Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Waldorf: A New School Year

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there will ever be to know and understand." Albert Einstein

Future's so bright she's gotta wear shades

I don't know if Portlandia  has done a spoof of a Waldorf school, but if it hasn't, it should. We are the baby-wearing, organic-food-eating, self-righteous women who wait in line for a Terry Gross autograph.

Next week, Violet goes back to school. Despite the fact that I bought her some new shoes and dresses that she is overjoyed about, she's not thrilled about the upcoming change. I've loved our time together this summer (three months!), but with having to rely on a couple of nannies to help me out during the workday, I am ready for her to return to the nurturing, wholesome community that her school offers (and the ease of having regular care that her being in school provides me).

Because she started in January last year, I didn't have the benefit of a parent orientation, which would've helped explain what goes on in the classroom on a day-to-day basis and the rationale behind some Waldorf practices. Saturday I attended the orientation for this school year, and I feel like I got a lot of my questions answered.

Some of the school beliefs include the following: encouraging a child's sense of wonderment and activating his or her imagination by having open-ended toys, such as dolls with no faces and simple wooden cars and animals; no exposure to media because of the content of television and radio programming and its effect on the child's sense of self and well-being (the school also prohibits children from wearing character shirts), the impact it makes on logical sequential thinking and imagination due to its rapid "flickering," and all of the things a child is not doing when she is passively watching or listening to a program (such as discovering something on her own); an extensive celebration of a child's birthday to acknowledge the milestone in her life and her journey to earth; and a rhythm to a child's day that includes regular rest, oral storytelling, nourishing foods, and participation in classroom chores (baking, setting the table, cleaning up the classroom).

As I've mentioned before, I had my own reasons for choosing a Waldorf school. I liked the slower pace it offered, the fact that it doesn't focus on academics in the nursery and kindergarten classes (Violet is in the mixed-age kindergarten, even though she is not old enough to be in kindergarten in a traditional school), the open-ended toys, the idea that adults just need to get out of kids' way so that they can learn, and the home-like atmosphere. However, even though I think it's best that she not watch television,  I do allow her to watch one show a day sometimes two and, on occasion, I even allow her to watch a movie. Part of the reason I allow her to watch a show is because she does 30 minutes of vision therapy with the television, and, I admit, sometimes I just need a break. Also, half of her T-shirt drawer is filled with character shirts, and even though I serve a mostly organic diet to my children, I do allow Violet to have McDonald's once a month. There are other things too, but I am considering making some changes at home.

The parents are encouraged to participate in the school community as much as possible by volunteering to clean the classrooms and maintain the grounds; building structures (like a loft); and attending parent/child groups for children two and under, monthly meetings that explore various topics (like the impact of television on children), and lectures by experts from various fields. I've done none of this, but I did offer to do some writing to help their marketing efforts, and I've made some non-toxic cleaning products that can be used in the classroom.

Despite some of its quirks, I feel like the school offers something really special, so I am feeling hopeful about the new school year and reassured that I made a good decision. And my hope is that, once Violet gets into the swing of things, she will feel that way, too.

Practicing her curtsy

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