Waldorf Rhythm – Musically Speaking

FullSizeRenderIf you’ve done any reading at all about Waldorf education, you have surely encountered Waldorf’s three R’s: rhythm, rhythm and rhythm. Yes, rhythm is a BIG DEAL in Waldorf world! Visit any Waldorf-inspired blog and you will likely find a post. Google “Waldorf rhythm” and you get 461K results! Pinterest is full of Waldorf rhythm pins and every Waldorf book will include it. In fact, there are actually entire Waldorf books just about rhythm – why you need one, what it is, how to tweak it, what to put in it, how to get your family doing it, etc.  Every website I’ve visited, every book I’ve read, when they get to the practical steps to establishing a Waldorf home starts with rhythm. There’s just no escaping it, no skipping it, no racing on to the gnomes, play silks and knitting. Even if you do race on to the gnomes, play silks and knitting…you will eventually find yourself back where you started trying to figure out rhythm!

If you haven’t done any reading at all about Waldorf education, check out the links on this post. For rhythm-specific reading, my favorites can be found here on Waldorf Essentials by Melisa Nielsen and this post at Waldorf Inspired Learning. These ladies do an amazing job of explaining what you need to know about rhythm – what it is, why you need it, how to do it, etc.

Fortunately for me, we already had a good start on rhythm before coming to Waldorf. I don’t consider myself to be especially organized, but I am a rather regularish sort of person – a regularish sort of person with two small children I homeschool, a household to run and a menagerie to tend. Out of necessity, I have had routines in place for a long time! But as I dove into my rhythm reading, I realized that what I was doing was not a rhythm. A rhythm is not simply “Breakfast at 7, Lunch at 12, Rest at 1” or “clear the table, put away leftovers, wash the dishes” or even “floors on Monday, bathrooms on Tuesday, kitchen on Wednesday” – a rhythm is so much more!

Rhythm is a pattern of in breaths and out breaths.

??????????

Yeah. That breath thing made no sense to me. So, I read some more and then put it into terms that mean something to me – music terms!

What does rhythm mean in music? Well, as a Kodaly-inspired educator, this means the children first learn to “pat steady” to a bank of folk songs. Once they can do this, then I give them the term “steady beat” to name that constant patting, stomping, clapping, dancing heartbeat they have experienced. Then I guide them to identify that the words of the songs don’t plod along following that steady beat exactly, one word to a beat. Some words do fall exactly on the beat – but some crowd together and move faster than the beat. And sometimes there are no words at all – just a beat or more of total silence. Once the children have found places in their familiar songs that do all of these things, I give them the term “rhythm” to name the concept of patterns of short and long sounds and silences. Next come the names for those sounds and silences – quarter note, eighth note pair and so on.

As their musical repertoire grows and they create their own songs, we explore how different rhythmic patterns evoke different moods and sensations and this is where Waldorf rhythm starts to make sense to me! They experience the excitement – and exhaustion! – of many rapidly repeated notes, of accelerando (speeding up). They feel soothed by a succession of slow, sustained notes and ritardando (slowing down). They feel anticipation or completion at a rest and the engagement that happens when rhythms vary, the lack of satisfaction when changes are too abrupt.

Here is the song we were singing before I thought about home rhythm in these terms.

Daily Rhythm
6:00             Good Morning!
6:30             Breakfast, clear table; dress, teeth, hair.
7:30             Outside Play/Mom does chores
8:30             Monday – Friday: Main Lesson; Saturday – Sunday: Free play.
9:30             Snack Time
                     Monday – Friday: Lively Arts
                     Saturday: Library/Baseball
                     Sunday: Free Play
12:00           Lunch, clear table
                     Free Play
1:00             Rest Period
3:00             Walk Dog
                     Free Play/Housework and Dinner Prep
5:30             Evening Activities
6:30             Dinner
7:30             Shower, Pajamas, Teeth, Etc. Maybe a story if we aren’t furious with each other.
8:00             Good Night!…maybe. Probably not. Up and down, and round and round.

You can see there was a lot of free play while I tried to get things done – free play that usually became a free-for-all. Someone almost always got hurt, something almost always got destroyed – and I wasn’t really getting any of those things done I was trying to do! And meals and rest times were battlegrounds!

My study of Waldorf rhythm has brought me to compose something new – a day with rhythmic variety without any abrupt changes. I’ve tried to alternate “rapid notes” and “slow notes” and I make sure we have some strategic “rests” as well. I’ve also thought about transitions and incorporated accelerandi and ritardandi  to eliminating abrupt shifts.

 

James with Flowers
Happy boy!

Of course, I am also learning that no matter where we are in our rhythm, my active engagement is required. We can alternate degrees of my active engagement – I can teach a lesson, then work on computer, read them a story, then fold laundry while they play – but I can’t check out for long stretches of the day to play on Facebook clean. I can have tiny little breaks – a quarter rest, maybe even a half rest – but no tacit for mommy! (A tacit is when a musician has rests for a really long time, pages even.)

 

Armed with a new understanding of rhythm, our days now look like this:

Daily Rhythm
6:00     Good Morning!
6:30     Breakfast, clear table, dress, teeth and hair
Morning Home Care (Daily chores we do together)
             Outside Play & Nature Walk
8:30     Monday – Friday: Main Lesson
             Saturday – Sunday: Free Play/Special Time
9:30     Snack Time
Monday – Friday: Lively Arts
Saturday: Library/Baseball
Sunday: Free Play
12:00    Lunch, clear table
              Story Time
1:00      Rest Period
3:00      Walk Dog
Afternoon Home Care (Major chores we do once a week, together)
Handwork
Meal Preparation (which we often do together)
Free Play
5:30      Evening Activities
6:30      Dinner
7:30      Shower, Pajamas, Teeth, Etc.
Story
8:00     Good Night!

Daily Rhythm

You can see that our morning time still begins with a lot of focused activity – eating, getting dressed, morning chores. I have accepted that I am going to have be actively involved many times – they aren’t going to dress, etc., without my being present in their room. This sustained concentrated effort is hard for Scooter and Cheech (and me…) but once done, they get to slow down and play outside and I finish up my morning routine. After a short time on their own, I take them on a nature walk. This time acts as a gradual accelerando into main lesson time and has been smooth sailing since the change! (Gnomes be praised!) Lively Arts act as a lovely little ritardando right through lunch and story culminating in a satisfying and welcome rest.  After rest, we jump right into activity/accelerando – walking the dog and hard-core housework (together!). Handwork, which is somewhat active (mentally) but also relaxing (physically) creates a great ritardando into dinner prep time and free play. Our evening activities are usually another series of “rapid notes” before our final ritardando – dinner, getting ready for bed and a story. By the time we get to bedtime, that rest is (mostly) welcome. Some days circumstances (illness, baseball practice, torrential rains) intervene and we have to rearrange – we play jazz and improvise.  But having once established the rhythm, we can easily reestablish it after any departure.

Of course, rhythm is only one part of those changes, but it is a BIG part! My kids are getting regular doses of intense mental/physical activity and interaction with me and each other throughout the day as well as and regular doses of less intense activity and interaction. Overall, they are calmer, more cooperative and we are more connected. And that is good for all families, right? Not just homeschool families or Waldorf families!

IMG_0375

 

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Early Risers: Ten Benefits of Kids Who Wake Up Too Early

I have kids who wake up too early. Well, one kid who wakes up too early. The other one wakes up because he doesn’t want to miss the party. But, you know what? Just like I’m too old to party past 8 p.m., I’m too old to party at 4 a.m.

Salmonella and Homeschooling Success

Blog Hop Header

Today is the first-ever blog hop at a site I really love – SecularHomeschool.com. As the school year comes to a close (for some, not all), they’ve asked folks to celebrate our successes. So, what have we done successfully this year? Here are my Top 5.

5. We did not make a mummified chicken. No, we did not. Even though I fell in love with our history curriculum because of the mummified chicken project in the activity book, sanity saved the day and I said, “No. Un-huh. We are not doing no nasty mummified chicken in this kitchen with a toddler and a six year old menace. Because ain’t nobody got time for salmonella!” Sometimes, even homeschooling moms need to know when mummifying a chicken is overkill.

4. We figured out what to do with the toddler!!! People ask frequently how homeschool works when you have one that isn’t, technically, homeschooling and has the attention span of a crack-addicted flea. And it is a trick. In a nutshell, he has five busy boxes – and since we only school four days a week, the rotation makes one of them feel “new” every two weeks. (If you want to see what’s in them, I’ll be posting soon.)

3. We have a schedule/routine that is working for us. It’s sensitive to the needs of both of our kids, to both adults and leaves lots of room for other things like outside play, trips to the library and taking care of our ever-growing menagerie. (So that no one gets salmonella.)

2. We took the leap and actually decided to home school full time. It was a process. It was terrifying. But it was what we knew in our guts we needed to do. We looked, we leapt, we landed (mostly) on our feet. And that is something I’m really proud of.

1. But my biggest source of pride and satisfaction is that I’ve managed to carve out time to pursue my own interests. (Gasp!) Yes, interests that have little (or nothing) to do with my kids or homeschool. Interests that give me a greater sense of purpose (other than my kids or homeschool). Interests that connect me to the outside world. This has always been a challenge for me as a mother whether I was working outside the home, working from home, or just working in the home, but it’s been harder now since we leapt into homeschooling. But, I’m doing it. And I hope that, in addition to phonics and number bonds and the names of the planets in the solar system, the lesson that taking care of yourself is essential is a lesson my children are learning well. (That and handwashing. Because salmonella.)

Ta da! For more fabulous homeschool successes, hop on over to some of these other folks’ blogs.

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Online Discussion Group – Parents of Spirited Children

Do you have a spirited child? One who is “more intense, persistent, sensitive, perceptive and slow to change” than other “average” children you know?

I do. I have two of these little marvels, in fact. And I am facilitating an online discussion group for parents who would like to read the book Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and do the workbook as well.

This book is amazing. The author vividly describes spirited children and the experience of trying to parent one, and gives practical, effective tips for parenting them on a day-to-day basis. Suggestions for selective eating, temper tantrums, bedtime hassles, play date meltdowns and more are included – as well as handy tips for managing the spirited adults in your home. (Spiritedness is, apparently, hereditary…)

Over the next few months, we will work our way through the book and workbook. The forum will be a safe place to vent, share stories and build a community of others who are rearing these hooligans terrors demon spawn special snowflakes. Please note that people of faith are welcome, but there will very likely be colorful language, mention of copious consumption of adult beverages and some dark humor from at least one person. (Ahem. It’s me.)

I’m starting this group because I am fairly isolated here in the Piney Woods. I don’t see very many people other than clerks and servers at our single grocery store and at the occasional drive-thru window when we’ve made the 35-minute trek to the nearest city of size to run errands. And I can’t be the only parent of spirited children who could use more support than the occasional cheerful word from Ron at Piggly Wiggly, right?

So, if you’d like to join, send me a message with your email. The group starts this week and we have space for a few more. We will be doing one chapter (or group of chapters) every two weeks, so there is plenty of time to get your books – especially if you have Prime. If you are parenting a spirited child (and need some help, some community and some colorful language/adult beverages/dark humor), please join us.

2015-04-28 12.17.57

Mom Gets a New Badge

So, I know someone who peed her pants in a pet store this week. It was NOT me, just someone I KNOW. Because I would never, ever pee my pants in a pet store or anywhere else. Nope. Not me.

But, I’m not going to judge because…I totally get it. (Even though it was NOT ME, remember?)

See, this friend of mine was running errands with her kids. After doing the morning dash of breakfast and dressing, she packed all of their stuff – snacks, drinks, diapers, wipes, changing table blanket, toys, more snacks – then wrestled them into safety seats before they could manage to UNdress themselves. She really needed to use the restroom, BUT the kids were already cranky, so she decided she could hold it. She could. She is super awesome like that.

Then she drove a loooong way to get to the shopping center, like 35 minutes because this friend lives in the middle of nowhere and it’s a long drive to get to Target. Which I completely get because I also live in the middle of nowhere and it really IS worth the drive just to get to Target.

But by the time they got there, the kids were even MORE cranky. The family restroom was RIGHT THERE, BUT…the kids. The kids were so freaking cranky. And they really wanted to get to the pet store to buy stuff for their new pet turtle. Which I completely understand because MY kids also got a new pet turtle this week and they also were excited to go to the pet store.

So, she still had to pee, but raced through Target, paid, then loaded up the Target stuff and the kids, drove to the pet store, and hauled the kids inside. Because they were cranky, remember? They were excited, remember? So, she made it to the pet store’s restroom, got the cart and the kids inside, then parked the cart the perfect distance from EVERYTHING so her youngest kid couldn’t touch ANYTHING. Of course! She was very careful and even though she REALLY NEEDED TO PEE, she took her time about it because GERMS. That’s what moms do, right?

She even made it into the stall, but then, in the act of dropping trou…the flood-gates opened and…she peed. Right there. On the trou.

And she was so embarrassed, and so laughing and so…done. Done with those underpants – but even more done with this badge called “the indignities of motherhood.”

Don’t tell me you haven’t heard about this badge. It’s everywhere. In every post on the Interwebz about not peeing alone or pooping alone. Or not having time to shower, or shave ones legs or wear makeup. About not getting a hot cup of coffee. Or a warm meal or regular haircuts or new underpants when the old pairs are tatty and have no elastic (or they are peed in a pet store).

And it’s in every post where some mother is judged because she DOES have a real hair style or coordinated clothes or invisible cuticles. And in every post where we assume that woman with the great, seasonally appropriate handbag that is NOT overflowing with snacks and diapers must be selfish and/or have a sugar daddy.

I don’t want to be the woman who pees her pants for THE CHILDREN. (Good thing that was someone else!) I don’t want to be the mom who is so attentive, I leave the door open to the bathroom while attending to my personal business. And I don’t want to be the mom who looks like yesterday’s coffee on it’s third reheat, creamer congealing on the rim. (At least not EVERY DAY.)

My friend doesn’t, either. She’s taken off the badge – the badge she thought said, “Mother” that really says, “Sucker.” And she has a new one. It says, “Human.” And the next time she has to pee – she’s GOING. (Unless it’s a nasty gas station. Because GERMS.)

PS Here is our turtle. It looks JUST LIKE my friend’s turtle. But it’s not. Because ours is way cuter. image

3 Things I Took With Me from Public School

Before I became an accidental homeschooler, I was an on-purpose middle school and high school teacher. I loved it and I hated it, but mostly, I loved it. It was hard, it was fun and sometimes I cried and I (thought) bad words. But, I was actually pretty good at it and I’d like to share three things that worked then that I find are still working now.

1. When I first began teaching, my amazing mentor told me, “You bring the fun – or they will. And you’ll never like the fun they come up with.” If content is uninteresting, delivery is boring and activities are humdrum ho-hum, you can guarantee that your classroom will swiftly devolve into a zoo. When working with beginning teachers who were struggling to manage their classrooms, this was one of the FIRST things I considered. And it is still true in my homeschool, enrollment two. If I don’t tie the content to my children’s interest, or I dish up the same-old same-old every day, or I fail to frequently incorporate the kinds of activities they enjoy, we are going to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad school day.

Which brings me to…
2. Learning styles matter. Learning styles refer to the preferred way a person learns. Think about yourself and how you like to learn new things. Do you like to read a book? Would you prefer to watch a movie or video or listen to a recording presenting the material or skill? Or, would you learn best if you actually got up and did the thing alongside a master teacher? Most people have one dominant learning style, with a secondary style as well. Most adults can manage to learn in a number of different ways because we have been conditioned to do so – and it makes it rather convenient since many of us have to listen to presentations, read books or trade journals or watch videos for our jobs. However, forcing children to “learn” in a way that is not their preferred style much of the time is torturous both for the teacher and the child. Teaching in their preferred style helps make sure that at least some of the planned activities are those they enjoy.

But what about the necessary activities they don’t enjoy? (And I realize there is an entire school of thought that says children should only do activities they enjoy. But, I’m just not running that kind of joint.)

For those times when an activity is not interesting or fun, I suggest…

3. “Probably so, but nevertheless…” This was a phrase I learned at a conference my first year teaching and it has served me well. For example, Scooter loathes math fact flashcards. I have chosen this practice method for two reasons. First of all, not everything can be cute and fun – I simply am not going to make up a puppet show or game for everything we do. (I may never make up a puppet show in fact.) Secondly, in the case of math facts, a recent study suggests that cutesy little games and activities aren’t nearly as good as old-fashioned “drill and kill.” In fact, worksheets and flashcards may be the absolute best way to teach math facts. Do we do some games? Sure. Do we do some hands-on activities? Absolutely. But sometimes, we do flashcards. And Scooter hates them. More than he hates broccoli, which is saying something.

But this is where, “Probably so, but nevertheless” really comes in handy.,

Observe.

Scooter: I HATE flashcards!

Me: Probably so, but nevertheless, we are going to do them.

Scooter: They are BORING and STUPID!

Me: Probably so, but nevertheless, it is time for flashcards.

Scooter: I can’t wait for them to be OVER!!!

Me: Probably so, but nevertheless, here we go!

Notice the following things about this handy phrase. “Probably so….” acknowledges the child’s feelings. “Probably so….” allows the child to save face because no disagreement is stated. “Probably so” presents no counter-argument. (Why not? Because in the throes of battle, it is not fruitful for me to argue the benefits of flashcards. Scooter does not give two fat farts about how flash cards affect his brain synapses, or about how they are the building blocks for math and science (his favorite subjects) or about the virtues of obedience or how hard I worked to make them. He just HATES them and he is mad!)

“Probably so” acknowledges all of that, skips the argument and moves right on to, “Nevertheless….” which is firm and assertive – and I keep repeating it until Scooter figures out it’s do the damn cards or hear, “Probably so, but nevertheless” on repeat ad infinitum.

Try this phrase. Really. Everyone who has tried it has grown to love it as much as I do. (My cohort wanted to get tee shirts made, but we never did. Nevertheless, it’s a great phrase.) Then, let me know how it went.

So, in summary, bring the fun, teach to your child’s learning style and remember, “Probably so, but nevertheless…” covers a multitude of wrongs.

And finally, I want to say that public school – and especially public school teachers – have many strengths. I know there are bad apples and bad schools, but most I have ever encountered are well-educated, highly skilled professionals committed to learning more, doing better and giving all they have to their students. This post was inspired by yet another thing I read today slamming public schools and public school teachers – and it made me mad and it hurt my heart. We homeschool because it’s best for our family – but not because public schools or public school teachers are bad. I owe much of my success at home (and in school) to public schools and public school teachers. I am a better human being for the experiences and relationships I had there. So, godspeed, public educators – and thank you.

 

 

Daily Schedule

Every homeschooling methodology book I’ve read (except for Unschooling books) seems to include a section on schedules.

Which I skip. Because, hey – it’s my home and my family and I am going to do what works for us, right?

But, I understand some families considering homeschooling or new to homeschooling would like to know our schedule, so in this post I’ll share ours.

However, you need to know a few things about our family to fully appreciate a) why I felt confident jumping into homeschooling without following someone else’s schedule and b) why we use this particular type of scheduling method.

First, our family needs routine. One of us has Attention Deficit Disorder. Two, possibly three of us, also cope with anxiety. Routines are comforting to us, keep us on track, help us develop a sense of predictability and accomplishment and generally, keep the wheels from falling off. We’ve been refining our home and family routines for quite a while – adding a homeschooling routine/schedule into the mix wasn’t really that big of a deal.

Second, we use this particular type of schedule because it is visual, touchable and flexible. Scooter does not read independently yet, both boys enjoy turning little cards, and it is easily changed each day.

Your family may not need as much detail or need a touchable system. Your family may just roll along happily and without question with one caregiver acting as ringmaster. (If this is your family, lucky, lucky you.)

But, in any case, here is what works for us.

Daily ScheduleI found daily schedule cards at this site. I love them! They are small, have a picture on each one, have lots of variety (boardwalk, anyone?) including two blank cards, and best of all – they are free! I printed them on heavy card stock (grey was what I had on hand) and just cut them out. They fit five-across in my table-top pocket chart by Learning Resources.

Next, I created my own cards for  our actual school work. They are larger, but also have a picture on each one and include blank cards. As soon as I figure out how (which will be after I make dinner, bathe the spawn, and wrestle them to bed), I will link to my file so you can download a copy if you’d like. Update: You can now download my School ScheduleSchool Activity Cards.

Please know that we do not do every subject every day except for Language Arts and Math. Scooter is barely six and I have other things to do – like manage a household, maintain my super-model figure and write blog posts to be read for the masses.

Instead, I often allow him to choose between science and history – though lately we have done both since both of the unit studies we are doing really interest him right now. (The solar system and ancient Egypt, for the curious.)

We do art and music when we make time. The kids usually do some kind of art every day. Just this week, in fact, they did a Jackson Pollock recreation with popcorn, mini marshmallows and Nerds candy on the new family room rug while I was on the phone. But, I digress. As for music, we do that whenever I can stomach the thought of fighting over the instruments or singing another round of “We Are the Dinosaurs.” Most days, we turn on NPR in the car, hope it’s a musical program and call it done. The shoemaker’s children…

Life Skills includes sewing, cleaning, cooking, helping with the chickens and helping with the yard and garden. Basically, anything that needs doing around the homestead that I can do with some “help” from the children with reasonable hope of success. Scooter’s chores include making his bed, sorting laundry, putting clean laundry away, putting his own belongings away, helping me put many of his brother’s belongings away, clearing the table after meals, walking the dog at lunch time (just down the driveway and around the culdesac – don’t freak out!), and setting the table for dinner. He also dusts, uses the hand vacuum around the edges and corners of rooms, cleans glass-topped tables and the front of the china cabinet and sorts clean socks. He feeds his own fish and helps feed the mammals. He tells me this is exhausting.

And, last but not least, German – new this week.

I know, Classical educator friends – no Latin. What about the children? Well, I know this may be quite a shock, but Latin doesn’t give me any warm fuzzies. None. And at this point in my life, I cannot muster up the strength to teach something about which I have no warm fuzzies. Ad infernum cum eo.

So, there it is. Ta da. Now, go do what works for you and ignore this post entirely.