I, like many other homeschoolers I know, struggled to pin down homeschooling plans. Anthroposophy and Waldorf education have largely directed us these years — as well as our own spontaneous spirits. I appreciate the creative emphasis in Waldorf education tremendously and what I’m learning right now is that there is room for my own creativity–especially since I do not follow a set curriculum. As I grapple with the stories for second grade (in Waldorf education typically Fables, Trickster Tales, and Saints), I keep finding myself drawn to Native American stories and ideas. One area I’m having a lot of fun planning “out of the box” is in form drawing. What is form drawing? Form drawing is unique to Waldorf education. According to a little summary from Steiner College: It helps improve eye-hand coordination, supports thinking in a non-intellectual way, aids in being more “flexible” as one learns the form in their body and then on paper. The first year was mostly straight and curved lines, some running forms. This year we continue with running forms and mirror. So think Celtic art and symbols– interlocking lines and loops–that’s where we might head one day. So I’m looking at some of our favorite storybooks and pulling from them, illustrations, “forms” that we can practice. In Byrd Baylor’s Everybody Needs a Rock, there’s a simple drawing repeated throughout the book of a boulder that I’m using. Ultimately it is shaped by 6-7 arches that we will practice as part of our form drawing.
(painting and my verse writing from age 2.5)
I decided to start out early and slow in August– with the hope of being able to correct or alter our path since I was faced with so many questions and doubts. Rather than one traditional block per time period (as is practiced in Waldorf education), I began our main lessons with two blocks, 3 days a week (Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday), a nature/hike day (Thursday) and a history morning followed by *circus class and our lovely homeschool playtime (Friday). It was an intense start because my children enjoy immersing themselves DEEPLY in material, translation: it takes hours to get through material and so our days were very long and intense. Too long, in fact. Nonetheless this is what we did our first few weeks:
*Circus: How can I express my gratitude? I have been longing for a homeschool group that fit our academic, parental-child, and emotional world and somehow, some way, by divine intervention, I have found myself in the making of a wonderful homeschool group. The kids are participating in a circus class, followed by free play at nearby park. Last Sunday we inaugurated the year with a family potluck and a start of school/being together ceremony.
Circle: We have a lot of fun during circle! I know for a lot of my friends, circle has not been very easy. I think like anything else, you (the adult) have to be into it and open to what groove works for you as a group–however small a group that is. We play games sing songs, and recite verses. We played a lot these first few weeks! I thought: how long are we going to lead each other around blindfolded or mirror each other’s movements as a fun game? Are they going to want to pile all of our couch cushions into a mountain so we can roll down? Or be kneaded like bread on baking day? I decided to really be patient and provide time and space for this year’s circle time. We act like animals, recite poems, jump into yoga poses, and skip around the house. It takes time to connect and this is a gem in our day.
Math: Review of Arabic and Roman numerals with a challenge. I told a sweet container story about seashells from the beach which would guide our math block for the following weeks. In a creative, narrative form, I spun a tale of how seashells are made and a brief summary of their life cycle. I then re-introduced the math gnomes from last year (plus, minus, divide and multiply) as we pulled out our beach towels and bartered shells, shark teeth and special beach gems– all the while having to utilize our skills in math! They absolutely LOVED this. It was hands on, stimulating, engaging and super fun! In subsequent weeks I introduced even/odd, counting in groups, number bonds all with an active and written component. Some days we played games with a mathematical component after our active math. Favorites: cards, mancala, and backgammon.
Language Arts: Aesops’ Fables are on tap right now. The girls get comfortable on the couch and beam at the start of story. Storytelling is done in my own words, by candlelight. I emphasize certain sounds which we then practice afterward by way of phonics. Over the following days the girls re-tell the story together, often with pros we make as part of our lesson. We follow it up with drawings and summarizing sentences in our lesson books. Learning is meaningful and creative, not rote and laborious.
Nature/Hiking: Thursdays we hike and embrace a monthly theme. August: peaches, mushrooms and crickets. September: ladybugs, fiery sumac, and the changing Aspen leaves all around the Rocky Mountains.
History: Our history morning was the product of some serious deliberation. We started with a timeline of our own lives in hopes of beginning to understand before and after. We also outlined the continents and made our first world map. Since history is my strength, I narrated my own story about human evolution and the start of civilization in Mesopotamia. I wanted to provide some historical foundation this year and I’m doing it by way of an ancient bird named Pee-Wee and her adventures experienced through the millennia. I hope to make our history mornings hands-on and full of stories. Epic of Gilgamesh was really a hit! A real surprise, but nonetheless a success.
Arts: one aspect of Waldorf education that I especially appreciate is how it is interdisciplinary and infused with art. We move and dance to learn through our body, we model with clay and beeswax, paint and draw, act out our learning through drama and sing often.
We’re also doing piano lessons twice weekly with Stephen and weekly German language classes. Both going very well.