We are finishing up the rest of Chapter Four of Stephen Spitalny’s wonderful book, “Connecting With Young Children: Educating the Will”. You can see my commentary and the comments of those who are reading along for the first part of Chapter Four here.
This part of the chapter begins with:
Physical and social boundaries are also important on the path of a healthy developing sense of self. The self can only find itself when it meets boundaries.
The way to develop sustainable living habits is by practicing them yourself at home and in kindergarten. If we think that cleaning up after a meal is a worthy activity with social and hygienic value, then we do the cleaning with the children present and participating.
I want to interject here for the homeschooling family. I have seen mothers who have driven themselves absolutely batty in the home environment because they tried to include their child in every single thing they did, even if the task was very long – like bulk cooking, deep cleaning room after room, etc. I think in the home environment with very tiny children, you may have to divide things up a bit more and think about HOW you would involve your small child. We don’t have a group of twenty-five children with us at home with the enthusiastic children to help carry other children, and I think we can get very “project-oriented” and miss the point of having our children help but also weave in and out of the work. And the tasks must be things that are REAL – children can tell from a mile away whether or not a task is “essential” or truly needed. Stephen Spitalny mentions – and I think this is very true in the home environment – that the task must be done in a loving, peaceful, purposeful way. This is so HARD for modern parents! However, this work becomes the basis of a child’s play so it is very important for a healthy play life!
Stephen Spitalny writes on page 79, “Caring for one’s surroundings is a social gesture.” Isn’t that true? The difference between cleaning and caring is illuminated in his pages as an example. He also cites that he finds taking care of the body and the surroundings are more important than crafts (unless again, it is a truly NEEDED piece of crafting or handwork for a festival). This is what many homeschoolers work with as well. Giving projects so children have “something to do” is superficial, he writes on page 81. It is just filling time. If a child cannot play constructively, the first remedy to try is work.
Socially, we must work to cultivate a “mixed-age span” (page 83) and “a culture of service” in order to help the child become receptive of their fellow human beings. I feel in the home environment, we create this with siblings, and with an only child we would create this for parents-child and extend this to neighbors or other close friends for meals, empathy, service, social responsibility. A Waldorf homeschooler should be working in community, I believe. Stories are also an important way to learn and demonstrate these qualities for our children. The author mentions “The Winning of Kwelanga”, “Nkosnati and the Dragon”, “The Queen Bee” and “Shingebiss.” Just lovely!
The other piece of all of this is WARMTH. I have many back posts on warmth, and by this we mean both a warm physical atmosphere (natural fibers, natural materials, warmth of the physical body) but also a “soul warmth” – kind, loving words, human interest and attention. I feel it is most often the second part of this warmth where we fail. I would like to take that up in another post.
Lastly, the adult must be participating in the world. When we are connected to what gives us joy, interest, wonder…we transmit these feelings to the small child.
I would love to hear your thoughts.