Staying Balanced, Staying Healthy

By Mia Terziev, 7th Grade Class Teacher, Marin Waldorf School

In this time of great uncertainty and what, at times, feels like chaos, I have been focusing a lot of my time and energy on the external, precautionary measures we need to take in order to be safe and healthy in the midst of a pandemic. There are many critical behaviors for us to commit to and create as habits in order to keep each other safe: regular hand-washing, mask-wearing, social-distancing, disinfecting. These are all very clear and necessary and specific – rules that we must follow as we navigate the stormy seas together. We are all in this boat, every single one of us. For me, the outlook can easily increase my stress levels. In addition to the necessary precautions we all need to take to limit the risks of Covid, what about the other aspects of our health? In a phone conversation with a parent in my class last week, I was pleasantly reminded of a free, convenient, healing immune system booster: sunshine! When enjoyed in moderation, the sun has many healing benefits. So, I am increasing my daily dose from not much to more. 

This week I have decided to remember and focus on all the ways I can take action to fortify my health and well-being while sheltering in place. Really there’s nothing new here, just reminders about what we already know. But sometimes I need a reminder, it is so easy to get out of balance with diet or sleep or screen time, especially when I am feeling fear, grief, overwhelm, and anxiety about the world and all the things I have no control over. Now more than ever I feel the need to recommit to myself by doing what I can to strengthen my forces. 

Here are some thoughts and articles I have found to be very helpful reminders as I strive to cultivate healthy habits. This is meant in a general way regarding general good health. Some people live with acute health issues and preexisting conditions for which these ideas and resources may or may not be helpful. 

On balance: 

“The best protection against any [contagious] illness is to have a healthy and balanced lifestyle, diet and work/sleep rhythm. One’s mental and emotional balance is critical. One should be prudent, but not obsessive or fearful; confident and self-possessed, but not thinking oneself invulnerable.” Dr. Philip Incao

On thoughts: 

“Thought is a vital, living force, the most vital, subtle, and irresistible force there is in the universe…The “power of the word” is a literal scientific fact…The spoken word is nothing more or less than the outward expression of the workings of (our thought) forces…And in a sense love is everything. It is the key to life, and its influences are those that move the world. Live only in the thought of love for all and you will draw love to you from all. Live in the thought of malice and hatred, and malice and hatred will come back to you. Every thought you entertain is a force that goes out, and every thought comes back laden with its kind.” Ralph Waldo Trine

On healthy habits:

Your immune system hums with activity. Cells, tissues, and organs work together all through your body to coordinate attacks against invading pathogens. You can help to keep this system running smoothly and efficiently when responding to threats.” (Read the full article)

On finding the essential:

“So all one needs to do is spend time looking at the visions one has for body, soul and spirit, and this will help clarify our goals and guide us to those essential and most important activities in our life.” Susan Johnson (Read the full article)

In addition to spending more time in the sunny garden, prioritizing nutritious foods, finding ways to move my body often, and taking time to have fun with my family, I am listening to this audiobook by our own Jack Kornfield,  Guided Meditations for Difficult Times. I highly recommend it. From the beginning I was laughing and crying and feeling hopeful. Here’s a short excerpt from the introduction: 

“If you can sit quietly after difficult news;

if in financial downturns you remain perfectly calm;

if you can see your neighbors travel to fantastic places without a twinge of jealousy;

if you can happily eat whatever is put on your plate;

if you can fall asleep after a day of running around without a drink or a pill;

if you can always find contentment just where you are:

you are probably a dog.”

As a person who thrives on making plans and knowing what to expect, I am being forced every day to navigate life and work during a pandemic, a difficult task which includes accepting the unknown while remaining open and flexible. Any plan I make is almost immediately thwarted. Of course, there are preparations I can focus on, and I believe one of my most important tasks right now is to cultivate my health – finding balance, and living more fully in the present moment. 

If you have found great ways to stay healthy and balanced, please share them! 

Lasting Bonds

Recently, our school director Ms. Neale shared these sweet photos of her daughters’ “wee ones,” Sunbeam and Moonbeam, sitting together in her garden on a sunny summer morning. Kindergarten parents make these small fabric dolls for their children, which are magically delivered by fairy mother to kindergartners throughout the year.

Ms. Neale’s daughters graduated from our school eight years ago, but her daughters’ wee ones still live at home.

This is one very small illustration of the way Waldorf education touches the whole family, creating memories and experiences that bond us to our children and last for decades. Thanks for sharing, Ms. Neale!

MWS Recommends: Resources for Parents

Since our campus closed in mid-March, our families have been sharing resources with one another. Following are a few of our favorite resources for parents.

MWS favorite Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting, has many excellent podcast episodes related to parenting during the global pandemic and stay-at-home order, including “Loving Limits and Discipline During the Intensity of Family Time.”

Greater Good in Education, from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, offers a wealth of resources and ideas for parents and educators to help navigate the COVID-19 shelter-at-home including activities, podcasts, videos, and practices.

You can also check out the center’s online Greater Good Magazine for articles and advice, including this lovely little post “Six Daily Questions to Ask Yourself in Quarantine.”

Are you in need of some extra support? Parents Place, a part of the Jewish Family and Children’s Services, is offering a wide range of resources for families during the Coronavirus shelter-at-home order, including free and paid online workshops, remote counseling, a blog with advice and information, and videos for parents.

For Zoomed-out families, here is a very good article, “10 Ways to Protect the Brain from Daily Screen Time,” by Victoria L. Dunckley M.D. in Psychology Today about mitigating the effects of screens and WiFi at home.

Concerned about electromagnetic waves at home?
Here’s a parent-recommended article, “How to Set Up a Safe Computer Workstation For Your Child During COVID-19” from Environmental Health Trust.

Just for fun: first grade mom Anouk told us to check out the homemade re-creations of famous artworks throughout the world by following the hashtag #betweenartandquarantine. (Read about how the movement took off here.)

MWS Recommends: Activities at Home

Since our school closed in March, our families have been sharing resources with each other in our weekly newsletter and through word of mouth. Here is a roundup of some of our favorite activities and recommendation for children at home… and please send more if you have them!

“The Great Pause” — A Tale for Young Children
Once upon a time, in a land far away, but not too far away, in a time long ago, but not too long ago, there was a lovely little kingdom of very hard workers. This kingdom was built up of four villages, each ruled by a wise and kind Queen…
Click here to read the rest of the story on the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) website.

You can join the Marin County Free Library online then borrow from their huge selection of e-books and audiobooks at home.

During the closures, the Marin County Free Library has started recording their weekly story times for young children.
Click here to hear more about online story time or to check out the many crafts and activities the library recommends.

Audible is also offering free audiobooks while schools are closed.

Founded by preschool mom Heidi, Blue Dot Kids Press is a small press that publishes stories that connect us to each other and the Earth. Click here to check out their beautiful offerings.

A MWS kindergarten family recommends family-friendly martial arts with Oakland-based Peter Ajemian. He leads daily workouts for adults, and three weekly kids classes on Zoom. More info on Soja’s website.

MWS families recommend Quarantine Clay Club with Petaluma Pottery! Clay kits (for pickup), online tutorials, and more. Click here for more information about their programs.

The Metropolitan Opera in New York City is sharing free nightly live streams of their operas, which remain available to watch throughout the following day. Click here to watch the most recent performance.

Keeping it local, San Francisco Opera is also offering free streaming of their performances on their website, as well as steams of previous performances.

America’s test Kitchen Kids: Downloadable and printable recipes, as well as food-based activities, like salt painting.

Mapbox created a printable map coloring book to use at home, with instructions on how to download software and create your own color-able map. Click here to download the maps or create your own.

Camp Kindness

Created by our social ethics teacher Ms. Baxt, Camp Kindness was offered as a weeklong elective course for students and their families, preschool through 8th grade. The week was comprised of pro-social activities to build family and community connections, with the goal of contributing towards the health of others while actively living our values with our children. Says Ms. Baxt, “Kindness is contagious too.”

Each day of the week was dedicated to essential workers in different sectors: health care, sanitation, postal and delivery services, child care, and food supply chain. Check out Ms. Baxt’s recommendations for spreading kindness to food chain workers.

Tuesday: In honor of food chain workers

Remember that we can help share the good will by doing our mediation for these important workers.  Take a deep breath and focus your family’s thoughts on the workers,  “May these very essential workers be safe.  May they be healthy.  May they be happy.  May they, and their families, be at ease.”

Options (do one, or do them all)
1) Call your local lower cost grocery store to find out how you can donate some healthy snacks and send some notes of appreciation to their employee break room.
2) Sign-up to deliver or donate food for those in need.  Or scroll down for volunteer opportunities in food and in senior support.
3) Deliver notes to your neighbors’ mailboxes asking if they know somebody who needs help with groceries, errands, or meal delivery.  Don’t forget to include your contact info. Remember that research shows transmission does not occur through food — just use safe delivery practices.
4) Invite a “guest” for a meal.  Do you know somebody who might be lonely at home?  Invite them to join your family for a virtual family meal.  Think of some questions you could ask them to learn more about their lives.  This is a good spot to find great questions.

Here are some photos of Camp Kindness in action.

Article: “Opinion: This is not home schooling”

In a thought-provoking opinion piece from the Get Schooled Blog at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, two University of Georgia professors, Stephanie Jones and Hilary Hughes, argue, “No one can (or should) expect the Covid-19 schooling happening at home to be anything close to usual, and perhaps this moment is providing all of us a chance to do something different: learn to be.”

Opinion: This is not home schooling, distance learning or online schooling.

By Hilary Hughes and Stephanie Jones for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Gov. Brian Kemp announced today that schools won’t re-open this year, marking a historic moment in time that none of us have experienced or imagined before, a time that will shape us all – and possibly education – moving forward. It’s a time to pause, take a collective breath, and learn to be in this new reality so our path forward is one that we can be proud of when we look back on it. 

What is happening is not home schooling. 

It is not distance learning. 

It is not online schooling.

There are philosophies and research guiding those ways of teaching and learning; theories and pedagogies that are enacted in intentional ways. So, we need to guard against using language that we already have about education.

What we are doing right now is something different. (Think “Hunger Games.” “Contagion.” “Grapes of Wrath.”) Schooling and its purposes can change in the blink of an eye when a society is in shock and crisis. 

So, let’s call this what it is: Covid-19 Schooling; or better yet, Teaching and Learning in Covid-19…”

Click here to read the rest of the article at the Get Schooled Blog from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.