Transitioning Your Child Into Summer.

Photo: Robyn Wolfe

Photo: Robyn Wolfe

The transition to summer is easier for some children than it is for others. Changes in rhythm and routine can be unsettling. For adults, a child’s irritability at this time of year can be baffling. Isn’t this when they are supposed to be the happiest and most care-free?

As parents it helps for us to remember that the end of a school year is the end of something known, an identity they have worked daily to reinforce through 9 months of schoolwork: 1st grader, 3rd grader, 7th grader. What follows is something as yet unknown. Our children need support as they work with the feelings that this time holds. Every child will process it a little differently.

This is the first summer in which our son’s transition has been relatively smooth. In the past, it took until the month of August for our family to find our current and hum happily. What’s different about this year?

I worked with his temperament. My son is choleric. The first thing I did was set a piano practice challenge for him. We set a high number with 2 milestones to cross and prizes to be earned along the way. Music is a huge part of his life and these goals bring a sense of order and familiarity to the summer months, as well as some fun (as cholerics well understand!).

At the end of the school year, when he wanted a taste of what was to come the following year, I allowed him to explore the work. We home school, and our 4th grade Math book arrived during the final week of 3rd grade lessons. When he was the first to wake up the following morning and took the time to create practice problems on the blackboard, I acknowledged his curiosity and the time he spent learning something new.

Photo: Cristina Havel

Photo: Cristina Havel

His completion of 3rd grade was understated. These transitions are much more pronounced for us than they are for our children, as they have no idea what it’s like to raise a child, watching them learn and grow in what feels like the blink of an eye. I avoid talk of him being a 4th grader. I have learned from years past that even the most well-intentioned build-ups over the course of a summer can have unintended consequences involving undue stress. If we look deeply, we may find that such discussion is an attempt to relieve our own ambivalence about the passage of time. Many children won’t even ask who or what they “are” -- they know! But if they do, a gentle discussion that begins with asking them why they feel the need to know, or how they would characterize themselves, is a good starting point.

We have been engaging in a lot of creative projects and play. Cooking, baking, playing cards, playing basketball, playing music, and being outdoors with our dogs are a few of the things we like to do as a family. We have doubled up, over the past couple of weeks, on time spent doing these sorts of things. This is nourishing for all of us, and appears to bring real comfort to our son. It’s often when our children's minds are most at ease that the pathway to their inner lives are most accessible. Encourage them to communicate. Their answers may be surprising! More importantly, it will free them up to enjoy their time off as well as create space for deep connection.

Bed time has remained consistent. Summer is the season in which all the work from the previous year has time to grow deep roots. Just as we would give a sapling the right conditions to grow into a strong tree, so we do with our son. Plenty of sleep and winding down at the same time every night is invaluable, including -- whenever possible -- throughout travels, entertaining house guests, an increase in sleepovers, and all the other fun that accompanies this time of year. Be sure to allow plenty of time for rest, and don't be afraid to schedule it in like you would anything else.

Happy Summer! Don’t forget to celebrate the Solstice with a special meal outdoors, a sunset hike, or any other ritual that is meaningful to your family. If you don’t have one yet, create it now -- it’s never too late! 

~Cristina

 

*Curious about parenting based on the temperaments? We love these resources:

The Question of Temperaments.

Authentic Parenting - A Four Temperament Guide To Understanding Your Child and Yourself.

The Temperaments and the Adult-Child Relationship.


Cristina Havel lives in Southern California where she and her husband have worked together for nearly 2 decades. They homeschool their son using the Waldorf pedagogy as a guide and believe in the transformative powers of art and nature.

 

 

4 things to know before planning your Waldorf homeschool year.

pedagogy:

noun - ped·a·go·gy  \ˈpe-də-ˌgō-jē also -ˌgä-, especially British -ˌgä-gē\

"...concerns the study of HOW best to teach."


curriculum:

noun - cur·ric·u·lum  \kə-ˈri-kyə-ləm\

" ...refers to the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or program.."  (Or, in other words, WHAT to teach.)
 

Anyone who has come into contact with Waldorf education -- and those of us who have invested our hearts and souls into it’s tenets -- know firsthand the misunderstandings that arise within and around this extraordinary system of education. The aim of this article is to help clear up some fundamental misunderstandings about the Waldorf approach to life and learning, as well as share some of our experiences with the hope that those reading this will be able to better serve the children they are educating. (Initials in parenthesis indicate which author is speaking.)

Photo: Cristina Havel

Photo: Cristina Havel

#1. Waldorf education is a pedagogy (not a curriculum).

Waldorf education is a set of ideas about HOW to teach, laid out by Rudolf Steiner. Waldorf Education is NOT a curriculum - in it's purest form it does not specify which topics and lessons to teach in the classroom. This is a very important distinction to make. It allows an important shift to take place: away from a blanket approach to education, which puts a child’s heart and mind to sleep, and toward an openhearted and living tradition in which the learning process takes on its true purpose: to awaken personal gifts that allow one to be of maximum service to society.

“In a Waldorf school outer forms do not follow set patterns, so that it is quite possible for one teacher to teach his class of nine year olds well, while another, who takes a completely different line, may be an equally good teacher. In this way we plan the curriculum for each year in accordance with the nature of the growing child. As long as the teacher feels in harmony with the underlying principles and with the methods employed, he must be given freedom in his work instead of being tied to fixed standards...” ~Rudolf Steiner, The Renewal of Education, 1920.
Photo: Cristina Havel

Photo: Cristina Havel

(RW) Conversations with mentors over the years have continually reminded me that Steiner never gave specific indications about which topics and subjects should be taught in which grades. This notion of "saints in second grade, farming in third grade", etc. is a convention created by schools needing to be able to assure parents that all children will receive an equal (or at least similar) education from grade to grade no matter who the teacher is. After all, a school can hardly market it's program to tuition-paying parents using the slogan "Our teachers do whatever they feel like!"

 

#2. Steiner felt that freedom was the key.

(CH) It’s not quite that simple, of course, for Steiner believed freedom was essential for teachers, and that they should ideally be able to discern what their students need from grade to grade, based on deep and unbiased observation of the children themselves. Freedom was not viewed in a negative light, as irresponsible or out-of-touch. On the contrary, Steiner felt that freedom was the lynch pin of his pedagogy, and as such that which would most effectively serve the developing child. 

Central to the idea of freedom in music is the concept of improvisation. Jazz pianist Marcus Roberts, in the documentary “Note by Note: The Making of a Steinway”, says the following about creativity and improvisation:

“Improvisation...does not mean “random”. It means that you can only play something that you know. But you can present it in a context that you didn’t know was going to happen, that’s the beauty of it. So in the same way that you live day to day, and you don’t know exactly what the day’s gonna be, you can only do or say or achieve things that are within your grasp of understanding.”
Photo: Cristina Havel

Photo: Cristina Havel

Steiner is well understood in this context. Freedom in education is not the absence of knowing but the deepest of knowledge, coupled with the sense of responsibility to bring it to life in ourselves and the children we teach.

#3. A pre-packaged curriculum is a good *starting point*.

(RW) While often a great place to start, a packaged curriculum is unlikely to perfectly meet the children in front of you every step of the way. They can create an artificial standard .... a set of "shoulds" and "supposed to's" for each grade that could start to resemble dogma, depending on who the facilitator is and how it is being implemented. Of course, packaged curricula offer benefits too. They provide form to a family just beginning their homeschooling journey, when parents are still determining how their children learn best. They provide structure and predictability, two things which are appealing to many families.

(CH) I have a son that is finishing the 3rd grade. After trying to approach the Old Testament block from several different angles, I found myself questioning whether these studies (an absolute staple, in my mind, of the 3rd grade Waldorf curriculum) were right for my child. The stories I read to him -- which I drew from more than one source -- did not make his eyes light up, a hallmark of connection in education. Instead, perplexed looks were followed by lackluster book work. After giving it a lot of thought, I sent a message to Robyn. The following exchange ensued:

Me: Hey! I'm thinking about skipping Old Testament altogether. I'd like to do something more along the lines of Dharma stories. Will that get me kicked out of Waldorf home school?

RW: Have I ever told you what Steiner said about specific subject matter for specific grades?

Me: NO! What? What did he say??

RW: Nothing concrete, actually.

(RW) We went on to discuss Steiner's original intentions for Waldorf education. I explained that the key is to examine your (story, lesson, activity) options and then choose consciously, knowing what the big picture ideals are for the specific age or grade of your child. Grade 3 -- and what is commonly referred to within Waldorf circles as Middle Childhood -- is about the emerging sense of self, or being. Origin stories at the macro level down to stories related to self-knowledge and self-regulation at the micro level are the guiding stars of this age and grade. It is possible to use Old Testament stories from the Bible, Dharma stories from Buddhism, or stories from a number of other belief systems to achieve the same goal. What is important is that you find stories and images and activities that speak to the child's heart based on their current stage of development. THIS is the cornerstone of Steiner's educational philosophy: everything must awaken the child before you. It’s what makes Waldorf education successful and timeless.

Photo: Cristina Havel

Photo: Cristina Havel

#4. Waldorf homeschooling families are uniquely positioned to carry forward a faithful interpretation of Rudolf Steiner's vision for education.

(CH) Small-scale learning environments are best suited for the kind of exchanges that foster awakening both internally and externally. Creativity and flexibility are hallmarks of Steiner's pedagogy. If an activity isn't engaging a child, find another one that does. The point is not to cycle endlessly through activities with the hope that "something will stick". On the contrary, this approach stems from the belief that children long to engage in the world around them and if he or she isn't doing so, it is the responsibility of the educator to remedy the situation. If a child is not ready to write, if math is the source of frustration, try bringing the material to life in a different form. Scale back the amount of book work a child does, or use an established topic of interest as the foundation for handwriting practice, language arts and recall. Tell more stories around Math — or none at all. If she loves languages, recognize her interest in other cultures and encourage her to express herself to whatever degree she would like, including reading and writing. Never hold children back from their interests because they do not conform to a formalized schedule or curriculum. This is antithetical to Waldorf education. The point is to develop creative and generative habits that make learning a lifelong priority, as opposed to education being an act of conformity.

(RW) Now that we're a few years into this journey, we understand deeply that if a particular block or story isn't meeting a child, it should be considered less a failure of the curriculum, and mostly just a hint that something needs to shift. We recognize the signs now, when it's time to select a different set of stories, or change our daily routine to make room for something else. Mostly we understand that there are very few should's and have-to's in Waldorf education, and that our children themselves will help us discern what is needed.

(CH) My son is on the young side for 3rd grade. For this reason I chose to wait until the end of the year to do what is typically the block reserved for Old Testament. I sensed that the material would speak to him on a deeper level once he reached the age of 9 (and the 9-year change, perhaps the subject of another essay).

(RW) I am frequently asked what curriculum we use for homeschooling our two children. I answer this question hesitantly and always with the disclaimer that what we use may not be the right program for other children. In truth, we use many resources. We use one program for math because it speaks to one of our children, and something entirely different for the other child. We design many of our own blocks, but also use a few that are pre-packaged because we know the content will cause our kids' eyes to light up. These are decisions we can make now, only after spending a few years learning the intimate details of their unique learning styles. Truth be told, we initially picked a lot of "wrong" things. Finding your curriculum groove can take some time. Be patient, be open to trial and error, borrow things from friends, and take advantage of the free sample lessons that many curriculum companies offer. Trust that your children WILL let you know what works for them and what doesn't.


Related posts on curriculum planning and Steiner's thoughts on freedom:


Cristina Havel lives in Southern California where she and her husband have worked together for nearly 2 decades. They homeschool their son using the Waldorf pedagogy as a guide and believe in the transformative powers of art and nature.

 

 

An early career as a park ranger led Waldorfish co-founder, Robyn Wolfe, to her love of illustrating and education. Trained initially as both a public school and Waldorf teacher, she has been involved in art + education for over 20 years, including homeschooling her two children. Robyn is currently working as the manifestor of the creative vision held by the Waldorfish team. Working out of the premise that life is short (but sweet!), she empowers soul-filled teachers & families to (re)find their JOY in teaching and making art.

Weekly Art round-up...

The families participating in our Weekly Art program continue to inspire us with their work! 

"I so enjoyed this lesson!  As a teacher - drawing figures for my chalkboard drawings has always been difficult, and I was rarely happy with the results.  Learning how to first draw the gestures and then detailing it.  Soooo much easier and successful!  I will play more with this one!"

~Debra M.


@anthroposofeelings

@anthroposofeelings

@brianwolfe

@brianwolfe

@cdawley

@cdawley

@karenlmw528

@karenlmw528

@sloanbrie

@sloanbrie

@claudinemelnik

@claudinemelnik

@druthyb

@druthyb

@mainsdelaine

@mainsdelaine

I was re-reading an interview Brian did with The BEarth Institute a couple of years ago...my favorite part is his response to this question:

"What makes a (teacher's) drawing 'good enough' for the classroom?"

His reply:

 "I think there are two important qualities that make a drawing successful: 

1. The image is living inside the teacher and the students, meaning the class has heard stories, looked at pictures, studied the subject, etc. and, 

2. The students see the teacher or parent striving to become better as he/she draws & teaches. 

I think a love of creating beautiful images for the children and a willingness to strive for improvement is the best anyone can do."

"I want to thank you for the thoughtfulness you put into the order of presenting projects. I very much enjoy the breathing-in - breathing-out quality that comes with different projects."

~ Kay S.


Breakfast cookie recipe!

Following up on my Instagram post....

Breakfast Cookies

:: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F ::

Ingredients:

3/4 cup flour (split white flour, whole wheat flour, almond meal...whatever works for your family)

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

/2 tsp baking powder

2/3 cup soft butter

1/3 cup honey

3/4 cup raisins, dried blueberries, or other dried berry of your choice (chop them if they're big)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 medium red apple (grated, you can peel, but I usually don't)

1 1/2 cups quick oats

1 cup shredded medium cheddar

 

Directions:

  • mix flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a large bowl
  • cream butter, honey, egg and vanilla in a smaller bowl
  • add creamed ingredients to flour mixture
  • stir in apple, oatmeal, dry berries and cheese
  • place large Tbsp-ful's on cookie sheets (ungreased, or use parchment) - don't flatten them, they will spread out a bit while baking.
  • 13-16 minutes @375 (they're done when the bottoms are brown and you start to see little golden bits on the tops)
  • cool on rack, store in fridge

Weekly Art .... a month in review

The first month of our Weekly Art program has been amazing!! Witnessing families get excited about, and creating art together, has brought both Brian and I so much joy.

This month's four lessons have had families using watercolor paints, chalks & pastels, and beeswax crayons. In each lesson we have shared alternative palettes and design ideas for re-creating each lesson with a different season in mind. 

I've had so much fun checking the discussion area of our online classroom  every morning! There is such a generous spirit of idea-sharing and support happening. With 100+ families involved in this first session of the program, we've got a fantastic, diverse crowd gathered.

If you are not part of the full program and would like to try out some of the lessons, we will be bundling up four lessons at a time and making them available in our shop.

Bundle #1 is available for purchase now!

All our best,

Robyn (w/ Brian nearby)

Weekly Art Archives

Ask, and you shall recieve! Did you miss the registration deadline for our new Weekly Art program? Have no fear! We'll be taking each month of lessons and making them available to everyone!

Purchase anytime -The Weekly Art Archives will officially open on March 1, 2017. 

At the end of each month, we'll bundle up the newest lessons, and make them available here. Learn more about Bundles #1 and #2 by clicking the button, below.