From Reading to Action: “Waldorf Education In Practice”

We are looking at the book “Waldorf Education In Practice:  Exploring How Children Learn in the Lower Grades” by Else Gottgens, Master Waldorf Teacher and Mentor.  You can see my first post about this book  here.

Chapter 1  “BEFORE”: What Parents Should Know

This chapter is addressed to parents and to the two concerns most parents share about  the first three grades: Continue reading

From Reading to Action: “Waldorf Education in Practice”

 

We will be heading through this wonderful book chapter by chapter.  It is by the beloved Master Waldorf teacher Else Gottgens  and focuses on Waldorf education in practice for the first three grades.  (However, I think many pearls can be gleamed out of it for the older grades as well).  Else Gottgens was an amazing Master teacher who was a class teacher for 41 years and then began at age 61 to mentor other Waldorf teachers for the next 20 years.   She was in literally hundreds of Waldorf classrooms.    If you would like to know more about Else’s life and career, please see this article this article.

This book is about “ensuring Idealism meets Realism in a productive way.”  It is easy to read about Waldorf education, and so much different in practice when you are trying to teach (whether one child at home or thirty children in a classroom).  As a Waldorf teacher, we create moments of learning out of our own creative forces.  Whilst we can gleam examples and ideas in the pages of a book or a curriculum, we cannot find our own creativity there or the relationship with our own child there.  As a teacher, Continue reading

Let’s Read: Simplicity Parenting

 

We are at the last of this wonderful book, the epilogue, in which we see many of the principles of simplicity parenting applied to real-life cases.  The epilogue opens with the case of six-year-old Carla, who is full of aggressive and controlling behavior.  Kim John  Payne notes that the parents wanted to “please and appease” and that the six-year-old was well on her way to complete domination and control of the home.  Yet, this story is here because it shows that there is not an “ideal family” candidate for simplicity parenting and that any family can benefit.  Simplicity is not just about simplifying stuff, but clearing out the space to be in each other’s hearts and to nurture each other.  Increasing rhythm in the home, having more consistency in daily life is nothing but calming to the families of today.  Meals and bedtime routines are still the hallmark of making a house into a home.  He talks about the “sliding” we can do as parents into the company of our children. 

It all takes time and energy, but the benefits of balance can be so outstanding for family life.    I would love to hear your story about attaining balance and a simpler life!

Blessings,

Carrie

Let’s Read: Simplicity Parenting

 

 

We are up to Chapter Six in Kim John Payne’s “Simplicity Parenting” entitled, “Filtering Out the Adult World”. This is my favorite chapter in this book for so many reasons.  It really sums up to me the difficulties with parenting in this day and age and gives some great concrete suggestions for parenting.  The chapter begins with the story of a mother and how she said her feelings toward motherhood could be summed up with the word, “worry”.  The author goes on to detail stories of parents where the parents are wondering if their children are being tended to enough by coaches or teachers.  He doesn’t address homeschooling families, but I think worry can be doubled in homeschooling families where parenting and teaching hats are shared!

 

“Worry and concern are sewn into the cloth of parenting; they’re integral parts of the experience…..Worry may be an aspect of parenthood, but it shouldn’t define it.  When it rises to the top of our emotions, coloring the waters of our relationship with our children, something is not right.”

 

Simplifying the daily life of both you and your child often helps in decreasing worry and anxiety.  However, another place to simplify may be just how involved we are with our children.  Societal pressure has turned some parents into helicopter parents; and it is not just in the United States but all over the world.  Here is an interesting article from the NY Times about the “the cure for hyper-parenting” and how “hyper-parenting” is occurring all over the world.

 

Kim John Payne’s suggestions include: Continue reading

How Old Are You?

 

I had a wonderful week last week visiting St. George Island in Florida.  We did the typical beach things – built sand masterpieces (not castles, but mainly sea turtles and mermaids), jumped and dived in the waves, flew kites, walked to the lighthouse on the island, shopped a little (only a few stores), played board games, ate seafood and otherwise relaxed, rested and read a lot of books.   It was a much needed break and time to be together as a family.

It also gave me some time to look at the feelings I have been carrying around this school term.  I adore homeschooling, but I  have lately been more wanting more time to myself, .  I have vacillated between feeling a bit resentful of not having more time to myself and then thinking what would I  even do with this time –   a vocation?  a job? a midlife crisis? (Insert cheeky grin here).   I love homeschooling, adore it, but  often what I want is a few hours a day where I am not on call so to speak and can devote time to my own interests without any of the outside world intruding.  I have  also had this same conversation with many veteran homeschooling mothers, and I know many other homeschooling mothers feel this way (especially, it seems,  those of us in our mid-40s).

I wonder if this is partially just midlife – that strange time and feeling where you wonder is this what life is?  What different path would have taken me somewhere else?  Where is the future really headed?  In past generations, many women had children earlier and often their children were headed off to lives of their own by the time a woman hit her mid-40s.   At this point, a woman really had the time to re-discover herself.  My mother- in- law remarked to me awhile ago that most women in her generation hit menopause by their early 40’s (ie, when she was 40, many of her friends were already menopausal), another sign that life was taking a different turn than previously. Contrast that to this day and age when so many of us in our mid-40s are still in the trenches raising small children or even having babies.  So, part of me wonders if this is programmed from the past – this need to re-discover one’s self apart from children – and if we as a generation are not yet caught up yet  to the reality of having children later.   I feel for me as if these thoughts and feelings started with the seven year cycle that began around age 42, but now is in full swing at age 44.  I keep being drawn back to the words of Betty Staley’s book “Tapestries” about the years 42-49 here.  here..  I am even looking into the years ahead ahead.

Sometimes I also wonder if  this feeling of wanting more and needing to be alone something specific to homeschooling mothers?  We spend so much time and energy as a homeschooling family on our children (and hopefully on our spouses as well, but I guess that is a whole different post!); perhaps it is only natural after some time to feel or want a bit more for oneself.    I don’t feel like a “veteran” homeschooler by any means, but my oldest is in seventh grade and we have been at this for some time without any interruptions.  Perhaps this stage of homeschooling  just contributes to restlessness in general?

I don’t feel burned out or worn out, just thoughtful about the developmental process in adults.  Where are you, and just you alone, these days in your thoughts and feelings?  How old are you and do you think that plays into how you are feeling and what you are wanting at this point in your life?

Love,
Carrie

Let’s Read: Simplicity Parenting

 

We are up to my favorite chapter!  Chapter Five, entitled “Schedules” is well-worth reading for yourself.  I don’t believe parents in the United States intend to overschedule their children, yet that is where so many families are in reality, and this chapter offers a hard look at what we are doing, why we are doing it and what we could do differently.

This issue is not a new one.  Kim John Payne points out that David Elkind’s book “The Hurried Child” first asked the question as to whether children were being pushed toward adulthood in the form of “super-competency” because parents lacked the time or interest for parenting.  This was in the early 1980s.  The latter half of the 1980’s saw a real focus on the child’s accomplishments and achievements.  These trends are not new. 

How do children spend their time?  According to this chapter:

  • Children ages 6 to 11 spend many hours in front of a television screen and a computer screen
  • School takes 8 more hours than it did in 1981
  • The amount of time in structured activities has doubled
  • Time spent doing homework has also doubled – with the implementation of No Child Left Behind, students are averaging an hour and twenty minutes a night of homework.
  • Children have 12 hours less free a week than they did – about 25 percent of a child’s day is “free” on average; in 1981 the average child had about 40 percent of his or her day free.

 

Kim John Payne points out that, “And it is really so bad to be busy?  Why aren’t their busy kids seen as fulfilled rather than frantic?  What is wrong with wanting your children to have as many opportunities as possible?  I don’t think the central issue of “overscheduled” kids is motivation – either the parents’ or the kids’.  Most parents are driven by good intentions…In wanting to provide for their children, here again parents act with generous motivations.  But just as too many toys stifle creativity, too many scheduled activities may limit a child’s ability to direct themselves, fill up their own time, to find and follow their own path.”

 

Some children really do not know what to do with even moments of spare time because they are used to having every minute structured.  Kim John Payne points out that interest in an activity can be real and sustained over time for children but that time, leisure and other interests often help a main interest to  grow.   Children need unstructured time.  This is coming out in more and more studies and childhood psychology literature  regarding the development of executive function in children – things such as working memory, mental flexibility, reasoning, judgment – are enhanced by non structured activities, not by structured ones. 

 

Awareness is the first step in stepping off the overscheduled  burden.  Play happens in unstructured time and opening up schedules lends itself to spontaneous moments .  If a child has fewer activities, then a parent’s schedule (who is often a driver) will also open up as well.  This can impact the entire family  in a positive way.

 

How do you simplify your outside activities?  Does your family need help in this area or is the balance easy?

Blessings,
Carrie

Let’s Read: Simplicity Parenting

 

Today we are talking about simplifying food, dinner, and sleep.  We are on page 116 of “Simplicity Parenting” and I am so glad to be reading about this topic today.  I think whenever things get a little out of kilter, we can always “re-set” our families by going back to basics regarding mealtimes, sleep and rest.

Food.  Kim John Payne recommends simplifying food.  He writes:

These basic guidelines can accompany you down the aisles of your supermarket:  Is this food designed to nourish, or to entertain?  To stimulate?  More simply, is this food designed, or was it grown?  Did it exist fifty years ago?  It is unnecessarily complex, with ingredients you can’t identify or pronounce?

Kim John Payne mentions that  the number one priority is to wean our children off of high processed snack and junk foods.  He reports in the families that have done this, it takes about one month for the palate to clear and the child to be able to recognize the fresh  flavors of real food.  Try seltzer water and juices instead of sugary soda.  Set limits at home.  Don’t give tiny children too many choices before they develop their own good judgment.  You are really helping by limiting choices in food to whole foods, and in  knowing that children need to try things at least eight times.  Once you simplify food, you may notice your children actually becoming less and less picky.

Meal plans and dinner time.  He also suggests Continue reading