Summer Reading: Set Free Childhood Chapter One

We are headed through the book “Set Free Childhood” by author Martin Large in our summer reading.  You can see the post about the forward to this book here.

The  author notes on page 1 that :

Whilst children’s needs remain relatively constant and enduring – for example, for loving relationships, good food, time for learning and play, and a calm rhythmical family environment – the world is relentlessly speeding up.  The result can be that children simply don’t have a childhood any more.

He goes on to mention the ever-present media in children’s lives, from computer software to help babies “increase their intelligence” to computer games aimed at school-aged children to the increased presence of electronic media in schools.  Many parents are concerned about the overload of screens on their children, and for good reason.

I disagree with the last paragraph in this article from Psychology Today, but one thing it points out is that a critical time for brain development is between the ages of zero to three, (and I would argue also during the other periods of known increased neurologic growth) and how using technology does nothing to stimulate what is needed for healthy development.   This article talks about the fact that the neurons recruited during the teen years becomes hard-wired – so, if your teen is mainly sitting around and playing video games, this will be the the cells that survive.  To contrast this, we know that outdoor play and movement are critical to academic success, and Martin Large addresses the increasingly “indoor” population of children in this chapter.

Author Martin Large also  brings up the other difficulties with screens in this chapter: the marketing piece and how children are being inundated with marketing; the information overload in general.   He also discusses the affects of media on  behavior – increased behavioral problems, anti-social behavior, anxiety, sleep difficulties, eating disorders and language impairment.

This book provides many suggestions regarding screen usage that we can explore together in the next chapters.  I look forward to hearing what you think about this chapter!

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

More About Planning Sixth Grade Roman and Medieval History

I wrote a post here about planning Roman History; I also have at least three back posts regarding Roman History in Waldorf Sixth Grade homeschooling from the first time I went through this grade (with the rare addition of pictures of artwork as well!) so if you use the search engine box those should come up.

I just finished  planning my Medieval History block and it came to me that there are just things I do when planning that I don’t really think about but might be of interest to those of you planning.  I talked about hte most important part, the knowing WHY we are teaching this at this time to a twelve year old from the standpoint of childhood development (Steiner’s indications) in the post I linked to above.  I also mention in this post setting objectives and gathering resources.

However, one thing I always do automatically as well is to use  a time line to get a big picture of that time period (and to refresh my own memory if it has been awhile!)  This helps me get an order in my mind.  I can also use the timeline big picture to get an idea of the big personalities and the big events that  lead to that invigorating picture of contrast for the child.  Polarities, or contrasts, often help us all see the period of time and help the child find wonder. And, whilst a timeline doesn’t help you flesh out the “this is how people lived day to day”, it does help you establish a consciousness of the people of this period.  This changing consicousness of people is what defines history in the Waldorf curriculum.

It also helps you do something a little specific to homeschooling:  it helps you find and hone in on things of interest dependent upon your child’s personality.  For children who are more scientifically oriented, starting with Greece and Rome, for example,  I might use a timeline to look at technological and scientific advances and I would follow that through all the grades. Or for another child perhaps it is following food or navigation or something else.  These things wouldn’t be the whole block , of course, but the point of homeschooling is to throw ideas and projects that really pique interest our children and still highlight the developmental theme of that block.

The other thing a timeline does is to help you see what is happening in other parts of the world at the same time as your block.  Some homeschooling parents get really frustrated with the history part of the Waldorf curriculum as it follows the stream of development that Steiner saw as archetypal for the development of Western Civilization and the development that becomes recapitulated in the inner life of the child’s soul development.  You can understand more about this if you read An Outline of Esoteric Science and understand how Steiner saw the evolution of the world and epochs of time.

However, please do remember that a variety of cultures are studied in the Waldorf Curriculum and that we as homeschooling parents always have the opportunity to bring to use the beauty of the curriculum as a beacon for our children regarding our own heritage and our own place in the world .   If you think about it, this is why the kindergarten and early grades start with the home, the local area and work outwards.     Fifth grade covers a variety of  world cultures and most homeschooling parents I know also put Ancient China and Ancient Africa in that grade.  Ancient Africa, as a neighbor of Egypt and the cradle of humanity, certainly deserves to be in this grade and  I like to put the Kingdom of Axum, Queen of Sheba and King Ezana in  sixth grade.  In my history blocks, I also am careful to put in at least one main lesson or outside reading of “what is happening around the world”.  I certainly don’t want to take away from the stream of development that led to the consciousness of the human being in Western Civilization.  This to me, would defeat the point of the Waldorf curriculum that I believe meets my child’s developmental needs.

However, to make a general note on upper grades curriculum planning,  I think we  MUST  be very careful in this day and age to make sure the curriculum is not eurocentric and adjusted for  where one lives (and where one is from).  Some Waldorf teachers around the world are doing this.  For example, those Eastern Africa Waldorf training manuals (for example, here is the Grade 3 Training Manual)   always do a great job about pointing out how to adapt the curriculum for a particular region.  I think there are many ideas to be gleamed to see how Waldorf teachers in Oceania, Asia, Latin America, and Africa are doing things.  Also, in homeschooling,  as I mentioned above, family matters as well – picking up the lines from the parts of the world where your family is from could be gratifying.  In our case,  our family is mainly of European descent, but when we get up to more individualized world events in Europe, I try to include the countries where we are from (our children have lines going back to eight different countries).

World cultures are also followed from the beginning of the grades through fairy tales, myth and legend and so on, so I also include Native Americans/First People in every grade from kindergarten on, and I include Africa in some way from kindergarten on.  I include Asian and Latin American fairy tales and stories in all  the early grades and then from fifth grade onward, include those regions in history as well to provide a complete picture of the world and dynamic contrast. For Roman History, for example, I put in correlations to the Han Dynasty in China and we can compare and contrast how these two Empires were similar and different.   If you did Ancient China in Fifth Grade, this is a natural progression.  For Medival History, I put in  the wonderful biographies of Sundiata, Musa Mali,  and one can at least mention the Ancient Puebloans of our country if one is American, or the Mayan Civilization (which I tend to cover in detail in seventh grade) and look at the Japanese feudal period.   Great Zimbabwe and the Kingdom of Zimbabwe would also be appropriate in this time period.  Seventh grade always includes a lot of African and Latin American geography along with stories of the great civilizations there, so sixth grade can be the time to plant seeds. Eighth grade obviously includes the geography and history of Oceania and the entire modern world, and my Down Under readers will certainly be finding out what is going on in their part of the world during the times of the Roman Empire and the Medieval Ages .

The other thing I always do  automatically besides think of timelines and biographies  is to look for food, dress, music, poetry, and games that will tie in.  I don’t talk too much about that on this blog but it is always in my planning.

Just a few more thoughts, take what resonates with you.  It is your homeschooling, and you are the expert for your family. If you have are a Waldorf homeschooler, you have a beautiful and developmentally appropriate framework.

Blessings,

Carrie

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things: July

 

July, with its long and sultry hot days, is almost here.  I am so excited that this will be a slower-paced month than our June turned out to be and can’t wait to just be home.  July feels like that – long, sometimes bordering on dull to me, but so needed in the cycle of the year for rest and rejuvenation.   With older children, I really look to summer as a season to balance out some of the other times of the year when we are busier.

Here are the things we are celebrating this month:

July 3rd – The Feast Day of St. Thomas the Apostle

July 4th- Independence Day of the United States

July 25 – The Feast Day of St. James

Some of you may also be celebrating:

St. Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day is July  22 and The Feast Day of St. Anne and St. Joachim will be on July 26th.

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

Here are a few of my favorite things for older children/teens:

  • Swimming and sliding on rocks in creeks; maybe even venturing to a water park or splash pad
  • Catching fireflies
  • Gazing at stars
  • The Magic of Boredom

I am contemplating…

The peace to be found with unhurried time

The July Doldrums  and The July Doldrums again…  I think this July is going to not be a time of the doldrums, but just in case, I want to refresh myself!

Homeschooling planning..

is moving along.  I am usually much farther this time  of year, but I have accepted that slow is okay.  It will all get done, and I am feeling peaceful about it.  I have sixth grade mostly done, and I think I can plan first grade in about three weeks since I have been through it twice before.  High school biology, our year long course is planned, and I have a few blocks sketched out that just need to be finalized.  How is planning coming along for you?

Please share your favorite ways to celebrate the month of July!

 

 

 

Planning Sixth Grade Roman History

Sixth grade Roman History is one of those mainstay blocks in Waldorf Schools.  Usually both Roman History and Medieval History are covered in the sixth grade in a school setting, but I have seen that not always occur in the homeschool environment.  With this block, like ALL the history blocks in grades 6-8, I think it is really important to think about WHY  you are doing WHAT you are doing. Waldorf History in these grades is a more a symptomatic approach to a particular time period and HOW that time period and the consciousness of these people, usually exemplified by biographies, fits in with the development of the child.  We often juxtapose polar opposite historical figures for even greater impact.  Examples  in Roman History might be the contrast between Augustus Caesar and Nero, for example.  You will have judgment calls to make as to what to include and how much to include for each block of history.   That is your right as the teacher.

So this week I have spent most of my week researching and typing away to create a Roman History block…this is my second time planning Roman History, for two very, very different children and I knew much more about Roman History from going through it the first time.  I have a whole stack of resources I am pulling from including “When the World Was Rome” by Brooks and Walworth; “Roman Lives” by Harrer (not super used); Kovacs’ “Ancient Rome” which I can’t really recommend  – I like the story tone, but it is inaccurate on so many levels and really functions more at an overview level than anything in detailed narrative; “Famous Men of Ancient Rome” by Haaren and Poland which is also not very detailed; “Peril and Peace” by the Withrows (Christian Resource); “Classical Kids” by Carlson for some minor ideas; Foster’s “Augustus Caesar’s World”; “Roman Fort” by MacDonald and Wood; “City” by Macauley: “Our Little Roman Cousin of Long Ago” by Cowles; a National Geographic “special issue” from 2015 on “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire” (I like to know what is current); and “Attila the Hun” by Ingram.  Plus I have looked at all the major Waldorf curriculum providers out there and varying history/ancient history websites.  This could be overwhelming to have this many resources, but I suggest you at least basic check fact your main resource against something.  Not everything will agree, but accuracy is important. For example, there are varying opinions on Nero and the Burning of Rome and whether or not the early Christians actually met in the catacombs or not.   If I had to pick a few resources for the teacher, I would suggest “When the World Was Rome”, the National Geographic issue, and the Internet.

My basic structure is always to figure out  our objectives – what do we want to walk away with?;  and then academic objectives for my child and artistic objectives. I think about hands-on projects.  The child I am designing this for finds writing and  hands-on projects exhausting, so I have to balance all of this with what we are doing in other blocks during the school year.   I always pick a read-aloud for our block (one or sometimes two).  I usually come up with a vocabulary list for each week as well (and to me, spelling and vocabulary are two different things.  Often what mothers seem to be pulling from blocks on the advice of well-meaning Waldorf teachers is vocabulary, not spelling, but that is another post I guess).

Each day for us follows a similar pattern of movement (so in this case, perhaps Movement for Childhood exercises or Brain Gym movements and Roman marching); Opening Verse, the Latin Phrase of the Day, Poetry, review of Math or tying in of Math to the Main Lesson as I can and the main lesson review from the day before.  Then we move into whatever work needs to be done and new material.

I am happy about my block this year, but readily admit it took hours to plan.  It has been slow going in planning sixth grade overall and I also have first to plan and quite a bit of ninth grade blocks (ninth grade biology is at least for the most part done other than my lectures that I am going to present).

Hope your planning is coming along!  Please share what you are working on and help other planning mothers out with wonderful ideas and tips…

Blessings,
Carrie

4 Things Your Early Teen Needs

Early teens, which is what I like to call teens that are ages 13-15, are going through such a variety of developmental changes that parents can really help, guide, and encourage.  Here are four incredible ways you can help your early teen:

Tell biographies and keep offering up great adult role models.   In the past, the years of 13 o 15 was not such a fragile time because the child was so deeply embedded in the family and community with markers of passage into being a young adult.  We have now lost many of the markers of passage into the teenaged years and we have at the same time lost so much of the close-knit community and extended generations we used to have so a child knew how to integrate into being a young adult.  So, how we meet the child’s need for integration now can come in the form of biography.  Young teens will identify with hearing that they are not the only ones who are struggling; they will carry pictures of others  who struggled mightily and were brave and who succeeded and offered something to the world.

Help them LET GO.  Thirteen to fifteen year olds often rely on half-facts, undigested information and knee-jerk reactions.  They often have strong opinions for or against something but even if their idea or opinion is obviously faulty, they cannot seem to let go of it!  Help them know it is okay to let go their judgment or opinion and make space for a new idea or opinion.

Help them harmonize.  There are a lot of things that feel “off” to early teens in their physical bodies and emotional states in these years.  The task is to harmonize things, and the “self” that should help a child control his or her will, such as being able not to eat too much or  not play video games compulsively is just not able to do so yet.  Offer up healthy boundaries and new challenges that lead the child into being part of the world, not being alienated and separate.

 

 

Offer an expanded world. Sometimes early teens get very narrow views of what they will or won’t do, what they do or don’t like, how they want to spend their time.  It is up to us, the parents, to stimulate a broader and bigger picture than what the teen is seeing sometimes. We should help our teen take an interest in the world.  For those of you that are into Waldorf Education, Steiner spoke quite a bit about this.

How do you help in balance with your early teen?

Blessings,
Carrie

 

The Parenting Passageway Workshop

Hello dear friends and readers!   This summer, on August 6th, The Parenting Passageway will be “looking out into the world”.  I will be teaching a one-day workshop in the Raleigh, NC  area on that day regarding homeschooling grades 3-9.  Please come and join us if you are in the area.

There is $15 dollar deposit to hold your space due by July 1st.  Please feel free to email or message The Parenting Passageway and I will make sure you get to the coordinator of this special day for sharing and encouraging.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Celebrating Summer Solstice

Here in the Northern Hemisphere and the United States, we are full of celebrations this week.  Today is Father’s Day, so Happy Father’s Day to all my dad readers, and tomorrow is Summer Solstice.    Our family is celebrating St. Alban on the 22nd, and the 24th is the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, affectionately referred to as “St. John’s Tide” by many and in Waldorf Education.

Here are some quick and simple ideas for celebrating Summer Solstice:

I love making little medallions of beeswax and giving them as gifts.  It is not difficult.  Melt the yellow beeswax just like for candle- dipping but instead melt the beeswax into candy molds and put a yarn loop into the top before it hardens .  Little sun molds would be wonderful, and you can hang them from a beautiful branch.

Cut lemons in vases with flowers can be lovely for decorating the table.

If you are looking for something sweet to eat, how about lemon-curd filled cupcakes?  There is also this recipe for honey cookies that could be delicious!

When our girls were little, I often would set out miniature gifts from the fairies on Midsummer’s Night for them to find in the morning.  There are sweet little ideas at  The Silver Penny.  Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream could be fun reading as well for older children.

For crafts ideas with children, how about making dragonflies and butterflies?

I know some also have bonfires and such for Midsummer; in our family we tend to try to do this on St. John’s Tide.  That day, to me, is also a time to set new intentions and to write the bad things that have happened during the year down on a piece of paper or our weaknesses and let it go in the fire.  Sometimes a stone is thrown into the center of the fire with a special prayer; sometimes the embers of the fire are for folks to jump over in gaining strength for a new endeavor or for cultivating new character traits.  Again, some do this at the Summer Solstice but we do it on St. John’s Tide.

Happy Celebrating!

Blessings,
Carrie