The first block of Language Arts in first grade, is wonderful. In fact it’s what really drew me towards this imaginative education. The enthusiasm of a 61/2 years old towards learning is so pure. My son Evan, being the second child, had grown up watching and copying everything his big brother Tristan was doing. I did no formal schooling with Evan before this date like I had with Tristan.
Tristan had spent one year in daycare at the age of two, then he did 2 years of preschool. Being a formal preschool teacher myself, I had worked at two places, an academically driven Montessori school and a educational Preschool. My knowledge of what children should learn was very mainstream. My class of 3 and 4 years old, were learning the alphabet, writing their names, counting out loud and on paper numbers 1 through 10, they had introductory computer lessons, and science fair projects. Honestly, I think back at those days, and I regret that I had not been exposed to Waldorf at that time.
Intuitively, I practicised a lot of Waldorf ideology, like the circle games, nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Part of my requirements as a teacher was to prepare thematic units for each month, stories, songs and hands-on activities, which allowed for a more personal impact. I Mostly chose themes that I felt were important for the children, some were based on the emerging self of that particular age and others were about the relationship they should develop with the natural world by exploring it hands on through various outings, crafts, handwork and gardenning. It was important that they felt a reverence and awe about the beauty and magic that surrounded them. More importantly, I prepared thematic corners, and allowed a big amount of free play, just to let the children explore the classroom as they pleased. So when I discovered Waldorf, it spoke to me on a soul level, I truly understood it.
When we had decided to try homeschooling Tristan for kindergarten, he had already been exposed to so many academic notions before the age of 5. We had bought a traditional kinder garten program and started out with all the path tracings and letter tracings, the Language Arts program was designed with. Sure enough, because of his early exposure, he had lost that beautiful spark that each child has coming into the world, the thirst for knowledge. Many, many tears both from he and myself, were tainting our ideology of homeschooling. By the end of kindergarten, I had to find a different route if I were to continue on this path of learning. After many hours surfing the net, I had remembered a friend’s remark that dated back to ’98, he had suggested because of my background in art and children, a wonderful artistic school called Waldorf, nestled in the Okanagan Valley, where we were living at the time. It came back to me in 2005, when I was searching for alternatives. It’s a known fact that there is a 7 year period prior to change, and our whole body regenerates every 7 years. It’s no coincidence that it took 7 years for the first mention of Waldorf to simmer internally and finally manifest itself externally.
I searched forums and seeked other families who had already adopted this form of education. There were three distinct programs available at that time. Oak Meadow, Live Education and Christopherus Homeschool. Reading the personal reviews on all of them, I had decided to go with the newly established Christopherus. Donna Simmons spoke to me on a personal level. She seemed to understand exactly what I was living, she had been there. Her program seemed very clear and easy to understand but most importantly not too dogmatic. Rudolph Steiner was a visionary and he understood humanity. What I came to understand of this exceptional man, is he wanted us to seek ones own path to the spiritual realm and not to follow in his footsteps. We are all spiritual beings, and we all have access to the universal energy. I would greatly recommend Donna Simmon’s program, in fact I have placed a link on the left-hand side, under beautiful Waldorf sites, to connect directly with her.
Her first block starts out with story, a journey, a soul journey that a young prince must take in order to understand how to rule with kindness and care. He sets off with the Wise Woman of the World of Waves, see the emphasis on the letter W, to understand and acquire the proper emotions to be a good ruler. The story is on going throughout the 4 weeks of this block. By meeting all sorts of people, heroins, overcoming obstacles, and acquiring deep felt emotions which are categorized as the 5 vowels, A for Awe, E for fear, O for understanding, U for concern, and finally I for the balanced emerged ego.
It is a wonderful way to learn the alphabet, after resisting his kindergarten lessons, Tristan completely absorb the first grade stories that were told. Evan, was so eager to take on school, to be just like his brother, and have Main lessons books done completely by him. It has been very easy with Evan!
I will be placing Tristan’s past work along side Evan’s present ones. This way you can see an evolution in the lessons offered.