Top Ten Tips For Homeschooling Waldorf Kindergarten

It is easy to get caught up in the external trappings of Waldorf kindergarten – the pretty silks, the wooden toys, and even things like the color of the day or the grain of the day or gnomes.  Not that we don’t love those things, but I think if that is where we stop, we are truly missing the heart of the Waldorf kindergarten.  So, here are my top ten tips regarding Waldorf kindergarten for the three to six year old at home:

1.  Be prepared to hold a daily and weekly rhythm, and firm and loving boundaries consistently.  This can be very difficult for parents as many parents have no rhythm to their days or are constantly on the go and too busy.  A healthy home life involves slowing down, being present, holding boundaries with love.  And doing it day after day.  This is our sacred work in parenting.

2.  Work provides the basis for healthy play; be prepared to stick to the rhythm of work even if your child does not participate. Older kindergarteners will participate; younger children may imitate in play; but either way the work is done because it is IMPORTANT work for the nourishment of the home.  My only caveat is that in the home environment we also should have the time, space and freedom for snuggles, for love, for being able to just be with our children.  It should all  have a balance to it, an inbreath and outbreath.  Conversely, if your whole day is following your child around and nothing is being led by you, then that is an area to look at and bring in the important work of the home.

3.  Create space and time for play; have warm natural objects for play.  It doesn’t have to be expensive wooden toys!  It can be boxes with stacks of seashells, stones and pinecones!  But the space and time for a child to learn how to play by themselves, from their own initiative, is important.  You can be a “character” in the play, but keep your hands busy.  This is your child’s work.

The other piece of this is the cues that we can take from our friends involved in farm and forest-based education.  Being in nature is the true place for beautiful play and the development of the senses and gross motor movement and core strength we are looking for in the kindergarten years.  This is the true preparation for the academic work that will take place in the grades.

4.  Your child needs more silence, more time to themselves,  and less of your hovering and words and direction.  It doesn’t mean that your children don’t need  you, but that it is part of the health of the individual child to have time and space to self-initiate, to learn in their own world of play as they imitate your work and your inner attitudes.

5.  Speak in verses and songs;  provide pictures with images as you speak with clear speech.  Silence provides time and space for your child to initiate his or her own words. Stories and songs are the food of the Waldorf Kindergarten.  The stories you make up about the little things around your home and neighborhood are the best stories.

6.  Protection is the key to the Waldorf Kindergarten – questions and answers and explanations for the child, more questions for the child, so many choices, the use of so many gadgets and screens to entertain children all takes away a child’s self-initiative, their own ability to modulate and self-regulate their own emotions, the unfolding of their own development, and their ability to imagine and problem-solve.  Protection is an important neuro-stimulator.

7.  Boundaries relax children.  They may kick and scream against it,  you may have to gently hold them while they scream and kick, but they will relax into it eventually.  Waldorf teachers vary on the use of the phrase “You may” do something versus  “You will” do something, but  no matter how you say it, a boundary still needs to happen.  A strong rhythm is the best boundary holder of all.

8. Help children learn how they can love and support each other.  We often don’t have this in the home if it is just a young child and us, without mixed age ranges. I don’t know as a three or four year old needs much in the way of “socialization” outside the family unit, but I think by five and six most children would like to have a friend or two and I think this is important for social development.  Building up community is important for the homeschooling adult and the children.  This may be done by you starting a homeschool group, a playgroup, or just an outside day at a park with friends. 

9.  And after saying all of this, I am going to sound paradoxical when I tell you that who we are is more important than what we do.  Are we truly loving and kind or do we bad mouth people behind their backs?  Do we approach our tasks lovingly and with joy or are we bitter and full of resentment?  How are we working to develop the inner qualities we want our children to emulate?  This involves taking up spiritual initiative within our own lives in whatever capacity that means to us.  Rudolf Steiner laid out a path with his ideas, I use a path of Christianity through my religious denomination, and different people have different ways, but the point is that you work on cultivating the spirituality that is within in you that connects you to other people and to the world and causes you to see how things are interrelated.

10.  Remember that the ultimate goal of Waldorf Education is that the human beings once again learn how to live with each other, that we can connect with the “other”, that we see how things are interrelated, that we can serve humanity with love.  It helps to begin with the end in mind.

I have very specific back posts about Waldorf in the Home for the one and two year old, the three and four year old, the five and six year old, along with posts on puppetry, festivals, stories, movement and gross motor development, the development of the hand, modeling and wet on wet painting.   You do not need a fancy curriculum.  Save your money for art supplies, and child-sized tools for work in nourishing the home or a membership to your state parks. 

Many blessings,

Carrie

Weeks Three Through Seven of Eighth and Fifth Grade

It is hard to believe that my last post on eighth and fifth grade was back in August; you can read that post here and see what we were up to!

Six Year Old Kindergarten – I described in my first post the joys of our liturgical year and August; for September we have moved into so many of the traditional Autumn things that I love – songs and verses about squirrels, chipmunks and apples; Suzanne Down’s sweet story about “There’s a Bear in Our Plum Tree!” and now the story “The Princess of the Flaming Castle” found in the red book, “Let Us Form A Ring”.  This month, we have focused on Saint Helena and Holy Cross Day, celebrated in the Episcopal tradition on September 15th, and reading lots of stories and saying verses about angels in preparation for the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels.  This has been a fun time of starting church choir for our little one, attending Sunday School and finally being old enough to go to Cloverbuds in 4-H when his big sisters attend our homeschool 4-H meetings.  So lovely!  Mainly we have been enjoying baking, painting, modeling, playing in the dirt, and being outside with the change of weather.

Fifth Grade – This botany block is stretching out to be the longest block we have ever done,much like the way our Native American block of Third Grade went on forever (same child as well!).  At any rate, once we got settled in, we enjoyed moving into algae and lichens and their varying connections to animals from our fourth grade Man and Animal block.  We moved into mosses and ferns with painting and modeling and walking in the woods.   We read “One Day in the Woods”, also by Jean Craighead George, and looked at the beautiful fern family in modeling and painting.  We went apple picking, and used the process of drawing and describing the apple tree and orchard as a basis for talking about the steps in writing – pre-writing, draft, revision, edit and final stage – and types of writing.  For conifers we have extensively discussed the ecology of the longleaf pine, which we will also be visiting this coming week; and how this habitat is intricately intertwined with the red cockaded woodpecker, one of the first animals I learned about when we moved to this state, and also with the keystone species of the gopher tortoise that we learned about in our fourth grade Man and Animal block and reviewed here. “Ecology of a Cracker Childhood”  by Janisse Ray is a great read for teachers looking to know more about this unique habitat.   We will have a field trip and poetry to look at trees, and a final look at botany with the flowering plants and an introduction to biomes.  It promises to be a full  last (hopefully last!) week. 

We have been reviewing a lot of math and spelling.  Music theory is going full force again with our choir director from church, along with choir practice itself and swimming and 4H.  Busy days! 

Eighth Grade – We finished our Platonic Solids (Stereometry) and Loci block.  Loci were great fun and we looked at the basic building blocks of loci and then moved into creating parabolas, hyperbolas and ellipses.  We then did some work with HOW one gets those formulas of volume.  Then we moved into American History.  We had done a Colonial/American History block last year in seventh grade, so in this grade we picked up with Thomas Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark and moved onward.  We have talked about the changes in transportation with the steamboat, the Golden Age of Canals, when Texas was an independent Republic and the Mexican-American War, the Pony Express,  and the inventions and changes that helped shaped America. I assigned a paper regarding Eli Whitney as I feel this ties into the pre-Civil War Era nicely.  We moved into the Civil War at the end of this week.

We did a more exhaustive literary analysis of Scott O’Dell’s “Sing Down the Moon”, looked at Navaho songs, and are now reading “Sacajawea” aloud.  There are many wonderful books to read about this time period in American history, and just not enough time!  We have continued with math, vocabulary and Spanish, and finally did start that World Geography, which will have enough hours at the end of the year and be rigorous enough to be a high school level course.  So far we have looked at types of  geographers and  their areas of study, the five lenses of geography, a review of globes, maps, latitude, longitude, different types of maps, and then delved quite deeply into Antarctica (where there is an island named after my husband’s family!), the explorers of Antarctica and its wildlife and now into North America.  

4-H has been busy with forestry judging (tree identification, tree diseases and insect identification, saw timber estimation and pacing) and now wildlife judging, along with choir and other activities. One interesting activity my eighth grader found through 4-H is Walk Georgia – for each certain number of minutes of movement, one “unlocks” one of Georgia’s counties on an interactive map and with this, pertinent attractions for that county are listed. What a fun way to review all of the counties of our state and stay active!

It has been a busy year so far…

Blessings,
Carrie

Nimble Feet in Waldorf Education

The tasks of the first three years (to be upright and walk; speech and then thought) are intricately tied into Waldorf Education.  We see that the legs are connected with gravity and the surface of the earth, and as the feet move it is often with an inward swing in relation to the joints of the knee and the hip even when we walk in a straight line.  The right foot is seen as moving counterclockwise and the left foot moves clockwise as archetypal patterns.  You can read more about this in the book “Foundations of the Extra Lesson” by Joep Eikenboom.  As our hands become “free”,  and no longer needed for locomotion as we stand and walk upright, they become useful as tools, for expression, for work, for caring for another in lifting gestures as we react to sensory impressions.  Feet  remain in contact with the ground, for the most part, in a stretching movement for walking. Stretching and lifting provide a counterpoint for each other within the development of the body.  One is as important as the other; one is the balance for the other.

There are many books containing hand gesture games, fingerplays and other verses and songs involving the hands.  Yet, the development of the nimbleness of the feet is an important component of the stretching of the body and the development of the will.

There are many ways to incorporate feet into verses, songs and rhymes.  Almost any rhyme typically used for the hands can be used for the feet in some capacity with a little creativity and incorporated into circle time.  Stomping, being on tip toes, patting the soles of the feet are all wonderful.  Autumn brings to mind horses having horseshoes put on, cobblers mending and tending to shoes, giants stomping, gnomes stomping and walking up and down stairways to the inner earth, all manner of forest and farm animals trodding softly or loudly.   Traditional rhymes such as “Shoe a little horse, shoe a little mare” and “Cobbler, cobbler, mend my shoe” work well for foot plays and combinations of toe and foot wiggling, bearing weight on different sections of the foot, and using the feet across midline.

Older children can work with some of the exercises suggested in the book “The Extra Lesson”.  Some of the foot exercises tie into remedial work for children who are restless or children who have trouble sleeping or who suffer from nightmares and challenges with writing.  Foot dominance is tied to the dominance needed for writing and for a sense of spatial awareness in general.  The nimble foot, the nimble mind!

Blessings,
Carrie

The Cost of Overscheduling Your Children

There was a very good post  recently over at “Becoming Minimalist” entitled “How To Slow Down Your Family’s Schedule” which did a great job in pointing out some of the problems with over-scheduling children in our world. I wrote a post some time ago about choosing time outside the home wisely.  In that article I mentioned several points, specifically in reference to the homeschooling community, where because children are not out at school all day, parents often feel the need to get their children out after homeschooling is done.  Here are a few of the discussion points:

  • I don’t think children under 12 need anything, although many parents of 11-12 year old girls have told me they felt their girls “needed something to do” whereas boys seemed to not care until age 14 or so.
  • Teens ages 13-15, somewhere in that time frame, really do seem to need something.  If you haven’t overloaded them with activities up until this point, then adding one or two activities may seem like enough to them.
  • Families with one child seem to vary on how they approach things – read the comments from the previous blog post.
  • Families with four or more children seem to pick activities where all children can participate at once, whereas families with one to three children seem to run around a lot more with the children all doing separate activities!
  • The DRIVER (parent) is often the one who is tired out!
  • Many parents noted they would love to stay home and have informal play with other children, but no children  are at  home in their neighborhood or they may live far out in the country and there are no children.  Children are interacting in structured activities these days, not in playing street games, tag and riding bikes like thirty years or so ago.

I think it could possibly take a full-on public health campaign in the United States to really change the perception of parents that there is value in UNSTRUCTURED play and to not sign their children up for every activity.  I am so glad to know so many of you are trendsetters and are pointing the way toward family being home!

If you want to pare down your schedule, here is a list of suggestions that other parents have told me works:

Discount activities that meet over the dinner hour.  Don’t be so willing to trade a structured, led by an adult outside your home for the benefits of the family dinner hour.  (and there are many benefits; there have been studies).

Let each child pick ONE thing per semester.  Many things now, at least in the United States, seem to run all year round, but see what you can find.

Delay the starting ages for doing activities outside the home.  “In our family, you get to pick an activity to do outside the home when you are “X” years old.”

Figure out when is YOUR day with your children if you are really busy with activities.  How many days do YOU need to be home to feel happy, to have the house the way you want it, etc.

You can try my method:  I put a big X over certain days of the week and do not allow myself to schedule anything on those days.  I have talked about this is in back posts.

Can you let go of guilt?  Every article, including the “Becoming Minimalist” post above, mentions how wonderful free, unstructured play with other children is, yet most parents say there are no children to play with!  Can you feel okay with your child playing by themselves or with their siblings for many days of the week?

The reality is that most homeschooling parents, at least most Waldorf or holistic homeschooling parents, do not want to be out every day and see the value in being home.  They see the value in space and time for development.

I think part of the problem is that most parents are working, and therefore no one is home and the child has to be somewhere.  Also, the ending time of school can vary and take away the down time of the afternoon.  For example, the middle school (grades 6-8) in my area get home around 5 PM, at which time they must eat and do homework.  So, part of this question I think becomes what do we do until economics – attitudes- amount of homework changes? A  tall social order!

Love to hear your thoughts and your thoughts on the “Becoming Minimalist” blog post.

Blessings,
Carrie

Homeschooling Fourth and Seventh Grade: Wrap-Up of Weeks Thirty-Three and Thirty-Four

(You can find the last post in this series here. )

I am trying to post a little wrap-up of each week of grades seven, four and five year old kindergarten year throughout the 36 weeks I have planned for school this year.  I hope this will encourage mothers that are homeschooling multiple children (or who want to but are worried!), and  encourage mothers that even homeschooling children of multiple ages who are far apart in age is doable. 

Living with the Seasons:  We had a lovely Feast of the Ascension Day, and are now gearing up for Pentecost Sunday.  What a beautiful time of year!  The pools are open and we have been swimming frequently, and summer feels as if it is just around the corner!

Homeschool Planning: I am not sure I have made substantial progress since the last time I posted  in this series, but still feel confident that it is possible to finish planning by the end of June and just focus on artistic work the rest of the summer.  Fifth grade pretty much has a flow for every block, as does eighth grade at this point, along with plans for a once a week World Geography wrap-up in the autumn and American Government in the spring semester.  My little six year old year is still only about half-way done, and obviously I still have many presentations to write and mull over to go with the flow of the blocks planned out.

Kindergarten:  We have had a lovely spring circle and Feast of the Ascension story (found in “All Year Round”).  We have added in many spring fingerplays and songs as well.  This week we are moving into a new story for the last two weeks of school, and I am thinking about all kinds of plans for the six-year-old kindergarten year.  Cooking, baking, water play and swimming, seasonal crafts, sand play, walking distances are just a few of the things we have been doing the past few weeks.

Fourth Grade:  We are still working hard on math – both practice math of all four processes, games involving multiplication, Extra Lesson kinds of activities, spelling, and fractions.  We will be ending school soon, next week, and have a well-deserved break.  We only have a few chapter left to read in “Heroes of the Kalevala”, which has been enjoyed by our fourth grader.

Seventh Grade:  We are working hard on a review of measurement conversions and other past math topics each day.  We are also finishing up our Latin America block.  This was what was in our Main Lesson Book regarding Latin America as of my last post:

 

  • A beautiful title page
  • A physical map of Latin America with all mountains and highlands, lowlands and coastal plain areas labeled/ discussed as well as the Atacama Desert
  • A summary of the Andes Mountains and a painting; I want to go back and do a portrait of the people of the Andes if we have time
  • A summary of The Pampas and the gaucho, quotes from “Martin Fierro”, the epic gaucho saga by Jose Hernandez which we read.
  • A summary of the Amazon Basin; drawing of  toucans!

The last few weeks we added:

  • A lovely map of the four voyages of Christopher Columbus, a map of Hispaniola and a discussion and summary of the Taino people.
  • A very lively discussion and delving into the life and religion of the Mayan civilization. I feel strongly that the Maya should be in Fifth Grade for those of us in North America, but since we didn’t include it there, we are doing it now.  Our daughter composed her own summary from  notes taken, and we have looked at sections of the Popol Vuh. We also worked in clay and in using vivid chalks for a picture.
  • Now we are moving into the Aztec civilization, and will do the Incan Empire in our final week of school this year.

I found many books used and from the library that assisted me in putting together this block, including:

  • A little Latin American coloring book by Rod and Staff, the Christian publisher
  • A used copy of “World in Focus: Central and South America” by Allman
  • Mayan Mythology by Currie
  • Secrets in Stone:  All About Maya Hieroglyphs by Coulter
  • Popul Vuh:  A Sacred Book of the Maya by Montejo
  • Mayan and Aztec Mythology by Ollhof
  • The Aztecs by Heinrichs
  • Mountains Around the World:  The Andes by Aloian
  • The Inca Empire by Newman
  • The Inca from the Early Peoples Series by World Book
  • Macchu Picchu by Elizabeth Mann
  • The Inca by Braman
  • Fiction:  Secret of the Andes by Clark
  • Fiction:  Pedro’s Journal

I would love to hear what you are working on right now!

Blessings,
Carrie

Wrap-Up of Weeks Thirty Through Thirty-Two

It is hard to believe that I last posted in this series on April sixteenth.  You can find the post about weeks twenty-eight and twenty-nine here.

I am trying to post a little wrap-up of each week of grades seven, four and five year old kindergarten year throughout the 36 weeks I have planned for school this year.  I hope this will encourage mothers that are homeschooling multiple children (or who want to but are worried!), and  encourage mothers that even homeschooling children of multiple ages who are far apart in age is doable.  You can find weeks twenty four through twenty six and further in the back posts you can find a post pertaining to the first two days of school this year which gives insight to our general daily rhythm.

Living With The Seasons:  Week Thirty saw our homeschool play on the Norse Myths come to fruition for our middle child.  Other than that, it has been a busy time of endings for the school year.  4-H has ended, along with church choir, the physics class for our oldest, and the church musical is over.  I love the feeling of things winding down and the beauty of Eastertide and May Day.

Homeschool Planning:  Friends, I am working very hard so I do  not have to spend my entire summer planning.  I am mostly through fifth grade, half of the six year old kindergarten year and have various blocks of eighth grade done.  I am hoping to be totally done at the end of June and can just take July to enjoy the summer.  We shall see if that comes to fruition!

Kindergarten:  Kindergarten at this time of year is about playing and developing gross motor skills!  We have been continuing a simple circle and story, fingerplays and seasonal singing.  We are moving this week from a sweet Suzanne Down story of Old Gnome and his friend the frog found in Suzanne’s wonderful book “Old Gnome Through The Year” into a story specifically for The Feast of Ascension on Thursday, May 14 (the story can be found in the back of the book “All  Year Round”).    Most of all we have been swimming, walking a lot and we hope to go strawberry picking in the next few weeks.

Fourth Grade:  It took us several weeks to finish up grasshoppers, bees, ants, and butterflies in our last Man and Animal block.   We did quite a bit of modeling, drawing and poetry with our insect friends, and I also brought in the chapters about bees and butterflies from Charles Kovacs’ “Botany” book.  This week, we have moved  into a review of all four math processes and the fractions introduced in the fall.  I have put together my own lessons for this block based off the few lessons in Dorothy Harrer’s “Math Lessons for Elementary Grades” (free ebook) and Marilyn Burns’ “Lessons for Introducing Fractions”, available used through Abe Books or other used booksellers.  We have been working very hard on math and spelling.  We finished  “Little Bee Sunbeam” and now we are reading “Heroes of the Kalevala:  Finland’s Saga” by Babette Deutsch.  I know everyone extolls “The Land of Heroes”, but I really like Deutsch’s version.   

Seventh Grade:  Hard to believe that seventh grade is coming to an end! 

So far we have done (picking up from the list I began in the previous post):

  • A Summary of Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael that I talked about in the previous post
  • A line drawing in the style of Leonardo.
  • A map of Spain in the time of Ferdinand, Isabella and Columbus
  • A pastel chalk drawing of the boats of Columbus
  • A colored pencil drawing of Martin Luther nailing the 95 theses to the church door
  • A map of the British Isles at the time of Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare
  • A portrait of Queen Elizabeth (colored pencil) with quote
  • A charcoal portrait of William Shakespeare

Forging into Latin American geography and the great Aztec, Maya and Incan civilizations and the Spanish coming to the New World, we have:

  • A beautiful title page
  • A physical map of Latin America with all mountains and highlands, lowlands and coastal plain areas labeled/ discussed as well as the Atacoma Desert
  • A summary of the Andes Mountains and a painting; I want to go back and do a portrait of the people of the Andes if we have time
  • A summary of The Pampas and the gaucho, quotes from “Martin Fierro”, the epic gaucho saga by Jose Hernandez which we read.
  • A summary of the Amazon Basin; drawing of jaguars

In math we are actually reviewing measurement and conversions of all types and she is finishing up The Key To Algebra book 2.  This year we finished up through Book Five of The Key Geometry books, books 1 and now 2 of Algebra, and books 1 and 2 of Metric Measurement.  Still more to do!

We finished reading “The Second Mrs. Gianconda” and my daughter is reading, “I, Don Pareja” herself.  We are now reading aloud “The Secret of the Andes.”

We are entering into a discussion of Mayan civilization and I hope to have a large scale project. 

We are still here plugging away!

Blessings,
Carrie

Which Waldorf Curriculum Should I Buy?

(Up to date as of 2/4/2017)

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 (and this is just a list; I am not endorsing any particular curriculum since different things work for different families)  include Celebrate the Rhythm of Life Living Curriculum Program,  Live Education, Waldorf Essentials, Earthschooling, 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 out 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.  There are several websites with free information, including Waldorf Inspirations.  Jean Miller’s website Waldorf-Inspired Learning and  Meredith over at A Waldorf Journey have some products available depending upon block/topic. 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.  There may be other resources I missed or didn’t include, but I think these represent the majority of the curriculums that are out there that cover grades 1-8 in some capacity.

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

Wrap-Up of Week Twenty-Four of Seventh and Fourth Grade

I am trying to post a little wrap-up of each week of grades seven, four and five year old kindergarten year throughout the 36 weeks I have planned for school this year.  I hope this will encourage mothers that are homeschooling multiple children (or who want to but are worried!), and  encourage mothers that even homeschooling children of multiple ages who are far apart in age is doable.  You can find week twenty-three here    and further in the back posts you can find a post pertaining to the first two days of school this year which gives insight to our general daily rhythm.

Living With The Seasons:   We are still in Lent and enjoying the beauty of this quiet season.  I was in a family Sunday school class last Wednesday night.  We gathered on the playground and  then the children climbed to the top of several different playsets in order  to gaze at the beautiful full moon.  We talked about the Cherokee names for the full moon, prayed for the children’s needs, went to the Memorial Garden (a contemplative garden) and by flashlight read a hand-cut paper book based off the song, “What a Wonderful World” and prayed again with each child holding a prayer stone.   Several children knew that song and sang the words.    What a lovely night, and a quiet, still time of year to feel close to God and His creation. 

I transitioned our Winter nature scene to St. Patrick and his deer.  What a joy to remember St. Patrick’s words and life this season. 

Kindergarten:  We are back to Suzanne Down’s “Old Gnome Through The Year”.  Our son said he missed Old Gnome and his friends, so for March we are doing the story, “Old Gnome’s St. Patrick’s Day Fun”, and a movement journey for circle written by Nancy Blanning called “A Pot of Gold” .  The weather has been mostly nice, and there were opportunities to play with friends many days this week out in nature, so that was nice.  Painting, drawing, cutting and coloring rounded out the week.   

Fourth Grade:  We have moved beyond the head-trunk-limb classification of animals we began in the first Man and Animal block, and now past the metabolic-limb/nerve-sensory/rhythmic system classification we started in this block into categories of animals.  We have done birds and spent a good deal of time here looking at classifying birds in a way that would make sense to a ten-year old (you could do just land/water birds, songbirds, birds of prey but I had a few more categories of birds).  We looked closely at the eagle – in Kovacs’ book, but also in Jim Arnosky’s “Thunder Birds” and Jean Craighead George’s “The Eagles Are Back”.  With help, our fourth grader composed a little report about eagles, which she dictated to me and I wrote on the board.  We corrected it, and she copied it.  We also spent time looking at and listening for our state bird, the Brown Thrasher.    I then used the description of birds and fish found in Roy Wilkinson’s little booklet “The Human Being and the Animal World” as a gateway into the land of fish  and some of the ideas in the Christopherus “The Human Being and the Animal World” book to look more closely at fishes.  We are moving into the talking about the watersheds of Georgia and the fishes of our state, particularly the bass family (the largemouth bass is our state fish), that lives there , and then we will talk about the oceans off our state’s coast and our state whale. 

Seventh Grade: This was a big week in learning about the human sexuality and the reproductive system.  The main resources I used included Linda Knodle’s “Human Fertility” book and the wonderful ebook from Rick Tan over at Syrendell, “Let’s Talk Biography and Biology” (see Syrendell for more details  http://www.syrendell.com/).  I also used some of the ideas in my  back post about sexuality, and a document from the Antioch Orthodox Church regarding friendship and deeper topics here:  http://www.antiochian.org/PVC   I especially enjoyed the part about genuine versus artificial friendship and the different levels of friendship.    More about this block in a separate post as it really is too long to discuss here.

Blessings,
Carrie

Wrap-Up of Week Twenty-Three of Seventh and Fourth Grade

I am trying to post a little wrap-up of each week of grades seven, four and five year old kindergarten year throughout the 36 weeks I have planned for school this year.  I hope this will encourage mothers that are homeschooling multiple children (or who want to but are worried!), and  encourage mothers that even homeschooling children of multiple ages who are far apart in age is doable.  You can find weeks twenty one and twenty two   here   and further in the back posts you can find a post pertaining to the first two days of school this year which gives insight to our general daily rhythm.

Living With The Seasons:  In our home, this is the season of Lent.  We have been at church more, and I have been doing some extra inner work.  Things have been peaceful and calm in Lent, (even with extra choir practices for the musical!).  When we really put the extra effort into ourselves and our own inner work, it really does radiate out into our families. 

Kindergarten:  This is the last week of our “King Winter” circle and our “The Rabbit and the Carrot” story.  Next up will be a Spring circle and the “The Little Red Hen” (the Irish tale in which there is a mouse, a cat, a little red hen and a fox).   We have been painting, whittling, and taking long walks in the morning with the nicer weather.  There has been an upswing in play and being outside overall.

Fourth Grade:  This week we finished up our look at the human being and animals through the lens of the metabolic-limb, rhythmic and head and nerve-sense systems. For this, we looked at the American bison and the cow for the metabolic-limb system, the dog and the lion for the rhythmic system, and the eagle for the head and nerve- sense system.  Our exploration of the eagle has now led into birds.  We are looking at groupings of our feathered friends, we have read the book “For The Birds:  The Life of Roger Tory Peterson”.  We spent some time looking at the general characteristics of birds, the different environments in which birds live and how they adapt, our own state bird, and the prairie and water birds.  We have done a good amount of drawing, painting and poetry to go with this week.

We are still reading “Thorkill of Iceland” as our read-aloud and are also painting different scenes  from this book.  Spelling has come from our main lesson and also sight words.  In math we are still working on subtraction, addition, multiplication and division.  Lastly, we have started a new handwork project.  Our daughter also earned one of her levels in choir and was very happy to see her hard work pay off.  Practices for our church’s spring musical and a play with friends are continuing.

Seventh Grade:  We are hard at work on our physiology block.  I discussed this in a separate post.  This week we finished up the digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems, spoke in length regarding nicotine addiction, and are now moving into Human Fertility and the Reproductive System. 

Our daughter has been working on math quite a bit and has finished the Key To Geometry books 1-5, Key To Algebra 1 and 2, and Metric Measurement 1.

Choir, church musical practice, 4-H and horseback riding are still going along…

Would love to hear what you are working on this week.

Blessings,

Carrie