Monday, September 29, 2014

Secular Waldorf :: Is that Possible?

The first time I heard the phrase "secular Waldorf," I thought to myself, "Gee, that sounds a bit odd." Then I thought about it a bit more and laid the question to rest.

When it came around again, I wondered some more, how could that be? I decided to investigate and looked up the definition of the word secular and upon googling it, this is what I found:
sec·u·lar
ˈsekyələr/
adjective
  1. 1.
    denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis.
    "secular buildings"
    synonyms:nonreligious, areligiouslaytemporalworldlyearthlyprofane;
    formallaic
    "secular music"

"No religious or spiritual basis."

Hmmmnnn…

Waldorf education is not religious at all, there is no religious doctrine whatsoever.

Does it have a spiritual basis?

Oh my yes!

Let's look more closely...

Waldorf education is built upon and around the picture of the human being as one with a spiritual dimension. It's very foundation is the human being as a spiritual being.

Does a person have to be spiritual and embrace the spiritual inclinations of Waldorf education to send their child to a Waldorf school?

I'd say no, not at all.

Yet as a homeschool parent teacher, I'd say it is essential to recognize the  spiritual basis of Waldorf education and have an understanding of how it is woven throughout the curriculum, how it shapes every aspect of the curriculum.

Families of all sorts of religious and cultural backgrounds are attracted to Waldorf education. 

Some folks love the ways the arts are integrated into the curriculum, some love the connection to nature, natural materials and outdoor play. Some parents love the importance and focus placed on imagination and wonder. Some love the beauty of the classrooms.

Yet every single aspect of Waldorf education is based on the image of the human being as a spiritual being. From what is taught and when, to the stories that are told, to the role of song and movement, to the blessings sung at the table, to the introduction of the alphabet and the numbers. It all relates back to the picture of the human being as a spiritual being.

It's not just about the Festivals.

Waldorf teachers, and by this I mean to include Waldorf homeschool parent teachers as well, who have experienced some immersion in the teaching of Waldorf education, are awakened to the spiritual aspects of teaching, of working with the spiritual world, of doing our own inner work, as a catalyst for our teaching, of working with body, soul and spirit.

This is why it is so difficult to nail down specifics of teaching Waldorf education, because we begin with an understanding, a common picture of the child, and humanity and the world and each other and ourselves. This is an ongoing process of growth and understanding, not something that can be defined and left alone as a static thing.

Then, through observation of the particular child in our care, study, meditation, faculty meetings (this is a challenge for us to create as homeschoolers and a good topic for another conversation) and our own work with the spiritual world, we find inspiration and creativity to bring forth what it is the child needs.

Waldorf education is a dynamic form of education in this way. 

There is nothing rigid or fixed about Waldorf education with this approach for it is based in an ongoing process of growth and understanding. When what stands behind the curriculum is penetrated, it all begins to make sense and offer possibility, not a fixed way of doing things.

One of the particular challenges of the homeschool parent is in being isolated at home and in using material that someone else has written without understanding why. When we understand the whys, the deeper underpinning of the curriculum, it is so empowering because with that understanding, we are free to chose to use it as presented, adapt it, or do something entirely different, yet with an understanding of why we are doing it.

Here's an example… when third grade came around, I balked at using the Old Testament stories. I did not really understand how they speak to the child at that age beyond the superficial explanation that it has something to do with the child's relationship to authority. So I researched it and did reading and spoke with other Waldorf homeschooling parents, bought the Live ed curriculum, and did the online course with Eugene Schwartz and then it was as if the light bulb went on! I saw how it had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with history and the development of the human being.

Over the year, with this new insight, I was able to decide which stories to tell and watch my child grow and become aware of himself in relationship to the world in a new way.

I might have given up and opted out of the Old Testament stories because I was uncomfortable with them. Something nudged me to look deeper and in doing so, my eyes were opened to the depth and breadth of the curriculum and its way of speaking to the child in just the right way at the right time.

I was able to look back upon my own life at the age and glean new understanding of what I went through developmentally at that age.

A comment from Rudolf Steiner on the importance of growth and dynamic Waldorf education:

" I would give anthroposophy a new name every day to prevent people from hanging on to its literal meaning.... We must never be tempted to implement sectarian ideas.. . . We must not chain children's minds to finished concepts, but give them concepts capable of further growth and expansion. "

When we attempt to separate the spiritual foundation from Waldorf education, separate it from the alchemical process of spirituality, from the process that imbues it with its quality of wonder and transformation, we are throwing the baby out with the bath water in more ways than one.

To define Waldorf education as secular denies its spiritual dimensions, "chains" us as parent teachers  and "chains the children's minds, to finished concepts," and denies a fundamental aspect of the human being.

Waldorf education as a process of growth and transformation is kindled with spirit.

When we separate Waldorf education from spirit, we don't have Waldorf education anymore.




Celebrate the Rhythm of Life 
Harmonious Rhythms ::  Parenting with Soul :: Waldorf Homeschooling

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Rhythm Boot Camp Give Away



Would you like to "get your rhythm on" before the holidays this year?

I am giving away one spot in my Rhythm Boot Camp that begins on Wednesday October 1st
{to read more about Rhythm Boot Camp click here}

Win a spot in this fun, engaging, warm and extremely helpful online eCourse!

To enter, leave your name in the comments below and share an aspect of rhythm that you'd like to work on.

For another entry, like and share the give away announcement on the Celebrating the Rhythm of Life  FaceBook page and mention it in a comment below.

For an additional chance to win, mention it on your blog and share the link in the comments below.

If you've already signed up for the eCourse and you are the winner, you'll receive a credit of $25 towards another eCourse or the Monthly Program.

Be sure to check back here by Tuesday evening to see if you are the lucky winner.

Winner will be chosen by random drawing and  announced here in this space on Tuesday by 8 pm EST





Saturday, September 27, 2014

Rhythm Boot Camp is Back!

When Less is More :: 31 Days to Rhythm Boot Camp

October 1st to October 31st
31 Days

OPEN FOR REGISTRATION


You've been asking for another session of  Rhythm Boot Camp and here it is… just in time to work with the rhythm of the year as autumn brings a drawing the earth's forces inward and we too experience a feeling of drawing inward. It's a good time of year to  bring your focus inward to find ways to bring order and harmony to your days with children.

When Less is More :: 31 Days to Rhythm... is a 31 day eCourse that provides a place where we can gather with a cup of tea during these cozy days of autumn, at this time in the year when we are naturally seeking order, turning inward in our thinking, and reflect on the rhythm, routine and reverence in our lives and homes.

We'll look at family values, the needs of children and adults, mealtimes, bedtimes, play, fresh air and the spaces of time in-between. We'll reflect on what can help each of us bring more rhythm and spaciousness to daily life. With simple and practical ideas and suggestions.

With this online course, I will take you by the hand for the 31 days of October and help you become more clear on your family values, more present in the moment, and able to implement daily rhythm into your life. After that you can go back into the eCourse over and over again for it will be up indefinitely.

The material in this session is fresh and new, it is not a copy of the last session.

The Schedule
Now :: Gathering and Greeting
Week 1 :: October 1 ~ What Matters Most
Week 2 :: October 8Step by Step
Week 3 :: October 15 - Deepen
Week 4 :: October 22  -Weave it together

We'll work out of the 3 R's of Waldorf education: Rhythm, Repetition and Reverence. We'll find beauty in the simple and the ordinary, as well as incorporate simple and practical creative and artistic endeavors that make daily life more meaningful and pleasant. And easier too!

We'll look at different approaches to rhythm. Some of us are night birds and some of us are up with the birds and some of us are both! We'll explore how to find renewal and renewed energy to meet our children where they are at each day.

We'll consider what may be getting in the way of your rhythm and how to move through that.

I am very excited about this eCourse because it is set up on a brand new private site that is lovely and easy to access and keep track of. Everything for the eCourse is there at the site.

Are you?
  • Curious about rhythm, wondering how it compares to a schedule or routine?
  • Wanting to bring more beauty and harmony into your life?
  • Wishing you had more peaceful mealtimes?
  • Seeking more meaningful bedtimes?
  • Wanting to ease transitions?
  • Wondering how breathing and rhythm are connected?
  • Longing to feel more connected?
  • Feeling drawn to a deeper awareness of nature's rhythms?
  • Imagining a home that is more peaceful and harmonious?
  • Tired of not knowing what comes next?
If so, then join our group of rhythm making mamas! (and papas too! )

::

31 Days to Rhythm Includes:
* 31 days of rhythm reminders
* 4 weeks of focused practical activities
*a wild, wise and wonderful community
*lots of enthusiastic support


::

::
Ready to Get Rhythm?
click here to sign up
$25
all new easy to access format




Celebrate the Rhythm of Life 
Harmonious Rhythms ::  Soulful Parenting :: Waldorf Homeschooling


Friday, September 26, 2014

How Glinda the Good Witch Became My Mothering Model

My first child was born during the height of the William Sears attachment parenting craze, umm... I mean movement. This was in the 90's, a movement based on gentle birth, physical proximity, being with our babies, holding our babies close to us, whim breastfeeding and the family bed. It also involved saying yes to our children, to support their exploration and play. It felt right and intuitive, to respond to my baby's needs in this way. 

But there was one problem with this type of parenting, at least for me. Yet I had no idea at the time that  it was the parenting style, my parenting style based on this model of attachment, that was leaving me adrift.

What I have come to learn over many years, is that this type of attachment, of proximity parenting, is just the first of several steps towards healthy attachment. But I didn't know that then.

As my children grew more and more active, the attachment parenting model did not address the need to say no, to create boundaries and to be the grown up, to be the magical Glinda good witch type of mother who brings wisdom, warmth and security to the child through boundaries.
It left me hanging with my out of bounds child wondering what to do. I had to wake up to the need that my children desperately needed an authority figure and then slowly learn, step by step, to consciously step into the Glinda the good witch big shoes.

It came so easily to me with other peoples' children, they seemed so easy to be with and care for. They responded to simple nods and smiles. They came when called. They sat at the table and ate peacefully with only slight encouragement. They occasionally quarreled and threw things but most of the time it was fairly easy to bring the environment back to peace.

My own children did not come along so easily. They climbed over the gates in the doorways. They threw things at each other when I was trying to make dinner. They yelled at each other and fought.  They got into each others' belongings and taunted and teased each other. Their behavior triggered all sorts of big emotions in me. I felt anger and rage and frustration. Why did they act that way? What was wrong with me? What did I need to do to "get" it? Sometimes I just felt flat out exasperated and exhausted.

My children are the ones who forced me to pull up the big girl panties, stand back and create some space between myself and each of them. I needed to step back so I could see them more clearly and make room for my feelings to have their space. I had to learn slowly, step by step, and incident by incident, to remember to step into the big shoes of Glinda the good witch and be the grown up.

This process of change and painful transformation brought me to a place where I realized I had to learn to say  no and create boundaries before I could approach, with fresh eye's the notion of saying yes.

That was and is my mothering challenge. To step into the big shoes and be the Glinda Good Witch Mother. And I am still learning.

More to come in another blogpost on what I have learned about what it means to say yes to a child.


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Celebrate the Rhythm of Life 
Harmonious Rhythms ::  Parenting with Soul :: Waldorf Homeschooling



Thursday, September 25, 2014

Why the Silence Over Here?

Yes, I have been very quiet here. I have turned in, to that place where I go, to that inner cave, deep within, when I need a break.
If you are in one of my eCourses or you are in my ~living curriculum program or you have sent me a note and not yet heard back, please forgive me and give me a little holler via email.

You see when I began my ~living curriculum program for Waldorf Homemakers and Homeschoolers  four years ago, I focused on rhythm: daily rhythms, weekly rhythms, and seasonal rhythms. We have been around the year, some of us coming together this month to begin a new schooling year for the fourth year in a row. And that is something very dear to me.

I began this program as a simple monthly subscription that included Stories, Circle, Nature Crafts, Recipes and Festival information for each month, along with a focus topic to study and discuss each month.

I started it as a way to share my experience of Waldorf  homeschooling and soulful parenting practices with others, parents, early childhood teachers and caregivers on the same path.

What I failed to include was down time for me.
The time for my own breathing out…
I expected myself to send daily notes, without a break. To organize a new focus topic for each month, full of inspiration and reflection, without a break, through the year and to stay on top of it on a daily basis. To freshen the materials when needed, deepen areas where members wanted to go deeper and address topics of parenting and child development that are woven through our lives.

What I came to realize, you see it took a while, as I am a slow and steady type, is that I needed to work in breaks for me. Down time. Time when I could step away freely, without any of my own induced guilt. Time to turn away and find renewal without any obligation to be present or respond, or write or think.

You see for me, those moments, when I feel so free of obligation, tend to be the times when the new ideas and enthusiasm are born.

And so in stepping back and taking some breathing space, that really began with a writing paralysis and loss of my voice online, then became a gasp for fresh air, I have decided to make some changes in the formatting of my Waldorf Homeschooling and Homemaking ~ Living Curriculum Program and eCourse offerings, in response to your requests. 

I am busily and excitedly reformatting the program by separating it out into a simpler and easier to use bits of material, with step by step guidance for each week through the seasons. Plenty of room will remain for your tweaking, while a firmer structure will be in place to help guide you along, if that is what you need. The content will remain rich, soulful and inspiring, very much grounded in and rising out of the seasons yet will be more accessible and well laid out for you.

I'll post more about these changes soon.

Warmly,










Wednesday, September 24, 2014

That Place of Trust

I've been following the buzz around Outside Magazine's recent online article about homeschooling that is grounded in children playing and exploring freely in nature.

You may have seen the article, it has a lovely photo of the author's son setting off across a frozen body of water, handwoven pack strapped on his back, knife in pocket, sticks in hand, you just know he is going to build a fire on the ice, or someplace nearby, and with it experience an elemental gathering of earth, air, fire and water, creating a mood of adventure and interest in the world, harkening back to the primeval, to what it means to be human. 

The article is written by fellow Vermonter and homeschooler, umm... I mean un-schooler... Ben Hewitt. I'm not saying we're fellow un-schoolers, although I will confess that  I do have an inclination towards a self directed, free play in nature, sort of childhood.

One might say that Waldorf education, in the early years, is a sort of un-schooling or natural living, that arises out of a specific picture of the child, but that, my friends, is a topic for anther conversation.

Although to be honest, I don't quite understand the term un-schooling. I find it perplexing as I tend to think of it as an undoing of what school has done to a child. Yet a child who has not been "schooled" does not need to be un-schooled, right? That seems logical to me.

When I was young, it was called childhood and everybody seemed to share the picture of the child as one who romps in the woods and meadows and comes home when its time to eat. It seems to me that this type of learning at home is an extension of healthy childhood.

I do understand Waldorf homeschooling to be an approach to learning that embraces self directed exploration, meaningful adult activity, play and the natural world.  I can assure you that it does not involve any captivity, but that, too, is a topic for another conversation.

This article seems to have tapped into many strong feelings about this rapidly growing movement in handmade, outdoor, trust the child, trust the world, know your neighbors and lend a hand type of home education that is exploding among homeschoolers, that perhaps reflects a change in human consciousness, a shift in human consciousness that brings a new fashioned approach to old ways of doing things, this time around with conscious awareness of why we do what we do.

In any case, it was the article itself that, inspired me to check out the author's blog where he shares daily reflections on his days and life as a family, a farmer and a parent.
Our families have something in common. We live in Vermont and spend a good deal of time out of doors. We keep chickens and grow food, each year striving to grow more and more of our food. We know our neighbors and feel blessed to be surrounded by farmers who farm with care and conscious awareness for the food they produce. My children spend heaps of time out of doors, carry pocket knives, have their own axes, love to whittle and use their hands all day long.

My oldest spent two semesters immersed in the rhythms of daily living in the outdoors with Kroka Expeditions.  More to come on Kroka and this movement of handmade, outdoor, trust the child, trust the world, know your neighbors and lend a hand type of community education in another post. Gosh, I am setting myself up for quite a few blog posts.
One of my boys has eaten road kill and killed animals to eat, the other is vegetarian. One of my boys still likes to make his own bows and spent weeks and weeks exploring what type of branch is best suited for a bow. He loves to practice shooting  at non living things. Both of them know how to chop wood, kindle fires, grow and harvest vegetables, milk a cow or goat, cook meals from scratch, understand the the beauty and process of compost, love being in and on the water and have no qualms with weather.
We too have made sacrifices for this lifestyle. I stepped out of my work as a midwife to be with my children. I have chosen to live simply, garden, cook from scratch and work from home because it is meaningful for me to be at home mothering my children and tending the hearth. I suspect every mother who has made the choice to stay home with her children can understand this kind of devotion and sacrifice based on love.

The author brings a new voice to the conversation when he speaks as a father, who has made conscious family choices to stay home that involve sacrifice and daily hard work.

Yet what resonates most strongly within me from this article and today's blog post from Ben Hewitt, is trust. The ability or capacity to trust ourselves as parents. From that flows the ability to trust our children. From that trust comes development of capacities as human beings. It can happen in the wild, it can happen in the kitchen, it can happen in a barn. Wherever there is trust in the child, freedom to play and explore, adults engaged in meaningful work, children will grow and develop capacities as human beings. The capacity for imagination, for creativity, for problem solving, to love the world and all its living inhabitants, it arises out of trust and a sense that the world is good.

For it seems to me that the first step, after developing a sense of trust for our parents and the meeting of our needs as infants, is the impression that the world is good.

So I ask myself, how do we get to that place of trust, how can we get there if we were not trusted to take risks and explore and do things out of our own initiative as children?

How do we return to that place of trust if once we have known it?

How do we return to trust when our sense of the world as good gets shaken?

How can I support the parents I work with to step back and wait and trust?

Is it something we are born with, an innate trust in the world and in ourselves and children?

Does it result from a childhood that makes room for self initiated movement, play and exploration?

I don't pretend to have the answers, I am sharing my observations, experiences and contemplations here. My guess is that it is a combination of what we are born with, who we are born to and the experiences we have in life, particularly in the first decade of life.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and reflections on this.

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Celebrate the Rhythm of Life 
Harmonious Rhythms ::  Parenting with Soul :: Waldorf Homeschooling






Tuesday, July 15, 2014

LifeWays Principles

When I first invited children into my home for a little morning to come together, many, many years ago, on an island in the Pacific Ocean, my first born was a toddler, and my practices with the children came out of my experience and intuition.

Later on when my second child was born and we were back in the USA, I began a morning program again. This time I had experience and training behind me, yet the training was geared to the children in the kindergarten, the child of five and six years of age.

My group was young, two and three year olds, for this is what was being called for in my community. At the same time my little morning program was growing and expanding its hours, a magical women with a twinkle in her eye was developing a program for people like me, who were caring for the very young child.

When I first saw the literature for this organization, I heaved a great sigh of relief, for the principles and practices outlined in the literature resonated so deeply within me, with the work I was doing, and struggling to name.

I was thrilled to discover and witness the growth of an organization that emphasized the primary importance of the child's relationship to the adult,  that focused on the daily care of the young child as the most important activity, that valued and embraced a warm home environment for the child, that acknowledged the importance of the parent in the relationship and showed enormous respect for the needs and dignity of the caregiver.

This magical woman is Cynthia Aldinger, who recognized the need for an understanding of the needs of the very young child and founded an organization to address those needs and provide training and inspiration for both parents and childcare providers.
photograph by William Britten
The organization is LifeWays North America.

LifeWays North America is growing across North America with training opportunities from Alaska to Maine, California to North Carolina to Hawai'i and many places in between, including Asheville, North Carolina, Portland, Oregon and its flagship center the LifeWays Early Childhood Center of Milwaukee.

I am honored to serve on the board of this wonderful organization and am pleased to to share with you the principles of LifeWays North America.

LifeWays Principles

  1. Young children thrive in the presence of parents and other devoted caregivers who enjoy life and caring for children. They learn primarily through imitation/empathy and therefore need to be cared for by people with integrity and warmth who are worthy of being imitated.  This is the foundation for learning and healthy development. 
  2. Having consistent caregivers, especially from birth to three years old and, preferably, up to primary school age, is essential for establishing a sense of trust and well-being.
  3. Children need relationship with people of all ages. Infants and toddlers thrive in family-style blended-age care, while older children see nurturing modeled by the adults and experience their own place in the continuum of growing up.  Children of all ages can both give and receive special blessing when in the company of elders and youth who enjoy children.  
  4. Each person is uniquely valuable, gifted with purpose and worthy of respect throughout all phases of his or her life’s journey.
  5. Human relationship and activity are the essential tools for teaching the young child all foundational skills for life.   Infants and toddlers develop most healthily when allowed to have freedom of movement in a safe environment.   For three- to six-year-olds, creative play, not technology or early academics, forms the best foundation for school work and for life-long learning.
  6. In infancy and early childhood, daily life experience is the “curriculum.”  The child’s relationships to the caregivers and to the environment are the two most important aspects through which the child can experience healthy life rhythms/routines.  These include the “nurturing arts” of rest and play, regular meal times, exploring nature, practical/domestic activities, social creativity, music and simple artistic activities.
  7. Young children thrive in a home or home-like environment that offers beauty, comfort and security, and connection to the living world of nature.  Healthy sense development is fostered when most of their clothing and playthings are of non-synthetic materials and their toys allow for open-ended, imaginative play.
  8. Childhood is a valid and authentic time unto itself and not just a preparation for schooling.   Skipping or hurrying developmental phases can undermine a child’s healthy and balanced development.  
  9. Parents of young children need and deserve support in their path of parenting—from professionals, family, and one another. They thrive in a setting where they are loved, respected and helped to feel love and understanding for their children.
  10. Caregivers also have an intrinsic purpose and need to be recognized and appropriately compensated for the value of their work. They need an environment where they can create an atmosphere of “home,” build true relationship to the children, and feel autonomous and appreciated.

If you'd like to learn more about LifeWays North America, hop on over for the website and FaceBook page.


I hope you are savoring daily life as the curriculum.


If you have done LifeWays training what aspect of it has helped you the most?

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Celebrate the Rhythm of Life 
Harmonious Rhythms ::  Parenting with Soul :: Waldorf Homeschooling

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Expansive Nature of Summer

From this
to this


Sort of like parenting, in how we expand beyond what we thought was possible, no?



Thursday, June 19, 2014

This Week :: This Life :: This Summer

These mornings, moist with dew and fairy rings, just warm enough and with a gentle breeze, they are are so pleasant for quietly working inside. Rather pleasant out of doors too.
My furry boy likes it too.
Break for midmorning tea.

 My Sarah Bernhardt peony is splendid this year with six abundant blossoms. This one was the first to open. I chose this peony named Sarah Bernhardt because I have always loved hearing of Sarah Bernhardt, since my mother called me Sarah Bernhardt as a child. You can see and hear her here.
 Working on the Get Organized :: Sketch it Out eCourse (still open) project and having fun with the chalks. Sometimes I forget that chalk does not blend as crayons do.
 A sample for the Get Organized :: Sketch it Out Make it Yourself Planner
I have so much more to share with you, oodles of snapshots from the garden. The irises, the day lilies, the nettles, comfrey, catnip. And the valerian, oh my it is taller than I am, nearing six feet. The woodchuck has eaten the lettuce, chard, kale, cilantro, epazote and celery. I suspect it's those cute little babies of hers, the same ones we see nibbling on the Black-eyed-Susies. 

I had hoped and still hope to do a weekly sharing of the garden this summer yet find myself drawn into it and away from the computer. Maybe that balance will come one of these days. In the mean time I am loving this weather and working hard to catch up from my computer-less days.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Decline of Play and Mental Health Disorders

We all know deep within our very being.

 Children need to play. Play supports life. Play is crucial to healthy development. Play is the foundation for learning. Play is the wellspring of life.

Those of us who are old enough to have experienced play in childhood, as described by the speaker below, have a living picture, a living experience of what it means to play, to take risks, to resolve problems, to be free and to feel competent.

Yet we, as a culture, have reached a critical point in that the generation of new parents of today most likely did not experience play in childhood, at least not with the freedom and not to the extent described in this talk.

This need for play is universal. All children need play and without it, they suffer.

My reader, I encourage you to give up 16 minutes in your day to watch this TED X talk by researcher and professor Peter Gray who explores what it means when children do not grow up with the freedom to play.


Oh, I thank you Mr. Peter Gray for so eloquently naming the problem and suggesting solutions.

I'll add to his suggestions that we seek out neighbors, parents, grandparents, older people in our communities and ask them about their memories of childhood...
  • How did they play? 
  • Where did they play? 
  • What risks were they able to take? 
  • How did it shape who they are?
  • What can each of us do to support play for all children?
Carrie Dendtler, over at the Parenting Passageway speaks to the need for time out of doors in childhood with the movement towards  Forest, Farm and Field programs here. Can you imagine what it might look like if all the social, political, and financial energy put into pre-k programs in this country were turned towards supporting free, child initiated play as the most important element of a healthy childhood?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

How to Deeply Nourish Your Child's Creative Impulses


Wow, that sounds like such a big and serious title, no?

I am here to say, it is simple to nourish creativity in our children. 
Mostly by getting out of the way. 

A notion exists that creativity is something that exists outside of ourselves, something we experience in art class, at museums, something we cultivate and work at by seeking something outside of ourselves. Projects. Crafts. Something that depends on opportunities, field trips, museums, enrichment programs.

Not for children.

While I agree that art offers us new ways of seeing things, I assert here that children are born with the ability to see things in new ways.

For the young child, the spirit of creativity is alive and present, seeking expression with every breath.

The world is the child's art studio and the four elements provide the tools, toddling on the ground, digging in the dirt (okay a decent shovel is needed.) Feeling sand between the toes. Dipping the toes into the water. Running with arms out to feel the air. Eyes wide open to drink in the flame on a candle. Spinning. Falling. Rolling. Skipping around a campfire. Watching the bees. Climbing trees. Skinning knees from falling. Playing with sticks and stones. 

Play, the free self initiated play of childhood, is exploration in the same juicy creative flow that artists, writers and great thinkers experience.

It begins with birth. A form of creative expression in itself.

Children are born in a state of wonder. A state we reflect with our own awe. This feeling of awe leads to reverence and gratitude. Ah, life! Have you ever noticed how a newborn captivates an entire room of adults?

What the young child needs is the freedom for self initiated play. Freedom from distractions. Freedom from interruption. Freedom from prompts. Freedom from screen exposure and its pre made images. Freedom from stuff. Freedom from the pursuit of proximity. Freedom from the fear of healthy risk taking. 

Just plain ole, left alone, benignly neglected childhood, with the spaciousness of time for play.

Children are born to explore their world, to see it, smell it, hear it, taste it, touch it, move it, climb on it, rattle it, try it on. To give it form and then destroy it. Creativity and destruction go hand in hand. To make way for the new, the old has to give way.

We adults tend to want to hold on to what is. It's hard for us to step back and let go. Yet when we do, the wonder and magic take place.

The only requirement is that the child be in right relationship to the adult who is caring for the child. When the child feels secure in relationship to the adult, the child is free to relax into the flow of play.

I'll say more about the flow and relationship later on.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer Manifesto

While the official arrival of summer is not until the solstice on June 21st, the feeling of summer, the smell of summer and the mood of summer is in the air. No mistaking it, blossoms everywhere. The sweet scent of lilacs, honeysuckle and apple blossoms have filled the night air. Fireflies flitting and providing sparks of light the night air. Flowers cascade over the edges of pots on the doorstep. The warmth of the sun brings vital heat and leaves behind its golden glistening on the skin and hair. The lake beckons. The soft and moist soil of spring becomes more fixed and firm as the blossoms come and go, the bees visit, the butterflies appear and herald in with great majesty the first fruits of summer, sweet strawberries, as delicious freshly picked from the mother plant, warm from the sun's rays, as they are in shortcake and cream. Sweet summer.

 

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With this feeling freshness and new beginnings in the air, 
I write a Manifesto for Summer, as a source of  inspiration and gratitude for the goodness of summer.

A Manifesto for Summer

:: Savor the longer days and shorter nights.

:: Be outdoors as often as possible.

:: Create spaces for being outdoors, a table for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cosy places to lounge and  
   read. Spots in the garden for tea.

:: Find dappled light for mid day and hot days.

:: Build camp fires. Toast marshmallows and hot dogs. Make s'mores.

:: Go for a walk each night under the stars.

:: Follow the moon's path through the sky.

:: Sleep outside.

:: Cook outside. Over fire.

:: Go barefoot whenever possible.

:: Tend the garden.

:: Snip flowers for the table. And other unexpected places.

:: Run under the sprinkler.

:: Play flashlight tag.

:: Make fruit pops with yoghurt, fresh fruit and juice.

:: Make ice cream with fresh cream and strawberries.

:: Stop at lemonade stands.

:: Go swimming whenever possible.

:: Have sand between the toes.

:: Pack lunch and go for a hike.

:: Gather with friends around the fire. Sing. Tell stories. Eat good food.

:: Get organized for preserves: jams and jellies, pickles, herbs, spices, tomatoes, chutney

So there it is. I've been rejoicing in the lightness of spring, in the dampness and smell of the dirt, in the new beginnings, in the green perennial friends who return each year and rise from the earth to unfurl new leaves, burst buds into blossoms and provide us with leaves to steep for tea and leaves to spice up the cooking pot and pan, in the songs and squawking of the baby birds in the nests outside my windows, in the chives for potatoes and eggs, in blossoms for the table. Spring uplifts us and invites us to relax, slow down and savor summer.

How will you slow down and savor summer this year?