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 During The Six/Seven Year Change

From about five and a half onward, the six/seven year transformation is a time of change. It is can be an overwhelming but profound period for children.  Children at this time are working out of not just imitation, but also with short, simple and clear phrases. They  need to be supported by speaking in pictures to them, not intellectually, and by setting strong boundaries.

During this time, many children often experience the need to be the boss. A “bossy” six year old is pretty typical of this age.  (Alhough I personally think if the child was spoken to as a little adult and given a myriad of choices from early on the bossiness in the six and eight year old years is probably worse than in children who were not parented that way). 

My favorite book on this subject is “You’re Not The Boss of Me: Understanding the Six/Seven Year Transformation” as edited by Ruth Ker and available through Waldorf booksellers.

Here are some ways to best support your child in this challenging phase:

  • Do your  own inner work and personal development.  Your authority and your calm response to things, whether it is door slamming or saying “I hate you, Mommy!” is really, really important.  They do not have equilibrium in this stage and you must have it for them.
  • Matter of fact responses are best:   “Teacher (Mommy) knows the lay of the land.”  “This is my job to help you.”  “You may do x” 
  • Don’t forget though, that movement and imagination and speaking in pictures still predominates – no lectures, no intellectual debates, no reasoning. 
  • Focus more on what you do want, rather than the behavior that is challenging you.  Help guide the child and cue them to what you want.
  • A strong rhythm is important, even if they are fighting against it.  You do the things in your rhythm.
  • Practical work is paramount at this time as the children are in a crisis in play.  You may need to sit down and plan longer projects, and really figure out where they can help alongside of you.  Here is a great article regarding work in the Waldorf Kindergarten written by an Atlanta colleague and friend, Karen Smith:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/purposefulwork%20doc.pdf
  • Assisting younger children is also helpful
  • Loving authority and boundaries—authority is demonstrated through knowing how to do something and through our calm and unruffled presence.
  • Manners are another way to provide form and boundaries for children.  Manners are very important to bring to the child gradually, through modeling, through treating the child respectfully.  Here is a lovely blog post from over at Christopherus pertaining to small children and manners:   http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2008/03/helping-little.html
  • Spending time in nature so the child can soak in quiet impressions is important.
  • Sleep, rest, warming foods are anchors for the day.
  • Love your child, be with your child, enjoy your child.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Peer Relationships For the Six to Eight Year Old

I have fielded quite a few emails and questions from mothers in my community about this issue, so I finally thought it was time for a blog post on the subject!

The question I get is from mothers who live in a neighborhood with lots of other children zooming about, and how the six year old girl or seven year old boy is all of the sudden very obsessed with playing with these neighborhood friends every minute.

This, by itself, may not be such a problem (I am sure those of you who grew up in neighborhoods, just like me, remember the “neighborhood gang” fondly), but what is happening in these cases is that the six and seven year old is picking up bad language, is acting surly towards their parents, is protesting vehemently when any kind of limit is set forth regarding not being able to go out and play.  Sometimes the neighborhood children are at these mother’s doors the moment the school bus rumbles away.  Sometimes the children of the mothers writing me are just waiting to play and staring at the neighborhood children’s door waiting for any signs of someone being home and therefore ready to play!  Does any of this sound familiar?

I am all for community, but I do feel in this situation one needs to have boundaries for one’s child.  Possibly very strong boundaries.  The peak of this behavior truly can be the seven year old boy and six year old girl, and since children under the age of 9 are prone to “emotional excess”, they may need your help in balancing things out.

I can recommend several things:

1.  Make it clear that playing with friends is dependent upon being nice within the family.  We don’t take the ugly out of the house. Smile 

2.  Some afternoons are “family only” or family outing kind of afternoons.  And after our outing or playing at home, gee, it is time for dinner and getting ready for bed.  We can play with friends tomorrow.  Six to eight year olds are still very little, and the world will not stop turning if they do not play with peers all the time. 

3.  Communicate with the neighborhood children’s parents and work out a sign or signal that your children are available to play whether it is the garage door being up, children being outside, front door open with just screen door shut, etc.  Sadly, sometimes the reason the children are at the door the moment the school bus rumbles away is because there is no one home at their house.  Sometimes this has to be confronted between the adults of the families as well.

4.  Plan things for the children to do before you they move into  free play – I have had success in the past with juicing lots of oranges by hand, taking turns rolling and cutting out gingerbread men, setting up obstacle courses, etc.  In this way we can all work on using kind words, taking turns, using good manners, including all children, before we go off to play on our own.

5.  Look carefully at the children your child is playing with and your child’s behavior afterwards.  There may need to be limits on how often your child plays with particular children, or where they play.  Some friends just play better together outside.  I find this to be especially true with eight year olds who will often take on the “persona” of the oldest child in a grouping and emulate that behavior, so again, limits are key.

6.  Know the families of the children your child is playing with.  Do try to ensure that if your child goes to a neighbor’s house that you know that family well, and that the playdate will not just turn into a screen fest when the children should be out and expending physical energy in the afternoon. 

7.  Do take the time to arrange play time with children of families that have similar values to yours.  Build that community, and pick the activities outside of your home that involve these children.  It may be easier to hang around with the children in the neighborhood (no driving to a park or whatnot), but as children grow they are able to tolerate going out a little bit more, and if your child never spends any time with the children you want to be that child’s community, the children that live closest will always be ranked as better friends in the eyes of the child.

These are just a few suggestions; I would love to hear your experiences in the comment box!

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

What To Do With the “ Negative” Under-7 Child?

We all know this child, the negative child who seems to have less joy than the other children, the one who is already not sure if Santa Claus exists, the one who tends to look at the glass half empty and the one who just seems more like a jaded teenager than a five year old.

Sigh.  That is so hard, so challenging, and so heart-wrenching for so many parents.  Parents really wonder what they did to make their child feel the way they do….  Here is an article from a parent and anthroposophic medical professional’s experience in healing children with physical and emotional challenges that may be of service:  http://www.anthromed.org/Article.aspx?artpk=702

Here are my suggestions to help this child:

1.   Pray about this child, meditate over this child at night whilst they are sleeping,  and practice visualizing a smiling, laughing child in your mind’s eye.  Try to re-frame your very thoughts about this child.

2.   Look carefully at the media diet and adult conversation surrounding this child.  This is most important in so many ways.  As much as possible, this child really does need to be shielded from adult worries and concerns as they are already “adult” enough.  Cut out media if that exists.

3.  Look for physical causes – this is a child who may very well benefit from Flower Essences and homeopathics.  I cannot tell you which ones, but your local homeopath or naturopath should have ways to test and figure out what essences and things would be best.  I have used Flower Essences and homeopathics  to great effect with my own children.

4.  As much as possible, go out of the whole” head”  part and into the body.  Massages, foot rubs, wrestling games, singing games, all the things that really nurture the lower four senses are so important.  It is easy to try to “talk” them out of their negativity, and yet this rarely works!  Work with their body instead!

5.  Model joy for this child as much as possible in your own work.  And show them real work and give them real work to do.

6.  Don’t react strongly to the negative words and such, ho-hum, ho-hum.  You are not responsible for your child’s feelings.  Their feelings are theirs, but at under 7 they should still be very connected to you, so your modeling of emotions is very important.

7.  This is a child who needs to be outside A LOT.  Walking trails, biking, swimming, picking apples and berries, just being, watching birds, hunting for bugs, looking for tracks, building fairy houses, digging in the dirt.    I would shoot for four hours outside a day if at all possible.

8.  This child needs a diet of food close to its natural state that are warming, and please make sure this child is wearing enough layers as well.   See the “warmth” tag on this blog for ideas.  Give this child a lot of emotional warmth. 

9. Do things with this child as a family that are FUN!  Go hiking, roller skating, ice skating, berry picking, apple picking, play games together, go to the park, fly kites. 

10.  This is a child that needs warm and cozy routines for rest and bed times.

It is a challenging situation, but I believe one that a parent can work with if they have the right tools.

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

A Few Fast Words Regarding “Defiance” In Children Under the Age of 6

Does this exist?

From a Waldorf perspective, children in the first seven year cycle are neither inherently good nor bad but learning.  They are not “defiant”; defiance implies a fully conscious knowing of right and wrong and choosing to do the opposite, wrong, thing.  Since in the land of Waldorf parenting we believe the first seven years are a dreamy state, a state where logical thought has not yet entered, a state where the child is one giant sense organ (an eye!) and just taking in sensory impressions without a filter, there can be no “defiance”. Many times the power struggles we create with our children are a result of our own lack of knowledge of developmental stages, not having the right tools to guide our child, our own inner issues at the moment and not as much to do with the child as we thought!

Of course a small child wants what they want when they want it.  This is part of the fact that the small child lives specifically within their bodies and within their WILL.  Remember, Waldorf is about willing, feeling, and thinking.  Thinking comes in much later.  A two-year-old  will push against forms that you create in rhythm; this is why the rhythm is for YOU if you have a child under the age of 6.  If your child does not want to participate in what is going on at the moment, you are still DOING it yourself and the child may or may not join in.  This is another reason to not “push” official “school” with a child of three or four; in the classroom environment there is a whole class with older children doing the same thing  to help hold the space but at home the child has perhaps no other age to carry them along.

As far as “not listening” which seems to be the most common compliant hooked into “defiance” (ie, I tell them something and they don’t do it) (and by the way, I hear this in the part of the country where I live starting with one-year-olds!  My one-year-old doesn’t listen!  They are so naughty!), a small child is not SUPPOSED to listen. 

Yes, re-read that for a moment.  You may think this is a very radical statement!

Read it again.  Your 2, 3, 4, and yes even 5 year old is living in their BODY,  not in their head.  When you give them a “verbal command” and they have to go up into their head to process it, this is involving thinking, which is something Waldorf educators see children using as a dominant way to respond to an environment LATER.  It is NOT that small children do not think, it is NOT that they do not have thoughts, important thoughts!!,  but that they live in the moment, they have this will to do what they want without many overriding mechanisms at this point to slow things down. They are LEARNING.

From an attachment parenting perspective, we also do not look at the small child as being “defiant” or “naughty.”  We look at what the child might be feeling underneath the behavior being displayed.  We look at what we can modify in the environment.  We look at how we can calmly guide the child in the situation. 

We look at this in Waldorf as well, it is just in Waldorf we tend not to ask as many questions of the child because we feel words may not be the best way to communicate with the small child who is living in the BODY. We try to communicate through movement, through fantasy, through song and verse.  This changes as the child grows!  It does not last forever!

With both Waldorf and attachment parenting, we strive to look at NORMAL developmental behavior.  A three, four and five ear old, even a six-year-old may throw themselves on the floor, throw an object, scream and cry.  Dressing themselves with only a reminder comes in at the AVERAGE age of five.  If you are having trouble with a specific age, please, please use the tags sidebar and click on the age that is problematic right now to you:  the three-year-old, the-four-year-old, etc etc.  Four and six seem to be ages that give parents the MOST trouble.  There are many posts specifically geared to these ages.

If you feel you are having difficulty with changing your mindset from a punitive, punishment, my –child –is –wrong –and- I –am –right- mindset with a small child, this is not going to get you going anywhere great.  Here are some posts to help you!

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/17/raising-peaceful-children/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/16/mindful-parenting-practices-that-every-parent-should-know/

and my personal favorite regarding how we create battlefields where we and our children are on opposite sides:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/22/the-battlefield-of-the-mind-anger-and-parenting/

This is about realistic expectations for toddlers and includes the different disciplinary styles of families:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/10/tripping-into-the-toddler-years/

If you are still saying, well, but MY child does this and i have no tools, I urge you to call your local La Leche League Chapter or Attachment Parenting Chapter.  Many times the Leaders there can help you troubleshoot discipline issues and challenges over the phone and give helpful, gentle suggestions!  They may also have special meetings geared JUST to gentle discipline.

Gentle discipline does NOT mean not setting boundaries, but we try to do it in a way that respects the child’s developmental stage, keep the child’s dignity intact and guide the child.  Here are examples of ways to set limits for toddlers in gentle ways with consideration for the child:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/11/common-toddler-challenges-and-how-to-solve-them/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/09/potty-training-with-love/

 THE THREE YEAR OLD:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/19/peaceful-life-with-a-three-year-old/

THE FOUR YEAR OLD:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/03/more-about-the-four-year-old/   and this one:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/07/peaceful-life-with-a-four-year-old/

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

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

THE SEVEN YEAR OLD:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/19/peaceful-living-with-your-seven-year-old/

and for the big picture, some tools:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/29/top-10-must-have-tools-for-gentle-discipline/

We set boundaries, but many times we often deal with things indirectly!  Here is an example a mom sent in, and here is how I might have handled that:

(This is a four-year-old):  The situation was this: 

This morning, she wanted to sit in our car-daddy got in & drove away to work -she pitched a fit, threw a little car she was holding. I told her she may not throw her toys. So she threw a little soft toy she was holding with her other hand. So I told her to sit down right where she was. “i will not sit down’ hmmm. So I say, you may stay put until you sit down & carried on with the skipping game with her older sister. Eventually she sat down.

What was the feeling of the little girl?  Perhaps she wanted her daddy to stay home, perhaps she just wanted to play in the car but daddy needed to go right then, perhaps she just wanted to try out pretending to go to work with daddy.  Let’s attribute positive intent!

Maybe I would have said, “You really wanted to go to work today!  Did you know that even animals go to work?  Once upon a time, there was  a frog who really wanted to go to work too, but he couldn’t jump!  (take chalk and draw two lines, I assume this situation happened in the driveway or the garage to involve a car??).  Can you be a frog and show me how to hop over these two lines?”

Perhaps I would have said, “Oh, I see cars on the floor!  Maybe they need a road! “ and get out something to draw or build a road.

Perhaps I would have said, “Wow, I really could use your help! I can’t figure out how many times in a row your sister can skip!  Maybe we could count together?”

Perhaps she needed a snack and then we put the toy cars back in the garage together!

Those are just some examples of an indirect way to approach things; distraction is a very viable tool even up through age 7 and we often forget!  Restitution is also VERY important, but we cannot force restitution in the moment of flooding emotion, we must calm down and go back to it.  Forcing the child to do “X” when they are upset and you are upset is not a productive learning tool; a sincere opportunity exists for learning when the flooded moment has passed.  But this is still through action, not so many words!

Hope these thoughts are helpful and many blessings on your day as you become the peaceful parent you want to be!

Lots of love,

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

Wonderful Words From Marsha Johnson!

This post is NOT by me, but by Master Waldorf Teacher Marsha Johnson, who lives in the Portland area.  She wrote this wonderful post this morning, I so encourage you to read it carefully, consider it, weigh it in your heart.  Please do go and join her Yahoo!group waldorfhomeeducators.  This is an excellent post, just excellent.  Please read Marsha Johnson’s wise words and enjoy!

“One recurring thread that emerges again and again in the various home schooling groups is the embracing of Info-Mation as Edu-Cation. This is an approach that relies on the passing along of facts and figures to the children, rather like filling up a blank sheet of paper with a long list of data. This kind of education is one that many parents themselves were exposed to as children in lower schools and is yet embraced by many institutions of higher learning.
I have jokingly referred to it as Information Vomitus. Particularly in graduate school, one absorbs mounds of information and must regurgitate it accurately within a time period, and those who can do this are considered ‘smart’.
As a species, some of us just love this habit. We have game shows where we love to quiz people on obscure and odd facts and see who can answer the most questions correctly. There are board games that focus on this aimless ‘art’, like Trivial Pursuit. That name does make me laugh at least the use of the word trivial. Small and meaningless.

As parents, we tend to veer unconsciously towards teaching our children in the way we ‘were taught’. This tendency is really one of the most dangerous and damaging stage in the life of the homeschooling family.

Why do I say this? Because the children of today, the millennial children, the Shining Ones, are very different than the previous generation of children, those born from the 1950s to the 1990s, when the Information Age really began to dominate. The idea was strewn about that one could improve a child’s IQ with exposure to this Factoid Education and that children were really blank slates whose minds could be sharpened and very soon after this time period began we started seeing massive testing of children as large population groups and lo and behold, a lot of stereotyping also began to show up in the statistics. All sorts of rather wicked and demeaning conclusions have been drawn from this kind of erroneous practice.

When we begin to ‘school’ children, and some are so anxious they start right away as soon as Baby can focus her eyes, we reach back into our own educational experiences and most often pull forward this kind of teaching that involves a lot of child sitting-parent speaking.

With a sense of humor here, often the children quickly teach the parent that this kind of education isn’t going to persist for too long. As children are naturally good and sweet and want to make us big people happy, they often accommodate us with love and grace, and put up with quite a bit of this kind of dreary boring presentation.

But some don’t. They rise up and run about and wiggle away, dancing, singing, going outside, done-with-that!, let’s have snack happy attitude that is probably the most logically kind response possible.

The type of education that really fits the developmental stage of the child most closely, from my own point of view, is Waldorf education. Within the very ‘bones’ of Rudolf Steiner’s philosophies we find the most wonderful comprehension of how children are, what children need, and why we must approach the education of the child with an imaginative, artistic technique. A warm and inclusive attitude. A whole-child, integrated program that moves smoothly from moment to moment to create a kind of living-dream, wherein the child floats, soars, rests, and grows.

And this is probably the very opposite of the Info-Mation protocol, which calls mostly on the forces of the nerve-sense pole, the head, the hearing and memory and goes down dry as a desert rock in late summer.

Will you provide an education that inspires your child and yourself? Can you take a subject and find the Alice-In-Wonderland Rabbit Hole that will allow you to enter in a playful and unexpected fashion? How much of the school time is spent sitting and listening, or writing or copying? How much is spent moving, doing, trying, inventing, creating, cooperating, considering, digesting?

I am struck again and again by how passionate and devoted parents can be to a style of learning that would, well, invoke passion and interest in someone 35 years old or older? (smiles here) But a six year old is in his first decade, not the fourth, and taking the dry factual program to this tender age should really be some kind of crime.

Destroying a child’s imagination and tramping through their fairy land of fantasy with the bulldozers of ‘real life’ is actually a crime against childhood. We are surrounded by immense pressure from commercial marketers, manufacturers, media moguls, and those who want to benefit from premature aging. It is unbelievable, a very sophisticated and invisible force to destroy childhood and create an endless period of ‘tween’ and ‘teen’. Did you know the average age of video game players is actually 29 years old? This means there many older and younger right around 30 years of age who devote most of their free time to staring at screens.

One of the easiest ways to judge how a lesson is being received is to keep a close eye on the recipient. Rather than lose your adult self into the lovely land of facts and transmitting these facts, say a few words and watch the child. Allow for pauses and wait a bit. Does the child keep her attention focused on you, do the cheeks pink up, do the eyes sparkle, doe he sit forwards towards you, hanging on your words? Or does she fidget, grow pale, look down or elsewhere, try to rise and leave? Observe the child closely during the day, during play, during rest, during active vigorous exercise. Learn the color patterns of the child’s skin, the facial and body gestures. Configure your lessons in such a way that the child’s response is one of delight, close attention, desire to participate, and shows a healthy age appropriate expression.

Young children naturally move and use their bodies to learn. Incorporate this into each lesson and every day in your home teaching. Sitting is only one of many types of positions that the young child assumes in the natural exploration of the physical world. Adults tend to sit for the vast majority of each day in both work and play. There is much to be gained from moving often and finding physical ways to enhance the learning experiences.

The old saying `give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime’, is a perfect mantra for teaching the young human born in the early 2000s. Consider subject matter from the child’s point of view, figure out what you can do in your lessons that allow the child to use the three elements of self: head, heart, and hands. One of the greatest errors in current educational practice is the sole focus on the head learning, forcing young children to sit at tables for long days, wearying their spirits and graying their outlook. Early academic fatigue syndrome is rampant in our country and fortunately, almost 100 years ago, Rudolf Steiner illuminated a brilliant pathway of education that is more relevant today than ever before. Living artistic age-appropriate lessons, every day, naturally engaging and guaranteed to engender a life long love of learning.

Marsha Johnson, Spring 2009”

Thank you Marsha, for these words that I am holding in my heart,  thank you for being here and sharing with us,

Carrie