YARN - From the (shorter) Oxford English Dictionary:

Spun fibre of cotton, silk, wool, or flax.... fibre prepared for use in weaving, knitting...a fisherman's net...any of the strands of which a rope is composed...a (usually long or rambling) story or tale, especially an implausible, fanciful, or incredible one.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bringing up Bébé - Book Review


Bringing up Bébé is American journalist Pamela Druckerman's observation and analysis of French parenting. The book includes a fair amount of backstory and tracks her migration to France, her relationship with her husband (though he remains a fairly vague presence in the book) and the births of their 3 children as they form their family in Paris. It is the story of her conscious integration of French ways into her parenting and her mid-Atlantic critique of 'American' approaches to child rearing.

Waldorf Links: I can't help but wonder if some of the what is presented as 'the French' way of parenting may be European and may have infused into Waldorf education before it was transplanted into our corner of North America because lots of what Druckerman has to say will sound familiar to Waldorf parents.

Druckerman sees French parents helping their children to:
- develop patience and learn to wait
- cope with frustration
- play alone
- defer gratification /wait for the marshmellow
- enjoy a great variety of high quality and healthy foods

She finds French parents and care givers value, and are attuned to, the rhythms and individuality of their child. There is a high value placed on a predictable schedule and a respectful division between child and adult worlds.  Sounding familiar?

Druckerman explains the French 'cadre' as an approach with clear expectations and limits within which children enjoy a great deal of freedom.  Don't we all want to know where we stand and have agency within clear boundaries?

Without being overly academic she traces what she thinks might be some of the historic roots to the way the French parent, refers to studies, quotes experts she interviewed (she is a journalist) and anchors it all in her observations and stories. She is self depreciating enough to make the book an enjoyable and funnier-than-I-expected book. There is no real parental guilt residue after reading this book, which is nice.

I was interested to see some reviews of this book (NY Times) seem to respond almost viscerally to her discussion of the French health care system and other social benefit and indicators such as  better maternal and infant mortality rates, well funded maternity leave and publicly subsidized childcare. I was surprised by how often she noticed aspects of socially funded health care and commented on them as enablers of what she sees as a better way to parent.  This book might be about the socialization of an American.

Maybe I am shallow but I sometimes enjoy reading stories of other people's struggles, somehow it doesn't feel so lonely on the frontlines of unsuccessful efforts to get out the door in the morning etc.  Without being prescriptive there are some ideas and approaches in this book that are worth trying out.... my children are about to experience my attempt at the control tactic of "les gros yeux".

Sunday, October 21, 2012

9 Essential Skills Kids Should Learn

Over at ZenHabits Leo Babauta, whose children are 'unschooled', believes the 9 Essential Skills Kids Should Learn are:

  1. Asking questions
  2. Solving problems
  3. Tackling projects
  4. Finding passion
  5. Independence
  6. Being happy on their own
  7. Compassion
  8. Tolerance
  9. Dealing with change
He believes that we cannot predict what the future has in store for our children and that it is foolish and wasteful to educate them in preparation for what we think they will need. In high school the computer geeks sat by their lockers filling out bubble cards - who could have predicted all of this?

I agree that we need to teach our children to learn and allow them to love learning and follow their natural curiosity, to trust them to learn.  We need to give them tools knowing that we cannot even begin to imagine how they will apply them.

I am not sure whether this list is complete or exactly what I would have written, but it is close enough for me to hold it up to what my children are learning and make see what I think. I am pleased and confident that they are learning these skills, and more!

“Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility—these three forces are the very nerve of education.” 
 Rudolf Steiner