Usually a post on this topic causes a response to well up inside one’s soul, either because it is an area one feels passionate about or it is an area of intense difficulty and challenge. I wrote about this awhile back in this post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/15/but-when-i-stay-homeeverything-falls-apart/ and feel it is time to examine this issue again.
In the Early Years of Waldorf, the years some would call “Waldorf Preschool” and “Waldorf Kindergarten”, a child should be firmly entrenched in the home. A typical parent in today’s society equates exposing their child to lots of different places and things in the Early Years to further developed language skills, social skills and other Advanced Things.
I would like to put forth something different.
What if this beautifully enriching environment could be your own home? A beautiful, peaceful place of rhythm, of oral storytelling and singing, of artistic endeavors, of outside time in nature?
It can be, but it requires work on your part. It requires careful evaluation of outside activities and the ability to say “no”, which is often difficult. It also involves coming to terms with the idea that your child is not missing something but not being involved in ice skating lessons, art classes, choir practice, drama, soccer all at one time.
Someone wrote regarding my post on “Hopeless With Waldorf” (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/12/hopeless-with-waldorf/) that they could not believe I advocated for no classes, no playgroups for a four-year-old. I have discussed playgroups at length on this blog – I do believe that most playdates (which typically are playgroups) are usually more for the parent than the child at any age under four and a half, and that even ages four and a half, five and six are often rocky ages for friendships. Reading any text on normal child development for these ages will point this out. The best socialization for a child of these early ages is still with the family, and then perhaps a one on one playdate in a natural area that begins with a structured activity and then progresses to free play where parents are involved in watching their children and helping their children socially “work things out”. If a mother needs support due to being under parenting stress and such, and that occurs at a playgroup, then I would say I am for that – anything that provides the mother support so she can make a comfortable home for herself, her spouse and her children, but to weigh that with how the child behaves after a playgroup and to work with that and be responsive to that.
In many areas, there are many, many options available for homeschoolers. In my large metropolitan area, there are all kinds of classes for homeschoolers – art, music, academic classes, homeschool sports, and the list goes on. All of it sounds wonderful, but often requires further investigation. First of all, because we are Waldorf homeschoolers, often the classes for the Early Years are pushing academics or things that just come later in the curriculum. We must evaluate if this is okay and valid, or not worthy at this point.
We must also look at the impact of being outside of our homes many days of the week for activities on top of going to a co-op or grocery store and running errands if we must bring our children to these places as well. Weekends may also involve going out to church or somewhere else.
I am not an advocate of isolation, I am far too social and extroverted myself for that! But, if you can spend the majority of your days at home you will notice your days relaxing into a flow, your children being able to find something to do without you directing it, and your children will stop asking you, “Where are we going today?”
If we can nurture the ability of the child to have balance, to be able to rest after lunch and go to bed early, to be comfortable being by oneself and yes, later in a group, then we are working toward Balance. There are so many children that are over-stimulated at an early age by classes and activities they really do not know how to be alone, how to create their own play and how to be comfortable alone.
This is also important practice for moving into the Grades for homeschooling, where one needs to be home to accomplish academic work. A Main Lesson plus other extra lessons can take at least part of the morning, and if one has multiple children to homeschool, the entire morning and even the early part of the afternoon may be needed to finish (especially as one moves up in the grades!) For the Early Years and even the Early Grades, it is also important the child has unhurried time in nature and for free play, for their own pursuits. This is an extreme advantage of homeschooling, but often one area parents must work to take advantage of.
As this year comes to a close and the New Year begins, I urge you to look at and list your outside commitments and see if all are necessary or how you could free up more time just to be home. On the flip side, if you are home all the time and you have older children who now do need to go a few places and have friendships that have become very important, I urge you to look how you could accomplish that and nurture that. Friendships become important, and as homeschoolers, we often have to work to have opportunities to meet with other like-minded families. The world does open up, and an older child should be going to the museum and doing some things outside of the home. Now is the time!
Happy meditating on this important subject,