I don’t know how many of you know about Waldorf education. Until three years ago, I had an idea. But it seemed oddly more like being a Jehovah’s Witness in my mind. Well I couldn’t have been more wrong. Making the choice to home school my son was not an easy one in light of the stellar school system we live in and my academically focused family. Yet it was a decision that was not optional for me, and knowing that Waldorf would be the method to my madness so to speak, I knew I could do no harm.
Now I am not suggesting that you home school. (Although if you are curious, please ask) What this post is about is how bringing some Waldorf methods and ideas in to your home could make all the difference in the world to you and your child. I think this may become more of a series than a single entry. I sit here mulling over my thoughts and realize I could probably right a book.
So, let’s start with the most important tenet of Waldorf, and that is Rhythm. Ahhh Rhythm. Read any Waldorf blog, website, book or text and you cannot escape that word. However it took me probably about 2 years to truly grasp the meaning and what that meant to me and my family. I am hoping to pass this on to you, as a lay person, in just one post. Let’s see how I do.
How many of you have noticed how much better your child does during a structured day, then a free-for-all day? Now when I say free-for-all I include running errands, visiting family, things that disrupt a normal flow. You may actually notice it in the reverse so to speak. You may say, wow, today went really well, and when you look back you can see a pattern to your day. Any basic parenting book will tell you that a child, from a young age, needs a schedule. They need to know what to expect, and when to expect it. From meals, to bedtime, to play, the more they know, the more well-adjusted they are. Especially special needs kids, like mine, who has Sensory Processing Disorder. These kids are thrown more than any others when they are forced into a life of unpredictability, and to them almost anything different is unpredictable. Miss a meal, or a snack, change a nap time or miss a loved class and you better watch it. Well this idea of having a set schedule is basically Waldorf’s idea of Rhythm. However when Waldorf speaks of Rhythm, they include not only the idea of a schedule, but the needs of the whole child. The child’s need for movement, for up times and down times. Times to use their minds, times to use their bodies and times to use their hands. In Waldorf terms this is described is “in breaths” and “out breaths”. So do that for me. Take a deep breath in, and a deep breath out. Now think of that. When you take that deep breath in, imagine quietly taking in a story, or sitting quietly and drawing. When you release that deep breath think of running in the yard, playing hopscotch or singing songs that involve finger play or hand movements. Your in breath is introspective time, time to be quiet, to think, to create. Your out breath is releasing time, time to be free, to play games, to laugh and sing.
In order for a child to feel balanced, the child must have both of these things, and they must have them in an in and out pattern throughout the day. Of course if your child is in school, you have very little control over that, unless you have an IEP you can manipulate. But for the most part I think they experience it in the form of class time vs. recess, lunch and PE. Maybe also music and art if those things are offered at your school. Still there are so many things you can do at home to facilitate that experience. And once again, here’s where I call on you mom’s to put your kids first and make some changes about what you do when they are around.
Try to save the errands for when there are no kids home or when you can leave them with dad, another family member or a friend. If that’s not a choice pick a specific day that is errand day. Keep all errands to that time and day so that it is an expected part of your rhythm. Try to never take them out hungry, and also to give them plenty of free play time before you leave for your errands.
Please, do not over schedule your child. You are not helping anyone by having your child in multiple activities throughout the week. All you are doing is stressing yourself, and your child. The best place for a child to learn and be nurtured is at home. Think about what your motivation is. Are all the other kids in his school doing it? Does this other mom you respect think it’s a good idea? Are you just looking for some more time alone? If you add rhythm to the picture, I think that last point will be moot.
This is my suggestion for a healthy home rhythm. Depending on how your child comes home from school, is it a bus ride? Or is it walking with plenty of romping and fun on the way home? If it is a bus ride, go for some free play right when they get home. Set a timer, this is to remind you when to rein them in, not as an alarm signalling the end of fun. At that point guide them to their homework, make it fun, think of ways to encourage them to come to their work space, whether it is as simple as singing their name instead of screaming it, asking them to be a certain animal on their way to a special place or as elaborate as using a little verse to get their attention. This is one I love:
Dip Dip Dip
My blue ship
Sails along the water
Like a cup and saucer
Dip dip steady:
I am ready!!!
If your child has a fun romp on the way home, I suggest straight to homework, with a snack of course 🙂 And then they can have free play when done, until dinner. If there is an inordinate amount of homework, please make sure they have some time to play or run before dinner, or dinner may not be as enjoyable as you like. This goes for both scenarios. If we need to get back to homework after dinner make the transition gentle so you can preserve that feeling of taking an in breath.
After dinner, keep things quiet and low-key. The time leading up to bed time should be peaceful and calm. You should know how I feel about media right now, so I am going to be the stickler I am and say, no TV, no computer (unless absolutely necessary for homework) and definitely no video games before bedtime! Also, I cannot stress enough the need for a bedtime routine. This is when we go to bed every night, and this is how we do it. Whether it’s a bath and a story, some milk and a story, whatever is your ritual. It should remain the same night after night. And it should be quiet, not animated. This will help your child sleep, this will comfort your child, this will be the backbone of their childhood. Now of course there are always special situations, just stick to this as closely as you can.
Weekends. Creating a weekend rhythm would probably be a great idea. Look at how your typical day runs now, and see if you can’t make it more predictable. We always wake up at 7, we have breakfast, we do some chores around the house (please include your child in the chores! more later on that), we have some play time. Maybe now we have a snack? If you need to run short errands on the weekend this might be the time to do it, right after snack and before lunch. If you need more time. Then consider some sort of structured project for your child, a craft, reading a story (alone or with you), coloring. Then lunch. If you need more time to do errands, do them now, after lunch. No one is hungry, they’ve had a fulfilling and centering morning and will probably behave so much better! If you can get away with no errands, or certainly not on both Saturday and Sunday, continue some sort of pattern into the afternoon. I strongly recommend a rest time after lunch, even if it’s just quiet time in their rooms. I know we haven’t napped in 3 years, but now I read to my son, lying in bed, and gauge how he feels. Does he seem sleepy? Do I? I go from there. Be the example, we all need a rest sometime during the day. After rest time, their can be more free play. Try not to be the “entertainer”. If your child has trouble playing on his/her own. Consider taking some favorite toys and setting up a scene. Then lead your child to that scene, maybe tell a little story about it, and let them run with it. It may take a couple of tries, but believe me, it works! Then let’s go for an afternoon snack. Maybe some more structured activity, or coloring, or here’s an idea! Helping mom cook! Prep work, table setting, straightening, working together as a family! My son loves to make menus. So we discuss the meal and he draws pictures of the items with check boxes next to them, to distribute at the meal. And then we come full circle, it’s bed time again!
Now, I am all for a family movie night, if TV and movies do not already rule your life. But I would definitely stay with something low-key, probably older (60’s-70’s) so it doesn’t have all the flashy animation strobe like effect. This shouldn’t effect their ability to have a restful night as much as some of the other choices out there. Some of my favorites are Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Incredible Mr Limpet, The Cat From Outer Space, and Herbie the Love Bug (the original). At Christmas we often indulge in the old animation/claymation Christmas specials of the 60’s and 70’s as well. If you have any favorites that fall into these categories I would love to hear about them!
I realize now, that I really only touched the surface. I would still love to discuss rhythm with a child who is not in school. And certainly so much more about Waldorf. Please, do not think that I have a perfect Rhythm in place, in my life I am constantly growing, changing, improving, and having set backs too. Parenting is a struggle no matter who you are, I don’t care how perfect you look on the outside. However, if you try to implement even a little of what I’ve talked about here, I think you will find things will get a little easier!
Here are some of my favorite Waldorf Sites, I am sure I have forgotten some, but they’ll come up again. I’d love to hear from you!
- The Parenting Passageway
- Our Seasons of Joy
- Waldorf Essentials
- Waldorf Reviews
- A Waldorf Journey
- Why Waldorf Works
- Rhythm of the Home
- Christopherus Homeschool Resources
- Little Acorn
- Simplicity Parenting
- The Magic Onions
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