Last night, I attended a discussion about alternative education, and heard some amazing stories about child-directed learning models. I shared an overview of Waldorf education, something I’ve had a personal interest in for a couple of years. I felt such a connection to the mothers in attendance—who are all following different educational paths, and at the core all want the best, most inspiring, most holistic educational experience for their children. For me, the night’s discussion shed new light on a recent experience of one-on-one time with my daughter…
My husband and I embarked on a little experiment-adventure last weekend. We each invited one child to come along with us to spend a night away and visit family and friends. We spend most weekends together as a family. Or, the kids spend a few hours with Mike, while I enjoy some time by myself. But very rarely are our girls apart for any length of time.
I must admit that I had mixed feelings when it actually came time to drive away with only one daughter. But our youngest happily bounded into my husband’s office, ready for her own weekend adventure. It only got better from there…
During our car ride, I immediately noticed how different the conversation was. Just the two of us. I got to hear all of Emma’s thoughts on what we should do this weekend and where we should stop for dinner. I also got to hear about the best- and hardest- parts of being five. I could really see how deep Emma’s love for her family goes, and how her family is never far from her thoughts. Each time we chatted, I saw Emma and heard Emma, as an individual.
In September, Emma will start Kindergarten. I have already spent countless hours weighing all of the educational options and even imagining what our days would be like if we were to homeschool. So much of my motivation has come from fear. At the heart, my fear is that Emma will be absorbed into a system that doesn’t honor the individual. My fear is that no one will be able to see her and hear her as I do.
Truth. No one will ever be able to see her and hear her as I do.
A few months ago, I let go of the fear around this next phase of our life. Instead, I have embraced complete trust in my family. It is here that we honor (no, celebrate!) each individual. It is here that plenty of room exists to make mistakes and experience deep and unconditional love. It will always be here that we learn together and explore the world around us. It will always be here that every person is seen and heard.
Truth. Systems that do not honor individuals are not sustainable.
I let go of fear and embrace this opportunity to be in community, forming connections around the growth of our children. What gifts can we share? What dialogue can we have? How do we show up for all of the children in our community?
I do not know what this path will look like. I have distant memories of my own road, and I have heard others’ stories. Some of them fill me with fear and others with joy. But this will be Emma’s own journey. At the end of the day, I trust in my family. I know we will walk alongside her, we will listen to her and we will continue to follow our hearts and our intuition as we venture further into the world together. This is what (my) kindergarten readiness looks like. This is my commitment.
As you navigate your own educational path with your children, there may be times that you feel pressure or feel lost and conflicted (even in the preschool years!) Whenever you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stressed, worried or disenchanted by our culture’s focus on quantitative measurements of young children’s skills, readiness and knowledge, then please read the article, What should a four year old know? by Alicia of A Magical Childhood. It’s one of my favorites.