Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Three Essential Phases of Child Development in Waldorf Education

 There are aspects of Waldorf Education that resonate with our family and inspire the way we live and learn.  My oldest lost another tooth last night and I am reminded of the significance of this physical change. According to Waldorf Educators, there are three essential phases of child development and the loss of baby teeth signifies the transition from the first phase into the second phase.

The Three Essential Phases of Child Development in Waldorf Education:

1. The First Seven Years - Imitation
2. The Second Seven Years - Imagination
3. The Third Seven Years - Truth, Discrimination, and Judgment

I won't go into detail on the three phases as they are summarized perfectly here.  

As my oldest transitions into the second phase of child development, fostering her imagination will be of importance. While she will be ready for more formal learning, it will be essential that we continue to give her the space and freedom she needs to play, explore, and imagine.  Making sure she's not over - scheduled, allowing for plenty of unstructured free time, and engaging in visual arts, music, drama, and creative writing are some ways that we hope to nurture her imagination.  What are some ways you foster imagination in your children?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Creating Curriculum the Natural Way

Collecting rocks at the beach

        A common question I get is “How much time do you spend on curriculum planning for your homeschooled children?”  Well, the answer to that is really “none.”  There isn’t much planning that happens ahead of time, it’s all in the moment. Most of our learning happens organically.  Curriculum naturally unfolds when you follow your child’s interests.  This is a truly powerful process.  What does this look like?  I’ll walk you through a real life example. 

 How to Follow your Child's Interests    

Attending a rock and mineral identification class
     When my oldest was five years old she loved to collect rocks.  She looked forward to looking for cool rocks every time we went outside.  So, I took this interest of hers and went deeper with it.  We went to the library together and got some books on rocks, which led to getting books on minerals, gems, and crystals.  We read a lot on the topic.  I took her to the local museum of lapidary art.  That opened her eyes to a whole new world of the earth sciences.  I signed her up for various classes and programs at the museum, which deepened her knowledge and interest in the subject.  She learned how to identify rocks and minerals at one of the classes, which was taught by a professional Geologist.  She went on a field trip through the museum where she collected fossils and learned how to identify them.  I got her some rock, fossil, and gem kits that helped her continue her learning at home.  She gained knowledge and skills that most five year olds don’t typically receive.  This simple hobby of collecting rocks turned into this wonderful learning experience, a “unit study” or “curriculum”, if you will, naturally unfolded as I followed my child’s lead.  She’s almost eight now and continues to add to her rock collection.

How Science Supports Natural Learning


  When you spend time with your child and pay attention to what she likes, a deeper learning naturally occurs.  This is arguably, a more effective approach to learning as the child has an authentic interest and wants to learn, it isn’t something that is forced.  It has real meaning and connection for the child, thus the child is more open to learning, more engaged, and retains the information better. This is analogous to the research on corporate training.  Fortune 500 companies around the globe know that “on the job” training, and “in the moment” coaching is a much more effective training and development approach than scheduled, structured training classes.  The field of corporate training discovered this 20 years ago and has shifted their mindset, yet schools are still following outdated approaches.  In my 15 years of experience in the field of corporate psychology I’ve conducted research on how people learn, how they are motivated, and what leads to high performance.  When you spend your days focusing on a curriculum that was designed or selected months ago you can miss out on opportunities to dive into interests as they emerge.

I think John Holt, who is widely regarded as the "father" of unschooling said it best, “We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions -- if they have any -- and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.” So instead of spending a lot of time on planning unit studies and researching the best curriculum, invest more time in being with your children and learning what inspires them.   Don’t be afraid to take a step back and let learning happen naturally.

      If you'd like to learn more about unschooling check out Pat Farenga. He worked closely with John Holt and continues to be an advocate for self-directed learning.  Follow Pat on Twitter and learn more about his work through his Blog.