I will be the first person to admit that I do not subscribe to any one style of parenting mostly because I have a deep and enduring aversion to parenting books. It’s not that they aren’t helpful and they surely provide people with important structure during a time when we all are humbled by how little we know about raising tiny humans.
It’s more that I hate (and I use the word hate strongly) parenting books for the gaping divides they place between adults. Praise your child. Don’t praise your child. Wear your baby. Let them cry it out. Vaccinate. Don’t Vaccinate. The list of ways to pit parents against each other is endless and you can find a doctor or child rearing professional out there for just about every point of view.
That is why I seriously avoided reading You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy when it was given to me this past Fall. I was sure it was going to be another one of those “Do it my way or you will scar your children for life” sort of books and I have no time for that sort of cliquey nonsense.
But, in the midst of really feeling like I need to get my junk together in the parenting universe, I picked it up and was pleasantly surprised at what a lovely, insightful read it is.
First, I will come clean that this book definitely comes from a certain perspective. Baldwin Dancy is a Waldorf school teacher and her take on raising children is centered in nature, simplicity, rhythm of life and ritual – all things that are very much a part of the Waldorf philosophy. But, it is her tone and approach that makes this book one you will buy and keep on your shelf for reference.
From the beginning this book is about looking at children as beings that go through different stages of energy, mental capacity and experience. It comes at the ideas of children needing to advance into certain spaces of their lives gracefully and in ways that don’t steal their childhoods away from them in a way that gives parents lots of room to be, well, flawed I guess is the best word for it. No one is perfect and Baldwin Dancy recognizes this.
She treats the ideas presented in the book as helpful tools for creating a household with more harmony. She never once asserts that her approach is the best and even presents ideas that are completely counter to Waldorf philosophy in ways that show parents what their options can be.
I really appreciated this book as I am truly searching for some tools and ideas on how to create a way of living and raising our children that takes all of our personalities into consideration and allows for not only order but warmth and harmony too.
I feel like I can pick this book up on any given day and start where I am at. If yesterday sucked, we can try again. If today is on the downslide, the ideas and perspective on children give me the much needed perspective to regroup. It also helped me to realize that each person in our house may need a different approach, but we can all work together in the end. Yay!
You Are Your Child’s First Teacher is an excellent, easygoing introduction into Waldorf philosophy and – if you aren’t into that – also a great read on the innate natures of children and the stages each of them go through from a more spiritual perspective. I highly recommend it and you can pick it up at your local, independent book seller.