Guest Post On First Grade Readiness: A Comprehensive Look Through High School

 

(7/16/2011 – Comments on this post are now closed!  Thank you for all your comments and questions!)

Our guest post today comes from Donna Simmons of Christopherus Homeschool Resources (http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/home.html).  This is a very comprehensive look at the topic of first grade readiness.  This article includes her perspective as a Waldorf educator, but also as a parent and homeschooler, and includes a deep understanding of the foundation of Waldorf Education, but also includes more mainstream resources for those of you seeking those.

This article is long, but I encourage you to read all of it.   Donna will be answering your questions left in the comment box in regards to this post, and we both look forward to hearing your thoughts. 

Here is Donna….. Continue reading

Deconstructing the Six Year Old Kindergarten Year

Have you ever heard of a deconstructed salad? It is a salad that has all the components separately instead of mixed all together.  For those “When Harry Met Sally” fans, it is kind of all “on the side.”

I think the six-year-old kindergarten year is a bit like that; sometimes we have to really analyze the separate components and tailor those components.

This last year of kindergarten need not be intense, but I  think six- year -olds do need something “more”.  And we are fortunate that in the home environment we able to meet our child where they are. Continue reading

The Angry Six-Year-Old

I find many of the boys and more physically-oriented girls seem to enter an angry phase around the age of six.  Door slamming, yelling, stomping of feet, true

Six-year-olds can become frustrated rather quickly, so rhythm and connection are so important.  Modeling what you want to see, and ignoring what you can, is also important for this age.

One thing that seems to work exceptionally well for this phase is to make sure that this child is really getting their physical energy out – lugging, tugging, pushing, pulling, really working hard and sweating!  Think of what physical projects you really could do together around the house or yard. 

I think work also can work as restitution as well.  If a six-year-old’s temper tantrum (and yes, six-year-olds can still have temper tantrums and other physical expressions of their anger)  really disrupts the whole family’s rhythm and work, that child can work in  practical ways to help you, with you,  around the house in exchange for that time.

Anger and aggression are not the same things.  If a six-year-old is being aggressive due to frustration and anger,  then it is our job to step in and help that child through physical activity and restitution.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Other Questions Parents Have About Six/Seven Year Developmental Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Best Support Your Child’s Development 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