Thursday, September 3, 2009

Back to School

Swedegirl is back at her Waldorf School (link). She has moved up from her dagis/ preschool group of 1-3 year olds to the 4-6 year old group! This means she gets to be in the hilltop school that is housed in a lovely Steiner Architecture building (link). The building feels so good to be in, the class room so sweet, and the view from the hilltop playground over Skåne amazing.One of her classmates families lives on the property behind the school, and they keep their horses in a field next to the playground. This nifty hobby horse stands looking out over the hills and into the fields where the real horses roam. On her first day we arrived to find one teacher was singing to herself while she assembled a new lamp with the help of a few children, and the other was stringing Rönn berries on garlands and helping the children cut and slice apples for drying.Her school feels very special. This article "The Waldorf Kindergarten: The World of the Young Child" is a good discussion of how and why Waldorf-Steiner schools approach education for young children (link). Simply put, Waldorf schools recognize the magic of early childhood and seek to protect and nourish the spark in the child that makes them so alive and wondrous when they are little. Children are considered to be wide open to the world and highly sensitive to the input from the world around them. Everything is done with great intention at the school. The colors, the play things, the environment, and feeling in the room are all cultivated to convey a sense of warmth and beauty. The intention is to set a stage for them to be connected to the natural world, themselves, and develop their imaginations and relationships in safety and love.
It reminds me of how during births in the birth center and at homebirth, we took such care to protect the experience of the newborn baby, so they would experience the world as a friendly place. We handled them gently and intentionally, spoke softly and kindly, and made sure they were welcomed into the world slowly and sweetly. I think Waldorf education offers the same gentle touch for children. It allows them to wake to themselves and the world slowly, and lets the star light in their little eyes shine.
I like that the pedagogy openly considers the development of her heart and soul(link). I went to school in a highly competitive/covertly competitive school. It was all about the brain and only the brain. I was in the best school available to me at the time, but I always had the sense that the teaching lacked artistry. I struggled with math, and felt like if someone could give me a Nautilus shell and help me relate to the mystery of the spiral in it, I could have grasped math more easily. I was rather artistic, but did not get art classes after 9th grade because of schedule conflicts. We made fun of sports, there were no teams, we did not even have a gym or gym class on our campus. The school had a well known orchestra program, but it seemed like another venue for competition. In the higher grades, Waldorf schools do not use text books, instead students record their own observations in a notebook with drawings. They study the world directly. Story, song, drama, and poetry are used to teach the lessons, and the subjects are integrated. This approach appeals to me, and I think it is a great fit for Swedegirl. The Waldorf schools in the USA are expensive and always seem to be chronically struggling with resource shortages. I am feeling really lucky to have a chance for SwedeGirl to get this type of education. Sweden's public schools are mandated by the government to provide everything a child needs for school, in the spirit of insuring an equal opportunity for all children (So no back to school supply lists for us!).
Under the rules of our commune/ county, she can go to preschool for 25 hours. So she goes Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 8 or 9 ish -3 or4 ish. Because I am like that about time. When I picked her up on her first day, she was playing 'bunnies' with another little girl in this fort. When it was time for us to go, the little playmate very purposfully hopped away from the 'burrow' across the yard with her 'paws' in front of her. It was darling. Swedegirl then offered to share a bowl of 'salad-soup' she had made, which she was delighted to proclaim I could "REALLY, REALLY EAT!"- it was leaf lettuces and parsley from the kitchen garden, in a stainless steel bowl with hose water. It was delicious :)
We are looking forward to a wonderful few years in her little classroom, until the time comes to graduate to the primary school.


Andy said...

AWESOME little school, mama! I think she will be so so happy there! I love our nursery school, but it does not compare in terms of beauty and gentleness. sigh. I think we do the best we can do, and know that our little people will grow and be the best they can be, in turn. Hopefully it is gentle, and maybe even fun, along the way. :D thanks for sharing all the great pics and stuff - she's sure growing up strong and sure.

Liquid Pen said...

What a sweet spot to grow!(my code to post this comment was "upblessm")

Rose said...

How fortunate you are to have such an opportunity for her! And even more wonderful that you live in a country where Waldorf school isn't seen as a blessing, but an entitlement. Three cheers for Sweden!!