The Pelvic Floor – Everyone Has One!

Yesterday I went to a course about fucntional rehabilitation of the pelvic floor.   For a long time, pelvic floor was associated solely with “female issues” and while urinary and fecal incontinence are the number one and number two reasons for admittance of the eldery to nursing homes, many people didn’t seem to be willing to look into options for treating the challenges.

I am happy to see that times are changing.  Physical therapists (and hopefully doctors) are screening the genitourinary (so urinary, colo-rectal, reproductive systems)  system just the way physical therapists screen all systems of the body.  (For the record, this includes the integumentary(sking), neurological, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems for therapists plus gastrointestinal and genitourinary systems along with general constitution, eyes, ear/nose/throat, hematological, immune, endocrine, and pyschiatric systems).

The pelvic floor is a region with over 20 muscles in 3 distrinct layers, and yes, men have a pelvic floor as well.  The pelvic floor provides support for the pelvic organs.  Genitourinary and reproductive function includes excretion, urination, urinary sensations, sexual functions, menstruation, procreation, genital sensations.  Many doctors seem to forget that men have a pelvic floor as well.   The pelvic floor also provides sphincteric control for the bladder and bowels, supports sexual function, supports stabilty of the back as part of the core muscles of the body, and supports the lymph system.

Some of the main issues pelvic floor physical therapists work with include elimination disorders of the bowel (constipation, incomplete emptying, incontinence), pelvic organ prolapse (when the pelvic organs are no longer in the right place due to loss of muscle, fascia, or ligament support), pelvic pain,  nerve pain.  Incontinence also rises with diseases such as insulin-dependent diabetes, chronic pulmonary disease, and more.  Low back pain is also associated with pelvic floor problems, and EVERY low back pain patient should be screened for pelvic floor problems.  You would hate to have a back surgery when the real problem is something in your pelvic floor that a back surgery will not fix! Pre-existing incontinence, gastrointestinal problems, and breathing disorders are also associated with developing low back pain.

Incontinence is a big deal because it is a huge independent predictor for falls and injuries, depression, and nursing home placement.  But you don’t need to be over 65 to have incontinence.  There have been studies on  elite athletes and incontinence.  17 percent of elite female athletes are noticing incontinence for the first time in JUNIOR HIGH and 40 percent of elite athletes are noticing incontinence in HIGH SCHOOL.   You are actually 1.37 times to have urinary incontinence in middle age if your strenuous activity exceeded 7.5 hours per week during the teen years.  Leakage of urine is failure of the tissue to handle the repeated load put upon it – if you keep straining the pelvic floor muscles repeatedly, the incontinence will just grow!

There are many ways to rehabilitate the muscles of the pelvic floor, and Kegel exercises (which most people do INCORRECTLY) are not the only way.  Anyone having pelvic pain or leakage incontinence or suspiciion of prolapse should be evaluated by a therapist instead of just throwing a Kegel exercises at it. You will need more than one exercise to fix any of these situations, and “exercising” for pelvic pain might just make the pain worse.  Pelvic physical therapists will work on posture (of the body and the posture/positioning of the pelvic organs), strength and endurance and coordination of the pelvic floor muscles in order to help challenges.

It was an interesting course, and nice to see physical therapy moving in the right direction in recognizing the pelvic floor as an integral part of core stability and as a body systems and a neuromuscular region that responds the way to rehabilitation as any other region of the body.  There is hope!

Blessings,

Carrie

 

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Self-Care in the Midst of All The Things

I was recently reading this article from Beth Bridges, entitled, “https://bethbridges.com.au/17-reasons-why-modern-women-are-struggling-so-much/ ” from July.  I agree so much that women do way too much, are way too busy, give away from themselves when they don’t have it to give, try too hard to please everyone and do for everyone.  I would add to this list that many women, especially homeschoolers mothers, don’t do a great job taking care of themselves.  Yes, many do small things like take a multivitamin or taking  a  relaxing bath, but many do not do even the bare minimum of things they probably need to function.

As many of you know, last year was really stressful for our family.  We came through it, but about May, my asthma. allergy, and infection levels were not  so great.  It was kind of like being a student at university, and you get through all the final exams, but by the time you get home for Winter Break, you have bronchitis for the first week of break.  Did that ever happen to you?  That’s what this summer and into fall has been like for me.  I had to jump in and deal with it in BIGGER ways than I had been.  Taking a bath wasn’t going to cut that level of depletion!

So these ideas about self-care is really about dealing with complete and utter depletion.  Homeschooling mothers push themselves harder than most people I know.  I think you can push like that for awhile, but again, years of pushing and years of homeschooling without break…well, I think then somewhere between your tenth year upwards of homeschooling, you may crash, unless you have a health crisis before that.

My idea is that self-care can be like a pyramid. It is individualized, because different people are doing to consider different things little, medium, or big, depending upon time, money, resources like who can watch your children if you need to go to the doctor alone… But here are my ideas, and my pyramid.  Take what works for you and make your own pyramid of self-care! But, much like the slogan, I think we have to decide to “just do it.”  There will never be enough time, money, etc.   You have to decide  you want your levels of self-care to change, that they can change, and that you are willing to make your self-care a priority.

LITTLE.  It is hard to think about doing BIG things if you can’t do LITTLE things.  Here is my list of some of the little things:  finding time each day to read, finding time each day to be outside, making whole foods for meals, taking a relaxing bath, listening to a podcast or inspirational app that nourishes you, sleeping 8-9 hours a night, walking at a brisk pace (not a toddler’s pace) several times a week, let go of something, hydrate with enough water, sitting in silence each day.

MEDIUM.  Then, are you ready for the MEDIUM things?  Maybe that is a morning or evening routine that focuses on YOU , not the children.  Maybe medium things are like making daily healing herbal infusions, making the time to exercise most days of the week, finding inspiration in daily offices of prayer or daily meditation and weekly spiritual community outside the home. Those things take overall incorporation into your rhythm outside of your family rhythm, and it takes weeks to build them as habit, so I count them as medium things.  

Maybe some medium things aren’t daily, but are those yearly things you try to do – your yearly eye doctor exam, OB-GYN appointment or physical exam with blood work by a physician.  

BIG.  Then, finally, the BIG and sometimes scary.  Getting those doctors’ appointments done.  Getting the follow-up appointments for said doctors’ appointments. Making those appointments for therapy and following through in order to heal the woundedness that is plaguing you and all those self-help books aren’t helping.

I find therapy is the one no one really seems to want to do, yet can often have such a large impact on physical health and the vitality of your life if you can find the right therapist or counselor. For lower cost options, try places of worship that have counseling centers, or therapist who offer sliding scales of payment.

These are BIG things because of the extended time commitment and need to change thought patterns, ways of prioritizing time and money.  Many don’t do it due to time, but also due to money.  If you are in the United States, and lack good  health care insurance, I urge you to look at health cost sharing programs. This began with Christian programs as outlined in this blog post, but there is now a secular version of this starting called Knew Health.

Maybe you don’t think you need these sorts of things, but I find many mothers who are in their upper to late 40s and early 50s do, particularly if we want to not have health problems in our 60s.  So if you are younger and not needing any of this, maybe you can plan ahead.  Or maybe your BIG self-care would look like something else…

Maybe BIG self-care would be leaving your children in another homeschool mother’s care so you can have an afternoon to yourself.  Maybe it would be leaving your precious children for a weekend along with your husband or a girls weekend or even a weekend alone.  Maybe it would be, gasp, a change in lifestyle, and putting your children in school instead of homeschooling.  This happens more than you might think for homeschoolers with high schoolers, who have homeschooled for many years, and their health is just burned right out.  For those of you with older elementary-aged children, and middle school aged children,  please please consider carefully your health and long-term homeschooling plans.  You cannot bloom all year round, every year – no flower, no creature on earth does that.  Where and when are your fallow periods?  Do your older children, again, older elementary and middle school, really need YOU every minute?  What other trustworthy and wonderful adults can speak into their lives?

The ending of my story (or the beginning)…..After not being able to breathe  for months and enduring repeated problems, this month I needed to pull out bigger guns than the little self-care steps I was already doing,( or even go beyond the medium steps).  First I had to deal with the immediate crisis at hand, since I was headed towards hospitalization since I was getting so many infections on top of the asthma (despite doing all the usual healthy things and chiropractic).  For me, this involved working with a  the chiropractor I was seeing, a Western (regular) MD, a Western allergist/asthma specialist, a functional medicine specialist to clear allergies, and a holistic dentist who had a speciality area of asthma and airways. These  were and are hard steps, because they are weekly appointments on top of an already busy schedule, they cost money (see above for options beyond health care insurance), my husband travels weekly and is rarely home, and so doing this also is just one more place to go and to coordinate where my children will be at that time.  But these are important places, and I want to encourage you to go to your important places too – whether that includes medical appointments, therapy or counseling, or whatever the BIG thing is you have been putting off for your health.

 

I would love to hear your journey of self-care and health.

Blessings,

Carrie

Review: “The Roadmap To Literacy: A Guide To Teaching Language Arts in Waldorf Schools Grades 1-3”

I know many of you  who read my blog homeschool and have been patiently waiting for a review of this extensive book (606 pages in oversized paperback form) and wondering if it is worth your money to buy this as a literacy guide for your homeschool.  Others of you are wondering if it is only good for a school setting, and still others of you are wondering if it is true enough to anthroposophic education indications for you to want to use it.  I will attempt to share my perspective on this work, and hope it will help you in your discernment as the expert teacher in your homeschool or school setting.

The format, as mentioned above, is 606 pages in oversized paperback form.  It is heavy and not the easiest thing to carry around in a basket for portability and reading on the go, but it certainly has so much information to share.  The book is essentially divided into six sections and 15 appendices, along with a glossary and bibliography.  The bibliography includes some of the most up to date studies on the teaching of language arts, and cross references topics through varying mainstream and Waldorf literature.   One thing I appreciated about this was it is simple to find sections you want to read and not feel as if you have to read it from beginning to end (although that is what I did).  I think this book would be a great book study amongst homeschool teaching parents or among lower elementary faculty staff at a school.

The first section involves background information regarding teaching reading, and begins with an experience many of us can relate to in our own teaching – once the letters are introduced in first grade, the sounds mastered, CVC words tackled, and the silent (“wizard”) E who can change words — what does one teach?  The authors mention that in their experience, Waldorf Schools are losing students due to lack of concrete language arts teaching and that up to 30-50 percent of students are being recommended for remedial work in the language arts.    This section talks about the stages of learning the English language and its three layers, which is very different from Rudolf Steiner’s native German.  It also gives background as to the historical development of the English language and how students recapitulate this historical development as they learn to read and write in English through the development of writing, phonological awareness, the first alphabet, the development of written conventions, and the development of reading.  It also looks at “The Roadmap to Literacy” way of learning to write and read – the phases include emergent, phonemic awareness, pattern, syllable phase, Latin/Greek phase. These are not grade correlations, but phases students go through in learning and each phase is broken into thirds.  This may seem overly complicated to some of you who have children who just picked up writing, spelling, and reading effortlessly, but I can assure you as a homeschooling parent whose children may not be picking up these things so readily, these phases can help identify what you can and should be doing in academic practice in order to  help your child move forward with reading.

Section Two is regarding Waldorf methodologies in language arts instruction and includes sections on the teacher and student as authors, the developmental approach of hands, heart, and head; school readiness; teaching from the image; working with stories; the literature curriculum; inhale and exhale – the role of breathing in a lesson; from the whole to the parts; using the power of sleep; working with the temperaments; the four fold human being; eurythmy and form drawing; home visits and working with the spiritual world.  This is the section that really will help those worried that this book may be too much or not true enough to Steiner’s indications.  As a physical therapist, I would have liked a more extensive and remedial kind of section regarding school readiness, but I also feel this is covered in many separate available resources.  There is an introduction to the “Sacred Nothings” of Waldorf Education – did Steiner really say that, or is this a tradition that has been developed in the Waldorf Schools?  Does it serve the student in front of us? There is a section on main lesson blocks/main lessons versus practice blocks, which is something I feel nearly NO Waldorf curriculum on the market makes distinction or provides nearly enough in terms of WHAT specifically to practice, again, especially for those students really needing direct instruction.  As a homeschooling mother, when I first read this section about practice, I felt a little intimidated as I have a limited amount of time to work with each child after main lesson period, but  as I got past that feeling it also stirred in me once again this idea of combinbing main lessons and combining practice sessions. It helped ignite some ideas in me as to how I would want to structure something differently in my own homeschool and in general how to pay better attention to practice.

Section Three covers fifteen aspects of language arts, including teaching the alphabet and the sounds of the alphabet, long and short vowel sounds, points of articulation, the sound of the letter “a”, the archetypal vowels and the eurythmy gestures, and when and how to introduce lower case letters.  Then it goes through BLOCK by BLOCK for first grade as to what exactly to teach in terms of letters, images, when you can teach two consonants at a time, how to introduce vowels, and fun games for practice.  This will not be an open and go thing for those of you searching though – you will still need to pick the images and stories, but it will provide a scope and sequence for teaching.  There is a section on handwriting and include when to switch to pencils, whether or not to use lined paper, how to teach handwriting and how to practice (and how to help struggling students). The third  and fourth part of this section works on encoding and decoding, how to segment and manipulate phonemes, and therefore this covers a large part of Section Three. Many of the techniques employed here and in the spelling section are ones I see employed in Orton-Gillingham type programs, but I think that is actually a good thing for those students needing specific instruction.  Many homeschoolers have found themselves having to teach main lesson work and use an OG type program for their struggling student because none of the resources on the Waldorf  market were specific enough for instruction.

There are sub-sections on symbol imagery and sight words, along with ideas for benchmarks in a school classroom.  There is a section on concept imagery and how to work with comprehension, including steps to sequential retelling, factual recall, HOTS questions, free renderings, curriculum connections for those in third grade and up. I think these are things that many homeschooling parents do naturally, but again, are often in short supply in any Waldorf curriculum on the market.  The last sections involve spelling, diction, and grammar.  The grammar section is very extensive, including fifty-two pages or so. Vocabulary and “kid writing” (often seen in mainstream sources but I have never seen mentioned in Waldorf resources) is also covered. Composition writing for grades two and three are also covered.  The last section covers reading – everything from teaching reading  (choral, guided, class reading) in the different phases of language arts development, how to differentiate instruction for those in a classroom, how to create an independent reading program, when and how to do book reports, how to practice, and how to assess your student.

Section Four covers phonics rules, and includes a lot of information for students who are struggling and how to help them. Thirty three phonics rules are covered by the end of third grade, with the idea that prefixes and suffixes will be taughts in grades four through six.

Section Five is the planning section and covers how to create block rotations, how to select curriculum materials, how to make block plans, how to make daily lesson plans.  If I was just starting to plan, I might turn and read this section first.   Then the section is broken up by grade (grades 1-3_ and offers examples of main lesson blocks, daily lesson plans, how to create nature stories and more.   I personally find it hard to read and decipher other’s lesson plans, but I think this section could be very helpful to many homeschooling parents who would like to see a layout.

Section Six involves assessment and remediation.  This includes informal assessments (homeschoolers are very familiar with this!), progress monitoring assessments, outcome assessments, and diagnostic assessments. Interpreting percentiles and information about standardized tests are also included. There are benchmarks included in the book, which in general I think move faster than most of us do in a home environment, but I am not sure this pace or scope isn’t something to think about in our teaching.  This beauty of homeschooling is that we can look at the child in front of us and adjust as to what we feel is right for our student.

This section does talks about the student who is slow to learn to read and how many of these students need help in critical early learning skills.  This is a hard one for homeschoolers, as many of us have had children who read late and did fine (but many of us also had children who read late and were NOT doing fine and ended up with visual convergence issues that were unidentified, or dyslexia or other challenges that impacted learning).  It would be my hope that if a parent teacher was exploring this book due to a child having difficulties learning how to read, that this would provide them some basis as to when to intervene and how. There are assessments for first, second, and third grade printed right in this book. One of the last sections is working with remedial issues and includes such things as remediating environmental factors, reflexes, physical and psychological capabilities, sensory -cognitive functions and more. It also talks about the remedial therapies used in Waldorf Schools, including the extra lesson, therapeutic eurythmy, pedagogical stories, and child study.  There is an entire section on dyslexia and suggests if identified early, intensive work is needed to build phonemic awareness and intensive, structured daily phonic teaching is needed and that this instruction should begin as soon as possible.  It also talks about Irlen Syndrome.  This is so refreshing to read about in a text geared toward Waldorf Schools, considering the number of emails I field regarding the Waldorf School setting and how dyslexia is approached.  

The appendices provide block plan templates that are detailed down to what skills are typically practiced in each block of first through third grade, what days to tell a story and what work to follow, and suggestions for practice sessions that should be taking place outside of main lessons.  It also has an appendix of sight words and listings of books for each grade and resources for the teacher, including form drawing.

A homeschooling parent might love this book if he or she has a child struggling with writing and reading, or if the homeschooling parent would like more guidance with what to teach after the intital introduction of phonetic sounds, word families, and sight words.  It will challenge you on your Sacred Nothings; I don’t think it will contradict anything you have read of Rudolf Steiner’s educational works which is important to all of us as homeschoolers as many of us study Steiner directly.    I think this book is an important one that proves we can address the archtypal path of reading and writing within a Waldorf context, but also addresses some clear ideas about scope, sequence, and skill progression that is often missing from other resources and also includes up to date information regarding some of the challenges to reading and writing that might not be as typical.  

It is a lot to read and digest; however you can skip around in the book and refer to different sections.  There is a suggested “how to use this book” section in the beginning as well that may be helpful.    The ideas for skill development are there, but it still may not be what some homeschooling mothers want in terms of “use this story to teach this phonics rule.”  You will still have planning to do , just like a Waldorf teacher in a school setting in order to implement this book, but you should understand more about why and what you are doing and how to do it!  The bibliography of works and studies cited is fourteen pages long and many of the citations are current, which is encouraging to see.

I think as a Waldorf homeschooling community, if we would like to see more targeted resources regarding specific language arts and mathematics skill progression, we should support more works from our experienced teachers.  I suggest you get a copy of this book and look at it and think about ordering it for your own teacher library.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Successful Waldorf Homeschool Planning

Successful Waldorf homeschool planning is a little like planning anything else….

Where are we doing this?

We are doing this at home and within our family unit, and perhaps within a broader homeschool community.  The where is important, because this makes it different than a school.

Why are we doing this?  Sometimes questions beginning are helpful discernment, and helps provide motivation.

  • Our idea of a wonderful homeschooling education is…
  • OUr idea  of a wonderful family life is..
  • Our idea of a healthy adult is…
  • Our children need…
  • Our family needs…

That should be a little motivation. To get specifically motivated  and discover “why” regarding the broader picture outside of our family about  Waldorf Education,  there are helpers such as…

  • Rudolf Steiner Audio
  • Rudolf Steiner Archives
  • Rudolf Steiner’s lectures about education
  • You Tube videos about Waldorf Education made by the schools and Waldorf-trained teachers
  • Articles and books that discuss why we are teaching for each grade the subjects we teach – this is the developmental piece that anthroposophical education hangs upon, so if you don’t understand this developmental approach, you will not understand why you are teaching what you are teaching!
  • Great books that are inspiring about Waldorf Education

Then we need the what –

  • what are we teaching?  This becomes the basis for the larger picture plan of blocks.  A list of the blocks by grade can be easily found; the pieces that often are missing is how that ties to your place in which you live, and how that ties to the child in front of you, or even your family culture.  Waldorf at home starts with the wholeness of the family at home.  This is different than a block outline by grade that has served schools, and yet is a template that we also cannot ignore as it fits so strongly into the archetypal development of the human being that is a centerpiece of Waldorf Education.

How are we teaching it?  These are the details that become important in the day to day planning.

  • Artistry – we need not only creative ideas, but HOW to teach these artistic techniques.
  • Academics – we need to know an academic progression and sequencing, which many curriculums honestly do not provide well.  We also need to know how to teach these skills.
  • Combining – HOW can we combine our children so we are not teaching 3-5 separate main lessons, which I highly doubt Rudolf Steiner would have recommended for the homeschooling mother.  I think the essence of combining comes with looking at field trips and experiential learning as the basis for the blocks and academic work – which goes back to looking at where your specific family lives and your specific family culture.

It seems like a super tall order!  I find many curriculums do well in providing the motivation, the why, even the “what” (although the blocks, cannot often fill in the approach of your family’s geographic place and culture), but often really lack details as to the art of teaching, the scope and sequence of academic and artistic progression, and definitely in the combining.  These pieces may need to be filled in by you, the teacher, as part of your approach to education.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

Book Study: “The Winning Family: Increasing Self-Esteem in Your Children and Yourself

Today we are diving into Chapters Three and Four.  If you are just picking up this book from your bookstore or library, there are back posts on the Preface and on Chapters One and Two.

“Negativity is so common that it seems normal in our culture.  Like pollution, it creeps into our homes and under our skin.” – Author Dr. Louise Hart, Chapter 3.

I love this chapter,  entitled, “Self- Esteem Protection Skills,” because it reinforces the rather constant battle I personally have with capturing negative thoughts or words or self-doubt myself, and also the outside exposure our children get regarding negative messages just from our culture.  This chapter points out that our self-esteem needs protection from all of these toxic things, and if we protect and nurture our children’s self-esteem, (I like the term self-confidence a lot and tend to use these two terms interchangeably as I read this book), then we end up spending less time putting ourselves back together after toxic events or emotions and can teach our chidren to do that, instead of learning adverse self-soothing behaviors such as using alcohol or drugs or food or avoidance.

Over two pages of strategies are listed in this chapter for dealing with negativity and toxicity.  I think what I am going to do is paint a little spot on our wall for “health and wellness” and go through some of these strategies each week with our children, who are now all (close to! next month!) nine and up. I feel nine is an age to start learning some of these strategies for life, and some of the strategies are ones that children aged nine could certainly learn and use, because they involve setting clear boundaries.

Chapter Four, entitled, “I Know They Love Me, But I Don’t Feel It,” and talks about the two parts to communicating:  to send the message and to have the message received.  Many of us “knew” we were loved by our parents but many of us also didn’t really “feel” we were loved.   Loving a child does not necessarily mean the child feels loved.   There was a passage about fathers in this chapter, and how many fathers never felt loved themselves and worked long hours and had little contact with their children. I think this has improved since the time this book was published, but it brings up the point of what did we want from our own parents, and did we get?

This chapter also brings up an entire list of what does not communicate love, which includes a lack of boundaries and overpermissiveness, martyrdom, overprotection, material possessions, quantity time but without quality, and conditions.

So what communicates love to a child? Memories built on fun!, being with our children not just in the times when we have to do something for them, taking them seriously, really listening, using positive words and respect.

There is a wonderful exercise in the chapter to list twenty things that you love to do and note when you last did them  and every day try to do one of these things.  As you take care of yourself, then you can take amazing care of your children. If you do something you love this week and follow me on IG, please take a pic and use the hashtags #theparentingpassageway #winningfamily so we can all encourage each other!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

The Things That Matter For Teens

I had a post with some of my favorite emotional intelligence books for 8-10 year olds on The Parenting Passageway IG not too long ago, and there was a question about resources for teens.  I think that’s tricky; many of the resources are either really babyish or really adult or honestly just try to be so hip any teen is just going to roll his or her eyes.  So one thing I have done lately is to just make a little list and plan to read through some articles as we put our own thing together.  This is my list; feel free to take it and adapt it for your teen.

Good Relationships:

  • Boundaries
  • Ways to Say No
  • Consent
  • When you judge others, you are judging yourself; acceptance as an essential ingredient in relationships
  • How to Apologize
  • Narcissist Gaslighting Checklist and other articles about narcissists

For Self:

  • Growth Mindset- Learning is a learned behavior
  • Recognizing Anxiety and What to Do About It
  • Recognizing Depression and What to Do About It
  • The Inner Critic and what to do about it
  • Common cognitive distortions
  • The Importance of Play and Rest
  • Being Present
  • The Importance of Wasting Time
  • Productivity Doesn’t Equal Self Worth
  • Self-care tips

Specific to Romantic Relationships/Marriage:

  • Things to Think about Before Marriage
  • Knowing yourself will help make the best relationship
  • Love Languages ( words of affirmation is most common love language)
  • Generosity
  • Should Your Spouse Be Your Best Friend?  ( do we expect too much from our spouses?  the importance of friends and couple friends)
  • Fighting fair
  • From bickering to listening
  • Turning Toward Instead of Away
  • The Good Enough Relationship

Parenting

  • Power of Gratitude
  • Teaching self-care to kids  through rhythm, sleep, rest, playing outside, nutrition, hydration, connection
  • The more we hug our kids, the more their brains develop
  • Post partum depression; new dads can get depressed as well
  • Benefits of raising children near family
  • Reflective listening skills and how not to use empathy and listening for self-serving purposes
  • The family meal
  • No punishments and no rewards

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

Teaching A Main Lesson

“A Teacher’s Thoughts for His Children”

You who descend out of heaven’s brightness

Now descend to earthly darkness

Thus through life’s resisting forces,

Spirit radiance to unfold

Spirit warmness to enkindle

Spirit forces to call forth-

Be you warmed through by my love

Radiant Thinking

Tranquil Feeling

Healing Willing —

That in Spirit’s heights will rooted

And in Earth’s foundations working

You may servants of the world become

Spirit illumining

Love evoking

Being strengthening

–Rudolf Steiner

Sometimes I get asked about main lessons, blocks, main lessons.  If you are new to Waldorf education, some of those terms and explanations can be found in back posts on this blog.

Teaching, in any methodology, should be an art.  It should be something living between the teacher and the student in front of that teacher.  It cannot be found in the pages of a textbook, nor really can it be found even in a plan made a few months ago in hopes that this particular block will hit the developmental mark.

Instead, I invite you to consider daily the goals of education before you, so beautifully written in this verse by Rudolf Steiner.  What are the goals for the student?  Radiant thinking, tranquil feeling, healing willing, that the student is an intermediatry between heaven and earth to become love.  What are our goals as a teacher?  To become that spirit of warmth and love that leads the student to these goals, that helps us all become the Spirit illuminated in the world, where love is sowed amongst humanity.

This is why, to me, Facebook groups about Waldorf Education are so problematic.  This is an education of a spiritual degree, which requires artistry and thought on the part of the teacher.  You cannot find that in any pages of curriculum.  Look at this verse; it has the secrets of what you need to know in order to teach.

That being said, many of the questions of a main lesson do center around the “HOW”?  How do I bring this, I need some pure mechanics and form to bring to this spirit.  Here are some thoughts about teaching the main lesson.

(Sleep)  This can be physical sleep, in meditating upon practice skills and capacities, or it can be a deeper sleep like letting a block with new concepts rest.

For the TEACHER, we need to set our meditation and intentions for the day. What are we going to accomplish today?  In physical therapy sessions, we often have a “mini-goal” for that session that contributes to a longer term goal – teaching is much the same way. What is the long-term goal with this block?  How is today helping us get there?

The Warm- Up – Usually this is the beautiful verse Steiner left for his students (there is one for grades 1-4 and one for grades 5-8).  Sometimes this leads into circle games, poetry,  singing, movement.  As of note, I  dislike turning this time into a music lesson for a breathing instrument (I think that should be a middle lesson), and I dislike turning it into a math lesson (I think that should be a practice session).

Recall – This is perhaps the most neglected part of the main lesson amongst Waldorf homeschoolers. I find the indications in most curriculums wholly lacking – retell the story or act it out and then move on.  This is extremely boring, and perhaps more applicable to the stories of the lower grades, but certainly not satisfactory for the upper grades.  One must dig into one’s creative well in order to come up with some better ideas for recall.  In history, games work well.  In science, I find building up an arc of concepts crystallized by not only the experiment we are recalling from yesterday but from several previous day’s experiments to be worthwhile.   Recall also takes the form of art – we are recalling as we model or draw or paint something from the story; we are materializing it before our own eyes and in our own ways.  Recall can also be things like dictation or  working with a math game with movement.

I think this is the part that you should be PLANNING out ahead of time and not just leaving to what strikes you when you are teaching. Come with some innovative plans and creative ideas!

Recall leading into practice/bookwork –  What are we doing with the story content as far as the capacities we wish to build?  This is not a strict practice session in terms of reviewing all the concepts we have built up over time, but we can work on work that really brings home what we have done in the recall.  This is usually what we think of as the “academic part” of the main lesson – the writing, the example math problems in the main lesson book.

Practice often can be made up on the spot (ie, more math problems in a similar vein as the recall, answering questions that lead into writing from the recall, but some teacher-parents may find it easiest to have ideas  and examples written down ahead of time. If you are not good at making up math problems or drawing main lesson book pages on the board whilst students watch, then you need to plan this out ahead of time!  In this vein, you can keep your own main lesson book that you complete one step ahead of your student!

New content – This is where we further what will become the work tomorrow by introducing a story or biography that the student can sleep on overnight.  Sometimes the new content can come after the warm-up as well, or it can be at the end.  Again, this is up to the creativity of the teacher and the student in front of the teacher.

In the home environment, other parts of the day might include a rotating middle lesson like in a school (handwork, music, gardening, etc), practice lessons for skills in language arts and math, and time for read-alouds.  It is up to you to make the schedule fit your family, not to make your family try to fit a schedule of a Waldorf School.

The last part of the main lesson for the TEACHER only is to ask oneself – did I provide warmth and love?  Did we laugh?  Did we do something new?  Did I promote radiant thinking, tranquil feeling, healing willing?   And off we go, bringing our ideas and meditations to the spirit world for a new day of teaching tomorrow.

Many blessings,

Carrie