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This book is one of the few books on parenting and early childhood education that is based on the child's true needs. This book truly allowed my inner parenting philosophy to blossom. Other readers should note that this isn't another book on what to do with your child to "make them smarter" or "advance their development", and such conceptual paradigms are actually inappropriate for promoting our children's internal developmental timetables and learning processes. It is also important to note that the foundation of this book is based on Rudolph Steiner's approach to parenting and early childhood education, known as the Waldorf method. My twins are soon approaching toddlerhood and we are researching different educational styles before they reach their preschool years. Even though I am not sure if my husband and I will choose a Waldorf education for our children, I believe the arguments in this book made sense in terms of creative and explorative play being the critical foundations of learning for small children, and that drilling them with academic lessons too soon may be harmful to their ability to truly learn once they reach their school age years in terms of developing critical thinking and problem solving skills as well as giving small children the impression that learning is a chore rather than something that is fun and exciting. As a new parent I was so tempted to fall into the media-based hype of how to make my babies "smarter" or "advance their development" and buy various advertised products that make those claims. I now undestand how miseducated I was on early childhood development and my children's true needs during their first year in spite of the many books and magazine articles I've read.Read more ›
This is the book that not only profoundly changed my parenting style, but led to a career change and major lifestyle change for my family. This was the book that introduced me to Waldorf education and led me to pursue Waldorf teacher training. As a result of this introduction, my husband and I were led to re-evaluate our values and our lifestyle, and we ultimately made the transition from a fast-paced life in the show-business world of Los Angeles, to a quiet life living on a small farm in rural Maine. As a Waldorf early childhood teacher, I have recommended this book to countless families as an introduction to Waldorf education. I always give it as a gift to friends and family with new babies. It is the book I wish I'd had before the birth of my first child. I don't expect most families would experience such a dramatic lifestyle change as a result of this book as ours did, but it may help you relax into your role as a parent, realize that less is indeed more, and make your journey as a parent more meaningful and satisfying.
Dancy's book provides a good introduction to Waldorf and Steiner child-raising. I think it is helpful and valuable in that respect. But it is important to bear in mind that it is really just an opinion book, without much science or studies to back it up. Her two main sources of information are Rudolf Steiner and Barry L. White. Steiner got all of his ideas from his spiritual insights. Barry L. White is a researcher with Harvard associates who wrote two books about early childhood development. I googled White, and could not find a web page about him, nor a Wikipedia entry. I found out nothing more about him.
I think this book is a good way to learn more about the Waldorf and Steiner perspective, but do not expect much in the way of factual evidence. Instead she relies on anecdote, and sometimes her own perception of what she has seen.
Example: Dancy says that children should be given natural and unfinished toys like dolls without finished faces and gives a couple reasons. I agree that these toys are more attractive and interesting to children and toddlers, but it's her backup examples that were purely speculative. One reason was that she once saw a photopgraph of a child holding a finished toy with a smile, and she thought the child was blindly imitating the toy's expression. Her second reason was that she heard a story about a girl who was droopy and listless and always carried around a doll that was droopy and listless. When the girl was given a new toy that was more natural, then the girl perked right up.
Overall, this book provides an interesting perspective, but it is suffused with Steiner's spiritual insights (which sometimes sound a bit wierd). Dancy offers her reader a very loving and caring approach to child raising that make one more aware.Read more ›
Rahima Baldwin Dancy wrote this book for parents who want to help their children learn as much as possible between birth and age six. These are the most formative years in many ways, and everything the school age child learns after age six has less overall impact than the crucial early learning. The first three years are especially critical. The new born baby, far from just eating, sleeping and crying, is taking in information about the world at an astounding rate.
It's not just a matter of intellectual growth, however, but of raising a well rounded person. The phenomenon of 'hothousing', when parents try to hurry their children's intellectual development by cramming them full of assignments at a very early age, does not lead to a well rounded child. These are the same types who practice 'baby gymnastics' and hire motivational coaches for their toddlers, and the author of 'You Are Your Child's First Teacher' is scathing towards them.
"American popular psychology and business interests have interpreted 'infant stimulation' to mean that you constantly need to be stimulating your baby with bits of coloured plastic and flash cards," writes Dancy, who believes that more enriching stimulation comes through holding, rocking, talking etc. "Even though babies can be taught to read with enough condition-response training, they are not reading for meaning and are using a lower part of the brain."
Perhaps this book, in attempting to redress the balance, goes slightly too far in the other direction. The book is heavily influenced by the ideas of Rudolf Steiner, who believed that science and maths shouldn't be taught in the first seven years. But this all depends on the child.Read more ›