Planning our Alsacien adventure, I needed to find a school for Silas and it needed to be a particular type of school, a Steiner School.
Silas has thrived in a Steiner education, an approach which is a better fit for the creative way Silas experiences the world. After getting off to a rough start in school, it was clear by Year 1 that I needed to look at other options for him. We visited a few different schools. Silas knew when he had found his fit: 10 minutes into his trial day at Orana Steiner School, after a morning run around the grounds, he turned to me with a hopeful smile and said “I could get used to this.”
I wanted more of the same in France and starting with the Steiner Education France website, I found four schools in Alsace.
Ecole-Steiner Haut-Alsace had a rather boring website: slightly out of date, few photos, lots of official text. Not particularly inviting. But there was a reason. Squirrelled away in a bottom paragraph was a reference to the school moving location. There was a link to click on to find out more.
One click and I was captured.
Unfolding in post after post was a story of a little country school with a big dream: this school of just 60 families had had the audacity to buy an old abandoned school building and to start renovating it themselves.
They’d secured a low-cost loan, held fund-raising events, put windows out for “adoption” to fund double-glazing. With this, they could buy the dilapidated building. Apart from the professional-looking renovation plans, it appeared that everything else had been done by the school community – from bricking around the windows to make the double-glazing more affordable, to whitewashing the walls, to laying the wooden floors. From what I could tell, they were almost there.
Hours disappeared as I sat engrossed, watching the transformation through a journal of posts and videos. The big day the scaffolding came down and the building's elegant shape, with its distinctly Alsacien steeply pitched roofline, emerged. The moment the paintwork was revealed - Alsacien yellow, as beautiful as buttercups. The video showing the sweet mezzanine sleeping space for the tired tiny ones. The installation of the heating; an occasion to share sustainable heating technology with the local community.
I browsed through working bees showing happy parents and their children. I wanted to know them and I wanted to be one of them; community-minded people setting aside their weekends to make their dream of a better school for their children, into a reality. The photos showed a warmth I wanted to be a part of and a joy at achieving something so wondrous that I wanted to share. We had to be there for the first year in the school's new home.
I tracked down the email address and, using my most polite French, made our request to spend a “season” with them at Ecole Seiner Haut-Alsace.
I waited 7 days.
Then there it was. The response was full of all the warmth I could have hoped
“Merci pour votre joli message ! C'est incroyable que quelqu'un parle de notre petite école à l'autre bout du monde!”
Thank you for your message. Unbelievable that someone from the other end of the world is talking about our school!”
I smiled as I read the words. The delight I’d felt at finding them was now being experienced in reverse: what a surprise to be admired by an Australian family a million miles away!