In our last post, we looked specifically at gross motor and fine motor development for the early grades aged child. I posted several articles about fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are especially important, because when fine motor skills are delayed, then many times speech, social skills, and such academic skills as reading and writing are also delayed. They all are tied together.
Here are a few more areas to consider:
Speech: Is your early grades age child’s speech UNDERSTANDABLE by those around him or her that are outside of your family? In most children, speech problems disappear by age five or six according to many Waldorf resources (see the article “The Wonder of Acquiring Speech” by Michaela Glockler, MD for an example), but this of course has to be taken in accordance for each individual child. I have been reading that there are some specific sounds that may not be mastered until ages seven or eight or even nine, but I think there is a difference between specific sounds (a few) not being well-pronounced and the whole of a child’s speech not being understandable! ( However, certainly even the inability to pronounce single consonants once a child is over the age of 7 also leads to difficulty in linking consonants for consonant blends).
If a grades-aged child is behind in other areas besides just speech, it may be more pressing to get an evaluation and get started on some therapy at this age rather than wait until age nine or later. I find that the older children become – ie, if a child is eight or nine or ten – speech and other delays really can affect the child’s social life and self-esteem because other children that age may have less patience with the delays, the child starts comparing him or herself to others and sometimes no matter how nice the children they may not be as social with the child who has speech problems and is not understandable. Therefore, if delays are affecting your grades- aged child’s feeling of being accepted and loved outside of their family, especially if they are getting close to age 8 or so, I think that also deserves a closer look and perhaps not just letting it ride.
What opportunities are you giving your grades-aged child for reciting poetry, tongue twisters, working with rhyming sentences, and speaking and expressing himself clearly and cleanly? How does your child communicate? Does your grades-aged child who is closer to nine look children and adults in the eye if that is part of showing respect to others in the culture in which they live? Does your early grades age child know how to greet adults? Part of dealing with speech is opportunity, helping your child to navigate and make sense of the experiences of communicating with others (the feeling life), and also ENCOURAGEMENT to use clear words, clear sounds, clear thoughts.
Emotional Life: The “soul life” of the child is considered extremely important in Waldorf Education. Young children under the six/seven change often have strong emotions that quickly dissipate. Children who are school aged often find a deeper well of emotions, and emotions and impressions hang on longer than before, but still often in a undifferentiated way (things are “good” or “bad”) until past the nine year change.
Art is the most important vehicle for the school-aged child to deal with emotions. This, to me, is understanding that movement, speech, vocal and instrumental music, modeling, drawing, crafts and painting are paramount at this stage. As Michaela Glockler and Wolfgang Goebel write in “A Guide To Child’s Health”:
“These activities allow the children’s feeling life to express itself in the tension between beautiful and ugly or successful and unsuccessful artistic efforts. When children of this age lack artistic opportunities (my bolding), their natural tendency to make judgments based on sympathy and antipathy shifts to the intellectual level and is applied to people’s appearance and actions, and the result is criticism, grumbling, and an unpleasant degree of resistance to adult requests.”
The other piece of dealing with the emotional life is setting a balance through rhythm and habit. Drs. Glockler and Goebel again; “Unless they’ve already established good habits, their only motivation for doing “boring stuff” like tidying up or clearing the table is their desire to do the adult a particular favor. Their assessments of everything around them are based on their personal likes and dislikes, sympathy and antipathy – in other words, on feelings.” This passage reminds of how a child needs to have roots in order to have wings – rhythm, ritual, habit, are not the chains that bind but the tools that provide a foundation to fly!
Being a “beloved authority” is also of extreme importance to a child of this age. I have already discussed boundaries and that too is of importance.
Social Life: Again, Drs. Glockler and Goebel:
“Raising a child to be loving is based on cultivating a rich interpersonal life – relationships to other people, to surroundings, to objects and events. In this process, learning to cope with yes and no, with being allowed to do some things and forbidden to do others, plays a decisive role, because the ability to love also involves respect for other people’s life situations and hence the ability to see the positive meaning of a “no”. How many relationships in later life suffer from the face that we never really learned to deal with yes and no, with sympathy and antipathy, or to accept failures and errors as part of life?”
Does your child have a rich interpersonal life? Does your grades-aged child play well with children of his or her own age or are they only attracted to being with adults? Can they also play with children of other ages? Can they handle one on one play, playing with two friends, playing in a group?
Spiritual Life: An adult who has a “religious” approach to life in the sense of Waldorf Education is one who approaches life with a sense of trust, gratitude, a sense of goodness, a sense of harmony. I love this quote from Drs. Glockler and Goebel
Today, many people believe that religious education should be avoided because it manipulates children and takes away their freedom of choice. In fact, however, children who are not allowed to experience qualities such as reverence,admiration, and devotion grow up “unfree” with regard to religion…People who establish undogmatic, independent relationships to the contents of specific religious traditions find in them ever new incentives for inner development..As adults, these people radiate the peace and certainty that children need…”
If you are interested in this subject, I highly recommend the essay “Learning Through Celebration”, found in the book, “Offering The Gospel To Children” by Gretchen Wolff Pritchard. It offers many interesting things to think about.
When we think of the child and their spiritual life, what images do you think of? How do you think your child views the larger and greater world? Is the world a place of goodness and beauty or one to be feared? Does the natural world convene upon the liturgical year at all in your household if that is the spiritual nature of your family? Do your children get to experience the spiritual year? Experience is so important for the child; not to analyze but just to experience the wonder of it all.