Digital Devices - Decisions for Parents

A 2 hour teleconference with Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting and The Soul of Discipline

From Kim John Payne

Arriving back from traveling is often a time for reflection. I’ve just got home from giving talks and workshops with a number of parent organizations and it was striking how much the question of screens for kids came up. It seems like this wave of concern around digital device use has been building up for a while and it sure is hitting the shores of family life in a powerful way.

When asked, I try to make it clear that I am not so much “anti-screen,” but passionately pro connection for kids to nature, friends, family and most importantly, connection to themselves.

Anything that gets in the way of these essential connections has to be suspicious and needs moderating. In our workshop conversations, one thing we all could agree on is that devices impact these connections. It also became clear that we can feel caught between the large amount of evidence that is coming out about harmful effects screen use can have on healthy development, while on the other hand seeing all around us that kids using devices is normal nowadays.

One mother seemed to speak for many when she said, “Honestly, life would be so much easier if I went along with allowing a ton of screen time for my two kids, but it just does not feel right so I need to figure out a sensible way to deal with this.”

When the team here at Simplicity Parenting was saying that it was time to offer another workshop it was pretty clear we needed to look at the challenges parents face today navigating the “digital decision” when it comes to our kids.

So we have kept the workshop very simple, no webinar software and high-speed internet connection needed, just a phone. You will see a description of the structure below. The topics we will explore are…

Not if, but when.
Screens as a sweet “dessert,” which comes after the main meal of deep family connection.

What is too much?
How to know when kids are on the edge of getting lost within in the screen based world.

True North vs. Magnetic North.
How to build focus, grit and good judgment so that our kids do not become overwhelmed with media driven images but can shape their own self esteem, hopes and dreams.

Screens and discipline.
The relationship between discipline problems and screen use and how to improve things.

Fitting in with friends.
“Won’t my kids be disadvantaged if I limit screen media?”

Aloneness vs. Loneliness.
Helping kids know the difference.

A brain cleanse.
How to prepare and then go low or no screen for 3-4 weeks and allow the brains chemistry and nervous system to reset.

Click here for details and registration information.

All the very best,
Kim John Payne

A consultant and trainer to over 230 U.S. independent and public schools, Kim John Payne, M.ED, has been a school counselor, adult educator, consultant, researcher, educator and a private family counselor for twenty seven years. He has been helping children, adolescents and families explore issues such as social difficulties with siblings and classmates, attention and behavioral issues at home and school, emotional issues such as defiance, aggression, addiction and self-esteem and the vital role living a balanced simple life brings.

Kim is the Director of the Simplicity Project, a multi media social network that explores what really connects and disconnects us to ourselves and to the world. Together with his team they have trained around 1000 Simplicity Parenting Coaches around the world.

He is the author of the #1 Best Seller Simplicity Parenting© . Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kid, published by Random House Penguin in 2009 and his books have been translated into 27 languages.


Fundraising Update for Waldorf School in Haiti hit by Hurricane Matthew

Thank you for your overwhelming response to the call to help rebuild L'ecole du Village (The Village School), which was directly in Matthew’s path and suffered catastrophic damage.

The Village School fundraising campaign has raised over $12,500 in just over one week!

The first funds have already been wired to the school and rebuilding will commence soon. 

If you want to help, or know someone who does, just click here to visit The Village School's page on gofundme. Thanks!


The Joy of Making Picture Books with Moving Parts

From Tiffany Lovegrove, Melbourne Rudolf Steiner Seminar Teacher Training Course

In his memoir The Course of My Life, Rudolf Steiner shared an intimate early childhood memory in which he describes being deeply engaged with little picture books containing ‘moving parts’:

“Among these toys those that captivated me especially were the kind which even now I consider particularly good. These were picture books with figures that could be made to move by pulling on strings attached to them at the bottom. One associated little stories with these figures, to which one gave part of their life by pulling the strings. Many a time I sat by the hour poring over the picture books with my sister. Besides I learned from them quite spontaneously the first steps in reading.”

The benefits of these "playthings" were, as Rudolf Steiner explained in The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy, of significant importance for healthy child development:

“Toys with dead mathematical forms alone, have a desolating and killing effect upon the formative forces of the child. On the other hand everything that kindles the imagination of living things works in the right way. Our materialistic age produces few good toys.  . . .Excellent are the picture-books where the figures can be set in motion by pulling threads from below, so that the child itself can transform the dead picture into a representation of living action. All this brings about a living mobility of the organs, and by such mobility the right forms of the organs are built up. 

This week in our Handcraft unit, students of the Teacher Training course  were asked to create a picture which captured one of the gestures given in  Irene Pawsey’s poem “Bramble Jam.”  This poem was suggested by Waldorf Kindergarten Teacher Brunhild Müller in her book Making Moving Picture Books with Movable Figures.

A little old woman
As old as can be,
Picked the ripe berries
From bush and tree.

Then in a clearing
She made a fire,
Piling the dry sticks
Higher and higher;
And at the top
Of the crackling pile,
She put her gallipot
On to boil.

Sugar and fruit
She boiled for hours,
Til the juice set red
As peony-flowers;
And all the next morning
The Little Folks ran
With pursefuls of money
To buy pots of jam.

They were encouraged to add any moving elements they wished, such as the sun, clouds, grass, animals or other natural elements.

Our students recalled their own experiences of delighting in picture books with windows and doors that opened and closed revealing changing scenes, and the joy of manipulating  moving parts to bring dynamism and animation to the page.

As a learning activity, this project led Teacher Trainees to  reflect on questions across a range of subject areas which we study in our course incuding Early Childhood Development, Storytelling, The Development of the Imagination, Visual Art, Handcraft. For example:

How do these books with moving parts support the development of imagination? How do they engage a little child in the experience of storytelling?  Where the picture speaks to a chosen poem or verse, why is this verse suitable- or not suitable -for little children? Is the language rich and truthful, does it evoke a beautiful picture, does it offer a rich inner experience for the listener? In developing the picture students considered form, colour, atmosphere, all the while with the experience of a young child in mind.

In relation to physical development, fine motor skills are also developed in little children’s hands as they carefully manipulate the levers to make images move on the page. In the preface of a book published in 1891, children were cautioned to take care moving the images:

Within this book, my own dear child,
Are various pictures gay.
Their limbs they move with gestures wild,
As with them you do play.
But still they are of paper made,
And therefore, I advise,
That care and caution should be paid,
Lest woe and grief arise;
Both you and pictures then would cry
To see what harm is done,
And sigh would follow after sigh
Because you’ve spoilt your fun.

As an example of "technology," our students were challenged to think about how a young child would make the parts on the page move, problem solving the mechanics of making multiple connected joins between moving parts and ensuring these levers would be strong enough to endure heavy use! For example in this picture, the lever which enables the old lady to “pile the dry sticks higher and higher” is connected to the flames which simultaneously rise up.

Other students used simple cut outs to provide "moving" opportunities: this picture shows the pot filled with water, which then transforms to the setting jam. Students worked out the arc of a moving sun, the gesture required for the Old Lady’s arm to reach up to pick berries, as well how animals might scurry from behind bushes and disappear from the page.

Another student created a 3D experience of berry bushes with a path that enabled the Old Lady to wander in front of or behind the bushes.

These same problem solving skills are developed when primary age children make their own books.

Our students approached this task with the joyful enthusiasm of children. Building on this experience, they now have inspiration for the myriad ways they might introduce this to primary age children to make their own pages in their classrooms of the future. 

Learn more about the Melbourne Seminar here.

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What should a 4 year old know?

By Alicia Bayer

I was on a parenting bulletin board recently and read a post by a mother who was worried that her 4 1/2 year old did not know enough. “What should a 4 year old know?” she asked.

Most of the answers left me not only saddened but pretty soundly annoyed. One mom posted a laundry list of all of the things her son knew. Counting to 100, planets, how to write his first and last name, and on and on. Others chimed in with how much more their children already knew, some who were only three. A few posted URL’s to lists of what each age should know. The fewest yet said that each child develops at his own pace and not to worry.

It bothered me greatly to see these mothers responding to a worried mom by adding to her concern, with lists of all the things their children could do that hers couldn’t. We are such a competitive culture that even our preschoolers have become trophies and bragging rights. Childhood shouldn’t be a race.

So here, I offer my list of what a 4 year old should know.

1. She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.

2. He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn’t feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.

3. She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.

4. He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he couldn’t care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he’ll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.

5. She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she’s wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvelous. She should know that it’s just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that– way more worthy.

But more important, here’s what parents need to know.

1. That every child learns to walk, talk, read and do algebra at his own pace and that it will have no bearing on how well he walks, talks, reads or does algebra.

2. That the single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children. Not flash cards, not workbooks, not fancy preschools, not blinking toys or computers, but mom or dad taking the time every day or night (or both!) to sit and read them wonderful books.

3. That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest. We are so caught up in trying to give our children “advantages” that we’re giving them lives as multi-tasked and stressful as ours. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.

4. That our children deserve to be surrounded by books, nature, art supplies and the freedom to explore them. Most of us could get rid of 90% of our children’s toys and they wouldn’t be missed, but some things are important– building toys like legos and blocks, creative toys like all types of art materials (good stuff), musical instruments (real ones and multicultural ones), dress up clothes and books, books, books. (Incidentally, much of this can be picked up quite cheaply at thrift shops.) They need to have the freedom to explore with these things too– to play with scoops of dried beans in the high chair (supervised, of course), to knead bread and make messes, to use paint and play dough and glitter at the kitchen table while we make supper even though it gets everywhere, to have a spot in the yard where it’s absolutely fine to dig up all the grass and make a mud pit.

5. That our children need more of us. We have become so good at saying that we need to take care of ourselves that some of us have used it as an excuse to have the rest of the world take care of our kids. Yes, we all need undisturbed baths, time with friends, sanity breaks and an occasional life outside of parenthood. But we live in a time when parenting magazines recommend trying to commit to 10 minutes a day with each child and scheduling one Saturday a month as family day. That’s not okay! Our children don’t need Nintendos, computers, after school activities, ballet lessons, play groups and soccer practice nearly as much as they need US. They need fathers who sit and listen to their days, mothers who join in and make crafts with them, parents who take the time to read them stories and act like idiots with them. They need us to take walks with them and not mind the 0.1 MPH pace of a toddler on a spring night. They deserve to help us make supper even though it takes twice as long and makes it twice as much work. They deserve to know that they’re a priority for us and that we truly love to be with them.

And now back to those 4 year old skills lists…

I know it’s human nature to want to know how our children compare to others and to want to make sure we’re doing all we can for them. Here is a list of what children are typically taught or should know by the end of each year of school, starting with preschool.

Since we homeschool, I occasionally print out the lists and check to see if there’s anything glaringly absent in what my kids know. So far there hasn’t been, but I get ideas sometimes for subjects to think up games about or books to check out from the library. Whether you homeschool or not, the lists can be useful to see what kids typically learn each year and can be reassuring that they really are doing fine.

If there are areas where it seems your child is lacking, realize that it’s not an indication of failure for either you or your child. You just haven’t happened to cover that. Kids will learn whatever they’re exposed to, and the idea that they all need to know these 15 things at this precise age is rather silly. Still, if you want him to have those subjects covered then just work it into life and play with the subject and he’ll naturally pick it up. Count to 60 when you’re mixing a cake and he’ll pick up his numbers. Get fun books from the library about space or the alphabet. Experiment with everything from backyard snow to celery stalks in food coloring. It’ll all happen naturally, with much more fun and much less pressure.

What does a 4 year old need?

Much less than we realize, and much more.

Originally posted at magicalchildhood


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