Discussions With Teachers – Discussion Two

Please remember particularly that when we are dealing with the temperament of a child, as teachers we should not assume that a certain temperament is a fault to be overcome.” – Rudolf Steiner

There is great, very specific wisdom in this lecture about how to teach with the temperaments and more.  This lecture fields questions, beginning with how to work with chidlren of the sanguine temperament.   Steiner talks about how a teacher explains something to a sanguine child and the “child has taken it in, but after some time you notice that the child has lost interest- attention has turned to something else….What would you do with a child like this?” he asks the original questioner.

Steiner talks about giving the child individual treatment, and to work on the sanguine group by showing them the melancholic response to such things (because the melancholic child most likely will also NOT be thinking of something the teacher just said, but  will be thinking about something from very far before and will be stuck ruminating over whatever the past thing was!)

Then Steiner moves on to a question about the phlegmatic child, and how we can work with temperaments via music, and by relating Biblical history from the different Gospels to affect temperament (remember, Steiner’s works on the Gospels provide esoteric insights).

  • Phlegmatics:  Choral singing, harmony, piano, (The Gospel of Matthew for variety)
  • Sanguines:  Wind instruments, melody, playing with an entire orchestra (The Gospel of Luke for inwardness of soul)
  • Cholerics :  Percussion and drum, rhythm, solo instruments (The Gospel of Mark – force and strength)
  • Melancholics:  Stringed Instruments, counterpoint, solo singing (The Gospel of John -deepening of the spirit)

However, Steiner also goes on to say:  “But it wouldn’t be as good to delegate the four arts according to temperaments; it is precisely because art is multifaceted that any single art can bring harmony to each temperament.” So notice Steiner finds four arts, and that he believes a child need not specialize.    “In any single art it is possible to allocate the various branches and expressions of the art according to temperament.”

Steiner goes on to take another question about phlegmatics, and how the ideal treatment may be to have the mother wake the child up at least an hour earlier than normal and during this time keep the child busy with all kinds of things.  He also talks about  while teaching in classroom, the teacher can essentially jar keys or otherwise rouse the phlegmatics as he or she passes by the student’s desk!  “You must continually find fresh ways to jolt the phlegmatics…”  Other questions answered include the relation of the temperaments to food; the fact that melancholic children get left behind easily and how they are slower to develop and retain impressions and imitate longer than other temperament types.  He goes on to say:

“The melancholic lives in a strange condition of self-deception.  Melancholics have the opinion that their experiences are peculiar to themselves.  The moment you can bring home to them that others also have these or similar experiences, they will to some degree be cured, because they then perceive that they are not the singularly interesting people they thought themselves to be.”   So, biography of great people who have gone through struggles are very important for melancholics.

Other points include relating of four body types to the temperaments (there is a diagram), how to deal with a choleric temperament and more. He points out that the human being is always becoming, is always changing and developing.  There are also specific temperaments associated with stages of development – childhood is a sanguine time, adolescence is a choleric time, mature life is a melancholic time, and old age is a phlegmatic time.  Our creative qualities depend upon the youthful qualities in a human being, our economic life depends upon the qualities of old age (phlegmatics), and  Steiner talks about how some people remain adolescents until they die because they preserve this phase of adolescent life within themselves.

Such an interesting discussion!  Let me know what you thought!




Discussions With Teachers- Discussion One

This lecture was part of the afternoon sessions given to the teachers of the very first Waldorf School.   Steiner begins this lecture talking about the important of the relationship to the children and notes, “The important thing for us to remember is the diversity of children and indeed that of all human beings.”  He goes on to talk about the four fundamental types of temperaments within the diversity of all human beings – the sanguine, the melancholic, the phlegmatic, and the choleric – and the four-fold development of the human being (the “I”, the astral body, the etheric body, and the physical body).  The development of the four-fold human being ties into the four temperaments, because the domination by one of the four bodies leads to a primary temperament type.  In this way, the dominance of the “I” leads to a melancholic temperament, the astral body dominance leads to the choleric temperament, the dominance of the etheric body to the sanguine, and the physical body leads to the phlegmatic temperament.

Steiner goes on the describe the four temperaments in this way:

  • Interested in different things but only for a short time and  quickly loses interest – sanguine
  • Inner reflection and brooding, active inwardly, not easy to give them impressions of the outer world – melancholic
  • Not actively inwardly but also no interest in the outer world (least amount of strength and attention)- phlegmatic
  • Expression of the will in a “blustering way”; strength of response and attention easily aroused – choleric

Steiner talks about how to group the children by temperament, which is of course, near to impossible in the home environment, but he gives wonderful examples of which temperament to turn to in order to illustrate particular lessons or to teach a certain way.  He also talks about how the teacher must develop their own attitude in dealing with different temperaments, and how the worst thing to do is to take the opposite qualities of one temperament and try to force this on the child.  Choleric and phlegmatic temperaments are opposite to one another, and melancholic and sanguine temperaments are opposite of one another; other temperaments are next to each other and therefore merge into one another (there is a diagram in this part of the lecture).  He talks about how by the tenth year the temperaments will be gradually “overcome.”  

Steiner  then talks about in the “main lesson ” portion of things:  the first year is mainly fairy tales, the second year animal life in story form (fables), the Bible as general history apart and different from religious lessons is the third year (and remember, teaching “religion” in a Waldorf School at that time was due to government requirements, not Steiner’s wishes), and then scenes from ancient (fourth class), medieval (5th class), and modern history (6th class), the discovery of different cultures within a country and  around the world (7th and 8th classes), and art lessons as training of the will. He also mentions the arts, gymnastics, eurythmy, drawing, and painting to all work on the will and how languages will be taught separate from the Main Lesson and how specialty teachers will be needed for the art subjects and the language lessons (so good for us to hear as homeschoolers!  We weren’t meant to do all the pieces of this!)    He talks about no more than three and a half hours of school per day (main lesson for hour and a half, telling of stories for half an hour, and then an hour for artistic work) up until the age of 12.  

As you can see, what is laid out by Steiner has been adapted into traditions by Waldorf Schools around the world, but these are the basic  indications that Steiner gave for what is to be taught in what grade and age.

More to come!


Pulling Together The Bits and Pieces of Waldorf Planning

I am busy planning – most of second and seventh grade is done in  a fair amount of detail, although I will have to go over each block/week at a designated time each week or two during the school year and make sure I have ideas for what I want to do with the Main Lesson book.  My tenth grade planning is coming along slowly, but I hope to have a majority of it done by the end of the month.

One thing I have noticed this year is there are a lot of “moving parts” to this year.  I have started thinking in terms of, for example, second grade:

  • Second Grade Blocks
  • Second Grade math to run through the year
  • Second Grade language arts (mainly games)  to run through the year
  • Warm up/circle for  the year
  • Extra form drawing, wet on wet painting, crafts, nature to run through the year
  • Flute to run through the year
  • Things for my older two to do with my second grader each day to help


It seems like a lot to think about, especially when I have similar lists of things for seventh and tenth grade.

One thing that helps me corral these “separate lists” is to create templates and use them to fill things in so things are more harmonized and work together.  This was form I created and used back when I had two in the grades and a toddler.  Our days are much, much more full now due to having one child in middle school and one in  high school, but I think right now I have made template forms to create the second grade circle, a form for the warm up for seventh and tenth grade, and then structural forms for running three grades.  This year, with high school, middle school, and tenth grade this sort of daily template looks like this:

M T W Th  (circle day)   (some weeks have three days, some have four days)

Second Grader

  • Warm Up
  • Weather/Calendar
  • Number of Days of School, Number of the Day, Math Practice/Mental Math
  • Form Drawing (Mondays, unless a form drawing block)
  • Block work (includes all lively arts)
  • Weekly extras at end of lesson :Tuesdays Seasonal/Festival Painting, Wednesday Crafts/Handwork Projects
  • Nature Walk weekly during tenth grader’s  outside class

#2 Main Lesson Period (typically the seventh grader; varies on the day if it is the seventh or tenth grader – sometimes the Main Lesson is combined work)

  • Warm Up
  • Movement
  • Growth Mindset
  • Poetry/Speech Exercises
  • Math Review/Mental Math/Math Games or Puzzles
  • Block Work (includes all lively arts)
  • Help first grader  during other Main Lesson period: Mondays Reading Practice, Tuesdays Math Games, Wednesdays Extra Modeling tying in to nature studies, Thursdays Reading Nature Books

Main Lesson Period #3 (Tenth Grade typically)

  • Warm Up
  • Movement Games
  • Growth Mindset
  • Poetry/Speech Exercises
  • Math Review/Logic Puzzles/Math Games
  • Block Work (includes all lively arts)
  • Help Child #1 during other Main Lesson period:  Mondays Jump Rope Games, Tuesday Crafts, Wednesday Baking, Thursday Math Games

Other considerations:

  • Combination Writing (twice a week)
  • Combination 10th Grade Health/7th Grade Physiology (twice a week)
  • Combination Math Experiences (once a week)
  • Combination Theme each month with weekly meeting (once a week)

Once templates are made, it becomes easier to plug in verses, songs, art ideas, the content of a block into the template, or it can be easier to say, we can cook or garden for our warm up and movement on this day and then jump into block work.  The template provides the framework for the flexibility.

Hope this idea helps someone with their planning!

Blessings and love,


“Discussions With Teachers” – Introduction

If you have never read one of Steiner’s lectures, you are in for a treat with this series of discussions for teachers.  You can find this lecture series for FREE here (audio) and for FREE here (written).

One of the things I find fascinating about Waldorf Education is that it grew out of a particular time and place and for a specific set of children – it was education for the children of the factory employees at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919.  I often wonder what kind of indications Rudolf Steiner would give for homeschoolers today, living in our place and time – would it be totally different indications?   These lectures, to me, provide a key to answering this question by providing a framework for modern education (which is why I think these indications grew from specific indications for children of factory employees in early twentieth-century Germany into a hundred-year-old world-wide educational initiative!).

The other fascinating thing is that the teachers that opened the first Waldorf school had only TWO WEEKS of training.  That should calm your nerves about hoemschooling right?  The lectures compiled in “Discussions With Teachers” were part of the first Waldorf Teacher Training.  There is a lot of talk on the Internet about being prepared for homeschooling and the pressure Waldorf homeschoolers have to not only homeschool but make it “Waldorf enough” – well, here is your training course, FREE for your use!

Despite all the dogma surrounding Waldorf Education and Waldorf  homeschooling on the Internet, Rudolf Steiner’s method was to “elicit a lesson from the teacher temselves, and only then to make his own contribution based on what was presented” (from the Introduction).  He essentially laid out four principles for teachers:

The teacher must have initiative in everything that is done

The teacher should be interested in the whole world and of all of humanity

The teacher must never make a compromise in heart or mind with what is not true.

The teacher must never grow stale or sour.

In these lectures, Steiner also provided speech exercises to improve a teacher’s effectiveness. Wouldn’t we all like to be more effective in teaching our children?  These lectures look at this in detail, along with many other practical indications for teaching. Please do follow along with me!

Many blessings,


Simplifying Waldorf Homeschooling With Multiple Children

Yesterday, this subject of simplifying came up on a Waldorf homeschooling Facebook discussion group.  It struck a chord with me as I  have been sitting down intermittently  to make daily schedules for fall since May and I sat down to work on it again this week.   I think I have made about 20 different schedules and none of them are completely satisfying and peaceful.   None of the “rhythms” of the day have enough time and space for me… and I feel like when there is something I would love my little second grader to participate in, or just be, our high schooler has to be somewhere or needs more time for her lessons.  The reality of three main lessons, multiple high school subjects that need to be run in tracks, a little second grader, a seventh grader who needs extra lessons in math and writing, and the need for time to run subjects and activities as a family and take care of my own health can hit hard.  At this point, there just aren’t enough hours in the day!

This has been running through my mind all summer simply because our school year that just ended was a rough and challenging year.  I felt completely burned out after 10 years of teaching, and I really thought the only way to fix it might be just to put everyone in school whether they wanted to go or were able to do well or not.  Eveyone needed so much, and with the giant spread in ages in our household, what everyone needed was so different! What a recipe for exhaustion!  Seriously!

This year, I am roaring back with some different ideas.  I  shared some of my general tips for simplifying Waldorf homeschooling on that Facebook group, and I will share some of  them here plus some other ideas.  I feel fortunate I didn’t really deal with a lot of burnout and feeling weighty about school until this year.

My best tips:

Depending upon your state laws, plan a shorter year.  Plan 32- 34 weeks instead of 36 and that way if you get behind you won’t feel insane.  Also, younger grades don’t need as many weeks of school as high schoolers do!

Depending upon your state laws, plan a three to four day school week with a day to just be at home or take a field trip.  Again, younger grades don’t need a five day week.

So, overall if you have one grade and kindergarten aged children, please, please don’t overschedule and panic.

Part of simplifying is also thinking about the ESSENTIAL parts of what your children will need for the future. Part of simplifying is also thinking about the ESSENTIAL parts of what your children will need for the future.   For example, if you have children in grades 3-5, I think you SHOULD be planning extra math lessons a week if it is not a math block.  Children need not only procedural practice, but math experiences – Waldorf Education is really good at this with all the practical things we do, but I still feel as if many Waldorf homeschoolers could do a better job in math.  Math also tends to be the blocks that get knocked down in number as children move up in the grades.

Schedule everyone to be on a math block together, a language arts block together, etc , so you don’t have to switch gears so much if that kind of thing bothers you.  Could you schedule painting, modeling, seasonal crafts, etc all together?

What could you combine in blocks?  This year I am starting the year with tales from Buddhism for our second grader; and the life of Buddha which will combine my seventh and tenth grader.  Are there absolutely ANY places you can combine main lessons to save time?  This, I think, could be the NUMBER ONE reason to involve a consultant in planning your year.  A consultant who is very, very familiar with the curriculum might help you find those places.

What can you farm out?  Is there a handwork teacher?  A music teacher?  A tutor?  If there is and it is in your budget, that can be so helpful.  I am not a great knitter, and I still can’t crochet.  This is because I haven’t tried because honestly it is not a priority on top of everything else.  It is okay to know your limits, and to look for outside teachers, other homeschooling parents, and community groups to help you.   It is ideal if you can find Waldorf teachers  in your area, but if not, I feel after the nine year change children can handle more of the non-Waldorfy teachers.  Little yarn shops for knitting are probably fine for desperate parents with first and second graders.  I would rather they learn to knit despite lack of Waldorf methodology!  That is just realistic!  We have been fortunate in our area to have a trained Waldorf handwork teacher who does work with homeschoolers.  What a gift!

Foreign language – can you find a tutor?  Can you leave it until high school?   Can you  keep exposing to the culture of the target language you want and then bring in the language?Honestly, this an area where most Waldorf homeschoolers struggle, especially if they live in rural areas.  Foreign languages are so important, and in Waldorf Schools, students would be immersed in two languages, but this may or may not work at home. We used tutors and German School and everything else for years, but when it came down to it, middle school was a large gap with tutors or available language schools in our area and we are started over in  eighth grade with Spanish I (high school level).

Chores – I find as children move up in the grades, they are not doing NEARLY enough work to help keep the house going.  Homeschooling multiple children in grades 3 and up is a full-time job.  You need help!  I have a GIANT (takes up an entire door) chore chart. It is ugly and not Waldorfy looking at all.  Everyone has at LEAST three chores a day on top of their own rooms, plus extra chores to pick from for pick a chore, morning habits to try to work on, and chores I will pay for.  The harder part for middle schoolers and high schoolers, I think,  is having consequences for when the chores are NOT done.  If you are working a full time job by homeschooling multiple children all day, you need help with meals and cleaning.

Nature and play is really important to keep burnout at bay.  However, I have found as my children hit high school, it is not as simple.  Not because they still don’t enjoy getting outside and playing and hiking and all of that, but for us it is hard to get everyone together.  It is so worth it to plan it in.  I usually try to make Fridays a bigger day for outside play, but now my high schooler has some outside classes that causes a shortened day for all of us on other days and we need Fridays…it just becomes trickier.  Worthy but trickier.

INNER WORK. There is nothing more important. The more you think, “Wow.  This year is going to be so hard and so challenging and everyone has such different needs and I can’t possibly meet them all and ….”  Well, then the year will be harder and more challenging. I heard a quote the other day from a really positive athlete and he was saying how he was mentally focusing to make that run or that season the best it could be, his best yet.  I find this, for me, is an effective way to look at things.  I am looking at this year with an attitude of  how can I make this year the best for my family (in its wholeness and entirety) yet?  Everyone will get what they need in the long run. You must have this attitude, I think, especially in homeschooling high school.

Please share with me your best simplifying tricks.  We already take on so much homeschooling in this way, with Waldorf.  All homeschooling is work for the parent, but Waldorf homeschooling is a different beast than just throwing a book and workbook at a child.  I think we must learn to be easy on ourselves and set boundaries in order to have a healthy life.






Ideas for Second Grade Math Blocks

I am in the middle of planning out math, at least the general progression and ideas, for our second grade year to begin in the fall. This is my third time through second grade, now with our youngest, and it is strange that it will be my last time through second grade math.

In constructing Waldorf math blocks for this grade, I am thinking of movement, and mathematical and artistic experiences to really bring math into the body and into liveliness.  Thoughts about these three things are the bedrock of the Waldorf math experience.

The “big themes” for the four math blocks of this year (which, in my mind and for my student),  include :   Decomposing numbers/Working with all four processes/Introduction to Place Value;  More Number Strategies/Working with Time;  Geometry; and lastly, A Synthesis of the Year).

I have thought of the “format”I want to follow in math this year.  For me this year, this is the idea of units of math throughout the entire year so I have a focus for daily math practice, and then ideas for the specific skill progression within a block.  The vehicle to carry these skills, which are stories and games, this imaginative form, will be the last specific  things I choose, keeping in mind the developmental needs of the second grader will be met by fables, tricksters, and saints.

My skill progression (so far) that I am thinking of for the year includes using all four processes for math, being able to use ten to add to numbers, fact families, estimating, two digit addition and subtraction, using a number line, working in grouping of numbers and decomposing numbers, place value (generally reading and writing numbers to 1000, comparing numbers, understanding place value), non-standard measurement in preparation for third grade  (although I may do some liquid measurement our last month of second grade in with gardening and being outside), three digit addition and subtraction, simple geometry, multiplication and division, and time.  I also looked at our state standards to see what is there!

For imagery, I have decided to pull our  first block from some stories I found in “Anansi the Spider Man” by Philip M. Sherlock.  The second block we  will be working with decomposing numbers and number strategies though American Tall Tales.  The third block that will be a synthesis of the year will be our gardening block in our last month and include writing and math, and may include a liquid measurement component in preparation for third grade (I mean, water and containers outside…What could be more fun?).  The geometry block I am modeling off of includes some geometry ideas from the Christopherus Second Grade Math book and some ideas about making patchwork quilts and gingerbread villages found in the mainstream book, “Math Excursions 2:  Project-Based Math for Second Graders” by Donna Burk, Paula Symonds, and Allyn Snider which I will modify (although I am not sure in what way yet!)

I use a variety of resources, both Waldorf resources and mainstream resources, in order to teach math in second grade.  My favorite Waldorf resources for this grade include the guide “Making Math Meaningful:  A Source Book for Teaching Math In Grades One Through Five” by  York,  Fabrie, and Gottenbos; “Mathematics in Rudolf Steiner Schools For Classes I-VIII” by Ron Jarman; “Math Lessons For Elementary Grades” by Dorothy Harrer; “Active Arithmatic!” by Henning Anderson, and varying form drawing books.

My favorite non-Waldorf resources for second grade include math games that I can take and re-work into a more imaginative scenario because games  are a math experience.  This is an important part of math and developing number sense.  The best examples of these imaginative games in a Waldorf context that I have found include Master Waldorf teacher Marsha Johnson’s files over at waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com (yes, a Yahoo Group. I know pretty much all groups have switched to Facebook at this point, but these files are a very important for the early grades, they are free, and I urge you to take advantage of them!).  Examples of mainstream math books that have ideas  that could be put into a more  imaginative Waldorf context include “Second Grade Math” by  Nancy Litton;  “Math Excursions 2: Project-Based Mathematics for Second Graders” by Burk, Symonds, and Snider already mentioned above; “The Dyscalculia Toolkit” by Ronit Bird; and “Math in the Garden:  Hands On Activities That Bring Math To Life” (White, Barrett, Kopp, Manoux, Johnson, and McCullough). Other experiences I am thinking of include cooking and gardening, nature walks, knitting, crafting for festivals, music and movement (rhythm is a basis of math!).

Are you planning second grade math?  I would love to hear from  you!




Favorite Waldorf Homeschooling Pinterest Boards and You Tube Videos

I listed my new-to-me top ten favorite resources I am using for fall planning and today I want to share with you some of my favorite Waldorf Pinterest Boards and You Tube videos/channels.  We all learn in different ways, and Waldorf Education is such an experiential form of education, so if you cannot attend an IN-PERSON, LIVE training or workshop (which I recommend most highly!), then sometimes visuals and demonstrations via videos can be helpful.

Of course, any one can put up anything on the Internet. One wants to be discerning as to the myriad of things out there that are being labeled “Waldorf” or “Waldorf -Inspired” simply because this label can encompass products and viewpoints that are right on, and products and viewpoints that have nothing to do with Waldorf Education.    In one sense, Rudolf Steiner was not nearly as dogmatic as people make him out to be in regards to educational practices and what comes when; but on the other hand there are solid developmental reasons to place things in general categories:  early years till the six/seven year change; up until the nine year change; from the nine to twelve year old change, and lastly up to the fifteen/sixteen year old change.  We must view anything labeled as “Waldorf” through this development lens and  really pay attention to what these seven year cycles and transitional points  mean for educating a whole, beautiful child. I think if we are homeschooling with the goal of it being a “Waldorf” experience, then we must know about these developmental stages of the human being, and know why we do (or don’t!) do what we do and what is created dogma and what is not. If you are searching for more information on this subject, I refer you to this May 2017 post at Waldorfish and to this post by Jean Miller over at Waldorf-Inspired Learning regarding the the three stages of the Waldorf curriculum.  And, of course, there are many back posts on this blog detailing some of the things that Steiner said and wrote about. I will be writing another post shortly where I will tell you WHERE in Steiner’s lectures to find (or not) some of the major themes for each grade (or if it is standard because the Waldorf Schools have made these themes traditional?)

So, all that to say, is that there is inspiration every where when one teachers with Waldorf,  and if we know and understand development and broad themes, I have found gems to work into our homeschooling experience with the following:

Pinterest Boards:

  • Queen’s Lace is one of my favorites, with very extensive boards!
  • Waldorf Hannah   is also very extensive with many sub-categories by blocks or skills for each grade.
  • I think Waldorfish has found some of the most beautiful pins.
  • I would like to tell you about my own board as well.  I cover Early Years through Grade 12.

You Tube Videos:

Hope that is helpful.