These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: August

August is here! For some parts of the United States, August is like the deep, long, and slow Sunday of the summer.  For some parts, like the Southeastern United States, public schools are already in session and summer is sort of over (although we still have hot, sweltering weekend days to celebrate!).

August is one of my favorite months.  It makes me think of shooting stars, starry nights and campfires, lake days, sunflowers, lavender, and bees and honey.  We have an abundance of dragonflies right now and all kinds of wildlife – especially the baby deer are out.

This month we are celebrating:

  • August 6th – The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Grow Christians has a blog post about this Feast; this Episcopalian blog is one I follow daily and I find it has many good posts about tackling the Five Marks of Mission of the Episcopalian Church within the home and celebrating Feast Days)
  • August 9th- The Feast Day of St. Herman of Alaska (this is one of my son’s favorite saints) (we love this book about St. Herman)
  • August 15th – The Dormition of St. Mary the Virgin
  • August 31st – The Feast Day of St. Aidan – you could tell the story of St. Aidan and his horse

Fun for the whole family:

  • If school hasn’t started, the last of beach holidays!
  • Physical fun – taking walks and hikes together; sometimes August is a great month for waterfall hikes
  • Watching the meteor shows peaking on August 11 in the lower 48 states
  • Sunflower crafts
  • Making lavender crafts and this has many craft links for lavender if you scroll down

Contemplating:

I just came back last night from giving the first “Parenting Passageway” workshop ever…so I am contemplating more workshops, topics, and what that would look like.  Thank you to my first group of participants yesterday in North Carolina!

Please share with me your August plans!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Finding Rhythm With Littles

I think this is the time of year where many mothers of tiny children are re-thinking rhythm.  Rhythm is that elusive thing, that when done in a healthful way, feels nourishing and peaceful and helpful.  It should never feel like a tight noose around your neck that you cannot live up to nor get free of.  But sometimes, finding rhythm, especially with littles, is so challenging.

So, for those of you with small children out there (and by small I essentially mean the Early Years of up to age 7, with points for consideration for those ages 7-12)….

  • It is a great day if all the children have been fed, been diapered or gone to the bathroom and dealth with basic hygiene, played outside, rested or napped, and were loved with kind words, kind hands and a kind heart through the fatigue and exhaustion that often accompanies mothers dealing with small children 24/7.  All the rest, I really believe, is icing on the cake!
  • I always ask mothers who are baffled by the concept of rhythm and who are certain they don’t have any in their home to start with keeping a log of two to four days of what they are doing during each day. Usually a pattern begins to emerge around sleep and eating.  That is a great basic place to build upon!
  • There is no perfection.  I find mothers who want everything to be perfect often drive themselves to complete burn-out.  Please don’t!  People before things, as always.  With small children afoot, you may  not get a lot done, and that is okay.
  • Find your order.   The best thing to show children outside of laughter and having fun and playing is that work can be fun!  This means thinking about what piece of the things you do can be done by hand instead of by pushing a button, and then to think which of those “hand pieces” could little hands do?  That is part of rhythm, and part of purpose.  Littles weave in and out, littles make a mess behind you or in another place you are not – that is part of it.  However, there are parts they can assist with and become proficient as well.  Even toddlers!
  • Where is your rest?  I find mothers of littles are typically so exhausted.  Physical rest before other things.
  •   I think at this stage of life, your spiritual work is in your hands.  Make the work of your hands your prayer; say a prayer that instead of perfection  you are showing love and kindness.
  • Set up help and support.  Every mother needs help and support – from her spouse, from her extended family, from her friends.  Plan B, C, D, and E are really important since Plan A rarely works out in parenting!
  • Less is more. In my area, suburbs of a major metropolitan area, the amount of outside activities many 3-7 year olds are engaged in absolutely stymies me!  Three to seven year old are always far better served being at home and with small things – walks in the neighborhood, feeding the birds, care of the home and the family pet. It doesn’t need to be much more!
  • What makes you smile  and laugh?  Find that and do more of that!

Lots of love in the striving,

Carrie

 

How Is Planning Going For First Grade?

(Just a brief and gentle reminder, this post is copyrighted.  The posts on the Early Years and Early Grades seem the most likely to end up in other people’s work uncredited (and being sold for a profit!)   If you want to use something from this post in a public way, PLEASE link to it or credit my work in some way.  Please do not write a curriculum and use my ideas. Many of us with experience are becoming  reluctant to share due to this, and it hurts the homeschooling community. Food for thought).

I am so glad you asked!  It is going very, very slowly.  Between planning high school biology as a year long course, our ninth grade blocks, and our sixth grade blocks, which I did a lot of work on and re-did them all from scratch (this is  our second time through sixth grade)…well, first grade is coming along slowly, even though it is my third time going through it.  It is hard to get back into gnome and fairy land after planning high school, and also to juggle between high school, middle school, and first grade.  It is a situation unique to Waldorf homeschooling families and very different than a teacher in a Waldorf School setting. At any rate, this is what I have so far:

My block layout and a general structure for the day and week.  This essentially includes jumping rope, hand clapping or rhythmic games or skipping for more movement,  something from my favorite Movement for Childhood (see the article “Classroom Activities to Support Learning Readiness” on their website), our Opening Verse, a  seasonal Circle that is fairly paired down, some active math, and then our Review/Main Lesson Material.  Depending upon the day of the week, I have also  assigned my two helpers to do something with our first grader – usually this is cooking (August we will be working with peaches) or knitting ( I plan to use the story of Captain Tinker knitting a scarf for Jenny the Cat, for those of you who are familiar with the Cat Club books) , math and language arts games,  or painting, drawing, or modeling that  I want to do outside of our Main Lesson work.  I also always have several options for movement breaks on hand that I can pull out when we need a minute to get re-focused in our work.

A lovely 3 week block of Form Drawing.  I made up a container story involving a farmer, a little boy who loves to be up in the trees, a turtle who lays a golden egg, a giant,   and a journey to a kingdom.  It is actually not a very complicated story, but it encompasses a lot of movement and  many line and curve forms, and also introduces counting  as the different characters go over things on their journey.  This should be a fun one to set up with little wooden figures, silks, river stones, and sand.

Our second block is also a three week block and will involve our qualities of numbers.  This block will include the same general structure I detailed above, but I will also introduce the pentatonic flute in this block with a story along with continuing many rhythmic activities .  For our actual  Main Lesson, I took the story, “Robert’s Harvest Loaf”  from the back of the book “All Year Round” and extended it and added more characters to make it into a story about the qualities of numbers 1-8.   After number 8, I am using individual stories for the numbers 9-12.  I am spending a lot of time in this block on developing rhythm in different ways, to really imprint that in the body as I feel this is a large key to learning mathematics in the early grades,  and in forming spacial relationships of these numbers in relation to the circle.  So we are using many active math techniques and games and a lot of bodily movement.  This will also be our time leading up to Michaelmas, so we have some seasonal preparations to do.  We will be cooking with apples this month and going apple picking, and tent camping as well.

I am sitting down today to write our third block, our Introduction to Letters.  For this block, I am envisioning a lot of fingerplays, and  fun with sounds and rhymes.  I plan to make a story off of  Dorothy Harrer’s story, “The Prince Who Could Not Read.”  I am envisioning expanding it ( a lot)  and weaving fairy tales into it to include the letters  B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P and W.  Our next block will cover the other letters and the vowels.

Our fourth block will be our second math block, and I am planning on introducing the four processes through bears.  Not gnomes, but bears. :)  Black bears live in our state and in fact  we had one in our neighborhood this summer.  Bears can  climb trees and swim, they can live in hollow trees or elsewhere and eat a variety of things that lend itself to math processes (berries, fruit, acorns, grasses, insects).  I think this will be a great block full of fun and being outside, along with more camping.  This block should write itself fairly quickly.

Our fifth block will be in December, and this will be a nature block and preparing for the holidays.  We will most likely do nature walks and hikes, crafts for the holiday and for winter, animal stories of the animals in our areas, and possibly look at making a calendar, which is suggested in the First Grade Christopherus Syllabus (I have a syllabus from 2005, so not sure if that has changed over the years!).

So that is what I have so far.

I would love to hear how your planning is coming along,

Carrie

 

How Is Planning Going For Ninth Grade?

I am so glad you asked!  Ninth Grade is such an exciting year – and for Waldorf homeschoolers, it can be a scary one, as there are less resources than the early grades to be sure.

I started by studying all the course descriptions for any Waldorf high school I could find, including the Waldorf Schools in Australia and by reading Steiner’s lectures in “Education for Adolescents” and other Waldorf literature geared toward adolescent development.   Looking at the websites of the schools  was helpful in pointing out regional differences and differences between countries.   There are a few high school level Waldorf books by subject.  Many of these are mainly “colloquiums” that discuss an overall approach to each grade and have a few pages devoted to each high school grade for different subjects.   While helpful and a good start with ideas of how to approach a subject, it  is definitely not enough  detail to provide full lesson block plans.  Remember, these subjects in a Waldorf High School would be taught by specialists and everything would come together in a beautiful culmination in twelfth grade from a journey started in the first grade.

So, I think the largest thing is to seriously THINK about the  development of the ninth grader, and more specifically to observe WHERE your ninth grader is.  So with ninth graders, age fifteen or almost fifteen in a typical Waldorf School setting, I start to think of the following things:

  • In a school setting, there is excitement, fear, anxiety. Girls tend to talk about it with friends, boys may hold it in.  Boys may enjoy doing more things “shoulder to shoulder” and then talk – ie, fishing, working, bicycle riding, car rides where they can talk and not have to look someone in the eye. What does this look like at home?
  • This is an early stage of adolescence.
  • Separation often occurs – the adolescent may fantasize having a new family, a new school, having adventures
  • They may not distinguish  fantasy from reality too well (believe it or not!).
  • Growing independence expressed in clothing, gestures, attitude, behavior…Through thinking they can begin to awaken to this new consciousness. Left alone, they are confused, or may be passive or aggressive or withdrawn.
  • They have very little tolerance for hypocrisy or  inconsistency.  Rules that apply to everyone matter.
  • They are hypersensitive to how they are treated, but often do not treat others well. They have to learn how to consciously relate to others.
  • They must learn to focus on others
  • Have a strong will but it is unorganized and often not aligned with what their actual values are.
  • Ninth graders are black and white, very concrete; still can’t think much beyond the first step to the next step. The polarities of ninth grade help them get grounded – comedy and tragedy; heat and cold in thermodynamics. Art history fits in well, including looking at indigenous culture, because it shows how standards of beauty change and counteracts the images of our society of materialistic and superficial beauty.
  • Fifteen year olds can also only hear themselves in conversation, and can only hear their own opinion. They must be taught to LISTEN to what someone else is saying and how to LISTEN without judgment and how to form personal opinions after listening to different opinions.
  • Fifteen year olds start to be interested in philosophy, the argument itself, philosophical questions –  although it can be  hard for them to focus for long.

As homeschoolers,  besides development, we also have to think seriously about high school credits and college,( if that is the track that your student is on) , and also about the interests of our student.   Our ninth grader is interested in medicine, so that will influence science and math courses.  For those worried about awarding credits and what that entails,  in the United States this can be done by looking at what your state university system requires in terms of credit,   and  perhaps also thinking ahead as to if you think your child will use dual enrollment at all.

So this year, I have three “track” (all – year long) classes: Algebra I, which I farmed out to a local hybrid school; High School Spanish II which our student is doing through Oak Meadow; and Living Biology, which I put together myself and which will run all year. This is very different than a Waldorf School that runs biology, physics, chemistry and earth science each year for all four years in blocks.  I chose to do a one year course in biology because I felt this would give us the most intensive number of hours for a lab course and give us a year to freely explore what we want in depth for a child who is interested in medicine. So, I made this course up myself by combining mainstream and Waldorf resources and included many labs.  The artistic end of this course will focus on  sculpture and printmaking.

In order to do those three track classes, I felt I had to cut down on the number of blocks we were going to do.  So I left out physics and organic chemistry.  Revolutions will make the cut if we have time at the end of the school year.  If we did do a Revolutions block, we would cover mainly the Mexican Revolution and Simon Bolivar in comparison and contrast to other revolutions we have studied, ( I do have it planned out) so hopefully we will have time for a short two to three week block but we shall see.  The blocks  we are going to do this year, for this particular child,  include:

Native American and Colonial History, which will complete a credit in American History from what we covered in eighth grade.  I am excited about this block as it will include basketry, soapstone carving, and Native American beading along with a study of Last of the Mohicans and early American poetry through Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley.  Our study will include the archaeology and history of the Native American tribes in our state from pre-history through European contact – so this will naturally look through time, and the geography of our state in great detail.  We will look closely at the early Colonial History of our state, the state of Native Americans before the Revolutionary War erupted, and the Trail of Tears.  Then we will expand our focus from our state to look at the colonies and English expansion, the House of Burgesses,  the tobacco colonies and religion shaped the colonies, compare and contrast New York City and Boston, the Southern Colonies. A look at the political cartoons of the time and American music will be a large part of the last part of this block.  We will go through the events of the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  The Library of Congress has great teaching plans based upon primary documents, so I suggest if you are looking for guidance on a block such as this to look there.  We also have a number of experiential learning sessions planned through our National and State Parks.   I anticipate this will be about a five week block, and the experiential part of it will extend throughout the school year.

Literature and Composition will be done in several blocks plus studying several other  works during other blocks during the year (see above in Native American and Colonial History).  Our main works will cover Comedy and Tragedy, Poetry and the Novel, and Short Stories. I highly recommend the Christopherus booklet for this block, which covers Sophocles’ Electra,  the Noh (Japanese) drama The Damask Drum,  Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night, Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of An Author, and Raisin in the Sun, which gives us a chance to talk about Langston Hughes, the Harlem Renaissance, and more.  Our work after this  will focus on some of the works in Oak Meadow’s high school syllabus.  I chose The House of Light, The House of the Scorpion, Kidnapped, Their Eyes Were Watching God,  and then my own picks which included The Old Man and the Sea, and several short stories including Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Gogol’s The Overcoat, The Gift of the Magi, and Steinbeck’s Flight.  Hopefully we can get through it all!    If we get behind, I will stop my list with Oak Meadow’s picks and not include my picks, so I will see how far we get.   Each block will be about four weeks long, but we will have to continue doing some literaturea and composition work weekly as well. 

Earth Science  involves picking up themes from eighth grade and looking mainly at seismology, the history of earthquakes in our state and in the world,  the use of triangulation to detect earthquake waves, the rock cycle and mapping plate tectonics, volcanoes (andesitic eruption and alkaline basaltic volcanoes), subduction zones and life around the oceanic trenches.   I hope to continue the study of earth science across all grades of high school to garner a full credit.  There is a Waldorf resource for Earth Science.  I anticipate this block to be about two and a half weeks long.

Art History I and Art History II.  Block One will look at Neolithic painting, sculpture and architecture with particular attention to Africa – the cave paintings at Blombos and Namibia; Mesopotamian  Art, and a comparison of Egyptian Art to Chinese Art; Jade Cong, Hellenistic Art, the MesoAmerican Olmec Heads, Roman Art,  and Japanese Art (hanging scrolls will be our main focus). From there we will look at Byzantine Art and Islamic Art, manuscript of the Middle Ages, the art of Benin. We will end the first block with a look at Durer.   In Block II, we will look at the Northern Renaissance with Rembrandt, Roccoco style, and then get into Modern material.  Goya,  Romanticism and Realism in American Art (Cole and Homer; Whistler), Impressionism will come next.  Then a peek at the history of women in art and women artists. Picasso, Latin American Modernism in Kahlo and Rivera, the American Art scene leading up to WWII, the New York School,  and lastly global contemporary art.  One of the last questions I want to tackle is the accessibility of art.  We have amazing art at our airport, of all places, and my favorite is a permanent exhibition of sculptors from Zimbabwe so I would like to end with those amazing works.  I think this combined with foundational drawing and sketching skills over the school year  and field trips to museums will lead to a full credit in  Studio Art and Art History.    There are several books that have compiled Steiner’s lectures on Art as a spiritual impulse and Art History available to help you.  I think all of this material will take at least 8 weeks and I will combine it with ideas from Oak Meadow’s Drawing and Design course to have a sort of Foundational Art Studio/Art History kind of course.

Our music credit will come from our church, which includes performance and music theory through the Royal Church School of Music program.

Life Skills/Health/PE –  this will be run during all four years of high school .  I am putting together a binder of articles and a list of books right now.   This year, I am looking a lot at awareness and conscious communication, listening skills.  Betty Staley has a book entitled, “Creating A Culture of Awareness” that is based upon a school setting but still has ideas appropriate for homeschoolers.

Farm Life/Wilderness Skills/Gardening – we have a strong relationship with a farm through horseback riding that happens to also have other farm animals; I am hunting for a local wilderness skills kind of course or summer experience.   Kroka is always on my list!  If only!   We will also be doing camping, of course, and some backpacking. These are important experiences but  I probably will not award any credit for it per se.  We also are looking to gardening and herbal experiences.

At any rate, it has been interesting planning and researching.  I am off to do some work on Grade One, which I am finding difficult to get back into after doing all of this more heady work.

I would love to hear what you are working on,

Blessings,

Carrie

What Are We Modeling?

I watched a little girl yesterday at the pool.  She was about four years old, and ran around the pool in hot pursuit of her older brother and his friends.  When he jumped in the pool, she jumped in the pool.  When he ran to the other side of the pool, she ran to the other side of the pool.  A mom sitting near me remarked, “Isn’t that cute?  She has to do everything he does.”

Yes, indeed, my friends.  This is the power of imitation for small children, and that is a foundational hallmark for young children in Waldorf Education in the early years.  I find though, that imitation extends far beyond the early years.

Children not only imitate what they see, what they hear.  They  also absorb our energy, our attitudes, our  ways of dealing with things right down into their soul. This is all the more reason to work on “our stuff” – whatever that spiritual stuff may be.  All the more reason to deal with our trauma – our own the trauma carried by how our past generations suffered.  Have you all ever read this article about how how trauma is carried through generations ?

There was an article about the ten habits of chronically unhappy people.  It was very interesting, and pointed once again to the fact that as parents and as homeschooling families, we have to be very on top of our own attitudes, views, and what we are modeling.

Every day we can get up and begin with a spiritual practice.  Many like to do this in the morning before their children awake.  I understand this with very tiny children.  However, do make sure you are modeling something of your spiritual practice when your children are awake!  Otherwise, they never see you doing anything.  This could be reading from sacred texts, meditating or praying, saying outloud positive things in response to  a situation.

Every day, I ask myself how can I model:

Gratitude for this present moment.  Accepting and finding pleasure with where things are in this moment.

Connection to others in community.  The biggest place of connection is within our homes and with our own family members living in our homes, and our extended families.  However, this can also happen in places outside the home and family.  It may happen for you through your neighborhood, through your friends, through a place of worship, through a group to which you belong.  Connecting and serving is so powerful.

Optimism

Accountability and responsibility for my own actions.  Where was I wrong? I am wrong a lot; mistakes are okay. A mistake is just moving forward with more experience.

Perspective.

What we are being called to is so much more important than what curriculum we pick, what activities our children do.  What we are doing is literally being called to stop generations of trauma, pessimism, and fear.  What we are being called to do is to help our children learn how to cope with the world.  It is not going to be perfect.  Life is messy, but let’s show them how it is done.

Blessings,
Carrie

Summer Reading: Set Free Childhood Chapter Two

This chapter is subtitled, “Watching Your Child Watching The Television”.  The author starts out by stating whilst people make a big deal about WHAT a child watches on television, sometimes the most overlooked point is the process of watching and what this does.   The reason the “process of watching” is important is because it displaces other activities such as being outside, playing, reading books, conversation, artistic experiences.

“Time and again, parents describe their children watching TV as ‘zombie-like’, ‘passive’, ‘stupified’, ‘mesmerized’, ‘totally absorbed but not interested’, ‘tranquilized’, and ‘hypnotized.’  The exceptions were children watching short programmes with their parents, when there were frequent interruptions by questions and conversations about what was going on.  Even then, parents observed how quickly their children lapsed into the ‘TV trance-state’ of just watching.” – page 17

Parents often say watching a screen is “relaxing” for their child but also describe the burst of energy, tantrums, edginess, nervousness that occur after the screen time is done.  I think it is always worth observing your own child to see “how” they watch  – and what happens when it is turned off.  Are they able to go and play well on their own?  Are they calm and happy?  Or not?

There is a box on page 19 regarding “Guidelines for Evaluating Children’s TV” , including looking at the news, languague, advertising, social skills, comprehension level, and then the suggestion to watch the screen with your child and see if you like what you see.  The author also writes about “Trying the Technical Events Test”, which is very interesting and looks at the technical events it takes to make even a 30 second advertisement.  He ends the chapter talking about screens and addiction.

He remarks that TV can be easily used as an electronic baby-sitter and that sometimes parents see the effects of screens on their children but fail to follow through and set limits on the screens.  His other comment that “the electronic media are extremely powerful, geared to keeping your attention even if you’re not especially interested – so young children need you to switch off the television, and older children also need help with developing their capacity to choose to switch off.” (page 31), really resonated with me. 

How much more pertinent is this chapter today with so many children walking around with television/movie access on their phones?  Children and teenagers need our help in setting limits on this powerful medium.  Here is an article from Forbes about teen Internet addiction and the cycle of  academic burnout and depression.   Teenage boys are most likely to be affected.  According to the article, the most critical time to address Internet addiction and usage is between the ages of 13-15.  So do your teen a favor and set some boundaries!

More to come in later chapters….

Blessings,
Carrie

The Heart Behind Rhythm

 

It is indeed a grievous feature of present-day life that when man meets man there is no understanding between them.” (Rudolf Steiner, 1924, p. 91 – The Roots of Education)

As the new school year is dawning, and I am thinking about how to fit in “track classes” (ones that run all year) and  subjects taught in blocks for our ninth grader, plus two other grades, rhythm is at the forefront of my mind.  But it really isn’t an intellectual function, a head function,  to look at rhythm, is it?   It is a function of the heart and being able to breathe. The breath is something mentioned in Waldorf Education  over and over again. Our physical breath comes from movement, but perhaps it is safe to say that the breathing of our soul forces come from rhythm and the balance that rhythm brings.

It is a function of our love and our kindness toward our families to have unhurried time, unrushed time and to be able to give our children the gift of long periods of time at home in which they can sink into play and rest and dreams.  The most fundamental deep place where rhythm comes from is the cosmos inside of us, and from love and kindness.  This post from Cedar Ring Mama in 2012 has stayed with me for some time. If you haven’t read it recently, you can find it  here.

In a world where we cannot seem to connect to the understanding of each other and humanity of us all, rhythm is a good place to nourish health for our children who will be leading and hopefully changing the world for the better one day soon.  We must begin with the health of these children in mind.  We encourage the base of indepedent thinking through experience when we give time in our rhythm.  We see the humanity of all mankind inside ourselves.

So, I can tell you about how I make a little chart with the 12 months on it and ideas for festivals, or how I choose subjects for blocks and look at the development of my child and where those blocks fit.  I can talk about how to plan blocks and make individual lessons breathe.  I can even tell you how I fit all the things my children need in a school year for learning into each day.  That is important in homeschooling.  But, if I don’t think about the overall rhythm to my family and how homeschooling is a part of this bigger picture of family love and kindness and healthy development, I have not led with my heart.

Kindness and love, the things that happen in unhurried time, is what matters in parenting and in homeschooling.  May all of our values be protected in promoting and encouraging our children to just be and to take time.  May they see and find the cosmos and the unity of humanity within themselves this school year so that we may all understand each other in love.

Blessings,
Carrie