It’s been a whole year since Mini had her trial for a Steiner kindergarten. It was our number one choice for a preschool for her but the teacher wasn’t sure if Mini was up to it. It was just another case of discrimination and prejudice against our gorgeous girl but not an altogether surprising one.
For even though the teacher had a sibling with Down syndrome,she hailed from France,a country that doesn’t exactly shout inclusion from the hill tops. There it’s still very much a case of special schools and little integration into mainstream education for children with learning disabilities. Things are changing for the better but for now dear old Ireland with her bludgeoning of health and educational services is still the better option for an inclusion future for our Mini.
It was this teacher who called the shots in the kindergarten so we reluctantly went along with the trial even though no other child had to go through such a thing.It hurt.A lot. But Mini did what she does best-charmed the people so that they had no choice but to accept her with open arms.
The year she has spent has been great for her.A new teacher has been a blessing and we have felt that Mini has not had to justify her attendance like with the old one. A Steiner kindergarten follows the Waldorf Steiner method of education. There’s a lot of outdoor activity with two nature walks a week. The children learn to chop vegetables to make soup and bake bread. The kids eat food that is cooked on site together and there’s a lovely sense of community. There are festivals throughout the year such as midsummer, Michealmas and the winter solstice where family members are invited to come to the kindergarten to celebrate with the kids.
When it’s a child’s birthday,a big celebration occurs with a little crowning ceremony and the parents are invited in to the kindergarten.It could be a bit too hippy dippy for some but I think it’s really sweet and Mini’s birthday celebration had me in floods of tears-it was that touching with the teacher telling a little story of Mini up in heaven and how she came to choose her parents. Yup,that’s right,it was such a lovely story about heaven that it made the atheist cry!
Today she attends that preschool for the last time. All the parents have been invited in for the last day. People have prepared food and we ‘ll all sit together for one more feast. Our move to the country means a daily 60 kilometre round trip for her to attend it and it’s a trek that can easily be avoided due to the perfectly adequate preschool that is located just across the road.Note my lack of enthusiasim,eh? It’s a lovely preschool,it’s just not a Steiner. At a recent open day,Mini seemed a bit bewildered by the smaller classroom filled with plastic.The outdoor space seemed miles away even though there was just a wall separating the kids from the fresh air. At lunchtime,I watched the bemused expression on my little girl’s face as every child took out their own individual lunch box.No communal meals here.
As a parent,you want to do what’s best for your child,at all stages of their lives. She is happy in Steiner and I don’t think she realises that today is her last day,even though we have tried to explain it to her. Added to the long commute,is the fact that some of Mini’s therapists think she would do better in a more traditional school setting. Free play features heavily in the Steiner curriculum and while it’s an enjoyable time for all kids,this is when we have seen Mini retreat into what we term Mini-land,where she zones out completely and becomes unresponsive. This is where she will have difficulties with primary school so we want to do all we can to help her with the goal of attending a mainstream school.
We think we are doing the right thing by sending her to a preschool that is in her village. Hopefully she will feel a sense of community and belonging,which I feel are so important especially for any child but maybe more so for one who is part of a minority.
I think she will miss Steiner with it’s unique and gentle rhythm but I’m hoping Mini will find her own rhythm at her new Montessori in September. I know she ‘ll get a kick out of being able to walk to school. But I’m pretty sure she’ll miss her kindergarten;miss the kids,miss the wonderful teachers and her preschool assistant who has bent over backwards to help her this year.
Whatever we choose for her,I know Mini will embrace it with that infectious smile and buckets of positive energy.I also know that later on today, I’ll be the one in floods of tears while she laughs and whoops with the other kids at Steiner for the very last time. Enjoy your day my darling Mini,from here, it’s only onwards and upwards for you,xx.