The year that went by has been quite overwhelming for everyone across the globe! The pandemic disrupted life at all levels, quite literally! The abnormals of staying indoors all the time, working from home all the time, ‘no school’ routine at all, suddenly and without warning became the new normal! Having said that 2020 has also been a great eye-opener. A live-it-through textbook that has helped those who survived the year learn a few (and more) lessons for life!Continue reading Lockdown 2020: How our 6-year old dealt with all the indoor time!
Welcome to the World of Waldorf! Through this article and subsequent pieces, I will attempt to explain the Waldorf philosophy and what it stands for. Waldorf was started by Dr Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). After the First World War in Germany, Steiner initiated a school for children of people working at Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory, thus the name Waldorf. He gave his first lectures there to the teachers of the first Waldorf school and it was documented into a book called “Practical Advice to Teachers.”
The focus in Waldorf methodology is on the development of the whole human being which consists of Body, Mind and Soul, also known as Willing-Feeling-Thinking.
Waldorf begins at home with a simple lifestyle and day-to day-routines.
There are no academic goals to be achieved until your child is 6-7 years old. Yes, you heard it, No activities, no worksheets!
What does the Waldorf philosophy say?
According to Dr. Rudolf Steiner, human development can be classified into 7-year cycles – 0-7, 7-14, 14-21 and so on. One of the basic concepts of Waldorf Education is the threefold human being – Willing, Feeling and Thinking. For the first 7 years, we focus only on the ‘will’ of the child. Will is in the Body, Feelings in the Soul and Thinking in The Spirit or Mind or Ego (not the negative ego, here it means the higher self).
As we focus only on the Will of the child it means we work only on the development of the child’s body, not touch the feeling and thinking aspects yet, as those are yet to be developed in the later stages of the child’s life. In the early years, Eat-Play-Sleep-Repeat is the only mantra.
What does the Waldorf philosophy recommend in the first cycle?
So what is needed to foster the healthy development of the child’s body? Rhythm, Sleep, Nutrition, Movement, and Warmth- these are the FIVE golden keys of parenting, as suggested by Helle Heckmann who has been running an early child care center in Denmark for the last 30 years.
Let us look at these 5 things which are all a child requires until the age 7:
What is rhythm? Why do we need rhythm? How can we build a rhythm?
- We find rhythms in nature – daily, weekly, monthly and yearly
- Setting up a Rhythm is essential in daily life- it establishes security in children- life must be predictable rather than full of surprises for children. Repeating your daily routines at the same of the day is known as a day rhythm.
Examples to include in your daily rhythm Wake up, Bath time, Meal time, Indoor Play with Open-Ended Playthings, Washing vessels, Cleaning the house, Putting things away, Peeling fruits, Eating them, Gardening and so on.
- Modern life causes hindrance to build rhythms- automatic washers, dryers- we can stock up loads of clothes and wash any time, without regard to weekly rhythms. Children no longer see the tasks of daily life in a process.
- Irregularities in rhythms create illness.
- Rhythms are a gift from nature. We will talk about monthly and yearly rhythms in a different blog.
Modern day throws up the challenge of not enough sleep, a worldwide issue.
- Set up a regular sleep time-children begin to feel drowsy, saying a prayer, story, lighting candle-switch off lights and gadgets.
- Every child needs 12 hrs of continuous sleep to rejuvenate- children’s rhythm should be such that they should wake up on their own and don’t need an external alarm.
- A lot of physical and mental development happens during sleep.
- Sufficient physical movement helps children fall asleep.
What is the right nutrition??
- We eat to live! Lack of proper fuel can cause hyperactivity, poor mental ability, obesity, malnutrition & so on.
- Food habits are determined by yearly seasonal cycles & how climate influences crops. We must eat what is grown locally (where we live) at that time of the year. Nature provides what is needed for us from the natural vegetation in any given place.
- Include wholesome ingredients for breakfast, lunch & dinner. Reduce spices, salts & sugar. Avoid refined, processed, fried food.
- Make it a habit to eat together vs eating in front of a TV.
What are the games you played as a child? Today’s children sit far too much!
- Movement and Speech development are so interrelated- Movement in early years lays the foundation for walking, speaking, thinking
- Free movement: WALKING- cross coordination helps build a connection between the left & right brain/ cerebral hemispheres. Running, climbing trees, falling are very important.
- Indoor play should allow children to explore and play with natural open-ended playthings like wooden blocks, pebbles, peg dolls, pods from the tree, cotton fabrics and so on. We will talk about the finer motor skill development in a later blog.
Warmth/ Love/ Care
- Essential clothing- comfortable for child to move about freely, loose fitting-not tight, Child should be able to become dirty without thinking about fashion accessories. Avoid poor quality clothes, invest in good cotton clothes. Cotton is child friendly and appropriate for our climate. You should be worried if you get a clean child home, end of day.
- Hat during sunny days and proper footwear!
- Children play best when they don’t worry about their bodies.
- Play helps in healthy development of inner organs, social skills, creativity and imagination.
Waldorf parenting or slow parenting for me, is a lifestyle! If you were born in the 80’s or before, go back to your childhood and recollect your earliest memories. All you did was eat-play-sleep-repeat, compared to a child today, who is bombarded with an overload of information through books, activities, some 100 toy options, packaged food, screen time, worksheets, tests in the early years. Today’s children sit more than move around to play. If you ask a speech therapist, he would also say speech is related to movement and today’s children don’t move as much as we did!
Homeschooling is an overhyped term in recent times, thanks to social media! Not sending a 2 year to school is now called homeschooling. Homeschooling is not bringing school work to home. I would say be a mother, slow down, be with your child, give time, give warmth, cook fresh food, eat at the right time and play with your child. Your child needs you, not a teacher! Early childhood happens only once, it is precious!
Originally written by Divya B A for Babychakra: the-world-of-waldorf-homeschooling
“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.”– O. Fred Donaldson
O. Fred Donaldson, renowned play specialist is one of those many who vouch for the importance of free play in children. A typical toddler is often found in mama’s kitchen, digging into the cabinets, trying to fold (I know a lot of you out there wish to read it as unfold) those perfectly folded clothes in the wardrobe or having a porridge party all over his face and the table while eating. A typical homemaker is seen snapping with a ‘Nooo…. Don’t touch it, Don’t do this or don’t spill, etc… These rather mundane reactions are never easily acceptable for these tiny humans often resulting to tantrums.
Many modern homes are more adult-driven leaving behind the child and his needs. Organized sports, physically demanding evening and weekend classes, adult-driven structured activities take away trivial free time of the children. A research report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highlights how pivotal free and unstructured play is for the healthy development of a child and that such playtime should not be sacrificed for supervised activities.
So what really is ‘unstructured play‘? How does one create an environment in the house which helps the child ‘play in freedom‘? These jargons are rather simple to decode. After all, when did children become so complicated? Read on further to see how best you can simplify the environment for your child lives in.
I do understand a parent’s need to send their child to a badminton class or a cricket class to learn a new sport. But, do not forget to give them ample time to go out with their friends and play, making their own rules. As a matter of fact, they love to run around kicking a stone, rolling cycle tires, racing to reach the farthest tree and climb it. The much younger ones feel secure in their own world when you give them sand, a bowl, and a scooper. They will build, demolish, pave, dig and what not. Such ‘play in freedom‘ benefits in many ways.
To watch little ones create with open ended toys is a beauty. From wooden blocks to kitchen utensils. You can watch their play evolve every single time they play. Your everyday household items can make the best of toys for the developing child. They find infinite ways to play with pans, spoons, little rags of cloth, package boxes, blankets. Oh yes, make it all available for them. Of course, keep the sharp and breakable things away or beyond their reach. Create a child friendly environment, if a child can reach it, he can and will take it. Cleaning up can always happen end of their playtime along with them (Psst!! They love to do that too!!)
There are innumerable benefits of letting the children play by themselves with fewer restrictions. Physical development, social skills, hand-to-eye co-ordination, motor skills, dexterity, decision making, creativity, mindfulness and so on.. Open ended toys like building blocks, peg dolls, animal figures, cloth dolls, empty cardboard boxes, real/ pretend kitchen utensils, bean bags, pebbles, sea shells, dried pods from trees and so on are better preferred by many educationists rather than coloring books, board games, noisy remote control cars, puzzles, Barbie dolls, etc which are structured end to end. A child can create nothing from them while with building blocks, for example, one can create towers, bridges, buildings, furniture and so much more.
Let your child be a child! He has all his life to finish off all the zillion hobby classes and he is in no rush at all.
Parents when asked to recall their school days often remember the stern walls and the sterner teachers. Their best memories of school are the ones where they played on their school ground, conversations with friends or experiments in the school lab. Today, as many of them seek new schools for their children they are on the lookout for meaningful alternative ways of schooling. They seek an environment where the child will learn to think independently rather than simply learning by rote. There are a dizzying array of alternative schooling methods. A few methodologies have been gaining momentum from some years now and are worth exploring. They include the Montessori method, the Waldorf method, the Reggio method and the Sudbury method, to name a few.
It is very important to find out in detail about these alternate methods and how they function before parents decide which method is the best fit for their child. Parents often enroll their children into alternative schools with enthusiasm but pull them out when they do not perform like traditional schools. Several factors like fear, uncertainty, pressure from the family and peers and a lack of understanding young children and their learning needs contribute to this.
People often ask me how to pick the right pre school?
My exposure to teaching as a Waldorf early childhood educator has made me understand what is conducive to a child’s learning. The Waldorf method emphasizes on educating the Head(Mind), Heart(Soul) and Hands(Body) of a human being, this method is fast gaining acceptance in India and abroad.
The following were my key take-aways as an educator.
ENVIRONMENT of the schools should be home- like, simple yet aesthetically set up. This does not include fancy coloured walls, huge infrastructure, battery operated toys, television and so on which can over stimulate a sensitive child.
FREE MOVEMENT: Young Children have a very short attention span and hence any activity should not force or expect the child to be seated in one place for more than 15-30 mins. Children should be allowed to move around freely from indoors to outdoors or the reverse with adult supervision.
NON- STANDARDISED TESTING: A slow and loving journey which supports the child’s abilities goes a long way in comparison to an over stimulating one filled with racing, competing and likewise.
INFORMAL LEARNING: Reading and Writing should be introduced when the child is ready! Many preschools today introduce reading and writing by using unique/ fancy techniques, which is not considered age appropriate. A child should be allowed to grow at its own pace (Organically). Adults do not intervene and make them grow /learn fast by using so called fancy techniques (Inorganic ways).
CHILD CENTRIC CURRICULUM: Look for child centric curriculum based on the needs of modern children rather than fixed and rigid ones.
SENSORY OR NATURE PLAY: A healthy preschool program should expose children to play in Nature (exposure to five elements). Children who are tied up within four walls without being allowed to feel the wind on their face or the dirt on their little hands may develop low immunity.
I am not suggesting any schools here in specific, please visit the schools in person and look for the above qualities in them. I hope many parents who want to choose an alternative preschool find this useful. All the best!