Thursday, June 2, 2011

And Then There Were Five...

I have five, just five, more days of teaching preschool left.

Five more days of my "little hippie school", my private endearment to the very in-home preschool I started a year and a half ago. I'd wanted to go back to work, with the hours I wanted to keep, and so I'd crafted myself a job---and took my family along for the ride too.

Nearing the end of this school session, knowing it's going to all end soon, I have some hindsight and perspective that I didn't have beforehand, when it was all "wow, golden opportunity" and hustling. I am very blessed, very fortunate, that this experiment of sorts has been good. Coming away from it, I feel so lucky. The families that came to me were good ones. The kids are great. They have grown up a little, in very nice ways. My time with them brought little challenges from time to time--what teacher's life doesn't?--which have become opportunities for my personal and professional growth. I choose to see those odd curve balls life throws my way as a personal challenge: what do I learn from this, and how do I do this better next time? Even if there is no next time, it's always good to have a plan.

However, there will be no "next time" of having preschool at home. Our family is ready to have our house be a home again. Having had the entirety of the common areas all dedicated to hosting school, we've had limited space to entertain. Now, Joe and I have fantasies about a new sofa that sound sensual: words like "supple", "plush" and even occasionally "leather" are used. I have daydreams of curling up on that sofa, a blanket wrapped around me, to read a book and drink a cup of tea. We are looking forward to getting the woodstove out of jail, that big ugly safety gate which borders the red sandstone hearth pad. Grown-up books will inhabit part of the built-in bookshelves the way they used to. Kiddo will have a science table for his plants and rocks and bits of nature he always wants to bring indoors, and no one will muss it while he's gone. I'll clear a space in the basement for the kid-sized school table, so our messy crafts and easel can live there, and I haven't even contemplated where all the shelves of unit blocks will go...

There are also going to be things I'll miss. The structure of the week, the rhythms of the day. Using my brain for all the social coaching and classroom management, and even the planning of activities. Greeting everyone in the morning, helping the children to say goodbye to their parents and head in to get ready for Gathering. Teaching them is so much fun. Providing rich materials to help them discover their world, to make it just one facet more interesting, increases its brilliance. Introducing the beautiful and silly world of poetry to a child is delightful. Watching their faces a couple weeks ago when they worked the magic of wax resist, marveling at how the paint 'jumped over' the crayon lines. Hearing them whoop and giggle as we floated containers in a tub of water, marked water lines and then filled the containers with marbles and stones until they sunk with impressive glubby bubbles of air. Lifting them up, amazed and a little scared, to observe a hive of bees resting in their hollow tree on a cold morning, and then hearing one child say "that's sooo cool", and knowing it was just a a providential moment they might remember forever or forget tomorrow... who's to say? I write these moments on the pages of my heart.

Yesterday, I spent nearly an hour or so with Kiddo, doing wax paper crayon melts. His was colorful. Mine was purposeful, the end results to be bees wings for the bees the children had painted at the easel earlier in the day, all yellow and black and every other mixable shade those two colors could create. I spread out the pieces of waxed paper, used a potato peeler to shave off curls of paraffin and crumbled them fine between my fingers, laid out strands of pale and golden yellow and brown threads and liberally scattered sequins over it all. These melted into beautiful sheets of thicker waxed paper, the threads reminiscent of the veins in a bee's wing.

We attached these wings today. I love for the children to have beautiful things, and while the wings took time, I knew that they would be gorgeous. They were, and the children were so proud to have made their "bees", having added bright buttons for eyes. They likely would have loved them with white paper wings, but it was a heart gift from me, those wings.

I want these children to fly on. To keep on dreaming of "going to the Milky Way to drink milk" or building skateparks or as one told me today "I want to grow up to be a baby. I start as a girl and grow to be a baby." I want them to want the impossible while they are still young and no one has told them "you can't" just yet. My biggest wish is that these children will find new preschool  homes next year and know in their bodies that even though new schools are a little scary, or can make them feel a little shy, that they have done it before. They have gone into a new environment and found bits and moments of joy, friendship and community. It's not just about knowing how to stay with the group or even how to 'be' at preschool, it also about the confidence that having done a new, challenging thing before gives them.

We journey on to new ventures, these children and I. They to their summer vacations and new preschools, I to my work on the book that's been simmering on the back burner, and to a newer ambition: leading small workshops for parents. I don't know when that will be organized. Right now, though, I turn my efforts homeward, to making our home anew, to spending a sweet summer with my little boy, out in the garden tending the veggies and the weeds, at the parks, exploring every fountain downtown once again. I'll have more to offer my husband, more for myself at the end of the day. I've got ever-more educational and parenting books to read, more to learn. And oh, though, what this preschool has taught me, even about myself.  I wouldn't trade the last year and a half for anything.

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