Mini (pre) school goer

This week amidst the tumultuous changing of the guard for Mini Mini-out with the old (breast), in with the new (bottle), there were also changes for her big sister. Mini started a trial at a nearby Steiner preschool. Our hope is that she will be going there for five mornings a week starting this September.I’ve always loved the Steiner method of education, which to me has an almost organic feel to to it. Children sing and dance, they go on a lot of walks, learning about the world around them through feeling it and experiencing it, rather than just reading about it in books. There is baking, cooking and long nature walks for the kids who attend the preschool or kindergarten. The Frenchman calls it a place full of hippies but he likes the idea of getting Mini into cooking so he’s happy to send her there. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays the children go on a walk and I was asked to go on the walk with Mini on her first day so as, well I’m not really sure why, so as to make sure she didnt run away,to make sure she fell in line?I enquired as to the reasoning behind it but it wasn’t very well explained to me, or perhaps it was but my sleep deprived synapses misfired and failed to process the information.

It turns out I was there to ensure that my daughter held hands for the duration of the part of the walk that was conducted in the estate, until we arrived at the nearby fields and to make sure she waited for the other children. Patience and hand holding-not exactly two of Mini’s strong suits but she coped well I think, only having one melt down near the end of the walk and insisting I carry her, which is fair enough. It was probably the longest she had gone on foot without being picked up or put back into her buggy.

It was all so lovely, getting back to nature and that but I couldn’t help but wonder as I looked around that it was lacking in something. And then as I watched all the able bodied children laugh and play and run and jump, it struck me-the diversity which I thought would be a foregone conclusion in a place like this wasn’t quite as diverse as I had imagined it to be. I was more aware of Mini having Down syndrome and being different than I have been at any other gathering of children she has been to. What would the school do I wondered, if a child in a wheelchair wished to enrol?Would they modify their nature walks? Would a parent have to carry their child for the walk three times a week?Perhaps I’m being unfair. It’s not the school’s responsibility to ensure there are services in place to assist children who require extra help. That falls at the feet of the government. A government who seem intent on slashing vital services for school going children who are not so able bodied in order to promote the well being of our rotten financial system.

When I went to pick Mini up at lunchtime today, I discovered the reason for the trial. There is a rhythm to the Steiner kindergartens-each day proceeds the same way. It starts with songs in the garden, then a walk, then a snack, then either baking or cooking with the children doing the wash up afterwards. There is an allotted time for free play but not a huge amount. It seems on closer inspection, to be quite a strict routine and not so hippy dippy after all. Mini responds well to routines but of course it takes her longer to adapt than other children. The teacher told me today she does not think that Mini will be able for the rhythm. I really wasn’t expecting this to be honest. I was expecting Mini to be welcomed into any pre-school. She’s a fantastic kid and I’m not just saying this because she’s my daughter. I’m hurt because this feels like rejection due to her inability to fit in after a very short space of time. Surely it takes time for any child to adapt to new and unfamiliar surroundings? Perhaps my personal perceptions issues weren’t all that wrong.

Currently we are waiting to see if we have been successful in our application to the HSE for funding for an assistant for Mini. The maximum we will receive is 3 hours a week. It will just about cover the walks and nothing else. Not enough to guide her through the rhythm. This marks the start of our battles with the education system. I don’t want to fight but it seems that that is the norm for parents of kids with special needs, who don’t fit neatly into little boxes, who don’t move easily with the rhythm. We must fight for every available opportunity and where none exists, we must create them ourselves. Some schools seem receptive to our energy and are willing to adapt, some sadly are not. Mini has 7 more days left in her trial and we wait to see if our first choice for her pre-school is one that falls into the first category. I hope that it will but if not, we will brush the tears away, regroup and fight another day.






Mini all dressed up on her first day of “school”.

20 thoughts on “Mini (pre) school goer

  1. After one day? I cant even remember whats included in the rhythm and I just read it two minutes ago!

  2. Oh Aedín I’m so sorry to hear that the teacher is pre-empting mini’s ‘trial run’. It seems strange that they’d give you negative feedback when she couldn’t reasonably have been expected to find her feet. Maybe you should let them know you’re concerned that Mini isn’t getting a fair crack at things. All toddlers need time – they should know that xx

    1. Thanks Helen.It seems the teacher really wants her there but it’s a much stricter regime than I had previously thought and the other kids have been there for at least 9 months if not double that amount already so of course they’re all able to tow the line and do as they’re told.It just might be the case though that Mini will not be able for that strict regime that isn’t present in other preschools.

  3. I agree, no toddler I know would fit into a new routine in the space of a day! Good luck with the rest of the “trial” – try to think of it as their’s rather than Mini’s if you can. She looks fab in her “school” outfit.

  4. My husband went through all of elementary school in this kind of school. He says it’s actually very rigid. Are there other good pre-schools in your area? Maybe visiting a bunch of them and comparing will help you guys feel in control of making a decision that works best for your child.

    1. That’s interesting-I didn’t do my homework right when I was studying up on Steiner schools. They are very rigid like you say. We have rang two other preschools in the area-one is full for September and the other one does not have any experience of working with children with special needs so would not “feel comfortable” with Mini attending.

  5. Aw Aedin, that made me so sad for you all. I’m sure that wherever Mini goes will be somewhere that are ready for her and will welcome her with open arms and cherish your energy.

  6. That seems like a bit of a snap judgement on the part of the teacher, almost – if I dare say it – as if she was looking for an excuse? Besides, three months is a long time when you’re three, and Mini will have matured some amount by September. Not to mention that many preschoolers have trouble with transitions (if that’s their worry about her not being able to cope with the schedule) and mostly once they’re accustomed to the rhythm, it’s much easier. I hope you do get your aide – I think that’ll make a huge difference. Finally, also also, Mini will behave differently when you’re not there. On the days I helped out at nursery school my daughter was always a pill, and refusing to walk places when I knew she’d walk just fine without me there. Good luck!

    1. I do honestly think the teacher wants her there. I spoke to her at the end of the week and she was full of praise for Mini and said she was getting on well with the other kids and imitating them.She described Mini as a “papillon” or butterfly-flitting from one activity to the next which is total Mini. It seems this “flitting” is the kind of behaviour that does not fit into the Steiner model. It is a much more rigid model than I had thought and so it may not be the best fit for Mini after all.

  7. That seems absolutely ridiculous! I am more angry then upset reading this. I have worked in various creches and pre-schools in my career and no child would be expected to settle in before at least three weeks but in my experience it can take a whole lot longer! I have often asked parents to just give it time they will get there but have never considered suggesting their child wont settle,children are the most adaptive people I know!! I have worked with children from all walks of life, children with deafness, severe allergies and autism and they all settle and those having difficulty settling get some extra time from a key carer. I understand the need for a classroom assistant in ‘big’ school but not in a play-school. I really hope this experience has not put you off play schools,in fact it sounds like you had a narrow escape there!!

    1. Thanks I think it’s just they do things very differently to other preschools.It seems to be an idealised version of education where every child learns the rhythm quickly and doesn’t really allow for those children for whom learning takes that bit longer.

  8. Go with your gut here Aedin. Your fantastic little lady should not have to pass a “test” at such a young age. They should be glad to have her. This post made me just a bit mad!
    I have a great friend whose first child, a boy, is autistic. She fought like an alley cat to send him to mainstream school. At seven he was such a very distressed child. She took to the ring again and fought tooth and nail for him to get a place in “special” schooling with cope. Wow is he thriving. He is now seventeen. It has been a very long journey but in the end it has all worked out well.

    1. Thanks a mill Tric. It’s very hard to know what to do. I just assumed we would put Mini with her peers and she would start school at the age of 4, so in 2015. With this in mind, we wanted to get her going to a good preschool which would be a good foundation for her before she started junior infants. We may now wait until she is 5 before sending her to big school. A lot of other parents seem to be doing the same, even with kids with no developmental delays.

      1. Mine were all five and my last was five in Feb and went the following September. They have such an advantage.
        I did it for various reasons. I wanted them to be able, so that if someone “took” their pencil case or whatever, it would not be a tragedy.
        I also wanted them to feel confident. As an older child that has definitely worked. My daughter goes to parties of children who are nearly two years younger than her.
        Finally I have seen it at university. My eldest two left home for college at nineteen, almost twenty. So did others who were seventeen.
        So I would say, no rush at all but each to their own. I loved every day they were at home with me, or at playschool. As long as you keep looking out for your little ones as you do, I’m sure they will do great.

  9. Pingback: Mini decisions

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