Weeks 31-33 Waldorf Homeschooling

Some weeks have gone by since last posting in this series.  It has been a busy time of year with our children’s dear grandfather celebrating his 80th birthday, our middle child fracturing her arm, and end of the year performances and banquets. In the midst we have celebrated the Feast of Ascension, Ascensiontide, May Day, Mother’s Day,  and today is Whitsun, the Feast of Pentecost.

Kindergarten:  During these past weeks, we have been living life together making bone broth, baking, walking and hiking, wet on wet painting, modeling,  and preparing little things for the festivals.  Our circle time included an adventure circle modeled after Peter Rabbit’s garden adventures, finger plays about birds and bunnies,  and this week included songs and finger plays about doves for Whitsun.  We were immersed in the story of “Forgetful Sammy” from the book “All Year Round” but we have now moved into a story from the Summer Wynstones book simply titled, “Whitsun Story”.  Our major project this week was a garland of doves made from watercolor paper and singing!    I also made a tiny jar of woolen white birds on little sticks to decorate our nature table.

Fifth Grade:  We finished our Canada/Metric System block and moved into the totality of North American geography.  Before this, our read alouds involved  books about Canada and also Hawaii, but now we are moving into a different part of North American geography with a little book called, “Salsa Stories”.  I began this block with an expansive look at North America and the  United States, all the major mountain ranges, rivers, deserts, and lakes.  Then we went to Alaska, and from there we jumped across the continent to the Northeastern United States and spent time there on the land, on logging and whaling and the Erie Canal.  So, we have done mainly singing, painting,  and drawing this time around. I had plans for modeling but that is difficult with one arm casted, so I am saving those ideas for now.  We have discussed the District of Columbia, and Washington DC, which we have visited, talked about George Washington and Mount Vernon and tied the flora of the region in the early days of Colonial America to the early Presidents and their role in a primarily agrarian country that was different than England.  We looked briefly at the Appalachian Mountains through literature and now are looking at life in a southern plantation, the life of Sequoyah, and then into the Mississippi River and the wonderful Western United States.

Every day we are reviewing provinces, capitols, and geographic features from our Canada block, reviewing the states and capitols, the mountain ranges and deserts, etc, locating things on a map and making all of this as physically active as possible.  We have been using extra books for reading aloud and also the “Stories Where We Live” series.  For skill development, we are working on a state report, which I modified from A Waldorf Journey’s ebook about this block, which was my biggest inspiration for this block.  Author  Meredith is a wonderful,  actively teaching Waldorf teacher, and I love all her little guides.  I also garnered inspiration from a book of poetry called, “My America:  A Poetry Atlas of the United States.”

We are also continuing to work on math and spelling daily.

Eighth Grade: We finished up our American History block, including the War on Terror, the Age of Digitality, and the challenges we face ahead as one humanity.  Our daughter drew a very gorgeous title page and everything is done! Yay!

For Oceanography and Meteorology, we moved from the very first marine scientists, who were explorers.  We looked at the explorers of Easter Island,  and the development of civilization on that island and then the life of Captain James Cook.  From there, we moved into the science of the oceans – what is an ocean?  what is oceanography?  how do our oceans change?  We looked at the biographies of Alfred Wegener and Hess, and the Theory of Plate Tectonics and the layers of the Earth.    We went through all the landforms of the ocean floor and what ocean life is like in different zones of the ocean and around different landforms.  We also looked at the biography of oceanography Sylvia Earle and looked closely at the Marine Sanctuary off the coast of our state – Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. From the hydrosphere,  we moved into the Atmosphere.  We discovered the layers of the atmosphere and their characteristics, what clouds are, the types of clouds, winds and then we moved into extreme weather – thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes.  We spent one whole morning drawing clouds with pastels and our eighth grader created a very beautiful main lesson book for this block.

This week we have moved into our “Peacemakers Block”.  My main inspiration for this can be found over at Waldorf Inspirations’ website.  We have so far looked back at Harriet Tubman and Sojurner Truth (and their meeting!), the women’s suffrage movement in the United States and around the world, and Gandhi.  This week we will be moving into more in-depth about the Civil Rights Movement, which we have studied quite a bit both in our American History block and also just in our local field trips as we live near Atlanta.  I would like to compare Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X (I read his book this past summer!) and look at our local leaders – John Lewis and Andrew Jackson Young.

We have also been working on math almost daily, brushing up on geometry, algebra basics, and some business math.  Next year we will be tackling Algebra I, so it is coming together!  In World Geography, we will be taking the next three weeks or so to finish up Europe and then that is done as well.  Yay!

Our eighth grader is working on finishing a Waldorf doll she is making, and our fifth grader will be working on finishing her set of fingerless gloves she is knitting in the round once her cast comes off.  Our little guy is not in first grade but he tries to knit and has been working on what he calls a scarf, but what i think we will try to encourage to be a block we can turn into a pouch or little animal over the summer and the first part of first grade in the fall.

Homeschool Planning:  I am ready to start again.  I have most of sixth grade planned, but with some (many? LOL) presentations to write and also quite a bit about skill development to consider since our soon to be sixth grader needs quite a bit of  repetition to remember foundational things.  I have planned out a lot of high school biology and have really mixed in a good deal of Goethean science to it, so I am quite happy with how that is shaping up.  I have a few blocks of ninth grade planned, and then I have the rest of ninth and first to plan.

One of my considerations is time for planning.  As my children have gotten older, they are ready to go and do more and are not as content to just be home running around in the sprinklers or something while I plan.  Nor is my husband content to lose me every night to planning after they go to bed.  I think my solution is going to be to plan every morning for an hour and  a half as part of our rhythm to summer (early), to plan at night when my husband is traveling, and then to plan several “Saturdays at the library” where I just go and leave the house and plan .  That is harder because it is hard to drag stuff for three grades for planning, but I think so long as it is all on the schedule for the summer, it will happen.

Self-care:  I have been working out most days.  I get up at 5:40 and go to the gym or use workout videos.  I also have been walking at night if my husband is home and not traveling.  This has been wonderful for me.  I also have joined the “KonMari in the Waldorf Home” Facebook group and have going through the house.  This is something I do every summer to get us ready for the new school year, but this year I have gotten a  jump on it and even started the school room switch of books by grade.

I would absolutely love to hear what you are finishing up, what grades you are preparing for next school year, and what you are working on in your home.  Please share!

Lots of sunshine love,

Carrie

 

 

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: May

Here’s a branch of snowy May,

A branch the fairies gave me.

Who would like to dance today, 

With a branch the fairies gave me?

Dance away, dance away,

Holding high the branch of May.

-from Spring: A Collection of Poems, Songs and Stories for young children by Wynstones Press

I love May, in all her green and blooming glory.  Down here in the South, the weather can be quite warm and the pools are opening for the season.  It is the end of the school year, and everything is bursting with vitality!

This month we are celebrating:

May 1 – May Day; also the Feast of St. Philip and St. James

May 2, 3, and 4 – Rogation Days

May 5 – The Feast of Ascension

May 8- Mother’s Day

May 15 – Whitsun; The Feast of Pentecost

May 19 – The Feast of St. Dunstan

May 20 – The Feast of St. Alcuin

May 30- Memorial Day (and our wedding anniversary!)

May 31- The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

These are a few of my favorite things for small children:

  • Hiking on The Feast of Ascension, watching clouds
  • Making Pentecost crafts
  • Gathering for May Day and dancing around a May Pole!
  • Making crafts for Memorial Day, Memorial Day parades
  • Pedal toys – trikes and bikes! Have your own Memorial Day parade

These are a few of my favorite things for grades-aged children:

  • All of the above, plus
  • Following Screen Free Week May 2-8
  • Swimming and miniature golf
  • Playing in the water and sand
  • Observing all the dragonflies, bees, and butterflies
  • Calming rituals for rest times and the end of the day.  I strongly believe that children ages 8-13 still need earlier bedtimes and I work very hard to make that happen. Calming rituals and rhythm are soothing for sleep!

These are a few of my favorite things for teens:

  • All of the above, including screen free week
  • Spring cleaning and spring decorating of the home, gardening tasks
  • Spring cooking, making special treats for The Feast of Ascension and Memorial Day
  • Planning surprise May Day baskets for neighbors, and doing things to serve others.
  • Picnics at the lake
  • Later night walks in the warm air – great time to talk after the smaller children have gone to bed

These are a few of my favorite things for myself:

  • Celebrating our family with family meetings and family game night.
  • Celebrating our marriage with a night out.
  • Vigorously moving 5 to 6 days a week, whether that is through yoga, hiking, at the gym, or whatever I choose.
  • Drinking lots of water and herbal teas.
  • Going through the “You Are Loved” Bible Study by Sally Clarkson and Angela Perritt.  I am really enjoying it.

These are a few of my favorite things for homeschool planning:

I haven’t planned too much yet and am finding it hard to get back on track. My plan right now is to spend several afternoons this month at the library and see if I can write up some of the missing presentations for sixth grade and then that grade will be done, along with finishing up soe plans for ninth grade biology.  Then I will start to start write for first grade. I have an idea for a quality of number/first math processes block and am still searching for just the right idea for presenting the letters.

Hope you are doing some celebrating this month.  Please share your May plans!

Many blessings,
Carrie

Weeks 29 and 30: Homeschooling Eighth, Fifth, and Kindy

We took a lovely week to be at the sea and had a little holiday.  I spent a little time thinking about our rhythm, which has withstood quite a number of disruptions this year.  We need a strong ending to the school year, so I think I pretty much came upon refining our rhythm to be: me working out early/breakfast; going over our Anglican Spiritual Studies; time for our kindergartener; recess; Main Lesson for our fifth grader; Main lesson for our eighth grader and then a late lunch and more recess.  Several days a week we may have to come back to finish up main lesson kinds of projects and such.  So, it feels comfortable and do-able for the rest of the school year to me at this point and I am hoping to have a great ending to the school year.

Kindergarten:  We have had a grand time with our Spring Circle.  Our story has been Suzanne Down’s “Spring Kite Music” from her book, “Spring Tales”.  Our general rhythm has been baking on Mondays, crafting on Wednesdays, and painting on Fridays with Tuesdays and Thursdays being our days out at Forest Kindergarten.  We have also been making and playing little homemade games – things such as a variation of a homemade Candyland – and other games.  We have been singing and doing a lot of little finger plays for Spring as well.  Such a sweet time.

Fifth Grade – Our fifth grader is finishing up a block that combined Canadian Geography with the Metric System.  Our main project for Canada has been a giant salt dough map where we have been painting provinces, rivers, and marking towns.  We have been using the metric system to go over the height of landmarks, distances between towns, what we would eat in our meals in Canada in grams and liters.  We have been reviewing and practicing a lot with the four math processes, and fractions.  We finished reading the book “Seabird” by Holling C. Holling and have now moved into reading about Hawaii in preparation for our North American Geography block.  We are also working diligently on spelling as well.

Eighth Grade – We finished tracing the events of the Cold War through four decades, mainly through the biographies of Eisenhower, JFK, Nixon, and Reagan.  This included the arms race and the Space Race, the benefits of space exploration and where space exploration is today (and a lovely tie in was seeing the rocket launch on the Florida coast whilst on vacation), the Korean War, the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War and the differences between a president such as Nixon and detente and Reagan’s policies.  Then we moved into the War on Terror and all the different groups and players involved from the Persian Gulf War right up to today.  Our last foray this week is into the Age of Digitality – the history of the Internet and the World Wide Web and challenges of this century.  Our Main Lesson book pages have included amazing writing and art work for this block.  We are looking forward to starting Oceanography tomorrow.  We are starting the first few days by tying in to some of the peoples who traveled the oceans in different watercrafts, and then a little about plate tectonics and a beautiful look at the all the wonders of the ocean floor.  I am very excited about this block!

In World Geography, we finished up Africa and also Russia.  We have reviewed all the geography of Russia, the different ethnic groups within Russia, Russia’s history, and the Trans-Siberian Railroad. The only place we have left to study is Europe, so it feels good we are coming to the end of our year-long geography course.

I am ready to keep forging ahead with our homeschooling year, and also looking forward to get back on planning for first, sixth, and ninth grade. I have actually felt more stumped by first grade lately in planning, but recently came up with some creative ideas that I think will lead to a fun first grade for our littlest.

I would love to hear what you are working on!

Blessings,

Carrie

Finding Peace: Nourish

We want to nurture the highest levels of empathy and compassion in our children and yet we so often fail to model this in our attitudes toward ourselves and our own health.

If we think about it, we often perceive we have no time to spend on our own health.

We do not move our bodies as often as they should be moved and we eat things that do not make us feel well.

We often don’t say positive things about our own body.

Time flies by, and we are so good at getting the children into their doctor, dentist and other health care professional appointments; yet we haven’t been to a doctor or dentist in years.

We are so good at making sure our children relax and rest and go to bed, yet we consistently de-value our own need for rest and relaxation.

Time flies by, and we fail to re-connect with friends or give ourselves time and space for building community.

We fail to let people in on our deepest emotions and trials, for fear of being vulnerable or that no one will really listen or care.

So, in this glorious Eastertide,  I ask that you consider nourishing yourself in whatever form that looks like for you.  The simple act of putting your own needs for health and whatever that may look like to you may be the single most radical  thing you can do to hold a steady home and steady parenting this year.

Nothing will happen without a plan and without wanting this transformation.  It takes courage to say that you need to exercise each day for your own health, to have a night out with friends, or to make all those health care appointments that need to happen.  Yet,  what a positive thing we can show our children:   that parents taking care of themselves and being human beings and adults is also of value and that these things can be balanced with being a wonderful and connected, mindful parent.  So, if only in baby steps, I encourage you to nourish yourself.  Let this be your legacy for this year and here to finding yourself on this same date next year in a better and more wonderful place.

Blessings,
Carrie

Finding Peace: The Steady Home

One of the first ways we often try to bring peace to ourselves and our families is through our physical homes.  I think this is a lot of the popularity of the simplicity and minimalist movements – this longing for peace is at the root of taming our physical environments.

Sometimes our physical surroundings can be a great place to start.  When I see new mothers come to Waldorf parenting and education, they often are very interested in playsilks, wooden toys and the seasonal table.  This is because perhaps in transforming our environments with our hands, we transform a little bit of our hearts.

What would a steady home look like to you?  To me, it would include:

On a physical level:  knowing where things are and where they go, at least in general.  The ability to keep clutter at bay.  A general cheerful cleanliness that is not too fussy but is maintained.

On a rhythmic level:  having enough time at home that there are routines to managing the home, cleaning the home, and for meal planning and preparation.  Also, on a rhythmic level, I think a steady home includes time for rest, naps, and  sleep.

On an emotional level : knowing that we have unrushed time.  Unhurried time.  Knowing that there is time for self-care and also for spiritual needs to be met within the home.  This may be a little out of the realm of the physical home, but I think these emotions come out in the physical surroundings in the home.

I think what all these areas have in common is TIME.  As parents and homeschooling parents, we can look at our days as time. Sometimes when all children are small, we are looking at ways to fill time – the long walks outside; the afternoons of blowing bubbles or playing outside (or just general ways to feed everyone and keep them safe and alive until bedtime :)). Sometimes as children grow up, we are looking at ways to capture time and make more efficient use of it because there are more things that are happening.  Time gives us the ability to be rushed or not, and rhythm provides a key toward unlocking time and energy as we parent.  We have to begin with some sort of end in mind of how we want time to impact how we manage our homes.

Please share your favorite ways to look at time and rhythm, your priorities in the physical home, how you tame clutter and how you find rest.

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

How To Protect The Middle Years of Childhood In Four Easy Steps

We read a lot about protecting early childhood in the literature of  Waldorf education and Waldorf parenting, but did you ever stop to think that the time of middle childhood is also a time to also be honored and protected?  There are certain watermarks in Waldorf education where the child is seen as undergoing substantial developmental and transformative change – usually at six/seven, age nine, age twelve and age fifteen/sixteen. So, the logical conclusion is that a child experiences the nine year change and the twelve year change before he or she enters the fifteen/sixteen year old change.  This seems so obvious when one says this – that the years between ten and fourteen are steps leading up to the changes at fifteen and sixteen –  and yet in our society it all seems to become rather blurred.  I think we should honor and protect this time instead of rushing through it on the way to driving, dating, and getting ready for college.    The years in which  a child is ten to fourteen is truly the heart of childhood in so many ways, this truly golden middle of childhood if we as parents and we as a society can really take a step back and protect and honor this time.

Nourishing play is one of the top ways to protect these years.  Ten to fourteen year olds still really play and play hard if you let them and this impulse for play has not been squashed!  This is a ripe age of all kinds of outdoor play, large games of different types of tag and pick-up games of any kind of sport are enjoyed typically.   If you give a child unstructured time instead of a busy structured schedule, this can be such a gift in nourishing play!

Simplicity is another key in protecting the middle years…simplicity in scheduling (and not over-scheduling) a child in these ages leads to the time to play, daydream, rest their growing bodies, read, create and tinker.  These can be some of the most fruitful years for this sort of exploration and freedom.  Ten to fourteen year olds are full of wonderful, innovative ideas.

Autonomy  is another way to protect this beautiful age of the golden age of childhood…but perhaps not in the way we often see  in society.  Please, please remember that there really is a difference between a ten and sixteen year old, and yes, even a fourteen year old and a sixteen year old.  Let us not rush into freedom of technology without boundaries, or such a peer-oriented state that we associate with those who are on the verge of young adulthood.  Freedom for this age group might mean being able to shop alone in a store for a few minutes while you are in another part of the store , maybe it is the ability to ride or walk somewhere  in a group of peers,  or being able to find and be in some secret place outside alone.  All of this, of course, depends upon what kind of place you live in and safety factors, but I think it is safe to say that many of us remember being this age and having the freedom to be gone most of the day riding our bikes or being outside between after school and dinner without parents knowing where we were every second.  Every family will feel differently about this, of course, but I think that is one example of the type of freedom that seems normal for this age group and wanted by children of this age.

Lastly, I think one of the most important ways to protect this stage is seeing the sacred.  One of the things I have noticed about children today of these ages compared to years past is this “dropping down” of an attitude of toughness and boredom and “I am too old for that”.   I am sure many of the mothers out there remember playing dolls or Barbies at ages ten to twelve, whereas for many little girls these days, these are not activities for ten to twelve year olds anymore.    Nurturing wonder, nurturing joy and  love and compassion are really important for these ages.  Toughness, boredom, rolling of eyes and not wanting to participate in family activities may be considered part of these ages these days, but I think parents of children these ages really need to step in and gently guide and lead.  Lead with love and connection.

Please share with me your favorite ways to honor the child who is ages ten to fourteen…and how to make this a lovely,  slow stage that is honored and not rushed into the realm of being an older adolescent.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Block Layout Plan for Ninth Grade Waldorf Homeschooling

So this coming fall marks a big occasion – we will have a high schooler in the house!  Making the decision to homeschool high school is a big one in and of itself, but to try to homeschool high school in a Waldorf way is also a big decision and an interesting project.  Many of you know that the Waldorf Curriculum really culminates in the high school and speaks to the development and awakening of the adolescent in a beautiful way.  In a Waldorf high school the subjects are taught by specialists and there are still blocks but there are also classes that run in tracks – (usually math, foreign language, some sort of Literature/Composition) plus all the increasing artistry around things such as blacksmithing, glassblowing, and other manner of things that we don’t often have access to at home.  It can sound daunting, but the home environment can be a truly great springboard toward preparing  a student for the future due to its inherent flexibility and real- life experiences.

So, we are hoping our high school will be a mix of blocks and tracks, of course, but also that it will be experiential, artistic, centered around outdoor education, 4-H activities and outdoor skills and also around our student’s passions and interests and serving in our community as well.  Having this real hands-on component I feel is essential for the restlessness of most teenagers who are ready to “do”.  So it may or may not really look like a “traditional” Waldorf high school depending upon the day, but I think it will very much meet the needs of our adolescent who likes to “go and do” and “learn and teach”.

These are the blocks we are planning for ninth grade in a very preliminary state:

Living Chemistry – 3 weeks

Native American and Colonial History with Basketry and American Art – 5 weeks – tracing the Native American tribes of the Southeast and focusing on some of the beautiful Native American sites in our own state along with Colonial History

Comedy and Tragedy – 4 weeks

Earth Science – 4 weeks

Christmas Break

Physics –  3 weeks

Revolutions – 3 weeks – will recap American, Industrial and Digital Revolutions along with Russian Revolution and Chinese Revolution and Chinese Cultural Revolution from eighth grade; will add in this block a more in-depth look at the French Revolution,  Simon Bolivar and Latin American independence, and also the Mexican Revolution

The Short Story – 3 weeks

Math/Probability – 2 weeks

History through Art – 4 weeks

Physiology – 3 weeks

The “tracks” we are planning include high school Spanish II through an outside source, English Literature, Algebra I, probably a separate “Art Foundations I” tract of studio art projects and field trips to combine with hours from History Through Art block to make a credit, and most likely biology.  I know Waldorf Schools don’t run biology in a track class, but I am a science geek and I need the higher end of  biology hours for our daughter who is most interested in medical careers.  So, in total we are hoping to earn credits for those track classes, plus American History (blocks from ninth grade combined with blocks and experiential hours  from eighth grade), and Music I.  This year our eighth grader will earn high school credits for World Geography and high school Spanish I.

While it may sound like a lot,  it actually is not that different from what we have been doing in seventh and eighth grades. If you are in the lower grades and reading this, please don’t panic.  It will all make sense when you get here.  Your homeschool high school  will look different than mine because every child and every family is different, but you will come up with the best way to meet your homeschooler’s needs. That is the whole joy of homeschooling high school.  Trust that the homeschooling that worked so well for your younger child can still work for your adolescent.

Blessings and love,
Carrie