Talking to Children about COVID-19

COVID-19 is in the news and on everyone’s mind. Our children, unfortunately, are not likely an exception. Even when children are shielded from media, peers, siblings, and overheard conversations can give children just enough information to bring forth concern. Children are also incredibly intuitive to their family’s emotions and will pick up on any fear and anxiety their parents or extended family may be feeling.

So what is the best approach to sharing when it comes to children and coronavirus?

Shielding vs. Communicating

With small children, shielding them from troubling information is ideal. Children in early childhood should be kept from the news if possible. This includes making an effort to talk about coronavirus only when they are not present and not exposing them to televised news. Children in young grades, such as first through third, would also ideally be shielded, but exposure to older children on playgrounds or siblings at home means this is less likely to be possible.

When it becomes apparent that the child has knowledge about the virus, then age-appropriate communication can begin, with the foremost focus being to help the child feel safe and more secure. It’s important to communicate once you know a child has some, even very limited, knowledge of the virus to be sure that they do not awfulize the small amount of information they have in the absence of a parent giving age-appropriate guidance.

Read the full article by the Philly Waldorf School here

In Difficult Times: How Do I Find and Create Goodness for My Children?

by Susan Weber

In difficult times such as these it is not easy to feel the goodness in life. In an external crisis, our urge is often to listen and see the news and to share our feelings with other adults. As a consequence, it is easy for the children around us to be exposed to things that they cannot understand, to become fearful about situations they will never see and cannot change even if we think that the media or adult conversations are not attended to by the children. Even pre-verbal children can sense profoundly the distress in our inner being.

But nothing brings stamina for life and daily wellbeing to our children more directly and strongly than surrounding them and immersing them into an atmosphere of goodness and joy. For us as adults, the message they seek from us is this:
“I am happy to be alive; I am interested in the world around me and I want to find a place for myself within it.”

Children are born with an openness to meet what their lives will bring. Despite their individual destinies and challenges, this openness is present and as the adults in the child’s world, we have tremendous potential to cultivate this openness.

For the child just beginning life, there is one single mantra that needs to guide those early steps and years: the world is good. No other belief will carry him forward through the tumbles and stumbles, through the mysteries of his encounters with confidence and eagerness. Without this overarching rainbow of trust in life around and above them, children shrink back into themselves, lose the shine in their eyes, forgo the impulse to experiment, to see things as the adults around them never have, to imagine new solutions to the simplest experiments – piling blocks, washing a dish, dressing themselves upside down.

The world is good – and therefore I enter into it, explore it, wonder, stop and look, touch, encounter, meet what comes to me with interest and growing confidence.

Fear paralyzes children – it reverses children’s natural gesture of trust, openness, and interest in the world. To develop in any way – cognitively, emotionally, physically – children need to be able to enter easily into life around them. They need to feel welcome, and above all, safe. For who of us is able to take risks, try new things, when we have a question about the safety of our surroundings?

There are times when circumstances beyond our control create uncertainty or worse for our families. In addition, we could also say that our times are, in fact, uncertain times. At the same time, however, our children are just beginning their lives. We owe to them their birthright: the world is good, and I am grateful and happy to be in it. It is a safe place for me to grow in. And later, much later, I will be able to take on its pain and burdens. But give me time, peace, and space in which to discover the goodness in life for myself, in which to grow strong, capable, brave, and enthusiastic for life. Protect me from the challenges of adulthood until I am ready.

How can we do this for them?

Read the full article from waldorfearlychildhood.org here

Something to make you smile

An original animated film by Edward Monkton. Watching it is likely to make you a happier person. Sharing it with your friends is likely to make them happier too. So spread the love & press play.

Watch The Pig of Happiness by clicking this link

2019 Steiner Youth Conference – Waldorf 100

The Australian Youth Conference was a major event at Samford Steiner School in September of 2019 focussing on social renewal as its theme. Students from CBRSS joined in while over 4 days, senior high school students explored pressing issues of our times. These included racism and prejudice; political, religious and economic division; world conflict; indigenous perspectives; minority groups; Australian and worldwide response to refugees; climate change and its impact on our environment; sustainability; education and imagining the future; the role of the Arts; money and ethical business. There were such insightful and passionate discussions that took place amongst these young people and many described it as a life-changing experience.

We are excited to share with you a short film of the event – with the wonderful Waldorf 100 music composed by Samford music teacher Dale Jones as a backing to the film and also a video of the full Music performance.

The 2019 Youth conference Film

Samford Valley Steiner School Youth Conference Music Performance

7 Benefits of Waldorf’s “Writing to Read”

Waldorf (Steiner) Education starts to set the foundation for reading in kindergarten. Learning to read is allowed to evolve for each child in the same form as it evolved from the beginning of humanity: spoken language developed first, then people drew pictures to communicate their ideas, followed by symbols such as hieroglyphics and finally the abstract letters of our modern alphabets. Once there was a written language, people learned to read. This is exactly the sequence in which children master language, and it also is the sequence in which reading is taught in Waldorf schools.

1. Importance of the Spoken Word
At Waldorf schools, from birth to age seven, the focus is on the spoken word.

In kindergarten, the curriculum emphasis is on spoken verses and stories: nature stories, folktales and fairy tales. Teachers are ‘storytellers’ and are careful not to “dumb down” or simplify the language of fairy tales. The teacher is careful to use clear speech and to enunciate well as this immersion in literature is the basis of literacy. This immersion in the spoken word will also help children later when it comes time to learn to write and spell.

2. Repetition Helps Retention
The same sequence and stories are repeated in daily circle time for weeks at a time. Children learn these stories, songs and verses “by heart,”. Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf education, stressed the importance of repetition when he developed the first Waldorf school in Germany in the 1920’s. Current brain research confirms that repetition aids a child’s brain development. The connections of billions of neural pathways in the brain are strengthened through repeated experiences.

3. Writing Begins Holistically
Waldorf Main Lesson BooksIn the first grade of Waldorf the alphabet is formally introduced in an imaginative, pictorial way. There are no photo-copied worksheets here! Each letter of the alphabet is presented as a picture representing an element from a story the children are told. For example, they might hear the story of a knight on a quest who had to cross mountains and a valley. The children will then draw a picture with the letter “M” forming the Mountains on either side of the “V” for Valley.

In this way, the child develops a living relationship with each letter rather than going straight to the abstraction of the alphabet letters themselves. These ‘pictures’ can be described as the rainbow bridge between the pictorial thinking of the child and the abstract thinking of the adult.

After learning all the letters, the next step is to copy the teacher’s writing into their beautiful ‘main lesson books’, the books that children in a Waldorf school create themselves. These first written sentences and stories come from the children’s own experience and the children’s first practise of ‘reading’ is the reading of their own text.

This progression can be illustrated by the following typical activity: the teacher will write a poem on the board that the children already ‘know’ by heart. Through joyful recognition of familiar sounds and words they begin to ‘read’ the poem and then write it in their books.

4. Reading Starts Naturally
Waldorf Class 6 Advanced ReadingThe final step is learning to read, which generally starts in second grade and continues into third grade. It is important to know that reading requires decoding skills that develop in children at varying ages. In Waldorf education we understand that learning to read will unfold naturally in its own time for the vast majority of children, when given the proper support.

Just as a normal, healthy child will learn to walk without our teaching her, and just as a child miraculously learns to speak her native language by the age of three without lessons, worksheets or a dictionary, so will a child naturally learn to read when she has a positive relationship with the spoken and written word and has been provided with the necessary tools and skills.

5. Classic Books Expand Vocabulary
Once students are fully reading providing them with age appropriate, well written literature will keep their love for reading alive.

6. Avoids Risks In Pushing Reading Too Early
Much research has shown the negative impacts of pushing “academics”, such as reading, at too early an age. Forcing children to read too early often hurts their self-confidence and general passion for books. This research clearly indicates that kindergartens and preschools should focus on age-appropriate activities such as playing, exploring and socializing. Finland is a great example of this, given that its schools lead the world in education standards. Finnish children generally don’t start kindergarten until age 6. And kindergarten is focused mainly on play and socialization, there is no reading or writing. Additionally, their school days are not more than 4 hours long.

7. Does Not Rely On Phonics
It is interesting to note that as much as 60% of common English words cannot be easily sounded out. English also has 205 ways to spell 44 sounds! Many words have the same sounds but are spelled differently or contain silent letters. Learning such a language takes a long time and requires many abilities that develop over time.

Being able to decode words is essential for beginning readers. However, decoding isn’t just about sounding out words. It involves taking apart the sounds in a word (“segmenting”) and blending the sounds together. Another important skill for beginning readers is learning to recognize words at a glance. Kids need to build up a large group of “sight words.” and this takes time.

The Waldorf approach, in its own way, sets the foundation for reading starting in Kindergarten. However, reading is not rushed before writing and soon Waldorf students are typically reading at or above government standardized levels and with improved comprehension. Most importantly, children who read when they are ready are able to maintain a passion for stories and love of reading further into their older years.

From The Nelson Waldorf School