Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Preschool Quandary: Trilingual or Trees?

Once again, I'm feeling inspired after my run in the park. Tryon is so beautiful, especially on bright mornings like this one, sun shining through the trees, brightening the buds bursting from the trees. It's definitely that time of year, where new life begins to emerge, where new questions arise, where we begin to look to the future, wondering what life will look like down the road a bit.

For us, and for many of you out there, too, the end of winter earmarks a time for school decisions. Will we stay here? Will we start afresh? What will be best for my child and for us as a family?

I definitely have all of these questions, and then some, racing through my head lately--and being on my run this morning, in the amazingly beautiful park where I could continue to have my child go to school 4 days a week, provided no reprieve from the chatter. Somehow, though, the intensity of the thoughts felt more calming out there. That should be my answer right there, really...

When I think back to last year, to a similar time of school decisions, I find it kind of comical that I'm sitting in this place again, wondering, after having finally settled last year. I think this is why some of my German friends, raised in the GDR, preferred some of the simplicities that Communism offered--with so many choices, it really can be overwhelming at times. This is not to say, dear universe, that I'm wishing for my choices to be taken away. I know that there are many out there with no choices, and I am incredibly grateful for what I do get to choose. I'm just acknowledging the overwhelm I feel at times. It's important to recognize it so I can move beyond it to a choice.

So anyway, in just a few days, the Mother Earth School wants us to sign our contracts if we want to return for next year. And similar to last year, I've recently heard about another preschool that is closer to our house, Wildwood Nature School, which has me wondering about the 'better' choice. It has Spanish, this new school, AND a focus on nature. The assistant teacher speaks 90% Spanish with the kids, which could mean up to 15 hours a week of 3rd language input for Kaya. Not enough for her to start speaking it anytime soon, but over time, certainly enough time for passive bilingualism.

As a trilingual German, Spanish and English speaker, this is certainly exciting, this prospect. Starting her with Spanish at around the age of 5 was something we've continued to consider, esp. since the 3rd language starts at that age (and goes until 6ish). This could be our opening. This could be our time to really sink our teeth into this opportunity and pave the path for a trilingual future for our daughter. With the added bonus that she'd get outdoor time, too...

My husband often talks about the 'gray areas', reminding me that something may not be as black and white as I tend to think it is. Even now, my auto pilot is wanting to assess whether he's 'right' (and thus, I'm 'wrong')--which school will be 'better'. Will she be outside 'enough'? Is consistency that important? What is the power of place-based education that can't be measured? If we don't jump on this Spanish opportunity in this 3rd language window, is the door closed? Of course not, even I know that. But what is it about this fear of mine that keeps arising? What is it about being a parent that has us only wanting the best for our children, wanting to open doors for their lives, wanting happiness for them, and ease of life?

Instinct, I suppose.
It's damn strong.

When I first sat down to write, I actually felt pretty strongly, almost clear, in fact, that Mother Earth is where I want Kaya next year. In the car on the way to school this morning, she says to me, in that sweet little Kaya voice, "Mama, kann ich bei meiner Schule bleiben?" [Mama, can I stay at my school?] After clarifying that I understood her correctly, I was dying to shout out, Of course you can, my love, of course! I want to give you everything you want, I want only the best for you, I want you to be happy. Of course you can stay there, if that's what you want!! What is it about this analytical mind that seeks the answers, seeks to find what will, in fact make her happy and healthy, and support our family in what is most important (and affordable) to us? We act like we know, at least I do, like if just analyze enough, if I gather enough information, I'll figure it out, I'll know the answer and can make my choices from there.

Macleay Trail in Forest Park on our hike with Arletta yesterday
As I get older, though, or perhaps just better able to go inward while simultaneously feeling more connected with my surroundings, I find that it's actually not all about gathering info or analyzing. While I was running this morning, I felt clear that I wanted Kaya to continue to be immersed in nature 4 days a week. I ran past two school groups in the park, groups that go out into nature perhaps once a week (if that), and felt grateful that Kaya is out there 11 hours a week, really experiencing the forest, the garden, the spring, even the cold winter (from her warm woolens and rain gear!). But I feel this fear of declaration, like I do when I know I need to eat less sugar, but don't want others to see my weakness when I cave. It's like the pregnancy thing, too...this theme keeps arising: I want both, really, sometimes more in some moments than others. Sometimes, I want her to be at a school that is closer to our house, one that can open the Spanish door earlier than if we start her in Waldorf in 1st grade. Sometimes, I'm shocked that I would want anything other than what we have right now, which is working wonderfully, beautifully, creating a child who teaches her cousin (as she did with Arletta in Forest Park yesterday) about buds, about how you have to be careful with them, touching them gently instead of breaking them off the tree.

On Friday night, as I was researching Waldorf education, I grew teary-eyed. Line after line, clip after clip, I realized with my whole soul that Waldorf is the direction I want for Kaya.  Why then, do I even consider pulling her out of this Waldorf inspired, forest-farm, outdoor immersion program that we love?!

Because of the drive? Because of the Spanish? Because of the money?

Oh, dear mind of mine, go back outside, into the woods and find your answer.
It is there, in your heart and in those buds.

You know it is.
You just need to believe...

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