Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Simplicity Parenting- A Possible Answer to the Maddness

I was once asked by a public school teacher if I ever considered placing my children in private schools even though my job is a public school teacher. I had to think about that answer before I blurted my first thought. I think I am in an unique situation where I get to see "the back stage workings" of public education. It frightens me, especially now since I am a parent. I have been in those staff meetings listening to the representing from the state and federal government dictating what standardized testing *must* be used and what score the school is expected to achieve. I have also been in the teacher's position in where I have had to explain to a parent, "I am sorry but due to budget cuts there is only 1 art class available and it is full." It sucks and it is unfair.

Videos and movies like Race to No Where and Waiting for Superman and other similar media have painted a very vivid and clear message that the system is broken. But, what is the solution?

One possible solution is private schools. Sadly not many families, like ourselves, are not in the financial position to put our kids in a private school. Yes, if I could afford private school the Kiddos would be there in a heart beat.

In the mean time what do we do?

Several years ago I picked up a book called Last Child in the Woods Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. It was a powerful and eye opening. It also started my path towards holistic education. Based on his research and observations about having too much technology in the classroom and at home I started to limit technology in my classroom. For every computer there was a plant in place that students took care of. For every video or movie we did an outdoor activity that involved painting or movement. I saw a huge difference with many of my students in their social and emotional behaviors.

My journey in holistic education led me to Waldorf education. Many parents are led to Waldorf Schools looking for the same answers I am looking for. They too have watched Race to Know Where and Waiting for Superman and they too are struggling with keeping their children healthy.
A book that has been introduced into the Waldorf School community is called Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. This book has the answers to Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods.

What I admire about Kim's writings is his real life and practical approach to raising children in an healthy environment. He's a practicing therapist who has been working with children. Some of the children he's been working with have been dealing with severe trauma of being refugees of war torn coountries.

Here is an audio expert of Chapter 1 of his book Simplicity Parenting.

You may be asking, "Why Simplify?"
Here is Kim's reason:

I really like Waldorf Schools and I feel like we have found a nitch for our family. But, like many they have been good at pointing out the problems of our society but haven't given any solid solutions.
Finally, Kim John Payne and his Simplicity Parenting and Richard Louv's follow up book The Nature Principle give at least some directions.

Bless Bless

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Halloween: Imganitive Costumes in the 21st Century

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Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. It is the beginning of the New Year or the beginning of the end.

I was asked the other day by some Waldorf parents how I encouraged my Viking Kiddos to use their imaginations when creating their costumes and not tempted by the materialism of the modern 21st century.

1. We really limit what they watch on television. What shows we allow the Viking Kiddos to watch reflect our values and beliefs as a family. I wrote about finding the “Soul in Educational Television” in a previous post. I think this value has allowed our Kiddos to create an extensive imagination.

2. We have been reading to the Kiddos since they were inutero. Like television we also pick books and literature that have souls, morality and clear pictures of right and wrong/evil and good. I want our Viking Kiddos to see and read about heroes that over come obstacles and limitations. Viking Dad and I want them to have a strong ethical and moral code based on a strong foundation. The one way we have been able to establish this is through literature, the Sagas, fairy tales and legends.

Viking Dad and I are self proclaimed comic book geeks and we are having a great time introducing Teen Titans, the Justice League, the X-men and Avengers to the Viking Kiddos. One of the powerful elements that make comic books so appealing is being able to tie the story lines to classical literature. It was one of these comic book heroes that our Son picked to be this Halloween. Our daughter is still living in Fairytale land which is just fine with me and Viking Dad. She still loves all things Princess and animals. So, this year she is a Princess Kitty.

Costumes created from imagination are not easily found in the stores during the Halloween seasons. So, Viking Dad and I have become creative and excellent costume designers. This year, I lucked out when my favorite knitting site,, had kitty paws and ears to knit. It is designed by Lions Brand Yarn. Add princess accessories and poof! A Princess Kitty. Check out the pattern here.

Our Son’s choice for his costume is rather interesting. He has grown up listening to the stories and legends of Viking sagas, myths. legends, and history. He loves watching and reading about the Teen Titans and Justice League. So, when he asked to be Captain America and I had a surge of pride but was curious why this particular character. He hasn’t read the comics or seen the movie. When asked why he explained that, “Captain America is cool and he’s a pilot.” Our Son is obsessive with planes and pilots so to us this seemed a reasonable answer. The costume is very basic and will be used afterwards in different portions. We found a T-shirt with the Captain America iconic design and we will match them with blue pants. He has the gloves, the shield and mask already and now he’s ready to go. Captain America is your typical hero. He is motivated by his ethical and moral beliefs and he overcame many obstacles to become the Man and the Hero he is today. I know that Captain America is a fictional character the elements that Stan Lee used to create this character are elements I would gladly use as a model for my Son. Plus, put Captain America in Viking/Anglo-Saxon clothing and he could be Beowulf, Leif Erikson, Prince Ottarr, etc. etc.

This is how we have developed the imagination in our Viking Kiddos. Each family needs to examine their own values and goals to determine if this is the path for them. There is plenty of time for reality. Lets let out children be children for a while longer.

Gwyl Mair