On Raising Loving Children

You may never have heard of APAPSO, but this small and dynamic community did another fine thing for all of us who are raising children, running busy homes and lives, or trying our best to love a partner. L’Association des parents et amis de la pédagogie Steiner à Ottawa (whew!) is the Mighty Mouse of area education, a group of parents who have instituted a pilot program using Steiner-Waldorf principles in a French-language public school in Vanier. On November 11-12, they held a conference called “Raising Loving Children” featuring Gene Campbell, a Toronto consultant and trainer, who was brought to Ottawa to help parents to make sense of all the things they are trying so hard to do well, to do “right”. It was a wonderful session.

For someone like me, who had to miss the Friday evening session, the Saturday morning start was a bit awkward – for about two minutes. But then Gene helped us do what she does with the youngest children: shut off our minds and go to our bodies. We clapped and snapped our fingers and learned how to get in synch with each other. “The mind has no sense of rhythm,” she later pointed out. “It’s very linear. We need something to interrupt the pattern of a mind-centred materialism. Only the heart, the body, has rhythm…”

And so that’s where we started. In an amazingly short time, as we introduced our children to the group and expressed our dedication to them, we became a community. As we expressed our dearest wishes and feelings, we were united as friends: listening, comparing notes, laughing, even crying together. And that’s when the doors to learning really opened.

Gene has quite a following among Steiner-Waldorf parents, and I could immediately see why. She has huge experience – she taught school for 16 years before she ever ran across the writings of Rudolf Steiner – deep knowledge and eloquent speech. She knows the principles and she has put them into action for years and years. Clearly, plainly, simply, she helped us to learn these things:

* Too many choices aren’t good for the little ones—it makes them too individualistic, and it’s too early for that.
* We need to help them get out, not only out of the house but also out of themselves; nature and imagination are essential to this.
* “Individualism is not a sustainable route to happiness. They need to feel the ‘we’, that sustaining sense that they are part of a family, a team that is there for life…”
* Playing a recorder is not only musical fun but also a psychological assessment tool!
* The creation of community is something we all instinctively long for and have the power to achieve.
* An orderly home is not impossible to achieve, and there are simple techniques and principles to help us get there.
* The home is a body, with its heart and its lungs (and its excretory function—get rid of that stuff!).
* Sometimes, the obstacles and emotional attachments that we think the kids have are really coming from us.
* “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (These are Margaret Mead’s words, but Gene gave us the same challenge, the same hope for what we are doing with this program.)

And as much as anything, we learned that we are all in this together, that the little
group at Trillium is filled with caring and loving parents (and grandparents), and that the Waldorf-Steiner program has intelligent principles and practical help for this most important job: educating our children in a loving family setting. Our numbers grew as the day went on, and no doubt those numbers will be even higher the next time Gene Campbell comes to town.

This article was written for a local newspaper, and appeared later in November as well as in the APAPSO newsletter.