Waldorf Homeschool Planning: Hands, Heart and Head

It is that time of year in the Northern Hemisphere!  School here in the Deep South is ending this week for most of the public schools, and we are coming to a close fairly soon as well.  This year our oldest will be heading into homeschool high school in the fall, and we will also have sixth and first graders starting anew!  These  important transitions are all the more reason to get organized over the summer.  I find myself following essentially the same sorts of rhythms ever year and  it really seems to fall into a hands, heart, and head pattern:

Hands – I start packing up the books for each year into bins and start getting out the books for the upcoming grades ( I have so many books by grade that I essentially only keep the grades we are doing out and the seasonal books and the rest go into the garage).  I organize the bookshelves and the school room supplies and see what we need to purchase in terms of art supplies and science supplies.  I also see what might need to be made for the first grade stories for our littlest member.

Heart – I sit down with my planner and figure out approximate start and end times for the school year and vacations; how many weeks of school I think we will do (which is usually 34-36 to fit things in); and I remember  and remind myself “what” our family’s goals for education are; I go through my Pinterest boards for homeschooling planning and make note of things that stir my soul for this year; I observe where the children really are in all spheres of development.  Over the years, I have made so many of those “divide a piece of paper into 12 blocks” – where you  write down your festival days, in our case Feast Days of Saints, seasonal qualities for where we live – that I don’t really have to do that anymore, but I do go through my seasonal Pinterest boards and see what we might like to make or do or use to celebrate by month and write it down.

Head – This is the most time-consuming part.  This is where the rubber meets the road and I start to lay out blocks – what blocks will I teach, in what order, how long will the blocks be, what resources will I use (which could be a post in and of itself!), what will each block contain and I write it all up day by day.  This part will take me most of the summer, even having been through first grade twice before and sixth grade once before. I include not only the block work itself, but opening verses, poetry and movement and other notes.

I also think hard about the daily rhythm at this point.  How many teaching periods each day or per week can I reasonably handle and not feel crazy?  Where can I combine?  What do I need to let go of and what do we really, really need as a family to be happy together?   I am finding the older my first child becomes, things are shifting in my family.  All the family in the children have very different needs right now, and I have different needs than before as I approach the last half of my fortieth decade of life.

Lastly, I make a schedule for myself for summer planning.  When will I plan exactly?  That part is really important because the follow-through has to be there.

Would love to hear what you are planning for fall!

Blessings,

Carrie

Nimble Feet in Waldorf Education

The tasks of the first three years (to be upright and walk; speech and then thought) are intricately tied into Waldorf Education.  We see that the legs are connected with gravity and the surface of the earth, and as the feet move it is often with an inward swing in relation to the joints of the knee and the hip even when we walk in a straight line.  The right foot is seen as moving counterclockwise and the left foot moves clockwise as archetypal patterns.  You can read more about this in the book “Foundations of the Extra Lesson” by Joep Eikenboom.  As our hands become “free”,  and no longer needed for locomotion as we stand and walk upright, they become useful as tools, for expression, for work, for caring for another in lifting gestures as we react to sensory impressions.  Feet  remain in contact with the ground, for the most part, in a stretching movement for walking. Stretching and lifting provide a counterpoint for each other within the development of the body.  One is as important as the other; one is the balance for the other.

There are many books containing hand gesture games, fingerplays and other verses and songs involving the hands.  Yet, the development of the nimbleness of the feet is an important component of the stretching of the body and the development of the will.

There are many ways to incorporate feet into verses, songs and rhymes.  Almost any rhyme typically used for the hands can be used for the feet in some capacity with a little creativity and incorporated into circle time.  Stomping, being on tip toes, patting the soles of the feet are all wonderful.  Autumn brings to mind horses having horseshoes put on, cobblers mending and tending to shoes, giants stomping, gnomes stomping and walking up and down stairways to the inner earth, all manner of forest and farm animals trodding softly or loudly.   Traditional rhymes such as “Shoe a little horse, shoe a little mare” and “Cobbler, cobbler, mend my shoe” work well for foot plays and combinations of toe and foot wiggling, bearing weight on different sections of the foot, and using the feet across midline.

Older children can work with some of the exercises suggested in the book “The Extra Lesson”.  Some of the foot exercises tie into remedial work for children who are restless or children who have trouble sleeping or who suffer from nightmares and challenges with writing.  Foot dominance is tied to the dominance needed for writing and for a sense of spatial awareness in general.  The nimble foot, the nimble mind!

Blessings,
Carrie

Planning Second Grade Waldorf Homeschooling–Part Two

I find second grade one of the most delightful grades to teach.

Major resources/blocks to think about:

Physical Movement:  See Part One of this post.  All rhythmic games are so important.  In the home environment, I would also consider morning walks, “recess” before or after lunch and limiting school hours so you can have long afternoons of hiking, biking, skiing, swimming and being outdoors.

Gardening:  Developing the twelve senses through gardening, stories of elemental beings

Eurythmy:  We don’t have a lot of options for this in the home.  You can try Cynthia Hoven’s website.

Music:  All manner of folk songs and pentatonic songs, pentatonic flute.

“Woodworking”:  stories of woodland creatures and gnomes, building little structures out in the woods

Handwork:  Crochet is usually what is done this year.  “Will Developed Intelligence” writes:  “Second grade handwork also begins with a series of projects using the continuous thread.  This time the children learn to crochet using bright colored balls of cotton yarn thick enough for a size seven  crochet hook.  Crocheting emphasizes one hand instead of two.  The balance is different, although both hands are busy.  It takes a new, more intense kind of concentration.  This is another rhythmical, repetitive activity with the hands that strengthens the will and brings clarity to the thinking.”

Modeling:  Modeling simple shapes with beeswax. 

Painting:  Painting with all six colors, animal forms arising from the interplay of color, choosing the right paints for which ones help each other and how not to have one color dominate too much, specific paint names and lighter/darker/warmer/cooler, how to place a figure in the painting and echo the color of the figure in the background,

Drawing:  For form drawing – I like running forms (I sometimes put this as the very last block of first grade, sometimes beginning of second – depends on your child – LOOK at your child!); symmetry and mirror drawing, using block and stick crayons.

I like this passage from “Drawing With Hand, Head and Heart”:  “Second graders are only just on the cusp of leaving early childhood’s dreamy at-oneness with the world.  In second grade drawing is similar to that of first grade but a bit more detail begins to appear (both in the teacher’s drawings and in the student’s work) in simple fashion.  Facial features on people and animals may appear, and backgrounds can include more detail, but still no foreshortening, linear perspective, or play of shadows.”

Mathematics – Whole numbers, patterns, times tables, place value,  lots of ACTIVE games (see my game-oriented math board on Pinterest), some sources say adding in columns and some sources say to stick with horizontal problems for now (again, LOOK at your child!), time (although many folks do a block on this in third grade), money – thinking in mathematics really comes in here.  The beginnings of mathematical reasoning.

  • Do check out Multiplicando by Howard Schrager
  • Grandfather Tang’s Story by Tompert

Sciences – Nature studies based on nature stories; stimulation  of the Twelve Senses in nature, Cooking

Some of my favorite resources:

  • The Little Gnome Tenderroot by Jakob Streit
  • Among the (Forest, Night, Meadow, etc) People

Languages (foreign) – in the school setting this would include imitation of songs, verses, games, poems, plays, counting, names of animals, family members, body parts, foods, the seasons, the colors, months of the year – usually in two different foreign languages.   I find in the home environment the study of foreign languages rarely happens unless the parent has a particular skill in a language.

English and Grammar – reading from the Main Lesson books the child has written, simple sentences in writing, working on small letters if not already introduced in first grade, rhyming words and word families.  See back posts on “Waldorf Education in Practice” for more information (book review section).  If you have times to practice reading simple books, which I am  not sure if the Waldorf Schools make time for this or not, but this is common in the home environment,  I suggest looking at these books (again, look at your child and these books and see where they are!)

  • Sam Cat and Nat Rat (and other titles) by Shelley Davidow
  • Lazy Jack (and other titles) by Kelly Morrow
  • Hay for My Ox and other stories:  A first reading book for Waldorf Schools edited by Isabel Wyatt and Joan Rudel
  • The Pancake by James Fassett
  • Fee Fi Fo Fum! by Arthur Pittis
  • Voices of Nature:  Stories for Young Readers Whole Spirit Press
  • Little Wolf by Ann McGovern could be a possible reader or read aloud.

Sources of Literature/History: 

Fables – Aesop’s, Celtic, African, Latin American, American Tall Tales, Norwegian and Swedish Folks Tales, Chinese and Tibetan Folk Tales, Folk Tales of Eastern Europe, etc.

Some of my favorite resources:

  • Russian Fairy Tales Pantheon Fairy Tales and Folklore Library; also individual books such as “Masha and the Firebird” by Bateson and Wilson
  • Favorite Children’s Stories from China and Tibet by Lotta Hume
  • Norwegian Folk Tales by Asbjornsen and Moe
  • Hidden Tales from Eastern Europe by Barber and Hess
  • Anansi the Spider Man by Philip M. Sherlock
  • The Boy Who Drew Cats and Other Japanese Fairy Tales by Hearn and others
  • Tales of A Chines Grandmother, Tales of A Korean Grandmother
  • Bantu Folk Tales
  • The Dancing Palm Tree and Other Nigerian Folktales – Walker
  • “Why the Sun and Moon Live in the Sky” in “Hear the Voice of the Griot!” by Staley

Legends of Saints – I feel very strongly that figures such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr do NOT belong in this grade.  I think the figures in this grade, which is under the nine year change, need to be more archetypal and more figures with one foot in legend and one foot on earth, so to speak. 

Some of my  favorite resources:

  • Saint Odelia by Jakob Streit  (he also has a small book about Saint Francis of Assisi)
  • For a reader in this block, perhaps “Bless This Mouse” by Lois Lowry
  • Perhaps Pollack’s book about the Ba’al Shem Tov’s proverbs could go in fables or in saints
  • Main Lesson free book with Saints and Animals (Christian):  The Book of Saints and Friendly Beasts
  • Any number of good resources about Saint Francis of Assisi and Orthodox/Anglican Saint Saint Seraphim of Sarov; also Saint Felix and the Spider, and The Saint and His Bees by Jackson
  • You can tell simplified stories of the Saints found in “Hear The Voice of the Griot!” by Staley, including the Christian Saints St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Marcarius The Elder of Egypt, St. John the Little, St. Moses the Strong Man; Islamic Holy figures of Sidi Ahmed El Kebir, El-Magharibi, and Holy Man Kintu and the Law of Love,

Local folklore

American Indian stories – great for nature stories!  I have some titles on my Second Grade Pinterest Board

The King of Ireland’s Son by Padraic Colum (and along this vein, I like the book “Where The Mountain Meets the Moon” by Grace Lin).

For General Reading Aloud:

  • I love Carolyn Haywood’s sweet books about Betsy, Eddie, etc.
  • The Paper Crane by Molly Bang
  • The Clown of God by Tomie de Paola
  • “Little House In The Big Woods” and “Little House On the Prairie”
  • “Gwinna”

Please leave your second grade suggestions below –

Blessings,
Carrie

Planning Second Grade Waldorf Homeschooling–Part One

I have actually written many back posts, including ones that focus on such diverse areas as handwork and science and examples of main lesson book work within the second grade curriculum.  My favorite back post about second grade is this one.

I think now that I have been through second grade twice, I have a few more things I would like to say regarding second grade.

Second grade is still a continuation of the rhythmical foundations of the year.  It is important to make margins of space and time in your schedule for the doing associated with festivals. Festivals, crafting around the festivals, baking and cooking are all still necessary.  These activities help build gross and fine motor skills that are important for later academic success.

The Gross Motor Skills second graders are still developing include:

  • Overall strength, flexibility, stamina and endurance.  LOOK at your child.  If your child is constantly tired, cannot walk long distances, has a floppy sitting posture or still wants to sit in a “W” position, has poor ability to sit still, tends to lean their head on the desk whilst they are trying to write – all of these things point toward needing more gross motor strengthening and strengthening of the lower foundational four senses.  It may or may not also point to retained reflexes that could use further evaluation.
  • Developing the sensory system.  I have quite a few back posts on this topic.
  • Agility, balance, spatial awareness.  Eurythmy is so wonderful and it is too bad there are not more resources for more homeschoolers.  You can try Cynthia Hoven’s website here.
  • The Sense of Hearing – listening to directions, following directions.
  • Accurate ball throwing and catching, walking (watch the arms and the legs during walking),  running, galloping, side-galloping, jumping rope, skipping, high jumping, long jumping, leap frog, hopscotch, rhythmic games.  We are also looking for dominance of hand, foot and eye. 
  • There is a full assessment for second grade movement from a Waldorf prospective at the Movement for Childhood website.  Here is a link to the PDF.  http://www.movementforchildhood.com/uploads/2/1/6/7/21671438/dutch_manual.pdf
  • Here is a great article about “Movement and Child’s Play”  “Movement and Child’s Play”
  • And this one with goals for Movement/Gym for Grades 1-8   by grade.

Other areas we are working on in second grade:

  • A social consciousness.  According to the “The Waldorf School Curriculum” Chart published by AWNSA, part of second grade is “the “social being” of the class must be carefully nurtured”.  Since we are in the homeschooling environment, I ask you to meditate and ponder how to nurture the life of your family and your family culture.  Can the movement that is so inherent in the small child be a means to this social nurturing in the home?

In Part Two, I will be delving into other points regarding second grade in the home environment.

Blessings,
Carrie

The Cost of Overscheduling Your Children

There was a very good post  recently over at “Becoming Minimalist” entitled “How To Slow Down Your Family’s Schedule” which did a great job in pointing out some of the problems with over-scheduling children in our world. I wrote a post some time ago about choosing time outside the home wisely.  In that article I mentioned several points, specifically in reference to the homeschooling community, where because children are not out at school all day, parents often feel the need to get their children out after homeschooling is done.  Here are a few of the discussion points:

  • I don’t think children under 12 need anything, although many parents of 11-12 year old girls have told me they felt their girls “needed something to do” whereas boys seemed to not care until age 14 or so.
  • Teens ages 13-15, somewhere in that time frame, really do seem to need something.  If you haven’t overloaded them with activities up until this point, then adding one or two activities may seem like enough to them.
  • Families with one child seem to vary on how they approach things – read the comments from the previous blog post.
  • Families with four or more children seem to pick activities where all children can participate at once, whereas families with one to three children seem to run around a lot more with the children all doing separate activities!
  • The DRIVER (parent) is often the one who is tired out!
  • Many parents noted they would love to stay home and have informal play with other children, but no children  are at  home in their neighborhood or they may live far out in the country and there are no children.  Children are interacting in structured activities these days, not in playing street games, tag and riding bikes like thirty years or so ago.

I think it could possibly take a full-on public health campaign in the United States to really change the perception of parents that there is value in UNSTRUCTURED play and to not sign their children up for every activity.  I am so glad to know so many of you are trendsetters and are pointing the way toward family being home!

If you want to pare down your schedule, here is a list of suggestions that other parents have told me works:

Discount activities that meet over the dinner hour.  Don’t be so willing to trade a structured, led by an adult outside your home for the benefits of the family dinner hour.  (and there are many benefits; there have been studies).

Let each child pick ONE thing per semester.  Many things now, at least in the United States, seem to run all year round, but see what you can find.

Delay the starting ages for doing activities outside the home.  “In our family, you get to pick an activity to do outside the home when you are “X” years old.”

Figure out when is YOUR day with your children if you are really busy with activities.  How many days do YOU need to be home to feel happy, to have the house the way you want it, etc.

You can try my method:  I put a big X over certain days of the week and do not allow myself to schedule anything on those days.  I have talked about this is in back posts.

Can you let go of guilt?  Every article, including the “Becoming Minimalist” post above, mentions how wonderful free, unstructured play with other children is, yet most parents say there are no children to play with!  Can you feel okay with your child playing by themselves or with their siblings for many days of the week?

The reality is that most homeschooling parents, at least most Waldorf or holistic homeschooling parents, do not want to be out every day and see the value in being home.  They see the value in space and time for development.

I think part of the problem is that most parents are working, and therefore no one is home and the child has to be somewhere.  Also, the ending time of school can vary and take away the down time of the afternoon.  For example, the middle school (grades 6-8) in my area get home around 5 PM, at which time they must eat and do homework.  So, part of this question I think becomes what do we do until economics – attitudes- amount of homework changes? A  tall social order!

Love to hear your thoughts and your thoughts on the “Becoming Minimalist” blog post.

Blessings,
Carrie

Which Waldorf Curriculum Should I Buy?

(Up to date as of 2/4/2017)

This topic comes up over and over again on Facebook groups, Yahoo Groups and in real life.  There is even a Facebook group devoted to sharing information about the different curriculums called “Waldorf Homeschool Curriculum Discussion”.

If you as a homeschooling mother have investigated Waldorf at all, then you probably realize that for the Early Years, under the age of 7, life and being home is the curriculum.  Play, meaningful work, rest, stories and songs and verses and being outside, along with seasonal activities IS the curriculum.   It is living and changing.  You don’t need to buy a curriculum for this, but if you feel you need verses, songs, or seasonal ideas, there are plenty of books, Pinterest boards and the like to demonstrate ideas.  You could also attend an open house if you have a Waldorf School near you and see a puppet show.  This is the time to develop your own skills, learn to be able to set a rhythm in your own home, and be a gentle leader in your own home if you plan to homeschool in the grades.  There is no “homeschooling” a four year or five year old in Waldorf!  You are living a beautiful life!  Life is the curriculum!

If you have investigated the Waldorf curriculum for the grades, you probably have seen there are certain subjects that Rudolf Steiner indicated as part of the development of the holistic human being by age, and there are some things built up in secondary pedagogy over these years as being done in certain grades.  You have to know enough to see how this curriculum can be adapted to your own unique geographical environment  (look at the manuals from the East African Waldorf teacher training curriculum and see how they adapt the curriculum for their country and continent) and most of all, to the unique child standing in front of you.  LOOK at the child right in front of you.  This is homeschooling, and homeschooling with Waldorf means you are a TEACHER.    It is not “child-led” but it is sensitive to the child based upon Rudolf Steiner’s view of development and how you, the teacher, brings it!

So this type of homeschooling takes work.    And that seems to scare many.   I  also feel many parents are interested in Waldorf Education because they perceive it as gentle (it is), child-led (it is not), nature-oriented (it is), easing into life in a more gentle way that is unhurried (it does, but then the other grades become VERY rigorous indeed).  The early years of play silks and wooden toys don’t last forever and wooden toys do not an early Waldorf childhood experience make.  Waldorf Education is about protection of the child, but it is also about bringing things at the right time developmentally and that does mean the world opens up, especially after the age of twelve.

The curriculums currently on the market (and this is just a list; I am not endorsing any particular curriculum since different things work for different families)  include Celebrate the Rhythm of Life Living Curriculum Program,  Live Education, Waldorf Essentials, Earthschooling, individual offerings from Rick and Jennifer Tan at Syrendell and Marsha Johnson at her Yahoo Group waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com and her on-line store The Magic of Waldorf, and  Christopherus Homeschool Resources, Inc.   I am not really including  Enki and Oak Meadow as they were written by former Waldorf teachers; Enki is closest to Waldorf pedagogy out of the two, but each are there own distinct programs with their own scope and sequence.  So these are more “Waldorf-inspired”. Little Acorn Learning is aligned with Lifeways of North America, and is nature-based.  There are several websites with free information, including Waldorf Inspirations.  Jean Miller’s website Waldorf-Inspired Learning and  Meredith over at A Waldorf Journey have some products available depending upon block/topic. Also, please do not forget the myriad of resources available to Waldorf teachers that are also available to you through booksellers such as Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore or Waldorf Books.  There may be other resources I missed or didn’t include, but I think these represent the majority of the curriculums that are out there that cover grades 1-8 in some capacity.

If you are not piecing together your own curriculum, (which I recommend you try to do, especially in the early grades when it is easier and you can get the hang of it), then you will have to sort through all of these options.  Most mothers I talk to say they would love to have enough money to purchase more than one curriculum because each one has its gems, its loveliness, and they like to combine pieces and resources.  In the upper grades, where there is much less in the way of curriculum to pick from, you will have to do this anyway.

If you want to see my criteria regarding choosing curriculum, I suggest you look at this back post.  You can also look at this post about how to learn more about Waldorf Education and the suggestions there.    Look carefully at the credentials of the people writing the curriculum and how much they have extensively worked with children in real life . If you are writing a “Waldorf” curriculum and using that word – where is your training, Foundation Studies, workshops that helped train you in this method?  I think all of these things combined make a “curriculum” worth looking at.

Blessings,
Carrie

The Ten Kinds of Play

If one of the hallmarks of the early years through the teenaged years is play, it helps us as parents to know about the different kinds of play and what these look like.  In this way, we can help our children achieve healthy play if healthy play is difficult for them.

The number one thing to do to help encourage ALL of the kinds of play I am listing below includes turning off all screens – TV, computer, video games, etc.  Stop them cold turkey.  This is important for all small children as we offer a gesture of protection, but this is especially important if  your child is having trouble with creative play.  And start to schedule in large amounts of “unscheduled” time.  That sounds contradictory, scheduling in unscheduled time, but children of today are rushed from adult-led activity to adult-led activity.  They need time to just daydream and be – that is the genesis of being creative.

Here are some types of play:

  • Large Motor play – climbing, jumping, swinging,  crawling
  • Small Motor play – Fine motor play might include things such as sorting objects, stringing objects, bringing objects in and out,
  • Rules- based play – You see this a lot in pick –up games led by children.  I saw this this weekend at a 4-H event where I observed a  very large group of children ages 8-14 or so were playing kickball.  They figured out where the bases would be, what the foul line was, how far apart the bases should be after a few rounds, etc.  They were making the rules and changing the rules as they went along.  Children do not acquire this skill in adult-led youth sports.  Youth sports NEED to be balanced out by neighborhood pick-up games that are led by children working together.
  • Construction play – Building play.  We often think of building forts, ships or houses but I would also include older children building ramps for a skateboard or bike.  
  • Make-believe play – we see this often in kindergarten aged up children.  At first props may be needed, but older children, even ages 9-11 often have elaborate make-believe games with characters and scenarios.
  • Language play – Using words for play – telling stories, playing with words and rhymes, circle games and songs…..  This can overlap large motor play in the case of jump rope rhymes or hand clapping games.
  • Playing with art – Modeling, creating music, drawing, making posters and puppet shows are all examples of this kind of  play.
  • Sensory Play – playing with sand, mud, water, gathering natural objects that have different textures. 
  • Rough and tumble play – Animals do this too!  This is how children often learn body awareness and boundaries.  This kind of play often needs to be watched to make sure boundaries are set for how aggressive or how dominant a player becomes, but it is important for children to play like this.
  • Risk taking play – Play can and should involve risk.  You most likely will not find this on a conventional playground, but out in nature and even in childhood games.  In a childhood game, this is estimating risk – can I steal to that base? can I run fast enough to make it to “home” without being tagged?  In nature, this might be how high can I climb in this tree?  Will this branch in the tree or log across this stream support my body weight?  This is an important kind of play.  I think this type of play can easily morph in the later middle school and high school years into things that are active, involve an element of risk, but are generally a safe way to get risk-taking behavior out there.  For seventh and eighth graders and up, think about dirt biking through a Motorcycle Safety Awareness club, a tree obstacle course with ziplines, more strenuous hiking and camping, anything with animals such as horseback riding or dog training, rock climbing, skiing, etc.  Help children develop their own abilities to assess risk.  This is an important skill for life.

What kinds of play are your children doing? Can you think of a type of play that is not on this list?

Blessings,
Carrie