For The Little Ones

 

I am still seeing and hearing a lot of confusion out there regarding homeschooling and parenting with tenets of Waldorf Education for the little ones under the age of seven.

 

It has been said many times, many places that for small children under the age of seven, these are the Kindergarten years and life is the curriculum. 

 

That is true, but in Waldorf Education within the home we take these tenets of education and work with these essential truths in these ways:

 

1.  Rhythm is strength for the parent.  It is also the discipline and the balance for life with small children.  Your rhythm is based upon what you are doing each day.  With small children, this is honoring play, rest, sleep, meaningful work in nurturing the home, diapering/toileting and mealtimes. 

 

2.  Outside time is the balance of work and daily nurturing care.  It is the genesis of play as well as the best place to develop the lower four of the twelve senses that is the total neural foundation for learning.

 

3.  Small children need fewer words, more singing and humming and movement as you help them do what needs to be done according to rhythm.

 

4.  Nursery rhymes, and small stories are the nourishment of the soul.

 

5.  Reverence is the attitude that fosters gratitude in small children.  Life must slow down so you can model and show gratitude as you take care of your home, your pets and each other.

 

6.  Media is not a question of never in the future, but really doesn’t have a place in the life of the small child.

 

7.  The Kindergarten aged child is about weaving in and out of your work with child- sized pieces for them to assist you with and enjoy.  The Kindergarten is not a project-driven, you must complete this small child, kind of thing.  The process IS the product.

 

8. Your child is learning all the time.  Formal academics come in with Main Lesson blocks in the first grade when your child is close to seven.  There is no form drawing, music lessons, etc in these early years.

 

9.  Warmth, love and laughter is the medium in which all of this bakes.  Love your children, love your life, enjoy your family.

 

10.  Your personal inner development must be balanced with development of the practical skills of nurturing, those ordinary domestic arts.  Spirituality and religion is an important part of family life.

 

11.  Community.  Just meditate on that: how we show community to the small child, how do we show we help others, where is that balance of taking care of our own families and helping others?

 

Hope that spurs some thought and discussion in your home.

Many blessings, In Joy,

Carrie

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22 thoughts on “For The Little Ones

  1. I know that a lot of parents (mothers especially) that want the “Waldorf way” for their young children face a lot of challenges, especially if they are required by circumstance to work outside of the home. I believe that there are many who would love to incorporate themselves and their children into a more “natural” lifestyle where they are able to work more closely with their children’s needs and rhythms. But financial realities do not always allow for this kind of immersion. So, what can be done? First, relax! Don’t be hard on yourself or feel that you need to live up to an “ideal”. Try to utilize the home hours in the evening and on the weekends to the best advantage possible. Yes, keeping the TV off will, in the long run make your life easier. Children tend to be more whiny and uncooperative when the TV gets turned off, thereby making the “break” you thought you were getting while they were watching pretty worthless. Once the TV is firmly and consistently out of the picture, the children will get used to coming home from daycare or babysitting and relaxing into their own creative play. Keeping a child’s table in the kitchen or just outside the door with art supplies (crayons and blank paper, modelling dough, craft paper, scissors, tape, glue and glitter) where the children can be with you but occupied is worth the “messiness” involved. Don’t try to “force” them into helping you cook, etc. but rest assured that they will want to. As you plan your evening meal, think of little ways you can break the process into short “jobs.” Washing the vegetables and cutting them up. Getting out the ingredients for you. Measuring a cup of rice, etc. (Just by the size of the measuring cup, not necessarily by the numbers on it.). Then stirring (if safe), or “watching” the oven for you. Of course, setting the table should be a privilege, not a chore. In my Kindergartens I had a “job chart” that changed every week and the younger children are always proud of “my job”. Making table setting an art – with a candle, or candles taken from a special place and placed reverently, little bunches of flowers in small vases (or other seasonal decorations), pretty placemats or a tablecloth and napkins and real china plates and glass cups all make this job really important. Use your best settings and forget the plastic and paper stuff.

  2. Make your dinner time sacred!! Let your friends and relatives know that you are NOT available say, between 5:00 and 9:00 at night. Phones – OFF computer – OFF. Agree between mom and dad that no discussion of outside news issues, problems at work or other difficult subjects be engaged in. If there is something pressing, keep a notepad nearby and write each other a short note about what you want to discuss later in private. If there is an emotional issue, agree from the start of parenting that one parent will take over the children while the other who is most upset takes a short walk or a bathroom break until calm. Yes, this can be done if there is an agreement beforehand. Everything can be put on the back burner as long as both know that it will be addressed and when.

    Back to the children (on a good night). Helping to serve, even if it is just passing a basket of bread or rolls. “Punishment” (sorry to use the ugly word) would be more along the lines of NOT being allowed to do one’s job than the more commonly accepted approach of assigning extra chores. Quiet, happy conversation is the best. If there is tension, maybe a “concert dinner” would work – putting on soothing or happy music and asking the children to listen instead of talk that night. Table grace and appreciation to the cook(s) is super important. Suggestion – clear the table and put away perishables (more “my jobs”) but save full clean up until after bedtime if the little ones are still little. They will be getting sleepy and the tiredness usually (or at least often) comes out as hyperactivity, so if you try to accomplish a large chore, there will probably be commotion, if not catastrophe! Bath time, story time, quiet talk and prayer time is the priority here. If possible, I would suggest not having one parent clean up while the other “puts the children to bed.” In my opinion, both parents should share the JOY (not duty) of bedtime. The children are usually happier when they are the real center of attention, not the obligation of one parent while the other is off doing something more “important.” Everyone can listen to the stories, share the prayers and sing lullabies to each other. (More on lullabies in a moment.)

    Once the children are truly in dreamland, dishes, laundry, that really important phone call, etc. can take their place. I promise that focusing on the children this way for a few hours will leave you and your spouse more “grown-up” time than you would have otherwise.

  3. About lullabies – many, many people today have a “broken link” in their family experience. Fewer and fewer young adults grew up having lullabies, or even one particular lullaby sung to them as a child. Many don’t even know a lullaby by heart. This is bordering on the tragic, but nothing that can’t be easily fixed!

    First – you CAN sing!! Yes, you CAN!! You are not trying out for a Broadway audition, you know. From the moment you know a little one is on the way, you can practice. And if your little one has already been here a while, you can still start. It’s never too early or too late.

    This one simple routine, this one tradition, is enormously bonding and binding between child and parent. It is something that most adults who did have a lullaby remember all of their lives. And it must be sung, not played electronically. You can buy lullaby song CDs, etc. to listen to by yourself in the car to learn them, but at night it is between you and your child.

    That being said, I am providing links to a lullaby book as yet unpublished and to an essay and talk about Singing with Children (for parents). I can make recordings of the songs available, again, as learning tools, not for using in place of singing. Yes, you CAN!!

    This sharing has only been about one aspect of “Waldorf” in the home – the evening family life. But if you are working parents who are trying to find a way to “start”, I believe that keeping the evenings “sacred” is the very best way to approach it. More can be taken on by those who have the time and opportunity, but all parents can explore and enjoy this “method” if they are willing to make it a priority in their lives. It’s only for a few years. They go by SO quickly and you can never get them back. The peace, joy and family bonding will last much longer and carry over into many other issues that arise as your children get older. Hopefully, you and your spouse will be fed by these quiet nights as well and fewer and fewer “issues” will stand ready to interrupt them.

    Christine Natale

    Lullabies and Night Songs

    http://www.eons.com/uploads/4/0/40693805_Lullabies_and%20Night%20Songs%20by%20Christine%20Natale.pdf

    Creativity and the Young Child

    http://www.eons.com/uploads/2/5/25900752_Creativity_and%20the%20Young%20Child.pdf

    Christine Natale – On Singing

    [audio src="http://www.eons.com/uploads/0/8/08710810_Christine_Natale-_Singing.mp3" /]

  4. Question from a Waldorf-curious reader:

    “Media is not a question of never in the future, but really doesn’t have a place in the life of the small child.”

    What is meant by “media” in this statement? Electronic media? Visual media? Where do books, paintings, photography, and recorded music fall in this definition? Not trying to start a debate or anything, just genuinely curious about what this concept looks like to you.

    • Amethyst,
      Great question. I was primarily thinking of electronic media when I wrote that, but I guess I could sum up the things you are speaking about with the fact that for tiny children under the age of 7, enlivened, heart felt sung music is always going to be better than recorded music, creating art is probably going to be more of interest to a tiny child than looking at painting and photos (and this changes with development! We are talking about the tinies here, but this doesnt last for very long!) and books…well, stories told by me with the warmth of my soul are always going to probably speak to my small child better than a book….
      All that being said, we read books, we listen to recorded music (occasionally), we certainly have beautiful painting and art in our home. However, my tiny children also hear me telling them stories I have made up, they see me creating art in painting and they hear me playing music on several different instruments…
      I guess the point is,though, is in knowing what speaks most to these small children and what will speak to them more later when they are a bit older. Everything has its time, and the teeny tinies of under seven land will have their time too…and right now they most enjoy singing, moving their bodies, listening to stories and rhymes, helping with work, being outside and digging in the sand…

      Art History, Music History, Architecture, are all studied in Waldorf high schools, probably as extensively as the art and music history I took in college. But the high schoolers also create beautiful fine art themselves. Things change rapidly in third grade and up… but live music, plays put on by students, art created by students themselves are always showcased…

      We can enter this not from a dogmatic standpoint, but just sort of knowing what is first best, what is second best, etc for these tiny children and knowing when the balance and compromise of modern living comes in… and how things shift with development and how this is not a “never” proposition but a “when”. How we can mindfully approach this as our children grow..
      That is what is looks like to me anyway. :)
      Don’t know if that helps a bit, the book by Nancy Foster “In A Nutshell: Dialogues with Parents At Acorn Hill” has a question and answer format to many common questions regarding Waldorf education and parenting and the small child. You might enjoy it!

      Many blessings,
      Carrie

  5. Always so timely. Needed a reminder that our little 5 1/2 year old Sunshine is still so young in so many ways. Thank you for the gift of being present to really see what a young child needs according what they are ready for, not what should be forced upon them.

  6. thank you for the continual encouragement that less is more; less words and more singing….in establishing a music rhythm with my two girls, we have found the delight of an autoharp in our daily rhythm something my mother used with me at this same age….sometimes i simply strum the first chord and then we sing the song from there…other times i just make up personal silly songs

    we have a time of singing everyday….this morning as we were singing, my 2 year old looked down at the alphabet chords on the keys and distinctly pointed out A-G chords which are not in order on the autoharp….I have never taught her anything but to sing the alphabet song. so we turned it into a sing song matching our voice to the chord sound as she pushed the chord key and we sang the chord name matching our voices to the tones….then my one year old was chiming in droning the same notes/tones! I was always taught that learning to sing to pitch was the first form of musical training and without it, all instrumental/formal training is much more difficult later on; more and more mainstream children are losing their musicality….something that I have noticed particularly in the past ten years of teaching violin lessons. Yet some of my most naturally talented students have been waldorf families or families who incorporate singing as a part of their daily lives. it is a subconscious training without any formal teaching that can never be replaced once the opportunity is lost.

    i teach violin professionally and she feels very left out if she doesn’t have her violin lesson. she has cried and begged to have violin lessons….so once a week i take out a small violin for her to play her “violin lesson” as she spontaneously “fiddles” ad lib to me playing a tune or a violin cd of several children nursery rhyme songs; and of course she insists on a music book being on the stand! LOL I completely surpress my teacher-ing instincts to guide and correct and teacher her…and simply let her play at it completely using imitation. She amazes me at her dexterity and ability to imitate things she has never been taught; things i work very hard at training/retraining other children 3 and 4x her age that are in the mainstream culture. yesterday she told me she didn’t want to use the bow but wanted to pluck “pizzas” (pizzacato).

    She must have overheard me teach a student pizzacato b/c I have never taught her anything. this morning i was teaching a college student and casually asked her what “adagio” meant to her in her interpretation of the musical piece …and my two year old came across the room and piped in, “adagio is slow not fast like allegro!” GOOD GRIEF….how did she know that!?! She is only present for a handful of lessons that I teach each week and yet she learns….why do we worry and fuss over preschool “programs” and formalities when our babies are absorbing data faster than we can possibly protect them from. sometimes it shocks me what my child knows as much as i try to shield her from the information overload that is in our culture even from well meaning relatives. we treat our babies in america like their brains are some sort of hard clay that has to be handled and made pliable until it can be molded properly…when the opposite is true. they are the most receptive and observant when left unbothered and thus makes this ‘mental manhandling’ completely unecessary as they have naturally absorbed things through play and left their spirits soft and pliable and receptive to all that is good and beautiful…. yes, some Abeka worksheets make their way home with my girls from their grandma’s; but they are quickly absorbed into the menagerie of their little lives at home; i find them in the sand box or in the tub “swimming” or in the play oven rolled up as a “cinnamon roll.”

    again thank you, carrie <3, for such an inspirational ministry to our souls as mothers; keeping us centered and encouraged in our upstream swim against the dangers of the status quo :)

  7. Why is it that most mainstream mothers feel compelled to adapt to the preschool culture of early potty training, enforced play dates, systematic academics….learning the alphabet, etc??? I saw a mother friend post tonight on facebook that she held her three year old on the toilet for a half hour while the child screamed just so no. 2 would end up in the toilet and not in her underwear! she saw nothing wrong with it and was expecting other mothers to give her kudos for her tough love….i wanted to throw up and almost cried. The crunchy mamas that I know are more interested in taking their preschooler to the the local health food co-op reading program and their own yoga classes than staying at home and making messy memories….though a growing minority is waking to the holocaust happening to childhood, the rest of mainstream culture is hurdling over the brink of insanity creating dysfunctional teenagers by robbing their children of their childhoods doing the most damage in these preschool years.

    only this week i have learned that a number of teens (children of three different friends of mine) are now on anti-depressants, going to psychiatrists and/or having panic attacks or suicidal symptoms!?! I happened to know that one of them was forced into 3 year old preschool program and screamed all day long for three years until she reached first grade; she was then labeled dysfunctional and given a half dozen prescriptive meds and now suffers extreme separation anxiety. at 16 years old she has days when she can’t even get out of bed or get into a car and ride down the street or go to a class because of anxiety attacks. We are destroying our children in America by ruining their childhood foundations.

    I once lived near a Mennonite community and my mother even used some of their curriculum at one time in me and my siblings homeschooling back in the dark ages. :) It was always curious to me that most communities only taught their children 8 years and at the most 10 years of formal education and began training acapella singing as early as kindergarten. They were such a simple, gentle people and their children had no modern culture, electronics, television…only books and singing and play and chores; it was so beautifully refreshing to me even as a teenager. During that time Raymond Moore wrote his book, Better Late than Early…..I always wondered how I would/could possibly incorporate these things in my own homeschooling of my three girls one day. And then one of my violin moms was a hard core Waldorf-ian and opened a world to me of an educational method that fit the yearning I had not only as a professional teacher, but most importantly as a MOTHER. Amazingly the Waldorf method has meshed the essence of both educational theories so beautifully….it has eliminated the educational formalities in the early years and then gently infused a more systematic educational approach the remaining 8 or so….a very balanced and successful academic marriage with singing and doing as the core. :)

    As we did our night time reading, singing and prayers tonight, my two year old shushed me….”mama, i need to sing goodnight to my toys,” she said and proceeded to sing a high pitched version of “Jesus Loves Me” -her all-time favorite song in all the world….I sat there rocking both of my baby girls and listening to her pure beautiful little voice aS she drifted off to Never-land with the fairies and angels that she adores. It made me want to cry….how can a parent ever be too busy for this? :)

    • Cori – I agree with you 100 percent…part of the reason I write this blog is BECAUSE of the teenagers and young adults I have observed, the anxiety, the depression, the cutting, the drinking and drug abuse…as a society we are not honoring childhood and this is showing in these young people.

      Love,
      Carrie

  8. Lovely summary Carrie! And since life really is the whole curriculum at this age, I like to think of rhythm as a guide for ME to know what to do all day! I think part of why young children are subjected to so much structured activity in our culture may be that we mamas don’t know what to do with our own time now that cooking and chores such as washing the clothes by hand don’t take all our waking hours. :)

  9. I do too, Thank you. This is the 2nd time I’ve taped it to my desk….
    Carrie, I wonder if you have time, could you look at this link?
    I have some friends with 3 years olds who are moving in the unschooling direction, a bit away from Waldorf ideas, where we all came together…. & our discussions are leaving me with alot to think about, but I can’t seem to get my head around the notions of “guiding” (Waldorf) vs “partnering” (unschooling), especially when the talk turns to TV/media use…..& lack of Daily Rhythm (which is so important for us, loose though it is right now)

    your post about media families was interesting along these lines, but the unschooling notion that limiting an activity/food/etc turns it into a forbidden fruit is compelling, since it is so for me (on my personal journey…Not sure If I’m making sense.)

    Can you speak to this sometime?

    http://joyfullyrejoycing.com/influencing%20kid%20behavior/tv%20and%20video%20games/allthetvtheywant.html

    here’s a good example, I am not sure the ages of the children being discussed though….

    Your Blog has become extremely important to me & my little family. Thank you.
    Kristin

    • Krstin,
      Interesting link…I have written some posts in the past regarding tiny children and choices, and how I believe small children are more stable and steady and within themselves after the leap around nine years of age…I think “partnering” implies a certain thought that the child is a miniature adult with rationality and less experience and only needs more experience and more talking to be an equal partner….In Waldorf parenting, we view the small child as having an entirely different consciousness and therefore is not an “equal” partner to an adult who has rational thought, many experiences, has developed over time and that certain things come in best at certain times. We also see the senses of the small child developing, and have to ask what develops these foundational senses best for learning, for stability, for health later on?

      I have written some back posts about children and choices, and unschooling and Waldorf and AP and Waldorf. You might find them interesting.

      http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/17/unschooling-and-waldorf/

      http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/24/waldorf-education-adhd-and-what-the-parent-of-the-normal-child-can-learn/

      In Joy,
      Carrie

  10. for other moms of preschoolers who cling to the beautiful encouragement of carrie and fight against the flow of our culture to protect their little ones and the inner urges to give into the preschool program mentality….i read this over and over to keep myself centered as a mother of two …soon to be three under three (along with the book, Heaven on Earth, which is my waldorf mama bible along with carrie’s blog right now). :)

    How to Create a Waldorf Family Life:

    Get rid of the televisions, video games, and limit computer access until age twelve.
    Go outside and play every day, year round.
    Eat your food whole.
    Hug every day.
    Be open to what the little ones will teach you.
    Be the firm and loving authority.
    Make it yourself, and if you don’t know how, learn
    Tell stories and play games. A lot.
    Think about how your things speak to you.
    Keep the voices calm, quiet, and as natural as possible.

    “Do not worry that your children never listen to you, worry that they are always watching you.”
    ~ Robert Fulgum

    Meditate or do some form of inner work daily.
    Rid yourself of anything that has not been touched in over a month.
    Sing and share lovely verses for important days and every day.
    Create rituals around bedtime, light a candle, sing lullabies and pray to the guardian angels.
    Hold back intellectual concepts from under 7 as they are in the motor centre still.
    Try and keep a dreamlike quality in everything you do.
    Slow down and take time.
    Establish rhythm, use reptition, foster reverence, awe and wonder.
    Create a beautiful and harmonious environment.
    Honor the need for time and space.
    Sing through the day.
    Have conversations with [about] the spiritual world.
    Remember the elemental beings.
    Be authentic in what you do and say .
    Involve the children in household tasks in all areas of domestic work from a very young age .
    Active learning – learning by doing, by observing, by making, by experiencing.
    Make things from scratch, let the kids be involved and observe the TIME and love necessary to create something beautiful and lasting, soup, bread, cream, butter…
    Create gardens, meals, tree forts, gifts, art….
    Working on ones self (meaning the parent)

    This list came out of a thread on Marsha Johnson’s yahoo group waldorfhomeeducators in which members stated how to be a Waldorf family.

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