Planning The High School Years

High school planning is challenging because of the becoming.  I can tell you  I think the largest, biggest, scariest, most brilliant leaps in development happen between ages 15-17 and it happens in ways so hard to predict!  So on one hand, who wants to plan high school so far ahead and pigeon-hole what beautiful opportunities and passions come out of growth?  On the other hand, who wants to think myopically and make the world very small and not plan far enough ahead so that opportunities will  then not be available for the young adult?  I think this is the fine line that every homeschooling family straddles.

So far, I can only tell you our plan for one child, who is currently in tenth grade,  and what we think the next few years will look like.  I am happy to share that; I am also happy to share that ninth and tenth grade have been vastly different for this child and that things are emerging daily that could be a path to something for the future that I cannot even foresee yet.  There really are no planned out tracks or goals for a career right now, no set path.  This child would prefer to have four years of high school and not pursue dual enrollment. In my area, dual enrollment is insanely popular and perhaps for good financial reason.  But I also understand my child and how she wants the excitment to enter college as a freshman (or in taking a gap year and then entering) and how she wants the beauty of the full college experience as a new freshman and how she doesn’t feel ready for dual enrollment with many older students. And I think that is okay!

So, my main advice to you in planning high school is to:

LOOK AT YOUR CHILD.  What is their temperament, their personality, their interests? Are there any outside academic high school classes in your area and if so, does your child want to take them?  Does your child want to go to college?  Do they know what they want to do or do they have an area in which they shine that might lead to a career path?  Do they want to do dual enrollment? Or not?

THINK ABOUT BEING MINIMAL.  High school can suddenly seem very, very complicated.  In all states in the United States, you can create a transcript for graduating high school.  However, if your child is interested in applying to college, there may be certain requirements the college or university is looking for.  So look at the public college system in your state and see what the requirements look like.  After freshman year, perhaps your student will be willing to chime in on a few colleges they like and you can look at those requirements as well.  So, it doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to be limiting. There are many ways to meet science or history requirements,  and many unique areas of focus that would count depending upon the final goal upon high school completion.  Most homeschooling families who have homeschooled multiple children through high school have commented that every high school path has looked different for each teenager.  As it should be – THAT is one reason why we homeschool high school!

DON’T PANIC.  150 hours is usually a humanities credit, and a 180 hours is usually a science with lab credit.  You can fulfill this a variety of ways – hours of experience, using a textbook and getting through most of the textbook, or honestly, when you feel the material has been mastered.  Some will use CLEP tests or SAT II Subject Tests to prove mastery.  If you keep track of what you do as you go along, you will have no trouble putting a transcript together.

CHASE THE PASSIONS. This is why we homeschool high school on one hand, but on the other hand, not every homeschooled kid has this insane passion that takes hours a day.  Be easy on this if they don’t have a passion, but do look for the opportunities that make homeschooling worthwhile!

WALDORF WHAT?  Many of you here are Waldorf homeschoolers and I am here to tell you whilst there is almost no information out there, it is possible to homeschool Waldorf in a high school manner using a mix of track (all year) classes and block classes (just like you did in grades 1-8).  Check out the Waldorf High Schools around the United States on-line and you will see the same blocks over and over with some geographic variation, just like in grades 1-8.  The AWNSA chart created by David Mitchell details high school in it, as does books by Stockmeyer and the book by Finser.  You will be putting together blocks yourself just as you have done through the middle school years when less curricula was available. you can do this!

Our plan right now, for one very specific teenager who wants to go to college and pretty much likes only math (LOL) and whose siblings’ high school courses will look much, much different:

We did World Geography as a year-long course (Oak Meadow’s high school course)  in Grade 8 and High School Spanish I in Grade 8.   These credits could count toward high school if we need them – especially the foreign language.

Ninth Grade – we did Biology as a year-long track class with labs (Oak Meadow with things I added to it); American History (through blocks that added up to enough hours between eighth and ninth grade); Algebra I (outside class in our town); Spanish II (Oak Meadow); and Literature and Composition I (including the typical Comedy and Tragedy block found in ninth grade) and math blocks (see Making Math Meaningful for High School for more information on these blocks).  Typical Waldorf blocks also include Art History, which would count toward a fine arts credit if a college requires it and you add in fine arts projects or toward an elective credit.  We had a credit with Music Theory and Performance (vocal, piano).

Tenth Grade – AP Environmental Science is our year-long track science class (outside class in our town); we will start World History in several blocks and finish that in eleventh grade; United States Government and Civics as a year-long course (and tied back into Greek History and Civics that is a popular block in Waldorf Schools); Literature and Composition I (taught in blocks, this year, Ancient Literature, Epic Poetry, Contemporary African-American Poetry/Essays) and math blocks.  Books with reports throughout the year.  Health and Physical Fitness (Oak Meadow).  Geometry and Algebra II/Trig were the other two outside classes our tenth grader chose to take (two credits total) along with the math blocks found in tenth grade Waldorf Schools.  Our embryology block will tie back into our Biology credit from ninth grade.  We will also have another credit with Music Theory and Performance II.

Eleventh Grade – Chemistry will be our science, I believe, along with several blocks of botany found traditionally in Waldorf Schools and blocks on astronomy.  We will finish World History and include resources on world religions, usually found in Waldorf Schools in this grade.  Eleventh Grade English is usually Dante, Parsifal and more in this grade, so still deciding that route.  Books with reports throughout the year.  Math will be Precalculus and possibly AP Statistics as outside classes (two credits).  We will most likely have another credit in music and will apply the hours in our History Through Music block to this.

Twelfth Grade – Physics and Calculus will be our outside classes, most likely along with AP English and AP Psychology, also outside the home.  The traditional Waldorf blocks include literature such as  Faust , Transcendentalists, and Russian literature, so I will be drawing from those, and History through Architecture.  We most likely will have another credit in music and I would love to cover Marine Biology, but we will see how far we get.

There are some things we may not cover, such as a lot of Earth Science, which is covered in Waldorf Schools. However, I think for the most part, our plan lines up to both some of the things found important developmentally in Waldorf Schools and also meets requirements for the more competitive colleges our teen is dreaming of applying to.

So that is our plan, but mostly we want to be flexible and allow time for all of our teen’s passions, of which there are a few (mainly horseback riding and musical ventures, and involvement at our parish).

Tell me your high school plans!

Blessings,
Carrie

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Pedagogical Stories: Second Grade

In the Waldorf curriculum, art is the vehicle for so many things – artistic skills, academic skills, soul development, the development of the feeling life.  And I find it can often carry a pedagogical story better than straight storytelling in the home environment.  Not much is often said about this, so I wanted to share an experience I had with you.

Many have commented that pedagogical stories don’t work exceedingly well in the home environment.  This makes perfect sense!  When a child hears a story about a situation in a classroom of thirty children, it has a much different effect than one child at home thinking, “That is me!” and feeling….irritated or pointed out.  It is anything but a sideways approach that is so valued for helping those under 9 in the Waldorf curriculum.  If you would like to learn a little more about pedagogical stories and their place in the curriculum, there is a lovely post about the use of fairy tales from Bright Water Waldorf School.  There is also a lovely book by Susan Perrow called, “Healing Stories for Challenging Behavior.”

However, I think stories in artistic form, such as in  painting and  other areas, are often a wonderful way to provide these sorts of experiences.  I often plan an artistic experience such as painting as a foray into the feeling world, and what better a bridge to the heart than these arts?

We have been working with a story this week about “The Parrot and The Fig Tree” this week. It is a sweet Jataka tale about the steadfastness of a beautiful parrot not leaving his friend the fig tree when times become troubled, and what rejoicing when things are all wonderful again!  The refrain in the story is, “My tree, I’ll not leave you.”  We have used this story for form drawing and for writing the refrain, in reviewing letters and in reading what we wrote.

I took a cue from this story for our painting time and made up an on the sport story to go with our painting that  really was a pedagogical tale about constant chattering.  Knowing the qualities of the beautiful and luminous colors of paints is helpful, but I find the qualities most often portrayed can be adjusted…For example, red is often portrayed as  roaring and racing color that is bouncing around. However, I  potrayed red as a solid color, sitting up in a tree listening to the forest (much like the choleric needs to listen to those around him in order to be a good leader, which is the pedagogical part of this story for my little second grader), just like the red parrot sat in the fig tree in our story. At this point we painted a red ball in the middle of the page.

Red was hearing the trouble the trees were having in not getting hardly any sun.  The forest was so dense; the trees were concerned the sunlight couldn’t reach them.  Red was hearing the trouble the trees were having in not getting hardly any sun but he had to sit so very still  in order to hear all of this from the trees.  We painted blue around the red ball, but not touching red.

The trees around him were a quiet blue and talked so softly, so red had to listen so very hard.  After he heard, red thought about a way to solve the problem the trees were having…if only he were still and thought about the golden sun coming down on the top of the trees, and the sun reaching and expanding  in his own heart, the trees would have sunlight (painting yellow over the blue to make green) and the trees would have lush, green leaves.  The implication, but not said, is that this all happened because red listened so mightily both to those around him and their needs and to what was inside himself.  It is a strong thing to listen.

So, sometimes we come in with an idea that in our lesson planning book – to paint.  We may even have something living in us at the moment (the parrot and the fig tree) that we can riff off of like a jazz band player taking off for a solor.  But then  we must look at the child in front of us, and use these things in a pedagogical way for the health of our children.    This is the art of education.

Happy school days,

Carrie

The Parenting Passageway: In Photos

I have always resisted putting photographs on this page because so many mothers look at these beautiful photos of a (single moment) snapshot of someone’s beautiful world and then immediately put themselves down.  In that exact moment, the developmental and holistic parenting and education offered by this blog would cease to be able to be created in the home by one family for their children.  Therefore, I have always resisted it.

However, times have changed.  Many people do not even read blogs anymore.  Most on-line discussion  has switched to Facebook.  The highly visual Instagram and Pinterest are more popular than ever.  More and more people are contacting me and telling me that whilst they actually do like having no photographs in this space, they wish they could see pictures of chalkboard drawings or Waldorf Education in practice or visual snippets about parenting and homeschooling from this page somewhere.  It is a visual generation!

So, I have started to post more pictures and quick snapshots of our days on The Parenting Passageway Facebook page.  In the days between blog posts, you will find a wide variety of artistic offerings, discussion starters, and more.   So, please come on over if you enjoy Facebook and/or visual images.  I would love to see you here and on the Facebook page.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia And Waldorf Homeschooling

There are often posts about children who have dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia on the Waldorf homeschooling facebook groups.  One of our children was diagnosed with all three of these some years ago,  so I have some experience with dealing with this in combination with Waldorf homeschooling. I say “some experience” simply because one child does not a generalization make!  In speaking with other parents whose children also have dyslexia, I find the symptoms of dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia play out very differently from child to child, so one must be super careful.  What works for one child with dyslexia may or may not work for another child.

However, I would like to share some general tips from my experience:

  1. Consider testing.  It typically is not the be all and end all in terms of being a shocker as to what it going on, but if your  older child does need accommodation for testing or wants to transfer into a school setting for middle or high school, testing is really important.  Testing usually also leads to suggestions for therapy or concentrations for remedial work/tutoring to focus on, which actually can be helpful. It can also help pinpoint things such as is working memory deficits or slow processing part of the picture, which can be helpful to know in teaching.
  2. Waldorf Education, with its experiential foundation, movement focus, and whole language development is great for all children, including those with dyslexia.  However, as children get older, don’t be afraid to incorporate products geared toward children with dyslexia.  We started with  “All About Spelling,” which seems to work well for some dyslexic children in fifth grade after a year of visual therapy  that took up part of third and fourth grade, but in looking back, I think we should have used some of these things earlier than we did. Our family was mainly searching for math and spelling help, since reading and comprehension were strengths,  but  some children really need an Orton-Gillingham based product such as “All About Reading” or  “Logic of English” for reading.  For dyscalculia, I recommend Ronit Bird’s work, which is based in games and  number flexibility and fits into Waldorf metholodolgy nicely.  She has a lovely You Tube Channel, where you can see some of the games in action.  For working specifically on how to write in the upper grades, I have had recommendations for “Writing Skills” by Diana Hanbury King.  I think there is supposed to be three books, but I can only find one book published so far, and although Book One says grade 4 or something like that, I wouldn’t be worried about working through it with a middle schooler. Hopefully the other books will come out!
  3. Don’t be afraid to adjust the response required from the new content, especially as the amount of content increases in grades five and up.  For example, children with dysgraphia will generally also have trouble with drawing pictures or other artistic responses such as modeling or painting, they may have difficulty free hand maps which is typically part of the middle school curriculum,  and obviously the physical act of writing summaries.  The physical difficulties in writing also impedes the flow of writing,  which can be fixed with the use of technology for typing, but some dyslexic students have  a really hard time with ordering and developing ideas and need a lot of work there.   For the upper grades, I typically require less written work than I did for my student without dyslexia.  Sometimes I modify things completely to eliminate much of the writing or drawing for some blocks.   For example, for some of the mineralogy work in sixth grade, we did more of a cut and paste approach to make a lapbook as a response or instead of making freehand maps that were detailed, we worked together to be able to draw the map or we skipped map making. I find it important to alternate work like this with blocks that require writing or artistic work. Because normally writing and artistic work takes these children a much longer time, these strategies are important in Waldorf homeschooling.
  4. However, in the same token, don’t neglect a path of improvement of academic  and artistic capacities in terms of writing summaries and artistic work in Waldorf Education. Don’t completely give up!  In general,  from my own experience and in speaking with other Waldorf homeschooling parents of children with dyslexia, you can expect the path of improvement to be very slow to nearly nonexistant in grades 1-3 . Some children in grades 1-3 have incredible behavioral issues associated with school, and it can be really discouraging as a homeschooling parent.  Our first three years in the grades was really rough, but if you stick with it,  you will get through it!  There usually is  some upswing at the end of third grade or over the summer between third and fourth grade and then heading into grades 4-6  even more progress (some parents report incredible changes, but other parents say it is still slow going).  In fifth through seventh grade I think there can be a sense of whilst things are much better from the starting point, “there is no catching up”  because in these grades one often sees the gap widen even further from what public school children and children without dyslexia are doing.  It can be difficult not to compare or wonder how the high school years will go. The balance of pushing, accomodations, and letting things blossom is a delicate combination and often a difficult juggle for the homeschooling parent handling this for the first time.
  5. Know when to start accommodations.  We started typing for our child in the spring semester of sixth grade (typically in a Waldorf School setting typing might be in eighth or ninth grade);  some families may start earlier.  The plan typically is the typing or technology as a response for main lesson material the following year or next semester, much the way one starts out teaching cursive and expects to see it in a main lesson book later.   Many parents of middle school students also end up investigating voice to text programs and how to record lectures in place of note-taking and so forth.  This will be very important for high school work.
  6. Consistently consider movement, vision, and therapeutic support.  We only have one eurythmist in our entire state, so curative eurythmy is not an option for us, but this might be for many of you.  The Waldorf Education books “Extra Lesson” and “Take Time” have many wonderful ideas and support.  Visual therapy can be helpful for some children if that is available, and I think movement and crossing midline in general is important.  Some children with dyslexia seem to resist movement and midline crossing, even in the middle school grades, so I think it is an important part of their education to consider what movement options are available.
  7. Get support for yourself.  There are days when I truly worry about what my child will do in a world where writing is required for nearly everything, and just need to talk to another parent who understands.  I know some parents who accept their child having dyslexia really in stride, especially if it is mild and easy to make accommodations, but some homeschooling parents really struggle as parents and teachers, especially in the early grades when one is just figuring out what is going on.   It can also be hard to be surrounded by a sea of homeschoolers on- line and in real life who are gifted and multiple grades ahead and doing college work at age 12 – you know the drill!  There is a huge push in the homeschooling world for dual enrollment, CLEP test, etc so for the older students with dyslexia it can be a bit daunting.   It is wonderful when other parents see and acknowledge the important gifts that your child brings, and of course, dyslexia and the like doesn’t define a person, but it does make us worried as parents – will they be able to do their own personal finances? What will they do for a job?  These are things that are hard for parents of children without dyslexia  to  really understand.  So find a like-minded soul or two that you can talk to on the really bad days.  There are also Facebook groups for homeschooling children with dyslexia as well.

I don’t think Waldorf Education in general does a good  job in discussing how to develop academic skills for  children with differing abilities in the upper grades.   This is also an issue not highly discussed in the Waldorf homeschooling community; all those beautiful pictures and blogs and Pinterest photos in the Waldorf world don’t tend to show the achingly hard work that goes into teaching children who learn differently.  Yet, Waldorf Education calls us to look at the child in front of us and respond to that child.  That is the very heart of Waldorf Education.  So be brave and full of courage!  You are doing the right things for your child!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Discussions With Teachers: Discussion Three And Four

There are just certain written works or lectures that Waldorf teachers and Waldorf homeschooling parents re-read each summer before school starts.  For me, I usually choose between “Discussions With Teachers”, “Practical Advice to Teachers” or “Human Values in Education” (all by Rudolf Steiner). This year, I have decided to go through the lectures found in Rudolf Steiner’s “Discussion With Teachers” and to just share my notes as I go along with all of you.

So, Discussion Three  begins with questions about storytelling according to temperament. Steiner remarked, for example, that sanguines need to hear pauses in a story because their attention wander, and melancholics need emphatic details.  He then goes on to answer discussions about form drawing according to temperament; forms moving outward for the choleric, contrasting colors for the sanguine, starting from a circle and drawing inward for a phelgmatic child.    Steiner also talks about how to describe things so they are of interest to phlegmatic children, using the example of a horse, and in taking the description of the horse again,  telling it to involve the choleric children.  He also says something interesting at the end of the discussion about the importance of  developing the social will of the class, and how it is important to develop “social instincts.” Much of what is done in Waldorf classrooms is to connect the class together in a social way of community, and I often wonder what Steiner’s indications would have been for homeschooling in the day and age that we and our children are facing!

Discussion Four is primarily about math, so for those of you feeling lost in teaching math, I think this is a terrific lecture to read!  It begins with talking about introducing fractions, and moves on to whether or not a child who slouches has more difficulty understanding spatial and geometric forms, but then quickly gets into the heart of teaching the four processes according to temperament.

For example, Steiner talks about how to introduce adding.  He assumes that the children can count (so those of you with six year old kindergarteners, work on jumping rope rhymes with counting in them!) and talks about proceeding from the sum. If a child counts a number of objects, the total amount is the sum.  Then one can divide the objects into little piles, and all together those piles equal 27.  One immediately begins working with flexibility with numbers as a teacher in math.  Phlegmatics do best with this sort of working from the sum, whereas choleric children enjoy adding all the piles together to get the sum.  The melancholic children work well with subtraction, and then the sanguine can reverse this (ie, if I take 5 away from 8, I have 3 left).   He allows that the reverse temperaments should be doing the mathematical procedures in reverse.  Adding is related to the phlegmatic temperament, subtraction to the melancholic, multiplying to the sanguine, and dividing to the choleric.   He talks about going from plane geometry to solid geometry.  Form drawing with examples is further discussed, and storytelling for phlegmatic children, and how to use an element of surprise for the sanguine children.

One of the last things Steiner talks about in this discussion is the imbalances of the temperaments and how “if the melancholic temperament becomes abnormal and does not remain within the boundaries of the soul, but rather encroaches on the body, then insanity arises.”  He goes on to discuss the same with all the different temperaments, and also how to deal with exclusionary behavior, and how punishing children is never the answer.  “The aftereffect is not good,” said Steiner.

Discussion Five talks even more about the temperaments, so please come back for that discussion.  As teachers and homeschooling parents, it is so good that we re-read these lectures every year and bring them to life within us for the health of our children.

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

 

What Are Waldorf Grades 6-8 About Anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many blessings,

Carrie