Tuesday, December 27, 2016
I'll start with a summary of my own upbringing as a Waldorf student in grade school. There was much talk and "wisdom" shared in our community that limited any sort of electronic media--at that time it was namely TV (and the ads that come with it) and movies, because we didn't have a family computer until I was 15 and I did not have access to the World Wide Web until I was in college. From my earliest memories I was only allowed to watch the Educational/Community channel, and I did watch a lot of Sesame Street and Mr. Rodgers. My experiences of those shows from when I was a small child is so vibrant and warm in my mind. When I got older we were allowed to watch one 30-mintute show per day, and then when shows were lengthened to an hour it became one hour total per day. However. If I went to the home of a friend who was allowed to watch as much TV as they liked then that's all I wanted to do--I would beg or manipulate my friends into watching movies or TV as much as possible. At our house, every time my parents were busy outside or when I was alone in the house, my sister and I would go into our living-room and watch TV--whatever we could find of interest on the 13 broadcast channels we had available. If my parents came home or came into the room before we could get out we would quickly change the channel to the Education channel because we knew we would be in less trouble watching that than other channels. When I got older I used to think back on this practice as "being sneaky" which I suppose it was, but through the lens of Unschooling and after reading a couple of books by John Holt I now see how adaptable and enterprising and insatiable I was at gaining access to this fascinating means to experiencing the world. My sister and I discussed it as teenagers and SWORE that we would allow our kids to watch TV freely so that they weren't so starved for it and captivated by it like we were.
When my first-born, my son, was small some friends got us Baby Einstein videos and by the time he was one year old I would put that on to help get time to shower, clean, do laundry, etc. When he was two I started working part-time from home at two-and-a-half his little sister was born and so he watched more and more TV. Around the time he was three, all of his friends were going to preschool and I knew that neither he nor I was ready for that so I started researching and decided to pursue Waldorf edcuation for him, starting with our Waldorf at home. We decided to go cold-turkey without "tuvie," and spent many hours at parks and play dates and museums to keep busy until eventually we just didn't turn on the TV anymore. I noticed that my son played more, and when his sister was old enough she also played with or without someone else participating.
Throughout their years at Waldorf school I supported low-media lifestyle, but I see the reasoning with new eyes today. The reason that I ALWAYS gave people was that it let them engage with each other and friends in a more organic way without influences from sources outside of their day-to-day life. Beauty in simplicity is a strong theme I found at our Waldorf schools. I worked and volunteered many hours at our Waldorf schools and I noticed that the children who watched a lot of TV or movies, and later in video games, talked a lot about what they were seeing and experiencing when they came to school. Of course the children always process their experiences in a myriad of ways, even bringing home stories and songs and bits of information from school. But from the school's perspective (and mine, as a tuition-paying parent,) most topics encountered in media weren't relevant at school and were distractions from the curriculum presented at school. There is another perspective in Waldorf education that centers around rounded and experiential learning. For example, a student learns about numbers by collecting something that occurs in abundance in the local natural environment, like acorns in the Sierra Foothills of CA. They sort and place acorns in bags to represent place value. They hear stories about numbers and learn to move their bodies and catch balls in patterns to support their full-body experience of numbers and patterns. Another example is the learning about space. In a Waldorf school the teaching progresses in alignment with human experience and learning. Noticing with their feet planted firmly on the ground everything that man might have noticed a thousand years ago - and building on this experience; layering new knowledge and awareness and perspective as the children grow older and their minds typically more able to work with abstract concepts.
Just in writing this piece it has become clear to be that any educational path is a choice, and ideally it's a conscious one. I have loved the fluid, graceful, beautiful, and thoughtful way that Waldorf brings children into their world. And yet, at its foundation it is a choice of prescription, just a different perscription developed initially by a man who spent his entire life considering human beings and our relationship to each other and our world--spiritual, physical, and metaphysical. And later developed by others who similarly had the idea of a peaceful and happy society operating from an enlightened perspective out of love, empathy, and conscious thought around all actions and experiences. I don't know how things would be different had I known about Unschooling when my children were small... and as this type of thought or regret goes I know that we have learned and grown so much from our Waldorf experience, so much that I don't know who or where we would be now without it! But the more we get into the flow of our natural-learning and life the more I wish I had.known.
Tuesday, March 01, 2016
Within that first year of Waldorf home preschool we discovered a Waldorf-inspired preschool in our area... and a couple of years later decided to move away from that area because there wasn't a true Waldorf school there.
We spent eight years happily at two different Waldorf schools and I believed that we would stay with this mode of education through high school. We even moved from CA to OR, in large part in order to let the kids attend a Waldorf school that goes through 12th grade.
I spent the last decade volunteering 20+ hours per week in committee work, serving on the Board of Trustees, Parent Council, and a myriad of other working committees to support the structure and work of two Waldorf schools and it was SO very fulfilling. I grew as an individual in wisdom and inner strength, and all of it supported growth in my paid/professional career as well. The kids seemed to do well in the beginning with Waldorf and of course I appreciated the beauty and intention in the curriculum, but as we got into the grades I started to notice signs of stress in each child.
Molly was the model student - her work and behavior were held as models for the class and for visiting teachers. She would come home EXHAUSTED and prone to huge emotions which I still believe were due to the immense amount of effort that she put into holding herself up at school. She is a perfectionist and it causes her stress when she isn't "doing it right" from the very first. And in school there is a LOT to get right; a lot of external expectation and thus she self-imposed all of that expectation and more on herself.
Dylan is a dreamy young person. He loved the stories and loved being with other kids with time to play. But his focus is his own and while he spent two hours at home one day building an airplane from a shoe box and hand-helicopter, he would spend most of his classroom time staring out the window. We finally hit our limit when he entered 6th grade and the school he attended implemented special Math classes four days per week. The Math classes included daily homework. We worked diligently and patiently at home with Dylan to support his successful completion of the homework. He spent many nights crying and lying on the floor in agony over the stress of focusing on numbers on paper. Each day he needed to re-remember the steps and processes. Each day it was brand new. And each day he struggled. We did get to a point where we were caught up with the homework but then received an email from the class teacher--she had evaluated each student's math skills and sent home a packet of work that represented the amount of practice and "catch up" that they needed on skills. Dylan's packet was an inch thick. It was then that I realized that we were going about this all wrong.
My whole goal for my children's lives is for them to become who they are--who they're meant to be. This means supporting them where they are and allowing them to explore while finding what they love and what "feeds" them as individuals. I finally realized that school no longer was supporting that goal. I started to think about homeschooling again. And in researching homeschool ideas that support natural and life learning I was reintroduced to Unschooling. I first heard of Unschooling from my Mom, who clearly thought the whole idea was nuts. My cousin was unschooling her three (maybe already four at that time) children and she spent time doing outdoorsy things and reading to them... just living life. Because it was presented to me as crazy, I honestly didn't even try to get it at that time...and we were already started on our Waldorf path so. Now we've come back to it and I started to read. And learn. And my mind opened. And I listened to The Unschooling Life Podcast that broke down all the principals, and I cried through many of them at the time lost and at my own experiences as a child. And I joined the Facebook group, Radical Unschooling Info and our local Portland Unschoolers... and breathed. I talked to the family about homeschooling after a WONderful holiday break in late 2015 and everyone was on board. And so it began.
*pre-dated to reflect the time I wrote this post.*
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
The goal of Waldorf education is, in the most simple of words, to create happy people. In more words, it's to support children into becoming happy adults who know themselves and their own value in this world--and who are interested in their own world and the people in it, and thus they care for others and the earth with love and consciousness. This philosophy is the means to the ultimate goal, which is to further social renewal--to create a society that will be peaceful, and to create systems that support people and the natural world as opposed to teaching/forcing people into systems in order to support the system itself.
On to the philosophy of unschooling which, as I've read it in several places, is the following: to help a child be who she is and blossom into who she will become. Unfortunately that will be my only direct comment about unschooling because I'm not experienced enough yet to give any opinion about how this is accomplished in-practice. But this desciption of the unschool philosophy goes to the heart of Waldorf philosophy. In Waldorf education, children are respected for themselves as well as for their potential as human beings. While guided by adults, one of the things that people notice first about Waldorf students is their ability to look adults in the eye and be confident in their communication. I believe this is because the teacher knows the students so well, and practices conscious ways of connecting with them on a daily basis. It's part of the Waldorf teacher's job to help discover where a child shines and where challenging him would help him know himself and the world around him; to help her learn about culture and history in a way that speaks to their inner being as developing humans while showing where we've been in a holistic way; to explore the world with children both in the classroom and out. In unschooling it's the parent's job to support the child's becoming. The other difference is more inferred from the description of the goals described above. Unschooling focuses on the child's experience of the world and herself as the means toward being happy, while Waldorf, also interested in the child's experience of the world and herself as the means to being happy, does this with a greater explicit goal for a community that cares for others and works together in a global community for peace and care of the Earth, our home.
As a mother, I'm most interested in my child's future life and believe that's my job to care for it as much as possible. I see the years of their childhood as fleeting and want to foster the best possible relationship for them with themselves and due to our proximity, their parents. There is little that I can do directly to affect the fate of the world, but by doing my small part to help my own children with their relationship to and within it, I believe that they will be more open to the care of others. I think that this is implied by the goals for unschooling--happy people tend to have room in their hearts to care about others and be interested in the world around them. At the least, I'm willing to bet that this connection with the world is a side-effect of unschooling even if it never enters the parent's mind to value this for their child.
"...Waldorf Method of Education strives to awaken and ennoble capabilities, rather than to merely impose intellectual content on the child. Learning becomes much more than the acquisition of quantities of information... learning becomes an engaging voyage of discovery of the world, and of oneself.
Steiner maintained that the materialism underlying modern life was disastrous. He urged his followers to awaken to the spiritual origin of nature and destiny of the human being...A Waldorf Education is meant to be the beginning of a life long love of learning."
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Friday, September 29, 2006
Kai and Dylan had fun playing with the dough for a while, I read the Michaelmas Story from All Year Round, and then Erica and I shaped the dragons. :) We put the dragons in to bake and the kids played while Erica and I had tea. Well, Erica had tea--Dylan tripped over my tea, which I had so thoughtfully placed on the floor. :( The recipe said that the dragons should bake for 15-20 min, but maybe that was for smaller dragons. Our dragons, 1/2 the dough each, took about 30 min. I had to put them on the lower shelf of the oven so that they wouldn't burn on their ridged backs.
After playing for a while, we lit the cadles on the table and had lunch--vegetable soup and some Oat Bread that I had already made since the dragons weren't done yet. The boys really enjoyed spreading butter on their bread with the spreaders from Michael Olaf!
When we were finished eating, Dylan washed up his dishes and then the boys played for a while and Erica and I cleaned up the rest of the kitchen. We also talked about getting a weekly Waldorf Play Group going--I would love to do a little preschool day with imaginative play, lunch and hand work for the mamas, just like the Preschool at Sierra Waldorf School that my sister Maggie and her son Julian attend. Dylan enjoyed showing Kai the sweeper from Michael Olaf too. :) Then we cleaned up, I put Kai's dragon in a bag for later, and they went home. I'm already looking forward to the next play date!
The kids just woke up from their naps, and my parents are on their way to visit. We're going to go have story time while we wait for them, and then have "tea time."
In celebration of the old festival of Michaelmas (Sept. 29), it's fun to
make Dragon Bread, bread made in the shape of a dragon and decorated with
green sliced almond scales, raisin eyes, poppy seeds and sunflower seed
teeth. The ancient legend of St. George and the Dragon tells that St.
George, a noble knight, slew a dragon and saved a princess.
a.. 1 cup warm water
b.. 3 Tblspns. honey or sugar
c.. 1 Tblspn. yeast
d.. 4+ cups whole wheat pastry flour (or whole wheat flour)
e.. 5 tsp. baking powder
f.. 1/2 tsp. baking soda
g.. 1 tsp. salt
h.. 1-1/2 sticks of butter, warmed
i.. Slivered and sliced almonds
j.. Sunflower seeds
l.. Green, yellow and/or red food coloring
1.. Combine water, honey (or sugar), and yeast.
2.. Combine 4+ cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3.. Cut in the butter.
4.. Add yeast and water and stir till stiff.
5.. Knead 5 minutes.
6.. Place dough on a cookie sheet, and shape into a dragon lying flat
7.. Decorate dragon with sunflower seeds or slivered almonds for teeth and
spikes, a raisin for an eye, and dyed yellow, green or red sliced almonds
8.. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes...probably longer! Check with a skewer or knife for doneness.
9.. Serve him for dinner!
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Today was completely different. We had a really nice morning with a fun circle time that Dylan did NOT want to end. yeah, we're still telling the billy goats gruff story, but Dylan wants it to be like the 6 billy goats gruff. I am wondering when to change the story at this point, that time is not in sight at any rate. Then we did coloring with our beeswax stick crayons for 30 minutes! Then we hung our pictures on the wall by the toy shelves. Dylan helped me clean the downstairs bathroom--he loves spraying the (natural) cleaning solution, and get this--scrubbing the toilet! LOL. Then we had snack, Molly went down for her nap, Dylan and I had play time, and then we went to meet Jennifer and Bryce (almost 3y) at Michael Olaf!
It turns out that Michael Olaf is primarily a catalogue store, but they have open warehouse evenings for parents the 2nd Friday of every month. I was a little disappointed, but the lady in the office was really nice, and she said that if we didn't let the kids run around, we could go back with invoice forms and pick what we wanted while writing down the SKU and price! It was soooo cool! There were people back there filling orders with us. Dylan was a little angel. He listened, stayed close to me, and was so excited to show me all the cool items! He picked out a little enamel ware cup and a spreader (like a small butter knife) set of two. I also *broke* down and got a child's carpet sweeper, broom, , mope and apron and a beautiful cotton "Under the Nile" rug that was on sale from $32 to $15.
When we got home, Dylan helped me make lunch, wearing his new apron, by spreading Hummus on pita bread with his new spreader while I heated his cous cous and beans. He wanted soy milk, not juice(!) in his little blue enamel ware cup--think those blue and white camping mugs practically everyone has? And make it about a third the size. :) Molly had her Super poridge with banana and water in her cup. When we finished, Dylan washed his cup, plate and spreader, and then we went upstairs for nap. We sang baby beluga a few times and then they took about 45 min to get to sleep. I hate naps like that. Oh well, it couldn't be a perfect day! ;)
When Dylan woke up I had all of the ingredients out to make lentil-rice-tomato soup and Brown Bread (self edited Vegan version.) He put his apron on and went to work helping me pour..and lick the bowls clean. When the bread was in, we sat down for tea and scones--"tea time" is our new afternoon snack and we *all* love it! Jupe likes it on the weekends too. :D Then Dylan made a bee line for his carpet sweeper and ran around calling it a vacuum until Jupe came home from work. I left for school and that was our day.
I might not have mentioned before, I'm a born again Vegan. Okay, I went Vegetarian about 2 months ago and vegan 2 weeks ago. But I LOVE it. I've been told by several doctors and health professionals that I'm allergic to dairy, and that it can cause circles under eyes and moodiness--I have both. Well, since I've been off dairy, I've been a new person. More energy, WAY better moods, and a generally better attitude about life! I have been so happy...it's probably really annoying. Oh well. So I'm not positive that it's the no dairy thing *yet,* it could be just a strange bipolar episode or something. I'm giving it a month. If I'm stil feeling good in a few more weeks of no dairy, I'm going all Vegan. And the cooking is sooooo much fun! I haven't made the same thing twice yet. I happened to have a bunch of Vegetarian cook books around, although I'm not sure where they came from! But I've tweaked a ton of regular and veggie recipes to make them Vegan with great results. Turns out, in all of the cases I've tried, you really don't need milk, eggs OR butter!
Okay, this is getting long, but I wanted to leave the post with the recipes for the soup and bread we had tonight cause they were gooood.
2T Olive Oil
1 Med Onion (chopped)
1 C uncooked Lentils
1/2 C uncooked Rice (any)
4 C Water
1 can tomato paste or 1 C tomato puree
1 can diced tomatoes
salt to taste
pinch of dried basil
more water to desired thickness
Chop onion, saute in oil until golden. And lentils and rice, stir. Add water. Simmer covered until lentils and rice are done (30-40 min.) add tomato items, sald and basil. add water to thin if desired. Serve it up hot. :)
Vegan Brown Bread (adapted from Sunset Cookbook of Breads) makes one loaf
Tightly wrapped in the fridge, this bread stays fresh for several days.
3T Vegetable or Olive Oil
3/4 C firmly packed brown sugar
2 T lemon juice
2 C Soy Milk
2 C whole wheat of graham flour, unsifted
1 C all purpose flour (or more whole wheat flour)
1/2 C wheat germ
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 C each of raising and chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350F. Greast a 9x5 inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, beat (we mixed by hand with a wisk) oil and sugar together. Put lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup and add soy milk up to the 2 Cup mark. Mix molasses and buttermilk into the sugar mixture. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour(s) wheat germ, soda and salt until thoroughly blended. Add to buttermilk mixture and mix until completely combined. Stir in raisins and nuts. Spoon batter into loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 15 minutes, check for doneness w/ knife or skewer. Let cool in pan 10 min, turn onto a rack and cool completely.
Monday, September 25, 2006
I got my copy of All Year Round today, and I spent the evening drinking tea and eating Vegan Tapioca (I made the recipe up myself! recipe below) on the couch with the festivals, dreaming about how I'll bring the magic into our home and family life year round. My only small issue will be that I am not Christian. So I'm going to integrate some of the ideas w/ the Pagan Festivals.. more specifically with the natural changes of the seasons and stars.
Just before coming upstairs to blog and go to bed, in a moment of inspiration, I stacked another shelf on the nature table to baby proof it in leiu of Molly's mobile-pulling up phase. (She choked on a beautiful-red-and-orange-fall-maple-leaf this morning.) Then I re-decorated the nature table with Autumn colored silks and got rid of the dried up ferns. I put Molly and Dylan's babies into "bed" in one of the baskets, covered with mini-silks for blankets, and put the silk basket with the clips and the Redwood Rounds and felted balls--made by myself and various special people in our life--front and center to invite play. Now, if those darned drop shipped play stands will get here...! I'll try and take some pics tomorrow.
Oh! I also ordered some Beeswax Tapers from Natural Earth Farm--they have such good prices on beautiful hand dipped double tapers! I can't wait for the aroma to fill our house. Just thinking about it reminds me of hand dipping in 6th grade. mmmm. It is not easy to make nice smooth candles, let me tell you! mine were very lumpy, but I can't wait to try it again! :D Now I want to order some dipping wax. I need to slowwww dowwwn.
Back to the point of this post. I've been savoring every moment of bliss these days. This weekend was almost perfectly blissful. Today, my *moment* was during tea time, between Dylan whining for soy milk and crying because I didn't make a sandwich out of his grahm crackers and peanut butter at tea time. I mean, give me a break! I didn't put them together cause I thought he'd have a fit, and it'd be easier to put the together than take them apart. shows what the heck I know.
What is bliss though? How do we *get* it? I've felt blissful while sitting quietly; while breaking my back planting trees; playing with my children; talking with my husband; driving in my car; walking in a beautiful place! I never know when it will come, but I'm trying to find one small moment of bliss in each day. I'd like to come up with a definition of my own, because I like no nonsense order like that.
*yes, yes--sunshine, rainbows, everywhere!!* ;p
Anyway, may you have at least one moment of bliss today.
Recipe for Vegan Tapioca by Katie:
This tapioca tastes like the Fall Harvest version of Tapioca. :) Enjoy!
3T Tapioca pearls
2C Soy Milk
1T ground flax seeds
Mix tapioca, soy milk and flax seeds in a medium sauce pan, let sit all soak for a few minutes. Turn the burner on Med. heat and stir constantly until it comes to a rolling boil. Remove from heat, add vanilla and stir. Let sit for 20-25 minutes (it thickens as it cools.)
Pixievixen: i went to waldorf in northern cali for 7th & 8th grade. interesting experience. i really like a lot of the philosophies, but there are things i am less fond of. i dig the "less is more" aspect to the playroom and such, and a lot of the daily routines... the delaying reading thing bothers me, as i was a really early reader because i ASKED to learn, and anjolie is well on her way to that as well... and i also saw the sort of long-term effects of that... kids learning simple grammer, like basic sentence diagramming in 8th grade (when i'd previously learned it in 4th & 5th?)... made the transition to regular high school pretty bumpy (our waldorf only went to 8th grade).
again, i really dig a lot of it, but i'd likely implement other things to adapt it more to her personal needs. unfortunately i don't see myself being able to continue being a stay-at-home momma... so she'll have to actually attend a school soon... and i doubt i can afford waldorf on my own, we'll see. i have been planning to undertake a big overhaul of the playroom when we move though... i figure the transition will be easier in an all new room. plus, i want to simplify & make the change known before birthday & christmas come along & the plastic crap floods in.
Me: I do think that you should follow your child's cues (it must be that AP mind set ;) and if they are ready to read, I say by all means!
For me, learning to read came mostly from reciting books that my mom and dad read to me. I don't remember it ever being hard or anyone ever actually TEACHing me, beyond the alphabet and sounds in Kindergarten (public school.) I started Waldorf School in 4th grade, and could already read well, so I mostly read at home, and wrote for main lesson books, etc. I think the poetry and song recitation in the Waldorf Curriculum also fostered my excellent memory, instinct for wording and grammar, and helped with reading too. I guess I was lucky, and I'm not sure how Dylan will be, but I guess we'll see.
The way I see it, Waldorf should be like anything else: take what you love, scrap the rest. I also think that Waldorf Schools vary drastically in their implementation of the philosophy. Our school was very relaxed, but I've heard of ridged schools that sounded a little scary.
Right now, I'm only planning to preschool and maybe kindergarten Dylan at home. Then, we'll continue to do the "magic" and fantasy of Waldorf at home, but he'll probably go to a Waldorf School, and I'll need to research and feel out the schools to steer clear of the "scary" ones. ;) I'm hoping that we'll be moving up to Oregon by then, and I am thinking of starting Waldorf Teacher Education. Then I can get free tuition for the kids, and be there all day if they need me. I know that's not for a lot of ppl, but lately, I can see myself doing it after I graduate with my BS! I never would have guessed that I'd say that back when I graduated from Waldorf School. LOL.
I am lucky to have a very understanding family and friends, and I'm hoping that putting up a "wish list" will help them give gifts when they feel that they are apropriate. Otherwise, we'll probably donate maintstream toys. :) I know this sounds extreme, but for now, I really want to keep it to simple nature toys. I think that's what's best for our family.
Pixievixen: i grew up spending a lot of time with my grandparents... and my grandmother had taught (special needs children specifically) for years. at the age of two i was taking the books and saying "III read it!". between that & other signs of readiness, my grandmother pulled out some of her teaching supplies & taught me to read. there was never any pressure, i was itching to learn it.
i don't believe kids should be pressured to read early if they aren't ready, but i knew second graders who could barely read... that seems a bit much. anjolie & i have been working on letters lately. we tested the waters for about 6 months before it really clicked, but there was never any pressure. she is constantly asking what things say now & wanting to learn. i think that listening to your own child's cues is always the key, no matter what school your child is in. as parents, its our job to meet all the needs that schooling cannot.
i wish i knew someone close to me with the same beliefs about education who would be willing to take on anjolie while i had to work. it would be mutually beneficial i think, allowing anjolie the benefit of a more personal ly tailored daily rhythm & helping another stay at home momma to be able to afford her lifestyle comfortably. maybe i can find that when i move... we'll see.
my family is really pretty good about sticking to things that fit our needs, so hopefully that will continue. i already make waldorf dolls and little flower faeries.. i am hoping to supplement my income by selling some of those, giving me more time at home with miss anjolie.