August 2 2007

Our second blog instalment is from a prospective parent, who sent me this, by email, after visiting the school.

With just a mouthful of muesli and a swig of juice our family hit the road excitedly at 7.30am. The sun was slowly making its rise over Melbourne town, on a crisp winter morn, way more crisp and rainy than expected seeing Aus has been in a draught for the past 10 plus years. I love these unexpected adventures, you get word there’s gonna be a school open day you’re dying to see, so we hire a car and off we go.

We eye spy lots of open green pasture and sheep, a few cows and some horses. Once we hit Romsey we all start to feel the buzz that will persist throughout the day. We round Kerrie Rd and find a nice, bumpy, corrugated, red earth track and then the enchanted, green and ancient land of Tye estate aka Candlebark school finally appears.

The first thing to impress my three year old son Kai is the statue of the dancing girl, his reaction being, “Hey mummy, look at the dancing fairy.” We contemplate telling him that fairies don’t exist but I let it slip today. I notice beautiful old ferns and bubbling streams and great rolly-polly hills, hoping that one day Kai, or my nine month old son Jett, will one day be able to tell me fantastic stories of how they wore the bum off their pants whilst skidding down those slopes. After a few looks of concern as to where to go, and a nice long ride up a winding, gravel path we finally make it to the school. My husband Levin and I were immediately reminded of a camp we went to in San Diego, it was like a commune where a group of 10-15 people lived in hand built log cabins, grew their own organic food, and ran an adventure/challenge camp for children from disadvantaged homes in need of some guidance and growth.

That place we visited was really warm and so is Candlebark.

A really spunky boy showed us the way to the “main area,” as he put it, and as we entered the open plan eating/kitchen area we were blown away. It was abuzz with excited chatter, games, kids making food, eating food, reading everything! All of a sudden we were meeting teacher upon teacher and kids were just so easy to talk to. It was just such a very welcoming experience. How many schools feel like this when you walk into them? Mine certainly never did!

We were all banished from being inside even on freezing cold days; like dogs sent to the dog house we felt small, unwanted and totally controlled and it shows because most of us had a complete disrespect for the system and our school. But these kids were totally different, they all looked happy, some were being hugged by their teachers, (I’d actually rather call the teachers of Candlebark mentors,) and there seemed to be so much love and respect flowing through the place. This was the perfect time for us to see the school, as John had come to us and casually told us he wanted. We sat down on communal benches with fresh apples, carrots and other fruit on the tables which was so cool to see. The fact that kids could just take food when they needed to nourish themselves proved to me and Levin that the school really cares about the wellbeing of its students. John sat us down with some of the students from the school and we all just chatted about what the school was about, what it’s not about, and what it could be about.

Everyone has a say in their school so it feels like a close community with great communication between students, teachers, and even the principal! I didn’t even get to meet the principal of my school, ever.

The coolest part of the day was meeting Rosie, Matty and last but certainly not least, Hannah. Those three girls proved to me just how exciting, important and interesting it was to be a part of Candlebark. They showed us every room with tonnes of explanations as to what went on, they loved their art room (and teacher!), there was a potting wheel and punching bag in the art room- how cool. We saw science at work, they told us about the rolling hills that make great tobogganing- on cardboard boxes no less, we saw an organic garden with jars full of beer to keep pests away (we particularly liked that it was beer being used,)and Kai was in love when we saw the two donkeys, horses, geese, goats and chickens. Animals are integral to life, and they teach kids about the cycle of life so it’s awesome to see them there. Kai then died and came back from heaven when we saw the train model set that the kids had been working on. The girls told of us of waterfalls and creeks that were of great refuge in summer. On the way back I asked them if they had seen all of the 1100 acres of land and they looked at me like I was crazy! Might be an interesting day trip sometime, *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*. The girls just blew me away with their knowledge and passion of the school. They were so mature and responsible for their age group, which shows how the school is working well. On the way back to lunch a little girl of the age of 6 or 7 showed us her tooth! Just another example of how the bigger kids look after the younger ones. What an enlightening day! Kai even managed to find a friend! We got to see how the teachers teach, how recess and lunch work, we felt the environment which was alive like the kids, we managed to meet John and most of the exciting, wise faculty, we met the coolest kids and even got to read books from the library. As far as most school open days go, this was the coolest, most insightful day ever!

We left that day feeling exhilarated and exhausted. Isn’t that the way you should always leave school.

– Della