Peer Relationships For the Six to Eight Year Old

I have fielded quite a few emails and questions from mothers in my community about this issue, so I finally thought it was time for a blog post on the subject!

The question I get is from mothers who live in a neighborhood with lots of other children zooming about, and how the six year old girl or seven year old boy is all of the sudden very obsessed with playing with these neighborhood friends every minute.

This, by itself, may not be such a problem (I am sure those of you who grew up in neighborhoods, just like me, remember the “neighborhood gang” fondly), but what is happening in these cases is that the six and seven year old is picking up bad language, is acting surly towards their parents, is protesting vehemently when any kind of limit is set forth regarding not being able to go out and play.  Sometimes the neighborhood children are at these mother’s doors the moment the school bus rumbles away.  Sometimes the children of the mothers writing me are just waiting to play and staring at the neighborhood children’s door waiting for any signs of someone being home and therefore ready to play!  Does any of this sound familiar?

I am all for community, but I do feel in this situation one needs to have boundaries for one’s child.  Possibly very strong boundaries.  The peak of this behavior truly can be the seven year old boy and six year old girl, and since children under the age of 9 are prone to “emotional excess”, they may need your help in balancing things out.

I can recommend several things:

1.  Make it clear that playing with friends is dependent upon being nice within the family.  We don’t take the ugly out of the house. Smile 

2.  Some afternoons are “family only” or family outing kind of afternoons.  And after our outing or playing at home, gee, it is time for dinner and getting ready for bed.  We can play with friends tomorrow.  Six to eight year olds are still very little, and the world will not stop turning if they do not play with peers all the time. 

3.  Communicate with the neighborhood children’s parents and work out a sign or signal that your children are available to play whether it is the garage door being up, children being outside, front door open with just screen door shut, etc.  Sadly, sometimes the reason the children are at the door the moment the school bus rumbles away is because there is no one home at their house.  Sometimes this has to be confronted between the adults of the families as well.

4.  Plan things for the children to do before you they move into  free play – I have had success in the past with juicing lots of oranges by hand, taking turns rolling and cutting out gingerbread men, setting up obstacle courses, etc.  In this way we can all work on using kind words, taking turns, using good manners, including all children, before we go off to play on our own.

5.  Look carefully at the children your child is playing with and your child’s behavior afterwards.  There may need to be limits on how often your child plays with particular children, or where they play.  Some friends just play better together outside.  I find this to be especially true with eight year olds who will often take on the “persona” of the oldest child in a grouping and emulate that behavior, so again, limits are key.

6.  Know the families of the children your child is playing with.  Do try to ensure that if your child goes to a neighbor’s house that you know that family well, and that the playdate will not just turn into a screen fest when the children should be out and expending physical energy in the afternoon. 

7.  Do take the time to arrange play time with children of families that have similar values to yours.  Build that community, and pick the activities outside of your home that involve these children.  It may be easier to hang around with the children in the neighborhood (no driving to a park or whatnot), but as children grow they are able to tolerate going out a little bit more, and if your child never spends any time with the children you want to be that child’s community, the children that live closest will always be ranked as better friends in the eyes of the child.

These are just a few suggestions; I would love to hear your experiences in the comment box!

Many blessings,
Carrie

How To Talk To Your Seven and Eight-Year Old

My friend and I were talking about this today:   how exactly do you talk to a seven or eight year old about things?  In Waldorf, we say to speak to the young child under age seven as if painting pictures with our words.  We strive for keeping the young child  dreamy and not just handing the five or six-year old piles of information for which they have no context.  We try to work through movement,through  their bodies, through music.

But what does one do with this age of seven and eight?  A seven or eight year still feels as though they are a part of the world, not separate.  A part of that rock, that tree, that root over there, a part of you and a part of me.  The world is still a beautiful place.   But yet, the world is opening up and they are changing.  We are supposed to be providing more information at this point because they are past that six/seven year transformation. 

What I finally thought of was this analogy:  sometimes with weaning a child, you hear the phrase don’t offer, but don’t refuse.  In other words, if the child initiates a nursing session, go with it if you can but don’t offer if you don’t have to.  I always thought this was a rather simplistic way to approach weaning (and you can see the two weaning posts on here if you would like to see more of my views on weaning!) but today I thought about the spirit of this.

If your seven or eight year old asks things, answer them as simply as possible. Now is the time to start answering things.  However, do take into account that they don’t need a book on the subject, and in fact, most children of this age are satisfied with just a sentence or two about their subject of inquiry.

When offering information, one must always be thinking:  is this topic something they need to know everything about right now?  In a year, when this topic comes up again, can I address it further?  Will this topic come up again in everyday life and can I address it little by little as it comes up?

If I want to bring something up with my child, I always ask myself, do they need this information now?  Is it essential information for them right this minute?  In a year, when they have more maturity, will it be better received at that point?

Parenting often has more of an art to it than people suppose and these are the questions I ask myself.  When to lead, when to follow my child’s lead, how much information to provide and when.  I firmly believe there should be a difference in what we tell an eight-year-old and a fifteen-year-old on  a given topic. 

Many blessings,

Carrie

More About Quiet Time

This comment came in from a reader of the blog and I wanted her to have some feedback regarding Quiet Time.  She writes, “My 4 yr old has not napped since she was three and a half to four, but we continued having “rest time.” I had her stay in her own room to do this since she sometimes would fall asleep, but lately I have had her try doing her quiet time out in the den with me while the one yr old naps. Sometimes she tends to be less focused when I am there and wants to talk to me… I am interested in what parameters others set for quiet times for non-napping kids? Alone in room or out with mom in the den/living room? What kinds of activities – books only, quiet toys, does mom read to the child for part of the time or do they stay silent?

Also, I am curious how interruptions in sleep affect a four yr old… my daughter tends to wake at least once a night, sometimes twice, to use the toilet. And sometimes she just wants to be tucked back in and have one of us lay next to her for a couple minutes. I know at some point she’ll feel confident enough to just go to the bathroom on her own without waking us… But I wonder if this is disruptive to her quality of sleep?”

These are a few of my personal thoughts, but I hope many mothers will leave comments below as to their own practices.

I feel that during Quiet Time, mothers should be resting.  This may change as your children grow, but I feel if you are going about the house doing work, folding laundry, etc. and your child is younger than 7 and in that imitative phase, than they will want to be doing what you are doing.  Also, as homeschooling mothers, I feel it is an important priority for us to have some true down time to think, evaluate in our heads what happened in the morning in our homeschool time and to prepare in our heads for the afternoon activities.

I personally don’t mind if my child wants to be our big bed with me, but I am laying down with my eyes closed! or if they want to be on their own bed.  I also don’t mind when my four year old looks at (a few!) books (not the “ole giant stack!) and then rests, but I also feel many Waldorf mothers would feel this undermining to the point of Quiet Time – which would be the ability to be still and not have to be “entertained” by a book or by reading or by toys.  I don’t know, I would love to hear the perspectives of some of the Waldorf mothers out there!

As far as the waking up in the night to go to the bathroom, it seems to me that many four-year-olds are not dry through the night, so this may be a real need.  I think as long as she can really get up and go right back to sleep, then it is just where she is.  However, if she is up and fully awake, perhaps you could investigate a bit further.  Does she wake up at the same times every night to do this?  Could you bring her to the bathroom before you go to sleep yourself and would that change these nighttime waking patterns?  And then observe what goes on during the day…

C’mon mothers, please give your perspectives on Quiet Time and sleep.  Leave your comments in the box below!

Many blessings,

Carrie

A Few Resources For The Nine-Year-Change

I got an email this morning from Rahima Baldwin Dancy regarding resources for the nine-year change and since it was so timely I  thought I would pass the suggestions onto all of  you:

First of all, I have mentioned this article in other posts on this blog but here is the link again for the free article regarding the nine-year-change:  http://www.waldorfinthehome.org/2005/01/parenting_the_nine_year_old.html

I have passed that article on to many parents, Waldorf and non-Waldorf alike!

I love Daena Ross and her presentation on the 12 senses.  Here is one I have not heard but will be checking out soon:  her  workshop on “The Nine-Year Change”.  It  is available in CD format for only $12.50 plus shipping at http://www.waldorfinthehome.org/2007/07/the_nineyear_change.html.

And finally, Rahima writes,  “If you have a daughter who is approaching (or in the midst of) puberty, I highly recommend signing on for our free tele-seminar with DeAnna L’am, author of Becoming Peers—Mentoring Girls into Womanhood. On Tuesday, Oct. 6th I will be interviewing DeAnna, who was a keynote speaker at our last conference in California, “Educating Our Children—Changing the World.”  If you are a mother, grandmother, stepmother, aunt or any woman with a special girl in her life, you won’t want to miss this discussion of ways to prepare yourself for her puberty and ways to lay a foundation for lifelong friendship with your daughter.  If you can’t make the live interview at 1:00 pm Pacific Time on Tuesday, Oct 6th, you can still sign up to receive the free recording.  To learn more, or to sign up, click on http://www.deannalam.com/deannalam_020.htm.”

Other audio resources include the CDs of Betty Staley’s keynote, “It’s Never too Early to Prepare for Adolescence”  (which I have the CD of and really should review on this blog!  Boy, so many things to cover and so little time!).  William Bento’s workshop, “Adolescence: A Grail Journey of the Heart.”   I am not familiar with William Bento, but it may be worth checking out.  Rahima advises just entering  their last names into the search engine at www.waldorfinthehome.com.

Hope that helps some of you!  Happy Friday!

Carrie

The Eight-Year-Old: A View From Waldorf Education

(In Waldorf homeschooling, a child should be eight for most of second grade, so hence the references below to a second grader is also reference to an eight-year-old – Carrie)

Donna Simmons writes in her “Waldorf Curriculum Overview for Homeschoolers” that:   “The difference between First Graders and Second Graders can be quite startling:  the way they play together, run around the house, behave in group situations…one really gets a sense that Second Graders have arrived!”

Torin M. Finser writes in the  book “School As A Journey:  The Eight-Year-Odyssey of a Waldorf Teacher and His Class”:  “After the first day of second grade I found myself scratching my head and asking:  Where are the real Doug, Marc, Kirsten, Michael, Eben, Susan, Jacob?  Did they forget to show up?  After the second day my inner questioning was more intense:  what had happened to the open-hearted, naive, reverent, respectful children I had enjoyed last year?  Was this some kind of cruel joke?”

He notices that the children had changed, that they were more lively, that they were in constant movement, that they lived in extremes over the smallest thing, and every child now had an opinion about everything!

In “Second Grade”, an article by Manette Teitelbaum in the book, “Waldorf Education:  A Family Guide”, the author writes how “Energies freed from the process of forming the body now awaken the subjective world of feeling – wonder, pity, joy, tenderness and sorrow.  These are the currents of air upon which these new little butterflies will rise, on which they will find their relationship to the world about them.”

A HUGE part, the MAIN part of Waldorf Second Grade is to work on the balance and harmonizing of the child.  For example, the juxtaposition of the Legends of Saints and the Trickster Tales speak strongly to the child searching for a balance between the duality of emotions and actions here on earth.

Donna Simmons notes in her “Waldorf Curriculum Overview” this important note:  “Unless they have been prematurely woken up and have already slid into acting like the jaded child caricatures seen of TV, eight-year-olds are still very open and trusting about the world.  If one takes to heart the Waldorf pedagogical maxim that beauty, truth and goodness should surround the child to thereby aid his full development as a human being, then one will take care to shelter him from societal influences that encourage premature sexuality, intellectualism and cynicism.”

Steiner lectured about this age in the compilation “Soul Economy” in a lecture entitled, “Children From the Seventh to the Tenth Year” given on December 31, 1921.  He discusses the changes with the coming of the second teeth and how the spiritual forces are now affecting the rhythmic movement of the heart and the lungs. “During the first phase (and by this he means the change of teeth until about the end of the ninth year), children want to experience everything that comes toward them in relation to their own inner rhythms- everything associated with beat and measure.”  He discusses how the images formed by seeing everything in the world now acts mainly on the rhythmic system of movement.

He goes on to comment, “With the change of teeth new soul forces  of feeling, linked to breathing and blood circulation, come into their own, with the result that children begin to distance themselves from others, whom they now experience as individuals.  This creates in them a longing to follow the adult in every way, looking up to adults with shy reverence.”

All of these passages highlight important clues as how to best live with and help guide an eight-year-old.  In our next and last post regarding the eight-year-old, we will look at how to peacefully live with an  eight-year-old.

Many blessings,

Carrie

The Eight-Year-Old: A Traditional View

Here are some general developmental characteristics of the eight-year-old as according to our friends at the Gesell Institute in the book, “Your Eight-Year-Old:  Lively and Outgoing” by Louise Bates Amers and Carol Chase Haber.

  • Expansive, outgoing, high energy, speedy!
  • Hard on themselves for mistakes (May say, “I never get anything right!”  “I always do things wrong!”) – At age 7, the child measures himself against his own demands, but at 8, he measures himself against what he perceives the adult demands are.
  • Love to talk!  May also boast quite a bit (remember back to age 4, there are similarities!)
  • Much less fatigue than at age 7, a big difference in physical stamina from age 7 but may still fatigue a bit with activities
  • “The relationship of child to Mother at Eight is perhaps more complex, intriguing, and  intense than at any other age.”  The child cannot get enough of Mother, her attention especially.  The  child may be highly possessive of her in a physical way, and also demand constant conversation and interaction.  This may be partly in preparation  for the nine-year-old change where the child begins to separate from Mother.  (Yes, we in Waldorf Land have recognized this for a LONG time, but it is nice to see a mainstream resource here and that that also sees it!)
  • The relationship with father is much less intense, much smoother than with Mother.  The child enjoys the company of the father but does not demand his attention the way Mother’s attention is demanded.
  • The child is HIGHLY aware of the relationship between the two parents in the household and is watching! 
  • Family is very important, and the eight-year-old is curious about all phone calls, conversations, etc.
  • Fairness is also big.  The eight-year-old may dramatize sibling fights, love to argue and pick up on mistakes.
  • “The Seven-Year-Old is concerned with himself and how others treat him; whereas the Eight-Year-Old is interested in his relationship with others.”
  • The Eight-Year-Old wants things with friends to go well and may even have a best friend (even though there may be arguing and disputing with said best friend, LOL).
  • THINKING:  Concrete operational stage, which is the BEGINNING of abstraction. Is starting to realize that  natural phenomena and inanimate objects do not have souls (this is not a Waldorf perspective remember, this is a mainstream perspective) and that the eight-year-old can distinguish between fantasy and reality.  Is STARTING to understand cause and effect, similarities and differences.
  • EATING/TABLE MANNERS:  Eats a good quantity, but eats rapidly.  Aware of good table manners, but may find it hard to put it into practice.  Also at family meal times, an eight-year-old tends to interrupt and argue and talk a lot.
  • SLEEPING:  Sleeps usually between 8 PM and wakes up between 7 and 7:30. (In Waldorf, an eight-year-old is typically in second grade with a bedtime of 7:45).  Ten hours of sleep is average.
  • HEALTH:  May see increase in hay fever, allergies, asthma at this age, and also ear infections and complaints involving the eye (watch out for eye fatigue and strain!)
  • VISION is a big deal at this age, the child may not be able to figure out visually where they are in space, they are more distracted by things in the peripheral visual field,  which can lead to the next section:
  • ACCIDENT PRONE – accidents are the MAIN cause of death at this age.
  • TENSIONAL OUTLETS – less tensional outlets than at six and seven noted.
  • SEXUAL  INTEREST: May be interest in sex play, sex jokes, babies, where babies come from and how they get out, what the father’s role is in sex.  Girls tend to ask more questions than boys.  Girls may be ready to be told about menstruation according to page 46 of this book.
  • PLAY:  In general, does not like to play alone.  Cooking, dramatizing, fixing things around the house, creating magic shows and other shows are enjoyed.  Dolls can still be prized by girls.  Boys may like models, electric trains, etc.  Paper dolls are also good for classifying, arranging, etc. Collections and collecting are strong at this age for both boys and girls.

That is a traditional viewpoint; we will look at an anthroposophic view next post!

Peace,

Carrie

The Twelve Senses

I am going to try and synthesize a few things for you all that I recently learned from Donna Simmons at the Waldorf At Home conference held in Atlanta,  a presentation by Daena Ross for Waldorf In the Home (available through Rahima Baldwin Dancy’s on-line store in CD and DVD versions) and Barbara Dewey’s section on the twelve senses in her book “Beyond the Rainbow Bridge”. 

I am by no means an expert on the twelve senses, although I will say the twelve senses make a whole lot of sense to me due to my background as a neonatal/pediatric physical therapist.

Steiner postulated in his lectures that there were not only the five most obvious senses that we think of, but actually twelve senses that required development.  This has been proved in the medical community, although sometimes in medical literature and therapy literature you see reference to “systems” rather than “senses” although they are truly talking about the same thing!

The twelve senses are what unites the inner and outer world of the individual and what allows us healthy interaction with other people at the highest developed levels.  It takes a long time for these senses to be developed, but the foundational senses needed to develop some of the upper senses are most developed in the first seven years.  There we are, back to my soapbox about the first seven years!

The Lower Senses are seen in our will forces, they are unconscious, and they manifest in the metabolic-limbic system.  These include:

The Sense of Touch – through the organ of the skin.  This includes what is inside of me and what is outside of me.  Important ways to boost this foundational sense include vaginal birth, swaddling, holding, positive tactile experiences (NOT PASSIVE experiences, like through media or Baby Einstein! Active experiences!)  The lack of completion of this  sense is strongly related to ADHD according to Daena Ross. 

The Sense of Life or sometimes called The Sense of Well-Being – this encompasses such things as if you can tell if you are tired, thirsty, hungry.  The best way to boost this sense is to provide your children with a rhythm to help support this while it is developing.  Some children have great difficulty recognizing their own hunger or thirst cues, their own need for rest or sleep. A rhythm can be a great therapeutic help in this regard.

The Sense of Self-Movement – this is probably more familiar to therapists in some ways as the “proprioceptive system” in some ways.  This sense encompasses the ability to move and hold back movement, and can also encompass such sensory experiences as containment (which can be a form of massage for premature babies) and also swaddling.  Childhood games that involve starting, stopping can also affect this sense.

The Sense of Balance – This is balance in two separate realms, from what I gather from the Daena Ross presentation.  It is not only the ability to balance by use of the semicircular canals of the ears  for midline balance so one can cross midline but also refers to the  balance of life and being able to be centered, which again goes back to rhythm and the idea of in-breath and out-breath.  Donna Simmons calls this one a gateway to The Middle Senses.

The Middle Senses are seen in our feeling lives, involve us reaching out into the world a bit, they are seen as “dreamy” senses and manifesting in the rhythmic system.  THE CHILD HAS NO FILTER TO FILTER THESE SENSORY EXPERIENCES OUT IN THE EARLY YEARS.   In the later years, the arts build these senses, which is why the Waldorf curriculum includes teaching through art in the grades.   These senses  include:

The Sense of Smell –  strongly correlated with memory.  This can be an ally in education of the grades age child, but beware of scented everything when your children are in the foundational first seven years. 

The Sense of Taste – Not only on a physical plane, but an emotional plane in naming experiences (a “putrid” experience, a “sweet” experience)

The Sense of Sight  – with two different ways to visualize something:  one is the ability to distinguish color, and the other is the ability to distinguish form (which Daena Ross says is more related to The Sense of Self-Movement).  The best way to help this sense is to protect the eye from media while developing.  A way to bolster this sense in the grades, but not the Early under 7 Years, is through form drawing.

The Sense of Warmth –   Donna Simmons calls this one a gateway to The Higher Senses.  This sense does not fully develop until age 9 and can literally cause a hardening of creativity and new thought as the child matures, but also can refer to a literal inability of the child to be able to tell if they are hot or cold.  Warmth implies not only physical warmth, but warmth on a soul level.  Joy, humor, love, connection are all important developers of this sense along with PROTECTION from extreme and garish sensory experiences that would cause hardening.  This is a very important sense, and children need help with protecting this sense until the age of 9 or 10, so much longer than many parents think!

The Upper or Higher Senses develop during adolescence and require a strong foundation of The Lower Senses and The Middle Senses to come to maturity.  These senses are associated with awakening of the individual, with being concerned with other people and are seen as being centered in The Head.  These senses include:

The Sense of Hearing (which Daena Ross calls “a bridge between The Middle and Higher Senses” in her presentation)  This requires completion of The Sense of Balance – both of these senses involve the organ of the ear.

The Sense of Speech or The Sense of the Word (this is the speech of another person, not yourself) – Requires completion of The Sense of Self-Movement as you must be able to quiet your own speech in order to really hear another person.

The Sense of Thought or The Sense of Concept (again, of the other person, not your own thoughts!) – Requires completion of  The Sense of Well-Being.  Rhythm builds this ability to quiet oneself in order to hear someone else’s thoughts.

The Sense of  the Individuality of the Other (Donna Simmons also calls this the “I-Thou” relationship of boundaries) – This requires integration and completion of all senses, but particularly involves The Sense of Touch according to Daena Ross. 

The most important take-away point for my parents of children under the age of 7 is that children need rhythm, a balance of in-breath and out-breath and protection of the senses from too much stimulation, from media and boundaries set by the parents to wear clothes (VERY difficult with some little nudists!).  The development of these senses is also profoundly related to sleeping and what occurs during sleep to build all of this up.

Waldorf Education is first and foremost about health and the twelve senses provide a glimpse into some of why things are done in Waldorf the way they are!  I encourage you to investigate the twelve senses on your own.  In this age and day of skyrocketing ADHD/ADD, autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders, this should be mandatory learning for all parents. 

With love,

Carrie