Let the journey be shaped by the curiousity of the child…
From our three boys, only Maximan attended “school” for some time. As a baby he went to a Waldorf daycare centre and when he had the pre-school age, he went to a Waldorf preschool. Since he was 2, when he asked to be homeschooled*, we always knew he would never enroll in an elementary school. But there were things we really like about this Waldorf environment he (and we as parents) was exposed to. At his daycare centre there was this option for the children to sleep outside in special beds. We weren’t a fan of the shared sleeping room and loved the idea of lots of fresh air, so Maximan spend lots of time outside, either sleeping or playing.
What we also took with us from his Waldorf time was the rhythm and flow of the day. The repetition and movement during the day, the peaceful feeling, the singing, the incorporation of household chores in their daily activities like folding the laundry, time for art, the small rituals, the playing outside, the garden they had with fruit trees. We learned that the Steiner (the founder of the Waldorf philosophy) philosophy was based upon the awareness of the development of the whole child, with emphasis on the heart, hands and mind. We learned that it is believed in the Waldorf movement that children learn primarily through repetition and movement during the first seven years of their life. That’s why, at the daycare center and at the preschool, they had incorporated repetition and predictiveness. We also had our first experience with non violent communication.
“Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings, who are able themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives.”
What I’ve realized is that having a rhythm in your day, in your child’s day is one of the main aspects of a Waldorf home. Taking care of yourself, the primary caregiver is equally important. If you feel good, your rhythm will be good and your children will respond to that. The rhythm in your home, where movement is being followed by a period of quietness and so on.
Here you will find 15 easy ways how you can provide a Waldorf experience for your child at your own home for free.
1. Allow your young child as much free play as possible. Free play with open-ended toys, like silks, blocks, kinetic sand (DIY Kinetic Sand), rainbow rice and dolls, in the early years is encouraged. Play like this enables healthy creative and emotional growth of a child and is the best foundation for later intellectual development.
2. Let your child play outside. It is a large part of the Waldorf school day. Children are encouraged to climb trees, run and dig in the most natural setting possible. It is okay to get dirt on your hand, face and clothes. Through movement a child can connect with themselves and their environment.
3. Minimize television and other media (yep, the ipad is on vacation in our house) as much as possible. The idea behind this, is that television and/or other electronic devices prevent proper development because the child is not in movement. Children are naturally inclined to move and when your child is sitting for extended periods your child is doing something that is unnatural. Television also provides cut and clear imagery and therefore disrupts development of a child’s inner imagery, replacing their own natural responses.
4. Eat meals by candlelight. We have himalayan salt tea light candle holders at our dinner table. It helps for the cozy feeling when it is dark outside, but during the day it gives an extra touch to the meals too. The boys love to blow out the matches after the tea lights ar lit. We love to do this during our dinners. We are more present / conscious when we eat and enjoy our food more. Before we start eating we have this ritual where we hold each others hands and say thanks for the food on our table. During our meal there is time to engage into conversation with each other. No rushed meals.
I mentioned predictiveness and rhythm before.
5. When a child knows what to expect, this will offer a sense of security. The child feels safe. In this environment a child can focus on learning and developing. The child can flourish when they have a consistent environment. In your home you can provide consistency, predictability, a rhythm by having meal routines, dinner together, bedtime routines, or perhaps even something like regular meals on regular days. We have “Taco Tuesdays”, “Friday Night Dinners” with friends and Thursdays we have movie night. The children look forward to these predictable activities. Having the same activities on the different days also helps with learning the days of the week.
6. Consistency and rhythm is not only important during the day. It is especially important in the evening with the bedtime ritual. A good bedtime routine helps kids to get to bed on time and get the hours they need. If young children are tired but not in bed they often start to get a second wind and end up staying up longer than what actually works for them (and you). Knowing what works for your child is key.
All three of our kids have the same bedtime, we start our bedtime ritual at 7pm. We start with singing our bedtime song, than changing into our pajamas, next is brushing the teeth and after that it is time for a story. After the story we can talk a little about what happened during the day and the younger kids will fall asleep quite easily. The bigger kids need more time and they use the time to read a book or play quietly.
|How much sleep do children need?|
|Toddlers||(1-3 years)||12 to 14 hours (includes naps)|
|Preschoolers||(3-5 years)||11 to 13 hours|
|School age children||(5-10 years)||10 to 11 hours|
|Teens||(10-17 years)||8.5 to 9.25 hoursTeens|
Source: National Sleep Foundation
7. Introduce a season table to your home. Bring the change of the seasons inside, this will also offer consistency. Go outside and see what things from nature you find that would be an addition to your season table. You can use the season table to present the coming holidays. It is a way to connect with heritage, tradition, culture, their community and to learn about the seasons.
8. Celebrate the holidays. Another way to offer consistency. Holidays are reoccurring days. Share stories about the holidays, make them come alive. Start celebrating the holidays of your heritage. By celebrating the holidays of your heritage you are offering this enriching opportunity to your children. Children will naturally know about the holiday of Christmas even before they have learned that there are 12 months in a year. Celebrating holidays is an integral part of a Waldorf Education that you are probably doing already.
9. Painting with watercolors. When Waldorf students begin painting they use the ‘wet-on-wet’ method. This means that the paper has been made wet with a sponge. The color that the child paints is fluid and allows the child to “experience” the color and the movement. This kind of painting is very much about the experience of painting and not about the finished product. What happens with the paint, how does it flows. If you use two colors, how do they blend. We use the LYRA Watercolor Paint Set with 12 or 24 colors. We don’t use all the colors. I give the children one or two colors which they can use to paint with. The book I have at home is Painting and Drawing in Waldorf Schools: Classes 1-8, which I think is very helpful.
10. Drawing with block crayons. In first grade Waldorf student start drawing with crayon blocks. I always thought that these were used for smaller children. I guess there is a whole debate going on on which crayons to use for which age group. I like the art that Waldorf Students make and I came across this book Coloring with Block Crayons, Emphasizing the Primary Colors and this dvd Coloring with Block Crayons, a How-to of Coloring Techniques for Teaching to Children and they are very helpful in my road to provide the children with a more Waldorf Education. I especially like the dvd. We like to use Stockmar Beeswax Crayons. The idea is that you start drawing from the inside out and you start creating without harsh lines.
11. Let your children work with their hands as much as possible. Waldorf students start finger knitting in kindergarten and learn knitting with needles in first grade. This is good for the development of their fine motor skills and the ability to create something out of nothing. Just what they do with open-ended play.
12. Introduce nursery rhymes and fingerplays. My boys love interactive songs, like The Wheels on the Bus; The Eensy Weensy Spider; Head Shoulders, Knees and Toes; Row, Row, Row your Boat. There whole body is engaged in the song. They are learning language, rhythm and movement at the same time and these are key ingredients in the whole body learning philosophy. Considering this, you will see that these songs and rhymes meet a lot of the criteria for nurturing a child through heart, hand and mind.
13. Give your child the responsibility of chores. Children learn a lot about their importance as a helpful and vital member of the family and self-sufficiency by doing chores. Also, it is another opportunity for them to use their hands and keep their bodies in movement by activities as sweeping the floor, setting or wiping a table. Getting kids to complete the chores can be a struggle, because who likes to do chores, but the payoff is well worth it. They achieve a feeling of empowerment. They were able to fulfill their task while someone else was relying on them. Chores have an extra component, besides feeling important, self-sufficient and working with their hands, it is also part of the rhythm in your house and therefore part of your child’s life.
14. Reading classic literature like fairy tales and fables aloud to your children. These stories encourage imagination, human understanding, morals, thought and connect on a deep level with the listener. It is also a great introduction to literature for children. We read a lot. We just started with introducing form drawing in stories. Having the ability to see this stories with your imagination, to life these stories. It makes it so much more real to you as a listener. You learn not only with your head, but with your heart and therefore you remember the stories. Returning to the rhythm of the day and predictiveness, everyday we have tea time. We make tea with something yummy to eat and we read a story. Another magical moment.
15. Cook together with your children. I mentioned chores before and the feeling that it gives children of playing an important part in their family’s life and also the feeling of self-sufficiency. Cooking is another one. Cooking is part of daily life, it is an reoccurring event. For your children, being a part of that process has a lot of learning benefits including measurement, community, science and self-sufficiency. And it is fun to spend time together.
The last one “cooking together” made me remember of doing the dishes together when I was growing up as a kid. I didn’t like doing the dishes, but doing it together with my mom and brother made it so much fun. We would talk and sing. I always thought that that was one of the things I would do for sure with my kids and I sometimes do. But most of the days are so busy that I rather sit down with the kids and read them another story than do the dishes together. Maybe I should ask them, what they prefer. Although we do unload the dishwasher together in the morning, me and the three boys.
The things I wrote here are suggestions and you might already be following some or many of these. Things like free play, playing outside or chores seem like common sense, but with the television on and the availability of an ipad/tablet it is often hard to remember what kids really need. It is so easy for us as parents to use these electronic mediums as replacement babysitters. Nevertheless, it is empowering to remember that although educators can do a great job in educating your child, you are your child’s first and best teacher and you have the greatest impact of all.
I hope that this information has been useful to you and I encourage and welcome any comments. This list could be longer 🙂 but I feel that it includes the essence of what the Waldorf philosophy can offer to the home life. If you are homeschooling and do want to try a curriculum, we just started with Waldorf Essentials. I’ll keep you posted on our experiences.
*) We have an eclectic style of homeschooling, which means if we see something we like and it works for us at the moment, we incorporate it in our homeschool.
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