Category Archives: Waldorf

Why Waldorf? Part 2

MP900431679[1]As I stated yesterday, as of last spring, I was 100% turned off to Waldorf education. Several things came about to change that view. Firstly, Dora had become very resistant to working with our Montessori materials. Secondly, I was feeling frustrated by how hard it was for me to present each Montessori lesson correctly, I did not find the materials intuitive in any way. Thirdly, storage had become an issue. Fourthly, I did not feel Montessori was matching Dora’s learning style. I briefly flirted with the idea of a Charlotte Mason or Classical approach, but ruled those out as well. I then contemplated going with our tried and true, eclectic approach, but honestly I felt that I wanted something that was more cohesive. I wanted something that met Dora’s needs academically and my needs emotionally. After two decades of homeschooling, I was tired of constantly having to research curriculum for each and every child, for each and every subject, each and every year. I wanted a system that I could rely on to get us through all of Dora’s years of schooling (some minor tweaking would be okay).

I had also begun to be attracted to Waldorf, by Waldorf-inspired blogs, which I did not even realize were Waldorfian at first. They showed me that Anthroposophy was not as crazy as I had come to believe, that a Waldorf-inspired education could be done with a secular or Pagan system of beliefs. Yet, part of what was attracting me to these blogs was a spiritual connection they were making in me at the time. This was during the time period when my potassium levels were dangerously low, unbeknownst to anyone. There were days that I honestly thought I was dying. It was not a panicked sort of feeling, but a great sense in me that without some major change, I would soon leave my body. I began to have experiences that I could only describe as “spiritual” in nature. My secular readers may squirm at my words or may believe that my “experiences” were simply a matter of my brain misfiring some electric signals as my body was too deficient in potassium to properly operate. Two years ago, I would have agreed with my secular readers, whole heartedly. Now, not so much. Having lived through these experiences, having felt on three separate occasions that my soul was trying to leave my body, but could not, due to a strong tether to my heart (why my heart? I do not know, perhaps because my heart knew I still had to be here for my loved ones, or perhaps because my heart is the strongest part of my body, or perhaps because that is how my brain was misfiring,?), I find that I am no longer able to dismiss the idea of a soul or of there being some sort of greater being that has had a hand in our creation. Does this conflict with my beliefs in regards to evolution or the Big Bang? No. Am I becoming a Christian? No. Do I believe in an after life? Not necessarily.

What my experiences have lead me to is more questions than answers. What Waldorf education, and by extension Anthroposophy, have brought to me is the possibility of some sort of spiritual reckoning or understanding, at a time when I have no choice, but to look my own mortality in the face. I may yet live to be 100, but I have come close enough to the “other side” that I will never be the same again.

So, I hope that I do not lose my secular readers as I do not intend to use this blog to preach anything or to discuss spirituality in any form, beyond these posts where I am attempting to at least partially explain a major change in my life and my educational approach to our homeschooling. Though I may, on occasion, have to offer some sort of spiritual explanation for certain aspects of Waldorfian methods.

I also hope that I do not lose any of my religious readers. I do not mean to imply that any religion is better or worse than another. As always, I respect everyone’s right to religiously worship in his or her own way.

Maureen

Labels: Waldorf
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Why Waldorf?

Steiner Berlin 1900 bigI know many of you may be wondering how a fanatical Montessorian could so suddenly switch to becoming a staunch Waldorfian (yes, I do believe that I just made up both of those words). In actuality, I first started looking into Waldorf-inspired education over 15 years ago. I met several Waldorfian homeschoolers (I am entering “Waldorfian” into my spell checker, in an attempt to make it a real word) and became quite intrigued with the method of education. Unfortunately, my relationship with these homeschoolers was to be short-lived, as  a local Waldorf school opened its doors. Most of the Waldorfian homeschoolers I knew had actively participated in getting this school launched. All of the Waldorfians I knew enrolled their children in to the school ASAP. At the same time, I became pregnant with Gohan, so had no spare time to devote to further researching Waldorf education, not to mention I had been given a strong message by my former homeschooling friends that Waldorf was not a style of education that could be reproduced in a homeschool setting. The final nail in the coffin of those friendships occurred when Gohan was two and we moved to the Northern California.Rudolf Steiner als AbiturientShortly after moving to the Silicon Valley, I was quite excited to learn about a weekend-long Waldorf retreat that was being offered nearby at a very respected institute. I took Secunda and Tertia with me and they were able to attend typical “Waldorf” classrooms, while I attended various workshops for Waldorf-inspired teachers, parents, and homeschoolers. While we were greatly enjoying our time at the retreat, two events occurred on the second day that turned me against Waldorf education for the next decade and a half. Firstly, the kindergarten teacher lost Tertia. I mean, literally lost her. She had no idea that Tertia wasn’t with the group  when I arrived to pick Tertia up for lunch. She also was not particularly concerned that Tertia was missing, insisting that she would turn up somewhere. A half hour later (one of the longest half hours of my life, mind you) we found Tertia, who had gone to meet us at the lunch area. The teacher’s lackadaisical attitude towards Tertia’s absence really left me feeling extremely disconcerted. After lunch, however, I returned my daughters to their respective classrooms and went to my workshop, which was about Anthroposophy. At this point in time, I only had the vaguest idea as to what anthroposophy was about and what it’s relationship to Waldorf education was. I actually enjoyed the first 2/3 of the class quite a bit and was feeling that anthroposophy might actually fill the spiritual void that was in my life at the time. Unfortunately, the anthroposophy teacher then took us outside to do some meditation. As a martial artist, I was quite familiar and comfortable with meditation. This meditation, however, was like no other than I had ever participated in. I can’t even remember the whole event very well, other than it involved staring at the sky and that the discussion became more and more strange (in my mind) the longer we stood outside. I would go so far as to say that had I later learned that everybody else in the group had been smoking shrooms right before the workshop, I would not have been surprised in the slightest. In fact, if I had later learned that I was actually on Candid Camera, I would have been quite relieved. Unfortunately, neither proved to be the case and finally, the conversation reached “okay, these people are really weirding me out here, I just want to get the hell out of this place right this second” levels for me and I suddenly garbled out something about having to leave early, grabbed Secunda and Tertia and hightailed it out of the area. I never again considered Waldorf as an educational option until nine months ago….

Duh, duh, duh, duh (that is some melodramatic and gripping music – just in case my writing didn’t properly convey the tone I was trying to accomplish).

Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion to this post, when you will learn all of the whys and wherefores of this personal transformation!

P.S. – I included that second picture of Rudolph Steiner, just because I have always thought of Steiner as a stern-looking, old man (okay, maybe throw in a “tad bit creepy-looking” while you’re at it). Yet, it ends up that at one time, he was actually a piece of eye-candy (at least in my “swoon over the Eastern-European look” mind). Of course, spiritually-speaking, that is kind of akin to referring to Mother Teresa as a “hot babe”, so I’m probably now damned to spend eternity in an Anthroposphian version of hell…

Labels: Waldorf
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Happy 2013!

Happy 2013Hello everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. We enjoyed a simple and restful seasonal celebration, which left me feeling refreshed and revved up to start the new year. I did see a nephrologist during the break. She ran numerous tests and we are awaiting the results, but in the interim, she increased the amount of supplemental potassium that I am taking every day (it only comes in prescription form, so can only be done through a doctor). I cannot tell you how much better this small change has made me feel. I am no longer having constant muscle aches, spasms, and cramps. In addition, we figured out that the secret to keeping my headaches at bay is for me to drink a LOT of water as I was passing more water than I was taking in (I need to drink about 100 ounces per day to keep up with my kidneys). So while I am not feeling 100% myself, by a long shot, I am feeling so much better since I last posted!

I am never much of one for resolutions, but this year I do plan to focus on getting back to the basics. That’s back to the basics in my food choices, my personal care items, Dora’s toys, our household, and so forth. As I mentioned before, I am trying to eliminate any and all toxins from my life, in order to take some of the load off my kidneys. This will be a long term process, but I have made a pretty decent start thus far. One thing that is complicating this process is waiting to see my nephrologist again, as depending on what exactly is wrong with my kidneys, I may have to reduce unusual things, such as protein sources, from my diet.

As I have been focusing on simplifying our lifestyle, I have found myself drifting away from using the Montessori method with Dora and drifting towards a Waldorf-inspired method of home education. This process was given a great big nudge by having Secunda move back in with us and me subsequently losing my office/homeschooling room. Space became a major issue, but also, Dora just had no interest in doing any of the Montessori materials anymore and I finally got tired of trying to get her to do them. So, over the break, I sold ALL of our Montessori materials and invested in some Waldorf books and materials. The books are mostly for me to learn how to provide a Waldorf-inspired education to Dora, something I already knew a bit about. I needed very few materials for Dora, as I had already been heading in a Waldorf-direction for several months. In addition, I actually reduced the number of toys and arts and crafts materials we have on hand, as I now have a have a higher standard about what qualifies as non-toxic than I used to. Finally, when trying to emulate a Waldorf education, one usually tries to keep the environment simple and uncluttered. So, all in all, it seems like all aspects of my life are coming together in synch right now.

I only made one change to Gohan’s curriculum and that was to switch to Oak Meadow for his language arts. I did this to make things easier for me. I no longer have to plan out every component of his language arts curriculum, as Oak Meadow has already done this for me. He will be continuing with Teaching Textbooks for math and the Cartoon History of the World series for social studies. He takes science through our local homeschool co-op. He is also continuing with his two drama classes and Taekwondo. Honestly, he is maturing so quickly right now, it just blows my mind away. After years and years of dealing with his learning disabilities, it’s like a light bulb turned on and his brain is trying to make up for lost time. I doubt I could have started him with Oak Meadow in September. Now, not only can he do a pre-packaged curriculum, he is actually working at grade level in language arts for the first time in entire his life!

How about you? Have you made any major changes to your life or homeschool for the new year?

Labels: Peg Dolls, Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disorder, Waldorf
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Homeschool Mother’s Journal–Changing Our Approach to Language Arts

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In my life this week… I got a ticket! When the officer approached my car, I was actually sincere when I asked, “Is there a problem officer?” as I knew I hadn’t broken any laws. Well, it ends up that our car registration expired in May! I don’t know how neither Mr. Mo nor I noticed this, it is not like us at all. I was so embarrassed, it felt like the first time I had an overdue library book (thanks to one of my children!), I’ve never let my tabs expire in my 28 years of driving. For some reason, having expired tabs seemed more criminal than speeding. Plus, I was right in front of the gymnastics school and a grocery store. Tons of people were walking by and giving me curious looks. I felt sure that they were thinking that I was horrible criminal and were gleefully waiting to watch me hauled off to jail in cuffs. I didn’t actually start the waterworks, but I was so upset, the police officer became apparently distraught himself. I still feel like I can’t wash the “driving with expired tabs” scent off of me. Plus, the ticket was for $216!!! In our homeschool this week…I started our new Charlotte Mason-ish approach to language arts with both Dora and Gohan. I call it “Charlotte Mason-ish”, because I am using Waldorf materials with Dora. I started using L M N O P and All the Letters A to Z, which is a Waldorf  alphabet book. It has one poem and illustration for each letter. Whereas Dora would have nothing to do with Montessori alphabet baskets or sandpaper letters, she begs me to read more than one poem a day from this book and spends a lot of time reflecting on the illustration and the words in the poem. Since I started reading this book to her, she has been talking about her A,B,C’s a lot and pointing out letters when she sees one that she recognizes. I cannot believe what a difference one book has made for her! 

Coating Leaves in Beeswax 2

We also continued to look at autumn leaves. We preserved some leaves by dipping them in melted beeswax. This was the first time that I had ever done this. The hardest part of the activity was keeping the wax at the right temperature. If I left the burner on too long, even on the lowest heat setting, the wax would start to boil. I was worried that this would cause the wax to burn, so I turned the burner off every time the wax started to boil. There would come a point, however, when the wax would get too cold and this would cause the wax to cake on the leaves. The finished leaves feel very smooth, not waxy at all, and look beautiful.

Coating Leaves in Beeswax 3

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… In addition to the usual drama, music and co-op classes, Dora started taking gymnastics with one of her homeschooled friends at a local gymnastics school. It’s an hour long, so Dora was exhausted by the end of class, but by the next morning, she was raring to go again. We had planned to go to our homeschool group’s park day today, but no one else was attending. We may look into joining another homeschool group that has weekly “meetings” in an old building that has a giant lawn to play on. The building is huge, with wooden floors and a stage, so there is lots of room to run around if it is too rainy to play outside. Plus they have some toys there and kids bring board games and so forth. We had tried attending the group once before and I was turned off by the long drive to get there. Also,  no one would play with Dora at the time. I want to try it again, though, as Dora is older and has much better social skills now. Plus, since we have been driving so far to attend park days recently, this drive doesn’t seem so bad anymore.

Ebright Park 1

My favorite thing this week was… The temperatures finally dropped to a normal range for this time of year. I could feel a nip in the air, a gentle reminder that winter is not far away.

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Labels: Language Arts, Nature Study, Waldorf, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff