Let Me Tell You Your Mission (In Case You Forgot)

One thing a friend of mine and I were talking about recently is that there is room in the adult world for all kinds of people with all their various quirks and personalities and temperaments.  The diversity of people is such a beautiful thing, and I know I am so grateful that different people want to do different jobs than I would want to do; that different people have different strengths and abilities; that different people even look different and live differently because I find so much beauty in all the varying cultures and faces of the world.  I love it!

So why do people act as if our sole parenting mission, and yes, especially in the middle and upper classes, is for our children to get into a good college and be on a college track?  I am not saying that education is not important.  It is important, but how can we balance this in a healthy way?

Having our teens stress themselves out to the point of having psychosomatic illnesses and fearing for the future and not wanting to grow up because being a teen is already stressful enough (so how stressful must adulthood be?) is not helping this generation.  ANXIETY has now taken over depression as something teenagers are dealing with.  According to this article in the NY Times, 62 percent of undergrads are reporting “overwhelming anxiety.”  There has been a doubling of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers.  

So, exactly what happens when the push, push for the “good college” is acheived?  What happens in real life outside of this?  My point is that people (and teenagers) are made of more than just their academic portfolio.  There is space in the adult world for many people with their many likes and dislikes and interests and passions. In fact, the adult world probably needs you especially, teenager who is different.

So, parents,  let me tell you your mission in case you have forgotten.  You are here to support your teen and to help guide them.  If you see them putting such pressure on themselves to perform, how can you step in and help them? What will they really need in the adult world to meet their definition of success?  Is their definition of success even healthy? One of the many points in the NY Times article above is that parents are not always driving the anxiety of these teenagers anymore by pushing them, but that instead the teens are internalizing the anxiety themselves and pushing themselves relentlessly.  Health and social relationships are, to me, more important and deserve even more time than academic work.  

You cannot live their life for them.  You are here to help your teen unfold and be who they are going to be.

Life is messy.  Being a teen is messy .  Be supportive and be kind, because you may not know much of what your teen is dealing with at all.

When people ask me about my parenting and goals for my children, I essentially say I want them to be healthy and helpful human beings.  Human beings who are good and loyal friends and family members who will help others.  Human beings who are ethical and who do not divide their public and private lives.  Human beings who can relax and have fun, and yes, make a contribution to something greater than themselves and support themselves.  That is an exciting parenting mission.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

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Homeschooling From Rest: The Sunday Prep

I have written a few other posts in this series about homeschooling from rest, including the morning routine and building your homeschooling around rest.  Today, we are going to address the importance of the weekend prep.

I call this a Sunday prep, but if you are busy on Sundays like my family is, it absolutely could be a Saturday prep as well.  In my head, I divide this into things a family could do to prep for the week, and things a Waldorf homeschooling family really needs to do.

The Family Prep:

Physical Level:  

  • Clean the house, even if it is the just the quick clean for surfaces, the kitchen counters, and the bathrooms. Quick clean is better than no clean.  Pick things up.
  • Have the laundry done, clean, and folded and put away.  Do you need to lay out clothes for your children?
  • Prep FOOD.  This is the most important part, I believe to getting the week off to a good start!  In today’s world  many parents are so busy and are getting home very late wtih no time to cook.  At the last continuing education course I attended two weeks ago, the  current percentage of overweight Americans (I believe these statistics were adults only) was at EIGHTY-FIVE percent.  We are overweight as a society, I believe due to confounding factors including stress, lack of true hydration, convenient processed foods that are easy to grab but not healthy, lack of time to cook, and a sedentary lifestyle.  As the saying goes, we cannot outrun a bad diet.  If we want to start turning the health of our children, this upcoming generation,  around and send them into adulthood with good patterns, we must start cooking healthy food and eating meals together.  Prep whatever you can and plan your meals.  Have your ingredients.   If your child is in school, do you need to make lunches?
  • What will you need for tomorrow?  Get it out and ready now.
  • Look at the calendar.

Emotional Prep:

  • What are your stress reduction strategies for the week?  You have some great choices in deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, biofeedback, massage therapy, aromatherapy, yoga.
  • Unplug.
  • Go out in nature with your family.
  • If you have a significant other, check in with that person.  How are the adults of the house feeling?  Where is the time for the adults in the week?  Adult connection is important. Children are wonderful, and parents give their all for their children, but life is not just about children.
  • Are you feeling positive?  Check in with yourself.  Some folks love to journal morning pages or set up a little board and watercolor paint each morning or sketch.  All artistic activity is connected to the emotional and spiritual life.

Spiritual Prep:

  • Everyone is going to have their own path here, but connecting to what you believe is a higher source in whatever way is meaningful for you is important in beginning the week.
  • I find visualization for the week to be important. What does the week look like in my head?  How will each day flow?  I also like to do this at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day, I like to review the day backwards.
  • Do some reading on your spiritual path at some point this weekend and each day during the week.  As many of you know, I am Episcopalian, which is part of Anglican Communion world-wide.  The book on my list to start reading this list is this one by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

 

Waldorf Homeschooling Prep:

  • Rhythm of the Week tools – If you are going to have a bread-making day, soup -making day, a way for your child to help you with your work of the day then you need the ingredients and tools!  Make sure you have the things you need on hand before you start the week!
  • Review your circle time, stories, and music.  I was always sleep-deprived and generally have the worst memory ever, so memorizing things was never great for me, but if I reviewed things nights in a row, I certainly could remember a lot and feel good about that!
  • Review your review!  By that I mean, review is usually the first thing up for grades-students after warming up and it gets the absolute least attention from most homeschoolers.  How will you review?  What do you need to make this happen in terms of supplies?
  • Look at your lesson plans for the week.  Be sure to include any festivals!
  • Chalkboard drawings.  Nothing says a brand new week, month, or block  like a new drawing!

I would love to hear your #Sundayprep!  On The Parenting Passageway Facebook page, folks are sharing their pictures of their Sunday prep.  Come on over and join us and get some great ideas from fellow Parenting Passageway fans!

Blessings on today,

Carrie

Standing Tall

In a world of beautiful Facebook and Instagram posts, it is not always easy to admit when we struggle with our children.  Actually, it is fairly easy to admit about struggling with a little person and their inability to nap, or late potty training, or  high energy.  I find we can even talk and laugh about the 8-14 year old set; the talking back and sassiness; the energy and then the dip in energy.  However, it is not always as easy to talk about the mid- to- late teenaged years and all the things the teenagers are dealing with.  Stress.  Depression. Suicide attempts.  Alcohol and drug addiction.   Overdosing.  Eating disorders.  Other mental health disorders.  Rage.  Date rape.  Violence from a dating partner.  Still dealing with the aftermath of parental divorce.   There are so many challenges to face, and parents are facing them with their children in love.

Several weeks ago,in a town not too far from us, there was a beautiful young lady who committed suicide.  I don’t know the story behind it, but I feel so deeply for not only her, but for her parents in this horrific tragedy.    I cannot imagine what they are going through; perhaps it is such a  lonely time being in the aftermath, but perhaps also there was loneliness in parenting leading up to this event. I can imagine that and think about that.   The things that go on in the mid to late teenaged years, (unlike potty training mishaps or picky eating or even tweenish talking back and asking for advice on all kinds of  parent forums), seems private and underground.  This is partly out of respect for the beautiful and sometimes oh so fragile human being blossoming before parents’ eyes, but also partly because it is an era of happy social media selfies where major issues don’t have much of a place.

Even if a family is not dealing with catastrophic issues, there can be a sort of  low-lying pressure surrounding  these years...a competitive game of sorts.  At least among the middle to upper class families that I observe, even in the homeschooling community,  I think it can be a race in a stream–of-consciousness way, like a James Joyce novel:  how many sports and how good are you and will you play in college and get a scholarship in college and how many AP Courses and Honors courses are you taking and where will you go to college and what will you do and how late can you stay up doing homework because I have to stay up until 2 to get everything done and how many places do you volunteer because you know that will look good on a college application and what do you mean you haven’t visited 12 or 14 colleges yet I mean you are a junior now and are you dual enrolling and why not and how about finishing college before you are 18 and what sort of career will you have and are you sure you can get work in that field…..

My hope for bringing this up is actually  not to be depressing, but instead to be hopeful. There can be a lot of funny and beautiful moments in the mid to late teenaged years.  There can be so many opportunities for connection, so long as you don’t let them  constantly bury themselves in a video game or on a phone. Insist they come to the lake with you or go out with the family for a walk or spend time with their siblings.  Help them get involved with things that matter to them and yes, I think there is truth in keeping them somewhat busy if they have that temperament and personality ( or letting them be if they don’t have that personality!)  Help balance them, know when to push and when to let go, but most of all, just love them.  The mid to late teenaged years are a hard time. Love will see them through.

Most of all, and this perhaps sounds a bit odd to those not in this stage of life yet with children, but this time is for you.  Find your beautiful tribe of mother friends who will support you and love you and take you to tea and dinner so you can talk and be together.  At this point, it really doesn’t matter anymore if your children and the children of your mother friends get along.  You are so far past play dates.  These relationships and this love is for you!

If you have a spouse or partner, lean into that person.  Love that person.  Be together, and be the wall and rock that the storm of teenage can bounce off of. Stand tall and stand proud. Find yourself again, because your teenagers need to see you as a person and see what you stand for.  Be that for them in the midst of the low and high pressure points of these years. 

And most of all, don’t be afraid to get help and to ask for professional support.  In so many of these cases, I have friends who said getting help was wonderful.  They wished they hadn’t waited until things snowballed further along.  Get help and get it now.  Involve the whole family and see what beauty and strength and courage can come out of these  harder situations.

To all of you standing tall with the struggles of your mid to late teens, I see you.  I am so glad today’s generation of teenagers has parents just like you.  Stand tall and fly high for these young people.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

Waldorf + Minimalist

There are so many Facebook groups right now for Minimalist Homeschooling, and minimalist living in general. Living in a tiny home or having minimal material possessions  in my mind is separate from running an actual minimal homeschool.  And, in the case of Waldorf homeschooling, which involves art supplies, musical instruments, and juggling main lessons plus other lessons, how can we even do minimalism in Waldorf homeschooling? Is it even possible?

I think it is possible, because in my mind Rudolf Steiner was talking about minimalism with the founding of the first Waldorf School in Stuttgart, Germany in September 1919.  He talked about matching the curriculum to soul development, child development and he talked about teaching in a pattern of teaching the same subject daily for a block of time. He called this the soul economy of teaching.  He talked about teaching the child not only out of this archtypal child development and human journey, but in looking at the child in front of us and teaching from what we are as human beings.

It sounds simple when one lays it out like that, yet so complicated in practice with multiple children of multiple ages, block lessons plans but also math practice, music practice, games and circle games, practical arts, and more (let alone the high school age!) To me, the Internet is the worst for this!  Let’s show how every single thing is so incredibly beautiful and not messy at all and then in real life when it is messy and not as gorgeous,  you have one depressed and overwhelmed mother!

But, I think we can simplify all these moving parts and pieces that often overwhelm us in Waldorf homeschooling.   I divide this in my mind into three sections:  Inner Work, Rhythm;  Resources;  Inner Work.

INNER WORK:

Read or listen to what Steiner actually said in his educational lectures. It may help you decide what is really important and what Steiner really talked about.  We love the traditions of the Waldorf Schools, and they give us great clues to build upon, but homeschooling is not and cannot be running a Waldorf School.  We are ONE person, often with multiple children and multiple responsibilities.

Make peace with the fact that you are being called to homeschool, for whatever reason. Some come to Waldorf homeschooling from a place where they can’t afford a Waldorf School, so come to it looking for a holistic way of homeschooling. If you are homeschooling, then you must do the inner work to embrace the positives of homeschooling instead of seeing homeschooling as a negative.

More important than the education you are providing is to remember your family culture and where you live is providing an education in and of itself in this time and place. Work on that piece as the foundation. If you are grumpy and overwhelmed, then that is overshadowing whatever kind of educational experience you are trying to bring.  And I say that lovingly, as I have been there over the course of my 11 years of homeschooling. Use what is around you, that is free, to create your own environment. I tailor our homeschool deeply to our place living in the Deep South of the United States, and as an Episcopalian family.

Boundaries in the Big Picture. You need them in homeschooling and in life.  What is it about Waldorf that works, how can you keep things developmentally appropriate within the big picture (0-7 pictorial speech, movement; 7-14 feeling life; 14-21 thinking life).

Take care of yourself. I know it seems as if there is no time for you on top of everything else, but there must be.  You are still a developing human being yourself with needs for nourishment and care.  To deny that is the ultimate killer of homeschooling simplicity. Steiner talked explicitly about dietary indications to help children learn, which we now take for granted.  Your time is not wasted preparing healthy food and working in your home.

Putting spiritual work is minimalist at heart, because it constitutes the largest part of your teaching.  Find your spiritual path and way and exercise that like a muscle each and every day before school and at the end of the day.

RHYTHM:

Planning for a shorter school year (32-34 weeks) can be helpful.

Planning a four day a week rhythm.  If a child is 7th grade and up, I feel they can work on something independently on the fifth day if you choose that as a family.  Some may have children that can work independently earlier than 7th grade and really do a great job without you standing over them or having to re-do everything, but I find getting through the twelve year change is often helpful.

Keeping a weekly rhythm that is similar through all the early years and grades with everyone involved in practical work. I don’t really consider it chores at all, but an important part of homeschooling is learning how to nourish ourselves and the other people in our family.  We try to model that and live it!

Keeping  school each day to a reasonable amount of time.

Connecting to nature – this is especially important not just for younger children, but those past the twelve-year change.

Combine grades as much as possible if you have children in the same seven year cycle. If you know what capacities you are trying to elicit, and you know what speaks to that age (broadly, not as narrow as in a Waldorf School where things are divided by age into separate grades), then you can combine.

For most homeschooling families, there are not separate lessons for everything.  Most of us are wiped out after teaching even 2-3 Main Lessons and cannot do all the specialty lessons a Waldorf School would do.  That is homeschooling, and it is okay.  We are not a Waldorf School.  Gardening, music, cooking, etc may be incorporated as much as possible into the main lesson period.  Or the main lesson periods may be separated out for children of the same seven year cycle, and then the practical arts are done together in a separate period.

RESOURCES:

Here is where the rubber meets the road. Most of the resources on the market are not geared toward combining lessons for all children of the same seven year cycle.  Some of the resources on the market, to me, do not do a great job leading one toward the particulars of academic progression with very specific indications.  So I guess what I am saying is that Waldorf Education is an art; resources help but ultimately it is the inspiration of what the teachers comes up with in looking at the child in front of him or her.   If you are minimalist, you will find a way to combine using  the resources that are available and not go overboard in investing in a number of things you won’t use.

Your best resources are FREE – no clutter!  Library books and Rudolf Steiner Archives, plus the free Waldorf Library On-Line.

So, to me, a more useful approach than curriculum might be:  What is going on developmentally with my child right now and going into this school year?  What is going on temperament wise?  What is going on with the family?  How are we all feeling energetically and how much do I have to give this year?  

Then, when looking at specific blocks, ask the questions that will make it minimal and focused – what is the point of this block?  Why is it here?  Does it speak to me?   How can I bring it alive and what artistic and academic things do I hope to accomplish with this?  How will this bring us closer together?

If you use your time to work on both the artistic end of the curriculum, it is part of the inner work for you, and part of the curriculum. That is immensely minimalist!

In the end, Waldorf homeschooling is about educating human beings to know themselves in order to  live in freedom, where freedom means helping humanity in love.  If we keep pointing back to that, we have entered a minimalist way of teaching and being.

Much love,

Carrie

 

 

Designing the American History Blocks for Eighth Grade

One of the major themes that Rudolf Steiner wanted to see taken up in the schools was to get the student up to modern times in history at the end of the grades.  He felt children were not mature enough to really grasp history before the age of twelve, which is why it is often just taught as a series of  events in time in mainstream situations and becomes part of why Waldorf teaches symptomatically.

If we can draw what children living in this present day and time  need to understand something from a certain time period, then we start to teach history in a different way, a more symptomatic way, a way of great movements and tendencies the character of the people of a time period and then one can move into details.  You can see Lecture 12 from The Renewal of Education for more details regarding what Steiner said about Greek and Roman history and the Renaissance.

However, these details do not give us much regarding the history of the United States, nor does it give us much to go on in  terms that the streams that make up America are different than that of Western Europe.  Western Europe is only one stream of American civilization and  American society encompasses many streams. I feel strongly and have written about the need to include Africa, South America and Asian geography and cultures along with the European influences.  When it comes to teaching American History, we must go back and think about the big tendencies of a time period and how we incorporate streams.  With that in mind, I bring to you the way I looked at teaching American History in Eighth Grade several years ago:

I kept Rudolf Steiner’s verse in mind, the intent that Rudolf Steiner saw for America:

For America

May  our feeling reach

To our heart’s inmost core,
And seek to unite in love
With men of like aims,
With those spirits who, full of grace,
Look down on our earnest heartfelt striving,
Sending strength out of regions of light,
Bringing light into our love.

So, I tried to keep in mind the striving, the men of like aims, and where there was light in order to counterbalance the darkness of history and wars. I also tried to use biographies of interest to an eighth grader, and to really tie this to what was pertinent today.

We had done a Colonial Block at the end of seventh grade, and I had a whole block of Native American studies planned for ninth grade, so we essentially started with the time of Lewis and Clark in our first Eighth Grade block.

Here is how I divided our blocks (total of 12 weeks)

Block One (5 weeks)

Warm Up included Native American Poetry; Read Aloud before block began – Sing Down the Moon by Scott O’Dell

Week One:

  • President Jefferson and the American West;  the Louisiana Purchase; Started “Sacajawea” by Bruchac as read-aloud
  • Louisiana Purchase Review; Lewis and Clark
  • Thomas Jefferson the Man – was he is visionary President or not?
  • Last Day of Week end on Westward Expansion; the Erie Canal and the Golden Age of Canals and the Steamboat

Week Two:

  • More material about the Steamboat
  • The formation of Texas; The Texan Revolt, the Mexian-American War and the Treaty of Guadalupe; start “Robert Fulton” as a read-aloud
  • Manifest Destiny and the Pony Express;
  • The Gold Rush – why was the California Gold Rush important for the development of the nation, what were some of the beneficial results; include impact of Gold Rush on ships and whaling industry in the Northeast; The Awakening of the American Mind (Fulton, Deere, Morse, Goodyear, Whitney, Howe)

Week Three – Read-aloud “Elijah of Buxton” and reader “Harriet Tubman”; lots of Civil War poetry; we got 15 books about the Civil War out of the library and read through them all; we also used our National Parks Service and completed a Civil War badge; visited many battlefields, memorized the Gettysburg Address, made a Civil War glossary; learned songs from the era

  • The Abolitionists, the Compromise of 1850; the Fugitive Slave Act, – write summary of regional differences of North and South
  • The Underground Railroad, the Dredd Scott Decisision; write about the impact of the Fugitive Act of 1850
  • The Civil War begins; Lincoln as a Man, Civil War Bull Run to Antietam with biography of Grant and Lee, Stonewall Jackson; Sherman
  • Lee and Grant; new weapons of combat for Civil War – how was the war deadlier than war ever was before? (steel ships, shells instead of cannon balls, trench warfare, role of telegraph and railroad cares, observation balloons(

Week Four

  • Review Battle of Antietam; psychological turning point of the war; Battle of Gettysburg as military turning point; Emancipation Proclamation
  • Women in the Civil War
  • Biography of Sherman and Sherman’s March to the Sea, the capture of Atlanta and Savannah
  • Lee’s Surrender
  • The Aftermath of the War

 

Week Five

  • Lincoln’s Assassination; Reconstruction and the Freedman’s Bureau; 13th and 14th Amendments
  • Compare and contrast Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois; the rebuilding of Atlanta, the beginning of the many historic black colleges and universities in Atlanta
  • The Plains Indians Wars; Custer, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull; read about the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where the Lakota Waldorf School is located
  • Killing of the Buffalo and beginning of the cattle industry
  • Transcontinental Railroad and the role of Chinese workers

 

BLOCK TWO (5 weeks)

Week One

  • The Gilded Age – Rockefeller and Carnegie; Industrialism and the rise of the city; new inventions and what happened in the South (remained heavily rural, much more poor than the North or West; only a few scattered cities and mill towns, very few high schools until the 1920’s)
  • Einstein
  • Imperialism to De-Colonization
  • Marxism

Week Two – lots of World One Quotes and Poetry

  • World War One, biography of Woodrow Wilson
  • The Jazz Age and effects of World War One – how did this change Americans?  (rush for people to stop thinking of themselves as immigrants and to instead be “American”; the examination of the First Amendment due to the Espionage and Sedition Acts)
  • The Dustbowl and the Great Depression; the seeds of World War Two

 

Week Three – Read Aloud “Breaking Stalin’s Nose”

  • World War Two – Causes; Biography of FDR, Churchill, and Hitler
  • The Holocaust and the lights in the darkness; The Grand Mosque of Paris
  • The Japanese-American Prisoners of War and the Japanese Internment;
  • How Did the Allies Win?
  • The Creation of Israel

Week Four

  • Biography of Eisenhower; the Space Race; attend a rocket launch
  • The Cold War – JFK
  • Vietnam War, Nixon
  • Reagan and Gorbachev – many of Reagan’s speeches reference Churchill and JFK, look at Cold War ideas in speeches

Week Five

  • The Persian Gulf War; biography of Osama bin Laden
  • War on Terrorism; Operation Inherent Resolve; ISIL; Boko Haram
  • Information Age/Digitality (history of the computer)
  • Challenges for the Third Millenium and our role in these challenges

THIRD BLOCK (2 weeks)

Lots of poetry – lovely book “Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts About Peace” by Anna Gorssnickle

Week One – Reader “Black Like Me”

  • Roots of Human Freedom – review
  • Harriet Tubman and Sojurner Truth compare and contrast
  • Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1968 timeline; biographies of Martin Luther King, Jr; Malcolm X (compare and contrast); Andrew Jackson Young; John R. Lewis; field trips

Week Two

  • Women’s Rights – biographies of Elizabeth Stanton; Susan B. Anthony; Wangari Maathai and Malala Yousafzai
  • Gandhi
  • African Nationalist Movements; Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu

These blocks were a TON of work to read and put together my own presentations.  Just a ton of work.  The main lesson book entries were a ton of work.  However, we read alot and learned alot and spend a lot of each day creating art and reading books from the library around each time period.

Hope that helps someone as they are trying to figure out Steiner’s task of moving into modern times! I realize by posting my work here it may end up for sale in someone’s creation of a Waldorf Curriculum without accreditation, which pains me, but I welcome use of this for personal use only.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

You Can Plan A Year Of Math – Here’s How!

I recently put a photograph of the books and resources I have used for math throughout the Early Grades on The Parenting Passageway Facebook page , and I also posted some photographs last week of our second grader using the story of ” Anansi, Brother Breeze, and the Pear Tree”, manipulatives, and more to work on math.  If you like photographs and microblogging, please do and like the Facebook page (and Instagram is to come!)

At any rate, there was a great thread attached to these photographs that got me thinking about how I go about planning a year of math. So I pulled out some of my resources and thought about the template I have developed over the years to really dig in and plan.

Steiner:  I usually start with Steiner’s lectures on math and go back and look for relevant information.  Over the summer, this typically includes “Discussions With Teachers,” “Practical Advice To Teachers,” and “Foundations of Human Experience.” I am a Waldorf homeschooler, so any resources I bring to the table I insert them into this particular framework.

Current Research: I have been following the work of Jo Boaler and some of the most current neuroscience regarding teaching math. So I usually go through “Mathematical Mindsets” by Jo Boaler again and refresh myself.  Jo Boaler also has open courses through Stanford University that one can take and learn about teaching math.

Then, I do look at the traditions of the Waldorf School for that particular grade, including sample lessons.  For these, I usually look at things such as “Making Math Meaningful” by Fabrie, Gootenbos, and York; “Teaching Mathematics in Rudolf Steiner Schools for Classes I-VIII” by Jarman.  These help me plan out our math goals for the year and to break that down into what might be the goals for particular blocks.  In the early grades, I find the skills more broad and fluid and often intertwine throughout the year and grades, whereas the upper grades still have that but a block starts to begin to be very focused – algebra in seventh grade, platonic solids in eighth grade, etc.

Then, I start planning blocks with the stories and the art as my inspiration.  I often go in with an idea in mind in terms of what types of stories that might be interesting. So for second grade,  I really had nothing more than the thought of Anasi the Spider stories for one block (cooking Caribbean food and drawing, perhaps?), lumberjack math for one block (drawing, perhaps, but maybe something with food and singing hearty campfire songs and flannel fabrics!), a winter-y tale or winter-y folk tale block (maybe building some kind of a winter village??) , and a math in the garden block to start.

Then I start meshing the goals of our year with the blocks and filling in details.  For this, I need not only the Waldorf School goals but to really LOOK at the child in front of me.  Where is this child?  For this, I need to break down those skills and figure out HOW AM I GOING TO TEACH THIS?  Sometimes what helps me here is something like David Darcy’s “Inspiring Your Child’s Education”; and mainstream books geared to second grade such a “Second Grade Math” by Litton; Math Excursions 2 by Burk, Snider, Symonds: and books of verses, games and rhymes.  One book of games that I like is actually “The Dyscalculia Toolkit” by Ronia Bird. There are many games that really teach number sense and those foundational building blocks for number sense and higher-level math!  I also like “Games for Math” by Peggy Kaye and I have heard great things about “Family Math”. I also look to books like “Active Artithmetic” by Anderson and “Rhythms, Rhymes, Games and Songs for the Lower School.” You can also see my Pinterest boards  ( by grade and also two separate math boards for lower and upper grades)  for many of the ideas I have collected.

For a product that you can use that does have daily lesson plans or that you could integrate into ANY curriculum you are using, I like “Math By Hand” for grades 1-4.  I have used this since our now-tenth grader was in the early grades. In the beginning , there were no daily lesson plans, but there are now, and those could be a lovely jumping off point.  I am sort of a math lover, so we do a lot of math compared to most homeschoolers, so I still use a variety of resources, but this is one of our resources!

The daily practice between blocks shows us how to really practice and get this into our bodies and minds, and also how to progress from from block to block.  However, I think the biggest mistake people make with daily practice is that they don’t really have a goal by week for any of it.  What is the child supposed to be learning, what is the child supposed to accomplish,  in math during the non-block time?  To me, there should be a sense that something is mastered, or a foundation laid at least, in between blocks. As an example, I used the first three weeks of second grade this year to review counting by 1s, skip counting, movement in math, Roman Numerals in games, making tens in games, regrouping numbers into the twenties, all four processes,  and even casually introduced place value in a story before we ever hit our first math block of Anansi Tales where we are really delving into all four processes, place value, and factoring.  I also try to remind myself that daily practice also  includes all the circle/warm-up games, verses and fingerplays, things you weave into cooking and handwork, movement and more!

I think this sort of template can work for ANY grade!  Math seems to be the subject that intimidates homeschoolers the most, and I really want to de-mystify it.  Math is fun, it is all around us, and we should be as literate in math as we are in reading and writing.  We should expect our children to be mathematicians, becaue everyone is one!

 

Review: “Africa: A Teacher’s Guide”

You all know how much I loved the book “Hear the Voice of the Griot!  A Guide to African Geography, History, and Culture,” by the very wonderful Betty Staley.  Well, imagine my enthusiasm for an updated version of this book that just came out from Rudolf Steiner College Press called simply, “Africa:  A Teacher’s Guide:  Ethnology, Geography, History, Culture, Stories, Art.”

In comparing these old and new editions side by side, the older edition is 390 pages of material not including the pages of notes, bibliography, and index.  The new version is 446 pages, not including notes, bibliography and index.  So what material has been added?

Both books are divided into African Geography; African History; Regions of Africa;  the Inner Africa;  Fairy Tales;  Fables, Myths and Poems; Saints and Other Holy Figures;  and Other Aspects of African culture.

In the first section, African Geography, the maps have been updated. South Sudan is included now, Zaire is now labeled as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia is included,  other countries such as Cote d’Ivorie and Equitorial Guinea are labeled with their updated names.   More information has been added about the Mountains, Rivers, and the Great Rift Valley  in the new edition.   The chapter on “The Animals of Africa” has changed quite a bit.  The old edition included the cheetah, the hippo, the chimpanzee, adn the ostrich.  The new edition includes an introduction and insight into the African safari experience, elephants, the cheetah, the hippopotamus with more information than previously, the lion,  and then the chimpanzee and the ostrich.  There are also many more teacher suggestions for working with the animals.  There is a separate chapter called, “Careers with Animals” that highlights biographies of some of the researchers of animal behavior, including Cynthia Moss, Joyce Pool,  David Sheldrick, Daphne Sheldrick,  and Jane Goodall.  These would be good stepping-off points for fourth graders to hear and could be worked with through high school as well.

Section Two on  African History, particularly the part regarding Egypt, has been substantially re-worked to also include the rise of the Coptic Church, the role of Islam in Egypt, the biography of Anwar El Sadat, the Arab Spring of 2011-2014.  Then there is the section on Ethiopia that was in the previous edition.  The list of teacher activities is the same.  The sections on ” Great Kingdoms of West Africa” looks to be about the same as the old edition, but the section on” Islam” in North and West Africa has been updated. The chapter regarding “Europeans in Africa” has been updated and reworked and includes more teacher suggestions.   It truly presents slavery as the horror that it was.  Chapter Ten, “The Awakening of National Consciousnes In The Twentieth Century” has been updated to include more about the end of the Second World War to movements of independence, the situation of the African states in the post- WWII period, the status of the colonies, the influence of the Cold War, and more. More biographical sketches are included, and a look at different countries and their roads after independence was acheived. A new biography of Wangari Maathai is included as well.

Section Three of the book is “Regions of Africa.” Note that in the new edition, this section begins on page 149 and in the old edition this begins on page 109, so that gives you an idea of the amount of material added.  The font between edition is slightly different, so that may account for some of the page difference, but overall there is new material. There is an update to West Africa’s section with an update regarding the story of Jim Staley and his story of being a teacher in a newly-independent Nigeria and his return in 2008.   There are a few new suggestion under the teacher section for West Africa as well.  The East Africa section has a new biography added of Kimani Nganga Maruge, and new reflections on East Africa that covers an additional 12 pages from the previous edition.   There are also more suggestions for the teacher.  The Central Africa chapter remains the same, including references to Zaire, which is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, and I am unsure why that was not updated since it was updated in the map section in the beginning of the book. The Chapter on Southern Africa has also been updated with thoughts from 2012 and a new biography on Jabulani Banda.

Section Four is on “The Inner Africa,” and covers the San spiritual view of life (unchanged), the Bantu spiritual view (unchanged), and added teachers suggestions (these stories are for grades 4 and up).  Chapter Eighteen in the new edition is about Ethiopia also appears unchanged.  Section Five is “Fairy Tales, Fables, Myths, and Poems.” The new edition adds “Akimba and the Magic Cow” to the folk tales section.  Section Six on “Saints and Other Holy Figures”  appears unchanged.  Section Seven, “Other Aspects of African Culture,” which includes art, music, songs, and foods (the recipes are in a mix of English and metric, just to be forwarned!) The Epilogue is different.

So, I think it is worth it to have the newest edition.  This book was obviously years of research in the making, and I feel it can be a wonderful resource for grades early years through grade 12 in Waldorf Schools, and also for mainstream teachers.

Many blessings,
Carrie