This week is a big week for a lot of kids in Oregon (and I hear last week was a big week for kids in Washington.) It's back to school time. It's not as though it was my children's first day of school ever, but it was a pretty important day for us with both kids going to the Waldorf school that we have wanted them to go to for such a long time. With their willow lunch baskets packed, a bouquet of sunflowers from our garden, and a watermelon for the teacher (we didn't have any apples yet), they headed off today for a new year of adventures.
The other night, their teacher came over for a home visit and dinner. I dont' know about you, but none of my teachers ever did that. This is one of the Waldorf traditions that I especially love. The kids were so excited and so proud to show her our home. We cleaned the house as spic-and-span as we could, and I made a good, farmhouse dinner in her honor. It wasn't quite the spread that Mother Wilder made for Almanzo's teacher, Mr. Course, in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy, but I think she would have been proud. I roasted a chicken from the farm down the road, and served it with a tomato cucumber salad from the garden, fresh corn on the cob from our field, green beans from our CSA, and mashed potatoes from our potato patch with chicken gravy. I even made gluten-free drop biscuits with Pamela's GF baking mix, topped with homemade cultured butter and gooseberry jam. We had blackberries and cream for dessert (the kids had coconut milk on theirs since they can't do dairy.) The kids found a big, beautiful orb spider in our garden that day which they were tickled to show her. I think she liked meeting Orbarella Orbsy Orbie, and our menagerie of chickens. It's a really good feeling to have such an amazing teacher who will take the time to really KNOW, love and carry them through eighth grade. It is in this way, and many others, that this Waldorf school feels like an extension of home.
The third-grade curriculum in Waldorf schools is centered around living on the earth, and there is a lot of focus on meeting earthly needs such as shelter building, textile-making, and growing food. At this age, it really contributes to a solid sense of security and place on the earth. The children will garden, cook, and bake. They will learn about the animals and plants that give us fibers for clothing. They will study different shelters from all over the world. They will visit a building site and work on some building projects around the school campus. In years past, the third graders have built play structures, gazebos, garden sheds, and play houses. Soon we will be going on farm field trips galore, with one to Farmer John's to pick apples, one to Wintergreen Farm to pick pumpkins the children planted in the spring, one to a farm powered by a pair of draft horses, and possibly one to our house to harvest corn and amaranth for making grain and baking bread. And if that wasn't exciting enough, they will be reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder aloud together. Of course, there will also be math, writing, folk tales, folk dancing, flute playing, art, form drawing and painting. I am wishing I could go back and do third grade over again!
The Autumn is a time of year so full of wonderful things, and for us this year, going back to school is a big one. I am deeply grateful for this school, this teacher, and their place in our family's lives.