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Our Kindergarten Rhythm August 20, 2009

Filed under: Children (3-6 years),Family Culture — Rachel @ 5:52 pm
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It’s the first day of school for many children, but not in our house.  Our first day of school was earlier this August, because mama couldn’t wait to get started!  We’re finishing up our 3rd week of Kindergarten.  Now that I’m a veteran homeschooler (HA!), I thought I’d share our school rhythm with you.

kidsMy kindergartner, Aria, is almost 5.  Because of her birthdate, she’ll do 2 years of Kindergarten before starting first grade, in order to stay on tract with her public school counterparts.  I also have a 2 1/2 year old, Liam, in the mix.  For us, Kindergarten means adding a focus story to our week, and allowing that story to play out as it may in our weekly painting and coloring times.  It also means a new weekly beeswax modeling session and a weekly poem or memory verse, usually pulled from the story itself.  Lastly, we added a handicraft day to Aria’s week, which creates a time for learning to tie, braid, sew, etc.

It wasn’t to hard to work these elements into our lives, since we already had a solid rhythm that’s been supporting us for over half a year.   Since I work part-time, I had a meeting with my other caregivers (2 grandmas) to share my plans for Aria’s Kindergarten year and ask for their participation.  One grandma took over the weekly beeswax modeling session, while the other does the handiwork project.   Coloring and painting fall on my days at home.  At the beginning of the month, I gave each grandmother a one-page summary showing the weekly story and memory verse for each week, plus ideas for handiwork and modeling.  As each week arrives, I pass along a copy of the focus story in advance, so Grandma can read ahead and have it on hand during the week. 

Here’s our weekly rhythm:

  • Monday:  New Story – No expansion
  • Tuesday: Beeswax Modeling
  • Wednesday: Repeat Story, Give Memory Verse & Coloring
  • Thursday:  Handicraft
  • Friday:  Repeat Story, Say Memory Verse & Painting

And our daily rhythm, at least on my days at home:

  • 7:00 – Wake & Dress
  • 7:30 – Breakfast
  • 8:00 – Complete dressing routines & Early Morning Bible Study w/Memory Verse Time
  • 9:00 – Get moving via Outdoor Play (with a Playdate on Fridays)
  • 10:00 – Snack
  • 11:00 – Free Play
  • 12:00 – Lunch
  • 12:30 – Rest Time
  • 1:30 – Aria’s Storytime, then free play or right into Art Time, if it feels right
  • 3:00 – Snack
  • 3:30 – Art Time: Coloring/Painting if not done earlier
  • 4:30 – Dinner Prep
  • 5:30 – Dinner
  • 6:00 – Family Time/Baths
  • 6:45 – Bed Prep and Bedtime Stories
  • 7:00 – To Bed

As far as “school” time goes (and I use that term loosely, since we’re learning all the time), it works well for us to have split our day into two mini sessions.  Right after we’ve finished getting ready for the day, we have a little Bible time at the table, prayer to set the tone for our day, and then we practice our memory verse.  If I can, I teach Aria how to act out the poem or Bible verse to help her remember, and then she’s off to play.  This session takes about 10 minutes!

The next session is placed after her rest time, when she’s eager to reconnect with me.  I read her the focus story of the week, and sometimes go on to read some stories of Liam’s choosing afterwards.  More often they’re ready to play.  This week, our story was a Russian fairytale “Masha and the Bear”.  Aria just LOVED it!  So, after storytime she enlisted Liam and I to help her reenact the storyline for as long as we were willing.  This kind of play with the story is really the most ideal way for her to work through its meaning and value.  While she played, I set up our coloring supplies so we could move into coloring session whenever the time was right.  This school session takes more like 30 minutes, including the art time.  Afterwards, I change my focus to housework and dinner.


Nature Play & Nature Study with Young Children August 8, 2009

naturesplaygroundSince I posted Getting Outside in Hot Weather, I’ve been enjoying this focus on outdoor play and casual nature study with my little ones.  We LOVED “Nature’s Playground: Activities, Crafts, and Games to Encourage Children to Get Outdoors”, which I found at our library!  The book has so many gorgeous and inspiring pictures of children having fun outside:  climbing tress, hiking, playing in the mud, catching bugs, building natural forts, lying in tall grass.  The pictures alone launched my 4 1/2-year-old on a verbal monologue about the grand hiking trip she will do someday.  Since then, she and daddy have visited a local forest for her first hike. 

Besides pictures, the book has a ton of ideas for neat ways to play outside with nature.  We took a jaunt down to our almost-dry pond bed to wade through the mud (I really just watched that part).  We’ve caught more bugs, frogs, and spiders than ever before.  Most of the activity ideas are really ideal for the 6+ crowd.  I plan on holding off on purchasing the book for a few years, for that reason. 

Besides enjoying “Nature’s Playground”, I’ve found a few more ways to enjoy the outdoors with my kids.  I purchased a spiral bound, blank notebook for our “nature journal.”  Last week we visited the botanical gardens armed with a few ink pads and our journal.  Aria and Liam both enjoyed stamping various leafs and blossoms to our pages.  I wrote the common species name under each print.  Now that’s one way I can actually learnmushrooms plants – just 6 or so at a time.  We left with inky hands, as I’m sure you guessed.  I plan to add pressed flowers to our book soon, and to let it continue to evolve, adding whatever nature-oriented observations or mediums seem right.

Since my children are young, the idea is not to cram their heads full of information, but to nurture a sense of wonder and curiosity about nature.  To that effect, we aren’t running around reading lots of children’s non-fiction for our homeschooling “science”.  Instead, we have a Waldorf-inspired nature story as my daughter’s focus story every few weeks, we play creatively outside and – hopefully – I share my genuine interest and knowledge about nature in ways that are spontaneous and real. 

Trouble is, I’m not all that knowledgeable about nature.  In fact, I’m probably more interested in nature study now than I have ever been before. To equip myself, I’ve purchased a series of pocket field guides for familiar trees, wildflowers, insects, butterflies, etc.  I discovered a great series published by Audubon that’s geared towards children.  frogsThat’s just what I need!  (I checked out many complete field guides from the library on wildflowers and felt like I was reading a foreign language).  On Amazon, many of these guides are available used for pennies, plus shipping.  Here’s the National Audubon Society Pocket Guide to Familiar Reptiles and Amphibians, as an example.  Every spread has a full, page-sized picture and a simple description with all the key details that you’d actually want to know.  My whole family (even dad) has enjoyed paging through these!  Just this weekend, we discovered a Red Velvet Ant, Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, Northern Tooth Musrhoom and Wolf Spider.  Good times!


Creating an Art Studio for a Young Child – Part 4 July 10, 2009

Filed under: Children (3-6 years) — Rachel @ 8:50 am
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Part 3: Stocking up on the Best Supplies… Continued!

Now that you’ve got your basics, here are some ideas your child can grow into.  When it comes to all these options, the best art supplies are the ones that fit your child’s personality, fine motor skills and your ability to cope with the mess!

More Great Art Supplies for Preschoolers & Up

  1. Watercolor Paints:  Now you’re in for a treat!  Wet watercoloring is a method of painting that’s classic to the Waldorf tradition.  It involves painting on a wet piece of heavyweight paper, laid flat on a painting board.  The colors come alive, dancing on the page and effortlessly creating beautiful new hues.  Simply purchase red, blue and yellow to bring the entire rainbow to your child in living color.  We use Stockmar’s watercolors, which are made in Germany and used by Waldorf schools around the world.  Palumba has a set of the primaries for $21 that should last for about a year, if you paint weekly.  For a better value, buy the larger bottles!  Wide, flat brushes are ideal – but try what you already have.  Use that large painting paper I recommended in the basic supplies. 
  2. Painting Boards:  For wet watercolor, you need a board on which to spread out your paper without any bumps.  Usually, you’ll take this board to your water source and then transport it to the table.  When painting is over, the paintings must dry on the board without being disturbed.  I love a natural wooden board – it’s a beautiful background for your child’s work.  Palumba makes an ideal hardwood board for $15 (medium, 15×21″).  We also use our board as a portable mini work surface for play dough, gluing, etc.
  3. Paint jars:  Ok, this one is a luxury.  You can store and use your mixed watercolors in baby food jars.  Or… you can purchase a paint jar holder that prevents tipping for $17.  A 3-jar holder is all you’ll really want.  The wooden base means that an errant elbow doesn’t send all that precious paint across the room.  We found ours at Palumba.
  4. Colored PencilsYou don’t know what you’re missing until you use a nicecolored pencil.  Washable, erasable pencils generally apply poorly.  When your little one is no longer writing on the walls, buy a set of 12 Lyra Ferby colored pencils.  They have a chunky, triangular shape that’s pretty unbreakable.  And, as you know, that triangular shape encourages a proper pencil grip, which will be essential for writing well later on.  Palumba has the best price at $15 a set.  While you’re at it, get the Lyra beeswax crayon sharpener.  It works for these pencils and your Stockmar beeswax crayons too.
  5. Glitter Glue:  The only thing more exciting than access to glue is access to glitter glue!  Here’s a way to fulfill their craving for sparkle without the absolute mess that using real glitter involves.  (And more power to you if you give them glitter too).  glitter glueAvailable at mass-markers or Discount School Supply at $9 for this six pack.
  6. Collage Ingredients:  Feathers, shells, pom poms, ribbon, pipe cleaners, goggly eyes, and the list could go on and on.  There’s no end to the possibilities when you give your child a diverse assortment of materials.  Most of these can be snapped up for a few dollars at Discount School Supply.  Try to limit yourself!
  7. Recyclables:   Alright, these are free!  Start saving toilet role inserts, paper towel roles, egg cartons, interesting boxes, smooth-edged cans, etc in a nice basket on your art shelf.  These items make perfect bases for those collage projects.  Can you see a robot in your future?

More Great Art Supplies for Older 4’s & Up

  1. Fun-edge scissors:  Now that he finishes a project with a bit more intent, surprise him with some new cuts.  You can find these at your favorite mass-retailer, or online at Discount School Supply where a pack of 12 different edges is just $12.
  2. Modeling BeeswaxWhen your child starts feeling “too old” for play dough, it’s a great time to introduce this modeling medium.  It’s sold in hard sheets that look like oversize pieces of gum.  You warm it in your hands (or in a bowl of warm water) and the beeswax becomes very pliable.  It’s good work on those fine motor skills for your child to work with resistant beeswax.  When she’s done, the beeswax will cool in the shape she has made and can sit out indefinitely.  To use again – just warm and repeat.  It NEVER dries out!  12 sticks for $20 at the Wooden Wagon.
  3. Pastels or Oil Crayons:  A nice addition to your child’s resources is a simple set of soft pastels.  These do tend to break, so don’t invest in an expensive set yet. 
  4. Funky Paint Brushes:  She’s ready to experiment with texture and shape.  Combine tempera paint with a set of funky brushes for a whole new look at painting. wackyWe have this $8 set of “Wacky” tools from Discount School Supply, and it’s quite fun!

Lots of fun stuff!  Next time I’ll share tips on organizing all this fun in a way that’s engaging, easy-to-access, and nice-looking too!


Creating an Art Studio for a Young Child – Part 3 July 9, 2009

Filed under: Children (3-6 years) — Rachel @ 6:27 pm
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Part 3: Stocking up on the Best Supplies

So this is where it starts getting really fun!  Last night, after the kids went to bed, I unpacked a new box of craft supplies  from Discount School Supply.  Colorful feathers, sparkly pom poms, sea shells, funky paintbrushes, oh my!  I was forced to hide the loot so that we’d be able to get out the door this morning!  Our home studio is going from stocked to super-stocked.  (Note: We are homeschooling, so I have a totally credible excuse for going a little overboard, right?). 

Whatever you buy, make sure it’s high-quality.   Better a small assortment of smooth, vibrant crayons than a huge box of Crayolas.  Your child will appreciate the difference, and you’ll enjoy the results!  Cheap nylon paint brushes waste paint (they hold paint) and don’t apply as nice.  Lightweight paper results in disappointing paintings and drawing with cheap colored pencils is plain frustrating!  When in doubt, avoid everything Crayola.  Don’t plan on finding your supplies at your favorite mass-marketer.  It takes more legwork, but if you buy quality supplies they last longer, work better and add up to more fun!  As any artist will attest, it takes the right tools.

Now, this is not to say that everything has to be expensive.  www.DiscountSchoolSupply is an excellent source for savings and they have free shipping too!  There are items on which to splurge and items on which to save.  If you’re a do-it-yourself kinda person, checkout www.ChubbyPencilStudio (dedicated to eco-friendly supplies),  www.AToyGarden (great prices & service, poor organization), www.Palumba (great prices and best painting supplies), www.ImagineChildhood(sturdy furniture and unique items) and www.theWoodenWagon (excellent assortment!).  Or, save yourself some time and browse through these lists!

Basic Art Supplies for Toddlers & Up

  1. Crayons:  Beeswax Crayons from Stockmar.  You’ve got to start with these!  They apply beautifully and smell like honey!  A small pack of 8 sticks or 8 blocks will do at this age.  Learn why block crayons are best for babies and toddlers here. Your 4+ child will enjoy more colors if you can afford it.  If not, she can make every color of the rainbow with those 8 blocks, since they can be blended (ex. blue with a little green over it makes teal).   At the Wooden Wagon:  8 Stick Crayons $12.50, 8 Block Crayons $12.50, 16 Stick Crayons $24. 
  2. Blank Paper:  You don’t need coloring books.  They don’t even help!  Coloring on blank paper invites true creativity and doesn’t hem your child in with lines.  Use regular printer copy paper for everyday, if you’re going to give your child free access.  If you’re going to parcel it out a bit or want some paper that won’t show-through when you color on both sides of the sheet, buy heavier paper.  100 sheets of heavy, 160# paper is just $24 at AToyGarden.  paintAnd at 9.75″ by 12.75″, it’s just the right size for coloring.  This is what we use at home for our weekly “coloring time.” 
  3. Tempera Paint:  Tempera paint has a texture kids enjoy, and is not as messy or as pricey as watercolor.  You can fingerpaint with tempera, if you like, so don’t bother buying special “finger paint.”  Crayola paint looks awful when it dries – cracked and flat.  Plus, it smells strongly of fumes.  I just bought Colorations Simply Washable Tempera Paint, which comes highly recommended.  It’s not as fumy as Crayola, and the prices are great at Discount School Supply – a pack of 11 liter bottles is just $18.60! 
  4. Paint Brushes:  At this age, you’ll need one paint brush per paint color being used.  Make it a natural bristle brush.  The cheapest brushes fall apart and may not apply as nicely.  But, don’t get a really nice brush (like those $11-15 brushes) for a 2 or 3 year old.  brushWhen your child pulverizes the brush with his painting gusto, you may feel a bit sick to your stomach.  It doesn’t matter if you choose a round or flat brush – your toddler won’t notice.  You can buy brushes at your local craft store, where you can touch to ensure you’re buying a quality brush.  I like to shop online, so I bought a set of 24 Wooden Chubby Brushes for $19 at Discount School Supply.  It’s more brushes than I needed, but the quality is excellent for the price, and they fit perfectly in our paint pots.  Another good choice is the variety set shown here, which retails for just $11.  These brushes will be suitable for watercolor too. 
  5. Paint Pots:  I resisted getting these.  Probably because I hate plastic.  But, they’re genius!  paint cupsEach plastic pot has a non-spill lid that stays on while you’re child paints, plus a second lid that seals for storage.  No more washing out paint pots, waisting paint and time.  If you prep the pots, your child could self-serve paint too, if you’re that brave.  This set is only $6.50 at Discount School Supply.  The color-coding makes it easy for little ones to dip their brush in the right pot, without mixing colors.  Also available in white.
  6. Large Painting Paper:  Kids love big paper.  You can use a roll of paper which attaches to your easel or sits on the tabletop ($18 from Imagine Childhood).  Try to find a roll of thick paper, or the paintings aren’t going to be very nice for keeping.  Also buy some large, heavyweight paper (usually considered watercolor paper).  Larger is always better, because you can cut it in half when it suits you.  A pack of 25 premium, 24 x 17.5 sheets is available at Palumba for $8.  I use our paintings on heavy paper to make cards and backgrounds for new projects.
  7. Smock & Splat Mat:  These are good investments for your sanity.  Do NOT buy vinyl, which released toxic fumes into the air.  Choose from safe, wipeable options from www.MimitheSardine or even use something made of cloth.  A tablecloth you don’t want makes a find mat – just throw it into the wash from timeto time.  We have cloth apron-smocks, because they’re cute hanging in our art room.
  8. Easel:  An easel seems like a luxury for a young child, but I’m sold on the concept.  When my two-year-old paints on a table, he gets paint all over his arms and stomach.  If he uses our tabletop easel, the paint is just on his hands.  In addition, an artist will tell you that painting on a vertical surface provides a better perspective of work-in-progress.  Choose a double-sided easel, preferably with paper attachment and adjustable height.  Ours is a sturdy, plastic-free design from Imagine Childhood for $102.  
  9. Play dough:  Kids get a lot out of working with play dough.  It’s three-dimensional and very tactile.  If crumbly, dry-out Crayola play dough just doesn’t do it for you, try Eco-Dough!  The texture is very smooth!  Colors are great.  It’s dyed with natural dyes (which are healthier if ingested).  And…. if it drys out just add olive oil to bring it back!  18 oz (including 5 colors) is $20 at www.ecokidsusa.  At Mama K’s etsy shop, you can buy 20 oz (including 5 colors) for $20 – but her all-natural dough is also scented with essential oils: lavender, bergamot, sweet orange, lemongrass, and geranium.  There are also countless online recipes for making your own dough!
  10. Glue:  Here’s something you can pick up from Target.  Good old Elmer’s glue always does the trick.  You can also experiment with stick glues, but most dry out before you have a chance to use half. 
  11. Scissors:  Last, but not least, add some child-safe scissors to the mix.  Just look for something with the razor enclosed in plastic, so there is not sharp point.  Your child will joyfully cut and paste for hours on end.  Here’s a good way to put junk mail to use!

Whew!  My list for your 3-4 year old will have to post tomorrow!  But, your time is well-spent getting set with these supplies.  They’re the backbone of your Artist Nook or Dedicated Studio and will be used for years to come!


Creating an Art Studio for a Young Child – Part 1 July 7, 2009

Filed under: Children (3-6 years) — Rachel @ 7:57 pm
Tags: , , ,

Part 1:  Why Art is Important & Planning Your Space

Why art?  As my husband said last night, “It’s hard to be creative if you haven’t had any practice.”  If you feel it is important to nurture creative and imaginative thinking, do art with your child and create a space where he or she can make something new “all by myself.”  This type of freedom fosters self-esteem, a willingness to explore, to take risks and to try new things.  (Plus, it can happily engage a child for quite some time!).  These are the seeds of problem-solving and expressive writing that we all hope to see come to life in later school years.  As a bonus, working with various mediums develops fine motor skills that will come in handy when your child learns to write.

inspiration from the Artful Parent

Do you have a place in your home for your child to create?  Can she access her crayons?  Do you have to go to all sorts of trouble to set out supplies everytime he feels like gluing and cutting?  There is a better way.

You know your child best – what she can handle properly.  You know your limits – what level of “mess” you can tolerate.  But realize that a thoughtfully created art space may actually simplify your life.  How?  By making art enticing for your child and easy on you.  The keys are Careful Planning, Clear Expectations, Quality Supplies & Kid-Friendly Organization.

Planning Your Space

To get started, think about an area in your house for storing supplies and creating art.  Your child must have a table.  A large table at a child’s height is ideal, but your own kitchen table covered with a wipeable cloth will do.  If you can have a dedicated table it will minimize prep and clean-up time considerably, while allowing you to relax about dings and paint.  Even a small dedicated table is better than sharing the kitchen table.  Think of this as your child’s future desk.  (You were going to give him a desk, right?)  The table could be in his room, in the corner of your kitchen, office or living room.  But, find a space for that table and a solid little chair.

Next, think storage.  It needs to be located as close to that table as possible.  Carting paint from room to room is a recipe for accidents.  If creative materials such as pipe cleaners, goggly eyes, feathers, etc aren’t even in the room where your child is working, how likely is she to think to use them?  If you’re the one toting the supplies, facilitating your child’s art can become a burden.  Do you have a shelf – that’s perfect!  You can place everyday items within your child’s reach and those items you’ll want to parcel out higher up.  On a shelf, everything is visible, inviting your child to start something new or add an unexpected touch to her current project.  Drawers could work, though they make creative materials less visible.  Need to conserve space?  Use several large baskets to corral groups of supplies and stash them as close as you can.   

Sample Plans

The Dedicated Studio:  You want to make art a part of your everyday life.  Carve out some space in your most “creative” room for your child’s table.  I love Ikea’s Vika series for modern, affordable tables. They’re available in some nice, generous sizes.  Choose the Vika Oleby leg at just under 18″ to bring the table down to a child’s height. For the ideal set-up, add a floor-to-ceiling adjustable bookshelf and place that right beside the table. Ikea comes through again with the Billy Bookcase series. My favorite will store all your supplies for $90.

The Art Nook:  You’d like to keep things compact, affordable and under control!  This Ikea table set  (pictured right) is ideal for a very young child or a small space. Bonus – it comes with two chairs for just $40!  Fasten a low shelf to the wall just above the table to place supplies he’s using today in order to save room on the table for his work. Store supplies in a few baskets on high wall shelves above the table or even stored under the table. The Leksvik wall shelf (or anything similar) has hooks that could come in really handy. Hang baskets from the hooks filled with crayons, pencils, glue, scizzors and what not. Or, for a really affordable solution, just use these $4 Kroken caddies along with the coordinating $4 rail to place supplies at your child’s level, but just above that small workspace.


Words for Loving Transitions May 14, 2009

Filed under: Family Culture — Rachel @ 5:45 pm
Tags: ,

Inspired by books like Heaven on Earth, countless Waldorf resources and Enki Education, I have been weaving simple verses or “sayings” into our family life.  These rhymatic verses are fun and excellent for language development.  But, most importantly, they ease my two little ones through difficult daily transitions.  Here are a few I think most parents would find useful.  Unless noted, I’m not sure of the authors.  Please advise me if you know!

For Teeth Brushing:

All the little milk teeth

Standing in a row,

Scrub, scrub, scrub

And away we go.

First do all the front ones,

Then do at the back,

Every night and morning,

Just like that.

For Nail Clipping:

Thumpkin Bumpkin jolly and stout,

Peter into mischief round-a-bout,

Long and lanky,

Hanky panky,

Pinkie winkie diddly dinky.


Snip, snap moonslivers one by one.



Long and lanky.

Hanky panky.

All done.

For Saying Goodnight to my 4-year-old:

May you be good; may you be blessed.

Joyful to rise; happy to rest.

With a heart that is wise, warm and strong.

Nimble fingers, skilled feet to bear you along.

(from the Christopherus Kindergarden book)



Montessori vs. Waldorf Preschools April 27, 2009

Filed under: Family Culture — Rachel @ 6:44 pm
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If you decide to send your little one to “traditional” preschool, how do you choose the right school?  Browse under “preschools” in your phonebook and you’re sure to find lots of options.  Here is some information to help familiarize yourself with Montessori and Waldorf, two of the most popular teaching styles for little ones:


Countless preschools dub themselves “Montessori” to associate themselves with Maria Montessori’s educational approach.  However, beware that anyone can call their school “Montessori” with no certifications at all.  As such, the quality of Montessori preschools vary greatly.  A “true” Montessori school will often by certified by Association Montessori Internationale or a similar organization.  Classes are often 25-30 children with a 2-3 year age span.

Hallmarks of the Montessori approach include: 

  1. Prepared Environment:  the classroom should be full of manipulatives that invite children to engage in learning activities.  These materials will have a step-by-step correct procedure for being used and will be focused toward a specific skill or concept.  They are self-correcting so that teachers should not have to intervene.   
  2. Child Led:  the child chooses and initiates his or her use of the environment.  In this calm, ordered classroom, the child is free to move from station to station.  She works at her own pace, and almost always alone.  A teacher is at hand to help with any troubles or redirect destructive or aimless behavior.  There are no prescribed times for this or that kind of activity, rest, eating, etc.  
  3. Reality Based:  Maria Montessori believed that children have a hard time distinguishing between fantasy/pretend and reality.  Montessori education seeks to ground children in reality by directing them towards real-life skills (math, cleaning, writing, reading).  Toys as a source of amusement have no value.  All toys must be overtly educational. 
  4. Academics Now:  Montessori recognizes that the young child of 3-6 years is able to soak up new experiences and concepts like a sponge.  In response, this approach seeks to give the child unlimited opportunities to learn and grow academically and with real-life skills.  Most will learn to read and compute math at younger ages than conventionally schooled children.

A healthy, well-developed young child will have, “a love of order, love of work, spontaneous concentration, attachment to reality, love of silence and of working alone, sublimation of the possessive instinct, power to act from real choice, obedience, independence and initiative, spontaneous self-discipline, and joy.” (from The North American Montessori Teachers’ Association)


There are fewer Waldorf schools because a school must be certified to use this term legally.  This does help ensure some sort of genuinely “Waldorf” presence in any given Waldorf school.  Still, the schools do vary largely based on how the teachers interpret the work of Rudolf Steiner, who founded Waldorf education.  Waldorf is informed by a spiritualistic worldview or “religion” called anthroposophy, also founded by Rudolf Steiner.  Again, classes are likely to be of mixed ages, but not as large in size as in Montessori. 

Hallmarks of the Waldorf approach include: 

  1. Natural, Home-like Environment:  The classroom should have simple decor, furnishings and toys made of natural materials like wood and cloth.  The environment should be beautiful and as open-ended as possible so that the child is both nourished and free to make his or her own fantasy play. 
  2. Teacher Led:  The teacher is to gently direct the children’s day by helping them transition through a rhythmatic day, including arts, oral storytelling, singing, eating, resting and lots of free play.  The children do many activites as a group.  Discipline and transitions are not direct, so as to jar the child out of play.  For example, a teacher might sign a “snack-time” song when it is time to come to the table.  Because the children are familiar with the rhythm of the day and week, transitions seem effortless. 
  3. Fantasy Based:  The young child is believed to be in a dreamy, make-believe developmental state that should not be disturbed by encouraging academics (adding, writing, reading, etc).  Instead, children are told nourishing stories that echo their emotional development.  They may use free-play to explore and develop these ideas.  Practical skill building such as cleaning and cooking are encouraged through imitation.  The teacher sweeps while singing a cleaning song and the children may (or may not) choose to pick up a child-sized broom too. 
  4. Physical Skills and Imagination Now:  Waldorf believes that the child under 7 is naturally in motion.  This is the time to allow them to hone their bodily skills (skipping, balancing, molding beeswax, fingerplays).  While Waldorf agrees that young children are able to soak up information like a sponge, they feel that concepts and facts are not the information we should feed them.  Rather they should absorb a beautiful, natural environment with regular time outdoors and plenty of time for creative, imaginative play. 

“Waldorf teachers strive to transform education in to an art that educates the whole child—the heart and the hands, as well as the head… The goal of the kindergarten is to develop a sense of wonder in the young child and reverence for all living things. This creates an eagerness for the academics that follow in the grades.” (from the Association of Waldorf Schools North America)


Our Preschool at Home March 26, 2009

Filed under: Family Culture — Rachel @ 1:30 pm
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Throughout this year I have been officially homeschooling my 4-year-old daughter.  But what does that amount to, really?  The preschool-aged child needs to be in a safe, nurturing environment.  She needs to eat healthful foods, play outside everyday, make-up her own games and contribute to the home.  She desires outlets for socializing, creating art, singing and making music!  This, we have been providing at home… and it has been my pleasure!

The year began with my focus on creating a rhythm for our weekly life together.  Once that was established, I was freed up to relax, enjoy our days more and enrich them as new ideas come. 

In the late fall, I learned to request seasonal children’s books from the library.  Focusing on the time of year means our read-alouds reflect the weather, moods and holidays of the season.  The books stay around for a couple months, which is just long enough for them to become familiar, without getting a bit old.  I put effort into selecting my seasonal library book list, so that the books reflect good values and positive personalities to my children.   

img_0008Next I settled into comfortable art sessions.  At first I couldn’t enjoy wet watercoloring with my 4-year-old, because I didn’t know how to manage my 2-year-old at the same time.  And, at the beginning, coloring time was rather haphazard as well.  As I found what works for my family and, perhaps as my children learned what to expect too, I discovered ways to make these art times peaceful and productive.  Sometimes my 2-year-old doesn’t paint, but just watches.  This is very good for his always-on-the-go personality.  Othertimes I set him up in just such a way that he is able to paint (with tempera paint) without causing a ruckus.  For coloring, I found that my daughter thrives when given a concept to work with.  For example, one winter day we colored pine trees on black and then added white crayon snow.  When spring arrived, we colored a rainbow (her first) using the soft sides of thick block crayons.  Usually I color alongside of her, trying to be an example without getting in her way.

Late winter I finally hung our first, small blackboard, which my husband made for me.  I enjoy writing seasonal poems, verses from our circle time and Bible verses on the board.  My daughter loves to memorize the poems.  It is amazingly easy for her and works to sharpen her memory, while enriching her vocabulary.

This spring I am focusing on developing our circle times.  On Fridays our Waldorf friends come over for a regular playdate.  We begin with circle time, Waldorf style.  For us that means a unifying theme, such as tea time, worked out through songs, poems, and miming activities.  We begin with large movements, standing up and work our way down to the floor, where we finish with fingerplays.  All of this purposeful bodily activity works to develop the brain in preparation for academics.  It appeals to the children imaginatively, never failing to completely delight them.   I have found that our playgroup needs a bit more structure than originally expected.  It is still a work in progress, but a very exciting one!

Combined with household chores, cooking, free-play and plenty of time out-of-doors, this is our preschool at home.   I am so thankful for the many Waldorf-inspired mamas who have gone before me, paving the way with ideas and wonderful resources that keep me inspired to enjoy my family.  I particularly recommend the Seasons of Joy curriculum, which is a set of 4 seasonal idea books, designed for children from baby to kindergarten.   It is not a rigid curriculum at all.  Instead, it’s a rich resource book, filled with circle times, stories, art, poems, cooking and projects that are all season-appropriate.  There’s more than enough material for many years, in my opinion!  I turn to Seasons of Joy to formulate circle time, come up with coloring “concepts”, source poems for our blackboard, and etc.  I’m sure it’ll get even more use as we explore kindergarten next year!


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!


Waldorf at Home – A Routine that Works for Us February 10, 2009

Filed under: Family Culture — Rachel @ 3:47 pm
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It’s been five months now since we “discovered” Waldorf.  We’re in our own home now and have settled into some helpful routines.  I have several friends who are likewise inspired by Waldorf ideas.  I’m often asked, “What is your routine?” You see, we all agree that the children thrive on having some sort of routine or pattern to their days, and we know that WE do better with a routine too.  Predictability is soothing.  It “holds” the child and “carries” us through the day, promoting cooperation, making transitions easier and simplifying the “what next” for mom. 

But, how do you get there?  No one wants a rigid set of rules.  And, no one can just adopt another’s routine, since everyone’s life and priorities are different.  Here I’ll share my routine and then some thoughts that helped me along the way.  The timeline listed works as a guideline for me.  It’s not a schedule that I must stick too, but a reminder of sorts that helps me keep up with my day. 

As a part-time working mom, I have Wednesdays and Fridays home with the children, plus weekends when dad is home too.  I’ve color-coded some routines that are unique to Wednesday or Friday.  Our weekends are less formed and more open-ended, leaving opportunities for spontaneity.  But, generally, we try to have one weekend day be a “work day” for gardening, home improvement, etc and one be a “play day” for friends, kid projects, or rest.

Our Routine

  • Rising-7:30am: Breakfast, Getting Dressed and Ready for the Day
  • 8am: Laundry/House Cleaning, making an effort to welcome and include the children as helpers
  • 9am: Coloring/Painting, stopping my work to do artwork as a family 
  • 10am: Snack followed by free play inside, while Mom does more of the day’s chores
  • 11am: Play Outside, when I might play with them or do some gardening (which they may do too!)
  • 12am: Lunch
  • 12:30-1:30pm: Rest Time for all, when I may catch up on my computer or read
  • 1:30pm: Read Aloud a few books, followed by free play
  • 2:30 Snack
  • 3pm: Free Play/Friends arrive for Play Group with Circle Time and a Craft or Game
  • 5pm: Dinner prep
  • 5:30-6pm:  Dinner
  • 6pm:  many nights Daddy plays guitar while the children dance or make music
  • 6:45pm:  Get ready for bed, read a bedtime story (or two) as a family
  • 7pm: Children in bed

In making my routine, I first identified things I’d like us to be doing everyday, such as playing outside, regular snacks, rest time and free play.  These are a MUST for us.  If the kids don’t get these things, they don’t behave well.  Next, I identified things I must do as a parent, such as laundry, cleaning and having some “me” time.  If I don’t get some “work” done, I don’t feel good about my day.  And, I don’t behave well without a break in the middle of my day! 

Lastly I chose a few things that would enrich our lifestyle, such as coloring (on blank paper), painting, and playgroups.  I had to be pretty selective here.  There are SO many fun things I could be doing with my kids, but time is limited.  Also, I realized that I’d have to say “no” to some things to make time for this lifestyle.  It means staying home.  NOT running errands.  NOT exercising with my mommy friends.  How is this possible?  I run errands maybe once a month (and it makes for a downer Wednesday) or on weekends, when we do our grocery shopping.  I exercise at night, after the kids are asleep.  And, most importantly, I realize that less truly is more.  Staying home is wonderful, meaningful, and restful for this part-time working mom. 

I wish you the best as you work towards discovering your routine.  Living more intentionally is so fulfilling for both parent and child.  For some more inspiration, see “Heaven on Earth” by Sharifa Oppenheimer.  It’s the very best book I’ve come by for practical Waldorf-inspired parenting advice.