Monday, May 28, 2012

natural play: learning through imitation

North's '3 lighthouses' made from clay while I was doing my own clay modelling assignments for school

It's amazing how much of my study seems to surface in our day to day lives. Steiner always urged those who attended his lectures never to take his word for anything, but to go out and test and experience everything he said. I am certainly doing that- taking everything I read with a grain of salt and picking and choosing here and there. But the core of his messages, teachings and philosophy of education seems to be reflected quite clearly in our home.

Indigo having a go at cutting (with a wooden knife and play food)

North has been TV-free (except for a few videos on long flights) since he was about 18 months old. Indigo has been TV-free her whole life- she's almost 2 now. It's now come to a point where I don't consider TV an option even when I'm trying to get dinner on, the children are tired and grumpy and everything seems to be unravelling. It's just not a part of our family life. And as a result, I really believe my kids have had more time than most to learn how to play. It sounds silly, because you'd think that children would just naturally know how to play... and they do if they are given enough opportunities to practice: they practice through imitation. When my children are playing imitatively, they are more focused, calm and centred than at any other time. If I allowed them to wash clothes and dishes in the bathtub all day, they surely would. They adore 'meaningful work' more than anything else- helping with dinner, sweeping the floors, setting the table, raking the leaves, passing me pegs to hang the laundry... it gives them such satisfaction.
 North 'writing' a story. We were on a bush walk and came across some charcoal.

 For more information on the importance of imitation in childhood (especially from ages 0-7), I recommend this insightful article by Joop van Dam called Understanding Imitation through a Deeper Look at Human Development. For more information about our TV-free journey please see these back posts.
 North hanging his doll's clothes to dry after washing them by hand

I know I haven't always made the best parenting decisions for my children, but I can honestly say I am so happy and proud that we have decided out children will be TV-free through their early years. We won't be TV-free forever, but for now, I am so very grateful that we are. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

take my advice!

A while ago I told you about a group of friends who got together and cooked a great big meal and brought home a share for each of their families. It was wonderful, we socialised, cooked and minded the children all at the same time but in the end there were just too many cooks in the kitchen and one too many children in the house! So, we discontinued the group get togethers. Soon afterwards, my wonderful friend, Katherine suggested she and I exchange meals once a week. She makes a double-batch of something and I make a double batch of something else and then we exchange meals. 
It's genius! I mean, I love this food sharing scheme! Once a week I don't have to think about what's for dinner but I still have a wholesome, delicious, home-cooked meal to serve to the family. 

Here are a few essential considerations you might want to think about before finding a meal exchange partner:

- find someone who lives close by so that the food exchange doesn't become a hassle
We usually exchange meals on a Thursday when we drop of kids off at preschool together

- find someone who has a similar food philosophy to you 
Ours is something like: lots of organic veggies, free range/organic dairy and proteins, wholegrains, no preservatives/msg etc, minimal sugar

- swap with someone who has a similar sized family to yours 

- make foods that are easy to reheat and keep their consistency and texture for 24 hours. 
We generally stick to casseroles, pasta sauces, soups and stews. 

- share food dislikes (tastes and textures) and allergies beforehand

- be honest about what meals your family has liked and not quite enjoyed
 We've both served the other family a meal that wasn't a hit but we were honest about it and learned from the experience.
I can't tell you how much I love doing this each week- it's such a time saver and it's so exciting to get a delicious and healthy meal you haven't had to think about. 

Take my advice- find a partner and go for it!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

simple gingerbread cookies

Indigo and I made big batch of these cookies the while North was at school last week. Oh, how simple and quiet things are when there are only two little hands to 'help' with baking! We didn't have the classic gingerbread ingredient: molasses, so we substituted with maple syrup. It made for much more simple and subtle tasting cookies, but delicious all the same.

2 1/2 cups spelt flour
1 tsp bi-carb
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp all spice 
125g butter
1 1/4 cups rapadura sugar
1 egg
4 tbs maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 180˚C
Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Combine together the flour, bi-carb and spices lightly in a food processor
Add the butter and blend until it resembles breadcrumbs
Stir in the sugar
Beat the egg and syrup and then add to the food processor and pulse or knead. 
Scoop dough out and knead until smooth
Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes
Then, roll out and cut
Bake for 8-12 minutes in the oven until slightly more golden and let stand until cool and firm

Saturday, May 19, 2012

lemon socks for a fever and other thoughts on naturally fighting illnesses

North and especially little Indigo were down with change of season colds, coughs and fevers all week. In our family we like to let our bodies fight things as naturally as they can avoiding any intervention beyond homeopathy, nutrition, herbs, stocks and teas. 

In Anthroposophical Medicine (and conventional medicine, see: Yale School of Medicine) a fever is important to the healing process when you are sick because it strengthens the immune system. We try our best not to suppress fevers in our home but instead to make the children as comfortable as possible and to draw a high fever away from their heads- in order to keep the warmth well-distributed so that all body parts are of the same temperature. My 'high temperature comfort limit' is a little less than the Anthroposophical Medicine's recommendations (41˚C) - if their fever ever went above 103.5˚F (40˚C) and wasn't budging I would then give them paracetemol. But so far, the "Lemon Wrap" has been highly effective at times of need.
We soak a thin pair of socks that go up around the children's calves in the lemon water and then our wool socks overtop.

"Fever" is an article by Susan R. Johnson, FAAP from that explains how to administer a "Lemon Wrap". It also includes a list of warning signs of when to seek professional medical help (sore throat, cough, difficulty breathing, stiff neck, lungs clear etc.).

I am by no means a Doctor or health professional of any kind- I am only sharing a remedy that has worked for us. Always seek medical advice if you are unsure whether a sickness is serious or not.

I ended up taking Indigo to a Western Doctor as well as a Chinese Medical Doctor on Wednesday morning because she was so ill. The Western doctor of course prescribed antibiotics (after he stated he thought her cough was viral and antibiotics wouldn't work on a viral infection!). The Chinese Doctor prescribed some herbs and tea. I filled the antibiotic prescription and put it in the fridge and resolved to wait 24 hours before giving it to her. I gave her the Chinese herbs, used saline nasal spray, continued with chicken stock, tea and manuka honey, said a healing prayer, cuddled her to no end and the next day she had miraculously improved without having to resort to the antibiotics. I also resorted to one dose of ibuprofen at naptime that day (when a fever wasn't present) because I thought her throat must be so sore from coughing and I wanted her to have a restful sleep.

Of course every child and sickness is different which is why I believe motherly instincts play such a huge role in healing. I comfortably use natural herbs and remedies when I have conventional medicine as a back-up and close at hand. It puts my mind at rest knowing that if Indigo had made a turn for the worse I would have had everything she needed. There was power and security in knowing that I had consulted multiple practitioners and gathered as much information as I could about the sickness before drawing any conclusions or administering medicine and remedies.

How do you approach sickness in your family? Do you take a more conventional band-aid approach or do you take things more slowly? Or do you fall somewhere in between? Things to think about...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

our winter urban garden

In our winter urban garden at the moment we have...

picked the very last of the capsicums 
as well as

brussel sprouts
snow peas
cos lettuce
fresh herbs

 and a big bunch of Marigolds that seem to attract little hands more than they attract the slugs...

I'm planning on planting potatoes again soon. Last year we bought a bag from Bunnings but I'd like to plant some organic ones... has anyone had luck planting potatoes they get from their organic provider? I think all I have to do it let them sit in the sun for a couple weeks until they begin to sprout.

How does you garden grow?

Sunday, May 13, 2012


A warm hello to everyone! 

Thank you so much for your kind words of support while I was gone. I have had a lovely break away from this space and am feeling quite refreshed and ready to share bits and pieces of our lives once again. I am not sure I will ever be posting as regularly as I did, but I will be making a consistent effort to write a few times each week. 

I thought I'd begin by sharing the very first assignment I submitted in my Certificate in the Foundations of Rudolf Steiner Education. The past few weeks I have been totally immersed in my studies- readings, writing assignments, clay modelling, journal work and biography work. 

The following topic can be difficult to grasp if you haven't a lot of background knowledge on Anthroposophy and Waldorf education, but I thought for a lot of you, this would still be of interest. 

Thank you all for your patience while I've been gone. 

I'm glad to be back.

Oh, and Happy Mother's Day to everyone, especially my kind and beautiful Mum!
Reflections on the connection between Anthroposophy and Steiner Education

According to Rudolf Steiner, the tasks of education are to foster a child’s healthy development by strengthening the “I’ or his/her Soul. In other words, education is key to the process of individualisation. When the child’s thinking, feeling and willing (the “I” or Soul) are strong and well developed, she is able to reach her highest spiritual potential and to re-acquire the spiritual knowledge that is completely unique to her Spirit and that will help her to contribute to society in a unique, meaningful and moral way. 
In order for a teacher to have the faculties to help a child’s  “I” relate to the world and people positively, the teacher must have a clear understanding of the human being on a holistic level.  A Steiner teacher strives to foster a child’s hand (willing), heart (feeling), and mind (thinking) by providing resistance or challenge at the right time and offering a supportive structure for the child to grow within.  She must help the child’s Soul feel a healthy connection with his Body and Spirit. Anthroposophy is just this- the striving to connect and harmonise Body, Soul and Spirit in order to develop and strengthen our Spirituality which according to Steiner, will then enhance our moral strength, enhance our intuition and enable us to control our volitions, desires and urges. In this way, the teacher is a servant to the process of human incarnation.
As teaching is a moral spiritual task, a teacher must also have a personal meditative or spiritual practice that enables her own “I’ growth in order to develop the intuition she needs to react objectively in the classroom and beyond. She needs to continuously experience an honest and authentic struggle for self-transformation. She cannot support and see a child as an individual as well as a part of a class Archetypal whole, until her own Soul consciousness is strengthened and free from egotistical judgements and self-interested desires. Of course these self-interested thoughts come up quite often and naturally in all humans, but the teacher must learn to control them, to reign them in and to quietly observe them and then to let them go before attaching herself to them. This is how she is able to address the underlying needs of the whole child without bringing her own “I” world into the child’s experience.
In the early years children learn through imitation and example and the teacher exemplifies and humanises the world by forming a strong and loving connection to each child. She begins to develop their lower senses through physical play, song and sensory experiences amongst other things. She must bring a sense of reverence to the child’s world which is an introduction to gratitude, wonder and the child’s connection with his own spirituality. As the children grow older the teacher must have a strong idea of what her own ‘ideals’ are according to her Self and have a connection with her Higher or Spiritual Self in order to convey to the, now teenagers, that there is a truth that can be found. 
According to Steiner, to further our inner development or strengthen our Spirit Self and Consciousness Soul, we must learn to control our thoughts and impulses, practice non-attachment to pain or pleasure, maintain a positive attitude and remain open-minded.  
Only then can we begin to foster within ourselves virtues such as patience, calm, respect, reverence, devotion to the truth, honesty with regards to facts, enthusiasm for work, interest in the world, love and gratitude towards others and responsibility for one’s deeds. All of which are qualities a teacher should strive for. Through Anthroposophical investigation a teacher is able to develop her inner strength and the qualities necessary to become enlightened with these eternal truths.

When the spirit is strongly connected to the soul we are able, as an individual and as a human society, to devote our interests to the great needs and tasks of the times and to create connections between our actions and the spiritual world. This is the goal of the teacher: to equip our children with the skills, strength and tools necessary to participate and contribute to society wholly in an authentic and moral way.
Steiner’s statement, “Do not underestimate the importance of what I have just said, because you will not be good teachers if you focus only upon what you do and not upon what you are”
highlights the importance of Spiritual (Anthroposophical) Investigation for teachers. We must find the guiding light within ourselves so that a living inner spiritual relationship may be sparked between us and the children we teach so that when they go out into the world they are in healthy harmony with their Whole Selves which in turn will reflect on the greater good of society.
©Meagan Wilson. 2/12.