Tag Archives: Waldorf school

First day of school or where did the summer go?

The following post was written on the 17th August 2015. I could have just trashed it, but since I know my friends want an update and since I spent a lot of time on it, why should I trash it, just because it takes two weeks of nagging to get my husband to help me download a photo? So here it is, two weeks after the fact!

Both “Gubby” and “Boo” were excited about starting school today. I can’t say that I was equally optimistic. I know that we have had a holiday since the 12 June, but this year it does not really feel like it. This summer has not been anything like other summers and needless to say, not at all what I had planned. It started with visits to BUP (ADHD unit of child and youth psychology department), habilitation and to “Gubby’s” kidney doctor. What else? Can’t have a summer holiday from all that, can one? “Cookie” had to have her braces checked and D. had to have his second Twinrix shot, in preparation for going on a mission. Life was very, very hectic till the 26 June when we headed south to France, for a two-week “real” holiday. And we really had a wonderful holiday albeit a couple of altercations between certain elements of the clan. And “Boo’s” meltdowns of course.

No, true hell started on our way home from France. Close to the border between the Netherlands and Germany, I went sliding with the mini bus. Straight in to a round-about and the car was so wrecked that we could not continue to Sweden with it, nor have it back, fixed. We were supposed to have arrived home, happy, content, and continue our vacation by going to Sjöbo fair, paint the house and just relax. Instead we were stranded in our country village, with no transportation to go and buy paint, rent and bring home scaffolding. We had to go out to Sjöbo’s fair on buses, which took hours. And all the time, in the back of our heads, there was the worry about what to do. What car to get? How can we live with being heavily in debt again, over a car, for the next five years? While my husband sat from morning to evening searching for a new car on the internet, not being able to go and look at anything, since you need a car for that, I worried myself sick, was at BUP and habilitation again, going all over on the bus and getting more and more vexed about our situation. Fighting with the insurance company for one, took all life energy away from me. So when the kids suggested that I join them in the game “Hay Day”, I did. Just to escape real life. To pick up a book, was too stressful. I could not concentrate THAT much on anything.

When a week had passed, T. finally decided that something had to be done during the last days of his vacation. He borrowed a high-powered water hose from our neighbour and cleaned the house in preparation for painting it and wonderful members of our church, helped us get some of the paint home and the scaffolding plus some helping hands, for two days. It was a drop in the Ocean, it turned out, but all the same, it got us started and they helped immensely, since T.’s ADHD set in quite a bit, after the car crash. He felt overwhelmed about the painting business and was no doubt going to chicken out of the entire thing. Till our home teachers started to press him on the issue and organised things. He had mentioned the painting back in June, and they had decided to help with it no matter what. I will be eternally grateful for their service and their care because it forced T. to act.

But, when all helping hands were gone, we still had one coat left to do on the entire house and the scaffolding was gone, since we could only afford to rent it for one day. That is when D. climbed up on a tall ladder, we had borrowed, and the ladder just bent over. He flew down and scraped his leg really badly and sprained his wrist. He had to be rushed to the emergency room for x-rays and his eyes were filled with tears, because he was in so much pain. He is such a trooper. He always comes through for me, so I felt so bad and so guilty. I could not help one bit with the painting this time around (last time we painted was August 2005 when I was going through a miscarriage, but still was out there helping) since I just could not handle the strong fumes. One sniff and it gives me a migraine. I got a migraine anyway, since the smell worked itself in to the house somehow. The kids all ruined their clothes out there, including “Boo”, who for some reason brought out his winter jacket! I am not happy about it at all, but what choices did I have? None. The house had to be painted and the little ones could not be kept indoors. The house is now painted but the storage room needs another coat. And D. is still in pain. His ribs and his head hurt, the bruising is still there and his leg is still sore as is his wrist. The sore on his leg refuses to heal. May it all soon be well again!

When we got home from France, in a borrowed car, we discovered that D. had finally worn the sofa covers entirely through. I have had two sets for years, but the green ones are so full of rips and threadbare, that we have had to use the discoloured yellow ones for about a year. Now they were in threads. They had been living on borrowed time of course. So when we finally were able to borrow a car from a member in church, to go and look at a new car, which T. had seen on the internet, we also went to get more house paint and down to IKEA, to buy new sofa covers. We had no choice or the frame of the sofa would have got ruined! We had brown or grey to choose from and I chose the grey since it was the strongest fabric they had, all of 50 000 cycles. (The arm-chair seat is already noppy though, after just one month!) Because you wash these covers yourself! A must when you have children like mine. Forget about dry cleaning. Too expensive in Sweden. The sofa covers were not a cost we had counted on either, of course, for this summer. Money that could have been used to pay off our holiday debt, had to be used for them. But it is a relief to not have to see those ghastly threadbare, ripped covers anymore. One day, I will paint the sitting room walls, so we don’t have to see the children’s art work on the walls anymore, and the yellow grease spot where T. has had his head every evening! But the kitchen walls have higher priority! I will not even mention what the wallpaper looks like out there. I am actually starting to detest wallpaper. Children and wallpaper just do not go together.

So, we went to see the car and had a knowledgeable member of our church, go and look at it too. It was not cheap but it could have been much worse. Or? I will write a separate post on our car purchase I think, because that is not what this post was supposed to be about, but let us say, that after a LOT of hassle, the car was finally delivered to us, Sunday, a week ago (9 August 2015), in the evening. So for one week, I have had wheels.

So, back to this morning. I did not want summer holiday to be over at all. I need more sun. I need more rest. Nothing feels right. But, school started all the same, so I had no alternative but pack little “Gubby’s” rucksack with spare clothes and get him ready for his first day at the Montessori school, class zero, in our neighbour village. He was all excited and happily put on his new T-shirt from Primark in Canterbury. He skipped out to the car and we backed up the car, while T. took his time as usual. One can’t come early to anything, can one! Since I could not clone myself in to two people today, he just had to take the day off. You can’t have two autistic children start two new schools, on the same day, and not be there for them both!

So we were ready for take off, which is when I noticed a light on the dash-board of our one week old car, which should not have been lit. Worried, I had T. get the manual out while I drove. “There is a serious fault with the exhaust system. Drive very carefully to the nearest garage!” This is NOT what you want to see or hear, when it is only one week since you bought the car with borrowed money. This is not what you want to hear when you are totally dependent on that car, for your children’s school attendance! Neither boy can go by bus on their own nor is there a bus that goes to the schools. With moderation. There is a school bus for Waldorf, which is where “Boo” is attending. You pay a set sum each term for it. BUT you can’t have an autistic child his age go on that bus on his own. When he gets his meltdowns, a grown up has to be near by. He can’t be at a bus stop alone and blow a fuse. Either he will harm someone or storm off and miss the bus. So I was mighty concerned when we drove to “Gubby’s” school. I tried to not let him see it though and walked him in to the building and to his teacher. He ran up and stood and hugged her for a long time. This is a teacher he does not know that well, only having met her three times, BUT he felt insecure and then he hugs people. And tells them, that he loves them. I had to help him find his seat on the round mat on the floor, and then he sat there waiting for all the others, T. standing a bit off, and me having to head home to make phone calls.

I decided to phone Volkswagen themselves to ask about how dangerous it is to drive, with the said warning light on. After half an hour of wasted time in a telephone queue, I never was allowed to talk to the garage people, only two receptionists, and both of them told me to not drive the car at all. Right! How was “Gubby” and T. going to get home? Walk 7 kilometers? And what about me having to be at Waldorf, even further away, in less than 45 minutes? I told the women I spoke to that I had no alternative but to drive the car and they in turn said that it might mean more expensive repairs than it would have been from the start. I was told to phone the seller and ask if mobility insurance was included in our purchase. Only he did not open till 10:00! I had no choice but to take the risk and drive.

We drove off to our other neighbour village, where all parents and children had gathered outside the school buildings. “Boo” could not stand still so I had to let him run off and play on the swings, the water canal “toy”, the cableway… At 10:00 it started with teachers having walked off in all sorts of directions, holding gongs of different sizes. (I don’t know what else one would call them? Like a small dinner gong with a mallet.) One would hit the gong and another gong would answer  from another direction and this is how it went on for a while and then the sound of the gongs came closer and closer,  till the teachers carrying them finally gathered in front of the middle school’s building, where they “played” or sounded a melody with the different sized gongs. Then all the teachers sang a song, directed by the new music teacher. No words, just “noises”, but very pretty. Then the headmaster told a little story about the school which missed all the children over the summer, even though a whole lot had happened to it during the summer. Builders having done all sorts of work. Each teacher was presented and there are autistic children in several classes, since there is an assistant for each in grade 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6, so “Boo” does not have to feel odd. There are four others like him!

First the 9th grade teachers started calling up the names of their students. One at a time, they had to walk up to the stairs and hug and shake hands. Then applauds when the entire class was gathered and walked off to a set place in the garden school yard. Then came grade 8, 7, 6a and 6b, 5… “Boo” was bored and was playing, but when the 3rd grade was being called up, it was time to go stand with all the rest of us, waiting for his name to be called. Finally his teacher stood up and started calling out the names. I was standing beside a German Jewish father, wearing a crocheted kippah, whose son was commenting on everybody’s names, trying to figure out if there were more Germans there. This member in our church, has a son starting first grade, and when they called out his name later on, the son took one look at him and guessed “Chile”. I did not want to spoil his day by telling him that the boy’s father comes from Tonga!

“Boo” was called almost last. But he was excited since he had discovered that the girl he had had a fun time with at the council pool, was in his class and now he found out her name. I so much hope that he can make friends. When the 1st graders had been called, the 9th graders walked up and gave them each a beautiful flower as a welcome gift and then all the children formed a hedge. Two and two they stood and made part of the hedge or tunnel, all the way to the 1st graders classroom. I was taking photos so I missed that they started pulling parents to help out, to complete the tunnel. And then the music started. An old folk song from Sweden, which I love. Fiddles and accordion, like it is supposed to be, and “Boo’s” assistant being the one playing the accordion. All that was missing were people in folk dresses. It made me think about my granddad, who played such music on both his fiddle and his accordion, who danced folk dancing and had the right dress for it. And his parents got married in the church opposite this school! Wow!

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“Boo” was a little bit bewildered, but went through the tunnel with his class, after the 1st graders. He could not judge the distance so he bent over the entire time, even though he could have walked upright. When he got to the end, we all walked in and took off our shoes at the entrance and walked up the cold stone stairs to his new classroom, with a brand new, pretty, wood floor. Us parents, had to wait outside, and not until the children were let out, were we allowed to come in and ask questions. Everyone went inside and new students were introduced and welcomed, except the teacher forgot to mention my son! That felt odd and I noticed other parents staring at us. Oh well, I guess they will soon figure there is another new boy in the class and that the assistant is for him and because of him. There is a parenting meeting the 26th, which is my big evening, when I have to stand up and explain that my child is autistic and if their children come home and complain, it has its reasons. I already dread that evening since I do not like to talk in front of people and it is a very sensitive thing ,since many people will think “Why did they have to come here.” Of course not realising that this is our last hope!

When all the others had left, his teacher A. and the assistant showed us upstairs, which has a room which “Boo” and his assistant can retreat to, when “Boo” can’t handle the classroom anymore, when he gets restless, when the noise becomes too much, when he needs space. He liked the room and we also got to see the Eurythmy room which had a really nice feeling to it. Then it was time for us to take our leave. The car gave me some trouble on the road, the breaks working poorly in lower gear? I hope it was just a temporary thing! I can’t go crashing in to more people this year or I will never dare to drive again. All of us are nervous wrecks as it is. When we arrived at Montessori, “Gubby” was having fun on the slide, all children being out for lunch recess. T. was in conversation with “Gubby’s” assistant, who they might actually get rid of, if things go very well for him. I listened to that in horror, because he needs someone to be there for him ALL the time! The assistant is used to dealing with kids like “Boo”, so he could not see “Gubby” having any problems, but he does, since he can not speak like his peers, nor understand like them and he lacks all the social skills to function at a school. Just because you do not act out and hit people, does not mean that you have no problems! He needs a person who is there to interpret the world for him and who will be his mediator or help him with communication.

I spoke a little bit to his teacher, who was the one who thought that things had gone so extremely well, and then we all headed to our own village, me getting a report from T. All children had been asked what they had done this summer and “Gubby” had answered “we swam in France and then crashed our car in a round about!”. All the others had just mentioned all the teeth they had lost. But I guess France and the crash is very much on his mind and something which worries him still. And I who thought that it did not really have that much of an impact on him. After all, for the most part, the children had a blast that day, pushing the trauma to the back.

He had actually joined in with all the activities. But when lunch came, he was not impressed with the seat assigned, so he had started flaxing and waving his arms. And the dish, called “pytt-i-panna” did not suit either. I could have told people that. He never eats it at home. He had actually picked out all the meat pieces and eaten them. I was all amazement. He never does that at home! Here he doesn’t touch the dish at all. What is Pytt-i-Panna? Poor-man’s-dish really. When I grew up, my mum would make it with all the left over cold potatoes and left over meat pieces. You cut the pieces pretty small and fry them. But I doubt anyone makes it that way anymore. Now you just go and buy a big 1 kilo bag of it. The potato pieces and meat pieces cut in to perfect little cubes and then a little bit of fried onion among it all. I think that is what is served at the schools as well. Originally one had beats with it and fried eggs, with the egg yolk pouring out over the “pytt”, when cut in to. What do I think about the dish? Yuck! I went on food strike when my mum made it. And she never served it with eggs and beats. I have only eaten beets once in my life and that is when I worked as an au-pair in London. Me and another au-pair, were suddenly dying for pytt-i-panna, even though I never ate it at home! So we boiled potatoes, quick-cooled them down, cut them up as small as we could and fried them with meat. I can’t remember if we used hot dogs or bacon for meat. But we also had bought beets and fried up eggs. That is the only time I let beets, pytt-i-panna and that kind of a fried egg, pass my lips. I hate loose runny egg yolk and of course have not eaten an egg for the past 16 years, thanks to gall stones and not having a gall bladder after 2009. I can not get myself eating something which is magenta coloured either, so beets are a no-no. It feels like the wrong colour for an item of food! I hate the surface of fried potatoes. It gives me goose bumps. And meat has never really been my thing, except in exceptional cases. I know, I sound autistic, describing food in this manner! But I was born a finicky eater and it has not improved with age, since my gall system can hardly handle anything. Forget that removal of your gallbladder is the solution to all your problems! It only aggravates the problems!!!!

T. had to drive off with the car to the closest mechanic, after we arrived home. He tested the motor and could not find the problem but said that if the light stays on, we have to take the car back to where we bought it, for them to fix it. That is what the warranty demands. Great! Easier said than done! So, now I will live in constant fear, that the car will break down on me, out of the blue. I who thought that I would be able to relax on that point and just concentrate on getting in to a routine with the boys, run back and forth to habilitation and to BUP… It’s been decided that “Kitty” must be tested for autism as well. His doctor suspects that there is more behind his problems than “JUST” ADHD.

Update on the 31st August:

The light of course did come on the next day, on the car. Life can not be simple, can it? The car had to be taken back to the seller and we were given a horrible Ford in its place. It smelled strange. And on the last day, when I had to drive it, I could not get the window up on the driver’s side. So we drove through pouring down rain, with the window down. All this, since the AC was broken. We had our own car back for a couple of days and then the light was back on and up to the seller again and a new car had to be borrowed. A car without AC, without radio and only one window which could be rolled down. We got our own car back Friday evening, last week. But I am a nervous wreck. It does not feel like a safe car to drive and I almost freaked out today, when the rain was pouring down. What if I would do some more aquaplaning and have us all killed this time? Or be in a new wreck? T. is taking it in to the car inspection tomorrow. We might as well find out if there are hidden faults, ready to emerge at any time. Something we should have insisted on, before purchasing the car in the first place.

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Four visits to the Waldorf schools

I had a lot of time to think about things during Christmas vacation. Thinking about “Boo’s” school situation, likewise “Gubby’s” future school situation, now when he is not allowed to go to a special needs school. But also the fact, that thanks to everything moving so slow at BUP and habilitation, we in most likelihood have missed out on some good school opportunities. Going to the Montessori school information meeting, we found out that there is no room for anybody but “Gubby” at the school. No room for “Boo” nor “Kitty”, and what parent takes it lightly, that all children can not attend the same school. One creates a logistic nightmare by having them in different schools, especially if one lives out in the countryside and the schools are in other villages and towns, from where one lives. We should have put them up years ago whether we were seriously interested in the schools or not. That is how other parents do, even if it is somewhat irresponsible, because one creates a lot of air in the queues.

So during the Christmas holidays, I had the queue applications printed out, for the Waldorf school, and filled them out for “Boo” and “Gubby”, even though I had never visited the school, let alone did I know where exactly it was located. And then I prepared myself for phoning the Waldorf playschool, since they do not accept a person putting children up in queue, until the parent has visited the school and understands what it is all about.

After two meetings with habilitation and hearing what the Montessori headmaster said at the meetings and watching his body language, I really felt the urgency to check out options. Waldorf feeling like a strong contender to Montessori. Our first meeting at Waldorf, was meeting the head of the playschool on the 21st January. We drove out there on tiny roads and got lost a couple of times, walking in to the wrong buildings since it is a big school complex, spread out all over a village. The road is of gravel full of potholes and no street lighting, which made me wonder what on earth I was on my way to undertake. Finally we arrived at a newly built building which looked very nice indeed. Coming in through the entrance was an experience since it felt like coming in imageto a jungle or a hothouse. The entrance was full of plants and it smelled strongly of herbs. I was impressed and also with the cloakroom which came next, which made it the more sad, when we entered the room which is the actual playschool itself. It felt dark and old. Murky and perhaps not entirely healthy. Toys and furniture looked very worn and what upset me the most was to know that the room is supposed to house something like 17 children (I have lost my notebook) and two adults. It felt too small of a room for that large of a group and I wondered what the noise level would be when all of them play in there, doing different activities. I could see “Gubby” freaking out, meaning starting to flax about, because he would not find his place in this unorganized environment. The head teacher explained that they come in to the room in the morning and then it is free play. The adults do no interfere but are there if asked for help.

While the children play, the adults sit and knit or crochet or sew. At lunch, they open up a door to the next room, which also had a very old feel and smell to it. All different classes sit with their own class, behind a screen, looking like an old Victorian dressing screen, except it was just wood frames with apricot fabric hanging over them. It looked like they were drying laundry. I wonder at what the noise level in there would be. The kitchen lay adjacent to this big room and it was a big industrial size looking kitchen. The rest of the day, the children spend resting and listening to a story. Of course they also go out in the garden, which is nice and big. I felt more confused than anything after being told all of this. They make no changes, when the children turn 6 and ordinarily would go to zero class. “The change is in the attitude towards the children”. That is all. To me it sounds like just another year in daycare. Because to me this more than anything resembled daycare and nothing else.

Yes, Waldorf does not believe in trying to teach children anything before the age of seven, but still. “Gubby” has been taught things since he started Montessori pre-school. In a playful way, but still. And I think that is what has made him progress. Especially his language. I am afraid that if he starts at the Waldorf playschool, that he will regress and forget everything he has learned. He might withdraw in to himself even, because noone will be there to coax him to come out of himself. He will not ask for help, because he doesn’t know how to. She agreed that it might not be the best form of zero class for him and that if it was going to work, he would have to have an assistant. She was not against that idea at all but… The biggest problem was, that after our visit, she explained that there is no room for him at the moment, at the pre-school anyway. So why did we go there? We would have to stand in queue, but chances are very slim that he would get in.

When we stood outside ready to take leave, she pointed at an old house beside the new one. That is also a Waldorf playschool and THAT is an old house indeed. In other words, it might be more dark and murky. And they hardly have anywhere to play outside at all, since it is just a little gravel courtyard in front of the house. It sounded like his age group can also be found in that house. That would not be nice what so ever!

The way the class room is set up at Waldorf

The way the class room is set up at Waldorf

In the evening of the 22nd January, we headed for Waldorf again, to meet a teacher, so she could inform us about the school. Only when we finally found her, there was a big group there. I guess they decided to put all prospective parents and pupils to come on the same evening, which annoyed me. I wanted to talk about our specific problems and ask if they can be solved at the school. Now we sat with a family of Muslims, who had brought their kids, and lets face it, those children should have stayed home since this was very boring for them and they let us all know how bored they were. Surely one can get a babysitter for an information meeting. They did not have to come and see the school at this point. That can wait till later, if the parents are interested in the school and its methods. The other family had also brought their children and the mother was German, while the dad wanted a lot of answers, since he had read information books on Waldorf, written in the 1970s, when families were not allowed to have TVs at home, if they wanted their children to attend the school.

What did we find out? They start with both English and Spanish in grade 1. Which I feel so so about. “Gubby” has such delayed language, that it is enough for him to try to sort out Swedish and English in his head. To add Spanish, would not be that great. And why Spanish? We are not even half close to Spain! Waldorf comes from Germany so should it not have been German instead? Our neighbour almost! They are entitled to Mother Tongue, which of course is good, since poor “Gubby” has been deprived of that, for a year and a half, the pre-school feeling that it was too expensive to buy that in.

There are 17 pupils in the 1st grade, which “Boo” would join in the next school year, when they become 2nd grade. If we decide on starting him at the Waldorf school. There is no way he can go in to 3rd grade next year, when he has not caught up 1st grade yet and is barely starting to read NOW. So that was good news for him. But in 4th grade, they are 25 and there is no room for more. In other words, we can’t even contemplate moving “Kitty” over to the school, in order to have more children in one place. THAT was really depressing news. It really looked like a nice school to attend. It is not too big. It is old-fashioned with old wood tables and benches to sit on. The teachers told us that when a child has ADHD or is autistic, and has a difficult time sitting so close to others, they just put in an extra table for that child, so it can still be part. That was the good news, that they have had a lot of autistic children at the school and still have. They have experience in other words. Parents tend to seek themselves to the independent free schools, since you don’t get any help at the council schools, you have to follow your peers there, at their speed and the classes are too big. Neurologically handicapped children do not fit in to the Swedish school! That is just how it is.

They use the old chalk boards instead of white boards, there are no computers at all on the school and no WiFi. This I can object to, since sometimes an iPad can calm down autistic children and help them with learning, in a different way, than the traditional. But I guess one can only test it, and see how it works! Besides, they have taken the iPad away from “Boo”, after they discovered that one has to pay for the learning apps, after a certain amount of time. So, it was fun while it lasted, but it did not last for more than a month or something. Another thing I did like, was that they cook all the food and bake all the bread, at the school, and I guess it is all vegetarian. I am not sure what my boys will think about that? But one can hope that it is nice tasting food and I guess all the pupils there now, like the food. Home baked bread. Wow! Says I, who have to stay away from bread or I gain weight plus get a bloated stomach. But the boys do love bread. And the best of all, there is no big cafeteria. Every class eats in its classroom, so the noise level can never get too loud, nor can it become the utter chaos, my boys have to put up with today, when many people eat in the same room.

There is a school bus, which goes through our village, and how great it would have been if I could have utilized that. But there is no way that I can drop “Boo” by a bus stop and let him stand there and wait for a bus, with other children. He would pick a fight and storm off in anger. It would have saved us so much money though, if we could have used that! The fee being less than what regular buses cost and of course driving your own car. Instead, I will have to drive to the next village and drop off “Gubby” for zero-class at about 08:10-08:15, and then step on it, driving to the next village to drop “Boo” by 08:30 and then I can relax and drive home to our village. I have not timed it, how long it takes from the Montessori school to the Waldorf one. If it is feasable to do what I have to do.  Every morning the entire Waldorf school go for a nature walk. It actually becomes that the teacher walks to fetch all the school bus children down where the bus drops them, by the high school part. So maybe, I could drop “Boo” there with the others? Or I drive him to the teacher and she and he can get some alone time, walking to fetch the rest of the gang? He would enjoy the latter more, than waiting in a group and get anxious. And of course, there would have to be an assistant for him, for the walk back, since he can not handle walking in the big group. A lot of things to think about. Him always freaking out in the big group setting.

They also spoke of all the crafts the children get to do, like learning to crochet and knit, but also the music being integrated in the course work, them all learning how to play the flute. And then the Eurythmy lessons they have every week. I think that “Kitty” would have a difficult time with this, unless the cool boys did it without complaining. I am not sure how “Boo” will do with the latter either, since he has a difficult time coordinating his body. (More about this in a later post, since he has been to see a physical therapist and work therapist, but I don’t know their conclusions yet. Except that he does have problems.)

Many years ago, I shied away from the Waldorf school, since someone told me that it does not tolerate religions. I just had to ask the teacher about that, since it is important for me, that my children do not get bullied by students or teachers, because they do believe in God and go to church. The teacher, who is in charge of 5th grade, told us that there is a Jewish girl in the class and they had all celebrated Rosh Hashana with her, she telling them about the Jewish traditions. She has never been pointed out as different and they all appreciate learning about her religion, so I thought that this was good news. If one religion can be accepted, all must be accepted, as being alright. I am surprised the Muslim family did not stay to ask the same question, but they of course have got used to that Swedes bend over backwards for them. They just demand to be tolerated!

Friday, the 30 January, I was back at the Waldorf school, this time to observe in the 1st grade. I wish I had arrived when they started, but they had said for me to come at 09:00, so that is what I did. So I had missed their walk and also what they had done the first minutes. When I came in, they were standing in a ring, with a little bean bag each, in their hands. They let the bean bag travel around their bodies from toes to head and then back down, saying this little verse. I thought it was perhaps Eurythmy, but it wasn’t. When they were done with this, they all sat down in a ring and told me their names and I had to tell them mine. And then the teacher told them, that they would start with Math. They were counting up to 100, walking in place, but on every ten, they had to jump in the air. “Boo” would have loved this, since it is moving about instead of sitting still, and doing things practically. Although I could see him jump in the wrong place. Then they were supposed to go to their boxes and fetch their math books, which are books they make themselves. They get big sheets of paper. They fold them in half and create a book by putting several papers together. They use really thick colured pencils and the teacher writes with chalk on the board, all these math problems. They have to copy them in to their individual books and fetch chestnuts, if they want to, to have as aids in the counting. I was horrified when I saw the problems, because they were way further than “Boo” is, who can not count beyond ten and who can not do subtractions. Some got done quickly, and got additional problems, others chose not to do the extra ones, but started to crochet instead. 6th graders had just been in teaching them how to do that, some weeks earlier, and they are all making some simple rabbits.

It was fun to watch. But then it was time for recess. We all walked out and there was time for me to ask the teacher all sorts of questions and discuss “Boo” with her, because this was the teacher which will be his, if he starts there. I guess she has had her own two children in the school and was very pleased. A teacher starts with the pupils in grade 1 and is their teacher till they graduate from school, in grade 9. She had just finished with a 9th grade in June last year, and there had been an autistic boy in the class, so she has lots of experience. And she has had autistic children before, as well, during her career, which of course is a GREAT bonus. I had to go to the loo, and this was the backside of the equation. The loos are in another building, than were the children in grade 1 are housed. Which means that “Boo” could walk off and not come back! And the loos were really gross! Pretty wood doors, but it did not really feel safe to sit down. So that is something that perhaps one must bring up at parenting meetings?

We talked a lot about the need for an assistant and what can be done if things get too much for “Boo”. Many teachers were absent that day, because of further education, so many classes had substitutes and were not out at recess. It would have been good to have seen the entire picture, what it is like, with all of them present. She seemed to be positive, that all children needing an assistant, have one at the school. When it was time to walk in, she set up for painting. They all fetched paints, big brushes and water, while she wetted down all the papers in a box on the floor, and then they all got a board on their tables and a wet paper on imageeach. They were talking about the sun and how it looks and feels when it is up during the day. Then they were supposed to paint how the sun feels and what it looks like. Various interpretations. But I think that “Boo” would have liked this. To see the paint float out on the wet paper. To be artistic without too much effort, not having to hold on tight to a pen or a brush, to get results. She said that this is a classic Waldorf thing, to paint on wet paper. After they were all finished, they got to sit on the floor discussing what each one had painted, having the paintings in a group on the floor. They had all done very different things. When she had talked to each child, it was time for a game. Fruit salad, I think it is called. They needed for me to join them, in order for the game to work. I who am way too shy to play games. I became an apple and they had to explain the game to me, before I could join. I never took part in things like this as a child, since I was too shy to end up in the middle, calling out a fruit or “fruit salad”. You can call “bananas” and all bananas must change place and the person in the middle must try to steal one. If you call fruit salad, everyone has to change place and the girls liked to call this out since they were trying to sit down beside me. I was really popular to sit down beside, even if it was only for a couple of seconds!

After the game it was time for them to have lunch and they were divided up in groups. Some setting the tables and some fetching things. It was sad that I had to leave right then, because I would have liked to have seen the food and the children’s reaction to it. But also perhaps having got to taste it. When they have eaten, they go out for recess and then they finish with sitting on the floor on fur skins, a candle lit and listening to the teacher reading a story. I had to leave and then go fetch “Gubby” after a while. My impressions of the school were good ones, at the same time I can feel that there are concerns. He really needs an assistant to be able to handle the classroom situation. And will the other children accept him, when they have already formed friendships and has become a group? The outside situation with all ages out in the same spot, is another concern. And how will he handle moving class room every year? It is so difficult to make a decision. I wish I had a crystal ball and could look in to the future and see if I made the right decision!

On the 3rd of February, I went on my last school visit. I was not really keen anymore, since it was to the Waldorf playschool. First of all, the head is the grandmother of a bully, who will not leave “Kitty” alone. He gave my son a black eye after Christmas and I do not quite appreciate the way his other grandmother deals with her grandchildren. Seeing them as angels and my son as, well I am not going to say it, but the opposite. He doesn’t have that grandmother for teacher anymore, which I am grateful for, since what started out as a good relationship between her and us, deteriorated over the years, so that I finally could not stand being around her. She was so disapproving in the end that I could hardly shake her hand and say goodbye when she retired. She wanted our son heavily medicated or she was not going to bother with him! And now I had to meet the other grandmother, who had a very chilly attitude towards me, on this second visit. Perhaps she had spoken to her son’s mother-in-law? Or she just felt the visit a waste, because they do not have room for him anyway? Or she felt that she does not want an autistic boy in the group, not knowing how to handle him? I tried to avoid her as much as possible and talk to the other teacher instead.

Another thing which bothered me, was the fact that she felt somewhat absentminded, like she never knew what to do next. And with children you do need to know what happens next, or they will start climbing the walls. Especially “Gubby, will start flaxing when he doesn’t know what to do next, when things feel like “chaos”. I walked in at 09:00 again and had missed their walk and their free play, the one I don’t think that “Gubby” would be able to handle. I would have liked to have heard the noise level. Several pupils were also missing this day, which meant that instead of about 16-17, there were only about 11 children, which makes a big difference as well in a small room. I wanted to see a typical day and this was not at all a typical day. So many children missing and them already putting away all toys when I arrived. One boy was sitting screaming in a box and I wondered if he was retarded or what his problem was, because he acted strange all day long. And the head told the other teacher to just leave him, so it seemed that he was new or? I also noticed that this particular boy was allergic to basically almost everything. It just disturbed me, that he sat in his big box screaming and everyone ignoring him. I don’t know what he really wanted. Attention or to be left alone? I would actually have guessed that he was autistic, just because his behaviour was really bizarre. It just felt like the personnel did not know how to handle him. And that did not feel like a good sign.

image

I know it was not an ordinary day, but still it was. Because they have Eurythmy once every week, so things should not have been as chaotic as they were. I don’t understand it. When teachers act like they don’t know what they are doing, act nervous and act like they don’t know what happens next, it does not give a good impression of the school. These two are old routined teachers, so what was going on? Suddenly the things were put away and they told me that I just had to blend in, because it was Eurythmy time and they opened the door to the room where they eat, and we all squeezed in to the middle, between the wash line looking room dividers. I was told that I had to take part which was difficult for me, since I am so shy. I don’t like when people look at me and I did not know the movements at all. We walked around and around in a circle, while this special teacher, a parent actually, was reading a story rhythmically. I don’t know how long we were doing this thing but I really felt uncomfortable since I am not used to doing this sort of thing. As a child, I would have crawled under a table as usual, which is what I always did. I never dared to take part being so horribly afraid of being laughed at. And I can never get over that feeling. The screamer boy and one girl, refused to take part, so why could I have not been allowed to just watch? It was alright I suppose, doing the movements, listening to the story, and I actually think that “Gubby” would have loved this, but would not have understood why they did it, nor the story told except here and there. After this was over, we walked back in to the room and closed the door behind us. It was time for tea.

Now, five children were missing like I said before, and still there was not seats for everyone. “Gubby” would have flaxed around or just stood looking, wondering what to do. They do this every day, so why was there not room for everyone? It should have looked like this picture, that I took off the internet, from a German Waldorf playschool:

imageRoom for everyone. And notice that even if everything looks old, it looks fresh and light! Take away all windows but one and see the walls in a dark colour, in your imagination, and you know what it looked like where I visited. What do they have against light? The table was also just half the size or length. The room we were in, was half the size of this one. I don’t know what to say and feel.  When everyone finally had a seat, some sitting on a sofa, us grown ups on extra things, the herbal tea was finally served and knäckebröd, which is a crispy  bread. I wondered why this was served so close to lunch. As soon as everyone was ready, the children sat down on the floor and the head massaged each child. Either on the back or on the feet. One by one, they headed out to get dressed to go out and play. I should have stayed for another hour and a half but no way was I going to stand out in the cold, not dressed for being outside for that long, watching the children play. So I left, passing the school hens and rooster at the gate. That was fun! What conclusions did I draw? That poor “Gubby” would feel lost at this place. He is used to organisation and that there is always something to do. No dead time, like there was a lot of here. And I don’t think that it is right to cut out all learning for children under the age of seven. If they show an interest, by all means, let them have a go. Natural curiosity should not be suppressed and that is the feeling that I got from this place, that they are supposed to play only. And autistic children can not play, they can’t usually entertain themselves. One has to give them things to do, suggest things for them to do. He is learning at pre-school, so I can not force him to go back in development. And the last thing the head told me, before I left was that the next day they were going to be in a meeting, deciding if they were going to accept any more children in, but she did not think there would be a place for “Gubby”. Thanks a lot!

On the way to the car, I decided to swing by the headmaster’s office. So I drove down to that. He was pretty aggressive at first and wanted me to make an appointment. Even though I only had a quick question about the queue situation and how he feels about getting a personal assistant for “Boo”. He finally decided that the article he was writing could wait a couple of minutes and he sat down to discuss things. In Malmö, they are trying to open up a Waldorf school, autumn of 2016. But nothing is for sure, if they will be given permission to do so. So, all Malmö children are in queue for this Waldorf school as well, far away from where they live. If the school doesn’t open in Malmö, all those children will start in the village instead, and there will not be any room for “Gubby” at all. So I would have my children in four different schools. A situation I would have wanted to avoid if I could. And I just can’t start him in 1st grade this autumn. He is not ready for that at all. Besides, this lady I know, will have her son start then, and I do not want to have to meet her at parenting meetings and hear her insane ideas. She wants us all to live like in the stone age and that is just not my thing, even though I am a historian. I avoid her as much as I can because I do not want to hear her propaganda. Its enough with all the e-mails that I dump in the trash unread. Her son clearly shows signs of ADHD, as well, and no teacher would be able to cope with one child having  undiagnosed ADHD and one being autistic, in the same classroom!

The headmaster did not sound too keen on starting out “Boo” with an assistant either. Which means he would have a lousy start, like at the Catholic school, and all parents judging us of course, for bringing an awful child to the class that was so nice before his arrival. He will hit other children so that they get scared of him and don’t want to go to school and the teacher and the parents will tell me this of course. Like it is my fault. No, the headmaster wants to try things without an assistant first and then sit down for an evaluation meeting after six weeks. That is not going to work. Six weeks and he will already be hated by all the other pupils. I tried to explain the situation in detail for him and he started agreeing that IF I can get a lot of documentation in, on his weaknesses and problems, and IF someone from the school can go and observe him at his present school, perhaps there might be another option. And sadly I realized that there is hardly any documentation yet, since habilitation has not got that far with him. They are way behind in the testing when it comes to “Boo”, the one who really needs help NOW! So, I certainly knew what I needed to tell habilitation the next time I had a meeting with them.

How do I sum up my visits to Waldorf? On the whole, I like it and I think that these alternative schools who look at children in a different way than the main stream schools do, who do not allow for any difference, are the answers right now, for neurologically handicapped children. There are no other options. There is no perfect school! All schools have their shortcomings but some have less than others. And the headmaster agreed that there must be a reason why more and more parents with autistic children, try to get their children in to his school. I would say, that the lack of pressure not being there in the early grades, might be one reason. Because you can’t force these children. You can’t hurry their development. Things have to take the time they take. And as for as I am concerned, I like the fact that “Boo” would get to do crafts and music, to ease up the school day, stand up and move about, doing the Eurythmy. I can only see benefits with this for him, since he can’t sit long periods and concentrate. But I don’t know, I wish I knew what was the best for him. I wish habilitation could advice me properly and tell me right out which schools have been good so far. But they are not allowed to do so.

I can understand this though. They want to protect themselves from angry parents when things do not work out. Because it is enough that the school changes staff and things can go from good to bad in one day. And at one school there can be good teachers and bad teachers and as a parent you will never know which ones will be assigned to your children’s classes. Even when two children get the same teacher, it can be that it worked personality wise between the one child and the teacher and then it doesn’t with the other child. I wish that the Swedish school system was not such a jungle for us parents, to wade through. And I wish the law really worked, so that no school could get away with doing nothing for the children, who are in need of special help.

 

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