(Ned’s 6 year old birthday celebration)
“Long have I searched for you, you wicked creature”
Why I LOVE Waldorf Kindergartens
Ned and I were in the bath last week after Jack had gone to bed, and he started telling me the exciting news that he played the ‘Woodcutter’ that day at kindergarten. Without further ado, he said in his deepest, strongest, most theatrical calm and considered voice- “Long have I searched for you, you wicked creature”.
“Wow”, I said, “and what did you have to do in the story?”
“Well, I had to put a real bow and arrow case on my back, and put a real pair of scissors in my pocket, and after the wolf ate Grandmother and Little Red Cap, I had to use my scissors to open him up and let them both out, then I used a real needle and thread to stitch and sew the wolf back together again. Oh, and mama, somehow I now have a little hole in my pocket….” (Mmmm….)
The children in Ned’s class have been listening to, and retelling through a circle play, the story of the Grimm’s tale, Little Red Cap (aka Little Red Riding Hood). Everyday, different children play the roles of the main characters- Little Red Cap, Grandmother (or Grandfather), Mother (or Father), and of course the Woodcutter/Huntsman. And evidently, each child has a line to memorise. A line of language that makes my heart sing! Not ‘Cat sat on the mat’ or ‘Tom ate a cake’ but THIS! Heart flutters!
And it is not just Ned learning this kind of thing by heart, or even saying this kind of language that gives me the thrills (although they are wonderful)… it is that every single day, right throughout his education from preschool right through to Grade 12 (if we are so lucky to take this journey all the way- fingers crossed!) he is IMMERSED in rich language brought to him by his class teachers and specialists- in stories, and fairy tales full of deep wisdom (if one dares to see beyond the veil of mere words), plays, in music and science, in maths and history, in pictorial art on blackboards, and in the glorious seasonal festivals. Rich language is the context that encourages and entices the children to see the world as full of wonder, riches, truth, beauty and goodness. Life is good and magical and filled with opportunity. The stories tell us so, even when they take us through the valleys and over the mountains and through muddy trenches to find the gold. I really, truly, deeply believe that if you want a child to read, and love learning, you must inspire him or her with rich language engagement every single day. Thank goodness for schools that know this.
I can’t help but compare the schooling world Ned lives in, and the WONDER, to some of the things I’ve experienced or seen as a teacher in other places. Sometimes the best of teachers find their good intentions are pushed aside by the day-to-day necessities of teaching (data, data, data- testing, testing, testing) most often driven from above or outside the school. It makes me even more grateful that I have the means and the capacity to make this choice. (It’s not always easy to find the dollars, nor physically get him there when I have to work, but I’ve always said, knowing what I know, this is my upmost priority. )
I also feel super lucky to have been led, through a number of cosmic kismet moments, to the knowledge that something else, another way of educating children, actually exists. Waldorf education is my dream come true. I feel it in my bones, a deep sense that this IS the way to educate children. Through rich language and storytelling and creativity and art and challenging their thinking and beauty and science and exceptional care and intellectual stimulation and practical work and hands-on learning and colour and life skills…. all in one heart-felt school.
I’m truly thankful.
PS: This is my truth. I’m aware it may not be your truth or experience. But I wanted to share MY joy. I hope you love your school just as much!
PPS: I love the cooler weather, and sharing a bath with my biggest boy. It’s like Ned’s version of the ‘walking exercise‘ downloading (feelings/stories/ideas) I like to share with my teen. Bath time is an opportunity for Ned and I to chat, to discuss the day’s events, and on occasion, for him to share his worries or concerns. I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to share baths- he is getting pretty tall- but so far, so good.
A little something else…. If you have found this story,
and read it, and it has sparked even a moment of something inside of you, then I would seriously suggest checking out your local Waldorf/Steiner school. It is NOT for everyone, it is NOT perfect, (teachers, parents and communities are made up of humans after all!) nor is it for every child, but in my experience, those who need it, (be aware- it may be the parent who needs it more than the child. It was in my case!) or those who might somehow benefit or grow from it, are usually led there by a series of what I might call ‘magical moments’. I’d pay attention. Just saying!