as hurricanes and blizzards, and more frequent and more damaging than in any other nation.  The weather has a strong effect on world economy as well as by influencing agriculture, energy use, water resources, transportation and industry.

Then I usually talk about  the Earth as a system, and how we can break Earth down into solid Earth, but also the water portion (hydrosphere) and the gaseous envelope we call the atmosphere. These parts are all interrelated, interacting, or interdependent parts that form a complex whole and that we, as human, influence in our actions.

Usually I spend an entire day or more on atmosphere, how it is divided into four layers  on the basis of temperature, the interplay of energy between the atmosphere and Earth.  I typically will end the day with a question:  why is the face of our planet ever changing and the lunar surface hasn’t appreciably changed in nearly 3 billion years?  (so the answer runs along the lines of….  if Earth had no atmosphere like the Moon, our planet would not only be lifeless, but many of the processes and interactions that make the surface such a dynamic place could not operate.  Without weathering and erosion we would more closely resemble the moon).

We can review the four layers of atmosphere and dive into the troposphere, the bottom layer in which we live.  This is the chief focus of meteorologists because it is in this layer that essentially all important weather phenomena occurs.  Almost all clouds and precipitation as well as our violent storms are born here.   We can talk about the different cloud formations and cloud identification.

Usually then I move into how nature doesn’t like extremes.  You might think that nature is nothing but extremes, especially extremes of weather, but in nature extremes occur as nature attempts to correct an imbalance or release stress.  The Earth/Atmosphere/Ocean System is an example of this.  the radiation from the sun warms the ground, and the atmosphere is heated from below, which results in an imbalance:  cold air, warm ground.  Stress builds as natures tries to distribute the heat, resulting in a storm.

All of that takes about a week to really delve into detail.  We usually do interesting chalk drawings of clouds, I usually do some little weather experiment demonstrations, and I usually assign a report on the human impact of Hurricane Katrina so we work on that.

The next week, I usually talk about fog, rain, snow, sleet and then move into  winds.  Why do we have wind?  Of course wind is air flowing from areas of higher pressure to lower pressure, but if the Earth did not rotate, and if there were no friction, air would flow directly from areas of higher pressure to areas of lower pressure.  Because both factors exist, wind is controlled by combination of forces – pressure-gradient force, the Coriolis effect, friction.

 

Then we talk about more extreme weather.  Thunderstorms are associated with cumulonimbus clouds that generate heavy rainfall, thunder, lightning, and occasionally hail.  Annually, the United States experiences about 100,000 thunderstorms and millions of lightning strikes. We talk about lightening and thunder and move into superstorms and tornadoes.  Tornadoes are  violent windstorms that take the form of a rotating column of air or vortex  with maximum winds  approaching 480 kilometers per hour.   There is a tornado intensity scale, and then we usually talk about the difference between tornadoes and hurricanes and how a hurricane forms and decays.  I usually end with ideas about weather forecasting and plant the seeds for a block about renewable energy and  climate change.  For that block, I pretty much base the climate change part around the book  The Science of Climate Change: A Hands-On Course.  It isn’t “Waldorf” but it is accurate information and digestible for middle schoolers. To me, this block isn’t usually in the typical Waldorf School eighth grade curriculum, but it is the most difficult

Cheers,

Carrie

 

 

 

Science in the Waldorf Curriculum

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post about science within the Waldorf Curriculum.  You can see the post explaining the basics of the science curriculum throughout the grades, and the Goethean approach to science in the Waldorf curriculum.  Today, much like  I have laid out the scope and sequence in many areas of the curriculum, such as Africa or Latin America through the curriculum, here is an overview as I would like to see it for American Waldorf homeschoolers:

Grade One and Grade Two:  These blocks typically are about experiences in nature, naked eye observation of nature.  I would like to see blocks such as form drawing based in the ecosystem in which the student lives.  Other ways children work with nature in first and  second grade includes gardening, cooking, care of pets, outdoor play, festival celebrations, toy-making, observation of the sky  and weather with the naked eye.  First Peoples tales regarding nature phenomena are appropriate in these grades, especially second grade.  I would also like to see an emphasis on herbal gathering and  preparation of herbal products in these grades.  In second grade, I usually do a block based on seasonal changes with poetry and very simple explorations in earth, water, air, fire in second grade – and then circle back around to this in fourth grade.

Grade Three:  Based on the stories of the Hebrew People and, in the American Waldorf homeschooling experience, the First Peoples, we find knowledge and develop skills in homebuilding, gardening and farming, textiles and dyeing.  I also think there should be a large emphasis on cooking in this grade as this is the basis for chemistry in the upper grades.  Another block that could be moved forward is the idea of bringing weather phenomena into greater consciousness.  Nature stories from the First Peoples continue to be important.

Grade Four:  In this block we begin the sequence of relating man to the different parts of the natural world; in this case Man and Animal.  This is tied into careful observation making, and yes, perhaps the first real report that is written by the student.  I think this block should also include a large part about the state’s animals and habitats, which is a mixture of local geography and Man and Animal.  I also like to spend several weeks on the ocean and ocean animals, and this can also tie back into the weather done in third grade.  You can also add an extra block for special areas of interest, such as birds of prey or African animals or insects.

In this grade, I like to do  a block that echoes second grade on earth, air, wind, and fire.  This year will be using the book  “Earth, Water, Fire and Air” by Walter Kraul.  The third block I like to do, again, as an American, is to talk about Benjamin Franklin and his work as a scientist and do some of the simple observations around magnetism and electricity. This may be early compared to the traditional Waldorf curriculum, but I think it could fit well by teaching through story the discoveries of Benjamin Franklin and it introduces an American figure.. #sorrynotsorrytodeviate

Housebuilding, gardening, farming, textiles, cooking, baking,  dyeing can all contiue.  I also make the fourth day of our school experience a “nature day”.  This year we will be studying different types of birds each week.  I also like to keep telling Native American nature tales, especially about the natural formations in our state, which is a precursor to the mineralogy in sixth grade.

I also like to do a weekly health lesson in fourth grade, even though that isn’t required by my state.  Oak Meadow’s weekly health lessons for K-3 grade can be expanded upon for your fourth grader if you decide to go this route.

Grade Five:  Botany is usually the science scheduled for this year, but I think you can expand it a bit and talk about habitats and keystone species in your area and what plant habitats they depend upon.  I also like to bring in biographies of naturalists and botanists, particularly George Washington Carver and women ecologist and naturalists. Botany of course leads into herbalism and the insect world as well, so you could have a whole block that builds on what you did in first through fourth grade with herbs.

Fifth grade also is a great time for talking about general inventions across the world – the wheel, transportation and how it evolved, even printmaking since that ties into botany.  It can be short, and I think you get this piecemeal talking about different ancient civilizations and what each civilization innovated and created, but it’s nice to have it all in one place.  This could be a short two week kind of block, but it’s a nice introduction to all the historical changes the student will be seeing in grades 6-8.  I also like the idea of a tunnel and bridges block and feel could fit well into this year.

We keep on working with cooking, gardening, building, dyeing, and  for our last child I plan to continue weekly health lessons.

Grade Six:  Mineralogy,  physics, and naked eye astronomy ( I use the persepctive of Native American astronomy)  are the typical sciences studied this year, but there are a few extras I like to add on.   In mineralogy, I like to talk about dinosaurs and fossils which can be used for exposure to ideas such as evolution and the  geologic time record, and I think this time around we will be discussing climate change.  In physics and in later chemistry, I always include biographies and particularly biographies of women and people of color.

I  like to include Greek and Roman Science – usually aqueducts, tunnels, watermills.  One thing I have toyed with is doing an entire block on medicine or based on Galen and the Gateway to Medicine.  This could tie into any health studies required in your state.  I am contemplating this for the next time I teach sixth grade!

Lastly, I think there should be an ecology unit in this grade – general biomes, food webs, energy pyramids, etc.   It goes well with mineralogy and the previous studies of botany and zoology, and sets a great foundation for seventh and eighth grade studies.  You could also do a great block on insect life in this grade or go further into zoology.

In this grade, using the fourth day for nature studies can go either way. By seventh grade, I usually don’t have the time to devote a whole main lesson period to nature studies alone and still keep a four day week.  Sometimes I like the idea of working more “workshop style” for nature studies in seventh and eighth grade – ie, 2-3 days on a particular nature study topic.

Grade Seven:  This grade is jam-packed full of science, with blocks in physiology, physics (usually hydraulics or aerodynamics or both), astronomy using optics, and chemistry. You can also work a lot of science into the history blocks – for example, optics and the Islamic Golden Age.   I would like to see a zoology block added here to touch on more traditional life sciences subjects and more animals from fourth grade, and if there was time I would love to see a block about climate change in either this grade or eighth grade.

I also think it is very important to work on reading non-fiction passages about science and working to understand them well in seventh and eighth grade.  This is an important skill for research paper writing and for high school.

Grade Eight:  There is a lot of science in this grade, including more chemistry, physiology, and physics, along with meteorology (and I  include oceanography with the meteorology).  I think part of this could block could be the biography of Marie Tharp and the theory of continental drift.

I think there should be a block on climate change and  renewable energy and also a general look at water conservation (Project WET could be a good starting point).  Another possible interesting block could be one on the biographies of Charles Darwin, Robert FritzRoy and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.

This is also a good place to put a computer science kind of block in preparation for high school – understanding how to build a computer, how one works. It could be quite wonderful to build this block around Ada Lovelace.

Just a few ideas for my favorite subject!

Many blessings,
Carrie