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.

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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.

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?

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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?

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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?

early-10

  • 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,

Let Me Move You

movement 13Out of mothering instinct – I did a few things right. Two out of three of my children probably would have been on Ritalin if they’d been in the public school. They just couldn’t seem to sit still to learn. So, instinctively, I used their wiggles for them instead of against them. We ran and played, or swam every day. We skipped rope or hopped up and down stairs to memorize spelling words. We wrote math problems with sidewalk chalk in the driveway. Before I had even heard of Waldorf Education – I was doing instinctually what Waldorf does intentionally, and what modern science has deemed beneficial to education.

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Waldorf emphasizes movement. In early education (before age 7) kids move through free play and games, whereas elementary teachers organize it and make it an integral part of the educational process. During circle time, children move to music and beat – reciting literature, math facts and foreign language. In the Waldorf classroom, students may march around the room spelling words, or toss bean bags to recite times tables. To learn to “write” student’s learn hand-eye coordination and finger dexterity by learning to knit and modeling with bee’s wax, as well as reciting finger plays in circle time. Even high schoolers are encouraged to move and exercise in a Waldorf setting. If a child has special needs – he gets “extra lessons” – which are taught almost completely through movement.

movement 10What Waldorf teachers have been practicing for a century, scientific studies (mainly conducted in the 1990s) have proven to be beneficial to the educational process. Scientists have connected the dots between movement and education – physical activity and the ability to learn. Studies have proven the link between physical movement and vision, physical movement and the development of language, physical movement and memory, physical movement and the ability to pay attention.  Researchers have also found that as well as improving academic performance, exercise improves behavior and social skills. And movement dramatically improves dexterity, reading, speaking, and comprehension in children with learning differences and special needs. In a study done in 2003, children who spent a larger portion of their day in physical activity scored higher on standardized tests than those who learned traditionally by sitting at a desk.  One of the coolest things I’ve learned is that physical movement can regenerate the brain – for one’s entire life! As an adult, the more I exercise the more learning my brain will be able to accomplish.

 

movementI recently sat on an airplane next to a woman who had taught kindergarten for 30 years. When she started, the kids went for half a day, in which they played, read a couple of books, learned to cut, tie their shoes, sing the alphabet, and count to 20. She said, kids used to have fun – they wanted to come to school. Then she told me about the changes – how now the kids come to school all day and have a 20 minute recess. If they are “bad in class” – although they need the recess more than other kids – recess is what is taken away as punishment. The kids are expected to come into kindergarten knowing their letters and numbers and to leave reading and doing simple arithmetic. Kids no longer enjoy coming to school. She was planning to retire – because she didn’t enjoy coming anymore either.

 

movement 11Maybe I’ve been doing a few too many jumping jacks, because I’m putting all the facts together. I’m excited that my instincts and natural inclination are backed up by science – and that there is a proven educational philosophy, which at its very core, implements these practices.

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Sources used in article (and for your own personal research)

“High physical activity levels in a Waldorf school reflect alternative developmental understandings” by Elisa J. Sobo

http://sheu.org.uk/x/eh311ejs.pdf

“Teaching with the Brain in Mind, 2nd Edition” Chapter 4, by Eric Jensen

http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/104013/chapters/Movement-and-Learning.aspx

“Practical and Ethical Considerations: The basis for a school-wide, all-students approach to learning foundations” by Jeff Tunkey and Amanda Boyler

http://www.movementforchildhood.com/uploads/2/1/6/7/21671438/remedial.pdf

“Remedial Education” by Mary Jo Oresti

http://www.waldorflibrary.org/images/stories/articles/remedialeducation.pdf

“Games, Gymnastics, Sport in Child Development” Rudolf Kischnick, translated by Edeline Le Fevre

http://www.movementforchildhood.com/uploads/2/1/6/7/21671438/kischnick_pt1.pdf

Imitation: The Sincerest Form of Flattery – Unless it Reveals Your Flaws

 

Cheerleaders

My dad only wished my skirt was this long!

I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen my dad cry. The night I made the high school cheerleading squad was one. He knew how much I’d dreamed of it, how obsessed my practice had been and how I’d babbled for years about being a cheerleader. My sophomore year, my cheerleading coach told me I had to quit debate so I could devote more time to cheer. I cried. Then I quit cheer. It was one of those decisions in life that defines you as a person. Somehow my fifteen year old self knew that my soul would be more satisfied in research and rhetoric than physical excellence and social notoriety.

Thirty (and change) years later, I would still rather feed my mind than my body. I much prefer researching educational philosophies to planting rose bushes. I’d rather read a book than bake bread. Words are my favorite art medium.

Thus the challenge. Rose would rather play on the phone or the computer than do handwork or play outside. It dawned on me that she wants to be like me. She has at least ten good years left before she decides if she wants to be a nerd like me.

All dressed up

Like mother like daughter

Her life and learning revolves around imitation. Joop van Dam in his article Understanding Imitation through a Deeper Look at Human Development wrote, “Imitation lives and moves in the child with these two legs or wings: that which opens to the world inwardly from the body and that which opens to the world in trust…Whenever children have the chance, they will eagerly watch a craftsman at work. They see the blacksmith, for instance, and drink in his gestures, and, later, they will play them out. These work gestures build the body. When a child has the opportunity to do many kinds of work in the first seven years, then she is able to build up her body in differentiated ways. Her body becomes an instrument with all kinds of tones and colors. This is a body the individuality can enter and live in for a lifetime.”

Imitation, according to Waldorf education, is the second law of childhood. It is also Biblical. The apostle Paul wrote, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”

So, I need to be and do what I want Rose to be and do. I need to remake myself.

climbing tree 2

Maybe we’ll wear more appropriate clothes

I need to get in touch with the me I was before the Debate vs. Cheerleading decision. The me that built Barbie Dream houses on the branches of trees I had climbed. The me that was excited to eat Swanson Chicken Pot Pies because I had a new tin for creating mud pies. The me that ran races with the boys – and won. The me that created swimming holes from beaver dams. The me that spent hours searching river banks for the most beautiful rocks for my collection. I need to play more.

I also need to be a me I’ve never been. I really don’t like “meaningful work.” In fact, I don’t like anything that has the word “work” attached to it. I need to work more.

To work more, I need to:

Repent. God commands us to work, “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. “(2 Thessalonians 3:10-12)

Change my mindset. Work is not a bad word – in fact God told Adam to work before sin entered the world – which means God saw work as good. We were created to work. Work glories God. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

mother daughter

Mind-blowing: Rose wants to be like me!

I must be ever mindful that what I do is being seen and imitated by a growing young mind and body. “’Imitation’ is the magic word in the child’s education until the age of nine or ten, when it is gradually replaced by other forms of learning. The child’s habit of imitating us—filled with great trust and equally great expectations—exhorts us to be worthy of that imitation. Not lectures, but meaningful actions meld a ‘brain’ which is capable of thinking meaningful thoughts. Inconsistency has the opposite effect.” (Dr. Helmut von Kügelgen, The Laws of Childhood)

Now that I have been convicted, repented, and am changing my mindset on who I need to be and what I need to do, I must do it. Here’s my game plan for this year:

  1. Have a house cleaning routine. I set this up last fall, but haven’t really worked it. I’m going to be more consistent.
  2. I’ve already began loving to cook. I love the smell of chopping fresh herbs, and garlic and onions sautéing in a skillet. I truly feel happy and fulfilled when I serve a wholesome delicious meal.
  3. This spring, I’m learning to garden. This is a huge leap of faith, as I kill even indoor plants, and gardening is a lot of work (Ugh)
  4. Do more handwork. I am currently hand-making two quilts for my new grandbabies. I actually like this job. There is something so relaxing about feeling the texture of cashmere in your lap, and the melodic rhythm of hand stitching.
  5. This summer, I am going to teach myself to knit – so I can teach Rose next school year.

I’m a little scared – scared of falling back into comfortable patterns, and scared of failure, and mostly scared of not being worthy of Rose’s imitation. But I’m also excited about this new adventure and the changes God is making in me. Don’t think I’ll give up the old, book-loving, research-obsessed, want-to-be-writer, me – I will just save the nerdy me for after Rose goes to bed.

Feel free to ask me how it is going – I need the accountability.

Media Addiction Withdrawls

TVI admit it. I use the screen time as a babysitter.  Having only a teenager and  a preschooler left at home, it was so easy to turn on the tube when I wanted to discuss Plato’s Republic. Call it lazy parenting, it was convenient to hand my daughter the iPad when I wanted  time alone. It simply took too much thought and effort to create activities to keep her busy. I know, I know, if I had raised her without media, she’d probably be able to entertain herself for more than fifteen minutes.  I take full responsibility, I created a monster – or in reality an addict.

I recently read a report in which college students were asked to “unplug.” The results were the same around the world.

“Students’ ‘addiction’ to media may not be clinically diagnosed, but it sure seems real: Students from around the world spoke about their ‘addiction’ and ‘dependence’ on media – and backed up that rhetoric by citing related feelings. So students based in China mentioned that they felt ‘lonely,’ ‘anxious,’ ‘fretful,’ ‘extremely upset,’ and even ‘crazy.’  Students in Slovakia spoke about being ‘nervous,’ and noted their feelings of ‘emptiness.’ Students based in the UK said they were ‘fidgety,’ ‘restless,’ and that they had to fight down their ‘urges to connect‘ and their ‘panic.’  Students in USA universities noted that they felt ‘stressed‘ and ‘paranoid,’ and had even adopted such physical twitches as ‘twiddling‘ their thumbs. Students from Mexico reported that they felt ‘sad‘ and ‘desperate.’ Again and again, students compared their media ‘dependency’ to other more documented addictions. A student based in Slovakia observed, for example, “Until this day I thought I am addicted to only three things: money, sex and chewing of chewing gums, but after my today’s experience I found out that there’s another addiction: an addiction to media.” And three students based in the UK compared their media use to a smoking habit, to abuse of alcohol, and to an eating disorder.” https://theworldunplugged.wordpress.com/addictions/#anchor2

Computor

Last week we “unplugged.” – Or shall I say tried to “unplug.” My five year old showed many of the same symptoms of the college students.  The first day, she had a serious “melt down.” She cried and screamed for thirty minutes when I first said, “no.” She was anxious and clingy most of the day. I caved around dinner time – for my own sanity.

Day two was a little better. Day three, I failed completely and Netflix was turned on with breakfast and was off and on throughout the day, I just didn’t have time to deal with this. Then I realized – I have to make time in my life to deal with the addiction I created. As they say in Addiction Support Groups – when you relapse, get back up, NO SHAME.

So here I am again. Day One. The second Day One is going much better than the first Day One. When I said, “No TV,” She said, “Awww Mom,” then went off to play. Maybe there is hope – for both of us.


“Mike Teavee…”

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by the wise man Roald Dahl)

The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set–
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all the shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink–
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSES IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK–HE ONLY SEES!
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY…USED…TO…READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic takes
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy–Winkle and–
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How The Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole–
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks–
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start–oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hears. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.
P.S. Regarding Mike Teavee,
We very much regret that we
Shall simply have to wait and see
If we can get him back his height.
But if we can’t–it serves him right.


And for your screen time pleasure

Forest School

“The best kept classroom and the richest cupboard are roofed only by the sky” Margaret McMillan (c1925) Nursery Schools and the Pre-school Child NSA Publication

climbing tree

I was so proud when I could finally climb the walnut tree. I had conquered the apple a couple years earlier, but the lowest branches of the walnut were higher than my little arms could reach even by leaping off the ground. When I finally learned to shimmy up the trunk so I could pull myself into it’s outstretched arms, I felt so close to heaven. It was my favorite spot in our yard. Who needed a pink highrise house for Barbie? My Barbie and Skipper would ride by their hair in my clenched teeth as I took them to their tree house in the sky. The leaves and branches became their home.  I discovered Amelia Bedilia, Pickles the Fire Cat, and Danny and the Dinosaur in the warmth of its branches.

Growing up in Portland, Oregon afforded me the luxury of discovering and falling in love with the outdoors. Our yard was overgrown with wild berries, which brush created natural hiding places. It hosted an apple and walnut tree and a few fruitless ones, including the one which gave me secret passageway into my bedroom window on the second story.  And the scent of lilacs will forever give me the warm fuzzy feeling of home, as we had them in front of the house.

Day trips took me to the mountains, were I remember forging a beaver dam to make swimming hole in a mountain creek. Another trip took me to the ocean, were I searched long hours for whole sand dollars. In later elementary school, fishing trips were a time to get by myself, sit on a large rock or log and sing praises to God as I listened  to the stream rippling over the rocks.  I felt completely at peace with myself and with the world.

Guess its mid-life crisis that makes me want to get back to my roots. I married a city boy and we raised our older kids in the Dallas Fort Worth suburbs, and I drove them to and fro to this activity and that. They have grown into godly wonderful individuals who had different growing up experiences than I did. But, I desire to share my love of nature with my little one. It will just take a little more effort since we live in a subdivision that mowed down all the trees before building “little boxes made of ticky tacky … little boxes all the same.” (Malvina Reynolds, Little Boxes)

This new found desire has lead me to research Forest Schools. “The philosophy of Forest Schools is to encourage and inspire individuals of any age through an innovative, long term, educational approach to outdoor play and learning in a woodland environment.” (https://www.forestschools.com/).

Off the trail adventure

Spiritually, my goal for Rose and myself, is to experience and worship God in a new way.

The Bible is clear that nature is important and it brings us a greater understanding of who God is.

“God’s invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” (Romans 1:20)

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”  (Psalm 19:1)

0 July 13Nature helps us understand ourselves and our place in the world.

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him” (Psalm 8: 3 – 4)

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:25 – 30)

I want my daughter to learn to worship outside the church walls, experiencing nature as it worships the Living God.

484348_10151128237417120_1829397950_n

“Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord.”  (1 Chronicles 16:33)

“the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:12)

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD.” (Psalm 96:11 – 12)

I pray that someday Rose will sit alone on the side of a running stream under a canape of trees and lift her voice in praise the Creator of all.

Whistle While You Work

Work is Good. In the beginning, God made man. He put him in the Garden of Eden and gave him work to do. “The LorMeaningful workd God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15)

Man was given work BEFORE sin entered the world. Man was created to find purpose through work. Work is not a result of sin, work is good and perfect.

I believe sin distorted the concept of work. One of God’s punishments for Adam’s disobedience was that there would now be toil in the work. The work would now be hard. And somehow man interpreted it as work itself is part of the punishment for evil.

God is glorified when we work – because that is what He designed us to do.

The Bible tells us to work, to work with a good attitude, and to work for the Lord and not for man.

“Whatever your hands find to do, do it with your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” (Philippians 2:4)

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for man.” (Colossians 3:23)

If we were designed to work – shouldn’t we teach our children to do so?

Waldorf is a big proponent of “purposeful work” – especially for early education, but I believe it should run throughout.

What is purposeful work and how is it accomplished?

The idea is that teachers, in homeschoolers case parents, keep busy working, so the children can imitate and work along side. When indoors, parents can cook, wash dishes, dust, sweep, do laundry, mend clothes, etc. Outdoors, parents can weed, rack, garden. According to Rudolph Steiner simply watching adults work is bendficial to a child’s development. “If before the seventh year children see only foolish actions in their surroundings, the brain will assume the forms that adapt it to foolishness in later life.” (“The Role of Purposeful Work in a Waldorf Kindergarten” http://www.waldorflibrary.org/articles/736-the-role-of-purposeful-work-in-a-waldorf-kindergarten)

As I researched, I read a wide array of ways teachers accomplish purposeful work. I have to admit I found some to be outright funny. Carving a spoon, to me is not purposeful work – washing, drying and putting a store bought one in the drawer is. Carving a spoon is at best handwork, a craft project – but purposeful work it is not. I  have also read that “purposeful work” is living like it was 1950 – washing clothes and dishes by hand, etc. But for those of us living in the 21st Century – it is not overly purposeful, unless your purpose is to live off the grid – in which case you are probably not reading this blog.

To me, purposeful work is doing the things that need to be done to live NOW – cooking, cleaning, laundry, car repair, yard work, caring for animals. Seriously – I have enough to do without creating more work for myself. I personally have no objection to a washer and dryer and gasp – a dishwasher.

Working 2

Children develop in multiple ways when they engage in purposeful work – physical, mental, character, social and spiritual.

Physical – Sweeping, racking, pulling weed all take muscles. What you can’t see is many of the of these movements also develop right left brain connection through cross-over movement.

Mental – Kids can learn problem solving through figuring out which is the flower and which is the weed. They also learn pay attention to detail as they wash a dish and examine it to see whether there is still food stuck on it.

Character – – “Research indicates that those children who do have a set of chores have higher self-esteem, are more responsible, and are better able to deal with frustration and delayed gratification.(http://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/responsibility-and-chores/part-i-benefits-of-chores/#benefits)

Social – When kids work along side their parents and siblings they see themselves as being an intricate part of the family unit and to society. They can be proud of being a  contributing member of a group.

Spiritually – If we teach our kids to “work as unto the Lord” they are connecting to their Creator as He designed them to be.

Work is good. Work is good for kids.

Have have you incorporated purposeful work into your daily rhythm?