Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"Add Image"

"We're going to get kicked out of the Waldorf school next year," I keep joking. My son knows way too much about technology, I fear. I have a lot to learn about Waldorf education, but I know that computer use before high school is discouraged (as is all electronic media throughout childhood). My son, at age two, loves the digital camera, and he knows how to use it. Whenever I take photos, he asks, "Can I see?" and gets mad if I explain to him that we're trying to enjoy the actual experience in front of us instead of the representation of it.

But I'm a documentarian at heart. I was the editor of my high school yearbook, resurrected my college yearbook, and, as a teacher, advised my school's literary/art/photography magazine. It's always bugged me that our photojournalistic wedding photographer didn't also get posed pictures of me and my husband. And I seem to be trying to make sure I never have that kind of regret with my son.

So now I have a kid who proclaims, "I wanna see pictures!" whenever we're in the basement where the bulk of our images are stored and who whines, "I want de video" if he's stuck on stills on the digital camera. I wonder how all this media is affecting the brains of kids who now repeatedly see visuals of experiences they might have otherwise only vaguely remembered. So far I only see the benefits in terms of vocabulary and connection to people, but what will it do further down the line?

I really liked the Reggio Emilia preschool I observed. The space was like an art studio where every object was held with reverence. I liked the idea of having kids reflect on what they did and be able to look back at their process through pictures and words. But at some point, I do feel like for all the intentionality of doing the art and being involved in the process, there's a higher value placed on showing what the process was. The physical product representing the meta-process is the thing that lasts.

Even if I'd gotten into the Reggio Emilia school, I think it's better for my temperament to find some balance through Waldorf education. I hope to learn a lot this fall in our parent-child class -- enough to decide if the fit feels right and is worth paying (for future years) about ten times what the low-key "learn through play" co-operative preschool we're already in costs.

Although I think I could temper my son's love affair with photos, I do like it when I capture something I didn't know was there or couldn't have shown him in the moment -- like the ripple above. When he was throwing so many rocks in the water, listening for the thunk and then looking for another, bigger rock to throw, we didn't have the chance to see the circles. In the dappled light, we were too busy exclaiming over the sound or the splash. And my son was too busy having fun to care that I had the camera clicking away. I have to give some credit to technology when a digital image can help me better appreciate the beauty of one moment that might have otherwise slipped through my fingers.

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