Talking In Pictures To Small Children

A small child under the age of seven needs to hear you paint a picture with your words instead of a direct command.  This can really be a very difficult thing for us to do as adults, and as such we find ourselves barking commands (politely, of course :)) at our small children all day long.  “Come to breakfast!”  “Use the potty!”  “Get your shoes on!” “Now please!”  “Stop doing that!”  Even if we frame things positively and say what we do want, the point is that a million times a day we are asking our child to do something.  And when we only use a command, we are essentially giving the small child a chance to think, a chance to decide their behavior, and then we get angry when they don’t do what we want when we want it.  How funny how that goes.

Small children are often in a fantasy, imaginative world much of the day as they play and create games.  They are not adults, they do not view time as adults do, they do not have the sense of urgency that you do.  And nor should they.

A small child lives in the physical realm and in their bodies.  So, to most effectively parent, we must reach to that for the small child as often as possible instead of playing commander, or worse yet, trying to drive the car with our horn by yelling at the small child. 

Here are some examples:

  • Think of animals that involve what you need.  Can the child hop like a bunny, run as fast as a roadrunner bird, swim like a fish?  Can they open their big  crocodile mouths to have all those teeth brushed?  Can you be a bear that needs a big winter coat ?  (And as you say this, you help put the child’s arm into the coat)….It is the imaginative movement plus the physical piece that gets it all done.
  • Can you involve their dolls or their imaginary friends?   Quietly take their favorite doll and start to get it ready for bed and sing to the doll. “ You and Tim (the imaginary friend) can sit right for dinner “( and lead the child by the hand to the table).
  • Can you employ gnomes, fairies, giants, leprechuans?  Today a four- year- old and I looked for leprechuan shoes by my back door….  Oh, look at these leprechuan shoes sitting here, do these fit YOU?  Oh my, look at the turned up toes on your shoes, I wonder if those shoes will lead you to a pot of gold!  How about gnomes exploring the mouth cave for teeth brushing?  Big giant steps to settle into a big giant bed?

You do not have to do this to the point where it is tiring to you, but do try here and there, because I find most parents employ very little imagination with their children during the day and the children really do respond to it well and do just what needs to happen.

Your part though, is to plan enough time so things are NOT rushed.  Rushing is the death of imagination and the beginning of stress.  Please plan ahead! 

Also, rhythm is your friend.  It is in that space to help you and your child.  If you do something different every night to get ready for a meal, to get ready for bed, what cues does your child have for when things are going to happen?  Again, their sense of time and urgency is not that of an adult.  Also, please seriously evaluate how many places you are dragging a small child.  Are these places for them or errands and would your child just rather be home?   I am just asking you to consider this piece of the puzzle; only you know the answer for you and your family. 

The last piece is the physical end of it, DOING something with a child whilst using the imagination and movement goes much better!  Yes, it is tiring that that is what small children need.  But better to do that than to complain and moan and groan that your small child, who is perfectly  normal, is “not listening”. :)

Try it out, I think you will find life to be much easier. 

Many blessings,

Carrie

Regarding Waldorf and Reading

Please read on for some encouraging words for folks with both early readers and those who have later readers….

People get very, very wrapped up in our society about reading.  Reading is very important, to be sure, (I have a journalism degree!)   but I hear from mothers all the time who either believe that bringing in reading prematurely is the right thing to do, or from mothers who are following a Waldorf model and their children have taught themselves to read and now they are saying to me, “But Carrie, I can’t do Waldorf First Grade because my child can read really well!”   

First of all, some  children do  read earlier than age six and a half or seven.  Of course!  This is not to be discouraged per se, but in these cases, we must be sure to look at the holistic development of the child first.  For example, can your early reader ride a bike with training wheels?  Without training wheels?  Can your child swim independently with your supervision?  Can your child do the monkey bars with just your supervision?  Does your child know by heart many poems, verses and songs?  Can your child sing and display a sense of rhythm in music?  Can they gallop, skip, hop on one foot?  How is their endurance for activities and  how is their sleeping?  Attention span?  Can they bake, garden, order things, dance?  How are they in social situations with other children?  How are they with adults?     I will write a post on First Grade Readiness in the future!

And I am not saying this to knock an early reader at all!  I have an early reader myself, who could read anything she wanted to read, adult books and newspapers included, at an early age. This is typically the case with children who truly teach themselves to do it.  They just can do it.  We just want to ensure balance!

There is one  issue that I see to be significant  though.  By MOST curriculums, not just Waldorf, the children in First and Second Grade are typically reading Frog and Toad and those sorts of books.  Waldorf at home can certainly involve these types of books.  There is in general a difficulty when your children truly are very fluent readers, that they are beyond those beginner reader kinds of books, there is not much for them to read.  A true “I taught myself how to read” kind of five year old typically goes from reading something simple to being able to read whatever they want (newspaper, portions of grown-up books) quickly.  They are so far beyond Frog and Toad and other books, they want thick books to read, and most of those books are for children much, much older so the themes are much older.

So, I think if you truly have an early reader, you can limit the books and the reading time in general  in the under-7 years until their maturity and understanding can catch up with their ability to read and not feel badly about it.  Some would say, well, you can explain it all to them!  You can go over vocabulary with them!  Why?  First of all, they should be laying that foundation of experience in ALL areas of life for even greater academic success later on!  If they can truly read, they are still reading, they are not going to forget how to read just because they are not reading novels!  And,   It is not all just about reading!  What about math? I personally would rather see a child move ahead in math and numeral literacy, than reading, but in American society we put so much emphasis on reading, almost to the exclusion of other things.  Second of all, if the themes are just too mature, there is no fix for that but TIME.  Nearly EVERY OTHER COUNTRY starts reading when children are 7, again, there are NO studies that show starting early reading is better in the long run for academic or professional success.  Third of all, from a physical perspective, the eye is NOT fully developed for lateral tracking until age EIGHT, so perhaps those countries that are working with starting reading at the right time are based more upon the physiology of the child than the American system is!  So please stop talking about “delayed academics”!  How about talking about bringing in academics at the right time?!

My other issue in general with these books for even a six or seven year old who is reading is that there are rarely beautiful long, thick books with no pictures  for these children to read.  In Waldorf, we try to pick books for the under-9 year old  that focuses less on an individual protagonist because at this point the child does not feel they are an individual.  That doesn’t happen until the nine-year change and to point that out, that separation of yourself as an individual, is rather premature for the six and seven year old.  That being said, I think an eight- year- old can certainly read “B is for Betsy” and that sort of series, some of the older series of books published in this country in the forties and such.  A six and a half or seven year old can certainly enjoy chapter books if you can find good ones!  But please don’t rush your children into it all, and do not neglect reading to them and the oral storytelling, oral verses, singing end just because they can read. 

In Waldorf, what you are building up in the Kindergarten is that treasure trove of oral tradition.  Then in first grade, it is typically  NOT going through the whole alphabet in order, it is “seeing” the letter arise (certain consonants and certain letter combinations that usually travel together) from a picture, just how man probably invented writing (and then reading) in the beginning. It is going over the vowels, those “heart sounds” and what feelings these arise for us within our language. It is faster than one thinks, and children who can read LOVE to make the letter pictures just like those who are not reading yet.  The children are writing simple sentences to more complex summaries  by the end of the first year.  And the oral traditions carry throughout the Waldorf Grades – there are songs and poems to memorize and recite, drama, lines and lines (sometimes up to 400 or more lines of poetry a year!), there are riddles and tongue twisters and such in opening school.  The oral tradition of speech is very important, then the writing down, then the reading.  Reading for each grade may often include the subject that was the focus of the previous grade, and more importantly,  respects the child’s maturity and soul development and holistic development.

If you need to understand how reading and writing and language arts develops within the Waldorf Curriculum:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/10/history-and-literature-waldorf-homeschooling-grades-one-through-twelve/

If you would like to see recommended reading for first grade, please see here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/10/more-great-read-alouds-for-waldorf-first-grade/   and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/11/great-read-alouds-for-waldorf-at-home-first-grade/

For second grade see here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/29/great-books-for-second-grade-in-your-waldorf-inspired-homeschool/

Many blessings!  Be confident in what you do!

Carrie

Favorite Spring Tales For The Waldorf Kindergarten

Like the Fall Tales List for Waldorf Kindergarten, this is NOT an all-inclusive list, these are just some tales I have enjoyed or I know other mothers have used at these ages…..Happy finding the tales that speak to you and to your family!

 

January (Okay, still Winter!)

Four Year Olds:  Shingebiss (Winter Wynstones)

Five Year Olds:  The Snow Maiden (Plays for Puppets)

Six Year Olds:  The Twelve Months (www.mainlesson.com); 

February

Four Year Olds:  “Pussy Willow Spring” from Suzanne Down’s “Spring Tales” or a story about how the snowdrop got its color

Five Year Olds:  “The Rabbit and the Carrot”  a Chinese Tale found in the Spring Wynstones and also in “An Overview of the Waldorf Kindergarten”

Six Year Olds:  “The Three Brothers” by the Brothers Grimm

There are also a few Saint Valentine’s Day stories on mainlesson.com

 

March

For  ages three and a  half or so  and up for Saint Patrick’s Day:  “Lucky Patrick” from “Spring Tales” by Suzanne Down

There is also a great “leprechuan” circle adventure/movement journey in the book, “Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures” based upon “Tippery Tim” the leprechaun in “Spring Tales” by Suzanne Down

Four Year Olds:  The Billy Goats Gruff

Five Year Olds:  “Little Brown Bulb” from “Spring Tales” from Suzanne Down or “Little Red Cap” from Brothers Grimm

Six Year Olds: “ Bremen Town Musicians” from the Brothers Grimm;  or “An Easter Story” from “All Year Round” or “The Donkey” by The Brothers Grimm

 

April: 

Four Year Olds:  Goldilocks and The Three Bears

Five Year Olds:   “Mama Bird’s Song” from “Spring Tales” by Suzanne Down  or”Rumpelstiltskin” by the Brothers Grimm

Six Year Olds:  “Frog Prince” from the Brothers Grimm

 

May

Four Year Olds:  “Chicken Licken” or “The Pancake”  with Spring details

Five Year Olds:  For Ascensiontide, the story “Forgetful Sammy” from “All Year Round” or “Twiggy” from “Plays for Puppets”

Six Year Olds: “The Magic Lake at the End of the World” (from Ecuador, found in “Your’re Not The Boss of Me!  Understanding the Six/Seven Year Transformation)  or “Queen Bee” from the Brothers Grimm  or “Forgetful Sammy” or “Twiggy”  as listed for the five-year-old.

 

June

Four Year Olds:  “The Pancake” with spring/summer details

Five Year Olds:  “Goldener”  (Plays for Puppets)

Six Year Olds:  “Snow White and Rose Red”  or “A Midsummer Tale” from the book “An Overview of the Waldorf Kindergarten”, also in “Plays for Puppets”

What are your favorite stories?  Please add them below!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Multiculturism in Waldorf Early Grades

Annette wrote a lovely post about using stories beyond just The Brothers Grimm here:  http://natural-childhood.blogspot.com/  Please do take the time to go and read it; Annette has some great thoughts about how to bring all this to your children!

Please do keep in mind that modern Waldorf schools in the United States and Europe now pull from a variety of cultural traditions for fairy tales, folk tales and legends besides just the Brothers Grimm.   I know our local Waldorf school here in Kindergarten and First Grade uses a large number  of African and Asian fairy tales.  Besides that, different cultures, religions and places in world geography are addressed each year in the journey through the grades.

Luckily, in homeschooling, we can pick and choose the best for our family!

Here are some resources to assist you:

  • If you are Waldorf homeschooling, you really should have Betty Staley’s book, “Hear The Voice of the Griot!” which is a Waldorf  resource for teaching about  Africa for Kindergarten all the way through high school.    I wrote a review here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/10/hear-the-voice-of-the-griot/
  • Here is a wonderful article “Diversity and Story in the Kindergarten” from Gateways:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW3303.pdf
  • Here is an article by Donna Simmons tracing geography through the grades:  http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/waldorf-homeschool-publishing-and-consulting/curriculum/subjects/geography.html
  • There is a wonderful little booklet called, (can you guess?LOL) Multiculturism in Waldorf Education…In it are fairy tales from around the world appropriate for the Kindergarten Years – the tales are from Africa, Zulu, East Africa, Japan, Tlingit, and Micmac traditions.  THere is also a list of multi-cultural picture books.
  • Teach your children foreign languages, there are several posts on this blog about that.  It is a great way to absorb information about new cultures.  We are learning Spanish and German in our homeschool and interact with native speakers from Spanish and German speaking countries. 
  • Cooking is a great place to add in different types of foods from different lands in connection with festivals from those places. 
  • Music is another wonderful place to add in languages and ideas about how people from other cultures do things.
  • Do work consciously to provide tales from many different traditions,and to really study cultures and geography in the grades.  There are many wonderful archetypal tales out there for the younger crowd; you see similar themes appearing again and again.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Which Early Years Book Should I Buy?

In my mind, the ‘big three” of the Early Years books are “Beyond the Rainbow Bridge:  Nurturing Our Children From Birth To Seven” by Barbara Patterson and Pamela Bradley; “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher” by Rahima Baldwin Dancy; “Heaven On Earth” by Sharifa Oppenheimer.

Here is a quick run-down of each book, and then some additional resources for you consider.

“Beyond the Rainbow Bridge:  Nurturing Our Children From Birth to Seven” is frequently, at least in my area, given out at Parent/Child classes in the Waldorf schools.  So, although the information in this book could definitely be applied to older Kindergarteners, there are plenty of nuggets of wisdom for the younger set.  This book is soft-cover and is 193 pages long. The chapters in this book mainly focus on warmth, rhythm, play at different stages (newborn to two and a half; two-and-a-half to age five and age five to seven), developing the twelve senses and a section on creative discipline.  There is also a section on Parent/Child classes, some sample crafts, verses and a fairy tale list.

My recommendation for this book would be to look for it if your children are younger or  if you are involved in a Parent/Child class for the first time.

“You Are Your Child’s First Teacher” by Rahima Baldwin Dancy is often available through your library system, so look for it there first.  This is a book I turn to time and time again, because I read different things in different ways as my children grow and I look back on those ages.  This book covers a lot of territory, starting with the notion that children are not tiny adults, that the consciousness is different, going into receiving and caring for your newborn, looking at the stages of babyhood and toddler hood through the lens of learning to walk, mastering language, the emergence of thinking and of self.  There are chapter on helping the development of your baby and toddler, parenting issues of the first three years, developing your child’s fantasy and creative play, developing your child’s imagination and artistic ability and musical abilities, rhythm and discipline in home life and more about play-based kindergarten experiences and parenting issues.  This book is also soft-cover and is 385 pages long.  Whilst I don’t agree with every single thing in here, there is much to be treasured.  In fact, you may get it from your library and then decide you would like a copy of your own!  I am positive you can find this book used and get it  fairly cheaply.

“Heaven On Earth:  A Handbook for Parents of Young Children” by Sharifa Oppenheimer is a soft-bound book of 235 pages.  There are many concrete examples in this book of, for example, a rhythm of weekly breakfasts, songs and verses, recipes, lists of things such as “elements of a balanced outdoor playspace”, and more.  The unique layout feature of this book is the boxes that these lists and recipes come in in the margins of the pages. There is quite a lot to digest in this book, and I think it would be easy to plan some concrete changes in the rhythm of your life based on some of the things in this book.  I would suggest you IGNORE completely the references to time-out in this book, that really did bother me, as time-out is not something I have ever seen reference to in any other Waldorf Early Years book.  Many mothers love this book, some Waldorf schools run “book club” type meetings around its chapters, so I think this one is worth checking out.

Other references you may consider reading include “Simplicity Parenting” ( I have a review on this blog; it is hard cover and I have heard some library systems have this book);  Donna Simmons’ “Joyful Movement” which has information about the holistic development of wee ones with lots of concrete suggestions about what to do and not do for different ages and also  Donna Simmons’ “Kindergarten With Your Three to Six Year Old”.  I have heard some mothers who like Melisa Nielsen’s “Before the Journey” – this book does have crafts, recipes, and follows the festivals/seasons of the year.  It is in story format and  tells how four different women of different religious/socio-economic backgrounds bring Waldorf parenting and education into the lives of their small children in a journal –type form where each of the four mothers (one for each season) journals about what they are doing and what they are discovering.   The other book many people in my area discount because they cannot stand the way breastfeeding and other attachment practices are viewed is Joan Salter’s “The Incarnating Child.”  I think if you can ignore the references to weaning and such, there are many gems to be found in that book from an anthroposophic viewpoint (but I also know so many AP parents who read it and were completely turned off  and turned away from Waldorf because of that book so please don’t say I didn’t warn you, I am an AP parent as well!)  So, again, if you can read it and ignore the fact it is not AP and just cherry-pick the anthroposophic nuggets out of it here and there, I think you will be okay.

Hope that helps!

Carrie

HELP! How to Waldorf Homeschool With My Grades and Kindergarten Child?

Question from the field:

I have an 8 year old second grader and a 5 year old. We all come together for morning lesson and it used to be that my little one had his own work – puzzles, play dough, stringing beads. But recently he has been joining the lesson, drawing the lesson picture into his sketch book, he’s trying out copying letters and he has learned to write his name. He does not want the other work right now. The reality in our home is that there is no separation when I read a second grade story they both listen, when we do second grade work, my 5 year old is right there. It’s been this way since the very beginning. Whatever work or story we’ve been doing for my older son, my younger son is a part of it too. We share our day and I love that! But it sure feels like everything revolves around my older son. I feel guilty! We already include some things in our day that are geared more toward the younger, I guess maybe I should step that up. And I do get little moments in my day to cuddle or play a quick game with my little guy. It’s hard to keep it simple, especially when I think about the future! I visualize a Waldorf-one-room-homeschool-house where both boys get what they need and feel (obviously!) overwhelmed!

This is a great question, and it comes up so frequently that I would like to address it in a blog post for everyone to see and read.

First of all, take a deep breath.  Part of homeschooling is more relaxed than a Waldorf School, and that is okay because there are many other advantages to being home.  One of the main advantages is that instead of being separated from each other all day, your children will form a strong bond by being together day in and day out.  The other thing to think of is not only is there an advantage for the younger one to see what the older one is doing, it is an advantage for the older one to see and be a part of what the younger one is doing.  So, please do start with a very positive attitude that this is very best set up for both of your children.

That being said, I agree with your caution regarding running your homeschool just to suit your oldest.  If your oldest is 9 or under, I think we must be especially careful to allow for time for the oldest to play, play, play and be outside and to do other things.  A 7 or 8 year old is still small and has energy to get out, for sure.  This is an advantage

Several things to think and meditate on:  How long is the Main Lesson?  I would say for first and second grade one  to two hours is typical (don’t forget daily practice of math as part of your Circle/Opening!).  How many days a week are you doing school?  Most people do four days a week in these very Early Grades.

Where do you put the Kindergarten Circle/verses, Kindergarten Story and Activity of the Day for the Kindergartener?  You could do baking one day, soup making one day, etc either in the morning before you start the older one’s school or in the afternoon.  It should be the type of thing that the child can join in on or not, and that the oldest can participate in as well or even lead a few songs or verses for the younger child.

In contrast, the older child should have several days a week to devote to handwork or playing a musical instrument and not work with a different activity each day.  They need consecutive days to get things done, projects completed.

How active is your Main Lesson?  There should be singing, movement, oral recitation, cooking, painting, modeling, drawing (not all at once, of course!)  The movement, etc are all things a younger child could join in on.  And don’t go crazy, keep it simple, short, “economical.”

Some Waldorf homeschooling families also have a “Kindergarten Day” a week, where that day the Kindergartener’s activities move to the forefront for that day and the Grades child joins in. 

I think too, the longer one homeschools, the more one is not afraid to be “rigid”, in other words, if the children are playing well, to let them play and start school in a bit or go hiking if the weather is gorgeous….But then also, on the flip side, to know when your Grades child really does need to buckle down and get to work. 

As far as a five or six year old listening in on the Main Lesson, try not to worry too much.  Children under 7 are at the height of imitation, and they are imitating what they see around them.    Give them a “Main Lesson” book and respect if they want to draw in it, but also respect when they are running off to play and are tired of “playing” school.  Writing one’s name and copying down a few  letters does not mean they are ready for formal Grade One lessons yet!  When it is their turn for First Grade or Second Grade, they may vaguely remember some of the stories, but the stories will speak to them on a much deeper level at that point because they are at the right age for them.  And your older child gets the benefit of listening in to the stories for a second time and deepening how they view things as well.  I think that is a very enjoyable part of homeschooling!

That being said, though, do carry on with typical Kindergarten activities, lots of movement, Circle Time and other things that nourish your Kindergartener’s soul.  Meet them where they are developmentally.

Lots of fun, good times, and holistic educational progress is the key!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Waldorf Homeschooling With Large Age Gaps Between Children

This continues our vein of Waldorf homeschooling, Unschooling, and “What Does Waldorf Look Like In Your Home?”  Today’s post is written by Lauri Bolland, a veteran Waldorf homeschooling mother who is a frequent contributor to Melisa Nielsen’s Yahoo!Group ( see homeschoolingwaldorf@yahoogroups.com to join Melisa’s list).  Lauri has a wealth of experience in this area and I asked her to guest blog for me and share her thoughts about this area that scares so many people away from Waldorf Homeschooling.

Lauri writes:

I have three always-homeschooled children, with 4 1/2 years between the first two and 4 years between the second two. So they were 8 1/2 & 4 when my youngest was a newborn, and they are now ages 20, 15 1/2 & 11 1/2.

It may seem with that kind of age gap (and considering the Waldorf curriculum) that I would be teaching three separate grades all the time, and – for the most part – that’s been true. However, there have often been many times when I could combine my children. When my middle child was in 1st Grade, for example, he spent most of his time hanging out while my eldest did a 5th grade study of the ancients. (With the toddler in the sling or blocked in the room with us with toys.) My eldest was still a non-writer at that point, and a very limited reader, so everything was done aloud – with LOTS of hands on. My middle child now has a tremendous love for history, and I think it was his sideways participation in that year that inspired it. He still remembers how we constructed the Nile River Valley from sand, dirt, seeds, and Legos – and then FLOODED it – and the grass seeds grew like the Delta grows after the rainy season.

When my middle child was in 7th and my eldest was in 10th, I kept them together for a Creative Writing block and a Grammar Intensive Block, both of which I ran like a workshop. We actually had a blast!

Then when my middle child was in 8th and my eldest in 11th, I decided to do Movies as Literature for English/Literature for both of them. 

True, the timeliness of the curriculum was geared more towards my middle child, but I brought the Waldorf inspired thinking and discussion skills to my eldest – so both were well served. I was able to gear questions and discussion toward the developmental level of each child – which sounds very lofty, but wasn’t! LOL! It was a matter of asking one kind of question for one child, and other kinds of questions – according to Waldorf pedagogy – for the other. I required varying amounts of writing, and graded each child’s work differently. Again, I did a “workshop” type of format with discussion, cooperation, shared writing, reading aloud together, and more discussion. Interestingly, when my eldest began college classes in the Autumn, she said her English 101 class was just like homeschooling in that workshop/discussion format!

I put together a semester long block for my eldest’s last year of homeschooling, where we circled the Eastern Hemisphere (Asia, Africa, & Oceana) as a family. It was my choice to do one last thing en masse before she was off to college. For my youngest (4th grade) we focused on the food, clothes, games and Native People’s Myths & Stories of the lands we visited. My 8th grader focused on the geography of the world, weather patterns, native peoples, and the details of these continents – all “on time” for the Waldorf schedule. My 12th grader focused on the beliefs and the great thinkers who arose from these places – or traveled TO these places. We slanted it toward our faith a bit, as she had already covered the historical and geographical sweeps. She (my eldest) lead the majority of the crafts and the cooking for the other two, which gave me a nice break and allowed her to have some teaching responsibility. It was a beautiful way to end our time together, and one of those times I had to go with my “gut” on what to do, but could still tailor it to the underlying philosophies of Waldorf. I think my busiest year was when they were 15, 11 & 7, and I was teaching 9th, 5th & 1st simultaneously – all very demanding years!

I think the primary trick to working with larger age gaps is to be organized. As a woman, I really need our home and our relationships to be running right, or I feel discombobulated and out of sorts. If our cleaning, laundry, meals and shopping are in a shambles, or our relationships are rocky, I just can’t concentrate on school stuff. So I try to be very well organized in regard to what days we do what, and who does what. Also, I’m a bit of a stickler for the way people treat each other. Because it takes a lot of time to run a household and keep relationships pleasant when children are very little, I had to do my best with the small amount of time left for homeschooling.

When they were 9, 5 & 1, for example, I didn’t have two hours for doing the eldest’s schoolwork, so I had to make it a VERY GOOD 45 minutes at the table. Often we needed to move outside for some studies, or to the living room floor for others. It was so much better for my kids in the long run, and helped me to make the most of our days. Steiner had to do this with one of his students when he was a private tutor, and it contributed to his philosophy of teacher preparation.

My second trick for working with large age gaps is planning out every lesson. I know myself pretty well (I’m weak willed) and if I don’t have EVERY lesson planned out, I’ll buckle. As soon as the kids start to balk, I become tempted to drop it all and go do something fun.

I’ve done it more times than I can count! However, if I have all my lessons tidily planned for each and every child, I can hold firmer.

There have been lots of other times we’ve worked together. Believe it or not, we did daily circle time together until just this year. With older children it was more about doing Brain Gym type movement, memorizing facts or poetry, talking walks together, and doing elaborate (and not so elaborate) indoor and outdoor obstacle courses for each other. This year my 9th grader gets started on his High School work early, so it’s just my 5th grade daughter and I. We call it “Movin’ Time” and take walks, do Brain Gym, Form Drawing, etc.

However, she and I did have a two week color-intensive Watercolor painting block which my college student managed to join us for most of! :)

Very often over the years, I found life overlapped with homeschooling and homeschooling overlapped with life. By being flexible and organized, we’ve enjoyed quite a bit of family-centered (and still  Waldorf) learning in spite of the age gaps between my children.

Carrie Here:  I love to hear the voices of veteran Waldorf homeschooling mothers – they have so much to offer!  So, what does Waldorf look like in your home?  Getting over your fears enough to jump in and develop a relationship with this most healing form of education?

Many blessings, and much thanks to Lauri for sharing!

Carrie

Unschooling and Waldorf : The Student-Teacher Relationship Birth- Age 7

So, we started to explore Unschooling and Waldorf in this previous post ( http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/17/unschooling-and-waldorf/ ), when this really astute question came up in the comment box.

Writes in a wonderful mother

“The only question that remains for me is about the teacher/learner relationship. What if the child is not interested in learning what you present him with, even if it is age-appropriate for him? What if the child doesn’t want to sit and do what you invite him to do? As my girls are getting bigger, I can see that they do not always want to do what I suggest we do, and I want to honor that. It doesn’t feel right to coerce them into doing what I think is good for them. Don’t get me wrong, I will not let them have chocolate for breakfast and go to bed at 10 pm, I am talking reasonable things like drawing all day instead of going outside (even if I know it’s good for them to go outside, it feels wrong to get into a fight, a tantrum and tears to get them out the door). I guess, what I am saying is that I am a bit confused in that area. I do not want to be the dictator of my children’s life, I want them to learn to listen to what they feel inside…..”

 

I would like to address this in two parts: one geared toward children under 7, and one part more pertaining to the grades.

Part One:  The Student-Teacher Relationship for Children Under Age 7

You know, from everything I have read, Steiner was a warm man, a man who observed children with love, a man with a good sense of humor.  I think he would understand that first and foremost homeschooling is about the joy of being with family.

If your children are completely upset about something in your rhythm, I think there are at least two ways to approach it:  #1 – approach it as the fact that the rhythm is for you to follow and they can follow or not and weave in and out in play but you can mix that with this idea:  #2 – perhaps the rhythm needs to be changed to better meet your children.

A rhythm should change seasonally, right?  One of the original examples given above was small children not wanting to go outside….Well, this is a really cold month in many places. Perhaps you change your rhythm to accomplish your goals (connection with nature, getting energy out) in a different way.  So, you make treats for the feathered friends and small creatures outside, and you set up indoor forts and bear caves and tunnels for the children to crawl through to find the hibernating bears and they get the energy out inside.  Goals still accomplished, different methods. 

You are homeschooling, you can be flexible, and the more years you do this, you will plan ahead of time because you remember the last time – last January was this way, so this year I am going to plan some ice-skating, but also a lot of baking and crafting and storytelling for us to do.  We will play games and sit by the fire, and love  each other.

See, no coercion at all!  But whilst we are on that word, I want you all to meditate on that.  If you feel in heart that you will “present” something and it might “fail”, I think that is something to be explored.  Children can sense when we don’t feel confident and certain.  Feel clear with yourself before you even start.  What are your goals for your children this year in homeschooling?  What do they need to work on?  To me, there are goals, even at the Waldorf Kindergarten level.  If you know your goals, you can change the method of delivery and still meet your goal in helping your child.  :)

My other point with the under-7’s is that they are working out of imitation, so don’t necessarily give them the opportunity to debate about what they will or won’t do in words……  The kiss of death is to say, “Now it’s time for our puppet show” and everyone groans and says, “Not now!  We are making ice porridge in our kitchen for the snow bears to eat!”  No, just gather up your puppets, set up your stage and start singing the opening song and start.  They will come.

But do learn to read you children as well, if they are playing beautifully and building gorgeous sibling bonds, why interrupt that?  Sibling love is an important component of homeschooling to foster…The puppet show can happen in an hour.  This is a line we always tread in homeschooling – the play, the family love versus the fact that sometimes things do have to happen, that is part of developing the will of the child and our own will, our own self-discipline. 

The other part is, don’t present to the under-7 child.  Present around them instead.  For example, sit down and start finger-knitting and when they gather around and ask if they can, you have the choice to pull out the story and teach them, yes.  But you also have the choice to say to the four-year-old, “This is Mommy’s task right now, but I bet when you are bigger I can teach you how to do this” and sing a song.  Build up some anticipation for the beautiful things they are going to learn, it becomes then a privilege to try rather than something to resist.

Steiner felt what small children needed in the Kindergarten age was love,  warmth, worthy adult activity to be imitated, play, protection for childhood, gratitude and reverence, joy, humor and happiness, and adults who are developing their own inner intuition, so…….K.I.S. (Keep It Simple). 

Keep it simple.  The under-7 child should have a simple rhythm, and you don’t need a complicated craft that coordinates with your story with a complicated snack that coordinates with your story with all of these things with a complicated nature activity, etc.  That turns it all into more of a Unit Study than just seasonal activities and storytelling and singing.    Live, breathe, and focus not only on the goals and the things for the Waldorf Kindergarten experience at home (see back posts here   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/13/waldorf-in-the-home-with-the-three-and-four-year-old/  and here  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/06/waldorf-in-the-home-with-the-one-and-two-year-old/ ), but on those intangibles that Steiner talked about – love, joy, warmth, humor.  Infuse your activities with these things, not with a drill sergeant of the rhythm keeper attitude.  The rhythm is your helper, not your enemy.  Make it work for you and your family.

Lots of love,

Carrie

PS Part Two to follow

The Waldorf Kindergarten

This is written by Marsha Johnson, veteran Waldorf teacher.  To see more articles by Mrs. Johnson, please join waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com.

The Intellectual Education of the Kindergarten Age Child in Waldorf

Consider the definition of the word education? What comes to mind?

Aha, in that very question lies the root of much of current
understanding about education in general, a process that primarily
deals with the MIND of a person.
Let’s see, Webster’s says:
a : the action or process of educating or of being educated; also : a
stage of such a process
b : the knowledge and development resulting from an educational
process

Ah. I kind of like that definition because it has at least two
aspects: knowledge (i.e., knowing how to do something or remembering
something) and development (that is a large word that could include
so many different areas for the human being).
In historical times (not very long ago) human children were simply
living and working with their families, playing about when there was
time, travelling in nomadic groups, watching, imitating, observing,
and participating. Nearly all the activities were directly related
to the sole purpose of sustaining life: gathering food, protecting
the body, creating adequate dwelling space, finding mates, caring for
one another, and creating community. Up to 200 years ago, nearly all
children lived in that very same fashion, give or take the wealthier
children who had much more leisure time and free time and who were
taught to read, write, and higher subjects, generally after about age
7 or so. One or two very bright ones were sent off to the larger
urban areas for further study, often with the religious institutions
or political organizations of the times.

But the young child, the child under age 7, what did they do? They
played and worked with their families. They trotted alongside parents
on the way to the springs, they stayed close to mama at age 2 or 3,
and helped, or played with a few simple items from nature or
contrived toys (corn cob dolls in a hanky).

They also heard and listened to many stories. In an oral culture, it
is through the songs and the stories that history is carried. In a
non-reading world, it is the minstrels and the poets who carry the
burden of the memories of the group. And to whom do they speak? To
the whole group.

It is estimated that a person can retain about ten percent of
information that we hear once, more if we read it, and most of it
when we do it! Example: how to catch a fish. Someone can tell you,
you can read about it, you can do it.

Repetition, however, of oral traditions, vastly increases the
retention of material by human beings. (I know it does not seem so
when you remind your ten year old to hang up his coat a zillion
times, but that is a different matter!)

In the child under seven, there is also a very strong natural urge
and interest in repeated stories. How many times do you find that
four year old who wants to hear that story about daddy and the dog?
They never tire of it, and if you hesitate a second in your speech,
they will often simply fill in the words that they heard so many
times before……it is like growing, they do that very cute and
sometimes tiring thing, and they cannot stop it or help it. They
NEED it. They need oral stories, repetition, many many times.
Small children often love repetitive singing, too. Those long songs
with the slightly changing focus, Old MacDonald. This is good food
for that growing child who delights in the rhythm and safety of known
material.

How else do those stories affect them? If we follow along with Dr.
Steiner, we refuse to dumb down the vocabulary and we use the words
that were originally present and repeat them and as children learn
the many thousands of mother-tongue words as they grow, these new
words are also eaten and digested and absorbed and re-emerge. This
is a very good education!

The developmental part of education is or primary importance, even
from a physiologic point of view: movement and action stimulate
brain cell growth and maturation. What a surprise! So if we swaddle
babies and keep them in dark rooms without much stimulation, they
tend to have lower IQs than the ones who are allowed to crawl
around. Isn’t that a no brainer?

Developmental education has been abandoned by our crazed drive in
public education for better ‘test’ scores. This is practically
criminal in my book, and would be like paralyzing a child’s body, and
simply focusing on activities that involve the eyeballs for 6-8 hours
per day, nothing else. Insisting that five year olds sit at desks,
use pencils, write and copy, give up recess because there
isn’t ‘time’ for it in the day, causes me great alarm and concern
about the future effects of this new generation of ‘eyeball’ educated
children as adults in our society.

Developmental education is critical for healthy balanced adults:
using all the various parts of our physical bodies, enjoying the
intense inner pictures of a child’s world of imagination, seeking
out the social sphere with friends to act out questions, dramas,
concerns, fantasies, celebrations, rituals, and human destinies, is
vital to an educational process. Sitting a five year old child in a
booth with a computer screen and a mouse, to ‘learn’, is very much
like inserting the printer cartridge into the slot on my machine here
that I just did today, of viewing a human soul as on object, a tool,
a machine…..and yet many very clever people support this and
endorse.

Playing, helping, resting, imagining, thinking, painting, modeling,
experimenting with blocks, logs, string, trees, mud, wind, cooking,
eating, sharing, giggling heaps of preschoolers in a rainbow house,
planting and gardening, sewing, fingerknitting, listening, singing,
playing with bubbles and learning to cut with scissors and use glue,
and sitting on a warm human lap…….hearing the stories, hearing
the words, creating the images inside those adorable curly and stick
straight haired heads………..this is the intellectual development
of the human child in the best sense of the word: addressing all the
aspects, the head, the heart, and the hands.

Educators in Waldorf will insist on this process and work
diplomatically and lovingly to assist parents to see the realities of
what happens when we place children in work that is not appropriate
for their stage of development. It is not our intention to hurt
feelings, scare people, or simply sound weird. We are and have been
the forerunners of realizations that are actually emerging as a
backlash in this country, all over! Since 1918, Waldorf educators
have been speaking about these ideas, quietly, and persistently, and
then actually providing the proof of the pudding in the brilliant
young men and women who emerge from our schools and take their places in this beautiful needy world of ours.

At home, you can accomplish this so much more easily, in a sense,
because YOU are the creator of your world. Your home, your schedule,
your possessions, your choices, your stories, your food, your tone of
voice, your joy and creativity, you are the queens and kings of your
child’s universe, the King Peter and Queen Susan and Aslan all rolled
into one! In a sense, you are the suns of your galaxes, and your
children dance around you in their own ellipses…as such, you can
select and create elements that will shine on all of us….now and in
the future times.
Mrs. Marsha

Many blessings,

Carrie

Waldorf In The Home With The Three- And Four- Year Old

Well, this is the controversial post of the day, mainly because I disagree with some of the typical Waldorf School Kindy activities for home for these ages.  :)  I wrote about the one-and two-year old here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/06/waldorf-in-the-home-with-the-one-and-two-year-old/    and today we are going to move on to the three-and four-year old.

If you need a refresher as to where the three-year-old is developmentally, please see here:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/19/peaceful-life-with-a-three-year-old/  and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/18/three-year-old-behavior-challenges/.   For the four-year-old .please see here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/08/discipline-for-the-four-year-old/  

I am going to depart from so many of the hallowed and sacred texts of Waldorf, and tell you that Waldorf “homeschooling” (I really dislike that term!  How about just living?) for a three-and four-year-old looks a bit different at home than in the classroom.  This is especially true for those three and four-year olds who are the OLDEST in their families.

I think this much is true in both the  environments of Waldorf at Homea nd Waldorf at school though: the work of the three- and four-year-old is play. Play, fantasy and being outside.  These are the true things one needs to be working with on a child of this age. Mothers often write me and feel they should be worried about handwork projects, wet on wet painting and other things.  I say worry about the quality of your child’s play ( if you feel like worrying!), and think of ways to stimulate that if you feel the need to be “doing something” outside of the rhythms and things we talked about for the one and two year old.

For the one and two year old here are the things I mentioned as being important, with some added notes to build on for the three-and four- year old.

Bodily care, toileting or diaper changes, is HUGE. I cannot stress this enough.  Times for bodily care should involve love, their involvement, singing and joy.  This is still big for a three and four year old.  Your four year old is not at school and being expected to wipe themselves independently after a bowel movement, this is home, and these bodily care situations still deserve time, attention and dignity. 

Meal times.  Again, unhurried, unrushed, singing, having your child help with preparation and clean-up.  Use your meal time now to start working in things to develop their movement – kneading bread, using a rolling pin, sweeping the kitchen floor, scrubbing a countertop, etc.

Nap times/Rest Times.  Sing lullabies, have a blanket that is special for sleeping, have a routine involving physical touch of gentle massage or foot rub.  

It can be very hard with a three or four year old who has stopped napping, but shooting for some time that is quiet is a great goal.  They may not be able to do it on their own (although some will happily play with a play scenario you have set up), but that may be a time to read a story, a time to tell a story, a time to sing soft songs whilst massaging their hands or feet, and just dim the lights and be together and rock in the rocking chair for a bit.  You may also catch some down time for yourself at this time or during outside time if your child gets engaged.

Bath times.  Singing, finger plays and toe plays, gentle rub downs with the towel (those textures again)

Outside time.  This is the time to think of some creative things for outside. 

Being outside is of extreme importance and to provide opportunities for physical movement outside. No going outside to just sit there!  If your child is a reluctant woodsperson, try some of the following suggestions:

  • Make a “carpet” by laying down sticks in squares and then filling in the squares with things the child can find.
  • Find the natural objects to make plates, forks, spoons, for a fairy feast
  • Make pinecone people by getting a pinecone and decorating with leaves, small twigs by pushing the objects into the pinecone.
  • Show your child how to rub their chins with flowers and see if they like butter, how to make flower chains, how to take the caps off acorns, how to grate dry leaves into dust and powder, how to roll a snowball and look for tracks of fairies and giants in the snow.
  • Get them things to lug, tug, push, pull, dig.
  • Play in the sand and in the mud, make mud pies, hunt for worms and bugs.
  • For other suggestions, please see these  posts:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/25/nature-day-number-8-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/  and this one:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/24/connecting-your-children-to-nature/ 

Participation in household life.  Your very gesture is so important, it should not be you rushing around trying to get the whole house clean in one day.  It is taking each article of laundry and smoothing it out, folding it tenderly, putting it in the pile to be put away with love for your family. What is important is not only that the child sees the work being done, but imitates that gesture of love and care.  That extends into caring for plants and animals, this is the very first “environmental education” that a child gets with you, right at home.

To this we add the thought that physical work is very important, not only outside, but inside as well.  Can your wee one help you wash lettuce?  Peel carrots?  Peel an apple? Grind wheat? Knead bread?  These experiences are the first form of handwork for the young child.

Music – as mentioned many times, music and rhymes and verses should take precedence at this point over any written word. 

Inner Work/Personal Parenting Development:  The most spiritually mature people should be the ones coming into contact with the youngest children.  This is a very important time for your own work and  development.  If you are anxious, practice being calm.  If you are impatient, practice being patient.  If you talk in a stream of conscious way, practice being silent.  This is a time to develop your spiritual and religious beliefs.  It is a time to become more aware of the things unseen. 

And to this list we now add a few things:

1.  We work on building up the first four of the twelve senses:

The Sense of Touch: Holding, cuddling, taking baths together, swimming, piggy back rides, games that involve holding hands and singing, wrestling and roughhousing, tickling games if your child likes that, rolling around on the floor together,  being outside in nature, natural materials to touch and play with and wear

The Sense of Life:  RHYTHM, humor and joy!

The Sense of Movement:  crawling, any sustained movement over time such as learning to ride a bike or swim,

The Sense of Balance: RHYTHM again, swinging, rolling, 

2.  PLAY.  This is the time to encourage play.  A reader brought up in another post’s comments that her three year old liked to play “fireman” and she wondered how much detail to go into about why fireman wear what they wear, etc.  I would say it is our job to “unstick” our children’s play if they are stuck.  So, in this example, if all this little boy could do is sit on the sofa and make the noise of a siren, I would set up something where “Fireman Bob” now got a call to go and rescue a cat up in a tree (a stuffed cat on a bookshelf) and now we must check the kitty and oh, the kitty is fine, but whoa, now the firetruck needs gas and let’s check that tire out and then you slowly back out of the play until your child is playing by himself or herself for a few minutes.

It is our job to help advance their play through setting up play scenarios and helping the child become “unstuck.”  You can see the back posts on fostering creative play and the progression of play by age and suggested toys.

3. Preparation for Festivals. This is a great time to help children participate by DOING, not explaining in words.  There are lots of posts on this blog about individual festivals.  Our next one is Candlemas, there is one you can start with!

4.  Art – okay, here is where I differ a bit.

  • Painting -  I still think three and four is young for wet on wet watercolor painting.  Wet on wet watercolor painting should, to me at least, have a very quiet, contemplative and meditative quality.  It can be done, but I think it is more successful when there are older children about to help carry this meditative mood of experiencing with color.  I know many will disagree, but thought I would throw it out there.  I know it is not especially “Waldorf school style”, but I am all for fingerpainting at these ages.  So politically incorrect, I know.:)
  • Coloring with crayons – I know many three and four year olds who would just make a scribble and run off.  Again, I think three and four year olds are still really interested in developing gross motor skills and I know every child is different and some will love this, but many do not, especially without that group to carry it.
  • Carding wool – can be a hit as it is repetitive sensory movement.  You can buy fleece to wash and dry and card it with little dog brushes.  This is great.
  • Sanding wood might be good as well.  Any thoughts?
  • Modeling – I like the idea of modeling with sand, salt dough, snow, kneading bread.  I think beeswax modeling is for older children myself.  Again, this differs from Waldorf school.
  • Sewing – I know Marsha Johnson talks about having the three year old who can sew little felt shapes or whathave you for festivals, but I also know handwork teachers who would disagree with having a three or four year old hand sewing. I think this one is up to you!
  • Finger knitting – again, I think better for the five and six year old.  
  • Other Arts and Crafts – some can be successful, especially in preparation for a festival, but I think for the  most part recommendations in books such as “Earthways” the age range is always put lower than what I would put it.  Why be in such a rush to do all this?

5.  Storytelling and Puppetry – If you have not had a time where you light a candle and tell a story, now is the time to begin.  Pick a story, memorize it, and tell it at least three days a week for two weeks to a month.  Simple nature tales, stories you make up, repetitive fairy tales such as The Mitten, The  Gingerbread Man, stories from Suzanne Down’s books, can all be used.   I especially like the stories with music in them if you can read music and sing.

Circle Time is the heart of the Waldorf Kindergarten, but can be a complete flop at home.  I love the book “Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures” (use  the search engine box to find the review), but at home it can really flop.  Still, I think it is worth a try if you can convince your four-year-old to “teach” your younger child, LOL.  Still stick to the verses and songs you have in daily life, and add seasonal fingerplays and seasonal songs.

Other questions parents have?  What to do about the four year old who is writing?  Wanting to write their name or copy words is still different than formal academics, so just being very ho-hum and not worrying about it is the way to go.  Colors are on the nature table and you can point out an orange pumpkin that is round and  not feel bad your child is “being exposed.”  Again, a bit different than formal academics.  Many of the verses and rhymes for childhood have numbers in them, or letters, and that is okay. Again, different than formal academics. 

Social experiences outside the home can still be limited.  I wrote about social experiences with the four-year-old here:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/09/more-about-social-experiences-for-the-four-year-old  and took some grief about this post, but I still feel about things the same way as when I wrote it.   You can agree or disagree, and take what resonates with you.

I am sure I am forgetting things about these ages and Waldorf in the Home, but hopefully it is a good start for you as you think about these ages.  Again, take what resonates with you.

Many blessings and peace,

Carrie