In a Waldorf kindergarten (and in the early grades as well), music and movement happen throughout the day but there is also a special gathering each morning called circle time. A circle time is just a time of the day when you sing songs together, recite verses, use movement, and do fingerplays. Those four elements are pulled together into a seasonal or story-based theme. Older children might do traditional singing games during circle, practice tossing and catching beanbags, and other developmental movement exercises. In the early grades, circle becomes not only a music and movement gathering, but a time to practice math in an active way, work on drama and speech exercises, and practice the recorder. A formal circle time is at the heart of a Waldorf school program, and I think it can also be a wonderful practice for homeschoolers.
Why Music and Movement Matter in Early Childhood
Waldorf education is truly holistic and from kindergarten all the way through grade twelve, the curriculum strives for a balanced education of the head, heart, and hands. One way that we see this emphasis is that the arts are taught as discrete subjects but are also used as vehicles for learning in all of the other subjects. In kindergarten, young children learn through play and through imitation, making this an ideal time to build literacy in an active way, through singing, speech, movement, and storytelling.
During circle time, children build fine motor skills with fingerplays and gesture and gross motor skills with skipping, galloping, balancing, jumping, dancing, clapping, and more. They are practicing basic music skills such as singing, rhythm, and keeping a beat with the body and the voice. And circle time builds literacy through rhymes, speech, vocabulary, improving phonemic awareness, and memorizing.
Incorporating Music, Movement, and Speech at Home
Your homeschool kindergarten does not need to look like a Waldorf school kindergarten program, nor should it. There is no right or wrong way to incorporate music and movement into your kindergartener’s day. The important thing is to do it. Some families choose to integrate speech, singing, movement, and fingerplays throughout the day at times that feel natural. Other families make circle time a part of their rhythm. And a third option (and what we enjoy doing in our family) is to do both.
All of the circle time elements can be practiced throughout the day. You can sing while you go for walks, while you do the housework, while your kids are in the bath….There are so many opportunities to sing each day! You might enjoy playing movement games during your outside time and practicing fingerplays before you do a craft or modeling activity.
A circle time is just a beautiful way to bring all of these elements together into one activity. Forming a circle together is a lovely way to gather in the morning, promote connection and reverence, and work inclusively with your children of different ages. There’s also the benefit of rhythm, consistency, and repetition when you do a formal (but fun!) circle time. We will cover how to do circle time at home next week!