The Essential Soul Tasks Of The Early Years

Dearest Friends,

During my time of moving houses, I have had several very important issues swirling about in my head with no opportunity to write them down until tonight.  So, you will be seeing some deeply thought and deeply held posts coming from The Parenting Passageway over the next several days.

One thing that I was thinking about fervently was the essential soul tasks of the small child.  If you have been a long-time reader of this blog, I hope over the years I have convinced you of the utmost importance of the physical development of the small child through time and space outside.  We think of a very tiny child of ages birth through three as struggling through space over time to achieve being upright, then progressing to speech and from speech flowing into thought.  During the Early Years, we also develop our  twelve senses, and I often think of such things as the awareness of our bodies (what is us?  what is others?).  This is done through work and also through imaginative play.

But on the soul level, there is a very important task for this age, which is relating to others, and how the child finds their place within a group.  The small child’s experiences with trust of others, belonging with others, finding safety and acceptance of others and within others is all part of this experience.  So is the reverence that we often cannot fully see until we stand present with another.  I have had the wonderful experience of my almost three year old and his very best friend on earth whom I shall call Little Friend.  He and Little Friend adore each other; they run to see each other in the utter thrill that only two best friends can share and laugh in joy.  They chase “moonbears” (their code name for grasshoppers) through the grass, wonder at each spider web and bug, and show such deep reverence and awe at each step of Creation.  It is amazing to watch and it has shown me the deep ability of the small child to love outside of his own immediate family.  For some of you, this is a moment of “Duh!” and for some of you this is a moment of thoughtfulness.  If you can think back to your smallest days, where did you feel safe?  Where did you feel loved?  Where did you feel you belong?  Where were you part of a community?  Did you feel accepted and loved or on the outside?  Why?  How would you answer these questions about your own children?

I have received three separate emails this week asking about five or five and a half year olds and finding the balance of being home and the need for friends (or not).  I think many homeschoolers would say there is no need for interaction outside the family per se; especially perhaps for those with larger families.  But for those with smaller families or children who are close to age six with only a baby perhaps to “play” with, the question remains…  And then people tell me they have tried to look for community and nothing that resonates with them is available, so what do they do?  Do they do classes?  How do they meet people?  Is playing with a friend once a month or once every few months enough?

Here are a few of my thoughts on this subject, and you can take what resonates with you.  I have seen some five and half year olds, mainly girls, who really long for social interaction outside their families. (Some of the boys seem as if they could care less until the six/seven year change and some boys not even until the nine year change, but certainly some of them crave a special friend as well).  So I think the first thing, as always, is to look at your child and observe closely. What is your child telling you?  Are they happy, do they need more, do they need balance?  Where do they feel loved, and accepted outside of your family?  Are they very introverted, very extroverted, how are they with one other friend or with more children about?

I think the thing to think of is not so much the taking of a random class, and certainly not to give up being firmly entrenched in the home, but to think of starting to build community for your children that will serve them well into the future.  I suggest a place of worship.  I suggest looking for like-minded parents through a homeschooling group, an Attachment Parenting Group, a La Leche League Group, or even something as simple as through the local nature center or a place where you do something you love and can meet other women with children.

Neighborhood children are oft-maligned on homeschooling lists; we have been in our house approximately five days and last night I had five neighborhood children in my backyard in addition to my own children.  I love all the children, and I feel especially when we are speaking of tiny children of ages four, five and six, that if we are very present and can be available, we can hold the space in a wonderful way for all the children.  I often find having a task at hand, whether that is juicing  oranges by hand, kneading bread dough or cutting out holiday cookies, blowing bubbles and playing with sidewalk chalk – something where you can be there, and model and show how to take turns and have good manners – can turn into a fun time for all.  Yes, it takes work, but all good things in life take work.  Be a light for your neighborhood and reach out.  I find so many of the children today are craving something nurturing and will gravitate to your home.  Boundaries are important and letting the children know the rules of your home are important, but so is an openness and acceptance.  Where do these other children feel loved and accepted and can you contribute your warmth for that in any way?

The hour is late, and it is time to go.  Please take what I have written and meditate on how it resonates with you and your family, as always.

Many blessings for the wonderful families that you are,


13 thoughts on “The Essential Soul Tasks Of The Early Years

  1. I certainly found our older boys craved playtimes with their friends once or twice a week from the age of five. It didn’t need to be everyday, but some time spent with another child of a similar age was vital to their emotional wellbeing.

  2. Thank you so much for this. Sometimes with my large family I get caught up in the crisis of the moment and my littlest ones just kind of bob along on the tide. It’s really good for me to have these reminders about being intentional in their lives and not just let them be carried along with the older children.

    • Annette,
      I just love you, and I think you do a great job balancing such diverse ages and the needs that come with those diverse ages!

      Hugs and love,
      Carrie 🙂

  3. I was so happy to see this post today, as I woke up with you on my mind Carrie. I am glad to hear you are in your new home. I wish you much happiness there.

    So much to think about in this post. I will say that we started tiger scouts with my 7 year old this year and I am so glad we waited until he was fully seven to start grade 1 and any activities (scouts is his only activity besides a private 10 minute penny whistle lesson). I really am seeing him shine in a group, and I don’t think this would have happened last year. He is on the shy/introverted side, but this year, being in a group of other boys his age, he just becomes his best self. So, so gratifying.

    Your neighbors – children and adults – are lucky to have you.


  4. A little after my son turned 5, he also clearly needed more social interaction, so I don’t think it’s just girls. He is the youngest of 3, with sisters quite a bit older ( 10 and 13). They didn’t want to play with him as much as he wanted to play!! These are good suggestions; thank you!

  5. Thank you, Carrie, for such a lovely and timely blog entry. 😉 It resonated with me on so many levels.

    Congratulations on moving into your new home!!

  6. How is it that I can not get around to reading your blog for a few months here and there and then the one day I have time to sit and read your words, it’s always as though you have written a post specifically for me?! 🙂 Your words, as always Carrie are so relevant for us at this moment on our parenting journey. You are a blessing. I am hoping your move went harmoniously and you are all loving your new space.

  7. Thanks for your thoughts. My son (5 and a half) and I moved far away from my friends and family, and we haven’t really found like-minded friends yet with kids for my son to play with. But recently we have been adopted by 3 brothers (all older than him) that live in our neighborhood. While I’m not totally crazy about these kids, they do give him a social outlet I think he needs. They also function as older brother stand-ins, getting him out exploring the woods and stuff that he would normally not do by himself.

    But I found out fast that I had to set hard and fast rules, otherwise these kids would just take over the house. I’m very laidback, and it took a couple of large annoyances, before I realized that I needed to take charge. One of the most helpful rule that I instated was that they had to play outside most days. They are also not allowed upstairs (all our toys are downstairs); upstairs is for sleeping. They have to ask me for food, no going through the fridge. Some kids just don’t know how to behave at other people’s houses, and you have to be firm about the rules.

    They love our house though, even though we don’t have a TV or X-box. They gobble up my whole wheat muffins, scarf down apples and strawberries, crack pistachios. They thought our air-popcorn popper was awesome. It doesn’t seem to matter that we have no junk food. I’m sure they get enough of that at home. It’s like what you said, they seem to be craving something nurturing.

    • Cheryl,
      The rules are really, really important and I am so glad you discovered that! There is funny segment on one of Penny Sparks’ CDs about how her house was torn apart during a play date and she related this to an older, long -time Waldorf kindergarten teacher who essentially said, “But you didn’t set the rules…..” So I love that in your comment. 🙂

  8. I resonate with this post. We decided to place our child in a waldorf preschool at an early age of 2.9 months. We new she was going to be an only child so we wanted her to have the opportunity to be around others, I was an only child so I have a lot of opinions about things that can help the only child. I was not intending to have an only child but medically, it was decided for me. I also often have multiple neighborhood children at out house. This is a lot of work. But the children want to be here and we are able to be there as an example and guide activities if need be. I often find the most common problems with the neighborhood children is sarcastic, mean language and acting out media. But they dont mind when we say, ” we dont say that here”.

  9. wow…I have a three year old who craves socialization! She loves people, lots of people, my students, her family, says hello to all the neighbors from our enclosed screened porch, and adores going to walmart with her daddy to see people! Sometimes just going on a walk satisfies her need…she told me Sunday she needed someone to come over! LOL I laughed and we had a quiet but lovely day just me and her sisters and spent most of it on the porch outside. Today she woke up and told me she “needed” a taco and to go see her MaeMae (my mom) so I texted them and my antsy girl got her wish….taco bell (shudder) and her MaeMae! It was precious….but you have to listen to their needs and sometimes they just fret and you have to ask them what is wrong and what do they want/need. It always pays to listen to them and their inner rhythm.

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