Monday, June 24, 2013

No More Manic Mondays! Bucket Lists

No more Manic Mondays. Well, at least not for another 71 days. We are on Summer Vacation!!!!

So what to do for the summer!!

The Viking Children and I have created a Summer Vacation Bucket List.

What is your bucket list for the summer?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Why we Left Public School- Lies

My original intent for this week's blog was to discuss the infuriating Race to No Where! There is a plethora of information about the stress children are facing regarding the standard testing and persistent need to increase the scores of each public school. Just Google "Race to No Where" and you will come upon million hits.

However, in recent weeks a particular ugly specter arose which needs to be addressed. That specter in this case is called Lies. 

One of the most infuriating things for me is knowing when teachers, administrators and other educational professionals lie. It may be a small white lie or a huge million dollar lie but it is still a lie. Lies cause a great deal of damage to any working relations. But, I feel the most destructive place for lies is in the classroom and a school. As teachers we are viewed as models for the students. Students watch every move we make and internalize what they are viewing.

Teachers are in a very powerful position.  I had an intense discussion with a mentor of mine over this point. As a teacher we are put in roles of authority and often placed on a pedestal of "expertise and knowledge." Parents defer to us for our expertise and knowledge.  What a powerful position! 

There is an element of trust that is built between teachers and parents. Parents, including myself, place a great of deal of trust into the schools with the hopes that our children will be educated, respected, loved, and are kept safe. What a powerful position!

Is there anything more hallowed, more valued in any society or culture, than the sacred responsibility of teaching? Is any responsibility, besides parenthood, more important to our thriving than the shaping of young minds? As teachers we are given the responsibility to mold character, and to nurture the ability to make wise and valuable choices. What a powerful position!

The moment a lie starts then trust and power begin to erode

Lying requires a lot of effort and energy to remember the story. A truth is much simpler to remember. When a person lies, especially a teacher or administrator, they are trying to hide, figure out a believable version of the opposite, give a convincing performance to sell that lie. Then they must remember the lie for the rest of eternity. Lies cause stress and anxiety. This is why the polygraph test is so valuable. The polygraph test picks up the subtle changes the body goes through when a person lies. For Behavior Profilers, who read body language, we are trained to notice the subtle cues of a lie and stress is one of the cues.

Why is Lying Wrong?

1. Lying diminishes trust between human beings.
2. Lying is bad because it treats those who are lied to as a means to achieve the liar's purpose, rather as a valuable end in themselves. Think how this is applied to a student. We expect the students to show respect to the teacher, but how do you expect them to show respect if the liar is disrespectful?
3. Lying is bad because it makes it difficult for the person being lied to make a free and informed decision about the matter concerned. How many parents have made decision based on false information. The Common Core Curriculum and the Race to No Where come to mind.
4. Lying is bad because its a basic moral wrong.
5. Lying is b ad because it corrupts the liar. Telling lies becomes a habit thus it balloons into other avenues.

What harm do lies do?

As I mentioned before a lie erodes trust and individual power. But, it also hurts feelings, others and society. Lies deprive a person of control over their future because they can no longer make informed choices, take a correct course of action and made informed decisions. Imagine taking that power from the student and the parent.

Remember the old Aesop's Fable the Boy Who Cried Wolf?

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

letter B
There once was a shepherd boy who was bored as he sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. To amuse himself he took a great breath and sang out, "Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!"
The villagers came running up the hill to help the boy drive the wolf away. But when they arrived at the top of the hill, they found no wolf. The boy laughed at the sight of their angry faces.
"Don't cry 'wolf', shepherd boy," said the villagers, "when there's no wolf!" They went grumbling back down the hill.
Later, the boy sang out again, "Wolf! Wolf! The wolf is chasing the sheep!" To his naughty delight, he watched the villagers run up the hill to help him drive the wolf away.
When the villagers saw no wolf they sternly said, "Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong! Don't cry 'wolf' when there is NO wolf!"
But the boy just grinned and watched them go grumbling down the hill once more.
Later, he saw a REAL wolf prowling about his flock. Alarmed, he leaped to his feet and sang out as loudly as he could, "Wolf! Wolf!"
But the villagers thought he was trying to fool them again, and so they didn't come.
At sunset, everyone wondered why the shepherd boy hadn't returned to the village with their sheep. They went up the hill to find the boy. They found him weeping.
"There really was a wolf here! The flock has scattered! I cried out, "Wolf!" Why didn't you come?"
An old man tried to comfort the boy as they walked back to the village.
"We'll help you look for the lost sheep in the morning," he said, putting his arm around the youth, "Nobody believes a liar...even when he is telling the truth!"

Once a lie is made the person who has been lied to because wary and any long term credibility is at risk.

I am rather exhausted shielding my children and family from the continuing lies perpetuated by the "experts."
Is Waldorf Education perfect? No, but they do have a level of standards for their teachers that is exceptional. 

1. There are no Unions to protect the teachers. So, all Waldorf teachers enter their employment knowing they are "at well employees." Explanation on how teachers are evaluated may become another post. 

2. All Waldorf teachers share their personal biographies with their students and their families. WHAT? Yes, a Waldorf teacher begins earning their families trust by sharing their personal biographies. It becomes pretty evident when the teacher's biographies do not match their real world. 

3. TRUST!! TRUST TRUST! To earn the students and the families trust honesty is key. Rudolf Steiner even lectured on the importance for the teachers to be honest, genuine and their authentic selves. Rudolf Steiner recognized how destructive dishonesty was to children and lectured extensively on this subject. This subject is part of the Foundation courses in any Waldorf teacher training. 

Bless Bless

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

End of the School Year Poem

Summer's Here
Summer's here!
Another year of school is at an end.
We've learned a lot and grown a lot
and made a lot of friends.
We'll say goodbye,
now summer's here,
it's time for us to part.
But we'll remember all our friends
and keep them in our hearts.
-Helen H. Moore

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Harrison Bergeron- The Mess Part 2

Last week I posted the Kurt Vonnegut story Harrison Bergeron.

First I want to state that I am not against equality, respect, and acceptance. I have been a Special Education teacher for over 20 years and I am my students biggest cheerleader, advocate and supporter. When the American Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) were created over 30 years ago they became part of the Civil Rights Law. These laws I support to the core of my being.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote Harrison Bergeron in 1961, as a satirical and dystopian science fiction short story that was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Kurt Vonnegut's goal of the story was to demonstrate the dangers of governmental control and ignorance through showing what true equality is and what it could lead to in our society. This is evident in conversations I have had with people on hot topics like bee hive collapse and the Boy Scouts decision to allow homesexual males into the ranks.

Kurt Vonnegut demonstrates in his story, and it has been echoed in Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games,  themes of freedom, civil rights, the American dream and the media influence. He shows through exaggeration of a futuristic dystopia the opposition between strength and weakness and knowledge and ignorance. Harrison Bergeron was written over forty-eight years ago but the themes are still present in today's society. It can be seen in current writers like Suzanne Collins and movies like World War Z. 

The Lack of Freedom-

The main theme in "Harrison Bergeron" is the lack of freedom. The United States was founded and established on this highly valued ideal. The first 10 Amendments, also known as the Bill of Rights, were written to establish this core theme. 

The Bill of Rights:

Amendment 1: Protects freedom of speechfreedom of religion, and freedom of the press, as well as the right to assemble and petition the government.

Amendment 2: Protects the right to bear arms (weapons.)

Amendment 3: Prohibits the forced quartering of soldiers during peacetime

Amendment 4: Prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and sets out requirements for search warrants based on probable cause.

Amendment 5: Sets out rules for indictment by grand jury and eminent domain, protects the right to due process, and prohibits self-incrimination and double jeopardy.

Amendment 6: Protects the right to a fair and speedy public trial by jury, including the rights to be notified of the accusations, to confront the accuser, to obtain witnesses and to retain counsel.

Amendment 7: Provides for the right to trial by jury in certain civil cases, according to common law.

Amendment 8:  Prohibits excessive fines and excessive bail, as well as cruel and unusual punishment.

Amendment 9: Protects rights not enumerated in the constitution.

Amendment 10: Limits the powers of the federal government to those delegated to it by the Constitution

There are 17 more Amendments that were written after the first 10 which shows the growth of the United States. 

In Harrison Bergeron's  world, people cannot choose what they want to take part in or what they are good at because if a person is above average in anything, even in appearance, they are handicapped as a result. The Dancers in the story are weighted down with lead shot and have to wear masks. Harrison Bergeron strives for these freedoms by escaping from jail, removing his "handicaps" and attempting to influence others around him.  The loss of freedom in American is slowly occurring now with the many ordinances and laws being implemented today. Watch the news and listen to how many laws are being discussed and ask yourself, "is this law to benefit humanity or an individual group?"

The Loss of Civil Rights

The loss of Civil Rights is ironic in Harrison Bergeron.  The Civil Rights Movement is one of the core points in American History. It started with the Amendment 13,14 and 15 which were written between 1865 and 1869.

Amendment 13: Abolishes slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime.

Amendment 14: Defines citizenship, contains the Privileges or Immunities Clause, the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and deals with post-Civil War issues.

Amendment 15: Prohibits the denial of suffrage based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

We are also the only Nation in the World that has the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individual with Disabilities Education Act. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is one of America's most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life.

The Individual with Disabilities Education Act is a civil rights law that allows children to access free and appropriate education. This means, regardless of disabilities, a child can go to school free. 

In Harrison Bergeron, there is no longer civil rights because everyone is suppose to be made completely equal, by the government's standards. Basically, this leaves them without any rights to anything, even their own natural abilities. The slow stripping away of our own civil liberties is going on now, but in the name of safety. After September 11, 2001, the US. Patriot Act was created in the name of protection. Currently, 44+ states have adopted the Standard Core Curriculum material. 

Social Status

One of the core beliefs in America is the American Dream. We have people flock to America for the American Dream. We are the only Nation that doesn't have an established social norm cast system or hierarchy that prevents people from  changing their social or economic status.  Kurt Vonnegut, the author of Harrison Bergeron, reveals in the theme the importance of maintaining the American dream and the ability to move up in the society or achieve personal success through the characters' inability to change their own economic or social status. Each person in the story either possess "average" or handicapped intelligence, so even if people could utilize their talents to their fullest potential, they still wouldn't possess the knowledge required for social mobility.

Contrast of Strength vs Weakness

In Harrison Bergeron, the contrast between strength and weakness is one of the strongest resemblance between today's America and the dystopic view the author has created.  Every strong person in this story, whether it is physical strength, mental or aesthetic, is disabled to prevent the weak from being harmed.  However, the person being disabled is  also harmed because of the loss of their individual talent. 

A couple of weeks ago I overheard on the local radio a person attempt to justify the increase in taxes for the wealthy. He complained that the wealthy do not need multiple yachts and should pay more since it wasn't fair that he had to pay 30% of taxes. The radio host was brilliant. He compared this person envy of the wealthy vs a person's jealousy. 

According to Webster's Dictionary:

Envy: (noun) resentful awareness of another's advantage. 

Jealous: (adjective) suspicious of a rival or of one believed to enjoy an advantage.

The demands for the wealthy to "pay their fair share" stems from envy from others who see themselves as weak.  In our society we have people who perceive themselves as being weak, so the strong successful are punished. In this case, the increase of taxes. 

Kurt Vonnegut used the subtle changes in society 48 years ago to satirize America through the opposition of knowledge and power versus suppression and ignorance. Harrison Bergeron is Kurt Vonnegut's attempt to warn against the government's increase of authority and power, even something trivial or masked as "safety" the population becomes more ignorant. 

The more knowledge the government acquires, like the current IRS Scandal, and doesn't share with the public, the more impossible it becomes for Americans to think and act. When Harrison defies society by demonstrating his abilities and speaks out about freedom, obstacles are set up to prevent his success.  
The continue growth of ingnorance and "political correctness" is painfully illustrated in the last scene of Harrison Bergeron.  Hazel, Harrison's mother has been watching the whole attempt at rebellion on television as a dance performance. Hazel watches her son die in front of her on live television and never gains an ounce of understanding as to what just happened to her son or society. 

Kurt Vonnegut in this harsh demonstration, is calling the readers to act upon what might normally not affect us before we loose control. Kurt Vonnegut encourages appreciation of differences within humanity because failure to appreciate uniqueness could lead to actual equality and world without competition, dreams or mobility. 

In previous posts I have called parents to action regarding their children's education. We are often highly criticized for being "helicopter parents" or "deviant parents." To avoid a Harrison Bergeron society we need to take the first step as parents and speak up about our children's education. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Why We Left Public School- Age Appropriated Standards

"Squealing." "Answer." "Between." "Phone." "Goose."

The words above are all second grade reading words given to Viking Monkey Boy's 1st grade class.  Students were expected to read words like those fluently. 

"Viking Mom, I want you to consider putting Viking Monkey Boy into Title I Reading since his fluency is still inconsistent." 

Now, for many of you who know me you all should be very proud that I didn't throttle or swear at the teacher. I did remain very calm and firmly told her that Viking Monkey Boy would not be attending any Title I Reading and that I would like him re-evaluated at 1st grade reading after he has a protein snack. (Viking Monkey Boy is Hypoglycemic requiring a protein snack every 3 hours.)  A week later the teacher and I met again to discuss Viking Monkey Boy's reading level. Ironically, Viking Monkey Boy fluency improved after he ate his snack. He does reads at the 2nd grade level but as I suspected he still is comprehending at the 1st grade level. Now, what is wrong with that?

Aha!! Here is the conflict with Public Education. Public Education is expecting our children to read before they are cognitively ready. Many can read, but can they truly comprehend what they are reading? 
Only if reading was this ideal.

Viking Dad and I made the difficult decision to take the Viking Children out of public school and send them to a Waldorf School. It wasn't a quick decisions and it was made over many discussions over several factors.

I have discussed the Common Core Curriculum here.
I shared my concerns over the need to Sleep and Breath here
Last week I discussed the need for teachers to understand students' individual Temperaments here.

One of my biggest frustration as a teacher and as a parent has been knowing how inflated the educational standards have become in public school. Public schools all over the country are expecting children to read and grasp mathematical concepts at very early ages. Programs to give children a "head start" has become million dollar business and to what result. Scores are still not improving!

Now to be honest, when I first heard that the Waldorf Schools didn't start the grades until the child is 7 years old I didn't really buy into it at first. Then I observed and watched how the Waldorf schools approach to reading and math was taught and was able to compare the difference to the Public School's approach. Also, I saw hard data that validated my concerns. 

There is a myth that Waldorf students do not start reading until the second grade. Waldorf education takes reading instruction in an almost opposite approach then public schools. The foundations of reading is started in Kindergarten. 

The Public Schools in the United States approach introduces decoding skills as the first step in the reading process. This is why the demand on teaching fluency is so important. The approach includes memorizing the alphabet and the corresponding sounds, depthongs, et al and this is usually done in repetitive drills that eventually are linked into simple words and sentences.  We all remember the "Hook on Phonics Works for Me" commercials with the little four year old reading some heavy duty book. These repetitive words and sentences limit imagination and creativity. By the time children are in the older grades they want to expand beyond, "See Jane. See Jane run....." 
Is that little girl reading in the commercial? Yes. Is she comprehending what she is reading. NO. Comprehension which is understanding the sequence of a story and recognizing the characters and setting doesn't develop until the age of 7!

Hooked on Phonics. Worked for Me?

KNOWN FACT!!- Nearly EVERY OTHER COUNTRY starts reading when children are 7.
KNOWN FACT!!- There are absolutely no studies that show starting early reading is better in the long run for academic or profession success. 

There is a second concern which is often over looked in the public schools. Children eye muscles have not matured to or developed for lateral tracking until the age of 7 or 8! Sadly, a number of children including Viking Lady Bug have been labeled a slow or remedial readers. Viking Lady Bug if she stayed in public school would have been retained for another year in kindergarten because this fact wasn't discovered until mid year. 

Waldorf education approaches reading instruction in a synchronicity with the development of children. Reading is so much more then recognizing sounds and symbols. For true reading to occur the child must form an inner picture of what he or she is reading so that comprehension can develop. Ahah! That word- comprehension!!! Children, when allowed, have rich imagination that is present during kindergarten and early elementary years. This is why fairy tales, folk tales, pictorial imagery of songs and poems and the desire of the young child to listen to stories and repeat rhymes and sings songs all become the basis for language arts. 

In the first grade, the alphabet is not give whole and in order. It is "seeing" the letter that arise (certain consonants and certain letter combinations that usually travel together) from a picture. Vowels are "heart sounds"  and give feelings that the children can feel. 

Waldorf ABC chart in pictures

Waldorf students are given a strong foundation in comprehension, vocabulary and in the sounds and meanings in their language. Students are then introduced to writing and spelling and words that are part of stories. The final step, the students read what they have written from stories they have heard. In this way, the student demonstrates in a natural way their comprehension of a story. 

It has been shown and proven that if reading is approached in this way, children become life long learners who then want to explore beyond their box. 

Main Lesson Book- The Letter B

The approach to math is the same in the Waldorf School and math curriculum is based on the cognitive development and awareness of the children and not based on a series of state mandated standards. Math is approached visually and with stories Imaginative creatures, like gnomes,  are created to allow the children to manipulate the mathematical equations. How many people struggling to memorize their times table? 

I love the math gnomes that were used in one of the classes I observed. I wish I had been taught the little stories that went along with the gnomes. Also, observe how story continues to be interwoven throughout the lessons.

Math gnomes!

Math stories---

Math Stories

Math story

Public schools tend to put the cart before the horse. Students who can't keep up with the cart are then placed in remedial courses. I so wish public school teachers would see this problem. Why the rush?

Bless Bless

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Random Act of Kindness- Year End Review

I started writing about Random Acts of Kindness after a conversation with several Mommy friends regarding teaching kindness to our children. My goal was to give inspiration, purpose and ideas on how to teach kindness to our children without being too preachy, especially in a world that has turned so negative.

What is Random Act of Kindness?
When I started these posts I didn't know there was a huge organization and curriculum that supported my direction. I basically gleaned ideas from my own experiences, some outstanding Mommy Blogs, and the Random Act of Kindness Foundation.

When we go beyond our daily existence and model to our children how to help and reach out to others we are performing Random Act of Kindness. Kindness and empathy are closely related: kindness is the observable expression of empathy. We sense  another person's needs, we understand how it feels to be needed and we decide to offer our help. When we are kind, we express the best in our humanity. Our children are the future of humanity.

All acts of kindness- planned or unplanned- are valuable and beneficial. We had a great example of this when we started to go to the Farmer's Market. There were many learning opportunities at the Farmer's Market to kindness. Children must learn to kindness through acts and modeling from their parents. It is the only way they can internalize this important value.


1. is important in helping us understand the wider meaning of our actions and commitments.
2. will enhance the sense of cohesion in your family life, classroom, and community.
3. is a vital tool in helping students link their kindness activities in meaningful ways with the community and world around them
4. showing Random Acts of Kindness isn't a week long activity but a life long activity.

Continue to show Random Acts of Kindness.....

Have a great summer!

Bless Bless

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Harrison Bergeron- The Mess Part 1

Harrison Bergeron
by Kurt Vonnegut

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.
Some things about living still weren't quite right, though. April for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron's fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.
It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn't think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn't think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.
George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel's cheeks, but she'd forgotten for the moment what they were about.
On the television screen were ballerinas.
A buzzer sounded in George's head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.
"That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did," said Hazel.
"Huh" said George.
"That dance-it was nice," said Hazel.
"Yup," said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren't really very good-no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn't be handicapped. But he didn't get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.
George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.
Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself, she had to ask George what the latest sound had been.
"Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer," said George.
"I'd think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds," said Hazel a little envious. "All the things they think up."
"Um," said George.
"Only, if I was Handicapper General, you know what I would do?" said Hazel. Hazel, as a matter of fact, bore a strong resemblance to the Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers. "If I was Diana Moon Glampers," said Hazel, "I'd have chimes on Sunday-just chimes. Kind of in honor of religion."
"I could think, if it was just chimes," said George.
"Well-maybe make 'em real loud," said Hazel. "I think I'd make a good Handicapper General."
"Good as anybody else," said George.
"Who knows better than I do what normal is?" said Hazel.
"Right," said George. He began to think glimmeringly about his abnormal son who was now in jail, about Harrison, but a twenty-one-gun salute in his head stopped that.
"Boy!" said Hazel, "that was a doozy, wasn't it?"
It was such a doozy that George was white and trembling, and tears stood on the rims of his red eyes. Two of of the eight ballerinas had collapsed to the studio floor, were holding their temples.
"All of a sudden you look so tired," said Hazel. "Why don't you stretch out on the sofa, so's you can rest your handicap bag on the pillows, honeybunch." She was referring to the forty-seven pounds of birdshot in a canvas bag, which was padlocked around George's neck. "Go on and rest the bag for a little while," she said. "I don't care if you're not equal to me for a while."
George weighed the bag with his hands. "I don't mind it," he said. "I don't notice it any more. It's just a part of me."
"You been so tired lately-kind of wore out," said Hazel. "If there was just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few."
"Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out," said George. "I don't call that a bargain."
"If you could just take a few out when you came home from work," said Hazel. "I mean-you don't compete with anybody around here. You just sit around."
"If I tried to get away with it," said George, "then other people'd get away with it-and pretty soon we'd be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn't like that, would you?"
"I'd hate it," said Hazel.
"There you are," said George. The minute people start cheating on laws, what do you think happens to society?"
If Hazel hadn't been able to come up with an answer to this question, George couldn't have supplied one. A siren was going off in his head.
"Reckon it'd fall all apart," said Hazel.
"What would?" said George blankly.
"Society," said Hazel uncertainly. "Wasn't that what you just said?
"Who knows?" said George.
The television program was suddenly interrupted for a news bulletin. It wasn't clear at first as to what the bulletin was about, since the announcer, like all announcers, had a serious speech impediment. For about half a minute, and in a state of high excitement, the announcer tried to say, "Ladies and Gentlemen."
He finally gave up, handed the bulletin to a ballerina to read.
"That's all right-" Hazel said of the announcer, "he tried. That's the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him. He should get a nice raise for trying so hard."
"Ladies and Gentlemen," said the ballerina, reading the bulletin. She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred pound men.
And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody. "Excuse me-" she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive.
"Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen," she said in a grackle squawk, "has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. He is a genius and an athlete, is under-handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous."
A police photograph of Harrison Bergeron was flashed on the screen-upside down, then sideways, upside down again, then right side up. The picture showed the full length of Harrison against a background calibrated in feet and inches. He was exactly seven feet tall.
The rest of Harrison's appearance was Halloween and hardware. Nobody had ever born heavier handicaps. He had outgrown hindrances faster than the H-G men could think them up. Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses. The spectacles were intended to make him not only half blind, but to give him whanging headaches besides.
Scrap metal was hung all over him. Ordinarily, there was a certain symmetry, a military neatness to the handicaps issued to strong people, but Harrison looked like a walking junkyard. In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds.
And to offset his good looks, the H-G men required that he wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle-tooth random.
"If you see this boy," said the ballerina, "do not - I repeat, do not - try to reason with him."
There was the shriek of a door being torn from its hinges.
Screams and barking cries of consternation came from the television set. The photograph of Harrison Bergeron on the screen jumped again and again, as though dancing to the tune of an earthquake.
George Bergeron correctly identified the earthquake, and well he might have - for many was the time his own home had danced to the same crashing tune. "My God-" said George, "that must be Harrison!"
The realization was blasted from his mind instantly by the sound of an automobile collision in his head.
When George could open his eyes again, the photograph of Harrison was gone. A living, breathing Harrison filled the screen.
Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood - in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die.
"I am the Emperor!" cried Harrison. "Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!" He stamped his foot and the studio shook.
"Even as I stand here" he bellowed, "crippled, hobbled, sickened - I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!"
Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.
Harrison's scrap-iron handicaps crashed to the floor.
Harrison thrust his thumbs under the bar of the padlock that secured his head harness. The bar snapped like celery. Harrison smashed his headphones and spectacles against the wall.
He flung away his rubber-ball nose, revealed a man that would have awed Thor, the god of thunder.
"I shall now select my Empress!" he said, looking down on the cowering people. "Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet claim her mate and her throne!"
A moment passed, and then a ballerina arose, swaying like a willow.
Harrison plucked the mental handicap from her ear, snapped off her physical handicaps with marvelous delicacy. Last of all he removed her mask.
She was blindingly beautiful.
"Now-" said Harrison, taking her hand, "shall we show the people the meaning of the word dance? Music!" he commanded.
The musicians scrambled back into their chairs, and Harrison stripped them of their handicaps, too. "Play your best," he told them, "and I'll make you barons and dukes and earls."
The music began. It was normal at first-cheap, silly, false. But Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs, waved them like batons as he sang the music as he wanted it played. He slammed them back into their chairs.
The music began again and was much improved.
Harrison and his Empress merely listened to the music for a while-listened gravely, as though synchronizing their heartbeats with it.
They shifted their weights to their toes.
Harrison placed his big hands on the girls tiny waist, letting her sense the weightlessness that would soon be hers.
And then, in an explosion of joy and grace, into the air they sprang!
Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well.
They reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled, and spun.
They leaped like deer on the moon.
The studio ceiling was thirty feet high, but each leap brought the dancers nearer to it.
It became their obvious intention to kiss the ceiling. They kissed it.
And then, neutraling gravity with love and pure will, they remained suspended in air inches below the ceiling, and they kissed each other for a long, long time.
It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.
Diana Moon Glampers loaded the gun again. She aimed it at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on.
It was then that the Bergerons' television tube burned out.
Hazel turned to comment about the blackout to George. But George had gone out into the kitchen for a can of beer.
George came back in with the beer, paused while a handicap signal shook him up. And then he sat down again. "You been crying" he said to Hazel.
"Yup," she said.
"What about?" he said.
"I forget," she said. "Something real sad on television."
"What was it?" he said.
"It's all kind of mixed up in my mind," said Hazel.
"Forget sad things," said George.
"I always do," said Hazel.
"That's my girl," said George. He winced. There was the sound of a rivetting gun in his head.
"Gee - I could tell that one was a doozy," said Hazel.
"You can say that again," said George.
"Gee-" said Hazel, "I could tell that one was a doozy."

"Harrison Bergeron" is copyrighted by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., 1961.

Why does this sound familiar??

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why We Left Public School-Understanding a Child's Temperament

"Viking Mom. I really need to stay on Viking Monkey Boy to keep him focused."
"Viking Mom, if only Viking Monkey Boy would focus."
"Viking Mom, I am going to suggest that Viking Monkey Boy start with Title I Corrective Reading because he struggles with fluency and attention."
"Viking Mom, could you please have your seven year old son evaluated for attention deficient."

Raise your hand if you have heard this before with your own child? Or heard other parents complain of the same conversation. Why do teachers immediately jump on the "Lack of Attention Bandwagon?" We all know they are alluding to the dreaded "ADD or ADHD" road.

Viking Dad and I have made the difficult decision to take the Viking Children out of Public School and send them to a Waldorf School. We did not make this decision lightly.
On May 10th I wrote about the Common Core Curriculum which you can read about it here.
On May 29th I started this series to explain why we decided to leave Public School. I wrote about the need for children to breath and sleep. You can read it here.

One of the most important elements in Waldorf Education is the teacher's understanding of the students individual temperaments. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Education, wanted the first Waldorf teachers to understand the temperaments and how to apply this understanding for the benefits of their students. In his lecture that can be found his book Discussions with Teachers Steiner wanted the teachers to really understand this concept and lectured extensively on the subject.

The idea behind understanding the temperaments is not new to Waldorf Education or to Rudolf Steiner. References to the temperaments can be dates as far back to the Greek physician Hippocrates. Hippocrates wrote about the Four Humors which were yellow bile, black bile, blood and phlegm which now are connected to the four temperaments.

In the Waldorf classroom the teacher discovers through intuition, perception and teacher observations a child's temperament and then uses this information to work with this child. Instead of forcing the child to conform to some social norm it is the teacher who recognizes and teaches to the individuality and soul of the child. WOW!!  They recognize that the child is a spiritual being and not an automaton.

In a Waldorf School, the role of the temperaments applies most appropriately to the grade school child. High school teachers have a different paradigm for understanding their students, as do the preschool teachers. But in the second phase of childhood, from grade one until the end of middle school, a student’s temperament becomes apparent and important. Steiner hoped that the temperaments would help teachers better understand their students by providing a window into the hidden inner world of the child.

So, what are the Four Temperaments?

CHOLERIC: (colors:  black, reds).  Cholerics are associated with fire, summer and a predominance of “I” for an adult… (in a child, the astral body is said to predominate in this temperament). They are strong people who “DO” – the leaders of our times.  Choleric do not lack confidence and are often fearless and ready to lead.  They are great supporters of fairness, yet they can be hard on things—particularly shoes and clothing—and yes, on people. They tend to walk with a heavy foot and seem to take up more personal space than some of the other children, which can quickly make a room feel small. The cholerics have an intensity similar to the color red and they can burn with the heat of high summer. Some Waldorf teachers feel less of these cholerics are coming to us as we see less leaders and people wanting to step forth and lead during our times, as opposed to times such as World War II. 

Choleric are  fast, fiery, strong-willed and quick-tempered individuals are also very fair and associated with the mathematical process of division.  They can have great warmth and can be exceptional leaders.  They are also very hard workers and are very goal-oriented.
From a physical standpoint, cholerics can be short-statured, with shorter necks. They also  can be associated with  having health problems involving the heart.
"those with a short stout build so that the head almost sinks down into the body are choleric"
The challenges of an individual with a choleric temperament includes being bossy or stubborn, quick-tempered and then regretful afterwards, not listening to others well.
“I tell thee, Kate…
I expressly am forbid to touch it;
For it engenders choler, planteth anger,
And ‘twere better that both of us did fast,
Since of ourselves, ourselves are choleric.”— The Taming of the Shrew

SANGUINE:  (colors: yellows, the rainbow!)  Sanguines are associated with spring, air, sweetness, and a predominance of the astral body for the adult (for children, the etheric body predominates). These are your social butterflies that drive a classroom teacher bonkers. They are also the ones that are often accused of having Attention Deficit Disorder.  They are full of life, they have lots of ideas, they are the social glue of a classroom,  the social  movers and the shakers  of society. The sanguine child is interested in their classmates.  They notice everything, they respond to everything and move quickly from one thing to another, however having them remember their homework or their jacket becomes challenging.  They are personable, light-hearted, spring, breezy and carefree people. They are that ray of sunshine or fluttering butterfly. Sanguines are often associated with the mathematical process of addition. Viking Lady Bug and surprisingly Viking Dad are Sanguines. Yes, the universe is laughing at me. 
Physically, they are often have balanced, graceful body types and are beautiful or handsome.   They can be drawn to smoking, and have health problems associated with the lungs.
"the sanguine are the most normal"
The challenges of an individual with a sanguine temperament includes starting many projects but not finishing, being prone to social pressures, possibly one could see a teenager with this temperament being predominate that they would seek out inappropriate things in adolescence in order to ground them.  They can also be seen as shallow, superficial and fickle.
PHLEGMATIC:  (colors: greens and blues) Phlegmatics are associated with winter and water and a predominance of the etheric body (in children, the physical body predominates).  Phlegmatics are slow, steady people who love their physical comforts, order, repetition.  They have a hard time starting things, but once they get started, they become engaged and will stick with a project until it is completed.  They tend to be loyal, patient, dependable.  They can be deep thinkers that come up with great ideas. These are those quiet students in the back of the room that become every teacher's favorite because they "good" and "easy' children. Phlegmatic children are the most consistent and help keep a balance in the classroom. The Phlegmatic child likes their world predictable and they do not like to be pressured or rushed. Viking Monkey Boy is my phlegmatic child. I have yet to find any confirmation but I strongly believe they have their own concept of time. 
 Physically, there is often a softness to how a person with a predominantly phlegmatic temperament looks.  They tend toward obesity.  They can be prone to such health problems as gout and problems associated with the lymphatic system. 
"those with more protruding shoulders are the phlegmatic children"
The challenge of this temperament is to interest them in something besides comfort and food.   They can be rather lazy – or are they just taking it all in and thinking deeply?  Transitions can be a problem, for once they are started and caught up in something, they do not want to stop.  But most of all, the  phlegmatic individual can have a temper!  A temper that makes a choleric look like a kitten.  People who have a predominantly phlegmatic temperament are very patient indeed, but once they are angry – look out, because it all explodes.
MELANCHOLIC: (colors:  indigo, purples, violets)  Melancholics are associated with the fall and earth, along with the mathematical process of subtraction.  They have a predominant physical body, although in children one sees a predominance of the “I”.  A melancholic person is introspective, thoughtful.  They tend to be insightful people and take everything to heart and are often sad or despondent.  They can have a great capacity for sympathy and tend to be perceptive about other people’s pain.  They typically can articulate their thoughts and feelings well and learn quickly. The Melancholic child has a great memory for facts and details, particularly in stories, and often write long, informative compositions. The Melancholic child will also hold onto any infractions that were put against them, almost at grudge level. The Melancholic child is very observant and reflective. Blisters, cuts, colds, bruises and sore throats will burden them deeply and can become distractions. 
Physically, a melancholic is often tall and thin and can be prone to rheumatism and arthritis.  Due to their sensitivity, they often make good workers in the health care field.
The melancholic children are as a rule tall and slender"

The challenge of the melancholic is that they can become self-absorbed and feel their problems are like those that no one else in the world  has ever experienced.  They also can get lost in details and lose the big picture.  They can be prone to perfectionism.

The four temperaments provide teachers an insight about a student's behavior that is normally overlooked in the public schools. In the public schools all the children are expected to conform to a strict set of guidelines and as we all know if a child doesn't conform then corrective measures are started.

Over the years, as Special Education teacher, I have had students enter my program that intellectually are very smart and cognitively on par with their peers, but were placed in my classroom because they couldn't "keep up." I discovered that many of these students had temperaments that conflicted with the flow of the teachers classroom or the teacher's own personality. A Waldorf teacher has many years of experiences working with students and their temperaments. It is part of their approach to teaching in the Waldorf classroom. 

Understanding the temperaments of the Viking Children and respecting them as a spiritual being are very important to us and this is one of the reasons we decided to leave Public School.

Bless Bless
Viking Mom