As described in my first post of this series (http://wp.me/p2OomI-Tj), I finally settled on a kindergarten curriculum for Beth, the core of which will be the Waldorf-inspired Oak Meadow curriculum. When the Oak Meadow materials arrive in the mail, I excitedly stay up late to read the introduction in the kindergarten syllabus. As I expected, the curriculum is a wholesome throwback to simpler times. Unexpectedly though, the introduction contains many child development and child rearing “shoulds” that do not fit our family. Despite my initial reservations, I start using Oak Meadow ideas to see where they take us. As you will read in this post, I am happy to add “old school” to our homeschool, but a prairie school we are not.
Rolling With It, Waldorf Style
The introductory section of the Oak Meadow Kindergarten Syllabus suggests, or rather insists upon, this daily schedule:
- Circle Time
- Morning Main Lesson
- Creative Free Play (e.g., child playing on own, doing housework and cooking together, field trips, physical activities)
- Afternoon Hour
- Creative Free Play (see definition above)
- Creative Free Play (see definition above)
- Bedtime Ritual
In our family we are lucky to sit down for 1 meal a day let alone 3, our homeschool lesson timing is at the mercy of Beth’s potty and sleep schedules, and my kid is totally uninterested in helping me out around the house or playing on her own. But I am willing to give the schedule a shot. Who knows, maybe a little more structure to the day will help Beth focus better. Also, I wonder, how can we have a circle time? There are only 2 of us so we can’t really make a circle. I read on.
For Circle Time, the Oak Meadow Kindergarten Syllabus instructs me to “Light a candle to bring about a sense of reverence or specialness.” And then say a beginning verse ( a short children’s poem), do some imitation songs, and say a closing verse (another short children’s poem) and blow out the candle. Oh brother, really? Suddenly I get flashbacks to all the times I tried to make yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation a part of my life, but utterly failed due to my impatient mind and lack of ability to keep a routine. And I worry about Beth’s attraction to open flames…is the candle part even safe? I decide to table the candle thing, and I read the rest of the introduction.
The syllabus had many great suggestions for play, craft, and home-life. But as a mom of child with autism, some of the suggestions and their associated commentary gave me pause. Such as:
Children love to help wash the fruits and vegetables for a meal, and are capable of cutting them when shown how to do so safely.
I highly doubt Beth will love to wash food with me, since the noise of water running through pipes seems to intermittently freak her out these days. Wait, cut? As in with a knife? Oh my.
Children love to fold clothes. Dishtowels, washcloths, socks and other small items are perfect for little hands. Do not worry if they are not folded perfectly.
When you make the beds, ask your child to get on one side of the bed with you on the other to help you pull up the sheet…
Ask your child to help you with household clean up. He or she will enjoy working alongside you when you bring an upbeat attitude to the task.
My kid will love and enjoy house work? That’s a hoot. I tried folding clothes with her once and we quickly threw in the towel after much whining, screaming, and running away, all over folding one washcloth together. Make a bed? Honey, I haven’t done that in years and it isn’t even on the radar. But I get the point. Doing housework is practical therapy for Beth, because it is process-oriented, so I like the gist of the housework idea.
Creative play often need not involve the parent directly, and will allow both parent and child some free time during the course of the day. Parents who have structured their day carefully often find that their child is very happy to play independently, allowing them much needed time for household tasks.
I need to do more housework, but to do more housework kiddo must play independently, and since she can’t play independently I can’t do more housework. Let’s just call this whole housework and independent play a stretch goal, shall we?
I take a deep breath at this point and remember that Oak Meadow is a curriculum for kids without my child’s special needs. As I have been doing for years, I will break goals into small parts and roll with it. And it can’t hurt to try some of the ideas to change things up and teach my child some new things.
So, I get out the knife and Beth cuts fruit with me. To my great surprise she likes it and we did not end up in the emergency room. Then she helps me take silverware from the dishwasher baskets and sort them into the silverware holder, which is something we have been doing for a while. But this time, I add more to the task, and have her unload some dishes. After she participates in the housework, we take a small step towards independent “play” with puzzles. I set out some puzzles, ones that we have worked on together, and take 5 pieces out of each 12 or 24 piece puzzle. And again I am in shock as she does the puzzles without whining and I get a few minutes to myself. Since Oak Meadow is scoring big with their crazy ideas, I decide to go ahead and try the hippie candle thing.
Our First Circle Time
I light the candle, say a prayer that my kid doesn’t burn herself, and start circle time. Since I can’t start the official curriculum until fall (the lessons are aligned with the seasons), I find my own verses to say from the book Read Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0394872185). As I am saying the beginning verse, Beth gets very fascinated with the candle and tries to, off all things, lick it. After some back and forth with me, she manages to say “cake” and “frosting.” From Beth’s experiences at birthday parties, where there is a candle there is cake, and where there is cake there is frosting! And one of Beth’s favorite things in the whole world is frosting. No wonder she is trying to lick the candle! After convincing her we would have frosting later and that the candle is not a cupcake or frosting, I say the beginning verse about a little boy who wakes up in a good mood and loves to sing.
Then I ask Beth what songs she would like to sing for the imitation and movement section. She exclaims, “Gummy Bear!” I cringe and think Rudolf Steiner, the Waldorf founder, would not approve of this and he is probably turning in his grave! Of all songs, she wants to do this God awful thing. And for the record, the neighborhood teenagers introduced her to it, so it is not my fault.
After the gummy bear song, we sing and do movements to some classic children songs, say the closing verse, and I teach her how to blow out the candle. We do a few rounds of lighting and blowing out because it is challenging for her. Possibly because of the Gummy Bear Song, me saying “blow, blow, blow!”, all my contemplating of old versus new ideas, and/or because I needed something to pump me up for the kindergarten year, this verse from the Eminem song “Lose Yourself” pops into my head:
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime
I rap the verse, and I can’t tell if Beth’s big smile is due to the interesting rhyme and rhythm of the lyrics or because of my ridiculously bad rapping, but she seems to like it. The verse is quite frankly more poignant that the children’s poem I chose for our closing verse and it definitely spiced up our first circle time.
So I guess “old school” with a side of modern will be our homeschool style. And if you don’t know Eminem (or just think he is a thug and nothing more), and you are wondering how in the world the above lyrics can possibly rhyme or have a flow, I have some homework for you.