Today we found out that DD was accepted to the Wondertree Learning Centre, and will be starting the kindergarten program this fall. The Learning Center is a small independent school that promotes all the values inherent to the homeschooling philosophy: a closeknit community, parental involvement, child-led learning, multi-age classrooms, respectful and gentle discipline, etc. The “elementary” program for 7 – 13 year olds is 3.5 days per week and the “kindergarten” program for 4 – 6 year olds is only 2 days per week. The families are closely involved with their kids’ lives and recognize that being with family facilitates learning as well as being at school; they’re not looking to put their kids in school for 30+ hours/week, as if it were a daycare first and an education second. Consistent with the homelearning philosophy is a respect for children and a gentle approach to everything they do. It’s a community that follows the same basic principals we do in our family, so it’s a perfect fit for us.
Today we spent the morning with the class. I have spent most of my time as a parent around babies and toddlers, and the majority of kids at my mamas’ outings are that age, so this was my first time being around a small group of preschool/kindergarten age kids who are being raised with the same parental philosophies as we hold. I have to say that even though my expectations were high, I was still blown away by these kids. They were your typical assortment of personality types: there was L, the boy who was exceptionally bright and gifted, but who buzzed with endless energy, his mind focussed on so many bigger things that you had to help him focus on the little things like washing hands before eating and putting things away. This kid had “potential problem child” written all over him, and yet he was not the least bit disruptive. The teacher handled him deftly and skillfully, always respectful but firm, and the child responded. This child is a product of self-assuredness, security, trust in his environment and was as delightful as the rest of them. The girls in the class were also a range of personalities, from princess to tomboy, but without the limitations such types often fall victim to. The ones who had raced for the ballerina costumes and crowns when it came time to dress up for play rehearsal were also the ones to come running to hold the worm found in the garden during playtime later. There was no sense of conformity – the kids were true individuals – but they worked together extremely well and were very affectionate and respectful to one another.
And the kids were all so kind to DD! They were welcoming to her and very inclusive in all their actions. And when DD put on her “moves”, the kind that would have her pegged as a “weirdo nerd” at a typical school environment, well, the kids here just brushed it off without the rolled eyes and excluding looks of the public school kids we encounter at our local elementary school playground. The difference between the Wondertree kids and the kids at the public school were just night and day. It was, in essence, an entirely different “culture”. And it’s not just a public school thing – I’ve seen 5 year olds at DD’s previous preschool who already had the teenybopper attitude and tone of voice, the cliquey-ness, the conformity to fashion and trends, the exclusive attitude towards those that weren’t in their circle/crowd. There was none of that at all here. And the kids were so interested in everything! They had put together a play, with a lovely story about a sad princess whom everybody tries to cheer up, and who eventually learns that the key to being happy is making others smile. Amazing!
So already we feel a part of the community. We were invited to come back and visit any time. We are going to the big potluck/party at the end of the term and I’m really excited. Mostly I’m thrilled for DD that she has a place where she can be herSELF, where her “sharp edges”, the things that make her so unique, will not be “rubbed off” in an effort to conform and where there will be no limits placed on her enthusiasm for learning.
Of course, the million dollar question is whether she’ll be ready to go, given our issues with school, gym class, etc. But the best part is I’m always, always welcome and *so is DS!!!*. I can spend as much time there as I need, for as long as I need, to acclimatize DD to the program. She doesn’t have to stay the whole five hours, either. It’s just such a flexible environment.
As for the future, she should be able to come here for the next 2 – 3 years if we want. And by then if she seems ready for a longer week there are a couple of similar philosophy schools to consider. Or she could just stay at Wondertree until she’s high school level. But it’s a start, and we have a place, and I’m so VERY happy!!