Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An Education

A great deal of my mental space and energy these past few months has been devoted to choosing an education path for our children. Matteo will be turning 5 this summer and will be ready to enter Kindergarten in the Fall. This has been a difficult journey for me. I have loved the principles of Waldorf education for years, have embraced as much as I can here in our home, but the reality is that we simply cannot afford private education for 3 children. I am in awe of those of you who homeschool. I learn and am inspired so much by reading your blogs, but I know that at this point, I don't have the temperament, patience or talent to give my children what they need to learn the quantitative ways of the world. Eileen wrote so eloquently about her reasons to become "Waldorf Afterschoolers" (love that phrase!) and I believe that is the model our family will emulate.

So, I have spent the past few months touring our local schools. Where I live, public schools are assigned to families based on a lottery to make sure that there is socioeconomic diversity at all the schools. Each family can list it's school preferences in the application. What I found at our schools was amazing parental commitment at every school. I learned about the commitment our community has to the arts by providing each student music instruction (either flute or violin) in the 4th and 5th grades. I learned that every student is served a nutritional breakfast every morning at no cost. I learned that while public education was initially not my first choice, it's a choice that I can live -dare I say- happily with.

I chose a local school close to our neighborhood for it's small size and the comfort I felt by knowing many of the families from our small, wonderful preschool are there. I loved the intimacy of the school and the warmth of the teaching staff. My second choice was a magnet school, one of the largest schools in the city, highly regarded for it's integration of the arts into all aspects of education and the diversity of the school population.

We got our letter indicating our assignment, and of course... we got our second choice.

I felt panicky, I felt scared... what had I done by putting this as a preference??? The school is so big! We don't have any close friends there! The school is across town, I'll have to drive him to school, because God knows I will not let MY BABY get on a school bus! Yes, I freaked out. I felt so pushed out of my comfort zone.

And then I took a deep breath and realized it's not about me and the lost feeling of control. It's about my sons and the amazing opportunities they will have at this new school. Every morning they will leave our home, dressed warmly, lunches packed and every afternoon they will return to loving hugs and kisses and the comfort of what they have always known at our home. That is what I can control and I will trust that there are angels to watch over them while they are away from me.

The school assignment letter yesterday made it all so much more real that my first born, the one who made me a mother, is not a baby anymore. I watched Matteo and Nico running ahead of me to school this morning. They like to play a game where one will run ahead, stop turn around throw out his arms to welcome the other in a running embrace. It brought tears to my eyes. I felt that these simple days of walking to school together, showing unabashed affection for one another are coming to a close and it made my heart ache.

There is an exciting world awaiting not just Matteo, but our entire family. I will get involved with this big, breathtaking school that the universe has ultimately chosen for him. I will help his teachers clean paint brushes, join other parents to work in the garden, I will be part of my children's educational experience. I will know that this anxiety and fear is normal and part of MY journey of being a parent.

Most importantly, I will remember that this about my boys and their wonderful journey together into this world we live in.


Anonymous said...

This is something I look forward to, and dread. The beginning of school seems like such a big step. But you sound like you've done a great job of finding a great school. Best of luck with this transition!

Joy said...

I really appreciate your real and honest feelings poured into this post, Marina. I understand the point of view and feelings so well. Our kids also go to an arts-integrated school, and we are very happy with the education they are getting. I love the phrase "waldorf afterschoolers" because it so well describes how I try to parent. I never heard that term before. :) I hope you will soon feel a peace that Matteo (and one day all your children) will be in good hands at their new school since you are an involved and caring mama who will be watching, encouraging, and nurturing them through their entire schooling experience. ((hugs))

Anonymous said...

It must be so hard to let go, you always find something positive about everything! I'm sure they will have a great time & love it, and their favourite part will be coming home to a warm and welcoming home <3

Eileen said...

Marina - somehow, not by chance I know, I ended up on your blog today and saw this post. I'm so happy you have found peace in the term 'Waldorf Afterschoolers'... and the anxiety is there with me as well... I love how you stated how we will trust their angels to guide and watch over them. I hope to cater a bit more to the group of parents like us who have a waldorf-inspired home and philosophy in our life but cannot offer a waldorf education at school. Look forward to sharing the journey with you. xoxo Eileen ~Little Acorn Learning

Silje og Vibecke: said...

Lovely children and lovely bikes,

from Petunika Silje and Vibecke, Waldorfteachers in Norway.

Anonymous said...

Love the "afterschoolers" term!! :) It's perfect! It gives a name to the extra efforts I try to put in at home weekends and evenings. W loves his little Montessori preschool, but I think the other side of the coin is important too---so home is definitely a little different than some of his classmates. And I think it pays off with a well-rounded life! He's got fantasy and fairy tales and magic and he can just be a baby for a few minutes longer instead of becoming an instant mini-teenager! Maybe it's just my biased opinion, but it seems like it does make a difference from what I observe with his classmates.

Annie@Imagination said...

Oh my goodness Marina, THANK YOU for sharing this wonderful post... and linking to the "waldorf afterschoolers" -- THAT'S the word I've been searching for -- trying to search for families blending the homeschooling/unschooling WITH public school... because that's where we'll be when our children start school I believe... Our biggest question is one of language -- where the better school is NOT in the language we'd like to educate our children -- so that part is quite challenging... ok, this wasn't supposed to be about me -- but seriously THANK YOU.

Your boys are lucky to have each other, and the parents they have :)

nicola@which name? said...

beautifully put, marina. you know, i went to the school matteo will be going to and i have only positive memories of all the experiences i gained there.

you shared this so eloquently. public school choices here can be such tough choices and kindergarten is a tough journey for parents, most especially.

we received a notice yesterday that our beloved charter school is in dire financial straits and we fear it might close. i have NO idea what we will do, because i echo you on homeschool temperament (or lack there of).

we, too, are "after schoolers."
all that you have given your boys so far so intensely shapes how wonderfully they will do.

hugs. see you friday,
Which Name?

Jenne said...

The school sounds pretty great - despite its size and the trek across town. I think this will be a wonderful journey for you all and am glad you're able to embrace it. Sometimes these things really do work out better than we expected!

Jessica said...

Oh my goodness. I know I should make some deep, well thought-out statement about the text of this post, but really...

That final photo is absolutely adorable! :)

Jenna said...

As a "Waldorf Afterschooler" (awesome name from Eileen!) of three children in public school (1st, 2nd, and 4th) I think your son will do fine. It's the strong rhythm of home (when they're not in school) that keeps them healthy in spirit and growing.
But starting school outside the home, waldorf or not is a big step. We celebrated it with the German Kindercone or schultute as each child was old enough for school.
Good luck and enjoy these busy days with all three at home!!

Nicole Spring said...

First I must gush about how handsome your boys are. I love that pic of them on their bikes!! I think I might need a copy for Kaulini and Ciara ;)

And I know we touched just a tiny bit on school choices the other night but this sounds like it going to work wonderfully for you guys. Your boys will still be the amazing,sweet little guys that they are no matter what school or type of education they have because they have YOU to come home to. That is really all that matters. Plus, that school sounds pretty amazing!!!

You are the best and I can't wait to hear more about your journey. Deep breathes and CALL ME if you need to!!! <3 <3 <3


Sounds like you are making wonderful, thoughtful choices!
and what beautiful children!!!

Leslie said...

My daughters, almost 8 and 11 1/2 are in public school, and my 5 1/2 year old son is marinating at my Waldorf/Lifeways inspired preschool for an extra year before kinder. God, have I been where you are, but you know what? I follow my own preschool owner/teacher advice and send my girls off each morning with complete confidence in them!'s their journey. And we are "Waldorf Afterschoolers", too. There are typically cultural issues and food issues where we hold firm, but the girls are fine. Nutrition, family culture, and sleep matter most. Good luck!