Monday, February 7, 2011

Head-Heart-Hands

While I have rhythm on my mind, I wanted to talk about the concept of addressing head, heart, and hands in the daily rhythm.  The Waldorf concept of breathing in and breathing out was easy enough to understand, since I think most parents understand at some instinctive level the need to balance activities throughout the day - easy/difficult, active/calm, inside/outside, etc.  It makes sense.  But planinning a day around heart-heart-hands was a little different.  But let me tell you . . . for us, it has made all the difference in the world.

First, comes head activities.  Easy enough, right?  Most of us put our homeschool lessons in the morning, so you can already put a little mental check mark next to that one. (Yeah, on on a controlling check mark kick again, can you tell?)

Next, plan heart activities for the middle of the day.  Well, that makes sense, too, if you think about it.  You little one is probably drained from all that thinking in the morning, so you want to follow that with things that will warm his/her soul.  Think music, art, free reading, or nature collecting.  I like to think of them as fill your (emotional/soul) cup activities.  Waldorf ed. also includes foreign language study during this time, but remember that for young children they push mostly conversations and songs in that second language, not grammar, memorization, or other head stuff.  I usually end our main lesson in the morning with French, then we have a little outside time, lunch, piano practice, and independent reading time.  We used to forget about those, then try to cram them in later in the afternoon or in the evenings, and that never worked well.  Now, insisting upon those activities in the early afternoon has really centered our days and left us with a warm sense of calm in the middle of each day.

Now came the hard part.  Well, it sounds easy enough at first.  Plan the hand activities for the afternoon. That means knitting, sewing, crafts, gardening, cooking/baking, building, and anything else that keeps those little hands and bodies busy, focused, and active.  That means having a time in the day for all those activities we say we wish we had the time for.  Well, now we do.  Right?  This wasn't as easy as it sounds.  For one, having had a child in school, I have a hard time filling that 2-5 time slot in the afternoons.  After years of leaving that open for pick-ups, buses, homework, and mega-meltdowns, my brain sends out all sorts of warning signals when I mentally fill that time slot with something other than crisis management.  Then there's the problem of helping them with those hand activities while I'm trying to cook dinner (I do include them as much as possible in dinner prep, but they can't help with everything).  I think most of the problem is that so much of what we do is still part of some training phase.  Ella's learning to sew and knit and do all of those really neat things, and that requires a lot of mama help.  Soon, she'll be able to do some things on her own and I'll be free to cook in peace.

As difficult as it is now, however, sticking to this rhythm has made this time much easier to deal with.  By insisting on those heart activities and planning for the hand ones to follow, that "witching hour" before dinner has nearly disappeared.  Their little souls are full and their bodies are busy.  So even if I send them away for free time before dinner, they're much less likely to fight or whine because they're already in a good place.  Of course, we still have our fair share of crazy days, but I find that if I stick to the head-heart-hands rhythm, we definitely experience more smooth than crazy.

3 comments:

  1. I never thought about it like that before....that hour before dinner IS a tough one. I never thought about giving them a specific activity to help fill the time. I will think on this a bit more. Thanks for talking about this - I don't know much about Waldorf.

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  2. Enki talked a lot about rhythm but I don't remember reading anywhere about "head-heart-hands." THAT would have been simple and clear! (Um, not a strong point with the Enki materials--being CLEAR!!) It makes so much sense. G and I are pretty good about rhythm, both our days and our weeks, although let's not talk about the next two weeks with all the extra dr's appts....

    I had a hard time with late afternoon even though we'd never had a child in school at that time. Now it's almost easier--home, snack, homework (if any) or play, straighten up the living room, eat dinner, get ready for bed. My main problem is that the afternoons are so compressed now, with kids getting home from school and a non-napper who needs to be in bed by 6:30. I cannot schedule anything after school or my head explodes.

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  3. This is something I've not heard of--but it TOTALLY makes sense. We have the 4-6 p.m. struggle where kids want to be on screen time at that point. . .I think working intentionally as you have spoken might just be the ticket to help solve that issue.
    Thank you!

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