Early Childhood Parent Handbook
Early Childhood Education
The Children's Garden: Nursery, Kindergarten, and Parent-Child Classes at The Whidbey Island Waldorf School
Note: The Information on this page is true for all three of our Parent-Child programs and our Nursery and Kindergarten classes. For more specific information about these individual programs, select them from our drop-down menu or just click on the highlighted words above.
Nursery School Nature WalkThe preschool years are of great importance in laying the foundations for healthy adult creativity and intelligence. Today, nearly a thousand Waldorf schools around the world promote true self-discipline, sound development and solid learning through a head, heart and hands approach. We strive to offer the right stimulus at the right time and to help each child's abilities to fully unfold. The curriculum, begun in 1919, is a successful model for holistic education.
Nurturing and protecting childhood in a beautiful, warm, homelike setting is a key element of the Waldorf early childhood program. Reflecting a deep belief that children's natural creative play contains the cornerstones of academic ability, the rhythm of the school day flows between lively social and quiet individual activities.
Our Waldorf Early Childhood classes provide a bridge from the life of the home to the structure of elementary school. We use simple yet profound concepts of imtation, repetition, and creative play. Teachers in our Children's Garden value childhood as a worthy part of the human experience, not a time to be rushed through on the way to adulthood.
In our classes, children become accustomed to working within a group, listening to stories, interacting with a teacher and following a daily routine. At the same time the children find support for their individual development through creative play, practical life skills and artistic opportunities.
Teachers understand the young child's need for movement and the child's devotion to learning about the world through imitating everything he or she experiences. Below are some of the core activities of our Waldorf Early Childhood Programs, and their significance in relationship to life-long learning:
Outdoor Exploration and Play
One hundred acres of woods surrounds the Whidbey Island Waldorf School. Not only do the children take frequent nature walks and have opportunities to play outside every day in weather from the warmth of September to misty rains of winter, they also visit a variety of outdoor rooms--clearings in the woods with rocks and stumps and branches and moss for climbing and building and imagining with. Here the child's imagination can soar. The opportunities to run, climb, crawl, balance, and move in a variety of terrains foster children's physical development, essential to healthy cognitive, social, and emotional development in the years ahead.
Music and Language
At various times in the morning, the teacher envelops the children with well-wrought and poetic language--connected with the seasons, a particular fairy tale or story, or just part of the general lore of childhood. Teachers and children sing throughout the day. Children may also have opportunities to play simple instruments (to provide music for a puppet show children have dreamed up, for example).
Indoor Creative Play Time
The children have a long period of time during which they are encouraged to imagine and play with a wide variety of natural materials and playthings, following their own initiative. During this time, the teacher is involved in preparing the snack, sewing, cleaning, making toys or any of a number of practical activities with which the children are welcome to participate. An atmosphere of work and play permeates the room. Within the activities of play, children integrate the world and practice their life skills such as movement and balance, sensory integration, speech and language capacity, social and emotional interactions, and imaginative and cognitive development.
Wet-on-wet watercolor painting, beeswax modeling, crayon drawing, as well as various forms of handwork such as finger knitting, simple sewing, and woodworking, are done as group activities or at the individual initiative of a child. High quality, organic materials are used for these activities. The teachers also cultivate the practical arts--sweeping, washing, ironing, folding, and the like--and with mindfulness transform these into aesthetic and nourishing activities.
This is another group activity where the children eat together family style with their teachers. It is likely that they have also helped to prepare the food and set the table. Afterwards, they clear the table and wash their dishes. An emphasis on gratitude sets the stage for intra and interpersonal revelations.
Teachers narrate a story learned by heart. Each child is free to imagine the details of the story, strengthening the child's development. Each child feels the story come directly to the child rather than struggling to see the page. Sometimes teachers (and children) use puppets or drama to augment the tradition.
We celebrate seasonal festivals to connect to the natural rhythms that sustain us. The work of preparation is as or more nourishing than the festival itself. Children learn by doing. Celebrating together lays the groundwork for cultural and social diversity. The rhythmic experiences help parents as they seek to find their own balance with their children in home life.