Living History at Mahaffie

With the kid’s Kansas City Passport to Adventure, the adventure always started in the car with learning.  En route I handed them their own passport and gave them the name of the place we were going, making them sound out the words and finding the page in their book.  They competitively searched until they could find the page and look at the picture of where we were headed.  This also made it important for the kids to proudly reopen their book to the correct page to collect their stamp when we got there.

Looking at the books on the ride to an adventure always made the kids look ahead for where they wanted to travel to next.  One picture they always stopped on and couldn’t wait to check out was Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm.  This also became Parker’s favorite adventure of the summer and one my mom said she wants us to go again and bring her along.

On a near hundred degree day we decided it was finally the day to make the trip to Olathe and investigate what Mahaffie was all about.  Due to the heat, we were about the only guests on the property and received undivided and personal attention from the farm staff dressed in 18th century attire.  The farm itself was a landmark for stagecoach travelers headed west, where they could stop for a hot meal and restock supplies.  We toured the actual farmhouse and learned about the Mahaffie family.

04mahaffiefarmThe kids were intrigued by the kitchen set-up in the basement of the home.  I quizzed them on where traditional kitchen equipment was located to help them discover how they would wash dishes, keep food cold and cook.  The woman working in the kitchen was patient to show them the inside of the wood burning stove, how coffee was made, to answer their inquisitive minds and offer them cookies which were made in the kitchen.  I was alarmed at the thoughtfulness of the questions the kids were asking, considering how could they see with no electricity?  The hostess showed them lanterns and demonstrated how it took the place of lights.

We stepped out of the house and headed to the barn where another hostess met us outside to show the kids the horses.  She escorted us into the barn to talk about the stagecoaches and encouraged the kids to climb aboard the oldest one they had at the farm.  Once the06mahaffiefarm horses were harnessed up to another stagecoach we took a ride all to ourselves.  The kids bounced along looking out the windows with silent gleeful smiles until Parker interrupted with “This is the best day ever.”

We also checked out a smaller barn where the blacksmith allowed the kids to take turns helping him stoke the fire and then hammer an iron into a hook.  I felt humbled and grateful to have this man working the fire for our enjoyment on such a hot day.  He and the others on the farm all were gracious to give us the experience and attention to make this adventure amazing.

Before we could leave the farm, the kids also experienced how they would have been washing clothes if they were born centuries ago.  I don’t think they would have been so happy to be splashing rags into water if it were their job, they certainly enjoyed it at the Mahaffie Farm though.05mahaffiefarm

Before entering the farm, we were directed through a building to pay the entrance fee.  We ended our trip back in the building where there is a small museum with more to read about the farm and history of Olathe.  The kids tried on farm clothes and created mail to simulate how mail used to be delivered by stagecoach.

I was never a fan of learning about history in school, experiencing history is so much better.  We will definitely be back to another adventure at Mahaffie Stagecoach, next time on a cooler day and I will bring my mom along too.

Kindergarten Tears

My daughter started kindergarten and the immediate response from people I have encountered since has been “Were there tears?”  The short answer is no not that morning anyway, we all went to school smiling and prepared for this new experience.  We did have a tearful exchange long after bedtime the night before the first day, Parker stated she could not sleep and was full of anxiety.

“My friends won’t be there, what if I won’t have any friends?” she muttered out in between sobbing.  After her body and mind finally relaxed she woke up excited and ready to put on her new outfit declaring “I look fresh.”

The tears I may or may not have been shedding were related to the stress of delaying and then choosing a kindergarten.  I felt my daughter was kindergarten ready last year, therefore 1st grade ready now…  Unfortunately birth date restrictions prohibit or mandate kids start according to a standardized system of laws out of my control.  So I waited, continuing her education through Montessori school and at home.  There were so many things I loved about her school, it

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The Montessori school also offered ballet lessons, which Parker’s teacher Ms. Deja taught.  This is after the recital in June 2016.

made the search for kindergarten all the more emotional.  Parker had the same adoring teachers for three years, ones who I faithfully trusted and appreciated.  She had home cooked, healthy lunches and I knew she was eating better than what I would have been scrambling together at home for her noon meal.  Her classroom was autonomous, she got to engage in activities she was interested in and learned at her own level.  Over the course of three years I watched Parker thrive, put creative effort and pride in her work and challenge herself to learn more.  Her school does offer kindergarten and it was a consideration to stay.  However, I knew our attachment was already so strong after three years, if we stayed a fourth I would be desperate to keep her in the pre-school setting until college.

 

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An example of the type of work Parker was doing in Montessori school.  She individually punched out states, labeled, puzzled, glued and painted her own maps of the United States, Australia, North America and South America.

With so much to love about Parker’s Montessori school, I may have been hyper critical of other schools when checking out kindergartens.  I researched online last fall, had information packets sent and began touring.  I walked the halls of not one, not two but eight different elementary schools.  Some tours were more out of curiosity or comparison purposes, I wanted to really see the variety.  I toured public schools, a charter Montessori school, private schools, religious schools and a language immersion school.  I asked a lot of questions and I kept a lot of my observations and judgements to myself.  There were things I liked about each school individually and equally unfavorable items everywhere too.  I’ll admit to being personally critical of common core curriculum and an advocate for increasing teacher’s salaries due to their inadequate financial appreciation.  I examined the diversity of the students and staff, the quality of work hanging on the walls, the cleanliness and organization of the buildings, and the menu of food served in the cafeteria in each elementary school.

 

Ultimately I came down to two favorites.  The first happens to be the closest private school to our home and one which I was surprised to enjoy so much.  It was a small school with one classroom per grade level and went up to grade twelve.  Their quality of work, academic achievement, atmosphere and friendliness of the students (all grade levels) far exceeded any other school I toured.  Their art teacher and classroom were impressive and since Parker toured with me, she continued to talk about it for months.  I was also ecstatic about their lunch menu as it was another school with daily cooked, healthy farm-fresh ingredients.  As if this weren’t enough – no common core.  The curriculum is structured as Classical Christian and would require memorization of bible versus.  While there is a lot to admire about Classical Christian, including the cursive handwriting she would be practicing this year and the focus on grammar, logic and rhetoric, I am not Christian and know little about the bible.

The other favorite school I considered is one modeled from Waldorf education. A short YouTube explanation of Waldorf can be viewed by clicking here.  The belief is music, theater, literature and writing need to not just be learned but experienced.  They aim to cultivate a desire to learn within each individual child and eliminate the need for competitive testing.  My artistically inclined five year old would be encouraged to dance, perform and learn about her world by exploring on their seven acre rural property.  Students in the school had cubbies containing slickers, hats and rain boots because they spent a lot of time out in the gardens no matter the weather.  When we viewed the school it was for a May Pole Celebration, I observed teachers redirecting students by singing them back into attention.  Parker participated in a treasure hunt in the sandbox to find shells, rocks and feathers which she got to add to a fairy house she made out of clay.  While students hung upside down from trees, swung on tire swings and picnicked with their patchouli smelling dreadlocked parents, I knew this would be the school to encourage her creativity.  About half-way through the Native American story puppet show, when the scent of the burning sage had worn off, I realized it may be unrealistic to plan to attend a school so far from home.

Based on so many variables, cost and distance to my preferred schools, it seemed like I would be having issues no matter where she attended.  Ultimately we chose the free public school option with the hope she would be assigned to the kindergarten teacher with the most experience as we indicated to the principal.  Unfortunately our request was not respected and she was added to the classroom with a first year teacher with the principals statement “Don’t worry, it will be great.”  And every day since the teacher comments “Parker did great.”  I understand the teacher is commenting on her behavior, which compared to peers in her class, I’m sure the teacher feels she hit the jackpot with my daughter.  Except the quality of work Parker brings home has declined from

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Quality public education.

what I know she is capable of, not great.  The countless worksheets she brings home on a daily basis is equivalent to introductory work she is too advanced for, not great.  And the post-it notes I found in her backpack this morning with words Parker said her teacher wrote for her to copy: “speggitti” and “basktball,” really not great.  The excitement she had for school and learning is transitioning to becoming a chore and while this happens for many students, it definitely shouldn’t happen in kindergarten.

 

More tears may be shed over kindergarten, it may be me or it may be her teacher and principal – and we haven’t even gotten to the common core math shenanigans yet.  I think the worst part is knowing my daughter has parents who will advocate for her and ensure she gets what she needs, while there are a lot of other kids who have to settle for what they get and will not meet their full potential.  I will be speaking with her teacher and without improvement, the principal.  Choosing a kindergarten took more effort and thoughtfulness than I took in choosing a college, however, just like in college – there is always an option to transfer.

How would you recommend speaking to the teacher in a way that will promote change without making her offended?  Or would you abandon the school?