Main Teacher

Karen Brennan
  • Karen Brennan

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Strength for the journey

Sunday, May 31, 2015

HAD I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

This poem by...

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Choosing an early childhood program/all children are gifted

Monday, May 25, 2015

In Chapter 11, “Cognitive Development and Early Childhood Education,” Rahima summarizes a lot of what she covered in the previous chapters.  Her description of her own program sounds so lovely that I wish I could go there! 

For those of us who are lucky enough to have choices, choosing a school is a big responsibility.  In a big city like...

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Encouraging your child’s musical ability

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Chapter 10 is about encouraging your child’s musical ability.  We will discuss it this week and then move on to Chapter 11, “Cognitive Development and Early Childhood Education.”

Rahima touches on a lot of ideas about young children and music.  As we know, young children love to make sounds—with their voices or with the things around...

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painting with children and freeing your inner artist

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I hope all you moms had a lovely Mother’s day and that you enjoyed screen free week!

This week we will finish discussing Chapter 9, “Developing Your Child’s Artistic Ability.”  Then we will move on to “Encouraging Your Child’s Musical Ability,” and see if we can get through the last few chapters of You Are Your Child’s First Teacher as the...

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Fostering Healthy Play

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Here is a great definition of a young child’s play by Bruno Bettelheim, as quoted in You Are Your Child’s First Teacher:

“[Play can be defined as] activities characterized by freedom from all but personally imposed rules (which are changed at will), by free-wheeling fantasy involvement and by the absence of any goals outside of the...

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Screen Free Week, May 4-10 and the gift of a story

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Welcome back!  I hope you had a great couple of weeks since we last met. 

In Chapter 8, “Nourishing Your Child’s Imagination and Creative Play,” the last part of the chapter is devoted to discussing nourishing your child’s imaginative play through stories.  She discusses the wonders of storytelling and writes about what kinds of stories...

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You are the bow, your child is the arrow

Sunday, March 29, 2015

This week we will finish Chapter 7 in You Are Your Child’s First Teacher. Rahima covers a lot of topics in the second part of this chapter, from why it takes so much energy to be a parent, to weaning, establishing rhythm for an infant, potty training, helicopter parenting and a few others.  I don’t agree with some of her specific...

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Child’s play and the state of flow

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A few years ago, when I was teaching the nursery class, one of our high school teachers asked me if things are the same every day in early childhood.  He was disappointed to hear me answer no.  Although we have a regular rhythm through the day and week, in the children’s play, whole worlds are created and destroyed, often many times...

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Discipline Part III—Saying “No!” and Being the Sun

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Here is our last installment on discipline.  Rahima writes about ‘When You Say “No!”’, “Negative Behavior” and “Our Own Emotions.”

Although we try to move with our child and say things in a positive, there are times when “No!” may be appropriate—when what the child is or is about to do will harm herself or others or when those actions...

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Parent Child Lentil Soup Recipe

Sunday, March 8, 2015


1 small or ½ large onion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil

8 cups water

1-2 bay leaves

1 cup red lentils

1 cup green or brown lentils

3-4 carrots, chopped

3-4 stalks celery, chopped

½ bunch (or more) of any kind of greens (kale, collards, chard, spinach, etc.) chopped or torn

Salt to taste...[read more]

More on discipline—“Imitation and Example” and “Not expecting results”

Sunday, March 8, 2015

More on discipline this week!  The next two sections of Chapter 6 are GREAT—“Imitation and Example” and “Not Expecting Results.”

Rahima tells us that in the child under eight years of age, if you want to teach a child a behavior, example and imitation are most effective.  We can model for our children what we would like them to do.  We can...

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The middle path of discipline

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Welcome back!  I am hopeful that the worst of winter is over now.  But whether it is or not, spending time with all of you always feels like springtime.

In our discussion, we are moving into Chapter 7, “Discipline and Other Parenting Issues.”  Discipline can be a touchy subject.  Many of us are uncomfortable setting limits.  Rahima tells...

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And to all a good night—creating a healthy bedtime for your child

Sunday, February 15, 2015

There are many ideas about how to help children transition into sleep.  For some children, falling asleep is easy, but for many it is difficult.  We can’t change who are children are, but we can strive to create a calm, nurturing environment that will help them let go of the day.  As with any ideas that come to you about how to care for...

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the gift of family dinner

Sunday, February 8, 2015

“Over the past 15 years researchers have confirmed what parents have known for a long time: sharing a family meal is good for the spirit, the brain and the health of all family members. Recent studies link regular family dinners with many behaviors that parents pray for: lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well...

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Round and round the earth is turning—bringing more rhythm into our lives

Monday, February 2, 2015

Round and round the earth is turning, turning always round to morning, and from morning round to night.

The world is a rhythmical place, day turns to night, the seasons change, our hearts beat, we breathe.  Before a child is born, he lives inside our bodies, feeling the rhythms of our inner and outer movement.

And yet we live in a world...

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the development of imagination

Sunday, January 25, 2015

During the toddler years, we see the beginnings of imaginative play.  It is wonderful to see the blossoming of the child’s imagination.  Pretending begins as imitation.  Rahima says, “Through imagination, the child is able to unite herself with the world at the same time that memory and thinking are separating her from it.  Fantasy and...

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Dealing with negative behavior

Sunday, January 11, 2015

One of the hardest things about being the parent of a young child is dealing with her negative behavior.  Rahima writes a nice discussion about this in Chapter 5.  I would also like to refer you to Heaven on Earth, by Sharifa Oppenheimer, especially her chapter on “Creating Your Family Culture.”  We will talk about this next week, and there...

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kool aid dyed yarn

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Last week and this week we dyed (or will dye) wool yarn to use for our crocheting.  There are a surprising number of directions online on how to do this.  This is the one I used

But I also liked this one.  Check out the color chart!

Why toddlers and young children can’t share

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Hello and welcome/welcome back!  I hope that your holidays were wonderful.  And I wish you a joyful, healthy 2015, too.

We will begin this winter session reading Chapter 5, “Helping your Toddler’s Development” in You Are Your Child’s First Teacher.  Please don’t worry if you are behind.  And please feel free to bring questions or comments...

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Just in time for the holidays—5 toys no child should live without!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

We have reached the end of our fall session of Parent-Child.  I look forward to seeing most of you in January and wish all of you a wonderful holiday season.  To those of you who will be moving away or moving on to new adventures, I wish you well.  You will be missed—and you are always welcome to come back to take another class or just stop...

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Did our babies choose us?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Chapter 4 of You Are Your Child’s First Teacher is  entitled, “Helping your baby’s development.”  While there are some babies among us, most of the children in this program are toddlers, so we will take a quick look at this chapter.  Of course, if there is anything that strikes you as interesting or if you have questions, let me know. ...

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The four foundational senses

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Welcome back!  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

This will really be the last week we spend on Chapter 3—next week, we’ll move on to Chapter 4.  I was planning to move on, but then I saw that at the end of the chapter, Rahima has a section entitled, “The Young Child’s Senses,” and I wanted to say a little more about...

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Giving thanks for everyday blessings

Sunday, November 23, 2014

As we enter into the winter holiday season, I wanted to share a few thoughts with you.  We will return to our book study next week. The holidays can be a wonderful, joyful time of year, a special family time.  As we enter into the darkest part of the cycle of the year, we can enjoy the warmth and light of family and home.  Of course,...

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A little lantern story

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hi Everyone,

Here is a lantern story written by Mary Blanche, an EC teacher from Boulder Colorado.  When I first started teaching parent-child class many years ago with my dear friend Sue, we presented this story as a puppet play:

George's Lantern

Lying in the meadow grass,

And gazing at the Autumn sky,

"Dear Father Sun," said Geroge...

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The four levels of home

Sunday, November 9, 2014

We want our home to be a sanctuary for our family. It is good to look at both where we are now and also what are our hopes and dreams for our family. Rahima writes about the four levels of home, a useful way to consider both:



  • Spiritual: Everything you do reflects your values. What guides your choices—where and how you live, your...
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The living arts

Sunday, November 9, 2014

We will finish Chapter 2 with a discussion of the living arts. In Home Away From Home by Cindy Aldinger and Mary O’Connell, they define the living arts as domestic activity, nurturing care, creative discovery, and social ability.

Here is a quote from another book, The Ordinary is Extraordinary: How Children Under Three Learn, by Amy Dombro...

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chop wood, carry water:  the importance of home making

Monday, October 27, 2014

Receive the child with reverence, educate the child with love, send the child forth in freedom. Rudolf Steiner

In a Waldorf early childhood classroom, you will usually see the teachers doing real, practical work—cooking, cleaning, handwork, repairing toys, building, creating toys and seasonal crafts.  These are elements of traditional home...

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Some basic principles of parenting

Sunday, October 19, 2014

In the end of the first chapter of You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, Rahima Baldwin Dancy lists some basic principles for parenting that I think are very helpful and well stated.

 We need to accept who we are and build up the support we need.

We have more choices today about balancing home and work.  Every choice has its gifts and...

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The development of thinking and memory—the first experience of “I”

Monday, October 13, 2014

The development of memory and thinking is another amazing aspect of human development.  The first time we see memory is when our child recognizes us, a wonderful moment that happens when the child is 6-8 weeks.  From there, memory develops gradually.  At around eight months, children can distinguish familiar from unfamiliar faces, which is...

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The three gifts—walking, speaking and thinking

Monday, October 6, 2014

Rudolf Steiner spoke of the gifts of humanity, those aspects of ourselves that make us different from other beings who share this earth with us.  These three gifts are walking, speaking and thinking.  Although every child develops these gifts at a different time, in general, uprightness and learning to walk is achieved in the first year of...

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Crossing the river together

Monday, September 29, 2014

In the first chapter of You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, Rahima writes about the challenges of being a parent in our modern society.  There are people all around us, including family, friends and “experts” who will tell us what we should be doing.  She emphasizes two things that I feel are very important for the parent of today.  We need...

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Apple cake recipe

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Here is the recipe we used for the apple cakes that we baked this past week for the Harvest Festival.  It is adapted from "The Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book":


2 1/2 to 3 cups of chopped apples

1 cup water

3 Tablespoons coconut(or other) oil

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons maple syrup

1-1.2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon...

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Coming to terms with harmony addiction

Monday, September 15, 2014

The first time I went to a playgroup with Rachel, she was one.  It was a group in the neighborhood.  There were about half a dozen moms with kids the same age.  I watched while a child grabbed the doll Rachel was holding away from her.  I was upset.  I don’t remember if Rachel even cared.  But Rachel had it first!  Happily for all of us, I...

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Wet-on-wet watercolor painting

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Welcome to you, dear parents, and your wonderful children!  I am so glad that you have chosen to join us.

I hope that you had the opportunity to look over the welcome letter that I sent you.  It has a lot of helpful information about our class.  Please let me know if you have any questions about it—I promise that it is the longest letter I...

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welcome to the Chicago Waldorf School Parent Child Program

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Dear Parents,


Welcome and welcome back to the Chicago Waldorf School Parent-Child program.  We are delighted that you will be joining us.  We hope that your experience will be joyous and educational. 


Our goal is to create a sanctuary for parents and young children, a place where you can be yourselves, where parents and children are...

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The Art of Parenting

Monday, June 2, 2014

Every now and then, go away.  Have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work, your judgment will be surer…from a distance, more of the work can be taken in at a glance and any lack of harmony or proportion is more readily seen.” Leonardo da Vinci

As our school year comes to a close, and as we complete our journey through...

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True, Kind, Necessary—the wise use of words

Monday, May 19, 2014

This week we come to one of my favorite sections (I’m not sure how many times I’ve said that this year, but I know this isn’t the first time, but it really is a favorite!) of Simplicity Parenting, called “True, Kind, Necessary”. These principles are found in some form in many religions, cultures and spiritual paths.  “Before you say...

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Talking less and noticing more

Monday, May 12, 2014

Talking Less and Noticing More:  In the next sections of “Simplicity Parenting,” Kim Payne addresses parents’ communication with their children and reminds us that the more we say, the less we are listening.  The world of the child is very different in some ways than the world of the adult.  The child is interested in doing, exploring and...

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self compassion—from zen habits

Monday, April 28, 2014

It is so easy to be hard on ourselves, especially after we become parents.  We make so many mistakes--and do so many things right, too.  It is good to remember that we have a choice.  This lovely post on self-compassion is a good reminder for all of us.


Simplifying screens—part 1 and Screen free week

Monday, April 28, 2014

Welcome back, everyone!  I think that spring is finally here.  And we are moving into chapter Six of Simplicity Parenting, “Filtering Out the Adult World.”  This can be a challenging topic, so let’s jump in and see how it goes.

Kim begins the chapter by asking what one word describes your experience of parenting.  Of course it is hard to...

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What is the best age to begin organized sports?

Monday, April 14, 2014

The last section in the chapter on schedules is about sports.  You may already be feeling pressure to get your child involved in organized sports.  In the Waldorf schools, we don’t introduce competitive sports until the sixth grade.  In early childhood and first and second grade, the children play their own games.  There is organized...

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some links for places to get wool fleece and related supplies

Monday, March 31, 2014

A few of you have asked me where you can get wool fleece, so I am providing links to some of my favorite online shops.  There are many places to get lovely wool.  Etsy is a good place to look and you can also check eBay.  If you want to meet the vendors, there are also sheep and wool festivals in Wisconsin and Michigan--and many other...

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The gift of boredom, balancing calm and active days and creating sabbath moments

Monday, March 31, 2014

Happy spring!  Welcome to our new parent child families and welcome back to our returning families.  I am so glad that you have decided to join us.

One of the topics in the chapter on “Schedules” is the gift of boredom.  In Waldorf schools, we think of that feeling of being bored as a developmental marker for the kindergarten age...

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Natural Dying Workshop 4/12, at CWS

Monday, March 17, 2014

On April 12, the Arcturus Rudolf Steiner Teacher education program will be offereing a one day workshop on natural dying. Check out the link if you are interested in getting more information.

Saturdays for you!

2 upcoming events in Chicago sponsored by the Alliance for Childhood

Monday, March 17, 2014


Pop-Up Adventure Play Event

Date: Saturday, March 29, 2014
Times: 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Location: Crow Island Woods, 1140 Willow Rd, Winnetka, IL 60093
Ages: Families/All Ages
Cost: Free
Details:  On Saturday, March 29th from 11 am – 3 pm, bring your family to Crow Island Woods in Winnetka for this FREE, unique, public celebration...

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“Pressure Valves” help your child prepare for sleep

Monday, March 17, 2014

This week we look at the last section in the chapter on “Rhythm,” which is about “Sleep and Pressure Valves.”  Kim believes, and I agree, that a child’s preparation for sleep begins when he wakes up in the morning.  A healthy rhythm through the day, which includes both activity and pauses helps prepare a child to sleep.  “Falling asleep...

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the importance of family dinners and simplifying food

Monday, March 10, 2014

Finally, it’s time for dinner!  At least it’s time to talk about dinner in regards to Simplicity Parenting.  Kim Payne makes several interesting points in this section.  He reiterates the importance of the family dinner.  “Studies have shown that the more often families eat together, the more likely it is that kids will do well in school,...

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Building Relational Credits

Monday, March 3, 2014

Relational Credits:  Kim tells us that in parenting, “it is often in the intervals—the spaces between activities—that relationships are built.”  He writes about including pauses, a time where nothing in particular is happening, in the rhythm of the day.  Some of these can be the time in between other activities—the going to and fro.  When...

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creating rhythm, consistency and connection

Monday, February 24, 2014

In my last newsletter, I mentioned that in Waldorf Early Childhood programs one of the ways we work with discipline is through creating strong, predictable rhythms.  Kim says it this way: “Rhythm carves the necessary channels for discipline, making it more intrinsic than imposed.  Where well-established rhythms exist, there is much less...

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I’ve got rhythm—the importance of rhythm in the life of a child

Monday, February 10, 2014

This song is stuck in my head—“I’ve got rhythm, I’ve got music…” and all because we are starting Chapter 4, “Rhythm”! Fascinating rhythm, you’ve got me on the go, fascinating rhythm, I’m all a-quiver.  Okay, here we go:

If you spend any time hanging around with Waldorf early childhood teachers, you will hear a lot about the importance...

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Simplifying books, clothing, scent, sound and light

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Well, I think it’s time to finish up chapter 3, “Environment” in Simplicity Parenting.  Next week, we will begin discussing Chapter 4, “Rhythm.”  A friend told me once that the three R’s of Waldorf early childhood education are rhythm, repetition and ritual.  Today, in the section on books, Kim writes about the importance of repetition.


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Chronos and kairos, the experience of flow through play and craft

Monday, January 27, 2014

Someone reminded me this week that Gandhi was a spinner.  For him, handspinning was one of the pathways to independence for India.  But he also spun daily as a form of contemplation.  In some ways, learning a new craft is similar to the play of the child.  There can be a lot of trial and error involved, but once you learn, it can take you...

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“What is rare is precious”

Monday, January 6, 2014

"There are years that ask questions and years that answer" ~ Zora Neale Hurston

I recently came across this quote and found it very intriguing .  It makes me think of another favorite quote by Rilke:

I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were...

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The best toys of all time!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Happy holidays to all of you!  This is the last week of the fall session.  The winter session begins the week of January 7, 2014.  Hope to see you then!!!!!

As we look at the chapter  in Simplicity Parenting on environment, I wanted to share with you a summary of a blog post from Wired written by Geekdad, Jonathon Liu, entitled “The 6...

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Hidden messages in advertising and limiting choices for the young child

Monday, December 9, 2013

This week we will begin looking at the chapter on Environment in Simplicity Parenting.”   We have spent some time already talking about the challenges of too much stuff.  But there are other interesting parts of this chapter, as well.  One part that struck me as I was reading the chapter again is the effect of marketing, especially on...

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Soul Fever—what to do about it

Monday, December 2, 2013

Back to Soul Fever—Let’s review the steps of dealing with soul fever:

1. Noticing:  Soul fever looks different for every child, but Kim defines it as “inner turmoil that extends beyond a bad mood or brief snit.”  It lasts longer than either of these and may really bring out their quirky tendencies.  Generally, this is easier to see...

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Simple gift giving

Monday, November 18, 2013

Well, I believe that the holiday season is at least (almost) officially upon us.  Thanksgiving is next week and so is Hanukkah! And all of the other winter holidays are not too far behind.  Next week, we will have classes only on Tuesday and Wednesday morning.  School closes at noon on Wednesday for the long Thanksgiving weekend.  I am...

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Simplifying Joyful Holidays

Monday, November 11, 2013

It was wonderful to see so many of you at the lantern walk this past weekend.  I thought it was a wonderful event.  The weather was perfect, and it was so lovely to see the lanterns moving through the darkness. 

I want to spend a little time talking about how to bring more simplicity for the holidays.  They are coming so quickly!  I...

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Soul Fever, Part 2—Compassionate Response Meditation

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

  The lantern walk is this week!  I hope that many of you will make it.  While Kate is away with her family for the next couple of weeks, we have some lovely teachers filling in for her—welcome dear Christine, Beth and Mimi!  This week we are also having some teachers from the grade school, high school and administration visit us during...

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Soul Fever, Part 1

Monday, October 28, 2013

Soul Fever, Part 1

Kim Payne gives a lot of good, practical advice on how to simplify in the chapters that follow this one.  For me, this chapter on Soul Fever is the paradigm shifting chapter—the one that helped me to reframe my view of my own children and the children with whom I work.  In this chapter, Kim defines soul fever as the...

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all children are quirky

Sunday, October 13, 2013

All children are quirky, says Kim Payne.  We all are, really.  This is one of my favorite parts of the book.  Kim gives a formula, q+s=d, which means quirk plus stress equals (in extreme cases) disorder.  He gives several examples of how this might look.  A child who is a doer, with continual stress might become hyperactive.  A feisty...

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Pressing the pause button—on our lives!

Monday, October 7, 2013

In the first chapter of Simplicity Parenting, Kim Payne writes about the undeclared war on childhood, about the cumulative stress response that he and others have seen in children who have experienced many small stresses.  He describes the symptoms as “ hypervigilance, nervousness, anxiousness, a lack of resiliency, a lack of impulse...

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Introduction to Simplicity Parenting by Kim Payne

Monday, September 30, 2013

This week we begin our journey through Kim Payne’s book, Simplicity Parenting. For those of you who are not familiar with Kim, he has over 25 years of experience as a family counselor and education consultant.  When he moved to England after working in Asia and Africa with families devastated by AIDS and war, he noticed that many children...

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discussion of “What Young Children Really Need.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

This week, we will look at the article, “What Young Children Really Need,” by Susan Howard.  In the article, she lists and discusses 9 things that she believes to be essential to Waldorf Early Childhood Education

• Love and warmth
• An environment that nourishes the senses
• Creative and artistic experiences
• Meaningful adult...

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Dealing with conflict

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dealing with Toddler Conflict:

The Seven Rules of the Toddler
1. If I like it, it is mine,
2. If it is in my hands it is mine.
3. If I can take it from you, it is mine.
4. If I had it a little while ago, it is mine.
5. If it is mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
6. If I am doing or building something, all of the...

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Link to “Making Peace with Toddler Conflict” by Trice Atchison

Sunday, August 18, 2013

This is a wonderful article about how to deal with toddler conflict.  I like to begin the school year by discussing this article which was originally published in Gateways Journal, Spring/Summer 2009.  Gateways is the Journal of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN).


Welcome to the Parent Child Program

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dear Parents, Welcome to the Chicago Waldorf School Parent-Child program. We are delighted that you will be joining us. We hope that your experience will be joyous and educational. Our goal is to create a sanctuary for parents and young children, a place where you can come to relax, where parents and children are honored and loved for...[read more]