First Grade Planning By Subject: The Seasonal Year

If you are just starting to  plan first grade, welcome!

First grade is different than the Early Years, but yet as a homeschooling parent you are still  building upon the seasonal year. This in some ways becomes the culmination  of the rhythm of the Early Years, nursery and kindergarten ages, where by discovering by repetition over the years what makes the festivals, holidays and seasonal activities you made the season of the year, month and day your own.

Only YOU know your family’s culture, religion and spirituality and the geography and seasonal changes of where you live.  So those notes you have taken about what you have done and noticed during the Early Years are particularly helpful in planning first grade.  When does the first butterfly come out?  When are the leaves really crunchy on the ground?  What do we do every single year for this festival or that festival?  What do these months and festivals really mean to me on an inner level?   What festivals and holidays make you feel replenished and what festivals and holidays make you feel depleted and in need of a vacation afterwards?   This is  important work that you have done is the foundation for first grade, from both the perspective of the child and from the perspective of the balance needed for the homeschooling parent.   However, now in first grade,  you are embedding and layering blocks into the cycle of the year.

This can be important to think about.  Where does your seasonal year  best tie into your blocks?  For example, the first time I did Form Drawing, our first block of first grade, I chose to do it through a story about beavers and pond life in our area in the autumn.  To do this, I had to know what the animals in our area were doing that time of year and translate that into what I call “movement snippets” of forms.

Where will you put your nature blocks?  What animals and plants will you focus on in the nature blocks, in painting and modeling?  For this, you have to have been an observer of your area.

Making crafts and cooking for the festivals and holidays your family celebrates is still a huge part of first grade.  This develops gross and fine motor skills, attention, balance and a general sense of life needed for more academic work.

The other piece of the rhythm of the year, month and day is BALANCE.  Yes, you have to carve out time for lessons;  but you also still have to care for and nourish your home and the people and animals and plants in  your life as well.  Time needed for first grade may not be extensive, but it is there and needs a set time, place and consistency to be there! The time for direct instruction and teaching has come!

Our next post will be about movement; in the meantime, for first grade inspiration please check out my First Grade Pinterest Board.

Blessings,
Carrie

What Do Veteran Waldorf Homeschoolers Want You to Know About Planning First Grade? Listen and Find Out!

I recently had the distinct pleasure of discussing what veteran homeschooling mothers would want mothers new to homeschooling the grades to know over at The Waldorf Connection Expo.  You can sign up and listen to my talk for free this weekend!

The Global Waldorf  Expo teleseminar starts TOMORROW May 15-17th.  It kicks off at 4 p.m. EST with a talk by Rainbow Rosenbloom of Live Education!  and free talks will be released every day of the Expo.    Register  here and be sure to tune in:  http://waldorfhomeschoolexpo.com/

Some of the things I touch in my talk include:

  • Why veteran Waldorf homeschooling mothers feel Waldorf homeschooling should be a separate daughter movement of Rudolf Steiner’s initial work.
  • How to create a foundation of goodness and beauty in your home
  • How to become an astute observer of your child. 
  • The top 5 things Veteran Homeschooling mothers want you to know.
  • How to plan from the year to the individual blocks to the day.
  • Some of my favorite resources for first grade!

Hope to have further discussions about planning first grade in this space!

Blessings,
Carrie

Which Waldorf Curriculum Should I Buy?

This topic comes up over and over again on Facebook groups, Yahoo Groups and in real life.  There is even a Facebook group devoted to sharing information about the different curriculums called “Waldorf Homeschool Curriculum Discussion”.

If you as a homeschooling mother have investigated Waldorf at all, then you probably realize that for the Early Years, under the age of 7, life and being home is the curriculum.  Play, meaningful work, rest, stories and songs and verses and being outside, along with seasonal activities IS the curriculum.   It is living and changing.  You don’t need to buy a curriculum for this, but if you feel you need verses, songs, or seasonal ideas, there are plenty of books, Pinterest boards and the like to demonstrate ideas.  You could also attend an open house if you have a Waldorf School near you and see a puppet show.  This is the time to develop your own skills, learn to be able to set a rhythm in your own home, and be a gentle leader in your own home if you plan to homeschool in the grades.  There is no “homeschooling” a four year or five year old in Waldorf!  You are living a beautiful life!  Life is the curriculum!

If you have investigated the Waldorf curriculum for the grades, you probably have seen there are certain subjects that Rudolf Steiner indicated as part of the development of the holistic human being by age, and there are some things built up in secondary pedagogy over these years as being done in certain grades.  You have to know enough to see how this curriculum can be adapted to your own unique geographical environment  (look at the manuals from the East African Waldorf teacher training curriculum and see how they adapt the curriculum for their country and continent) and most of all, to the unique child standing in front of you.  LOOK at the child right in front of you.  This is homeschooling, and homeschooling with Waldorf means you are a TEACHER.    It is not “child-led” but it is sensitive to the child based upon Rudolf Steiner’s view of development and how you, the teacher, brings it!

So this type of homeschooling takes work.    And that seems to scare many.   I  also feel many parents are interested in Waldorf Education because they perceive it as gentle (it is), child-led (it is not), nature-oriented (it is), easing into life in a more gentle way that is unhurried (it does, but then the other grades become VERY rigorous indeed).  The early years of play silks and wooden toys don’t last forever and wooden toys do not an early Waldorf childhood experience make.  Waldorf Education is about protection of the child, but it is also about bringing things at the right time developmentally and that does mean the world opens up, especially after the age of twelve.

The curriculums currently on the market include Celebrate the Rhythm of Life Living Curriculum Program,  Live Education, Waldorf Essentials, Earthschooling, Lavender’s Blue, individual offerings from Rick and Jennifer Tan at Syrendell and Marsha Johnson at her Yahoo Group waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com and her on-line store The Magic of Waldorf, and  Christopherus Homeschool Resources, Inc.   I am not really including  Enki and Oak Meadow as they were written by former Waldorf teachers; Enki is closest to Waldorf pedagogy our of the two, but each are there own distinct programs with their own scope and sequence.  So these are more “Waldorf-inspired”. Little Acorn Learning is aligned with Lifeways of North America, and is nature-based.  I don’t know of any other curriculum programs than these.   Also, please do not forget the myriad of resources available to Waldorf teachers that are also available to you through booksellers such as Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore or Waldorf Books. 

If you are not piecing together your own curriculum, (which I recommend you try to do, especially in the early grades when it is easier and you can get the hang of it), then you will have to sort through all of these options.  Most mothers I talk to say they would love to have enough money to purchase more than one curriculum because each one has its gems, its loveliness, and they like to combine pieces and resources.  In the upper grades, where there is much less in the way of curriculum to pick from, you will have to do this anyway. 

If you want to see my criteria regarding choosing curriculum, I suggest you look at this back post.  You can also look at this post about how to learn more about Waldorf Education and the suggestions there.    Look carefully at the credentials of the people writing the curriculum and how much they have extensively worked with children in real life . If you are writing a “Waldorf” curriculum and using that word – where is your training, Foundation Studies, workshops that helped train you in this method?  I think all of these things combined make a “curriculum” worth looking at.

Blessings,
Carrie

The Ten Kinds of Play

If one of the hallmarks of the early years through the teenaged years is play, it helps us as parents to know about the different kinds of play and what these look like.  In this way, we can help our children achieve healthy play if healthy play is difficult for them.

The number one thing to do to help encourage ALL of the kinds of play I am listing below includes turning off all screens – TV, computer, video games, etc.  Stop them cold turkey.  This is important for all small children as we offer a gesture of protection, but this is especially important if  your child is having trouble with creative play.  And start to schedule in large amounts of “unscheduled” time.  That sounds contradictory, scheduling in unscheduled time, but children of today are rushed from adult-led activity to adult-led activity.  They need time to just daydream and be – that is the genesis of being creative.

Here are some types of play:

  • Large Motor play – climbing, jumping, swinging,  crawling
  • Small Motor play – Fine motor play might include things such as sorting objects, stringing objects, bringing objects in and out,
  • Rules- based play – You see this a lot in pick –up games led by children.  I saw this this weekend at a 4-H event where I observed a  very large group of children ages 8-14 or so were playing kickball.  They figured out where the bases would be, what the foul line was, how far apart the bases should be after a few rounds, etc.  They were making the rules and changing the rules as they went along.  Children do not acquire this skill in adult-led youth sports.  Youth sports NEED to be balanced out by neighborhood pick-up games that are led by children working together.
  • Construction play – Building play.  We often think of building forts, ships or houses but I would also include older children building ramps for a skateboard or bike.  
  • Make-believe play – we see this often in kindergarten aged up children.  At first props may be needed, but older children, even ages 9-11 often have elaborate make-believe games with characters and scenarios.
  • Language play – Using words for play – telling stories, playing with words and rhymes, circle games and songs…..  This can overlap large motor play in the case of jump rope rhymes or hand clapping games.
  • Playing with art – Modeling, creating music, drawing, making posters and puppet shows are all examples of this kind of  play.
  • Sensory Play – playing with sand, mud, water, gathering natural objects that have different textures. 
  • Rough and tumble play – Animals do this too!  This is how children often learn body awareness and boundaries.  This kind of play often needs to be watched to make sure boundaries are set for how aggressive or how dominant a player becomes, but it is important for children to play like this.
  • Risk taking play – Play can and should involve risk.  You most likely will not find this on a conventional playground, but out in nature and even in childhood games.  In a childhood game, this is estimating risk – can I steal to that base? can I run fast enough to make it to “home” without being tagged?  In nature, this might be how high can I climb in this tree?  Will this branch in the tree or log across this stream support my body weight?  This is an important kind of play.  I think this type of play can easily morph in the later middle school and high school years into things that are active, involve an element of risk, but are generally a safe way to get risk-taking behavior out there.  For seventh and eighth graders and up, think about dirt biking through a Motorcycle Safety Awareness club, a tree obstacle course with ziplines, more strenuous hiking and camping, anything with animals such as horseback riding or dog training, rock climbing, skiing, etc.  Help children develop their own abilities to assess risk.  This is an important skill for life.

What kinds of play are your children doing? Can you think of a type of play that is not on this list?

Blessings,
Carrie

An Introduction to Waldorf Homeschooling

 

To me, there are five main areas which come together to compose a Waldorf homeschool:

The Inner Work and Inner Life of the Teacher – this is of paramount importance, and the basis and foundation of Waldorf homeschooling.  Who you are and where you are on your inner path and spiritual work  is more important than the subject you teach.  Your will, your rhythms, your outlook, your spiritual work, will determine far more for your child than anything else – especially in the world of homeschooling where you are both parent and teacher.

An Understanding of Childhood Developmental Phases – I write about childhood development extensively on this blog.  Suffice it to say the view in Waldorf Education is that the human being is a spiritual being and that we continue to change, develop and grow throughout our lifetime.

Temperament of the grades-aged child (and in the teen years, emotion and personality) – We need to recognize not only the temperaments associated with the various developmental stages, but also the temperament of  our own child and ourselves and how to bring balance to that within our homeschooling experiences.

An Understanding of the Curriculum and How to Adapt it to Your Child and Homeschool:  We can start with such things as Steiner’s lectures and the secondary literature of the pedagogy.  However, the time we live in, the local geography, customs, language, local festivals and cultural events are all points in which the learning experience starts within the child and the child’s world. So, therefore, we must be familiar with not only the curriculum, but also with our own child and our own observations and meditation as to what that child needs, and then how to have the curriculum fulfill the needs of the child.  Dogmatic story-art-summary rhythms are often not helpful in the home environment and there are many ways to bring the rhythms of Waldorf Education to the home.

An Ability to “DO”, rather than just read.  This includes not only the ability to hold a rhythm and be organized, but also the ability to learn new things for oneself both in the area of the arts and in academic subjects.  For example, few of us were taught geometry the way the curriculum is outlined, and one most be willing to take a subject, even a familiar subject and see how  to dig into it and look at it from a spiritual perspective and to view art as a spiritual activity.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Guest Post: Learning By Observing At A Waldorf School

 

My guest post tonight comes from long-time reader Bonnie.  Bonnie recently had the good fortune to go and observe a first grade main lesson period,  a second grade German class and a second grade Handwork class at a Waldorf school. I asked if she could write a guest post and explain what she learned as a homeschooling parent from observing these classes at a Waldorf School.  Here is what Bonnie had to say:

 

My visit to a Waldorf school as a homeschooling mom….

Last week, I had an opportunity to visit an open house at a prominent Midwestern Waldorf School. As a homeschooling mom to a 6.5 year old daughter and a 4 year old son, it took a lot of planning to make this happen, since the school is quite a distance from our house. But, I knew I had to go – I had to EXPERIENCE the Waldorf classroom for the grades.

Just to back up a moment, I should share with you that I have been a loyal fan of Waldorf and its lifestyle since before I even had kids. So much so in fact, that I visited an open house for a Parent-Child class when I was still pregnant with my first child. The teachers were shocked and all commented on how I was “starting early”. But, for me and I’m sure many of you, reading the blogs, books, and curriculums is not enough. I need to EXPERIENCE it – FEEL it – LIVE it. I want to have a deep sense internally of the beauty and feeling world of the classroom mirrored with the ideas and knowledge a Waldorf-trained teacher exhibits and exudes while working with the students – no matter what the age.

Currently, my daughter is finishing up her second year of kindergarten and will start first grade in the fall. I have been collecting information, curriculums, and ideas for first grade over the years and have a general sense of what is taught at this level. I’ve seen beautiful pictures of alphabet letters and chalkboard drawings on the internet and in curriculums, but I struggle with not only how do I bring this to my child, but what does it really look like, and more importantly, feel like? The ages of 7-14 are the feeling years – so this must be considered at some level. Hence, why I signed up to attend an open house.

So, without further ado, the morning of the open house…. I got there bright and early and was greeted by so many friendly parents and staff. Naturally, they shake your hand, make eye contact, and make you feel right at home. They walked me to a classroom where I met Mr. K., the first grade teacher, and whose class I would be experiencing for the next two  hours as he taught the main lesson. He was happy and full of energy. We chatted a bit and then he excused himself so he could meet and greet each child at the door. What I found amazing was that he greeted twenty plus children and every single handshake was not rushed, was authentic, and the child was met with sincerity and reverence. The children put their coats away, took their chairs down from on top of their desk, and then were eager to see the three new numbers he placed on the chalkboard for a “number puzzle”. Once everyone was sitting at their desk, they reviewed the numbers and looked for patterns. After this, attendance was taken. And, I don’t mean the teacher just checked off a name on his attendance sheet or monotonously said one name after the other waiting for a “Here”. Oh no, no, no……after all, this is a Waldorf school. The teacher sang, in a pentatonic scale, “Child’s name, are you here?” And, then the child sang back, “Yes, Mr. K, I am here.” And if a child wasn’t there, the whole classroom sang, “No, Mr. K, she’s not here.” I had goose bumps. Who knew taking attendance could sound so beautiful and magical?!

After attendance, the children stood up and did some stomping, clapping, and jumping jacks focusing on different numbers. Then, it was time for an in-breath. The children stood with their arms crossed over their chest and Mr. K turned off the lights. It was candle time – and a child lit the candle and they said their first grade verse. The candle was then blown out and he played the pentatonic flute, while the children hummed and sang, “Good morning sun. You’re looking through my window….” Once again, I was blown away, not just by their angelic voices but by also hearing singing coming from another classroom. I had read that in a Waldorf school, one could hear singing all day long. That’s great – but, I had no idea what that would feel like at a soul level, especially in a pentatonic scale.

After singing, the children pushed their desks/chairs out of the way and sat on the top of their desk, so there was room in the middle of the classroom for circle time. The teacher turned the lights on, signaling an out- breath. He started to sing, Continue reading

Guest Post: A Homeschooling Manifesto

One of my best friends wrote these words, and was gracious enough to let me share these words with the world.  I can see this being printed out and put on refrigerators everywhere for a dose of encouragement.

Thank you to my dearest friend, Andrea Hartman!  These are her fine words:

I remember back to when we were homeschooling, on those really hard days when the house was a mess, and I was a mess, and the kids were a mess, and I would be having the passing thought  that I should send them to school.  School would be better for them than this.

We had to do public school this year.  We might have to again.  You might have to one day.  It’s not the end of the world, but now I see the public school experience not from my own experience, but from the experience of my children.  I feel like I am really blessed with the knowledge of ‘both sides of the coin’ here.  We are planning to go back to homeschooling this coming fall, so I have written a Homeschooling Manifesto. I didn’t write my little manifesto to discuss the negatives of school, but to reconnect myself with the essence of homeschool.  I’d love for you to read it, file it away, and on those crazy days, you can pull it out and remind yourself of what you are really doing.  I promise you, I will be reading it next year, many times.  ;-)  I hope you enjoy it!

 

Today, in New England, it was a beautiful day. Sunny, breezy, low 60’s. Perhaps to my Florida family, this is a chilly day, made for long sleeves and snuggles. But to my northeastern friends, this was a day for opening windows, climbing trees, and running through the grass barefooted.

As I gratefully cracked open my own window over the kitchen sink this afternoon and felt the cool breeze on my face, I realized that these three aforementioned activities are so very symbolic of the choice our family has returned to- homeschooling.

For a variety of reasons, our family tried public school this year. I must say, that of all the public schools out there, this is one of the best. Not because of test scores or academic standards, but because it is old and has character, it is small and cozy, and the principal is there every day, accessible and available to chat with a smile on her face. One cannot say this of many public schools. Continue reading