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

How To Talk To Your Seven and Eight-Year Old

My friend and I were talking about this today:   how exactly do you talk to a seven or eight year old about things?  In Waldorf, we say to speak to the young child under age seven as if painting pictures with our words.  We strive for keeping the young child  dreamy and not just handing the five or six-year old piles of information for which they have no context.  We try to work through movement,through  their bodies, through music.

But what does one do with this age of seven and eight?  A seven or eight year still feels as though they are a part of the world, not separate.  A part of that rock, that tree, that root over there, a part of you and a part of me.  The world is still a beautiful place.   But yet, the world is opening up and they are changing.  We are supposed to be providing more information at this point because they are past that six/seven year transformation. 

What I finally thought of was this analogy:  sometimes with weaning a child, you hear the phrase don’t offer, but don’t refuse.  In other words, if the child initiates a nursing session, go with it if you can but don’t offer if you don’t have to.  I always thought this was a rather simplistic way to approach weaning (and you can see the two weaning posts on here if you would like to see more of my views on weaning!) but today I thought about the spirit of this.

If your seven or eight year old asks things, answer them as simply as possible. Now is the time to start answering things.  However, do take into account that they don’t need a book on the subject, and in fact, most children of this age are satisfied with just a sentence or two about their subject of inquiry.

When offering information, one must always be thinking:  is this topic something they need to know everything about right now?  In a year, when this topic comes up again, can I address it further?  Will this topic come up again in everyday life and can I address it little by little as it comes up?

If I want to bring something up with my child, I always ask myself, do they need this information now?  Is it essential information for them right this minute?  In a year, when they have more maturity, will it be better received at that point?

Parenting often has more of an art to it than people suppose and these are the questions I ask myself.  When to lead, when to follow my child’s lead, how much information to provide and when.  I firmly believe there should be a difference in what we tell an eight-year-old and a fifteen-year-old on  a given topic. 

Many blessings,

Carrie

More About Quiet Time

This comment came in from a reader of the blog and I wanted her to have some feedback regarding Quiet Time.  She writes, “My 4 yr old has not napped since she was three and a half to four, but we continued having “rest time.” I had her stay in her own room to do this since she sometimes would fall asleep, but lately I have had her try doing her quiet time out in the den with me while the one yr old naps. Sometimes she tends to be less focused when I am there and wants to talk to me… I am interested in what parameters others set for quiet times for non-napping kids? Alone in room or out with mom in the den/living room? What kinds of activities – books only, quiet toys, does mom read to the child for part of the time or do they stay silent?

Also, I am curious how interruptions in sleep affect a four yr old… my daughter tends to wake at least once a night, sometimes twice, to use the toilet. And sometimes she just wants to be tucked back in and have one of us lay next to her for a couple minutes. I know at some point she’ll feel confident enough to just go to the bathroom on her own without waking us… But I wonder if this is disruptive to her quality of sleep?”

These are a few of my personal thoughts, but I hope many mothers will leave comments below as to their own practices.

I feel that during Quiet Time, mothers should be resting.  This may change as your children grow, but I feel if you are going about the house doing work, folding laundry, etc. and your child is younger than 7 and in that imitative phase, than they will want to be doing what you are doing.  Also, as homeschooling mothers, I feel it is an important priority for us to have some true down time to think, evaluate in our heads what happened in the morning in our homeschool time and to prepare in our heads for the afternoon activities.

I personally don’t mind if my child wants to be our big bed with me, but I am laying down with my eyes closed! or if they want to be on their own bed.  I also don’t mind when my four year old looks at (a few!) books (not the “ole giant stack!) and then rests, but I also feel many Waldorf mothers would feel this undermining to the point of Quiet Time – which would be the ability to be still and not have to be “entertained” by a book or by reading or by toys.  I don’t know, I would love to hear the perspectives of some of the Waldorf mothers out there!

As far as the waking up in the night to go to the bathroom, it seems to me that many four-year-olds are not dry through the night, so this may be a real need.  I think as long as she can really get up and go right back to sleep, then it is just where she is.  However, if she is up and fully awake, perhaps you could investigate a bit further.  Does she wake up at the same times every night to do this?  Could you bring her to the bathroom before you go to sleep yourself and would that change these nighttime waking patterns?  And then observe what goes on during the day…

C’mon mothers, please give your perspectives on Quiet Time and sleep.  Leave your comments in the box below!

Many blessings,

Carrie

The Twelve Senses

I am going to try and synthesize a few things for you all that I recently learned from Donna Simmons at the Waldorf At Home conference held in Atlanta,  a presentation by Daena Ross for Waldorf In the Home (available through Rahima Baldwin Dancy’s on-line store in CD and DVD versions) and Barbara Dewey’s section on the twelve senses in her book “Beyond the Rainbow Bridge”. 

I am by no means an expert on the twelve senses, although I will say the twelve senses make a whole lot of sense to me due to my background as a neonatal/pediatric physical therapist.

Steiner postulated in his lectures that there were not only the five most obvious senses that we think of, but actually twelve senses that required development.  This has been proved in the medical community, although sometimes in medical literature and therapy literature you see reference to “systems” rather than “senses” although they are truly talking about the same thing!

The twelve senses are what unites the inner and outer world of the individual and what allows us healthy interaction with other people at the highest developed levels.  It takes a long time for these senses to be developed, but the foundational senses needed to develop some of the upper senses are most developed in the first seven years.  There we are, back to my soapbox about the first seven years!

The Lower Senses are seen in our will forces, they are unconscious, and they manifest in the metabolic-limbic system.  These include:

The Sense of Touch – through the organ of the skin.  This includes what is inside of me and what is outside of me.  Important ways to boost this foundational sense include vaginal birth, swaddling, holding, positive tactile experiences (NOT PASSIVE experiences, like through media or Baby Einstein! Active experiences!)  The lack of completion of this  sense is strongly related to ADHD according to Daena Ross. 

The Sense of Life or sometimes called The Sense of Well-Being – this encompasses such things as if you can tell if you are tired, thirsty, hungry.  The best way to boost this sense is to provide your children with a rhythm to help support this while it is developing.  Some children have great difficulty recognizing their own hunger or thirst cues, their own need for rest or sleep. A rhythm can be a great therapeutic help in this regard.

The Sense of Self-Movement – this is probably more familiar to therapists in some ways as the “proprioceptive system” in some ways.  This sense encompasses the ability to move and hold back movement, and can also encompass such sensory experiences as containment (which can be a form of massage for premature babies) and also swaddling.  Childhood games that involve starting, stopping can also affect this sense.

The Sense of Balance – This is balance in two separate realms, from what I gather from the Daena Ross presentation.  It is not only the ability to balance by use of the semicircular canals of the ears  for midline balance so one can cross midline but also refers to the  balance of life and being able to be centered, which again goes back to rhythm and the idea of in-breath and out-breath.  Donna Simmons calls this one a gateway to The Middle Senses.

The Middle Senses are seen in our feeling lives, involve us reaching out into the world a bit, they are seen as “dreamy” senses and manifesting in the rhythmic system.  THE CHILD HAS NO FILTER TO FILTER THESE SENSORY EXPERIENCES OUT IN THE EARLY YEARS.   In the later years, the arts build these senses, which is why the Waldorf curriculum includes teaching through art in the grades.   These senses  include:

The Sense of Smell -  strongly correlated with memory.  This can be an ally in education of the grades age child, but beware of scented everything when your children are in the foundational first seven years. 

The Sense of Taste – Not only on a physical plane, but an emotional plane in naming experiences (a “putrid” experience, a “sweet” experience)

The Sense of Sight  – with two different ways to visualize something:  one is the ability to distinguish color, and the other is the ability to distinguish form (which Daena Ross says is more related to The Sense of Self-Movement).  The best way to help this sense is to protect the eye from media while developing.  A way to bolster this sense in the grades, but not the Early under 7 Years, is through form drawing.

The Sense of Warmth -   Donna Simmons calls this one a gateway to The Higher Senses.  This sense does not fully develop until age 9 and can literally cause a hardening of creativity and new thought as the child matures, but also can refer to a literal inability of the child to be able to tell if they are hot or cold.  Warmth implies not only physical warmth, but warmth on a soul level.  Joy, humor, love, connection are all important developers of this sense along with PROTECTION from extreme and garish sensory experiences that would cause hardening.  This is a very important sense, and children need help with protecting this sense until the age of 9 or 10, so much longer than many parents think!

The Upper or Higher Senses develop during adolescence and require a strong foundation of The Lower Senses and The Middle Senses to come to maturity.  These senses are associated with awakening of the individual, with being concerned with other people and are seen as being centered in The Head.  These senses include:

The Sense of Hearing (which Daena Ross calls “a bridge between The Middle and Higher Senses” in her presentation)  This requires completion of The Sense of Balance – both of these senses involve the organ of the ear.

The Sense of Speech or The Sense of the Word (this is the speech of another person, not yourself) – Requires completion of The Sense of Self-Movement as you must be able to quiet your own speech in order to really hear another person.

The Sense of Thought or The Sense of Concept (again, of the other person, not your own thoughts!) - Requires completion of  The Sense of Well-Being.  Rhythm builds this ability to quiet oneself in order to hear someone else’s thoughts.

The Sense of  the Individuality of the Other (Donna Simmons also calls this the “I-Thou” relationship of boundaries) – This requires integration and completion of all senses, but particularly involves The Sense of Touch according to Daena Ross. 

The most important take-away point for my parents of children under the age of 7 is that children need rhythm, a balance of in-breath and out-breath and protection of the senses from too much stimulation, from media and boundaries set by the parents to wear clothes (VERY difficult with some little nudists!).  The development of these senses is also profoundly related to sleeping and what occurs during sleep to build all of this up.

Waldorf Education is first and foremost about health and the twelve senses provide a glimpse into some of why things are done in Waldorf the way they are!  I encourage you to investigate the twelve senses on your own.  In this age and day of skyrocketing ADHD/ADD, autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders, this should be mandatory learning for all parents. 

With love,

Carrie

Where Do I Go Now?

What do you do when you realize your method of homeschooling has been more detrimental  than the goodness you thought it was bringing to your child? Or that your child just has tremendous imbalances between their body, their head, their social and emotional skills?   I am talking about parents of very,very bright children who were reading at age three fluently, the very smart child who is so incredibly “gifted”, the children who are so ahead of themselves and so logical…..

Until the parent begins to notice that this very bright child can relate to no one of his own age at all.  That the child has poor gross motor skills.  That the child is only drawn to books and textbooks and such.  That this child has very little creative ability, is very serious, has difficulty playing.  That the child seems very in their head, worried about adult things, in fact seems more like an adult than not…..

In my experience many of these children do  feel isolated, depressed, anxious – and they are still children and whether they can verbalize it or not, they are looking to you to take the lead, to make it better.  They are still small, they still need your protection.

And the parent is thinking now this child is 7,8 or 9, what to do, what to do?  Can Waldorf education help this child?

My first recommendation is this:  Call one of the national Waldorf consultants for a consultation.  This is important, because  sometimes you are dealing with an out of the ordinary situation, not just where the child is coming in late to Waldorf, which also may have its own challenges, but there may be therapeutic issues to be dealt with.   Here is the link with all the names of consultants I know:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/03/waldorf-consultants/

My second recommendation is to look at yourself!  This will take hard work, change, motivation, being matter of fact and peaceful with your child as things change and they complain about the change!  Can you:

1. Stop talking and putting adult decision making on them?   Do not ask them if they want to “do Waldorf homeschooling.”  It is not their choice at this point.  They should have completely limited choices at this point on life issues.  They already have had enough pressure and the decision making process has worked on their psyche to the point where they are no longer children.  Help them reclaim their childhood by being the Authentic Leader in your home. You set the tone right now.

2.  Can you read some of Steiner and really penetrate what teaching first, second or third grade is  about?  What level these children are normally at in these grades in Waldorf? And there is more than academics at stake here – where are they gross motor wise, emotionally, socially, artistically, fine motor wise?     It is probably going to be very different than what you are used to.    Can you be okay with that while you take a year to heal and to shift toward balance?

3.  Can you be okay with balancing the child without the use of textbooks in these early grades, with the use of outside time, hiking, gardening, being in nature without identifying trees and bushes to death?  Woodworking, knitting, dyeing things, having an aquarium without all the plant and fish identification, having an art farm or worm farm, looking at the stars with the naked eye with Native American legends and stories as the backdrop would all be healing.  Apple picking, berry picking, making jelly, going to the zoo and aquarium (without writing reports or taking one of the those damned nature journals around with them to draw and identify everything by the latin name? just looking and being and seeing how those animals move), swimming, singing and jumping rope would all be very healing.

4.  Can you show them how to play by setting up stations for playing in your home?  Most eight year old girls still like to play with dolls.  Maybe your child has forgotten how to play!  Copious outside time will help.  Can you set up a woodworking bench, a knitting area, a sewing area, an area for art?  Can you work on some handwork yourself for an hour in the afternoons and set up that model, that expectation for your son or daughter?

5.  Think about warmth – less words, stop explaining, can you show your delight in your child WITHOUT words at all?  Smiles, hugs, fun!  Can you as a family go and have fun?  Hiking, ice skating, roller skating, picnics, – is this child’s seriousness coming from you?  This child is small and needs to be joyous!

6.  Think about early bedtimes, consistent meal and snack times with warm food.  Lots of fresh air and fresh unprocessed foods.

7.  Bring in stories to heal your child’s soul – fairy tales, legends, nature stories, stories from your childhood and from when your child was very, very small.  Lots of storytelling.  Remember, the academics in Waldorf can be adjusted to where your child is, but the stories for each grade is designed for the child’s soul development.  And while we would want to focus on what a child needs for that age, and not go backward, I see nothing wrong with lighting a candle and telling a fairy tale at night to a third grader!  Adults love fairy tales too!

8.  Can you bring in music?  The joy of having music as a family?  This is so important.

9. Can you make a big deal about preparing for festivals where school does not go on as usual?  Festival preparation is an integral part of life for the Early Grades child.

Your Waldorf consultant will have other suggestions based upon your child’s needs.  Waldorf is a healing method of education, but it takes commitment and a matter of fact peaceful kind of energy.

Peace and may goodness go with you,

Carrie

Peaceful Living with Your Super Seven-Year-Old

The seven-year-old is entering a new phase in life in many ways, and there are some specific ways that they need support from you as the parent:

  • A seven-year-old still needs PROTECTION of their senses and of how much they are doing in any one day.  A seven-year-old wants to do everything and anything, but as the Gesell Institute points out, a hallmark of the seven-year-old is fatigue.  They need you to establish good bedtimes (7:30 is not too early for a busy seven-year-old!) and they need you to help them limit their activities.
  • The Gesell Institute also mentions that many seven-year-olds with fall birthdays may not be ready for second grade at all.  This is not typically a problem in the Waldorf curriculum due to most second graders should be close to eight in second grade, but do take heed if school is not going well.
  • A seven-year-old needs PROTECTION from dry facts, boring teaching, and adult intellectualization.  A seven-year-old is still not in the realm of logical thought.  Steiner strongly felt this age should be taught through parables, stories, stories about great men and women (pretty forward thinking for that day and age, adding the “great women” in there!), and not providing dry conclusions of “this is the way it is”.  His thought was this really stifled the thought process and independent judgment making that a teenager of aged 14 and up would go through at that time.
  • Therefore, it goes without saying, your seven-year-old still does not need too much explanation about things.  Simples explanation, yes, but still needs stories and analogies about things in life.
  • Physical movement is still REALLY important, and I am not talking about organized sports.  I am talking about PLAYING and being outside in nature where they create the games themselves.  Seven-year-olds should still be playing!  The Gesell Institute mentions that adult supervision is still important when they play because sevens become excited and wild which can often end in “destruction of  material or personal altercation.”  Also, be aware many seven-year-olds are not too compassionate of those they deem “different” and while they thrive on group praise per Gesell Institute, most sevens also do not seem to “need” friends the way they did when they were six.
  • Steiner felt the most important things to provide this age outside of stories was showing the child through pictorial imagery that something exists above Man (his idea of showing the child the  “supersensible” ), community and having a circle of people the child can trust is important, beauty, art, music and rhythm, the formation of good habits and the development of memory.  If you would like more information on this, please refer to this post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/17/inspirational-words-from-steiners-the-education-of-the-child-regarding-teaching-of-the-7-14-year-old/
  • Seven-year-olds are more contained, quiet, and tend to cry easily “at any, every, or even no provocation.”  Be careful becoming irritable or critical of the people a seven-year-old says is picking on them or hates them….Sevens rather like being gloomy and complaining.  Try not to take it too seriously, unless you really do think it is a bullying issue at school or something else more serious.  However, not taking it too seriously does not mean you do not treat the complaints that no one likes me, etc, etc as if they are real.  The feelings are real to your child!  So, don’t get dragged too far into it all, but also acknowledge how your child feels.
  • Seven-year-olds think about death, dying, killing, violence.  This is why the archetypal fairy tales found in the Waldorf curriculum are wonderful for this age.  Take all the wild talk calmly!  You can sometimes say something to the effect that children think these things, but add in that, “Of course we wouldn’t do that here in our house.”
  • If your child is rude, please do be calm.  Treat the rudeness in the  matter-of-fact manner as you would any other bad behavior.
  • A seven-year-old is likely to be fearful of many things; again, these feelings are real to the child so you can be sympathetic and compassionate without being completely dragged into it all.  Don’t YOU be frightened of your child’s fears; that provides the child no sense of security at all!
  • Know that a seven-year-old still will most likely touch, manipulate and play with anything that catches their eye.
  • Most sevens are procrastinators, have short memory spans per Gesell (which makes perfect sense to we Waldorf people that memory is forming and being placed into play as something important now); they have a tendency to get very distracted easily.  Sevens also try to be perfect and need reminding that no one is perfect or should be perfect.
  • Help your child take mistakes as calmly as possible, and if possible how to laugh at themselves a bit when they do make a mistake.  Help your child to work toward best effort as an achievement and not the whole win-lose thing.  Stories that involve these notions can be very helpful, also stories where the person has to work hard to get a result, since most sevens would like to do something perfectly right off the bat.
  • Your seven-year-old will argue with you in a sense, asking “Why?”  “Why?” over and over, more almost as a stalling technique for whatever you asked them to do.  Do NOT overtalk to them!  If you need help, see my post entitled, “Stop Talking!  (”http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/14/stop-talking/)  But do make sure your child has heard you- sometimes they really don’t hear you!
  • As always, pick your battles as to the things that are MOST important for your family.

 

Here is to peaceful and respectful living with our children,

Carrie

Your Super Seven-Year-Old: Traditional and Anthroposophical Views of Development, Part Two

We took a peek at the seven-year old through a model of traditional childhood development with our friends at the Gesell Institute in their wonderful book, “Your Seven-Year-Old”.  Today we are going to look at the seven-year-old through an anthroposophical lens of Waldorf parenting and education.  Please take what resonates with you; if you are not familiar with Waldorf education some of these ideas may seem startling.  Some of these ideas may not mesh with your own religious beliefs or your viewpoint, so you must decide if these ideas even work for you.  I tend to view the child from more of a body/soul/spirit Judeo-Christian perspective, but I put this here so you can decide how you feel. 

The seven-year-old is beginning the second seven year cycle of their life.  The child is seen as still incarnating into the physical body, but now the etheric body is forming and developing.  If you have forgotten all about the notion of Steiner’s four-fold human being, here is the quick review of the four components from the book “The Physiology of Childhood” by Schoorel:

  • The physical body – the physical body takes and requires space.  The physical body is born into the inner world  during the first month of pregnancy, and is born into the outer world with the birth of the physical body of the infant.
  • The ether body – maintains all life in the human being, animal, or plant.  It encompasses such diverse things as breathing, biochemical processes.  When the ether body is gone from the physical body, the physical body is dead.  The ether body is not visible to the human eye (this makes sense, doesn’t it, if the ether body is all chemical reactions and such) but some of the ACTIONS of the ether body we CAN see, such as biorhythms, heartbeats, brainwaves, the menstrual cycle of the female.  The ether body is born into the inner world of the child when the child starts to take care of their own life processes outside of the mother – breathing, digestion, warmth, metabolism.  The ether body is seen being born into the outside world around the age of 7, as signaled by the appearance of the permanent teeth.
  • The astral body – the bearer of abilities: behavior, the ability to think, to feel, to will; sympathy, antipathy, the ability to have wishes, desires, passions.    In anthroposophy, the astral body cannot be seen, but some of the ACTIONS  of the astral body can be seen within the inner organs and the nervous system.  Schoorel goes on to write on page 26 that:

“The astral body is, among others, the carrier of desires, emotions, and egoism.  During the first years, the astral body does not work in the body of the child under the child’s direction.  During the first three years, children are not egoistic but innocent, neutral, and objective in their behavior and actions.  The first three years lay the physical foundation of the three main functions of the soul – willing, feeling, and thinking.  This foundation is laid through the fact that children learn to walk in their first year, learn to speak in their second year, and learn to  think in their third year.”

At about the age of three, the astral body is born into the inner world of the child; it is born into the outer world at the age of 14.

  • The I-organization- is a system of intentions, directions, goals.  The I-organization is the bodily foundation of the human I.  The human-I is a spiritual being where one learns how it can do good out of free choices.  Steiner believed that when the physical body died, the I would go toward further incarnation and leave the I-organization behind.  The I-organization activity is internalized around the age of 10 and is then born into the outer world around the age of 21.

So, the child is growing and changing and needing different things to support the etheric body as it forms and also to  consolidate the incarnation into the physical body.  In Kindergarten, the emphasis is on WILLING.  Now the emphasis is on FEELING.  In Kindergarten, the main goal included creating a sense of GRATITUDE.  Now the goals center around the child’s response to AUTHORITY (remember, not mean nasty authority, but a natural love for teacher, people they can trust).  This is the time to foster a sense of community, of LOVE, of beauty.

I have written many posts on the six/seven year transformation, and you can access those in the tags box.  That will provide needed background so you can understand what the seven year needs for peaceful living.

Peace,

Carrie

The Seven and Eight- Year -Old: Still A Need for Protection

The pink bubble of the Waldorf kindergarten does not last forever, that is true.  However, this does not mean that the world is so quickly expanded for the seven and eight-year old that suddenly they become miniature teenagers.   This is not what a seven or eight-year old needs, although this is the tact our society often takes.  I was pleasantly surprised to speak with a friend the other day whose second-grade daughter is doing no extracurricular activities outside of attending public school.  This, however, is the only person I have talked with where this is happening.  Around my part of town, for example, many of the first and second graders I see are on the go from early morning – up at 6 AM to catch a bus and go to school, to attending school all day, to aftercare or sports (do you all honestly remember playing competitive sports in first and second grade?  Do you?  I don’t), out to dinner with parents (at least they are all eating dinner together!), off for homework and off to bed around 9 – to start all over the next day.

I respectfully must say that this is far too much for a seven or eight-year-old.  I think there is a direct relationship between the rates of ADHD/ADD, ritalin use, behavioral problems and the fact that we are asking these small children to “put in a full day”, just like a grown-up.

I think as Waldorf homeschoolers, we have a unique opportunity to treat our seven and eight –year -olds the way they should be treated – with imagination, with creativity, with watching their skills and development unfold, providing plenty of opportunities for sensory experiences and outside play, for provoking academic work through art and music.

We also have a chance to establish strong routines and rhythms in our homes with periods of in-breath and out-breath.  We can establish a bedtime routine of 7:30 for a first grader, and 7:45 for a second grader or earlier, as suggested by this Waldorf school:  http://www.stpaulssteinerschool.org/home_rhythms.html

We have an opportunity to provide healthy food, regular snack and meal times in an unhurried setting (which is often not the case in public school where lunch may start at 10:30 AM with 20 minutes to eat).

We have the chance to bring spirituality into our curriculum and homes.  We can foster gratitude, beauty, respect, reverence and responsibility in our children through stories, example and modeling as opposed to just slogans fostered in character development campaigns.

Most of all, we still can have the influence to slow them down.  The Gesell Institute mentions in the book, “Your Seven-Year-Old” that one of the main hallmarks of a seven-year-old is the fact that the child wants to do everything, but is prone to fatigue.  In our society we often take what our seven or eight year old “wants to do” and run with that  to the point these children are so involved they are worn out, irritable and exhausted.  Their small lives, instead of being full of imagination and wonder, are full of factoids for tests, long days and to-do lists that only adults should have.

The seven and eight-year olds in our society are vulnerable. Let’s protect them a bit longer, until the true skill of reasoning and logical thinking starts to be born, until the true signs of needing separation from the adults in their lives happens.  Let’s protect them now so they can flourish later.

Thanks,

Carrie

Your Super Seven-Year- Old: Traditional and Anthroposophical Viewpoints, Part One

We spent four posts looking at the six-year old, the six/seven year old transformation and the “how’s” of doing Waldorf Kindergarten, specifically the six-year old year, at home. If you missed those posts, here is your chance to go back and read them here:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/23/the-six-year-old-waldorf-kindergarten-year-at-home/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/20/the-six-year-old-an-anthroposophical-view/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/18/the-snazzy-six-year-old/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/23/peaceful-living-with-the-six-year-old/

There is also this one about understanding the six/seven year transformation:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/15/understanding-the-sixseven-year-old-transformation/

Those may be of help to you and put in in the right framework to study more specifically about the seven-year old.

The Gesell Institute’s fabulous book, “Your Seven-Year- Old” brings some of the characteristics regarding the seven-year old to light:

  • In general, this is an age of inwardness and withdrawing.  However, the seven-year-old doesn’t know where to stop with that and seems to often appear so silent and withdrawn that “ it seems that he might be more comfortable and content if there were actually no other people in the world.”
  • People do not behave in a way that pleases a child of this age.  The child thinks people are mean, picking on him or her, unforgiving, unfair, hateful.  The child also thinks people do not like them.
  • The child of this age is an intense worrier – more worries and fears than any other age.
  • Moody, morose and melancholy are other adjectives the Gesell Institute uses to describe this age.
  • The Seven-Year-Old feels strongly that parents like the other children in the family better than him. 
  • It is an age of easy crying, easy disappointment. 
  • He lives in a world of thought where he likes to think things through, and he takes in everything around him and reflects on it although he may not talk about it to you!
  • There is a new sense of independence, but also a sense of not being especially adventurous.
  • Seven is not known as an age for humor per the Gesell Institute (although I personally think that this may depend on the temperament of your child!)
  • Less selfish than at six, but very self-absorbed.
  • Time alone with special pursuits is prized, as is a room of their own to “retreat and protect their things.”
  • Has high standards, high ideals, wants to do everything right.  Some teachers call this the “eraser age” as they erase so much, are anxious, want to do everything right.
  • Increasing control of the body, the temper, the voice, the striking out of six
  • An age where the child can fatigue quickly and may need help in protecting themselves from their own demands.
  • Gets along well  with mother at this age, less demanding of their mothers, although there can be arguing with mother and the child can engage in a real battle of wills.  The child cares what the mother thinks of him or her.
  • Fathers are needed.  Girls are very sensitive to reprimands by their father, and may be jealous of the attention their father gives to their mother.  Boys enjoy their fathers and time alone with him is greatly treasured.  Both genders will seek out their fathers for information on things outside of the home.
  • Seven fights less than age six with siblings.  They are at their best with babies age 2 and under.  The most enthusiasm is for a baby not yet born!  Seven also is good with siblings much older than they are.  With siblings close to the same age, the argument is that things are not fair.
  • With friends, less fighting and squabbling although play is still not completely harmonious.  The good news is that Seven is starting to be aware of his friends’ reactions to things.  Group play can still end with destruction of materials or fighting – this age needs adult supervision.

OTHER AREAS: 

  • Eating:  May leave the table frequently if distracted by something, but better able to sit still and eat. 
  • Sleeping: Most seven-year olds are headed to bed around 7:30 and can often get ready for bed by themselves
  • Health: Tend to be healthier than at six.  Fewer colds usually.
  • Increased understanding of sense of time – clock time, months, season, birthdate,
  • Academic work:  It is important to keep in mind that  a seven-year old is easily fatigued and must be protected from so many demands.  Reading may be coming along at this stage, spelling is usually not great, a seven year old is typically not ready for cursive, far fewer number reversals,  requires the teacher to be close.

In Part Two of this post, we will look further at the anthroposophical point of view of the seven-year-old.

Understanding the Six/Seven-Year Old Transformation

I had a question from a mother regarding a  six year old child (almost seven) who she felt was speaking disrespectfully not only to her but to other elders within the family.

I responded to her that I felt some of the passages from the book “You Are Not the Boss of Me!  Understanding the Six/Seven Year Old Transformation”  may be helpful to her; while much of this book is aimed at Waldorf Kindergarten teachers, I think it is still well-applicable to the home environment.

“This transition time, often called “first puberty” or “first adolescence” is a time when children go through an abundance of transformations.  These can bring symptoms of chaotic behavior manifesting in even the most well-adjusted children……..(if) we as caregivers can be prepared inwardly to see and meet the new behaviors of the children, then the children and their parents are more at ease in our presence. The children can then have a safe place to test out their newfound need to push for boundaries, we are braced to meet them and the parents can have trust that we truly understand their children.”  (Of course, this is written for classroom teachers, but I think the idea still stands.)

Sometime between the age of five and one half  to seven we begin to see that children are asking for something more from us in addition to our continued working out of imitation.”  (page 4)

There is the crux of it; changing from using imitation and modeling to a bit more direct of a disciplinary style.  This does not mean reasoning!  But it does mean a matter-of-fact, peaceful energy around the fact that you are the parent. 

From Page 8 – “One of the most common responses I’ve witnessed is the need of children to be the boss.  Parents, teachers, and their peers are no longer safe from being corrected at every mistake.  This, coupled with an arrival of a sense of time (before, after, and so on), can show itself at circle time when a child speeds up the verse to be finished before the others or on the morning walk when the child slows down her walking so that she can arrive way behind the others.  Going along with what everybody else is doing is no longer an unconscious priority……..A Matter of fact response is needed (then).  “Teachers know the rules of the land, “ or , as I have said to my own children. “That is my job. Your angel asked me to be your helper.”  Children benefit immensely by being met directly at this time, and a neutral, informing tone of voice can reassure them that the boundaries are still in place even though their whole being is in upheaval.  What a relief this is for them!”

This passage is specifically about boys in the kindergarten – “In the kindergarten we can see that boys need to know who is the “boss”. They easily establish a social pecking order with one strong “captain” at the top.  This behavior is even more evident during the six-year-old change.  It is important that an adult take on this role of “captain of the ship.”  There are far fewer problems with bullying and social dominance if it is very clear to the boys that the adult is the boss.  Boys need clear, strong boundaries and limits firmly established.  They do better when the rules of conduct are simple and do not require elaborate explanations.” (page 119)

From page 271 – “Remember, you, as the parent, are the child’s loving authority. Do not be afraid to claim that role.  Your guidance with strengthen, not suppress, your child’s will.  This child is reassured by a warm, confident adult who knows how things work in the world and can show him or her the way.”

Waldorf teachers of this child would think about carefully choosing the battle, trying to transform this situation into a game or offering assistance but also not being afraid to state things a very matter of fact manner regarding  what needs to happen.

The six and seven-year old transformation is the harbinger of what the seven to fourteen-year-old needs.    Many parents out there are using a very direct method of guidance with children younger than six, and this is putting the cart before the horse.  However, as your child moves closer to seven and into the second  seven year cycle, you can have confidence that a direct, clear rule is often called for and needed.

As adults, we do not feel happiness all the time and we do not always speak respectfully at all times to one another.  This child may need to have some other needs addressed – sleep, rhythm, diet, is the child getting sick, what is being modeled in the environment, is this child expending enough physical energy, is something unusual going on at home that is upsetting to the child, is the child involved in some sort of practical work that engages him – but there can also be a place for a simple sentence, and a place for the child to draw a picture to make retribution if he particularly hurt a family member’s feelings with his words.  No guilt trip, no judgment on the child or the child’s behavior in a wordy way.  Just a simple phrase of how we treat one another  and restitution by the child’s hands and body through movement and doing  if this is called for.

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.