What do you do when you realize your method of homeschooling has been more detrimental than the goodness you thought it was bringing to your child? Or that your child just has tremendous imbalances between their body, their head, their social and emotional skills? I am talking about parents of very,very bright children who were reading at age three fluently, the very smart child who is so incredibly “gifted”, the children who are so ahead of themselves and so logical…..
Until the parent begins to notice that this very bright child can relate to no one of his own age at all. That the child has poor gross motor skills. That the child is only drawn to books and textbooks and such. That this child has very little creative ability, is very serious, has difficulty playing. That the child seems very in their head, worried about adult things, in fact seems more like an adult than not…..
In my experience many of these children do feel isolated, depressed, anxious – and they are still children and whether they can verbalize it or not, they are looking to you to take the lead, to make it better. They are still small, they still need your protection.
And the parent is thinking now this child is 7,8 or 9, what to do, what to do? Can Waldorf education help this child?
My first recommendation is this: Call one of the national Waldorf consultants for a consultation. This is important, because sometimes you are dealing with an out of the ordinary situation, not just where the child is coming in late to Waldorf, which also may have its own challenges, but there may be therapeutic issues to be dealt with. Here is the link with all the names of consultants I know: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/03/waldorf-consultants/
My second recommendation is to look at yourself! This will take hard work, change, motivation, being matter of fact and peaceful with your child as things change and they complain about the change! Can you:
1. Stop talking and putting adult decision making on them? Do not ask them if they want to “do Waldorf homeschooling.” It is not their choice at this point. They should have completely limited choices at this point on life issues. They already have had enough pressure and the decision making process has worked on their psyche to the point where they are no longer children. Help them reclaim their childhood by being the Authentic Leader in your home. You set the tone right now.
2. Can you read some of Steiner and really penetrate what teaching first, second or third grade is about? What level these children are normally at in these grades in Waldorf? And there is more than academics at stake here – where are they gross motor wise, emotionally, socially, artistically, fine motor wise? It is probably going to be very different than what you are used to. Can you be okay with that while you take a year to heal and to shift toward balance?
3. Can you be okay with balancing the child without the use of textbooks in these early grades, with the use of outside time, hiking, gardening, being in nature without identifying trees and bushes to death? Woodworking, knitting, dyeing things, having an aquarium without all the plant and fish identification, having an art farm or worm farm, looking at the stars with the naked eye with Native American legends and stories as the backdrop would all be healing. Apple picking, berry picking, making jelly, going to the zoo and aquarium (without writing reports or taking one of the those damned nature journals around with them to draw and identify everything by the latin name? just looking and being and seeing how those animals move), swimming, singing and jumping rope would all be very healing.
4. Can you show them how to play by setting up stations for playing in your home? Most eight year old girls still like to play with dolls. Maybe your child has forgotten how to play! Copious outside time will help. Can you set up a woodworking bench, a knitting area, a sewing area, an area for art? Can you work on some handwork yourself for an hour in the afternoons and set up that model, that expectation for your son or daughter?
5. Think about warmth – less words, stop explaining, can you show your delight in your child WITHOUT words at all? Smiles, hugs, fun! Can you as a family go and have fun? Hiking, ice skating, roller skating, picnics, – is this child’s seriousness coming from you? This child is small and needs to be joyous!
6. Think about early bedtimes, consistent meal and snack times with warm food. Lots of fresh air and fresh unprocessed foods.
7. Bring in stories to heal your child’s soul – fairy tales, legends, nature stories, stories from your childhood and from when your child was very, very small. Lots of storytelling. Remember, the academics in Waldorf can be adjusted to where your child is, but the stories for each grade is designed for the child’s soul development. And while we would want to focus on what a child needs for that age, and not go backward, I see nothing wrong with lighting a candle and telling a fairy tale at night to a third grader! Adults love fairy tales too!
8. Can you bring in music? The joy of having music as a family? This is so important.
9. Can you make a big deal about preparing for festivals where school does not go on as usual? Festival preparation is an integral part of life for the Early Grades child.
Your Waldorf consultant will have other suggestions based upon your child’s needs. Waldorf is a healing method of education, but it takes commitment and a matter of fact peaceful kind of energy.
Peace and may goodness go with you,