The Art of Waldorf Homeschooling

No matter how many curriculums and resources you buy, at the end of the day, Waldorf homeschool teaching is an art.  There may be times when things will be more rote due to life – long-term illness, stress or other things may take over – but the best lessons for our children grow out of a centered, artistic space and reflect not only the journey of the archtypal human being, but the immediate geography  of our area and  the beautiful child in front of us.

If you are new to Waldorf, this seems incredibly daunting.  I have talked a lot with mothers who have never even seen Waldorf Education in person; only images from the web.  How does one bring this to life?

I think there are four  loose guidelines for the art of Waldorf homeschooling:

Know yourself.  Where is your spiritual work?  This is important in Waldorf Education because the teacher is the vehicle in which the curriculum lives, and the curriculum flows through the child in front of you.

Know your children.  What needs balancing?  What is unfolding?  What is interesting to them?

Know your place in the world.  Where are those tiny seasonal changes, what is the geography of your state, your province, your part of the world?

Know the curriculum of the Waldorf School.  No, you may not follow it exactly, and I often wonder if Steiner’s indications for homeschooling would look different than the school curriculum,  but I think the big iconic blocks that really reflect the archtypal development of the human being should not be missed. You may add things dependent upon where you are in the world, but I wouldn’t ever miss the great stories that make up the curriculum

Find your space in whatever way works for you in order to create.  In order to create off the curriculum, you have to actually read things ahead of time and digest them.  This can be daunting in the upper grades, but it is still a necessity.  Eighth grade is revolutions and modern history, for example.  That can be a lot to create off of!  But if you break it down into a reasonable flow, and even if you have to look at images around these events to get your creative juices going, the easier it is to get going. When my children were very small, I would set up an ironing board in our room with all the things to wet on wet watercolor paint so when I got out of bed, I could spend ten minutes painting with no set up time.  There are a million different ways to get this time in, and if you can start with small increments, even ten mintues a day  or half an hour a week and work up from there, you can do it.

Waldorf homeschooling is not for everyone due to this artistic creation and finding the time to do this.  It is hard to draw from an empty well, and some people stay centered better than others during time of stress.  Some people are dreamers, but never get around to the execution part.  Whatever is holding you back, I would urge you to tackle it.  I think not only do children deserve this beautiful education, but also we as adult human beings deserve to rememeber and find our own creativity for our own healthy becoming.

Many blessings and much love,
Carrie

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Candlemas

“If Candlemas Day be fair and bright

Winter will take another flight.

If Candlemas Day be cloud and rain

Winter is gone and will not come again.”

The February second coming of Candlemas, in an agricultural sense, was often viewed as the first day of Spring.  How fitting to have a beautiful idea of light come into the world on this day, and to celebrate by eating sunny foods and making candles.   Many Christians bring their candles to their parish to be blessed as well.  This day in Christianity is known as the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord,  and commemorates the Christ as the Light of the world.

We plan to have a brunch with friends on Candlemas, full of sunny foods,  and to roll and dip beeswax candles.   Earth candles are also lovely and fun to make!  One of the things I love about this particular festival is that it isn’t really complicated and can be quite simple.  There have been many years where we dipped candles just around our kitchen counter!

This is also the day I love to put some first sign of spring on the Nature Table.  If you live in an area where you might see a hint of budding on the trees or the first pussywillows of the season, you might enjoy doing this as well.

Here are a few back posts for inspiration:

The Magic of Candlemas

The Quiet Beauty of Candlemas (with instructions for dipping candles)

Candlemas is Coming!

You can also see some beautiful projects on my Candlemas Pinterest Board as well.

Blessings,

Carrie

The Wonder of A Simple Lent

Candlemas is upon us next Friday, and I am planning something simple to celebrate.  However, Lent is  also coming.  It begins on Valentine’s Day this year.  This long season of anticipation and wonder always takes me longer to plan, so I am beginning to look at how we want to keep wonder alive during these 40 days.  During Lent,  I have that feeling of love for this introspective time of the year.  There is something so moving and wonderful about this season.  The gradual awakening of the earth from its beginning budding of the flowers and trees to the jubliant and triumpant spring is wonderful each and every year.

Lent in the Waldorf home has a certain spirituality of the soul that can be transmitted to children with the doing of the most simple things that are outside of any specific religious tradition.  If you are new to Lent as a spiritual practice, I recommend that you start small!  It can be as simple as commiting to watching the birds at your bird feeder every day; commiting to taking a beautiful hike or walk outside all the Saturdays of Lent, or doing work to help someone else.

Lent is a wonderful time to empty your calendar and focus on what matters most in your heart.  Let us recommit to our children in the most wonderful of ways.

My  own spirituality is tied to my religious practice as an Episcopalian and part of the world-wide Anglican communion, so I am sharing my Lenten plans based upon this. Perhaps you can modify these ideas for your own family.  Any Lenten practice is more about doing  than words when children are involved, but I do have two  teenagers so it seems appropriate to have both the words and the doing this year!

My main plans include:

Lenten meals.  I am focused on make ahead breakfasts and eating many vegetarian meals.  There are quite a few links on my Lent Pinterest board board for different meal ideas.

Lenten housecleaning.  I typically spread “spring cleaning” throughout Lent.

Establishing healthy habits to last not only the 40 days of Lent but for the rest of the year; you can see more about my view of Lent as a time for re-growth and renewal here

We will be attending Ash Wednesday Mass, Mass throughout Lent, and the masses of Holy Week.  They are quite different than the typical Divine Liturgy. My favorites include Maundy Thursday and Easter Vigil.

There will be an offering jar to donate to Episcopal Relief and Development on our table.

We will be saying the Lenten prayer of St. Ephraim (St. Ephrem in the Orthodox tradition) together daily.  It is short and easy to say with children.

I ordered Station of the Cross cards from a Roman Catholic supplier, and will modify prayers for each station from this document from The Episcopal Church Stations of the Cross for Global Justice and Reconciliation  to go through on the Fridays of Lent.

I will be reading along with The Good Book Club  and will be listening to the podcast from the Episcopal Migration Ministries that will be running throughout the Lenten Season

I will make a  Lenten calendar for the smallest member of our family to follow along.

Hoping to incorporate suggestions from the 2018 Carbon Fast for Lent calendar

I would love to hear what you are doing to build up the wonder, renewal, anticipation of Lent!

Blessings,
carrie

 

Raising Light in Darkness

As Candlemas is coming soon (February 2nd), I have been thinking a lot about the image of light in the darkness.  Some parents tell me that they see  the world as dark place.

I agree that even general politeness and reverance seems to have taken a distinct turn for the worse.  I saw something this morning where after the Eagles won the play-off game against the Minnesota Vikings, some people held up a sign mocking the Viking’s 99- year old- fan, Millie.  The sign said “F— Millie.” (and there was more on Twitter, as related in this article.)   To me, that just about sadly epitomized where we are as a society. Sometimes everything in the media seems so rude, raw, and ugly, down to disrespecting an elder over a football game.

However, my  children have to live in this world, and their children will live in it too.  I can only hope we as a family  are equipping them to:

Be capable — Interesting article on that here in the NY Times from 2012

Be resilient. Notice  the beauty even amidst the struggle

Do what is right  and not be afraid to stand up for that even if it is different (for me, much of this is centered around our spiritual lives as part of The Episcopal Church and of the  Anglican Communion, but also  entwined with the idea of integrity and just not being a horrible human being.  Some days my parenting goals are as small as “just don’t grow up to be a terrible human being.” )

Have integrity – to be who they are at all times. I never want them to have a private life that is completely different and unethical than their public life.

Be a lover of  the whole of  humankind, to be kind and help people. Here is a back post on kindness in the home.

Have and keep the faith.  This was an expression in my family growing up that  when we would part someone would inevitably say, “Keep the faith.”  We knew as a family that life was hard, life was up and life was down,  but goodness remained.  I still feel that way today.

Tell me your favorite ways you are equipping your children  and yourself to be a light in the darkness.

Blessings and love,
carrie

Unbusy In All The Right Ways

There is a lot of movement toward becoming “unbusy” – however when I look at many of these Facebook groups and websites, it almost becomes more about de-cluttering than it really is about picking the priorities of being unbusy or about…well, the life that happens along the way of homeschooling and parenting for many years.   To me, the material de-cluttering is actually the easy, if not time-consuming part.  The bigger question becomes, ” How does one become “unbusy” from too much life?”

This is  important  to think about because the reality is, for most people and for most homeschooling families, life does get busier the older children become (unless you have an roadschooling/wildschooling lifestyle or your children are just very introverted and don’t care about doing much).  Most older teenagers, especially, are eager to be busy.  When I talk to mothers of older teenager, they are busy. I have grown to think that in this season of life, it isn’t bad.   It just is.

The other thing to couple into this is that if you homeschool (and parent!) long-term over decades, LIFE just happens.  There may be illnesses in the family, death in the family, separation and divorce happens.  Life happens.  Sometimes there is more life than homeschooling.  It is one thing to sustain a very calm homelife for many years, but surely in fifteen to  twenty years or more of homeschooling a family  probably will hit some bumps along the way!

My very best advice for those of you with younger children is to figure out how to enjoy your days at home and of   being outside in nature with a simple rhythm but no real agenda.  Practice the art of just being in the moment.   I know the days and nights at home can sometimes feel endless, and parents sometimes rush to fill it all up.  And some of that comes from worry or fear.  Maybe you worry (just a little bit) about fitting in with mainstream society..  Maybe you worry ( just a little bit) about all the other children are starting gymnastics at 5 and cello at 4 and how will your child ever compete later on.  Maybe you worry about your child not having any friends.  Many of these things can wait. You only have the time for your children to have this protected innocence of being little  once.  The life of activities and more formal learning will come.  An d, by learning to be present in these early years, you can learn to survive the coming years of ups and downs.

For those of you on the cusp of becoming busier, my plea to you is not to have your eight to fourteen- year old carry a schedule or behaviors  like a sixteen year old.  There will be time enough to ramp things up.  We used to start things later, like sports in middle school.  We were just starting to get our feet wet in middle school, and our playing peaked in high school.  So, I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, when everyone is learning and doing things much earlier and for more sustained periods than we ever did in my years of growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, but I guarantee talent and drive can still lead to  great success  in the  high school years, even if your child didn’t start something super early.

If your child is under that fifteen/sixteen change, boundaries are still really important.  Don’t let them carry the behaviors or the straining separation from the family that the 15-17 year olds carry. Those in the 8-14 range are not there yet; if they are pushing to go there try creating a community for this age instead of a bunch of friends you don’t really know.  Family is life.  The separation will happen eventually, but I still think the goal is to have the family unit be the most important unit of togetherness.  If your child’s friends can be integrated into your family fun, and your child into family life of families that you are super close to, all the better for enriching everyone’s lives.  It becomes a community, not just an outside friend.  Our older daughter’s closest friends are like this, and we so appreciate it still.

Make time for family nights, dinner together, family vacations, limits on technology, long drives and long talks.  Help siblings learn to be together.  Help children learn to be content without being constantly stimulated, entertained, or with friends. These are skills that will determine health.

Think about your priorities as your children expand outside the home.  Sometimes this  expansion happens in your neighborhood, or school, or through an activity.  Our older girls ride horses and we are pretty wrapped up with horse care.  For the most part, I enjoy this.  It is a close knit community of support and love for all of our children.  Yesterday I was outside all day during a horse show while our son played all day outside (hay bales can be a full-on day of entertainment!).   Win-win.  It is good to think about these things when your children are 8-14.  It isn’t just about what your child wants to do but also  can it be a supportive community for the whole family?

For those of you with older  high schoolers past that 15/16 change….they have their WHOLE lives ahead of them.  It doesn’t all have to happen in four years of high school.  Life is way beyond the high school years, and the late teens and early twenties I think are a hard time period where young people still need our support.   My cousin and I were talking about this just last weekend – how hard the early twenties actually were hard times and how family support, even in the form of letters back in the day, were very helpful. Sometimes it only takes one person to make a different in the life of an 18-22 year old.

In homeschooling high school, I see many homeschooling parents, including myself sometimes, feel antsy about these years.  Are we doing enough in our teaching? (We are!)  I always think that the children who are brillant in school probably would have been brillant at home too, and the children that aren’t so brillant at school probably will do better at home than they would at school.  Find the balance between the need for chill and the need for  accountablity, perhaps with you or with someone else.  Some high schoolers really need the “someone else” to rise up. That is okay.   Most of the parents I talk to talk about the long days their teenagers keep, especially those teenagers  in pursuit of colleges, and how they  boh teenagers and parents are exhausted.  You can read more about why the average American teen is exhausted and burned out here.  If this is what we are coming to as a society, I think we as parents need to rebel for the health of this future generation.  Balance is needed for our future leaders. Help your teenagers find your family priorities, and learn that give and take.

Choose to be unbusy in all the right ways.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

Suggestions for Teaching Fourth Grade Norse Myths

Norse mythology was actually new to me when I came to homeschooling; I just didn’t remember there being as big a focus on those stories in school as the Greek Myths.  So, I felt a little behind the eight ball when I came into teaching fourth grade.  I also wondered about the connection between Norse mythology and the Waldorf School Curriculum because I never remembered reading about Norse myths in any of Steiner’s educational lectures, of which I had read the majority.  Yes, there is good mention in Mission for Folk Souls (Lecture 9) about the generalities, but not related to fourth grade.  I think my opinion is rather well-summed up in agreement with Waldorf Educator Stephen Sagarin and his blog post about Norse Myths here.

So, all that to say, Steiner talked about “ancient scenes” for fourth grade- which could include stories of Norse Mythology or something else entirely!   We usually cover stories and mythology of Ancient India, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, etc in fifth grade, but there are other types of ancient stories one could use in fourth grade!  In the Americas, one might consider the Popul Vuh, for example, or stories from the San, one of the most ancient groups still living today, or Japanese mythology or Celtic tales.  I also considered Icelandic tales and  such.  I think you have to really take the time to read the stories and see if they resonate with you and the child standing in front of you.

So, the first time I went through our Norse Mythology block I think it was a little more rote.  I hadn’t really penetrated the myths  well, other than they were interesting stories and people, and of course, many references to these stories in literature and movies in our North American culture.  The quick differences in personalities, the grey that lives in the black and white, the outrageousness of Loki, and yes, even the darkness of Ragnorakk seems to really fit with ten year olds and their development. However, if I lived in a different part of the world, quite frankly,  I don’t know as I would have picked Norse mythology.  Our family has Danish and Norweigian blood, so it also made sense for us to an extent as part of our own family culture.  It may not for other families, and I think that is okay!  Freedom in Waldorf Education is essential in bringing what is right for you and your family, so long as it is done in a developmental light.

The second time I went through Norse Mythology, I had a much better  grasp on it. I used D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths just like the first time, but I didn’t try to bring all of the stories to life and instead picked the tales that I thought would really speak to my child.

For our main lesson books,  we ended up with the first time through main lesson book with the following in it: Copywork of a poem, a watercolor painting of Jutenheim, a watercolor painting of Muspelheim, The Nine Norse Worlds drawing, The Creation of the New world and man summary, Knot Drawing #1, drawing of the Three Norns, Knot Drawing #2, Picture and Summary of Odin, Summary of Loki and some of the other gods, Drawing and summary of Freya, watercolor painting of a jotun, drawing and summary of Odin and Sleipner, picture and story of Freya’s wonderful necklace, Summary and Painting of the Theft of Thor’s Hammer, copywork of poem about Thor, Summary of Thor and the Giant, Drawing and Summary The Death of Balder, Knot Drawing #3, Ragnorokk summary with knot border, A New World painting and drawing and a painting of Scandinavia.

The second time through  fourth grade main lesson from this block, (not as much writing):   Drawn Title Page with knot drawings, Drawing of Odin and poetry copywork, the three Norns and relation to grammar, four kinds of sentences, Drawing and Summary of Balder, Drawng and Summary of Sif, Drawng and Summary of Freya’s Wonderful Necklace, Drawing and Summary of the Death of Balder,  Drawing of Ragnarokk, 8 watercolor paintings.

Hope that helps some of you planning Norse Myths not to feel overwhelmed.  It can be a fun block, working in any amount of grammar and writing that your student needs.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

Seventh and Eighth Grade Chemistry

I will be preparing to do seventh grade chemistry this month for the second time, so whilst I have some ideas about seventh and eighth grade chemistry, I may have things to add after going through it two more times (this February and  then again in the future for our youngest).

First of all, the two resources I recommend whole-heartedly include:

A Demonstration Manual for use in the Seventh Grade Chemistry Main Lesson

A Demonstration Manual for Use in the Eighth Grade Chemistry Main Lesson

For Eighth Grade only: What Einstein Told HIs Cook: Kitchen Science Explained

 

Seventh Grade Block:

First of all, do see my friend Tanya’s guest post from when she did seventh grade chemistry here.  She was kind enough to share great detail.

Here is a list of what ended up in our  seventh grade main lesson book for Chemistry.  This includes some of the artistic work we did.

We did the same things that Tanya did, and started with combustion in week one. We did speech work with poems as well these first two weeks.   The first day we talked about safety rules, and I did a presentation regarding combustion. We found materials we could burn,  and figured out which ones burned well and which ones didn’t.  We worked with igniting a fire with flint and steel, and  using a magnesium fire starter and talked about the invention of matches and fire starting.  We compared and constrasted the way solids, liquids, and gases burned and made a table regarding this.  We then ended by burning powdered metals we had ordered from Homeschool Science Tools (iron, zinc, copper, magnesium fillings).  We explored why a fire needs air to burn, and used a blow torch in conjunction with a colored flames and flame kit I already had tucked away.

In the second week, we experimented with a candle flame.  We observed the greatest area of heat in a candle flame and drew pictures. We also did an experiment with Cool Light from a science kit that I thought fit in nicely.  We then moved into the Water Cycle,  and how water is a universal solvent.  We also explored water as a catalyst. Part of our speech work for this week was Patrick Henry’s speech, which was a catalyst for the American Revolution.  We made a list of crystals from table salt as part of one of our experiments, and did an experiment of crystallization of epsom salts.  I also did a demonstration of  a colorful silicate garden.  Here is a blog entry about combustion and candles that has a little more detail.  We ended with the limestone cycle.

During the third week of chemistry, we made borax crystals, and then we moved into exploring acids and bases.   We worked with tasting acids and bases and made a list of their properties.  We used indicators, including cabbage juice as an indicator, and we neutralized vinegar with milk of magnesia.

Eighth Grade Block:  Organic Chemistry ( I consider physiology and covering the digestive system and the idea of what food does in the body and in a culture a prerequisiste before doing this block).

Ideas for Carbohydrates

What are our taste buds?  What kinds of things can we taste?

Are all carbohydrates sweet?  What is the role of a carbohydrate for living creatures?  What is cellulose? What is glucose?  What are the classes of carbohydrates?

Copy table page 9 Bojarksky’s book/ Look at “A Tight Squeeze” in “What Einstein Told His Cook” and do Demonstration #1 “A Comparison of the Solubility of Salt and Sugar”

Day 2- Write up demonstration from yesterday, look at “Two Kinds of Browning” in “What Einstein Told His Cook” and do Demonstration #2 “Melting and Burning Sugar”; make fudge and discuss the role of sugar crystalization and the role of sugar in fudge-making.

Read all of Chapter 1 in “What Einstein Told His Cook”

Day 3 – Student does Demonstration 6 – why does the potato bubble?  Do Demonstration 8.  Look at video of production of sugar from sugar cane mill.  There are 11 operating sugar mills in Louisiana.  Do Demonstrations 9 and 10.  Make Fehling’s Solution and Test for Simple Sugars

Day 4- Prepare Potato Starch by Hand; do Iodine Test for Starch; Demonstration 20 Breakdown of Starch with Hydrochloric Acid and Breakdown of Starch with Saliva Method.  Homework to write up breakdown of starch with saliva and hydrochloric acid.  Munch on celery sticks – how do we digest celery?

Day 5- The Physics of Popcorn; Make Tapioca Pudding

Day 6 – Proteins -The Role of Proteins in the body, the role of enzymes as catalysts;  read pages 124-129 in “What Einstein Told His Cook”; burn proteins outside (they smell bad!); Egg White Experiment

Day 7 – Write up summary of proteins; Heat Milk and look at Coagulation of Casein, A MIlk Protein, with vinegar

Day 8 -Make Bone Broth; read pages 143-156 in “What Einstein Told His Cook”; look at brining meat

Day 9 – Fats and Oils; fatty acids as part of larger family chemists call carboxylic acids.   Difference between  monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats. Render fat, do the brown paper test for fats; read pages 68-70 in “What Einstein Told His Cook”

Day 10- Extract Lemon Oil from Lemon Peel; Experiment with Common Oil; Oil and Water; read pages 70-76 in “What Einstein Told His Cook”

Day 11 – Burning Oil meets water experiment; extinguish burning oil; read pages 78-82 of “What Einstein Told His Cook”

Day 12 – Make Mayonnaise; look at flax seeds and make in banana bread – why does it work as a substitute for eggs?  Read pages 84-88 in “What Einstein Told HIs Cook”

Day 13- Make Ice Cream; Saturated vs. unsaturated fats

I decided not to go into cosmetics but that is another place some Waldorf School teachers spend a good deal of time.  I chose more of the cooking route.  Donna Simmons has good information about this approach, which I built on above,  in her Christopherus Rough Guide to Eighth Grade.

Please see The Parenting Passageway Facebook Page for pictures of our seventh and eighth grade chemistry main lesson book pages.

Blessings,
Carrie