learn about the elements at home
The elements of fire, rain, earth, and air are not only a part of learning about mother nature as a part of a well rounded curriculum, they mirror the four temperments in our children and also the archetypes that live within each one of us. The elements appear throughout the Waldorf curriculum in verses, stories, fables, legends, art, and even in math through the royal subjects and the number gnomes in the kingdom of Numberland.
The belief is that each element, each color, each archetype speaks to the developing child in a unique way as they're still very much apart of the ethereal world (as nature is controlled by the spiritual world known as source or God) and are transitioning into the physical world.
WIND: I chose to start with the element of WIND on Day 1 of our unit. It was a rather windy day in Bozeman and it was a neutral termperment when thinking of my two boys. I have a fire and a rain at home in my twins so Brother Wind felt like a safe choice to begin. After saying our new verse noted in the previous blog, we read "Like a Windy Day", which I loved because the illustrations show wind in spiritual form as though it's tangible, relatable- someone a child can reach out and touch. They looked for Brother Wind all day in the trees, listened for him in the windchimes throughout our property, and even giggled over throwing trash away immediately so he couldn't snag it from them. We made cork boats with sails and raced them in the creek begind our house, but making a bark boat, kite, or windchime using recycled cans, string, and sticks would be an excellent way to tie in the learning.
FIRE: This was my favorite day because we woke up to find it had snowed again and, without knowing what was on our agenda, my partner built a fire that morning, which was the perfect backdrop for learning! I had the boys show fire as a display on our table using beeswax to model fire, our Grimm's wooden elements, a red silk, and an image of the sun. We recited our morning verse, illustrated fire in our main-lesson book, and watched a Waldorf puppet show on youtube about Father Sun, led by a Waldorf teacher. The story was a great example of how Father Sun affects the seasons and the rhythms of nature so the boys modeled the earth on an axis (also known as a thin paintbrush) and the sun out of colored clay. They acted out the orbits and we discussed THEIR ideas of the seasons, day, time, weather and so forth. Before the "changing of the teeth", keep them in the land of imagination and magic and try not to over intellectualize anything. It's fun to spin around pretending to be the earth; they aren't interviewing for NASA anytime soon. We read The Legend of Little Firefly together and this prompted the boys to build Wigwams and canoes at the table. Then, they watched Pocahontas from a Tipi in the living room while I took a work call. It happens, but try not to use TV too often! Limit screen time to 1-2hours every few days. Use it for emergencies, not day care.
WATER: This day fell on a Wednesday, our busiest day away from home. We usually have a trip to the gym for mom to work out, read, check emails, and so on while they play in the childcare. Then, we have a park day with other kids in the community. Do I feel bad that we didn't learn about water today? Nope, not at all! They illustrated it in their main lesson books, we read the book, "Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky" which is a fabulous African folktale about water, and then they watched a Bill Nye episode on the water cycle while I busily cooked breakfast, packed lunches, and packed bags for our day out. When we got home, they both wanted to do a craft, which we did on the porch since the weather was so nice and then my son built a dam out of Legos and filled it with water and a boat. He opened up part of it and watched the water flow and said, "There! Now it's becoming a river" ... learning is happening internally at all times in the child's world with little, to no, interaction from us!
EARTH: It's 3:33 in the morning and I can't sleep. Tomorrow the boys should start exploring Earth, but instead of a "lesson", we're going to spend the bulk of our day outside playing and working in the garden. I encourage you all to do the same! Plant flowers or seeds, buy an indoor garden box or garden wall for herbs, make mud pies or Dirt Cake (recipe on pinterest), go for a hike, or just play outside barefoot. I MIGHT introduce Father Plus tomorrow since I just finished painting peg dolls for "Number Gnomes", but seeing as how I'm experiencing a rather sleepless night, I'm going to go with the flow. This is CRUCIAL to your success as a homeschool parent, but also as a parent in general.Kids need to see you modeling self-care. They don't want to be the reason you're stressed and worn out. That's alot of pressure for a young child. Instead of allowing anxiety to overcome you as you peruse Pinterest late at night, google new stories to teach, or read up on lessons- remind yourself that it's far better for them to learn how to be good humans than learn anything you'll teach them when you feel under pressure. Show them that you are perfectly imperfect and that you know how to step back and enjoy the rhythm of the day with them. There's more value in laying in the grass looking up at the clouds together than a math lesson- I PROMISE. Let that shit go, LOL!
Friday will likely be a monkey-ing around day or visit to a playground. We may tackle some arts and crafts, go for a hike, bake muffins together or just free play!
Life is the curriculum...let the journey be your guide.
The Four Elements: Waldorf Way
Here's what we're doing this week in our new homeschool-ish life as we await starting the school with friends this fall. We'll be exploring the four elements of AIR, FIRE, WATER and EARTH,. There's an episode on my podcast, Whole Heart: Crunchy Parenting about the value of four elements for developing the inner child if you're interested. It ties in directly with the four temperaments the Greeks were kind enough to put into context for us a million years ago.
I recommend writing the verse for the week (or two weeks if you have younger children) and illustrating with the colors of the elements. Remember, Waldorf values BEAUTY and color play excites the soul.
Mother Earth, Mother Earth, take our seed and give it birth
Sister rain, Sister rain, shed thy tears to swell the grain
Father sun, gleam and glow, then the blade of green will grow
Earth and sun, and wind and rain, turn to gold the living grain
This can be acted out as a show with figurines or used as inspiration for your nature table if you haven't created your spring table yet!
Little guys may practice writing the word S-U-N and S-E-E-D with your help and older children may write the names of the elemental spirits in full. Perhaps you discuss the vocabulary word "swell" and showcase this by making oatmeal or chia seed pudding. Watch it SWELL.
Explore the elements each day by taking a nature walk, gardening, baking bread, cooking over a fire, flying a kite, blowing bubbles, or making bark boats together for playing in a nearby creek. Sprinkler play is fun if it's already hot where you are.
You, and the children can illustrate the elements by drawing a simple flower, which is perfect for spring. The EARTH (root babies underneath), the stem growing towards the heat of the fiery sun, the rain fairies wetting the leaves and stems waving in the cool breeze.
It would be great to read Rumplestiltskin this week as your fairy tale. Look for the four elements in the story! Use form drawing of circles and spirals when illustrating the story. Focus on Queen Curve as featured in the spinning wheel. Purpose you can build a pretend spinning wheel by turning a bicycle upside down and playing out the parts. The K-I-N-G is very boastful in the story. Illustrate the letter K by turning it into a King. Turn the letter P into a princess and R into Rumplestiltskin.
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Parenting expert, blogger, inventor, single mom to twins, barefoot nomad, adventure seeker, boho spirit, advocate of play