The other day I included Donna Simmons's kindergarten book in my list of favorite Waldorf resources, and talking about it made me want to re-read it, so that's how I spent my Sunday afternoon. I mention that because this book is worth recommending twice. You know, I really think this is the best resource I've seen for working with children under seven—even better (I can hardly believe I'm going to say this) than Charlotte Mason's Home Education, because Donna's book speaks directly to challenges facing 21st-century parents, such as television, computers, toys, and playgroups. Even if you aren't interested in Waldorf or Waldorf-inspired education, even if you aren't (as I am not) an anthroposophist, Kindergarten with Your Three- to Six-Year-Old offers a tremendous wealth of insight and practical suggestions.
The title might seem a puzzler to those of us who come from a mainstream background, where kindergarten is for five-year-olds. A Waldorf kindergarten brings together children from a wider age range and aims to present a very different experience from the phonics-scissors-glue scenario that you might find in most schools. In working with Waldorf ideas in a family setting, Donna Simmons looks at the broad picture of a young child's day, week, year, and that's where I see the usefulness of her book to people outside the Waldorf umbrella. She discusses family rhythms, mealtimes, discipline, electronic media, sibling relationships, handwork, painting, household chores, nature walks, storytelling, singing, movement games, handwork, drawing, modeling, play, bedtime routines, and (believe it or not) more. What Donna presents in this book is a portrait of early childhood as a rich, unhurried, joyful, imaginative, affectionate time of life, with the child held close in the heart of the family but not being placed in a contrived or overly child-centered situation.
So you see this is not a kindergarten curriculum per se, but rather a discussion of the needs of the very young child and how these needs can be beautifully, wholly, lovingly met at home. Donna is matter-of-fact about the challenges that face modern families, including the challenge many homeschoolers face in juggling the needs of a large family and making sure the youngest children don't get lost in the shuffle.
Also quite useful are Donna's audio downloads on early-childhood topics; I have listened to her Pre-K and Kindergarten talks, her Discipline and Sleep talks, and the wonderful "Talking Pictorially" download, which is the first place I've heard someone articulate a truth that I (like most mothers probably) discovered quite by accident when my oldest was a toddler—that you can get a little kid to do almost anything if you turn it into a story. Okay, that's not how Donna describes it, but it's what I learned myself through trial and error. Child doesn't want to put on coat? Mother says, "Honey, put on your coat NOW" and wham, the power struggle commences. Child doesn't want to put on coat and Coat starts to flap arms, crying out "Oh, pleeeeease put me on! I want to hug you!" and wham, child is laughing hysterically and holding out eager arms to poor lonely Coat. Donna calls this technique "Talking Pictorially" and discusses how much more effective a means of communication it is with young children than overly intellectual reasoning, or stern commands, or, you know, desperate pleading.
Tweak Tweak (unschooling vs. CM)
Imbuing the Ordinary with Wonder (Waldorf-inspired homeschooling)
What's on My Waldorf Shelf
Donna's Audio Download on Waldorf v. Unschooling
If You Love Waldorf So Much, Why Don't You Marry It?
Waldorf Resources, Pro and Con