The Waldorf curriculum incorporates nourishing elements of all twelve senses with a different focus at different stages of development. This applies in homeschool or school school, the senses are very important for human development, for in developing a sense, the energy around it is freed to later develop another sense, a "higher" sense that needs a strong foundational sense to rest upon.
The Twelve Senses correspond with the development of the human being and can be grouped in three categories: Thinking, Feeling and Willing.
We often speak of the soul capacities of Thinking, Feeling and Willing. With Waldorf Education we refer to the education the head, heart and hands. Each of these capacities corresponds with sensory and human development and each seven year phase of development corresponds with one of these capacities.
For it is through our senses that we perceive the world. If we have distortions or impeded development in our senses it will color how we take in and relate to the world around us.
Anyone with a child who has sensory challenges may have had an experience in which the child's response to the situation does not always make "sense" (there it is again ~ sense) unless we know something about the child.
For example, a six year old boy in a kindergarten classroom of seventeen children is busy playing as the noise level in the room rises. This child is very sensitive to sound. Suddenly for no apparent reason he heaves a block across the room, not at anybody and not in response to children around him. It is the noise level that has risen, he is overwhelmed, he does not yet have words to express this so he heaves the block.
The teacher, bless her heart and her deep wisdom, knows this child is overwhelmed by the noise and responds by opening the door and gives him permission to check on the hens in the garden and bring them a treat. She knows. But to someone who does not have this understanding the behavior might seem troubling and get in the way of connection and harmony in the classroom.
Let's begin with development:
In the first seven years of childhood the focus is on developing the Foundational Senses or the Sense of Willing, the metabolic limb focus: Touch, Life, Self Movement and Balance.
In the middle years, years of Feeling, the rhythmical devlopment focus: Smell, Taste, Sight, Warmth
In the next seven years, years of Thinking, the nerve sense development focus: Hearing, Word, Thought, Ego
Within each of these seven year stages of development are phase of development of metabolic-limb growth, rhythmic development and nerve sense development.
If we begin with touch and follow the lemniscate around in a figure eight you will find yourself going through the development of the senses from the very first foundational sense of touch, being touched in utero, to the uppermost sense, the Ego, ability to sense the presence of the other person ~ another kind of touch:
Ego (the ability to sense the ego or presence of another)
(This lemniscate is based on the zodiac and the corresponding physical organs.)
Each of the Foundational senses has a companion in the upper senses:
Touch with Ego
Life with Thought
Movement and Word
Balance and Hearing
Upper, middle, foundational senses.
To this list of eight pillars and twelve senses, Carries adds practical work and the inner work of the parent teacher, ti which I say yes!
One advantage we have with homeschooling is that we can take this pillar of practical work which in the school manifests Handwork and Craft Curriculum and expand it to include chores through the day and through the week, active participation in the practical work of life through all the grades.
Carrie has written about this.
To this bedrock of practical work and the inner work of the adult that Carrie is suggesting, I feel like we need to bring in Rhythm and Nature. And Play. And all this on a foundation of strong connection with the child. Oh gosh, so much more to say.
But I need to get on with my day, with my homeschooling and Christmas preparation so for now goodbye.
I love to find your comments. If you have examples of your work out of the Artistic pillars or Senses you'd like to share please link to your site in the comments here and over at The Parenting Passageway. And please chime in, how do these endeavors manifest in your homeschooling? or school schooling?
As a person who has straddled the worlds of the Waldorf homeschooler and the Waldorf school, as parent and as a teacher, I notice in some Waldorf homeschool circles, that there can be some feelings of resentment towards those who have worked in schools, or embrace a Waldorf homeschooling that is consistent with what Waldorf schools bring.
I know and can attest to a way of being with my children as parent-teacher in the home that is distinct from school life. The children can sleep late, eat warm meals, eat more, take time on a project, take it deeper and explore it without the constraints of moving on. A child may take all the time in the world to work on something while the parent teacher can see where the need is for focused attention.
When the weather is glorious we can be outside and "school" out of doors. We can do real meaningful work that contributes to the family and the homestead as part of our daily life. When it is really cold we can build a fire and "school" in its warmth.
A child in a classroom of thirty may not be seen, and may be left behind. A child sitting next to other children may get whacked with a bamboo lunch mat by the girl sitting next to him, and smacked with the lunchbox of the girl sitting on the other side of him. When he whacks them back with his hands, he may get blamed and made out to be the villain, because he has not yet learned not-to-get-caught and to-be-sneaky, like the girls who flank him in the front row.
The girls go home and complain about him, yet neglect to tell their parents that they had been smacking him. The parents don't know to ask, "and what were you doing?" The teacher misses the whole thing because she has twenty seven other children to teach or maybe she believes it is a karmic relationship that the children need to resolve on their own.
Yet the children get to experience Eurythmy, French and German, celebrate festival life together, and do class plays. They have the challenge of the social situation to negotiate. Sometimes this can be healthy and help build resilience. Other times, like in the scenario I described above, it can be very harmful to a child, and for all who inhabit this social dynamic.
Back to the Waldorf homeschooling versus Waldorf School schooling via the curriculum.
Some folks seem to think it is enough to bring certain stories at certain ages and create a main lesson book.
Today, my friend Carrie, over on The Parenting Passageway brings up the importance of including three arts with homeschooling in her lovely post today, on The Three Artistic Pillars of Waldorf Homeschooling, in which she addresses the arts of Drawing, Painting and Modeling for the homeschooler and gives a description of each.
I wish we could get together for tea and have conversations about how we homeschool and why and what's important. So often I read a blog post and want to say more, keep the conversation going. So this is my humble attempt to build a conversation via blogs.
In addition to these important artistic activities of Drawing, Painting and Modeling, I'm going to humbly suggest we include Speech, Singing and playing music, Movement, Drama and Handwork and make a picture of a sturdy eight pillared education. Story is the vehicle for much of the curriculum and these pillars bring story to the children.
Waldorf education is a lively artistic education that is process, not product, oriented. The Main Lesson page is a glimpse into something larger that has taken place. The rest of the story that cannot be seen or captured on paper but lives within the human being. At home we are capable of incorporating all these elements. While we may not bring Eurythmy or foreign languages we can bring these other artistic pillars in the course of a day's homeschooling experience.
These other pillars are:
Singing and Musical instrument playing
Speech through story, song, verse, rhyme, blessings, prayer, moving into tongue twisters and memorized verse in the grades. Clear, articulated speech. Conscious speech. Playful speech. Speech in movement, Speech in harmony. What is being lost in speech in our time?
SINGING AND MUSICAL INSTRUMENT
We sing through the day with the young child, then sing festival songs, folk songs, rounds in the grades, the musical instrument used by the adult in early childhood: the kinder harp, the pentatonic xylophone, the flute all used by the adult with the child free to play with the instruments from time to time but no lessons until first grade, then the pentatonic flute. Music connects us with the spiritual world.
Movement is fundamental to learning. Movement is the basis for all learning. The kindergarten and nursery years are steeped in self initiated movement of the child. Children learn better when they move. (see Carla Hannaford's book, Smart Moves ~ not Waldorf per se yet very good and practical information on movement and the brain and learning) Homeschoolers have so much more freedom with movement yet our challenge is to bring rhythmic and harmonious movement to our children (think math and movement games) Our challenge is to create situations for movement within a group, especially important in kindergarten and the first three grades. Waldorf education is a social education and movement is a lovely opportunity to develop that with others.
Drama gives the child an opportunity to bring speech, movement, singing and music together in an artistic and social experience. It is very important in the grades. We can bring drama with storytelling and puppetry and perhaps with a community of others, neighbors, homeschoolers, cousins, friends.
Handwork is work that is done by hand. It can involve crafting useful objects and it can be work to sustain daily life, gardening, milking a cow, churning butter, washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, brushing the dog, chopping, stirring, kneading, this is the handwork of the child under seven. An excellent article on the Waldorf handwork and Craft curriculum is here.
For more support with wet on wet watercolor painting or any other pillars of the curriculum, join my interactive Homeschool/Homemaking Curriculum Program, this is a lively, interactive way to bring daily, weekly and seasonal rhythm to your home and to delve more deeply into activities that nurture wonder and imagination in a magical way.Click herefor more.
Thanks for coming over for tea, let's meet again soon.
We have been busy getting ready for Christmas, cleaning out the house, decorating the house, cutting and dragging in greens and prettying them up with bits of red, hanging them on the doors and placing them here and there. We've been taking out the old Christmas albums, singing songs, preparing gifts, cooking and baking.
My baby, my little one, Duncan will be nine years old in a few weeks. He is beginning to ask questions. He is wondering if Santa is well Santa and if it is not somehow the parents but he can't seem to really wrap himself around the parents pretending to be Santa.
He has a plan. On Christmas Eve, he is going to set up a motion sensor and a video camera, well maybe two motion sensors are in his his plan, one near the tree and one near the bedroom doors to see what he can see. (Mind you, we don't have two motion sensors and a video camera.). He wants to wait up too.
Yet I am not feeling certain that he really wants to know or give up the magic of Santa Claus. Angus at eleven was ready. He was clear and certain. There was no turning back. With Duncan there is a hesitancy, a sense that he knows but wants to be convinced maybe that Santa is really Santa.
In a phone conversation with the workshop that makes the elf jammies that Santa brings each year at Christmas, a woman named Cathy shared with me a story from her family, of going out on Christmas Eve with her family and when they returned home, just as they were entering the house, they heard jingle bells from the back door and ran to see, but it was too late, Santa had gone and the gifts had arrived. Another year Santa actually arrived at the house and delivered a pack full of gifts.
Hmn...I am wondering how to keep the magic for him. The gifts have always arrived in the night while the children were fast asleep. I love the idea with jingle bells being heard. And I am thinking of possibilities yet nothing is coming. Have you been in this place with a child who seems to want some magic, is not quite ready to let go but needs some convincing? What did you do to keep the magic alive? I'm so wrestling with this and would love to hear from you.
Monthly Guides are back as through the year program!
In the words of Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie:
“I am so very excited to share with you the news of the return of the Celebrating the Rhythm of Life in Caring for Children through the Year materials. The new format retains all of the elements you love with some expansion in a few areas. I’ve been striving to keep it all very simple, easy for you to read and digest. I have also made it more process and community oriented this time around.”
December's focus topicis the spiritual element of Waldorf early childhood. We'll talk about the child as a spiritual being, birth, protection of the child's senses, angels, night time meditation and working with the angels. We'll look at ways to nourish family life and foster child development and bring awe, wonder and gratitude alive, bring children into cooking and household chores, nourish growing bodies and create a home culture of awe, wonder and reverence around daily life that is rooted in the spiritual elements of early childhood during this full and often too busy season.
The material is in a packet (pdf) and online along with the rest of the program. Participants may sign up for the month or for the school year, from September to July. After the first year of membership, year round members will have continued access to the program for free.
With the December Program you will:
Receive a materials packet with circle, stories, finger play and movement games.
Receive an Activities Packet for children with activities for the month
Receive a Daily and Weekly rhythm plan (if you want it sketched out ~ it’s here)
Receive a Meal Plan with recipes based on the grains served in the kindergarten (breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea) with wholesome seasonal foods
Have a Step by step tutorial of a handwork project
Explore the pedagogy behind the focus topic
Sketch out stories to tell in December
Receive a Festival Packet for Advent, Saint Nicholas Day, Santa Lucia Day, Christmas
Consider December foods to plant, harvest and prepare with children
Favorite book suggestions for December
Receive In the Morning Garden ( a tip each month for group programs)
Receive in the packet After school (Activities, Recipes, Stories for the grade school child)
Reflection ~ questions for nurturing the inner life
Enjoy a private online discussion group
Have access to a private website for Celebrating the Rhythm of Life with Children
Receive blog posts throughout the month on the Celebrating the Rhythm of Life with Children website
Ideas for creating community where you live
Connect with others, get help and encouragement through the month, create community, find support, receive encouragement!
The give away is for ONE person to receive membership in THE MONTH OF DECEMBER for Celebrate the Rhythm of Life through they Year in Caring for Children.
To be entered in the give away, please comment below. For additional entries in the drawing, share it, as a LIKE on the Facebook page Celebrating the Rhythm of Life in Caring for Children and SHARE it on Facebook or share it on your blog in a post or a link or in a sidebar with the mushroom "button" linked to:
Each share noted with a comment in the comment boxes below gives you another entry in the drawing.
The drawing will take place on Wednesday December 7th and the winner will be announced here.