I've been in operation for about 3 months now, and I finally feel like I can articulate some answers!
Afterall, it has taken good and worthwhile time for the rhythms of our day to become our day together...
I didn't have our day planned out, save for our seasonal verses, songs, stories, and meals. I wanted to let things happen as the children and I grew to know each other.
I decided back in Fall 2010 to open our home 2 or 3 days a week to children ages 3-6. I created a basic website and hoped to go solely through word of mouth. I sat back and waited. Emails trickled in, but I couldn't get anyone to commit. Because of this, I couldn't guarantee interested families that their child wouldn't be the only child attending. How's that for socialization or coopertive play? (Which I have found is what parents are most interested in...)
In early March 2011, we welcomed our first family, a brother and sister, ages 4 and 5 1/2. This past May, we also welcomed another little girl, age 4. Our group is truly mixed ages, which I find works so very well. Lucky for me, both families are interested in or have experience with Waldorf Education!
The morning is spent embarking on 'unsupervised' play, meaning, I don't interupt or impose my own opinon. I'm not a part of the play. I slowly go about housework; ironing on certain days, sweeping, singing to myself, washing and drying dishes, making preparations for our snack and lunch later in the day.
The children know the boundaries in our house (no slamming doors, no entering the bedrooms..) and I've never had any issues that need any more than a gentle reminder. When there is a lull in the children's play, this is when I set up ingredients for baking or lunch.
I start the task myself instead of making an announcement. The children will come to the table to participate if they are interested, which they always are.
Clean up time is brought about by a simple song and the tinkling of a bell.
I clean up with the children; guiding them to "put the dolls back to sleep; they are so tired!"..."the knights and queens need to return to the castle..", "that little bunny needs to hop, hop, hop home!", "the cars need to drive home.." This is another time where I always run our broom across the floor to get into the clean up spirit!
Our morning circle is held upstairs in our playroom. We sing seasonal songs, always incorporating movement. If I've been super on top of things that particular week, I play the songs on my recorder.
I recite some simple seasonal verses or poems, sometimes incorporating puppets or wooden figures. This verse or poem is repeated for the entire week so the children can really get a living sense of what it is about! Our morning circle usually lasts about 8-9 minutes, and I don't expect more!
The children wash their hands, lavender oil is massaged into their palms post hand washing. (much more on this in a near future post on bodily care and young children.) I play pentatonic scales on the lyre while the children move to the snack table.
The lyre is a beautiful and calming instrument that is easy to learn...or not learn! I don't really know how to play it, but a lyre tuned to the pentatonic scale will sound pleasing and soothing no matter how you pluck the strings!
After snack, we prepare to head outside for some much needed sunshine...rain, or snow:) "Here we go looby-loo!" is the song I sing when this time has arrived. The children run to the shoe basket to fetch their shoes and wait by the door. W exclaims, "socks and shoes!!" and out the door we go!
Our outdoor song is sung as we walk down the sidewalk to one of our neighborhood parks or hilly fields. I carry a basket which contains a blanket to lay or sit on, a large water bottle, tissues, bandaids, my phone, and a cloth to wipe off wet sliding boards, etc.
After a solid hour or more of outdoor play, we head home for lunch. Hands are washed again, placemats are set upon the table, and this is usually when the kids start getting bit antsy. They're hungry, tired, and in need of nourishment and a rest time. Lunch is served family style and we sing a simple blessing before we eat. Lunch always includes a community plate of sliced fruits and vegetables, arranged in the shape of something familiar, such as a sun or tree.
When the children are through eating, they ask to be excused and place their dishes in a bin next to the table. I cook for the children, and they often are nervous to try new foods. I'd like to think that I understand! I am a lifelong super picky eater...one of my most vivid childhood memories is an occassion where I was invited to go sledding at a friends house. We had a wonderful time, of course..but when it came time to be called in for lunchtime, I became nervous. Spaghetti O's and hotdogs were served and I cried and cried. And cried. I think I was about 6 years old. I wanted my mom and the familiarity of our home and our own food. Eventually, my friend's mother called my mom explaining that I was hysterical and needed to be picked up.
I'm not confrontational and I don't "force" the children to eat their food. I ask that they take a taste to see if they care for it. If not, I don't push it. If they claim to not like something, I'll usually notice them eating it anyway after watching everyone else enjoy it.
Our rest time follows lunch, and are ready for it by then! This is W's naptime, as well. I make the children a "bed"on the floor, the youngest girl lays upstairs in the playroom on a large sheepskin, and I nurse W to sleep in our bedroom.
Rest time was the part of our day that needed the most tweaking. In the beginning, I wasn't sure how W was going to go down for his nap while the children were downstairs. I wasn't sure how the children would quietly entertain themselves for the usual 20-30 minutes I needed to help W fall asleep. For the first month and some of the second, with parental permission, the children watched cartoons downstairs in their "bed" while I was upstairs. Gah, this kind of killed me..and the rest of the day! It never fit; it never really worked, and there was a marked change in the children after the TV was turned off. The cartoons, while rated "G" were silly and overstimulating. As I grew to know the children and as they grew more accustomed to our home, I thought of ways they could entertain themselves and truly rest during this time. Viewing cartoons is not resting. It's a passive activity which does not nourish and rest a child who has had a morning filled with activity. I'm glad we have moved away from it, as planned!
After W is alseep, I move to the playroom to tuck the youngest child in. I brush her hair, sing her songs, and she falls alseep within minutes. It is a precious part of my day.
Downstairs, the older children are waiting for me. We complete a household task together which is different every day. Next, we move outside to water the garden, flowers, sidewalks, create rivers, puddles. Watering can play is a beloved activity!!
This is also my time to embark on some story telling journies with the older children. Once the youngest girl has risen from her nap, I move to a chair draped with a silk or cotton cloth which is the stage for our story of the week. (We don't use out puppet theatre upstairs, as it is too close to our bedroom where W is resting!)
The chair "theatre" works very well for us...I can "hide" behind the backdrop and move the figures, and the children can easily create scenes using these everyday objects during their play. I perfer to use plain wooden peg dolls for storytelling...they aren't detailed, so they serve as open ended characters that can be used over and over.
I take stories from Grimm's Fairy Tales or Hans Christian Anderson that "go with" what the children are experiencing in life and play. Stories of consequences, good triumphing over evil; tales of inward beauty surpassing physical beauty.
By this time, W has awoken from his nuch needed nap, and the children enjoy another snack together. We call this "rainbow hour"..this is the time in the afternoon when the suncatcher displays rainbows in our kitchen and sunroom!
We usually play outback in the yard until parents start arriving around 3:45. After they leave, W and I spend some serious cuddling time together. He LOVES the playschool children so dearly, and they love him right back. I can't express enough how important this is in regards to our day. I've seen W grow so much since we have welcomed these children into our home. I look forward to my two days per week with the children....I actually get more done around the house when they are with us!
Thanks for taking a glimpse into our day together!
Some of the resources I have used along the way:
The Lifeways website has been a wealth of information for me!
For verses, poems, and stories:
Grimms Fairy Tales
Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall