Letter from Class 7 Parent

My son joined the Gaia Playgroup in 2007, and now, while a lifetime has passed for him, and the blink of an eye for me, he’s nearing the end of his time at the school in Class 7.
I remember snatches of my schooling. Being told by my Sub-A (Class 1) teacher to “bring me my ruler” and hit for talking on one of my first days of school. The teachers “declaring war” on us, saying there was no other way that we were the worst lot they had ever dealt with. Being sent off to the barber for my hair inching too far over my collar.
So I don’t remember those times particularly fondly. I barely said a word for the rest of my schooling, and probably still have long hair today as a result.
It didn’t take long to realise what was different about Gaia. Overwhelmingly, the children were happy. Lots of laughing and smiling. Far healthier relationships with the teachers. Where I couldn’t wait to leave, there are quite often bucket loads of tears as the children say goodbye to the school at the Class 7 farewell.
There are a lot of misconceptions about Waldorf education, and probably the most common one is around learning to read. Why do the children start so late? Will they fall behind?
Watching my son start to read was a bit like watching him start to walk. One day he was crawling, and then one day he was walking. There was no long, forced period of standing straight, putting one leg forward, and then crashing down again. It was a natural, spontaneous happening. Reading was the same. One day he was listening to stories, and then he just started to read. There was no period of sounding out letters on the page, of half pronouncing words. Just a spontaneous, joyous outpouring of sentences that caught us by surprise.
Gaia has been a vibrant, diverse school with a special spirit, something commented on even by parents from other Waldorf schools. It’s been great to be able to get involved, meeting other parents and staff and see how the school lives up to its goal of being a community. Although, after one kindergarten maintenance day to fix a skew gate finished with the gate irretrievably in pieces on the ground, for the sake of the school’s premises it’s probably best I decided to get involved in other ways.
I have been very happy with my son’s time at Gaia, and am grateful for everyone involved in making it what it is. We will all miss it far more than I did my own.
Ian Gilfillian
Class 7 Parent