Friday, November 23, 2007

Goodbye Playgroup

The time has come to say goodbye to our much love Steiner playgroup. Now that ds is 6yrs (on Sunday) and dd is 4yrs, it is time to move on. A friend who edited a National Homeschooling Magazine - Education Choices - asked me to write about our journey to steiner and homeschooling, this is what I wrote!

Journey to My Light Within.

Who am I, and how am I going to parent and educate these two children?
This is the question I asked myself three years ago, looking at our toddler and newborn. I needed direction; I needed to find the light that was going to guide me through this new stage of life.
A chance ad in a newspaper led me to a local hall and in that hall I found Steiner playgroup. From the morning circle that was filled with verses and songs that created beautiful images to the toys made from wool, wood and natural cottons to the parents who I connected with instantly. Ok, they were not on the homeschooling journey with me but they had a parenting style that was in tune with what was in me. No university degree in Early Childhood gave me what those parents gave me in that first morning of playgroup. They gave me my light!
After many hours of reading and researching I had direction. That direction included respectful parenting that protected our children’s spirits, providing a calm environment that connected with nature and with ample opportunity to use and develop their imagination. It was sometimes a bumpy ride to get my husband and family to understand where I was heading with my philosophy but I thought leading by example was the best way to explain.
With a routine that is filled with creative play, nature walks, vegetable growing, handicrafts and many hours of story telling. Three years later we have two children that have a wide variety of interests, are sensitive to others and animals, love making anything from paper, sticky tape and ribbon and are always happy to be at home playing. I am really happy with where we are in our journey and I wouldn’t change a thing. We certainly have our fair share of challenges but with an understanding and a determination to find calm solutions to problems, we usually overcome them. We take one day at a time and love it!
Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925) was an Austrian scientist – philosopher (Simmons, D 2004 pp 3) who founded the first Waldorf School in Germany. For me, and as our children are still young at 5yrs and 3yrs, I see the Steiner philosophies as a parenting guide. My aim at the moment is to provide them with an environment that will protect their childhood and give them the opportunity to slowly awaken to the world around them.
In Donna Simmons book “Kindergarten With Your Three to Six Year Old”; the author defines the first seven years of a child’s life as the “Dreamtime”.
‘These are the years of uninterrupted creative play; of imitation and imagination; of active whole body exploration; and of being surrounded by the right example of loving adults who carefully frame and form the child’s experiences, building upon the young child’s natural oneness and openness to the world’.
Then at seven years, children are ready for a more structured based learning which is presented in a creative format and then balanced with artistic activities. Educating the whole child ‘the head, heart and hands’ (Barnes 1995, pp 12) is providing a sound start to life.
There are many curriculum guides available in Australia and Overseas; the Internet has really opened up number of resources available. I really haven’t any plans for when our son reaches 7 years or when he shows an interest in more structured learning. Maybe writing our own curriculum could be fun – one that is based on nature and also our interest at the time. Anyway, that is a whole other subject. We might throw it all to the wind, grab our backpacks and explore this beautiful country of ours, what a great way for the children to really connect with the world around them. It is all part of life’s journey so let’s wait and see!

Reference List

Barnes, H. ‘Learning that Grows With the Learner’ Edited by Fenner, P.J & Rivers, K.L 1995. Waldorf Education. A Family Guide. Michaelmas Press. USA.

Simmons, D. 2004. Kindergarten With Your Three to Six Year Old. Christopherus Homeschool Resources. USA.

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