Sunday, October 2, 2011

Daily Life is the Curriculum of Early Childhood

Seems like so many mothers are stressed and frustrated, experiencing a wide gap between the vision they have for life as a family and the daily reality of living with children.

Let's take a look at daily life with children. Do we have reasonable expectations? Are we asking too much of ourselves... striving to be chief, cook, bottle washer, seamstress, handwork expert, woodworker, knitter, crocheter and singer, that is when we are not out planting or harvesting in the garden, or thrifting or blogging.... 

Can we be compassionate with ourselves?

First, I want to emphasize the hard work and self discipline and personal growth that comes with running a household. I am so grateful to my mom for her ceaseless enthusiasm and hard work, thank you Mom! 

It is far more of an effort than a full time job (it's more like three jobs, cook, housekeeper, nanny or driver, oh maybe four and teacher too for many of us) and its compensation is not in such a well recognized and highly regarded form in the outer world. No paycheck, no promotions. No time off.

Often it is at that moment when everything is at what seems like the very worst, that our greatest strides are being made ~ of human growth - for we as parents are growing human beings and our children are helping us grow to be more fully human. It is in those dark moments that truths tend to emerge. With trust and striving we find our way back to the table to clean up one more time.

I thought I’d address the curriculum for the young child in the world of Steiner Waldorf education. It is well known to us as stay home moms, as daily life: eating, sleeping, play and household work to keep everything flowing. And with the daily work, it is our task to help our child learn how to be fully human.

Daily Life is the Curriculum for the Young Child

This includes healthy rhythms of eating, sleeping, movement and play as well as what LifeWays North America founder and Director Cynthia Aldinger refers to as the “living arts” that support it:

Domestic Activities: like cooking and baking and housework, setting the table, clearing the table, sweeping after the meal.

Artistic Activities: like singing, ring games, coloring and painting, beeswax modeling, simple storytelling, puppetry

Social Activities: like meal times and playing with other children (for 3′s and older), being with mom at the grocery or post office and reaching out to others in our building, neighborhood, or community.

Nurturing activities and this means physically nourishing like touch, whole food and good sleep as well as warm baths, and attentive hand washing, and drying, and dressing, and hair combing, and protection from too much stimulation of the media, adult world, colors and stuff. Soulful activities stories rich in imagination, time and space for free play are deeply nourishing on a soul level. We the adults need to nourish ourselves too for we are the source of the strength to keep the household momentum going. (You know the saying, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy... well it is so, no?)

Stories are an artistic activity that are very important for children because they help create pictures of life and of what it means to be human. Stories connect us with humanity and bring powerful archetypal images that have lived within human consciousness for thousands of years. Adults love stories too.

Children will play out what they see and hear in their environment and stories are a way to provide pictorial images that the child will play out. This is why Waldorf teachers are always encouraging parents to protect children from the stimulation of the media, to protect the inner world of childhood, so rich with imagination, imagination for the moment and the future.

What is important with daily life as the curriculum is that it be filled with meaningful and purposeful work that is tangibly productive for a child. Computers and books and typing are not, they are too abstract for the young child to grasp but chopping and kneading and washing are, they produce something the child can grasp, literally and physically. So that is why it is the picture of little house on the prairie with making bread and soup and tending the garden and the animals that is found in the Waldorf kindergarten, a space tended with care and love for all the beings who pass by.

Children need real tools to work with as well, an apron, a sturdy rake, a strong snow shovel and a small version but strong adult garden shovel.

This is where the craft making and handwork in Waldorf come from, in having a relationship to the articles we need for daily living, wash clothes, pot holders, caps, mittens scarves and anything made by mom is so dear to the child, even if they do not outwardly express it, it is.

The what of the curriculum is life, eating, sleeping, caring for the child, caring for the family caring for the home and caring for others in the community. The how to get there in tiny steps is a topic for another article.

This month in the Celebrate the Rhythm of Life Program, we'll work on The Rhythm of Food and Meal Planning and look at our relationship to food on a practical and soul level.


Celebrate the Rhythm of Life 
Harmonious Rhythms ::  Parenting with Soul :: Waldorf Homeschooling

~living curriculum program to support parenting and homeschooling

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for the inspiration once again!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love you posts. I have been out of balance this past week. Returning to a quieter place. Not sure how we get so fragmented? Blessings, to you. Chandi

    ReplyDelete

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