Thursday, October 24, 2013
Last week I enrolled my son in a 3-day preschool program that runs from 8:30am until 12:00 noon at the local Waldorf school, a ten minute drive from where we live. At first, I was so hesitant and worried about our decision, that I couldn't even wrap my head around blogging the entire week. As some of you might already know, the last time we tried school was a huge disappointment. But thankfully, all seems to be going very smoothly so far. My son attended from last Monday until yesterday, and has had an excellent experience from start to finish. Please knock on wood.
So far, I'm cautiously embracing this school like a young girl approaching new love after a broken heart. I like the teacher, who is a male, and the warm and gentle assistant who works with him. She seems very experienced and patient. I love the fact that there are a maximum of 15 children in the class at any given time, as opposed to the 23 students in the Montessori fiasco of last year. But most of all, I love the fact that it's a Waldorf school and I know for sure that first and foremost, the teachers in this kind of system are trained to love the children and treat them gently. Academics and technology are not a priority and in fact, they are shunned and highly discouraged for children of young ages. In Waldorf schools, mother nature takes the lead. I always knew in my heart that when the time came to put my son in a school, it would likely be a Waldorf school, at least in the primary years. So I was elated to find him a spot in this little school so late in the year.
You see, when I first met my husband, his two children were attending a Waldorf school in Maryland. The girl was in 3rd grade and the boy was just starting Kindergarden. I was very intrigued by the methods in which they were taught, and at the time, I felt utterly embarrassed to have an MEd in education from a respectable university, yet I had no idea who Rudolf Steiner was or what Waldorf education was all about. Mr. Steiner is also the father of biodynamic farming for heaven's sake!! Needless to say, in order to redeem myself, I spent the next two years reading everything I could about Steiner and Waldorf education, and I enrolled myself in a Foundations of Waldorf Education course to learn even more.
To say I had a complete paradigm shift in my thinking about pedagogy would be an understatement. Throughout my 17 years of public school teaching, I had a reputation of being the rebel child advocate, often standing alone against popular decisions made after months of mental grooming of the staff by the administration. But now, I wanted to learn more about everything I wasn't taught about in college about alternative methods of education that actually work. I became deeply interested in the historical big thinkers of education and child development, because today's educational "thinkers" didn't seem to know anything at all anymore beyond testing, testing, and testing! I spent the next two years after this time of revelation and study, teaching in a public elementary school, where I successfully applied many of the best methods I learned to teaching my students with "language disabilities."
At the time, I worked as a "language acquisition specialist," working mostly with about 10 foreign adopted kids who came to the USA from various places and at various times of their lives. Some came at infancy, one came at the late age of 7, yet they all seemed to struggle with language issues and presented themselves as mysterious puzzles to their homeroom teachers. This was really a unique group of kids, and no education or psychology textbook ever taught me about their unique needs. So I spent a lot of time teaching myself how to teach them. I found out that what they mostly needed was TIME, love, and security. And here we were throwing tests, labels, and standards at them, while expecting them to miraculously catch up with their peers in all areas of academics, as if everything else in their lives were perfectly standardized and hunky dory.
Applying some of my new-found Waldorf, yoga, and Brain Gym ideas to these special children worked magically to open their minds and hearts a little more to learning, when nothing else seemed to work. I was so sold on the Waldorf philosophy that my work email byline for the next two years, was a beautiful quote by Rudolf Steiner. “Receive the children with reverence, educate them with love, send them forth in freedom.”
So yes, I have a good trust that the Waldorf system will be appropriate for my son, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed, and even daring to hope, that I could slowly increase his attendance and perhaps even the length of his days there. Though I struggle with releasing my son, home-schooling an only child has proven to be a tough business. I feel a little less guilty about the idea of sharing his schooling with outsiders now. I hope to be writing more about this school journey as time reveals more experiences.
So what does this have to do with bread pudding?
Well, one thing about the Waldorf schools is that they're very "festive"in nature-- on so many levels. They celebrate the mornings with a good morning song, and the end of the day with a goodbye song, and meals with a song, and so many larger festivities are celebrated throughout the year. So the school is having its Fall Festival this coming Saturday, and I signed up to make a dessert. Since I'm making my favorite super-easy dessert and it always seems to please everyone who ever tasted it, I thought I'd share it with the Broo readers while I'm at it. A two-for-one, for those of you who couldn't care less about the school stuff and are only here for the food. One of my mottoes, "Feed them and they will come!"
So...this basic bread pudding has been called many "Ims" (mother of..in Arabic). Some call it "Im Khaled" (mother of Khaled), some call it "Im Ali" (mother of Ali), etc. After doing a little Google research, it turns out that the Egyptians have a similar version with its own history, too. Here's our family recipe.
Immi's Bread Pudding
1 quart half and half cream
1 cup sliced raw almonds
1 cup raisins
(1/4 cup of milk or water if needed)
Note: The original family recipe is made with Greek Tsureiki bread, which is made with mahlab. The Jewish Challah doesn't have this extra flavorful ingredient. So if you can get your hands on the Greek Easter bread, use that instead.
For the syrup:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange blossom water
1/2 cup water
Preheat oven to 375.
Place the pan in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the top looks dry and slightly browned, and the surface almonds look roasted.
While he pudding bakes, put the water, sugar, and orange blossom water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
When the bread pudding is ready, pour half the syrup on top and let it all cool for a few minutes.
Use the remaining syrup to pour on individual servings for those who like it sweeter.