A school bus can mean all sorts of different things: dread, boredom, excitement, responsibility, change...it means something different to all of us. I was primarily homeschooled as a kid, and though I preferred that, there was still an element of desire and curiosity for me every time I saw a school bus when I was young. I couldn't help but wonder what it would have been like to be part of the school bus world. Of course I didn't have to wonder about it for very long because I did, in many ways, have the ideal education. There was that time I took the winter off from school instead of summer to practice my extra curricular work which was...downhill skiing and snowboarding. Then there was the part-time jobs at the local farms that I was able to do because of my own set and very flexible school hours. To clarify, because it sounds like I didn't do any academics at all in the above two sentences, I did. Lots. Tons. But I did them efficiently and completely independently, except for those times my parents farmed me out to friends who happened to be english, math or language professors. I took art classes and sign language classes (which, though I didn't know it then, was to become very handy with Leo down the line) at the local colleges. School, to me, was sipping root beer floats on the deck of my english tutor's house and deciphering Shakespeare and Flannery O'Conner in every delicious sip. PE? No biggie, I spent three hours a day doing physical activity in the form of hard manual farm labor in the summers, and in the winters I skied. The typical school education that came to my mind when I saw a school bus was as foreign and removed to me, as the sky and sun is to a fish.
When Leo's older sister entered into Kindergarden, and with it, into the whole world of public education that I was woefully ignorant of, it was a bit of a shocker.
|Nika's kindergarden school picture|
When the shock wore off sometime in the middle of her first grade we didn't dally any longer and took her application to the local Waldorf school. It wasn't that public school was awful for her, it was just not quite right either. I felt like she was a circle being pushed into a square box. Nothing really fit correctly, things seemed forced and at times, downright ridiculous. I grew annoyed at the seemingly blatant disregard to each child's individual strengths and weakness, and how everything just seemed to be focusing on conforming. Conforming each child to rules and regulations even as they taught them reading and writing. And there was that! I never started reading in kindergarden, (I did go to public school in the early grades) but now kids are started much earlier on all that. It seemed like school was forcing her to grow up way too fast. And for what? Why should our five and six year olds act not like children but adults? Childhood is precious, and it is fleeting, so we must treasure and nourish it. Instead I feel like our society takes it away from children too early and in so doing create these half-child, half-adult people who fear responsibility and seek joy, yet can not find fulfillment and purpose.
Nika has now just finished her first year at Waldorf and the experience has been like night and day. She's learning how to learn, not how to memorize abstract information on command. She's being taught how to reason, how to look at the world around her, and how to transform that information into something tangible. It's been a real privilege for us to experience the Waldorf education so far, and thus it was with trepidation and worry that I embarked on the transition from early education to the public school system with Leo.
What will his school bus stand for? How will he survive the waters of seemingly strict conformity and regulation?
Well I don't think I need to worry about him! It seems to me, that kids on an IEP, for those who don't know what that is, an IEP stands for an Individual Education Plan. What that entails is basically the child, instead of one teacher deciding his progress on the set curriculum, has a whole team of educators, therapists, and teachers who on a regular basis sit down and look at every aspect of the child; strengths, and weakness. And who then, determine realistic goals and make a school plan on how best to achieve these goals. I can't understand why every child shouldn't have one. It makes so much sense, don't you think? Every child deserves the best education, and one that is tailored to him and not to a statistic. Before I get lynched here, I need to say that there are plenty of great public schools and teachers, (I'm privileged to know some) and that I am not dissing them by any means. I am just making an observation on the nation-wide regulations that are pushed by random politicians who are just interested in making American kids look better on tests than Chinese kids. IEPs rock. They make sense. They work. Leo had his second IEP meeting this past Friday in which we met his new preschool teacher for the fall. Oh yeah! He's going to preschool starting three days a week, and if that works well then we will add in the other two days. We all decided that for Leo to continue on his upward developmental journey he needs the new experiences that can be found at school. There's only so much his therapists can do with him at our home.
I took him to see his new classroom last week and before I could say bobs-your-uncle, he was on the floor joining in with the other kids circle activities. It was awesome.
For Leo, school buses are awesome.
And that makes me feel like it's all going to be alright, and perhaps even better. It's going to be awesome.
Here's a little video that shows Leo's relationship to school buses pretty clearly I think...