Holiday Blog Hop #6

PrintLori over at Waldorf Moms has a beautiful tutorial on how to make a star lantern. Her tutorials are always so easy to follow and this one is no exception. I think these would make a special gift for someone (plus put some of those watercolor paintings to use!)

Here is the full link

*** In case you missed the holiday book posts, here they are again:


A Brand New Rhythm


When I first came to Waldorf, I built our daily rhythm around three things: cooking meals (perfect for grade 3), walking (perfect for when you have nothing else planned – which I didn’t) and afternoon story time (which, in my opinion is just perfect period – anywhere, anytime). Last year, Jude began first grade and that meant I was teaching two grades. Cooking became less intentional and more simplified, but we still walked every morning and had story time every afternoon. This year, Vincent is in middle school and Jude is in grade 2. What has worked in the past is not working anymore, and our rhythm has gotten a significant overhaul.

Perhaps the biggest change is with cooking. This summer I did a series of posts asking for suggestions on breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. After reading those posts that week, Tom came home and said bluntly, “You cook too much.” (This from a man who grew up in a house with an Italian mother AND grandmother who cooked every meal, every day and then some.) However, I did see his point and a couple of slight adjustments have made a big difference. I already had the idea to streamline school day mornings with a serve-yourself breakfast/morning snack bar. (No cooking and no major clean up!) I adopted this idea from Maya and list the daily choices on a small chalkboard. (No questions!) I have also been lowering overall expectations (mostly my own) for lunches and dinners during the week and serving more leftovers. No one has noticed or complained and the time I am saving is considerable.

The second big change to our rhythm was initially postponing and then ultimately forgoing our morning walk. I knew we needed to make more time in the morning for Vincent’s main lesson which has been taking about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Vincent and I are both up early and ready to go – we don’t need a walk to get our energy going. Why wasn’t I taking advantage of this? Live and learn, I guess. So after Tom leaves, we both begin to transition to the school day. We have been beginning around 9:15-9:30, which lets us finish both main lessons before lunch. I thought about doing our walk between main lessons, but really we (well, I) need a break. So instead of walking together, the boys go outside and play for about 20 minutes, and I take the dog for a walk or sneak in a quick dvd workout.

Giving up afternoon story time is proving to be my biggest struggle, as it was my absolute favorite, favorite part of the day, everyday. However, as much as it pains me to say this, this is not all about me (lol). I started afternoon story time with the intention to encourage Vincent to read fiction. Well two years in, it has finally started to work! Now we have something every afternoon called DEAR (Drop Everything And Read). The form is the same as when we had afternoon story time: I set out a snack tray and light a candle. Instead of reading together, we are each tucked into our own book or current handwork project. This quiet time provides a nice in-breath after all the energetic playtime after lunch. I still read aloud to both boys during their individual main lessons, and we will still have our annual tradition of reading the next Little House book in January and the next Anne of Green Gables book in February.

This new pattern fits the needs of our family as a whole right now. And while we are still working out some kinks and falling into the rhythm of it all, it seems to be working out nicely for now.

*Read other examples of our yearly rhythm.

sample rhythm teaching 2 grades

sample rhythm teaching 2 grades

sample rhythm teaching 1 grade

sample rhythm teaching 1 grade

The Seven Lively Arts: Part 2

Jean Miller is back with Part 2 of her article “The Seven Lively Arts.” You can find Part 1 here. She is also available to answer questions and comments, so don’t be shy!



The Seven Lively Arts

Drama, Drawing, Movement, Music, Modeling, Painting, Speech

By Jean Miller, 

MUSICAL ARTS  (Singing & Recorder)

Steiner described the musical and poetic arts as bringing people together and having a harmonizing effect. Music creates the right mood. Steiner: “Music tunes and heals the soul life of the human being.”

One can bring music to young children in two ways: through singing, or leading simple melodies on simple instruments. Pentatonic songs harmonize what children feel inwardly; the pentatonic scale leaves out the 3rd and 7th notes in the octave – the sharps and flats. Until age nine, the pentatonic scale fits with child’s inner being.

One can use music for a variety of purposes:

  • To wake up children
  • To meet the mood of the season
  • To get them into the mood for work they’re about to do
  • To deepen feelings about work they’ve done
  • Singing in K; Recorder and Singing in G 1 & 2; Recorder, Singing and Instrument in G 3

Steiner: “Every child is a musical instrument and inwardly feels a kind of well-being in sound.” Steiner believed that the very forms of our bodies are made out of music.

Sing the melody in the early grades; children are naturally musical and imitate. Lead children into an experience of beauty and purity of tone through singing in unison. After age nine, rounds are appropriate and create harmony. Between the change of teeth and puberty, when the astral body is slowly being liberated, music is particularly important as an aid in this emancipation. In the upper grades, children can sing three and four-part songs.

Steiner: “If you can, you should choose a wind instrument…it is a wonderful thing in the child’s life when this whole configuration of the air…can be extended and guided.” Choices include recorder, choroi flute, or penny whistle.

 (Painting, Drawing, Modeling)

Steiner explained that the pictorial and sculptural arts (visual arts) deepen our experience of ourselves as individuals, and that the musical and poetic arts bring people together and have a harmonizing effect.

Painting is a way of exploring the beauty of colors on paper and gives us the experience of the quality and moods of different colors. We experience the harmony of colors inwardly.

Steiner: “Throughout the grades, painting primarily serves as a form of expression rather than a means of representation.”

Accompany painting with a simple story. Mondays are good days to paint (water day – also good for laundry). Tell a color tale or integrate painting into the main lesson.

Steiner said: “If there is a lot of flu going around and the children are not well, a painting lesson will renew their forces for their work in other subjects.”

Steiner suggests that if children can be taught how to draw so that they let forms arise out of color and let lines arise out of the meeting of colors, they will be enlivened and will develop a truer relationship to the external world. Drawing is a skill we can all learn.

  • Drawing isn’t arithmetic, there is not one right answer; pictures will look more similar in grade one and become more individual.
  • Drawing is an expression of feelings and images in your heart and head.
  • To get away from outline drawing, draw lightly at first and then that can easily be changed.
  • Colored pencils after age nine (because pencils force children to draw outlines).

Steiner: “In the sculptural and pictorial realm, we look at beauty, and we live it; in the musical realm we ourselves become beauty.”

Modeling with various materials enhances a child’s experience of the curriculum and has a vitalizing effect on the human being. Working with the hands in this way trains observation and awareness. Modeling can be incorporated during or after a story, and often goes well with nature stories; the scene can then be set out on the nature table. Beeswax gives qualities of warmth, color and fragrance to suit the light and airy nature of the child. The progression of modeling materials begins first with beeswax in the early grades, then moves on to clay, then wood, and stone in high school.

When Steiner describes the first day of school in Practical Advice to Teachers, he describes a conversation with the children about the importance of their hands – using their hands to work and create things. In the fourth grade block on the human being and animal, there is an important distinction about how our hands allow us to help bring goodness and beauty into the world. There are so many ideas for handwork, just remember to push through to finish!

Handwork ideas: knitting, crocheting, weaving, hand sewing, embroidery, paper crafts, felting, woodworking, carving and so much more. Handwork projects can also be tied to the seasons and incorporated into Festival celebrations.

Good luck and have fun bringing the Seven Lively Arts into your lessons! This will help to enliven your teaching and your time with your children. At the end of his life, Steiner talked about taking Waldorf education in a “drastically different direction” and was referring to grounding all teaching more fully in the arts! There are so many ways to do this that serve to inspire both our children and ourselves. Goethe believed that through art, human beings could reveal the secrets of nature that are concealed from our sense perception and consciousness.

A Brief Background on the Seven Lively Arts
The Seven Liberal Arts come from ancient times and grew out of the Four Branches of Knowledge in ancient Egypt: astrology, geometry, arithmetic and music. These Branches of Knowledge became the Seven Liberal Arts in ancient Greece, a time when spiritual and intellectual pursuits were intertwined. The Seven Liberal Arts included: grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, geometry, astrology, arithmetic and music. In the early part of the twentieth century, around the time Steiner opened the first Waldorf School in Germany, the history of western art was characterized as incorporating the Seven Lively Arts: literature, dance, drama, architecture, sculpture, music and painting. There is a massive mural depicting these Seven Lively Arts at the Center for Performing Arts in Toronto! In his time, Steiner was concerned that teaching had become too abstract and strictly intellectual, and so created Waldorf education to bring the elements of feeling and willing (through the arts and hands-on activity) into all lessons to accompany thinking. The Seven Lively Arts give us a great scaffolding for bringing the arts into all of our learning.


JeanHeadShot3-13-13Jean Miller is the mother of three children and has been homeschooling inspired by Waldorf education for almost 20 years. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her husband of 25 years and their youngest child, who is still on the homeschooling journey and going into high school; their two sons are now in college. Jean has a Master of Arts in Teaching and has taught in both public and private schools, has tutored, homeschooled and taught small groups. She has been involved in and spearheaded several Waldorf-inspired groups over the years including Bridgeways, a charter school initiative, and Rainbow’s Edge, a small cooperative grades group. Her knowledge of Waldorf education comes from attending workshops, extensive reading, and planning and implementing many lessons. For the past seven summers, Jean has been one of the teachers presenting at the Taproot Teacher Training, organized by one of her mentors, Barbara Dewey, of Waldorf Without Walls. Jean finds inspiration not only in teaching and building community, but also from nature, poetry, the creative arts and singing.


More Thoughts – Year Three


  • Rhythm Three years in, and rhythm has finally become something I don’t need to think about. Three years! I don’t mean this to discourage anyone, but rather to say that rhythm is something that takes time to get a handle on. I think we had a pretty good rhythm after our first year, but it was still something I was always thinking about and making Herculean shifts to change. Now, it is really something unconscious and ingrained in me and in my boys. This doesn’t mean we didn’t get off track at times, but returning to rhythm is accomplished with tiny adjustments.
  • Curriculum I am convinced there is no perfect curriculum out there, and that this is a good thing. I had an inkling this was the case last year, but now I can say with confidence – for me – this is true. I cobbled together our year with a variety of resources. Mostly I used the individual block guides from Christopherus. I also like Melisa Nielsen’s grade and block podcasts. Alison Manzer has a bunch of great block outlines that she gives out at Taproot (Are you registered yet?!x) And Jean Miller’s planner has an excellent (and not overwhelming!) list of resources/spines for every block, grades 1-8. Because I have a better grounding in the underlying pedagogy and overall structure of Waldorf education, I have felt more confident in going to the library and finding those resources that may not be stamped “Waldorf” but are nonetheless appropriate, interesting and best of all free!
  • Art There was much improvement in all artistic media this year: drawing, painting and modeling. I pushed myself to do four chalkboard drawings this year, which felt like a big breakthrough and a good investment of my time because I kept them up for an entire month each. (I have a small chalkboard that I use especially for these drawings.) Toward the end of the year, I felt more freedom in letting both boys draw from their imagination thanks to Rainbow Rosenbloom. When I heard him speak in Atlanta in March, he advocated letting the children close their eyes and describe what they see when they imagine the story. By letting them draw what arises, you are truly letting them develop an inner picture consciousness. This radically changed my thinking, because the prevailing theory seems to be the children MUST copy what you have drawn exactly.
  • Music At the end of last year, I had decided not to continue penny whistle lessons for a variety of idiotic reasons. (Admitting them would border on TMI about my very small mind and my huge amount of personal baggage (see yesterday’s post) . . . ahem.) Let’s just say Tom encouraged me to give it another try, and I am so glad we did. Beth changed the format from a group lesson to private lessons and that made a huge difference. I also let myself off the hook in feeling like I needed to learn and play right along with them. By the end of the year, both boys were practicing formally for about 10 minutes a day. They would also casually pick up their whistles at other times as well. The amount of music they have memorized this year is unbelievable. Jude has really developed a love for Irish music, and Vincent is transitioning from playing by a number system to slowly beginning to read music. Without a doubt, this has been the area of biggest strides this year: in perseverance, in artistry, in general enjoyment and in deepening relationship. Honestly, none of this would be possible without the magical Miss Beth. We are blessed.
  • Handwork We continue to plug along at handwork, but it was hit or miss this year (again). I think maybe handwork is seasonal in nature: hot and heavy in the fall and winter, not so much in the spring and summer. Jude learned to knit and made a bunch of green squares that I still need to find something to do with. Vincent’s stitches are beautifully even and I hope to further his skills this coming year. In a last-ditch effort to inspire my boys to pick up their needles this past month, I made two simple penny whistle cases. It didn’t work, but there is always next year. I have made the decision to stick with knitting as our handwork focus for next year for a variety of reasons. One is simplicity (I don’t know how to crochet and I am again letting myself off the hook of learning one more thing.) The other is to keep the boys using both hands for mid-line issues. Vincent needs all the help he can get in this area, and knitting is an easy way to sneak it in.
  • Extras We made main lesson books for the first time ever. We celebrated Michaelmas. We rolled candles for Candlemas. We attended a wide array of performances: puppet shows, plays, ballets, a piano concert, professional storytelling, sing alongs. Honestly I was shocked by how much both boys enjoyed these cultural events. Our repertoire of songs, verses, poems and stories continues to expand and I am amazed by how much we can sing, recite, quote and remember. This journey with Waldorf brings me to my knees when I think of all it has brought into our home and into our hearts.


Want to see what we read during storytime this year? Click the image below.


Happy Spring


This post is a part of Waldorf Wednesday. See all the links here.

Today is the first day of spring and Easter is early this year – March 31. I mentioned this felt finger puppet in the post about our Fairy Tale block last week. I have since made some more to send to my two favorite nieces. They come together so quickly and easily, you definitely have enough time to whip up a couple if you wanted something handmade for Easter morning. Here is the link with a supply list and detailed instructions.

I also have high hopes of completing this stuffed bunny before the end of the month. I have the pattern cut out already from a wool sweater I rescued from the Goodwill pile. I just need to get out my sewing machine and find a bit of time.

And if you can indulge me one more cuddly rabbit . . . I am waiting for the next batch of kits for this rabbit from Alicia Paulson. They sold out almost immediately, but I’m patient and think that bunnies know no season.

What are you making for Easter/Spring?

Any other rabbits I should know about??!!xx

Wishing you a glorious start to the season of rebirth and renewal!

**Update 3.21.13** Be still my heart, Sarah Jane just posted this free embroidered bunny pattern with 3D details. Guess what we’re doing this afternoon!