I was sitting at the dinner table. I saw the creature wiggling between his fingers.
I leapt up, totally confused. “Wait, it’s alive! It’s been in your pocket?”
It had been inside a little plastic thing — one of those containers cheap toys come in, delivered by gumball machine — for the last eight hours. In Orlando’s pocket. And it was still alive. We made it a jar and gave it some leaves and let it spend the night.
But it reminded me of the grasshopper I found in my hair on Orlando’s first day of school six weeks ago.
Yes, there was a grasshopper in my hair.
And yes, Orlando started school.
It was mid-September, and Orlando and I walked through the big open field and then across the street to an old reclaimed school building that is now a cultural and arts hub in our neighborhood. In one of those rooms there is one teacher and four students who spend three days a week (9 to 2:30) jump roping, painting, singing, writing, playing, knitting, and giggling. Orlando is one of those kids!
I’ve known about this community Waldorf homeschool since it started a few years ago (it used to be in a parent’s home, and run by parents), and somehow last June it occurred to me that we could look into it more seriously. We visited on their almost-last-day of school last year and spent the summer feeling it out, thinking about it, getting to know the teacher…
We spent the summer following our hearts, and took the leap.
On the first day, I sat with three other parents and felt something on my head. I reached up and drew my hand back — something was moving! The moving thing leapt onto my neighbor, who caught it, as we all gathered round and exclaimed, “A grasshopper!”
I couldn’t help but wonder, what could it mean? Why would a grasshopper hitch a ride on my head into this classroom, on this day? I was dying to look up the totem but at that moment, it was clear what the grasshopper meant: pure delight. The kids clamored as the bright green critter crawled up and down Orlando’s arms. They took turns holding it. The parents looked at each other wide-eyed and smiling, and then we cracked the window and let the little guy go.
Orlando is having such a wonderful time in this little school. It is incredible. At the end of the day, when I ask how his day was, he tells me, “I liked it!” If I ask what parts, he says, “All of it.”
He jumps rope every morning — after starting out so awkwardly he is now a proud jumper of over 100 turns. After shying away from the flute (too hard for him to blow softly) he proudly plays hot cross buns. He knits. He writes lowercase. He sounds out words. He loves the numbers block they are working on now. He and a fellow classmate’s wax turtles got married the other day.
Over the last couple of months, his body is softer, his eyes are brighter, and his demeanor is more relaxed. He is happily taking what is offered, learning and reaching, claiming and reclaiming his own curiosity, initiative, and sense of accomplishment. Of course, school is happening concurrently with the HANDLE work we are doing, so it is hard to say what is coming from where, but the most important thing to me is that he is enjoying both. His brain and body and soul are quite simply happy.
I knew, for a long time, that Orlando might need something more, likely specifically around letters. But he was curious, bright, involved in activities he enjoyed, and we were comfortable waiting. Looking back I can see that things probably began changing when he turned seven. Over that next year, he became increasingly less grounded, more agitated. He started cracking his bones compulsively, talking baby talk, and was no longer interested in his previous activities.
Part of me could see it as natural — part of the ebb and flow, to be more active and less active, to “regress” before making a leap. Yet, another part of me could see that something was off (mother’s intuition). It was as if he were carrying a ballast and over time this ballast was becoming heavier… as if he had the impulse to move forward but he was held back in some way. Stuck.
So, around the time he turned he eight, we decided to do something.
The something was to see a neurodevelopmental specialist who was coming to Seattle that next spring (March 2012), and who was highly recommended by friends. We met with her and learned a lot. We did the activities she recommended for a couple of months, but I was already becoming interested in other methods that might be more subtle and require less time and effort to accomplish. Lightness matched what I had been learning in Hakomi and I was curious if there were other options.
Which ultimately led us to HANDLE just a few months ago. And at the same time, we were visiting the new school for Orlando, and looking into a new outdoor school (that didn’t conflict with his Waldorf schedule) and getting to know this first-born child of ours all over again and continuing to follow, follow, follow, lead, follow, follow, lead. And here we are: three days of Waldorf, one day of total outside with a new (more structured and skills-based) outdoor school, and a whole, happy kid.
I still don’t know how it all unfolded — this wasn’t a cerebral process, there was no plan. It was a heart process. A body process. A moving around and checking things out and leaping process.
Grasshopper showed us the way.
The Chinese symbol of good luck and abundance,
Grasshopper gives its totem people the ability to take chances.
To move on hunches and take the leap forward.
Things might not move for them as they do for other people;
progress is not step-by-step, but rather extremely fast.
Trust your own instincts on when to make the leaps.
Trust your inner voice.
It will lead you to great successes.
Don’t be afraid to leap –-
and remember that Grasshopper only leaps forward, never backward. (source)