Often on Waldorf lists and groups, I see threads regarding puberty. These threads typically concern the outward signs of puberty, or perhaps issues not of puberty but of sexuality, such as a discussion on what to tell a six-year old or a nine-year old about sexual relationships.
I have already discussed in an earlier post how the development of the child during something such as the nine year change is viewed from a spiritual place that looks at the development of the soul, and how the curriculum and parenting in a Waldorf way meets the child during this point whether outward, physical signs of puberty are taking place or not.
This is one of the best articles I have read regarding puberty Continue reading
I have gotten some private emails lately regarding the nine-year-change and puberty, so I wanted to write something for this space for other parents searching for support and information during this time.
In the view of Waldorf Education, the soul is coming down into the body. However, I think the outward manifestation of puberty (odors, even breasts budding or getting hair in private areas) doesn’t change the course of the curriculum, nor really the developmental level that you are parenting in. A nine-year old is still a nine-year old, whether she has started her menstrual cycle or not. Puberty is an outward manifestation of the body, but the nine-year change is more an inner crisis of the soul and of middle childhood.
I hear a lot from parents of eight year olds and they are sure they are in the nine-year change. Well, the child could be, but what I often find is that Continue reading
In part two in this series, I made some observations about movement being the foundation for attention and focus; about movement being the foundation of learning and about movement leading to being comfortable in the body and therefore giving the child the ability to be comfortable in the world. Every movement is one that involves not only the motor system, but all of the sensory systems (mainstream sources consider five senses, Waldorf Education considers twelve senses and neurologic research considers hundreds). Rolling, for example, is a motor experience that can involve a high degree of pelvic movement and weight shifting on a motor level, but also a sensory one where the visual, vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile systems are highly engaged. Obviously cognition and motivation play a part as well.
We always wonder about children who skip developmental stages that are considered normal or “neurotypical”. I did mention before, and it deserves mention again, that each child has a unique footprint to his or her own movement patterns, and asked readers to consider just the simple act of getting from laying on your stomach to sitting on the edge of your bed; it can be done in many different ways!
However, what if whole stages are skipped? One of my readers brought up her child who never really rolled well from being on the back to another position, and other readers have brought up children who skipped crawling.
These are questions with answers that must be observed carefully from within the child with the background question in one’s mind of “what does this developmental stage or action offer to the child?” and by observing what the child is doing in a holistic way and with love and interest.
Part of a way to look at this means asking ourselves, “What does the child gain by rolling (or by crawling on all fours or whatever the activity is)? What is the child gaining by the way the child is doing this now?” Again, I have mentioned in previous posts that some children come with special gifts and will not progress through these typical stages and whatever they experience out of a developmental sequence can be beneficial for them where they are functioning upon this earth.
I would like to address a few points particularly about rolling and crawling. Rolling is one of the motor skills that is Continue reading
(Carrie here: I am so grateful to Stephanie for sharing her experiences and journey here. I think those of you who have children with differing abilities and who are wondering what to do with Waldorf Education at home will be very inspired! Stephanie writes:)
Carrie invited me to share some of the interesting ideas we’ve learned so far on our special needs path with our micropreemie daughter, who is now eight years old. When our daughter was born on the borderline of viability, we knew that learning and developmental problems were likely to arise. When we met in the office of a preemie researcher at Harvard, Heidi Als, we asked what we could do to support our daughter’s healthy development. One of Dr. Als’ first suggestions to us was to use Waldorf Education. At the time, I had no idea what that was.
In retrospect, I consider our time before finding out about Waldorf Education to be our Dark Ages! I say this because our daughter is a child for whom living a Waldorf lifestyle and using the Waldorf School curriculum makes all the difference in her emotional stability and her ability to function in life. As a parent, it has been one of the hardest things to know that children like her need Waldorf Education the most and yet there are so few Waldorf resources available to families like ours. We took up the challenge in our family and started with making the changes suggested in the book “Simplicity Parenting,” by Kim John Payne.
In looking for further ideas and resources, we found the Otto Specht School (named after Rudolf Steiner’s first student), where our daughter started First Grade. These are some of the elements that the teachers have shared with us:
1. The teachers do not try to cover the entire curriculum each year, but they try to get to the essence of the curriculum for each year. I think this point sounds deceptively simple on the surface – until you actually try to pin down the essence for the child with whom you are working!
2. The teachers are not harried or rushed, ever, as far as I have seen. My daughter’s teacher is found of saying Continue reading
I think one thing parents should be very aware of is how the development of movement takes place. Movement of the ages before birth to age three is especially tied to relationships with other human beings. I love how Rahima Baldwin Dancy writes about this time period:
This change in consciousness from infancy to three years involves waking up, in the sense that the participatory consciousness of the newborn gradually becomes replaced by a strong sense of self (just try opposing the will of a two-year-old!). Before this strong sense of I can emerge, the child must first develop language, thinking and memory.
Penetration of the body, which culminates in walking, is a fundamental task of the baby’s first year. Talking is a key task of the second year. And thinking and memory are areas of tremendous development in the third year. -You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, page 67.
If we think about this from a sheer physical, materialistic perspective, the brain starts to develop around the third week of gestation and continues to develop throughout the lifespan of the human being. By age 6, the brain has about 90 percent of its adult volume. The characteristic gyri and sulci of the brain develop between the weeks of gestational week eight and gestational week 36, with some development extending into the post-natal period. The human brain is an unfinished organ, and Rudolf Steiner saw this and wrote about it — quite a remarkable idea for the early twentieth century, especially considering that the decade of the 1990’s was the decade labeled the “decade of the brain”. What Steiner added to this thought about the unfinished brain being influenced and developed by movement and the development of the senses was that the soul and spirit within our bodies works on the brain itself, and that the environment works on our internal organs. The limbs and dexterity of the limbs has much to do with the health of the child in the physical, social, emotional and intellectual realms.
If one talks to pediatric therapists, they can outline a pretty set standard of physical development that they learned in school. Not every child will go through this path of development, but the pieces children do accomplish is beneficial. Every self-initiated movement and accomplishment not only brings development of the body and the brain, but develops the will of the child and his or her own satisfaction.
The quality of movement is most important, and the physical path typically looks something like this, (as an example we will use the progression of an infant who is on his or her back): Continue reading
(I encourage you to read the really thought-provoking comments on this post!- Carrie)
My basic premise this week is that not only is childhood under assault, but childhood development is not understood in North America, and unfortunately not even well understood by many parents or even the professionals who work with children.
Movement is a foundation for all learning.The first key aspect to understanding childhood development is to know and understand that the child is not an object to be acted upon, but that the child is a unique person whom we approach with love and understanding.
Too many times in our society we treat the infant as an object to be fed at “x” number of hours, an object that should be sleeping through the night, an object for us to do something to and put down. If the child is a person as I have posited above, then we are not here to parent to “do something” to that child. The infant, for example, is not an object to just feed or diaper. At the heart of infant care (and at the heart of being with children of any age) is connection and cue-based interactions. The child is shaped by the impressions it takes in of its environment. The brain is developing throughout the lifetime.
A loving relationship with a primary caregiver is a force in helping the child’s development unfold. Connection is a primary motivating force for an infant in movement. We have all seen the studies regarding infants who are in an orphanage and are never touched; they don’t thrive.
If connection is a necessity and it is foundational to movement, then cue-based interaction gives validity to the infant as a person. If I am in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Continue reading
So, this week I am just going to let it go and have a good little rant. I went to a wonderful conference this weekend that was a gathering of Waldorf Early Childhood Educators in my region, and it was said in this conference that childhood development is the best-kept secret in North America.
I would go a step further and say the development of how children move is under assault at ridiculous proportions. No one seems to see anymore the link between sensory- motor development and later academic success. No one seems to see the link between sensory- motor development and later emotional-social regulation. And no one seems to see the link between being comfortable in the body in childhood and how we later become healthy adults.
We have so much information out there and yet we have practically nothing at all that is developmentally appropriate. It is so frustrating!
We are seeing panic attacks in tiny children, anxiety and depression in our teenagers, rising obesity rates in our children, children whose fine motor skills at the kindergarten levels that are so far behind what we used to see in children entering kindergarten, and we are seeing children with sensory challenges and motor development issues across the board. And yet, somehow, all we can think about in this country is stuffing more information into these children with snippets of factoids and making sure they know how to press buttons on a computer and that they are satiated with every cheap material good that is around.
So, this week, come delve with me into the world of the child and how movement develops and what you should be looking for at home and what you can do to help your child thrive. I know I am probably preaching to the choir with those of you who read this blog, but perhaps together we can all lobby for change in the typical way childhood development is approached in North America, and yes, the world.