This week we are looking at Chapter Four, entitled “Imitation, Life Activities, and the Role of the Adult as Example and Guide.” What a great title!
This chapter begins with a lovely quote from Rudolf Steiner:
The task of the kindergarten teacher is to adjust the work taken from daily life so that it becomes suitable for the children’s play activities. The whole point….is to give young children the opportunity to imitate life in a simple and wholesome way.
Imagine if that was the point of every kindergarten in North America! Just imagine!
So, in creating this type of environment at home for the kindergarten (ages 3-6) child, we need rhythm in daily life activities, safe and healthy boundaries, and adults’ consistency in maintaining the boundaries and rhythm.
These can all be very difficult things for the adult who is homeschooling. We don’t live as rhythmic a life as in the past due to advances in technology and more urban lifestyles. You will have to work on this. However, as the author also points out, is that WHO we are is what is most imitated and has the deepest impact on the child and any attempts we make to better ourselves becomes important and worthy of imitation. What we DO in response to given situations is what the young child imitates.
Young children are about doing – the older kindergartener will help and participate, the younger children imitate the activities in their play. This is healthy. It is worthy for you to do the work even if your children don’t participate. The author writes, “If you are simply doing something so that the children will join in, and then when you they don’t you put away materials and tools, then clearly it was not something important that needed to be done.”
Suggestions for work in a “kindergarten home”: washing, cooking, ironing, sewing, planting, weeding, pruning, repairing chairs, tables, dolls and other toys, making toys for the kindergarten and more. (see page 65). In the homeschooling “kindergarten home” we could add in things such as care of pets and plants, cleaning with scrubbing and dusting, homesteading activities – the list is truly endless. These tasks must be attended to with love, joy and care. Our inner attitudes matter to the children!
As kindergarten teachers, we believe that imitation helps form the physical body. This is part of the wisdom of the ages streaming down into the child, it is part of the spiritual work of the adults in the environment, it is part of what we show children through our habits . We teach our children habits for health and hygiene, and also habits for resilience and how to handle challenges or when things don’t go quite right.
A child’s education is rightly done when the child achieves something for himself. We create situations where the child develops his or her own capacities. This is so closely linked to the environment, and this is where lazured rooms, wooden toys and such come in to create a warm and engaging environment full of possibilities. We may not have this in the home environment. The most important thing is to have open-ended things to manipulative into different possibilities – things from nature, such as acorns, shells, seed pits from fruits are all ideal. We also create spaces where a child can touch, climb, and just be without hearing “don’t” all the time.
Plenty of time for free play should be worked into the schedule, along with time for nourishing songs and stories. Quiet and silence are also very important. No stream of consciousness humming or constant singing! The author interestingly notes on page 73:
The adult must be sparing with their attention and with their “I” contact with young children, as it can easily overpower the young child. The adult has a strongly developed sense of self, and the young child does not. For some children, eye to eye contact is intimidating.
I think this is the area where most parents I know stumble. The infant has a biologic need to have every need promptly attended to and met in a loving and gentle way. However, once the shift comes to “Wants” versus “Needs” I think many parents of today continue patterns established in infancy and toddlerhood and do not provide the three to six year olds enough time and space in silence. How do we encourage resilience in our children by having our child play by himself or herself? This is very difficult for some children.
We will come back to this theme and the rest of Chapter Four in our next post. If you need to see what we discussed in Chapter Three, please see the back post here.