After a very positive visit this weekend, with Lee saying she doesn’t even want to look at other schools because she was so taken with this one, I want to notate what we liked so we can come back and be reminded later. The one minus is the obvious one, that a private school with small class sizes is hugely more expensive than the free public school down the street. But we ran the numbers and if we can get some scholarship, we could swing this. It would be tight the first year (until Lee’s car is paid off and one of her other routine payments is fulfilled, though I think that actually happens before next school year) but we could certainly manage. And as Lee said, “Isn’t education the best investment you can make for your child?” I hope so, sweetie, if this is the investment we decide to make!
There are not very many teachers of color, but there are not very many teachers total! I liked that the foreign language teacher is a Muslim who wears hijab, though we didn’t get to meet her. I also like that we enjoyed our conversations with every teacher. They all seemed bright and kind, except one who seemed listless and didn’t go beyond basic answers although that made sense when she stood up and we realized she was vastly pregnant and presumably juts exhausted. Next year’s first grade teacher (this year’s eight grade teacher) is a friend of my family’s whom I really respect and like.
There are more students of color here than at our local school, not fewer than 2-3 in a class of 15-20. That’s not huge, but we’re in an area where at most schools you get either diversity or academic standards. We’d been hoping to get decent education and more diversity by moving to the town next to ours and using their public school system, but that wouldn’t be available for a few years anyway. We know we could get small classes, a small amount of diversity, and better-than-average education (for a state not at all known for its public education) at our local public school, and that’s been our default assumption.
In this Waldorf school, each grade is one class of 15-25 students — though I don’t think any are at the high end of that range — and each class moves along with its teacher to the next grade as a group. While obviously this is a minus if there are major personality problems between child and teacher, my teacher-friend pointed out that this puts teachers in a situation like that of a parent where they know they can’t get rid of a problem child at the end of the year and so they have to be inventive to figure out how to help the child learn.
No one so much as blinked when an interracial lesbian couple showed up at the open house. It was just a total non-issue, though they were happy to talk about diversity issues with us when we asked. Having two moms certainly wouldn’t be a liability here, and I wouldn’t have to worry about not being considered an equal co-parent because I don’t have the legal tie Lee does.
No one seemed alarmed or bothered when we said we didn’t know how old our child was because we were adopting from foster care. No one said anything creepy. Each teacher we spoke to congratulated us on building a family and then each teacher at the lower grade levels talked (without prompting) about how they think the Waldorf whole-child education is ideal for children who’ve dealt with trauma or loss because it pushes them to play, discover for themselves, learn to rely on others, have a calming routine before there’s any pressure to sit and learn as in a traditional classroom.
Having one main class teacher would make partnering to deal with behaviors and learning issues so much easier for us than having to deal with a host of teachers, different every year. Knowing that there’d be continuity from year to year might be helpful for our hypothetical child (and deep in here is where I’ll hide that in my heart and mind I’m truly starting to believe this will be Ezra) especially in the first years with us. It just seems so much easier to imagine working as a team with the teachers when that’s already the setup at the school, as it is there.
This is a program that considers every child to have special needs and unique learning styles and doesn’t want to medicalize any of them. They acknowledge that not all families fit with their school and are helpful in transitioning children out if the Waldorf setup isn’t working for them, but their goal is to meet a child where he is and work from there. Since we know that a child coming out of care is going to need a lot of help, knowing that’s the baseline is a relief.
Two daily nature walks and a recess plus plenty of time on handwork (knitting, sculpting with beeswax while a teacher talks, pressing leaves, etc.) should really help a child with attention problems.
I love that they teach geography. American schools seem to have totally lost this, and I’ve consistently been horrified that people from any other country are so relieved I actually have heard of where they’re from. I mean, it’s not showing deep knowledge if I ask the guy at the corner market who says he’s from Senegal whether he’s from Dakar or another part of the country, but he’s amazed I’ve even heard of Senegal. If I hadn’t asked where in Africa, he would have left it at that. So to have a child learn deeply about other cultures and histories and locales has always been one of my goals.
Related to that, the cultural literacy involved is a great thing. Even non-Jewish children need to know the big stories of the Hebrew scriptures if they want to get much out of the English literature canon. It’s the same with Greek myths and so on. I’m big on understanding things through metaphor, and so that Waldorf mindset aligns well with mine. Actually, much of the way they learn matches up with how I learned as a child, through biographies and obsessive research. They don’t call me, uh, Thornipedia for nothing! I have a broad understanding of a huge number of things and very deep depths where I’m interested. You just never know when you’ll need to know about the Profumo Affair, though I’m not suggesting that’s a real example and that Waldorf kids have a special section on political sex scandals. I just wanted another chance to say “Well, he WOULD, wouldn’t he?” as I so often do.
Apparently I’m getting goofy now, so I’ll end by saying that it’s not even 10 minutes’ drive from Lee’s school, making carpooling ideal. I’d be 30 minutes away at rush hour, a bit closer otherwise. And home is only 20 minutes or so, which is totally doable. There’s already a carpool from our county, including friends of ours the next town over. Next step is to talk to them about their experiences and work from there. Oh, and actually have a child before we make any education decisions for said child!