When Christina Ihloff and Jennifer Ananda, each the mother of two children, began discussing parenting practices within the Lawrence community, they saw a need to organize and educate.
“Jennifer and I are both passionate about birthing and raising our kids with intent, purpose and consciousness,” says Lawrence Conscious Parenting Initiative co-founder Christina Ihloff. “We were tired of seeing the community at large making choices without being fully aware of what, or if any, repercussions may be present for both themselves as parents and for their children.”
Midwest Regional conscious parenting Conference
When: Registration begins 8:30 a.m. March 5
Where: Prairie Moon Waldorf School, 1853 E. 1600 Road
Cost: $35 per person or $60 for couples, or register for individual classes at $10 per class.
For more information about the conference, see www.consciousparentingconference.org. You may also become a member of the Lawrence Conscious Parenting Initiative Facebook page.
Several years ago Ananda was encouraged by a friend to start an alternative spring break program for parents and parents-to-be to discuss child-rearing issues at Ecumenical Christian Ministries, Kansas University. With the success of that event, the idea for an annual conference was born. Ananda then approached Ihloff to assist with the conference planning. For the past three years, the two have been the primary organizers for the annual conference, working to schedule speakers as well as securing donations and sponsors. For additional support, “we have brought others on board as much as possible in the past,” Ihloff says.
Since that first year, the event has grown. “The first conference lasted two days. The first day related to birth and pregnancy, and the second day involved alternative schooling options. We had around 30 participants,” Ihloff says.
The 2011 conference, which will be Saturday at Prairie Moon Waldorf School, will feature more than 20 speakers.
Presentation topics this year will include the Waldorf approach to education, the appropriate use of vaccinations, home schooling, gay parenting, natural and doula-assisted childbirth and more.
One topic to be discussed is that of attachment parenting.
“The term was coined by Dr. (William) Sears and is based on the idea that a baby will form a strong, lasting and emotional bond with a parent or caregiver who is receptive and responsive to its child's needs,” Ihloff says. “This will help to form a secure attachment and therefore make the child grow into a secure, emotionally healthy and adjusted adult.”
Basic tenets of attachment therapy include birth bonding, breastfeeding, sleeping close to the baby and being aware that when a baby cries, it is in need.
“If for example, a baby is left to ‘cry out’ as many people and care providers recommend, then the child will learn it cannot trust the people he or she knows most intimately …This is a nonsecure attachment,” Ihloff says.
Awareness of a child’s developmental needs will also be discussed at the conference. Monika Eichler, co-founder of the Prairie Moon Waldorf School, will talk about the school environment.
Although the Waldorf approach to education is comprehensive and multi-faceted, Eichler will explain the philosophy and practice within a Waldorf environment.
“Why are we expecting our children to read at 2?” she asks.
Eichler, who is also a researcher in mental health at the School of Social Welfare at KU, says that research has not proven that if children begin reading at an earlier age, they are any more successful, or better readers, than those who learn to read later. Instead, Eichler explains, “Research on success and what brings about happiness is not only related to IQ and socioeconomic status, but also self-control. This foundation begins in preschool.”
Early-childhood students also are provided time for unstructured play each day in the classroom for at least an hour.
“It’s the most beautiful play to observe,” Eichler says. “Most of the social and intellectual skills one needs to succeed in life and work are first developed through childhood play, and in addition the children are using their imaginative capacity.”
The partnership between Prairie Moon Waldorf School and the Lawrence Conscious Parenting Initiative Conference is very much agreeable. Eichler says the two fit together nicely, because the parents of Prairie Moon students and others in the community are “thinking deeply about issues such as health, education, the environment and parenting.”