I have written and re-written this post about five times now. I had wanted to include the appropriate links to this and that post that have influenced my thoughts. But it just isn't happening. So here it is...feel free to move on to the next blog on your bloglines.
Last week I met with the older boys' pre-school teachers for a little mama-teacher conference. This time of the year they show you examples of each child's work at the beginning of the year and toward the end so that you can see how much they have changed. I have been muddling over the whole pre-school, kindergarten, unschooling, homeschooling decision and I was anxious to hear what they thought. If they would recommend that the boys go on to kindergarten. S and I do a lot with them at home, so I know which way I was leaning, but wanted to get a full picture before we made a decision.
In true me fashion, I prepare and think about things way more than really warranted. But with the move to Virginia upon us and the whole kindy decision has been taking up a large portion of my brain. Man, this has really snuck up on me.
Now before I met all of you wonderful creative mama bloggers, I think my decision would have been much easier to make. Not that I would have rushed them right into full day kindy without a care, again I think about things way too much to do that. Remember? But before I started reading blogs, I had never heard the word unschooling and had never read the book The Unschooled Mind by Howard Gardner. I had never heard of Steiner or Waldorf or even knew those were alternatives to the public/private school issue. I did know of Montessori...S went to a Montessori school when he was a kid. I even visited a Montessori school and seriously considered it after last.
I have a huge heart for boys and how they learn and have read almost every book I can get my hands on pertaining to the subject. I watched my brother struggle with school and saw how his frustrations poured over as behavioural issues into our whole family. He was finally diagnosed with dyslexia. His first comment after the diagnosis still rings strong and clear in my ears. "See, I told you I wasn't stupid". Not that any of us had told him that, but that is how he felt, the feelings he got from the teachers and other students. Even at nine years old, it made me want to cry my eyes out for him. S had some similar frustrations with school (although never diagnosed with a learning disability) and I can see some similar threads in his educational background. All of this to say, I desperately want to be an educational advocate for my boys. I want them to feel smart and valued and more than adequate. I just don't want to screw things up for them.
I have to say, the whole Steiner- Waldorf approach appeals to me in almost every way. It really does. The strong connection to the natural world, the use of activity and movement, and how they provide such a variety of ways to learn a particular element. This way of thinking makes me want to go back to elementary school myself. However, after checking, there is not a school in the Va. Beach area. There is a summer camp in Chesapeake, but that is it. OK, no Waldorf school then.
Home Schooling/Unschooling...I gave this a brief thought (my irl friends are cringing about now), but quickly slapped myself into reality. The two boys have been side by side since birth (really in utero) and compete over every little thing. When one starts to excell at something, you can clearly see the other start to get discouraged over that same something and get frustrated. It is almost like they can not both be good at the same thing. They are both in need of some room, room to shine on their own and do their own thing. I think giving them some apart time will be good for them, and good for us.
So that leaves public kindergarten. The school they would be going to is a good one. A really good neighborhood school with good teachers and staff. A good curriculum from what I know, and lots of room outside (grass playground as opposed to asphalt) to run and explore. I know a few of the teachers there and they have had nothing but wonderful things to say about their school.
I come from a long line of public school teachers. Both grandmothers, an aunt, my father was a math/algebra/trig. substitute while I was in high school. I could go on and on about our family's connection to the public school system. I also stronly believe in pitching in and making your school better if there is a problem. Not jumping ship as soon as there is an "issue" and leaving all of the other children there with said problem. But that is a whole other blog post.
So, here is where I am. The boys will be attending kindergarden everyday for half of the day. There was a full day option, but I think being seperated for the first time plus the move will be change enough. I want them to be successful and love going to school their first time out. So I think this is a good start. And then the other half of the day, I will try to plan other activities (in unschooling fashion like we have been doing) with a lesson in there somewhere...exploring at the beach, museum visits, park play, cooking at home, painting in the back yard, planting in the garden, etc.
I am happy and relieved. I think we have made a good decision. I hope so.
In honor of their achievments so far, I am taking one of the drawings from their progress folder from pre-school and turning it into an embroidery pillow. Ian's best drawing was a self portrait of him riding his snowboard back in February. I am also loving how they write their names right now and want to hold on to that in some way. So their signature are included as well. Yesterday, Zane wanted to go with S to take Scout for a run, so Ian and I finished his pillow. Ian picked out the fabric (which is a thrifted green/yellow geometric towel) and the shape he wanted for the patch. We stuffed it together on the back steps and had a good chat about how proud I am of him and all that he is doing. He loves how soft it feels. And I love that it gives him a sense of accomplishment. Zane's pillow is up next. We can't decide which drawing to use.
And not to be outdone in any way by his big brothers, Wyatt is experiencing his own milestones. The photo below should say it all. (please ignore the dirty floors)
Also today, my Grammer is going home from a physical rehab facility after a nasty fall a week or so ago. This is my grandmother who taught in the "at risk" classroom in a public school for many, many years. She treated these runaway, knife carrying, alcohol abusing, teenagers with a firm hand and a warm heart, she and my Papaw often inviting them to their home to see how their garden was growing, to feed the cows, have a home cooked meal. She is an amazing woman and I am very proud of her this past several days. Grammer, you have worked hard to get strong again and I am very proud of you. I love you and can not wait to see you and Papaw next month!