Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Wal-dorks

I think I mentioned before I'm reading this book by a Waldorf teacher. Now, I originally shied away from the Waldorf thing as unbridled snobbishness when I heard a) rich women discussing the expensive Waldorf schools they planned to send their kids to and b) that you were supposed to throw out all mass-produced, plastic toys and give your kids only hand-made, all-natural $100 dolls, oaken "play stands" and big pieces of silk. It intrigued me, but it all sounded too snobby.

But there are a lot of things in this book that really resonate with me, and other notions that are just so new to me I don't know what to think. The author talks about the tragedy of modern kids not knowing how to play imaginatively, which is something I agree with. She goes beyond what seemed obvious to me -- don't plop your kids in front of videos, video games and the computer all day -- to say some things I hadn't thought of: that even your baby needs to be left alone sometimes -- lots of time according to her -- to explore her world; that you should give kids dolls and other toys that are mostly blank -- a doll without much facial expression for example -- so that they can fill in the rest with their imaginations. No problem there -- Barbie has pretty much no expression, right?

Actually, she's probably not giving kids enough credit there. My best friend Hollie and I used to play all kinds of elaborate pretend games with our dolls, which were mostly Barbies with a few international villagers thrown in despite their shockingly different scale. We pretty much disregarded what they looked like. We liked to play orphanage, since the movie and broadway musical "Annie" was big then, and it didn't really bother us that our "orphans" were all blond and awfully stacked for their age.

Speaking of which, I know the star of that movie's roommate's brother. In fact, he reads this blog. Hi Howii! I won't type her name in case she's Googling herself, because i don't want her to think i'm not TOTALLY COOL about how she was the awesomest actress and singer and dancer ever when she was about 12. It's no big deal at all, really. I probably don't even have my closet-door sized poster of her anymore, or at least it's packed way at the bottom of my mom's basement.

Anyway, I also like how this author -- and apparently Waldorf in general -- doesn't recommend teaching academics in kindergarten. How are kids ever supposed to love learning if we suck the joy out of it by sitting them down in desks and making them study phonics right from the get-go? And let's not even get into standardized testing.

All this makes me wonder if we will ever find a public school we can live with for Nutmeg. The whole idea of private schools runs counter to my democratic beliefs and the way I was brought up. Yet I have to say I wasn't served very well by public schools, and I don't know if Nutmeg will be either. Of course that's not to say that just because some school costs a lot of money or is a charter school or something it's good. I know several people who have been teaching in private schools because they didn't have the credentials to teach in a public school. I'm just saying, I want to evaluate all the options for Nutmeg. Especially since it's becoming obvious to us that she is a gifted child. Ugh, I hate sounding like that mom. "My gifted child," blah blah blah. But we started writing down all the words she says today and got close to 100. She's correctly identifying some of the colors. I was reading "What to Expect in the Toddler Years" the other day, and it said that by the end of the 14th month, your toddler "may even be able to use six words." Six.

"Man, let's not let anyone find out about this kid," I told Epu after I read that. "The government's going to take her away from us. For the NSA."

However, if she's going to be a top-notch security analyst, she's going to have to work on her walking.

1 comment:

Howard said...

Hey,

Just thought I'd mention that AQ is no longer my sister's roommate. She moved out of LA a year or two ago to move to NY, although she's moving back to LA soon I've heard.

As far as soul crushing academics... I know that culture is in love with underdogs who triumph over adversity through spirit and determination, but I'd say that the role of nature is underrated these days.

I personally think that a smart child will search for insight in anything they do. They won't just play computer games, they'll find ways to hack into them. They won't just want to eat and sleep, they'll want to cook and camp.

Don't get me wrong, I think that nurturing spirit and intellectual curiosity are mucho important, but I also think that no parent is omniscient enough to understand what their child is actually learning. I personally believe that if every indicator tells you that your kid is bright,
the best way to encourage growth is to give them exposure to a wide variety of activities. What interests them now might not interest them later... what matters is that when they go as deep as they naturally want to go, there's always something else they want to explore. Of course all of this is just my opinion :P.