Scattered October

Every year, I tell myself that  I should  plan a fall break in October. And every  year, by May or June of every year, I totally forget this intention and don’t schedule it into our school year.

But October has a way of working it out without my help.  Because, October, you scatter us so.

Out into the cooler weather and into the sunshine to play, ride horses, be with the puppy , camp, and dream.

Out into the heating up of outside the home activities that our teenager so wants and needs.

Out into the golden yellows, reds, and browns of the leaves.

October, you scatter my brain.

This month I have felt so slow.  All the children are sleeping later.  We are all looking for play and sunshine due to the cooler weather.  We are looking to change up the routine.  And we are moving so slowly in our blocks that I pretty much decided to call a vacation last week.  I didn’t tell the children that in so many words, but I told MYSELF that so I wouldn’t feel “behind” (although the whole notion of “being behind” in homeschooling  is rather  ridiculous.  Slow and behind compared to what?!  You would think I would know this after so many years of doing this!) .  We are finishing our first block of ninth grade (although I only have five blocks planned for the whole year on top of our all year round classes); our sixth grader is in the midst of her second block; and our first grader is starting his third block this week.  Our teenager is also moving through Algebra I and Spanish II and Biology (we are finishing up cellular respiration right now and will move into cell reproduction soon!) pretty well.

Maybe, after all of these years of homeschooling,  I should realize that this is a  fairly normal pace for us.  Not all of us are speedy  homeschool families,  some of us are more snail- like and distracted by bright  shiny fun than others (!!), but I always remind myself that we are steady and we do keep learning. And every year, at the end of the year, I am always surprised by how much we material we really have covered, how much the children have grown, and how another school year has gone by and how all of it just keeps integrating and overlapping and circling around again.

This year, the scattering forces of October’s golden rays  has reminded me yet again, stitched into my brain yet again,  that we might sometimes be slow  but that we try so hard as a family to learn.  We love the diversity in our world and to have our children be lovers, encouragers, and hopefully action-takers in humanity.  Let’s just go slow, and deep, and steady, and have fun.

October, maybe you scatter us in all the right ways.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful, sparkly, golden Autumn.

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

The Outdoor Learning Symposium

I am a member of the Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia  and recently went to a day of workshops during The Outdoor Learning Symposium.  The workshops I attended were very interesting.

I went to one session that was held by a geologist and a biogeologist and talked about how we can use plants to identify the rocks beneath our feet.  Our state is very wooded and covered in plants.  Our capital city has the highest density of tree canopy coverage in the nation, so plants are an important intersection with Earth Science teaching in our state.  We essentially looked at the most common types of rocks found in our state by geographic region (which is taught in our state in the third grade, in Waldorf Schools we tend to teach this in fourth grade) and  then  what plants grew there due to the soil conditions.  We went through the prehistoric epochs to see WHY we have the types of rocks here that can be found, why our state is low in fossil finds, how Africa merged with North America and essentially took the part of the state that is now Atlanta, which was off the coast of Cape Hatteras and shoved it into where it was today.  Some of the rocks we went through included quartz and the plants associated with quartz, granite, amphibilate,  and limestone (and why our state only has marble in a certain place).   The best resources for this type of work include using indicator plants, using geologic maps, the web soil survey of the USDA. I bought a great geologic game for children. I already had the roadside geology guide for my state, and many other states are available.  This is the site for the Georgia book and geologic game that I use.  Earth Science Literacy standards were also addressed.  We received free pamphletswith the “Big Ideas” of Earth Science literacy.  For more information on this, you can see Earth Science Literacy.

I also went to sessions about Project WET and Project Learning Tree.  Project WET focuses on action-oriented education that helps children understand the value of water in the world. In that session, we played a variety of games, even including magic tricks, that focused on water.  They have a great curriculum that can be obtained by  taking a certification course that runs about 10 hours, but there are also a variety of free resources available as well.  There are other “sister” organizations in my state that work together, including Project WILD (wildlife focus) and Project Learning Tree (forestry).  All of these have separate certifications to be able to use their curriculum, but from what I saw it would be easy to incorporate many of these ideas and concepts into Waldorf Education.

The last session I attended was a Project Learning Tree session where we discussed forestry,  the role of trees in our state, and made paper.  It was a fun session.  For those of you looking for ideas regarding paper making, this book was there and it was fun to look through:  300 Ideas for Papermaking.  We had a great time making paper with all kinds of add-ins.

Lots of fun, and looking forward to the Annual Southeastern Environmental Education Conference and Research Symposium  next year!

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

The First Two Blocks of First Grade

We are finishing up our second block of first grade this week.  This is my third time teaching first grade, and I am discovering I have some set patterns about the way I go about  presenting the material that I thought might be of interest to other homeschooling parents starting out.  In teaching Waldorf First Grade, we know our material, we do our inner work, and we look at the child in front of us and ask for spiritual guidance as to what this child needs.

So, first of all, I like to schedule form drawing and qualities of numbers as the first two blocks before we get to our first letter block.  This gives me plenty of time to work with movement and rhythm, to really see developmentally where gross and fine motor skills are as we work.   I can see what skills and capacities are emerging as we go through singing and ( in our second block) with an introduction to pentatonic flute,  painting and modeling, form drawing,  and even cutting and pasting in the qualities of numbers block.  I can look at working memory and how the child is with bodily geography as we work with  verses and rhymes, fingerplays, songs, pentatonic flute, rhythm, and I get a general sense of temperment and how this child reacts to something new and uncharted.  It give me an idea of the level of joy and humor this child finds in his or her work.  In other words, it gives me A LOT of information about the child in front of me that I can use when we move into our letter block and into subsequent math blocks.

Form drawing is a block that is unique to Waldorf Education.  To me, this block (and all of First Grade and all of Waldorf education)  is about taking the capacities a child has and bringing them under conscious control.  It takes time, and it is not about perfecting the forms, but it is about self-awareness and following instructions and trying  and how that ties into memory, fine and gross motor skills, eye-hand coordination.  Our first block also included a lot things from Movement for Childhood, a seasonal circle with gestures,  lots of fingerplays and games that involved rhythm (great preparation for math – get rhythm in the body, in the feet, in the hands!).  We always paint on the first day  according to Rudolf Steiner’s indications and  we also paint a few more times in this block and do some modeling with beeswax and clay too (yup, clay.  Send out the Waldorf Police.  I like clay, although we also beeswax modeled every week as well, especially in the qualities of numbers block).   The modeling exercises are usually archetypal transformations from one thing to the another thing but our math block included numbers, transitioning forms from three sided things to “how many things with three sides do we need to make nine sides all together” – that sort of thing.

I also always include within our form drawing story opportunities for acting out different gestures with movement and rhythm – walking like a giant, walking tiny and fast, walking slow.  How many steps does it take to get to the door, the window, the kitchen?  These things start to move into mathematical thinking of estimating, counting, size differences.  We also work on rhythmically walking/jumping/hopping to include counting of ones, by twos, by threes, by fours, by fives.  We work on counting forward and backward.  Again, this is all done orally and  just as part of our form drawing story.  And,  of course we work on movement and forms in space and on paper!  We also knit, mainly because our son already knows how to knit with needles.  So off we go.

And I just keep observing.  What is hard, what is easy, what is needed, how is behavior with each activity – that gives one a lot of clues. And I think what do I need to do for this child?

Our second block  has been a quality of numbers block.  For the numbers 1-9, I  made a new container story based upon a greatly expanded version of  the story “Robert’s Harvest Loaf” from the back of the book, “All Year Round”.  For the numbers 10-12, I used individual stories.  This block also included things from Movement for Childhood, a seasonal circle with gestures, and lots of seasonal fingerplays and songs.  We have  been painting and  modeling as I mentioned above.  We have done so much rhythmical movement with counting, counting backward, skip counting, and even informal adding and subtracting (We have a math-oriented little guy who loves little oral games or games with nuts or jewels) We have done a lot of searching in nature for numbers and shapes, cutting and pasting of three and four sided figures (and multiples of these figures to make more sides all together!), making circles and arranging jewels or nuts on the circle to make stars for the number five and other number patterns, finding the star in our own body for the number five and moving in a circle together fast and slow and listening to each other’s feet so we can move together (remember, rhythm is math! patterns are math!).   We also did counting and sorting – I like to see how children move objects when they count (or do they? do they put them in groups at all? )  I looked to see if my student uses words like “more”, “less”, etc.  It is all playful, fun.  We laughed a lot.  And we did some writing of numbers and how to spell “one”, “two”, etc.,and modeling of the numbers with beeswax.  I also introduced more rhythmic musical games and pentatonic flute because I think math and rhythm go together.  And we keep knitting and cooking and carrying that Michaelic spirit throughout September and this month.

I think if  you approach these blocks with the purpose of gathering information about bodily rhythm, movement, gross and fine motor skills, you will walk away with a much fuller and rounder experience and picture for both you and your child.

Some children are more resistant than others.  I actually find this is usually the more phlegmatic children, but it can also  be children who have learning challenges.  In my experience, children with learning challenges also have incredible trouble with rhythmical movement and working memory, yes, even as early as the first and second blocks of first grade.  So, that could be something to keep an eye on if that is an area where your child struggles.  Yes, all children unfold in their own time, and some do not unfold until the nine year change,  and yes first and second grade are gentle, but some children really do have learning challenges that deserve to be addressed as well and it is important to not discount that.   Sometimes it is hard to tell if it is a later unfolding of capacities or if it really is a learning challenge, but I think observing with attentiveness is so paramount. What is this beautiful soul telling you?

I really am sharing this  all with you to say this is all first grade is!  You can do it!  It is not hard to do first grade – keep thinking movement and rhythm, gross and fine motor skills, strengthening the will and the memory.  I really don’t want people scared away by the “Waldorf” part of homeschooling – jump in and give it a try!  I hope it feels “do-able”!

Blessings,

Carrie

 

Sixth Grade Astronomy

I never really wrote a separate post about our first time through astronomy – I think some things are mixed throughout the seventh grade posts.   Anyway, we ended up doing astronomy in seventh grade the first time around, and I remember feeling like I wished I had had more “naked eye observing” skills.  I remember I had Marsha Johnson’s block, I had looked at Live Education, I had some mainstream and Waldorf astronomy resources from Rudolf Steiner Bookstore..and it just didn’t really flow for me.  It was an “okay” block, but probably the least favorite block we had ever done, at least for me,  because it wasn’t really coming from my own knowledge and interest.  My student enjoyed it, but I felt like it was kind of flat.

So, I knew this second time around through the upper grades I wanted to put astronomy in sixth grade, not seventh, and treat the whole year with field trips and experiences that centered around this theme of polarity between heaven and earth with human beings as the intermediary.  We can reach for the stars, we can sink our roots into this time and place, and we can shine where we are.   It is about where we find our place and space in the world.  Such an incredible theme for sixth graders!

My first thought (gasp!) was to not do a block and just experience things, but one thing that I came up with in researching this idea of naked eye astronomy was not only how this ties in so well into Ancient Civilizations, which I knew, but into the First People of the Americas.  And you all know how much I love American stuff in the Waldorf homeschooling experience when I can fit it in.   This little video from rocket scientist  Dr. Maggie Aderin Pocock was helpful to me in seeing why I wanted to make this a block and present something from myself in addition to experiential learning and art.

I started researching.  There were some Native American Astronomy lesson plans that I found that helped me start to pinpoint resources and such.  The ones that were most helpful to me were:

  • Sharing The Skies: Navajo Astronomy A Cross-Cultural View by Maryboy and Begay
  • They Dance In The Sky:  Native American Star Myths by Monroe and Williamson
  • The Stars We Know:  Crow Indian Astronomy and Lifeways by McCleary
  • Her Seven Brothers by Goble (picture book)
  • Star Boy by Goble  (picture book)
  • Storm Maker’s Tipi by Goble (picture book)

Then I looked at Waldorf/Mainstream resources:

  • The best book I have found is this free one at Waldorf Library On-Line called An Introduction To A Study of the Stars by Mirbt
  • Sky Phenomena by Davidson (great source of poems too)
  • Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey
  • I see Meredith over at A Waldorf Journey has a brand NEW guide out –I will totally pick this up for future use and as we extend astronomy throughout this grade. Here is the link.
  • Geology and Astronomy by Kovacs (mainly for the spiritual perspective of the sun; ideas for biographies) (information often not detailed enough and not up to date)
  • I used Internet resources for various topics that I wanted to up-to date information, especially the NASA website and the NSTA website.
  • I wanted to include the metric system, which we had done in fifth grade.  As an introduction, I  used an article that was a bit old -September 1999 from CNN – I don’t have the headline, but I used it as an example of why we care about the metric system in the US . It was about how NASA lost a 125 million dollar Mars orbiter because one  team used English units of measurement whilst the other team used the metric system and the measurement systems didn’t coincide!
  • Astronomy Curriculum from Georgia Performance Standards (my state); the astronomy club in our metro area and their resources
  • Poems:  I used poems by Walter de la Mare, a North American Indian song, a poem by William Carlos William.
  • Books from the Library:  Seven Wonders of the Gas Giants and Their Moons by Miller; The Milky Way and Other Galaxies by Kopp; Our Solar System by Simon; The Sun and The Stars by Sparrow; Planet Earth: Continents, Oceans, Climate, Geography by Farndon; Jupiter and the Asteroids (World Book).

Biographies:

  • Annie Jump Cannon, Astronomer by Gerber
  • Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman, Astronomer
  • Three biographies about Benjamin Banneker
  • Will introduce the biographies of Galileo and other traditional astronomers , etc   but will go over them again next year in Seventh Grade (my first time through I did the traditional astronomers from the Renaissance/Age of Exploration and tied it into navigation)

Main Lesson Book Pages/Projects/ Field Trips:

First Time Through Astronomy: (Seventh Grade)

  • The Circumpolar Constellations (drawing and summary)
  • Orion the Hunter (drawing) and “Choose Something Like A Star” poem
  • Prince Henry the Navigator (charcoal drawing) and Summary
  • Longitude and Latitude
  • Latitude and The North Star (drawing and summary)
  • The Planets drawing and summary
  • Copernicus drawing and summary
  • Brahe and Kepler
  • Paintings of Terrestrial and Gaseous Planets
  • Projects included model of the solar system, marking out distances of solar system with objects outside
  • Field trips – several field trips to the planetarium
  • Opportunities for eye gazing

Second Time Through Astronomy (Sixth Grade, slightly different focus)

  • Oil Pastel based off Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” for cover
  • The Native Americans and the Cosmos drawings and summary
  • The Earth and the Sun  drawings and summary
  • Equatorial Seasons  drawings and summary
  • The Moon (drawings, watercolor paintings, summary)
  • The Human Being and the Cosmos (drawing, summary)
  • The Planets
  • A five paragraph essay on planet of student’s choice (our student chose Jupiter)
  • Our Solar System Address
  • Projects- model of the solar system, marking out distances of the solar system with objects outside, and this awesome kit from Etsy to “Stitch the Stars” by Heather Lins Home – here is the Etsy link.
  • Field Trips – we found a walk through the solar system that I had no idea even existed in my area the first time I went through astronomy (maybe there is one in your area?), planetarium, and I really would love to take a trip to one of those “night sky” parks.
  • Opportunities for star gazing

Academic Skills we worked on:

  • Metric System and an introduction to Scientific Notation
  • Writing paragraphs: organizing information to write, combining shorter sentences to make longer and more complex sentences,  using -ly words in writing, using words that invoke five senses.  We also have been working on grammar.
  • I assigned a five paragraph essay and that gave us a great opportunity to work on how to make great sentences and flowing paragraphs; using non-fiction sources.
  • Longitude and latitude, reading an atlas.

When our block ended, we will be reading these throughout the rest of the year:

  • Stories from the Stars:  Greek Myths of the Zodiac by Burke through the year
  • 365 Starry Nights:  An Introduction to Astronomy For Every Night of the Year by Raymo
  • Various Native American Star Myths

Our naked eye star gazing is really just beginning as October is the least cloudy month in the Southeast and one of  the best for stargazing.  We have moved into a mineralogy block, but will continue in any opportunities for astronomy as the year goes on.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

Homeschooling Ninth Grade Biology: Part One

If you are interested in homeschooling high school biology, particularly if you are arriving here as a Waldorf homeschooling parent,  I would ask myself several questions:

  1. Do you want to run this as a “track” class (all year, the way it is run in public schools in the United States?) or do you want to continue to run the sciences in blocks such as done in the middle school grades?

2. Is ninth grade the right grade for this subject to run as a track class?

3. If it is, and we look at living biology in topics or units, what sense do the order of topics make coming from doing the middle school science grades from a Waldorf perspective?

4. What resources – non-Waldorf and Waldorf – are available to help me teach?

5. What experiential things are available to really make this subject come alive? How can we touch the heart and hands before jumping into the heady portion?

I am eight weeks into high school biology with our high schooler, and I think I would answer these questions the following way –

  1. Yes, I would run this as a track class.  I don’t think there is any way to run this in blocks throughout high school and garner enough hours (180 hours) to count as a high school science on a transcript as a homeschooler.
  2. Is ninth grade the right grade for this subject? The ninth grade year is the year of “what” so in one sense I think this is well for “what” since it is  life all around us – but some of the “why” I think gets a little lost on the ninth grader as well and will need to be re-visited in other grades.
  3. If we look at biology in units or topics, now that we are into it, I think it makes more sense to actually start with ecology and evolution and then move into the level of the cell and molecular biology.  I didn’t do it this way this year, and most traditional textbooks and high school biology courses start where we started with the cell,  but I want to try a different order next time.  It seems like a much more familiar place to start if one begins with ecology as opposed to the cellular level.
  4. What resources are available?  I will post a list by unit of what we used and liked (and didn’t like).  Part One is below.
  5. What experiential things are available?  We used 4H experiences and field trips, along with classes at our local zoo.  Depending upon where you live, I think this is an easy subject to find experiences that match with topics.   I think in high school we take the Waldorf method of presentation-artistic method-academic piece with revisiting and nuances on the new material to be inciting the hands and heart (so could be experiements, field trip with hands-on component, etc) with hands-on piece and academic piece with lots and lots and lots of review and at the school level, the student has to be able to take notes, read follow up materials,etc. in the homeschooling environment.

I started our year in the very traditional way of sort of an introduction to biology, the basic chemistry of biology, the working cell, cellular respiration and photosynthesis.  I wish I had started with ecology and then moved into evolution and form and function for my Waldorf-based student, as I mentioned above.   I would put the unit we started with more in the January time frame instead of the beginning of the year.  That is my plan when I teach it the second time!

Also, you may move much faster than me, but i think this material (Introduction, The Cell, Cellular Respiration/Photosynthesis) takes about eight weeks to cover.  If you have less children to homeschool or your student is super motivated and flies through materials and main lesson book pages and lab write-ups and reading, then it could take less time.

Our main resource materials for Introduction to Biology/The Cell/The Cell At Work for our discussions, my presentations:

    • The Way Life Works, Hoagland and Dodson, Chapters 1 and 2
    • Campbell Biology Concepts and Connections , Eighth Edition,  Chapters 1-7
    • PBS Evolution, Handouts, Leaf Cutter Ant story illustrating scientific method
    • Article by Graham Kennish, “Teaching Ninth Grade Biology In A Human Context” – Steiner Education, Volume 22, No. 1)
    • Article by Craig Holdrege “Learning to See Life – Developing the Goethean Approach To Science”
    • Article by Craig Holdrege “Metamorphosis and Metamorphic Thinking” – Waldorf School Life Science/Environmental Studies Colloquium
    • Chapter 5 “Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems”  from “Hard To Teach Biology Concepts” Revised 2nd Edition.  Available online through National Science Teachers Association, NSTA.
    • Articles about homology
    • Teachers Pay Teachers Nitty Gritty Science Photosynthesis, Cell Process & Energy (more generalized)
    • Teacher Pay Teachers  Science with Mrs. Lau: Biochemistry Activity with Four Macromolecules;  Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration Coloring Bundle (very detailed)
    • Teacher Reference:  Environmental Educators Alliance Workshops in my state – my first workshop is in just a few weeks!

Labs: (Teacher Reference:   Biology Inquiries by Shields;  Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments by Thompson, Online Resources)  We did a lot of work with acids, bases, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, enyzmes, in our seventh and eighth grade chemistry so that was a good basis for this, so we didn’t do as many labs with this.  There were also hands-on components to the Teachers Pay Teachers materials mentioned above – not artistic and beautiful, but still with ideas for coloring, sequencing, using the hands for concepts that are not always easy for students to really “get” deeply.

  • 3 Labs on “What Is Life?” (a harder question than one might think!)
  • Introduction to Enzymes
  • Exploration of Enzyme Activity
  • Osmosis Lab
  • Onion and Cheek Cell Lab
  • Observation of Carbon Dioxide Uptake, Determining Effect of Light Intensity on Photosynthesis

Experiences:

Well, this fall coincided with our Forestry Judging for 4H which included identifying 79 types of trees, insect and tree diseases, estimation of sawtimber, and compass and pacing so that to me totally counts as a biology experience!

We also will have/ have had field trips this semester to a class on native fish of our state and fish adaptations;  our local museum involving presentations on weather and a new dinosaur exhibit; an aquarium behind-the -scenes visit and  three high school homeschooling classes at our local zoo that involved neuroscience of the mammalian brain, neuroscience of the bird brain, neuroscience of the reptile/amphibian brain and two of those three classes involved dissection.

Main Lesson Pages Required:

  • Beautiful Title Page
  • Milestones in Biology 4 Billion BCE – 200,000 BCE (Anatomically modern humans)
  • The Sixteen Patterns of Life
  • A Generalized Animal Cell
  • A Generalized Plant Cell
  • Cellular Respiration
  • Photosynthesis
  • Comparision Page of the Holistic Cellular Respiration/Photosynthesis relationship

Other Artwork/Projects:

  • Gestural Drawing of Animals and Plants at zoo
  • Cell Model

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

 

Back In The Saddle Again!

At this point, we are headed into Week Seven of our school year.  It has been a pretty decent year so far considering juggling three grades and three “levels” of school (elementary school, middle school, and high school!).  I felt like this week is a good time to see what is really working in our family and school rhythm.

Working Well:

  • The fact that I planned less weeks total for the entire school year, and added a week to almost every other block as a “catch-up” week (or a vacation coincides).  That has really helped (and really made it less stressful when we feel like we are “getting behind”). It also makes me wonder why I didn’t do this before (???)
  • Summer planning really helped.  Saves. me. every. year.  I can totally ditch the plan, but if I haven’t researched and know my subject beforehand, especially in these upper grades, I absolutely cannot apply it to the child in front of me.
  • Planning field trips for the semester/school year.  We are part of a 4,000 plus member homeschooling field trip group (Southeastern United States).  There are so many wonderful field trips to take!  This is especially important for the middle school and high school level – it is what makes all the subjects come alive to see them in action.  Experience at the hands and heart level before the head level is a golden rule.
  • Making the festivals a priority.  This is easy to lose as children grow older, and because we don’t really have a specific “Waldorf group.”  I am so glad we are still hanging on.  This is especially important to me for our little first grader, but really for all of us.  It nourishes the soul through the seasons of the year.
  • Keeping our outside the home schedule at the busy-ish, but not too full, level. My high schooler really needs things to do, and our first grader and I really need to be at home, so we have to choose a middle road. And I am always glad we do, because I like to have room for the last minute spontaneity , last minute camping trips, or just being home together.
  • Still prioritizing play.  Today my first and sixth grader were playing so nicely together and the weather was beautiful and the puppy was so happy….school could wait a few hours.

The Jury Is Still Out:

  • Having a class outside the home for our high schooler.  In one sense, the accountability to a really good  outside teacher has been super nice for our high schooler.  On the other hand, we are totally tied into a public school schedule due to activities (which totally could be canceled or moved for the most part) and this class (which can’t be moved or missed because it is a week’s worth of work condensed into one class).  It feels limiting in that sense.  Not sure if I will farm anything out next year or not.
  • The best way to organize/motivate our high schooler.  Still working on that one!  Organizing independent work has been the single most challenge of ninth grade, and I don’t think there is a good way to prepare for it really in seventh and eighth grade because we did a lot of the things I thought would help this transition.  The work just changes at the high school level, and that is that.  It is a learning curve.

Not Working and I Want To Change:

  • I wish we had more festival preparation and handwork time.    My children don’t really do these things naturally even though they love arts and crafts, so I have to plant the seeds.
  • Self-care is still hard to come by. I want to exercise, but I have been back to having a really hard time getting up early in the morning to do it….In this height of allergy season, sometimes I just feel worn out from a respiratory/asthma perspective.  And the heat, which I actually am sick of at this point. Where is autumn?!

How is homeschooling going for you?  What is working, not working, and where is the jury still out?

Blessings,
Carrie

 

How To Be A Waldorf Homeschooler

 

When families are searching for curriculum, what they are often asking, consciously or unconsciously, is how do I become a Waldorf homeschooling teacher?  How does this work?  I completed my Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy and the Arts through Antioch University in 2013, and I can only relay to you a bit of my own experience in this area of becoming.  I am still becoming, so of course I do not profess to have complete answers regarding this subject, and I do think it differs from person to person. However, here are some thoughts and suggestions based upon a wonderful article Douglas Gerwin in the Center for Anthroposophy Autumn 2016 newsletter.  You can read the newsletter here as it will help you understand what I writing about in this blogpost.

One thing that is profoundly different about the development of Waldof teachers compared to traditional teachers is that the awakening of teaching is dependent upon practicing the arts, biography,  and the inner work and development of that teacher him or herself.  This is a very different approach than most traditional approaches to training teachers in the United States. The article I linked to above talks about this in the context of Waldorf teacher training, and I would like to add a few thoughts based upon being a Waldorf homeschooling parent who must wear both parenting and teaching hats.

The first and primary rule in developing yourself as a Waldorf homeschooling parent is to develop your own inner life.  What does that really mean?  To me, this means a conscious awakening of an inner spiritual path that will lead you toward love for all of humanity.  Steiner’s lectures compiled in “Love and Its Meaning In The World” have always been most inspiring to me.   The traditional way to develop your own inner life in Waldorf teacher training usually refers to two things: one is to a central meditation practice and also to Steiner’s six supplementary exercises taken on as a practice, and the second thing is a devotion to and practice in the arts.  These things are new to many people, and I think especially new to busy homeschooling mothers who are pouring themselves into their families.  A few resources I can recommend regarding this endeavor:

  • Lighting Fires:  Deepening Education Through Meditation by Jorgen Smit
  • Stairway of Surprise: Six Steps to A Creative Life  by Michael Lipson
  • Art As Spiritual Activity:  Rudolf Steiner’s Contribution to the Visual Arts Edited and Introduced by Michael Howard
  • There are many more titles by Rudolf Steiner that includes this work
  • There are some singulaiknowr titles regarding drawing, painting, modeling, speech, drama, and movement in the Waldorf School setting that can be helpful to parents striving to work with the arts.
  • If you are of a religious practice, you will find things that inspire you.  Since I am part of the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church, I am inspired by the Book of Common Prayer, the liturgy of each Mass throughout the liturgical year, the book “Welcome to Anglican Spiritual Traditions” by Vicki K. Black and the writings of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  I also am drawn to resources about Christian Contemplative Prayer, Christian Contemplative Reading, and “sitting with God.”

In the home environment, I would also like to add the path of the homemaker as a way of developing oneself. This has been written about rather extensively in:

  • Homemaking and Personal Development: Meditative Practice for Homemakers by Veronika Van Duin
  • The Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker by Manfred Schmidt-Brabant

The second way to develop oneself as a Waldorf homeschooling parent is to understand and to be aware of the development of the human being.  Traditionally, in Waldorf teacher training courses this is usually undertaken by reading Steiner’s lectures, particularly The Foundations of Human Experience, and through the study of one’s own biography.  The resources I can recommend regarding this endeavor include:

  • The Foundations of Human Experience by Rudolf Steiner
  • Tapestries:  Weaving Life’s Journey by Betty Staley
  • The Human Life by George and Gisela O’Neil

In the home environment, I would also like to offer the path of being fully and wholly present  and attentive with our children, our elders, our neighbors, our community, nature around us.  Their stories are our story.    Their stories make up the stories of humanity, just as our story does.  To connect on this very level of humanity is humbling and enlightening.  To connect to nature and feel it flowing through us leads us to sharpen our powers of observation and to see development over time.  And for that matter, to be fully and present of our own emotions and to be able to sit with those emotions is a major part of attentiveness. Here are a few resources that talk about this from a Waldorf perspective include:

  • The Therapeutic Eye:  How Rudolf Steiner Observed Children by Peter Selg
  • Drawing From The Book of Nature by Dennis Klocek
  • Tools for emotional self-discovery and emotional awareness such as Nonviolent Communication.

Douglas Gerwin points out in his article that the third way of becoming a Waldorf teacher is to develop your craft through the actual doing .  For homeschooling parents, I think this doing means NOT searching endlessly for the perfect curriculum; it means you jump in and  you DO IT.  Some things may fall flat.  Some blocks may go better than others.  Some circles just don’t fly well.  You may not be able to bring some things that you wish you could.  Even some years may feel more fallow than other years if you are homeschooling very long-term.  This is part of the learning process in teaching your children and in teaching other children outside your family.  Just find your resources, make a plan from your heart, leave room to teach the child in front of you and what the angels bring that day ( in other words, you may ditch your plan!) and go with it.  That is the art of teaching. It is the welling up of what is inside you – your biography, your inner work, your knowledge of the subject and the child in front of you and the environment.  It all intersects, and it takes time to get there. However, the clock for the time to get there doesn’t start until you actually start the teaching and facilitating of the beautiful child or children in front of you!  Waiting on the sidelines doesn’t do it.   I don’t know as  there is any one resource for this doing, as it is doing and not just reading and waiting for the right thing to fall into one’s lap!  The experiences of other teachers, and in homeschooling, the experiences of other homeschooling mothers are very helpful and illuminating, so my suggestion for increasing your craft is to:

  • Meet with other homeschooling families in community.  A Waldorf community would be ideal in terms of talking about actual ways to approach different grades and blocks, but any homeschooling community will help you understand the highs and lows that come with being a homeschooling family. Just find the tribe that fits you!
  • Find and attend conferences.  The Center for Anthroposophy has courses every summer to prepare for grades (East Coast); I belive Rudolf Steiner College (West Coast) does the same.  Gather a group and put on a conference yourself and gather the Waldorf homeschooling parents flung far and wide in your state.  To come together for even one day is so powerful and uplifting!

Blessings,
Carrie