In my pursuit of education Utopia, I visited a Waldorf school last week and today we attended one of their mother/child classes. The school is beautiful and the teachers are patient and kind, but I felt like we didn’t fit it. I know Waldorf parents are usually crunchy, and I can crunch with the best of them, but I didn’t expect a competition of who was more earthy. Perhaps it was because an outsider was in the class, but the conversation went something like this; “I was reading Last Child in the Woods and breastfeeding, while on the phone to our local CSA, and I started to worry about the plastic picnic table our neighbors have leeching toxins into our yard.” “That’s nothing,” the other mom replied, “I was breastfeeding, while needle felting our entire summer wardrobe and hand milling some grain for dinner, and I started to worry because my daughter eats so much Hummus.” When they looked at me, I whispered, “You know, I’ve heard that if your child eats too much Hummus…they will become a Republican.” I didn’t say this, but I wanted to. It’s good to be happy with your choices and I appreciate wanting to be an earth mama, but it’s hard to feel at ease with people who wear their beliefs on their sleeve. I tried to flow with the class and at times it went well. When we were clearing the table from snack time, I thought I was getting down with it and asked, “Should I put this in your compost bin?” “Oh, we do not have one; just throw it in the trash.” Hmmm.
I would guess after the way my 3 year old behaved (did I mention he is a new 3?) should have made them feel good about their choice of introducing Waldorf early. He is not the most well behaved child, but today was something I’ve never seen. He tried to climb on the chairs, knocked the rocker over, screamed and ran around while the rest of the class was singing and fluttering around like butterflies. When the class moved outside, I was relieved. I said to the teacher, “I know he is, um, spirited and I know I can do better, but that is why I am here.” She was kind and felt that with time he would adjust to the rhythm of the class. When it was time to leave I felt less anxious about his behavior, until I took his hand and he started kicking me in the shin and tried to bite me. The teacher is just stood there saying, “Oh, my.” I swear he has never done this before. Apparently he was not feeling the calmness of Mother Earth.
I’m not sure if this class or school is for us. I do believe that a Waldorf education provides children with a calm environment to just be a child and learn at their own pace. I agree with their views on commercialism and materialism, but not to the point of banishing all TV from our home. I will just come out and admit it, I like TV and I like really mindless, trash TV with women fighting over a foolish bachelor or aging rock stars pretending to look for love. It’s about finding the right balance. If anything, this visit today taught me that we are off balance; we need a little less TV and a little more bread kneading. I am not an expert on Waldorf, but if the parents at this class want to provide the type of education that gives their children freedom, then they need to look at how they are interacting with other people who are not “in the group.” An us verses them mentality creates an environment where people do not feel free to state their opinions and you miss out on some interesting thoughts and possibly some really good TV. If we attend this class, I will buy them a compost bin and if we don’t, I will try to incorporate some of the things they did in class at home; like using real china plates and glass cups with cloth napkins and trying to have a better rhythm to our day. I really have no idea what I am talking about, but I thought you would enjoy hearing about a child who is more embarrassing than your own; I bet there is a short list of children who tried to bite their mom at a Waldorf school.