January is over all too quickly. Beach days that stretched one into the next are about to be punctuated by River starting prep tomorrow.
There have been many conversations about education between Pete and I leading up to River’s first day at the local primary school.
We spent yesterday morning with friends who are a home school family. Our visits together always fill me up in a different way to time spent with other friends. My home school friend’s children spend their days playing with chickens in their garden, drawing, painting, creating and once a week meeting up with their homeschool group of families. There is no sense of needing to follow time or schedule. What about reading and writing I hear some readers ask? Well they do that too. Theirs is a gentle home without a television, ipad or DS to be seen. I admire my friend for the path she has chosen educating her children, it works for her and her family.
The thought of homeschooling our boys, or 'unschooling' as it is sometimes called, doesn’t appeal to me. I like the thought of immersing them in activities that Pete and I value – art, the vegie patch, fishing, swimming, and of course I want them to read, write and know about numbers. River is such a social being I want to give him the opportunity to be part of a school community and for my own perhaps selfish reasons I want some of my own time to write and create, some time apart. And we will still immerse them in the activities we value at home plus they have the experience of being part of something else outside our family.
I never joined the local mother’s group, instead when River was 6 months old I went to the Steiner mother and baby group here on the Peninsula. I didn’t know much about Steiner philosophy, I did know it was a way of meeting like minded folk who valued a gentle approach to raising and educating children allowing them to be in their imaginative world. I made my best friends on the Peninsula through the Steiner playgroup and kinder. Steiner primary school education however isn’t an option for us due to distance and cost. In a nutshell for those interested, Steiner education and anthroposophy was founded by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in 1913. Steiner education focuses on the whole child ‘head, heart and hands’, Steiner believed “the soul needs nourishing as well as the body”. For an insight into a Steiner school in action read this ABC Compass interview.
I also went to visit the local Montessori school. Montessori education was founded by Maria Montessori in Italy in 1897 and like Steiner, Montessori's focus was on the whole child and optimising the expression of their full capabilities. As I see it Montessori's approach to achieving this was through introducing children to concepts using tactile equipment such as wooden shapes, numbers and letters whereas the emphasis for Steiner is in the artistic realm. The Montessori classroom was set up so beautifully with all the Montessori learning equipment I wanted to sit at a table myself! The proximity to home was good, but the curriculum didn’t seem so suited to River’s nature and again the price of independent education was out of our budget.
So this afternoon I will sew name labels on to River’s school uniform. I’ve poached the chicken for his chicken and avocado sandwich tomorrow, and into his lunchbox will go blueberries and a home baked anzac. And we’ll see. We’ll stick to our Steiner inspired values at home and we’ll weather the attitude change that so many parents of post preps tell me about that is possible to come as River finds his place in his new community, and we’ll see. Happy beginnings to all families starting and returning to school this year.
I'd love to hear your experiences and thoughts on home schooling, Steiner, Montessori and mainstream education.