As I sit to write this post, I am flooded with many memories of the hours upon hours that I spent researching, brainstorming and obsessing about my daughters' education. If you asked me back then if I could ever see myself content and happy with my girls attending public school, I would have said no. You can go back through my blog and see all of the posts that I vented in about choosing the right option for our girls. I literally made myself sick over-thinking it all but here I am finally happy and content with our decision to stick with public school and I hope my story may help some of you out there dealing with the same choice.
My oldest daughter went through our town's public school system all the way through graduation. Right before she attended middle school was about the same time that I discovered Waldorf Education. Being a single mom with her for many years and just trying to make ends meet was priority back then and it wasn't until I was married and settled years later that I was able to look into different forms of parenting and education.
I instantly fell in love with the holistic and beautiful approach that Waldorf Education had to offer. Being very spiritual and open to many different ideas, the spiritual aspect that may frighten off many who first come to Waldorf actually also intrigued me. While I am still uncertain if I agree with all of Waldorf or Anthroposophy as a whole, the model of education is the closest that I've found that proves to be the healing, artistic and nurturing model I believe our world needs.
It is easy to get pulled in to the beauty of Waldorf. Not just the lovely wool toys and silk playthings but also the beauty of chalkboard drawings, children making their own text books, knitting and handwork in school and circle time. It was wonderful for me to see teachers being allowed to use their creativity and song to lead and hold the children's attention in class.
Once being exposed to such an option, it surely pronounces all that we know is wrong with the public school model in our country: standardized testing, loss of the arts, limited outdoor time, burnt out teachers, etc. All of us want what is best for our children and I started longing for my children to have a Waldorf Education. I started analyzing everything that was wrong with the public school model and convinced myself it was not a good option for our family any longer.
We are lucky to have a Waldorf school not too far away. At the time I was running a Waldorf-Inspired childcare in my home and did my best to keep a natural and low-media environment for my own girls. Does this mean they never watched a movie? No. Did they eat donuts once in awhile and play with plastic toys sometimes? Yes. But I did my best and strived to keep these things to a minimum and fill their days with holistic activities, plenty of outdoor time and healthy foods.
I obsessed about sending my girls to the Waldorf School after that. I tried to work the numbers is unimaginable ways. Big huge numbers. Larger than mortgage payment numbers. I spent hours upon hours trying to figure it out. I considered taking Waldorf teacher training so that I could get a job at the school and received reduced tuition. I oddly became afraid of them going to public school even though my oldest daughter was excelling in the same system.
When it became clear that Waldorf school would not be an option for our family financially, I considered Waldorf Homeschooling. Homeschooling is not something I would have ever considered until I began selling the Little Acorn Learning e-books and a slew of homeschoolers became my new customers. I started to see all of these amazing families offering their children a holistic education in their own homes and I began thinking maybe this was the path for us.
After many, many years of going back and forth (even trying out homeschooling here and there), I began to realize that it just was not going to work for us either. Running a childcare program and writing my e-books took up every ounce of my time. I needed to use any bit of free time I had to care for our home and there was just no more of me to go around. It would not be a gift to my children or myself to homeschool and it likely would not have been done effectively with our lifestyle.
The reality was, as my husband knew clearly all along, that public school was the best choice for our family. We are very lucky to live in an amazing town with some of the best public schools around. I decided we would have to stick to being Waldorf Afterschoolers. I tried to embrace this idea and was happy to see I was not alone. Yet, I did grieve the loss of Waldorf Education for my daughters. It is a beautiful option and I wanted it for them... but it was not an option for us.
If our schools were not good ones, I'm not sure what I would have done. I'm sure I would have found a way to homeschool or afford another type of private school. All of the concerns I listed above about public education were (and still are) definitely a factor. But, what I was forgetting were all of the wonderful things about being part of our town's public school system. I was so wrapped up in worry and dreaming about Waldorf that I became blinded. My concerns were fear-based and it is never good to make decisions based on fear.
The truth is that:
**Waldorf is a beautiful way to educate but it is not the ONLY way.
**Our public school experience has helped us to form the most amazing friendships, support systems, sense of community and pride in the town we live in. I know you can find a wonderful community in many schools but there is something special about sharing this with people who live in the same town or city as you. The connection branches out into the streets, library, stores and parks that you frequent.
**Public school has many challenges and it is not perfect, but facing those challenges head on (with my guidance) has helped my daughters learn to problem-solve and think of ideas to help create change and make things better.
**Life is not perfect and trying to create a perfect world for my children will not serve them later in life. It is ok to not get everything we want (even for Mamas) and it is ok and REAL if things in our lives are imperfect.
**The most important thing in the world is the love in your home and the relationship you create and foster with your children and spouse. Everything else is secondary. This includes the school that they attend or the method used in their education.
**You can still be a Waldorf family if you are not using Waldorf schools. You will have more challenges and may have to give a little more than if you were surrounded by other Waldorf families all of the time but it will be OK and your children will be OK too.
**There are also wonderful things to be said about NOT being surrounded by the same type of families as you all of the time. My daughters have been friends with children of all races, religions, political backgrounds, parenting methods and styles and have a deep love and appreciation for diversity. I am very thankful for this.
**There are more loving and committed teachers in public schools than you think. We have been so very lucky to have had so many of them in our lives.
**The few not-so-great teachers we have had have also taught us a few things. In many cases, it has strengthened my resolve in advocating for my children and thinking of ways to assist in making positive change in the classroom as a parent. It has also given my children the opportunity to communicate their needs, concerns and seek out help when they need it.
**You can be PART of the movement to improve our public schools. I have become very active in the PTO at my daughter's middle school, held nature programs in my town to offer more outdoor time to students and spoken up when I felt strongly about issues that have come up in our schools and town. We should not sit by and complain about what is wrong, we should help do something about it.
**Our country needs healthy and good public schools. We need to be part of the process to help make this a reality. That is not to say we should martyr our children to do so. If you feel your children are unsafe or not served well by your schooling options in your town or city, you need to make the best choice for your family but I do feel it is our responsibility as citizens to work to make things better so all children can receive a good education because most cannot afford something as beautiful as what Waldorf has to offer.
**We often do not give our children enough credit. If we are mindful parents and model good values and decision making, our children more often than not will do the same. Trust yourself as parent. What you teach them in the home will follow them throughout life. My children have made such wonderful choices with their friendships and decisions as they grow up. Keep the communication open without judgement and help guide them (sometimes without them knowing) and you too can trust that you child will make good choices and succeed.
**All over the world there are young people fighting and losing their lives to be allowed to have an education at all. I began feeling pretty guilty for not being grateful that my children have the choice to be anything they want to be in life and receive an education in freedom. Be thankful.
So as back-to-school time approaches, it feels good to finally be in a place where I am happy with our educational choice for our girls. I can even say I am grateful for it.
I hope this post helps some of you who may find yourself in a similar place that I was so long ago.