Waldorf 101: Notes from Parent Night

Here are some impressions and notes from a parent night at  Cora’s preschool this month. Yes, I’m the dork that takes notes at parent night. What can I say, I’ve been studying Waldorf early years stuff so intensely on my own, and finding such wisdom and inspiration in it, and also so much to be baffled by, that it is a huge relief to just sit back and have someone (our dear, wise teacher) who has been doing it for years give the straight dope. It went something like this:

In early childhood, two pairs of things are most important for educating the child.

The first pair is Rhythm and Repetition. These are the primary tools for teaching children under seven. I love to think of rhythm as pattern. The repeated rituals and acts of daily life that connect us to ourselves and the larger world.

The second pair is Imagination and Imitation. Healthy play springs from what children have seen and experienced, the impressions they take in from the world around them.

Our work as parents is to be worthy of this imitation, to be the best role models we can be. This is where parenting becomes a spiritual act, as we tend to our inner self in order to embody beauty, goodness, and truth. We can do this in part through our own self-education, by asking ourselves what we are doing to grow alongside our child. I can honestly say that I got hooked on Waldorf the moment I realized the extent to which it hinged on my own inner work.

The gestures of gratitude and thankfulness are the well from which all of this—rhythm, imitation, imagination—springs. The virtue of gratitude is instilled in the first 7 years of life, and lays the foundation for the later development of love and duty. Our expressions of gratitude in daily life at home are deeply nurturing to our young children. And ourselves.

That’s the gist of it, folks. Short, sweet, simple. And kind of deep, if you think about it.

I think whether you are into Waldorf or not, there’s a good chance this will seem like common sense. It’s kind of natural and intuitive for us to strive towards this in our mothering, isn’t it?

Days of Wonder

The glorious days of Autumn have been full in their simple way.

What do you say when old friends ask what you are up to and all you can think of is laundry and roasted chickens and the new bonnet you started knitting, and somehow, it just doesn’t seem like it will translate? I haven’t tried this yet, but next time I might simply say something like “Oh, just keeping the rhythm,” letting the unspoken “of the universe intact” part be merely implied.

To you I can also add that I’ve been occupied with finding balance in this complicated world, returning again and again to center in the midst of plentiful distraction. Finding gratitude for the great struggles I go through in my ongoing “birth pangs” of motherhood. Just as our children experience tension and disequilibrium in their growth, I’ve learned to see my own hard times as a catalyst for wonderful growth. (Thanks to posts like this one at The Parenting Passageway for bringing me back to myself once again!)

Sewing real jersey woolens and making recycled “sweater pants” is a fine way to stretch my fledgling skills as a seamstress. Thanks to Mama Ash Grove for the inspiration. Also, amazingly, I’ve just found my way back to writing after a long rest. I had to completely let go of my expectations of myself, of the half written novel draft started years ago, of the ordinary moments not celebrated in insightful poems. I trusted that for the time being, my creative work was in the mothering, the homemaking, the singing and cooking and knitting and yes, my journal and this blog a bit. I let go of my identity as a “Writer” and embraced my life as a mother and it was a great relief, a weight lifted from my shoulders. Happily, the two are once again converging as I spend all my quiet moments of late pouring out stories of our days, turning them into something artful that feels soulful and satisfying. Another reminder of the importance of how the fallow times inevitably give way to new growth and fecundity. 

See. Everything ripens in it’s time.In the meantime, I’m really working to bring the last light of the season with its brightly glowing trees inside. To light my inner fire, to blaze the spiritual fire that will carry us into the “season of light” coming round Solstice time. And yes, I’ll be singing and cooking and tending my girls as best I can. Learning just how the waist band on long underwear should be shaped, maybe getting a few lines down on paper now and then, learning (again) to say no to too much “fun” away from home, and hopefully putting the garden to bed with a few thick layers of compost and manure and mulch and a planting of winter rye .

In other words, just keeping the rhythm of the universe intact.

As are you, my friends!