Games Children (Should) Play

A large part of Waldorf Education includes an actual curriculum for games, that leads into sports in the middle school years.  There is a wonderful book called, “Child’s Play 1 &2” by Wil van Haren and Rudolf Kischnick that goes through what games correspond developmentally with what ages, and I thought I would detail some of this for those of you planning your homeschooling year, or even just for parents who don’t remember many childhood games or what ages they played certain games!

I love this quote from page 114 of this book:  True games are a source of health in which the child’s soul is repeatedly submerged, if he is not to miss our on the most valuable things.  However, this is not the only requirement.  In order to build up and play games and activities which are close to real life, it is important to have a thorough knowledge of the child’s essential core, on the one hand, and the moral value of the game relating to the particular stage of the child’s development, on the other.  The metamorphoses in the child’s development sometimes require one thing, sometimes another.  We should not lose sight of the child and his experiences of the world around him.  In themselves, games are worthless if they are not played at the right time and with the appropriate spiritual attitude.

From about ages four to seven, Continue reading

The Five Things About Waldorf Homeschooling I Want You To Know

I hear from many families who are interested in Waldorf homeschooling.  I do think the home environment is much different than the Waldorf school environment; it is much like comparing oranges and grapefruit in a way. A Waldorf school and Waldorf homeschooling are related with Waldorf Schools giving us a model of the curriculum for the school environment but homeschooling has a different flavor!

It is also different because it is up to us, as homeschooling parents, to hold things – to really create that form for the day, the month and the year.  Parents often become interested in Waldorf homeschooling because it is perceived as gentle, based in nature, the better-late-than-early category. It is those things, but there is more. We often hear how we take Waldorf homeschooling and what resonates about this with us and then it is Waldorf education.  However, I think there is more than this.

Actually, I think there are five essential truths that should be worked with regarding Waldorf homeschooling.  If you can get through these five things and feel like it resonates with you, then I think Waldorf homeschooling could be a success for you! Continue reading

Screen Time Rules

I love the writings and musings of  Elizabeth Foss and her mighty blog, In The Heart of My Home.  She is a lovely mother to nine children of varying ages,and wrote this all-encompassing post about “Screen Rules”.  I do hope you check it out:  http://www.elizabethfoss.com/reallearning/2013/07/screen-rules.html

Some of these rules are really wonderful for all of us, especially as homeschooling mothers.  Wouldn’t life in your home run more smoothly if your computer or phone was tucked away by 9 AM and not taken out again until school and chores were over? And,  I really appreciate the integrity represented here as the public image created on the Internet should always be what a person really is in his or her heart. I know many of my readers have younger children, but this would be a great list to tuck away and bring out for discussion with older children when the time is right.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Emptiness

In many ways, this has been one of the best summers I have ever had.  It has been a series of carefree camping, swimming and kayaking dates,  interspersed with lots of time with friends and family.  It has been wonderful and healing for my soul in so many ways.

My friend Catherine wrote a post about emptiness and about having compassion for oneself.  It is a must-read, as is the post she linked to as well: http://catherine-et-les-fees.blogspot.com/2013/06/emptiness.html

It so resonated with me because underneath my really fun summer, emptiness and grief has been a theme of this whole year for me.  Time can be so healing, but yet not enough time has passed, so those emotions and events are still there in my soul, digesting and breaking down.

Empty.  Drained. Exhausted.

Sad.

Not full, but empty.

There is still laughter and fun, but it is there underneath, this feeling.

Sometimes life is like this tide of outward expansion, inward contraction…full and empty, alone and then in companionship.  But it can be so hard when one feels so unsafe, so unprotected, so…challenged and swimming upstream at every turn.  It can be so hard when your “ho hum” has left the building and run away because you feel so raw about everything.

Yet, a curious thing has come out of this summer, simply because I really took some steps to protect myself in rest, to protect myself in peace.  The emptiness has not gone away, there are really raw moments,  but I am starting to see it all as something different.  I am starting to see it all as gifts.

A gift of Continue reading

Links You Have To Read

This is a really important article about suicide and how we all can help in this epidemic:  http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2013/05/22/why-suicide-has-become-and-epidemic-and-what-we-can-do-to-help.html  .  It really goes well with the book I am currently reading, “The Optimistic Child” by Martin E. Seligman.  I hope we go can through this book on my blog on “Sunday Books” after we finish the book, “Completing the Circle”.

Here is something that has been inspiring me lately:  Continue reading

Protecting Your Children From Low Self-Esteem

I am back after a few days of visiting Tybee Island in Georgia with my family and some members of our homeschool group.  It was a lovely trip, and we got to take classes through the 4-H center there that really highlighted the very unique ecosystems in Georgia’s barrier islands.

One thing I have been reading during the drive to and from our vacation spot was  “The Optimistic Child:  A Proven Program to Safeguard Children Against Depression And Build Lifelong Resilience” by Martin P. Seligman, PhD.  This book is really fascinating, and I was interested in reading it mainly due to this quote:  “  As puberty approaches, your child’s theory of the world crystalizes.  She may now be pessimistic, passive and introverted.  As the routine but painful rejections and failures of puberty start, depression reaches alarming proportions.  Almost one-third of contemporary  thirteen-year-olds have marked depressive symptoms, and by the time they finish high school almost 15 percent have had an episode of major depression.”

Grabs you, doesn’t it?

Anyway, one chapter that was very interesting in this book was the chapter on self-esteem and Dr. Seligman’s theory that “By emphasizing how a child feels, at the expense of what a child does – mastery, persistence, overcoming frustration and boredom – and meeting challenge – parents and teachers are making this generation of children more vulnerable to  depression.”

In Dr. Seligman’s view, people who suffer from depression  have four kinds of challenges including behavioral (passive, indecisive, helpless); emotional (sad); somatic (disruption of sleep and eating) and cognitive (they are not worthy of anything and their life is not worth living).  Only the last part, the cognitive part of depression, can be tied to self esteem because in Dr. Seligman’s view even those who feel badly about themselves does not lead directly to causing failure in life.  However, the belief that problems will last forever and ever causes children to give up trying, which leads to failure, which does lead to self esteem being lowered.

Instead of trying to teach a child how to “feel good” about themselves, or setting up situations in which a child never fails, Dr. Seligman advocates an approach held by many psychologists called “doing well” (in place of “feeling well”).  In this approach, children are  taught to change how they think about failure, to be encouraged to be tolerant of frustration, and to have their persistence rewarded rather than just  their success.

In other words, Dr. Seligman has targeted five areas in which children need our help:

1.  To help our children live for something bigger than themselves.  The more a child believes (or an adult) that “I am all that matters” of course, the more blows will hurt.  Things such as religion, duty to the nation, community, family used to be buffers against depression, in Dr. Seligman’s view and in the view of many in the psychology community,  and now we need to figure out what to do when “self has become all important”.

2.  To not rescue our children from negative feelings.  Dr. Seligman writes, “ But feeling bad has critical uses, and all of them are needed for learning optimism and for escaping helplessness.”

3.  To help our children deal with frustration and challenge.

4.  To help our children learn to deal with overcoming helplessness.  “Any complicated task your child might undertake consists of several steps, each of which is more or less easy to fail at. “  If your child fails at a subset, the child can learn to give up and leave the situation, which becomes learned helplessness.  Or your child can stay in the situation and act and try to change the situation, which eventually becomes mastery.  Children need to fail.  If we protect our children from failure, then we deny them the chance for mastery.

5. To set clear limits and enforce those limits for our children.  “The more freedom the child had, the lower his self-esteem.”

Interesting read, with more to come.

Blessings,

Carrie

The Uneven Eleven-Year Old: A Traditional Developmental View

After the very balanced and harmonious age of ten(see here for a quick view of that age: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/09/25/the-terrific-ten-year-old-a-developmental-view/) , eleven year olds are in a decided stage of disequilibrium.  They are often highly contrary and behave like a beginning adolescent.  Here are a few characteristics of age eleven, taken from my favorite series on child development by the Gesell Institute: Continue reading

Parenting Tuesday: Expectations: Friend or Foe?

I was recently looking through Michele Borba’s book, “Parents Do Make A Difference: How To Raise Kids with Solid Character, Strong Minds, and Caring Hearts,” and this sentence jumped out at me:

The kind of messages we send our children is critical.  Expecting little from our kids limits their success, because they lose the incentive to try new possibilities.  Unrealistic expectations can also damage our kids:  “Why didn’t you get all A’s?”  “How did you not make the team?”  “You got a 98 percent – which two did you miss?”  Pushing our kids because we want the best for them may be misinterpreted by them as “You’re not good enough.”  Successful expectations gently stretch our children’s potential to become their best without pushing them to be more than they can be.  And these expectations never destroy children’s feelings of adequacy.”

The author goes on to discuss using the parameters of “developmentally appropriate, realistic, child-oriented, and success-oriented” as barometers for whether an expectation is healthy or not.

I talk a lot about development on this blog, and have included realistic expectations as part of the developmental posts for each age.  You can access many back posts to look at that.  However, here is a quick rule of thumb:  Continue reading

Television, Screens and What Else To Do

 

The wonderful families who read my blogs are often in varying relationships to media and screens in their lives…some have no TV, but their computers are certainly on a lot, some work from home where this is a necessity, some do allow their children media access or computer access and monitor it carefully.

 

I have written many back posts about limiting our own time on the computer or with the TV; it really can be such an obstacle towards “doing”.  If you are on the computer, you may not be cooking, making the crafts you want for your seasonal table, having friends over, doing artistic activities, making music, etc. 

 

I also find the more harried and rushed and stressed families are, the more they are likely to use computer or media as their “downtime” relaxation.  And some mothers of small children who need attention every moment still do wonder how they will garner a moment to themselves without a little electronic help, especially in a month that is often bitterly cold around much of the United States.

 

I just want to put out a gentle reminder that there are many things children can do besides something involving a screen.  Here are a few of my favorites for you to try out in your own homes this week:

 

First of all, two children are easier than one!  So seek out some friends within your community!

 

Second of all, as the saying goes, there is no bad weather, just bad clothes..so make sure you have the right clothes for the weather and go and enjoy being outside.  The older the children become, they also can enjoy more athletic pursuits in the snow and cold.

 

Have the basic, open ended elements of play in your home:  silks, scraps of fabric, yarn, towels and blankets for fort-making, old scarves, cardboard boxes and brooms that can be used for playing house or riding a horse!

 

For children a bit older whom you can trust around art supplies, try an art corner or station of wonderful art supplies, paper, fabric, paints, sandpaper, feathers, and other various supplies for artistic fun!

 

For toddlers, how about asking for their help with cooking or cleaning?  How about a bath when all else fails? I gave our three year old a morning bath the other day and we did some homeschool in the bathroom whilst he happily splashed about in the master tub.

 

For three to six year olds:  salt dough is a favorite in our house as well – I try to make up fresh batches that have interesting essential oils or textures in them.  Bubbles are also a hit anytime of the year!

Natural blocks are always fun for building – you can make your own and sanding can be another project!  Singing, dancing and making music also comes naturally to this age group.

 

For those ages six to twelve,  I think about making tents or forts, telling jokes, playing games and cards, making collages, creating art, cooking, building, reading, and  making models of airplanes or cars.

 

Cooking is another one of those projects that never gets old!  Cookies, bread, comforting soups and stews, even things in the dehydrator for my families who eat a higher percentage of raw foods.  Cooking definitely gets my vote for fun!

 

I think it boils down to having fun as a family during this cold weather, and doing what we can to boost each other’s joy.  I wrote a post sometime back about Joy In January, perhaps it could another source of inspiration:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/01/joy-for-january/

 

In Joy!

Love,

Carrie

Part Two Of Neurologic Development: Opportunity, Experience And Encouragement

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In our last post, we looked specifically at gross motor and fine motor development for the early grades aged child.  I posted several articles about fine motor skills.  Fine motor skills are especially important, because when fine motor skills are delayed, then many times speech, social skills, and such academic skills as reading and writing are also delayed.  They all are tied together.

 

Here are a few more areas to consider:

 

Speech: Is your early grades age child’s speech UNDERSTANDABLE by those around him or her that are outside of your family? In most children, speech problems disappear by age five or six according to many Waldorf resources (see the article “The Wonder of Acquiring Speech” by Michaela Glockler, MD for an example), but this of course has to be taken in accordance for each individual child.  I have been reading that there are some specific sounds that may not be mastered until ages seven or eight or even nine, but I think there is a difference between specific sounds (a few) not being well-pronounced and the whole of a child’s speech not being understandable!  ( However, certainly even the inability to pronounce single consonants once a child is over the age of 7 also leads to difficulty in linking consonants for consonant blends).   

If a grades-aged child is behind in other areas besides just speech, it may be more pressing to get an evaluation and get started on some therapy at this age rather than wait until age nine or later.  I  find that the older children become – ie, if a child is eight or nine or ten – speech and other delays really can affect the child’s social life and self-esteem because other children that age may have less patience with the delays, the child  starts comparing him or herself to others and sometimes no matter how nice the children they may not be as social with the child who has speech problems and is not understandable. Therefore, if delays are affecting your grades- aged child’s feeling of being accepted and loved outside of their family, especially if they are getting close to age 8 or so,  I think that also deserves a closer look and perhaps not just letting it ride.

What opportunities are you giving your grades-aged child for reciting poetry, tongue twisters, working with rhyming sentences, and speaking and expressing himself clearly and cleanly? How does your child communicate? Does your  grades-aged child who is closer to nine look children and adults in the eye if that is part of showing respect to others in the culture in which they live? Does your early grades age child know how to greet adults? Part of dealing with speech is opportunity, helping your child to navigate and make sense of the experiences of communicating with others (the feeling life), and also ENCOURAGEMENT to use clear words, clear sounds, clear thoughts.

Emotional Life: The “soul life” of the child is considered extremely important in Waldorf Education. Young children under the six/seven change often have strong emotions that quickly dissipate. Children who are school aged often find a deeper well of emotions, and emotions and impressions hang on longer than before, but still often in a undifferentiated way (things are “good” or “bad”) until past the nine year change.

Art is the most important vehicle for the school-aged child to deal with emotions. This, to me, is understanding that movement, speech, vocal and instrumental music, modeling, drawing, crafts and painting are paramount at this stage. As Michaela Glockler and Wolfgang Goebel write in “A Guide To Child’s Health”:

“These activities allow the children’s feeling life to express itself in the tension between beautiful and ugly or successful and unsuccessful artistic efforts. When children of this age lack artistic opportunities (my bolding), their natural tendency to make judgments based on sympathy and antipathy shifts to the intellectual level and is applied to people’s appearance and actions, and the result is criticism, grumbling, and an unpleasant degree of resistance to adult requests.”

The other piece of dealing with the emotional life is setting a balance through rhythm and habit. Drs. Glockler and Goebel again; “Unless they’ve already established good habits, their only motivation for doing “boring stuff” like tidying up or clearing the table is their desire to do the adult a particular favor. Their assessments of everything around them are based on their personal likes and dislikes, sympathy and antipathy – in other words, on feelings.”  This passage reminds of how a child needs to have roots in order to have wings – rhythm, ritual, habit, are not the chains that bind but the tools that provide a foundation to fly!

Being a “beloved authority” is also of extreme importance to a child of this age.  I have already discussed boundaries and that too is of importance.   

Social Life: Again, Drs. Glockler and Goebel: 

“Raising a child to be loving is based on cultivating a rich interpersonal life – relationships to other people, to surroundings, to objects and events.  In this process, learning to cope with yes and no, with being allowed to do some things and forbidden to do others, plays a decisive role, because the ability to love also involves respect for other people’s life situations and hence the ability to see the positive meaning of a “no”.  How many relationships in later life suffer from the face that we never really learned to deal with yes and no, with sympathy and antipathy, or to accept failures and errors as part of life?” 

Does your child have a rich interpersonal life?  Does your grades-aged child play well with children of his or her own age or are they only attracted to being with adults?  Can they also play with children of other ages?  Can they handle one on one play, playing with two friends, playing in a group?

Spiritual Life:  An adult who has a “religious” approach to life in the sense of Waldorf Education is one who approaches life with a sense of trust, gratitude, a sense of goodness, a sense of harmony.  I love this quote from Drs. Glockler and Goebel

Today, many people believe that religious education should be avoided because it manipulates children and takes away their freedom of choice.  In fact, however, children who are not allowed to experience qualities such as reverence,admiration, and devotion grow up “unfree” with regard to religion…People who establish undogmatic, independent relationships to the contents of specific religious traditions find in them ever new incentives for inner development..As adults, these people radiate the peace and certainty that children need…”

If you are interested in this subject, I highly recommend the essay “Learning Through Celebration”, found in the book, “Offering The Gospel To Children” by Gretchen Wolff Pritchard.  It offers many interesting things to think about. 

When we think of the child and their spiritual life, what images do you think of?  How do you think your child views the larger and greater world?  Is the world a place of goodness and beauty or one to be feared? Does the natural world convene upon the liturgical year at all in your household if that is the spiritual nature of your family?  Do your children get to experience the spiritual year?  Experience is so important for the child; not to analyze but just to experience the wonder of it all.

 

Many blessings,

Carrie