2 December 2012

Nature-wise, creative children

Today we went to an advent fair at the Waikato Waldorf School. Everything about it was so full of natural beauty and clever creativeness that I began to wonder whether we've made a mistake not sending our children there.

Anna and her friend went "fishing" in the school's pond...

Made flower crowns and posies...

Dipped candles in pots of coloured wax...

They also rode in a cart pulled by Clydesdale horses (during which we could have reached out and plucked little apples and pears off the multiple fruit trees growing along the driveway - but of course we didn't - not only did they not belong to us, but they were unripe), modelled clay, had their faces painted, and whizzed down the flying fox.

I did some exquisite Christmas shopping, and particularly admired the beautiful wooden products. Let's just say there was some weaponry purchased for lucky little boys!

There were gorgeous fresh hazelnuts that Jack has pronounced delicious, and some novel plant markers for a certain garden-loving school teacher.

The wooden creations for sale reminded me of how we'd spent the previous evening with home-schooling friends. They have a large carpentry workshop at home that seems central to their three boys' lives. Also being fresh from reading The Idle Parent, in which Tom Hodgkinson recommends woodwork as an enriching and useful creative outlet that lets parents get on with what they enjoy and need to do, I couldn't help but agree with him.

Tom didn't mention sewing, but much of what he said about woodwork also applies to sewing. It is creative, it produces useful and beautiful things, and children love to do it with their parents.

I remember last year one wet summer's day when I pulled out the sewing machine, and the children asked, "Are you going to sew today?" "Yes, I answered; don't you want me to?" They looked amazed that I could think such a thing, and said, "We love it when you sew!"

I spent the whole day sewing happily as they roamed around me, fascinated at the creative process unfolding.

(I bought some woollen felt from the fair for us to make Christmas decorations with.)

I do wonder at the five day a week, six hour a day regime of state schools. Perhaps it would be better to be able to sew or work with wood for a few days in a row whenever the need or desire takes us, and to have our children learn from us as we do it? To delve into Roman history for a couple of days without interruption? To randomly visit rockpools and spend the next day learning more about the habits and anatomy of the bizarre creatures they hold?

We can live perfectly acceptable lives without carpentry, sewing or, for that matter, playing instruments, singing and dancing. But to me it seems to be a life lacking some extremely enjoyable, rich embellishments. For most of human history these things haven't been embellishments, but absolutely central to life. Today they have been largely replaced by TV, shopping and ipods - a loss in so many ways.

Non-state schooling is not the norm. But the older I grow, the more I like the idea of being unusual!


  1. I think Steiner schools are brilliant. Rudolf Steiner was a genius. The only problem though is that because they are not the norm ( even here in Austria where they originated) they tend to get landed with children who have behavioural problems. You're going to find difficult kids anywhere of course but unfortunately they're quite concentrated in Waldorf or Montessori schools. Which means school life can become quite unbearable for your child if they're sensitive and used to being treated decently. This problem would be solved instantly if Steiner's philosophy would be promoted in all schools. We can only hope!

  2. Thanks Julia. I was wondering if it might be the opposite - fewer difficult kids there. Because they do make school more of a challenge for the other children.
    Thanks for your comment!

  3. What two beautiful children - not that I am biased!


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