YARN - From the (shorter) Oxford English Dictionary:

Spun fibre of cotton, silk, wool, or flax.... fibre prepared for use in weaving, knitting...a fisherman's net...any of the strands of which a rope is composed...a (usually long or rambling) story or tale, especially an implausible, fanciful, or incredible one.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Am I Waldorf enough?

Is it all whole grains and natural fibres?
Will I be outcast if I send my child to school with store bought cookies for lunch?
What can I possibly take to a pot luck?
What if I whip out my blackberry or iphone - will I be shunned?

Choosing Waldorf
Before sending my children to our Waldorf school I had a sense that there were a lot of things going on there that were important to me - lots of outdoor time, an infusion of environmental teaching, small classes, discouragement of electronics and TV, lots of art and music. It appealed to the neo-Luddite in me. It felt homey. It felt like it was what I would want to give my children if I was capable of home-schooling. I was okay with outsourcing home-schooling to people who would do it better than I could. But I also worried that I might be out of place... not crunchy enough, too harried, not stay-at-home mom enough, too suburban, too much of this world. Which is tricky because I feel out of step enough to be drawn to Waldorf in the first place.

When I think about it, I based my decision to send my daughter to this school on very little . In my old neighbourhood I knew a family who sent their children to a nearby Waldorf school. I remember the mother telling me about emptying pudding cups into containers from home to make it look home-made since store-bought was not allowed at school. I was intrigued and turned off at the same time. I checked out the school's website and did a little drive-by and put it in the back of my mind as an option. When it came time for us to move to our present city I heard that an acquaintance from a previous life in outdoor education sent his kids to this school. I looked at the website and decided that it felt like a good fit. Pretty superficial really but a gut instinct call. It just felt right, and it still does.

Private Education Guilt
I trained as a teacher so my politics make me feel guilty for not supporting public education and I have a hard time admitting to myself that I am sending my children to private school. I try to console myself by saying that if I had known about Waldorf in teacher's college maybe I would be a teacher now, if public education was like this I would be there in a heart-beat. Maybe I will just feel guilty about some aspect of whatever I do. There is tension and disquiet about making this choice but it is over ridden by knowing that this is the right place for our family right now.

What is Waldorf?
There are some in Waldorf circles who say that there is nothing which is really defining Waldorf, others will refer to Steiner as the anchor for all that is Waldorf. I think lots of us might just like the schools, feel good about our children being there and take what happens at our school to be 'Waldorf'. In my case, our school is not just the Waldorf school it also functions, for lack of other options, as the 'alternative' school.

It is not all flowing skirts and homemade bread. We read a lot at our house and I have felt no 'delayed introduction of reading' backlash at all. We watch movies on the computer sometimes and Treehouse TV when we are away from home. We are immunized, have plastic toys (though I have disappeared most of the noisy ones for my own sanity) and I spend way too much time on the computer. I have found our school to be an eclectic mix of people who bring to, and want from, the school very different things and it seems to meet a variety of needs. Like any school, it is a little bit of all of us.

What am I getting out of this?
While experiencing this education through my children, by being a part of the parent community within and around the school, I am actively and passively learn more about this approach to education. I am finding that it supports things that I am trying to do at home - nutritious food, decreased frazzle in our lives, living with out a TV, crafts and the joys of making things. I also feel myself wanting to be more of the good things I see in the school - patient, unhurried, less acquisitive, more musical, more attentive to the small beauties my children bring to me. I am being encouraged and challenged to be a better parent and person. This is not overt, there is nobody behind this, it is not part of the Waldorf programme (or programming for those fearful that Waldorf might actually be a cult). It comes of being around people who are more than I am and it makes me aspire to be a better person and parent.

I do not need to change or make my lunches seem something that they are not. I can be a bit frazzled at times, less patient than I would like to be, and work on my laptop if I am a bit early for pick-up. To a potluck I can bring whole grains - or not. A respected member of our school made my day when she told me she took take out pizza to a pot luck! It seems that the definition of Waldorf is broad enough and the tent is big enough to welcome a variety of people - so I might just be Waldorf enough!

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