Jules is in his second week of preschool at Berkeley Rose Waldorf school and I am filled to the brim with joy to be a part of such an amazing community! I can’t get over how incredibly different (1000 times better) this experience is from The Berkeley School (TBS), the Montessori preschool next door that Jules attended for just one semester.

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TBS felt like an in-and-out operation for busy working parents, a mandatory 5 day/week schedule with 24 kids in each of the 4 classrooms (huge for little people!) where many kids stay from 8am-6pm. You may ask why we even started there in the first place. My husband convinced me to try it out as people for some reason love it, it’s next door to our house and has an incredible outdoor play space. But I found the school way too academic (40 min. circle times with academic lessons, for 2-4 year olds, no thank you!) and lacking any real magic, love for the children or intention.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Berkeley Rose Waldorf approaches education from the emotional, spiritual, and physical needs of the child. The classroom creates sacred space in every nook and cranny, it is so magical! Some examples of the extraordinary care children receive at Berkeley Rose (which are common staples of Waldorf):

  • Teacher Angela came to our home the week before school started for a home visit to get to know Jules, our family, and see him in his element – so special!
  • She assigned him and all the children a spirit animal based on their personality, which they label on their school cubby and the little basket they carry their lunch in each day
  • Even the drop-off process is a sacred ritual! I just love the intention and love Teacher Angela infuses into everything she does. We arrive, put on Jules’ wool inside shoes, go potty & wash up, and then get in line at the door. She’s waiting in a thrown next to a sacred alter. She gives him a big warm hug, with these dreamy eyes and light surrounding her, she gives him a treasure, he puts it on the alter, she whispers in his ear, he gives me a big hug goodbye and joins the other kids in prepping the home-cooked snack of the day, folding laundry, or art.
  • There are many beautiful festivals throughout the year to honor the changing seasons, our community, and the earth. “Celebrating festivals throughout the rhythm of the four seasons can help raise life up beyond the day to day, cultivating wonder, joy and gratitude.” The first one, the Harvest Faire, is coming up and involves pressing our own apple cider, making corn husk dolls, leaf crowns, performances from each class, singing and dancing to live music, and a visit from the sacred Mother Earth.
  • They make their own snack every day – of course all local and organic, and I love the consistency & rhythm it establishes for them, how healthy it all is, and how very beautiful that they get to participate in the preparation each morning! And they don’t allow any packaged food in lunches 🙂
    • Monday: Rice, nori, sunflower seeds
    • Tuesday: Oats, apples, raisins
    • Wednesday: Bread baking day, honey-butter
    • Thursday: Millet, goat cheese
    • Friday: Soup
  • They have a little bunny named Juniper and the kids feed him veggies each day
  • All of the families make a commitment to eliminate exposure to electronic media to protect our children’s health and imagination
  • His amazing Teacher Angela prioritizes regular communication with me. She tells me anecdotes from each day, shares stories about sweet things Jules did or said, and makes suggestions about what I can do to help Jules grow. She is warm, approachable, and genuinely cares about my child. [Note: this was far from the case at The Berkeley School, the little Montessori preschool next door where Jules did 1 semester; those teachers hardly touched him or any of the children and never gave us feedback about Jules. As a matter of fact in the one parent-teacher conference, the only thing they told us was that he was crying a lot less, that he liked to eat snack, and that he had a difficult time communicating.]
  • Class size – there are 15 kids in Jules’ class compared to 24 at TBS.
  • Visiting lecturers – so far I’ve heard Dennis Klocek and Nancy Mellon speak at the school, both luminaries full of wisdom who give us tools to tap into the deeper spiritual world of connections with our children.

I love that every transition is marked by song. Today Jules came home singing, word for word, after only 2 days of school!

Give thanks to the mother Gaia
Give thanks to the father sun
Give thanks to the plants in the garden where
The mother and father are one

How sweet is this? I just love this school!

I am so inspired by Waldorf education that I just started a parenting seminar with LifeWays North America. I’ve only attended one class out of the eight I signed up for and already I am blown out of the water by how much I’m learning and how many changes I want to make in my home. Some notes that inspire me:

  • The importance of rhythm: rhythm is centering for children, grounding. It is not controlling. The moments between kids can be so free and relaxed when they have rhythm in the day to day.
  • Important to sit down for meals with the whole family, start with a blessing, show young children how to sit up right, hold utensils themselves and eat themselves – this centers them (I still help Jules eat and he’s almost 3.5 yrs old! And he usually only has a few bites at the table then runs off. After just 2 days working towards this, he’s eating a full meal at the table on his own and putting himself to bed at night, go figure!). It’s important to set boundaries and stick to them. Have house rules. Be firm. I am the queen of the castle.
  • Kids should eat fats and proteins for breakfast and grains at night, ideally no later than 6pm. It’s too hard on the liver otherwise and kids can get dark circles under their yes if the liver is over taxed.
  • We have to teach our children to sleep now because of the day in age where noise, buzzing of wi-fi or smart meters etc. make sleep more difficult. Make going to sleep a delight for them – stoke out their beds beyond belief, make their sheets smell good, have the right blankets and pillows. Not talking about Cry-It-Out (CIO) here, which is too traumatic for young children, talking about gentle ways to help children fall asleep on their own.
  • Get your kids in tune with the movement of the moon and the sun. Once it gets dark, don’t turn on any bright lights – use a candle. Note that rhythms will change in the summer and winter depending on nature’s rhythms.
  • Kids thrive on basic rituals ie after school sitting down with mommy and letting them know – I see you, I love you, I want to know you, or sweeping the floor after we clean up from dinner
  • Our biggest goals in raising children is resiliency. Kids need to know that the adults in their life care about them and are in charge.
  • Studies show that affluent kids have more issues than under-privileged kids. Don’t fill your house with too many things. Keep play spaces harmonious, well thought out, nature-inspired.

And some of my favorite photos from the last 6 months:

Love,

Ashley

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