Monday, November 21, 2011

NaBloPoMo Advice Column - Day 21 - Let Your Friends Bail You Out

I'm writing 30 thoughts in 30 days for NaBloPoMo. In no particular order, I'm giving you my worldview - as it comes up.

Friend and fellow blogger over at Thrift Store Mama is bailing me out today. We've spent many hours bouncing ideas off each other. She's writing today about balance, and how to find it. I could easily title her post "Find Balance In Your Life". And, just as my friend states below, balance is not her initial reaction to new information. Instead, she's one of these people who try and learn as much as possible about something, breathing the new thing in daily. This, for the record, can be very inspiring.

So...enjoy! And check out my friend's blog when you get a chance. She's a hoot - I promise! In the post below, Beezus refers to her older daughter and Mr. Q. refers to her husband. As background, we met when our children were infants so she's one of my friends who truly holds those early days of Connor's. I watched her oldest daughter take her first steps - and I remember it being so crazy like "did she just do that?" and then looking at my friend with tears in her eyes. It was possibly more moving that watching my own children's first steps.

Thank you, Thrift Store Mama! I've enjoyed our ride together and look forward to the next 6 or more years! You've been a walking advice column for me many times over.

Achieving Balance Between a Waldorf Lifestyle and the Demands/Influences of the Rest of the World

I was exposed to the concepts of the Waldorf pedagogy when Beezus was around 3. I stumbled across a non-profit organization called the Alliance for Childhood and their writings REALLY jived with me. As I tend to do with new things, I over-did it at first. My sisters and husband can attest to this idiosyncrasy of mine! For a while, I read anything I could get my hands on about Waldorf, visited a local Waldorf school, and purchased Waldorf toys and books. I plotted reorganizing my work schedule and our family budget so that Beezus could attend a Waldorf school. During a visit to a Waldorf school with Mr. Q, I won him over to my side and he agreed to move forward with getting Beezus into this Waldorf School.

After a few months the time came to either apply or not. We just couldn't seem to make it happen - between the logistics required to make it work with my part-time job, the tuition, and the stress that both of those previous considerations would have on our family life, it just wasn't meant to be.

But I found that I could implement some of the Waldorf teachings into our home and yet at the same time, I also admitted to myself that there were some aspects of a Waldorf education that I didn't see as completely necessary. What we wound up with was a lovely balance of some of the aspects of the Waldorf education that I could wholeheartedly support, along with the ease of family life that came with having Beezus enrolled in a pre-school that is 3/4 of a mile from our house.

Some of these teachings we had already implemented in our home - our children already watched very limited TV and through exposure to a Montessori parent-child class and my sister's Reggio-Emilia classroom, we had organized, uncluttered spaces for the girls’ toys.  But as for the rest, here is how we implemented an approach to have the Waldorf pedagogy incorporated into our family life:

·         Rhythm.  It looks like a schedule and parts of the rhythm are derived from a schedule, but the difference between a rhythm and a schedule (at least in my words) is that a schedule comes from external forces and a rhythm comes from internal forces. (But don't get me wrong, I also have lots and lots of schedules to help me run our home.) This family rhythm encompasses following the same routine as we greet each day, every day, whether a weekday or a weekend. It encompasses predictability among what we eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (this makes cooking at home and meal planning SO easy). It encompasses a schedule for what types of clothes are worn on which days, depending on the activities at school or after school.

·         Little TV.  Our children watch an average of 20-30 minutes of TV per day. Some days they watch a little more, some days they watch none. Waldorf encourages no TV for young children.

·         Childhood is protected.  Our children are protected from the harsher realities of the adult (and teen/tween) world. They only watch age appropriate TV - no Disney/Nick tween shoes and nothing that has any scary parts. If they come out of their bedroom while I’m watching GLEE or the Real Housewives of Wherever, I quickly pause and mute!

·         Live theater & storytelling.  Yet, they see a tremendous amount of live children's theater - I would guess between 5 and 8 shows per year. They are able to switch in and out of make believe when it is live theater, but trying to watch a movie is dreadful. Case in point, they totally handled the stage production of Charlotte's Web, but absolutely cannot watch the movie. We've tried. We try to always attend the festivals at local Waldorf schools, so that they can see the puppet/marionette shows, and they've attended over local puppet/marionette shows as well.

·         Childhood is safe.  Our children do not learn or hear about adult topics that don't directly concern them. They do not see the newspaper or hear/see the news, whether on the radio or on the TV. I don't want them to hear that people die in car accidents or in airplanes. But when the neighbor's pets die, or when our own pets died, yes, then we talked about death. A lot. When the priest who married us was sick and dying, and then when he died, they knew about that. But we only answered their questions and tried not to provide additional information. We are completely inflexible and unyielding on this.

·        Imaginary play. We let our children play, and play, and play. We try not to interfere when they are immersed in play and if they are really involved in play and I need to go to the grocery store or something and there's no way around it, I try to work it in to their play.

My friend's younger daughter puts on a drum show, similar to one she saw at a folk festival.

Found objects provide the perfect opportunity for a classroom.
Beware! Children partaking in uninterrupted play outside.

·       Order.  All of the girls toys and materials are organized. ALL of them. This is really more of a Montessori and Reggio-Emilia approach, but I think the order helps keep the rhythm of the Waldorf day.

·       Rhythm of nature. As the seasons change, we talk a lot about them. When Beezus says she is cold, I answer that yes, she is cold because it is fall.

·       Light. We are a religious family so the presence of light (and of THE LIGHT) is part of our family rhythm. Although I dread the shortening days for my own mental health (self diagnosed seasonal affective disorder) I love that it gives the opportunity to discuss the coming light of the winter solstice and/or the light of Jesus.

In other areas, we don't stick to the letter of the Waldorf teachings.

·         We have plastic toys and materials in our home.

·         Although the girls do a LOT of coloring, they don't do a lot of painting or other art.

·         As they have gotten older, we have sometimes been less mindful of the rhythm of the middle of our day, rushing from one activity to another without the opportunity to have some downtime in-between.

·         Our children watch TV.

·         We let the girls listen to pop/rock music from the 60s and 70s and they also occasionally hear music from the radio.

I’m sure there are lots of other things we do that aren’t necessarily part of the Waldorf teachings. I offer that up as an all-encompassing disclaimer.

When people are passionate about something, it’s often hard to find a balance.  Some of the questions I ask myself when considering something in order to achieve a balance is:

·         Is it necessary?

·         Is it a one-time thing?

·         Will it have a profound and or long lasting impact?

Overall, I’m pleased with the balance we have achieved in this area.  There are a couple areas for improvement, but I think we’re able to walk a good line.

So - from me you have "Let Your Friends Bail You Out" - thank you, friend. It wasn't until I had almost finished posting this that I came up with an idea for today. It was nice to use yours instead. And from my friend you have "Find Balance In Your Life".


Day 1: Surround Yourself With Brilliant People (though my friend Susan makes a good point that clever is pretty good, too).
Day 2: Whatever, it works.
Day 3: Surround Yourself With Beauty
Day 4: When You Go Through Something New - Drag Someone With You
Day 5: No sweatpants.
Day 6: Embrace the Crazy
Day 7: Listen to Your Friends or Fight Old Fogey-dom. Get out there. Keep experiencing fun, new things.
Day 8: Don't Let Anyone Sell You Short
Day 9: Take a Lesson From Your Child
Day 10: Consume the best chocolate you can
Day 11: Help your neighbor.
Day 12: Take Breaks
Day 13: Establish a Realistic Rhythm
Day 14: Sometimes, you just have to ask.
Day 15: Loose Lips Sink Ships
Day 16: Stop Things from Going from Bad to Worse
Day 17: Understand the Price of Success
Day 18: Question Everything
Day 19: Drink Great Wine with Old Friends
Da7 20: Never Be a Volunteer at a Street Show in New Orleans

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