Today we are beginning our series of small, steady, concrete steps that you can take in order to build a foundation for an improved family life and homeschooling success. In the past, I have often talked about how the foundation for the family begins with you, your attitude, where you are and how to work with personal, internal development. I still think this is true and vitally important, but in this series I actually want to start with some of the outward things. Perhaps having a small taste of success with some of these outward tasks will suit many of you and provide inspiration to tackle more regarding personal development in the future. Having the outward things in order can be a springboard toward honing the internal qualities that make family life successful.
Our one small step for today is to make time to review your commitments outside the home and, if you are not single, to talk about your commitments to your spouse or partner. Work together to form what you will participate in outside of your home.
I want to start here because in order to really improve things around your home and in your life, you will actually have to be at home, to really be present, and not be pulled in fifty thousand directions.
The areas you may want to think about in evaluating your outside commitments include:
Errands – do you have an errand day? Can you consolidate errands? Can you run errands without your children? Can other family members run errands for you? Can you order some things on-line? Exactly how many times a week and a month are you going out for things?
Adult commitments – I find homeschooling mothers in particular often take on many jobs and projects in the community or in their places of worship. Homeschooling mothers know how to get things done, and they often have a passion toward building community for their children. However, they then have to add on the full-time job of teaching their children to this myriad of commitments. I am not saying to not be involved in your community, in your neighborhood, in your place of worship, at all! I am all about community and people and am very outgoing myself! However, I am asking you to think carefully about exactly how many commitments you have and if that is conducive to your family life. Sometimes you can handle one thing, but not ten! Your children are only small once, and pruning may be in order, as hard as that can be. Giving other people a turn to lead things and head things up is really okay!
Children’s commitments – How many activities are your children involved in, and do these activities reflect your priorities for your children and family life? I speak with many families who want their children to be anchored in a spiritual life, yet never seem to have time to attend a place of worship due to other commitments. I ask them if this really matches what they express that they want for their family life. Similarly, I speak with families who really want to be involved in activities in the great outdoors such as camping or hiking, but who cannot seem to find the time to do this on the weekends due to other commitments. So, I think it is important to think carefully about what you wish to see and what your current reality is and how to connect the two. Again, this may involve letting go of commitments that are not serving your great purpose as a family.
How many activities do you think your children need? Many homeschooling families with children in the grades (ages seven and up) pick one to two activities per child at most.
Sports can get very tricky due to all the practices and games and meets. If you think sports are important, consider prudently how many practices and games and meets are involved and if that really does knock out all other activities. Also, does it knock activities out for all the other children who are not involved in the sport as well because they all have to come along? The needs of the entire family need to be considered.
Many families involved with Waldorf homeschooling wait on team sports until the children are around age twelve if they can. This may seem like a long wait to many families and probably wins Waldorf homeschooling no popularity points with many parents. I do have to add here from my viewpoint as a pediatric physical therapist that I am concerned about sports and children of today. Children are starting sports at young ages and training in multiple training sessions in one week (plus many sports are also adding in running or weight training sessions on top of sport-specific practices) AND training almost all year round. This was unheard of even 25 years ago. The number of children my therapist colleagues are seeing with repetitive sports injuries that we used to see mainly at the college level is astounding. And more food for thought, anecdotally I find that the young ladies of about fourteen years of age seem to become injured and then no longer do the competitive sport that they started training for between the ages of six to nine. They are done. Their sporting career peaked too early in a sense. Just food for thought for when you think about sports in your own family. Do think with a long-term vision in mind.
I do find some children have an extremely strong drive to dance or skate or whatnot. Some children do truly seem to be born to do that movement or sport; you may have one of those kinds of children in your family. So, I suggest if you can try to put competitive sports off until at least after the nine year change, that is a decent start. Many nine year olds who are Waldorf homeschooling are in the Third Grade, which is not a bad place to begin a sport.
So, I have gone through these commitments and you might actually be saying, “Okay, but we have no real commitments!” In this case, I might actually ask you to find something of significance for you or your children to commit to and participate in and connect with a community. I feel there must be a balance between the individual family and the community.
All of this is food for thought, so please do take what resonates with you. Look for another small step to be posted later this week. I would love to hear your thoughts, successes and challenges, and discussion around this small step as we use our summer to have a good school year come fall.
Our children attend a Waldorf school and they begin sport in Class Three when the children are turning nine, so I am particularly interested in your suggestion that they wait until 12. I can certainly see the advantages to the later start, so just curious really. ( Our boys also begin swimming lessons from the age of three. In New Zealand this is an essential life-skill with so many rivers, lakes, pools and the ocean readily accessible, and also great for cross-brain communication. 🙂 )
Yes, Karyn, try here: http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/childrensports.pdf, which mentions most Waldorf schools start “teams” with competition in the sixth or seventh grade and continue through high school (perhaps this is different in NZ than the US?) and here where it talks about how competitve sports are best introduced in the teenaged years: http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/movementsports.pdf
For North America Waldorf, I am probably pushing it when I say at least age nine for COMPETING, (not just games with teams), but maybe I am right in synch with NZ? LOL
amazing! I just drastically reduced our “car time” last week, because we had a long and stressful drive home from my parents’ house and I couldn’t bear the idea of getting back in the car for awhile. It didn’t seem like we were spending lots of time away from home on a daily basis, but now I see that we were – an hour here, two hours there, baby napping in the carseat one or both times a day… After a blissful and peaceful week, I realized how important it is to cut down on our car time and commitments and discussed this with my husband. It was hard to miss the difference in our moods, bedtimes, and behavior last week! Thanks for this timely post.
Now I’m really curious as to whether it’s just our school or the others around the country, Carrie. I know the children aren’t put into ability teams until they are in the high-school, and the lower-school teams have a focus of taking part and co-operation – still, they compete against other schools each weekend. There are many, many parents in NZ in the state-school system who begin their children in competitive sport at the age of four or five, so I was immensely impressed with the wait until nine. I might have to go and ask a few questions now! LOL
That’s so interesting Karyn..I know the Waldorf Schold here do teams and such and schools compete against each other for the Greek Olypimcs and such in Fifth Grade…but it seems the compettive basketball games and such start more toward the end of the eight years…I don’t know, I always thought I was the maverick for saying just a bit past the nine year change is an impressive amount of time to hold off in sports-crazed America, so I probably would feel like you!
I’m in NZ too 🙂 Hi Karyn
We’ve started going along to a sports game day for homeschoolers once a fortnight at a local gymn. I like the idea that they get to hold a basket ball, a hockey stick, play a game of t-ball, etc. It seems very low key and fun oriented. But so far I’m not all that sure that the kids actually enjoy it. My 5 year old daughter won’t do a thing except stand there, and my 7 year old son seems to run around like mad, but gets so easily upset about losing, or about ‘unfair’ play or whatever. Its so hard to know whether to persist, as part of socialisation of being in the know with ‘sports culture’
Another thing I’ve come across is if we join in sports activities now at this young age, the classes tend to be playful. If we wait till later there are few exploratory, playful options left… its often highly competitive by then. So I’m tempted to get in there now and ‘play’ while we’ve got the chance.
Great suggestions, as always. I’d also add the suggestion that when you do make commitments, to continuously evaluate whether or not they’re working for your family. I don’t suggest making a habit of quitting things we start with the kids, but I do think we can sometimes comfortably fit in things that we truly want to do by eliminating activities that we’re doing only out of a sense of obligation or habit.
And PS: I’m sending you many, many hugs today. It’s good to feel one’s voice is being heard :).
We have managed very well at keeping activities to a minimum. My weekly goal is no more than 3 days away from home. I have not been successful at finding a consistent community though. I tried a preschool group for my son and there were a couple of kids who hit in the group, so we stopped attending. I’ve since attempted to host an art group twice a month at my house, but just can’t get the moms motivated to come. Their kids love the activities, but it is more focused around the activities than just hanging out visiting. I have given up on it. I’m part of a local on-line mom’s group, but it seems to be more talk than action. We were going to the library weekly for story time, but the librarian occassionally will include snacks with the story and these consist of store bought sugar cookies or suckers or something like that. I don’t let my son eat those things and can’t understand why the library is offering them when they have such an opportunity to provide knowledge of all kinds, including nutrition. We haven’t been consistent on attending since the snacks have started. I’m really struggling with finding a “community”.
I do love your blog and very much appreciate all the advice, help, and information I receive from it!! Thank you!!
Why not bring your own snacks to eat?
I do take my own snacks, but at 3 1/2 yrs its just not the same thing eating the stuff you always get when you are now old enough to know that its different from what everyone else is having. I’ve even offered to bring healthy options for everyone so that the Library doesn’t have to spend money on food and was politely told no. That’s why we’ve adjusted that schedule. Not a big deal, but I do find it odd.
Carrie – I absolutely love your blog! We do not home school, we are a Montessori family and we live out West, but despite these differences, I come away from your posts with a renewed sense of “I can do this Mom thing, and do it well”. Thank you for your thoughtfulness, this blog is truly an important part of my parenting growth.
This is so well stated! We, too, are a Montessori family, though I am very inspired by the Waldorf approach to rhythm as well as many other aspects that seem to go hand-in-hand with the Montessori approach (e.g., following the child, gentle/respectful/positive discipline, appreciation for nature and slowing down and spirituality). And I, too, always come away from this very thoughtful blog with a renewed sense of vision for and confidence in my parenting journey. I love this new series and look forward to more!
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I’m glad you addressed the “lesser committed” side. 🙂 I tend to be very low key, and I’m finding that my daughter (age 5) needs more involvement than she did a year or so ago. And we’ve started going to church, and being involved there, and I think it’s great for her. 🙂 And all of us. 🙂
Gah, Carrie, you’ve pegged me totally here and I’m not afraid to admit it. I’ve always sworn I wouldn’t over commit my kids or myself and here we are, totally over committed and running in 50,000 directions at once. I am proud of the fact that I didn’t over commit when they were little and we did stay home most days, didn’t do team sports, or outside lessons. But now (my children are 13.5, 12, and 8.5) all that has changed. This year I finally caved on Little League, my son is such an incredible athlete and all of his friends at the Waldorf school were playing too. I tell myself that this is the phase of life we are in right now and it is o.k. but there is a nagging doubt. All of the things we do are so very valuable, none seems extraneous, but taken together it is too much. Big sigh. I’m afraid that making a change in our commitments is less of a small step and more of a giant leap.
Ha! Lisa, I emailed you privately!
I feel like there is such a push to get kids into activities. And, if you don’t start early, then you are behind. Does that make sense? I didn’t put my daughter in dance until she was 6 1/2. She was behind in her age group because the girls in her class had been dancing since they were 2 or younger. She felt left out because she couldn’t do the splits etc that the other girls could do. It is so hard! We switched classes and she finished the year and did fine, but doesn’t want to go back. Many girls her age have been in gymnastics or cheerleading or basketball for 2 years already. I feel it is hard for her to compete with that. I agree with this post completely and I don’t understand the parents I see driving themselves crazy with practices every night and games on Sat and Sun. But, at the same time, I feel like we have sort of excluded ourselves completely.
Stephanie – Yes, I think so many of us feel that way…that when we start later, our children are “behind”…and then our children are left out. I remember as a child because my mother died when I was quite young and had been sick for a number of years, I learned to ride a bike “late”, I couldn’t hardly do a cartwheel, etc. I “caught up” but always felt self-conscious and really until I was in high school and college did I come into my own with athletic pursuits…There really is no easy answer, is there? I do think, for what it is worth, that there are some sports that are easier than others to come into later. I also see the wisdom that some families have in really just spending their time together hiking or biking or whatnot, creating family memories…I sometimes wonder if that shouldn’t be more of a focus, although I know family memories are being made when children are involved in things..
Like I said, no easy answers, just commiserating with you!
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