We have arrived at Chapter Three, entitled, “Environment”. The chapter begins with painting a picture of the child’s room which ends with this sentence: “The room’s pastel color scheme and basic furniture – bed and bureau where the changing table once was – are no longer visible, buried under a thick overgrowth of multicolored, ever-growing, and expanding stuff.”
Kim John Payne talks about how in many of his workshops, parents want to begin simplification by simplifying the environment. This is a tangible, doable step toward simplification.
American culture leaned toward selling toys to children beginning around Continue reading
I have recently been jotting down a notes regarding fifth, sixth and seventh grades. These notes will probably only make sense if you are coming up to these grades and you are a Waldorf homeschooler. If you are planning for these grades, I hope these ideas are helpful.
Fifth Grade: Continue reading
It is summer! There has been an article circulating around the Internet from over at The Atlantic regarding summer and having free time to just be: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/06/for-better-school-results-clear-the-schedule-and-let-kids-play/373144/
Part of this article deals with how “personal” executive function (ie, the ability to set goals, to be self-motivated and do the practical things to achieve a self-selected goal) is much better in children who spend less time in activities supervised by adults:
The authors studied the schedules and play habits of 70 six-year-old children, measuring how much time each of them spent in “less structured,” spontaneous activities such as imaginative play and self-selected reading and “structured” activities organized and supervised by adults, such as lessons, sports practice, community service and homework. They found that children who engage in more free play have more highly developed self-directed executive function. The opposite was also true: The more time kids spent in structured activities, the worse their sense of self-directed control. It’s worth noting that when classifying activities as “less structured” or “structured,” the authors deemed all child-initiated activities as “less-structured,” while all adult-led activities were “structured.”
The summer can be a difficult time for working parents in particular, and some children end up trading school (an adult-directed activity), for different adult-directed activities in the summer – camps, lessons, and the like.
I am hearing from parents who both have to work this summer, or single parents who have to work. They are wondering how to give their children a summer of time in nature and unstructured play. I would love to hear suggestions from you all and how you have handled unstructured play for summer in your family. My own thoughts would be to enlist family members or friends who are able to be home and are taking their own children to the lake, beach, forest or out for a picnic. I have many family friends where both parents work, and those parents I know are taking a good deal of vacation time this summer to make the work week shorter –ie, taking each Friday off so they have a long weekend with their children, for example. I also have friends who work who have talked to their boss about changing their work hours so they go to work very early and get home early so they can have some daylight hours with their children to be together. If a parent works from home, of course the children can have unstructured play there, but many parents have told me if they have only children it can be hard to get things done or multiple children while they are working sometimes play great and come up with wonderful ideas and sometimes not! Continue reading
We are jumping ahead to Chapter Two, “Soul Fever”. Kim John Payne opens up this chapter with the fact that parents know their children so well and all of the different sides our children can have, “the too little sleep side”, “the overcome with silliness side” etc. He admits toward the bottom of the page that our love for our children never falters, but the instinctual knowledge of our children can wax and wane.
In many cases, I have talked to parents who have felt so disconnected from their children. This can especially occur as children grow older and are out of the house for almost more hours a day than they are home. I have also talked to parents who are very fearful of their children being away from them and are fearful their connection will no longer be strong as their children’s world expands. It is a delicate balance, and I think worth checking to see where you are right now, today, with connecting to your children.
Simplification can help Continue reading
Gentle discipline is the mainstay of parenting life, because it encompasses guiding and validating the authentic spiritual being that is every human being and child. It is a mindset to live by and parent by, and if you can master some of these techniques, you will find yourself even having more positive communication and conflict resolution with other adults.
I have wanted to do a round-up of techniques by age, and here it finally is beginning. I hope it will be helpful to you, and do please feel free to add your own thoughts or experiences to this list.
First of all, we cannot talk about gentle discipline and guiding without talking about parenting as the spiritual and inner journey of the adults involved in raising children. Whether you are mother, father, helper – it is a spiritual journey for you and spiritual practice for you! Your own techniques for inner development: Continue reading
So, you may remember when I wrote this about seventh grade planning: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2014/06/11/seventh-grade-homeschooling-here-is-the-real-deal/
As a little recap, all the things I mention in that post are areas of thought for me; essentially since I think seventh and eighth grade are a step up. Those two grades are different than the earlier grades, and even different than sixth grade. I also think again, in an era where many homeschooled children do look toward taking community college classes and such at age 16, what we do here counts.
The seventh and eighth grades are also the culmination of a beautiful grades curriculum, and I don’t want to miss the beauty and peak of all the work we have done in previous years. It is also my first time through planning seventh grade, which always makes it harder as well. And, to add to that, there are some things I wish we had done in sixth grade that we didn’t so I also felt we add a bit of make up to do. More on that in later posts!
My other major place of thought centers around PRACTICE. I don’t think is talked about enough in Waldorf circles, and certainly not especially for the later grades, nor are enough examples and ideas given. For example, to me, It is not enough to cover state geography in fourth grade, U.S. Geography in fifth grade, etc and then never practice and return to it – the man and animal block of fourth grade, etc. And yes, of course, some of this information comes up again and again as you work the information into other blocks. This is the “layering” of the curriculum that one often hears about, but yet I find it often takes experience to really bring this to fruition. So, a growing question in my head as of late has centered around this idea of practice and integration of what we have studied through ALL of the eight grades and how do I bring this into seventh and eighth grade.
So, I am thinking a lot about the practice and habits part. We start our day with Continue reading
I can only talk about our own personal journey regarding homeschooling. This is an individual walk, and I can only give my experience. Once people “get over” the hurdle and accept homeschooling as a viable option for the younger years and even the early grades, I agree that I often hear “well, I plan to homeschool until middle school” or “I plan to homeschool until high school”. Many homeschooling parents, at least in the Waldorf community, have told me they feel not only is there a huge decline in folks homeschooling this age group of children, but that also the number of resources drops off dramatically. It can be a hard and isolating road.
One of my Dutch friends was explaining to me the other day that in the Netherlands they say those ages are “being between the napkin and the tablecloth”. You are not a child, yet not an adult. You are not really treated as an adult, but you don’t really feel like a child.I
Something that is well accepted in developmental circles is the fragility of the budding self that occurs around the age of 12 and 13. Bodies start changing, voices start changing in boys, limbs are long and heavy. And there is this beautiful and vibrant fragility I see in the teenagers ages 13 and 14 that I get the pleasure of being with. They are finding themselves and their own passions and their own opinions. To me, it is almost like a butterfly struggling to come out of its cocoon. The Gesell Institute writes about the needs for privacy often seen in a thirteen-year old: “by withdrawing and refusing to share, Thirteen protects something far too fragile and half formed for others to see, his budding personality.”
So, I think there are two sides to this. In American society at least, I think the idea of the sullen, withdrawn teenager has gone much too far. Space is important, but it must have a balance of space within the community. And to our family, the most important thing for this period for their overall education is for our children to be with family as their community and with the well-trusted adults and friends they have developed. Eugene Schwartz recently gave an interesting lecture Continue reading
I have written about my fascination with the forest kindergarten/farm school movement in back posts with detailed links. I recently found this link interviewing Erin Kenny, founder of Cedarsong Forest Kindergarten. You can read that interview here: http://www.safbaby.com/forest-kindergarten-a-better-way-to-teach-our-young-children.
I think the models we have for this movement within Waldorf Education are places such as Nokken with Helle Heckmann (please see back posts on Nokken on this blog and also this link regarding farm-based educator inspired by Waldorf Education: https://www.biodynamics.com/farm-based-educators).
The major benefits of Forest School, as listed in the book, “Forest School and Outdoor Learning in the Early Years” by Sara Knight are increased confidence and self-belief; social skills with increased awareness of the consequence of their actions on other people, peers and adults and the ability to work cooperatively; more sophisticated written and spoken language; increased motivation and concentration; improved stamina and gross and fine motor skills; increased respect for the environment and increased observational skills; ability to have new perspectives and form positive relationships with others; a ripple effect to the family.
I have been thinking lately Continue reading
“I worry that we’ll increasingly understand the “purpose” of childhood by seeing, increasingly, what people are like when they’ve been rushed through theirs. And I don’t think that will be a pretty picture.” – From Simplicity Parenting
I totally agree. It is hard and challenging work to keep our children at a normal pace of development in this day and age. But it is important, and necessary work. The work you are doing will help your child grow up to be a well-adjusted, resilient adult. The goal of parenting is to lead toward a healthy, whole human being.
To this point, Kim John Payne recommends simplification. He talks about doing a home visit with families and poises the question, Continue reading
One thing I think that you should start doing if you are going through the grades for the first time, is to gather lists for each grade – books by topic, possible field trips in your area, etc.
There are some ideas by curriculum writers or Waldorf teachers for seventh grade, in no particular order:
This is a list of books that I am personally finding helpful so far and wanted to share. This is absolutely by no means an inclusive list, or a list of “doing it right.” It is just a list of possibilities. By subject: Continue reading