Waldorf Homeschool Resources

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Spring Nature Table

After a year of cobbling together my own curriculum…I am done. D. O. N. E. DONE. Scooter is done, mama is done, we are done. Maybe I’ll blog about it later, maybe not. I have a lot I could say that maybe someone somewhere might find helpful, but that will just have to wait for now. I am up to my eyeballs in a complete paradigm shift as we change course radically and implement a Waldorf-inspired packaged curriculum from Oak Meadow. I am excited about it, it is amazing, it is changing our family dynamic and I’d love to share about all of that in great detail – but it will just have to wait!

In the meantime, several of my homeschooling friends are very curious about what we are doing  and have asked me to share a few resources I’ve found helpful. There is a ton of information available, so these are just things I’ve found and loved so far in no particular order.

Websites

Oak Meadow

Waldorf-Inspired Learning

Waldorf Without Walls

The Waldorf Homeschool Connection

Moon Child

The Online Waldorf Library

Waldorf Homeschoolers

Books

The Heart of Learning

Waldorf Education: A Family Guide

Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching from the Inside out

Seven Times the Sun: Guiding Your Child Through the Rhythms of the Day

Materials

Oak Meadow Bookstore

Waldorf Books

Bella Luna Toys

And, of course, Etsy. Beware. If you search, “Waldorf Toys” you will be on there a long, long, long time and you will spend all your money.

Let me know what you find and love! Happy reading!

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Dear First Year Teacher in a Title I School

My first three years of teaching were in a Title I school, a school that received grants because of the number of high-needs students it served. During the 2009-2010 school year, 56,000 Title I schools served 21 million students. That’s a lot of schools and a lot of kids. And there will be many teachers starting their careers in these schools this year. According to this article from the National Education Association, “It’s one of the harsh paradoxes of teaching: the schools least prepared to support new teachers—that is, low-income, low-performing facilities—are the ones where most new teachers are sent.”

So like thousands of other new teachers, I started my career in a tough position. The first year was, in a word, awful. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, in fact. Why was it so awful? I started six weeks into the school year replacing a teacher who just disappeared one day. He had enough and just didn’t show up for work; we learned later he had moved about an hour and a half away. The teacher before him lasted one semester – as had the two teachers before her. I was the fourth teacher in this classroom in two years. The kids expected me to leave them. (Many of them wanted me to leave them!) But it was an awful year not because of those circumstances. It was an awful year because I was so poorly prepared for the job. Not in the academic sense; I have a Master’s degree in my subject area and received intensive training and weekly mentoring for classroom management and facilitation of learning. I just had no grid for helping children who didn’t know if there would be food over the weekend. No one taught me how to respond when a student asked if she could come live with me, “I have my own blankets, Miss.” What was I supposed to say when a student said I was almost as old as her grandmother at the ripe old age of 28? I had no skills for dealing with in-your-face defiance from the campus drug dealer – much less from the teenage girls who made running me off a game or point of pride – or in supporting children suffering from untreated mental illness. No one could teach me those things, either. No book or manual or class could bring about what needed to happen: a complete paradigm shift. The children and families I served were not lazy. They were not “working the system.” The vast majority were not drug abusers or child abusers or amoral or gang  members. In fact, most of them worked hard. Most did not relish receiving public assistance and would give what little they had away to help someone else. Most were clean and sober and loved their children fiercely. Most were working hard in legal occupations – certainly harder than my family had ever worked – against much steeper odds to have less and to stay on the same rung of the socioeconomic ladder generation after generation.  My middle-class upbringing left me grossly unequipped for teaching children from extreme, generational poverty, children who were first-generation Americans or children from families affected by inequity in our judicial system. My students and their families changed me for the better. But, man, was I an awful teacher that first year!

Fortunately, my friend starting her teaching career in a Title I school is so much more enlightened than I was; she is not mired in the rhetoric of the privileged class or blinded by buy-in to the bootstrap mythology. But even so, I know the year will be a challenge. I’ve written her a letter, and because I know there are thousands of others out there who find themselves in the same circumstances, I will share it here.

Dear Friend,

I am so proud and excited for your new venture! You are going to be an awesome teacher and your students are going to have a great year with you. I know you are excited and nervous (and all the other feelings), but I just know everything is going to be great. We’ve talked  about it before, but I think it needs saying just one more time before you walk in the classroom tomorrow. All your feelings are okay. All of them.

It’s okay to feel exhausted, physically and emotionally. The emotional roller coaster and the paperwork, the meetings, the planning, the resource gathering, the professional development – plus more – are draining. You will spend hours on bulletin boards and practice packets and lab trays. Since you are just starting out, you will have to make many of your materials – or spend weekends scouring garage sales for treasures you can use or bargain stores for supplies your students can use. You might ask for people’s trash. And you will likely feel so very tired many days. Not as tired as you were during the first six weeks of your babies’ lives, but pretty dang close. Plan now for some rest. Make time to recharge – or you might be that teacher with the nagging cough from October through February. Take care of yourself. No one benefits if you run yourself into the ground.

It’s okay to feel sadness and even despair. There certainly will be children who have suffered neglect, abuse and/or the near-crippling effects of generational poverty who act out those feelings of betrayal and distrust with extreme anger and defiance. There may be children (and colleagues) who are so hateful – to other children, to you, to entire groups of people – that you despair of teaching, of the next generation, of humanity in general. Weep for them and the way things are, the way things have been. Weep for feeling overwhelmed and under-equipped to meet a need so vast and so deep. Cry some big ugly tears. (Just do NOT do it in front of the children. Really.)  Let your heart be broken; you know that light shines more brightly through our cracks.

My Best Work

2015-07-05 11.00.49I’ve been working away on various writing projects–researching, plotting, outlining, writing, revising, editing. I don’t know if any of it will actually be fruitful but I’m plugging away. I realize that most of the time my best work–the stuff I do that will surely be fruitful and have a long-lasting impact–has nothing to do with writing. Today, however, writing did actually result in some best work.

Here is what I wrote today. It’s a stunner. Seriously. Prepare to be wowed.

A bee said, “Buzz! I will sting your butt!” I ran and jumped. I jumped in the lake. The lake is blue and deep. OH, NO! A snake! The snake bit! But it did not bite me–it bit the bee! I am free! The snake ate the bee and swam to a hole. Yippee!

Well, Scooter loved it. It helped him review short vowel sounds, long “e” and final silent “e.” And it was certainly more interesting than some of the other readers we’ve been using. PLUS, it has action! Tension! Plot twists! At Scooter’s prompting, it even ties up loose ends. He just had to know what happened to that snake. And he is the one editor I know who loves exclamation points! Loves! Them! A! Lot!!!

This one will be a bestseller for sure, y’all. For. Sure.

2015-07-05 11.22.38

Kindergarten Graduation

2014-08-25 08.47.14As promised, here is my post about Scooter’s kindergarten graduation ceremony. (Video link at the bottom.)

First, some disclaimers. Please excuse my bare feet. I do own shoes. But, I was raised in the Pacific Northwest near the Emerald City. Seattle is known for rain. After all, Toto, that is what keeps things lush and emeraldy! But it also means that wearing shoes in someone’s home is frowned upon. I have continued this lovely tradition here in Texas. It keeps my floors cleaner even though we don’t get quite as much rain (usually).

Also, please ignore the box spring mattress leaning against the wall in the dining room. It’s not worth explaining, just please pretend it isn’t there, okay? It’s not anymore. It’s on my front porch where it belongs. Just kidding. It’s gone.

Third, try not to notice the glaringly ugly doors…or anything else you find objectionable in my home, okay? This isn’t a home decor blog.

And finally, a word about Scooter. *Sigh.* Scooter is…Scooter. Bless his heart.*

With the disclaimers out of the way, let’s start with the most important thing: the adorable cap and gown set. One of the things I had looked forward to when we enrolled him a traditional school was the graduation ceremony with the cute little gown and mortar board. I know, I know, I know. All of the grouches out there are saying, “Back in my day, we didn’t even have graduation – let alone caps and gowns!” And you’re right, Oscars of the world. But in Scooter’s day, we do have graduation and we do have caps and gowns and this mama was looking forward to it. So, crawl back in your crummy can with your rotten banana peels and your slimy pet worm, okay? I purchased our set here. Our color choice has no significance except that it is his favorite. Done. It was of decent quality material. One reviewer mentioned the tassel was actually inserted through a little hole. Ours was not – it was attached to a little button just like the one I wore for Ye Olde High School Graduation back in the Middle Ages.

Second, the diploma. This was part of this memory book download I used for our last week of kindergarten. The packet is super cute and Scooter and I had so much fun completing it together. There are several diploma options to choose from as well. I printed that bad boy off on regular paper and signed it with a regular pen. Voila! If you choose to use parchment, a metallic pen and have a special embossing seal created, this might not be the blog for you – but you can stay if you promise not to judge the mattress in my dining room.

Third, the music. Not all recordings of “Pomp and Circumstance” are created equal and I am particular. I wanted a full orchestra version with a swelling return of the A section. Paint me picky. I chose “Pomp and Circumstance – Single” on iTunes released March 6, 2013. The icon is an illustration of mortarboards with primary colored tassels flying through the air. Happy hunting.

Fourth, the ceremony. Obviously, I went off-the-cuff. No printed program or performance or planned speeches for us! (Come on. We don’t even wear shoes in the house, folks.) We just wanted to mark the moment (and get to the restaurant before the dinner rush).

It was short and sweet Scooter and to the point. We made a memory and had our celebration. Did you have a homeschool graduation ceremony? I’d like to hear about it!

*”Bless his heart” is a Southern expression meaning any number of things. In this case, it means, “Help me! My kid is a weirdo!!!”

2015-05-29 09.29.43Are you ready for this stunning video? If you’re sure, click here.

(This post includes affiliate links. If you buy something, I get coinage.)

Free Printable: Apes & Alligators Game

Does your child need more practice with short- and long-vowel words? With silent  final “e”? Scooter sure does! But, of course, I might as well ask him to clean the cat box rather than attempt to get him to practice these phonics skills with flash cards or leveled readers!

I can get him to practice, however, with my free printable Apes & Alligators Game! Not only will he practice, but he will beg to practice over and over again.

Like my Baking with Blends game, it is simple in concept. Scooter was quick to notice that it is basically the same game – except the board runs the other direction and the colors are different. However, he really does love this game and it is working beautifully to get him to practice.

Let me know if you use this with your children and what creative ways you come up with to use the “Bonus” squares. I’d like to hear from you.

Free Unit Study: China

This week, we will be learning about Ancient China, my inspiration for the China Unit Study which you can download free.

We continue using Story of the World Volume 1: Ancient Times as our spine for social studies,  literature and fine arts and as a supplement to our curriculum for math and science. And as usual, this unit incorporates activities based on classical homeschooling, Charlotte Mason, unit study, lap-booking and Five in a Row and hits many subject areas including math and science.

In addition to the SOTW  Volume 1  text and activity book you will need Chinese Myths (Myths from Many Lands), by Jane Bingham. (Or similar).

Chinese Myths coverI also suggest A Faith Like Mine once again as well as My First Book of Chinese Words: An ABC Rhyming Book.

A Faith Like Mine cover art

 

 

 

 

My First Book of Chinese Words cover

 

The Jane Bingham book provides several excellent parallel myths for the creation and flood stories. The illustrations are colorful, but not scary, and the text is easy enough for a newly fluent reader to read independently.

Activities  in this unit include: map work, reading/listening, narration, making lap-book items, listening to Chinese music, working with adjectives, creating pictograms, cooking Asian Noodle Soup, measurement and making a panda mask. This unit also includes a technology component – looking at kid-friendly sites for facts about Giant Pandas and even watching the panda cam at the San Diego Zoo! So much cuteness!

If you are unfamiliar with lap-booking, I recommend checking out In the Hands of a Child. and their section explaining all things lap-book. (I am not affiliated with In the Hands of a Child.)

As always, you should pick and choose what works for you. And please let me know if you use this with your children. I’d especially love to see your little pandas in their masks!

(This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through one of these links, I get noodle money.)

Free Unit Study: India

It’s been awhile, but I’ve been busy being a mom, keeping house, and finishing up Scooter’s kindergarten year. (I will post soon about how we handled promotion including video from our ceremony).

Since we school year-round, I’ve also been busy preparing for next year. Our family thrives on structure which is our primary reason for starting the new school year days after the old one has been completed – but Scooter is also eager to start first grade before all of his friends. (Can’t argue with a child who wants to learn, right?) So our school year begins on June 1!

This year, we will be using Story of the World Volume 1: Ancient Times as our spine for not only social studies, but literature and fine arts. I do use a separate curriculum for math and science, but will look for those connections as well.

We began using Story of the World Volume 1 (SOTW) in February, but did not get very far. It is a meaty book and Scooter got very wrapped up in Egyptology and mummies. (Pun not intended, but I’m going to leave it just because.)

Now, we are ready to begin learning about Ancient India, and that is the inspiration for this free India Unit Printable.

For this unit, I’ve pulled ideas from  just about everywhere: classical homeschooling, Charlotte Mason, unit study, lap-booking and Five in a Row-inspired methods. We don’t use any single method around here. I’ve also tried to hit as many of the subject areas as possible, tying them all into the theme at least once. In this unit, there is one day with mathematics and one day with science.

You will need the SOTW  Volume 1 text and activity book and The Monkey and the Crocodile by Paul Galdone.

The Monkey and the Crocodile Cover ImageIf you use SOTW already, you know that it is recommended you find one non-fiction book and one fiction book for each chapter. Scooter has had a life-long fascination with crocodilians and I discovered this delightful folk-tale at our local library years ago. The story is fun and the illustrations are outstanding (duh, it’s Paul Galdone) – and it is a great springboard for learning about Indian animals and making mango smoothies! Yum!

I am using three non-fiction texts to supplement SOTW. I chose A Faith Like Mine, Spotlight on India and Good Night Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Bedtime Story. I had A Faith Like Mine already and chose the others from what was available at our local libraries. You may choose others. There are many free online videos for yoga practices with children. We are a book family and loved the illustrations in Good Night Yoga. It is also in a story format, which makes the sequence and poses easy to remember. A bonus: it prepares little ones for a restful sleep! Yeehaw!

Spotlight on India Cover ImageA Faith Like Mine cover artActivities  in this Goodnight Yoga coverunit include: map work, reading/listening, narration, making various lap-book components, listening to Indian music, coloring/illustrating, acting out an Indian folktale, a yoga practice, cooking, copy work, and writing.

If you are unfamiliar with lap-booking, I recommend checking out In the Hands of a Child. When we first began after-schooling Scooter, this site was a life-saver. Though we are secular homeschoolers, we have managed to find numerous materials here that suit our needs and interests. In addition to providing downloadable lap-books and other products, they have a great section explaining all things lap-book. I have not included detailed instructions in my unit for the lap-book components since you can find information and inspiration so handily at their site. (I am not affiliated with In the Hands of a Child and receive nothing should you purchase from their site – I just think they are an excellent resource!)

As always, you should pick and choose what works for you. We will be skipping the SOTW story about the disappearing city since that hits a little too close to home here in flood-stricken Texas. So, if you don’t want to play tag like monkeys and crocodiles or don’t want to do yoga with your kids – then don’t!

Please let me know if you use this with your children. I’d especially love to see some pictures of your monkeys and crocodiles! Have fun!

(This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through one of these links, I get pocket change to buy more mangoes for Cheech and Scooter.)