Today I went in for Parent/Teacher conferences for my older 2 children. At our Waldorf school, this is “the report card”. 30 minutes of talking over your child’s behavior, academic progress,etc. They happen twice a year, with a full report at the end.
I always go into these feeling apprehensive. At a Waldorf school, the goal is to nurture and educate the whole child, not just the academic portion of them. So we take apart and analyze the strengths and weaknesses, the gifts and talents, and really look at the whole human being. And there is always room for improvement when you look at any human being. No one is completely perfect. Children who are so obsessed with academic achievement may be missing something socially.. may not be playing enough.. may have moved into their “head” way too soon, and not spent enough time in their “feeling” world. Etc. SO it can be very intimidating going into one of these conferences.
You feel as if a Waldorf teacher sees into all the habits and routines of your home life. If there is not a healthy rhythm in the home, this shows in the child’s behavior. Same with nutrition. So you go into these conferences, and it is not just your child in the hot seat, it is the entire family.
From that description, it sounds a bit like a firing squad, but it isn’t really. The teachers come with a loving, nurturing attitude, telling you what your child needs help with, and what the family can do to help this progress. And sometimes there is not suggestion to make, which really stymies everyone.
And for the most part, my kids get nice reports. My oldest is a very loving and caring friend. He is very creative and imaginative. He is respectful with adults and enthusiastic. But he is also dyslexic. And in spite of hours and hours of help with reading/writing/spelling, which is good overall and improves each conference, he still struggles with focus. It is very tough to struggle in your native language, and attend a school where you then also learn 2 foreign languages and write your own books. And his stress relief of choice is to be drawn to any silly behavior in the class. Sigh. How, as a parent, do you give your child a backbone, to resist joining into the silliness of others.
And how do you instill in a child the desire to do your best work? Our oldest son is very adept and figuring out what is the least he can do and get away with. I want to have high expectations of him. I do not want dyslexia to be a “crutch”. But I don’t want to push him past his limit or make him struggle with stuff he really cannot handle. How do I figure out which is which? The family history of dyslexia does not have a history of academic success which I can look to. Success in terms of holding jobs and personal lives… but the academics were a struggle. I am not sure all chose to attempt a higher education.
My other son is a different creature. He is doing quite well academically. He also seems to have that backbone – he can keep himself behaved when all his best pals around him are not. But he has a fondness for bathroom humor… farts, potty jokes, etc. He has always had a huge sense of humor, even from the youngest age. But the current favorite jokes are all bathroom jokes. Sigh. I don’t allow them at home, except in the bathroom where they belong. He knows that school is the inappropriate place for them…but he is 8. DO I fret about it? Or do I hope he outgrows this phase. Do I look forward to the day when he is a stand up comic, or do I bow my head in shame because he is famous at 8 for potty jokes?
Overall, my children are doing fine. They are well-liked by friends and teachers, they are respectful to their teachers and stop their silliness when asked to do so. They are making good forward academic progress.
But all I see today, are the weak areas, which I take personally as chinks in my own parenting. I get scared by this, having come from a long line of people who were hyper critical. I want to make sure I don’t loose sight of the people they came into the world as… I need to love them for who they are, and not try to force them into people they are not. Where is that line, and how do I make sure I don’t go over it too far one way or the other. The perfectionist in me cries one way, the child in me crushed by such expectations cries another. And therein lies the rub. How do I paretn my children when I really don’t have all the answers?