Attachment And Individualization

I think as homeschooling families, one of our  main goals is always the connection of the family and how we stay attached to each other in a society that sometimes doesn’t seem to value that at all.  Some of the homeschooling families who read my blog, many of them, are also what has been termed and made popular in the common literature by Dr. Sears as “attachment parents.”

But what I want to talk about today is the development of the independence of the child  within the context of attachment.  I don’t think attachment and becoming more of an individual, more independent and more capable are mutually exclusive at all – we can still be attached but have separate psychological identities.  In fact, I would argue,  in order to become an adult that has a meaningful role within their own family and and as a citizen of the world, this has to happen.  We have all heard the jokes or seen instances of people whose adult lives were totally enmeshed with their parents.  It is funny for a television show, but not so funny in real life.  Enmeshment prohibits a child and an adult from reaching the fullness and freedom of who they are.

I think healthy attachment starts not only with connection, lots of connection and including but not being limited to extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping, but with loving authority and boundaries.  I think if you have read this blog for any length of time I have made that abundantly clear.  I think I have also talked a fair bit about boundaries.  Boundaries, in its essence, is not just how “strict or loose” your parenting style is; it is about how you GUIDE your child to HEALTH as a growing, developing SEPARATE individual.  It is also about creating balance, and creating opportunity for right growth, especially for those children where self-growth and self-development are not initiated.

Separation, to me, starts around the child is age three and says “I” for the first time.  That is the beginning, the spark of recognition that “I am myself.”  I may not know or understand all that means yet, but I am me.  Bernard Lievegoed, author of “Phases of Childhood,” marks this as a stage of self-awareness.  This can also be a phase of negativity from the child; by pushing against the outside world the child begins to develop the self.

It continues with the six/seven year old change.  Some parents write me and say, “My child went through the six/seven year old change.  They slammed doors, said they hated me, said that I was not the boss of them.  Then they were done.”

Okay, but let me put this out to you:  the six/seven year old change, to me, is not just about “you’re not the boss of me.”   It is about finding a psychological identity that is separate from parents – that they have a role in the family or at school, they know what that treasured and valued role is, and that they do  feel accepted and loved but also a bit “separate”, a bit ready to take a view on something…there is a shift toward the child having real opinions about the world, that may be different than the parent’s view, and that in this view that the child has a continuous self and therefore can participate in learning.   At this stage, children in the six/seven year change usually  also are interested in having friends, being a friend, in having community outside of their family.  I think many times this is neglected and not mentioned in Waldorf Educational literature, because the assumption is the child is at the school in community.  I think this is an important point for homeschooling families when looking at the development of their child.  To me, turning outward toward community and peers and not just within the family, is a hallmark of the six/seven change.

This process can take up to a year and a half, I think especially for sensitive children who haven’t had a lot of opportunity to be around  other children, or just children who develop a little bit slower.  They may not be as interested in peers until the nine –year change, but then I have personally observed that that change may be a much more difficult one than the six/seven year change.

I think one way we can gauge where are children are in the six/seven change is to look at their play(see the many, many back posts on play on this site about how play changes during the six/seven year old change), and to  look at their drawings of human beings, a house and a tree.  Here is an interesting, brief look at drawings made by two thousand German five and six year olds prior to school entrance, comparing drawings made by those who did and didn’t watch media, those who did and did inhale passive cigarette smoke, and those with psychological disturbances:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/images/stories/articles/RB13_2rittelmeyer.pdf  There are whole books on working with children’s drawings in Waldorf Education; you can check Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore or Bob and Nancy’s Bookshop for those titles.

For the nine/ten year old going through this change feels utterly and sometimes desperately alone, apart from humanity, out of the Garden of secure family.  They have an experience of self and it is a tragedy; there is no shelter of the family or of being with friends. Therefore, I believe firmly that children who do not have a strong sense of community and belonging built up through early childhood through family, extended family and strong friendships can have an even more fragile nine year change.  Boundaries and loving authority can also make this change better, along with loving connection.  The child is becoming an individual.

From the viewpoint of Waldorf Education, three things are traditionally seen as helping a child become an individual:  childhood diseases, what author Edmond Schoorel in his book “The First Seven Years: Physiology of Childhood” calls “naughtiness” (which made me chuckle!), curiosity, and we develop memory.  One that Schoorel mentions briefly, and that Bernard Lievegoed discusses further is that of the force of antipathy.  “Very often there is the tendency to concentrate only on positive feelings.  This is impossible.  It destroys  the drama, the basic law of feeling.  Any attempt to present only positive feeling results in superficial sentiment.  Feelings are brought forth from contrast and the nature of their polarity…It is not a matter of guarding children  from negative feelings or denying them as such, it is a matter of presenting the feelings as opposites in the correct way.” (Lievegoed, page 170).

I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but I do want to leave you with a few teasing comments by Edmond Schoorel:

  • “Children do not need to understand everything; it is even better when they don’t..It is essential for children to have the opportunity to ask questions; yet they do not need answers on the level of their understanding.  Mysteries are interesting because we do not have an answer.”  (page 260)
  • “When children have too little curiosity, we face the question:  can we stimulate curiosity?  I think that we can do this only in an indirect way.  When weakness has to do with the child’s constitution, we may have to work with movement development.” (page 248)
  • “Naughtiness can be a first exercise in waking up.  With naughtiness, the child turns away from the order of which he or she was a part.  It is a first step toward freedom and individuality.”  (page 246)

And this process of connection to others, and connection to ourselves,  continues as we grow and change throughout our lives. And sometimes we realize, yes, our circumstances and such may have been specific to us, but the tumult of different ages was by no means unique but being part of the human race.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Boundaries

Friends, I have been hearing from a lot of you recently via email and many of you are struggling with boundaries in your lives.  I am not a counselor, and I am not a psychologist, but I wanted to tell you a few things I have learned about boundaries along the way in the experience of my life and I hope it will be helpful to you. I encourage you if you are having challenges with this to go and talk to a qualified counselor.  This can be so helpful in getting your life, your family and your parenting going the way you want it to!  What a wonderful way to start the New Year!

Boundaries, to me, are a skill that many of us have to learn.  Perhaps our ability to set boundaries was damaged in childhood or early adulthood.  Perhaps we are not even sure what a boundary is or why we would want boundaries.  Or perhaps we have too many boundaries and have erected relentless walls in order to keep the world out.

Yet, healthy boundaries are so necessary.  A boundary is something we set in order to separate ourselves from other people; it tells us how far a person can go with us and how far we can go with another person.  It keeps us from becoming enmeshed with another person:  enmeshment is a complete state of feeling so empathetically with that person that we take on the other person’s feelings, responsibilities,challenges and problems completely and wholly as our own.   As parents, we are separate from our children; we are different people. And, boundaries not only separate us from our children, but it also shows how we are linked together in familial roles.  We are linked together, but we are not the same.  We are the adult.  The relationship is not an equal one.  We have more experience and more guidance, more logic and reasoning to bring to any situation.  We also have a duty to honor the developmental stage of our child and we can do this with boundaries.

Relationships without boundaries cause dependency and stunted emotional growth for both ourselves and the other party involved.   If we have too many boundaries, no one can get close to us at all and we end up isolated and alone.   With good boundaries, we learn to develop an appropriate sense of roles amongst family members and the other people in our lives. We learn to respect ourselves and others.  We can trust and listen not only to ourselves, but to others.

Specifically in parenting, boundaries allow children to feel safe and secure.  Boundaries helps children learn self-control and how to function with people outside of their immediate family. Parents who set good boundaries for themselves and for their children are modeling for the children, how, in turn, to set emotional and physical boundaries for themselves.  If we can be calm as a child tests out what the boundary and line in the sand actually is, then we are modeling for our child how to handle this in their own lives.   We help them learn how to function in the world.

For parents who have trouble setting any boundaries for their children, out of “respect” for the child,  I often will ask the parent: Continue reading

How The Shy/Fearful Child Learns To Expand Their World

So, I have no  research studies on this at all…this is from my own experience and observations in working with families who have had extremely shy and almost fearful children.   I am not really talking about children who are more inward; all of us are on the continuum of extrovert to introvert if we look at personality.  I am thinking hear of children who are rather socially anxious, fearful a bit… Many of these children whom I have observed were only truly comfortable with their mothers and no one else.   Many of these children were first-born children, but not all of them, and many of them were girls, but again, not all of them.  This is my special small population sample.

This is how I have personally observed this type of child’s progress into the world outside of his or her mother: Continue reading

The Essential Soul Tasks Of The Early Years

Dearest Friends,

During my time of moving houses, I have had several very important issues swirling about in my head with no opportunity to write them down until tonight.  So, you will be seeing some deeply thought and deeply held posts coming from The Parenting Passageway over the next several days.

One thing that I was thinking about fervently was the essential soul tasks of the small child.  If you have been a long-time reader of this blog, I hope over the years I have convinced you of the utmost importance of the physical development of the small child through time and space outside.  We think of a very tiny child of ages birth through three as struggling through space over time to achieve being upright, then progressing to speech and from speech flowing into thought.  During the Early Years, we also develop our  twelve senses, and I often think of such things as the awareness of our bodies (what is us?  what is others?).  This is done through work and also through imaginative play.

But on the soul level, there is a very important task for this age, which is relating to others, and how the child finds their place within a group.  The small child’s experiences with trust of others, belonging with others, finding safety and acceptance of others and within others is all part of this experience.  So is the reverence that we often cannot fully see until we stand present with another.  I have had the wonderful experience of my almost three year old and his very best friend on earth whom I shall call Little Friend.  He and Little Friend adore each other; they run to see each other in the utter thrill that only two best friends can share and laugh in joy.  They chase “moonbears” (their code name for grasshoppers) through the grass, wonder at each spider web and bug, and show such deep reverence and awe at each step of Creation.  It is amazing to watch and it has shown me the deep ability of the small child to love outside of his own immediate family.  For some of you, this is a moment of “Duh!” and for some of you this is a moment of thoughtfulness.  If you can think back to your smallest days, where did you feel safe?  Where did you feel loved?  Where did you feel you belong?  Where were you part of a community?  Did you feel accepted and loved or on the outside?  Why?  How would you answer these questions about your own children?

I have received three separate emails this week asking about five or five and a half year olds and finding the balance of being home and the need for friends (or not).  I think many homeschoolers would say there is no need for interaction outside the family per se; especially perhaps for those with larger families.  But for those with smaller families or children who are close to age six with only a baby perhaps to “play” with, the question remains…  And then people tell me they have tried to look for community and nothing that resonates with them is available, so what do they do?  Do they do classes?  How do they meet people?  Is playing with a friend once a month or once every few months enough? Continue reading

This Could Be My Favorite Post

…. ( A reader alerted me on 11/7/2012 that this link didn’t work and she couldn’t find the original post.  On quick search I couldn’t either, but this post is similar: http://www.elizabethfoss.com/reallearning/2012/08/lets-talk-about-learning-with-little-ones.html   Enjoy!)

,,,,of all the things Elizabeth Foss has written.  Go and check it out!

http://www.elizabethfoss.com/reallearning/2011/07/lets-talk-about-learning-with-little-ones.html

 

How is that for lovely heading into the weekend?

Many blessings,
Carrie

Interesting Observations About The Five Year Old

Those of you who have read this blog for a long time know I rather disagree with The Gesell Institute book “Your Five-Year-Old” where five is seen as the golden age.  To me, five actually can be rather quirky and some five year olds seem stuck back at four with exuberant, out of bounds behavior and still on potty words….or they can be forging ahead to the six/seven year change.  Either way, it seems anything but golden to many parents I speak with. 

I have been observing a group of five year olds recently and have  noticed some interesting behaviors for five.  For those of you with five year olds, do any of these things ring true for you?

  • There is a big issue with birthdays – hard time with sibling birthdays, very sad indeed.
  • The other issue with birthdays is that the older five year old/early six year old wants to play only with people of the exact age of the child herself.  So, therefore, it is really concerning when a friend has a birthday and therefore obviously won’t want to play with the child anymore (“Because now Fanny Friend will be SIX!”) or the child doesn’t want to play with a child  younger or older. 
  • Five is the height of nightmares, and usually the child will wake up and scream but can’t seem to get out of bed well or wake up well or go back to sleep well.  The Gesell Institute does note that bad dreams persist until about age 8, with a lull at age 8 and then a  rise again  at age 9.
  • Typically tensional outlets are at a low, but increase again around five and a half.
  • Five is not an exceptionally fearful age, but six is full of fear.
  • There is a rise in marked rise in appetite at four and a half to five….  Many of the children I have been observing seem to ask to eat all the time.

I have several back posts about the five year old that you may find helpful:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/08/22/waldorf-in-the-home-with-the-five-year-old/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/10/the-fabulous-five-year-old/

There are also many post if you use the search engine regarding the six/seven change. 

Many blessings,

Carrie

Other Questions Parents Have About Six/Seven Year Developmental Change

Parents have many questions about the developmental leaps of the six/seven year old.  A few key points for this age:

I highly suggest you go back to all of these back posts for review as these will most likely cover some of these questions:

For more about the intricacies of peer relationships at this age:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/02/05/peer-relationships-for-the-six-to-eight-year-old/

Favorite books for gentle discipline to inspire you:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/27/favorite-books-for-gentle-discipline/

Hitting:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/28/boys-under-age-7-and-hitting/

Potty words:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/12/20/how-to-handle-potty-talk-in-small-children/

A review of my favorite book for the six/seven year change:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/19/a-book-for-parents-of-the-five-to-seven-year-old/

How To Best Support Your Child’s Development Ages 3-5

Here are a continuation of some notes I made for my talk for The Waldorf Connection on development and how to best support development in children during the first seven year cycle of life.

Rudolf Steiner said that by the time children learn to speak and walk, formative forces released from the head join those being released in the chest region.  Whether or not this description resonates with you, I think one can see a change evidenced by the vivid memory and wonderful imagination children develop between the ages of two and a half and five. The memory is not ready for academic work at this point; it is emerging.  The child is still learning through imitation and play.

Here are some suggestions for the best ways to support your child’s development in these ages:

  • We must continue our own inner work and personal development; to have clarity in speech and thinking,  and to really SLOW DOWN and not speed up.  Things for this age need to be kept SIMPLE.  If we are not careful as parents, this can be a time where we feel pressured to enroll a child in classes, step up “socialization and enroll in preschool.  I have mentioned before that the age of Waldorf Kindergartens used to start around age four and a half and now is starting younger and younger.  To me, social experiences are wonderful to think seriously about when a child is five, definitely by six. Ages three and four are still very, very little.
  • To provide unconditional love and healthy boundaries.  Boundaries with chances for restitution and even with logical consequences are important for this age.  Boundaries involving YOU taking the child by the hand and essentially saying, “You may not do this but you may do this.”  Using movement and singing and verses and fantasy to help the child meet the boundary.

More notes about this important subject:  First you must be clear what the boundaries in your home really are, and what are the consequences (see more on that below), and what would the restitution be?  And three and four is really, really little, so you are going to have to repeat the movement toward the boundary and what is and is not allowed 500 times before the child really and truly understands it.  Some things also work in phases, and some of the things that drive parents to irritation really will pass.  Draw less individual attention to what you don’t want, but keep drawing the child to what you do what.  Keep striving to act as if you are the Leader in Your Home – because you are, and you must be!

Logical consequences for this age (ages 3 and 4) are not so much “announced”, but just happen as part of tweaking your rhythm throughout the day.  For example, if a small child is just falling apart and hitting you and such, then the small child is obviously tired and does not need to go out and play with the neighborhood children.  You don’t need to announce this so the child goes into another fit of tears, but just do it.  Arrange your afternoon so there is something physically repetitive outside, an early dinner and an early bedtime.    You must step up and be the parent for this age.  It is not being harsh, but guiding your child, because  what a child of this age needs is not always what a child of this age wants.  If you are resolute in what should or should not happen, what the rules in your house are, how people are treated with respect in your house (including yourself!  Are you being treated with respect by the members of your  family?), then it is much easier to hold the space and hold what is RIGHT.  You are showing your child how to be an upright moral human being, you are calmly setting boundaries and you are staying calm when the boundary is pushed against.

  • To provide age appropriate expectations – see all the back posts by age on this blog
  • Sensory protection!! Sleep, warming foods, rhythm, physical movement is all important.  Protection from the stress and anxiety of the parents, protection from  negative world news and screens.
  • Connection – how are you connecting with this child even if they are in a tough developmental phase of disequilibrium?
  • The lower four senses are being developed from birth, but I think especially in this period one must look at the sense of touch, sense of life, the sense of balance and the sense of movement.  Some remedial (Extra Lesson) Waldorf Teachers view excessive unruliness as stemming from a disturbed sense of life/well-being, excessive insecurity as a disturbed sense of touch, and a  lack of inner understanding indicating a disturbed sense of movement and balance. 
  • This is not the age to make children memorize things – building a rich array of language experiences through singing, verses and stories is important and children  obviously will be able to remember things, but to not force memorization.  The basis of learning at this point is experiential; hands-on.  Why we are losing this in US schools when every mainstream childhood development textbook points this out is beyond me.
  • Less talking about things and more doing, matter of fact responses and calm responses to about of bounds behavior and language. 
  • Children of these ages need hours and hours a day outside. You can view the posts on Nokken on this blog regarding the concept of a Forest Kindergarten.
  • Show the child practical work – de-mechanize your home as much as possible; do tasks and figure out what your child can do to help
  • Provide a bit of benign neglect – see back post on benign neglect
  • Help foster creative play – see back posts on fostering creative play
  • What are you doing to nourish yourself?  When are your breaks?  How does your spouse or partner play into this picture?  Are you on the same page?  If your spouse or partner cannot help you, would there be someone in your neighborhood who could come over and be a mother’s helper so you could still be home and yet do what you need to do for a few hours a week?  What artistic and spiritual activities are you doing to nourish yourself each and every week? 

In the fifth year, we also recognize that the child begins (BEGINS!!) to be understand a bit about what is right and what is wrong.  As the adult shows over and over what it means to be an upright human being, then faith develops in that adult.  Faith in an adult induces a feeling of authority, which is very  important as a child moves from the fifth year into the six/seven year transformation and the grades.

The next post will be the last in this series, and it will take a peek at how to support development during the six/seven year change.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Preparing for the Six/Seven Year Change: The Importance of Boundaries

One of the most pressing issues for the child of the traditional preschool age (ages 3 and onward) is learning to deal with boundaries.  I find many attached parents, especially first-time attachment parents, are rather slow about using boundaries.  It seems as if they equate boundaries with not being a good attached parent.  Attachment parenting does not mean letting the child do whatever they want at the expense of the needs of everyone else in the family.  That is not what attachment parenting is, and it sets your child and you up for difficulties that are much harder to un-do as your child grows older and the things you are dealing with become much bigger.

Children naturally are experimenting with boundaries during the years of  three to six  and beyond!  A child of three or three and a half really has their own will starting to emerge and is looking to see what the rules of the family are.  It is also an important time for the child to see what the social rules are beyond the immediate family.  A small child needs you to model manners and to help them.  We are certainly kind and respectful at home, but there are also certain ways we act outside of our home depending upon what we are doing and where we are.  What are the rules of conduct at the park versus the rules of being at a place of worship?  These are the things that small children are learning.

A sense of right and wrong can not be especially elicited before the six/seven year old change, but that certainly does not mean you just let things go and slide away.  You take your four year old by the hand and say “thank you” to the neighbor who has brought him a gift, even  if he is too shy to say it for himself.  You take your child who is being disruptive in a quiet place and step outside.  You physically help your three and a half or four year old draw a picture for the smaller sibling whom they were not gentle with. 

If you can start by putting these boundaries in place when children are small, then when your child moves into the ages of seven  and nine, they will come to see you as the loving authority that you are.  They will see that what you say means something and your voice will be a guide of wisdom.  I am sure as teenagers you all will remember certain things your parents would say, and  even  if you didn’t follow your parent’s advice about something, you probably could hear their voice in your head!  The parent’s loving authority is often like a conscience for the child as they work to  develop their own morality and their own right action.

But the groundwork for this is laid in the Early Years.  I cringe when I see three and a half, four, five and six year olds just doing whatever it is what they want to do with no regard for the feelings of others because the parent is not guiding the behavior at all.   Yes, children have temper tantrums, children melt down, children have difficulty playing together, things happen.    That is life with small children!  However, it is the job of the parent to help guide that child toward the boundaries that exist, to structure opportunities for success,  and yes, to step in a gentle physical way to help guide the child.  There is no “voice only” parenting from the sidelines with the small child. They need your physical presence. 

What you are doing today with your small child is very important for the future of your child and for the future of society.  What you do today matters!  The Early Years count!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Waldorf In The Home With The Five-Year-Old

MY CAVEAT TO THIS POST:  I write these posts from the perspective that the one-year-old, the two-year-old, etc is your OLDEST child in your homeschool, without older siblings to carry things… that may help explain my perspective on wet-on-wet painting and other such animals.  You can see the comments below as well…

We talked a bit about planning for fall in a recent post, and I wanted to make sure my mothers with under-7 children didn’t feel left out.  We are up to the five-year-old now!  I still hold some maverick views compared to much of the Waldorf community, so please take what resonates with you and leave the rest from this post.  If you are searching for the other posts in this series, here is the one- and two-year old in the home:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/06/waldorf-in-the-home-with-the-one-and-two-year-old/      and here is the three- and four-year-old in the home:  http://www.theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/13/waldorf-in-the-home-with-the-three-and-four-year-old/ .  If you review those back posts, you can see life is focused on rhythm, bodily care, singing, work around the house, being outside – no curriculums needed, although you may like some sources for verses, Mother Goose rhymes and songs.  I did do a review of one Kindergarten source here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/13/a-review-kindergarten-with-your-three-to-six-year-old-by-donna-simmons/

So here comes five!

Five can be such  an odd age.  It is the age that is considered a “golden” age by traditional perspectives, but many mothers of five-year-olds tell me they are pulling their hair out over their child’s behavior.  I think this is mainly because some five-year-olds are still in the four-year-old “out of bounds” stage, and some five-year-olds are beginning that six and seven-year transformation.  Here are some back posts about the five-year-old in general if you need some developmental help: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/10/the-fabulous-five-year-old/ 

Here is what I think a five-year-old should be working on with Waldorf In The Home:

RHYTHM!  Here is a lovely article detailing a rhythm in a Waldorf Kindergarten by Ruth Ker:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/blessingker.pdf

Meal times.  Think unhurried, unrushed, singing, having your child help with preparation and clean-up.  Use your meal time now to  work on things to develop their movement – kneading bread, using a rolling pin, sweeping the kitchen floor, scrubbing a countertop, etc.

Rest Times.  I honestly don’t know many five year olds who still nap, and that is a shame.  If your child is not a  “napper” at this age, you can still have a quiet time each day.  Your child  may not be able to do this well  on his or her own (although some will happily play with a play scenario you have set up), but this may be a time to read a story, a time to tell a story, a time to sing soft songs whilst massaging their hands or feet, and just dim the lights and be together and rock in the rocking chair for a bit.  You may also catch some down time for yourself at this time or during outside time if your child gets engaged.

Bath times.  Singing, finger plays and toe plays, gentle rub downs with the towel (those textures again).

Outside timeBeing outside is of extreme importance and to provide opportunities for physical movement outside.  If your child is a reluctant woodsperson, try the following posts:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/25/nature-day-number-8-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/  and this one:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/24/connecting-your-children-to-nature/

I think really three hours a day outside is not too much, and you could do more.  It is important.  Some homeschooling mothers arrange to hold almost their entire school day

Participation in household life.  Your very gesture is so important, it should not be you rushing around trying to get the whole house clean in one day!  It really  is about  taking each article of laundry and smoothing it out, folding it tenderly, putting it in the pile to be put away with love for your family. What is important is not only that the child sees the work being done, but imitates that gesture of love and care.  That extends into caring for plants and animals, this is the very first “environmental education” that a child gets with you, right at home.

To this we add the thought that physical work is very important, not only outside, but inside as well.  Can your wee one help you wash lettuce?  Peel carrots?  Peel an apple? Grind wheat? Knead bread?  These experiences are the first form of handwork for the young child.

Music – as mentioned many times, music and rhymes and verses should take precedence at this point over any written word. 

Inner Work/Personal Parenting Development:  The most spiritually mature people should be the ones coming into contact with the youngest children.  This is a very important time for your own work and  development.  If you are anxious, practice being calm.  If you are impatient, practice being patient.  If you talk in a stream of conscious way, practice being silent.  This is a time to develop your spiritual and religious beliefs.  It is a time to become more aware of the things unseen. 

We continue to  work on building up the first four of the twelve senses:

The Sense of Touch: Holding, cuddling, taking baths together, swimming, piggy back rides, games that involve holding hands and singing, wrestling and roughhousing, tickling games if your child likes that, rolling around on the floor together,  being outside in nature, natural materials to touch and play with and wear

The Sense of Life:  RHYTHM, humor and joy!

The Sense of Movement:  crawling, any sustained movement over time such as learning to ride a bike or swim,

The Sense of Balance: RHYTHM again, swinging, rolling, and now working toward more complex gross motor skills – riding a bike, trying the monkey bars and climbing structures,   skipping

If you need to know realistic expectations for a five-year-old, please see here: 

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/29/more-realistic-expectations-day-number-ten-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/

PLAY.  In the imitative phase of the first seven year cycle, your child may very well need some help from you in play without a group around to carry it.  You can see the back posts on fostering creative play and the progression of play by age and suggested toys.

People ask about play dates for this age.  I think play dates need to be structured with the adults doing something that requires taking turns and modeling the behavior you would like to see, and then moving into free play with the adults really in tune as to what is going on with the children (not off chatting in a corner ignoring the children).    I think play dates should be kept short.  If you would like to see more about social experiences, here is a post about the four-year-old I like:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/09/more-about-social-experiences-for-the-four-year-old/  I think much in this post holds true for the five-year-old.  Five-year-old boys also may really not be ready for group situations until they around are seven years old.

Preparation for Festivals. This is a great time to help children participate by DOING, not explaining in words.  There are lots of posts on this blog about individual festivals. 

Art/Creative Experiences

  • Painting -  Some five year olds may do well doing wet on wet watercolor painting  and some may have much difficulty in this  area.  I personally like the idea of starting wet on wet painting during the six-year old kindergarten year, as something special and new for that final year of kindergarten.  Wet on wet painting, to me, should have a very quiet, contemplative and meditative quality. 
  • Coloring with crayons  — you can see this book about Drawing with your child here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/04/drawing-with-your-four-to-eleven-year-old/  And here is an article about block or stick crayons in the Kindergarten from the “Gateways” Journal:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW3606.pdf
  • Carding wool – can be a hit as it is repetitive sensory movement.  You can buy fleece to wash and dry and card it with little dog brushes.  This is great.   You could also consider dyeing with plants…here is an article from the “Gateways” journal here:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW57grant.pdf
  • Sanding wood might be good as well.  Any thoughts?
  • Modeling – I like the idea of modeling with sand, salt dough, snow, kneading bread.  I would save  beeswax modeling  for the six-year-old children myself.  Again, this differs from Waldorf school.
  • Sewing – I disagree strongly with the kindergarten aged child using a needle to penetrate cloth.  I  know that is not especially popular opinion right now, but oh well.   :) 
  • Wet felting is a fun activity for five year olds.
  • Finger knitting – can try with the OLDER  five and six year old.  
  • Other Arts and Crafts – some can be successful, especially in preparation for a festival, but I think for the  most part recommendations in books such as “Earthways” the age range is always put lower than what I would put it.  Why be in such a rush to do all this? Six, seven and eight are still good ages for crafts.

Storytelling and Puppetry – If you have not had a time where you light a candle and tell a story, now is the time to begin.  Pick a story, memorize it, and tell it at least three days a week for two weeks to a month. 

Here is where you can start bringing in some traditional fairy tales.  See here for a list of recommended fairy tales by age, but pick one that that resonates with you: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/20/fairy-tales-books-and-storytelling-with-the-little-ones/  and here:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/20/the-importance-of-fairy-tales/

You could also make your five year old year your Nature Tales year (there are many on http://www.mainlesson.com ) and then bring in more fairy tales in your true Kindergarten year (your six year old year).  And don’t be afraid to repeat stories from year to year – your children will ask for them!  That repetition is wonderful!

My other thought is to create those stories to address challenging behavior.  There are several examples here in this article from the “Gateways” Journal:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW55brooks.pdf

Circle Time is the heart of the Waldorf Kindergarten, but can be a complete flop at home.  I love the book “Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures” (see this post for the review: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/29/favorite-waldorf-resource-5-three-resources-to-help-you-get-more-movement-into-your-homeschool/ ), but at home it can really flop.  Still, I think it is worth a try if you can convince your five-year-old to “teach” your younger child, LOL.  Still stick to the verses and songs you have in daily life, and add seasonal finger plays and seasonal songs.

Hope this helps you as you plan.  Please do take what resonates with you.

What concerns or challenges are you facing with your five-year-old?  Please do feel free to leave a comment below. 

Many blessings,

Carrie