My family has been blessed in so many ways. I am constantly thankful for all we have… our lives are rich and deep and full in the most wonderfully simple way.
A big reason for our happiness comes from the beautiful community we have found in our local Waldorf school, Maple Village School. Kitty started at Maple Village 4 years ago and is now in Second Grade. Teddy is in the Kindergarten and both are blossoming under the care, and LOVE, of their wonderful teachers.
I have asked Miss Lisa, the teacher from one of the Maple Village Early Childhood Programs, to write today’s Discovering Waldorf. Miss Lisa takes us on a journey through the rhythm of her class. Teddy and I were lucky enough to enjoy two years in Miss Lisa’s class. They are beautiful memories that I will cherish forever… thank you, Miss Lisa, for the magic you have given us.
The Daily Rhythm in a Waldorf School :: Early Childhood
Parenting in today’s fast paced world can be quite challenging. We strive to meet the needs of our children, spouses, extended family, work…then we find time for obligatory (yet also very rewarding) volunteer duties…and when there is time, we remember to nourish ourselves. Often I hear parents say they want to spend more focused time with their young children. They want to enjoy being in the moment with them, but they are faced with the struggle of simultaneously fulfilling all of their daily responsibilities.
Miss Lisa helping a child put out the story light in the Early Childhood Class at Maple Village School
This is where the Parent/Toddler class at Maple Village School comes into the picture. When developing the class, I wanted to make sure it was crafted to be as much for the parent as for the child. It is a place to connect with your little one, while enjoying the company of other like-minded adults in a calm and inspiring environment. Many parents have told me that they have delighted in seeing their normally “reserved” or “shy” child somehow “come out of a shell.” It is my goal that each parent is also given a place of peace, strength and renewal to take with him/her for the week ahead. How does this occur? Well, it seems to be a feeling much more than a tangible take-away. Participants have told me the room is filled with warmth, magic, and reverence. They feel they can breathe. Perhaps a description of the class might help to understand the source of these feelings.
Parents and children begin the morning by walking onto our grounds and past our wooden raised garden bed, in which the children planted seeds. They admire the growth of our carrots or sunflowers before entering the courtyard gate. Once inside the gate, the child places a piece of fruit (brought from home) in our communal basket to be later shared during snack time. They then breathe out and greet each other while stretching and moving their bodies in play. Children work their arms at the antique pump and delight in the falling water, fill wheelbarrows with wood chips, run, dig, climb, and play in the sandbox (which is built in an octagon around the trunk of a tree). After a half of an hour has passed, I begin to sing a song – “Pails and buckets and shovels away, for today, that’s the way… Pails and buckets and shovels away, for today.” I sweep the pathways while repeating the song until everything has been put away. Then I pick up the fruit basket and flow into the “Come Follow Me” song. Parents and children gather their belongings and trail behind me into the building and up the stairs into the classroom. We continue singing as everyone takes off their shoes in the entryway, hangs their coats and comes into our circle. A guitarist then begins to strum, and our circle time begins. Keep in mind – all this happens without me “speaking” a single word. It is all done through song and imitation. This is what reaches our youngest children.
A child enjoying the bounty from their class veggie garden at Maple Village School
During our circle, children hear and learn songs about the world around them, move their bodies with others, laugh and dance, while finding their relationship to the space around them. I also include simple sign language and short poetry. At the close of the last song, the guitarist continues to strum as I bring out the velvet blue story blanket and lay it every so gently onto the floor. It is so heartwarming to see all the children gather on the fabric and lie down quietly on their tummies, waiting to see which story will be told… What will come out of the basket today? I light a candle in a lantern, and begin to set up my props (all made from natural materials – woolen animals, wood pieces from trees, colored silks..) At the end of the story, one child is called up to put out the “story light” with an candle snuffer, we recite a little poem, and this, accompanied by song, is our signal to begin hand washing. Once again, I have not spoken to the children, but reached them through music and rhythm.
The children then gather around the table, and we sing a simple blessing before enjoying a lovingly prepared snack and fruit together. The children eat from enamelware bowls and sip water from enamelware mugs. These are lightweight and unbreakable. The adults also eat well, as healthy food is provided at the counter.
As the children finish their snack, they are invited to weave in and out of inside play and participation in a seasonal activity or craft, with the parent/guardian helping the child. Activities include squeezing oranges for juice, using cabbage to dye silks, grinding wheat seeds into flour, baking bread, carding wool, painting, decorating candles with beeswax, building bark boats to sail…
A Waldorf Craft :: Carding Wool
A Waldorf Craft :: Making a Bark Boat
Watercolor Painting at Maple Village School
Dyeing Silks with Natural Dyes at Maple Village School
Inside time includes the opportunity for the children to play with the creative, natural materials around the room — tree blocks, a completely stocked wooden kitchen, doll house and barn, puppets, wool balls, dress-up cloaks and crowns, a rocking horse and cloth baby dolls with cradles and clothing.
Toys in a Waldorf Classroom
Natural Toys in a Waldorf Classroom
Dads enjoy playing with trucks too
Open ended play in a Waldorf Classroom
As the children are immersed in play, we transition to clean-up with another song. This time, I bring out our friend, the little wooden mouse. As I sing the song, I travel around the room, having the mouse kiss each child on the cheek. It is simply amazing how quickly our room is put back together!
Our morning closes by joining, once again, in a circle to recite a centering verse and sing our good-bye song. I then continue to hum softly while everyone puts on their shoes and gathers their belongings. I lead them down the hallway and through the front door to the spot where my assistant and I float a silk rainbow over their heads and sing one final song as they walk away. To build our children’s sense of order, everything has a beginning and an end, clearly defined in a nurturing way.
Leaving under the Rainbow Bridge at Maple Village School
I have had the pleasure of teaching this class for eight years and enjoy seeing not only mothers and fathers bring their child, but grandparents and nannies as well. If you are in the area, we invite you to become a part of our mornings together. If you are not, I encourage you to find a program with which you can connect in your area – a program that resonates with you. Or carve out a window of time for yourself and your child – breathe, sing, dance and play.
By Lisa Jordan McCarthy
Co-Founder, Maple Village School
Parent/Toddler and Parent Education Teacher, Maple Village School
Maple Village School is now accepting enrollment in the Early Childhood classes and Grades 1, 2 and 3. My children are supremely happy at this beautiful school and I encourage you, if you are at all interested in finding out more about the Waldorf Curriculum, to give Christina, our Administrator, a call. Click on this link for contact details. And, if you know anyone in the Southern California area who might be interested in Waldorf education, please pass our information on to them too.
Donni Webber is the mom behind the popular natural living Waldorf website and blog, The Magic Onions - where the magic of nature and the wonder of childhood collide to make each moment a precious gift. She is a photographer, writer, crafter, wife and mother of two inspiring young children. Her work has been featured in many popular publications, including HGTV, Better Homes and Gardens, Disney and Apartment Therapy.