we hosted our first waldorf third grade farm trip in 2002, the spring my oldest son turned 3. i can remember it like it was yesterday, those children, now into college and beyond, gifted my family with so much. despite a total lack of infrastructure, those kids had the time of their life. they stayed in tents behind the barn, milked goats, and dined al fresco. they shared with us hand knit toys and ideas for felting wool. we shared with them our farm in her infancy. together we tried every possible farm task that the season and weather would allow and from that moment on, we were thoroughly enamored with the annual farm trip. when the years passed and i attended that class’s 8th grade graduation, i cried and cried as the children reflected on their elementary years. one child in particular described in detail his 3rd grade trip to hill and hollow farm as a pivotal moment in his education. it was then i realized truly the significance of these few days in the lives of those children, and in our roles as farmers, educators and parents. alas, here we are 12 years later. we have refined the curriculum. we long ago built a cabin in the woods to accommodate such groups. i have streamlined the kitchen and the menu to do our best to feed. despite these changes, one might call improvements, one fact remains unchanged, the pure awe of the farm trip. these days are the culmination of the 3rd year curriculum in waldorf schools across the globe. i spoke more in depth about it here but words can not describe the preparation, the anticipation and the fruition of everyone’s hard work to make these days special time and again. waldorf education is unique for countless reasons, i dare not try to outline them here. there is one amazing aspect that truly resonates with me in the wake of this year’s visit from the waldorf school of louisville. in these schools, the teacher stays with his or her class from first through eighth grade. whew. commitment friends. to truly educate, there must be an environment of trust. trust between student and teacher. trust between parents and faculty. trust between school administration, faculty, parents. now that is a whole lot of trust. one then asks, or at least steiner asked, how can that trust be established and reestablished each and every year? from my perspective from these tiny glimpses into my region’s waldorf schools, these classes and these relationships, i see a true treasure. we spent much of last week enthralled with a tremendous 3rd grade class, their phenomenal lead teacher and a handful of wonderful parent chaperones. we sowed and hoed and planted and worked together. in the wake of some fairly intense days on the farm, we have spent countless hours reflecting. to summarize would be impossible, but once again i am so delighted with the outcome: for the 3rd graders and for us. there is nothing better than the joy of sharing our life and offering others a glimpse into our reality.
we spent the better part of last week with 16 third graders, their magnificent lead teacher and a handful of amazing parent chaperones from the waldorf school of louisville. the farm trip is a right of passage for these nine and ten year olds, many have heard tales of the creek and the farm animals, the cabin and the outhouse, the chores and the fun from their older siblings. it is the culmination of their third year and an integral part of the waldorf curriculum.
in the third grade most children go through the nine year change: it is of great significance according to ruldolf steiner, founder of waldorf education. a child this age is leaving the kingdom of early childhood and the realization that the self is separate from the world around him starts to sink in: it can be an emotionally difficult time. as with all other childhood phases, steiner designed the curriculum to soothe the pains, ease the transitions and educate for these developmental changes. for the nine year old waldorf education means immersion in old testament tales alongside daily lessons in food, clothing and shelter. the newly identified sense of self is soothed knowing how to raise her own food and have a start with simple woodworking. on the deepest level, the child is calmed having been exposed to these age old skills of self sufficiency.
we have been hosting third grade farm trips here for 11 years. groups from near and far have come to celebrate the joys of on farm education with us. urban kids milk the cow and drink her milk fresh as it can be, lessons about meat and where it comes from are learned, seeds are sown. we have seen child after child transform here. self confidence shines while discovering new muscles working hard in the gardens, sheer glee emanates as they play in nature and eat fresh food growing beside the dining tables.
the third grade farm trip is truly a gift to these children, but it is most precious to us. every spring with each new visiting class , i am reminded how lucky i am to have this place, how blessed my children are to be so connected to this earth, and how thankful i am to be able to share this with so many. i already miss these new friends, but know we all carry a piece of this farm trip in our hearts.