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,
Carrie

 

Advertisements

“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,

Carrie

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.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

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!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

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.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

 

Ten New and Exciting Resources For Fall

I am so happy to be gathering resources for fall, and want to share some of the new things I have discovered.  Some of these are Waldorf Education resources, and some are mainstream resources that I am using for upper level subjects or resources .  Enjoy some of these titles that might (or might not) be new to you! ( I have absolutely no affiliation with anything listed here; just simply sharing some of my finds).

  1.  “Exploring Nature With Children” ebook – this is a fantastic nature curriculum you can use across ages and grades. Lynn is completely familiar with Waldorf Education and is a reader of this blog, in fact! (Hi Lynn!)  It covers an ENTIRE year (summer months too!) and is only 15 dollars with a viewpoint that is easily used with Waldorf or Charlotte Mason homeschoolers (or anyone interested in nature studies!)  It has suggestions for books, artwork, writing, observation, and more.  Highly recommend.  There is a code for a 20 percent discount until Saturday, June 3rd: NATURE20.
  2. “Learning To Breathe: A Mindfulness Curriculum For Adolescents to Cultivate Emotion Regulation, Attention, and Performance” by Patricia C. Broderick, PhD.  This is a book regarding emotional regulation, stress-reduction skills, and mindfulness techniques with a 6 or 18 week program for adolescents. There are separate student workbooks.  I am planning on using this with both my tenth grader as part of our year long health course and our seventh grader, whose physiology block will dovetail with high school health.  I think talking plainly about emotions and tools to deal with stress and emotional regulation are very important for this generation of children.   I am grateful mine are old enough to have plain discussion about this subject, although I will be delving into more depth with my high schooler than my seventh grader.
  3. “Embryology Experienced Through Modeling In Clay” by Christian Breme (sold through Waldorf Publications).   This book comes with a DVD, and will be a part of our Embryology block in tenth grade, along with the next product:
  4. “Embryo In Motion: Understanding Ourselves As Embryo”  by Jaap van der Wal. This is a complete DVD lecture set to help me understand the anthroposophic viewpoint of embryology.
  5. “The Poetry Handbook”” by Mary Oliver.  A block of epic poetry is a traditional mainstay of tenth grade, and usually one hears about Gilgamesh, The Odyessey and the like, but I want to extend the art of looking at poetry and writing poetry into the twice a week writing I am doing with combining our seventh and tenth grader.
  6. “The Dyscalculia Toolkit” by Ronit Bird, for ages 6-14 with 200 activities and 50 games to help solidify. Some of the games I will be using with our second grader just as fun things to do, and some of the things I will be using with our seventh grader to review basics in a new and different way.
  7. “Math In The Garden”  – I love this book. I originally couldn’t find this book for under  50 to 100 dollars and requested it through inter-library loan. I really enjoyed it and thought it had some wonderful ideas, and  now have found where to order it for 30 dollars.  I am very excited to work through the projects in this book!
  8. “A Waldorf Journey Podcast” – I have enjoyed many of these episodes and it is always nice for me, as a homeschooler, to hear how things are done in a particular classroom, and to stimulate my own thought of how this relates to our homeschooling journey. (Hello to Meredith!).
  9. “Spelling By Hand” by Jeremy Hermann (sold through Waldorf Publications).  I am looking forward to receiving this resource and promise a full review on this when it arrives here!  It is booklet-sized at only 36 pages, but I have heard good reviews on this product.
  10. Jamie York’s Middle School Math Conference.  The middle school grades are online, and very accessible. I will be taking the seventh grade math conference and am looking forward to it.

I hope some of these resources are inspiring to you as you homeschool plan! Please share with me any resources that you are finding wonderful right now.

Blessings,
Carrie

Struggling with Homeschooling Burnout?

I think this is the time of year where I get a spate of emails either from excited parents who are ready to embark upon their homeschool journeys or I get just the opposite – emails about burnout, dashed expectations, and exhaustion.  Parents with homeschooling burnout wonder what to do if they don’t want their children to go to a brick and mortar school, but yet they cannot see any resolution to the challenges before them.

I experienced true burnout this year, and I am not afraid to share what worked for me in hopes it will help other homeschooling parents.

Part of the challenge:  Part of  burnout, for me,  had to do with homeschooling for ten years with most summers taken up at least partially or fully with homeschool planning (vacation, anyone?). I notice in some Waldorf Schools the teachers seem to take sabbatical after taking a class through eight years.  We do not have that option at home, as we often have younger children to continue homeschooling or we are homeschooling into high school.

Part of the solution:  Stack some vacations in the worst part of the year to get me through; plan less weeks and less days per week in order to work in planning time during the school year.

Part of the challenge:  Homeschooling for many years children of wildly different ages who have wildly different developmental needs.

Part of the solution:    No child is going to get their day 100 percent tailored to them in a homeschooling situation where the family has children of massively different ages.   As a homeschooler, it is easy to look at what a Waldorf School might offer and think that this would be better for the child.  However, comparing a Waldorf School and Waldorf homeschooling is often like comparing oranges and grapefruit – same family, but perhaps distant cousins.  Home is not school and school is not home.  Reaching a balance not just over the course of a week or a month or a year is important, and to take a really long-term view that the child will get what they need by the time they graduate.  Remembering why we homeschool for each developmental period is important and helpful.

The other part of this solution is to impart more responsibility to the older children where one can, and to know sometimes it isn’t in the academic arena or the artistic arena, but it may be the older student can be helpful with smaller children or responsibility around the house.

The third idea is to look carefully at outside activities.  It is harder to say no to worthy outside activities that  a high schooler wants to do if they only have a few years left full time at home, but it is simple to tell younger children they simply must wait – or to choose activities the whole family can enjoy together!

Part of the challenge:  High school was not only a curveball for our oldest, but it was a curveball for ME.  Most of the parents in my area homeschool high schoolers using traditional textbooks, online classes, or the use of a hybrid school where their child is in classes two to three days a week with homework to do on the other “off” days.  What I kept hearing over and over was how homeschooling high school was so wonderful, how all it was was facilitating work and the student did everything on their own.

This could be the case for many Waldorf homeschoolers, but I don’t think this is always the case.  Many of us are still directly teaching high school subjects and very involved. We also may be trying to figure out that whole balance of blocks versus year long courses , workload,  and how to grade things.

Part of the solution:  Let it go.  Courses can extend throughout the high school years in homeschooling.  Preserve the relationship.  See if you can find in-person support from someone who has homeschooled similarily to how you have homeschooled, but also understand that every teenager has a different rate of neurologic development, and therefore that person’s experience may not be your experience at all!   In the middle teen years, I see  very pronounced differences in the development of the brain and the profound effect this has upon high school.  No one talks about that at all on homeschooling blogs, so I am saying it!

Part of the challenge:  The parent is still developing and going through seven year cycles; older parents can have challenges and we all seem to age a little differently.The decade of the 40s can also  be where many mothers are squished between taking care of elderly parents or parents with health problems, homeschooling, running a household, and getting children to activities.  It can be overwhelming.

Part of the solution:  Rest, exercise,  and healthy eating is a key.  Making time for your own health does nothing but stabilize the school situation.  If you have shorter days due to your own health needs and you decide to homeschool with shorter breaks throughout the year in order to accommodate this, well, we  have that flexibility!  The other piece of this is to go back to your spiritual practices – what strengthens your inner resolve and strength?

These are just a few of the things I did this year to help myself.  I would love to hear from you if you have suggestions to help mothers suffering from burnout! What would you say to be encouraging and helpful?

Blessings,
Carrie