You, as a parent, are your child’s first teacher, and your home is the where the most living and learning take place. This is true whether your child is home with you full-time or enrolled full- or part-time in child care, preschool, or kindergarten. It is also true regardless of your standard of living. Whether you are living in a cramped apartment or a palatial home, the challenges of creating a home where you want to be with young children relate more to your inner state and intention than to your bank balance.
What is home life like for you these days, and how can it become a support for you and every other member of the family? What can we do in the face of so many forces today working against home being a sanctuary where family members love to be? These are some of the questions that I address in detail in the chapter on “Home Life as the Basis for all Learning” in the new edition of You Are Your Child’s First Teacher and in the recording “Family Matters: Homemaking 101 for Busy Parents.”
It doesn’t matter if you work outside the home or are a stay-at-home mom or dad. You could be married, in a committed relationship, or a single parent. Regardless of the number of hours you spend at home or the degree of your focus on it, you are involved in creating a home one way or another. My experience is that approaching creating a home life with increased awareness can help you reclaim your time at home together so it can nourish rather than drain you.
Creating a home life that can be a sanctuary for every member of the family is a key element in conscious parenting. To decide where to start, it is valuable first to take stock of where you are now. What are things like at your house, and what do they suggest about what’s going on? What’s working and what’s not? To do this, I encourage you to explore a lens suggested many years ago in a talk by Bons Voors, a Waldorf educator from the Netherlands and coeditor of the book Lifeways.
Building on Bons’s example, let’s imagine home life as a simple drawing of a house with four levels: physical, rhythmical, emotional/relational, and spiritual. Each level builds upon and is supported by the one below it.
This can be a valuable exercise to do with your partner because it’s bound to spark conversation. This fruitful exploration can be enhanced by the MP3 recording or the video of my talk or using chapter 2 of First Teacher. These items are available for free when you purchase the Earthschooling Preschool or Kindergarten Curriculum or individually from www.storewaldorfinthehome.org. This is an exercise you can do now and repeat every few years as your family grows, your children grow older, or whenever you move into a new home. I’m glad to be able to share it with you!
Rahima Baldwin Dancy is internationally known as a midwife, Waldorf early childhood and parenting educator and author of You Are Your Child’s First Teacher. She was co-director of Rainbow Bridge LifeWays Program for 1-5 year olds in Boulder, Colorado and currently works for LifeWays North America as Outreach Coordinator. She continues to support homeschooling parents by offering blog articles and more than 175 different audio and video recordings from the many “Waldorf in the Home” conferences that she produced for parents throughout the years (www.waldorfinthehome.org). Rahima and her husband, Agaf Dancy, have raised four adult children and have four grandchildren.