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April 29, 2008 at 9:02 am Leave a comment

War is not good for children and other living things

“It was just hell on earth. The guns never stopped. Shells never stopped, not hardly for a minute. There wasn’t a flat bit of earth anywhere. Craters everywhere. Craters cutting the lips of other craters” BBC Archive                                                              

Yesterday was ANZAC Day in this part of the world. Our war remembrance day  has become more and more popular over the last few years. It is clear that we are not forgetting.

As a history student, the story of the first world war shocked me. The incompetence of the generals. The incredible loss of life. The inhumane attitude towards the  suffering of the troops.  The ‘war fever’ leading up to 1918, and the persecution of those who chose not to fight.

“That whole wood was lined with machine guns from one end to the other. The company went over 230 strong and only 11 privates survived. This was ridiculous. It had never been planned at all” BBC Archive

On ANZAC Day, as we remember those who lost their lives in these terrible wars, I hope that we also remember that war is about suffering.  I hope, while we remember the sacrifice and gallantry of the ‘glorious dead’, that we don’t forget that war is not about glory, its about death. We must remember the mothers that lost sons, wives that losts husbands, children that lost fathers.

I hope while we stand quietly at dawn, rather than pride in our hearts we have sorrow. And a commitment to peace.

“Do they matter? Those dreams from the pit?…

You can drink and forget and be glad,

And people won’t say that you’re mad;

For they’ll know that you’ve fought for your country

And no one will worry a bit.”

                                              Siegfried Sassoon




April 26, 2008 at 2:07 am 1 comment

Slow down … you move too fast

Over the last three weeks, our playgroup has recently had a few sessions with a woman from the Steiner federation. It has been an amazing experience, but I have struggled to  write about it because it has affected me so personally.  


As a mother who rushes around at high speeds, speaks very quickly, spends hours on the internet, schedules activities in for every day, works part time, loves the company of others and gets extremely jittery at the thought of spending time alone …  a lot of what this woman had to say was very hard to hear.  


Of course, I am paraphrasing terribly, and I welcome comments from anyone that thinks I have gotten the wrong end of the Steiner stick!


We all know the way we speak to our children can be deeply harmful, but we often forget that it can be extremely helpful, and healing. Young children absorb everything they experience into their very being. In that sense, the way we speak to them actually  forms who they are.


By being fully present when we speak, by choosing our words consciously, by speaking slowly, calmly, peacefully we help our children develop fully. Beautiful words will have a very positive affect, just as ugly words will harm our children. 


Filling our homes with artificial voices – the television, the radio, recorded music – confuses the child and is no substitute for the living voice. It is only the living voice that can be the powerfully positive, healing force that we desire. Children need to hear their mother and father speaking to them, singing to them, telling them stories – and they need to hear this constantly.


Children are very sensitive to sense impressions and even a trip to the supermarket, with its bright lights, colours and noises, will be incredibly overwhelming.  It is important to give our children a rich home-life – and that means spending a lot of time at home, just pottering about quietly doing home-making activities.  Children won’t get bored doing this – they will love imitating their mother, playing with a few simple toys, running around the garden. It is the mothers that get bored.  Many mothers are ‘too much in the mind’ with a running commentary going through our heads, thinking about the next thing we need to do, giving off a busy, nervous energy.


She commented that when mothers live ‘in their heads’ and rush their children around over-filling them with sense impressions, the children too become manic, over-wraught, excitable.  Homes are filled with so many toys – these can be pared down to just a very very few quality toys that the child can love.


What she said has had a big impact on me. Initially –   I wanted to reject everything she  was saying. After all, we don’t watch TV, hardly go to the mall, our activities usually take place outdoors and close to nature. We might be busy, but I really thought that Munchkin likes going out, being busy as much as I do – and I would go crazy spending a day at home. I thought of women of my mothers generation, who suffered from terrible loneliness without the social support networks we have today.


But, as I thought about it, the truth of these teachings really hit me. Of course, adopting these teachings doesn’t mean we stop seeing other people. Or that we stop going out. But spending more time at home, not doing anything in particular has made a big difference. Munchkin thrives on this. And surprisingly, I’m really enjoying it too.

April 21, 2008 at 8:03 am 6 comments

Let it wait – Steiner schools and delayed academics


photocredit: anemonecrafts  My copy of You Are Your Child’s First Teacher is due back at the library on Monday, so I’ve been busily re-reading it. As soon as a second hand copy comes up I’ll be jumping to buy it – it is such a wonderful resource. One of my favourite chapters is on cognitive development and early childhood education.

One of the things people often struggle with about Waldorf schools is the delayed academics, in particular not teaching reading until the age of seven.  As Baldwin-Darcy says ‘there is tremendous pressure in our society to teach reading, writing and math to children at an increasingly early age’. 

 Parents I know delight when their three year olds love books and start to recognize words. Understandably, we are all so proud of our children, we want them to achieve. But what are they achieving? 

Little children can copy at a rote level, but they’re probably not using the (neurological) circuits which will connect with meaning. Let it wait. Children of this age should not be sitting at desks, doing academic tasks. Get their busy brains out doing and learning, not practicing lower level skills” Jane Healy – Your Child’s Growing Mind 

In fact, there is no evidence that early academics has any long term benefits at all –  despite not being taught to read before the age of seven, by age nine Waldorf /Steiner educated kids are achieving just as well academically. 

Baldwin-Darcy describes a typical Steiner kindergarten (for 3-6 year olds). The days activities include story time, snack time, arts and crafts, a movement and singing circle, and lots of free play, usually outside.  Rather than copying letters and struggling with maths, these five and six year olds are crafting animals out of beeswax, making bread, digging in the sandpit, singing songs, running, exploring, having fun. Of course they are learning, but the three ‘r’s are not the focus here.  

Reading this made me think of what delayed academics might have meant for some people I know who hated school. Right from day one, they struggled with reading, hated sitting still. Right from day one, they were labeled as ‘struggling’. Meetings were held with their parents. Extra tuition was sought. By the time they were seven, about the age that Steiner kids are just starting more structured lessons, these children were convinced they were dumb.  

One man I spoke to said ‘class-room – dumb. after school tuition – dumber. Reading recovery programme – dumbest’.   I loved school. I loved writing, I loved reading, and I shied away from anything artistic or physical. I was not the ideal Steiner child. I wonder if a Steiner/Waldorf school would have made me a more balanced person – rather than being labeled as an ‘academic’ sort of child at the tender age of 4. Perhaps more physical play, more singing, more painting and crafting would simply have been more fun, more healthy than reading chapter books at 6. I don’t know.

So why do we push our children so hard? Is it from pride – that we want our little Munchkins to prove how clever they are? It is from fear – that if they don’t start early they will never catch up? Is it because we think that’s what good parents do – after all every mainstream parenting magazine has ads from Leapfrog and Fisher Price encouraging us to buy their ‘educational’ toys. I suspect it’s a little bit of all of these things – a symptom of our middle class neurosis.

April 3, 2008 at 4:32 am 7 comments

Menu Planning Monday

Don’t the weeks roll around quickly! We have had a lovely weekend here, eeking out the very last of the New Zealand summer with a few last barbeques. Its starting to feel distinctly Autumnal though … and to be honest I’m starting to hanker over a good old roast potato.

 So on the menu this week:

Monday night: Green Thai Curry. I used the Asian Home Gourmet spice mix, about 1/4 of the packet for 300g of diced, free-range chicken breast. I just mix the spice mix, and the chicken breast in the pan, and then add a jar of coconut milk, with some green beans, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Its so easy and so delicious. Serve with rice and a few steamed veggies.

Tuesday: Home made hamburgers. I’ve already posted the recipe for hamburgers and we have them with caramelised onions, lettuce, tomato, tomatoe sauce and mayo. Munchkin likes bits of hamburger with her steamed veggies (hands up whose child eats much healthier than mum and dad!)

Wednesday – fish night tonight. I’ll egg and breadcrumb it and make some home made chips and salad.

 Thursday – spaghetti bolognaise

Friday – eggs, tinned spaghetti and toast. Very gourmet.

 Have a great week everyone.

 For more menu planning ideas head over to

March 31, 2008 at 7:54 am Leave a comment

Menu Planning Monday

 I finally have my cooking mojo back. Its been gone for the longest time, and even MPM wasn’t getting me inspired.  

What finally did it was reading this fabulous new cookbook on seasonal cooking.  Recipes for spicy pork lettuce cups, tofu and broccoli stirfry, harvest polenta bake, bircher muesli, thai chicken stirfy, delicious lentil salads,  … every recipe cries out to be cooked.  While I’m not planning to cook my way through every recipe (lentil salad can wait till I’m home alone!) it has really inspired my cooking., and led to some great experimentation. It’s a character flaw that I never follow recipes.  

So this week we are having 

Monday night – Spicy Pork Lettuce Cups with Rice

Mix free-range  pork mince with garlic, ginger, chilli,  finely diced and steamed eggplant,  diced green beans, diced red peppers and some optional lemongrass.  Add some  sweet soy sauce, fish sauce and oyster sauce (say 2 Tbsp of each for 400 grams of pork), and some water if you need it to stop the mixture drying out while it cooks.  Place inside big cos lettuce leaves and wrap them. Serve with rice. 

Tuesday – Ajvah chicken with steamed vegetables and Rice

Ajvaj is the most wonderful spread, and transforms the humble chicken breast into something delicious. I use Alison Holst’s recipe – you can find it here. 

Wednesday – Spaghetti Bolognaise with a huge summer salad.

I love to mix a whole lot of different lettuce leaves and herbs, and toss through a dressing made with some good olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, salt, pepper and sugar. Delishious! 

Thursday – Lamb Tagine

I make a lamb tangine but it is completely inauthentic. I stirfry lamb pieces, eggplant and yellow peppers, in a bit of olive oil and some sweet tagine spice mix then pop in a tin of chopped tomatoes and simmer until the juice of the tomatoes has reduced. Serve with rice and lots of sour cream or yoghurt 

Friday night – Home made fish burgers

Pan fry some Terakihi fillets until nice and crispy. Add to burger buns with salad, tartare sauce and ketcup. Make some potatoe wedges with agria potatoes to have on the side – yumm!

Have a wonderful week y’all, and for more menu planning madness head to

March 10, 2008 at 5:13 am 1 comment

Menu Planning – the Toddler version


I decided our menu plans were becoming so incredibly dull that even I was too bored to type them up. I promise I will come up with some more ideas for next week.

 So this week I thought I would post what Munchkin will be having for dinner this week. We eat together as a family most nights, but this week Hubby is busy with our renovations so we are eating late. This means making two separate meals – which is my excuse for our very repetitive menu plan!

 Monday: A plain omelette, with peas and steamed carrots. Blueberries and plain yoghurt.

Tuesday: Rice, baked beans, avocado and strips of yellow pepper.

Wednesday: Penne pasta with toddler meatballs and vegetable sauce.

Thursday: French toast (eggy toast) with tomatoes, courgettes and steamed carrots.

Friday: Barbeque night – so a smorgasbord of little pieces of meat, veggies, bread and other treats!

 For more great ideas visit

 Have a great week everyone.

February 25, 2008 at 7:29 am 4 comments

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