Smearing Peas

Yes, this  is the title of my post.

My friend was describing a wild and tired three year old who was smearing peas all over the kitchen and as fast as my friend was cleaning it up, there was more being smeared. We have all been there, haven’t we?  My friend was stating the cause was that the child was transitioning out of naps during the day, leading to the afternoon “melt-down” phase.  She was asking what would be a way to handle this situation.

This situation is so familiar!  The transition out of naps can lead to the inevitable afternoon “melt-down” of the child that may involve the child getting more and more wild and  into some kind of mischief that causes the parent to feel frustrated.  Some tired children just wind up and up and up in the late afternoon, don’t they?  And sometimes the parent is feeling tired and less patient at this time as well as they also may not be getting that typical afternoon break when a child no longer naps.

So, what to do with smearing peas or other melt-down kind of situations?

Well, this is just my opinion but here goes.  There is a fine line between a time to distract and provide humor in order to set a boundary versus a time to just set the boundary.   These meltdowns do happen when you are in the nap skipping stage to make nighttime better, and so it is great to talk about this!     This is where the physical piece of parenting comes in and I don’t mean physically beating your child :); you will see what I mean in a moment.  Donna Simmons actually talks about this quite a bit in her discipline work (see www.christopherushomeschool.org) and this is the piece which many parents are uncomfortable with, but it is so necessary with the three and four year old population (I think so, anyway, from my experience).

My thought would be to not say many words at all, not to really distract with humor or anything else, the answer really  is just that this is not okay.   If a child is doing something to hurt you, hurt their neighbor or just plain irritate you, and the child is wild, you need the physical piece beyond the words.  Does the three- year- old or four- year- old do these kinds of things on purpose?  No, of course not.  But you can still guide the situation.

The physical piece in this situation may have  been  to softly cover the child’s hands, gently pry whatever utensil is in the child’s hands out of the hands, catch the child in the eye and say, “I think your hands forgot what they were doing.” Put the peas up!  And then physically hold the child,  and take the child with you to get two wet cleaning cloths or whatever and hand one to the child to help clean up.  If the child  cannot control herself enough to do that, then the child could sit on the counter or near you or whatnot while you clean and rhythmically hum.

Or the answer may have been to just take the child who was probably also pea-smeared to the bathroom and get cleaned up and leave the kitchen until a bit later  (and if they had a dog, it may have solved the cleaning up part before they got back from the bathroom, right?)  But the beginning steps would have been the same – gee, your hands forgot what they are doing, physically removing the child from the situation gently and then making the situation better.

Small children under the age of 7 in general and especially those  who are being wild, (whether this is from being tired or not), do not need words.  They need a loving, physical presence to help bring them back into themselves.  And they need help to see if they can make the situation better.  We should not be afraid of physically holding our children when they are wild or upset if this is what they need.  We should not be afraid to physically help our children come back into themselves, whether this is through a hug or through helping them clean up a mess they made. 

I think parents are afraid of the physical piece needed with small children so many times because they  feel angry and they rightly don’t want to touch their child when they are angry.  However, when you get good at it, you can still be angry or frustrated inside BUT have gentle hands and a calm voice with your child.  You can almost be outside yourself, observing the situation, if that makes any sense at all, but still be present and doing what you have to do.  Many parents who cannot do that do find if one can get centered then the physical piece works.  If you have to get centered before you can offer that which is needed, then you can go  off to the other room or just scoop your child  up and both of you go outside till you are both a little more calm.  Just stand against the back door so your child cannot go back inside and smear more peas while you are pulling it together :).

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.

Waldorf First Grade At Home

Teaching a Waldorf-inspired first grade at home is so much fun!  For those of you who are new to Waldorf homeschooling, Waldorf first grade is for children who are close to the age of seven.  This works in conjunction with Steiner’s observations of child development according to seven year cycles, so yes, a six year old is still typically in their second year of kindergarten at a Waldorf school.   Academic work is not directly taught until the first grade.  At home especially, I encourage parents to view first grade as a bridge between the kindergarten years and the other grades to come (more about this in a minute).

The Waldorf grades work in conjunction with “blocks” where subjects are taught daily for a certain length of time – from three weeks to a month, for example.  This is called a “main lesson.”  The children have main lesson books that they draw summaries of their lessons into and try to showcase their best work.  Main lesson work is considered work of the HEAD and typically involves good morning verses (memorized), a seasonal circle time that is very active (also memorized verses and songs and may include playing a recorder or pennywhistle), and then the main lesson on whatever subject the student is learning about.  The teacher memorizes the material presented and the students write summaries in their books, so there really are no textbooks or worksheets involved in this active learning method. 

The Main Lesson has a three part rhythm to it that involves the child using sleep as an aid to learning.  No other method of education uses sleep the way that Waldorf does, as a true help for memorizing and living into subjects.  For example, on Monday, a concept is introduced through a story that may involve puppetry or other props.  Tuesday may then  involve re-visiting the story and something such as art, drama, modeling, going outside to look for something in the story; essentially expounding on some part of the story that has been already been told.  Wednesday then involves a re-visiting of the story with the academic piece drawn into the main lesson book.  Some families, for first grade, do a three day rhythm for Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and then do wet on wet watercolor painting on Thursdays.  Some families fit in two main stories a week with two three-day rhythms. 

The HEART portion of school may involve foreign language practice, being outside and playing organized games, eurythmy (something special to Waldorf education which has been called “visible speech”), or music.  The HANDS portion of the lesson may come in the afternoon and may include knitting for first graders, wet on wet watercolor painting, drawing, woodworking or other types of handwork.

In our home, I chose to do one block a month for first grade so our outline for main lessons for the year looks like this:  September –Form Drawing based off of Nature Stories, October – Language Arts, letters A-J based off of Fairy Tales, November – Qualities of Numbers block, December – Quantities of Numbers where all four math processes are introduced and a once a week form drawing block, January – another one week form drawing block and A Look at the Four Seasons and the Four Elements, February – Language Arts based off of Fairy Tales, letters K- Q, March- Math Block Number Three, April – Language Arts based off of Fairy Tales, letters R-Z with a review of AEIOU – (vowels are often taught separate from the consonants), May – two  weeks of a Backyard Nature Block with form drawing and two weeks of writing based off the Fairy Tales, one week of review in June and a show of all main lesson book work for family.  Many families also will do form drawing on one day of the week during other blocks of subjects. 

Our daily rhythm looks essentially like this – A walk in the morning through our neighborhood with our dog, morning verses and the lighting of a candle, finger plays and a story for my Kindergartner, circle time and bean bag games and rope jumping rhymes for both children but more geared to my older child, main lesson work for my First Grader.  The HEART portion of our daily rhythm looks like this – Mondays, German tutor comes to our home; Tuesdays, practice Spanish or go hiking with a local group; Wednesday, Spanish tutor comes to our home, Thursdays, practice German; Fridays, special songs for whatever festival is upcoming.  After we have lunch, reading books aloud and quiet time, we have the HANDS portion of our day.  This part of our rhythm looks like this – Mondays, wet on wet watercolor painting; Tuesdays, bread baking and modeling while waiting for bread; Wednesdays, handwork/knitting; Thursdays, gardening or drawing and Fridays, housekeeping.

Many parents consider learning the letters and sounds of the alphabet and perhaps starting to read a very important part of first grade, along with an introduction to the four math processes.  Master Waldorf Teacher Eugene Schwartz (www.millennialchild.com)  contends that the most essential part of first grade is really form drawing and math.  For many reasons, I agree with Mr. Schwartz.

(For those of you who are not familiar with form drawing, form drawing is a way of working with lines and curves that Rudolf Steiner outlined in three of his lectures as a way of working with children of different temperaments (in Waldorf education there are four temperaments identified).  Form drawing is a precursor to handwriting, geometry and also observation of nature for future scientists).

Important and necessary parts of first grade besides the above really do include knitting and other types of handwork, wet on wet watercolor painting and its polar opposite of  modeling, drawing and coloring with block crayons and beginning to learn to play a recorder, pentatonic flute or pennywhistle.  I personally would also include foreign languages as a necessary part of the first grade but we are a very  foreign-language oriented family.  Fairy tales and nature stories are the soul nourishment of this age and it is a beautiful year.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that first grade can be viewed as a bridge from kindergarten and the other grades.  This means that while first grade is indeed important with lots to learn and do, it also important in the home environment for first grade to be fun, to know when to take the day off and head to the park and to be sure to allow lots of time for free play and outside play along with time for preparation for festivals. In mind’s eye, the child in the early grades is forming association with subjects through experiences.  Everything in first grade should be active, rhythmical, musical, artistic and inter-related.  The Waldorf curriculum keeps building and building and growing more and more in its intensity; there is no reason to make yourself or your child insane with heavy, dull work in the early years!

Having a Waldorf-inspired homeschool means the ability to really create and choose stories that speak to your child’s temperament and experiences, to work indirectly through the curriculum with the things that are challenging to that child, and to be able to provide the child with a lot of time to be outside and dream! Homeschooling is an excellent way for siblings to connect and be together and for families to leave peacefully together. Waldorf within the home is a beautiful sigh of wonder.

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.