While I am still in the process of writing about my postpartum doula training (and it is coming along), I have to tell about a more recent experience. Since Oliver is going to be four in February, we have to start looking into schools for him. A NOTE FOR MY LATVIAN READERS: For reasons that would take too long to analyze (but I am guessing have a lot to do with the fact that the pre-school education is getting more and more learning oriented thus more like school), most parents in the US refer to the place where their children (as young as two years old sometimes) go as school. In any case, we feel that he will be ready for some kind of supervised regular social and creative involvement with other children next fall, and have started to research it, as the process in the US resembles that of a college application. There are forms to be filled, kids get interviewed, tested and both. And some even take preparation classes to do better on the assessment tests. It is wild…. And you can probably kind of guess where I would stand on all this.
My line has always been – I grew up in a public school, in fact, most schools are still public in Latvia, and got pretty good education (my grandmother did have to use her chemistry teaching connections to get me into a non-neighborhood school though) and if parents are involved in their kids educational journey, one does not have to pay almost 20 thousand USD per year to ensure that their kid would be educated. And it is probably true, if they are lucky to meet inspirational teachers along the way. The problem is, however, that I don’t want my children just to be educated. I want them to enjoy learning as a creative process. Something that was probably lacking in my schooling years (I did grow up under communism, you know). So…. This is where Waldorf comes in.
There is a public school in Latvia operating on Waldorfian principles, and there are pre-schools (we call all education before first grade kindergarten, but that could be confusing for American parents) that operate on these principles (private and public). My sister who has a five year old daughter and I have discussed the benefits and drawbacks of this education, because she knows a fair number of young adults who have completed it. So, I was familiar with the practice if not so much with the principles. But it would have never entered my mind to even think of sending Oliver to the one in San Francisco, as the kindergarten tuition for next year is $ 18,300 (gasp, gasp)!!! So how come I did attend their open house this Saturday? Which btw was an event in itself as my father-in-law babysat our 15 months old daughter on his own for the first time and they did very sweetly together.
That’s where the doula connection comes into play. Out of the 17 women participating at the postpartum doula training two weeks ago, two mothers had their children in Waldorf school. That is a considerable number, considering that about 1/2 of the women did not have school-age children. And they were the ones who encouraged me to look into the school, even though there is no way we can afford it. They assured me that if I loved the philosophy, there would be a way to do it, because there is tuition assistance. So, that’s how we ended up at the open house this weekend, which took 3 hours to complete, and during which I participating in playing a pumpkin, sat in a 6th grade classroom and listened about the stories they hear each year, had tasty home-made snacks and talked to the parents and graduates. It was very inspirational. Money aside it would be a great school for Oliver, but money is not the only factor. Once a Waldorf kid, it would be hard to transition into something else (not impossible, as one of the women I talked to had her daughter transfer out in the 3rd grade for personal reasons and it went very well), and to think of eventually committing two children to that kind of education expenses!!!
Oliver stayed at the childcare, while the parents played pumpkins and drank tea. He enjoyed it. And I learned one good lesson. In our backyard, there won’t be any tree-house built by the adults. We will provide our children with materials and they will build their house themselves … over and over again….