A Yahoo Group For Waldorf Early Childhood

Experienced Waldorf Early Childhood Teacher Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie has created a warm, safe and welcoming space for those parents with questions pertaining to the Early Years over at 


This group is currently being revitalized; you are welcome to participate!

Many blessings,


Part Two of “Contemplating Homeschooling For Waldorf Kindergarten”?

I think it is a sign of our times that I see mothers getting so very anxious, so very worked up about what to do, what curriculum to use for their three, four and five year olds, even in a Waldorf-inspired environment.

Please don’t.

Your main job with small children under the age of first grade (six and a half or seven) is to have a healthy home life and to do your own inner work and personal development in order to help set the tone for that healthy, joy-filled home life.

You might be wondering how to get started on inner work and personal development.  I have encouraged mothers over and over to really look carefully at discerning a spiritual path and to get involved in the DOING of an active spiritual life at a place of worship with a community. This is so important for your children as they grow, especially heading into the grades. 

Some parents have told me they have no idea what spiritual path to even try.  I suggest talking to your partner or spouse about your spiritual leanings or desires and comparing notes.  Possibly then you could make a shorter list of possible spiritual matches and go visiting alone or together as a couple  if it is hard to visit different places each week with small children in tow.  Sometimes the visiting process is confusing to small children, and discerning where you need to be as a family is important to do alone or as a couple and then involve the small children. Of course, with older children, visiting as a family can be a lovely experience.

A spiritual path can help direct your prayer life, your meditative life, your hours of the day and the festivals of the year.  Many religions have a Daily Office where certain things are prayed at certain hours, and a year of feasts and festivals to deepen one’ walk of faith throughout the cycle of the year. 

I have a large number of Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican readers on this blog, along with quite a few Jewish and Islamic readers (and other spiritual paths!).  Perhaps they could comment as to what has been most meaningful to them on their spiritual path over the years in the comment box.  Not as a religious debate, of course, but as an example of personal journey!

Another way to work with personal development, I think, is to work with the concept of biography.  Where have you been, where are you now, where are you going?  Look at your seven year cycles and where you have been; I have many back posts on the book “Tapestries” on this blog that details each seven-year cycle through adulthood and also the stages of marriage.  You can find them by putting “Tapestries” into this blog’s search engine.  (And with close to 750 detail-packed posts, this blog needs a search engine! Ha!)

Love to all,


New To This Blog and Considering Waldorf Homeschooling For Kindergarten?

There are many, many back posts about homeschooling Waldorf Kindergarten on this blog.

First of all, many families are just trying to decide about whether or not homeschooling is right for them period.  If that is the case, try this back post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/01/how-to-make-a-decision-about-homeschooling/.  Are you concerned about homeschooling an only child?  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/11/13/parenting-and-homeschooling-the-only-child/

Perhaps these back posts would also  assist you:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/09/more-about-social-experiences-for-the-four-year-old/  and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/07/social-experiences-for-a-four-year-old/  

I think it is very important to get clear about what Waldorf Kindergarten really means.  Waldorf Kindergarten in the school setting used to start around age four and a half, and now the age has dropped to age 3 or even younger, with “Morning Garden” classes for toddlers to age 3 in many schools.  For more thoughts on this, try this post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/30/waldorf-homeschooling-versus-waldorf-school/  Both Donna Simmons of Christopherus Homeschooling Resources and I have a strong dislike of where the Waldorf schools are headed in terms of taking younger and younger children out of the home.  Waldorf Kindergartens work to emulate a loving home, and this is something that we obviously can work on at home for far less cost and for far more personal development than perhaps would occur if our child was at Waldorf school.  Having your children with you 24/7 forces your own spiritual growth!  Ask any homeschooling mother!

I think in the home environment really we need to do “Waldorf Kindergarten” around the five-year-old year and the six-year-old year.  These are the ages for increased attention, increased ability to do artistic and creative work in a focused fashion.  It is just a thought; I know some will disagree.

Many families are attracted to the idea of homeschooling Waldorf Kindergarten because they like to spend time outside or they like all the natural toys.  There is a bit more to it than just those things.  Please read this article by Marsha Johnson, Waldorf Teacher, from this blog:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/15/the-waldorf-kindergarten/

What you may gather from the article by Marsha Johnson is that there is a progression in Waldorf Education, there is a sequence, and every single thing builds on each other.   There is nothing random in the curriculum at all.  It is all in there in due time when it is developmentally appropriate.   So, I think part of getting educated about Waldorf Kindergarten entails at least having an idea as to what first grade would be like.  There are posts about first grade on this blog for you to look at.  Here are some other places to learn more about Waldorf Education:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/28/i-am-new-to-waldorf-how-can-i-find-out-more/

Academic skills are introduced when the child is six and a half or seven in first grade.  I think one has to really get on the same page as one’s partner or spouse and discuss if together you are both really okay with a child not starting to read formally or do math formally.  The oral basis of language is being laid in the kindergarten in an extremely rich way, the body is being prepared in a rich way to promote academic success, foundations of math and science are being laid, but the formal sit down and write part comes later.  Are you okay with that?

Here are a few things to work on in the years before starting Waldorf Kindergarten in your home:

    • Work on your own ability to nurture and enfold your child into life.
    • Establish a rhythm for your child, your family, your life.  If you are still struggling with rhythm when you hit homeschooling for the grades, it will be difficult to focus on teaching.  Remember though, rhythm is not a schedule but a flow.
    • Establish health of your child through protection of the 12 senses, use of warmth, establishing rhythm.
    • Repetition!  It is what little people need!
    • Play, singing, interaction
    • Including your child in household chores
    • Outside and sensory experiences
    • Fostering the imagination through oral storytelling
    • And this famous post:


More nuts and bolts:




Here are some other blog posts that may interest you as you consider this decision:

A review:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/13/a-review-kindergarten-with-your-three-to-six-year-old-by-donna-simmons/

Another review:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/17/favorite-waldorf-resource-1-joyful-movement/

More Early Years books:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/09/which-early-years-book-should-i-buy/


How Old Should My Child Be For Dry Needle Felting?

My wonderful handwork teacher Judy Forster noted to me the other day that the control and sharpness of the needle for dry needle felting are challenges that are just right for the physical and emotional changes that occur in middle school (typically 7th and 8th grade). 

From my observations of the development of the child at different ages, I agree with her. I also think there are many, many projects one can be busy with, so why be in such a rush to get to that rather hardening gesture?  This is an important point for Waldorf homeschooling parents who may be guiding their children’s handwork program without having a Waldorf-trained handwork teacher to assist them!

Wet felting is a wonderful alternative, and children in the grades can knit, crochet, macrame, cross stitch (fourth grade, age 10), sew (typically grades six and seven for projects) and do many other types of work with their hands.

If you have small children under the age of 7, I like to think about color and freedom.  The small child should be able to choose colors and materials and turn them into whatever suits the child’s fancy of the moment, whether that be a ghost or an elephant.  They may imitate you, but often they are just a wellspring of creativity.    I remember I had one good friend whose little boy made a whole bunch of creatures and critters from sheets of felt when he was around four or five.  The colors and shapes and what they were called were all his and he loved them.

Even in older children, seeing what colors the children pick and what they want to make is fascinating.   My Third Grader is currently drawn to blues and greens and I feel this is meeting her temperamental traits and where she is.  Color and form is fascinating!

If you need help determining what project comes when within the Waldorf curriculum,, please look at this back post that Ms. Judy Forster was so kind to write for this blog:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/28/handwork/

Many blessings to you all,


A Review: Autumn Tales by Suzanne Down

The funny thing about doing reviews is that I can tell you what I like or don’t like about something, but those may not be the things YOU like or dislike.  So, like everything else on this blog, please filter it through the fact that you are the expert on your own family and you will find in your heart what works best or does not work best.  Find what resonates with you!

Onto the review!  This is a paperback, spiral-bound little book of about 38 pages or so entitled “Autumn Tales:  A seasonal collection of poems and stories to be a helpful resource for teachers and parents.”

This book begins with 11 pages of verses that cover all the things one would see or associate with fall:  leaves, wind, farm animals and worker archetypal characters, geese, Harvest moons, pumpkins, spiders, witches for Halloween, apples, acorn fairies, ponies, Michaelmas swords and taming dragons, lanterns, Jack Frost, scarecrows and more!  The verses would be especially wonderful for ages 3-6, and perhaps you could even stretch them into using them for the grades or using the suggestion of movement from a verse for Form Drawing or  poetry or handwriting practice for the grades after the children learn the verses orally.  (yes, there is that oral work to handwriting to reading practice again!) .  I also like the idea of taking these verses and using them as a basis for your Nature Table or even taking the verses and crafting a fine story out of them.  For example, there is a sweet verse about a spider and a mouse living in a warm, snug little pumpkin house all winter that would be easy to make into a longer story.

The stories themselves are: Harvest Moon Magic, Piper’s Wild Plum Pie, How Witchamaroo Became the Pocket Witch (this story is a Halloween tradition in our house!  Who does not like Witchamaroo?), The Star House (great for visits to the apple orchard to pick apples), The Apple Elves, Star Kisses, Mother Earth’s Children, Little Boy Knight (a Michaelmas tale for young children), Why Trees Turn Color in Autumn, How Corn Came to the World, The Wise Ant  and Autumn Bear.

The stories themselves would most likely appeal to the four to six year old crowd, although a three-year-old could follow “Autumn Bear”.   I find many of the stories delightful myself as an adult, so again, I think it would all depend how you decide to work with them and bring them into gardening or seasonal traditions. 

There is one page at the back of the book with some simple patterns for a maple leaf, a pumpkin, a red apple and a mouse in order to make some finger puppets.

If you are interested in learning more about this book, please see this link over at Juniper Tree School of Story and Puppetry Arts:  http://junipertreepuppets.com/books/

I had the great fortune of once attending a workshop with Suzanne Down; my secret dream is to one day go through her puppetry arts training.  Ah, the big dreams of life!

Many blessings,


The Story Apron

My dear friend and fellow Waldorf Homeschooling mother, Natalie, has been busy making and dreaming about making several  “story aprons” of different types.  She has so inspired me, and I wanted to share that with you all.

One type of apron reminds me of “The Pocket Lady” from our local Waldorf School’s Holiday Faire.  Essentially, the Pocket Lady at the Faire has a long coat made with many pockets filled with little crafted treats that the children can pick.  My friend is making a simpler version of this – taking an apron with pockets, embellishing the pockets with a beautiful design and filling each pocket with a needle-felted creation or nature item that represents a verse or song for her Kindergarten-aged child.  The child gets to pick the pocket and hear the verse or song that goes with the object.  What a cute idea!  A type of apron that may work for something like this would be this one at Dharma Trading Company:  http://www.dharmatrading.com/html/eng/7559578-AA.shtml  or to make your own!

The second kind of apron that we are both dreaming of making is one my friend saw over at Suzanne Down’s beautiful puppetry blog in the following post:  http://junipertreepuppets.com/story-apron-wool-magic-article/ .  You can see a photo of The Story Apron in action here:  http://junipertreepuppets.com/the-power-of-language/   and more pictures here:  http://junipertreepuppets.com/puppet-story-apron-class/

Essentially, my thought was to wet felt a circular, pizza -dish sized wool for the top, to embellish that with dry needle felting and then to sew it onto a silk I have dyed.    My plan is to make an apron  for Fall, Winter and Spring (ie, our school year) and use those seasonal backdrops for a variety of needle-felted puppets.

Has anyone done this and have experience to share?
This is such a lovely idea, thank you so much to my dear friend and to Suzanne Down for the inspiration!

Many blessings,


Waldorf In The Home With The Five-Year-Old

MY CAVEAT TO THIS POST:  I write these posts from the perspective that the one-year-old, the two-year-old, etc is your OLDEST child in your homeschool, without older siblings to carry things… that may help explain my perspective on wet-on-wet painting and other such animals.  You can see the comments below as well…

We talked a bit about planning for fall in a recent post, and I wanted to make sure my mothers with under-7 children didn’t feel left out.  We are up to the five-year-old now!  I still hold some maverick views compared to much of the Waldorf community, so please take what resonates with you and leave the rest from this post.  If you are searching for the other posts in this series, here is the one- and two-year old in the home:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/06/waldorf-in-the-home-with-the-one-and-two-year-old/      and here is the three- and four-year-old in the home:  http://www.theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/13/waldorf-in-the-home-with-the-three-and-four-year-old/ .  If you review those back posts, you can see life is focused on rhythm, bodily care, singing, work around the house, being outside – no curriculums needed, although you may like some sources for verses, Mother Goose rhymes and songs.  I did do a review of one Kindergarten source here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/13/a-review-kindergarten-with-your-three-to-six-year-old-by-donna-simmons/

So here comes five!

Five can be such  an odd age.  It is the age that is considered a “golden” age by traditional perspectives, but many mothers of five-year-olds tell me they are pulling their hair out over their child’s behavior.  I think this is mainly because some five-year-olds are still in the four-year-old “out of bounds” stage, and some five-year-olds are beginning that six and seven-year transformation.  Here are some back posts about the five-year-old in general if you need some developmental help: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/10/the-fabulous-five-year-old/ 

Here is what I think a five-year-old should be working on with Waldorf In The Home:

RHYTHM!  Here is a lovely article detailing a rhythm in a Waldorf Kindergarten by Ruth Ker:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/blessingker.pdf

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

Rest Times.  I honestly don’t know many five year olds who still nap, and that is a shame.  If your child is not a  “napper” at this age, you can still have a quiet time each day.  Your child  may not be able to do this well  on his or her own (although some will happily play with a play scenario you have set up), but this 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 timeBeing outside is of extreme importance and to provide opportunities for physical movement outside.  If your child is a reluctant woodsperson, try the following 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/

I think really three hours a day outside is not too much, and you could do more.  It is important.  Some homeschooling mothers arrange to hold almost their entire school day

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 really  is about  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. 

We continue to  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, and now working toward more complex gross motor skills – riding a bike, trying the monkey bars and climbing structures,   skipping

If you need to know realistic expectations for a five-year-old, please see here: 


PLAY.  In the imitative phase of the first seven year cycle, your child may very well need some help from you in play without a group around to carry it.  You can see the back posts on fostering creative play and the progression of play by age and suggested toys.

People ask about play dates for this age.  I think play dates need to be structured with the adults doing something that requires taking turns and modeling the behavior you would like to see, and then moving into free play with the adults really in tune as to what is going on with the children (not off chatting in a corner ignoring the children).    I think play dates should be kept short.  If you would like to see more about social experiences, here is a post about the four-year-old I like:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/09/more-about-social-experiences-for-the-four-year-old/  I think much in this post holds true for the five-year-old.  Five-year-old boys also may really not be ready for group situations until they around are seven years old.

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. 

Art/Creative Experiences

  • Painting -  Some five year olds may do well doing wet on wet watercolor painting  and some may have much difficulty in this  area.  I personally like the idea of starting wet on wet painting during the six-year old kindergarten year, as something special and new for that final year of kindergarten.  Wet on wet painting, to me, should have a very quiet, contemplative and meditative quality. 
  • Coloring with crayons  — you can see this book about Drawing with your child here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/04/drawing-with-your-four-to-eleven-year-old/  And here is an article about block or stick crayons in the Kindergarten from the “Gateways” Journal:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW3606.pdf
  • 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.   You could also consider dyeing with plants…here is an article from the “Gateways” journal here:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW57grant.pdf
  • Sanding wood might be good as well.  Any thoughts?
  • Modeling – I like the idea of modeling with sand, salt dough, snow, kneading bread.  I would save  beeswax modeling  for the six-year-old children myself.  Again, this differs from Waldorf school.
  • Sewing – I disagree strongly with the kindergarten aged child using a needle to penetrate cloth.  I  know that is not especially popular opinion right now, but oh well.   :) 
  • Wet felting is a fun activity for five year olds.
  • Finger knitting – can try with the OLDER  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? Six, seven and eight are still good ages for crafts.

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. 

Here is where you can start bringing in some traditional fairy tales.  See here for a list of recommended fairy tales by age, but pick one that that resonates with you: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/20/fairy-tales-books-and-storytelling-with-the-little-ones/  and here:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/20/the-importance-of-fairy-tales/

You could also make your five year old year your Nature Tales year (there are many on http://www.mainlesson.com ) and then bring in more fairy tales in your true Kindergarten year (your six year old year).  And don’t be afraid to repeat stories from year to year – your children will ask for them!  That repetition is wonderful!

My other thought is to create those stories to address challenging behavior.  There are several examples here in this article from the “Gateways” Journal:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW55brooks.pdf

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” (see this post for the review: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/29/favorite-waldorf-resource-5-three-resources-to-help-you-get-more-movement-into-your-homeschool/ ), but at home it can really flop.  Still, I think it is worth a try if you can convince your five-year-old to “teach” your younger child, LOL.  Still stick to the verses and songs you have in daily life, and add seasonal finger plays and seasonal songs.

Hope this helps you as you plan.  Please do take what resonates with you.

What concerns or challenges are you facing with your five-year-old?  Please do feel free to leave a comment below. 

Many blessings,