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

Talking In Pictures To Small Children

A small child under the age of seven needs to hear you paint a picture with your words instead of a direct command.  This can really be a very difficult thing for us to do as adults, and as such we find ourselves barking commands (politely, of course :)) at our small children all day long.  “Come to breakfast!”  “Use the potty!”  “Get your shoes on!” “Now please!”  “Stop doing that!”  Even if we frame things positively and say what we do want, the point is that a million times a day we are asking our child to do something.  And when we only use a command, we are essentially giving the small child a chance to think, a chance to decide their behavior, and then we get angry when they don’t do what we want when we want it.  How funny how that goes.

Small children are often in a fantasy, imaginative world much of the day as they play and create games.  They are not adults, they do not view time as adults do, they do not have the sense of urgency that you do.  And nor should they.

A small child lives in the physical realm and in their bodies.  So, to most effectively parent, we must reach to that for the small child as often as possible instead of playing commander, or worse yet, trying to drive the car with our horn by yelling at the small child. 

Here are some examples:

  • Think of animals that involve what you need.  Can the child hop like a bunny, run as fast as a roadrunner bird, swim like a fish?  Can they open their big  crocodile mouths to have all those teeth brushed?  Can you be a bear that needs a big winter coat ?  (And as you say this, you help put the child’s arm into the coat)….It is the imaginative movement plus the physical piece that gets it all done.
  • Can you involve their dolls or their imaginary friends?   Quietly take their favorite doll and start to get it ready for bed and sing to the doll. “ You and Tim (the imaginary friend) can sit right for dinner “( and lead the child by the hand to the table).
  • Can you employ gnomes, fairies, giants, leprechuans?  Today a four- year- old and I looked for leprechuan shoes by my back door….  Oh, look at these leprechuan shoes sitting here, do these fit YOU?  Oh my, look at the turned up toes on your shoes, I wonder if those shoes will lead you to a pot of gold!  How about gnomes exploring the mouth cave for teeth brushing?  Big giant steps to settle into a big giant bed?

You do not have to do this to the point where it is tiring to you, but do try here and there, because I find most parents employ very little imagination with their children during the day and the children really do respond to it well and do just what needs to happen.

Your part though, is to plan enough time so things are NOT rushed.  Rushing is the death of imagination and the beginning of stress.  Please plan ahead! 

Also, rhythm is your friend.  It is in that space to help you and your child.  If you do something different every night to get ready for a meal, to get ready for bed, what cues does your child have for when things are going to happen?  Again, their sense of time and urgency is not that of an adult.  Also, please seriously evaluate how many places you are dragging a small child.  Are these places for them or errands and would your child just rather be home?   I am just asking you to consider this piece of the puzzle; only you know the answer for you and your family. 

The last piece is the physical end of it, DOING something with a child whilst using the imagination and movement goes much better!  Yes, it is tiring that that is what small children need.  But better to do that than to complain and moan and groan that your small child, who is perfectly  normal, is “not listening”. :)

Try it out, I think you will find life to be much easier. 

Many blessings,

Carrie