Those of us lucky enough to have our
children in a Waldorf School can particularly appreciate the article in The
Atlantic's October 2011 issue " All Work and No Play: Why Kids Are More
Anxious and Depressed". The article
advocates allowing more free unstructured play for children. The author makes the case that this free play
is critical to help them grow into confident and competent adults. Freely-chosen play is believed to be a
testing ground for ‘real' life, and is an activity through which children
develop executive functioning, problem solving skills and critical
thinking. It is also key in teaching
them to manage their emotions, practice empathy and form relationships. Perhaps most importantly, it is a source of
It is interesting that while children are
spending more and more time in academic -based and adult directed activities,
the United States continues to fall further behind most developing nations
academically. Perhaps even more
frighteningly, more young adults are being diagnosed with depression and
anxiety than any other time in our nation's history. Below are some statistic
from the article.
- Children spend 18% more time in school than they did in 1987
- Children spend 145% more time doing school work than in 1987
- Children spend 168% more time shopping with adults
- Suicide rates have quadrupled from 1950 to 2005 for children
less that 15 years old and doubled for those in their teens
Let us know what you think...
Esther Entin, M.D., is a pediatrician and
clinical associate professor of Family Medicine at Brown University's Warren
Alpert School of Medicine. She writes for TheDoctorWillSeeYouNow.com.
Please share your comments about this
recent article in Sunday's New York Times
A Silicon Valley School That Doesn't Compute
featuring the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, located 35 miles south of San
" The chief
technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here.
So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and
Hewlett-Packard. But the school's chief teaching tools are anything but
high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a
computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom,
and the school even frowns on their use at home."
The article focuses in large part on the
issue of technology in schools, as well as specifically on how Waldorf schools
instead engage students in learning through physical activity and creative
hands-on tasks. The author writes, "Schools nationwide have rushed to
supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is
foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the
epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message:
computers and schools don't mix....The Waldorf method is nearly a century old,
but its foothold here among the digerati puts into sharp relief an intensifying
debate about the role of computers in education."
By Sarah B. Weir, a Yahoo
I recently read this article and found it eye opening about the
world of social media for our girls. I wanted to share with all of you and hear
what you think. My daughter feels pressure to own a phone, have an email and
engage in the social realm through technology---after reading this article I feel
even more compelled to protect her from social media for as long as possible.
Its 10 pm, do you know
where your children are? Whether at home or out, odds are they are online and
social networking. Even if parents do see what their kids post, they might not
understand how living life online actually feels. Facebook Me, an original play
written and performed by teens at the upcoming New York International Fringe
Festival is a revealing exploration of what's going on behind millions of young
people's computer screens.
I recently sat down with
the cast (whose names have been changed below) and asked them to share about
their experiences with social networking. I also spoke with a professor
specializing in the psychology of technology, who offers some timely advice for
parents. What the kids had to say:
"There's more ‘life'
happening online than offline. If you are not online, you are completely out of
the loop-you don't have a life, you don't really exist."
-Hannah, 13 years old
"I'm online even during
class. I'm supposed to be taking notes but instead I'm commenting on stuff and
-Emma, 14 years old
"I feel safer online than
I do offline. So I do things online that I wouldn't do in real life."
-Sadie, 14 years old
"I've become very good at
taking pictures of myself. I know what angle is best, I know how to part my
lips...you know. It's like the number one thing on my mind is ‘I need to get home
right now and take a new profile picture.' All because I want someone to
comment on how I look."
-Katie, 15 years old
affects all the things you do in real life now. Like, if you go to a party, one
of the most important aspects of going to the party is to document yourself for
online posts. You have to prove you were looking good, you were having fun, and
that you were actually there! It's not about the party anymore but about the
pictures of the party."
-Caroline, 14 years old
"I feel sad, depressed,
jealous, or whatever when I don't get a lot of "Likes" on my photo or when
someone else gets way more Likes than me. Honestly, I'm not sure that parents
realize how drastically it affects our self-image and confidence. If I see a
picture of a really pretty girl, it's like ‘Goodbye self-esteem.' It forces me
to compete and do stuff that I don't want to do, so my confidence will get a
-Samantha, 14 years old
"Sometimes I feel like
I'm losing control. I want my parents to tell me to get off the computer.
Actually, they would need to literally take the computer away because I can't
-Nina, 15 years old
"My friendships are
really affected by social networking. You have to constantly validate your
friends online. And everyone's like ‘Where were you?' ‘What have you been
doing?' ‘Why haven't you commented on my picture yet?' So you have to be online
all the time, just to keep track, so you don't upset anyone."
-Jasmine, 13 years old
"There is so much
pressure to look happy all the time-you can never just be yourself- because
everybody is always taking pictures and posting them."
-Nikki, 13 years old
"I really want my mom to
be proud of me. Obviously, I want her to think I'm writing my essay or doing
things I should be doing instead of being on Facebook. But I also want to be
online. So I lie or accuse her of not trusting me. It's awful, but I've become
really comfortable with lying."
-Maya, 14 years old
Some new research has
shown that social networking can also have positive effects on teens such as
helping introverted adolescents forge relationships or providing a venue for
activism and political engagement. But, given the lure of spending too much
time plugged in and the self-esteem issues related to the constant scrutiny of
one's online persona, how can parents help their kids have a healthy and
productive relationship with technology?
Thrift was a cardinal virtue in my family; and waste a
cardinal sin. So it's not surprising
that the lead article in last week's New
York Times Dining section "That's Not Trash, That's Dinner" caught my eye.
The article explores the trend of "stem-to-root" cooking with
vegetables that parallels the "nose-to-tail" approach to cooking meat. Now I'm not one to infuse cream with crushed
cherry pits to make panna cotta like the chefs in the article. But I do want to make use of every ounce of
organic broccoli I've purchased at the farmer's market. So I make stock. And it's EASY.
Whenever I prepare vegetables, I keep a container handy to
collect my scraps-asparagus ends, parsley stems, onion cores, carrot peels:
anything clean and fresh but too woody or too ugly to be eaten. At the end of a prep session, the container
gets dumped into a zipped plastic bag-my "scrap bag"-- and stored in the
When I'm ready to make soup I dump my frozen scraps in a
stock pot, add water to cover, bring it to a boil, and then simmer. Unlike meat/bone based stocks which benefit
from hours and hours of simmering, vegetable stocks are done in an hour. Even easier (but requiring a level of
forethought that usually eludes me) is making stock in a slow cooker.
Strain the stock or just pour off the liquid, holding back
the solids with a wooden spoon. If you
have too much stock, you can freeze it, or store it in the fridge for several
days. Add it to braises and sauces for
Occasionally, a vegetable stock will be bitter (I don't add
carrot tops for that reason) so taste before using. But I encourage you to give it a try. Homemade stock adds a depth of flavor to
soups that is indefinably yummy. Plus,
you'll have the satisfaction of using more of the produce that you buy.
we all nurture the hopeful belief that if we just make the right choices, do
things a certain way, our kids will turn out to be happy adults. This is what we want most
of all in raising our children. In the
July/August issue of The Atlantic Magazine there is an article titled How to Land Your Kid in Therapy ; Why the Obsession With Our Kids Happiness May Be Dooming Them to be Unhappy Adults.
The article is rich and deep, with
many themes bringing up paths of conversation and debate.
In essence the article is a challenge
to parents to think, with all of our best intentions, what are
we actually doing for our children. Are
we doing too much, giving them too many choices, too much engagement around
their feelings? Are we projecting too many
of our own unmet needs on our kids without enough self awareness? Are we intervening too quickly when they fall
down or have difficulty at school and cheering them on too much saying, "Great
job!"-when in fact they need to feel challenged? Is it possible that we say ‘yes' too much and
that our children don't understand or know how to manage with being met at
times with an important and necessary ‘no'. How will they learn to overcome obstacles if
as parents we work so hard, out of love but perhaps incorrectly, to remove them
before they arise? The article is very interesting
and a worthwhile read, highly recommended by the editors of Family Year.
Let us know
what you think!
Now that my own
children are no longer small, I have started to have a real craving for
babies. I miss their soft sweet
skin and their dimpled feet and hands, for instance, and the joy of seeing them
smile. One day I will be an
immoderately doting grandmother, but not for many years yet I hope. Part of this lovely longing was
satisfied recently by the charming film Babies, created by the French directors Thomas Balmes and
Alain Chabat, and released last year.
A very entertaining documentary, Babies gives the viewer a peek into the lives of four
infants from birth to one year of age as they are carried and cared for, eat,
crawl and generally explore the world around them. The thing that makes this film so unique is that the worlds
they explore, are very different, as the
four babies are born in four quite distinct parts of the globe; in
Tokyo, Japan; in Opuwo Namibia; in San Francisco, USA; and in Bayachandmani,
Though Babies is a French film, and is filmed on location in three
continents, the film has no subtitles. This is because there is no dialogue to
speak of. Neither is it needed,
because, of course, babies can't talk! What they can do is touch, taste, feel, smell, and
babble, coo and cry. What we the
viewers see and hear are roughly 80 minutes culled from hundreds of hours of
film, following these four through their first glimpses of their ‘brave new
world'. The experience is
intriguing, touching and often funny! We see them experience first tastes of
food and frustrations and freedom as the youngsters, eyes wide, imitate what
they see around them and negotiate their surroundings. With what joy they first
stand and take their first wobbly steps! The parents, forming a warm circle in the periphery,
fade into a blur of hands and encouraging voices and let the babies take the
Though the babies are
certainly irresistible, the film never becomes merely cute or cloyingly
sweet. With an insightful eye,
Chabat has created a study of human nature at its, well, most naked. I was struck immediately by the presence of these very young children, their unique
personalities, their innate humor and cleverness, which reminded me that babies
come to us with SO much, and are anything but blank slates. Babies is also a clear picture of the universality of human
experience as all four children go through very similar phases of growth,
though the growing happens in settings that are starkly different, a high rise
apartment on one hand and a mud and wattle hut on the other. I tip my hat to the directors for
showing the beauty and utility of both, again without too much
sentimentality. In the end the
funniest part for me was that the youngsters in Tokyo and San Francisco with
their all their baby gear, their shelves of toys and infant yoga classes,
seemed happiest sitting on the floor playing with their toes. The little ones in Mongolia and Namibia
who get by with much less stuff and fuss, but are plopped right in the middle
of the adult world of work and weather and livestock, seem to be coming up
pretty well too, cheerful, sturdy and capable. I guess the final message for me was, relax and love
these little people who, remarkably, find their way into our lives. Let them grow in their time. The kids are all right.
Babies is now available on DVD . Treat yourself. You won't be disappointed.
January, a seminar on Simplicity Parenting was held at a Waldorf school in
Bellevue, WA. The speaker,
Kim-John Payne, has been facilitating hands-on and step-by-step workshops on
how to slow down family life and help our children become calmer, happier and
more successful as students and as human beings. Payne is a doctor of psychology, a long time Waldorf
educator and the parent of two young girls, who began his career as a clinical
psychologist working with at-risk youth.
At that time he began to see symptoms in young people that seemed to
match the clinical descriptions of post-traumatic stress disorder. These same symptoms were also present
in the children of more affluent families who came to him later in private
practice for help in facing behavioral challenges. Over many years he began to draw the firm conclusion that
the stresses of modern life are causing some of the behaviors that parents and
educators readily recognize: anxiety, oppositional behavior, mood swings and
Payne characterized traditional childhood as a period of long, even boring,
summers and afternoons with lots of outdoor play and time for rumination. More or less sheltered from the adult
world of worry and decision making, steadied by the inevitable rhythms of the
seasons in which changes were natural, young people came to maturity slowly and
only gradually took on roles in the larger world. Now, according to Dr. Payne, this is less the case and
children are suffering.
to Payne, there are four main stresses that speed up the process of growth and
wear away at our youngsters' health and well-being:
- An environment with too much stuff.
- A life with too little predictability.
- A day with too many plans and activities.
- Too much information: ‘houses without walls' in
which children are burdened with too many adult decisions and worries and
too much overall stimulus.
which help families pare back some of these stressors a little at a time are
being held all over the US and abroad.
The movement is helping to develop a growing support system for parents
who want their lives to be a little simpler.
useful in this workshop were the practical ideas that came out of our
discussions. I greatly appreciated
the enthusiasm generated when participants laughed and talked through their
Solutions could be as easy as sorting through the toy chest and tossing
out or giving away broken, unused toys; boxing up out of season clothes for
storage, and minimalizing wall décor.
Talking about support from the community for more difficult family
changes such as keeping adult decisions in adult hands, and taking a critical
look at our "Too Much Information" culture, was also helpful. When parents shared their challenges
there were audible sighs of relief from the rest of us. We all know it's hard to do this on our
own and appreciate knowing that we are not alone!
If you are interested in learning more
or finding out about upcoming seminars visit Payne's website at www.simplicityparenting.com. His
new book, Simplicity Parenting,
is available on the site as well.
No longer the Year of the Tiger, this month's new moon ushered in the Year of the
Rabbit. So now's the time for this mom,
born in the Year of the Rabbit, to look back at the firestorm surrounding
"Tiger Mom" Amy Chua's Wall
Street Journal article entitled "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior"
am the daughter of Chinese immigrants, and yes I played the piano and my
brother played the violin. Oh and my
daughters play the piano and the violin.
So I found Chua's book excerpt both true enough to resonate, and
outlandish enough to elicit giggles - I laughed out loud when I read her piece.
I can see how it stirred up controversy.
Chua's WSJ essay begins:
"A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents
raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do
to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the
family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've
done it." An attitude like that is bound
to ruffle some feathers. That she is
mostly joking is beside the point.
article then lists a host of activities Chua banned from her children:
sleepovers, playdates, television and computer games, trying out for a school
play, any grade less than an "A" - the list goes on. Even before you get to the
infamous "The Little White Donkey" piano practice session, Chua is sounding
pretty extreme. Is this really what Chinese
parenting is like?
one woman's parenting journey, guided by values common to many cultures: work
hard, don't give up, set high expectations, and mommy knows best.
is a law professor, not a cultural anthropologist, so for me that would take
the question of what is "Chinese" off the table. Instead, what I find interesting about this
controversy is the opportunity it presents to review parenting trends and
practices: a chance to be more conscious about parenting.
all want what's best for our children. Still, whether we parent the way we were
parented, or work to create a new parenting model, it's impossible to know if
what we're doing is the right thing until it's too late. So parents can feel
vulnerable and eager for feedback on what works.
we all have different ideas about what "works" means. Is it children with straight A's? Children who play well with others? Children who perform at Carnegie Hall?
Children who are always obedient? Children who chew with their mouths closed
and don't talk with their mouths full (at least not very often)? And keep in mind that what we want to end up
with are not children at all, but adults.
is hardest for me when I'm not clear.
And it is the transcendent ideas that most often befuddle me. For example, I want my children to have high
self-esteem. But what IS self-esteem and
how does it move upward? This is where I
found Chua's essay very helpful. She
talks about "big differences between the Chinese and Western parental
mind-set," and highlights their opposing views on self-esteem.
notes that "Western" parents seem to assume a child's self-esteem is fragile,
requiring reassurance and praise to grow.
"Chinese" parents assume a robust self-esteem that grows with the
mastery achieved from practice - lots of practice. Perhaps your family relates more to "Race
to Nowhere" than Amy Chua, but I agreed with Chua on this point: Self-esteem can be bolstered by mastery and
mastery comes from practice.
Chua's daughters, my girls take music lessons.
Do I make my children practice?
Sorta...we have an agreement. I pay
for lessons and books and instruments and rosin and metronomes and tuners and
drive them back and forth to lessons.
They practice. 30 minutes. Six days a week. Some days they practice more, seldom
less. I don't berate them or refuse to
let them use the bathroom while practicing.
But I will ask to hear a tricky measure again. And again.
And again. And I never say it
sounds great unless it does. It's not a
formula for creating musical prodigies, but it seems to work for our
family. That means my children have fun
making music and are proud of what they do.
And yes, I am proud too.
paragraph of Amy Chua's article reads: "Western
parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to
pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive
reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe
that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the
future, letting them see what they're capable of, and arming them with skills,
work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away."
to this Rabbit mom that the two sides are not mutually exclusive.
are twelve different animals in the Chinese zodiac, and ten thousand times as
many ways to raise a family with wonderful kids who will become wonderful