Simplifying Waldorf Homeschooling With Multiple Children

Yesterday, this subject of simplifying came up on a Waldorf homeschooling Facebook discussion group.  It struck a chord with me as I  have been sitting down intermittently  to make daily schedules for fall since May and I sat down to work on it again this week.   I think I have made about 20 different schedules and none of them are completely satisfying and peaceful.   None of the “rhythms” of the day have enough time and space for me… and I feel like when there is something I would love my little second grader to participate in, or just be, our high schooler has to be somewhere or needs more time for her lessons.  The reality of three main lessons, multiple high school subjects that need to be run in tracks, a little second grader, a seventh grader who needs extra lessons in math and writing, and the need for time to run subjects and activities as a family and take care of my own health can hit hard.  At this point, there just aren’t enough hours in the day!

This has been running through my mind all summer simply because our school year that just ended was a rough and challenging year.  I felt completely burned out after 10 years of teaching, and I really thought the only way to fix it might be just to put everyone in school whether they wanted to go or were able to do well or not.  Eveyone needed so much, and with the giant spread in ages in our household, what everyone needed was so different! What a recipe for exhaustion!  Seriously!

This year, I am roaring back with some different ideas.  I  shared some of my general tips for simplifying Waldorf homeschooling on that Facebook group, and I will share some of  them here plus some other ideas.  I feel fortunate I didn’t really deal with a lot of burnout and feeling weighty about school until this year.

My best tips:

Depending upon your state laws, plan a shorter year.  Plan 32- 34 weeks instead of 36 and that way if you get behind you won’t feel insane.  Also, younger grades don’t need as many weeks of school as high schoolers do!

Depending upon your state laws, plan a three to four day school week with a day to just be at home or take a field trip.  Again, younger grades don’t need a five day week.

So, overall if you have one grade and kindergarten aged children, please, please don’t overschedule and panic.

Part of simplifying is also thinking about the ESSENTIAL parts of what your children will need for the future. Part of simplifying is also thinking about the ESSENTIAL parts of what your children will need for the future.   For example, if you have children in grades 3-5, I think you SHOULD be planning extra math lessons a week if it is not a math block.  Children need not only procedural practice, but math experiences – Waldorf Education is really good at this with all the practical things we do, but I still feel as if many Waldorf homeschoolers could do a better job in math.  Math also tends to be the blocks that get knocked down in number as children move up in the grades.

Schedule everyone to be on a math block together, a language arts block together, etc , so you don’t have to switch gears so much if that kind of thing bothers you.  Could you schedule painting, modeling, seasonal crafts, etc all together?

What could you combine in blocks?  This year I am starting the year with tales from Buddhism for our second grader; and the life of Buddha which will combine my seventh and tenth grader.  Are there absolutely ANY places you can combine main lessons to save time?  This, I think, could be the NUMBER ONE reason to involve a consultant in planning your year.  A consultant who is very, very familiar with the curriculum might help you find those places.

What can you farm out?  Is there a handwork teacher?  A music teacher?  A tutor?  If there is and it is in your budget, that can be so helpful.  I am not a great knitter, and I still can’t crochet.  This is because I haven’t tried because honestly it is not a priority on top of everything else.  It is okay to know your limits, and to look for outside teachers, other homeschooling parents, and community groups to help you.   It is ideal if you can find Waldorf teachers  in your area, but if not, I feel after the nine year change children can handle more of the non-Waldorfy teachers.  Little yarn shops for knitting are probably fine for desperate parents with first and second graders.  I would rather they learn to knit despite lack of Waldorf methodology!  That is just realistic!  We have been fortunate in our area to have a trained Waldorf handwork teacher who does work with homeschoolers.  What a gift!

Foreign language – can you find a tutor?  Can you leave it until high school?   Can you  keep exposing to the culture of the target language you want and then bring in the language?Honestly, this an area where most Waldorf homeschoolers struggle, especially if they live in rural areas.  Foreign languages are so important, and in Waldorf Schools, students would be immersed in two languages, but this may or may not work at home. We used tutors and German School and everything else for years, but when it came down to it, middle school was a large gap with tutors or available language schools in our area and we are started over in  eighth grade with Spanish I (high school level).

Chores – I find as children move up in the grades, they are not doing NEARLY enough work to help keep the house going.  Homeschooling multiple children in grades 3 and up is a full-time job.  You need help!  I have a GIANT (takes up an entire door) chore chart. It is ugly and not Waldorfy looking at all.  Everyone has at LEAST three chores a day on top of their own rooms, plus extra chores to pick from for pick a chore, morning habits to try to work on, and chores I will pay for.  The harder part for middle schoolers and high schoolers, I think,  is having consequences for when the chores are NOT done.  If you are working a full time job by homeschooling multiple children all day, you need help with meals and cleaning.

Nature and play is really important to keep burnout at bay.  However, I have found as my children hit high school, it is not as simple.  Not because they still don’t enjoy getting outside and playing and hiking and all of that, but for us it is hard to get everyone together.  It is so worth it to plan it in.  I usually try to make Fridays a bigger day for outside play, but now my high schooler has some outside classes that causes a shortened day for all of us on other days and we need Fridays…it just becomes trickier.  Worthy but trickier.

INNER WORK. There is nothing more important. The more you think, “Wow.  This year is going to be so hard and so challenging and everyone has such different needs and I can’t possibly meet them all and ….”  Well, then the year will be harder and more challenging. I heard a quote the other day from a really positive athlete and he was saying how he was mentally focusing to make that run or that season the best it could be, his best yet.  I find this, for me, is an effective way to look at things.  I am looking at this year with an attitude of  how can I make this year the best for my family (in its wholeness and entirety) yet?  Everyone will get what they need in the long run. You must have this attitude, I think, especially in homeschooling high school.

Please share with me your best simplifying tricks.  We already take on so much homeschooling in this way, with Waldorf.  All homeschooling is work for the parent, but Waldorf homeschooling is a different beast than just throwing a book and workbook at a child.  I think we must learn to be easy on ourselves and set boundaries in order to have a healthy life.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

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On the Eve of St. John’s Tide

“John the Baptist represents man at the center of history, devoted to what is beyond himself, to the revelation of the spirit brought by Christ.  His summons was to turn inward, to search within toward a confrontation with oneself.”

-from “Waldorf Education:  A Family Guide, ” page 175

St. John’s Tide is a wonderful time to ask ourselves….

are we being helpful to humanity?  As a mother, I feel the very best place to begin with this endeavor is in our own homes and with our own children.  Don’t give in to fear and insecurity in leading and guiding your children; search for the fearlessness in the heart of your parenting.  This generation of children needs that in order to develop heart, word, and deed devoted to humanity.

are we honest?

are we peaceful?

where is our balance?

How do we work on these endeavors and more in our lives? I find inner work to be a resounding key for this because our model is more important in these times than our words.  Our model is making a way and a path for our children and what the world will need when it is this generation’s turn to be  leaders and architects of solutions to problems.

Some of my favorite ways to do inner work is very simple indeed:

Praying- I am Episcopalian, so following The Book of Common Prayer is what unites the people of the Anglican Communion; a way of prayer.  When we ask for help from the spiritual world and listen in our hearts for the answer, we find the model we need.

Attending mass and receiving the sacraments

Listening to people; listening to what is becoming in the world.  This requires an interest in the outside world, and using imagination and intuition.

Trying to picture my spouse and children as clearly as possible and taking these pictures into my sleep.  Don’t we all often do our best thinking in our sleep?

Wishing you a magnificent St. John’s Tide;  perhaps you will spend the day outside with cooking over open fires or creating a bonfire that you can leap over; finding edible flowers; creating platters of fruits; gathering sunflowers and leaving a light on the porch burning all night long.  However you choose to celebrate, may renewal and transformation be yours.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

The Beauty of Summer Solstice

King Sun he climbs the summer sky

Ascending ever higher.

He mounts his gay midsummer throne,

all made of golden fire.

His flowing mantle, flowing free,

His shining gifts he showers

All golden on the earth and sea,

On men and beasts and flowers.

-From “Summer” by Wynstones Press

Beautiful sunny summer is here!  Images of beaches, the ocean, radiating sun, heat and warmth, dragonflies, bees, butterflies, and sunflowers are filling my head right now in my happiness that summer has arrived!

I have been collecting verses and songs for summer.  My favorites can be found in “Summer” by Wynstones Press and “The Singing Year” by Candy Verney.  At this time of year, I like to change the nature table to  just a little cloth and  a small vase of flowers although pebbles, seaglass and shells often make their way to our table.   I have a little branch hanging in my school room, and I would like to make some little sylphs, those little elements of air and warmth the way gnomes are seen in Waldorf education as elementals of the earth, to hang from this branch.  This is also the time of year I love to re-read Steiner’s lectures about bees and butterflies.    Have you read those?  They are very inspiring!

For work with small children, one could consider many little projects as an adjunct to outside play, such as sand painting, making terrariums, and making grass dolls.  I like to save shooting streamer ball kinds of projects for Michaelmas, but some make these types of toys now as well.

One project I want to make with our rising second grader next week is a large moving picture of a boat and fish.  There is an example of this in the book, “Earthways” by Carol Petrash and you can see an example of a very large moving picture I made for Vacation Bible School in this back post  (and yes,  that is me and our now almost eight- year- old back when he was still able to be with me in a sling when I taught!).  I put together that giant-sized mural in one afternoon by soaking the pieces of paper in the bathtub as they were rather large, but it was not a difficult project.  Perhaps you would enjoy creating something like this with your children!

Other fun things include all the summer gardening – bean teepees and sunflower houses-, and all the wonderful baking with berries available this time of year.  Many of you are no doubt collecting and drying herbs for your family’s use as well!

We are still keeping to our rhythms of mealtimes and bedtimes.  I was recently re-reading the article, “Rhythm During the Summer” by Karen Rivers in the book, “Waldorf Education:  A Family Guide” in which the author writes that “the daily and weekly rhythm of the school year have a deep significance for children especially up to the age of fourteen…Therefore, we invite you to bring as much form and regularity into your child’s summer life as you possibly can.”  This is a wonderful time to bring in more work, more chores, and some activities to be alternated with free time.

I hope you are having a wonderful summer; look for some upcoming posts about celebrating June and St. John’s Tide; planning for homeschooling; gentle discipline and communicating with our children and more.

Many blessings in this fruitful period,

Carrie

 

How Temperaments Change During Adolescence

Many parents of children in Waldorf Schools and Waldorf homeschooling families are fascinated with the idea of the temperaments.  Waldorf Education routinely finds that middle place between nature (children are formed through genetics and family lines at birth) and nurture by working with individuality.  Each child has an individuality, and the temperament of a child provides us, as teachers and parents, a way to work with children.  We often talk about how not only are there temperaments in individual children – melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic, and choleric temperaments – but that different stages of life are know for having a temperament as well.  Small children are often very sanguine, for example, on top of an individual temperament.  The teenaged years are often a very choleric time.

Our job as parents and educators is to nurture positive aspects of every temperament.  Too often on blogs and in books, I hear solely of the negative aspects of a certain temperament.  The other thing that is rarely mentioned is the transformation of the child’s temperament during adolescence.  This is seen as real individuality begins to emerge during adolescence.

We can always consider the  “sub” temperaments a child has – perhaps your child is choleric but has a strong melancholic side, for example.  These “sub” temperaments often influence such things as extroversion and introversion, level of excitability, and more.

In adolescence, we may see several transformations.  These are written about quite beautifully in the esteemed Betty Staley’s book, “Between Form and Freedom:  A Practical Guide to the Teenaged Years.”  These transformations are noted as follows:

  • The melancholic child often becomes a choleric adult.  This is often seen in a melancholic’s wonderful attention to detail that becomes so helpful in leadership (many cholerics are leaders!)
  • The choleric child often becomes a sanguine adult. During adolescence, they can be swayed by emotions to the point that they are easily pulled about like a sanguine.  This temperament can also have an  especially hard as their friends come into stronger individuality during adolescence.  Some cholerics can also have a strong melancholic undertone.  These teenagers need to be surrounded by loving friends and family and ideals so they can become adults devoted to truth and duty to humanity.
  • The sanguine child often becomes a phlegmatic adult. The changes and “heaviness” that puberty brings often slows the sanguine child down and helps them become reliable adults.
  • The phlegmatic child often becomes a melancholic adult.  This is noted as one of the more complicated adolescent temperaments.  Adolescence for this teenager can be about withdrawal, dealing with heaviness,  and trying to deal with their own frustrations.

Temperament study is so interesting.  Every year as part of my homeschool planning I go back and re-read things dealing with the temperaments. If you are interested in further reading about these changes, I highly recommend Betty Staley’s book.

Blessings,
Carrie

Ideas for Second Grade Math Blocks

I am in the middle of planning out math, at least the general progression and ideas, for our second grade year to begin in the fall. This is my third time through second grade, now with our youngest, and it is strange that it will be my last time through second grade math.

In constructing Waldorf math blocks for this grade, I am thinking of movement, and mathematical and artistic experiences to really bring math into the body and into liveliness.  Thoughts about these three things are the bedrock of the Waldorf math experience.

The “big themes” for the four math blocks of this year (which, in my mind and for my student),  include :   Decomposing numbers/Working with all four processes/Introduction to Place Value;  More Number Strategies/Working with Time;  Geometry; and lastly, A Synthesis of the Year).

I have thought of the “format”I want to follow in math this year.  For me this year, this is the idea of units of math throughout the entire year so I have a focus for daily math practice, and then ideas for the specific skill progression within a block.  The vehicle to carry these skills, which are stories and games, this imaginative form, will be the last specific  things I choose, keeping in mind the developmental needs of the second grader will be met by fables, tricksters, and saints.

My skill progression (so far) that I am thinking of for the year includes using all four processes for math, being able to use ten to add to numbers, fact families, estimating, two digit addition and subtraction, using a number line, working in grouping of numbers and decomposing numbers, place value (generally reading and writing numbers to 1000, comparing numbers, understanding place value), non-standard measurement in preparation for third grade  (although I may do some liquid measurement our last month of second grade in with gardening and being outside), three digit addition and subtraction, simple geometry, multiplication and division, and time.  I also looked at our state standards to see what is there!

For imagery, I have decided to pull our  first block from some stories I found in “Anansi the Spider Man” by Philip M. Sherlock.  The second block we  will be working with decomposing numbers and number strategies though American Tall Tales.  The third block that will be a synthesis of the year will be our gardening block in our last month and include writing and math, and may include a liquid measurement component in preparation for third grade (I mean, water and containers outside…What could be more fun?).  The geometry block I am modeling off of includes some geometry ideas from the Christopherus Second Grade Math book and some ideas about making patchwork quilts and gingerbread villages found in the mainstream book, “Math Excursions 2:  Project-Based Math for Second Graders” by Donna Burk, Paula Symonds, and Allyn Snider which I will modify (although I am not sure in what way yet!)

I use a variety of resources, both Waldorf resources and mainstream resources, in order to teach math in second grade.  My favorite Waldorf resources for this grade include the guide “Making Math Meaningful:  A Source Book for Teaching Math In Grades One Through Five” by  York,  Fabrie, and Gottenbos; “Mathematics in Rudolf Steiner Schools For Classes I-VIII” by Ron Jarman; “Math Lessons For Elementary Grades” by Dorothy Harrer; “Active Arithmatic!” by Henning Anderson, and varying form drawing books.

My favorite non-Waldorf resources for second grade include math games that I can take and re-work into a more imaginative scenario because games  are a math experience.  This is an important part of math and developing number sense.  The best examples of these imaginative games in a Waldorf context that I have found include Master Waldorf teacher Marsha Johnson’s files over at waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com (yes, a Yahoo Group. I know pretty much all groups have switched to Facebook at this point, but these files are a very important for the early grades, they are free, and I urge you to take advantage of them!).  Examples of mainstream math books that have ideas  that could be put into a more  imaginative Waldorf context include “Second Grade Math” by  Nancy Litton;  “Math Excursions 2: Project-Based Mathematics for Second Graders” by Burk, Symonds, and Snider already mentioned above; “The Dyscalculia Toolkit” by Ronit Bird; and “Math in the Garden:  Hands On Activities That Bring Math To Life” (White, Barrett, Kopp, Manoux, Johnson, and McCullough). Other experiences I am thinking of include cooking and gardening, nature walks, knitting, crafting for festivals, music and movement (rhythm is a basis of math!).

Are you planning second grade math?  I would love to hear from  you!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Favorite Waldorf Homeschooling Pinterest Boards and You Tube Videos

I listed my new-to-me top ten favorite resources I am using for fall planning and today I want to share with you some of my favorite Waldorf Pinterest Boards and You Tube videos/channels.  We all learn in different ways, and Waldorf Education is such an experiential form of education, so if you cannot attend an IN-PERSON, LIVE training or workshop (which I recommend most highly!), then sometimes visuals and demonstrations via videos can be helpful.

Of course, any one can put up anything on the Internet. One wants to be discerning as to the myriad of things out there that are being labeled “Waldorf” or “Waldorf -Inspired” simply because this label can encompass products and viewpoints that are right on, and products and viewpoints that have nothing to do with Waldorf Education.    In one sense, Rudolf Steiner was not nearly as dogmatic as people make him out to be in regards to educational practices and what comes when; but on the other hand there are solid developmental reasons to place things in general categories:  early years till the six/seven year change; up until the nine year change; from the nine to twelve year old change, and lastly up to the fifteen/sixteen year old change.  We must view anything labeled as “Waldorf” through this development lens and  really pay attention to what these seven year cycles and transitional points  mean for educating a whole, beautiful child. I think if we are homeschooling with the goal of it being a “Waldorf” experience, then we must know about these developmental stages of the human being, and know why we do (or don’t!) do what we do and what is created dogma and what is not. If you are searching for more information on this subject, I refer you to this May 2017 post at Waldorfish and to this post by Jean Miller over at Waldorf-Inspired Learning regarding the the three stages of the Waldorf curriculum.  And, of course, there are many back posts on this blog detailing some of the things that Steiner said and wrote about. I will be writing another post shortly where I will tell you WHERE in Steiner’s lectures to find (or not) some of the major themes for each grade (or if it is standard because the Waldorf Schools have made these themes traditional?)

So, all that to say, is that there is inspiration every where when one teachers with Waldorf,  and if we know and understand development and broad themes, I have found gems to work into our homeschooling experience with the following:

Pinterest Boards:

  • Queen’s Lace is one of my favorites, with very extensive boards!
  • Waldorf Hannah   is also very extensive with many sub-categories by blocks or skills for each grade.
  • I think Waldorfish has found some of the most beautiful pins.
  • I would like to tell you about my own board as well.  I cover Early Years through Grade 12.

You Tube Videos:

Hope that is helpful.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

 

Joyous Summers With Children!

The outbreath of summer with its golden days, sultry heat, blue skies, dragonflies and bumblebees, and festivals is one of my favorite seasons of the year.  However, sometimes summer with children can have a bit of a bumpy entry (adjustment) or a bit of fatigue in the middle (lack of balance, sibling bickering!)

One of the things I think summer really needs is time and space, but also a skeletal structure to provide a little inbreath and outbreath; a little balance.  Children often run full tilt outside all summer long, and sometimes even just having a little grounding in the morning with chores and a small circle (for younger children) or artistic activity (for older children), and a pause in the middle of the day  for physical rest can be helpful and nourishing.

I like to plan some anchor points with crafts for festivals over the summer.  You can see some of my ideas here on my Summer Pinterest board, along with ideas specifically for June, July, and   .  These are months for creating a magical summer!   This back post by guest poster Christine Natale has many wonderful ideas for creating great summer memories.  I also wrote a post about celebrating summer with small children  if you are looking for something specific to the Early Years.

One thing to plan for includes summertime bickering.  I find bickering  between siblings can be at its height during the summer, and it is good to have a plan to deal with this so you are not caught off guard!

Lastly, consider summer stories and your summer nature table.  These can add a stabilizing, calming influence to your summer plans.

Off to enjoy a day of fun in the sun myself,

Carrie