"I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world." -Richard Dawkins

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

That School Dilemma

I discovered Waldorf education inadvertently, when I was very young. Being very young, I was, of course, an idealist. All I noticed about Waldorf was all I gave a care about- the fairies, the myths, the art, the colors, the wood. This is all I held to as I grew, and all I thought Waldorf meant.

Naïve of me, I suppose. Naïve to assume that Waldorf was school for kids who liked to play pretend in the woods, sew dolls and build tiny beds out of moss and leave them on windowsills. School for kids who liked to write stories, paint pictures, care for plants and believe in the Earth as a mother.

This, remarkably, is not all that Waldorf is, though it did take me the better part of fourteen years to notice. Every so often I'd hear a friend remark that Waldorf had a cultishness to it, which I brushed off as paranoia- after all, everyone is wary of that which they are ignorant of.

I suppose it was the fact that I thought Waldorf to be rooted in Christianity that first made me uneasy. This isn't to say, as I've said before, that I don't want Ro to learn about Christianity, I simply don't want her to learn that Christianity is all there is. I was concerned that she wouldn't learn about other religions with an even keel. I want no one "truth" to take the fore. I want them to all be given equal respect, equal acknowledgement.

This was where I began to wonder about Waldorf- wonder if it was right. Even now as I write this I'm not convinced one way or the other. That the children don't learn to read until they are seven- was I alright with that? They aren't to listen to any music that is not acoustic- am I okay with this?

Ultimately, I found, that the answer was "no" more often than it was "yes." There was so much I loved about Waldorf, but enough I didn't love to make me reconsider my burning desire to send her to a true Waldorf school. This struggle went on for a few months until I surmised that maybe I was wrong. Maybe Waldorf isn't right for us.

So for the past few weeks I've been filling a five-subject notebook with a curriculum. A curriculum that I'm writing myself, taking cues from the things I love about Waldorf, about Montessori, about early 20th century public school standards. I've been slowly writing page after page of what I consider to be the ideal broad and impartial education for a child I would want to know and be proud to have raised.

A curriculim unbiased and fair. From Kwan Yin the Chinese goddess of compassion to Sun Tzu's Art of War. From the mathematics I never quite grasped to the art I excelled at. From Newton's laws of physics to Poe's poetry, French to Latin, cooking to astronomy, history of religion to history of women. From Paganism to Judaism, chemistry to economics, photography to literature and so much more.

It has now become my mission to provide my daughter with the utmost and be with her every step of the way to make sure she understands and to hear her when she tells me that this is what she wants- or doesn't want. To be ready to send her wherever she needs to go, or give her whatever she needs to have to excel. To be her very best self.

This has become our reality; we are a homeschooling family.

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