About Waldorf Education

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I did not know what Waldorf Education was until I had the pleasure of teaching in a small Waldorf school. I found the classroom engaging, the students involved and thriving. Children were busy playing house, dress-up, singing and reciting poetry as they floated around the “homelike” classroom. The colors were warm; the atmosphere was cooperative and supportive. It was a very accepting environment and one where I felt immediately at home.

 

History of Waldorf

 

Friderich Wilhelm August Frobel opened the fist kindergarten in Germany in 1836. Children sang songs, read stories, played games and worked on arts and crafts. The emphasis was on the development of creativity and motor skills. Rudolf Steiner followed Frobel and founded a school for the children of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in 1919. Steiner was an Australian writer, researcher and educator. The first Waldorf School in America opened in 1928.

 

Free Human Beings and the Spread of Waldorf

 

I brought my than four-year old daughter with me to the Waldorf school where I taught, and it was here that I began to learn about the importance of age-appropriate learning. Waldorf methods seek to embrace the “entire child,” and the stages that that all children pass through on their way to adulthood. Waldorf’s main objective is to create free human beings who are able to give purpose and direction to their lives. This mission statement caused the Nazis to close Waldorf schools during Word War II. However, after the war, schools quickly opened up again and the teaching concept spread to South Africa, Palestine, Eastern Europe and Russia. The latest statistics (2012) show 1,025 independent Waldorf schools, 2,000 Waldorf Kindergartens and 629 Waldorf special education programs in 60 countries. In addition, there are also Waldorf-based public and charter schools as well as a great many people using Waldorf techniques for home instruction.

 

Preschool and Kindergarten

 

Waldorf kindergartens teach learning through imitation and example. Children spend a great deal of time in guided free play in a very homey classroom with natural materials and productive work. For example, children often help set the table for a group snack, grind flour and bake biscuits. Much time is spent outdoors studying nature and the seasons. Art is important and children draw with beeswax crayons or paint. Oral language is encouraged through poems, songs and movement games. One of my daughter’s favorite times of the day was when the teacher would tell a story, usually a fairytale by heart. Seasonal festivals are celebrated from a number of different traditions. The use of televisions, computers and recorded music is discouraged and is thought to be harmful to children’s early growth.

 

Elementary Education

 

Elementary curriculum is based on the arts including visual arts, drama movement, music, instruments and crafts. Students also begin learning foreign language in first grade. There is little use of standard textbooks in the classroom, and each child creates a lesson book with an illustrated study of certain topics. Academics usually take up two hours of the day and focus on a single theme for a month. Each lesson begins with a song or poetry. Mathematics is practiced each day. Teachers generally stay with their same students for many years increasing their personal commitment to students and allowing everyone to get to know each other.

 

Secondary Education

 

Most Waldorf students enter secondary studies when they are fourteen years old. Specialized teachers teach individual subjects. More emphasis is placed on academics at this point although students still take courses in art, music and crafts. High school studies encourage students to think on their own and develop a sense of purpose and responsibility.

 

About the Author: Susan Patterson is a freelance writer and a homeschool mother who taught in a Waldorf School. She writes for a variety of education and health sites including Family Cord.

Myths About Homeschool: Is it True?

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Choosing to homeschool your children is an extremely personal decision. Unfortunately, when parents begin to investigate homeschool options they are often faced with many myths about homeschooling, which, if not dispelled, can influence their decision. Before making a decision to homeschool it imperative that parents do their research regarding these myths to sort out what is true and what is not true.

 

Is it True that Not Many People Homeschool?

 

According to the United States Census Bureau, more than 2 million children are schooled at home in the United States. Statistics indicate that homeschooling is on the rise, as much as 15 to 20 percent each year. With the Internet, homeschooling is even more popular than it ever has been. There is a plethora of information and resources now available to parents wishing to educate their children at home.

 

Is it True that Homeschool Children Are Not Social?

 

Homeschool children are usually exposed to a wide range of people and often have excellent social skills. Many homeschooling families are integrally involved in their community, church, local recreational opportunities, 4-H, or other civic groups. Some homeschool children even participate in classes and extracurricular activities at their local public schools.

 

Is it True that Parents are not Qualified to Teach their Children?

 

It is common for parents to think that they do not have the skills to teach their children but nothing could be further from the truth. Parents who are nervous about teaching their children find that one of the greatest joys of homeschooling is learning together with your child. There are so many resources available to parents including books, Internet and study groups. Sometimes parents will get together and teach students certain subjects, creating a sort of “minischool”.

 

Is it True that Homeschool Children Have No Real World Experience?

 

The vision that many people have of homeschooling families is that they stay locked up in their homes studying all day. However, this is generally not true. Many homeschool children have more real world experience than public school children simply because they have a flexible schedule. Homeschool children often volunteer in the community, travel abroad, work part-time jobs, intern and accompany their parents out into the “real” world on a daily basis. Public school children are very limited, with the hours spent in school, to what “real world” experiences they can have.

 

Is it True that Homeschool Students can’t get into College?

 

One very common myth regarding homeschooling is that students will have a difficult time getting accepted into college. In fact, hundreds of state, Ivy League, community and private colleges accept homeschool students with open arms. School officials often state that homeschool students are responsible, eager to learn and very mature. Homeschool students can take the same college entrance exams as everyone else and participate in opportunities for scholarships and awards. There is no particular end of high school test that a homeschooler must take in order to be admitted to college parents or a homeschool group may issue a high school diploma that carries the same weight as a high school diploma from public school.

 

About the Author: Susan Patterson is a homeschool mother and a freelance writer with an interest in health and education. She recently finished an article on the importance of cryobank services.

The Pain of Dyslexia

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Dyslexia is a learning disability that people are born with and poses a challenge to both children and adults. Known as a language processing disorder, dyslexia interferes with writing, reading, spelling and even speaking. Contrary to what is sometimes assumed, dyslexia is not an indicator of laziness or low intelligence. In fact, many incredibly gifted people struggle with this neurological disorder. Because of dyslexia, millions of students process and interpret information differently than their peers without the condition. This can make learning extremely painful.

 Early Identification

 Because so much of what is taught in a classroom is dependent on reading and writing, it is critical that dyslexia be diagnosed early. There are many alternative ways to teach children with dyslexia, and early diagnosis means getting the child on the right track before frustration sets in.

 Symptoms of Dyslexia

 Depending on the severity of the dyslexia, symptoms will vary. Some children will suffer with reading and spelling while others will find writing difficult or have trouble knowing left from right. As children age, grammar is hard to grasp as is reading comprehension and composition. In addition, people with dyslexia often have trouble expressing themselves in a way that people can understand. Conversation is a challenge because thoughts are not easily organized. Abstract thoughts are particularly hard for older children to understand.

 Self Esteem

 Unfortunately, dyslexia makes kids different and dyslexic children may become the brunt of some terrible jokes. This is another reason why early diagnosis and treatment is so critical. Kids that have been left undiagnosed often lose motivation, give up on school and sometimes become very depressed.

 What to Look For

 Children at different ages and stages will present warning signs that parents and teachers must be on the lookout for.

 Young Children: May have trouble with letters, matching sounds and letters and blending sounds into speech. Rhyming may also present a challenge for children with dyslexia.

 School-Age Children: Many dyslexic children find spelling a frustrating and have trouble remembering facts and numbers. Gripping a pencil and forming letters may also pose a problem depending on the severity of the disability. Although basic math functions may not be a problem, word problems in math pose a tremendous threat and children will often get very frustrated as they try to sort out what the question is asking them to do.

 Teenagers: Many teenagers with dyslexia experience difficulty understanding non-literal language including jokes, proverbs or idioms. Time management and memorization do not come easily and reading aloud is hard, as well.

 Seek Professional Help

 Although dyslexia is not something that will ever go away, it is imperative to have your child professionally tested as early as possible. Once diagnosis is given, special instruction, manipulatives and academic assistance can make living with this disability easier for both children and families. If you suspect that your child may be dyslexic, talk to the school to arrange for and assessment. Fortunately, teachers are receiving more and more training and education regarding diagnosing dyslexia. Fewer children are let undiagnosed than ever before. There is an increasing amount of support available to children and families struggling with this disorder

 

About the Author: Susan Patterson is a freelance writer who writes for a number of health-related sites including Family Cord.

About Montessori Education

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  With more than 4,000 Montessori schools in the Untied States, this 100-year-old teaching method continues to gain popularity. Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian researcher, developed a style of teaching children based on her observations of children from birth through adulthood. Dr. Montessori had a background in medicine, psychology and anthropology and lived from 1870 – 1952.

 Early Learning

 According to Montessori, all children pass through stages of development. From birth through six years of age, Montessori believed that a child has tremendous potential to learn from the world around them without any conscious effort. It is during this time that children are most receptive to certain outside stimuli designed to arouse the intellect.

 Teachers as Guides

 Teachers in the Montessori classroom are trained to act as facilitators and guides. They gently direct children without interfering with their natural desire to learn and become independent. Children in Montessori classrooms are given much freedom to explore and make independent choices.

 Key Elements

 There are several key elements to the Montessori approach to learning. Children in a Montessori school participate in multiage groups that encourage cooperation and learning. Older children learn from younger children which mimics the real world where people of all ages work together. In a classroom, there is usually 3 to 6 age groups. Young children are exposed to a wide range of child friendly manipulatives that simulate all of their senses and help with early motor sill development. Much of what happens in the Montessori environment is self-directed. Advocates of the approach feel that this freedom allows children to develop time management skills, creativity, self-direction and motivation. Elementary school children move from concrete to abstract in their thinking and use learning materials and curriculum that allow for this transition.

 Montessori versus Traditional Classroom

 The big difference between Montessori and a traditional classroom is that Montessori classroom teachers are guides and in a traditional classroom teachers teach students directly according to a set plan. In addition, in most traditional classrooms students are all around the same age where in a Montessori classroom children are grouped from 0-3 years, 3-6 years and 6-12 years.

 Advantages and Disadvantages of Montessori

 The Montessori method of teaching allows children to follow their passion and personal strengths. Children work at their own pace so there is no competition and subjects are taught from very concrete to abstract following a child’s natural development. Some possible disadvantages of the Montessori method are that the teacher has a rather inactive role, and emphasis is placed more on a child’s area of interest rather than a broad subject base. For those students who thrive best in a structured environment, the Montessori method may be challenging.

 Finding a School

 Because the name Montessori is not legally protected, it is imperative that parents do their homework before choosing a school for their children. The International Montessori Index outlines what should be included in a good Montessori school and how children should be taught.

 

About the Author: Susan Patterson is a home educator with an interest in family and health. She is a freelance writer who writes for a number of educational and health sites including Fertile Future.

 

 

How to Keep Your Kids Healthy in School

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More than 22 million school days are lost each year to the common cold. Add flu and other illnesses to this and the number escalates even higher. School children are exposed to a plethora of germs and bacteria daily. While there is no way of completely safeguarding your child from illness, a few things can be done reduce the chance that they will get sick.

 The Importance of Hand Washing

 People who are careless when it comes to washing their hands are at a higher risk of catching colds or flu. Teach your child proper hand washing techniques when they are young and reinforce them whenever you can. Hands should be washed with warm water and soap before eating and after using the bathroom. Tell your child if they have been touching other kids, holding hands or around coughing or sick children to wash their hands as soon as possible. Send your child to school with a bottle of hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol, so that when they cannot get to a bathroom they can use the sanitizer instead.

 No Sharing

 While it may seem counterintuitive to tell your child not to share, some things should not be shared. Such things as water bottles, lip balm, makeup or utensils, should never be shared with schoolmates.

 Healthy Diet

 There is not substitute for a healthy diet to build a strong immune system. Children with a strong immune system are much less likely to come home sick than those who are deficient. Start your child’s day off with a hearty breakfast, fresh fruit, whole grain and some protein. Avoid the temptation to purchase quick packaged foods and stick to whole foods as much as possible. Try making a nutritious and delicious hot cereal in the crockpot that will be ready for the whole family in the morning. Pack a healthy lunch for your children including fresh vegetables. Resist the urge to have your child eat at the cafeteria unless you are aware of healthy options. Be sure that your child is drinking plenty of fresh water all day long.

 Sleep

 While everyone is different when it comes to the amount of sleep required, school-age children should receive at least ten hours of sleep per night. Sleep allows the body time to heal and restore and is essential to normal development and immune system function. Keep the bedroom free of electronics and help your child to develop a healthy sleep routine.

 Exercise

 Many children do not get enough exercise. Schools have cut down on gym and recess time making it even more difficult for kids to get outside. Encourage your children to get at least thirty minutes of exercise daily, preferably outdoors. Instead of having your child do homework as soon as they return from school, send them outside to play. Physical exercise helps keep the lungs clear of bacteria, slows down the release of stress hormones and prevents bacterial growth.

 Supplements

 No matter how healthy your child is, he/she may still suffer from nutrient deficiencies. Talk to your pediatrician, chiropractor or other health professional about a whole food supplement. Vitamin D is often overlooked and is critical to a strong immune system and overall health. If your child is not getting thirty minutes a day in the sun, consider a vitamin D supplement.

 

 

About the Author: Susan Patterson is a freelance writer and a mother. She writes on a number of health and education related topics including cord blood banking.

 

Resources:

 

http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

 

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007165.htm]

How Moms Can Stay Sane and Homeschool

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For many, the image of a mother with an apron on and kids hanging off of her skirt comes to mind when we think about homemakers. Add homeschooling to homemaking and that appears to be a true recipe for insanity. However, homeschool veterans, those that have been teaching at home for a while will tell you that there are numerous ways to stay sane and still enjoy being home with your children.

 Set Manageable Goals

 A common bit of advice from homeschooling mothers is to set easy to reach goals without going overboard. While you want your children to progress academically, it is important to understand that children are like sponges, and much of what they learn is not through direct one-on-one instruction. They soak up everything. Placing too high expectations on yourself or your children can result in frustration.

 Have Fun

 So often, homeschooling parents forget to have fun with their kids. Mothers become so intense about the studies that they forget to enjoy spending time with their children. Make it a habit to spend at one hour a day just having fun with your children. This may be a walk in the woods; time spent playing a game, working on a fun craft together, making something yummy in the kitchen or just “hanging” out.

 Take Time Off

 Even the most organized well intended homeschool mother needs a day off. Arrange for someone, a friend, family member or your husband to take your children at least one day a month so that you can go do something on your own. The downtime is an essential ingredient to success. Homeschooling requires a great many sacrifices and a well-deserved day off is truly something to look forward to.

 Teach Life Skills and Academic Skills

 It is important to balance teaching between real life skills and academic skills. Children should take an active part in caring for the home. Once your children are old enough to help around the house, your job gets easier. Older children should do their own laundry, help with meals, shopping and even teaching younger siblings. If you have more than a few children, the extra help that your older children provide brings great relief. The more involved your children are in the running of the home, the more prepared they will be to live independently once they leave home.

 Don’t Do it Alone

 Homeschool mothers can become isolated rather quickly. Having a network comprised of other homeschooling families provides encouragement and support. Many communities have such groups and often get together weekly. This allows your children time to interact with other homeschool children and gives you a chance to unwind, bounce ideas and thoughts off of others, ask questions and offer advice.

 

 

About the Author: Susan Patterson is a freelance writer and a homeschool mother. When she is not teaching, Susan can be found writing on a number o health and educational topics including the importance of fertility preservation.

Bullying at School: How to Spot it, How to Stop it

two young girls laughing behind another girls back

As school doors open for yet another year, the threat of bullying remains very real. Millions of students are the victims of bullying each day in American schools. Recent surveys indicate that up to half of all children will be bullied at some point during their 13 years in school. In addition, more than 10% of kids are the victims of regular bullying. While school officials are doing their best to reduce bullying, it remains a concern.

 What Is Bullying?

 Bullying is any behavior, verbal or physical that is threatening in nature. Some bullies use their physical size as a threat while other attack via the Internet and social networking sites. From tripping, shoving, verbal insults to gossiping, bullying takes on many forms. Cyber bullying may involve cruel and insulting emails, tasteless and hurtful blog posts, or social network posts. A great deal of bullying occurs in lunchrooms, playgrounds, on buses, in bathrooms, or in unsupervised hallways.

 Who Are the Victims?

 Students may be bullied for many reasons including the way they look, their race, their social status, because they have a disability and even because of religious beliefs. Shy and withdrawn kids are often the targets of bullying, as are minorities.

 Who are the Bullies?

 Students who bully others are often the victims of abuse themselves. While this does not in any way excuse their behavior, it does help us understand a little better. Bullies may be depressed, angry or suffering from some other emotional stress that causes them to lash out at other students.

 The Impact of Bullying

 Students who are bullied suffer immensely. Some children are too scared to tell an adult or their families and remain victimized for long periods. Bullying can interfere with grades, social and emotional development and even send children into depression where they may contemplate something as drastic as suicide.

 What can be Done?

 Both bullies and those being bullied need help. If you suspect that your child is either bullying others or is the victim of a bully, it is imperative that you act right away. Bullying that is not dealt with can lead to very serious emotional, academic and even legal difficulties. School counselors, pediatrician, teachers and principals, are trained to provide information and advice regarding bullying. If your child is being bullied, it is important to ask them about what is happening and try to gather as much information as possible. Children who are being picked on at school will often become withdrawn at home, suffer academically and appear sad or on the defense. Try to get your child to open up and talk about the situation so you can decide what needs to be done. Do not encourage your child to retaliate; this will only make the circumstance worse. Encourage your child to be assertive and seek help from a teacher, coach or other adult in the school when needed. If your child is a bully or the victim of a bully, seek help immediately.

 

About the Author: Susan Patterson is a freelance writer and a mother of three. She has spent time in the public school system where she has seen the effects of bullying. Susan writes on a variety of health and education topics including cancer fertility issues.

The Many Faces of Homeschool: A Look at Four Popular Methods

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Like many first time homeschooling parents, I was a little nervous as to which approach I would take when I started this journey almost ten years ago with my three children. What I soon realized is that there are countless ways to homeschool your children and no one way is any better than another. That is, in fact, the amazing thing about homeschooling; that you can cater your style to suit your family and even to suit each individual child. If you know your children really well it will be easy to choose a style and don’t worry, you may homeschool one way one year and another the next. Here is a brief summary of four popular homeschool methods. 

Classical Education

 In 1999, W.W. Norton published The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, the guideline that many parents use for teaching in a classical style. The backbone of classical education rests with the belief that the brain develops through three stages, grammar, logic and rhetoric. Classical method of teaching began in the Middle Ages and was used by some of the brightest people in history. The objective of the classical approach is to teach children how to learn on their own. Students pass through a series of stages where information is provided as they develop abstract thinking and reasoning skills. Each stage builds upon the previous until, in high school, a student is able to communicate in both writing and speaking everything that has been learned and to begin to explore the unknown. For those with a love of classic literature and reading, this is an excellent choice.

 Relaxed Method

 Parents who homeschool their children in a relaxed setting are sometimes known as “eclectic.” In a relaxed home school, a combination of techniques are used that can sometimes vary from subject to subject. No set curriculum is followed, and parents cater the learning environment to suit their children. Relaxed homeschoolers take a lot of field trips and often use elective instruction to encourage their children’s passions.

 School-at-Home

 Many families that choose a school-at-home approach to homeschooling purchase a boxed curriculum and stick to a tight schedule. Lessons are followed by tests and grades are kept in a record book. For those who are just starting out in homeschooling, this method offers structure and can be a good transition from school to homeschool. However, many parents and students find this method rigorous and boxy, not allowing room for personal expression.

 Charlotte Mason

 The Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling believes that children deserve respect and should be given lots of time to create, play and be involved in real-life situations where they will learn. Parents who use Charlotte Mason homeschooling technique spend a great deal of time in nature with their children and learn about geography, history and literature through “living books.” Children demonstrate that they understand a subject not by taking tests but by talking and writing. Katherine Levison’s books “ A Charlotte Mason Education,” and “More Charlotte Mason Education,” are often used as resources for this style of teaching.

 

About the Author: Susan Patterson is a freelance writer and a homeschool mother. She writes on a number of education and health related topics including fertility and sperm banks.