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.

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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.

 

 

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

Sing, Sing, Sing and Make Music in Your Home

Sing MomCall it middle age, or menopause – I can’t remember the lyrics to the songs I listened to yesterday on the radio – or the choruses I sang in church last week, or last month or last year. I find myself singing the songs of my childhood. Hymns I sang in Church, Songs from Musicals I was in as a teenager, Folk Songs I sang in elementary school, and songs from my mother’s childhood that we sang together at home.

That got me thinking … the songs I sing with my child today will be the songs she sings in fifty years.

Waldorf promotes singing all day – about everything. Which is just fine by me, because that’s how I’m wired anyway. My older son once wrote a speech making fun of his family – for me he wrote, “My mom lives in a Musical. At any moment in time, she’s likely to break out in song.”

There are countless articles telling why and how to sing in Waldorf schools – how singing engages the soul, gives children a rich vocabulary, enhances reading by opening up the vowels, aids in memorization, and creates a peaceful and joyous environment for learning. I’m not going to repeat all that – I’m going to delve into why it is Biblical to sing.

Sing 7There are over 1150 verses in the Bible which refer to music. Since God wrote the Bible – that means He believes music to be an important element of life.  As Christians our entire life’s purpose is to bring God glory.  Psalm 149:3 – 4 says “Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! For the Lord takes pleasure in his people. ” God takes pleasure in our making melodies to Him! Therefore, since we were created to delight God and bring Him glory – and singing makes God happy – we were created to sing and make music.

Music outlasts our time on earth. Music is eternal. Revelation 5: 8 – 10 paints a picture of heaven: “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ’Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’”

God created music as an eternal means of worshiping Him. Therefore, we should sing. So what should we sing about? Everything – Waldorf has this one right.

In the Bible, music was used:

Singing 1

  1. To Wake Up (Psalm 57:8)

One of my earliest memories was my mom opening up my curtains and singing to me to wake me up in the mornings. I’ve modified the tradition, in that I allow my children to sleep as long as their bodies tell them they should – but I cuddle and sing with Rose when she first opens her eyes.

  1. For Teaching (Colossians 3:16)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” In this verse – singing is linked with teaching, disciplining, being thankful and having wisdom.  Singing in such a way overflows from Christ and His Word within you.

  1. To Encourage Others (Ephesians 5:19-20)

Music is uplifting. When we sing we raise the spirits of those around us and bring our children joy.

Singing Mom

  1. To Create Unity (II Chronicles 5:13, 14)

There is a magic that happens when voices blend together and become one. Multiple voices merge into one beautiful harmonious sound. There is a connectedness between each individual singer. Our family is bonded together when we sing and make music together.

  1. To Transition (Matthew 26:30)

Many kids – including mine – don’t do transitions well. Singing helps move from one activity to another. In this verse Jesus moved from Passover Dinner to walking to the Mount of Olives to pray – and the transitional point was Jesus and the disciples singing together.

  1. To Gather Together (Numbers 10: 2 – 3).

We can sing or play an instrument to call our children together for circle or story time – or whenever we want everyone to gather in one place.

singing happy birthday

  1. In Celebration (I Chronicles 13:7-8)

We can sing special songs to prepare and celebrate holidays and birthdays

  1. For Thanksgiving (Psalm 69:30)

Raising kids with a sense of entitlement creates selfish people, who have a hard time getting and keeping a job, are less likely to stay married, and who are personally unsatisfied with life. Singing Praise to God for EVERYTING – who He is and what He’s done – helps children realize that life revolves around God and not themselves. Realizing God is in control and deserves thanks will create more secure, loving children – who realize their true purpose in life. So sing thanks for every new day, and everything within the day.

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  1. For Comfort in times of sadness (Psalm 59:16)

Rose has had a multitude of surgeries – and there is nothing I can do but hold her in my arms and sing songs of comfort to her as she heals. The psalmist knew this as well, as many of his psalms – which are songs – are written about his trials in life.

  1. For Memorization (Psalm 119:172)

“My tongue will sing of your word.” Although singing can and should be used to teach all memory work to kids – it is especially important to memorize scripture. Read Psalm 119 and mark all the benefits of doing so –for example -being blessed, making wise choices, and staying pure. Add scripture verses to your singing repertoire not just songs about the Bible.

Singing Mother 3

  1. MY PERSONAL FAVORITE: As an Expression of Love (Zeph. 3:17)

Our Father God rejoices over us with singing. “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” I love to sing over my kids – place their names in silly songs and sweet songs – as well as singing love songs like “You are my Sonshine.” God is our ultimate example of parenthood – and if He sings over us, then by singing over our children we are following His example. Singing over our children demonstrates the character of God to them!

This certainly doesn’t cover all 1150 verses – but it does give us an idea of the importance God places on singing and how we can incorporate it into our home schools. Our kids don’t care if we have perfect pitch – although we can work and improve our voices just as we can work any other muscle in our bodies. God also doesn’t expect perfection (he created you – with or without perfect pitch) – He says in Psalms 100 “Make a joyful noise,” He doesn’t say “Only sing to Me if you were a music major in college.” He created you to sing – so don’t be shy – start singing!