November 25, 2011

Daily Purposeful Work

The name sounds a little wordy for my taste, but "daily purposeful work" is a little piece of Waldorf education that I think makes practical sense in any home- homeschooling or otherwise.  You may have read about our daily and seasonal rhythms, also very much Waldorf inspired.  That post has been my most linked to, pinned, and viewed post ever.  That tells me that the kind of people who read this blog, like me, seek natural flow from moment to moment with their kids.  So, I thought you might like a peek at our daily purposeful work charts which have both rhythm and beauty and a heavy dose of practicality.

Each of the kids has their own copy of the family's daily purposeful work that they made themselves.  We made water colored backgrounds because if we're going to look at it every day, it may as well be nice to look at.  Right?  Then they copied the days of the week and each days' work on top of their artwork.

Our work is not done in the same way each day, but it is done one way or the other.  If one of the kids is having a tough day with school work (meaning they haven't quite accomplished as much as they should) then perhaps the others offer to do the work themselves so that whoever has fallen behind can use that time to catch up.  Occasionally, when they are sucking up a bit, they will go ahead and do the next day's work in advance.  If they did this too often, I might be more rigid about keeping things regular and avoiding burnout, but it is only the rare occasion when they feel the need to be exceedingly industrious.

I set this in motion only after we had a somewhat difficult week during which all of the grumbles the kids sent my way were a result of being asked to do something, anything, of mutual benefit.  Put my dishes away?  Can't you do it?  You're standing right there.  Why do I have to put all the shoes on the shoe rack?  Most of these aren't even mine!  That's not what I wanted for dinner!  Then make my own?

I had had it!  I actually googled "dealing with lazy kids" and got a brilliant idea.  I read an article about how kids in bygone centuries were regularly required to memorize this poem by Issac Watts so they could use the industrious honey bee as their role models.  I will admit that some of the language is over the top, but in times of great need, over the top cuts through the problem quite nicely.

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!
How skillfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.
In works of labour or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.
In books, or work, or healthful play,
Let my first years be passed,
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.

The kids all have this memorized now and  they get quite a kick out of it.  Haven says, very seriously, "You know, the devil isn't actually a person.  That's what they call it when your bad wolf gets fed."  He says this because he LOVES the Native American wise tale that goes :  "Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog, all of the time." When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied "The one I feed the most."

After Haven offered his softening explanation for what he considers a minor disagreement of terminology, I didn't feel quite as bad about the harsh nature of that one section.  In fact, I get quite a kick out of a 4 year old who concerns himself with explaining away the devil.  Pretty adorable.

Once we had focused on the importance of being busy, we tied that last part about giving good account at last into a lesson on the Baha'i guidance to: Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning."  We've been starting each day, this week, with an account of what we've rocked and what we've failed to rock in the moral conduct department and set goals for the day ahead.  

Believe it or not, with all of that behind us, I was faced with this:  It says "works of labour or of skill," and "books or work or healthful play."  So what are our works of labour? of labour?  Why let's make a list!  So I looked back at some blogs I had pinned  to examine the beautiful and artistic way that a Waldorfian would tackle purposeful work with kids.  And what you see above is what we came up with.  

Over the course of the last week or so, the poem combined with the Baha'i quotes and our new list of purposeful work has really been a blessing!  The kids made all the right connections, combined their efforts to tackle household chores, and even jabbed at each other a bit when catching someone whining, saying things like, "Gee, you're not being much of a bee right now."  I don't normally let such jabbing pass, but suddenly I've come to appreciate positive peer pressure.  And since we've talked so much about that little bee, the offender usually smacks his or her hand to the forehead before giving a little buzz and correcting the behavior!  Score one for the busy bees!  We do live in the beehive state, after all!


  1. Love this post Skyla. I've looked several times at your routine post (and even made our own daily rhythm poster, and blessing our home poster, using your ideas - linked to it from my blog! and I'm so glad you posted the poem and story about incorporating it into "taking thyself into account" how cool! Will definitely use this in the future when my kids are a bit older ;-)

  2. Thanks, Chelsea! Can't wait to check out your post!


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