This post has a review of You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy which was discussed in the Montessori on a Budget Facebook page. This book essentially presents the Waldorf philosophy of education and includes quotes from famous people in the Waldorf movement. However, much of the information is quite practical and helpful and can be applied to early childhood education.
You Are Your Child’s First Teacher
The author states, “We have lost touch with natural processes in child development, convinced that we have to ‘do something’ rather than allowing the child’s own inner processes to unfold.” She does not advocate for pacifiers, walkers, jumping toys, and other aids that supposedly help children achieve milestones before they are actually ready. She does advocate for an unrestrained, baby-proofed environment that the child can freely access and roam without problems. She feels the children will develop best this way. She also does not advocate for the early swim or gymnastics lessons as the learning cannot be sustained. She says toddlers do their own very appropriate gymnastics.
I spent much time reading the parts about babies and thinking about the book. As a new grandmother, I got stuck on her ideas about the child becoming incarnate the first year. She says the spirit at birth is larger than the body. Ponder that a minute and remember when this seemed true about newborns you have known. She adds that “Perhaps you have had the experience of walking into a room where a newborn is sleeping and wondering how the room can feel so filled by such a tiny creature sleeping over in the corner.” Amazing thoughts!
Dancy’s description of how children “grow down” is so true. She described this as first the baby becomes able to move his or her eyes and head, then gain control of the torso to roll, later the hands begin to work, and finally the legs when the child can walk at about one year of age. Children grow up as they grow down. So interesting!
The author (and Waldorf education) is not for having children younger than age 7 sit still for long, as: “The tremendous growth of the first seven years is accompanied by the nearly constant movement as muscles and bones grow and coordination is gradually achieved.” We know if we ask a child to sit for long, how they wiggle and fidget! Although children can learn certain things at young ages, she says if that is done it takes from the energy that is otherwise needed for growth and development. Emphasis on intellectual growth too soon can have negative effects later, according to the book.
The book has a chapter on how to choose a preschool. Criteria are listed and can be consulted for parents who are trying to make such a decision. I notice that often in the Montessori on a Budget Facebook group these kinds of decisions are discussed. Parents want to know what to consider and this book can help with whatever type of preschool is being considered.
What about children watching television? What about video games? What does she think about immunizations? How should you care for a sick child? What about emphasizing religion in daily life? The author emphasizes that gratitude and reverence for life are essential to the whole development of the child. If you have questions in this area, the book offers pros and cons to consider, that I’m sure parents will find very helpful.
“Conscious parenting requires keeping perspective and not letting ourselves become so bogged down in the day-to-day task of raising our children that we neglect to focus on the larger picture.” Conscious parenting is: being present in the moment and attending to the present needs of the child. She says we should see the light in the child, as we parent.
The appendix has a discussion about Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf education. I did not realize that Waldorf has become the largest private school movement in the world. I didn’t know that such schools were closed in World War II. Steiner is the founder of Waldorf Schools and is a pioneer in the area of developmentally based, age-appropriate learning. Early childhood educators are all in favor of such learning, and this book offers an understanding of such practice.
Thank you for reading! Carolyn