The Rant: Development of The Whole Child, Part One

(I encourage you to read the really thought-provoking comments on this post!- Carrie)

My basic premise this week is that not only is childhood under assault, but childhood development is not understood in North America, and unfortunately not even well understood by many parents or even the professionals who work with children.

Movement is a foundation for all learning.The first key aspect to understanding childhood development is to know and understand that the child is not an object to be acted upon,  but that the child is a unique person whom we approach with love and understanding.

Too many times in our society we treat the infant as an object to be fed at “x” number of hours, an object that should be sleeping through the night, an object for us to do something to and put down.  If the child is a person as I have posited above,  then we are not here to parent to “do something” to that child.  The infant, for example, is not an object to just feed or diaper.  At the heart of infant care (and at the heart of  being with children of any age) is connection and cue-based interactions.  The child is shaped by the impressions it takes in of its environment.  The brain is developing throughout the lifetime.

A loving relationship with a primary caregiver is a  force in helping the child’s development unfold.  Connection is a primary motivating force for an infant in movement.  We have all seen the studies regarding infants who are in an orphanage and are never touched; they don’t thrive.

If connection is a necessity and it is  foundational  to movement, then cue-based interaction gives validity to the infant as a person.  If I am in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Continue reading

The Rant: Development of the Whole Child

So, this week I am just going to let it go and have a good little rant.  I went to a wonderful conference this weekend that was a gathering of Waldorf Early Childhood Educators  in my region, and it was said in this conference that childhood development is the best-kept secret in North America.

I would go a step further and say the development of how children move is under assault at ridiculous proportions.  No one seems to see anymore the link between sensory- motor development and later academic success.  No one seems to see the link between sensory- motor development and later emotional-social regulation.  And no one seems to see the link between being comfortable in the body in childhood and how we later become healthy adults.

We have so much information out there and yet we have practically nothing at all that is developmentally appropriate.  It is so frustrating!

We are seeing panic attacks in tiny children, anxiety and depression in our teenagers, rising obesity rates in our children, children whose fine motor skills at the kindergarten levels that are so far behind what we used to see in children entering kindergarten, and we are seeing children with sensory challenges and motor development issues across the board.  And yet, somehow, all we can think about in this country is stuffing more information into these children with snippets of factoids and making sure they know how to press buttons on a computer and that they are satiated with every cheap material good that is around.

So, this week, come delve with me into the world of the child and how movement develops and what you should be looking for at home and what you can do to help your child thrive.  I know I am probably preaching to the choir with those of you who read this blog, but perhaps together we can all lobby for change in the typical way childhood development is approached in North America, and yes, the world.

Peace,

Carrie

Sunday Books: “The No-Cry Discipline Solution”

We are moving through this book (and by the way, feel free to leave suggestions for our next book study.  I am thinking along the lines of a book Waldorf families would be interested in!)  This section of Elizabeth Pantley’s “The No-Cry Discipline Solution” is called,  “Discipline and Emotional Control.”

We expect our children to have much more self-control than we as parents model for them.  We act horrified when our children kick, scream, bite or talk back, but yet we often handle things ourselves with annoyance, impatience, irritation, and anger.

This is not to induce guilt. We are human, and we are often operating under more stress than the generations before us with pronounced economic stress and the stress of raising children in isolated, immediate family units as opposed to having extended family and long-standing community that could step in and help in parenting.  However, when we examine ourselves, then we realize not only what we are modeling but also that a child is still developing in the area of emotional control.

Author Elizabeth Pantley reminds us on page 39 that such things as backtalk, biting a playmate, clinging, crying, hitting a parent, impatience and more are likely caused by a child’s undeveloped emotional control.   She advises us to step back in the moment, and remember that our child is  growing and learning.  The child is developing!

In the next section, called “The Four Parts to Discipline”, Elizabeth Pantley outlines the four parts to effective discipline.  These are Continue reading

Computers: A Waldorf Perspective

This post is about computers within the curriculum of the Waldorf schools.  Most Waldorf schools obviously do not have a computer lab or computer classes in grade one through eight, but computers are used in high school.  Each high school seems to be putting together their own curriculum as they see fit at this point in time, as you will see below.

For a general reference, we have the AWNSA curriculum chart.  According to the “Waldorf School Curriculum:  An Overview for American Waldorf School Teachers” chart from AWNSA Publications,  the development of skills goes as follows: Continue reading

Simplicity Monday: Children and Sports

It was a most beautiful fall weekend here in the Deep South…and I spent the majority of my weekend at a continuing education course for my physical therapy license renewal.  It was long hours in class, but very interesting information.  In the Pediatric Sports Medicine track I attended, there was a really interesting session regarding “Youth In Sports:  Are We Pushing Too Hard?” and I wanted to bring this information to you all because it is so important.

This information comes from the medical community – doctors, athletic trainers and therapists –  who love and care for student athletes and who really do want children to have free play and yes,  also to be on the field too,  but in a safe and healthy way.

The presentation opened up with a case study of a student athlete who was practicing a certain sport three hours a day, conditioning for an hour, plus scheduled practice at night, plus weekend tournaments, and was being homeschooled because there was not much time available for other activities.

The kicker?  The student was ten years old.

There were many other case studies of student athletes, who by the age of 15 or 16, had had three or more surgeries due to sports injuries, plus hours of rehabilitation.

The presentation went through how in the past, children played games that children created and ran themselves.  The goal was to have fun, the rules were flexible, teams and the players on the team were often switched,  and sometimes better “athletes” were given handicaps to compensate for their athletic prowess.   This was typical when I was growing up, and maybe when you were growing up as well.  Organized sports started somewhere around the later middle school years typically or even first year of high school.

A lot has changed in recent years.  Now forty million children sign up for organized sports each year in the United States.   In contrast to those games of childhood we remember, organized sports are led by adults, with adult rules that are inflexible.  The goal is winning, being better,  and working as a team to win a goal that is often adult-oriented (ie, MVP trophy, all-stars, etc), often with the best players leading and the rest of the children left behind.  The best facilities are often used for elite, hypercompetitive teams, along with the  best coaches while the “leftovers” often go into community sports where the fields or other equipment may not be as in good a condition and the coaches may be parent volunteers.  (Which in and of itself may not be a bad thing, but this particular session was looking at such factors as safety – for example,  the elite clubs may have better access to athletic trainers and medical personnel on the sidelines when injuries and concussion occur as opposed to parent-led clubs).  Most youth coaches, whether professional or a volunteer,  are not typically trained in childhood development so sometimes developmental readiness cues to play an organized sport are not known and the way practices are conducted completely miss the developmental stage of the child.

The kicker to all of this is that recent statistics show by age fourteen, 73 percent of children who were in organized sports DROP OUT.  It is no longer fun.  My family went through this ourselves last year with our then fifth grader, and I can attest to this. Continue reading

Third Grade Native American Block

We started our third grade year with a little block of form drawing and handwriting, which I wrote about here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2013/09/06/beginning-of-third-grade/  and that morphed into a full-fledged Native American block focusing on how the First Peoples lived and continue to live traditionally on the land.  I based this block around the Christopherus Homeschool Resource’s notion of the “People of the Plains”, “People of the Desert”, “People of the Land and the Mist”, etc as I really wanted to tie the different Native American tribes into their shelters and daily life as influenced by the land.  This is a major theme for third grade work on a developmental level for the nine-year-old.

We made many projects, including a leather pouch with fringe, a talking stick with feathers, small miniature tipis and canoes for our four year old’s play, a diaroma of a People of the Woodland scene, a model of a chickee for the People of the Swamps, a clay totem pole for People of the Land of the Rain and Mist,  and a large clay adobe dwelling based upon instructions in “Learning About the World Through Modeling” by Arthur Auer.  We also sang many songs, played songs on our Choroi flutes, played Inuit games for People of the Land of Snow and Ice, painted watercolors for People of the RIce, People of the Plains, People of the Land of Snow and Ice, and People of the Desert.  We also went to a Native American Pow Wow in our state.  This is also a great block for shelter building, gardening, cooking, natural plant dyeing and weaving.  We are still planning to build a large loom and tie it into some reading about the People of the Desert and their sheep even after this block ends…It was a lot to fit into one block, but we had a really good time!  We are also fortunate in our state to have a preserved Mound Dweller site that we visit at least once a year and will be doing that after this block ends as well.

I painted a narrative of  the land for each region and each region’s tribes, and also told stories from different tribes from each region.  I used the stories to review vowel sounds, word families, consonant and vowel blends for my third grader.  This is easy to do from the stories because these consonant and vowel blends are everywhere in written word  This can lead to word families such as a wigwam word village, a village of igloos, etc all with word families written on them.  My third grader created and wrote summaries with a  focus on these word families and phonics blends, and worked with spelling words each week from the stories of different tribes.

Resources that I found useful were: Continue reading

Judgment

This beautiful article about judgment, guilt and parenting is something I feel every parent should read:  http://www.lifewaysnorthamerica.org/blog/finding-grace-jennifer-sullivan

My favorite quote is this one:

I held this silent boy for sometime in my mind, carefully turning the situation over and over.  I had judged the father, and I also had judged the son.  In that moment, the boy taught me that all things are not what they seem.   He reminded me we each have a path and our stories are not the same.  Instead of passing judgment, I could have surrounded each person with love.  How else can we find happiness if we cannot elevate the other?  We must also look past our weaknesses, move forward, and enjoy this life fully by discovering our own grace.  I can only strive to do the very best in each moment and that is all.  Then I must remember that everyone else is doing the same.  I have come to realize that life is about balance and grace, not perfection.  We would succeed as parents if the lessons we offer our children were about acceptance, forgiveness, and love.  I must promise them this.

How many times a day as mothers do we judge ourselves?  Fill in the blank: “I am not (patient enough, strong enough, capable enough, smart enough, kind enough”, etc)”

How many times a day do we Continue reading

Simplicity Monday: The Overwhelm

The Overwhelm.  Too much to do, too little time.

When I speak to mothers, often their “to-do” list is long, their presence has a harried energy, and they are concerned that they cannot “get it all done.”

They want to do it all, and they want to do it  all perfectly.

This is common in mothers in general, but also very common in homeschooling mothers.  I think the biggest overwhelm I hear experienced homeschooling mothers mention is lack of time to do things outside of homeschooling because there is no separation from the children.  Often the list of things to do outside of homeschooling is long – like trying to clean a house when you live in it many hours a day or when you are on the go a lot more with older children, trying to get errands done, trying so hard to do everything when teaching children really takes up the entire day.

A few things that many mothers (and myself)  seem to find helpful: Continue reading

Sunday Books: The No-Cry Discipline Solution

We are continuing our exploration of Elizabeth Pantley’s “The No-Cry Discipline Solution:  Gentle Ways to Encourage Good Behavior Without Whining, Tantrum or Tears.”  Pick up a copy at the library or your local bookseller and follow along!

I know many gentle parents who wouldn’t love this first sentence of the section “Building A Strong Foundation”:  “This book is about how to live everyday life with your children in  a controlled yet loving and joyous manner.”

Control, and anything that smacks of authority can be really difficult for parents to accept these days.  I think if it helps you, I consider the author’s use of the word “controlling” more akin to discovering the values that make your family unique and reflecting those values in the limits you set as parents to make your home a harmonious one.  We had a series of fruitful back discussion on authority some time ago, and I link here for you to review:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/12/02/re-claiming-authority-part-one/  and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/12/05/re-claiming-authority-part-two/

One of the main concepts from this chapter to take away is “The Big Picture is More Important Than Any One Action”.  If we have over 100,000 hours to connect and love our children before they are off living their own lives, then all of these hours are not going to be blissful and peaceful, but there should be a sense of joy and love and delight for our children.  Continue reading

Sixth Grade Geometry

Waldorf education holds geometry in high regard, and works with geometry in some form from first grade onward. In grades first through fourth we mainly draw geometric forms in math, form drawing or even in painting.  Fifth grade usually becomes the first grade with a real geometry block, but it involves constructions more with a straight edge.  Sixth grade typically marks the movement into a geometry block that uses a compass.  Many of the resources available through Waldorf booksellers and companies will carry you through multiple grades, as sixth grade is the beginning of constructed geometry that is continued into seventh grade with perspective drawing and a closer study of the Pythagorean Theorem , and  then into the number progressions, the Golden Proportion and proportions of the human form, along with Solid Geometry,  in eighth grade.

For this block, you will need Continue reading