RISING SUN - School has been quite a different experience than I’ve expected this year.
Last year, when we ventured to the 4K screening, we really didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know how life would be different having a kid in school. We just felt shocked that already, our first born was to be stepping onto his path of education.
Through a little bit of this and that, as well as a dash of pandemic, we ended up being able to enroll in the Viroqua Area Montessori School Children’s House Pre-K. We were thrilled.
We initially decided to attempt in-person. Knowing that Thatcher is a social butterfly and feeling less than confident in being able to give him the tools he needed, we thought this was the right choice for us.
However as things shifted and changed and we got a little better hang of school life, we decided that for our family the shift to fully ‘virtual’ would be the best fit.
We are fortunate that coupled with a few factors, including the early learning grade and Montessori style we are able to add a lot of our own curriculum as it were, into our routine.
The Montessori education for those who are unfamiliar focuses heavily on independence. It emphasizes that children are naturally eager for knowledge and capable of learning in a sufficiently supportive and well-prepared learning environment. It is believed that children who are at liberty to choose and act freely within a prepared environment would act spontaneously for optimal development.
This is just a tip of the iceberg explanation and for us, one of the biggest factors to our success has been the implementation of ‘Grandma School.’
We are overly grateful for the fact that we have Chasca’s Grandmother Janet in our little Pandemic Pod, along with her husband Mark and my dad. These few people make up our pod, our childcare system and our social lives during this pandemic time.
And Janet has taken on a particularly special role of master educator.
I admit that I felt afraid that failure would be in the cards in terms of Thatcher’s education if left to my own scattered devices. I tried to remember that children learn through doing, and that there are many ways to learn, but still sitting down with Thatcher the first few days, while his brother shrieked and threw cheese crackers at him and the dogs ran in circles I felt a little defeated.
And then Grandma School was proposed. Janet casually shared that she would start their work immediately, while brother Boppy was asleep in the afternoons that the kids are babysat at their cabin. I was thrilled and I was relieved.
I initially imagined Thatcher diligently hammering out worksheet after worksheet at their sunny kitchen table. Forgetting once more that education comes in many forms.
Thatcher came home to his first copy of Birds of Wisconsin sitting in the mailbox, purchased by Janet. He peeled back the cover and immediately began teaching me how to operate the book. Noting many, many different birds in the pages, accurately. This has translated to practicing counting, and colors along with nature identification and simply proper research. They also play learning games in Grandma School among other activities, including practical life work like Thatcher’s favorite job vacuuming. All the while making it fun and playful rather than stiff and regimented.
And I am happy to report that Thatcher is in fact continuing to learn and develop appropriately. He’s practicing patience and focus and working toward reading, adding and subtracting and writing too. He is able to do these things around his interests and we realized we are so fortunate. And I have realized that it is okay to take his lead sometimes and try not to focus on the traditional way of learning to which I am accustomed. Teaching me to allow him to learn in a way that makes him not only feel empowered, but simply happy, is a gift from Janet. Not only to me in terms of ease, but to him in terms of a lifelong love for learning.
I hope to apply this simple reminder to other parts of my life in the coming New Year. To remember there are so many different ways of doing things and to take our time and stumble here and there is just fine. To remember that our time is precious and should be spent in a way that is both productive and pleasurable, that there is no one way of doing things. And that everything will work out with a little bit of help along the way.And to all of the families who continue to navigate this strange year of education and the teachers, grandparents, parents, and all the other folks who are supporting, learning, and moving through-we’re grateful for all of you and you are all learning so much right now even if some days it sure doesn’t feel like it.