Saturday, June 6, 2009

SwedeGirl's Year at
The Waldorf School
SwedeGirl has had a great year in her little school, LilleBo, which means little home. There are three teachers, each with a group of four kids. The three groups have their own room where they start the day and have lunch, but the groups mingle for snacks, singing, and outdoor play. The children are ages 18 months to 4 years old. In Sweden we have 25 hours a week of free daycare since I do not work. Generally children come to school everyday from 8 until 2. This is common for all Swedes to have their small children in Dagis during these hours. We choose to use our time on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays from 8 to 4 instead of going five days a week. I like having a few home only days with no school, and the slow mornings that go with that. Many of the children go to Dagis fulltime when the parents are working. We like our Swedish Waldorf school, which I can describe as anthrosophic in intention, but moderate and balanced in the execution. Waldorf education is based on the philosophy called anthrosophy that was developed from the thinking of Rudolph Steiner. Waldorf education seeks to protect the spiritual nature of children, so they can remain in touch with themselves so as to develop into balanced and spiritually self aware adults. Waldorf classrooms for young children are structured to look like homes. The teachers model normal domestic life like cooking, cleaning, and gardening so the children can learn by imitation. The classrooms have only open ended toys that allow for this imitation, attention is paid to surrounding the children with quality, natural materials, and the class emphasizes daily and seasonal rhythms. I find Waldorf schools can get a bit dogmatic, and that instead of focusing on the heart of things, they get too caught up in the specifics of the "Waldorf Way". It can start to feel like there is only one right way to do things. I just met a german midwife from a village Rudolph Steiner lived in who told me a story that is a perfect example of this thinking. Waldorf schools have this big thing about hats, that the children always need hats. She was discussing the orgin of this, that once Steiner said a certain child needed a hat for it's particular constitution, and then he said don't go making this a rule or anything, this is just for this one child! But sure enough, after he died someone went and said "All children need hats!" and it became dogma. You can get fundamentalist about anything, I guess. Especially when implementing a philosophy developed by a charismatic and visionary leader. The whole point of anthrosophy is that you have the information you need to be self realized with in yourself, so of course it makes sense to be your own guide.
Our school is warm, cozy, and flexible. We have enjoyed the peaceful environment, the organic vegetarian lunches, the space for a child to be a child.
Even when Swedegirl went on a disney princess streak it was fine for her to bring her princess-y backpack along to school, and she carries her lunch for the outings (utflick) in a princessy lunch box. If you know Waldorf philosophy, it discourages characters strongly. I think this is a good thought. But it was nice that when the Swedegirl became interested in all things DISNEY princess-y (she was very funny about this, I will have to post the story) we did not feel like we had to completely put a stop to it for the sake of the school. Like Ani Difranco notes in one of her songs- 'buildings and bridges are made to bend with the wind, because what doesn't bend breaks". It's nice to have the benefits of the Waldorf environment with out a sense of religious fervor about how we adhere to the concepts in our life. We are grown ups, and can make the choices for ourselves how we wish to incorporate the Waldorf concepts in our life, and its nice to be at a school that supports that moderate approach.

Next year she will head to the bigger school, BackeBo, or hilltop school. The teacher there brought this lamb to school this Spring. It was such a pity they have no Swedish version of "Mary had a Little Lamb" because "it made the children laugh and play to see a lamb at school!"
As the school year ends, we had a few events. A few weeks ago there was a Spring time clean up in the yard at school, and the parents came out and helped tidy up the yard for the new Spring season.
And last weekend the school had a picnic in the woods. It was lovely to be together with all the families on a hot, sunny Swedish day. The children played in the pond, flew kites, and sheep grazed nearby under the shade of the trees!


Rose said...

So lovely!! I try to not use the word "jealous" but....

Wow. Would love that opportunity.

Nic's NEWs said...

The school looks fantastic, the interior is so familiar.