This week marks Peter Ray’s third month! Where does the time go? I am gearing up for our last quarter of Grade One, as we took several months off to enjoy and soak him up. As summer solstice approaches, we have a baby rhythm unfolding, and lessons seem doable again (we did a lot of reading together in the meantime!).
I sat down to do a bit of writing with my First Grader, and discovered the past 3 months of “baby break” left him very rusty. His letters were looking sloppy, he was having trouble remembering to form them “from heaven to earth”, and he grumbled when I pulled out the handwriting practice book.
Here are the “a’s” in his handwriting practice book… he grumbled all the way… and I felt this method was just not working for us (he responds the same way about most of the form drawing figures I’ve introduced so far, too). I really hate to feel like a schoolmaster, driving him forward on a task that is obviously painful. I could almost hear those “a’s” moaning, “ahhhhhhhhhhhhh”…
So, I did the most natural thing a Waldorf-inspired mom could do. I asked myself, “What would Steiner do?”
Just kidding. I did *not* really ask myself that Instead, I prayed and asked for wisdom about what my son needed to really love his letters. I was given an immediate answer in a flurry of inspiration- to work on letters with him through mandalas. As I sat down to create my own as an example, I found it incredibly balancing and relaxing. Mandalas are used by Buddhist monks as a method of meditating and internalizing images or symbols to the point that a very complex mandala can be summoned up in the mind in full detail. I thought of what a perfect parallel this makes to form drawing, as we seek to help our child “live into” the letters and fully grasp them in all of their significance. Steiner said-
In regard to handwriting, it is so that people do not have a writing, rather the writing has the person… That means, we have in our wrist, in our hand, a certain writing trait. We write mechanically out of our hand. This fetters the human being. The human being becomes unfettered when he writes in the way that he paints or draws, when each letter next to the other becomes something that he draws.
He says again in another lecture-
Take for example, writing. The boy writes something like this, does he not? Now it will be for you to set to work and take the utmost care and pains that he shall gradually change his handwriting and develop it into a finely formed script. And you will find that while he is doing this, there will be clear signs also of a transformation taking place in his whole inner constitution.
So here is my first attempt at a mandala, which I used to introduce him to the concept, as a guide…
And a second one, which I drew together with him as he did his own… didn’t get a chance to color this one in yet… and it has several mistakes, but ah well, good attempt for a mother holding a wiggly baby, right?
It was surprisingly easy to do these, and if you watch this short tutorial on growing a mandala, I think you’ll be pleasantly delighted at what a simple, enjoyable task it is! The key is to turn the paper as you go. We did use a compass to create a circle at the beginning; I felt that since my son and I are sanguine it would suit our temperaments to work within a defined area as the basis of our effort, rather than “growing out” by working from the inside out as an introvert might wish to do, since we tend to be expansive enough in who we are as individuals already. We used Mercurius color giant pencils, but I think it would be really fun to paint them with watercolors, too. I see a summer filled with letter mandalas in our future!
As my inner work has gotten on track, I truly feel “inspired”- or being “In Spirit”- in building our lessons and our lives together. I have been realizing just how boxed in I feel when I try to do lessons the “right” way. Instead, I feel a calling to listen to the voice within and bring something very personal to our lessons, to add my own flavor. Perhaps, that was Steiner’s ideal all along?