With public school set to start in less than a week, I "should" be gearing up to walk my 5 year old to the bus stop and send him on his way each day. But I'm not. Although I am a little saddened that he's not officially starting kindergarten at our private school that was supposed to open this fall (more on that HERE), and I am not sad in the slightest that he isn't starting public kindergarten this fall.
I grew up in a family full of teachers - my mom, two uncles, my aunt, my grandmother, and more- and although it was never my dream as a little girl to become a teacher, it ended up being my calling. I finished my undergrad then headed off to do my Ed Degree. I loved every second of it. I couldn't wait to get in the classroom. I fast-tracked my program, and ended up supply teaching before I even had my degree in hand. I spent three years in the public system and, as I like to say, I got out before I got too bitter. The bureaucratic, political agendas clearly went against the best interests of the students. Try as I may to turn myself inside out to change things, I knew I was fighting a loosing battle, and left public teaching.
I knew that I didn't want my non-existent children in that environment. But I was unsure about homeschooling, since I LOVED school as a child. I just knew that the public system wasn't going to give my kids the education that they deserve. I searched and searched for alternate educational philosophies. I fell in love with Montessori, as I am an independent, type-A, learner. And when it came time to have children I set up Luke's nursery with a floor bed, easily accessible, minimalistic, natural toys, etc. However, as he grew and his emotional, wild-child personality began to shine through I knew that as much as I wanted Montessori to work for him, it wouldn't. Which led me to discover Rudolf Steiner and his Waldorf philosophy. It instantly spoke to my soul. I instantly knew that I needed to become a Waldorf teacher and if we wanted to stay in our area and still give my kids a full school experience, I'd have to start a school. And so the long journey began... and still continues.
I am thrilled to give a Waldorf education to my little guy. In Waldorf philosophy kindergarten is a time for social and physical development. There is only about 10-15 minutes of academic circle time each day that is simply filled with story, song, and movement. The rest of the day is filled with free play, outdoor time, and purposeful intentional work modelled by the adults that the children can imitate. Life is enough for this age group. So cleaning, cooking, gardening, crafting, singing, stories, music -- the things I do naturally in my day-to-day life-- are enough for young children to learn from. As a stay-at-home mom, my boys are constantly involved in my day-to-day living. They help me make our meals, and plant and harvest our garden. They "help" me clean and do household upkeep. They do their "work" which is to play, while I do my work (knitting, sewing, etc.). And they learn! They learn SO much.
My boys don't know their ABC's and if you ask them to count they will get messed up at "eleventeen". Luke, at 5, still says "Him needs help Mommy", and "Me need you to come here please". But, as is common in the Waldorf world, we let our children come into the world in their own time. Instead of focusing on what they can't do, we celebrate and and happy about the many things that they can do. Both of my boys can throw a tomahawk and have it stick in a wooden target. They both are great archers. They use tools to build and create without supervision. Using sharp knives is the norm for them. Their motor skills -- both gross and fine -- are well beyond the norm. Their bodily awareness is astounding, and they are not clumsy in the slightest. They can assess risk and what they are capable of without any adult interference. They can bushwhack, climb, roll, hike, jump, bike, scoot, skip, hop, balance, better than most. They know so many songs and all of their nursery rhymes. They both naturally hold a pencil or crayon the "right way", and love to draw and write. They paint beautifully. They have vivid imaginations and love to be told stories. They are kind and compassionate and loving to all of the creatures of this world. They love getting together with their friends at forest school for their weekly adventures together. They are confident in themselves and despite being told time and time again how much he looks like a girl, Luke loves his long blonde hair, that the faeries dance in each night making the curls "bootiful", and doesn't want to cut it.
So, to say the least, I don't feel like my 5 year old needs to go to public kindergarten --where he we be told what to play and when to play it; where he will be told what to say and what to write and what to draw; where he would be told what NOT to do and what he CAN'T do time and time again. Instead we are going to enjoy is last non-academic year and embrace his childhood. We will enjoy a beautiful, predictable rhythm of Monday Painting Day, Tuesday Soup Day, Wednesday Forest School, Thursday Swimming, Friday Forest School, Saturday Forest School, Sunday Baking Day. Plenty of time with friends, plenty of time outside, plenty of time playing, and plenty of time to simply be. We trust that our boys will indeed come into the world in each of their own time, and they will acquire all the "normal" academic skills at a developmentally appropriate age.
I am excited to now officially be a homeschooling family and can't wait to share our journey into homeschooling with you.