Creating Hope for Our Children

I've been thinking about Hels' reaction to the Joan Baez concert. The child was completely absorbed not just in the music, but also in the lyrics and the message. We've had subsequent talks about Vietnam, Iraq, the peace movement, and the power of the arts to challenge the status quo.

Talking about such issues is relatively new for us. We've lived for years without television. Our children have not grown up seeing the nightly news. They haven't had images from news magazines staring at them from the coffee table. One might say they've led a very sheltered existence. One could say that we've done them a disservice by not teaching them about Iraq, global warming, extinction, or any number of other things. Of course, they know about these big world issues in a general sense, but they haven't been exposed to the media's fear factor approach.

Not too long ago, while visiting friends, their young daughter kept coming up to me to ask if I realized that xx acres of ice were disappearing from Antarctica every day. She kept bringing me these little facts and I realized that she was quite disturbed by it all and really had no idea what to do with the information she had received except to be worried.

This worry seems so unnecessary. There's plenty of time later to be worried about the world. Instead, I think children need to have such deep, rich experiences in the world that it fills their inner selves. They need to have wallowed in mud, gotten lost in the world of the stars, and breathed in the sweet smell of grass. They need to have such a sense of wonder about the world that as adults, they'll care--care enough to step out and try to create change.

Children also need to grow up with adults quietly leading by example in creating change. By simple acts--recycling, composting, saving energy, attending town meeting and voting--our children will see that the power of one can be powerful. They'll grow to realize that their parents have been active, engaged citizens all along and that they, themselves have been acting toward change all along.

As teens, susceptible to swinging emotions and new ways of thinking, it could be easy to become overwhelmed and depressed about the world. If they already have the habit of being "green"at home, perhaps when they delve into global warming in their science class they will realize that they already have begun to make change in their own small way.

The Waldorf curriculum also supports this notion. In the middle school years, the children are exposed to a rich array of literature, science, current events, and history that expose the children to big issues and disturbing events that are balanced with examples leaders and artists of all sorts who have acted with respect, concern and integrity. They are also given a large amount of community service work to help them find purpose in themselves.

I want my young teen to learn about the Joan Baez's in this world. As she learns about some of our world's greatest challenges, I don't want her to sink into despair or helplessness, but instead to be stirred into caring and action. We're stepping into a new phase in our family life. It's exciting!

Tara  – (March 27, 2008 at 1:31 PM)  

Nice! All the way around. Tess has weathered public school fairly well but I see so much of what you describe about kids being given information they aren't ready for and don't know what to do. Just two weeks ago the school showed a video on decision making that featured a boy who chose to inhale (I'm not sure I have this right) from an spray paint can and ended up with a burnt face. Eeek! I almost wet my pants when she told me about it! Couldn't there have been some more appropriate way to discuss making good decisions? How is a child supposed to process this? I'm sure my child never even knew of this until being exposed to it at school. So we had a looooong discussion and I told her I thought it was inappropriate for the very reason you mention. I also wondered if kids would take away the wrong message and try to do what the boy did in the video. Three days later I got the report of a child doing just that.
Sorry for the rant. I guess I could sum it up by saying: I agree, wholeheartedly.

Dawn  – (March 27, 2008 at 3:04 PM)  

I think it's wonderful that your girls want to discuss important issues with you but have been somewhat sheltered from too much information that they can't handle. We don't listen to or watch the news in front of our kids at this point. I think I was exposed to way too much information that I couldn't handle when I was young and I remember having nightmares and a underlying feeling of fear much of the time. I also didn't want to discuss politics with my Dad as a teenager because I had already heard his point of view for so long that I felt I already knew what he would say. There seems to be so much wisdom in the Waldorf approach to education regarding childhood development and the more I learn, the more I'm thankful for having it as a part of our life.

Anonymous –   – (March 27, 2008 at 8:10 PM)  

I think children need to have a foundation of trust and security in the world before they have to deal with some of the harsher realities. That way they are better able to process them, and think in a positive way about solutions. You can't solve problems if you're scared of them!

I remember being scared of nuclear war when I was in grade school. How crazy is that, that a little kid should be thinking about global annihilation! I have a hard enough time not talking about more mundane things in front of my kids, like car accidents or illness, that can be disturbing enough.

Patience  – (March 28, 2008 at 1:44 AM)  

I had the same experience as Anthromama. Infact all the kids I knew had nightmares about nuclear war. Even to this day the old fear lingers at the back of mind at bedtime as I look out at the dark, quiet world.

I really loved this post.

Lisa Anne  – (March 28, 2008 at 11:13 AM)  

Beautiful Sara! We also keep a close lid on Media exposure in our house, this is the first year we have had TV, we keep it to things like masterpiece theatre and Martha Stewart and Saturday nights we listen to "Prarie Home Companion". Exposing Amelia to culture through museums and real people who show an example of what it means to be a responsible citizen. I do not completely agree with Unitarian Universalist teachings but they do have a grip on being socially engaged and being in the youth group this year has opened Amelia's eyes about the world gently and gives her tools on how to make change in the world.
We are listening to Peter Yarrow lately and he has the same sensitivities that Joan Baez has and we are not too far from Woodstock, NY where the folk scene is/was really happening, I am thinking about spending a day there and talk about the activism of that time. This is not really part of Waldorf Curriculum but I really think this is what the emerging teenager is seeking in so many ways, deep experiences that connect them to the real world.

Great topic- Thanks:)

Mama Randa Morning Glory  – (March 29, 2008 at 1:02 AM)  

Very nicely written.

Tara, I agree, you're child probably didn't even know that huffing paint was a possibility until seeing that video. Schools are presenting the D.A.R.E program earlier and earlier now. I went through it in 6th grade but I think it is sometimes presented as early as third grade. Third graders learning about drugs. As a sixth graders I knew little to nothing about drugs until D.A.R.E introduced them all. People can get high from inhaling the gas from the lawn mower!? Hmm... Luckily I was a bright kid and knew that these were not healthy things to do, but I can assure you that I didn't make my good desicions because of the scare tactics and exaggerated dramatizations. Many students just took away new ideas of things they wanted to try.

ANyway, I do think it's important to set good examples and to talk to our children about these issues such as war and climate change. It's better that these issues are acknowledged by parents (at apporpriate ages of course) than to be taken completely shocked by it when it pops up outside the home. It is unrealistic to completely shelter our children--- though I often wish we could.

Lisa  – (March 29, 2008 at 11:00 AM)  

I can only agree, unfortunately we live in a world where our children are pushed to grow up without anyone explaining whats going on.

Lisa x

Gypsy  – (March 30, 2008 at 3:45 AM)  

What a beautiful post, I think you have so succintly summed up one of the nicest things about Waldorf education - letting children really enjoy their childhood without exposing them to things they are not ready to be worried about.

Angela  – (April 2, 2008 at 2:19 PM)  

This is wonderful. I really believe that a solid foundation as children will breed teens that are able to understand and view the world differently when they do start thinking about the bigger issues. NG just discovered Joan Baez and the protest music of the Vietnam era recently, and has also been incredibly moved by it. What bothers her most is that this generation is completely out of touch with political issues, and there is nothing in todays music that resonates such a concern. Too much me, me, me...while the war happens to someone else.

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