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November 18, 2013

The Best of Education

When Dani & Charles made the decision to send James to the Waldorf School, I thought they were a bit crazy. I am a proponent of public schools, and I thought he could get what he needed there -- especially in Bellingham where the schools are quite good. Dani politely listened to my concerns and indicated that they were items that they, themselves, had debated. But, still, they sacrificed a lot to send him to Waldorf.

They made the best decision. I watched James thrive in a small environment that not only made learning an adventure, but gave him all the tools he needed to enter Bellingham High School and succeed academically. What Waldorf also gave James was the kind of experiences that we used to give our students in public education with the emphasis upon child development, providing enrichment activities and meaningful electives, instead of gathering statistics on teachers and standardized testing. What Waldord instilled was the love of learning.

I saw that again this past week as I watched Nico's first grade class at Waldorf where they begin teaching Spanish. Nico indicated that his Spanish teacher only speaks to the first graders in Spanish. He hated this at first, but actually now understands most of what she is saying to him. His class sang about 6-8 songs with some other hand or body movements to emphasize their words. They also counted in Spanish up to 20. They were on stage about 15 minutes performing in Spanish. Then, it was the 2nd grade's turn. They're counting included all the numbers above 20 and several more complicated songs and gestures. They began to sing a song where they removed a word each time -- the teacher would say "uno" and they would leave out the first word, or "tres" and they would leave out the third word.

The third grade began singing in parts and the fourth grade gave a play based upon the Three Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf -- all in Spanish. All instructions to the classes on stage were given in Spanish. It was obvious the we had a master teacher with the ability to show as well as tell the students what to learn and use hand movements or body language to emphasize the learning. The facility gained throughout the first four years was impressive.

I was aware, as we sat in the assembly, that the upper grades (through grade 8), not only could appreciate the younger children and applaud their work, but understand all of the Spanish having "been there, done that."

All educators know that young children learn new languages better than older children. We had to fight to get Spanish into the middle school several years ago -- and it is still only an elective. Otherwise, you begin foreign language in high school when it is not so easy to learn.

If I had seen such an assembly when my children were young, I would have sent them to this school in a heartbeat. When will we remember that learning is child centered. It has nothing to do with how much we adults wish to pour into their brains. It has everything to do with the child's readiness to learn, the appropriate environment to make learning fun, and the care and feeding of children -- education that is out of the hands of politicians who hold our public schools hostage to the cult of standardized testing. It is no longer most important to provide an enriching environment so that a child is groomed and receptive for learning. Waldorf School has not forgotten that consistent and long term interaction with the arts and physical education prepares the body and mind to understand math and science.

Nico's teacher would not have a position in our public schools. No one would hire her to teach the very classes where a foreign language should be taught. I, for one, am glad that my children are sacrificing to send my grandchild to a pretty special school environment. He is a most happy learner.

Posted by Marilyn at 12:49 PM | Comments (0)

November 6, 2013


I met Millie Seidman when she and I volunteered to make a safety film for Calabash School's PTA where our daughters were in 3rd or 4th grade. I drove the car that supposedly hit the child, and Millie handled the camera. Her Nancy, and my Jeni, were the actors. I also had Nancy in the choir that I conducted for the school. Our husbands met when Millie and I volunteered them for a PTA fundraiser. Of course, they both charmed all the residents into giving and consequently got an award for raising the most funds. That began a friendship that has lasted for these many years.

Don Seidman was a well loved dermatologist who had met Millie when she was a nurse. He began his career as a teacher because, as a Jew, he was not accepted in UCLA's medical school for many years. Sometimes it appeared that both of the Dons shared several contacts -- our parishioners were often his patients. Millie was a gourmet cook and would call on a moment's notice with an invite for dinner because she wanted to try a new recipe. We spent many, many lovely evenings together. Nancy was the third of their five daughters.

They were a playful family. Once when their eldest daughter was flying home from school abroad, every one of them dressed up in funny costumes and placed themselves strategically around the airport waiting room. Kathy had to search to find even one member of her family. When she spotted her mom in a funny costume, she got the idea and had to find the rest of her family who were all disguised. Even the day that our Dons went door to door for the PTA, Millie dressed up as an old lady and followed them around the blocks until they finally realized who that person was that kept popping up.

I saw Don Seidman in August when I was in California. He was dying. Since my visit, he has passed away. I was so fortunate to be able to see him and spend time with Millie and Nancy. Now, their daughter Kathy, who is a teacher, is near death from the cancer that she has been battling for the past three or four years. My heart is with Millie because I cannot imagine losing your husband and your daughter within a few months of each other. It is one of those times that I wish I didn't live so far away.

Nancy, who lives close to Millie, has been keeping all of us, near and far, apprised of Kathy's condition for over a year. She has taken it on as her job -- tending to her sister's needs and keeping us abreast of the progress of the disease. We know from her that Kathy is in her final days. I love the way that she described the fact that her father is hovering in the wings to help Kathy along. The family is gathering to say goodbye just as they did just over a month ago with their father.

So, my heart today is with the Seidman family and all the wonderful, rich memories of our time together. They are beautiful people -- some of the best. I love them dearly.

Posted by Marilyn at 9:52 AM | Comments (0)

November 2, 2013

Weight Watchers

I've been a lifelong member of Weight Watchers -- not a lifetime member where you reach your goal weight -- a lifelong member because I started going in my 30's after having a few children, and I'm still going. I've never reached my goal weight, but I've learned a lot.

Like my mother, I was never a chubby person. I was tall and skinny, athletic, and active. I danced, ice skated, loved physical education (which we had daily my entire school career), loved the beach and swimming, and probably never very quiet for long (unless I had a good book in my hands). After having children, I began to take more after my father who, though not fat, always had a few pounds to take off. So, in Woodland Hills, I went to Weight Watchers and lost some, quit, went back when the scale began to climb, quit, etc.

When I moved to Bellingham, I tried to continue Weight Watchers, but it just didn't work out as well. So I gained more weight than usual and decided to return. I've now joined and quit about four or five times over the past 30 years. I did lose all the heaviest weight, but then would gain back 10 pounds or so, return and lose them, gain them again, return again. This time (as in the past), I am determined to reach my goal weight.

Don and I went to the hospital classes once on low fat eating, but I'm convinced that the low fat groceries (ie mayonnaise, ice cream, dressings, etc.) have such horrible ingredients in them that it is better to eat a small amount of regular products than larger amounts of fillers. Once I took a Weight Watcher's chocolate bar to a movie. I began to eat it slowly - loving the rich taste. By the end of the bar, I was physically sick. The same things happen to me with low fat ice cream -- I feel sickly. As much as I absolutely love Diet coke, I just cannot drink it because it makes me achy.

So, Weight Watchers is for me -- not their diet products, but their philosophy. Write down what you eat, stay within the appointed amount of points for the day and week, eat slowly, move your body with exercise, eat all the fruits and vegetables you want without counting (except for stuff like potatoes), and come to meetings regularly. There is nothing that I really learn new at meetings (although there is more scientific stuff and research they are quoting that is interesting), but a commitment to go to a meeting is a commitment to stay on the program. I'm reminded weekly that this is a lifelong commitment, not a fad diet; that I need to make it a priority in my life if I really am serious about my well being and health; and that losing weight is not all uphill, but a series of weekly ups and downs -- lose, lose, lose, gain, lose, lose.

Since I have returned to Weight Watchers, my last 20 lbs. have disappeared over many weeks, I've thrown away the Tums, I have gone back to walking, I have more energy, my clothes fit better, and I'm proud of myself for choosing to do something and sticking to it.

Weight Watchers isn't for everyone -- but it is for me. Could I do it without joining? Probably! Would I do it without joining? Probably not. I guess I just respond to external stimulus. I love seeing those lbs. disappear in my little check-in book. Every time I get out of my car in front of the meeting, I am pleased that I'm doing something about myself. Each week, the one thing that I commit myself to is this. Everything else I would like to accomplish comes second, third, etc. That is the only way it works best for me.

Maybe this time I can go all the way and reach my goal.

Posted by Marilyn at 11:46 AM | Comments (0)