Our Teachers Dive Deep into Our Math Curriculum

A Summary of Math-Based Professional Development This Year By Dianne McGaunn, Math Teacher and Math Mentor “We possess mathematical truths through the fact that we ourselves behave mathematically in the world. We walk, we stand, and so forth; we describe certain lines on the earth. Through this will relationship to the external world we actually receive the inner perception of mathematics. – Rudolf Steiner This year, teachers have dedicated several pedagogical meetings to exploring our math curriculum more deeply. Some of our time has been working with Rudolf Steiner’s indications (see above) and their applications to our math teaching. As a result of our work together, we are developing a clearer understanding of the richness and power of our math curriculum and we can better communicate this to our community and beyond. In our math discussions in the fall and early spring, it became clear that mathematical thinking in Waldorf education is cultivated from the earliest stages and through many different experiences. In the early childhood programs, opportunities to experience the world and its mathematical truths in an age-appropriate way abound. For example, if four students want to use the swings but there are not enough swings for all of the students to use at once, a teacher might ask: how many students will need to wait if there are four students but two swings? In addition, balancing on objects and experiencing the physics of the world through running, jumping, balancing and playing are all mathematical experiences that are integral to the youngest students’ day. In the grades, we experience math in our classroom work, including measurement, movement and...

Inside and Outside Our Classrooms

A Curriculum Update Twice a year our teachers share a brief summary of what’s been happening inside their classrooms. As you read through these curriculum updates, you can sense how a Waldorf education actively engages the body, mind, and will, allowing the students to grow and unfold their inner capabilities. Nursery By Caroline Mercier We are now in the thick of our rain and mud season.  However, the children come well prepared, covered from head to toe in their waterproof gear. There are puddles to splash in; mud-cakes, muffins, and stews to make; holes to be dug; hills to climb; horses to care for; wagons to pull; and buckets of water and mud to be carted here, there, and everywhere! This week, we left buckets and wheelbarrows under the dripping roof to catch the rain drops in the morning, and it is was such fun to come back after lunch to see how full they got. Every morning, we share a sunflower seed and apple snack at our picnic table, and every day the chickadees gather up above, waiting for us to finish. When we are done and sometimes before we are done, these sweet little birds come and pick up the seeds that have dropped, while we quietly watch. But one day, something very special happened… After many patient days of trying, one little bird was brave enough to eat out of our hands. What a joyful surprise that was. Our nature walks are getting longer as the children grow and their stamina increases. One of our latest walks took us through the “magic forest” to the babbling...

Torin Finser on Parent-Teacher Relationships this Tuesday

Please join us on Tuesday evening, March 17, to hear Torin Finser speak about his latest book, “A Second Classroom: Parent-Teacher Relationships in a Waldorf School.” Torin Finser, PhD., is Chair of the Education Department at Antioch University New England.  He has written extensively on Waldorf Education and consulted world-wide. More information on the event is here: http://waldorfmoraine.org/event/adult-speaker-series-3/   BOOK REVIEW: A Second Classroom: Parent-Teacher Relationships in a Waldorf School|by Kathy McElveen, Austin Waldorf School The doorway to a classroom is a threshold where teacher and student meet. There is another kind of meeting at this threshold, that between the child’s parents and teacher. This important relationship receives thorough attention and its just due in Torin Finser’s book, The Second Classroom. “How adults work together can be as important as the curriculum on any given day.”  This is true at all levels of work in a school, in what the children learn as they watch adults interacting, in the effective working of the school community, and in the success of addressing the needs of a particular child.  Consciously and carefully cultivating relationships is the hard work of community building and this book is a treasure trove of practical advice, diverse experiences, and a call for action. There is value here for new and experienced parents, teachers, and school administrators or anyone interested in education.  There are practical tips for improving parent conferences and class meetings, strategies for “hard to handle parents”, as well as chapters on parent volunteers and the value of effective administration. Parents are challenged to be “co-responsible for the social health” of the class and encouraged to become part of an active...

Kindergarten Children Step Further Into Nature

By Lindsay Miles, Kindergarten Teacher Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone. —Wendell Berry, A Place on Earth This year’s kindergarten has taken an even larger step into nature by creating a daily rhythm that is held primarily outside. While indoor work and play remain a part of the curriculum, our meals and circle time have been brought outdoors, and we have added a nature walk and extra time for gardening to our outdoor routine.  With work in the social realm being so prominent in the Waldorf Kindergarten, what better place to foster these lessons than the natural world around us? Gathering together and sharing a meal is an important part of the Kindergarten curriculum (photo J. Benoit).  The children take part in preparing the snack and setting the snack table, and they take turns serving their friends. This year we are eating more food harvested from our very own gardens. To prepare for the day, the children begin indoors in our newly designed two-room classroom. In the larger room, everyone is bathed in sunlight as we chop apples, prepare the basket for our nature walk, fill our canisters with dried teas and other supplies, water plants and otherwise tend to the important chores of everyday life. Play goes on simultaneously, with the children tending to babies, creating fairy and gnome villages and building elaborate creations out of large wooden blocks.  In our smaller room, there are two tables for indoor activities such as painting, bread...

A Grandmother’s Story about the Impact of Today’s Kindergarten on One Little Boy

reposted from the blog, “Defending the Early Years” A Grandmother’s Story about the Impact of Today’s Kindergarten on One Little Boy Posted on October 6, 2013   This piece was written by our colleague Blakely Bundy. Bundy is the Outgoing Executive Director of The Alliance for Early Childhood, based on the North Shore of Chicago. We share her story here as an illustration of what is happening in too many kindergarten classrooms across our country. A Grandmother’s Story about the Impact of Today’s Kindergarten on One Little Boy I wanted to relate my “tale of woe” about my grandson’s experience in kindergarten this fall.   I will call him William. I know that it’s a common story now, but this is a first for me on a personal level.  Aside from being William’s grandmother, I am a former teacher and have been involved as an early childhood professional in several different capacities for my entire career. Over the summer, my daughter and her family moved from Winnetka, IL, a progressive school district on the North Shore of Chicago, to a town on the East Coast. They chose that town after doing quite a bit of research on the schools and I even accompanied them and talked to teachers and administrators in three of the communities that they were considering.  We thought that the town they chose was the most similar to the school system they had just left. William, a third child with two older sisters, had had a happy, fulfilling experience at  Willow Wood Preschool in Winnetka ,  a half-day (afternoon), play-based, NAEYC accredited program (where I had actually taught for...

Huffington Post Story on Waldorf Education

A great piece on one family’s journey to Waldorf education.  Originally published here. Knitting Is More Important Than Homework By MARA MENACHEM Two years ago on the front page of the New York Times Sunday Business section, an article ran entitled, “A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute” about the Waldorf School in Silicon Valley. I had already made the decision to enter my oldest son in a Waldorf school before the article came out, but I pathetically admit that this piece in the New York Times validated my intuition regarding a Waldorf education. Years ago when I was looking at preschools, I checked out a Waldorf School. At the time, despite my hippie pre-disposition, the environment seemed too “out there.” However, I trusted my intuition enough to send my kids to another somewhat alternative, small, liberal pre-school focusing on socialization, not academics. The kids were happy, as were we. My kids were little Huck Finns and I was comfortable as their pied piper as they explored their world, not competed in it. But when it came time for elementary school, going “alternative” seemed a little too “alternative.” Traditional private school didn’t do it for me as a kid. I went to private school and felt stifled. I wanted something different for my kids. In my mind, I saw my kids being raised with limitless imagination and access to never-ending creativity, even after pre-school. My perspective always seemed to be different from the majority. My intellectual buddies (although many sans kids) served as the great validators of my gut feelings regarding how I handled certain situations. Over time, I...