Saturday, November 17, 2012

a new step on the journey

Perhaps you didn't notice, but there was a landmark post missed a few months back. All the other parent bloggers seemed to do it, but not here: the obligatory First Day of School post. Ontario offers junior as well as senior kindergarten and is rapidly moving toward having all junior and senior kindergarten classes consist of a full day curriculum. So where is the photo of Peanut in her special first day of school outfit, with her oversized back pack and giant grin?

grin!

Well, she didn't go. And she hasn't gone. She's at home with me and her sister.

It took a lot of conversation, a lot of discussion, a lot of meditation and consideration but eventually Jon and I decided two very important things: first, that she wasn't ready for full day curriculum (and prior to our recent move the school she would have had to attend has moved to exclusively full day kindergarten) but also, that we just couldn't get behind the current structure for mainstream elementary classes. I wanted to, truly, but I just couldn't reconcile myself to my four year old potentially having homework (which is something Jon and I have personally witnessed within our own school board). Moreover, we couldn't reconcile ourselves to the idea that at four years old she in any way needs formal education. Stimulation and experiences, yes, but formal classroom instruction, no. And stimulation and experiences, opportunity for play and discovery and newness and wonder are things that I am more than capable of providing for her, as are socialization with other children and other adults. I simply do not believe that suddenly in September I was no longer enough for her. The fact that education is not mandatory before age six suggests that the province more or less agrees with me. So she's home.

very strange tableau

As Jon and I started realizing that we likely weren't sending her to school any time soon, we started investigating what home learning might look like for us. Along the way, I had heard of Waldorf education, so I started looking into that. With an emphasis on the natural world and on the importance of free, unhindered play, Waldorf education heavily discourages formal instruction before age seven. Song, rhymes, story telling, movement, creative activities and handwork are key elements in Waldorf. Serendipitously, last December we were out for a walk in the first real snowfall of the season and ran into a mother out for a walk with her daughter and son. She mentioned that her daughter was four years old, and I commented, "Oh, are you homeschooling?" to which she replied, "Yes, we're doing Waldorf at home." At the time we were still unsure of what we would ultimately decide for Peanut. She's now a friend of mine, her daughter is a friend of Peanut's and we, along with several other Waldorf-ing families, are working on pooling our resources and ideas to support one another in our children's learning. It's pretty wonderful, watching our little community of families slowly grow and come together.

One of the wonderful things about Waldorf is the sheer wealth of online resources available. I have only begun to plumb the depths of blogs and sites dedicated not only to Waldorf education but to Waldorf living. It's a holistic style of education: not merely consigned to particular hours of the day, it is a gentle and intentional manner of living, of ordering the day, the week, the seasons, the year, the entire home to create a comfortable, harmonious environment in which all in the family can live and grow. Which is not to say that we are now magically living in some family utopia: there's still lots of normal strife around here.

joy in every thing

I've been very hesitant to write this post, to be quite honest with you. It isn't just that I know that choosing home education is a pretty controversial decision, it's that I truly do respect the work teachers do and would never want to give the impression that I do not. I have several friends who are teachers, who - I have absolutely no doubt - are truly inspired and inspiring educators. Their students are privileged to have them in their life. And I also would never want to in any way imply that this is a universally right decision or that we find fault with parents who send their children to mainstream school. Far from it. This is simply the right decision for us, for this child, at this time.

my wondering girl

When Peanut was first born we had no idea that we would end up here, educating her at home. Occasionally  I still find myself surprised by our decision. But as we paint together, or practice finger knitting, or learn songs I feel a calmness, knowing deep down that this is what we are meant to be doing, and when she surprises me with a new cleverness, a new discovery or deduction, I feel utterly blessed that I am a party to her learning. Such a journey of discovery is youth, and I have the privilege of walking that journey with her.

We are so blessed.

a case of the sillies

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