4 Questions (we should all be asking on behalf of our children)

 

Crafting the rhythm of our children's days and school year can start to feel daunting when we consider all the various options available to our families.

Several years ago it became urgently important that we find a way to distill our planning process down to focusing on the things we considered MOST important. We want to share with you the 4 guiding questions that were the result of our reflections. Brian and I ask ourselves these questions when making decisions for our children, in regards to schooling and at home.

Whether you are new to Waldorf(ish) education, planning your next homeschool curriculum, or looking to make a course correction when you feel like you may have wandered off track, these gems can serve as guideposts. They come out of our successes as well as our failures.

 

Simple. Useable. Right now.

 

The 4 questions:

(I encourage you to take your time reading these. Really savor Each. Word. Perhaps keep a piece of paper nearby to write down your immediate responses & thoughts.)

 

1. Does this (activity, toy or program, etc.) encourage creative thinking? Thinking that is permeated with imagination, flexibility, and focus?

2. Does this experience help foster my child’s emotional intelligence? Is it helping my child develop empathy, and building their self esteem?

3. Is this (activity, toy or program, etc.) promoting my child’s physical vitality, stamina and perseverance?

4. Is this (activity, toy or program) helping to nurture a spiritual depth within my child? One born out of an appreciation and responsibility for the earth, their work and for their fellow human beings?

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Bonus Gem:

This piece, written by longtime class teacher, Steven Sagarin, is such a perfect compliment to this process of reflection:

“What is Waldorf Education” 

(Pro-Tip)

Read his article in chunks, accompanied by good chocolate. Give yourself time to go about your day and let each section sink in before reading the next.

**Essentially, we believe that a Waldorf education can take a variety of forms and still be PERFECT.**

According to each teachers individuality, outer forms of teaching may vary enormously in the different classes, and yet the fundamental qualities are retained...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 9 year olds well, while another who takes a completely different line, can be an equally good teacher...and as long as the teacher feels in harmony with the underlying principals, and with the methods employed, he must be given freedom in his work instead of being tied to fixed standards.
— Rudolf Steiner
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We'd love to hear your thoughts!

All love,

Robyn

 

What is Form Drawing?

"The child’s capacity to develop an integrated sense for spatial orientation – upwards, downwards; left, right; center, periphery – is supported in the practice of form drawing."

Creative Form Drawing with children aged 6-10 years, Workbook 1

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I will freely admit to anyone that knows what Form Drawing is that I was terrified to bring it into a home school environment. What, exactly, was encoded in those mysterious lines and shapes? What esoteric wisdom did I need to attain before I could try to impart this practice to my son? Like most things I fear, the answers were not as complicated as I originally thought. 

Form drawing, it turns out, is a brilliant way to work with one’s senses...senses being of great importance in a Waldorf education. Paper and pencil serve as a lantern, illuminating our inner selves, the forms creating a blueprint of our inner (and outer) orientation.

 

" Rudolf Steiner, in his many lectures on this subject, speaks of twelve senses. Added to the usual five, there is a human sense for rhythm, warmth, balance, movement and so on..."

The Incarnating Child, pg. 73

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Beginning in first grade and extending throughout her time at a Waldorf school, a student engages in drawing exercises that range from very simple to very complex, according to her grade and various topics of study. Straight and curved lines form the foundation for letters in 1stgrade, for Celtic knots in 4th and Geometry in middle school. Over and over, drawing both imparts knowledge and folds it back into oneself. 

 

"Straight lines and curves are the starting points for form drawing. This begins with the discovery that the line is a path along which one can move. Children should experience the characteristic difference between straight lines and curves through drawing them, after having explored their character through whole bodily movement in space."

- The Tasks and Content of the Steiner-Waldorf Curriculum, p.137

 

 

Much can be ascertained about the Form Drawer from this kind of work, and the analytical angle is an important one. There is, however, another important aspect of Form Drawing that should not be overlooked: it’s a lot of fun. As soon as I embraced Form Drawing as the journey itself (instead of a perfect form being the destination), our weekly work became something to look forward to.

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Don't forget to practice!

Forms can and should be returned to time and again for a variety of reasons that will become clear to you as you study, draw, reflect, and repeat. Remember that they are not about achieving anything in particular. Think of them as a friendly guide. 

Form Drawing is a deep ocean that one could spend an entire lifetime learning to navigate. Don’t let this stop you from jumping in. Buy a book, look up #formdrawing on social media and reach out to people whose ideas are of interest to you, but most importantly pick up a pencil, chalk, stick or block crayon, suspend your judgment, and encourage your child to do the same. 

This radical act of trust in the power of art to teach and transform is the lynch pin of Waldorf Education.


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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.

 

 

More from Cristina:

More Than Meets the Eye: The Role of Art in Waldorf Education

Transitioning Your Child Into Summer

New course line-up!

We've finalized our course offerings for our next school year! Individual info pages for each one will be available soon on our website. For those who, like us, get a little twitchy with all the waiting, here's what we know for certain .....

 

Geometry  

Photo credit: Jessica Richardson

Photo credit: Jessica Richardson

Brian is teaming up with fellow Waldorf teacher, Caitlin Amajor, for this G5-8 series! We have a FAQ page here, where you can learn more about this artistic, inspired program. Registration opens on July 15th! Courses begin on Sept. 3rd. There is also a link to a new free lesson on the FAQ page. 

 

 

Grade One wet-on-wet painting

Waldorf teacher Amanda Mercer has been busy creating a beautifully supportive program for the Waldorfish community! This video series will guide parents & teachers on a journey through each primary color via wet-on-wet painting techniques & original verses. G2 and G3 courses are in the pipeline as well, although release dates for these are not set yet. The G1 course is OPEN for enrollment! Learn more about it, here!

Photo credit: Amanda Mercer

Photo credit: Amanda Mercer

 

Weekly Art (Anthology)  

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For the 2018/2019 school year we are pulling together our favorite lessons from the first two sessions of this program! This collection will be perfect for families who have not participated in WA previously. As in prior sessions, the lessons will post x1 per week, and Brian & I will be actively involved in the classroom. Registration will open July 15th, the course will begin August 10th. (see updated info, here!)

 

Festival Art  

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We're teaming up with storyteller Sara Logan for this new course! 10 original/adapted stories paired with art lessons to carry your family through the full circle of a festival year!! This course is ideal for families who have previously participated in the Weekly Art program, or those looking for less frequent art lessons than offered in our other programs. NOTEthis program will initially only be available to WA students currently enrolled in the '17-18 session. It will become available to the whole community in time for the '18 Advent season!

 

As always, send us your thoughts + questions by emailing us at support@waldorfish.com

All our best to you from the garden,

~Robyn (& Brian nearby) Wolfe

 

Staying True to Steiner: Honoring the interplay between routine and variety.

At the crack of dawn on a recent Sunday morning, my husband and I -- and our 9-year-old son -- piled sleepily into our car in Los Angeles and started driving across the Sonoran desert to watch a baseball game in Arizona. About 3 hours later, we crossed into our neighboring state and made note of the meandering border between us: the Colorado River, glistening gold and blue.

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After experiencing some highs and lows (low: the Dodgers lost; high: the acquisition of a game ball) we drove 5 hours home. On the same day.

Why would we do that, you might ask? Well, there are two answers to that question.

One is, we had to work on Monday.

The second is, we are a homeschooling family.

We follow the Steiner tradition of education, and in his words: “the children are the curriculum” (Tasks and Content of the Steiner-Waldorf Curriculum, pp. 15).

I take that to mean that our children and their interests, abilities, and experience of the world cannot and should not be segregated. In order for our son to truly get a feel for distance and time, we felt that it was important for him to see the expansive desert for himself and experience it by day and by night. Our hope when he is a father, is that he too will be inclined to make sacrifices for his children, and do things that they will remember for the rest of their lives, even if they are tiring and inconvenient for him. Love is action, and education encompasses not only knowledge but character-building.


I was clear about the fact that school was not going to be happening on Monday morning after a 18-hour day on Sunday. However when we did return to our school work, I had a good idea of what I wanted him to explore.


"A variety of ways and means are needed to bring vital skills and useful knowledge to young people so that they feel inspired by and invested in learning: education is a process through which culture becomes personalized, and in becoming personalized, culture is also changed and re-charged." (Tasks and Content, pp. 14)
 

The first involved his love of the Japanese language and his favorite baseball player, Dodgers pitcher Kenta Maeda. I printed out a screenshot I’d taken from Maeda’s Instagram story on game day and my son got to work translating his message. Maeda, born in Osaka, writes almost exclusively in his native language. The abbreviated nature of Instagram Stories made it a suitably brief passage for translation.

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"...heart, head, and hands [form] the primary educational paradigm at a Waldorf school. Rather than focus the educational work solely around the objective of acquiring knowledge, creating a meaningful learning process itself becomes the focus." -- Jack Petrash, Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching From The Inside Out, pg. 24

The second thing I asked of him, after we studied the southwestern United States in our atlas, was to record a blind contour drawing of the Colorado River in his Geography main lesson book, then write in landmarks on either side of the border. It was interesting to watch him decide what to include, and moving to see him join the great human endeavor of understanding ourselves and our places by putting pencil (and in this case, a beeswax block crayon) to paper.

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Routine is essential, but so is variety. Check the boxes, but think outside the box. None of the activities described above were directives found in a pre-packaged Waldorf curriculum (not that I do not love and make use of several, I do!), but I believe that they are aligned with Steiner’s ideas about education.

Steiner emphasized a creative framework above all else. No matter what your sources, have fun and trust yourself!

(photo credits: Cristina Havel)


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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.