Do you remember your childhood?
Maybe it was a joyful one or maybe it was not. What do you remember of it?
Let me describe to you what I remember.
I remember games, playing, simple life, simple home and being very happy in that space. I never felt worried for anything. I never remember a conversation which made me think I should stop playing and be concerned or worried for something. I grew up in Saudi, we lived through the Gulf War and yet I do not remember any feelings of sadness or worry or concern. When I look back at my childhood I remember it fondly, I remember it to be a wonderful time. I remember it as an “easy” “trouble-free” time. But war?? I mean you are living in a country at war is that really a “trouble-free” space?? No it definitely is not, but my parents never had a single conversation in front of me that would alarm me. Never did they lead on that we didn’t have “enough” money. They had to calculate whether they could afford to buy an ice cream this month for me. An ice cream. One! But I never knew that! Time just flowed as did life.
I never knew that I was a “girl”, I knew I was a child. As I walked passed a slightly ajar toilet door in first grade I thought that the boy in there was ill, which caused his body to be “deformed”. I felt so so sorry for him. I didn’t know for the longest time that what I had glimpsed was a penis! I thought he was hurting and his body swelled up. I still remember the genuine sympathy I had for him! Wanting to go up and asking are you in a lot of pain? Innocence its precious! We need to treat it as such! (Thank god though that I didn’t go up and ask him! Thankfully even then some childish common sense thankfully prevailed! Can you imagine if I had! How embarrassing!)
As I reflect I have this feeling of being one with something, I can’t quite put into words what; but I remember around my tenth year or so emerging from this oneness space and waking up into myself. It’s a difficult feeling to describe. Almost like you are part of this massive bowl of fruit custard and slowly you bob up to the surface and discover yourself to be a cherry, a complete entity in itself. Up until before this point you yourself were not aware that you were an individual entity in and of yourself and simultaneously also part of this bowl full of other separate entities. You thought that you, your family, your surroundings, were all one- a mush of being; with everything being one and connected and attached to each other, nothing being a separate entity. Its only when slowly you wake up that you first realize that the mush can be separated. You get scooped out into a bowl with a ladle, I realisation of your greater family/country/community. Then from that bowl your get spooned up by a dessert spoon, a realisation of your immediate family, where you can see yourself and your parents siblings etc, as little blobs sitting in mush. Then you get picked out from the mush to see you are a little cherry a separate mass and complete in its own right as are your parents and siblings and other family members. You suddenly are woken to the pieces in the mush and the mush and how that they can be viewed both together and separately.
This is the awakening that Rudolph Steiner talks about when he talks about the rubicon, the awakening and realising of yourself as being a “self”, a complete and separate living thing.
In this particular post I do not wish to indulge any further into the Rubicon and what it brings and how to deal with it, that is a topic for another time. In this post I intend to look at our relationship our presence our conversations and its effects on our children and their childhood.
(Btw here in this article when I refer to “child”, I mean from the ages of 0-10 roughly).
If you do not have a fond memory of your childhood, does it not bother you, does it not hurt you, does it not want to make you wish to have it different for your children?
If you do have a fond memory, do you not cherish it? Do you not feel like that is how you want your children to look back at their childhood?
CHILDHOOD, CHILD – hood, not little-adult-hood, not little-person-hood, not mini me, not small human. Not Not Not!
There is a reason it is called “child” hood, there is a reason why there is a differentiation between “child” and “adult” they are two different stages and separate entities of the human life. Don’t dedifferentiate it, don’t blur the lines. If you look at a building you see two parts always, the foundations and the “usable” structure. If you do not build foundations the building is not sturdy. That is what we do if we do not acknowledge that childhood is a different separate and important part of the entity. If you blur the lines you can end up with a foundation that is not strong or capable of preforming its task.
Special precautions go into making a foundation, the ground needs to be dug, needs to be levelled the cement laid the pillars put and the lists go on. Just like that special care and attention needs to take place in childhood. They are not mini adults they should not be exposed to every “truth” they do not need to be given a reality check! They do not need to be troubled with worries. They are not your safety net to pour your problems out in front of.
Be mindful what you say in front of children it has profound and lasting effects. You do not want to leave deep and lasting imprints in your foundation cement causing the foundation to be uneven and weak to lay bricks on top of. That is what we do with our words and actions. Keep your opinions in the adult world, keep your worries to the adult world, keep yourself from encasing your children in your shell. They will grow to beyond your shores if your let them be.
Its not just the words we say to them, its how we say it, they pick up more on your tone and body language than on the actual words themselves. Our presence in their presence is one we need to constantly keep checks on. They pick up on everything that people do in there surroundings, even if you think that they are busy and not looking they will absorb it on a subconscious level. Being mindful of all conversations happening around them, even if it is not directed to them, is vital. Phone conversation with other people, internet, t.v., radio, news, billboards, etc. our children are soaking up and learning from all that they see and hear. From how to act with family and friends to how to react on politicians. From what is “sexual” to what is uncool. What family, love, and relationships look like, to our dealings with road rage and littering. We are ALWAYS the first and longest standing teachers for our children. If you want your children to be a certain way, you first have to be that yourself first. We need to embody the messages we wish to impart to our children.
Imagine a teacher, how would you want your child’s teacher to be with your children, that is how you need to be every waking hour of the day with them. From your actions to your speech, gestures and dressing, to your daily habits, we need to be mindful of what we are portraying to our children, what we are conveying to our children. How and what we shop to what and how we watch, read and learn, they are being moulded by everything around them. Every action or the lack there off, is laying down foundations in their brain, which is forming them into the adult human they will become. The foundations always dictate the structure that can and will be laid upon it!
Why is it so vital for you as a person to tell your child every truth of the world, no matter how ugly, scary, unpleasant or awkward? What are you so afraid of that makes you want to spoil their childhood? You think you are doing them a favour by getting them “ahead” of the curve; instead what you are actually doing is robbing them of their childhood- a space and place which needs to be kept pure and beautiful, so that they can have time to set a deep and strong foundation that will support them all through their life!
These same things can still be taught to them, brought to them, when they are more awake in their teen years, but the childhood stage will never return. Once that time is past, it really is gone! No matter what you do, you can not unset that foundation. When we are at our darkest hours in our adult life, the light we need to get through is the light inside us that we kindled in our childhood, that happy place and memory is what keeps us strong and pulls us through. But if you rob them of that chance to kindle this anchoring light, what will keep them strong? What will bring them through, home and dry from the storm?
Keeping your child in that timeless bubble of happy bliss, is what should be a Right for every child!
For this I voice my concerns today!
For this I stand to fight today!
Happiness is not a feeling, it’s not a place, its a choice! Make that choice for your child today, for if you don’t, they may not be able to make that choice for themselves in the future!!
I got reminded again today why I chose a Steiner education for my children.
The whole feeling of disheartening that comes with the mainstream approach to education came knocking on my door once again today. I felt, yet again, what it is like to work so hard on something and get it thrown back in your face as “not good enough”, because although 'you demonstrate a good understanding... include the obvious'! What do they mean by that: well although it is apparent from the work that I understand it, but as I have not used their favourite "key words"- ‘stated the obvious’- which win the brownie points, means my work is sub par!
The frustrations of my childhood days run wild through my veins again, where children who actually put in sub par effort and read cliff notes to bag brownie points excelled and children who spent hours with bucket loads of effort got left stranded as “not good enough”.
This whole system is designed for compliance!
You say the right words, do the right actions and you get rewarded, if you veer from what the authority deems necessary you are penalised. The system is not designed to allow learning and gaining of knowledge, it is there to “school” you, train you to comply and then rate you as to how well you comply.
When I stepped into the world of learning once again, I hoped I was walking into a place that would be more respective of real education, but alas it was my wishful thinking that led me to believe that there could be a world free of brownie points outside of the Steiner realms.
I chose Steiner Education for this very reason for my children. I wanted them to enjoy learning, I wanted them to engage in it whole heartedly. All the while with their efforts and learning appreciated for its own merits, and not marked or ranked according to one persons perception of what an understanding of a subject consists of. After all one mans understanding is only as good as their own comprehension abilities. Who is to say that another person’s comprehension, be it even a child’s is not better than theirs! Does the name Thomas Edison ring any bells?
As Rudolf Steiner says in The Spiritual Ground of Education-
“We must never imagine that we are the most intelligent people at the summit of human intelligence; this, in fact, would show that we are very poor teachers. Rather, we should think of ourselves as only relatively intelligent. This is a more realistic mind-set than the other. Now in this state of consciousness, we enter the classroom. As we enter, we must remember that, among these children, there may be a very intelligent being, one who in later life will be far more intelligent than we. Now if we, who are only relatively intelligent, were to bring up this child to be only as intelligent as ourselves, we would render him merely a copy of ourselves. This would be quite wrong. The correct approach would be to educate this very intelligent individual to grow and become far more intelligent than we could ever be. This means that there is something in a person that we must not touch, something we must approach with sensitive reverence, if we are to exercise the art of education properly.”
This! This is the primary and most fundamental difference between Steiner education and mainstream education for me! The whole attitude surrounding how a child is educated makes a fundamental differences in how a human being develops and grows. This has been my biggest beef with mainstream education, why is there only one perspective that is acceptable? I am not saying I am more profoundly intelligent than my educators, I don’t have to be to hold a different perspective; but why is a different perspective disregarded? After all is it not different perspectives and thinking outside of the box that has lead society to where it is at today?
Every great discovery was horrifically outrageous at the time it was proposed and yet today it is widely accepted as “truth”. So why is having a different point of view so wrong? Why is thinking of it in different ways penalised? Why can it not be allowed to be pondered over? After all one is innocent until proven guilty are they not? So why is an opinion, a perspective not allowed to be until proven otherwise?
I am not saying that I do not appreciate the “wider accepted views of the world”, but why can I not allow that to be, but also still hold my own perspectives too? I am not arrogantly thinking my views are better, they are just different, why can I not be allowed to hold me views until proven otherwise? Why can I not be allowed appreciation for my work despite it not holding the “key words”? Why is my demonstration of understanding not good enough? Why do we have to earn brownie points to show our worth, why can it not be allowed for our own worth to speak for itself?
Why does our worth need to be measured against others and be quantified? I am not like anyone else and no one else is like me. Why can I not be seen and appreciated for my own unique traits that I have to bring and offer to the world? Why do I have to hold the same or equal abilities as others, why can I not have my own weird and wonderful flavour that I can bring to the table? If all Coffees tasted the same would that not be boring?? Allow children to grow and learn in their own way. Develop there own unique tones and flavours that they can enrich the world with; for you and I do not know what it is that they have to unfold into. Do not force them into a box that will restrict their growth only into certain ways, for every flower needs to bloom into its very own unique shape.
It was this thinking that led me to firmly choose a different path for my children, so that their thinking and being could be allowed to be and appreciated for what it is and not pounded out of them in the name of “education” by “superior” intelligence.
On the dawn of the new year, I love you and leave you with another of my favourite quotes of Steiner’s from the same text:
“it is important to foster the development of a child’s inherent capacities. Thus, all teaching must be at the service of education. Strictly speaking, the task is to educate, and teaching is used as a means of educating.”
I was at a talk last night, which came to be due to a growing demand from worried parents and caregivers over how to navigate the digital world. The talk, although very enlighten, had to be cut short (due to logistical reasons), leaving me behind with again this burning desire to write.
Now, I am no tech guru, I am no expert of any sort, I don’t have figures and quotes to spare, All I am is a mum working out day by day how to navigate motherhood and all I have is a bit of free tips to share.
Well firstly there is the “why”
-Why we need to be aware and careful with the growing digital world.
Then there is the inevitable “when”
-When really is a “safe” or “a least detrimental” or “an age appropriate” time to hand over any sort of tech device to the younger generation.
Then comes the “which”
-Which devices are safer or better to start off with and I don’t mean the: “should I go for a Samsung or iPhone” “which”, I mean whether it should be a laptop, a brick phone, a smart phone or a tablet etc.
Lastly is the all important “how”
-How do I make myself tech aware enough to aid my child in being e-safe in every sense of the word!
-How do I have a handle on the situation, so that my child does not live entirely in the digital world and does come out to visit the rest of "the real" world now and then.
-How do I communicate with my child, so they do not want to socially close me off in an attempt of rebellionizm in the name of “privacy”.
These are all very important questions, issues and worries.
The first and most important part is to recognise them all! When you break up the whole undigestible loaf of chaos and mayhem into small chewable bites, you will find that there is a glimmer of light at the end of this wormhole.
STEP 1: WHY
Well thankfully, most of the people here in our Steiner community, recognise a whole lot of the “why”. They are very aware of it. The dangers with how it psychologically effects a human being irrelevant of age. How it physically effects and at times permanently changes the physiology of the human brain, even at later stages of human development, not just at the early stages. How the radiation coming from each devices is dangerous for us. How our over usage of "wirelessness" is damaging not just the view, but the earth, animals and environment and each of our bodies. How on a social level, it is damaging in more ways than one can count. Teens growing up without ability to actually socialise in person. Adults living in isolation due to falling prisoner to this virtual world. Relationship of every and all sorts, falling victim to the multiple issues that are coming hand and hand with instant messaging. Cyber bulling, online grooming. Identity theft, anxiety due to FOMO, depression due to trolling and/or due to feelings of self pity, induced by constantly viewing everyones airbrushed lives and comparing them to our “flawed uncensored ones”. The list goes on and on and we have barely scratched the surface of this beast.
Now one would say with all these cons attached to this world, why aren’t we all running a mile in the opposite direction. Why are we still allowing us and our children to go down this slippery slope.
Well the answer is quite simple. The “whole world” is doing it, the “whole world” is running on it, and we feel we “can not survive” without it, along with the few pros that do come with it, all of these reasons are keep us hooked on. I am sure there are still some people out there, in the “modern world”, who have completely managed to stay on the sidelines of this show and not join in, but those people nowadays are but a few.
Most of the modern world has joined in on this band waggon and as always, everything, no matter how dangerous, still has a purpose. The accessibility, the simplicity the connect-ability has changed the face of the modern work world, some of which is definitely without a doubt for the positive. All these changes mean, even for some of us wanting to keep a zero to low profile in the virtual world, we still end up having to have an existence on it, no matter how miniscule.
Now this leads us on to the when; We, as adults, have somewhat established that its a wild horse, but we have no choice but to ride it. Nevertheless us accepting it and come to terms with it and hopefully keep our own selves in check in regards to it, as adults, is one thing, but to then have to turn and hand that device on to our children and say "here you go buddy happy birthday, have fun!" Is another thing entirely!
STAGE 2: WHEN
A knife no matter how dangerously sharp still has a purpose, but would you go and hand that to a toddler, no I don’t think so. A knife is a tool, it needs to be used as one. Children at some stage of there life, do need to be taught how to use it, you can not keep it away from them forever, saying its dangerous you can never touch it. No, that is not very sensible, otherwise next thing you know; one day when you are not available and they really want to cut something they will reach for it thinking they can do it and end up having an accident with it. The sensible thing to do is to present it to them at an age when they are old enough to respect it, but eager enough to still learn from YOU! The key factor in this statement is still wanting to learn from you. I say this with emphasis, as we humans are always learning something from somewhere. Often we lay importance to the act of learning, but what we forget is, where they learn from, is actually very vital. If they go and learn from a space that is not safe, what type of information do you think they will be learning?
This is why I say that having an “open door” policy with children, is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER! What do I mean by open door, well to put it simply, have a relationship with them such that they always feel they can walk in and ask you anything, no matter how embarrassing, disturbing, humiliating or infuriating for either person. This comes with you having a relationship with them that is trusting. Trusting to keep there secrets safe, trusting that you will not over-react, trusting that you will not lie to them, mis-guide them, trick them, fool them or humiliate them and also maybe most importantly tell them off.
Telling off children may be at times necessary, but it is very important to recognise when giving a big long lecture is not what is needed. When they come to you in reverence and to confide; understanding and reassurance is what is called for.
Have open and honest conversations with them, that is presented to them in an age appropriate way. However in a way such that, it is left open ended, so that it can be re-visited and built up on in the future, as and when needed. You do not have to give them the full 411 from word go; give them enough to answer their immediate concern/query. Leave the rest hanging to visit another day and also tell them this. For example: “how about we talk about the rest another day”. They need little digestible sized chunks of information.
You may feel that I may have slipped off subject here, but there is a method to the madness. Now why did I go off on a tangent with knives and talks then? Well just like a knife is a tool, the devices of the media realm, are also tools. We need to find the sweet spot for our own individual children and us, it will be different for each child, only you as the parent will be in the best position to judge when the right time is for each child (as even with siblings it can and will differ).
I say this because both girls and boys, in general develop differently, then how they are individually as a child, how their relationship is with you is also just as important a factor, what your family and educational needs are. Only you can judge when you feel your child is mature enough to handle such a device and also still be on a healthy relationship with you, to respect and understand you enough to actually listen to you and hear you!
Those are two very different and very important elements of any relationship! Do not kid yourself, if you have a teen/pre-teen, your relationship at some point will get tested from the teen’s side, don’t take it personally, take it as it is: changes induced by internal changes of the teen, but these changes do not have to be permanent. Remember always, you are the adult, you will need to adjust and bend and come to terms with living with another adult; whom you are not yet quite willing to accept as one.
Don’t be antagonistic, give them space and time and most importantly respect! They are coming to there own, when they come out of this transition, they will be an adult! This stage is vital for the future of your relationship. Try to find a sweet healthy balance between your relationship, a space where they are still comfortable to approach you if they need your help. This is only achieved if you give them space to grow and respect to explore their new found opinions and voice.
Accept that their opinions will be different to yours and at times, they may not even be at all sound, but they need to discover somethings “on their own”. Which means they do not want you to say, “you are wrong, how you think is wrong” etc etc… instead a more helpful way might be, saying it in a way so that they can take away a different perspective and explore it on their own.
For example, “I definitely agree with you, Greta Thunburg has definitely got lots of sound ideas, lots of great opinions. Did you also manage to catch what Professor Asmeret Asefaw Berhe was saying in her Ted talk, about how we can all also help effectively to tackle climate change by looking after the soil around us as well? You should check her out, I would love to hear what your thoughts are on what she was saying.”
-A way to introduce another person in the picture for them, to see that there are more great people out there trying to make a positive change on the climate issue. People of all ages are trying to do their part, not just the “young”; just as an example of a potential conversation.
Coming back to the when, so, incase if it has not been very obvious, see my constant referral to a certain age group, “teens”. This is because before this stage, the child is at a different growing cycle and one that really should not be disturbed with this somewhat alien influence upon their body.
It is from the age of 14, give or take, that the child transitions into the next stage of development, where they will be exploring more the world. It is at this stage, that I believe, at some point when you feel right, that introduction to this world is at the goldilocks stage, the “just right” place. In the school where my children are at, it is also at this stage that they are, not co-incidentally may I add, requested to bring in their own laptops. This now leads us quite nicely onto the “which”.
STAGE 3: WHICH
Now unless your child is travelling on their own, there really is no need whatsoever for them to have a mobile, especially if you have a landline. If they neeeeeed to talk to their friends, they can, via the landline; or if you are out, from a parents phone if it really is that “urgently desperate”, which rest assured, really isn’t!! (I mean come on we were teens once!!).
Now if your child does travel on their own, a brick phone (aka one without any WIFI 4G compatibility) is more than sufficient. Yes they do still exist in this world and actually you may be surprised more and more people are turning back to them! (method to the madness!)
Next, laptops- according to my “little bit techy” husband, laptops/PC’s are most probably the lesser of all of these evils. Reason being they are less practical for “instantaneousness”. The children are less likely to constantly be on a device. Especially if you for example: have fixed hours of agreed “casual/social/gaming” usage, have the wifi only on at certain times and not on constant or at least switched off at night etc. then the addiction likelihood is significantly reduced.
As there is a reduced likelihood of the neck strain issues that are of a growing concern stemming from the constant usage of mobile phones and the bad posture associated with it, it also adds to the benefits of using laptops over using smart phones. If used off of tables and/or at least lap cushions, then there is also reduced exposure from the machine to the body, of harmful artificial heat and radiation. On the same note also a less likelihood of them sleeping with it in bed due to its clunkiness, again eliminating the risk that comes with sleeping with mobile phones in bed.
Smartphones/tablets- now really becoming one of the same things. The benefits of course with these devices is the constant accessibility to your emails and other apps. Which is of benefit for some lines of work, or even as busy parents, but as a student, this type of "constantness" is definitely not of any requirement, nor of any positive benefit. Therefore in my opinion best to avoid for as far as possible!
The perfect combination, in my opinion, would be a brick phone and a laptop which could easily see them through to 18 without any issues. In fact, if there isn’t any actual genuine pressing need for a smartphone, one could argue that that is all that one does need full stop. Yes it does mean we would need to go back to relying on our ability to read maps for example, but if one exercises the brain more, that isn’t a bad thing!
Now this is of course in the ideal world, unfortunately a place which we do not reside in. In the real world things are never this hunky dory and we do end up having to give into our children’s peer pressure; because let’s face it, parents in general (we are all equally guilty of this, in some shape or form) will all agree that this is not happening and yet at the first sign of children demanding, give in and start the vicious circle of peer pressure.
So in the real world, you probably will end up getting them a laptop, as that is most probably a requirement from school. You most probably may try to go down the brick phone route or no phone route, for as long as it is possible, but definitely before the reach 18 they will at some point start pestering you for a smartphone. The most likely outcome will be, you having to give in, because as much as you are holding it off, it does come to the point of you feeling that you are just being cruel to your child. Even though you are not, you are in fact doing them a favour, but we are human and human nature is such that there is only so much we can cope with. Especially if we ourselves have it and we can in some form “afford” it, then we will end up giving in.
Like I said before, I am talking in the realm of children who are 14+. They may start pleading with you from as young as 10/11, please just do not even entertain the idea with them! I know as I look around everyday in buses, cafes, etc children as little as 3 or 4 have there own devices. Honestly I wish I could stop them in the streets and tell them do not do this to your children, but sadly this world is not one to take any type of advice they haven’t asked for anymore. Especially not from a random stranger and that too, one they would be running a mile in the other direction from. (The elephant in the room, but that is a story for another time and space).
So having given in, now the question arises what do I do? This leads us on to the “How”
STAGE 4: HOW
“how do I make myself tech aware enough to aid my child in being e-safe in every sense of the word!”
As old fashioned as this advice maybe, but there really is no beating the age old secret of “READING”, read read read, that my friends needs to be your best friend!! This is a constantly changing world, no two days are the same in this world, you MUST read. If you want to know what is happening, how to stay safe and keep young ones safe, the only way you will know about what the latest threat is, if you read. The more you read, the more you will be clued in on to exactly what things are doing the rounds on the internet. From the scary “Mo Mo” life threatening game, to the latest virus threats that could hack your device.
You need to be part of the virtual world yourself: learn from it, experience it and read it, so to enable you to know how emotionally it can affect a person. You do not need to be engaging in every action and practice, but you need to be aware or it.
For example you do not need to be trolled yourself, but if you read people’s comments on things you can start to experience how emotionally damaging some comments can be. If you have a certain idea about how people can be so ruthless, for no real reason, you will know that your child may need support emotionally in certain ways if they are posting things online.
Remember they may not always come to you to tell you someone was so horrid online, because they may think that you might think its no big deal or they may think I can handle it; because I can’t make myself known to be emotionally weak and unfit to handle this world and so on so forth.
Or on the other spectrum they become over obsessed with the selfie culture and go posting mad due to cravings for appreciation and then feel overwhelmingly depressed if then their photos are not liked, but be unable to explain their massive breakouts of anger due to it.
These things can be soul crushing. You need to be aware how these things can change the behaviour of your children, how they can psychologically effect them at times permanently. You will only be aware of it if you are aware of what happens in the online world.
How to tackle these things. You can not tackle them in hind sight, well you can, but that’s not the best place to start. As always the best place to start is from the beginning.
Before you hand them these devices, you need to request/ make an agreement/ a pack, whatever you want to call it and how ever you feel you can approach the subject with your children; but you need to have this conversation with them: that they always keeping you in the loop online.
I.e. that you can befriend them online, you will keep a zero to very low presence on their social media sites, but you want to be added so that you can see what they are getting up to, what is happening and stuff (not like a spy, but just as a friend). You promise you will not mother them online, or embarrass them, either in person, amongst friends or online. You just want to still be a silent part of their world just on the sidelines. This is where that trust comes back in again, if you have a good bond and strong trust between you, then they will be willing to trust that you will do as you are saying.
You need to talk to them about, if they see trolling, whether they are facing it, their friends are facing it or just a random person X is , but it is hurting them or making them feel upset to always talk about it. It is a big deal, it is very wrong and how certain website do have a place for you to report them or at the very least block them.
Talk about how lots of people do put on pics of themselves/food/their work/travel and how its ok, but sometimes it can be fun at first with your friends all "liking it" and enjoy it and commenting about it. It may make you feel really excited and fantastic inside, but its not really a healthy practice: to judge your worth from these things.
People change, people get busy, people may start feeling jealous or fed up or feel resentment and start not likely your pics or writings, they may un-friend you or leave unpleasant comments etc, which will start having bad effects on you. From feeling low, because people are not liking your things, to feeling angry and frustrated. All these things lead to an unpleasant space and place, all it does is make you shallow and addicted to what other people say. None of these practices have any sort of healthy outcome. It's best to refrain from them. Yes to occasionally want to put a pic of yourself up, is one thing, but to constantly have that in your mind to put up pics is definitely not a healthy thing.
Talk to them about how and why you do not want them to be online late at night so there will be a type of imaginary curfew for the phone/wifi etc. But making sure that then the same rule is also followed through by all the other adults too. So that you are not a hypocrite. Explain to them that if you do need to be on your device for which ever reason at night, you will allow it, if it is a reasonable request. But with that enforce that they must always make sure they have at least a lamp on in the room, so that the screen’s glaring light is not the only thing blinding your eyes at night and how that is extremely harmful for your eyes.
This flexibility will make them more willing to respect the rules and hopefully prevent them from going behind your back and sneaking around with it. Don’t make it forbidden and taboo, the more you try to make a big deal about a thing and take it from them, the more they will want it more and more.
This is not a fight about power and control, this is a time to teach them to have a healthy relationship with this world for life. Its bigger than “the now”, always focus on the bigger picture! Educate yourself and educate them about why certain practices are not healthy. Encourage them and show them by example how to build a healthy relationship with this world.
"Meal times, how to retain that reverent family time at meal times".
Do not bring your phone to the table, do not answer anything that rings at meal times- and this is a practice one should always have, irrelevant of if they have children and how old they maybe. Keep meal times a “family time”. If you never bring the phone to the table, then you will also be respected and heard when you ask your teen not to!
Get them to start cooking at least one day a week. This has many benefits. Not only will they learn a vital life skill, but when they slave hard in the kitchen, then they will also respect the fact how important it is for the other people to be "present"-in every sense of the word, at the table when the table is laid. They will learn the importance of the table attendees enjoying the meal, respecting it and praising it! And hopefully also how important a little bit of help can be when you are cooking for the family; if someone offers to lay the table or wash some dishes, then they will hopefully be more inclined to think of helping when it is not their turn to cook.
When you assign them a meal time to cook, don't just assign them a meal, teach them how to meal plan for it, shop for it. These are also vital skills that they will need later in life. Tell them it doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, you will all happily eat whatever they will prepare for you. Teach them both, how to shop in local shops and online. More and more people are shopping online these days and its is a very empowering practice for them to learn, that you can buy fresh groceries with a click of a button, just like you can order from "just eat" with a click of a button. It will also teach them that the virtual world can be used to make your life easy, as oppose to just for gaming and socialising. If they are not very excited for it, start videoing them when they cook, so they can feel they are on a Youtube video or TV show to get them excited about cooking. They love this type of attention. You do not have to put any of it actually online, unless you both want to, but it is a nice way of getting them excited about it and wanting to do more and more with there meals.
Please remember these are just my own personal tips, I am sure there are a lot more way and things that one can do. These are just what has been whizzing around my head, for now the past week, as it’s taken me a week to actually complete this.
One more thing as I (finally) take your leave, (its been a long one this one), keep the teen engaged with lots of planned activities. The more their schedule is full, the less time they have for any other distractions. Having strong family routines, with a healthy mix of fun and games, activities and chores, classes and school, all ensure that they will hopefully stay engaged and interested in the real world and less available to “kill time” on the virtual one.
If you stuck it through in one read, I am impressed!
Wishing us all, power to be the parent we all wish to be, on all counts!
MAIN STREAM V STEINER
My little tree
Imagine your baby like this little seed, when you plant it into this world, if allowed it will grow. You have lots of choices to make in this process, choices all which will ultimately effect the growth of this little plant. At the end of the day, the result will still be "a beautiful tree". For the sake of argument lets say this seed will produce an orange tree, so the result, despite the choices, will always be ending in the growth of an orange tree; you will always only ever get oranges from this tree.
In this discussion I am only going to be comparing two scenarios, the one our “normal” choice of public main stream Ofsted education, the second the choice of Steiner education. The reason for my choices are because, I want to demonstrate what I believe is a visual way of explaining the growth and development that one undergoes in Steiner education, the reason for comparing to main stream is because that is the education “standard” that most of our generation, in this country (UK), understand and compare all other “forms” of education to.
Stage 1 “the pre-schooler” 0-7:
Main stream education is your standard “factory” style farming where you have a very big space of land but you also have hundreds upon hundreds of tree in this space resulting in each tree only getting a standard quota of space. This is how the general environment is for the individual child; they are in a classroom full to the brim and they get very little, yet equal attention from the teacher. The teaching style is geared towards spending a lot, if not most, of the time sitting down confined to one’s desk, which is like putting the young shoot into a plant pot or boxing in the space it has to grow its roots in. this results in very little, neat and precise growth of the roots. While this growth underneath needs to take place, it is not allowed the full time it needs to focus on this growth, instead it gets loaded on with fertilisers which encourage and focus the growth above the ground where it can be “seen” and measured with a ruler. This, therefore, results in not only confined growth of the roots, but also rushed growth of it. The energy that should have at this stage, only, mainly, be spent on the roots, now has to be shared with the growth above the ground as well; resulting in short weak roots. Although the farmer may argue that the root is enough to suffice its “job”, which in his mind is to collect nutrients and water, it is not enough to anchor the plant solidly to the ground if a big storm were to come it’s way.
Steiner education on the other hand is like your neighbourhood farmer who has enough land to have a little orchard. He plants only the amount of tree he knows the land can allow in a natural healthy way. He says the little shoot is very young and needs to concentrate on growing it roots. Let’s give it all the space it needs to grow, give it plenty of sun and water, maybe lets add a stick on the top to give it support on top while its growing underneath; he knows not worry that the plant does not seem to be “growing” much on top, he knows it is taking its time to grow in the right place that it needs to focus on right now. These roots take all the time they need to grow, they spread out as far and wide and deep as they need to anchoring the tree down solidly into the ground ready to face the weathers that have to come. Once it has rooted itself then the growth on top commences at a greater rate.
This time directly relates to the growth of the child between 0-7, where the child needs a lot of space to grow and should not be confined to a table and chair for most of the day. They are growing on the inside, their organs are coming into their full selves, they need to be allowed the time, space and energy to grow. If they are rushed into intellectual growth at this stage whilst their bodies need this time and energy, this will result in not enough energy for the healthy growth of the organs. Once this window is missed, it can not be revisited, this shop literally will be closed for further business later on in life, hence why it is so important to fully make use of this window, to allow this growth to happen to it’s proper capacity.
Stage 2 “lower and middle school” (7-14):
Your neighbourhood farmer takes his time looking at each of his trees and pruning back just what the individual tree needs; watering while singing to it, supporting it where it may need, looking after the soil by feeding the soil what it naturally needs. He allows the tree to grow out its branches in its beautiful natural way allowing it to embraces its twists and turns and weaving branches; stretching out sides ways just as much as it is stretching out up wards. He knows not to worry too much about it growing too tall too quickly, that it will come to its perfect height all in good time. Now is not the time to focus on its height, but rather let it grow into its natural form, one which gives shade to those who need it, one which allows the wild life to flourish within it. He understands the needs of the tree, understands the importance of every element that helps develop the tree to be healthy; for the fruit of a healthy tree imparts more than just nutrition, it imparts health. Health that goes far beyond the “five a day keeps the doctor away health”, health that keeps ones entire being truly healthy.
This equates to the Steiner ethos of age appropriate learning, teaching with singing and games, allowing them to have space for movement, bringing to them what they individually need and not what is a pre-prescribed standard measured dose of “educating”. The fluidity and flexibility of Steiner education is what sets apart the two different approaches to teaching. The trust one has to instil in the teacher’s better judgement of what and when comes from understanding that each child, each class is very different, no two classes can be the same and therefore need to be treated in accordance. The education needs to meet the child and class at a space where they and their: thinking; imagination; contemplation; analyses; and understanding, can be stretched, but not strained. It needs to be brought to them in and at a time when they can connect with the intellectual information presented to them on a deeper emotional, social and mental level. This connection helps them absorb the information in a way that resonates with them and their being; therefore, it stays with them on multiple levels as it satisfies not only the intellect, but rather also what was needed on a more human and personal soul level.
To take a look at the power of working with things, allowing them to be able to resonate amidst you: imagine the fears the 9 year old child goes through and bottles up inside them, (yes that is a real thing the nine year old change!). The child has things bottled up inside them, if you could put a tuning fork to this bottle that resonated with the glass, causing it to shatter, allowing the child to free themselves of the fears that were held in, how glorious would that feel! That is how the Steiner curriculum in designed to resonate; the right things at the right time allowing maximum benefits to be cultivated. (But of course one needs to be patient and let it happen over time, it is not something which can happen over night, as it is not a physical bottle, but more a metaphorical and emotional one and therefore takes an emotional tune fork to remedy and its due course to “shatter”).
The “factory” farmer on the other hand is too focused on the upwardly growth of the trees, he wants them all to be tall, uniform, straight trees, does not allow room for the individual trees to grow and develop in their individual natural forms, He is more focused on getting the trees to fruition as quickly as possible loading them up with fertilisers and killing off wildlife with pesticides. Every year he prunes back exact measured chunks uniformly from each tree so that he may have an immaculate looking, picture perfect well manicured farm, which once ready will produce fruit that is likewise.
In the above mentioned metaphoric depiction: the pesticides refer to entities like media, which does in fact work like a slow poison upon the child; the fertilisers can be equated to knowledge that is unduly, unnaturally, artificially dumped upon the children in mainstream education without consideration of when and how it was needed; and the pre-prescribed measured cutting can be seen in a manner of speaking as exams. The focus is only on providing measured doses of the nutrients on timely intervals with the thought that if the nutrient is in the soil it will be taken up by the tree and therefore transferred into the fruit once it is fruiting, i.e. information that is required to pass the board exams etc., unnaturally, untimely given to them with the presumption that: if they are provided with all the information and “skills”, then it will be present for them to regurgitate in exams etc. thus allowing them to "succeed" in them. (This type of "success" means nothing really in the grand scheme of things, all you are doing is: measuring how good was the quality of the sponge at soaking up and the ringing out the water repeatedly over the years; is that really all that education should be?)
This knowledge, although now undoubtedly at their "disposal", was not imparted to them with individual thought and consideration. This results in a lot of information which most children do not connect with and therefore sometimes fail to understand what to do with. This means they need to work harder (then they would have needed to, had they have been given a chance to connect with it) to: remember it; comprehend it; and apply it. It does not make one less or more “smarter” either route, however, one gives you the avenue of a ride that “fits” you as an individual better: allowing it to not only give you comfort and nurture while "using it"; but also facilitating to bring out all the best shades and tones of your whole being in its full glory more naturally and with ease.
On that note: the result, one may argue, will be the same at the end of the growth cycle. Once the trees have matured into fully grown adult fruition trees, they will both be fruiting oranges. Yes, they may be both fruiting oranges, but there will still be a difference between the fruit. If one is looking at just the size and overall colour of the fruit, things which are "quantifiable" then maybe one may not “see” much difference; but if you look beyond the quantifiable, the naturally grown tree’s fruit will be full of much more depth and layers of flavour, something which can only be experienced in its indulgence and not measured. Along with it’s distinct flavour, there will be a notable difference in the smell of the fruit, all things which are equally important in the experience of eating the fruit, therefore the resulting positive outcomes of it. Yes they both will provide you with “vitamin c”; but there is a difference, if you so choose to see it, that goes beyond the quantifiable. The difference comes from and in the growth process; at every stage the actions taken have effects in the long run. If you wish to make your fruits of labour just a mer vessel for providing “nutrition”, then perhaps it does make no difference for you; but if you want something more from it, if you wish for it to impart happiness, satisfaction and the feeling of bliss upon their indulgence; then there is something more there that you may need to consider.
As I have quoted before: energy is neither created nor destroyed, only transferred. When you indulge in a fruit it is not just the nutrition you ear but the energy that it was grown with as well. Cold heartless factory foods impart cold heartless energy, warm caring love filled handmade food impart warmth, care and love.
The difference, of how the knowledge was brought to a child and what it does to and for the child, can be "seen" as clear as day if you so choose to see it when you sit in the company of these children. These are not: quantifiable; measurable; equatable things, these are things that leave a lasting joyful impression on your soul when you share space with these rich beings.
The intellect is one thing, but the mental, social and emotional well being of a child is not something that should be overlooked, but that maybe something to come back to for deeper reflection at another time…
It has been a while now, that I have been pondering over penning down my thoughts, but with so much talk over Steiner education suddenly in the air, I thought now is the time to finally pick up that pen.
I want to firstly begin by mentioning what, I THINK, is the most vital piece of wisdom we often forget:
"every piece of writing one finds, (especially on the internet), is but a projection of the writers own opinions".
Please always bare this in mind when reading anything!
For those of you who are pondering over education, I will below attempt to steer you, with getting your head around my thoughts regarding education. Hope it helps!
Let's start with Steiner Education; what is it, who is it for and what it entails, as my overview perspective. At the heart of every Steiner school is the philosophy, anthroposophy, that Rudolf Steiner has introduced to the world of human study. From this outlook, this school of thought towards education has stemmed.
Steiner education is an education for any and everyone, i.e. all walks of life, it may help someone who may feel a “misfit” in mainstream for whatever reason, just as much as it may help someone who also feels completely at home with mainstream as well. The question is not about whether this is a school for this group of people or that, its about what you want from an education, what you believe “education” and “educated” people to be. “Education” is the act of imparting or acquiring general and/or particular knowledge and skills, powers of reasoning and judgment. Therefore, if you carefully reflect upon this, you will come to the conclusion that education does not need to be imparted or acquired in a certain form or be of a certain content for it to be considered "education", although sadly in our current society this is not to be the case.
In our modern world only the strict guidelines laid out by an "educating body" be it schools, colleges, universities or institutes are considered "education"; where the content imparted and acquired can be precisely quantified. This is all down to our ever growing obsession with "control", we want to have control over everything. Keep it at a space and place were we can easily comprehend it, anything that we do not fully comprehend gets dismissed discredited and in fact, at times, demonised.
For example if we take a look at this whole “child labour” and help “educate” under privileged children in “third world” countries. This whole ideology, in it's current form, rather controversially no doubt, I find wrong on so so many levels. It is very arrogant of us to use the term “third world” it is very naive of us to consider knowledge that has been passed down the generations as anything less than knowledge past on in formally formed schools. Don't get me wrong, I am all for schools and formal education, I think it is a very nobel thing and at the time when it was pioneered it was meant for greatness and it has achieved it no doubt too, but somewhere along the way in recent years it seems to have been a bit neglected, its like that Encyclopedia printed at the turn of the 20th century that got put up on the top shelf of the book case to show off its pride and glory but treated so sacredly that it has never been touched and it has just sat there collecting dust and in need of a major reality check, as according it, women can't vote and the world has never seen any world wars!! Time to recalibrate our equipment I 'd say...
I don't want to undermine the hard work and beautiful knowledge that is spread in schools of all types; my argument is
all types of knowledge should be treated and respected equally!
Regardless of where the origins and teachings of it come from, Knowledge is knowledge it should not be sniffed at!
Without a shadow of a doubt, children who are deprived of any education that they seek, should be helped in receiving it; but by the same token, people with more easy access to formal education, should be more positively exposed to knowledge that is not so abundantly found in formal schooling and allowed to gain access to it in a more honouring manner.
For example just as there may be a child born into a coffee farming family who is meant to be a budding heart surgeon, there may be a child born in to a family full of accountants who has a real knack of sewing. They should be equally encouraged and applauded.
This is my plea to everyone:
Please help save highly specialised skills that have been perfected over countless generations from fading away out of our hands reach. Generations to come will be left with empty black holes in arts, traditions, cultures, practices and skills, if we don't make an effort to appreciate and preserve them while these last candles of wisdom still burn. It will be eons before we as a race can again through trial and error, recover knowledge that we once had but let slip through our fingers due to our ignorance, arrogance and naivety.
Which ever walk of life you may hail from, which ever education structure you support, this one thing we as humans can and should unite in- endeavour to save from extinction, heritage; once it is gone, it really is gone and can not be brought back with a quick fix, stop it while we still can from becoming extinct!
Coming back to the point at hand, Steiner education brings to the world a way of imparting knowledge in a way which is more in tune with what the child's natural growth cycle is on the physical, mental, emotional and social front. This approach therefore accomplishes the process of knowledge transferring in a more effective way, as you are working positively with the child's natural growth, leaving a greater impact and more rooted relationship with the knowledge.
The focus is on positively bringing knowledge to the child at the appropriate time, in the most effective and efficient way and not on seeing how well they can do in end of year exams. The theory behind no testing is not that they can not cope with it, but rather that the teacher who is teaching them day in day out in small groups, should already know exactly where the child is at, what their strengths and weakness are, what there temperaments are, where one needs to give more effort, or requires extra practice.
This removal of unnecessary pressure and stress of exams at early ages also helps to build a more healthy and grounded relationship with knowledge, as you are not cramming in knowledge at the last minute to pass exams, you are learning for the pure joy of learning, for the inner human desire of learning. This builds a relationship with knowledge that will hopefully be one with the right foundations and hence stand the test of time.
In recent times I have noticed, more and more focus is on exam readiness in mainstream education; the teachers are just focused on getting through the curriculum in time for exams and then just practice exam techniques, practice ticking all those boxes that will get the child through exams. Exams that are generic and built for singling out a certain type of personality/intellectual group (the cookie cutter syndrome as I like to call it) who then further get refined in university and furthermore at work.
The system does not appreciate nor let appreciate diversity, uniqueness, individual greatness and genius. We as a race have thrived and survived because of our diversity and versatility. In the past centuries, although we have achieved unparalleled heights in all fields due to knowledge collection and harvesting in formally formed knowledge institutes, sadly in the past decades the standardisation of the formal education sector has really started to hurt our diversity. It is churning out one tone specimens of the human race and this will come back to bite us in a very unpleasant way, in the very near future I fear.
Steiner Education very specifically leave scope for diversity, there is no "fixed" set of strict instructions for teachers to teach in certain ways, it is all very fluid, allowing scope for moulding the "classroom" experience in a way that the teacher feels fit for that particular group of children. Scope for the teacher to: bring in; change; or remove topics that are taught, as and when they feel necessary for that particular class. That doesn't mean to say they have no plan! They have a year plan, as well as have a lesson plan, for every lesson they teach, but they have the flexibility and the confidence to also throw that plan out the window and make a new plan as and when they feel is essential. This approach allows the curriculum to be organic and grow and live and breathe with those individuals in the class in which it is being used for.
Naturally this approach as I am sure you may appreciate is not for the faint hearted. One needs to have a lot of faith in the philosophy, in the school, in the staff and most importantly in your child; let them come to everything is their own time and space, they might not be were you think you want them to be right now, but they surely will be far beyond your fathoming soon enough.
For one who suffers from "FOMO" and needs their entire life plan written out in stone; knowing that week 3 in term 2 in class 5, means the exact same thing for every class 5'er all over the country, this approach may shake them to a point beyond there comfort level. It really is no wonder that so many people see Steiner education in a negative light, not everyone has the confidence and strength to go against the tide, and truthfully not everyone should either. We really do need all types of people in the world to survive.
I am not here to sell Steiner education to you as something that is perfect, or that it is the better or right way to go, no, that is not at all my intention. It is just like everything else out there, good for some and not good for some, perfect for others whilst very much so wrong for others. My point of writing today is to give a glimpse of my overview of how I understand Steiner education.
Steiner Education has recently been getting a lot of raised eyebrows in the UK, yes maybe there may have been issues of concern amongst a few and I applaud the schools who are looking at fixing their short comings- no system is perfect. However, more importantly, I think one needs to carefully review who was being looked at, who is saying what and what is their outlook, what is their agenda and maybe most importantly do they really truly understand what it is that they are looking at? Is their measuring stick really set in the right units, does it even need a measuring stick to begin with, I wonder? Does everything really need to be quantified? Maybe we as a society, are getting far too involved in micro-managing things, to the point were things are no longer healthy? Yes by all means when things come to child safe guarding we must be going through things with a fine toothed comb, but when it comes to managing to keep up with documenting every moment in every child's day to justify "progress", if that is were these so called "major flaws" are residing, maybe then we need to rethink the paperwork just maybe?? FOOD FOR THOUGHT!
The question somehow is no longer, "is this right for me or not", the question now has suddenly changed to, "is this school right for anyone?"?? This is were I think we all must draw the line and not be by-sitters anymore, this is not a question which any one person has the right to ask and answer, it is very naive and arrogant to think that any one person or persons can answer it and seal the deal for the nation, especially when the decision makers have no real understanding of the ethos behind the education nor any genuine interest in anything that is not their standard of norm. It is stripping away the rights of all those people who choose to try something different with their children, the rights of all those people who believe in this philosophy, the rights of all those people who believe in diversity to be a good thing, whether they themselves take that different road or not is irrelevant.
Families who take there children to Steiner schools do not impose there beliefs on anyone else, they do not enforce that this is the route all should take, so why are we being put into a corner and bullied into forgoing our choice? I thought we are living in a modern democratic country which gives people the freedom of choice? Live and let live, I thought was the motto, so why is it that every time people feel threatened by something they do not understand the reaction is always to smother down that flame; yes a flame can burn the forest down, but a flame can also launch a rocket to the moon, give it a chance, guidance and direction and it will take you to the moon, if that is where you want to go!
On that note, MAE OUT!
This space features my reflections, opinions, ponderings and from time to time announcements of what I am up to. It literally is me in my corner on my soapbox.
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