Off to explore a quartier which has greatly changed since we lived in Paris. The formerly industrial neighborhood is now home to a cultural-educational-flower-filled park edged with spiffy apartment towers, and the 19th century stone wine warehouses now accommodate shops and restaurants. It’s an easy walk across the Seine to the four controversial towering volumes of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, today packed with students cramming for the Bac.
On the eve of our departure (see June 7th) I finished last adjustments to the design and illustrations and sent off the files for a new book by early childhood educator Nancy Blanning. Walking with Our Children: The Parent as Companion and Guide is a collection of essays on practical and enjoyable ways to approach parenthood with courage and a sense of freedom. Published by the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America.
The amazing and inspiring (and very funny) Elizabeth Warren reading from her new book, This Fight Is Our Fight, and answering questions from a packed house at Politics & Prose’s Sixth and I event on Monday. Thank goodness there are at least a few members of Congress who are intelligent, well-informed, straightforward, and genuinely concerned about the welfare of ordinary human beings.
Here, one of the graphic design & illustration projects that have been occupying me over the past few months. Recently released, Waldorf Early Childhood Education: An Introductory Reader (edited by Shannon Honigblum) is a wonderful collection, by 30 different authors, of essays related to the education of the young child: practical activities and the power of play; development of language, thinking, consciousness, and the will; music and circle time; the stages of early childhood; the history and essentials of Waldorf education. You can learn more on the WECAN website.
Playing It Up…With Loose Parts, Playpods, and Adventure Playgrounds is a book I designed for the Alliance for Childhood about nature centers, parks, and playgrounds that offer open-ended environments and materials to children, in response to the rapidly dwindling opportunities modern children have for creative play.
Recent studies demonstrate the failure on multiple levels of academic-based kindergarten programs, early testing, and screen time for young children, and this book describes one element of a movement to restore genuine play to childhood. Just out and available now.
Our local well-loved and popular but shabby post-WWII Cleveland Park Library is destined for replacement, and the project has brought out library-lovers in force, many making specific requests for new features (Quiet study spaces!–Better handicapped access!–Net zero energy use!) and specific requests to keep what is currently beloved (Light, warmth, and coziness!–Wooden shelving and furniture!–Children’s room memorabilia!–Our terrific staff!).
Above all, neighbors overwhelmingly requested A Building Not Like Tenley! (a nearby brand-new library branch modern in style but also regarded as cold, dark, noisy, hard, and uncomfortable). Instead residents hoped for a warm friendly building, whether modern or traditional, compatible with the neighborhood’s 100-year-old farmhouse-style houses and the nearby art-deco theater and apartments. This is looking to be unlikely.
You can see the design concept on the Cleveland Park Library website, where it is drawn considerably better than in my cartoon above.
On this anniversary of September 11th, an illustration from The Survivor Tree, by Cheryl Aubin.
My child and I hold hands on the way to school,
And when I leave him at the first-grade door
He cries a little but is brave; he does
Let go. My selfish tears remind me how
I cried before that door a life ago.
I may have had a hard time letting go.
Each fall the children must endure together
What every child also endures alone:
Learning the alphabet, the integers,
Three dozen bits and pieces of a stuff
So arbitrary, so peremptory,
That worlds invisible and visible
Bow down before it, as in Joseph’s dream
The sheaves bowed down and then the stars bowed down
Before the dreaming of a little boy.
That dream got him such hatred of his brothers
As cost the greater part of life to mend,
And yet great kindness came of it in the end.
A school is where they grind the grain of thought,
And grind the children who must mind the thought.
It may be those two grindings are but one,
As from the alphabet come Shakespeare’s Plays,
As from the integers comes Euler’s Law,
As from the whole, inseparably, the lives,
The shrunken lives that have not been set free
By law or by poetic phantasy.
But may they be. My child has disappeared
Behind the schoolroom door. And should I live
To see his coming forth, a life away,
I know my hope, but do not know its form
Nor hope to know it. May the fathers he finds
Among his teachers have a care of him
More than his father could. How that will look
I do not know, I do not need to know.
Even our tears belong to ritual.
But may great kindness come of it in the end.