I didn’t have a childhood. My childhood was stolen by emotionally, physically and sexually abusive parents. My nonexistent childhood has caused struggles in my adult life that seem insurmountable. I battle with the feeling that something is missing … something that I will never find in my adult life.  Although my situation was particularly harsh, I have realized that most adults have unfinished childhoods. They may have lost someone close to them, experienced abuse (which is more common than we think), or just spent far too little time being a kid.

During the past seven years, I have been devoted to giving my children a safe and nurturing childhood. I have spent time trying to understand what a real childhood looks like. I cannot rely on my instinct. Parental instincts tend to come from our relationship with our parents. And I didn’t have parents. I had abusers. So I research. I read parenting blogs and articles. I ask questions … many questions. What do kids need from parents? How do they interpret our discipline approaches? What activities help them discover who they are meant to be?

My questions led me to consider the advantages and disadvantages of public school.  And one year ago, I decided that my hopes for my children would not be met in a public school setting.

I felt their time for play would be cut short by a long schedule of classroom instruction at a very young age. They would feel pressure to conform to a particular type of personality that fits our public school system. They would not have the opportunity to express their creativity through art and music. And they would spend most of their time memorizing and testing on facts they would not remember in a few years.

I set out to find a different kind of school. I was looking for a school that would let my kids be themselves. I wanted a school that would embrace learning through creative play. I was searching for an approach that would teach my kids to learn with their entire being. I was looking for a place that would be more interested in the needs of the children than a schedule of learning that may or may not make sense. I found that at Waldorf.

As I read overly judgmental articles on the internet, I am reminded of the comments I have heard from others. I have been accused of widening the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots”. I have been told that I am depriving my children of the diversity in the real world. And like this article says, some have alluded that I have to do my part to make public schools better. I have to pay my debt to society like everyone else.

As a survivor of childhood trauma, I see my role in my children’s lives as a cycle-breaker. And my ideas don’t stop with a lack of abuse. I want to give them a childhood … not the kind of cookie cutter childhood that our society has deemed appropriate for every child, but a real one. The one I didn’t have. I believe our children can do far more for our society if they are grounded in a complete, fulfilling childhood experience. The resulting confidence could not only bring about changes in our educational system, but in our culture as a whole.

I am not sending them to private school so they can be smarter than or academically ahead of other children. I don’t send them to private school because I want them to be sheltered or lack exposure to the diversity in our community. I don’t send them to private school because I am trying to avoid my responsibility to make our education system better. I am sending them to Waldorf so they can be children.