Some mothers who have been feeling overwhelmed in their attempt to create a Waldorf Kindergarten at home have contacted me. I have a few thoughts on this subject.
First of all, while circle time is the heart of the Waldorf Kindergarten in a Waldorf School, I feel the heart of the Waldorf Kindergarten homeschooling experience is often the practical work we do in our homes and with our children. To me, it is much more important to work on the rhythm of your day and your week first. What day do you garden? What day do you bake or cook something special? What day do you do housekeeping?
Someone asked me if regular, mundane housework was what the children were being called to participate in. I could only share my own experience with her. When I started trying to commit to doing things on certain days, I started with washing one day and ironing the next. And what I discovered is that even having the children assist in sorting clothes, carrying clothes, putting clothes into the washer, hanging clothes up to dry, ironing – was just not riveting to my children, even with singing and verses involved and child-sized ironing boards and whatnot. They would be off playing (or more often than not, rolling in all the clean laundry I was trying to fold and iron :)). For some Waldorf families, washing and ironing works well as a weekly activity – for us it did not. Does this mean I stopped washing and ironing? No, it just means I include it more in our daily chores that I do after breakfast – where the kids can join in if they want or just play.
The work we do as part of the Kindergarten I do try to make special and I try to hook them in. This may look different from family to family. However, if you light a candle in the morning with a verse and then blow it out and do your work – whatever that may be- with a song or a story while you are doing it, and giving them opportunities to help – you may find things go better. You will find what resonates with your own children. In our family, we have devised weeks where our activities by day were wet-on-wet watercolor painting, bread baking or cooking something special, arts and crafts or festival preparation, gardening (always with stories, songs, and something a child would be more interested in than just pulling weeds for two hours!), housekeeping. This is separate from the daily chores we do around the house and yard. Again, each family will find their own activities and what works for them may also change as their children age.
Second of all, these mothers were going nuts trying to piece together verses and stories. I explained my thought would be to simplify. Pick three fingerplays that reflect something going on in the seasons and stick to those for a whole month. Have one song you learn together for the whole month that reflects something seasonal. Pick a story and tell it for a whole month.
We recently did the story “Why the Evergreen Leaves Don’t Lose Their Leaves” for a whole month. I just told it whenever we had story time, so perhaps three to four times a week. However, we did lots of different things with the story to bring it to life. We played the part of the bird and hopped around how we thought a bird with a broken wing would hop around. We stuck green silks on our heads and played the different parts of the different trees in the story. We made birds out of beeswax to sit in a nest. We made trees out of air-drying clay. We took nature walks and looked for nests in the bare trees. My oldest played her pennywhistle for the part of the wind as we added details about the weather in the story (which coincidentally reflected the weather we were experiencing outside. Hhhmmm, how did that happen?). We added repetitive phrases in that echoed throughout the story so by the end of the month my Kindergartner could say this phrase at the right points in the story. We made up a song to sing as the bird walked. We were never tired of this story,and many of these ideas came to me after I had lived the story for a few weeks. Try it and see if this happens to you.
If you cannot memorize a story, get two sheets of watercolor paper and write the story out and put it between the covers as your special book. But do try; you may find that just by reading the story for three nights every night before you go to bed and sleep on it that you have more memorized than you think. Use props. Write the key phrases down. Whatever works for you.
But most of all, keep it fun. You should be working together, having lots of time outside (see my “Connecting Children to Nature” post if you need help in that area), playing, singing.
You can do Waldorf Kindergarten at home; just keep it simple! You have several years of kindergarten, and your four-year-old should be at a really simple level; your six-year-old may need more.
Some of Waldorf Kindergarten really is just like the Nike slogan, “Just Do It.” Quit reading so much, keep it simple to start and just live it all together and see what wonderful things happen!
Breathe and smile,