Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Math Block 1 / Quality of Numbers

I changed my plan for this math block after getting Ernst Schuberth's "Teaching Mathematics for First and Second Grades in Waldorf Schools" in the mail.

He recommends a much faster introduction of the letters than my previous plan (which is similar to Christopherus, Live Ed, Marsha Johnson, etc.)  He says,
"I recommend a rapid introduction of the Arabic numbers.  Neither the reciting of numbers nor their writing down on paper is a methematical activity.  THe math curriculum has to include both these conventional elements becasue they are required for communicating, but they should not take up more room than is their due.  Therefore, we should not waste time on slowly introducing the written numbers.
The second reason I like to introduce numbers quickly and without pictures (unlike the consonants) is that their pictureless nature reaches toward the musical and rhythmical realms.  In anthroposophical terms, we say that numbers are characteristically inspirative and not imaginative.  We honor this by practicing numbers rhythmically and musically.  In the end, the root of our ability to grasp amounts of spatially arranged items is a movement process."

This sentiment is similar to that in Ron Jarman's math book, which seems to be very popular amongst Waldorf educators.  I don't have a great explanation for my switch, just that I devoured the book and Schuberth's ideas somehow feel right to me.  Yoav knows how to count by twos, fives and tens and knows quite a bit of the multiplication tables, so I'm also just a bit antsy to move on with him.  Jarman and Schuberth both think math is quite different than language and can and should be taught at a quicker pace than most Waldorf curricula.  Schuberth (and I've seen this elsewhere as well) says that, whereas there is not a correlation (statistically) between age at which a child learns to read and reading ability in upper grades, with math, there are definite windows in which learning must happen.  One example (that I think is in the Jarman book - I'll look when I have time for the quote) is that multiplication tables should be learned by third grade for them to be ingrained in the child and for the child to easily be able to quickly and easily recall any individual multiplication pair.

Anyway, so I'm using the basic structure for the first math block as laid out in Schuberth's book.

The first day I introduced the roman numerals 1-5.  For each number, we discussed where the number exists in nature.  Examples we used:
1 - G-d, sun, world, moon, me
2 - eyes, ears, hands, feet
3 - head/body/legs, thinking/feeling/willing, finger has three parts, insects have three segments
4 - seasons, legs for dogs/cats/etc., people in our family
5 - fingers, toes

On the first day, I drew the roman numerals (one by one) on the board and he practiced in the air and the drew on his main lesson paper.  The second day, I wrote the arabic letters (one by one) and he practiced in the air and then on scrap paper and then onto the main lesson page.  The number two was particularly difficult for him to write - he kept making a semi-circle and then trying to add the line at the bottom rather than a semi-heart...  At the end of the second day, he wrote out the five numbers with a stick crayon.  Then, on his own, he decided it wasn't so beautiful and wanted to write them in rainbow colors, but even then, he thought the numbers looked lonely I guess and was compelled to draw a picture around the numbers ;)

Yoav's roman and arabic numbers 1-5 for his Main Lesson Book

Yoav's 1-5 Number Drawing

Wednesday I introduced the roman numerals 5-10 and on Thursday we'll do the arabic numbers 5-10.  Associations we discussed for the higher numbers:
6 - six legs on insects, people in my and my husband's families
7 - days of the week
8 - days of Hanukkah
9 - months of average pregnancy
10 - fingers, toes (Yoav said 10 10s is 100, which makes ten special)

We are also including a lot of rhythmic math-related verses - like poems in which we stomp and say a word louder ever second step or every third step as well as poems about numbers.  I like a lot of the verses in Eric Fairman's "Path of Discovery".

Elie tunes in and out during our Main Lesson.  He was interested in the roman numerals and particularly liked the three (since he's three).  It's very sweet to see him sitting alongside Yoav and drawing alongside Yoav.  I actually posted about this on the WaldorfHomeEducators Yahoo group (run by Marsha Johnson), as I'm concerned about exposing Elie to too much, especially given how cautious I've been with Yoav (and how thrilled I am with how things are unfolding with Yoav).  Luckily Elie has not been interested in the Fairy Tales or the letters (I think because the Fairy Tales are over his head, so he tuned out most of the Language Arts block).  Since I'm not doing stories with math (which work to dis-engage Elie), he is so far sitting at his desk for the whole of the lesson.  I'm going to have to trust that he is learning at a very different level of understanding and the experience won't be too awakening, although I'll certainly have to monitor over the coming months and years...
Elie's Roman Numeral Three
On the plus side, Elie has finally started to draw, surely because he's been practicing during our Main Lesson time.

Yesterday, for the first time, he drew a picture of an actual thing and it was himself!  It was so sweet to witness - he drew a picture of himself and then lifted it to show me and beamed, "Look!  I made me!"

The top picture is him with arms and the bottom one is with fingers - he drew the fingers and said, "I have a pinky!"  Oh and as he was whipping out his drawings (he made about ten with different variations, some with two people), he turned and said to me, "I'm a really good draw-er!" :P  I love love love (as I know only a mother would!) the pictures.  They are so endearing to me even though they're archetypal images and are probably very much like most other toddler's drawing of themselves ;)  Actually I just read this, that indicates that Elie's right on schedule - drawing a tadpole-like drawing just as he's about to turn four ;)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Knit Cardigan

I finished the first of Elie's birthday presents.  His birthday is Dec 5, so I'm doing well time-wise (unlike past years!)  I made the cardigan designed by waldorfmama and the hat is a newborn hat I've made a bunch of times from "Natural Knits for Babies and Moms" by Louisa Harding.  My doll must be a bit bigger than Shelley's (waldorfmama) because the cardigan is much less of a cardigan than hers, but it's still really cute and fits well enough and I'm sure it will be well-loved.  The yarn is purewool - the color is too bright (IMO) to use as a baby gift so it was a perfect use.  It's bright but not too bright for a doll...  Now she needs a little skirt.  Her only other outfit is a dress that doesn't fit under the cardigan.

Yesterday when I finished with the cardigan, I showed Yoav thinking that he would appreciate the knitting and would think it was cute, but he surprised me - when he saw it, tears came to his eyes :(  He cried that his doll needs a cardigan too - it's getting cold and his doll will be cold without one.  I told him he got different things (handmade tool belt with tools, a handmade knitting bag and a doll hat) for his birthday but he would hear none of it.  So I guess I'll make one more.  It's a quick fun knit - I just have to find three more buttons that will work.  Eventually I'll also replace Elie's buttons because I only had two matching ones.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Math Block 1 / Quality of Numbers

Yesterday we started our first Math block.  Such a funny thing - Yoav didn't even know the word "math" - I told him yesterday morning that we were starting math this week and he said, "Huh, what's math?"  Meanwhile, last night lying in bed in his semi-sleep state, moments before falling asleep, he mumbled, "two 30s is 60, two 40s is 80, two 50s is 100.  Mom, two 40s is 80 and two 50s is 100, right?  So two what's is 90?"  The human mind is a beautiful thing indeed!

For some reason (maybe because I have too many books and different ideas!), I am having a really hard time planning out this block!

The materials I'm using are:
* Ron Jarman's "Mathematics in Rudolf Steiner Schools"
* Ernst Schuberth's "Teaching Mathematics in Grades One and Two"
* Roy Wilkinson's "Teaching Mathematics"
* Dorothy Harrer's "Math Lessons for the Elementary Grades"
* Eric Fairman's "Path of Discovery - Grade 1"
* Marsha Johnson's "Quality of Numbers" block - available free at WaldorfHomeEducators Yahoo group
* Christopherus First Grade Curriculum
* Earthschooling's "Six Sense Math"
* Ancient Hearth's Quatlity of Numbers blog post
* help from a friend who's using Live Ed

Each one of them has something useful and valuable, but each is different, so forming something that takes the best of each (best for me, that is), that will work well for Yoav and meet my needs and values, erg - I found that difficult!

In the end, I'm doing very similar to the Ancient Hearth blog post and am using verses from the Harrer book for Circle and ideas from Earthschooling for more substance and deeper understanding.

Yesterday I told a story about Julius and Lior (Yoav and Elie's middle names) who went out for a walk in the forest (insert lots of detail about the forest and animals here).  They saw a little white rabbit for a limp and ran after him.  Soon the rabbit came upon a hole, which he jumped into.  Yoav tried to catch the rabbit, but when he reached in to get the rabbit, he fell in too.  Then Elie tried to pull Yoav back up, but, in trying, he too fell in!  They came upon a bleak landscape, so different from the forest - greys and whites all around.  They walked and walked and eventually came to a large stone mountain.  Up in the mountain, on a ledge, they saw what looked like two eyes under a pile of skins - they thought perhaps it was the bunny, so they climbed up to see it.  When they got there, they were surprised to see that it wasn't a bunny at all, but rather an old wise woman covered in skins.  When she saw them, she asked if they wanted to enter in to the secret door on the side of the mountain.  Of course the boys did.  She told them that, to enter the door, they would have to answer ten questions, one each day.  Each time they correctly answer a question, they would receive something that would help them to unlock the door.

The first question was:  What is ONE?  They must think about it during the night and must have the answer ready by sunrise the following day.

So, that was yesterday (Monday).

Today (Tuesday), we did our walk and Circle (which included a few math verses from the Dorothy Harrer book and I think also some from Eric Fairman's POD) and then came into the school room.

We did some recall of the story and we remembered the wise woman's question from yesterday.  I asked Yoav if he had any ideas what answers Julius and Lior might give the woman.  I had to guide him a bit, as it started with, "One, two, three.. " and more general talk about numbers - him basically saying that one is a number.  So I asked what is there one of?  He said: "One lamp, one chalkboard, ...  (a few other things in the room), then one world, one Israel, one United States, one Connecticut, one Atlanta ... (he went on and on with this), then there's one ME!"  That was really what I was looking for, as next we'd be drawing a picture about one...  I also added a few - one sun, one moon, one Hashem....  I said that all of those were right and that Julius and Lior told the woman one me and she gave them the first part of the key.

Next I attempted the idea that Ancient Hearth did - I had a piece of paper hidden under sand in a glass tray and gave the boys paint brushes to brush away the sand.  The sand was damp though from all the rain (it was stored outside in a semi-rainproof bag) so it didn't work so well.  But they enjoyed it anyway and were full of wonder.

I misjudged Yoav a little on the next part - I had the forms drawn on the chalkboard but planned for him to draw the "one me" part by himself.  He was really disappointed when I revealed the chalkboard drawing (just the right side of the below picture), so I told him to play for a bit with Elie so I could draw him also so he'd see just how to do it on his page.

So here is the final drawing:

Drawing of Yoav (one me) on left; four forms of the number 1 on the right

Yoav's drawing
After the drawing, I told the story "Alef is Chosen" from "Lights Along the Path" by Rebecca Schacht.

Tomorrow we'll walk the forms during Circle - I think ideally it would be done before the drawing of the number, but the kids woke up today and ran downstairs to play, so we started a little later than usual and we needed to finish up...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Painting Day

Today was a rainy Painting Day.  I'll make this quick because I have a lot to do, but I really enjoyed the painting exercise. It was an idea from Marsha Johnson (of waldorfhomeeducators Yahoo group).  She suggested an exercise with red and yellow going around a corner and bumping into eachother.  I added a little by telling a story:  "Yellow was out for a walk today and was strolling along enjoying the day...  Red also was out taking a walk in a different area...  They both were walking around, looking at the trees and flowers, etc.  Then Yellow turned a corner and bumped right into Red!  And what a surprise for them then to see their friend Orange!"  Yoav enjoyed the painting like he always does.  This one really looked amazing when it was wet, but it dulled when it dried and isn't quite the same, though I still like it very much...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Language Arts Block 1 / Week 4 - continued

Today was our third day working with "The Golden Goose".  Elie actually surprised me and asked earlier in the day if I was going to tell the story about the goose again.  I'm glad I picked this simple one (versus "The Goose Girl") - I did it hoping he'd like it, but still am pleasantly surprised :)  So I told the story again with just very brief recall first (asking each kid what their favorite part was).  Then I revealed the letters from my Golden Goose drawing and drew them to the side so Yoav could see how I drew them.

My drawing for "The Golden Goose" with letters revealed

Then Yoav traced the letters on the chalkboar, drew them on his chalkboard, then traced them in the air and over the paper and finally drew them:
Yoav's letters from "The Golden Goose" - form from Audrey McAllen's "Handwriting for Children"

I have to admit that I skipped our Morning Activity today (word games).  I'm knitting a cardigan for Elie's doll for his birthday and knitting and productivity do not go well together for me!  It's a work in progress (becoming less obsessive about hobbies, not the knitting ).  We'll do some of the verses I had planned and will walk the forms of the letters tomorrow, since tomorrow is Painting Day and is a light day.

For our craft today, we made the "Doll in a Matchbox" from "Feltcraft" by Petra Berger.  We had so much fun making them. Elie picked out his colors but I mostly made his (although he surprised me (again) by doing some of the cutting fairly well).  Elie's is the dark purple one and Yoav's is the red one.  The pattern includes a bonnet, but the kids decided they didn't want bonnets for their dolls...

"Doll in a Matchbox"

Elie's "Doll in a Matchbox"
This craft showed me for sure that Yoav is out of the 6/7 Year Change!  He's so through it, he barely resembles his previous self!  Well, the good features are the same, but so much negativity is gone!  I'm sure much of it is my Gordon Neufeld studies, but I think it's definitely a combination of leaving the 6/7 Year Change and my own inner work.  One of the key behaviors I saw during the Change was that Yoav wanted nothing to do with toys.  This makes sense in terms of the Change, as children go through a period of leaving baby/toddler/little-kid-hood and moving on to the next stage, when they are ready to learn to read, do math, knit, etc.  So, in the midst of the Change, Yoav fiercely refused any type of play - he adamantly said he "didn't play" and wouldn't even consider making a toy much less playing with it!

Today, making the doll, Yoav had SO MUCH FUN!  He enjoyed choosing the colors for the bed and the doll and as soon as it was finished, he ran up to show his Aba and then he and Elie drove the dolls around in a truck.  I'm very happy to have this phase of his life squarely behind us!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Language Arts Block 1 / Week 4

This is our last week of this block of Language Arts.  We've both enjoyed this block so much!  It has such a perfect order - I love that about it :)

We started woodworking this week.  We're going to try to do woodworking once a week.  We got wood a few weeks ago at a wood shop in Yishi (five minutes away!), but Jeremy hasn't been able to do the woodworking when I had it planned (Thursdays), so we're going to try doing it on Sundays since he doesn't usually work on Sundays.  They're using the book "Carpentry for Children" by Lester Walker.  It's a fantastic book - it starts with a list of materials and tools needed and then has a series of projects to help you advance in woodworking.  The first project (started this week) is to build a woodworking table.  Yoav really enjoyed it and did pretty well with the sawing!

I'm going to branch away from Marsha Johnson's Form Drawing Guide for now because I want to move on to some more advanced forms.  I'm reading Ron Jarman's "Teaching Mathematics in Rudolf Steiner Schools" and he recommends that first graders do some mirror forms early in First Grade, so I want to at least get some mirror forms in during the first semester.  I love Mrs. M's book though for showing me how to use stories to introduce the forms.

The story I made up this week for this form (form from Ernst Schuberth's "Form Drawing for Grades 1-4") is:
Yesterday as we were taking our morning walk, I was watching the ants going toward the forest to find pieces of straw and then carrying the straw into their home.  When they were looking for the straw, they looked around for a good piece like this (draw the first 1/3 of the form), then when they found a piece they liked, they headed straight for the house (draw middle 1/3 of the form).  When they got close, to find the entrance, they walked around in a circle like this (draw rightmost 1/3 of form) until they found the house and could bring the straw in.
Yoav's form drawing

I'm very much enjoying the chalk drawings for this block.  I'm feeling much more confident in my drawing - I love that chalk can be erased and drawn over with other chalk - it's a very forgiving medium!  I think I mentioned this before, but I'm using the crayons sold at Paper, Scissors, Stone on this page on the top right called "Blackboard Chalks".  They are much more vibrant (and more pleasing to draw with) than the Prang chalk that I also got based on recommendations.

This week our story was "The Golden Goose" (Grimm's).  My friend R, a very talented artist, emailed me her chalkboard drawing to use as inspiration.  I did my best to copy her goose and then used "Coloring with Block Crayons"  by Sieglinde De Francesca for help with the tree (I still need a lot of tree-drawing practice!).  The hidden letters, which I'll reveal on Wednesday are a T in the tree and a G as the goose's little nest.  The G is more obvious than past letters I've done, but it's how R did it and I like how it looks and then the full form of the G is semi-hidden (rather than just a C, which would have been all I could have hidden simply with the goose).  Again, I'm using the form of the letters in Audrey McAllen's "Teaching Children Handwriting" - it's not standard, but this is the form she recommends for the letter G.

My chalkboard drawing for "The Golden Goose"
A few months ago, when my in-laws were visiting, we got Yoav a gold stick crayon from Omer (near my in-law's apartment).  I didn't include it with his school crayons since it's not really a recommended First Grade color :)  But, for the golden goose, I put the crayon in his crayon basket and he was so excited to see it and to be able to draw the golden goose with a gold crayon!

Yoav's crayon drawing for "The Golden Goose"

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Learning from Gordon Neufeld - Part I

I promised several people that I would write a bit about my Gordon Neufeld parenting class, so I'm going to do my best to share some key things that I've learned and to point the way to further studies.

First, I will share that I read his book, "Hold on to Your Kids" when my oldest was no more than two or three-years-old.  At the time, I was not particularly enamored with the book, as it is primarily focused on peer-orientation, a situation in which kids' primary attachment figure (which should be a parent), becomes another child, which, Neufeld says, is like the blind leading the blind :)  I fully understand this and think the book provides wonderful exposure to a little-known phenomenon for people who's kids go to school, but my experience tells me that peer-orientation is very rarely a risk for homeschooled kids.  However, what I missed in my first reading was Neufeld's depth and research and ideas related to the healthy development of all children, even those not at risk of peer-orientation!

For those whose kids are in school, I highly recommend reading the entire book; for homeschoolers, I recommend starting with Part I (general background about peer-orientation and the all-important chapter "A Matter of Attaching" describing the six ways of attaching) and Part III (particularly Chapters 16, 18, 19, and 20).  IMO, the key chapters are Chapters 2 ("A Matter of Attachment"), 16 ("Collecting Our Children") and 19 ("Discipline That Does Not Divide").  I have read these three chapters several times over the past few months and I especially love Chapter 19.  My husband recently read only Chapter 19, and from that chapter alone, he gained a much deeper understanding of Neufeld's teachings (I stumbled on this fortuitous encounter - for months I tried to get him to listen to this API Live audio and/or to read the full book - finally it occurred to me that I should start small and I have been more than happy with this relatively small step!)

I am now taking one of Neufeld's "Power to Parent" course.  I've just completed the first section of the course (The Vital Connection).  I'm going to try writing some of the most important things I've learned, but I highly highly recommend hearing it all first-hand from Neufeld!  If you can afford the class, it is well worth the cost!

Session One - Our Hidden Source of Power

I was made aware of another blogger who has posted summaries about each of these lectures, so I'll include links to her blog for each lecture.  For more on this lecture, see here.

In this session, Neufeld teaches that a well-attached child is a child who is easy to parent.  Period.  This is the golden key to parenting.  By attachment, he does not simply mean the attachment-lite eight principles of Attachment Parenting!  He says that attachment is "that drive or relationship characterized by the pursuit and preservation of proximity."

Session Two - Becoming Attached

For more on this lecture, see here.

From Chapter 2 of the book, the six stages of attachment are:
1.  Senses - "The child needs to sense the person he is attached to, whether it is through smell, sight, hearing or touch.  Nearness is pursued and attempts are made to preserve it."
2.  Sameness - "...seeking to be like those she is attached to and attempts to assume the same form of existence or expression, by imitation and emulation."
3.  Belonging and Loyalty - "To be close to someone or something is to possess it or claim it as one's own."
4.  Significance - "...we feel we matter to somebody.  To find favour, or to be dear to someone, is to ensure closeness and connection.  The attaching preschooler seeks ardently to please and to win approval.... Such children live for the happy face of those attached to."
5.  Feeling - "...warm feelings, loving feelings, affectionate feelings....  the pursuit of emotional intimacy becomes intense.  A child who experiences this kind of emotional intimacy with the parent is able to tolerate much more physical separation and yet still manage to hold the parent close."
6.  Being Known - "To feel close to someone is to be known by them.  In the pursuit of closeness, a child will share his secrets...  Parent-oriented children do not like to keep secrets from their parents because of the resulting loss of closeness."
To be emotionally healthy and develop a strong attachment, a child must reach level six of attachment with his parents.  We need to help our children attach by determining at what level they're at and helping them attach at deeper levels (higher numbers are deeper).

Neufeld has a wonderful picture of the gift (and responsibility) of a strong parent/child attachment - the picture is of a heart with the words "Adult" and "Child" surrounded by shield with the words "Attachment" and arrows shooting from the outside but not penetrating the shield of attachment.  This picture is worth a million words for me.  An additional piece of the puzzle is that a child has no shield from the parent to whom they are well-attached.  So, if we shame a child, or cause separation (physical or through ignoring) or alarm, the child HAS NO PROTECTION!!!

I think this is one of the most important pieces that I've learned from this course so far.  This type of situation results in "defensive detachment" which means "when being close to someone sets us up for a vulnerability too much to bear, the brain can reverse the attachment instincts, resulting in resisting proximity where one should be pursuing it."  If you hear a child say to a parent, "yeah, whatever" or "I don't care" - that's defensive detachment - it means the child is afraid of getting hurt by the parent so he becomes defended against vulnerability - he protects himself from feeling vulnerable by putting up a wall.

That might not sound so bad, but it's imperative that a child's heart remains "soft" (not defended against vulnerability!) to become or stay deeply attached, and as you might remember from session one, the full attachment is what makes the child easy to parent :)

So, our primary goal as parents is "to make it safe and easy for our children to attach to us."  This means at the most basic level, reducing separation (physical like time-outs, verbal like yelling, non-verbal like ignoring) and increasing attachment (he discusses later how to increase attachment).

Session Three - Harnessing the Power of Attachment

For more on this lecture, see here.

The three ways we harness the power of attachment are through Collecting, Giving something of our's to hold onto and Inviting Dependence.

Collecting is fairly well explained in Chapter 16.  However, the piece that wasn't so clear to me from the book is that we have to collect based on the child's level of attachment.  So, to collect a one-year-old, we use touch - we hold the baby and make sweet sounds and we immediately get the eye contact we seek; to collect a two-year-old, we might talk about how we both have blue eyes.  You would not (necessarily) collect a 10-year-old with physical contact and you certainly wouldn't collect a baby by sharing a secret :)  So it's important to know at what attachment level your children are so that you collect them based on their level of attachment.

He explains in the course as well as in the book that you must "collect before you direct".  If you want your child to do something, you must collect them first.  I was turned off by this when I initially read the book because it seemed formulaic to me.  In practice, though, it doesn't have to be (though strictly-speaking it certainly can be used in such a way).  Slowly, with practice, you can learn to collect your kids before making requests (verbal or otherwise).

One of the amazing things about Waldorf Education is that much of Neufeld's teaching is built into the Waldorf Method (the same could be said, though to a lesser extent, about Judaism).  In Waldorf, we collect our kids with a song when we wake up; each time we ask our kids to do the next activity, we do so through a connecting song; meals are begun with a song and prayer; we collect with Circle Time before we start Main Lesson; Main Lesson itself begins with a verse during which we're standing making eye contact, etc.  Each transition song helps to collect our kids before we begin the next activity.

Neufeld discusses giving the child something to hold onto in Chapter 19, so I'm going to skip it here.

I love his discussion of inviting the child to depend on us.  This is something that is so very poorly understood in our world today.  People think that we will spoil a child by doing things for a two year old, much less a five year old.  Neufeld says that to spoil meat is to leave it out of it's proper environment, the refrigerator; likewise, we spoil kids by taking them out of their safe environment, ie, proximity with their parents.  He tells a story about the parents in Provence, where parenting is much more instinctual and nourishing - he says you would never see a child in Provence going into the refrigerator to get themselves food - this is for the parents to do and, by doing so, they invite dependence!  Of course, we don't have to prepare every single meal for our kids, but it is certainly food for thought (pun intended!)  The more we invite our children to depend on us, the more safe/secure they feel, and, in Waldorf terms, it means we aren't pulling them into their heads and away from the world of imagination in which they thrive.

Particularly important is to invite dependence with Alpha children - these are the children whom we might have leaned on a bit too much (telling the child, "I need help") or given too much say in the schedule or their upbringing.  Alpha kids are those who decide what to do for the day, what to eat, what color the walls are painted, what clothes the mother wears, etc, etc.  These are the kids who eventually bully their parents.  I was asked by someone to touch on what to do when a "three year old is going on thirteen, saying 'moooooommmm!!', 'don't talk' and giving (her mother) 'the look'."  My understanding is that this is a case of an Alpha child.  The solution is simply for the parents to regain the position of Alpha - don't ask too many questions (as in Waldorf), don't appear to give in to demands (if you plan on one painting and the child wants to do two and you decide to do two, say, "Ah, yes, I was planning to do two paintings today" and pull out another piece of paper so you remain in the lead), you can even remind the child that you're taking care of him (eg if he's concerned/anxious about what's for the next meal - this is something he shouldn't need to worry about and you can simply tell him not to worry, that you're taking care of him).  You don't have to actually *have* the answer to everything - the point is that you ARE the answer.  You can use phrases like, "I'm taking care of this" or "I'll figure this out" or "Let me think about it" if you're not sure what to do.

The idea of inviting dependence is very important I think and it's something that Neufeld explains very clearly in his lecture.

I'll also go into an aside here about futility which I think is part of being a strong alpha parent.  This is discussed some in his book and is clearer to me after taking the Power to Parent course.  When Yoav was younger, I was very much affected by Jane Liedloff's "The Continuum Concept" and I was very uncomfortable with futilities, much less futilities of my own doing!  As an example, if Yoav's banana broke, I would try to fix it for him by mushing it back together and hoping he'd eat it without it falling apart, rather than simply telling him that it was broken and comforting him through hugs if he needed to cry about the broken banana.  As a result, he is not resilient - he is not often uncomfortable facing problems.  Since studying Neufeld, I've been working on softening him by being "an agent of futility and an angel of comfort" - not only helping him through externally-imposed futilities like rain or a broken banana, but even creating futilities like saying we're not going into the forest today.  The important thing about feeling futilities is for the child to move from mad to sad - first they might get angry - "I want to go into the forest!" and stomp feet and whatnot.  When the parent stands firm (lovingly, not yelling that we're not going into the forest LOL), the child will eventually soften and feel sad.  It is the sadness that allows the child to move on and to see that "all is still well" in the world (versus not moving past mad, which results in repressed feelings) - proximity and connection with his attachment figure hasn't been broken and, on top of that, he is able to consider solutions to the problem if one is needed - such as perhaps asking if we can go into the forest in the afternoon.

The key to understanding if we should stand firm or give in is to understand if the desire is a need or want.  Of course, you can give in or find a solution sometimes - you don't always have to go through this exercise, which can be quite time-consuming!  It's a beautiful thing to see the child move from mad to sad - you eventually learn to recognize the tell-tale signs of softening, of the shoulders slumping or allowing you to come close to cuddle if the child is in defensive detachment.

I know this got long - there is much more in the video on this section and it is explained so clearly by Neufeld - as you can tell, this was a very important session for me ;)

Session Four - Competing Attachments

For more on this lecture, see here.

I think this is all fairly well explained in the book - the idea that attachment is like a polarized magnet - pursuit of proximity with one person results in resistance of another.  This explains shyness - the child seeks proximity with his primary attachment figure and at the same time resists proximity with the stranger.  Shyness serves attachment and children should be allowed to grow out of it naturally!  This is something that many people in our society do NOT understand :)

This lecture was mostly in the book - he explains that a strong attachment with the child will allow him to emerge into personhood which will allow him to relate to peers without loss of individuality or loss of adult attachment.  The primary sign of a competing attachment is when proximity with one leads to resistance to proximity with the other (if you're seeing your child on their iphone/ipad at the dinner table so they can continue to be on facebook or chat with their friends, you are facing competing attachments and need to read the book ASAP and take this class!!!)

One interesting thing I learned in this lecture (which is probably in the book in the chapter on Creating an Attachment Village) is that, for kids who go to school, it's very important for the parent to be the person to introduce the child to the parent.  So, first the parent meets the teacher and then introduces the teacher to the child - this way, the attachment relationship is preserved.

It will probably be a few days before I get a chance to write more about the remaining lectures, so I'll just leave links to summaries at thedreamtowrite blog...

Session Five - Preserving and Restoring the Ties that Empower

For more on this lecture, see here.

Session Six - Handling Aggression

For more on this lecture, see here.

Session Seven - Handling Counterwill

For more on this lecture, see here.

Session Eight- Guidelines for Discipline

For more on this lecture, see here.

To take the course, click HERE!!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Painting Day

This is Yoav's painting for today.  We have been doing directed paintings, meaning that I tell a story as we paint together.

Today the story went something like this (based on ideas from Live Ed):

Yellow woke up this morning and was happy to hear the birds singing outside the window and the light streaming inside.  She was so full of joy today and wanted to fill the whole house with her joy! *begin painting with the yellow, line by line, moving toward middle very slowly*  As she was spreading her joy through the house, she heard a knock on the door and her friend Blue came in.  Blue was feeling a bit shy but wanted to come play with Yellow - he came slowly toward Yellow.  *start painting blue, slower than yellow*  Yellow hurried up to come find Blue *more yellow until yellow is about 2/3 of page and blue is 1/3 of page*.  Then they saw each other and started to dance!  *paint blue over the yellow*  Ah, Green came to join them! (Yoav noticed this right away and said himself something along these lines about Green joining, not making the color green).  The three of them danced and danced until they were too tired to dance anymore.  *fill middle third of page with green*

I love this one because it looks like a sun/grass/sea painting without actually being that.  So there isn't any pressure to paint a certain way or to look just so but it ends up as a beautiful painting (and of course is a color exercise and practice holding and using the brush properly)!  I'm enjoying doing these painting with Yoav.  I've never been very good at drawing or painting - I've always preferred the more precise arts of needlework, sewing and knitting - so this is really stretching me.

Musical Rooms

Since we moved into our house in March, I've been trying to figure out which rooms should be for what.  Initially, I picked a room on the main level for my sewing room and planned to use what was built as a TV/screen room (love the irony of this as we don't have a TV and you can see the photos below of what the room turned into!) as the playroom and schoolroom.  Since it was supposed to be a TV room, the walls are dark blue and there is no ceiling light - not ideal for a Waldorf schoolroom!  So, I moved my sewing stuff into a guest room and gave up my sewing room for a bit while I used the sewing room as a school room:

Original schoolroom
I thought it would be best to have a separate schoolroom for several reasons:
1. So Yoav wouldn't get distracted by the toys;
2. So the schoolroom would be on the same level as the outside and kitchen so we wouldn't have to go up and down stairs;
3. So kids (not mine) wouldn't "play school" with our actual school supplies.

As it turned out, Elie doesn't have the patience to listen to a full fairy tale (and I don't want him to listen anyway!), so I brought a few toys into the school room and then to avoid schlepping toys up and down, I decided it would be easier to just put the school desks in the playroom and make a combined play/schoolroom.

I solved the problem of kids playing with our school supplies by putting the supplies in a separate room - only the desks, chalkboards, and painting boards stay in the play/schoolroom.  

And without further ado, here is our new play/school room :)

Play / School Room
Play / School Room
Play / School Room

I beyond love how it is working out.  I still want to paint (hopefully Lazure paint) the walls peach and we need a ceiling lamp, but we are making do with a new floor lamp.  Elie mostly plays while we do our school stuff and Yoav loves school so much, we haven't had any issues with him being distracted.  

And, the best part of all is that I get my sewing room back.  I really missed it.  And I took our old kitchen table as a second table to use for cutting fabric, so now it's even better than it was before all the room switches ;)

Sewing Room
Sewing Room
Now to start sewing!  :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Language Arts Block 1 / Week 3

We're almost through our third week of our first LArts block.  I'm enjoying this block so much!  I hope the next block (Math - Quality of Numbers) is as much fun.

The story for this week was "The Fisherman and his Wife" by Grimm's, which is a fantastic story - a fisherman finds an enchanted fish and throws it back into the sea, but when his wife hears, she asks him to ask the fish for a wish - first for a hut, then soon after she tires of that and asks for a castle, then when she tires of that, she demands her husband to ask for her to be King, then Emperor and then, the ultimate, she demands that her husband ask the fish for her to be "like unto G-d", at which point, instead of granting her wish, the fish returns the couple to their life in their original pig-sty.

Steiner teaches that it's best for the storyteller to have the meaning of the story in mind when telling the story.  I highly recommend the book "The Interpretation of Fairy Tales" by Roy Wilkinson for this.  There is also a book called "The Wisdom of Fairy Tales" by Rudolf Meyer which is supposed to be very good as well.

My chalkboard drawing with hidden letters (F in fish, W in waves) - copied from here.

Yoav really enjoyed drawing this one.  He said it was his favorite (actually I think he says that every week, so I guess it really doesn't mean much!)
Yoav's drawing

The letters were revealed on the third day (F in the fish and W in the waves):
Letters revealed - F(ish), W(aves) 
Then Yoav practiced writing the letters in the air and hovering over his page and then on my back and then drew them on his drawing paper:

Yoav's letters (form of letters are from Audrey McAllen's "Handwriting with Children", which I HIGHLY recommend!)
Yoav made these letters out of chickpeas as part of our Word Games Morning Activity today, when we play games with the new letters (like today - I found a fish on the floor and then went to a field filled with flies and then I fell, etc etc - each person adds to the story when it's his turn).
Extra letter exercise as part of our Wednesday morning Word Games activity
I love that I found these shapes on the coffee table this afternoon.  Yoav didn't even tell me he had made them.

Our craft today was to make Shabbos candles - we used beeswax from a gift from my SIL from Magic Cabin.  Yoav had the idea of adding the Stars of David.  A friend of mine from NY wrote an article about making beeswax Shabbos candles with a suggestion of where to get cheaper beeswax sheets.  I was buying beeswax candles from Safed Candles, but I want to find a source for beeswax sheets in Israel so we can start making our own!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Yoav's Seventh Birthday Party

Today was Yoav's seventh birthday party.  Everything went well but I'm very glad it's over :)  The format was very similar to his party last year.

We had eight kids total, including my two.  The common Waldorf recommendation is to have as many kids as your child's age plus one.

The kids were already over for a Gordon Neufeld parenting class being hosted at my house.  After the class, the kids played on the trampoline with a mother who is a gymnast and gymnastics teacher (not planned, but was a great start to the party!)

Yoav attempting a flip

Then we had lunch (rice noodles and tomato sauce plus pita, hummus and salad).

Then we started the official part of the party.

I sang our Nature Walk transition song:
I love to go a wandering
Along the mountain Path
And as I go I laugh and sing
My knapsack on my back
Valdaree, valdarah, valdaree, valdarah ha ha hah hah ha
Valdaree,valdarah, my knapsack on my back
And we headed off into the forest - the entrance behind our next-door neighbor's house leads to a nice path where I had put all of our bean bags (I made 12 rainbow beanbags and Yoav hand-stitched 8 felt ones).  I put them in little wax bags to protect them from possible rain and/or dirt.

My beanbags - cut fabric 4.5"x4.5", used 1/4 inch seams, stuffed with white rice and topstitched over the opening.

Yoav's beanbags - this was completely his idea, start to finish - he decided to make them, he chose the colors (other than the white one, which is the cheap felt I gave him for the first one when I thought he wouldn't be successful - whoops!), did all the stitching other than the start and end knots and he stuffed them with lentils.
Running toward the path for the scavenger hunt

Searching for beanbags
Trading beanbags - the made-by-Yoav beanbags were the hot commodity
Next we started Circle outside but it was too sunny so we went down to the basement.  I really enjoyed doing Circle with so many kids.  I kept it very similar to our most recent Circle.  It was great to see all the kids watching me so closely and following along.  I felt like a Kindergarten teacher :)  We did:
Circle opening - Let us Form a Ring (Nancy Foster)
Clapping game - Pease Porridge (all the kids loved this, though there was some initial bickering about who would play with who - I solved this by telling the kids first they'd play with the person to their left and then we'd do it again with the person on their right)
Fingerplay - Where is Thumkin (many/all? knew this one, so it was a good one for starting the finger plays)
Fingerplay - Ten Little Children Dancing on the Shore
Five Little Soldiers standing in a row
Fingerplay - Ten Tall Candles (Donna Simmons)
Tongue Twister - Peter Piper
Movement - Whisky, Frisky (A Child's Seasonal Treasury)
Movement - Gallop Away, Gallop Away (A Child's Seasonal Treasury?)
Game - Jump over the river (jump over two sticks that are moved further and further apart - A Child's Seasonal Treasury)
Game - Beanbag Man with Dragon variation (written by Marsha Johnson)
Closing - "Here and Listen, Listen and Hear, Now our Story Time Draws Near"


Circle (Whisky Frisky)

Circle (beanbag game)
Then we went upstairs for the puppet show/story, which was all set up in the sewing room.  I started by lighting a candle and singing "Mother of the Fairy Tale" (Nancy Foster) on the pentatonic xylophone.  I told "The Frangipani Maiden" from "Healing Stories for Challenging Behavior".  We got a video, but it needs a little editing for me to be willing to post it.  I LOVED doing the story for so many kids.  It was very fulfilling to see all those shining faces with wide-open eyes.  I even got applause at the end ;)

Then our eating transition song:  "Welcome, Welcome, Welcome to our table; Welcome, welcome, let's all hold hands together."
Birthday cake (with homemade candles)
I sang the "It was seven years ago today, today... " song - see here for full song.  Then we sang Happy Birthday and the kids did the little Are you One, Are you Two game, which he enjoyed.  Yoav made a wish and all the kids helped blow out the candles.  The cake was very well-received - it was devoured in minutes - it was the carrot cake from the "The Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book" for the third birthday in a row.

Next I sang our craft transition song:  "With these living hands, let wonders unfold, and show to us beauty and visions untold." and moved the kids into the living room for an embroidery craft.  Each child got a 7" embroidery hoop pre-fitted with linen fabric (from Gray Line Fabric in NYC) and a gold-eye chenille needle. I had a lot of colors of embroidery floss prepared - separated into three strands, cut the length of my arm and knotted at the end - so I only had to thread needles and tie final knots during the craft.  The kids first drew pictures on their fabric with water-erasable markers and then they worked on their embroidery.  They brought home the hoops and needles as part of the party favor.

Giving directions for the embroidery
Yoav's embroidery (horse)
At the end, we did a little tradition learned from one of our friends at the party - each child gave Yoav a coin for him to put in the tzedakah box.  

And, finally, the day was over and everyone left.  I think Yoav was very happy with the actual birthday last week and the party today.  I'll likely use this same format next year - it's very similar to our daily rhythm.

Happy Seventh Birthday Yoavi!!!  I hope it's a great year!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Language Arts Block 1 / Week 2

We have guests coming this weekend and Yoav's birthday party on Sunday (cake to be made, story to be memorized and props to be organized, bean bag party favors to be filled and topstitched...), so this will be quick, but I want to post all the lovely photos from this week.

I'm loving this method - it is so thorough and so deep.  And it's so enjoyable that I'm finally able to really maintain our rhythm ;)

Yoav has very much enjoyed both Grimm's stories we've done so far and this week (as you'll see), the recall went much better.  For those who are on Marsha Johnson's Yahoo group (WaldorfHomeEducators), I posted about our difficulty with recall and got a wonderful response.

On Monday (Yoav's birthday - he turned 7), I simply told our new story - Grimm's "The Water of Life".  We didn't do anything else for "school" on that day.

On Tuesday, I revealed my chalkboard drawing - it's the youngest son holding a Jug (wording changed from a cup in the actual story) of the Water of Life, talking to the dwarf, with the Mountains in the distance (where the two elder brothers were stuck.  We got lucky with recall on this day - Elie laid down on the floor and said he didn't want to do school.  Yoav was so eager to draw that he offered to tell the story, which somehow suited Elie and led to Yoav doing a recall of the full story!  I was very surprised at how much he remembered of the story (especially considering the resistance to recall in the past) without needing any assistance from me.  He even remembered details such as the two lions by the door of the castle to whom the youngest brother threw two loaves of bread.

Then Yoav drew the same drawing:

On Wednesday, I "revealed" the two letters - J for Jug filled with the Water of Life and M for Mountains...

Two girls next door were off school and one joined us during our morning walk and then the other soon after. They joined in with us for Circle and when it was time to go into the schoolroom, I invited them to join us (I let them know we were doing school - they were so curious and excited to get a peek into our day!).  So, again, we had a lucky recall situation - I asked Yoav to tell the girls the story while I got the paper and drawing pads ready for the girls ;)

Then they all drew the M and J - I love that the girls were so careful about it, following the exact format we do and using two colors for the letters just like us, even though these are likely the only two letters they'll do with us and the drawings will probably end up in the trash rather than in a Main Lesson Book.

These are Yoav's letters - again the format and method of drawing are from Audrey McAllen's "Teaching Children Handwriting".

And, finally, Yoav and Elie had SO much fun together this afternoon.  Yoav was actually getting agitated in the early afternoon after the craft (hand-sewn felt beanbags for his birthday) so I whisked the kids (well, I honestly never whisk - I'm actually much too slow getting sippy cups and clothes together LOL) out to the forest to play.  They brought their bikes and biked along a path that's a perfect ramp for them - over and over, they biked one at a time down the ramp (followed by the dog each time, which brought lots of laughs) and then walked their bikes back up.  That very much calmed the energy and once it started to get cold and dark outside, we headed in for dinner.  While I was making dinner and then again afterwards, the boys played with the tree blocks and wood animals together.  It was such sweet play.  Yoav mostly was making the structures and then would talk to Yoav in a big-brother voice about which house was for Elie and where Elie should park his truck and such.  A funny quote to add since I've been lax about my Monday Memories:  Yoav said he was a woodworker and was 50 years old and had been a woodworker for 30 years.  Elie was very confused and said, "But Yoav, you are seven."  Yoav said he was just 50 in the game, to which Elie said, "Oh, in the game.."  It's hard to separate real life from fiction when you're three ;)