Saturday, September 15, 2007

Second week of classroom experiences...

Thursday all day and Friday afternoon I (and sometimes Rhiannon) attended school with Taliesin. He did various academic exercises (including receiving a new math book, which he seemed excited about), and managed to have a few limited conversations with other children.

Thursday: Not a Morning Person
I realized this week that Taliesin spends Thursday mornings wide-eyed and cocooned whenever possible, and only does the required tasks if I sit right beside him, urging him on. His mind wanders and he frequently sits stone-still, thinking quietly. Tal has never really been very energetic in the mornings. It's still quite an effort to get him out of bed for 8am so that there's any chance of getting to school by 9. I think the sleepiness may have something to do with his quietness at school.

At lunch he begins to open up a little, especially after the free play time on the play-equipment. There, he even manages to spark conversations with other children. I never thought of Tal as a particularly physical person, before, but he very much enjoys his time practicing the things he thinks he will one day put to use in the circus: climbing, swinging, being strong, and generally monkeying around. In the classroom he is mostly silent, refusing to answer even simple questions asked directly and with plenty of warning. On the playground he becomes very energetic, and manages to join in conversations even to the point of shouting comments across the yard. And then... some of the outdoor exuberance follows him in for the afternoon.

The Thursday afternoon curriculum seems to consist mostly of journal-writing and art. I am not sure if his participation in those subjects is as enthusiastic as it is because he simply loves journaling and art, or because of the previous outdoor play. Or even, perhaps, because he's finally woken up from the long morning.

Badminton and Poetry
At the forest classroom Taliesin was very happy to do some poetry writing, even to the point where he postponed snack because he had become so inspired by the idea of "printing some words". This was not part of the prescribed activity, but I think after using so many words printed by other people, he wanted a chance to make his own. He tried out some various words, finally sounding out "it is" and "owl" very happily. Then he was ready for snack.

After snack was badminton, which he was predictably nervous about, and tried to get me to just play with him, separately. Luckily there was another boy waiting for a partner, and between the teacher, Rhiannon and myself we managed to get the two boys finally hitting the birdie around with us. I even managed to sit out and they did play for a few minutes before the game dissolved.

Socialization -- what is Mama doing there?!
Various people have mentioned to me that I should not have to attend school with my son, or that his sister shouldn't be there. Some have suggested that he'd behave differently there if I just left. But I'm trusting my gut on this, and some past experience. I've tried leaving him in various situations when he didn't want me to go, and none ever ended happily. He either stood crying at the window/door waiting for me to return, cold and hardened to the coaxing of his new caregivers, or he simply exploded in a raging fit of terror, so that I could not physically leave the room. Every time we both ended up extremely upset. I can't, in my heart, believe that that kind of upset is good for a child.

The biggest reason we are at the Learning Centre is because I CAN be involved. I do very much hope that I'll be able to stop attending with him very shortly. I am counting on getting Thursdays to start developing a career for myself. But until he is comfortable with me leaving, I am very glad that I am a welcome part of his classroom. I can be with him if he needs me, but at every opportunity I pull slightly away, and by my absence urge him to seek help and conversation elsewhere. The more he finds himself comfortable in Mama-less situations, the more he will begin to find his own path in the school, and that is what I want. Meanwhile, while he still needs to know I'm in the building, I can help as a duty-parent, tidying up, organizing projects, helping other children with their work, etc.

Little sisters, too!
And Rhiannon is as welcome as I am. She joins in with those group activities she's capable of, and when the older kids are doing something more concentrated like math work, she gets out a play-set and does her own activity in the corner, quite happily. Many of the older kids enjoy having her around. That's the beauty of the mixed-age setting. In addition there is a very elderly man who lives beside the school who apparently comes to sit, sometimes. In the middle of a story, there comes Harry, to sit quietly on a chair, eyes closed, listening. And eventually he leaves, again. I knew Harry when I was a child, and I absolutely love that he's a part of my children's childhood, too. This is exactly the sort of multi-generational experience I hoped for. I believe we learn infinitely more from sharing our education with people of all ages, and learning by watching them learn, than we do from being taught in groups of same-aged children, all struggling with the same issues, and with none of the perspective of older and younger people.

Parent-Teacher Conferences
This week we also went for our parent-teacher conference, which was basically a formal way of meeting the teachers and discussing our educational goals for the year. Tal was welcome to share his thoughts (though he didn't have very many), and we talked about our hopes and concerns. All three teachers listened with open minds and interesting responses. This is a school where teachers send out an end-of-week report, describing what the children did, and how this met the teacher's goals for the class, etc. This is a school where teachers not only welcome parents' comments, but WANT parent involvement.

So yes, we're still happy here...

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