Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Barefoot in the city. And bits and pieces on Waldorf.

Barefoot in the city is a book by Jacqueline Koay, a woman whom I had the privilege to get to know through one of the parenting FB group. It's her sharing on raising her 5 kids organically. Reading the book feels like having a long chat with your girl friend. It's a light book with lots of stories. But very insightful nevertheless.

Some people might brush her off by being too idealistic. Some might think her method doesn't fit in with our Asian cultures. Some might get inspired. Some might not. As for me, I am just glad. Relieved is probably a better word. To get to know somebody who has raised their kids organically "successfully" gives me strength to keep going. Parenting can be a lonely journey. Especially when you chose the road less traveled.

The book is very Waldorf. As the author is a Waldorf parent. I get to know about Waldorf only recently. I get particularly interested due to it's holistic approach. It's not just a learning method like Montessori. It's a way of life. There's a religious element to Waldorf which might turn off some people. But it doesn't bother me. I am just pinching good stuffs and implementing what suits me.

Recently, I attended a Waldorf talk by Whitney MacDonald, a Waldorf master. Learned some great stuffs that I wished I knew before I started the parenting journey. There's a lot of emphasis on creativity and flexibility. And keeping things simple.

And exposing kids to nature. 
He quoted a study who predicted that in the future, our kids will have 10 different careers in their life time. If that is true, being flexible will be very very handy indeed. Flexibility means exposing kids to myriads of things.
Not expecting them to be a prodigy or world champion. But more of giving them platform to express themselves.
Stories are very fundamental in Waldorf education. Lots and lots of story telling. They started with dolls and props for the younger ones. 
Unlike the commercial dolls, Waldorf dolls are personally made. Not mass produced. And has very simple features with minimal facial expression. Some have none. Simple images with profound stories. Told repeatedly. Again and again. As the child gets older, about 6-7 yo, they move away from the physical representations of the dolls. Stories are told without dolls and props. This let the child develop their inner expression through imagination.

Play is a big thing in Waldorf. Whitney shared that studies have shown a child that is allowed to get lost in their play during childhood will get lost in their work in adulthood. 
Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Newton,  Galilleo, Leonardo da Vinci were all people who have the capacity to get lost in their work. Work is play and play is work. Do our kids have time to play? Do they know how to play?? Have they lost the desire to play? Do they get bored really easily? 

Play is not computer games or ipad or smart phones. Jacq wrote quite a bit on play in her book. Unstructured play that engages the kids instead of entertaining them. 
Entertainment eg ipad, TV, and most gadgets are passive process that relies on external sources to escape reality. Whereas engagement is an active process that fosters problem solving.
And you cannot get lost if you have a very hectic schedule. And being rushed from one place to another. And have a very packed schedule from morning till late evening. Waldorf believes in taking things slow. You don't rush a kid to read, or write or count. You have to give kids time and space to get lost in their own world. 
Whitney talked about kids nowadays being burnt out. It's amazing how Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf figured this out in 1920's. He thought burnt out child lack internal drive. And that's one of the roots of social issues. Don't you think so??

On the same issue, Jacq talked about parenting being a lot like gardening. You have a choice to choose between intensive modern technique that goes against nature (and loaded with unhealthy chemicals) vs organic farming. The former will produce fat and juicier products. Which are also loaded with chemicals and unhealthy. The latter will produce scrawnier smaller but healthier products. And will probably need more works and unpredictable too.

I can relate with this. Most of the times, people get the impression HS is a reckless risky decision. Most of the times, it looks like the HS parents are doing nothing. Especially those who opt the unschooling lifestyle. And people get agitated knowing the parents let the child lead. Let the child make decisions most of the time. How can a child know what's best for them? Right?? OK. That's where I beg to differ.

There's a HUGE difference between "being still" and "doing nothing". Jacq quoted this quote from Karate Kid in her book. And I think the quote is really profound. After 1 year of being around HS parents, I can tell you most HS parents I know put A LOT of thoughts on how they should raise their kids. And as HS is an all year round affair, they probably put more thoughts in random things we take for granted. Coz learning is an ongoing process. Things like daily routine, holiday, family activities, festivals, history, culture, etc etc etc.

Routine road trip to my home town in Kota Bharu used to be just a chore of getting from point A to point B. Since we started embarking on HS journey, I started scouring for information. Of all the possible learning opportunities along the way. So it's not a coincidence that we found a wau maker in Kota Bahru.
Or a pandanus weaving lady in Cherating.
Whitney also talked about freedom. Freedom is NOT about doing whatever we want. If that's the case, we are just being a slave to our desire. And we will not be able to do things that we need to do to be better. FREEDOM is ability to choose to live by the truth we believe in. And sometime, that mean we need to do things that we don't like doing.

To be honest, this is one of my biggest reservation with HS. Initially, I am not comfortable with the idea kids can do whatever they like. If you don't like, don't do. In my religion, there are things we don't really like doing. But we still do due to our faith. So that just doesn't sound right to me. Hence, I was ecstatic when I listened to Whitney's explaination on Waldorf. It makes so much sense now.

Jacq also spoke about this in her book. About freedom to choose and sticking to something for a period of time instead of giving up at the drop of a hat. The world will not function if everybody did only things they like doing. She wrote the story about her son, Jack and his lesson with fencing. And how long of trying is enough?? What should guide us to decide when it's enough??


Barefoot in the city is about BEING STILL. I have read the book twice. I need to read twice to connect everything together. The book is heavily influenced by yoga since she's a yogi. My rusty brain is just too slow to capture some of the yoga concept. And I took longer to finish the books coz I have to keep on searching for the missing book. My kids have never been interested with my parenting books. So I found it weird that I need to keep looking for this book. It's either with Hajar or Luqman. I guess they probably found the snippets of story in the book interesting.

They called Jacq "H.Y.M"....short for "Hot Yogi Mom"
Luqman; "It's interesting ummi. But she lost me at mahad"...hahaha.
Dude, mahad is in Chapter 2. U get lost so early?? :P

Have u ever go barefooted?? Try it. Find your mahad. The lost music inside you. You will be surprised.
If you are interested in raising your kids the free range organic way, check out barefoot-in-the-city.com.



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