Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Why "Helping" Should Be in Your Planbook

"Helping" may seem like an optional category in your planbook but it is actually very important in the early childhood years.

(We love the little book The Man Who Didn't Wash His Dishes by Phyllis Krasilovsky! It's very sweet.)

Maria Montessori firmly believed in the value of this type of work and therefore, in Montessori Primary classrooms around the world, children are choosing table washing and pouring and silver polishing as curriculum choices. She referred to this portion of the curriculum as Practical Life.

The Montessori catalogue For Small Hands is a wonderful resource for high quality child-size tools, such as lambswool dusters and counter crumbers, and yard and garden tools like real leather gardening gloves, so that they can help in every way possible, in every location around your home!

The loveliest film I've ever seen about this is Edison's Day. Edison is 20 months old. The trailer is below; there is also a link to rent it online for $5.00. The entire household is set up so that Edison can participate and help as much as possible. I found that writing Helping as a planbook category reminded me to consciously include my children where otherwise I might have simply done something by myself.

Edison's Day from NAMTA on Vimeo.

In Waldorf education, physical movement is taken VERY seriously and it is seen as a way of helping the soul to develop properly later on. Here is a quote from pages 25-26 of Audrey McAllen's Sleep: An Unobserved Element in Education

    The development of the physical body between birth and the change of teeth is the basis for the unfolding of the consciousness soul between the ages of 35 to 42 years. Attack the physical body; destroy its foundation of the senses with pseudo-space (virtual space) as in the cinema, television, blown-up advertising, photographs; present as many senses as possible with illusion -- artificial sweeteners, flavorings, chemical colorings, man-made surfaces and textiles; assault the ear with continuous recorded sounds and noise, and you successfully lame that member of your soul-being in which the real nature of the "I" first becomes revealed -- the consciousness soul (or spiritual soul). As Rudolf Steiner states in the second chapter of An Outline of Esoteric Science

      "the power which brings the 'I' to manifestation in the consciousness soul is indeed the selfsame power which reveals itself throughout the world."

    Through presenting our senses with continuous "lies," we dull the spiritual perception of the physical body...

    It is this assault on the senses that disrupts the flow of the currents forming our inner space and therewith our objective perception of the ego in later life. One early cause of this disruption is the too early introduction of the pedal car and tricycle, which lift the legs out of the streaming of below to above and above to below into the earths's body before they are integrated into it. Also the gripping of the wheel and handlebar over-emphasizes the thrust of the stretching and grasping forces connected with sensory perceptions, and this interferes with the inner experiences of the forces of levity that lifts us into the upright. The loss of childhood culture since the introduction of television has removed the spontaneous playing of the many ball, jumping, skipping, and singing games that were once the joy of children. Our country dances are no longer well known. All these were activities that helped the soul-spirit to find its relationship to the inner space of the physical body.

    At home there is a paucity of natural movement activities [emphasis added]; machines do the washing, sweeping, polishing, and many cooking movements. Analyze these domestic movements and we find that they are based on constant clockwise and counterclockwise movements and spiral forms basic to our body and the earth currents. These movements activated the astral body bringing about coordination of eye and hand, arms and legs. Until recently they were there for young children to imitate and so find the way into their bodies. This lack of natural movement hampers the flow of the currents of inner space and this is reflected in the muscular coordination system. Even walking is curtailed by the constant use of the car. The results of this range from clumsiness, or wild behavior, to genuine learning difficulties. Emotional problems and deprivation likewise have an inhibiting effect on the movement of these currents of inner space.

    Waldorf education is able to meet this attack of the physical body and, therewith, on the development of the consciousness soul, on many levels. Waldorf kindergartens care for and protect the senses and provide activities that the child can readily imitate [emphasis added].

An Outline of Esoteric Science

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Waldorf Finger Puppets / Story Aprons

My homeschool purchase today?

8 mm habotai silk scarves from Dharma Trading Company!
These have hand rolled hems with 100% silk thread and are ready to dye.

Available in white in a dozen sizes:

    6 x 24 inches

    8 x 54 inches

    8 x 72 inches

    11 x 60 inches

    15 x 60 inches

    14 x 72 inches

    22 x 72 inches

    22 x 90 inches

    21.5 inches square

    30 inches square

    35 inches square

    44 inches square

We are getting twelve 30 inch square ones (these cost just $5.23 each, less with the quantity discount for orders of 12+), intending to dye some to use as play silks and some to make into story aprons. Suzanne Down -- whose work I cannot recommend highly enough -- is my very lovely puppetry teacher. I went to several one day needle felting and puppetry workshops at the Washington Waldorf School with her as well as driving from Maryland to Colorado to take a five day workshop (July 8 - 12, 2009: "The Sense of Touch and Warmth: Puppetry as Bridge for these Foundations for Life") at the Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten. There I remember Suzanne saying something about story aprons. She had made a wide circular piece of wet felted background scenery, with little slits cut in it for finger puppets to emerge from, that covered your chest and a large piece of coordinating silk sewed below it which draped down to cover your lap. A large ribbon loop at the top of the felt circle slipped over your head.

Put it on, sit down, and voila! Your body is an instant stage.

Around the World with Finger Puppet Animals
Juniper Tree School of Puppetry Arts

I suggested to Natalie, who is in 8th grade and is learning embroidery stitches, that she make some little wool felt finger puppets for Zac (9 months) and practice Suzanne's puppetry suggestions (patterns, poems, and puppetry ideas for each animal) in Around the World with Finger Puppet Animals. She LOVED the idea. Becca made a dog, Natalie made a seal and then a polar bear, Leah made a wolf and then a bunny... puppetry is all the rage around here! And Zac absolutely loves the little shows they are putting on with just a felt finger puppet and a large playsilk for scenery. That's when I remembered the story apron idea.

So a handful of silk scarves and a few packets of iDye are going to show up on my doorstep. According to the Waldorf Moms blog post How to Hand-Dye Waldorf Playsilks, one packet of iDye can easily dye two pounds of fabric (two dozen play silks) so consider doing this with a homeschool co-op or a group of friends! One five gallon bucket with lid, from the hardware store, for each dye color and you are good to go!

We picked Kelly Green, Gold Ocher, Deep Orange, Emerald, Royal Blue, Golden Yellow, Chestnut, Silver Grey, Bright Yellow, Crimson, Turquoise, and Violet.

Dharma has a helpful drag and drop "color palette" feature where you can see how your colors look together and if you are missing a color you had wanted to order. Looks easy enough!

iDye FAQs

I'm getting really excited about this... it totally falls in the category of "Waldorf-y Mommy things I've always wanted to do." I will post pictures next week so you can see how they turn out.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Super Tuesday

This is a great year to be teaching U.S. government! Leah's research paper topic is the U.S. Presidential election and we have been watching (we have a TV and an antenna so that gets us PBS, FOX, and ABC, and we always have the laptop for CNN, et. al.) as many of the debates as possible. We also got a 13 week free trial of the local paper. Leah cuts out political cartoons and articles every morning. Her cut off date is March 1st... after March 1st she will stop collecting artifacts and start writing her paper. The topic is who she thinks will win in November based on all that has happened so far.

Delegate Tracker has a really nice graph, or just Google "Super Tuesday."

The girls have been on the edges of their seats and I've been fascinated as well... I've never seen a presidential race like this one! And never before had a TV to watch any of the debates. I wonder if we are going to all have a front-row seat at the birth of a third major political party. And then part of me wonders why the other existing political parties besides Big Blue and Big Red aren't getting more followers... if there is this much unrest and voter frustration within the traditional system.

It's great because Natalie is researching presidents, too, in her family tree.

2016 Debate Schedule

2016 Caucuses & Primaries Schedule

Current Events was always too tricky before, in my opinion, but the girls are now deemed old enough to listen to NPR at lunchtime and they love to dash across the room and turn that radio on!

Fun Facts
Why Not?

I always wonder about some of the cartoony-style books that are out there (Excuse my quick instinctive sidebar into Waldorf Guilt & Anthroposophical Angst! Do I even need to spend all this time defending myself? Could I stop it, even if I wanted to?) but if the girls are going to absorb them intently when I check them out from the library, I'm OK with that. I think that maybe the style of the illustrations matters the most in Early Childhood... once you get to Middle School, I think engagement is key. If Leah is going to nearly knock me over in the morning trying to be the first to show me today's political cartoon, and it gets her thinking, well... that's fantastic.