Friday, October 10, 2014

Week 4-Reflections on Waldorf

I’d like to write a little about what I love about Waldorf and what I would like to bring into our homeschool program.  Right now I am loving how much I am learning about things I hadn’t given much thought to before.  I have long been a fan of simple living and minimalism.  I dislike clutter and hoarding things, but there is some aspect of Waldorf education that is very simple in nature.  Limiting toys, media exposure, and even books is encouraged.  I didn’t understand why one would ever limit books, but am discovering that too much information is just as detrimental as too many toys.  As an adult I can definitely relate to information overload and how it contributes to my overall sense of well-being.  What I would like to take from this is not that I have to have all things waldorf in my home, but to really look at how the things we have in our home affect us.

I have had a ‘teaching wall’ up in our house since H was about 3 years old.  It started out with pictures he drew and then I added a calendar and map and it eventually progressed into a full-fledged school room bulletin board complete with fun seasonal boarder.  He is almost 7 now and I know all the kids are rather fond of the posters of the human body and other charts that I have up, but I think it is time for these things to go.  One of the things I am learning more about as I explore Waldorf is the child taking the learning into their being.  That is the best way I can describe it right now.  It is not just learning the alphabet and math facts and that these letters make these sounds, but actually forming a relationship on a deeper level with learning concepts.  For example, each letter of the alphabet is taught with a story and beautiful illustration of the letter and words that start with that letter. So that when they see the letter M, they are not just seeing that letter, but it has become part of them through the story.  I’ll admit that I am just beginning to understand this concept  and am far from truly knowledgeable, but I can really see the value in this kind of learning.  So piece by piece I am removing the ‘meaningless’ letters and numbers and charts from our walls to make space for a deeper learning to take place.

Another thing that I am loving about Waldorf education is the concept of rhythm.  I have developed a family rhythm and we have been practicing for about 5 weeks now and it is wonderful.  Somehow all on their own the children have almost entirely given up on television since the rhythm doesn’t really have any space for it.  That is not to say that they do not have free time, but they have chosen to use their free time for play rather than passive television watching.  Though with Halloween and Christmas right around the corner (plus cold weather), I am interested to see how this plays out through the winter.  We do love to snuggle up and watch our holiday movies (on repeat).  The concept of rhythm is so great (both vast and wonderful) that I will definitely explore it in more detail in the future, but suffice to say it has been life altering and quite meaningful for us. 

The biggest struggle I am having with family life right now is struggling with living up to the Waldorf lifestyle.  It is so easy to get caught up in the thought that my homeschool needs this or that to be complete, especially when the few little things I have done have produced such great results.  It is important for me to remember baby steps and that there is not ONE way to do things.  Also important is to realize that Steiner developed his ideas nearly 100 years ago and while many of the aspects of Waldorf education are still valid and valuable, some things may not be as important or applicable as others.    

Not Back to School 2014

Well hello there, long time no see.  We have (finally) started our homeschool year after a September that started off with a ton of appointments and other 'life stuff'.  I feel so blessed that we were able to delay our beginning to a time that worked best for us.

To recap:  Last year was our first 'official' homeschool year since H was in Kindergarten, though I did purchase a preschool curriculum (that sat unused) for him the year before.  We used Math U See Primer, a workbook that I bought at Sam's Club, and BOB books.  I tried to do an unschool approach with lots of social activities, playdates, parkdays, etc., but unschooling just doesn't vibe with my teacher-y personality (part of my inner work, I suppose).  It was a great year and busy, but H often complained of the 'doing school' part when I had him sit down for BOB, workbook, and Math.  We eased up on the reading because it was becoming a battle and the last thing I wanted was for him to dislike reading.  I told him we would try something different this year.  However, Aaron and I agree that math is very important to us to do in a sequential manner and that we should not bounce around on math curriculum, so we have chosen Math U See for the long haul.

This year I was really looking at using the Oak Meadow curriculum which is very gentle and uses a lot of drawing, crafting, nature, and story-telling, at least that is my understanding of it.  I just couldn't get myself onboard with the price tag though, so I was on ebay trying to score a used copy and losing bid after bid.  It just wasn't meant to be I guess and to make a long story short, I got a slammin' deal on Waldorf Essentials lifetime membership and decided to go with that.  I also found a few wonderfully supportive facebook groups that have been an amazing source of inspiration and information on how to make the Waldorf experience at home. I think this program is EXACTLY what we need as a family.  It comes with a parent curriculum too and I feel so positive about working on myself in regard to mothering and teaching.  So, I have H using Waldorf Essentials first grade and Math U See and A is using Sonlight P4/5 (the aforementioned preschool curriculum I purchased for H and never used).  So let me tell you how it went!

One of the most valuable things I have seen in Waldorf is the concept of rhythm.  I actually started working on our family rhythm 2 weeks before school, trying to establish a routine that included regular clean-up times and walks and very little outside of the household routine.  This involved LOTS of planning and lists which I loved, but I suppose other personalities could do this without the lists/planning.  I could see already that this is going to be a very good thing for AJ who struggles with transitions and going out.        

So by the time we were finally ready to begin on Sept. 15 I would like to say our rhythm was pretty solid, but really the idea of how it should be was solid, we are still working on keeping our rhythm (at least the expectation is there).  We began our journey with a Rose Ceremony which I will describe in another post.  Then dove right into the programs.  By Wednesday H was asking to go back to our old program, but mostly I think he was struggling to adjust to the change in what 'school' looks like.  AJ is doing very well with his program and doing a great job with his drawings.  Though his week was not without struggles including walking away from circle time and complete disinterest in certain stories.

I am still working on developing our circle time.  One thing I read by the creator of Waldorf Essentials was that crafting the life we are striving for takes time and is a bit like painting where new ideas are continually painted, layer by layer, onto the canvas of family life.  This really resonated with me and so I am working on adding new elements a little at a time.  Overall I am very happy with our first week.  It was a struggle, but at the end of the week, we took lots of family walks, drew some beautiful pictures, and spent lots of time together.  Next week brings the fall equinox and we will be including some dragon activities in preparation for Michaelmas.  It is sure to be a fun-filled week! 



Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Leprechauns and Spring, Part 2

We didn't get around to making the shamrock craft, but I saw a similar one with rainbows that could be done anytime.  We had some new older friends over and made play dough.  I was trying for this, but it didn't smell good at all.  I think I could have added more zest.  As always, it was a hit, I let them add glitter, which they loved.  We also tried this tissue bleeding, the only color that worked was purple and the boys weren't too interested in it, upon further review (actually reading the instructions instead of just looking at the pictures), apparently I was supposed to try this with fabric, not paper, LOL.  I had 2 kids doing the tissue bleeding and the other two doing marble painting, which I thought was awesome, but the kids quickly lost interest in.  We played Monopoly and Sorry, made some progress on our hole to the other side of the world, and found 2 garter snakes in the yard (half dead, unfortunately).  Fisher started sucking his thumb, Hudson can count by 10s and 5s, AJ can count to 10.  Read this and was reminded to chill out. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Leprechauns and Spring

This week at our house we will finish celebrating St. Patrick's Day and jump into Spring full force.  Our caterpillars have also arrived, so I have a few ideas to learn about them.

Leprechaun traps, leprechaun rocks, and Shamrocks
We were a little late to make our leprechaun trap (we did that Sunday night).  H was super interested, but dad kind of diverted it into making a squirrel trap.  So we ended up with 2 traps, both half effort.  But at least they were excited and doing something together.  Then they went to bed and the leprechaun left a note saying they would have to be more clever than that to catch him.  That naughty leprechaun also left green pee in the toilet and a pile of leprechaun rocks.  The boys spent the morning 'washing' their leprechaun rocks.  Later we plan to make these:

Caterpillars and butterflies
We checked out a bunch of books at the library.  I want to do this life cycle craft this week.  

Our home school friends are coming over this week to help us get our garden going.  We are going to be putting in some sunflowers along our fence and reading the book The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle

Its a busy week here and I am watching a couple extra kids for Spring Break...all boys!!!  Wish me luck!
I'll try to post an update at the end of the week and let you know how it all went, with pictures of course!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

We're Baaaack!

Follow me on Pinterest Leah

Oh, it's been so long.  I had almost given up on this whole blog thing...

But I like to write, I like to document all the fun stuff we do, I miss it. catch everyone up the past few months we: had a baby, celebrated Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year's, King's Day, Candlemas, Valentine's, Suess Day, and took a trip to the aquarium (2 hours away...what was I thinking?!).  I am sure there was a bunch of other stuff in there too, we are busy people. We also switched to gluten-free and are working on giving up sugar. So while I would love to share all that catch up stuff, let me just post a few pics of the baby and jump in fresh from here, mmmkay.

Baby J
Birth story summary: Born December 7 at home (2VBAC), 13 days late, 1.5 hour labor.  Midwife arrived when his head was already out...LOL, she almost missed it. 9lbs 8oz.
 1 Week
 1 Month
 2 months
3 months

I am not sure if he is the sweetest baby yet or I just Love him so much because I am more experienced with how fast they grow. I'm just really enjoying him and being home with all my kids and daycare kiddos too!  I feel quite blessed lately to have so many wonderful friends, family, and kiddos in my life.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

On Reading and Writing

One of the biggest challenges to homeschooling for me is trying not to push too hard.  I am a natural teacher and would love to just sit down and instruct my kids on how to do this or that, but I realize that is not the best way to teach…especially not when you are trying to teach your own because inevitably some head-butting and resistence will come up.  I know kids can learn to read as young as 3 with rote practice and memorization, but for me I want so much more than for my kids to know HOW to read.  I want them to LOVE to read.  I know my kids will learn to read eventually and I have a great respect for the hardcore unschooler who can just let go and wait for their child to unlock the mystery of reading on their own.  I have decided that we will have reading instruction, but when the kids ask for it or express an interest.  The good news is I don’t think I will be waiting much longer!

Last week I took the kids to the library and H had an immediate interest in books with a certain urgency he has not expressed before.  I am not exactly sure how to describe it, but basically he was interested in a specific book that he heard about on some TV show and had absolutely no interest in working on the computers (which is usually what both children rush to).  It had been at least a month since we had been to the library.  He wanted picture books, comic books, and readers; he was all over the kids section just exploring and looking more intently than before.  We picked out several books and came home.  We read quite a bit of one of the comic books he chose and then I asked him if he wanted to read a BOB book.  He agreed and he did it!  He read the first book through twice and then wanted to read the second book.  Then he was so excited to share his new accomplishment with Dad and Grandma.  I was so proud of him and hope we can continue on this reading road and not have this just be a peek into the world of reading. 

Reading and writing go hand in hand and a few days after our reading excitement H made a big writing jump too!  Grandma was reading the newspaper and the boys took an interest in the toy ads.  So she took the teachable moment to have them write a wish list and encouraged H to write his own.  I heard what was going on and unable to resist the opportunity to ‘teach,’ I came in to assist him in making his list.  It has been over a year since H has taken ANY interest in writing, refusing to even write more than the first letter of his name.  But on Sunday he sat down and wrote a list of about 6 things he wanted.  I helped him sound out and spell the words and pointed out the letters on a chart for reference.  I also helped him with the letter S because I know that making the curvy shape takes some muscle memory and practice (that he hasn’t had). 

I’m so happy and proud, though since he just turned 5 I find myself having those ‘he’s growing up so fast’ moments way too often now.  

A little info on our reading background:
We have practiced Zoophonics off and on for about 2 years, so he has a good basis of letter sounds and he knows the names of all of the letters.  The BOB books are set up so that only a handful of letter sounds are used in the entire book and the text is heavily based on the simple pictures, so they can use the visual clues to decipher the words.  I created a fishing game to practice the words in the book and words in the same ‘word family;’ in this case –AT words. 

The fishing game is: fish shaped index cards with the words on one side and a face on the other and uses paperclips on the cards to attach to a magnet on the pole.     

(Ignore the mess in the background)
Also came across this great link for some BOB printables on Pinterest today:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Smelling Spices

Today we had a spur of the moment smelling and tasting project. AJ took a particular interest in a container of curry spice I had left out, so I let him smell it. He seemed to really enjoy sniffing it, so I pulled out about 12 spices from the cabinet that I thought would be mild smelling/tasting. Both boys had a blast taking a whiff of the spice, pouring a tad onto their paper and tasting it. H got a nose full of ginger spice which was pretty funny; I pulled out some coffee grounds for him to sniff after that to ease the ginger-y pain. (That worked well, until AJ stuck his hand into my coffee grounds and took a big taste…it was NOT decaf). When we finished, AJ was ready to do it all over again, he really enjoyed it. I think we will end up doing this activity again using herbs. A word to the wise...cloves smell really good, but taste VERY spicy. LOL