Is Waldorf "hygge?"

You've probably heard about the Danish concept of hygge. You can read about it here and here (and, it seems, everywhere). We recently came across the hashtag #hyggeschooling and that made us think about how especially in Early Childhood, Waldorf embodies hygge.  

The social atmosphere and the simplicity of the classroom, the aesthetic pleasure of the scents and sights and sounds, the tea and cozy slippers and wooly layers: Waldorf children get the best of hygge from the early years. (And then they go on to knit their own socks and go on camping trips...but that's for another post.)

This is not by accident. The founder of Waldorf Education, Rudolf Steiner, wrote and spoke about the importance of protecting and nourishing the developing child's senses. He articulated 12 senses and said, "Everything we have in us, even everything we experience in our soul, is related to the outer world through our twelve senses. These are the senses of touch, life, movement, balance, smell, taste, sight, warmth, hearing, speech, thinking, and the sense of the I." His work on this topic is outlined in The Care and Development of the Human Senses.

If you are curious to know more, join us on December 9 for Celebrate the Seasons with a Waldorf Teacher or come by any Monday for Tea & Play for 1pm. (Both events are open to families with children ages 2-6.) Register with our Early Childhood Admissions Coordinator at 845.356.2514 x326.

Photo of a felted acorn in the Nursery classroom by Nursery Teacher Rebecca Ruof.

Photo of a felted acorn in the Nursery classroom by Nursery Teacher Rebecca Ruof.

Celebrate the Seasons with a Waldorf Teacher

Join us on Saturday, December 9 from 10:30am-12pm for a special seasonal event. Spend time in our beautiful cozy classroom on a cold December morning, while children play and adults have time for conversation. We will make felted acorns and learn some verses about Little Jackie Frost and King Winter. We'll also share a bowl of warm oatmeal together. Slow down, connect with new friends, and allow your little ones some time for an unhurried, magical morning.

Please register with Barbara Mann at 845.356.2514 x326 or bmann@gmws.org.

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Featured post: Local geography: Where else do Green Meadow students live?

To help prospective parents get to know our school, we have been sharing a bit over the last few weeks about where our students travel from each day to attend Green Meadow. In addition to Rockland County, where a majority of our students come from, Green Meadow families come from 11 other counties in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut each day.

We have already profiled the four counties where the majority of our students come from: Rockland, Orange, and Westchester in NY and Bergen in NJ. 

So where does everyone else come from?

Learn more about our school.

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Local geography: Which towns in Orange County do Green Meadow students live in?

To help prospective parents get to know our school, we have been sharing a bit over the last few weeks about where our students travel from each day to attend Green Meadow. In addition to Rockland County, where a majority of our students come from, Green Meadow families come from 11 other counties in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut each day.

Up today: Orange County, NY, where 7 of our 210 families live. Students come from in the following towns: Bellvale, Chester, Tuxedo, Warwick, and Washingtonville

Learn more about our school.

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Local geography: Which towns in Westchester County do Green Meadow students live in?

To help prospective parents get to know our school, we have been sharing a bit over the last few weeks about where our students travel from each day to attend Green Meadow. In addition to Rockland County, where a majority of our students come from, Green Meadow families come from 11 other counties in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut each day.

Up today: Westchester County, NY, where 10 of our 210 families live. Students come from in the following towns: Chappaqua, Hartsdale, Hastings-on-Hudson, Montrose, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, and White Plains

Learn more about our school.

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Local geography: Which towns in Rockland County do Green Meadow students live in?

To help prospective parents get to know our school, we will be sharing a bit over the next few weeks about where our students travel from each day to attend Green Meadow. In addition to Rockland County, where a majority of our students come from, Green Meadow families come from 11 other counties in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut each day.

Today: Rockland County, NY, where 127 of our 210 families live. Students come from in the following towns: Airmont, Blauvelt, Chestnut Ridge, Haverstraw, Monsey, Montebello, Nanuet, New City, Nyack, Orangeburg, Palisades, Pearl River, Piermont, Pomona, Sparkill, Spring Valley, Stony Point, South Nyack, Suffern, Tallman, Tappan, and West Nyack

Learn more about our school.

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Generations: an alumnus teaching the children of fellow alumni

Recently, we told you about our First Grade teacher, Daniel Bieber (Class of 2003), who has six GMWS alumni as parents in his class, along with three alumni from other Waldorf schools.  

Today, in the third installment of this blog series, we'd like to introduce you to Maureen Satriano, GMWS Class of 1988, whose twin daughters are in Daniel's first grade class. Maureen also has two older children in the school, serves as our school nurse, and has played many roles at GMWS since graduating.

"One of the best parts of my time at Green Meadow was learning to look at everything from many angles.  I feel it has given me a perspective in life that is sometimes challenging for others, and for me too.  But most of the time I find myself thinking about an event, an experience, or a person, and trying to understand, or at least consider it from someone else's perspective.  There were many outstanding aspects of a Waldorf Education that I am passionate about, but trying to figure something out in many different ways, or imagining what it must be like for someone else, stands out as a valuable tool to have in our modern times.

I chose Green Meadow because I wanted a Waldorf Education for my children.  There was no other choice, in my mind.  I want my children to experience learning in color, warmth of teachers and community, joy in learning, and depth of thinking.  I want to have children who can look their teachers, friends, and friends' parents in the eye, and carry on a meaningful conversation.  I want more Waldorf graduates in the world, who think outside the box, look at issues from all angles, have a global perspective of the world, and are inspired to make positive change, and who feel they have to tools to make a difference.  I wanted my children to love school, and I knew they could do that at a Waldorf school."

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Generations: an alumnus teaching the children of fellow alumni

Recently, we told you about our First Grade teacher, Daniel Bieber (Class of 2003), who has six GMWS alumni as parents in his class, along with three alumni from other Waldorf schools.  

Today we'd like to introduce you to Dr. Nicole Falanga, GMWS Class of 1998, whose son is in Daniel's first grade class.

"Green Meadow encouraged me to really think; to learn from and to question the world around me rather than becoming robotic and focusing on memorizing information and taking tests.
The teachers knew each of the students deeply and nurtured us toward our potential. I was given a safe platform to explore my individualism and was gently rerouted or guided when needed.

I wanted my children's early education to be play oriented; where self-directed learning would allow them to slowly discover the world. As Andrew begins 1st grade, I am excited that he will be given the tools to approach his life, learning, and interpersonal relationships in the thoughtful and intentional way that the school provides. I am confident that as he moves into the upper grades and high school, the sophisticated academic and social environment will be great preparation for life and learning beyond Green Meadow."

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Local geography: Which towns in Bergen County do Green Meadow students live in?

To help prospective parents get to know our school, we will be sharing a bit over the next few weeks about where our students travel from each day to attend Green Meadow. In addition to Rockland County, where a majority of our students come from, Green Meadow families come from 11 other counties in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut each day.

First up: Bergen County, NJ, where 45 of our 210 families live. Students live in the following towns: Allendale, Demarest, Fair Lawn, Fort Lee, Hasbrouck Heights, Hillsdale, Leonia, Mahwah, Maywood, Midland Park, Montvale, Northvale, Paramus, Park RidgeRamsey, Ridgefield, Ridgewood, Rochelle Park, Rutherford, Saddle River, Teaneck, Upper Saddle River, Woodcliff Lake, and Wyckoff.

Learn more about our school.

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Generations: an alumnus teaching the children of fellow alumni

Recently, we told you about our First Grade teacher, Daniel Bieber (Class of 2003), who has six GMWS alumni as parents in his class, along with three alumni from other Waldorf schools.  

Today we'd like to introduce you to Amina Gurcan, GMWS Class of 2004, whose son is in Daniel's first grade class.

"When thinking of my Waldorf Education at Green Meadow, what stands out most is the dedication of the teachers to their students, particularly the class teachers of the lower grades and how they commit to teaching and guiding the children for eight years. It amazes me how involved they are with their class, almost as if they were another parent. I will never forget the incredible dedication and patience my teacher had for each one of us in the class. I remember that she would make extra time to work with me on certain subjects that needed more improvement. She believed in me and that has always meant so much. 

I am awed not just by the way I was taught through Waldorf Education, but by how much I did while a student. I performed plays, made books, went on trips, learned to sew, had art, woodwork, and pottery classes, learned to write poems, learned a new art for my senior project, learned to play an instrument and read music. I played Beethoven's 5th Symphony! Not necessarily well but at least I experienced playing such an great piece of music. I don't believe I would have had such opportunities if I had attended a different school, and I am very grateful for my education at Green Meadow.

While pregnant with my son, Ensar, and thinking of his future, I knew that we would do all we could to try to send him to Green Meadow. I feel so blessed to say that he is now a Green Meadow student! Through my own experience, I see the great value of a Waldorf Education and knew that it was the type of education I wanted my children to have. Kindergarten was a wonderful experience and Ensar loved it. He is now an eager, enthusiastic, and curious first grader really ready for this new venture. These first two weeks have been both thrilling and nostalgic for me, as Ensar transitions to his new class. Having Daniel Bieber, who is also eager and enthusiastic, as the teacher, it all just feels right. "

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Photos from the Rose Ceremony (Sept. 2017)

The Rose Ceremony is a beloved tradition at many Waldorf schools, including Green Meadow. On the first day of school in September, the 12th graders welcome the 1st graders into the school by handing them a rose. On the last day of school, the (now taller, older, and wiser) 1st graders reciprocate and say goodbye to the 12th graders with a rose of their own. The whole school gathers to witness both events.

Last week's Rose Ceremony took place on Sept. 6 and was, as always, a beautiful and moving rite of passage for all of our young people.

Photos by Fernando Lopez

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Summer Blog Series: Highlights from The Bulletin (#10)

Our Summer blog series continues through early September, as we share some of our favorite articles published this past year in The Bulletin. Take a look at the article by Dan Feldman '89 on page 16 of this issue and read a short interview with him from the start of 2017 at IoT Evolution.

 

Generations: an alumnus teaching the children of fellow alumni

For us at Green Meadow, one signal that we are successfully living out our mission is the fact that many of our alumni return here when it is time to choose a school for their own children. They see the value of the Waldorf Education they received and want to offer the same for their children. 

Our current first grade, the Class of 2029, tells an even more special story: the teacher of this class that includes so many children of alumni (more on that later) is himself a graduate of Green Meadow.

Daniel Bieber graduated from Green Meadow in 2003. After attending Bard College and helping run the family business (The Nature Place Day Camp), among other things, he decided to begin his Waldorf teacher training at Sunbridge Institute. He then served for two years as a Lower School Assistant at GMWS while in his teacher training. Daniel applied last year for the First Grade position and, having gotten to know him as an adult in his role as Classroom Assistant, we were thrilled to offer him this opportunity to take a class at his alma mater.

We will be writing in the coming weeks about the many alumni who are now parents in Daniel's class (six GMWS alumni and two alumni from other Waldorf schools), sharing their stories of why they decided to return to GMWS and send their children to the school they attended. Stay tuned.

 

Daniel Bieber '03 with his First Grade, the Class of 2029, on the first day of school, 9/6/17

Daniel Bieber '03 with his First Grade, the Class of 2029, on the first day of school, 9/6/17

Summer Blog Series: Highlights from The Bulletin (#9)

Our Summer blog series continues through early September, as we share some of our favorite articles published this past year in The Bulletin. Enjoy! 

Student Spotlight:  A Brief Story of My Summer Internship

By Sam Wheeler, current Twelfth Grader

During the summer of 2016, between Tenth and Eleventh grades, I returned to my home city, Beijing, to attend an engineering internship. The internship took place at Tsinghua University, where my grandfather is a professor emeritus; he specialized in artificial intelligence and taught there for 40 years before he retired.  I was lucky to have the opportunity to join the post-graduate robotics department for a whole month where my grandfather’s students, the robotics professors, were teaching.

First, I would like to give a background of Tsinghua University itself: Tsinghua University was established in 1911 using funds donated by the US and is a comprehensive research university with 20 schools and 54 departments covering disciplines in art, economics, education, engineering, history, management, medicine, law, literature, philosophy, and sciences. Its strong research and training offerings consistently place Tsinghua University as one of the top academic institutions in China, alongside Peking University.  Of course, this leads to the belief in many Chinese people's minds that these two universities are the only two worth graduating from in China, in the same way that they consider Harvard and Yale to be the “only” two schools in the US. 

Situated in northwestern Beijing, Tsinghua University’s campus has been named one of the most beautiful in the world. The campus, which was established on the site of a former royal garden, contains beautiful buildings that are over a century old, with Stalin-esque monstrosities modeled after Soviet era architecture, and beautiful modern buildings designed by incredible architects. It is safe to say that Tsinghua University is an incredibly unique university.

For my internship, my first task was to write an essay on the future of robotics, particularly the domestication of robots. I was asked to consider the current technology in the field and its availability, as well as the practicality of domestic robots and its possible impact on society in general. After a week of intensive research on the matter, I presented my report to the professor in charge, and he took it in for review. I was given two more tasks for the remainder of my internship, which were to assist the post-graduates with any experiments they needed help with, and to teach myself during the time in between.

Over the next few weeks, I would help with the experiments of the two main focuses in the department. One of the focuses was an autonomous bike designed for delivery through busy situations, like the streets of a big city. Not only that, the bike needed the durability to travel moderate distances with a heavy payload. I was told that a completely autonomous real time detection system needed incredibly complex code, and it required a great deal of adjustments. I assisted with these adjustments, and learned the improvisational capacity of post-graduates were almost limitless. Instead of properly setting up obstacles, they would place a bag of soccer balls, or even just run around the bike themselves to test the code.

The other focus of the department was designing a humanoid robot capable of playing sports. This meant that the robot would need agility, speed, and most importantly, balance. It took a massive compilation of code to get the robot to walk without falling over, and with this group, I assisted with guiding the robot while they tested its balance on a soccer field. By the end of the internship I had assisted in multiple experiments and gained a deeper knowledge of engineering and robotics. During the intermittent times between the experiments, I taught myself three new coding languages: JavaScript, HTML and CSS.

When my professor returned my report, he said that it was a very useful insight on the future of robotics and that he would possibly use it in an investment pitch to potential donors for the robotics department.

During my time there, I discovered that as a post-graduate, it is entirely up to them to build their projects and to create a reasonable schedule. Of course, the professor will be there intermittently to be a guide, but the bulk of responsibility lies on the post-graduate to create the project, mark the deadlines, and to create a schedule so that the result is high quality. This extends to daily schedules as well; if confident in their own abilities, they can change their working hours to suit them, and in doing so gain the ability to self-manage more appropriately.

Summer Blog Series: Highlights from The Bulletin (#8)

This Summer, we are sharing some of our favorite articles published this past year in The Bulletin. Enjoy! 

Protecting Childhood in the Digital Age:  A Look at Waldorf Education and The Big Disconnect by Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair

By Vanessa Lee, Bulletin Coordinator

Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair came to Green Meadow Waldorf School on November 1 and spent a full day talking and working with students, faculty, and parents.  As a developmental and clinical psychologist, her views of children’s development echo Rudolf Steiner’s view of developmentally appropriate education.  The Waldorf philosophy of meeting the children where they are is founded on the understanding that each child goes through three distinct phases of development: early childhood (birth to 7), grade school (7-14), and adolescence (14-21).  In each phase, the child is engaged physically (willing), emotionally (feeling), and mentally (thinking); however, one aspect of this three-dimensional approach is emphasized based on what is developmentally appropriate.  Early childhood is grounded in willing; grade school in feeling, and high school in thinking. 

In The Big Disconnect:  Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, Dr. Steiner-Adair breaks down her research into five phases of childhood:  The Brilliant Baby Brain (birth to 2); Mary Had a Little iPad (3 to 5); Fast Forward Childhood (6 to 10); Going, Going, Gone (11 to 13); and Teens, Tech, Temptation, and Trouble (Teens).  Her book discusses the developmental needs within each stage and how media and technology can affect children.  The following article discusses the phases of childhood, the GMWS media policy, and the research from The Big Disconnect about the impact of media and technology on childhood and on parenting.

Early Childhood (birth to 7):  A Healthy Will (Character Skill Development)

The Waldorf approach to Early Childhood education focuses on creating an environment and rhythm where the child is able to develop, from within, what in Waldorf Education is referred to as a healthy will.  A healthy will can also be described as a set of character skills, and those include impulse control, perseverance, reverence, curiosity, and optimism.  This is nourished through self-initiated play, work, movement, and stories.  Free, unstructured play develops emotional maturity through social interactions as well as developing a child’s attention span through problem solving and imaginative thinking.  Imitation is also key in Waldorf Early Childhood education, as it is through imitation that children at this stage learn.  The child’s imagination becomes activated by what is offered through oral storytelling and puppetry.  The skills which are developed in the first seven years become the foundation upon which future learning takes place.  The gift of a media-free early childhood protects the space within the child where the development of these character traits is taking place.

Early Childhood:  GMWS Policy

In an effort to support this developmentally appropriate education, the GMWS media policy states that “children enrolled in the Early Childhood program at Green Meadow should be given the gift of a media-free childhood…” (p. 29, GMWS Parent Handbook)

You Can’t Reboot Childhood – The Big Disconnect

In The Big Disconnect, Dr. Steiner-Adair advocates for a tech-free infancy and toddlerhood.  She says that “too much tech at any age, but especially too early an introduction to it – before age two – shortchanges a young child on the time and mix of experiences the sensorium [brain] needs for well-rounded development.”  (p. 78, The Big Disconnect)  The images that come through electronic devices come very quickly, more quickly than a young child’s brain is equipped to handle.  Apps are made to stimulate but this stimulation is detrimental to a young child’s brain development.  Young children also need to move and sedentary media does not engage a child’s will forces, which are at the center of Waldorf Education during these early childhood years.

Middle Childhood (7 – 14):  A Healthy Feeling Life

Once a child enters first grade at a Waldorf School, the education shifts from a focus on willing to a focus on feeling.  The child’s feeling life is engaged through a close connection to the class teacher who cycles with them, usually for several years.  The child’s learning develops through their inner engagement with stories and art as well as movement and music.  The world of science and math as well as language arts are taught by engaging the whole child and working with the feeling life.  There is a rhythm of inner and outer movement and focus that nurtures the natural ebb and flow of children’s attention.  In this section, Lower School (Grades 1-5) and Middle School (Grades 6-8) will be separated, as there is an important developmental shift around the age of 12.

Lower School:  GMWS Policy (Grades 1 – 5)

At GMWS, our media policy grows with our children and recognizes a split in this 7-14 age group.  “Consistent with Waldorf Education’s emphasis on learning through direct experience, children in the lower grades (1-5) should be allowed to develop new ideas and attitudes based on real personal interactions, without the distortion of mediation through technology.  Children in the lower grades should not be exposed to electronic media in their daily lives.  They should not watch television, movies, or videos, play video games, or use computers.  Additionally, exposure to radio and recorded music should be limited and age-appropriate.” (p. 29, GMWS Parent Handbook)

Fast-Forward Childhood – The Big Disconnect

Dr. Steiner-Adair talks about the dangers of what she calls “Fast Forward Childhood.”  “At a developmental time when children need to be learning how to effectively interact directly, the tech mediated environment is not [emphasis mine] an adequate substitute for the human one” (p. 135).  Children need direct interaction with parents, siblings, friends, and teachers in order to develop social and emotional skills such as eye contact, understanding verbal cues, and understanding the impact of one’s words upon another person.  Texting takes all of this away.  At this age, children become more critical of themselves and others; social media and texting (in their one-sided, quip-style communication) can be easily misunderstood or used more maliciously as a platform for social cruelty.

When Dr. Steiner-Adair spoke to the parents at Green Meadow, she said that the World Wide Web is for adults, not children; and that a smartphone is not a phone but a handheld computer with access to the adult world of the web.  Today, we are three clicks or less away from disturbing images that young children and adolescents cannot process.  She cites many examples of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) in young adolescents who ended up on websites that were way above their developmental capacity.

Another important consideration for us as parents at this age are movies and exposure to TV.  Many movies and TV shows have adult images of good and evil, as well as violence.  When we read a book, our children create images in their mind.  This in itself is beautiful and should be cherished and we have to consider when and if we would allow the images from a book made into a movie to usurp the child’s own imagination. 

Another point Dr. Steiner-Adair makes is that the book and a movie are two very different experiences for children because “…a kid only imagines what his or her life experience allows, [and] watching violence is different from imagining violence.” (p. 127, quoting Michael Rich at the Center on Media and Child Health)

Middle School:  Transition to Media

GMWS is currently implementing a Cyber Civics course designed for the Middle School to help transition our children from a Lower School “No Media” policy to the High School “Know Media” policy.  Cyber Civics is a middle school digital citizenship and literacy program that meets an urgent and growing need to prepare students with the skills to be ethical, confident, and empowered digital citizens, and after much research and discussion, the program is beginning in January for grades 6-8.

Middle School:  GMWS Policy (Grades 6, 7, and 8)

“During Grades 6, 7, and 8, it is appropriate for students to have a gradual and guided introduction to the applications and use of electronic media.  During these transition years, use of and exposure to media should be very moderate, under clear parental guidance and participation, and not work to the detriment of the social and educational climate of the class.  Media exposure can be a socially divisive influence in these years and often works directly against what is brought in the classroom.” (p. 29, GMWS Parent Handbook)

Going, Going, Gone – The Big Disconnect

In the chapter on Tweens and Screens, Dr. Steiner-Adair says, “The idea of middle school as a transition zone between elementary and high school was created to punctuate the notoriously complicated three-year period in which children by 11 or 12 are no longer thinking and acting like they’re 8 or 9 but they are also not yet the relatively more sophisticated abstract thinkers they’ll be at 14 and 15.  It is the age of awkwardness and uncertainty.”  (p. 163)

She says that the preadolescent brain is not ready for the level of responsibility required for unrestricted access to online media, where a message or image can go viral in seconds and have serious consequences for both sender and subject.  “Hanging out, geeking out, and messing around all have a place in a healthy media diet for children this age.  But as a therapist, [she] also see[s] the darker side as pre-teens struggle with … body image and identity and flex their social power and capacity for cruelty more boldly and often anonymously online.” (p. 174)  She also cited research that middle school girls are the most likely group to give out personal information, including names and addresses, to strangers online.  She encourages parents to educate early and continuously, to set up house rules on the appropriate use of media, and to install parental controls on devices during this turbulent middle-school period.

Adolescence:  14-21:  A Healthy Thinking Life

In the Waldorf high school, the students are still engaged actively, emotionally, and thoughtfully; however, the focus shifts appropriately to thinking, which is developed through the subjects that are taught and through habits of mind that are cultivated.  Each year of high school presents a different question, which awakens specific aspects of human intelligence.  In Ninth Grade, the question is “What?” as students are asked to awaken their powers of observation further.  The question of “How?” is the focus in Tenth Grade as observation is expanded to include comparison.  Eleventh Grade brings the question “Why?” as the students develop powers of analysis and abstraction.  And Twelfth Grade is the time to step back and observe the whole, culminating in the question of “Who?” or “Who am I?” (Jack Petrash, Understanding Waldorf Education)

High School:  GMWS Policy

“The media policy in the High School recognizes that it is appropriate for 15- to 19-year-olds to learn to critically approach and effectively use media.  The school recognizes the importance of media literacy, including educating students to understand the technological principles underlying (and the social transformations resulting from) electronic media, and seeks to meet this need through a curriculum that includes internet research skills, computer programming, the science behind new technologies, and the social consequences of the ongoing media revolution. 

Because the inappropriate or excessive use of electronic media undermines teenagers’ living relationships to other people, the world around them, and themselves, however, parents should continue to monitor and limit their teenagers’ exposure to electronic and social media and should maintain an open dialogue with their teenage children about the role of media in their lives….”  (GMWS Parent Handbook, p. 30)

Teens, Tech, Temptation, and Trouble – The Big Disconnect

“Teens…[must balance the] disconnect between what they feel compelled or pressured to do, what they are emotionally and developmentally ready to do, and the desire to stay true to their self.” (p. 198)  This is true in all aspects of teenage life and heightened in the digital age.  Adolescence is the time for impulsivity and tech can delete the pause between impulse and action.  Additionally, “[t]he normalization of porn in teen life, the ease with which tech and texting are used as weapons of communication, the emotional intensity of the age, and the amoral environment of the online culture make it a dangerous mix in the hands of adolescents.” (p. 219) 

“Our children are quick to use tech, but how to set limits and use it wisely requires more self-discipline and emotional maturity than most…children have…developed.” (p. 156)  All technology can be addictive.  Video games, especially for preadolescent and adolescent boys, are created to be addictive with their immediate rewards, and have skewed gender and race representations.  Playing video games can adversely affect the developing brain by engaging the primitive brain which causes people to be reactive, less thoughtful, and unbalanced emotionally. 

Parenting in a Sustainable Family

On the evening of November 1, Dr. Steiner-Adair spoke to about 230 parents and guests in Rose Hall, and focused on the effect of adult tech use on the family.  She started the evening by telling us that we had chosen wisely in choosing Green Meadow Waldorf School for our children, as she was pleased by her observations around use of technology on campus and her conversations with the middle and high school students.  While there are positive and negative aspects of technology, she said, she encouraged us to be conscious in our own tech habits, especially around our children.  She cited examples of children trying to get their parents’ attention but unable to do so as the parent was texting or checking email.  She also said that when parents say they are “just checking” email, it typically lasts between 25 minutes and two hours.  In her research, children expressed anger, sadness, loneliness, and frustration when they were unable to get their parents’ attention. 

She noted three signs that we may be psychologically dependent on our cell phones: 

1. Someone else’s phone rings and we reach for ours;

2. Phantom ring syndrome: when we think we hear our phone ring;

3. Taking the phone into the bathroom. 

She also cited brain research that shows that our primitive brain becomes engaged while using our devices, causing empathy and hearing to decrease.  The challenge with not being able to read social clues, mentioned in earlier sections of this article, also applies to adults as we cannot read a person online in same way we can face-to-face.

Dr. Steiner-Adair cited five pivotal points in the day when it is good to be off of our devices: 

1. First thing in the morning – she cautioned against using smartphones as alarm clocks as the temptation to check email/text is too strong and can activate our primitive brain too early. (However, she also suggested that we get up half an hour earlier to text/email before the children get up rather than being distracted once they wake up);

2. Drives to school – don’t text and don’t let children be on their devices; the car is a great way to talk about family values;

3.  When children come home from school, as it is an important time to be fully present with our children and debrief the day;

4. When you come home from work, do not come home on the phone and do not check email as soon as you get home;

5. Bedtime and bathtime (for those with younger children).

Julie Scelfo, in her NY Times article entitled The Risks of Parenting While Plugged In (June 9, 2010) also cited children feeling hurt when their parents were on their devices instead of paying attention to them during three critical times: 

1. Meals;

2. Pick-up from school or extra-curricular activity;

3. Sports events. 

There are positive aspects of media and technology, including the social element, as they help us stay connected to extended family and friends. We all know, too, that they can be time-savers, as we can get quick responses via a text or our GPS helps us not to get lost.  However, as parents, we need to be aware of the dangers of technology as the values of many online activities, communities, and games are extremely toxic.  We need to move from being “clueless” to being informed and realistic.  Dr. Steiner-Adair also said that parents need to shift from being “scary and crazy” to being parents who are approachable and calm; we need to move from being a reactive parent to being a responsive one. (See box on page xx.) This applies to parenting with or without technology but the digital age has accelerated the pace of life and parenting and asks us to be even more conscious and responsive.

A positive outcome of having Dr. Steiner-Adair come to talk with our students, faculty, and parents is the information that was shared and the conversations that have ensued amongst the students, the parents, and the faculty.  Green Meadow Waldorf School is a community of individuals and families who are all striving to do our best in raising our children in this digital age and we can recognize and appreciate these efforts in each other.  As a family, we can protect unplugged time for all of us.  Creating a capacity for solitude is a true gift to our children and to ourselves; a time to hear our inner voice and connect to ourselves.  We can also look within our community for support in our approach to sustainable parenting in the digital age.

Meet our Alumni: Ken Mankoff

Ken Mankoff started at GMWS in Nursery and left after 9th grade, and graduated from high school in 1993. Read more about Ken

GMWS: Can you say a little bit about where you went to college, what you studied, and what you are doing now?

KM: I went to the University of Colorado, Boulder, because Colorado has ~330 days of sun per year and world-class skiing. It turns out they also have a good university and amazing research opportunities. I studied Computer Science, but was hired, at age 18, to work with the first spacecraft designed, built, and flown by students. I spent seven years doing that, which spawned my current career.

In early August 2017, I moved to Copenhagen, Denmark. I'm a new Senior Scientist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland in the Department of Glaciology and Climate. My new job is a bit unclear since I've only just arrived, but in general I will be monitoring the health of Greenland via remote sensing (satellites), and in-situ sensor (weather stations that we install and maintain around the ice sheet).

GM: What were the best aspects of your time at Green Meadow?

KM: I left 21 years ago. My memory is one large fuzzy positive one. Very fuzzy, but 100% positive, and I do smile when I think of GMWS. I do have some specific snapshot memories (again all positive) such as: playing on the jungle gym with Eric Shurtleff, learning how to read critically from Mr. Wulsin, and sewing and knitting.

Maybe the main best aspect was spending a decade growing and developing with one small class. At the time it was normal, but now looking back, the cohesiveness of the group seems unique. The occasional times I do cross paths or email with an old classmate, it is always special.

GM: What do you think makes Green Meadow most unique or special?

KM: Small class sizes, build-your-own-textbooks, non-traditional experiences like knitting and sewing which I still find useful), extensive woodworking, etc.

GM: What advice would you give to a parent or student considering GMWS, especially someone who thinks they might want to study in your field?

KM: I like to think that GMWS and the creativity and exploration offered there (that I think may not be offered at traditional public schools) prepared me to be a scientist, but I've met many peers who may be better scientists than I, and went to public school.

Ken Mankoff in Antarctica.

Ken Mankoff in Antarctica.