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Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children March 3, 2009

Filed under: Family Culture — Rachel @ 7:58 pm
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When you’re at home with your children, what is your time like?  Relaxing, nurturing, creative, artistic, fun? Chaotic, rushed, tense, boring, frustrating?  How would you describe your family culture?  Where are you now, and where do you want to be? 

Heaven on Earth is one of my new all-time favorite books.  It came to me highly recommended by countless Waldorf mamas and was thoroughly enjoyed by my local Holistic Mom’s Network book club.  Sharifa Oppenheimer, author of Heaven on Earth, presents the Waldorf lifestyle in a clear, accessible and inspiring account.  Her book is chock-full of can-do ideas,  reasons “why” and beautiful photography.  As Sharifa suggests in her introduction, I journaled my way through the book.  I took my time, slowly digesting chapters on establishing rythym, creating an indoor play environment, creating an outdoor play environment, oral storytelling, creative art, imaginative discipline and more.  If you have children under seven, and especially between the ages of 3-7, this book is a gem. 

It has been two months since I read Heaven on Earth.  Since then, I’ve made so many small changes, but the overall effect is substantial.  When I had first learned about Waldorf, from reading books like The Creative Family and running about online, I was overwhelmed by how beautiful the lifestyle is and by how much I wanted to change about our family culture.  After making the big changes, like eliminating TV for the children, staying home more and getting crafty/artistic again, I was struggling to know what to do next, and how.  Heaven on Earth is like a gourmet platter, filled with diverse, beautiful treats – ideas that will enrich your life with young children.  Choose what appeals to you  most and enjoy! 

Here are a few new additions to our home:

  • Weekly Rythym: as posted here
  • Bedtime story as a family: After the children are ready for bed, we all read a story together by the fire.  It’s nice to do bedtimes as a family, rather than one parent to one child.
  • Weekly meal traditions:  To take some of the stress out of meal planning, we set some weekly traditions.  Now we know “what’s for dinner” or at least who is responsible for cooking it, in advance.  We also have more non-cereal breakfasts which come about because of weekly breakfast traditions.
  • Blackboard:  We made a large blackboard and hung it in the living room/eating area.  I post poems, prayers and such on the board that brighten our days.  Aria (4) enjoys memorizing them.
  • Toy Storage:  After purging many plastic/electronic or otherwise overstimulating toys and acquiring some new Waldorf toys, I was happy to learn new ways of organizing and presenting them.  Sharifa suggests baskets, baskets and more baskets.  Small ones on shelves, medium ones on the floor with blocks, cars, etc and large ones for gathering (quick clean-up!).  The wicker baskets are lovely!  I also think they make it easier for the kids to find their toys and to clean up. 
  • Discipline Tactics:  One that works well for me is using the “in our family we….” language (ex. in our family we always have rest time).  For my 4 year old, this language helps her identify with the desired behavior.  She feels included, not forced.  For my 2 year old, this language helps me to avoid negative language.  “In our family, we ask with words”, followed by a demonstration, effectively and positively teaches him to ask, not grab. 

Well, that’s just a random sampling.  The book is just PACKED with good stuff.  When my friend is done with it, I’m going to enjoy going through it again!

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One Response to “Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children”

  1. rebecca Says:

    thank you so much for your reply to my curriculum list posting — this blog post is exactly exactly EXACTLY what i needed to read. i’ve been buying baskets at goodwill for a couple months, and taking plastic toys to the basement, and this is the 7th time i’ve filled out the chalkboard for tomorrow. so yay, i think i’m on the right track. my dear husband bought heaven on earth for me and i drank it down. it seems like it might be a good idea to open it back up with a blank book at hand. i look forward to that, and more immediately , to “In our family, we … ” (seems like it might work for mama and daddy, too).
    i will also share that soulemama was my introduction to the possibility of this kind of life. a shout out to amanda, for real and true.
    i’ve emailed you another reply that i found helpful, too.
    thank you, rachel!


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