Friday, January 14, 2011

The Baby, The Bath Water, and Beginning Form Drawing

We have started form drawing and I'm very excited to share this with you since we enjoyed it so much. First, though, I'd like to share my thoughts on Waldorf education.
I have within the last few months discovered another method and philosophy of education: Waldorf. Being one who loves to read about educational methods and philosophies, I explored this one. I like the natural sort of approach it brings to all aspects of learning. I like the handwork and the crafts; they sure do brighten up a home. I like that nature is an integral part of the education. I like the stories and the hands-on aspect. And I like how lovely it all looks, from art to math and everything in between. But the philosophy behind it all I found to be disturbing. It's based on anthroposophy, "a spiritual philosophy founded by Rudolf Steiner that brings the spiritual traditions of central Europe into a modern context. The philosophy postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world accessible to direct experience through inner development—more specifically through cultivating conscientiously a form of thinking independent of sensory experience. In its investigations of the spiritual world, anthroposophy aims to attain the precision and clarity of natural science's investigations of the physical world." (Quoted from Wikipedia, here.) It is claimed elsewhere that anthroposophy is not a religion and can go with any religion or non-religion. And I've read, specifically, that it goes well with Christianity. Some Waldorf teachers I've read have made some pretty outlandish statements, claimed to be "Christian" by grossly and purposely misquoting the Word of God. But let me make something clear. True Christianity is following Christ. It is based on the Truth of Jesus Christ and His Holy Word, the Bible, without additions or subtractions. Therefore, without Jesus, we cannot gain any true spiritual knowledge or any true inner development. We will never be able to build or find strength within ourselves if we are not inhabited by the One True God of the universe. There is no other way.
I felt, initially, that I should stay away from any type of Waldorf education and that I should not give it a place on my blog. However, thinking about things honestly, I can't say that I agree 100% with the philosophical views of any of the other teachers I've associated myself with: Montessori, Charlotte Mason, unschoolers, and whoever else I've gone on about. I don't necessarily prescribe to their philosophy, only to some of their methods.
So I think I can, with honesty and good conscience, do the same with Waldorf. What we're doing here with the form drawing, for example, is just drawing and narrating (just like Charlotte Mason) and play. Nothing harmful. I just feel the need to be very cautious in the parts I choose to embrace and present to my kids.

Alright, on to the fun part.
First of all, I have been inspired to do the form drawing by Ancient Hearth. On the left-hand sidebar of her blog, you will find all her first grade study blocks, including her form drawing block. Looking through her blog, you'll see what I mean when I say Waldorf education is so lovely!
I decided to buy the two ebooks on form drawing found here (top item in right-hand column.) I have to admit that my initial impression with form drawing was that it looked too simple to be necessary to teach. But the more I looked and thought about it, I realized that it would fit nicely into our day and would serve several good purposes. First, Miah loves art, and I was looking for more ways to add art into our homeschool. Secondly, I have wanted to add storytelling into our lives for a few years; I just didn't know how. And as simple as this looked, I thought it would be perfect for involving Zahana and Rohan in the school portion of our days. I've really felt the need to focus on them more. I thought Miah and Larkin might think it was too easy, but they love it.
The first form is the straight line. Easy enough, right? It takes concentration to make your line perfectly straight. The kids wanted to practice and practice until their lines were perfectly straight. We put a curvy line on the board to see if it would mess us up. Before drawing on the chalk board, we drew lines in the air and made a straight line with our bodies.

Since we have been reading Little Pilgrim's Progress, it was a natural fit to put this story with the straight line. We learned matthew 7:13,14 by singing. “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."
Here is my chalk drawing of the first part of the story. The kids pointed out all the straight lines used to make the picture.

Then they acted out the story with props.

Evangelist talking to Little Christian in the City of Destruction.

Help pulling Little Christian out of the Slough of Despond.

Talking to Goodwill at the wicket gate.

At the cross.

Then the kids made their own drawings of the story. Miah and Larkin used colored pencils. I told them they could copy my chalk drawing or draw any part of the story they wanted. The only guidelines were to use straight lines somewhere in the picture, do their very best work, and fill in the whole page. For Zahana and Rohan, I got a clean sheet of paper for each of us and directed them in a simple version of the chalk drawing, one line at a time.

This is Zahana's. She actually did pretty good until she colored the grass on top of her path, which is too faint to see in the photo.

This is Rohan's. I was absolutely thrilled with this since I've never seen anything from him other than scribbles. He did everything by himself except the yellow lines coming out from the cross. He simply said, "I cannot," and wouldn't even attempt it. So we drew that part together.

This is Larkin's. He added the Palace Beautiful.

This is Miah's. She added Help pulling Little Christian out of the Slough of Despond.

So this whole experience was really a good one. Nobody felt like it was too easy or too hard. They loved every aspect of it. And I loved how we all worked on it together. I'm looking forward to our next lesson.


  1. I've been enjoying your posts so much this week. That bothered me about Waldorf too but I agree with you wholeheartedly. You can pull from these "philosophies" great ideas without making it apart of your own spiritual journey. Keeping Christ at the center of what you are doing is the key. Your drawing lesson leaves that in no doubt. I can sense your happiness "oozing" throughout your writing, I'm glad you've found a "new groove".

  2. This is a great post. I love your discussion of Waldorf philosophy. I love seeing how your drawing lesson worked and how it improved their drawing. Very cool!

  3. I always love stoppin in. Its been nice catching up!

  4. I can understand your reservations regarding some Waldorf philosophy, but I love, love, LOVE what you all did with Pilgrim's Progress! It is wonderful on so many levels--I'm very happy for you that it worked so well. I may have to do some research on it. . .sometime!!! (Feeling a little overwhelmed right now! ha!)

  5. Hi, I think that you must just go with what sits right for you,take out of life the things that you need,things cross ones path for a reason, their might be a phrase,or an idea that you can use from the Waldorf way ( Just like what you have done here ) cheers Marie

  6. Like you Sarah, I was always inspired by the creativity, nature and colour of a Waldorf approach to education by was put off by the 'new-agey' ideas also.

    What a lovely post, I was inspired so much by this. I really liked that you included your childrens drawings also...can I ask did you scan them on or just photograph them?

    God Bless

  7. This is really beautiful Sarah. :) Thank you for sharing.

  8. Sarah,

    Thank you for sharing! I wholeheartedly agree :)
    I was also wondering...after using those two form books, would you still recommend them for purchase? I love what you did for Little Pilgrim's Progress. What age would you start reading LPP? My oldest is almost six and my second is almost four...

  9. Becky, I think the form books are good. These are the only ones I've ever seen, so I can't tell you how they compare with other ones out there. "Form Drawing Basics" gives you ideas for how to do the forms and integrate it into other areas of learning. The other book gives kind of a lesson plan for which form to do next and stories to go along. I think it is good for someone who has never done this before, but I also think it's possible that there are books that are more detailed. However, for the price, I am very satisfied. I also got ideas from Ancient Hearth, which I referenced in the post.
    As for LPP, I read aloud books I think my older two will enjoy and understand at least somewhat. I'm sure the books I pick (like Lord of the Rings, for example) would be considered by most to be too old for my kids, but I want family read-aloud time to be enjoyable for my husband and me too. I think if you expose kids to great literature, they will like it. My kids are 8,7,4, and 3. The older two did enjoy LPP and learned from it. I doubt that the little ones got anything out of it. I didn't do any explaining of the book other than this one lesson. I think I'd wait a year, if I were you.

  10. You read my mind. :) I too am a Christian homeschooling Mom who loves Waldorf but not all of Waldorf. My problems with Waldorf are the same as yours. Therefore, I have only introduced their theories of simple play into our home. Have you ever heard of Godly play? I just heard of it and hope to get the book soon. As far as I can tell (from the limited research I've had time to do) it seems very simple, like Waldorf, but focuses straight on the scripture doing play just like you did above. In fact, I was excited to see this post figureing you WERE doing Godly play and could give insight on it. I'd look online more but think the book will be my best resource, and its cheap.

  11. Sarah,

    Thanks for all the advice! I can't wait until my girls are older so I can read them the Children version of Hind's Feet!

  12. Jenny, I've never heard of that. I'll look into it. Thanks.