Ready or Not . . .

readiness 1“Ready or not, here I come!” – This is often the way schools treat academic readiness – but Waldorf education is different. Age is only one factor in determining if a child is ready to move from play-based learning to academic learning environment.

After researching and reading countless articles, I’ve realized most literature and Waldorf schools have similar traits they look for in determining if a child is ready for this transition. So, I have compiled a list. Your child does not have to meet ever one of these standards to be ready to hop into first grade – but rather it is highly recommended that you child have most of the traits or at least a few in each category.

readiness 2

Physical Development:

  • Had 6th Birthday before June 1 or have had 7 Easters.
  • Has Six Year Molars.
  • Has lost milk teeth
  • Longer legs and arms
    • Can reach up over his head with left arm and touch his right ear without leaning or bending his head to the side.
  • Has an arch in his foot
  • Eyes can follow a finger accurately

rediness 3

Physical Ability

  • Can skip, swim, or ride a bike
  • Climbs stairs with alternating feet
  • Hops on one foot
  • Bunny hops with two feet together
  • Able to catch and throw a large ball
  • Walks across a balance beam or log
  • Has developed self-care skills
    • Can take care of bathroom needs himself
    • Can button and zip own clothes
    • Can tie own shoes

readiness 4Social Skills

  • Likes to tell and laughs at jokes – has a sense of humor
  • Whispers “secrets”
  • Plays with and cooperates with other kids rather than simply playing side by sid
  • Is aware of others needs and desires and not just her own
  • Can play without a toy (can visualize or create play rather than needing object to play with)
  • Plays as animal and master/trainer (shows understanding of authority)
  • Starts developing long term friends (the new person at the park is no longer identified as “my best friend”)
  • Is purposeful in play – comes up with a scenario, then plans and directs it – almost like a play

Emotionally/Maturity

  • Wants to learn – and states this verbally
  • States “I’m bored”
  • Has some control over impulses and emotions
  • Ability to pay attention and concentrate for 10 – 15 minute time period
  • Follows a set of  three directions (for example: pick up the spoon, put it in the sink, and wipe the table)
  • Shows some independence and is not overly clingy to parent or caregivers
  • Responds positively to authority – might even have desire to please

block-5Mentally/Intellectually

  • Recalls dreams and memories when ask verbally – does not need a physical reminder of events
  • Can retell stories and recite verses or songs fairly accurately
  • “Because this … then this” (causation) thinking is beginning
  • Uses imagination and not objects to create stories and play
  • Can come up with solutions to minor problems (The ball is stuck in the tree – how can I get it out?)
  • Asks “real” questions – not simply “why”

Verbally

  • Rhymes
  • Changes or speeds up rhythm of songs or verse
  • Tells stories – both from recall and made up
  • Expresses own thoughts so a stranger could understand
  • Consistently uses correct verb tenses

ready 1Artistically

  • Is purposeful in drawing – doesn’t just scribble
  • Draws the sky and the ground in pictures
  • People and animals are clearly on the ground and not floating in space
  • Draws figures that do not represent anything (shapes, spirals, lines)
  • People are drawn somewhat accurately and proportionately  
  • There is natural symmetry in the drawings
    • For example – houses have windows evenly spaced
  • Can copy a simple line drawing of an adult
  • Uses multiple colors in drawings or paintings

Every child is different – but many of these traits naturally occur in children between the age of 6 and 7.  These guidelines are based on child development  – both observation and scientific evidence of brain development in children. If it possible to teach a younger child, who hasn’t developed many of these traits? I’ll answer a question with a question: Is it beneficial?

readiness 7

As a homeschooler – I don’t have to have a “Ready or  not, here I come” mentality of starting school – I can choose to wait until my child is truly ready.

Rhythm of Grace K6 Sample

 

Here is a sample of a day in the curriculum for Rhythm of Grace K6 Curriculum -this day comes from January.

I. Light Candle & Recite Psalm 8 

II. Storytelling

Parent-Teacher tells story “Runaway Shadow” by L. Frank Baum with props, add more Spanish words to replace the English ones in the story. 

  1. Winter – invierno
  2. Snow – nieve
  3. Cold – frio
  4. Itś cold – Hace frio
  5. Iḿ cold – Tengo frio
  6. The prince is cold – El príncipe es frío
  7. Shadow – Sombra

III.  January Circle Time

Hear the sledges with the bells – March with bells

Silver bells! Shake bells as march

What a world of merriment their melody foretells!

How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, Shake one each side of body

In the icy air of night! While marching

While the stars that oversprinkle Shake on each side of head

All the heavens, seem to twinkle while marching

With a crystalline delight; Shake on sides of body

Keeping time, time, time, while marching

In a sort of Runic rhyme,

To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells       Stop marching – shake at

From the bells, bells, bells, bells, Feet,Knees,hips waist

Bells, bells, bells- Shoulders, ears, overhead

From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells. Shake overhead

 

It’s the coldest day of the winter – King Winter’s Birthday! Speak

 

¡Qué felicidad, el invierno llegó! Arms out – spin around

¡Qué contento estoy pues no tengo frío hoy!

Ropa muy gruesa me he puesto yo, Touch toes, touch neck

botas, bufanda y abrigo de lana. Wrap arms around body

Las florecitas secas están, Arms over head like flow – droop

Over to  floor

los pajaritos emigraron ya. Fly like bird around circle

Porque el sol no ha salido, Hold arm in circle above head

ya no ha salido, Bend waist – sun toward ground-

Roll sun right    

ya no ha salido Roll sun left

MÁS. Roll sun middle of legs

 

What bliss! Winter has come! Arms out – spin around

How glad I am, for I’m not cold today!

 

Jack Frost’s playing pranks to his heart’s content – nipping ears and noses, pinching toes and fingers

 

Use a large white silkie (preferably long and skinny like a long scarf – throughout the song, run, jump, twirl – pretending the  scarf is snow covering the ground)  

Little Jack Frost tripped ’round and ’round

Spreading much snow on the frozen ground,

Nipping the breezes, icing the streams,

Chillin the warmth of the sun’s bright beams. Scarf down on ground in heap

“I’ll freeze their shadow” Jack laughed

 

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,   Go in and out

And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.   

He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head; Touch head & toes

And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.     Jump

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—   “Grow” slowly

Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;     

For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball, “Grow fast”

And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all. Grow small

He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,                 Patty-Cake

And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.     

He stays so close beside me, Move close

he’s a coward you can see;

I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!  

One morning, very early, before the sun was up, Sun over head

I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup; “Pick” flowers

But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head, Rest head on hands
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed. 

 

(Finish out circle time)

Only with his shadow back could Prince become a King.

The world is so full of a number of things

I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings 

 

Circle TIme is over, Candle’s almost gone

Blow it out so gently, let’s finish with our song

 

All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.

The cold wind in the winter,

the pleasant summer sun,

the ripe fruits in the garden,

he made them every one.

He gave us eyes to see them,

and lips that we might tell

how great is God Almighty,

who has made all things well. 

IV. Art/Modeling

Play-dough

Play Antonio Vivaldi, “Winter” 1st Movement from Four Seasons as you play with play-dough.

V. Read Aloud

Winter Story (Brambly Hedge) by Jill Barklem

VI. Handwork: (Cashmere) Quilt for baby doll

Supplies

  • 3 or 4 100% wool sweaters (preferably cashmere)
  • Embroidery thread in contrasting color to sweaters
  • Large embroidery needle

Preparation for Parent-Teacher

  • Pick up 3 or 4 100% wool sweaters at the thrift store – cashmere is the best because it is the softest, but other wools will work.
  • Wash the sweaters on the hot cycle of the washer machine. Dry in dryer. You want them to shrink as much as they are going to.
  • Cut the sweaters to quilt squares.
    • Cut off sleeves (use these later for leg warmers)
    • Cut off collar and button band
    • Cut at seams
    • You can leave the ribbing or not depending on how you want the quilt to look and feel
    • Make 5X5 inch squares.
    • Don’t worry about small holes. You can patch these with a small square of fabric and the quilt looks even better.

Teach Child how to hand sew

  1. Practice on two pieces of leftover sweater fabric before beginning quilt.
  2. Thread the needle – (do not separate out the embroidery thread – use its full strands)
  3. Tie a knot at the end of the tread.
  4. Place the two pieces of fabric together
  5. Put the needle through both pieces.
  6. Go back to the first piece (the one you originally put the need through) about two fingers away from the first stitch.
  7. Put the needle and thread back through both pieces of fabric.
  8. Continue sewing until the two fabrics are sewn together.

Making the Doll Quilt

  1. Your quilt will be either 3 by 3 (15 square inches) or 4 by 4 (20 square inches)
  2. Allow your child to arrange the quilt squares any way they so choose.
  3. Take a picture (you don’t have to leave the squares out to remember the order)
  4. You are first going to make 3 (or 4) rows across
    1. Start by sewing the first two squares together
    2. Sew the third one onto the same row (the forth if doing four)
    3. Sew the next row
    4. Sew the third row
  5. Sew the rows together
    1. Sew row one to row two (Parent-Teacher – it helps if you sew one or two stitches into each of the hem lines – this keeps the quilt straight while sewing)
    2. Sew the next to the two rows
    3. Sew the third (and forth) to those
  6. Use scissors to cut off any loose threads.

Parent-Teacher

While your child is sewing the quilt – either make a baby quilt yourself, make leg warmers out of the sleeves, or learn to needle felt.

V. Bible

Read Son of Laughter from The Jesus Story Book Bible

Continue reading

Rhythm of Grace First Grade Curriculum

Scope

Image result for kindergarten book illustrations 1900 - 1923

Character & Attributes of God
BIBLE Bible Stories
Memorization of Verses
Memorization of Chapters
Letters/Phonics
Reading
LANGUAGE Form Drawing/Handwriting
ARTS Fairy Tales
Classical Read-Aloud
Classical Poetry Memorization
Library Skills
Counting forward and backward to 100
Quality of Numbers
ARITHMETIC Number Families
Four Operations
Roman Numerals
Form Drawing/Geometry
Logic/Games (Card, Dice, Board, Dominos)
SCIENCE Nature Studies
Seasons
SOCIAL STUDIES Fairy Tales from around the world
World Geography
FOREIGN Spanish
LANGUAGE ASL
Wet on Wet Painting
ART Drawing
Modeling
Art Appreciation
Singing
MUSIC Recorder
Simple Rhythm Instruments
HANDWORK Knitting
MEANINGFUL Baking Bread
WORK Cleaning House
Gardening


Sequence

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Sequence

Month Block Lesson # Block # of Weeks
September 1 Form Drawing 4
October 2 Arithmetic 4
November 3 Language Arts 3
December 4 Form Drawing 2
January 5 Arithmetic 3
February 6 Language Arts 4
March 7 Arithmetic 4
April 8 Form Drawing 2
April – May 9 Language Arts 5
Total Weeks
Form Drawing 8
Arithmetic 11
Language Arts 12

 

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What makes Rhythm of Grace First Grade Curriculum unique?

  1. Biblically based: Christian first, Waldorf methodology second
  2. Integration of Classical books, poetry, music, and art
  3. Most stories and read aloud books are available online
  4. Integration of games as a means of teaching
  5. Unique school week – three days of lessons, one forest day, and one field trip or meaningful work day
  6. Day by day lesson plans set up in block lessons
  7. Music, handwork, art, meaningful work, forest day lessons, read-aloud books, and field trip ideas are included as well as Bible, Reading, Writing, and Math: no need to buy separate books for separate subjects
  8. Innerwork Bible study for teacher included

Image result for teacher children's vintage books

Curriculum Availability:

  1. A rough draft (unedited and unpublished) copy of Rhythm of Grace First Grade Curriculum will be available to purchase for a discounted price of $50.
  2. $50 will be paid via paypal.
  3. Rough Draft will be completely digital. It will be emailed to you via a google doc in Block lessons.

 

Block Lesson # Block Emailed –

no later than

1 Form Drawing April 30, 2017
2 Arithmetic May 31, 2017
3 Language Arts June 30, 2017
4 Form Drawing July 31, 2017
5 Arithmetic August 31, 2017
6 Language Arts September 30, 2017
7 Arithmetic October 30, 2017
8 Form Drawing November 31, 2017
9 Language Arts December 30, 2017

*The unpublished Kindergarten Curriculum can now also available for the discounted price of $50. It is ready to be emailed in a google doc to you in its entirety.

block-6

For inquires or to order – please email

rogcurriculum@gmail.com

 

Elements of Waldorf: Block Learning

 

block-3

  1. Read Shakespeare poem
  2. Review science chapter for test
  3. Do daily math exercises
  4. Begin writing assignment
  5. Read chapter in history book

 

 

 

 

 

I left my 10 year old at home with a list of school work, as I ran to do some errands. I told grandma not to worry, he was responsible enough to get it all done. Three hours later, when I arrive home, my son runs up to me excitedly, “Mom, Mom, can I read the Shakespeare poem to you?” Before I had a chance to breath he expressively begins “performing” the Shakespeare poem. He feels the words and expresses (and pronounces) each correctly. I listened in awe. When he finishes, he obsessively babbles about the poem – the meaning, the new vocabulary words it contains, the historical context and references made in the poem, and how he had listened to it read on youtube over and over again so he could read it with correct enunciation, pronunciation, and expression. “Isn’t it just beautiful, Mom?”  – At that moment, I realized he had spent the last three hours delving into Shakespeare and checking the other items off his list had not even occurred to him.

Before I had ever heard of Waldorf or “block learning” my ten year old taught me. He was simply not capable of switching the channel in his brain to a new subject before the story line in the subject he was studying was “complete.” It wasn’t that he loved Shakespeare – although he does – because if I left him the next day with Science being on the top of the list, science is all that would be done. Thus, when I started studying Waldorf’s concept of “block learning” – it made sense to me.

What is block learning?

block-4

Block learning is the pedagogy that one subject is taught and studied for a block of time usually lasting three to six weeks. Then another topic is taught for another block of time. This contrasts dramatically with the current practice of a student studying new material in multiple subjects each school day.

In Waldorf schools, block learning begins in first grade – it is not geared for preschool or kindergarten – and runs through high school.

Math facts, mental math, spelling, and memorization exercises are practiced during circle time or extra lessons, usually on a daily basis. But, new concepts are learned during the block learning called “main lessons.”

Block learning is not student directed learning. The teacher chooses the block to be studied in accordance with the child’s natural development.

Block learning is not unit studies. One subject is studied in depth, although sometimes other subjects are incorporated in the process of teaching that main subject.

Waldorf is often associated with “delayed learning” philosophy – not introducing symbolic letters and numbers until the age of seven. What may not be known is that because of “block learning” students go much more in-depth on topics and their base of knowledge and understanding passes their peers in public school – usually by 4th grade. This is because of the concept of spiral learning.

Spiral learning is the progression of a subject from block to block within a grade level and then throughout the grades. Different methods of teaching are employed throughout different grade levels, which take into account child development. For example, math is taught through manipulatives in first grade, fourth grade math holds more emphasis on art and beauty, and eighth on logic and reason. Thus, students are not only learning at increasing complexity, but able to retain the information because it is taught in a way that resonates with their souls.

Why use block learning?

block-1

Block learning has proven successful. Students are fully immersed in a subject which is intensely and economically taught in an age appropriate manner. A Canadian study found that average intelligent students who studied in a Waldorf school showed the same characteristics of creative behavior, problem solving, and subject integration as gifted students who studied under mainstream methodology. Block learning and the spiral curriculum is beneficial to students ability to understand, think, reason, remember and cross-apply information.

 

 

How does block learning work?

block-6

Often when we think of learning for a two hour time frame, our mind goes to sitting in a desk, listening to a professor, twirling our pencil as we try to stay awake. Main lessons look nothing like this. They integrate mental, physical, and artwork to balance the learning approach. Listening, active learning, singing, storytelling, recalling information, and quiet seat work are beautifully balanced. Waldorf main lesson pedagogy used a multiple intelligence approach, before multiple intelligence was a thing.

 

 

 

 

What blocks do you teach?

Three to five subjects are covered per school year.  A typical year may include 3 or 4 Language Arts blocks, 3 or 4 Arithmetic Blocks, 1 or 2 blocks of Science, Humanities, or Form Drawing, and often the last block of the year is saved for a school play.

block-5

Block learning may be the most distinctive element of a Waldorf education, and for good reason. It is highly beneficial in developing children into lifelong learners. Thank you, Andres, for making me a believer.

 

Elements of Waldorf: Circle Time

Night DanceI look out our picture windows and see the neighbor, who is walking his dog, staring in and laughing. I don’t blame him. He’s probably never seen a mom dancing and skipping around the front room. I laugh too – not out of embarrassment, but out of delight – delight that is intensified as I look into the sparkling eyes of my daughter as she dances around with me. Circle Time may be our favorite part of the school day.

In a Waldorf education, Circle Time does not end in preschool or even kindergarten, but continues through elementary school. It holds an important place in the beginning of the school day, as a transition from free play or outdoor play into more focused school time. But it is more than  simply a method of transition – it is important to the Waldorf philosophy of learning. 

circle-1Why do Circle Time?

  1. Brain Development – Science has proven that the development of the body is in direct correlation with the development and ability to learn academically. Like any other body part, when the brain is exercised, it developes and can more easily be used to learn new information.
  2. God’s Word. What could be more important for raising children who are passionate pursuing God than a love for His Word. Circle Time is the ideal time to memorize verses and passages of scripture – that God will use to sustain and ground your children throughout their lives. Psalm 119: 11 “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
  3. Language – both foreign and native. Through poems and songs children acquire enunciation, pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and language comprehension as well as a love for the flow and sound of language.
  4. Math Facts – Children move from counting to skip counting to multiplication tables in daily recitation, song and movement – making the facts hard to forget. Mental math and verbal story problems are also added into circle time as the grade progress.
  5. Memorization – Days, months, seasons, grammar facts, historical timelines, scientific information – anything that can and needs to be memorized can be done with a song and a dance.
  6. Music – Through singing, playing rhythm and wind instruments, and rhythmic movement children’s brains are being exercised. Numerous studies show there is a direct correlation between music and speech, language, reading, larger vocabularies, and the ability to memorize.

circle-2How to create a Circle Time?

  1. Establish a rhythm. Just like daily rhythm – circle time has a rhythm – breathing in and out moments. Breathing out includes big motor, movement, dance, rhythmic instruments, loud recitation. Breathing in may include the lighting of a candle with a verse, sitting on the floor doing finger plays, and quiet voice recitation. For best results – alternate breathing in and out.
  2. Establish goals and move towards specifics. Start by setting up what you want to memorize (Skip counting by 7s, Months of the Year, Greetings in Spanish.) Then find poems and verse to fit what you want to teach. Then add the detail of movement, rhythm and song that you will teach each with – keeping in mind the alternation of breathing in and breathing out. 
  3. Establish a base. Use two or three verses for the entire year. Change a couple seasonally. Switch 3 or 4 for each new block. The idea is to progress through the learning of new facts, but new facts are learned within a safe, established, comfortable rhythm and verse. – Keep in mind that the 2 or 3 verse you use as your base are more likely to be remember for life, so make them count.
  4. Establish a time frame. Think 20 – 40 minutes for circle time depending on the age of your child and the amount of material you want to recite.

circle-3

Let’s not over-intellectualize Circle Time. It is fun! It makes learning fun – and this is a good thing. A 2012 German Study  found that 85% of Waldorf students had a positive attitude towards school and and were enthusiastic about learning. The students in the study reported that school was “fun” and “not boring.” (Jiménez, Fanny “Wissenschaftler loben Waldorfschulen”, Die Welt, 27 September 2012). I know that on the top of my list of “Why I Homeschool” is “To create a love of learning” and “To create lifelong learners.” Circle Time helps do this.

 

 

circle-4

So, I may look silly twirling circles with my daughter in my living room – but I’m so glad we do it.

Elements of Waldorf: Delayed Academics

jusitification 2“My son can say and recognize all his ABCs – and he’s only two!”

“My daughter could read before she even went to kindergarten.”

“My child is four and he knows his multiplication tables to twelves.”

… Well, my child is six and only recognizes the letters in her name. She sort-of-kind-of writes her name and the the number 6 – since that is how old she is . . . and I couldn’t be happier about it. But then again, she’s my fifth – and to be perfectly honest, I worried endlessly that my first two wouldn’t be as smart or weren’t doing all the things the other kids in the sand box did.

Nothing strikes more fear in a parent’s heart than thinking her child is not quite “up to par.” Thus, “delayed academics” strikes terror in most homeschooler . . . at least in the United States of America. And to be perfectly honest, if you choose this route, you are going against the social norm and it is a bit scary. So let’s take a look at the educational philosophy of “delayed academics” and see why it just may be worth bucking the current system.

What is delayed academics? Delayed Academics is the philosophy that symbolic learning (reading, writing, and arithmetic) should not be taught to young children. In Waldorf the general rule is that these things are best taught after a child has had seven Easters – more often than not, that means a seven year old.

“Delayed academics” was not delayed at the time Rudolf Steiner introduced Waldorf – it was the norm in the late 1800s and all through the 20th Century to start teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic to children at the age of six or seven. It is also not “delayed” in Europe in 2017 (which overall ranks higher than the US in Education.) Most of Europe has play based early education, and reading is taught around the age of seven. It has only been in the last ten years, in the United States of America, that preschoolers are expected to know and recognize all their letters and kindergartners are taught to read.

Why delay academics? Basic understanding of child development.

early-1

  • Brain Development.
    • Bilateral Integration. Each section in our brain does different things. For some tasks the different sections must interact with each other to do the task efficiently. For example, in reading – one part of the brain deciphers phonics and another part creates mental pictures which help one to comprehend what the phonics means. If these two sections are not communicating well a child can learn to read and not comprehend, or what happens even more often is that a child learns to read but gets stuck in 4th or 5th grade when the reading becomes more difficult. Most children’s brain sections begin to interact with each other sometime during the sixth year of life.
    • Symbolic Language. Children under the age of seven do not think symbolically, but concretely. So although they can memorize letters and numbers and phonics, they can not truly understand them.

early-3

  • Physical Development
    • Visual Tracking. Children must be able to track letters on a page with their eyes in order to read clearly. This tracking occurs naturally around the age of six. Children who are encouraged to read before this tracking has developed will struggle with learning and often develop learning challenges.
    • Proprioceptive System. Academic learning involves sitting still, listening, and paying attention. In order for a child to sit still, pay attention, and visually remember shapes of letters and numbers, he must first develop his proprioceptive system – or his sense of body in space, the relationship between the body and the brain.  This is usually fully developed at seven or eight in most children, though sometimes a little younger for girls. Problems in the proprioceptive system have learning challenges like ADHD, dyslexia, and nonverbal learning disabilities.
  • Lack of Stress.

Amazingly, there are more and more children in early elementary who are experiencing stress and stress related illnesses. Many researchers are attributing it to expectations – especially academic. Small children are being asked to read and write before their bodies and brains are physically ready to do so – is it any wonder they are stressed?

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  • Best Policy

In a 2012 Study done in the US comparing students in a Waldorf school to those in a public education, the study found that children in a Waldorf 2nd and 3rd grades had lower test scores than their counterparts, but in 7th and 8th grade the Waldorf student had far surpassed those of public school. A New Zealand study found the same – that by the age of 10 the Waldorf students had caught up with the early learners and then they surpassed them.

From my own personal family, I have not seen any difference in academic ability of a child because of the age they learned to read. I have one child who taught himself to read at the age of 3, one learned to read at 6 and 7 and one that didn’t learn until 10. By the age of 12 – they were all reading the same books!

In my countless hours of research, I have yet to read of a solid study or article that shows any academic advantage for children who read, write, or do arithmetic before first grade.

To be perfectly honest – this science was not available when Rudolf Steiner developed his theory of education. He wrote Waldorf education after years of observation and study of children. The science just proves what he observed to be true.

So do I just let my kids run wild until they are 7?

No. “Delayed Academics” does not mean a lack of education. Waldorf is rich in early education, but early education is play based and not academic based.

  • Open Ended Play
    • early-2Imagination. Blocks become zoos and castles and towers. Silks become super hero caps, princess dresses, and forts to hide under. Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
    • Problem Solving. How many rocks, how big do the rocks need to be, and where should I put the rocks if I want to cross the creek without touching the water?

    • Understanding of Numbers. Numbers are not simply symbolic symbols hanging in the air – they are concrete – the cups of flour we use to make cookies, the number of rocks we line up next to the creek.
  • Outside Play
    • early-4Bilateral Integration. Skipping, riding a bike, swimming, and climbing a tree all use cross over body movements and alternating sides of our body – which in turn trains the different sides of the brain to communicate with each other.
    • Proprioceptive System.  Children need to experience their bodies in space – going forward and backward, left and right, jumping up and down – often with some sort of resistance. Therefore great ways to develop the proprioceptive system are to dig with a shovel, pull weeds, and hang from monkey bars.
    • Science. Just being in the outdoors – without explanation – exposes children to the attributes of God, seasons, biology, chemistry, the laws of physics – and makes them question why and how God’s creation works.
  • Handwork and Art
    • questions 14Hand-eye coordination. Digging holes in the garden for our seeds, finger knitting, and finger plays all develop hand dexterity and hand-eye coordination.
    • Visual Tracking. The eyes naturally follow beautiful water-color paint as it glides gracefully across the wet paper in wet-on-wet painting.
  • Linguistically Rich
    • Singing Mother 3Phonics. Singing elongates vowel sounds and stresses consonants.
    • Development of Mental Pictures. When a parent-teacher tells a fairy tale (without using a book, movie, or picture) the child creates images in their mind to correlate with the words of the story. This will later transfer to reading comprehension.
    • Memory, Vocabulary, Enunciation, Pronunciation, and Foreign Language. Through the recitation and memory of verses, poems, and Bible Scripture in both your native and foreign language – children are learning a love of language itself.  
  • Learning is Fun.  How many five year olds do you know who would rather sit quietly behind a desk and try to decipher letters and numbers on a piece of paper instead of running freely through a field and digging a hole with a stick in the dirt? Case closed.

So how do I know when my child is ready for academics?

  • early-1Changes in physical body. Longer limbs, loss of teeth.
  • Brain has developed. Can skip, swim, and/or ride a bike.
  • Displays maturity in behavior. Can sit still, listens and follows directions.
  • Can track visually. Can throw accurately and catch a ball. Eyes can follow your finger without headache or strain.
  • Able to retell a story. Retells stories with clear sequence of events and a few details.
  • Strong desire to learn to read. A child who has a desire will learn so much faster than one who is forced.

Because it goes against the social norm, it is hard to “hold your child back” and not teach them what other kids their age are learning. You may have to educate (or forward this blog) to extended family, well meaning friends, and your child’s therapist or Sunday School teachers. I encourage you to study, know, and believe for yourself that you are choosing the best educational method possible for your child. This will help you stand your ground when challenged, and give you a peace in your heart that you are doing the right thing – even when it may not seem like it in the face of society.

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*Although this blog post is accumulated information from years of personal research and study – the clearest most detailed information on this topic can be found in articles by Susan R. Johnson, M.D., FAAP.

http://www.youandyourchildshealth.org/youandyourchildshealth/articles/teaching%20our%20children.html

http://www.youandyourchildshealth.org/youandyourchildshealth/articles/teaching%20children%20ii.html

http://www.youandyourchildshealth.org/youandyourchildshealth/articles/visual%20tracking.html

A summary of research done in different studies on Waldorf Education can be found at – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studies_of_Waldorf_education – and if you are a total research nerd, like me, you can click on many of the studies at the bottom of this page and read them more in detail.

Elements of Waldorf Education: Inner Work

inner-work-4When I tell people I homeschool, one of the first reactions is for people to tell me why they don’t. Interestingly enough, the reasons most people give me have nothing to do with best educational practices or money or time. The most common reasons I hear for not homeschooling have to do with the lack someone feels they have in themselves. The two most common reasons being, “I don’t have the patience” and “I’m not organized,” with the third not so far behind, “I’m not smart enough myself.” Funny – but don’t public school parents, and childless adults need these things as well as home educators?

 

One of the really cool aspects of a Waldorf Education, and one of the reasons I am a proponent of it’s use, is that the teacher (or parent-teacher, in the case of homeschooling) works on his/her own personal character. This is called Inner Work, and the concept is that one must work on themselves in order to teach children.

inner-workRudolf Steiner, the philosopher and founder of Waldorf Education, wrote, “You will not be good teachers if you focus only on what you do and not upon who you are.”

A Waldorf Education is onto something important here. Personal growth should be a goal for all of us – not just home educators – but as home educators, it is the core and starting place for educating your children.

Why is it so important for educators?

So we are worthy of imitation. Children do what we do, not what we say. Therefore we should do and be what we want our children to do and be.

 

Deut. 6: 1 – 9

Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

“Hear, O Israel:The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

inner-work-3This is one of the most commonly taught passages of scripture on parenting. But the parenting part is a result of the personal part. God command YOU to love the Lord and to obey him – and then as you live out your life doing so (as you sit, and go about, and go to bed, and get out of bed) you teach your children to do the same as you are doing. Imitation.

I love the concept that as you follow God, “you will multiply greatly.” This is not just talking about having more children – it is talking about your children have an abundance of what you have (a love of the Lord), and your children’s children having even more. I know one of my greatest joys in life is watching my preschool age grandkids talk and sing about loving God!

inner-work-2The most important aspect of homeschooling (or teaching, or parenting) is focusing on my own relationship with Christ and my own personal growth – Inner Work.

How do I do Inner work?

Rudolf Steiner recommended meditation. I agree – but only if you meditate on the right thing!

In Psalm 119:15 David is speaking to God when He writes, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.”

The true means of Inner Work is to meditate on God’s Word, and to fix our eyes on Christ and His ways.

In the New Testament, Peter tells us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18)

inner-work-9One of the interesting things about personal growth – is that our focus should not be on personal growth. Let’s look at the verses above for example –

In the Deuteronomy passage our focus is on loving God and keeping His commandments – or on obedience to Him. In Psalms, we meditate on God’s principles and ways. And in II Peter, we build knowledge of Jesus.

Our personal character, and building our self-esteem is never our focus or our goal. Instead, it is the result of focusing on Christ and obeying God’s Word.

Galatians 5:22 – 23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

When we focus on God and obey Him – love, joy, peace,patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control will be the resulting fruit that the Spirit produces in us.

Now I’m going to get real. If you don’t have enough patience to homeschool – then you have a deeper issue than your inability to teach your kids – a spiritual issue – and issue in your relationship with God.

Waldorf Education starts with a teacher’s Inner Work. As Christians, our Inner Work needs to be spending time with our Lord and Savior by studying His Word and obeying it. And God will grow you into a person who is worthy of the imitation of your children.

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*Over the next few blogs, I’ll be going over some of the basic elements of a Waldorf-inspired education. Stay tuned for: Delayed Academics, Rhythm, Block Learning, Circle Time, Handwork, Art, Nature Learning, Stories & Books,

Creating Peace in My Do Over

peace-1My mom once  told me that her idea of heaven was that every fifteen minutes of the day was scheduled out and the schedule never changed and was never interrupted. To me that sounds like hell. I love excitement, surprise, spontaneity. I love when a friend drops by my house unexpected – and I have no problem dropping whatever plans I have to meet a friend for lunch.

Most of the 29 years I’ve been a parent – my schedule has been dictated to me by coop classes, sports practice, theater practice, music lessons, and the many activities that we as a family chose to over commit ourselves to. This has led to a different type of hell – one of anxiety. I’d have to leave in 5 minutes because my kids can’t be late to XYZ, but I couldn’t find my keys, I only found one shoe, I have no idea where the jackets got thrown when we took them off last, I forgot I was supposed to take something for the potluck (guess I’ll pick up a fruit tray at the store), I’m yelling at the kids, I’m angry at myself for being such a witch to my kids and losing my temper. This is not  fun! This is not how life is supposed to be lived. I’m thanking God, once again, He is giving me a do-over. Four kids are grown and gone – and one is just starting – so she’s my do over. I don’t regret the activities my kids went to – they are who they are largely because of them. I do regret my disorganization and my lack of preparation and my attitude because of my lack of these things.

So what am I doing with my do over?

Committing to less. There will come a time that Rose wants to do ballet, or play cricket – but she’s not asking, so I’m not offering. I think twice before I say “yes” to any activity outside of my home. My first ministry is to my family, and everything I say “yes” to will be scrutinized to see how it will affect it.

Creating a family rhythm. Rhythm is different from schedule. Schedules are time oriented, rhythm is a “steady, regular, repeated” pattern. For our family this looks like a lax, flexible schedule. We get up, have meals, and go to bed at approximately the same time each day. We do the same series of events before breakfast, between breakfast and lunch, between lunch and dinner, and between dinner and bed. For example, between breakfast and lunch, we light a candle and say our Bible verse, have story time and circle time, then do art work. But the times are flexible. Sometimes, it is a five minute let’s get this art project over with, and sometimes we revel in the enjoyment of it for forty or forty five minutes. That’s ok. That’s one of the differences between rhythm and schedule. Within my do-over rhythm:

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  • I’ll give myself time to breath in. Time to read my Bible and journal it, time to pray, time to take a bath by candle light, time to write, time to have lunch with a friend. TIme alone to just be quiet and think.

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  • I’ll give my child time to breath in. Time to play independently. Quiet time to look at books, color a picture, paint, play with clay, or build with blocks or legos. TIme to lay under the stars. Time to ponder imaginary worlds. Time to be quiet and get lost in her thoughts.
  • I’ll give our family time to breath in. Time to eat meals together, saying grace, enjoying each others company. Time for long road trips with Daddy – viewing nature as it rolls by the window. Time to quietly walk through a zoo or museum together contemplating God’s creation.
  • I’ll give myself time to breath out. Time to minister to others – both in my family and outside of it. Time for dates with my husband.

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  • I’ll give my child time to breath out. Time to climb trees, dig a hole in the dirt, and skip rocks in a pond. Time to dance as she recites poetry. Time to arrange all the teddy bears in a row and jump over them. Time to chatter obsessively without being told to be quiet.
  • peace-4I’ll give our family time to breath out. Time for extended family running and yelling through the house. Time for holiday celebrations. Time for all family members to pull out their instruments and sing and dance together in the front room. Time for local art and music festivals. Time to minister to others as a family unit.

Creating a home rhythm.peace-6

  • Declutter and simplify our house. I am on my way, but have a long way to go.
  • Stop losing things. Make a home for every object, and have every object stay in it’s home unless it comes out to play – then it needs to return home.
  • Establish a cleaning schedule. My home is my main place of worship and ministry – I will treat it with the sacredness it deserves.
  • Establish a cooking schedule. Honor my family with delicious meals made with love.

I’m still in the process of working out my “do over,” but so far it has proved peaceful.
What do you do to establish peace in your home?

Best Thing You Can Do for Your Kids in 2017

It matters not if your kids are 3, 9, 15, or 26. It matters not if you are the mother, father, grandparent, or foster parent. It isn’t starting a college fund, or reading more, or even spending more time with them – all of these things are good, but not the best.  The number one thing you can do for your kids in 2017 is draw near to God.

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“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

imitation-6When you draw near to God, and He draws near to you – God enables you to make better decisions.

Parenting is a serious of questions. Should I give birth in a hospital, birthing center, or at home? What do I do when my toddler throws a fit in the store? What do I do when my child is bullied? Should we allow our child to date – ever? How will we ever fund college? How do I relate to my adult child? Those are the important questions – then there are the day to day ones you don’t want to admit you ask – Will eating boogers harm my child? How many days in a row can my child wear his superhero shirt before a well meaning philanthropist gives me a bag of hand-me-down clothes? Why do I feel more like a stalker than a parent while chaperoning a date?

Got questions? God has answers. He will lead you every step of the way as you parent your kiddos.

Isaiah 40:11 says, “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” and James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Couple that with Proverbs 2:6 “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Draw near to God and He will guide you and give you wisdom.

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When you draw near to God, and He draws near to you – you will be a better parent. Another verse that says much the same thing as “draw near to God” is John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” When we draw near to God, abide in Him – we bear fruit. Galatians 5:22 -23 tells us what the fruit we bear looks like, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  Notice: 1) The fruit is singular – they are not individual character traits. 2) The fruit is a result and not a goal. We should not try to be more loving, have more joy, learn patience – etc. Instead, we should abide in the vine and the result will be the Holy Spirit living in us – which appears as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to the outside world. 3) The fruit is not for us. Fruit which hangs on the tree too long rots. Fruit is meant so others can be nourished by it and enjoy its sweet taste. Draw near to God and the Holy Spirit will produce fruit in your life that your children will taste and see that God is good. (Psalm 34:8)


father-son-2When you draw near to God and He draws near to you – you will be worthy of imitation.
87% of youth raised in church walk away from the church and from their faith in college and most do not come back. The 13% who stayed strong in their faith all reported having at least one adult – usually a parent – who demonstrated a close relationship with the Lord and discipled them to do likewise.

In The Education of a Child, Rudolf Steiner states, “Most people would ask how a child should behave, but …adults should learn how to behave in front of children, even in words, attitudes, and thoughts. . We must have and live the thoughts that we feel could and should live in the child.”

The apostle Paul  believed in the importance of Imitation as well. He wrote in I Corinthians 11:1 “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

If we want our kids to draw near to God, we must do so first.

The best thing you can do this year for your kids is to put God first yourself. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you – in 2017.

 

New Year’s Resolution: Look in a Mirror

My New Year’s Resolution: Look in a mirror before leaving the house.

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“Can I talk to you in the hallway for a minute before you start?” My husband waves me down before I stand before a group to speak. He smiles and informs me, “Your shirt is in inside out.” The crazy thing is – it hadn’t been the first time this month that I’ve worn my clothes inside out!

Another time, I rushed around getting everything together to leave the house. Got everyone in the car. As we arrive at our destination – I realized I hadn’t brushed my hair all morning.

eat-4These are funny examples of a much deeper issue. I simply neglect taking care of myself. I feel guilty if I spend money on new clothes, I don’t get the medical check-ups I need, I don’t eat or exercise like I should. And for some reason – I’ve worn this neglect prouder than any monk. In my discombobulated logic – I justify my neglect as thinking more of others than myself. “My time is spent caring for others – so I don’t make time for myself.” But I’ve had an epiphany: I matter to God – and I should treat myself like I do.

 

 

eatFirst, Romans 12: 1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Old Testament law demands sacrifices to be the first, the best, and without blemish. If I allow my body to go – don’t take care of my health, my body, my appearance – am I offering my body as a holy and acceptable gift to God?

eat-10Secondly, In I Corinthians 6:19 – 20 God says, “Or do you not know that your body’s a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

The “temple” of God – is where God dwells and it is beautiful. The “temple” was God’s idea, God’s design (just as our bodies are – Psalm 139:13). The Old Testament Temple contains embroidered linens of blue, purple and scarlet, as well as precious metals of gold, silver, and bronze.  In Revelation 21 – God describes a new temple or dwelling place – made of precious jewels – jasper, sapphire, emerald, topaz, pearls. God’s dwelling place is always filled with beauty – and He sees us no differently. In Ephesians and Psalms God says we are his handiwork, in Malachi his jewels, in Isaiah his “crown of glory.” We were created to be a beautiful dwelling place of God.

The Bible makes it clear that our personal beauty is not for the purpose of self-gratification, or others looking at us and honoring us because of how good we look. Beauty for self-glorification is a sin. Proverbs 31:30  “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised,” and I Peter 3: 3 – 4 “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious,” both indicate that outward beauty should not be what people are drawn to. People are drawn to us because the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Our outward appearance should be pleasing enough to draw people, and lead people to the presence of the Lord. As with the Proverbs 31 Woman – I can be dressed in fine linen of purple (the clothes of royalty) and still be clothed in strength, dignity, and the fear of the Lord.

God is passionate about His temple. He designed it. He dwells in it – and He demands it be kept holy. We see this when Jesus found unacceptable things within the temple and wiped it clean (John 2: 13 – 16). Likewise, God is passionate about me. He designed me. My body is a living holy sacrifice to Him. My body is the temple in which His Spirit dwells. Anything which is preventing my body from being holy is unacceptable to God.

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Christ, turn over and throw out the tables in my life:

  • Turn over the table of pride – pride of not honoring my body as well as pride of wanting to be seen and honored by others for it
  • Throw out  the gluttony – my over-indulgence and over-consumption of food to the point of extravagance.  
  • Demolish the table of emotional eating – dwell in me freely so I find comfort and joy in You and not food
  • Forgive my laziness – help me to work as unto You
  • Forgive my ungratefulness and disregard for the temple you have made me

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Dwell in me:

  • Keeping my body worthy of being a holy sacrifice for You
  • May my body honor You
  • Help my outer beauty to draw others to me – so they can see You – not me
  • May every bite I take glorify you: I Corinthians 10:31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

 

I resolve: To look in a mirror before leaving the house.

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