A walk in the woods and a few thoughts on Steiner.

A gloriously busy day today! When we finally got ourselves out the door (we have got to get quicker at this as a foursome, clocked in at a ridiculous hour and a half today!), we took a trip to the magical Leigh Woods ,west of Bristol.  It was chilly but sunny, with a dazzling blue sky -the kind of day that could almost convince you that Spring was around the corner.  I love woodland, it reminds me of where I grew up  – some people dream of living near the sea, I dream of living near a big mossy wood.

We set off on one of the trails with the big boy delighting in the muddy puddles and baby boy blissfully asleep, bundled up on me in our beloved Ergo baby carrier.  Our big boy was what many would call ‘a late walker’ and still isn’t one for being on his feet for too long, he prefers to be ferried around like a little emperor in his pushchair – something we have resolved to cut right down on.  So imagine our delight when he marched around the woods for 2 hours without complaining, stretching those little legs out and loving every minute!

ImageWe came accross this ‘teepee’ like hut made of sticks (probably the efforts of the local forest school I thought) and had endless fun pretending it belonged to the three little pigs, I love how much he enjoys imaginative play!

When we finally headed back to Brizzle, we dropped in to a meeting regarding the new Steiner Academy, a free school which has been granted permission to open in the city in 2014, in an as yet undecided location.  As our big boy approaches his third birthday, schools have become a hot topic in this house. As two teachers in mainstream state run schools, it may seem a little odd to be considering not only a free school, but a Steiner one – but there are elements of Steiner which have always appealed. Steiner places great importance on outdoor play and I love the simple skills children have time to master such as knitting and sewing.  I’m particularly keen on their lack of formal ‘academic’ teaching for under 7s.  As an early years teacher, my heart sinks a little when our unstructured ‘settling in’ weeks come to an end and the more formal lessons start to creep in – particularly when it comes to an area such as handwriting.  I find it harder and harder to be creative and enthusiastic about teaching little people concepts and skills which I think many of them are simply not ready for.  Over the years, I have worked tirelessly at  ‘making phonics fun’ and finding new inventive ways of inspiring boys to write – but now when I look at my own 3 year old, so recently a baby, I hate to think of him feeling any pressure to master academic skills that he may not be ready for or enjoy.

Anyway, neither of us are fully sold on the idea of the Steiner school either, there are loads of elements we love about the ethos, but we also find it a little humourless and rather pleased with itself.  I remember when I spent time on a sabbatical, volunteering in a Steiner school in New Zealand, the look of pity and horror from the other workers when they heard I worked in a mainstream school!  They didn’t actually call me a poor, misguided fool but I got the feeling they were thinking along those lines.

Overall, the new academy is certainly an exciting new addition to the city and it has got people thinking about alternative ways of approaching early education, which can only be a good thing.