Why Waldorf Works

If you haven’t checked out the site of the American Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA), you really should.

why waldorf works

AWSNA is the association that governs the collection of Waldorf schools. It’s an amazing group of people who are committed to Waldorf Education and they work together to support the movement.

This website is just one of the many ways AWSNA strengthens and supports Waldorf schools, but the site is just as valuable for parents and individuals who love Waldorf Education.

There’s lots of great information about becoming a teacher, finding a school and there’s a great FAQ section.

I really like the site’s “news and events” section which is a page that links out to Waldorf content all over the web. It’s where I discovered this great article about current trends in handwriting and what is lost as we focus on keyboarding skills rather than handwriting.

There is so much great content on the Why Waldorf Works site, that it’s really worth heading to and just exploring, but here is a list of some of my favorite links.

My favorite part of the site, though, is the section that can be accessed by any affiliated school, with a password. There are tons of resources about teaching, governance, child development — all kinds of things that other schools have created and contributed to. If you’re affiliated with a school it’s worth asking your administrator for the password and checking out the links.

Waldorf Early Childhood Water Toys

We’re having a little bit of a cooling front in my neck of the woods, but we all know that those hot August days are fast approaching and we’ll all be heading into various forms of water to cool off.

Waldorf early childhood water toys

Connecting with the element of water is so important in the summertime, even for purely practical reasons. I remember one of my wise parenting mentors once telling me:

Fussy Child + Water = Happy Child

I encourage you to get out and explore all different kinds of water with your little ones this summer.

To that end, here are some of my favorite Waldorf early childhood water toys.

Mixing Bowls and Spoons

waldorf early childhood water toysWho didn’t play with mixing bowls and spoons when they were little? There isn’t anything particularly Waldorf-y about this suggestion, but I’m including it because I want to inspire you to think outside the box when it comes to Waldorf toys. There is no rule that says you have to provide your child with all of the finest, German-made, wooden toys that are out there on the market. Especially when it comes to outside play, you’ll want to choose things that you’re not worried about losing or leaving at the beach.

Though you don’t have to pick out anything special, I would recommend having a dedicated set of bowls and spoons so your children can take them outside and get them dirty, and you won’t end up with sand in your bread dough.

These nesting bowls are nice because they can transport so easily.

The Toy Boat

waldorf early childhood water toys

When it comes to playing in the water, there’s nothing like a toy boat to help your child’s imagination come to life. When my children were little, we had a small boat that was open on top so they could put little figures and animals inside and take them for a ride. That boat was so popular and it usually came out at bathtime, but on occasion I took it along to the pool, too. This little boat from BellaLuna Toys is so sweet and it will inspire all kinds of imaginative play.

The Wading Pool

Back when my kids were little, I remember searching for an alternative to the inflatable kiddie pool. It seemed like those darn things sprung leaks all the time and we were looking at purchasing a new one every year. I hated the thought of all that plastic going into the landfill.

Space issues prevented us from buying one of the hard plastic type pools, so that was out for us.

Hard as I searched, it seemed that no one had come up with a good alternative, and it appears that a solution is still lacking.

We did enjoy and appreciate our little inflatable pools and I always thought that if we were getting good use out of it, then I felt less guilty about the waste. I did, though, on occasion come up with alternatives to going the inflatable pool route — here are some suggestions.

  • Go to public pools and spray parks. There is still the water use to consider, but with so many other people enjoying them, public pools and spray parks somehow seem less wasteful.
  • Pull out your old galvanized washtub. A little one could use it just like a wading pool. One word of caution: Don’t think that because it’s not a wading pool you can set aside your worries. Watch over your child just like you would if he or she was swimming in a real pool.
  • If you must purchase a wading pool, search for a used, hard-plastic pool first. The hard plastic is sturdier and less wasteful. If you can’t find one then opt for a new hard-plastic pool. Finally, if you must, go with the soft inflatable, but make sure you use it well and take care of it. If it does spring a leak that is beyond repair, this site has some ideas for reusing that old inflatable pool.

What are some of your favorite water toys and activities for your little ones? Share them in the comments!

Resources for Waldorf Early Childhood Stories

It’s been awhile since I was fully-immersed in the realm of early childhood, but it doesn’t take long for me to conjure up memories of my own children and my former students getting lost in stories as I told them.

While my current students take in stories in a much more dramatic, outwardly-active way, those little ones simply sat, open-mouthed drinking in the words of my stories. As I watched them absorb every character, description and plot turn, I was constantly reminded of the importance of carefully choosing the content of those stories.

Though Steiner’s indications suggest Grimm’s Fairy Tales, I remember struggling with some of them and looking for other resources for Waldorf early childhood stories.

A natural alternative to the fairy tale is the seasonal story and though you can easily enough make up simple seasonal stories (and these are often the best ones) it’s nice to have some resources to turn.

Well, here’s a great resource for Waldorf early childhood stories.

Waldorf Early Childhood stories Tell Me a Story is a collection of seasonal stories for children under 7. The stories and pictures are beautifully simple and it can be a great complement to the stories you already tell your children. There are over 80 stories in this collection, so it’s well-worth the $25.

What are some other resources for Waldorf early childhood stories that you love? Let’s collect a list in the comments!

Waldorf Online Magazines

Waldorf Online Magazines

There is so much content out there on the internet that it is sometimes difficult to sift through it all and find the true gems!

But online magazines can be just the right thing when you want to read something that is light and pleasing to the eye.

Luckily there are a few great Waldorf online magazines that are full of inspiring articles, helpful tips and lovely images. Here are a few of my favorites.

The Wonder of Childhood

waldorf online magazinesThe Wonder of Childhood is an online magazine edited and maintained by Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie. Lisa is an experienced Waldorf early childhood teacher and parent who works with the Lifeways teacher training program.

Though it looks as though The Wonder of Childhood hasn’t been updated in awhile, there is a wealth of information on the site and it’s definitely worth taking a look through.

Waldorf Today

Waldorf Today is a site that is primarily known as the central hub for Waldorf teaching jobs. But on their home page they frequently publish interesting news stories about Waldorf Education around the globe. The international nature of these posts is probably what I appreciate most. I love hearing about how Waldorf schools are spreading throughout the world.

The Online Waldorf Library

The Online Waldorf Library has a section of their site dedicated to Waldorf journals, and there is some great information to be found there. I wouldn’t necessarily say that all of the articles there would qualify as “light” reading, but if you’re looking for something with a little more substance, you’re likely to find it here. Gateways, the newsletter of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America, is published on this site. It’s definitely one of my favorites.

Rhythm of the Home

Another one of my favorites is Rhythm of the Home magazine. ROTH comes out quarterly and each issue is centered around a seasonal theme. I love how varied the articles are. In one issue you’ll find everything from how to make a Martinmas lantern to discussions weighing the pros and cons of the family bed. Every post is accompanied by beautiful photographs and a pleasant layout. (Check out my own article about the Shepherd’s Play.)

I’m sure there are some great publications out there I’m forgetting. Share them in the comments!

Historical Fiction as Teacher Prep

Over the years I have found that nothing quite puts me in the frame of mind for teaching a particular period of history than a good historical novel. Though historical fiction books don’t usually give me content that I can directly impart to my students, when it comes to giving me the “feeling” of a particular time period, historical fiction just can’t be beat. Here are some titles worth looking up. Some of them are definitely adult reading, others can be readers for students.

Grade Five

India — The Iron Ring by Lloyd Alexander, Buddha by Deepak Chopra

Egypt — Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Greece — The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Grade Six

Rome –

I, Claudius From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius Born 10 B.C. Murdered and Deified A.D. 54 (Vintage International)
Roma ($9.99 Ed.)
other titles by Steven Saylor

The Eagle

Middle Ages –

Muhammad: A Story of God’s Messenger and the Revelation That Changed the World
The Midwife’s Apprentice
Crispin – The Cross Of Lead
Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life (Ballantine Reader’s Circle)

Grade Seven

Renaissance — The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

Grade Eight War and Peace by Tolstoy, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell,

Drawing Supplies — Oil Crayons

A long time ago I did a series on basic main lesson supplies. I covered topics like pencils, crayons and main lesson books — all the basics.

Since writing that post I have discovered other supplies that started out as extras but have become part of my essential toolkit.

Of these new supplies, the ones that have changed my workflow most are oil crayons. There are a few things that I love about oil crayons.

  1. They make it easier to face a blank page. I use oil crayons in a way that is similar to the way I paint. You can turn your oil crayon on its side and fill the page with a light wash of color before creating a detailed, formed picture. Definitely less intimidating.
  2. They discourage outlining. If you guide your students through a drawing beginning with oil crayons and continuing to use them for as long as possible, they will avoid the tendency to draw outlines of the figures they are drawing.
  3. The range of pigment available is rich and diverse. Students can draw very lightly with oil crayons but they can also create beautifully rich drawings.

Basically, oil crayons allow your older students to benefit from the advantages of block crayons, without feeling like they are still kindergarteners.

So, my favorite oil crayons? Here they are.

Filia Oil Crayons

These Filia Oil Crayons were the first ones I started using and I really love them. They are especially great for the students I have who tend to draw very darkly. The colors are beautifully transparent which prevents children from coating the page so thoroughly with pigment that their drawings look as though they were done with markers. These crayons work great for drawings that include a combination of crayon and colored pencils. The foundation of oil crayon accepts the colored pencil just fine and though you can get a fair amount of detail with the point of the oil crayon, colored pencils allow for greater detail and depth of color.

Caran D'Ache Neocolor Crayons

These Caran D’Ache oil crayons were the ones I purchased for my students this year. We had our pencils leftover from last year, so I felt that we could splurge a bit on an extra-special tool. They are definitely more expensive than the Filia crayons, but for some people they are perfect. Personally, I love drawing with them. They allow me to draw with rich depth of color and I love the way that the colors layer over each other.

They take a delicate hand, though, and some of my students have a hard time getting good results with them. It is very easy to draw deep, dark pictures with these and many of my students end up with pages that are coated with layer upon layer of wax. Because the pigment comes off the crayon so much more easily, the crayons themselves are less dense and  more easily broken, and many of my students have fragments of crayons left to work with. If I had it to do again, I would have saved these for 6th or 7th grade when my students will be mature enough to handle the pigment and delicate nature of these crayons. If you have an older child who takes great, delicate care with art projects, or if you’re an adult who loves to draw with the crayons they give out at restaurants, these are for you.

Next year, I imagine we will return to the Filia crayons, but I’ll probably invest in a larger set (they go all the way up to 36 crayons in a set.)

Greek Mythology Resources

I’ve had a long break from this site, but I’ve recently decided to revive it with some fresh posts. I’m still getting lots of visitors everyday, and I have some great new ideas to share.

I’ve recently begun a Greek Mythology block, so the resources available for this block are fresh on my mind. There are some old classics, in addition to some new ones I’ve never used before.

Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths is a book I have used in the past. I’m not sure that there isn’t a better version of the stories out there, but this one is serviceable and has served my needs pretty well.
D'Aulaire's Greek Myths

D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths is a resource not to be missed. I haven’t used it a lot this time around for story content (though I certainly did my first time teaching the block.) Instead, this time I’ve used this book for the drawings. Most of the drawings translate easily to the chalkboard or oil crayon with colored pencils. I couldn’t imagine teaching the block without it.

The last resource I have to share is completely new to me and I feel like I just discovered buried treasure!
Hercules bookHercules by Geraldine McCaughrean is part of her series of books on the Greek heroes, which also includes a book on Perseus and Theseus. These books are very descriptive, wonderfully-written young adult books that are manageable for the typical fifth grade reader.

I’m feeling a bit pressed to tell the stories of these three heroes in the two weeks I have left of the block, so in addition to telling the stories of some of Hercules’ labors, I plan to have them read some of them, too. I’m really enjoying reading them as I prepare and I feel completely prepared to tell the stories based on the versions that are in this book.

Of course, I’m just working on the Hercules book at the moment, so I can’t speak for all three, but they’re definitely on my list as I continue the block!

Sixth Grade Readers

There is nothing like a good historical novel for conveying the feeling of a particular era. When you find historical fiction that is also age-appropriate, you simply have to grab the opportunity to have your students read. There are a few books like this that I’ve assigned to my sixth graders.

The first is the book that my current students are reading right now — The Eagle by Rosemary Sutcliffe. This book does such a great job of giving an inside glimpse at the life of the Roman legions. The book takes place in Roman-occupied Britain and it tells the story of Marcus, a Roman centurion who is retired because of an injury. In the book Marcus searches Britain for the eagle belonging to his father’s legion, attempting to solve the mystery of the lost ninth legion. The book does such a great job of bringing the vocabulary and customs of the Roman military that when I spoke about them in class I could rest assured that the students already had a nice frame of reference. It is technically rated at a grade seven level, so it is a little challenging for my students, but I usually consider that a good thing.

My students’ second reader of the year will be The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Pierce. This is a great book to go along with the second Roman History block. It tells the story of Jesus as his following is developing from the perspective of a young boy in Jerusalem. It is a powerful book that tells the story of Jesus from a historical perspective in a way that is thought-provoking and interesting. The reading level is just perfect, too.

Crispin, The Cross of Lead by Avi is a great book for conveying the feeling of the Middle Ages. Though it is a great book, it is written at a pretty simple reading level. For this reason it would meet some students perfectly but for others it could be too simple. If you are not already familiar with Avi’s work he is a great author to turn to when you’re looking for a good read.

There are more and more options for readers out there. Post your own recommendations in the comments.

Kim John Payne

I recently had the opportunity to listen to Kim John Payne speak at the Nelson Waldorf School in British Columbia. He has such an engaging, entertaining manner that made all of the attendees completely enjoy themselves. I’ve written a summary of his talk on my teaching blog.

His ideas about parenting make complete sense and I love how he related them to a view of child development that I am so familiar with. I haven’t read his books myself, but they have moved to the top of my long list of suggested reading.

Simplicity Parenting is a book that has been out for a little over a year and it has attracted a lot of attention. The basic premise is that parenting our children is easier and our children are better cared for when their lives are less full. We need to limit our children’s activities and choices so we have more time to connect as a family. As a busy Waldorf teacher and parent of three children, this concept really speaks to me.

His next book, which was the subject of the workshop I attended, is titled The Soul of Discipline and it will be released soon.