Thursday, 6 March 2008

The story of spring

A thousand grovelling apologies for being so negligent with the site - but i have a good excuse - i'm also working on the new school's website - as you can see. This is the sneak preview, and it's going to be great.

There are some really lovely stories from pupils and there's also one from a parent whose child is now in Class 10. I'll include it further down.

But this week has been the burgeoning of spring. The children were out today sowing seeds - which i wasn't able to get pictures of because i had a flat tyre!! Sorry Tracy!!! However, in addition to everything as well, they are now starting to move from their main lesson in English to Nature - this will happen in ernest after Easter break.

Homework this week was writing a poem about a butterfly. It was really amazing to see the writing now so strong and formed as the weeks have gone by. Tracy remarked that it was amazing seeing how they had progressed from being unable to read and write to now being able to spot words on the board, copying it down in their main lesson book and putting sentences together. All this will come together as they make their very own book about spring. Oh yes, before i forget, they are also rehearsing for the school play, the Golden Bird. I hear that it's going to be an onsite production in the Forest. What was supposed to be something simple has now taken on what sounds like Busby Berkley-an size proportions. Wooden spears and daggers had been custom made for the production - it helps to have the school's woodworking expert on your side.

I also managed to do a personal interview with Tracy about what inspired her to become a Steiner teacher and why she sent her kids to the Steiner school.

But that'll have to wait until i finish the school's website. It's hard work you know!!! Writing and editing pictures till the wee hours of the morning. I can't quite believe that it's been almost a year since i began taking pictures of the school systematically. It has been a year of imcredible colour, images and tremendous inspiration. Everything just is as beautiful as it appears in the camera.

Meanwhile, do enjoy Mary-Lou's lovely story here - it was first published in the Broadsheet later year.

When we opt to educate our children outside the standard state system, a question we often as ourselves, or other ask us, is "Why?" There ought to be a simple answer. A common response to the choice we made is, it gave our child something that couldn't be had elsewhere. The 'something', of course, is valued by us. Our personal decision as parents, to move our child to a Steiner school, was motivated by seeing our child begin to lose something that was essentially in her and wanting to help her hold onto it. Often we don't know what it is we truly value until we see it slipping away. So, fear was the moving force for us.

What does an education give a child? I think it is hard to tell until it is complete. We don't trust ourselves that we made the right decisions, and so outside reinforcement is helpful. I find my personal reassurance, that this odd choice we have made is the right one, from a number of sources. Firstly, from the young adults I know who have completed, or almost completed, their Steiner Education. Their calm and centred approach and obvious social ease with themselves, their world and their place in it reassures me this is what I want for my child, or indeed, any human being.

Secondly, from the parents of these young people who seem to see their own values reflected back to them in how their children approach life.

Thirdly, I have had occasion to work with academics over a number of years and when I mention that my child is in a Steiner School, I am intrigued by the reaction of those who teach ex-Steiner School pupils. There is often an 'ah-ha' moment, a lightening in the eyes as they explain to the others present how these young people have a confidence and self-awareness that somehow differentiates them from their peers - yet without setting them apart. But the explanation is never quite as telling as the facial expression that precedes it - bright, soft, often fond in nature.

When, then, does a Steiner Education give a child? It took me a long time to work it out, probably because the answer is, effectively - nothing. Steiner education doesn't give a child anything; it simply refuses to take anything away. What Steiner gave my child was the space to be herself, without contrived conditions, restrictions or expectation. This requires a great leap of trust by teachers and parents that this little person has all that is needed to be a wonderful human being just as they are without moulding, forcing or expecting. It requires, also great skill to teach from a position of allowance and enabling rather than knowing what society expects and using that agenda to justify one's methods.

The teachers are so important in all of this. I was struck almost immediately when I first entered a Steiner School by the feeling that teachers were supported, whatever their own personal abilities or failings were, to be the best they could. This contrasted with the State School we had left where great teachers seemed to be constrained and often damaged by the system they worked in. How can the adults be okay with the children unless they are okay with where they are and what they are asked to call forth from themselves?

Allowing the child to be who they are is not simply benign neglect. It requires tremendous self-discipline and a deeply respectful outlook. This can only be done, I think, when education is an art, not a system, and when surrounded by like-minded others and supported by an environment that values each individual for who they are.

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