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Windsong for New Parents: A Short List of What to Expect

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

By Shane Freeze

This piece originally appeared in our Winter 2016 newsletter.

As a parent of two Windsong kids for the last 4 years, there are a few things I have learned (trial by fire of course). I always thought it would be nice to have a new parent orientation so, parents would know what to expect when they take the plunge into the amazing world of Windsong. This sentiment was reiterated last winter as I was picking up my 2nd grader. I walked around the corner of the grades building and as usual there were a few parents standing around talking and watching their children play.
IMG_4119There was one parent in particular who caught my attention as she stood there holding mud covered snow pants and coats. I smiled and happily said “Welcome to Windsong!”. She forced a smile back at me, but I could read between the smile and mud, “What am I supposed to do with these?!” . So, again I had it in my head we needed a new parent orientation and not one regarding what to expect from your Windsong education, but what to expect, as a parent when you sign your child up for the adventure that is Windsong. So I casually mentioned this to one of the amazingly persuasive faculty members and her reply was, “Would you write something for the winter newsletter?”. Before I knew what was happening, I heard a voice sounding remarkably like mine, saying “sure”.

So, I sat and compiled a list. This is short and specific to me, but I think it may be useful to others as well:

#1 When your teacher says that your child will have outside play every day, they mean it. Hurricane Katrina wouldn’t stop them. Your Child must be outfitted with gear for the weather. I swear Bogs (the boots of choice for Windsong parents) are mandatory. Rain or shine, mud or snow, puddles or not. Your child will be outside. My advice is do not skimp on their gear. Good snow pants, coats, gloves, hats are a must. Rain gear for the warmer weather is also a must. Layering is a good idea. My kids almost always wear long underwear as part of their wardrobe October through March. Last but not least, they absolutely need a change of clothes, trust me on this. As much as you might not believe this, your child will thoroughly enjoy their time outside. I’ve seen this it in the smiles of the other kids when I’m picking up my children.

Star Fort#2 At the end of the week, our kids have an adventure day. This is not a day of careless play, but an important tool that your teacher uses to help further our children’s education. (I will let the teachers explain the specifics, I am here to help you know what to expect). Adventure day might be too light of a term for what happens. Your children will experience an Iditarod like trek for 76 (my estimate) miles through the woods and from the stories I hear from my children, they tumble down hills, claw up them, haul logs for forts, hunt bugs, snakes and other critters, roll through thorns, nettles and who knows what else, but rest assured, your children will LOVE it. So let’s keep them prepared. I already went over some gear that will keep them comfortable. Now, I want to include good back packs (pick one made for a child not an adult), plenty of water (remember 76 miles), and food. I’m not talking about a 6oz bottle of water but a 16oz or better will do. Remember, Iditarod.

waldorf hike 016

#3 So, now that your child has had an epic day of quality educating, what do you do with this pile of mud and thorn covered child that runs out to greet you at the end of the day? You might have trouble recognizing them. If they are not covered in the afore mentioned crud, they might just be in totally different attire than what you dropped them off in because thankfully you followed tips mentioned earlier and there was a change of clothes in their cubby. Always keep garbage bags in your car. These are not for the children; they are for the mud covered garments you are now responsible for.  I know the damage kids cause to our vehicles is already immense. So, there is nothing worse than adding a mini sandbox to the fray. Last thing about pick up, always have a snack ready. Especially if you are not heading straight home. We all know the horrors of a blood sugar crash. This is very important on brown soup (my kids name for it) and black bean soup day, which I have been informed by my little experts, is the worst lunch ever.

Adelaide (Sunbeam:Camp) muddy

#4 This is a tip we learned the hard way. After you return home with your charges and what used to be their clothes, DO NOT throw these straight in the washer. Hang them up to dry and after the crud has dried shake them out outside. This will add years to the life of your washer. Also, check all pockets of above mentioned garments. They will be filled with “treasures”, guaranteed. There is nothing more irritating than the famous pea gravel from the tire park rattling around in your washer or dryer.

I hope this is helpful and allows you to avoid some of the parental pitfalls of this awesome education. If you have any questions, as I’m sure you will, don’t hesitate to ask someone. The parent community at Windsong is amazing and parents are always more than willing to share where they find the best prices/quality on the gear that will help keep your children comfortable and smiling all year long.

Shane Freeze is a 3rd grade parent, Sunbeam kindergarten parent, and SWEA Board President.  

 

Parent Evening with Michael Soule, April 2014

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Bring consciousness to everything you do.

This is something that stood out for me from the evening with Michael Soule.  This is something that is an integral part of Waldorf education and of Windsong School.  It is something that we, as parents, want for our children and for ourselves.

Michael Soule came to speak to our community on Friday April 25, 2014.  Michael has been involved with Waldorf education from many different angles, parent, teacher, administrator, and mentor.  He spoke to us about our common goal for our children: to help our children to become as realized as possible.  However, this is not as easy as it seems.  Michael pointed out that we live in a world that can include both professional athletes who make millions of dollars per year as well as a world that has millions of displaced refugees.  How do we raise our children to live in a world that includes both?  How do we give our children the capacity to work with each other in a world where both of these exist? Michael spoke about the three things that children need according to Rudolf Steiner: imagination, inspiration, and intuition.  These can give children the skills to remain flexible in their thinking.  His depth of knowledge of Waldorf education and of Steiner’s philosophy was very apparent throughout this evening.

We parents have chosen Waldorf education or Windsong School because we want our children to live a healthy life in an increasingly confusing world and to even make an impact.  We can come together as a community to support the school who is in turn supporting our children.  In regards to the parent community in a Waldorf school, Michael started by describing how we are in conversation with ourselves, with our community, and the earth.  All three conversations are important in themselves as well as in conjunction with each other.  He reminded us that as we grow in conversation with each other, we will encounter conflicts but this always means growth.

Michael asked the parent group to share their favorite things Windsong School or about Waldorf education.  Parents shared things like the aesthetic and the wonder of the school.  The depth of meaning and the depth of study in Waldorf education was acknowledged as important.  Another parent noted that every child does every activity or at least tries all activities.  Acceptance of children despite their current developmental stage or mood was also mentioned.  The list went on and an on.  It was really neat to see the things that the parents appreciated and each statement was unique.  Michael then used this list to talk about what a parent community might need.  For example, we will need to be accepting of where we as a group are developmentally and also have a depth of study.  It was an interesting way to turn our appreciation of our children’s education into a rubric of sorts for forming our parent body.

Michael also spent time describing the school as a living organism that needs things like nourishment and a way to detoxify the system and communicate amongst itself.  He drew a very elaborate diagram showing how the faculty, students, and parents all interact in different ways.  Parents serve as a link between the outside community and the community within the school.  They bring things in and can take things out.  It was an interesting way to view the school.

As the evening wound down, Michael gave us time to say our wishes for Windsong School.  Parents wished for sustainability, that the school might go on and on because of the hard work of the founding members.  They wished for a bigger school and skilled faculty members.  Another wish was for our parent community to begin to rely on one another and help in times of need, to grow old together. Another person wished for our children to grow up in this community as life-long friends. The wish list was much longer and each wish very thoughtful.  As this part of the discussion came to a close, Michael folded his arms and leaned against the counter and smiled.  He simply noted that we, as a school and budding community, are doing well and that we will do well in the future.  His voice was full of confidence as he sent us on our way.

Summarized by Kristin Freeze, Preschool & Kindergarten parent 2014

 

A Little History of Windsong School

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Relationships are the true movers and shakers of our lives.  Isn’t it true that if we take a moment to reflect on how we’ve come to be where we are today we can almost always credit key relationships?  I know that’s true for me – and that it’s true for Windsong, too.

We came to be at our site through a relationship formed by a note in a library book, for instance.  One of our board members discovered a book she had on loan from the library was reserved by someone else who was apparently interested in reading some of Rudolf Steiner’s writings on education.  So she slipped a note in the book with her e-mail address.  A connection was made and the woman who reserved the book later said she knew the perfect site for a Waldorf school – a light-filled four room classroom on the Mukogawa Fort Wright campus near the music school she drove to once a week.  A little more than a year later we’re located there.

We also connected with the leader of our anthroposophical study group through our relationship with the Sandpoint Waldorf school.  On a visit to the school I discovered a note taped to the bannister addressed to myself and my fellow visitor – it was a print out of an e-mail from a Gonzaga professor hoping to find an anthroposophical study group in the area.  He didn’t think there was any such thing in Spokane, but he was hoping perhaps the nearest Waldorf school would know of people in the area hoping to study together.  Today he leads our study group and is a member of our board of directors.

Sometimes when we meet someone we understand right away that we’ll do important work together.  I think it has been this way between the members of our board – we’ve managed to accomplish what many said would be impossible.  The parents of our students also leap out in my thoughts – these are parents who are founding a school for their children and when I meet them I understand that we will share an important link in our personal biographies.

The confluence of relationships that has led to Windsong school is wonderful to ponder – especially as I know this is just the beginning of our community.  I know our parents will find important relationships at the school, and that our students will form important relationships at the school – relationships that will help them realize their path in life.

 

Why Handwork?

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Including handwork as a serious and ongoing part of the school day is unique to Waldorf Education.  Working with the hands is such a healthy activity.  Working with beautiful materials is such a healthy activity.  And working with natural hand-made materials is such a healthy activity!  I remember when my daughter was in kindergarten and she brought home a set of pony reins made with a rope of finger crocheting – she still has those reins today and they are used often, and in a variety of ways.  I remember all of the First Grade boys playing catch with the balls they had knitted – their first knitting project.  When a prospective parent was questioning my daughter’s teacher about why so much time is devoted to handwork he received many compelling answers such as that handwork provides an opportunity to teach the value of precision and attention to detail, how it develops the corpus collosum in the brain, how it provides a lived example of the results of working at a project over time, bit by bit, how it is a practical application of their learning in math – but what brought a smile to his face was when another teacher added “joy!”.  I think it does create joy to learn and work at something that supports health and development on so many levels.

Results of Waldorf Education

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

Today I visited the Sandpoint Waldorf School to attend their alumni panel.  Several former students were on hand to take questions about the results of their Waldorf education.   Most of them were high school or college students.  They sat in front of an audience of about forty adults, with a smattering of Sandpoint upper grades students.  The questions started right off the bat: Were you able to fit in at the public high school?  Were you well prepared?  Did technology present a problem for you? Do you think your Waldorf education provided you with an advantage, or a disadvantage?

Many of the panelists told about a transition to high school that was overwhelming to a degree – high school seemed scary, really big, and unmanageable.  I found myself thinking that I felt this way too, though I did not enter high school from a Waldorf school, but from a large public middle school.  I wondered if at that time I was capable of the same level of introspection these students were displaying – and I realized that even if I were, I certainly would not have been able to sit in front of an audience and speak about it with even a fraction of the poise and well-spoken clarity of these students.

One strong theme emerged during the discussion: These young people felt they did have unique strengths that they attributed to their Waldorf education.  They spoke about stunning their high school teachers with their unique attitude toward learning, namely, that they would participate even if their grade didn’t depend on it.  That they were not “point driven” but curiosity driven.  One student noted that she felt “disabled” by her AP courses – that in a sense they degraded her style of inquiry and intellectual engagement by putting a heavy emphasis on teaching students how to “play the game”.  They also noted that many of their academic skills, especially in math, atrophied during high school.

It was also clear that these students knew the value of community and had the necessary skills to participate socially wherever they went.  They felt their peers often lacked this ability, especially when it came to forming relationships with adults, such as teachers, coaches and other mentors.  They said that in the Waldorf school relationships across the grades were the norm, whereas in high school most of their peers were largely unaccepting of anyone outside their group.

They observed that they often mystified their peers because they wanted to try.  They wanted to strive for the sake of improving themselves, and they were not threatened by others’ successes, but regarded others’ strengths as providing a pathway for emulation and thus self improvement.

Each of the students felt that they were able to “handle” public high school well – and that they carried their Waldorf foundation into high school with them.  In many Waldorf elementary schools computers are used only in the upper grades, if at all.  The students felt that their learning curve was “steep” – they had a lot to learn but they were able to learn it very quickly.  Most took a typing class or a computer skills class in high school and felt that was sufficient to bring them “up to speed”.  They also noted that, unlike many of their peers, they used technology (such as calculators) as a crutch, rather than as “stilts” – they could get by without their “crutch”, and did not feel dependent.  One young man told of his experience in calculus class – he did the calculations for his tests “in his head” (mental math is valued in Waldorf education) and was able to calculate more quickly than the students using calculators.  His teacher doubted his ability to be quick and accurate and challenged him to an ongoing “race” through the term – which he won!

The students all spoke of excelling in athletics (many Waldorf students do not join after school sports teams until the upper grades) and using sports to quickly connect with their new peers in high school.

After attending the panel I spoke with a friend about my hope that my children can attain the same level of self knowledge, confidence and flexibility.  I wondered if their current education can help them develop these capacities.  She remarked that hardly anyone is satisfied with the current state of education – and yet true reform doesn’t seem likely.  Perhaps it is because we love the devil we do know more than the devil we don’t.  So, I encourage you to visit a Waldorf school if you are able to – and become a little more familiar with this particular “devil”.