Our Home Ed Guide to Waldorf Early Childhood and Kindergarten

We get lots of questions about Waldorf from other home educating families and those who are curious about the approach.

To answer some of these questions, here’s our handy guide to Waldorf early childhood and kindergarten……

 

 

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Find your Rhythm

This is the time to learn about rhythm. Take what already works for your family and build from there, but work to keep it simple, in Waldorf the early years and kindergarten are all about the rhythm of home. If you are coming to Waldorf late then also begin with rhythm, this is the foundation on which to build your Waldorf home ed.

So, for early childhood and for Kindy, the majority of the week should be spent at home, with lots of play. Children of this age love to imitate, and to be involved with simple aspects home care e.g simple dusting, washing up their cup or bowl and playing with the bubbles, helping to fold laundry etc, creating a weaving in and out of the daily aspects of home life. 

Some books in which you can find a wealth of information for the early years, including more about rhythm are ‘Heaven on Earth’ and ‘You are Your child’s First Teacher’ these are well loved by many Waldorf families, us included!

Waldorf Essential have an excellent ebook called ‘Before the Journey’ which is available free as part of the Early Childhood and Kindergarten curriculum course

 

Playing and Exploring

Simple open ended toys are recommended, those made from natural materials being the ideal; things like wooden blocks and roundels for building, pine cones, shells and stiks, simple dolls and gnomes, knitted, felted or wooden animals, pots, pans and utensils and so on. Many of these natural objects can be gathered on nature walks and toys can be easily made at home for free or very cheaply.

Don’t worry if you haven’t tried making toys before, this is the time to learn! There are many books out there offering ideas, try Toymaking with Children and The Gnome Craft Book for inspiration.

 

 Playsilks are an excellent investment because they can be incorporated in imaginative play in all sorts of ways, use them to create the basis for a playscape, for dressing up, for making dens……so many possibilities!

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 Typical ‘Waldorf toys’ can be pricey if you buy new, but the quality is amazing and they really are build to last. Also, there is no need to throw out every plastic or non Waldorf toy you own! Keep the things your children love and gradually work to add more of the natural options, we have been at this for years and we often have some plastic dinosaurs visiting the gnomes in their wooden houses. We buy bits now and again, and when friends and family ask for gift ideas we point them in that direction!

 

Stories, Songs, Verses and Fingerplays

Tell simple stories about your child’s daily life, or simple nature stories, and have some beautiful, seasonal picture books available. For picture book ideas to begin your collection there are many beautiful titles by Elsa Beskow, Jan Brett, Gerda Muller, and Daniela Drescher  

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Songs and simple finger play verses are also very important during this time, songs which guide the child through the day are especially useful, helping to keep things like tidying up time run more smoothly, sing as you tidy/dress to go outside etc and begin to do that task yourself so that they begin to imitate, it is far more appealing to them than repeated instructions and, once they get used to the idea,  it gets the job done faster. it really doesn’t matter how you sound, your child will love your efforts anyway! Some great books packed with seasonal rhymes and verses are ‘The Singing Day’ and ‘The Singing Year’

We also love this seasonal collection offering a treasure trove of seasonal verses, songs and rhymes and stories. 

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Arts and Crafts

Weave in some simple art and seasonal crafts, we love these blocks, and sticks they produce such beautiful, deep colours and they smell amazing! These coloured pencils are ideal for little hands and are very sturdy. 

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The paints we use are from the same range. With the paints a little goes a very long way and you can store your ready mixed watercolours in small jars in the fridge. You need only buy the red, yellow and blue, play around with these colours to make more. Again, no instruction, just explore and have fun. 

Another great activity for this age group is play dough which can be made very cheaply from basic kitchen ingredients, there are many recipes out there and you can add all sorts of colours and scents to your dough. Keep these activities simple and without instruction, allowing them to explore. When children get a bit older try modelling with beeswax, this takes a lot of work to warm up which is a great will building activity! Start it off for them if necessary by working it yourself to make it more malleable, or tell a story while the child warms the beeswax in their hands.

 

 

Festivals

There are  many festivals celebrated in Waldorf and not every family celebrates every festival. The key is to pick which ones speak to you and begin there, work to make it your own. There are many books available on Waldorf festivals, for inspiration try here 

 

Outdoor Exploration

Lots of outdoor time is necessary too of course, so for this age group plenty of space to run, crawl, roll, climb, swing, slide etc. Spend time in your garden if you have one, or head to the local park, the woods, the swimming pool or the beach and let them burn off all of that energy. Get muddy, wet and sandy while discovering nature and explore the elements and the seasons while honing those important gross motor skills!

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Kindergarten Curriculum ……

In Waldorf, academics do not begin until around age seven. Waldorf kindergarten is totally optional and offers a gentle rhythm of seasonal songs, verses and movement games, seasonal nature stories, and simple, nourishing crafts and activities such as baking, painting, drawing and modelling. This is also a great time to begin to understand and celebrate some or all of the Waldorf festivals.

There are many Waldorf kindy curriculum packages to choose from, we follow Waldorf Essentials Early Childhood and Kindergarten which is comprehensive Early Childhood and Kindergarten course, providing all you need for Kindy with children aged 4/5 years for K1 and 6 years for  K2. We highly recommend it! 

If you have any questions about this curriculum we are happy to answer and point you in the right direction. 

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If you want to learn more ……  

For the ‘whys’ behind the ‘hows’of the Waldorf approach, Rhythms of Learning by Roberto Trostli is a must read. Written by an experienced Waldorf teacher this book includes a selection of Steiner’s key lectures presented in an accessible way and divided into easy to read chapters which explain how these concepts are translated throughout the Waldorf curriculum. 

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Hopefully this has been helpful, please do let us know if you are also following the Waldorf approach to home ed, share your tips and feel free to ask questions ūüôā

 

 

 

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Waldorf Home Ed in Winter

Time for an update! Here’s some of what we’ve been getting up to this winter……

Adventures……

It’s been pretty stormy here, plenty of wind and rain and lots of indoor activities for us! We did get down¬†to the beach, and to some local parks and we also headed to the local pool for a swim which we all enjoyed.

 

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Kindergarten……

Bundle Number One is enjoying getting back to our weekly Kindergarten stories and activities, this week we celebrated Candlemas. For us this was all about the badger coming out to look for his shadow, we told the story and then had fun playing with the props

 

There was actually enough light¬†for the badger to see his¬†shadow, despite the stormy weather we’ve been having, (we checked outside too ūüėČ ) so apparently winter isn’t done yet!

For our craft activity we dipped some beeswax candles using local beeswax, they smell delicious. No pics because we were too buy dipping! 

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Play……

We’ve been building with some of our new wooden blocks and shapes, we have a bunch of these,¬†some are bought and¬†others¬†are made.¬†The differing shapes, sizes and grains make for a more varied play experience, and as a result the rainbow gnomes have been enjoying all sorts of adventures including their own castle and¬†a swimming pool built by Bundle Number One! A great combination for¬†open ended play.

For quiet time,¬†we’ve been ¬†making full use of our subscription and putting on a Sparkle Story while we do some threading with these tactile wooden beads.¬†

 

 

Games……

A big winner this Winter has definitely been these cooperative board games, it is so much more fun to play when no one is fighting about who wins!

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Shadows in the Woodsis perfect for winter afternoons it’s a really magical game, needs close¬†adult supervision because it involves a lit candle but it is well worth it to see those glowing faces working together to help the gnomes dodge the shadows and gather in safety. It’s pricey but it includes more than one playing option and is extremely high quality.¬†

‘Orcahard’¬†is a delightful game involving working together to pick all of the fruit in the orchard before the hungry raven swoops in. Read more in our post ‘Cooperation, Fruits and a raven’¬†and check out more HABA games here

We are also discovering these lovely yoga cards, we are all totally new to yoga but these are so much fun to play with……especially when it’s an indoor day with littles and you need to get those wiggles out! ¬†

 

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Books……

Story time is always a regular feature here but even more so during winter, here are some of our winter favourites……

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‘Winter’ by Gerda Muller

‘The Mitten’ by Jan Brett

‘Ollie’s Ski Trip’ by Elsa Beskow

The tomten and the Foxby Astrid Lindgren

Pippa and Pelle in the Winter Snow‘ by Daniela Drescher

 

What have you been up to this winter?

 

 

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Choosing a Waldorf Curriculum……

 We first came to Waldorf Essentials a couple of years ago when we reviewed the Kindy curriculum for Melisa, we were so impressed with the content that we signed up for the old membership, the new version of which is called Thinking, Feeling, Willing + 

Thinking, Feeling, Willing is a Waldorf home ed teacher training programme and I truly cannot recommend it enough, ¬†Everything you need to learn and master for your Waldorf journey is set out right there¬†in the Mom Lessons. A¬†huge bonus is that it is such great¬†value for money, it’s the most affordable Waldorf curriculum we found and the customer care at W.E really is second to none.

We found that one of the most important things when choosing a curriculum provider is to find a voice that you like, both for the written aspect and the supporting¬†audios, videos etc. We instantly warmed to Melisa because¬†as¬†a fellow home educator with five children, the youngest of which is 5 years old, she really does ‘get it’ she has a great sense of humour, a huge heart and so much wisdom to share.¬†

Right now we are following¬†year one kindy¬†which is just beautiful! The content guides you through the seasons with original weekly stories and carefully chosen crafts and activities, for example, baking, painting, drawing,¬†and modelling, all of which meet the child perfectly. The downloadable Kindergarten curriculum actually comes as an entire course which includes a book on early childhood which guides you through Waldorf home life with little ones,¬†information on rhythm, circle, festivals, movement and the nature table, monthly handwork for parents with projects and video guides, circle verses for each month and even a¬†recipe book! We are having so much fun with it ūüôā

 

¬†To find out more, check out¬†Melisa’s¬†weekly¬†videos ¬†and the W.E¬†blog

 

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Cooperation, Fruits and a Raven……

We found something to help with the squabbles, cooperative board games!

Our kids are just at ages where they are now both able to play simple games. However, they are still little and at the age where anything competitive is a disaster, squabbles abound. They are not ready for that yet and we are not pushing it. Rather running from it in the name of peace!

Recently we found the answer in some really great games which work perfectly for quiet times and in breaths, times when we need to regroup between activities, with a great chance to model turn taking and cooperation.

One of our new favourites is Orchard, which is a beautifully made game with so much attention to detail. The little wooden fruits are so tactile and the baskets are delightful! Us grown ups wanted to play as much as the kids did, and we have been playing lots over the festive season.

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The idea is to work together to get all of the fruits picked before the raven eats them.You play by colour of fruit, making the dice easy to understand. If you roll a basket picture you get to pick two fruits and if you roll a raven picture you add a puzzle card to the centre of the board to make the raven picture. Any fruits left when the puzzle is complete are fair game for the hungry bird so all players are working together cheering each other on to fill their baskets rather than arguing over who has more.

OK, so our kids still squabbled over who sits by which tree and who folds up the board but hey, ¬†it’s a start! And they did feel sorry for the raven when all the fruits were picked, and offered him some……

Do you and your family have any favourite  cooperative games, any recommendations?

 

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Rhythm……

Rhythm is something we all have. In Waldorf circles rhythm is a pretty big deal, and it is something we have been working with since we began on our Waldorf home ed path……

So, what is ‘rhythm’ and how do you make it work?

Rhythm. It is everywhere. Consider the seasons, a perfect example of rhythm.. The seasons roll around, bringing their particular gifts, festivals and celebrations. Your week also brings around certain activities, meals and so on. Rhythm occurs naturally and can be worked with to create a flow to suit each individual family.

To get such a rhythm in place takes time. Many people who are new to Waldorf and starting out, expect to just decide which days to paint, bake, etc, this is a great start but there is so much more to it than that.

Look at what you already have, what is working for your family? Is there a particular day you like to shop for food, pay day for example, or before the weekend, is there a day where downtime is needed or a day where you have a regular group in place……

Take a sheet of paper and take time to record your week as you move through it. Note down everything; what you are doing and when, when things feel good and where the flash points are. Then, after a week, look back at what you have down and you should begin to see where things need switching around a bit, or even a lot!

Get your anchors in place, regular mealtimes, in breaths and out breaths, plenty of movement, especially for littler ones, indoor time and outdoor time. Be mindful of too much busyness, for us two groups per week is enough. In theory, for most with under 5s, it¬†is advised to keep¬†to just one, regular group. In Waldorf, the early years are all about home rhythm, play and lots of imitation; think toddlers copying what you do, wanting to ‘help’ around the home etc, combined with¬†a heap of outdoor time and space to run.

In our rhythm we have an adventure day, two group afternoons, a rest day before our ‘working week’ begins, three Kindergarten days; Kindergarten is approximately 45 minutes long, it’s kept very simple and involves circle verses and movement rhymes, a story and a simple craft activity such as drawing/painting, baking, modelling. We have a food shopping trip once each week and a home care day when we do the¬†main bulk of our cleaning.¬†

It all sounds very picture perfect, trust me, it isn’t ūüėČ ¬†We have chosen to work on rhythm, to harness it for the greater good because for this family, it suits us. It works for us and it is how our home ed¬†rolls, otherwise chaos ensues; and I should add here that chaos still does ensue, often, but rhythm makes it easier to remedy and we are walking¬†a path of learning and striving, Also that there is still plenty of room to be spontaneous. There are times we will drop everything and head to the beach or somewhere, but we also have anchors days¬†which just don’t shift. ¬†¬†¬†

It is something which evolves, it requires work and you do need to look at it on a regular basis and notice when things might need playing around with again, but the good news is that once you’ve been at this rhythm thing for a while, it does become¬†intuitive¬†

Something we found an amazing help when we first discovered the rhythm aspect of Waldorf is the Rhythm Round Up boot camp course from Waldorf Essentials. It is a free resource, available here , give it a try and discover how rhythm can work for your family 

ūüôā

 

Obligatory New Year Post, ‘Simplifying’

Happy New Year Everybody!

Instead of making too many new year’s resolutions, which don’t get stuck to beyond the first week of January and have us all feeling like failures before we begin, this year we are keeping it simple, simplifying.

 As part of this simplifying, we are joining Sparkle Stories in their ‘Year to Build a Day’ which involves building a day of rest, one day each week where we work less and rest more. How this looks is different for each family and we will be sharing how it looks for us throughout the year. Yesterday we listened to the introductory story, which you can listen to here  (and please do, it’s well worth it!) 

After listening to the story,  we chose our day and then made our lists just like Martin and Sylvia’s family. Bundle Number One is very excited to get started, just like brother and sister in the story.  Do let us know if you are joining in too, we would love to hear from you!

We also have our new daily and weekly rhythms set, each with a ‘less is more’ approach to what we do. For our weekly rhythm we have three ‘Kindergarten days’ (Kindergarten is actually only around 45 minutes to one hour) , two afternoons of home ed groups, a weekly food shopping trip and a weekly cleaning day, our rest day and plenty of space for play time and downtime, board games, stories, good food, crafting and creating…… also need to work on the much coveted Waldorf prize of getting up before the kids. It works. Really, it does. But getting up at 6am takes practice, oh and learning to play the pentatonic flute is a thing here too……  

 ……simplify

 

Are you making any resolutions this year, anyone else simplifying?

 

Between Christmas, New Year and Twelfth Night……

 

We are still feeling festive here and, after having a horrible cold all over Christmas which is now easing, ¬†we are ready to get back to the feasting and relaxing ūüôā We have been playing lots and generally just kicking back and relaxing while we enjoy the slower pace¬†Christmas brings and explore our gifts. I have been drinking lots of Sonnentor Christmas tea which I would highly recommend, it tastes very Christmassy and is ideal for cold, frosty days and nights

 

 

We have an extended holiday¬†so we are celebrating with a special dinner on new years day and keeping the slow pace a while longer since our usual groups don’t start back until the second week of January. As part of the slower pace, we are sharing lots of quiet time with some new story books and¬†also¬†playing some new¬†cooperative board games, we love these because no one fights over who wins and the object of the games is to work together which makes things so much better with little ones playing! More about the board games soon ūüėČ

 

 

I have our winter Kindy plans ready and we begin back with that on 6th January, which is also our twelfth night party when we take down our decorations and trees and have a special dinner, so our Kindy story  for next week will be about how our gnome celebrates twelfth night. We will also be taking time to find spaces for all of our Christmas gifts and caring for our home by cleaning and tidying together.

Also Kindy and home ed related, I am excited to begin working through an online course in January with Waldorf Essentials and I am also learning to play this beautiful instrument

 

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We all have some spending money and to begin with we have decided to buy some winter Sparkle Stories, we love Martin and Sylvia and we are already missing our daily story from the audio advent calendar so this seems like the perfect idea. We generally prefer to buy the stories we like because this allows us to make CDs for the car and for quiet time, but I am also thinking we should subscribe while we have some spare cash so that we can listen to the new Martin and Sylvia series each month. 

What’s everyone else up to this week?