Creating an Environment for Learning
With schools across the country closing many parents are now supporting their children with their learning, while at the same time trying to keep their own businesses or work lives going, during a time of great economic uncertainty. Having the whole family at home also creates more work - more cooking, more washing-up, more clothes washing, more shopping and often more arguments to unpick. It is a time of broken routines and uncertainty, and this in itself can provoke real feelings of insecurity in children that they may then express through demonstrating challenging behaviours.
Waldorf Schools from across the UK recently came together for our annual week-long Easter Conference that this year explored the theme of Roots to Renewal. A pioneering, yet honest attempt to meet and talk, to listen and learn and to sense our togetherness. Given the current lockdown, we held the conference using zoom, allowing us to open the conference to colleagues, and connect with inspirational speakers from across the world. We also had the chance to hear from teachers who are in countries that are ahead of us in the Coronavirus curve, and to benefit from their experience. We were inspired by the knowledge and experience of those we met and I wanted to share some of what we learned in a series of short blogs across the next few weeks. At New School, our children started back for the Summer Term this week so we thought we would share a few thoughts on how we might support our children and help manage our own stress as we move into this term.
Creating a space for learning:
It is important that children experience learning as something they love and enjoy, and for these feelings to be nurtured and preserved it is important that we take the pressure off and adapt our expectations in response to the time we find ourselves within. At New School we are aiming to offer some rhythm, whilst balancing this with the flexibility that many parents need. Each morning we are offering a short session online where children from across our classes one to five, come together to share our morning verse, sing a song and share news with their friends and teachers. Each Class Teacher is then setting a small amount of work, often rooted in the children's new rhythms of life at home. Subject and Class Teachers are then offering a number of projects, activities, audio stories and songs that the families can choose to access if they wish and feel able. Our aim is that whilst these are carefully chosen to support the children's learning, that they also offer inspiration to families who are often needing to find things for their children to do whilst they work.
Supporting children to move into the term after the freedom of the holidays, can often be tricky. For parents who are trying to do this in their homes, without the change in expectations that children feel stepping into their classroom, and without the experience and expertise of the teachers, this is even harder. So, finding ways to encourage our children to want to step into this new space is important.
When you enter a Waldorf Classroom it is a normal response to be struck by the care and beauty with which the room has been arranged. Beauty begets care, gratitude, order and calm. Through taking time to create a space that feels beautiful and awakens all the senses, we are inspiring a love for beauty and a deep sense that we all give our very best to all that we do.
Creating a desk or learning space just for your child is one way to do this. A space that they can come back to each day. A space that feels beautiful and special.
For those families who have a smaller house, this can be a space on your dining room table that gets cleared away and put back each morning. It can be very simple, just a vase with a few wild flowers picked on your daily walk and popped in a jam jar. A little arrangement of a few natural 'treasures' that your child enjoys. A candle that is lit at the beginning and blown out at the end of each time your child works. A favourite picture, postcard or poem propped up for your child to enjoy. Creating this space together also gives your child a sense of ownership over the space and an understanding and commitment to what it symbolises.
Another lovely tip shared by the author Lou Harvey-Zahra, was the idea of having an egg timer to give children a sense of how long you want them to focus on something more challenging. A sense of 'Time' is hard to grasp for younger children, so this can provide a visual sense of time passing and can make it easier for children to stick with the challenge. For those families who are having to work themselves, it might be worth considering placing your child's learning space next to where you work - creating a sense of togetherness. We hope that some of these thoughts might inspire you, and help you create a harmonious space for learning in your home.