Thanks for the nice comments on my last post (re: creative and messy). My dear friend Karen left a comment asking me why not homeschool Daughter, since we are doing well now?
Indeed, why not?
There are so many issues tied up in that little question, I hardly know where to start. First I should say that I don't plan to homeschool her. I am doing so now because I didn't find an affordable program that I liked enough to fork over the money. The ONLY thing I wanted for Daughter that she is not getting enough of at home is social interaction with other kids her age. I still wish we could get together with more kids, but it is so hard. I took her to her swimming lesson this weekend and in the car she told me she hoped her friend would be there - Isabella, the girl she met for the first time last weekend. The poor child is so hungry for friends, and so outgoing. It breaks my heart not to be able to provide that to her. So that is the first reason she is going to school next year.
The second reason is the fact that we moved here, to Expensive-ville, just so she could attend the public schools. They are known to be excellent, and Hubs and I went through this district, so we know what we're getting. It is mostly what we want. But I am so, so torn about surrendering her to those schools 11 months from now. She is so creative and sweet and generous and trusting and wonderful...it kills me to think she will lose a lot of that the minute she steps on the bus for the first time.
Now, if I had my druthers, I'd send my sweet, creative child to our "local" Waldorf school. I think. Well, I'm not sure, exactly, but I probably would! How's that for being clear as mud?
I just finished reading You Are Your Child's First Teacher, and I must recommend that you all run to the library and read it immediately. If you already have children, if you are planning to have more, or if you haven't had any yet, go get this book! I will admit, and I will warn, that it is a bit on the "hippy-dippy" side, but the insights the author provides into raising small children and encouraging their natural learning are so, so inspiring. She also manages to distill Rudolf Steiner's work down into understandable concepts and explain the basics of Waldorf education without overwhelming the reader.
We have only one Waldorf school in Western New York, and it is a solid 45 minutes away from our home in good weather, plus it costs mucho dinero to go there, so it's not going to happen. But I'm rapidly falling in love with the concepts embraced by the Waldorf system, such as soft colors, curved surfaces, picture-based learning, music and movement, and a real emphasis on teaching the whole child. The kindergartens are true to the name - a child's garden of play, and academic concepts are not emphasized until "the changing of teeth" which is a weird-sounding way of saying 7 or 8 years old. What we consider 1st or 2nd grade in our public-school universe is where academics begin in the Waldorf program. The major emphasis before that age is allowing the child's energy to be devoted to physical growth, development, and maturity.
Now, I am no expert on Steiner or Waldorf; I only know what I have read and it isn't much. But it makes so much sense! I'm cringing at the thought of my exceptionally bright daughter, who was reading the newspaper to me this morning, sitting in a hard chair at a desk or table with other 5 year-olds, being given a stupid worksheet with the letter G on it, having to circle the things that start with G and color them in. BORING! She will be told to be quiet, to get in line, to follow directions, to listen for a bell that signals when she can and cannot get up and move.
And I am so torn.
Part of me supports the logical argument that this is America in 2009 and kids need to learn and study and get ahead. The world is not a hippy-dippy place and Daughter will have to be the best to get into the school of her choice and build a career. But a part of me says "eff that!" and wants her to have her childhood, for as long as possible!
I have my arguments with the book and with some of the ideas. I don't know if I would get rid of the television entirely, or take away all computer privileges, or dump every single toy that isn't wooden/natural and handmade, or burn all the clothes that aren't made of 100% natural fibers. That would never fly in my household, anyway, since my husband spends most of his time with one eyeball on the tv and one on his computer. Plus I don't want to raise my kid to be the weird outcast whose mom won't let her have any "junk food" in her lunch and who never heard of Disney. A large part of that is also our community, I guess. We now live in an area that I think of as being very "hard," meaning, I guess, very professional and fast-paced and cold. The school systems are designed to groom little investment bankers, not particularly well-rounded, happy, well-adjusted kids. Like I said, the Waldorf school is out in the boondocks 45 minutes from here. There's no Hanna Andersson store here (much to my dismay), for natural soft clothing. People work, moms don't generally stay home, and if they do it is so they can go to the gym, and go get their nails and hair done, not so they can do homeschool-y stuff with their kids. I'm not saying those families don't exist, but they are not the norm, whereas in some parts of the country you can actually find multiple alternative education schools and entire communities that embrace those values.
So I have all this stuff churning around in my head. I will probably have more to say about it in future posts as I continue my mothering journey and strive to guide my babies in what I hope and pray is the right direction. Have any of you read the book I am talking about? Do you send your children to the local public school? How do you feel about it? Are your children in an alternative-education environment? Are you happy?
Are your children happy?