We are gradually beginning to find our feet and I am starting to feel more excited than daunted. I know I have really just dipped my toes into Steiner education but even just these humble beginnings fill me with an enthusiasm that I find hard to articulate. I am loving it and whilst our days are far from perfect, I am finishing the week with a sense of achievement.
I have two boys who don’t want to write. At all.
Two boys who have no interest in presenting their work beautifully.
I realise this is fairly standard for young boys particularly those who have been in the education system but it’s something I find frustrating since my personality is the complete opposite and as a child I loved making projects look beautiful, presentation was really important to me.
Getting my boys to write is a real challenge but at least with this method the writing is also part of an overall creative package, every day involves colour and drawings.
Whenever I manage to encourage them to do some writing I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot!
H – wrote a story, the real story was far more realised and imaginative than the story that made it to script. H does not want to elaborate or use descriptive language if it means needing to transcribe it into letters. But the simple fact of something making it to paper is encouraging. I don’t correct their work in their books but make a note of spelling mistakes and we go over those words later. I have purchased some basic cursive workbooks so we can work on handwriting.
We are still working through the unit on Ancient Indian civilisation. Today we talked about some key concepts in Hinduism comparing them to our Islamic perspectives on the same thing. With our study of comparative religion I really want to emphasize the similarities between faiths but sometimes the differences are also food for conversation. H was really interested in the caste system and we watched a short Youtube documentary about the Untouchables/Dalits. I’m still utilising technology in this way even though it’s not part of the Steiner philosophy. Sometimes it is useful.
M – We made flat bread yesterday for M’s lesson, we have just finished a unit on the Ancient Hebrews and now we have moved on to the Phoenicians. Because the children are half Lebanese I explained that the Phoenician civilisation was actually in what is now Lebanon.
We are still reading aloud from Little House in the Big Woods. I think there is far too much benefit in the Little House books to leave them because of the colonialist attitudes. Instead I’m going to approach those things as they come up and use them as reasons to discuss racism and indigenous issues comparing the North American situation to our own reality in Australia.
HH – really loved it when we made bread, it struck me just how perfect these activities are for her age group. Initially we were working from the Gr 1 curriculum because I wasn’t sure how things matched to an Australian Prep but we have moved back to the Kindergarten book and it’s a much better fit. She doesn’t enjoy the stories in the Oak Meadow fairy tales book though so I am trying to find other stories to read to her. Today we read about a Fairy called Faith who couldn’t sleep for the letter F and we did some watercolour painting. HH knows most of her letters already but I think the slow, rhythmical pace of the syllabus is really important. When she wants to she brings me the ‘Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons’ book and we do a lesson but I am not forcing it. We are also working together to make the work for her main workbook and I have another book that is entirely for free range drawing because I was finding that she won’t follow the guidelines for the lesson otherwise.
She also spent time playing in the garden and we skipped to the end of her book and found the Spring science lessons since season wise we are upside down. We read a story about a germinating seed and next week hopefully we will plant some things ourselves.
I have ordered the rest of the curriculum and art/craft materials I need and now it’s just a matter of waiting for them to arrive. And when working with HH today I made a small painting for our Spring Nature Table which hopefully I will have finished before Summer 😉
When we homeschooled previously we attended a homeschooling group with a private tutor three days a week for around four hours at a time. It was like a homeschooling co op with lots of parental involvement. It mean’t that I wasn’t shouldering the total responsibility for the children’s education. We covered all the curriculum area’s on the group days so the time we spent at home together was entirely unschooled.
So whilst we have homeschooled before it was not the same as it is now. I am learning how to facilitate their learning as I go along. I am new to Waldorf despite having been interested in it for years. I find that working with a Waldorf curriculum stirs up all my perfectionist tendencies and it often feels like it will never be manageable. On the days my boys just don’t want to write and our workbooks look nothing like the gorgeous images we look at online, I have to really hold off from being goal orientated and working towards a finished product, the process is what is important. I have to learn some of the skills such as form drawing and using crayons and watercolours before I teach the children. Waldorf is so precise with it’s use of materials at different developmental stages which probably works in a school setting but is less easy to achieve when at home with children of multiple ages. If my six year old wants to use coloured pencils then I let her do so! We are very slowly developing the beginning of a rhythm. Because I have three children in different grades I am trying to spend time working with each one of them rather than all sitting together as a group.
Some things we have done over the last few days –
leaf painting for the beginning of Spring, we gathered leaves from our lemon tree and printed with them using watercolours.
Stories from Hay for my Ox, Lily and the Princess, Little House in the Big Woods, First Aid for Fairies (Fabled Beast Chronicles)
projects from the Oak Meadow and Earthschooling curriculums (Ancient Hebrews (Tower of Babel) and Ancient India (Indus Valley)
M and HH love circle time even if we just recite a verse without lighting a candle and I make the movements up as we go along. HH generally does not want to follow the lesson plans I present to her. Today she practised all her alphabet instead of focusing on a single letter and when I caught her making an enormous scribble in the first page of her brand new lesson book and asked her not to do it she looked dismayed and explained to me that it wasn’t a scribble at all but a house being blown away by a stormy cloud! She then narrated a story to me about her house as she drew the pictures. It is this kind of creativity that attracts me to the Waldorf philosophy in the first place and I think we need to find a balance between improvising and following a more disciplined/rigid approach.
Waldorf blogs always look so perfect, this is not our reality. We have days that are filled with both productivity and some moments of great learning and also squabbling and noise and mess. But it’s a beginning.