They encourage creativity, even if it means an activity might get messy. That's cool.
A lot of the activities are about interacting with the world in a way that I bet could get kids into science. There aren't activities for GIRLS or BOYS, just kids, encouraged to be themselves. That's cool.
But in the middle of all that I keep getting not cool vibes, mostly about the isolation of the whole thing, these mothers interacting with each other only through facebook, building sanctuaries of wholesome activities for a few children in their born-into homes.
It makes them weird sometimes, they think what they're doing is terribly unique. There was a story posted that got tons of comments by a woman who took her daughter to the beach to collect seashells, but the kid wanted to roll around in the sand instead, so she went with it! Oh how crazy and spontaneous! There were virtual high fives all around! And I'm thinking, "Uh, what else would you do, militantly insist on the seashells? Don't all mothers go with it? This is not a superior activity, ladies..."
Then there's the stuff. Building your own light table, learning your own chemistry curriculum, laying it all out in the 800 sq foot play room lined with Discovery Toys and waldorf-inspired wooden blocks. It reminds me of the parts of Perfect Madness where Judith Warner describes two very different philosophies:
Parents in most industrialized nations: "Kids need art easels, playground slides, bouncy castles. That's why we send them to daycare for a few hours and settle ourselves down with friends for adult conversation."
Parents in America: "Kids need art easels, playground slides, bouncy castles. That's why we insist that our budget, and then living rooms, be completely overwhelmed with all of it."
What if some of our toy budgets went to community centers so all the kids could have nice art supplies? Just throwing that out there. And they could play with other kids. Instead, we stick with this I'M ON MY OWN philosophy, and our kids only interact 1) their own rooms or 2) other children in closely supervised play dates. You know, the 1:1 adult:child ratio ones, where a parent is ready at a second's notice to swoop in and resolve any potential conflict with "didn't we talk about sharing?"
In 2012, mothers supporting mothers seems to be more about facebook friends and instructions on how to do everything yourself, less about really getting together, that's my conflict about the whole thing.