Monday, September 7, 2015

The First Day of First Grade

The first day of first grade is a very special day, it's a threshold day, a crossing from one stage of life to another. It’s a very special day for the child, as well as for the homeschooling parent- teacher.

For Waldorf homeschoolers, the first day of first grade is important as it marks the beginning of a new relationship between parent and child, as well as the start of actual main lessons in which the parent, as teacher, introduces the child to lines and curves, writing and reading, and ultimately to the beauty and wonders of the world. You might like to begin with a verse for the teacher.

I encourage you to take time and create a picture of how you want the day to feel and what you want the day to look like.

Imagine it.

Be with this picture you have created in your mind, the mood you want to bring, and give special attention on how you will convey this on the first day of school. Let it unfold in your mind.

Give yourself time to practice how you will introduce yourself as “teacher," and the process of home education that will unfold, so that you are fully ready and comfortable in your role as authority and teacher.

Perhaps you’ll have a picture on the chalkboard as well as a list of what you’ll be doing that day, or maybe images in the list too.

Perhaps you’ll make your child’s favorite food for breakfast, or put a special flower on the table.

Perhaps you’ll take a picture of your child in front of the house door.

Decide if you want to wear special first day of school clothing, something to mark the day, a little celebration.

Maybe you’ll have your child draw a picture of him or herself. You might do that too, a picture of yourself. Then put it away. Keep these and make the pictures of your child into a booklet for your child at the end of eighth grade, or twelfth grade, if you can pull it off in the high school years too. You can see your growth as well, in your self portraits, as well as your child's growth and development through the years.

After your special breakfast or special table, you might light your candle and “open” the day together with this verse from Rudolf Steiner for Grades 1-4, used in Waldorf schools around the world and as you do, you can remind yourself that Waldorf education was begun to educate the child and for bring about social reform. You are not alone with your endeavors as a Waldorf homeschooler, you are part of an worldwide movement, not only to educate children but make the world a better place for all, out of human freedom. Keep that in mind.

The Sun with loving light
Makes bright for me each day.
The soul with spirit power
Gives strength unto my limbs.

In sunlight shining clear,
I reverence, O God
The strength of humankind
Which Thou so graciously,
Hath planted in my soul.

That I will all my might
May love to work and learn.
From thee comes light and strength,
To thee rise love and thanks.

You might follow it with a talk, the first grade talk, suggested by Rudolf Steiner, about learning all different sorts of things, from others, how to write and read, to count and calculate with numbers, maybe a little sweet tidbit about your own experience of first going to school. 

"It is very important that you should speak to the children somewhat in this vein: “You have come to school, and now I am going to tell you why you have come to school.” This act of coming to school should immediately be drawn to their attention. “You have come to school in order to learn something. You have as yet no idea of all the things you will be learning in school, but there will be all sorts of subjects that you will have to learn. Why will you have to learn all sorts of different things in school? You no doubt know some adults, some grown-up people, and you must have noticed that they can do things that you cannot do. You are here so that one day you will also be able to do what grown-ups can do. One day you will be able to do things that you cannot do yet.” It is most important to work through this network of thoughts with the children.” ~Rudolf Steiner

Of course as homeschoolers, we are more likely to say, “We are beginning our lessons,” or “We are beginning our home study, or our home schooling. ” Whatever words resonate with you to describe the process of learning at home.

Give your child just one new item. Save the flute and the knitting needles, yarn and such for later. Begin with what you need to use on the first day only, and then over the days and weeks and months, you’ll have time to create a story to introduce the flute, and the knitting and the other supplies you are going to present to your child. You might even hold off on the beanbags and introduce them on the second day to have something new on day or even week two. 

When we hold back and introduce materials one at a time, we have the opportunity to make each one special and create joy and interest in the new material as well as in using it. It helps us to appreciate what we have, and feel grateful. This builds the foundation for gratitude and reverence. More about the gift of anticipation here.

If you have already begun and introduced them, no worries, you can re-introduce them in time and create a very special story context for presenting to your child, to make the materials you are working with special and appreciate. You might talk about the bees and the wax they make that is in the crayons.

Show your child where the school materials belong. Be sure to take good care of your own supplies and put them away with care each day, and lead your child to do the same, by your example.

Now are you ready with your circle and first Main Lesson for the first day of first grade?

Blessings on your school year!

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