Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Truth About DMS

I've been ragging pretty hard on our delightfully quirky little Waldorf school, nestled in the slums of the 28th Street and Southern farming land. See there, I just did it again with words like slums and quirky. But the truth is that I love Desert Marigold. I don't love everything about it, but I love enough of it to send my child there. Obviously I wouldn't have Tasha there if there wasn't something of merit.

At first thought, with the moving of the parking lot and office to the edge of the school, I was dragging my heels and whining about the trek that would now need to be made to get to the first grade classroom. If we're late and I have to park and go to the office and then walk them to class it's going to take For.E.Ver. And the amount of time that it took them to put in this special parking lot made from recycled, earth friendly rubbery pipey tubing stuff, was just a little longer than they anticipated. But, truth be told, it is all delightful. A few weeks ago, as I parked on the far end of the lot under the shade of a tree, I noticed the non-dusty, yet non-blacktop surface that we parked and walked on to get to the footpath that leads to class. We meandered over rain-soaked bark, in a curved sort of path that went right past the garden and under a couple of arches that lead to the main campus. The kids said "Hi Farmer Tony!" as he crossed our path with his apprentice, both sporting big straw shade hats and muddy shoes. I believe my blood pressure dropped, the pain in my neck disappeared and I decompressed just a little bit. The peace continued as the children played on the early childhood playground which is just off the pond where ducks swim and next to the home of the goats and pigs which the children are welcome to feed if they get to school early enough. Then comes the bang and clang of the giant bell as school starts, which is followed shortly by the first grade teacher's gentle, rhythmic shaking of a ring of jingle bells. Again, more decompression as I started to walk off in another direction to the shake, shake, shake of the quiet beat of the bells. I stopped on the brickwork path to chat with a friend as PT pulled leaves off wild growing flower bushes and ate dirt covered rocks he found just off the path. It was all very earthy, welcoming, and calming. I left the school in less of a rush with less anxiety and more hope for whatever reason.

For these first few very influential years in my daughter's short little life, I want her to feel this peace and love of school. I want her to delight in her surroundings and not be overwhelmed with structures and rules and big buildings with lines and funny smells. I want her to feel free to be one with her environment and learn that she can connect to people and places on a very intimate level. I don't want her to be a number that is pushed through a system that may or may not be in her best interest. I don't need her to be reading and doing flash cards nightly to keep up with some academic standard that some bureaucrat somewhere deemed necessary for first graders. I like the old school philosophy of letting kids be kids. They are developing their fine and gross motor skills as they continue to learn rhymes and chants that help them discover math facts and pre-reading skills. They learn to follow directions with meaning and with respect to their fellow classmates. They care for one another and their campus.

A place where kids are kids. A place where, on the first day of school, after a really good rainstorm, the playground was soaked. And by soaked, I mean there was an actual island with a tree swing on it, surrounded by a small moat. It wasn't taped off with yellow caution tape for fear that children would fall in and get hurt, or even worse-wet! Nope. There were children of all ages swinging back and forth, standing on that rope swing, getting from the mainland to the island. And off to the side was a boy, laughing, drenched from mid-chest to 2 soaking wet feet. On the first day of school. And it was Kids are kids and they will remember that first day of school for the rest of their life.

The real truth is, I wish I lived in a world where DMS philosophy of life was real. A world where we treasured every moment of our child's little life. A place that allowed us to stop and smell the roses or the duck pond or the smell of homemade bread baking, without worrying about making it to that next appointment, meeting, or class. I'm re-reading the book Beyond the Rainbow Bridge by Barbara J. Patterson and Pamela Bradley. I decompress a little each time I pick it up. I breath easier and wish for a calming attitude to enter my heart and mind and stay there. Although I love the quickness with which we can get things done in this world of ours, there is something to be said for the finer, yet slower things in life. I think that is why, over generations of time, kids love to visit their grandparents. Grandparents move slower and take the time to look, listen and answer. They have the time. Why don't I?

I need to develop some healthy rhythms and stop resisting the dreaded routines that I fear will tie me down. And you may be shaking your head, but when I say "fear", I really mean it. I fear being stuck in a rut and not being able to serve or help a friend in need out of some obsessed need to make sure the bathroom gets cleaned or the floor gets mopped. I resist at all costs. And this, again, is where DMS steps it up a notch. It is the beauty of the rhythm of the day. The color-coded day with anticipation of special classes and early release. The jingle-jangle of the bells starting the trek to the first grade classroom. Lunch with my friends with a handmade place mat. Moments each day to decompress, laugh, and play with the people I love the most. This can happen. This can happen in my home if I let it. There is a way, I know it! When I find the secret, I'll let you know. If you know the secret, please pass it on...


April said...

Well said. And, I knew you were just ranting. I know you wouldn't leave Tasha there if you didn't think it was the best place for her.

I want to cry everytime Justin wants to play with his frineds after school but they can't becasue they have homework. They are all in kinder or first grade. Why do they have homework? How pathetic of a job is their teacher doing that they need homework? Or rather, how much fear is incited in her that she feels the need to send home squares and circles to color, cut out, and paste? What is the point? None that I can see.

I have described that moat to so many people. I meant to put it on my blog the first day of school and never got arounsd to it. I'm glad it's here and I can copy and paste it into my blog and my memory. It made me so happy that day. I just love that about DMS. It feels like home. And my child, yes, my child, needs that like nobody's business!

Great post. Enjoy your re-reading. If I wasn't pregnant and cared about such things as rhythms right now, I would so re-read it with you. I loved that book!

PS You weren't kidding, that pic of the boys is so cute!

Rachel said...

Oh man, this makes me crazy jealous!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! When are you coming to visit me? Come when I move though, it's too hot in my little cabin still. And I should be moving sooooooooooooooooooooon, you should see me, I'm like OCD about finding a place - it's all I think/talk about!!!!! AAACK!!!