Sunday, July 6, 2008

nature baby

The story that I have just finished researching and writing is about alternative education. It seems that more parents are being inspired by the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner (Waldorf) and Montessori and are deciding to educate their children in these schools. They believe that pertinent learning through discussion and interaction with the environment is more beneficial than following a text book. I spoke with a mother-of-five who home schools and she really made me think about the role of the parent in education - we teach our children from birth...we teach them to eat, to talk, to brush their teeth, to go to the toilet...and when they turn five we "contract them out" to a school. It could be said that we teach our children from conception. I am always reminding my pre-natal yoga students that with each breath they take, they are communicating to their unborn baby - "a long, slow, calm breath is sending loving and welcoming messages to your baby".

I read a post from this mum the other day and I whole-heartedly agree with her wishes for her children. She discussed a disorder known as "nature deficit disorder" - yes, that's right...children who never get to wander among the trees or splash on the foreshore. And it affects their behaviour. And it is believed that one in four 8-to-10-year-olds have never played outside with an adult. I was devastated to read such a statistic. Do we live in a society where parents are too fearful of the outdoors or are parents too fearful of the unknown? Or has the fear of 'strangers' laid to rest the opportunity for children to run free and (a little) wild?

I know Che will get to wear wellies and splash in puddles, build cubby houses in the bush, eat carrots straight from Grandad's garden. I want to foster a love, knowledge and connection to the world around him. I hope that his imagination grows and grows so that he can think vividly. Daniel and I will teach him in an organic manner where he learns through experience. We will encourage him to dive into the ocean and leap to the sky.

We have made a conscious decision to buy him toys that will encourage imaginative thinking and play. Yes there are some plastic, colourful, singing, twirling, light flashing toys that have made their way into our home but they will (hopefully) be the last ones. I only have to watch Che to know that he is more interested in a cardboard box than a plastic (made in China, toxins included) toy. I know that there will come a day when he just doesn't understand the decision we've made (which may result in tears) and I'm sure that we'll give-in occasionally. For now though, the only toys that will be accompanying him as he grows up are the wooden, organic or book variety. And I hope that they will be passed on to his siblings and, one day, his own children.

After nine months of growing my baby and nine months of loving and nurturing I have realised that this parenting job is a big one. I know that our decisions will be respected by some and criticised by others. Daniel and I know that we will always be Che's first teachers...the responsibility is ours. We will hopefully teach him well.


  1. Ella starts school next year and it becomes less daunting to me in terms of the separation, but more daunting in terms of loss of influence. I'm not so arrogant as to believe that I am the best person for everything for her, I don't think that's true, but you hope you can truly trust in those that care for her. It's a leap of faith, but I couldn't home school my children. Whilst I respect those who do, it's not for me and I don't believe for them. I wonder about the socialisation aspects, about the connection with the wider community. I think our focus is on trying to connect with our children, give them the firmest of foundations at home, build their confidence so they believe in themselves and know they're believed in - and trust that it may all come together from there.

    PS you must post links to your articles, I'd love to read them.

  2. i'm with you in my personal research to find what schooling/homeschooling/unschooling philosophies suit our family. i'm not feeling entirely confident in myself to home school/unschool and yet i'm not entirely sure that my little one is thriving in Waldorf. We'll find our way to what works best and in the future when we have other children i'm sure we'll go through it all again as each child will thrive uniquely.
    i was also quite moved by Emma's post. i've been going back to it often, thinking a lot about where i live and how to offer my son more freedom. My wandering toddler eye is ever watchful but i try to give him space to explore without feeling my watch. Fortunately the city i live in is also pretty "green" and near to forests and ocean - great lands to explore.
    You seem on a good track. Lucky little Che.

  3. I wouldn't say our family is homeschooling or unschooling. There's gotta be some other term out there that's a better fit for us. To put it simply: we surround our children with amazing things about our world and then follow them through what most interests them about it. But we don't have the Waldorf "look", my girls aren't interested in gnomes and fairies; they're more interested in animals they see and foreign languages we hear. We have a small farm and the kids are surrounded by "miracles". We live in the woods and they get to explore to their heart's content. I love it.

    But we can't homeschool in the future. I sort of dread the day conventional school rears its head, but the truth is, we need me to start earning some money....yesterday! We're really sacrificing a lot now just to keep me at home while they're young. I wish school could be more "part-time" though. I really love life with my kids.