An Anthroposophic View of Walking

Anthroposophy views the tasks of the child’s first three years to be learning to walk in the first year; speech in the second year; and the emergence of thinking in the third year (and yes, a later post will address why we start academics around age 7 when thinking begins to emerge before that time).  Today we are going to look specifically at walking and why this is important in anthroposophic terms.

I am currently re-reading Karl Konig’s “The First Three Years of The Child:  Walking, Speaking, Thinking.”  For those of you new to Waldorf and anthroposophy, Karl Konig was a physician who founded the Camphill Movement in Scotland in 1939.  The Camphill Movement includes schools for children who are differently abled and also villages for adults who are  differently abled.

Konig talks about the progression to being upright as starting with controlled eye movements amidst that generalized chaos of random lower extremity movement that begins in the first few days of life.  The sequence of walking begins from the head down, and Konig remarks that “This process seems to be patterned after that of actual birth.  Just as in birth the head is the first part of the body, so here , out of the womb of dissociated movements, coordinated movement is born and oriented step by step toward standing and walking.  At the end of the first year the process of the birth of movement is completed.”

The head occupies an important place with learning to walk because as long as the head is “restless and wobbly”, as Konig puts it, walking cannot be attained.  Other important things leading up to the development of walking and seen in newborn includes a positive support response (ie, a newborn will take weight on his or her legs when the soles of the newborn’s feet come into contact with the ground), a stepping response and a crawling response.  These responses disappear and then come back as the true crawling, walking and standing.  Konig writes, “The ability to stand, the reflex walking movements, crawling and the athetotic movements of premature births differ fundamentally from the new phenomenon of walking.  They must disappear in the course of the first year to make walking possible.”

Most of all, anthroposophy sees walking as very important for several reasons.  Walking upright differentiates man from animals.  “Endowed as they are with a horizontally oriented spine, the animals remain part of the world.  They are overwhelmed by sense impressions and the abyss between self and world does not open.”  In anthroposophic terms, walking is also related to the ability to control feelings and moods and also the conscious use of memory.

Happy hmusings for your baby’s first year of life,

Carrie

The Baby Update

Well, our little guy is now two weeks old!  Time flies!  In one week he gained 26 ounces so as  to now be 1 pound, 3 ounces above birth weight and he also grew a half an inch.  Obviously, nursing is not a big  problem for him.  :)

We wanted to thank everyone for your well wishes!  It is so much fun to have a baby in the house again!  I will try to post another picture soon!

Love,

Carrie

The Baby’s Intense Need For Mother

The baby has an intense need to be with its mother throughout the early years.  In traditional terms, the biology of the baby and, in anthroposophic terms, The Madonna Cloak, deems this to be so.  The baby and mother are one.

Many breastfeeding mothers talk about wanting to give their baby a bottle so “Dad can feed the baby and be involved.”  I understand mothers wanting their partners to be involved, and I especially understand first-time mothers who may be viewing this bonding experience between father and infant as something that needs to occur right away.  And I agree that too many attached mothers forget that the baby is attached to the family, not just the mother.

However, just like everything under the sun, there is a time and a place and a way.  Dads are wonderful at taking care of mother while she does the job that only she can do – nurture their baby at the breast.  Dads can cook and clean and help with the older siblings.  Dads can help bathe the baby, do diaper changes with the baby, walk the baby around, sing songs to the baby and hold the baby after the baby has nursed.  Dad can establish connection with the whole family!  Dad can feed the baby solids when that time comes.  (If you have questions regarding that, please see this insanely popular post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/11/starting-solids-with-your-infant-and-picky-toddler-eating/). Dad truly does not have to feed the baby a bottle to be connected!

After three children, my husband now sees this newborn period as a time to  nurture me and our older children.  He is involved with the baby in terms of holding, walking the baby around and other tasks, but he also shrugs his shoulders and says to  our little guy, “ Especially when you get a bit bigger, what a wonderful time we are going to have together!”  He recognizes that in this early period, there is a connection between mother and child that is paramount.  He also recognizes the critical role of fathering for both boys and girls, but knows that right now the needs of the infant are best met at the breast.  For more about mothering and fathering, please see this post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/23/the-necessity-of-mothering-and-fathering/

I have heard many first- time mothers talk about the changes in their marriage and relationship with their spouse  having a baby  causes.  I have written many posts regarding this,  and here is one of the most popular ones for your reading pleasure:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/17/using-your-first-year-of-parenting-to-fall-deeper-in-love-with-your-spouse/

You do not have to leave your baby behind in order to nurture your marriage. If you only have one baby, you can work toward having a special dinner and a movie cued up for when your baby goes to sleep.  You can have great conversation while your baby nurses.  If you have older children as well, many attached families are still comfortable with being together at home after the children are in bed.  If an attached couple with multiple  children does feel the need to “go out”, many times the older children  may stay with a trusted relative or friend, but the baby comes with the mother. This is not my personal choice for babies due to my Waldorf leanings, but at least we see respect  for that biological and cosmic unity in this scenario.  Perhaps protection from assaults on the senses can occur if the mother and father either celebrate being together at home or somewhere quiet!

At this point, I personally am committed to being home for at least 40 days if not a bit longer.  I am so thankful to my husband, family and friends who are supporting me in this endeavor.  I know the baby appreciates it as well.  :)

Think about how you can meet the needs of the youngest member of your family today.

Love,

Carrie

The Parenting Passageway is about Parenting, afterall

Hello and Welcome to all of Carrie’s Readers!

I wanted to share with you a special time in our lives: The introduction of the newest member of our family, Robert Kaj Dendtler (Kaj).  Kaj was born this morning (October 9th) at 8:25A and was 7lbs 11oz!  (Sorry to all of Carrie’s readers outside of the United States, I can’t do the conversion to grams in my head :))

Kaj's Birthday 086I want you all to know how much this Blog means to Carrie.  She enjoys sharing her philosophy on parenting and Waldorf homeschooling.   This little blog has become a true passion for her, and a year after its launch the blog is receiving in excess of 18,000 hits a month!

Thank you all for making that possible and I hope that you not only continue to read, but share this blog with others.   That’s one of the pillars that makes this blog so much fun, the sharing of life stories and all the tips and tricks you provide!

 

 

Peace to all, we’ll be back soon!

For Parents of Intact Boys

For those of you searching, here is a good article:

http://www.kindredmedia.com.au/library_page1/only_clean_what_is_seen_reversing_the_epidemic_of_forcible_foreskin_retractions/401/1

and another good website:

www.nocirc.org

and a link to their 2009 newsletter:

http://www.nocirc.org/publish/2009nocirc_newsletter.pdf

The NoCirc website also has a whole section devoted to the issue of religion and circumcision.

Hope that is helpful to those of you searching for information on this topic.  There is also a very active sub-forum regarding this issue over at the MotheringDotCommunity Forums:  http://www.mothering.com/discussions/

Many blessings,

Carrie

Nokken: A Review of Two Books and A Few Thoughts

(Post updated 6/28/2012)  Nokken has come up on almost every Waldorf Yahoo!Group and Waldorf forum I am on, so I thought it was about time to address the work of Helle Heckmann.  More and more, Nokken is being held up as an example within the Waldorf community of what to do right within child care for young children, and as an example of the value of outdoor play and outdoor time and connection with nature for young children.  For this post, I read both “Nokken:  A Garden for Children” by Helle Heckmann and “Nokken:  A Garden for Kids September 2003 Celebration Edition.”  I hear there is also a lovely video about Nokken that I have not yet seen.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Nokken, Nokken is a Danish approach to  Waldorf-based childcare in Copenhagen, Denmark.  The minimum age for children to enter is walking age.  Helle Heckmann writes, “The child must be able to walk away from her mother and into the world on her own,” on page 26 of “Nokken:  A Garden For Children.”  The center is open for six hours a day only, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  “Our idea is that we share with the parents,” writes Helle Heckmann on the same page.  “We look after the children for six hours, the parents have them for six waking hours and the children sleep for twelve hours.  In other words, the family will still exert influence on the child’s development.”  The staff at the center does not change during the day, unlike child care centers in the United States that are open for long hours that necessitate shift changes.  The children are together in one group from walking age to age 7, and sibling groups are welcomed and kept together, which is again different from the vast majority of child care centers in the United States.  Most Americans would agree this is a huge and vast improvement over the majority of daycare centers in the United States.

Helle  Heckmann writes on page 27 of Nokken,”  It is obviously difficult.  Parents often need longer opening hours, while at the same time they want the world’s best early-childhood program with a motivated and relaxed staff.  This is a difficult task, and knowing that we cannot accommodate all needs, we have chosen to favor the children.  It is a conscious choice we have made as a child-care center. Most of our parents also have to make a choice.  They change jobs, reduce their working hours, or work flexible hours:  the solutions are many and varied as they consciously choose to spend a lot of time with their children.”

She goes on to write that the role of child care has changed; in the past it was for primarily for social stimulation and now,  “The centers must teach children the basics to help them achieve the necessary skills to choose their life style at a later stage.  The parents’ role is mainly to stimulate and organize activities of a social and/or cultural interest.”

Ouch.

Okay, I guess since I am home with my children, perhaps I have a different perspective on this as a homeschooling mother.  Why as a society do we throw up our hands and say, this is the way it is?  People have to work, people have chaotic home lives, so the children are better off in child care than with their own families?  Why are we not coming up with more ways to support and develop parents?  Why in this age of abundant information (yet, often contradictory and just plain wrong information!) are parents feeling so confused and isolated as to what children truly need?  Why is there not more understanding of children as children and childhood development and such as opposed to treating children as miniature adults?

Back to the things that are good about Nokken.  On page 31 Helle Heckmann writes, “Our first priority is to spend most of the day outdoors.  We spend five out of the six hours we are together outdoors.”  The children and staff walk daily to a park with open natural spaces and also have a garden with many fruit trees, berry bushes, sand pits, a hen house, rabbit cages, a pigeon house, a vegetable garden, a herb garden, flower beds and a laundry area.  The children who are younger and need to nap sleep  outside in an open shed, which is common in Denmark.

Children are met in the morning with a handshake, which I find uncommon for Early Year Waldorf programs in the United States.  This seems very awakening for the child, and something I truly only hear of teachers of Waldorf Grades doing with their students in the United States.  Perhaps my Danish readers can tell me if this is a cultural difference?  My husband’s family is from Denmark but have not lived there for a long time, so I have no one to ask!

The daily schedule is something that is lovely and takes into account the ages of the children.  On page 60 of Nokken, Helle Heckmann writes, “We are careful not to let the youngest children participate in story-telling.  If it is a long story, the three year olds sit in another room and draw, because in my experience it is important not to engage them in activities for which they are not ready.”  She also talks about how festival celebrations are mainly for children over 3 as well.  I love this.

The part I have the most difficulty with however, outside of the few things I mentioned above, is the perspective of child development based upon the work of Emmi Pickler and Magda Gerber and their Resources for Infant Educarers.  I realize this puts me outside of most in the Waldorf community, which has embraced RIE.

I liked Helle’s description of the need of the infant to cry as a form of communication.  However, much of the thrust of her perspective of infant care seems to be “to leave the infant in peace and quiet to sleep or, when awake, to get to know herself without constant intervention from her surroundings.  Often it is difficult to show this infant respect and leave her alone. Constantly satisfying your own need for reassurance and your need to look at your beautiful baby will often influence the infant’s ability to be content with herself….By giving the infant peace and quiet for the first months of her life, she will get used to her physical life; the crying will gradually stop, and the baby may start to sleep during the night without waking up at all hours.”

As an attached parent, I believe I can respect my child and still enfold her within my protective gesture and be physically close.  I believe I can still carry her in a sling and nurse her and  have her act as a (passive) witness to my life without overly stimulating her.  I believe in our particular culture at this particular time, parents need reassurance to enfold their child within themselves and their family unit, not to separate their children in their infancy to be independent.  Perhaps this is a cultural difference than Denmark, I don’t know.

However, I also have to say that I  do not believe baby-wearing is an excuse to take my children everywhere I went before I had children.  I believe in protecting the senses but doing this in an attached way.

I do agree with some of Helle Heckman’ s statements regarding infants, including her statement on page 17 of Nokken that, “The more restless the adults are, the more restless the children will be.”  However, statements such as “The less we disturb the infant, the better chance she has of adapting to her life on earth,” rather bothers me.  I agree in not initiating the disturbance of  the infant, but I fear too many parents will take this as license to just set their infant down and let them cry or to keep them passively in a crib.  I do  agree with Helle Heckmann’s assessment that it is difficult to care for children under walking age within a child care setting  because of the high needs of care and because infants need peaceful surroundings.

As a homeschooling mother, what I take away from Nokken is the lovely thoughts of a forest kindergarten, napping outside, using action to communicate with small children and not words (see page 32 of Nokken), using singing as a way of talking to small children (page 51), Helle’s constant inner work and development, her obvious love of the children.

And as a homeschooling mother and attached parent, I don’t like the whole notion that is invading Waldorf Education that children under the age of 4 or 4 and a half should be out of their homes, I don’t like the notion that the child care center, no matter how outdoorsy “shares” the child with the parents, and I don’t like the idea that parents are not as empowered as they could be in childhood development.  Why are we positioning anyone but the parents to be the experts on their children and acting as if someone else knows better?    Waldorf schools are also taking children earlier and earlier into Kindergarten, and I also have an issue with that.   I would like to see more effort to again, empower and inspire parents within the Waldorf movement to be home.   The hand shaking to greet a small child with such pronounced eye contact also baffles me.

There are many wonderful things at Nokken, and many American parents who need child care would be thrilled to find a center such as Nokken in their neighborhood.  Many mothers attempt to create such an environment as part of their homeschooling environment or take in children from outside their family for care so they may stay home with their own children.  These are all realities.

However, I would love to see a movement toward empowering and inspiring mothers to be homemakers, to be truly spiritual homemakers, to encourage families to make tough choices to be home with their children,  because I feel this is where the power of the next generation is truly going to disseminate from.

Blessings,

Carrie