My girl´s kindergarten in Costa Rica

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While I was looking for a good surf town and kindergarten in Costa Rica, back in the beginning of this year, I didn´t know that surf would become my second choice and that the kindergarten would far dictate where we would live.

My previous assumption about schooling were that until a child is 6 or 7, the age they start reading, it´s not so important where they ¨study¨, because it´s mainly play. In fact, I wanted to take this extended trip abroad with my girl before that age, so I wouldn´t mind her being out of school (besides being better to learn another language early).

After I had Luísa and started to wonder everything about what a school does or represents, I changed my mind a lot. Now I think that it´s probably best to take my child out of school when she is 6. I´m thinking about unschooling for the future, but I don´t have it figured out yet, so let´s see how this goes.

For now, what I think is that the kindergarten is a lot more important than the school. For one thing, it´s going on before the child is 7 years old, and this is when children really learn stuff that will be printed in their behavior, self knowledge and brains for ever.

By having someone watch your small child during certain hours a day (usually in the morning, when the children are so fresh), almost every day for years has a huge impact in the child´s life.

And that´s why I ended up staying in Puerto Viejo, on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, even though the surf here is a bit complex (the best wave is too strong for my skills when it´s pumping hard and the mellow wave is quite far from town, besides it all being flat for half a year).

I found a great little Waldorf kindergarten, for kids from 2-6 years old called Sea Heart.

I always knew something about Waldorf education, and my girl´s kindergarten back in Brazil has many Waldorf elements, but now I know why the parents of Waldorf students are so happy and proud about belonging to this small club.

We feel like we have something else, something more special than the other schools can provide.

Every Tuesday they play at the river on the beach.

Maybe it´s because they care for the children´s soul and the teacher´s humanistic training.

Maybe it´s the organic environment they create: all toys being made of natural materials, the pastel colors on the walls, the natural paint they use for coloring, the whole foods they make for snack, the absolute lack of plastic and labels in the school.

Maybe it´s because they have festivals thorough the year, showing the rhythm of Earth, the solstices, the planting and harvesting.

Maybe it´s because they don´t use rewards and punishment. They focus on modeling and describing actions matter of factly.

They are mostly interested in the kids learning to be themselves, working on their own personal traits and evolving individually. They are not focused on what to teach, but in what the experience of the children is all about.

And they provide plenty of time outside, they go once a week to the Botanical Garden, and once a week to the beach, besides playing outside more than inside.

It´s the human resources that make the whole difference

I believe Waldorf education is something else, something great. However, I cannot say that any Waldorf school is excellent. One has to see what´s going on, feel it and especially find or not trust in the teachers.

It doesn´t really have to be a Waldorf school, it can be the neighbor ´s house.

I really like the teachers of my girl´s school and I think and feel that the children are in great hands.

More nature, less toys

The kids collect and play with bugs every day. They have a table outside where the ¨nature friends¨ go (I guess it´s how the teachers came up with letting the bugs alone after so much playing).

The kids climb trees, get dirty and most of all, play with natural things, sticks, rocks, leaves and etc. The director was explaining in a meeting why it´s so important to let them play with natural toys: ¨A plastic yellow bus can only be that, a stick can be a doll, a car, a house, anything they want.¨

They are taught, by example, how to be gentle with the nature.

Why toys retard development is a very interesting article on this topic.

Next year this school will be even better

The school will be in a bigger house, with a big piece of land (while at the moment it´s in a tiny, but none the less cozy space).

The program will be more focused on the children working in the garden, planting what they can harvest to eat. Luísa´s group (from 3-6) will have lunch every day at school (it´s one of my dreams not to cook lunch every day!).

This article was originally posted on Tripping Mom by Marilia Di Cesare on November 15, 2011. Republished with authorization. Click here for all other posts.

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