It turns out Nora has been walking around in a “love mist” for her entire life (well, since she could walk, anyway.) This makes perfect sense to me.
Tuesday night was my parent council meeting at Nora’s Waldorf school. The sixth grade teacher gave us the “underground” Waldorf education lecture. Which means it was her take on Waldorf education’s take on child development and how our school meets the changing needs of our children. Now your going to get my version of her version.
The first thing she talked about was the “love mist.” Picture your standard preschooler. She wanders around with a far off look in her eye. She loves faeries, princesses and anything magical. She wants hugs and snuggles and will invent new ways of saying I love you and new ways of making sure she knows you love her. Our job as adults during this phase, which ends around six years old, is to keep her firmly ensconced in that love mist. She needs simple, comforting explanations of the world: bread rises because it’s magical, the stars shine for you. She doesn’t need to know about the uglier aspects. The message should be she’s loved and the whole world is there to support her.
At four-years-old, Nora is definitely still in the love mist. But occasionally, the mist clears and she sees the world. That’s the next phase: entering the world. It usually happens around six. Children will want to see, explore and touch everything real. They want to dig in the dirt, feed the chickens, make a pie. It’s the adults’ job to show them the wonders of the world, but still withhold the ugliest parts.
At about nine-years-old there is another change. After a few years of being in the world, it becomes their world. They see that they are distinct from other people — they may worry that they are alone. Adults must support them and try to keep them calm and secure through the change. It can be a difficult time for parents, as your child is pulling away for the first time. The child is also trying on new personalities before assembling the pieces of their personality. She may be an angel at school and a snarling devil at home. Keep calm and carry on. This is the age when the begin to understand the mechanics of their world as well — for example, bread doesn’t rise unless you remember to put enough yeast in it.
Middle schoolers are ready to learn about the imperfections of the world. They are fascinated by science; they want to be shown everything. And they are unlikely to take anybody’s word for anything. They are realizing that the world might need them, and are incredibly excited by the prospect.
And all of these children co-exist in our school. They are all supported and nurtured through whatever phase they are in. Every teacher is committed to putting kids on a solid foundation and supporting their growth as individuals — and supplying facts and figures in a way they can absorb based on where they are developmentally.
And the thought of that? Puts me right back in the love mist.