The debate over where Connor will attend Kindergarten has ended. Tuesday, we visited our local public elementary school. It's a lovely school. The class size is small and there is learning galore going on.
But the sensory overload - my goodness! Everywhere we looked, something covered the wall-- a counting line, letters, notes to the students about the day, discipline and reward charts, lunch sign-up, attendance, simple sentences describing pictures.
The teachers definitely seemed nice, energetic, and happy to be there. But it seemed they placed a high emphasis on seeking order. But this order seemed somewhat elusive. In the first class, children were asked to please raise their hands to speak and take turns. But someone always shouted out the answer before the child being asked the question had to wait too long. I almost laughed out loud as the children prepared to head to the library and were instructed to line up in alphabetical order, which they did - lucky Adele. In the next class, a specialist was discussing the art of sharing. Children waved their hands and practically burst as they wiggled to get noticed to give an answer. A few times, she said "OK, everybody give a clap" and then she would clap in a certain rhythym, and the children would mimic her clap and settle briefly, only to be wound up a few minutes later. Before she began to read her story, the main teacher put on her listening ears complete with sound effects and motions, then she zipped her lips, double-locked them, and thew away the key. Ed and I both thought this was a tad insulting. Of course, everyone was quiet briefly. And all of these requests are perfectly reasonable, and I suppose necessay to accomplish the goals that the school is trying to accomplish - teaching some concrete skills that can be easily tested.
And sure, the kids are fine. Most of them are probably even thriving. But does anyone stop to question whether they're focusing on a skill set that is just not appropriate to this age child? Does anyone question whether it is appropriate to ask a 5 or 6 year old child to sit still and be quiet? Does anyone ask why it is even necessary to try and coerce them to do so? Why are these children wiggling and making noise when you could hear a pin drop during a puppet show at Connor's current school? Is it possible that the material being taught in our public schools is not at all age appropriate? Should a child of 5 or 6 be drilled on counting? Is this the best use of their time?
We'll continue to ask these questions in this house, but for now, we're planning on sending Connor to Waldorf school for one more year. Unlike the school we toured today, Connor's school resonates with joy. I'm not saying that children in the public school aren't happy, it just doesn't seem as apparent as it is where Connor currently is. At a Waldorf school, children have all the tools they need to perform the work of Kindergarten, which in the Waldorf world consists of three elements: manual work (the activities done to create something or maintain the environment), the work of play (hopefully play that is imaginative and creative), and substantive work (the work done to form a cohesive unit). This contrasts starkly with the mental work so favored in traditional schools - work Waldorf schools view as appropriate for children age 7 or more.
And guess what? When we made the decision, I didn't even have to resort to crying!