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Karen Brennan
  • Karen Brennan

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Strength for the journey

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 William Butler Yeats captures for me something of the feeling of being a parent, of wanting to give our child everything, of holding our hopes and dreams for them so close, of not knowing how or not being able to give them all we want to.  Parenting is process. It is an opportunity to bring more consciousness into everything we do.  It can be a spiritual path—before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water, after enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.  Not that I am always conscious of the wonder and joy of everyday activities, but being a parent certainly woke me to that possibility.

It has brought me much joy to share some of your parenting path with you, to share some of the joys and challenges of parenting a young child in Chicago in 2015.  This year we have read the book, You Are Your Child’s First Teacher.  I hope you have enjoyed it and learned something, as well.  But I also think that as much as we teach our children, our children teach us even more.  And they love us no matter how long it takes for us to learn the lessons they bring us. 

In Simplicity Parenting, Kim Payne says, “ When your child seems to deserve affection least, that’s when they need it the most….It’s quite another thing to maintain a loving presence with a child who is exploring their inner shadow as they push every one of your buttons as though you were the elevator panel in a skyscraper.”  Certainly, our children are good at pushing our buttons.  We can try to keep a loving presence when they are doing this.  Sometimes we will succeed better than others.  But I also think that part of the learning is also to hold ourselves close, to forgive ourselves and love ourselves when our own inner shadow rises to the surface.  So many of the lessons that we learn about our children also apply to ourselves.  We all benefit from living a life that has a healthy rhythm, a balance between work and play and rest, from having our senses nourished and from being loved for who we are.  As adults, we have the opportunity (and sometimes burden) to provide this for both ourselves and our children.

I hope that your participation in this program has supported you in your journey as a parent and as a human being.  I have loved this time I have spent with you and your children.  It is an honor to share this special time of life with you.  It is a gift to share some special moments of childhood with you—first steps, first friendships, snacks, sandbox, crafts, songs, stories, laughter and tears.

I will see many of you again (and many of you next week!), but I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you well as you continue on this amazing path of parenting.  Much love and joy to you and yours.

Choosing an early childhood program/all children are gifted

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 Chicago, there are many choices of schools.  Of course, Waldorf early childhood education is a wonderful thing and I highly recommend it both as a teacher and a parent.  But whatever preschool you choose, it’s important that it be play based.  She cites a long term study in Germany, which someone told me about when I was there, also.  In the study, they looked at 100 public school classes for 5 year olds, half of which were play based and the other half with play and academics.  Although they found little difference among the 6 year olds, by the time the children were 10, those who had been allowed to play surpassed their schoolmates in every area measured.  Germany changed all of their academic programs for young children back to play based programs within months after the study was released.  Studies of brain development show that the young child learns best through movement and play.  It makes me wonder why there is still so much focus on early academic learning.  I certainly felt the pressure to have my girls learn early academics 20 years or so ago. There is more focus now on play based early childhood education, but even some schools that call themselves play based use a lot of direct instruction.

She also writes about the gifted or advanced child.  Every child, of course, and every human being, is gifted.  But when schools offer gifted programs, they are generally talking about academic gifts.  It makes me sad that gifted is used in this way.  It overlooks so much and even for those children who are gifted in this way, they are valued primarily for those gifts.  Some children will start reading at a young age.  I had three year olds in my nursery class who could read well.  But there is also nothing wrong with letting children wait even if they are interested.  It is exciting when a child learns to read.  Whole new worlds open.  But it is good if they know the world around them first before learning to read the written word.  Kim Payne, in Simplicity Parenting, writes about the value of anticipation.  Anticipation, he tells us, holds back the will and counters instant gratification, which is so wide-spread in our society.  It is good to have something to look forward to, to dream about.  “You will learn that when you are in first grade (or when you are a little older)”  

Encouraging your child’s musical ability

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 them.  She also reminds us that music, math and spatial reasoning are related in brain activity and development.  But I think that one of the most important things she discusses is the ortant things she discusse brain activity and development. that music an math are connectedimportance of singing to and with your child.  In the Waldorf early childhood classes, the teachers sing a lot.  We sing during circle time, of course, but we also sing while we work and sing during transitions from one activity to another.  Sometimes, we feel as though our singing is not beautiful enough, that recorded music will be more pleasant to listen to.  But nothing will please your child more than the sound of your voice, although many children, including my own, went through a phase where they told me to stop singing (L).  Luckily that phase didn’t last long.  I remember loving to listen to my mother sing when I was a little girl.  She claims to be a very bad singer, but to me, the sound of her voice brought joy.  I still remember some of the silly songs she sang to me when I was a little girl. 

One of the sweetest sounds for me is a young child singing while he works or plays.  The young child’s singing is high compared with most adults and often fast and arhythmical.  A song doesn’t have to be complicated to satisfy a young child.  Rahima gives an example of a song with only one note that she wrote.

Movement with songs—finger games or circle games—are wonderful for children.  One thing I learned in my teacher training was that movement comes before speech.  This is true in a child’s development and we try to begin our songs and rhymes with movement in our EC classrooms, as well. 

Even if your child loves music, which most children do, there is no need to start formal lessons too soon.  If you do choose to take classes, look for one where the teacher teaches through imitation and there is plenty of opportunity for play.  This is how, as we have discussed, the young child learns best.

So go ahead and sing!  Have fun with it and your child will, too!!

painting with children and freeing your inner artist

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 school year speeds to an end. 

Most of you have now experienced wet-on-wet watercolor painting as we do it in the Waldorf Early Childhood program, although we do a somewhat simplified version of the set up in parent-child class.  Painting with watercolor in this way really gives the child an experience of the color in motion.  If you’ve never tried it yourself, I would encourage you to give it a try.  See if you can really give yourself over to the experience of the color moving across the paper without any intention to paint something, just to feel it move.  Try it with each of the primary colors (blue, red and yellow),  and notice if you feel differently when you paint with the different colors.

Rahima gives a good description of what is needed for this kind of painting and how to set it up.  It is a much more pleasant experience when you use good quality supplies!

She also writes about the benefits of painting in this way.  Not only does the child benefit from the act of painting and working with the colors, seeing how they mix together and move, but they also learn about order and sequencing.  The young child, as we have discussed, learns by doing rather than by being instructed. 

It is also quite wonderful to make things with your child, as we often do in class.  Also, if you are doing an artistic activity, such as sewing, it is nice to have something prepared for your child to do by your side.  When I was sewing in the nursery class, I had pieces of canvas or burlap ready for the children with yarn or embroidery thread in a large-eyed, blunt needle (wooden needles are especially nice).  I would knot both ends of the thread together so the needle wouldn’t come unthreaded and let them sew away while I sewed.  If I was knitting, I would have little balls of yarn and sometimes sticks or knitting needles (that had to stay by teacher) for them to work with.  It amazed me how long some children could stay engaged with a small ball of yarn and a stick, while I knit beside them.

Rahima closes this chapter by encouraging parents to find their own inner artist.  So many of us didn’t have the experience of doing much artistic work as children, but there is an artist in all of us and it can be nurturing for us adults to reclaim that part of ourselves.

The May Fair is this Saturday, May 16, from 10-4.  Maypole dancing (my favorite part) is at noon.  If you want to help make flower crowns, they will be working on them Friday for most of the day at the back of the auditorium.

The last day of our spring session is Thursday, June 11.

There will be no class on Monday, May 25 in honor of Memorial Day.

Supporting your child’s artistic development, the gift of boredom and strengthening family connectio

We have the privilege of watching our children grow and unfold in so many ways.  Sometimes it feels like we can literally watch them grow physically.  We watch them learn how to use their bodies and learn how to play.  Artistic development is another realm filled with wonder where our children are concerned.  In Chapter 9 of  Your Are Your Child’s First Teacher, Rahima discusses “Developing Your Child’s Artistic Ability.”  She begins with a discussion of how we can see a child’s development through looking at their drawings.  If this subject interests you, she recommends a great book, Understanding Children’s Drawings, by Michaela Strauss.  She discusses the three phases of children’s drawings.  The first is scribble-scrabble (a technical term!) where the drawing is about movement, not about a finished product.  At this stage, a child may cover many sheets of paper with his exuberant lines.  She tells us that monkeys can also do this kind of drawing, but that they never move on to the next phase, which is drawing a connected circle.  This 2d stage of drawing usually happens around the age of three and is connected with the beginning of the sense of self and other, inside and outside.  This progresses to crossed lines and lollipop people and then to those wonderful drawings of the human being where the arms and legs emerge directly from the head.  During this time, the child also begins to use the color as a form of expression.  At around the age of 5, children will begin making drawings from an idea they have; this is also when their play begins to be directed from their own ideas rather than from what is in the environment around them.

Rahima talks about using block crayons.  Believe it or not, there is quite a debate in Waldorf school circles about whether young children should use block or stick crayons. If you're interested, you can read more about this colorful debate here. You may notice that I offer both to the children and let them choose.  At any rate, I think you should use whichever ones appeal to you—or both.  In grade school, the children use the block crayons and learn to use the different parts of them for different effects in their drawings.  In Early childhood, we wouldn’t instruct the children in this way regardless of which shape of crayons we use.

In honor of screen free week, and to give you something to do with your screen free time, I am giving you a couple of articles.  The first, “Doing Nothing is Something” by Anna Quindlen appeared in Time Magazine a number of years ago.  She writes about how important it is for children to have time to do nothing, to be bored.  I remember when I was in school looking forward to those unstructured days of summer, having time to do whatever I wanted.  Do you remember having time like that?

The second article, by Catherine Steiner-Adair—who wrote The Big Disconnect—is “8 Simple Steps to Strengthen Family Connections Every Day.” This article is about adult use of technology and its (negative) effect on children.  She gives 8 simple suggestions for strengthening family ties by putting away your phone/screens.  She spoke here in Chicago recently, and this was the topic of her talk.  She spoke about interviewing 1,000 children from age 4-19 about their experience with their parents.  What bothered the children the most was “I’m just checking.”  (I wasn’t there; this was told to me by someone who was.) 

Enjoy Screen Free Week!  And Happy Mother’s Day!!!!

Saturday, May 16 is the Mayfair.  10-4. Hope you can come, but I’ll see you before that!

Fostering Healthy Play

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 activity itself.”

How can we foster this type of play? 

This week, I would like to discuss creating an inviting environment for play, one important way to foster healthy play.  There are many aspects to this, but I think the first one is, for most of us, simplifying toys.  We just tend to have too much stuff.  Imagine gifting your child with an abundance of time and space instead of so many toys.  In Simplicity Parenting, Kim Payne has many suggestions for simplifying the environment.  From personal experience, I can tell you that too much stuff doesn’t lead to healthy play.  When my daughters were young, I had a book shelf that contained baskets of stuff.  I don’t even remember what the stuff was anymore, but I tried to put each category of stuff in its own basket on the shelf.  Every morning, my girls would walk by the shelves with the carefully arranged toys and dump the contents of all of the baskets onto the floor.  That is all they did with them.  After a while, (and remember, this was in the days before Simplicity Parenting!) I figure out that there was too much stuff there.  I got rid of most of it and they actually started to play with the toys.  Kim says that “as you decrease the quantity of your child’s toys and clutter, you increase their attention and their capacity for deep play.”

Rahima discusses how best to winnow out toys.  I agree with her that how you do it depends on your child.  For some it is best to put things away when the child is not there.  I used to put things away in a box in the attic for a few weeks to see if it was something that was missed.  That hardly ever happened, but if it did, I could bring it back out.  Other children, even very young ones, are able to help you sort through toys and choose out ones to give to charity.

There is no magic number of toys to keep.  It certainly doesn’t follow that if less is better, none is best.  To begin with, using Kim’s guidelines, beloved toys stay, no matter how ragged they are or how much we might dislike them.  Start with throwing away toys that are broken, unrecognizable (what was this?) or not whole.  Then go on to ask if the toy is one that a child can use imaginatively or is it “fixed”—does it only do one thing.  If it only requires pushing a button or is too complex, give it away.  These toys tend to have less emotional investment (at least from your child) and tend to get either pulled apart or ignored, or both.  If the toy is open ended, the child can follow her own interests instead of having the toymaker decide what is interesting.

Kim’s list of “toys without staying power,” include broken toys, developmentally inappropriate toys, conceptually fixed toys, toys that “do too much” and break too easily”, very high stimulation toys (we know them when we see them), annoying or offensive toys, toys that claim to give your child a developmental edge, toys you are pressured to buy, toys that inspire corrosive play and toy “multiples”.  Next time, more about what to keep or acquire!

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

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 are appropriate at different ages, looking always to your child to let you know when she is ready for the next step.  For the very youngest child, nursery rhymes and simple songs are good.  The very little one doesn’t have enough language to follow a story.  When they do, simple stories about their day or when they were little are wonderful.  You can move on to stories of when you were a child and then to repetitive stories (like the Gingerbread Man)  nature stories and fairy tales.  In  Beyond the Rainbow Bridge, Barbara Patterson includes a list of fairy tales that are appropriate for different ages.  This is a good guideline, but I would suggest that you always read the stories yourself first before you read them to your child.  I was so excited when a friend gave Rachel a book of fairy tales for her birthday.  I started reading one to her—I think it was Blue Beard—anyhow, I wasn’t too far into it when I realized that it was totally inappropriate for her.  It stayed with her for a while—and me, too.  Learn from my mistakes!

Rahima also writes about watching movies of stories/fairy tales as opposed to hearing them read or told.  In that regard, I wanted to let you know that next week, May 4-10, May 4-10k is Screen-Free Week.k is Screen-Free Week.iry tales as opposed to hearing them read or told.  In that regard, I want is Screen-Free Week.  This week is celebrated by families as communities around the world as an opportunity to “rediscover the joys oflife beyond the screen.  Unplug from digital entertainment and spend your free time playing, reading, daydreaming, creating, exploring, and connecting with family and friends (*work and school assignments not included):  There is lots of information about this fun week on their website,  They also have lots of resources—information about the effects of screen time on children, things to do instead of watching or playing with screens.  These are interesting and great to share if you are so inclined. .  I’m giving you one of their handouts, entitiled “Healthy Kids in a Digital World.” 

 I invite you all to join me next week in turning off screens as entertainment.  It’s a good opportunity to give it a try if you’re not already

Important Dates—

Thursday, May 7—Tour and Orientation 8:30-10:30AM for adults only—last one of the year.

Saturday, May 16—May Fair from 10AM-4PM outdoor festival

Monday, May 25—No school, Memorial Day

Thursday, June 11—Last day of Parent Child Spring Session

You are the bow, your child is the arrow

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 suggestions personally, but always find it interesting to hear different ideas.  I invite you, as always, to take what is useful to you, what resonates with you and let the rest go.  What does underly all of these topics, though, is her ongoing encouragement for us to recognize our own needs and the needs of our child.  When she talks about weaning, she talks about “nursing-couple-led-weaning” rather than child led weaning, encouraging mothers to consider their own needs as well as that of their child’s.  I remember thinking with Rachel that I would let her wean herself, but I reached the point where I no longer enjoyed nursing her (she was a toddler) and realized that it was ok for me to take the lead.  And it worked out fine—it turned out to be pretty easy.  She was ready to stop, but I don’t think it ever occurred to her to do it; after all, she had been nursing her entire life!

Another theme throughout this part of the chapter is separation.  Our child begins as part of their birth mother’s body.  Birth is the first of many separations that happen throughout childhood.  Weaning, first steps, potty training, the first day of school, first date, going off to college, all of these are separations and also opportunities to create a new relationship as the child grows into herself.  It makes me think of this writing:

On Children

 Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, 
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, 
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, 
and He bends you with His might 
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, 
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Are there any of these topics you would like to discuss more in class?  If so, let me know and we can look at them together.  This is the last week of the winter session.  I hope to see you in the spring session, which starts next week, except for the Friday and Saturday classes which have a week off for Easter weekend.

Next class, we will begin discussing chapter 8, “Nourishing Your Child’s Imagination and Creative Play.”

Have a wonderful week! (or 2!)

Child’s play and the state of flow

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 throughout the course of our morning.  They may play the same game many times, but it is always new to them.

Chapter 8, “Nourishing Your Child’s Imagination and Creative Play,” begins by describing the stages of play.  I won’t spend too much time on this, because we spoke about it at length earlier in the year (unless you want to).  Rahima describes play as “activity that is self-directed, coming from the child herself without any external purpose or motive.”  I sometimes hear play described as a child’s work.  While I wouldn’t disagree with this statement, the word “work” carries a certain seriousness for me that doesn’t quite capture what is happening.  I like to think of it more as being in a state of flow.  “In his seminal work, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, [Mihaly] Csíkszentmihályi outlines his theory that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow— a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. It is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The idea of flow is identical to the feeling of being in the zone or in the groove. The flow state is an optimal state of intrinsic motivation where the person is fully immersed in what he is doing. This is a feeling everyone has at times, characterized by a feeling of great absorption, engagement, fulfillment, and skill—and during which temporal concerns (time, food, ego-self, etc.) are typically ignored.” (quoted from Wikipedia)  When a child is immersed in play, whether it is pure movement, play arising from imagination and imitation or intentional imaginative play, she is in a state of flow. 

The child’s need for this free, unstructured (from the outside) play cannot be overstated.  We live in a busy, often over-scheduled world.  It is wonderful to have some structure and some planned activities, but it is important to make sure that a child has open time and space to direct themselves, to follow their own whims, to find their own path.  Kim Payne makes an analogy between crop rotation and balanced schedules.  In this analogy, “enrichment” activities are the fertilizer.   He writes, “Unfortunately, there are costs to applying industrial principles to nature.  The price of overfertilizing is exhausted, depleted soil.  Land stewardship involves time: it requires more trust than control  Sustainable farming involves rotating crops, balancing crop fields with fields that are completely fallow and those with a legume cover crop.  The same can be said about kids; there are costs to controlling their schedules, to “ getting more out” of their childhood years….Activity without downtime is ultimately—like a plant without roots—unsustainable.”  Young children need this unstructured time the most, but it continues throughout childhood and on into adulthood.  We all need a balance between busyness and quiet, work and play; we all need time to enter into the state of flow.

I also find it useful to remember that when a child is deeply involved in play, it may take them a little while to shift gears.  They may really not hear us when we talk to them.  When we do have to interrupt, we can try to remember what it feels like to be in that state of flow and honor it and have compassion for what it takes to pull oneself out of that place of deep concentration. 

Have a great week!

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

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 would damage the environment.  Personally I have found “no” to be most useful when something is about to happen—a child is about to run into the street or to hit someone—and I am too far away to intervene—scoop him up or block his hand.  I use it when I need to startle a child, to interrupt what is about to happen. If it is used rarely and only when you really mean it, it is a more effective tool.  Rahima suggests that we may want to pause for a moment and see if we are sure of what the child intends before we intervene—when they are not in immediate danger, of course.  In  Heaven on Earth, Sharifa Oppenheimer says, “Be the sun!  Move slowly and compassionately, especially in disciplinary situations, bringing warmth and light—it’s a tall order!  You may need to practice.”  She tells us to be firm and kind, keeping our tone of voice unemotional.  Our children need to learn how the world functions without the overlay of adult emotion.  Ignoring a child’s negative behavior is sometimes effective, but if the behavior is escalating, it is better to interact with your child before things get out of control for either or both of you.  I know I have been pushed to my limit by my children’s behavior (when they were little).  Rahima points out that it is frustrating for a child to be allowed to get wilder and wilder in his attempt to get our attention.  We can engage calmly and creatively (before either of us is too far gone).  We can model how to ask for what the child wants.  We can remove her from a situation, not as punishment, but to give her a moment to recalibrate.  We can stay with them and give them time without interacting too much.  When a child in my nursery class was too out of herself to be in circle, my assistant teacher would take her out in the hall and sit with her or hold her on her lap without any verbal interaction until she was ready to return.  If she was too upset to sit, they would walk quietly together in the hall or outside if the weather allowed it.  This wasn’t intended as a punishment, but we did it because it was too much for the child to be with the rest of the children at that moment and it gave respite both to the restless child and to the rest of the group.

The last section on discipline is about dealing with our own emotions.  Following Sharifa’s advice above can be a big help.  But Rahima also suggests that when (if?) you do lose it with your child that you take a little time later to reflect on what happened.  What triggered your blow up?  What did you tell yourself in that moment?  She suggests that upsets happen in areas where you have ambivalent or unconscious feelings.  You can also think about what your child might be getting out of the situation.  Do you sometimes change your mind if your child whines or asks many times?  Are you waiting too long to set effective boundaries?  Do you need more support?

At the end of this section, Rahima reminds us that children are young for a very short time.  Any parent of older or adult children will probably tell you the same thing.  I certainly would.  Soon they will be away at school and you will have more time for other activities.  In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin says, “The days are long, but the years are short.”  This saying captures a lot of my experience when my daughters were young.  Enjoy every moment, even the struggles—and have a wonderful week!

Parent Child Lentil Soup Recipe


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



Heat oil in the soup pot.  When it is warm, add the onion and garlic and sauté for a few minutes.

Add the water, turn up the heat and bring water to a boil.

When I make this at home, I chop the vegetables while I wait for the water to boil.

When it boils, add both kinds of lentils and the bay leaves.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the soup cook covered for about half an hour.  By this time, the red lentils should have dissolved and the other lentils should be almost done.

Add the veggies and cook for another 15 minutes or so until the lentils are nice and soft.

Add salt to taste.

Serve and enjoy!

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

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 sit at the table and eat our meal or when it is time to clean up the toys, we can do it with our child.  If you throw in a little humor or song or imagination, that’s even better.  Plus, it’s hard to get upset when you are singing.  I know one family—both parents are musicians—where they fight in opera.  

As you probably have noticed, telling your child to do or not do something while you are doing something else doesn’t usually work.  If your child is throwing toys, instead of telling her to stop, you can walk over to her and help her put the toys down and show her a more appropriate way to play with them.  Of course, if that doesn’t work, putting the objects away for a while or going outside can be helpful, too.

Rahima also suggests that we state things positively whenever possible.  Often children only hear the end of the sentence, so instead of saying don’t hit the baby (child hears—hit the baby) we can say, “Be gentle with the baby,” accompanied by an example of this.  Likewise, if we want our child to learn to apologize, we can apologize ourselves if we lose our temper or make a mistake or we can apologize to the child our little one took a toy from on his behalf (while he is nearby).

But this brings us to the next section, which may be even more challenging for us adults—not expecting results.  “It isn’t until elementary-school age that a child is ready to respond consistently to words that are not accompanied by your actions.  With the pre-school age child, you need to correct and demonstrate the right behavior again and again, but you can’t expect children to remember it.”  Their memories aren’t that developed yet, but we can help them to build good habits.  You can see the beginning of this type of memory and the beginning of a sense of right and wrong around the age of five.

When I first started teaching three-year olds, I tried to get them to help me at clean up time.  I would ask each of them to put something away, although I could never remember who I had asked to do what (imagine doing this with 12 three year olds).  Happily, early in my first year, a wonderful teacher came to observe my class.  She reminded that the young child learns through imitation.  She told me to put the toys away with joy and intention and to trust that the children would learn eventually.  I might never see the fruits of my labour, but somewhere down the line, other teachers would reap the benefits of my work.  I took her advice.  And it worked.  And my clean up time was infinitely more pleasant and calm, and so was I.


Next week, we will finish our discussion of discipline and move into the rest of chapter 6, which includes a variety of interesting topics.  Have a great week!

The middle path of discipline

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 us that “Studies have shown that children do best when their parents or authoritative, charting a middle course between the extremes of being authoritarian or permissive.  Authoritative parents effectively and consistently set limits for their children.  Children naturally look to parents, as trusted adults, as knowing more about the world and how to behave in it than they do.  Children are eager to become confident and competent and to make a contribution ---to grow up.  At the same time, they lack impulse control and have trouble deferring gratification, so it can be frustrating to them when they aren’t able to do what they want or have everything they see.”

When my daughters were young, and also in my teaching, I reminded myself often that the children were doing the best they could.  Children are trying to find their way into the world, to be part of it, and they look to us to guide them.  I  also reminded myself that I-and other adults, too—was doing the best I could, as well.  Admittedly, some days my best was better than others!  A former colleague used to tell parents that they were the kings and queens of their homes.  Whether or not that image speaks to you (it reminds me of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle), we are the ones who carry the bigger picture—what we want for our children, for our families, for the world.  While it might not matter too much in the moment whether we give in to a child’s request for something they don’t really need—a new toy, something sweet, etc.—what is more important is holding the vision of them both in the moment and in the future.  It may not make a moment of choosing easy, but thinking of the values I wanted to teach my children did help me to choose with love, whether the answer was yes or no. 

Rahima also talks about Non-Violent Communication.  She say—and I agree—that the principles of NVC can be useful.  Marshall Rosenberg, who developed NVC, encourages us to look for the underlying needs. With young children, we can look for the underlying needs for both our child and ourselves.  We can acknowledge and have empathy for our own feelings and our child’s.  It is not, however, necessary to talk the child about feelings too much, or to ask him how he is feeling.  But a simple acknowledgement can go a long way:  “You’d really like that cookie.” 

What works in your family?  What doesn’t?  What questions do you have?

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

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 your children, I suggest that you pick the ones that resonate with you.  If it sounds appealing, picture your family doing whatever it is.  Does it feel good?  Then give it a try.  Generally, it is good to make a commitment to try something for a week or two, because it may take a while for everyone to get used to doing something a new way.  Then, if it works, keep doing it until it doesn’t.  If it doesn’t work, try something else.  I spent many years thinking that there was a right way to do things, and I just needed to figure out which way that was.  Eventually I realized that there is not one right way.  We need to find ways to work with our children that works for them as the unique, amazing beings that they are as well as for the equally amazing and unique beings that we are.

That said, I will share a few thoughts about sleep.  Especially at bed time, rhythm is important.  Knowing what is coming, feeling relaxed and cared for, will help a young child fall asleep.  Kim Payne writes, “Rhythm calms and secures children, grounding them in the earth of family so they can branch out and grow.”  Children know they are cared for and that “there is order here, and safety.” The next piece of advice I will give is keep it simple!  Whatever you do, the main thing your child needs is to be with you, have you be fully present with him.  If you don’t already, try just leaving whatever is left to be done, whether it be dishes or work or whatever, and enjoy being with your child.  You can do this even if bedtime is a struggle, it just takes more practice and determination—I speak from personal experience. 

As we discussed two weeks ago, if there are challenges at bedtime, it is good to look at your “family star.”  Kim Payne talks about creating “pressure valves” during the day to help children fall asleep at night.  For the young child, this is often nap time.  But if your child isn’t napping, you can still create a quiet time during the day.  It can be a quiet time.  If you do this, Rahima writes about creating the parameters to make it work.  What time of day would be best?  What needs to be done in preparation?  Will the child be alone in her room?  Will the room be dark?  Will you tell a story?

It’s also helpful to have a plan for bedtime.  Bedtime really starts at dinner; Kim Payne says getting ready for bedtime starts when your child wakes up in the morning.  Storytelling is a wonderful tool, both written stories and stories from your childhood or from your day or a story that you make up.  My daughters used to like the game Candyland, so for a while I made up stories about two little girls who went to Candyland and had adventures with the characters from the game.  What works for you at your child’s bedtime?  What is challenging?  Talking to each other is great both for getting some new ideas and for knowing that you aren’t alone in your parenting.

After the break, we’ll start discussing Chapter 7, “Discipline and Other Parenting Issues.” 

the gift of family dinner

“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 as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem. Studies also indicate that dinner conversation is a more potent vocabulary-booster than reading, and the stories told around the kitchen table help our children build resilience. The icing on the cake is that regular family meals also lower the rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents. What else can families do that takes only about an hour a day and packs such a punch?” (from

Meals together as a family can be wonderful, but they can also be challenging when young children are involved.  Just preparing a meal can be a challenge with little ones.  And some children love to sit at the table and eat whatever is put in front of them, but others either can’t sit or won’t eat what you prepare.  And I haven’t even mentioned the challenge of preparing dinner after working all day.  There are many great ideas about how to create family meals.  Rahima talks about them, and so does Kim Payne in Simplicity Parenting. Also in the book Seven Times the Sun (I have several copies in the PC library), Shea Darien shares ideas for creating family meal times together.

Simplifying is often a good idea at mealtime.  Kim Payne talks about simplifying not only the pantry, but also choices, judgments and power issues around food, especially for young children.  He talks about the rhythm of meal time as beginning with the preparation, then the eating and ending with the clean up.  Inviting children to help with the preparation can be fun—especially if you have a plan and allow plenty of time.  Another suggestion he makes is to have a weekly rhythm for dinner, such as Monday is pasta night, Tuesday is rice, Wednesday is soup, etc.  In our Early Childhood classrooms, we have a weekly rhythm to our snacks with a different grain every day.  We might have savory rice on Monday, oatmeal on Tuesday, bread on Wednesday, soup on Thursday, and barley on Friday.  The children come to know what day it is by the snack of the day and look forward to at least most of them.  But even if there is one they don’t like, there is comfort in knowing it will pass.  And there is comfort in having an order to life, as well.  Of course there are birthdays and festivals that break up our regular routine, and those are welcomed as part of a bigger rhythm of the year.

Children thrive on ritual, as well as rhythm.  A friend who is a Waldorf teacher once told me that the “three R’s” of Waldorf early childhood repetition are rhythm, ritual and repetition.  It is wonderful to have a ritual around mealtime.  In our class, we always light a candle and sing a song.  I have told some of you that my daughter Gabrielle still lights a candle at dinner whenever she is home.  I am quite sure that this is a carryover from her parent-childhood and early childhood days.  All of the books mentioned above have interesting ideas about creating rhythm and ritual around mealtimes, especially dinnertime.  Dinnertime is the time when most families sit down together, but if you are all together at breakfast, that could be your meal together—or maybe you have them all together!  I remember walking home from school on some special days to have lunch with my Mom and brothers.  I also remember being excited when I got to buy hot lunch at school (I think it cost 35 cents!), but that’s another story.

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

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 where it is easy to live without rhythm.  The kind of rhythm that nurtures our young children, and ourselves, as well, hasn’t come easily for me.  In the classroom it is pretty easy to hold a rhythm—although as we settle into our handwork, you may notice that I tend to lose track of the time.  But in life outside the classroom, it is much more challenging.  Is rhythm something that comes easily for you?  I think it does come more easily to some than to others.

But striving for a healthy rhythm will benefit our children immensely. How do we bring more rhythm into our lives? Of course, this changes with time.  A newborn has no sense of day or night and will be awake at any and sometimes many hours.  But we can guide him, help him to find a healthy rhythm over time. In Simplicity Parenting, Kim Payne talks about making changes in our family life.  “By surrounding a young child with a sense of rhythm and ritual, you can help them order their physical, emotional and intellectual view of the world.”  Meaning, Kim says, hides in repetition.  What we repeat becomes important over time.  A healthy rhythm, especially around food and sleep, will help with many discipline problems.  As we become the author of our family life, our children become more calm and secure.  Our home becomes a safe place.

Kim invites us to consider what is important and what is doable and then to choose what is doable.   Consider the one part of your day that you would most like to change—perhaps a mealtime or bedtime.  Choose one simple thing that you would like to do—it can be as simple as lighting a candle or singing a song.  In the Waldorf school, we often use songs for transitions.  Try to do it every day, but if you don’t, try again the next day.  Try it for a couple of weeks and see if it works.  If it doesn’t, drop it and try something else (if it does, keep doing it at least for a while).

Also, take a look at your week.  What things do you do every week?  Can they be made more rhythmical?  For example, can you do your grocery shopping on the same day and part of the day?

Please feel free to ask questions about rhythm.  Other parents have many good ideas.  Rahima and Kim also offer many.  Next week, we will talk about meal times.

the development of imagination

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 creative play are like complementary opposites to memory and thinking.”

Watching the child’s imagination unfold is amazing.  It generally follows a path of development.  At first, imaginative play is stimulated by external things.  A round piece of wood may become a cup or plate on (or in) which you may be offered food or drink.  For this reason, it is important to have play materials that can be transformed by the child’s imagination.  The play changes often and is stimulated by daily activities and whatever materials are at hand.  The play may look chaotic to an adult, but the child is fully immersed in the present.  At around the age of five, the play comes more from the inside than the outside.  The children may spend an entire play time planning what they are going to play without actually getting around to playing it.  I remember Gabi telling me, when she came home from kindergarten, that she didn’t have time to play.  What she didn’t realize was that she was spending all her time figuring out what to do.  Now, the child will seek out something to use for something specific that he has in mind.  This may be the first time that a child experiences boredom.  When this happens, the child may need a rest from pretend play.  In the kindergarten, when this happens, we have the child do some work with the adult.  After a while they are ready to play again.

This first stage of imagination can be a good time to be imaginative in getting your child to transition from one activity to another.  Rahima suggests calling them on a “telephone,” which could be a block of wood or even your hand to invite them to come with you.  It’s the time when they may not want to walk to the door, but they may be willing to hop like a bunny, especially if you do it with them.

At the end of this chapter, Rahima gives a nice list of toys and equipment for toddlers.  They are simple things, made from natural materials, and include slides and outdoor play.  She also mentions a nature table—a place to collect seasonal things you collect on walks.  It can be a simple table or part of a table, maybe with a cloth in a seasonal color and also little figures of people, animals or elementals (eg fairies and gnomes) that may or may not change with the seasons.

Dealing with negative behavior

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 is a whole chapter in our book on discipline, as well.

Many of us shy away from the word, “authority,” but really being the authority means being the author of what happens.  It is our job to hold the bigger picture for our children until they can hold it themselves—or as Sharifa Oppenheimer says, to carry the question, “Who am I?” until they can carry it themselves.  We also want to help them become their best selves.

Negative behavior in the young child often comes as they develop a sense of themselves and of their own power.  Remembering that this is a positive thing can help us to not think that we have done something wrong or that there is something wrong with us or our child.  It is possible to enjoy this phase of development, at least most of the time, and to give appropriate guidance and boundaries. 

Rahima writes, “With my first child, I fell into the philosophical pit of not wanting to be authoritarian, and chaos reigned until I realized that I could (and should) insist on right behavior.  This needs to be done with calmness and joy rather than anger, but with absolute conviction that the child will eventually learn what is expected.”

She also quotes Burton White, of the Brookline Early Education Project (he studied families to discover what made children into “wonderful people.”)  He says, out of his observations of families who produced “outstanding children,” that “the effective parents we have studied have always been loving but firm with their children from early infancy on.  The principal problem hat average families run into in this area is allowing children to infringe on [the parents] rights too much.”

You can set up your home so that your child has as much freedom as possible and then be firm about what isn’t allowed.  If your child finds something you don’t want him to handle, you can tell him no and remove him or the object, placing it out of reach.  In my classrooms, I have done the same thing.  I have set up the room in a way I thought would work for the children, but they show me what I have missed and then I rearrange.  Rahima says, “There is no need to punish the child, because a toddler is unable to understand what he has done or to remember the next time.”

You can expect to repeat the same thing many times—“We don’t hit,” or whatever— remove your child from the situation or the situation from the child, and trust that eventually (this is a key word!) your child will learn.  Children are trying very hard to make sense of the world and become part of it in a meaningful way.

Next week we’ll talk about effective ways of speaking or not speaking with your child.

kool aid dyed yarn

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

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 from whatever part of the book you are reading—or other questions, too.  I am looking forward to sharing these next few weeks with you.  We will be crocheting throughout this session, although it will take us a week or two to get started.  I am planning for us to make children’s hats, but if there is something else you would like to make, let me know and we’ll see what we can figure out. If you already know how to crochet, you can, of course, make whatever you want—and I hope that you will help our new crocheters, too.

In Chapter 5, Rahima tells us that our main task for the one to two year old is to foster balanced development of the child’s physical, emotional and intellectual abilities.  Giving the child the opportunity to practice new motor skills and to explore the environment, and time with parents or other primary caregivers are the main things the young child needs.  Near the beginning of the chapter, she says, “positive social interaction among two-year-olds is not very common.  Their unconscious need to imitate means that one toddler wants whatever interesting thing the other has, and they usually lack the social skills to play together.”  The young child doesn’t understand sharing.  Developing strong attachments to parents and then to things is an important part of a child’s emotional development.  True sharing requires empathy, which doesn’t really develop until around the age of six.  Dr. Sears says, “Children under two are into parallel play—playing alongside other children, but not with them.  They care about themselves and their possessions and do not think about what the other child wants or feels.  But, given guidance and generosity, the selfish two-year-old can become a generous three or four-year-old.”  We can help the child to wait for their turn and accept that they are acting appropriately for their age—we can learn to wait, too!

Next week, we’ll talk about dealing with negative behavior—pages 96-99.  Feel free to bring your questions, comments, advice or whatever.

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

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 by to visit if you are in the neighborhood. 

When we return from break, we will begin reading chapter 5, “Helping your Toddler’s Development.”  In Chapter 4, Rahima reminds us that the needs of the infant are quite simple.  She needs love, warmth, touch and food.  He needs to be part of your world and your families world. 

Today I will share with you (again, for those of you who were here last year) the list of what toys no child should live without (these are not for infants, though, for the most part), according to Jonathon Liu, who calls himself GeekDad, and who reviews high tech toys.   He wrote this article for Wired magazine.

According to Jonathon, the top 5 toys are (drum roll please):

1. Stick
2. Box
3. String
4. Cardboard tube
5. Dirt

And I would add water to this list, as well.  Of course, it’s fun to give our children other stuff, too, and it’s wonderful to have beautiful handmade toys whether they are made by you or someone else.  Think about what your favorite toys were as a child—were any of them on this list?  I remember having a lot of fun with all of the above, but also had other favorite toys—dolls, wooden blocks, this really cool puzzle, and lots of art supplies. 

Here is a link to an article on the website Nourishing Minimalism which lists 18 non-toy gifts for toddlers just because it is a fun list.

It has been wonderful sharing these past few months with you, getting to know you, watching your children grow in many ways.  I wish you much joy on your journey until we meet again.

This is the last week of the fall session.

We will begin the Winter session the week of January 5, 2015

Happy holidays!!!!!!!

Did our babies choose us?

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.  Rahima touches on many interesting ideas in this chapter. 

Each child is a unique combination of heredity and their own individuality.  In Heaven on Earth, Sharifa Oppenheimer tells us that one of the most important tasks of a parent is to carry the question, “Who am I?” for our child until he can carry it for himself.  Rahima writes that many parents have an experience of their child well before the child is born.  Did you have any experience like that?  A dream or an intuition or, perhaps, knowing what the child’s name was before her birth?  With my second pregnancy, I felt how different my two daughters were before they were born.  I was convinced that Rachel, my older daughter, was a boy, even though I had dreams about a little tiny baby girl dressed in a golden evening gown. 

Another thing that Rahima mentions is the idea in anthroposophy that children choose their parents.  What do you think about this?  It is an interesting idea to try on, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed by the task of parenting.  Your child chose you for a reason.

The world of the infant is very small, indeed.  A newborn can’t see much past her mother’s breast, then her face when she is nursing.  Gradually the infants sight expands.  Still, they are sensitive to bright lights, as they are to loud sounds.  Gabrielle used to burst into tears if I sneezed when I was holding her when she was a baby.  Touch, of course, is very important to the infant.  As we discussed last week, the infant even more than the toddler has no filters and has to take in everything in his surroundings.  Rahima suggests keeping the child in a small bassinet or basket (or co-sleeping) so the size of the baby’s space matches his field of vision.  I suppose for us it might be like sleeping on the edge of a cliff where you can’t see what is beyond—or maybe not quite that dramatic.

Rahima also writes about the warmth sense and how important it is for a baby to be kept warm.  Babies can’t regulate or maintain their body temperature very well.  The ability to know if they are too hot or too cold doesn’t fully develop until 8 or 9 years of age (that surprised me when I first heard it).  Hats are great for regulating temperature and protecting the head, too.

At the end of this chapter, there is a nice list of what kind of things are useful to have with an infant and what things are better to leave alone.  We’ll finish this chapter up next week—the last week of our fall session!

The four foundational senses

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 this.  Rudolf Steiner describes the young child as being all sense organ, imitating and absorbing his whole environment, including the attitudes and emotions of the people around him. 

In Waldorf education, we speak of twelve senses, instead of the usual five, these being touch, life sense (sense of well-being), movement (or proprioception), balance, taste, smell, sight, warmth (or temperature), hearing, word (understanding the meaning of words), thought of another, individuality of another .  Some of these sound familiar and others less so.  Whole books have been written on these twelve senses, and so I will certainly not try to explain them in one page, but I do want to point out that in Waldorf Early Childhood programs, we look especially at the first four senses in this list, which are sometimes called the foundational senses.  These senses create the child’s connection to her own body.  The middle four senses establish the child’s connection to the outer world and the last four establish the child’s connection to the other, what Martin Buber would call the “I-thou” connection, or the ability to relate to another human as a whole being.  Of course we all have all of these senses throughout our lives, but the focus of the first seven years is on these foundational senses.  When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense.  We need to establish a connection to the world and develop those three gifts we’ve spoken about—walking, speaking and thinking.  These are the foundation for future learning and for living a healthy life.  If you are off balance, it is hard to listen to what anyone else is saying or to take in the sights.  If you don’t know where your body is in space, you can’t really appreciate the uniqueness of another human being. 

The sense of touch both connects us and separates us.  Both of these experiences are very important for the young child.  She needs to feel connected to her parents and loved ones, and yet she needs to begin to experience her separation from them, as well, in order to establish her own individuality.

The development of these four senses is one of the main reasons why play and environment are both so important for the young child.  Through play, the child learns how to move through space, imitates what she has seen around her, processes all she has absorbed.  When Steiner says that the young child is all sense organ, this can remind us that the young child doesn’t have filters like we do as adults.  We are able to shut out certain sensory input and we are able to distinguish, at least sometimes, between what is real and what is not—eg what appears on a screen is just as real to a young child as what is happening around him.  He must take in everything he is exposed to.  Plenty of opportunities to move and play in a healthy environment is the best gift we can give the young child to support her in developing her senses, especially the foundational ones.

Giving thanks for everyday blessings

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, holidays can be stressful, as well.  I would encourage you to consider your child’s point of view as you enter the holidays.   They mostly want to be with you and other loved ones.  The simplest things can be special—a walk in the snow, baking cookies or bread, singing seasonal songs, lighting a menorah or kinara or candle .

A friend of mine worked with Barbara Patterson, author of Beyond the Rainbow Bridge, and often shared Barbara’s wisdom with me.  My friend, when she was at the beginning of her teaching journey, often stayed up late at night to make beautiful puppets or things for the nature table.  She would arrive at school the next day with her beautiful handmade items and feeling sleepy and not able to fully engage with the children.  Barbara told her that she would be better off having a single polished apple to put on her nature table and be able to be fully present with the children.  As someone who loves to make things, I really took this advice to heart.  Not that I have never tried to do (or make—don’t ask me about the time I decided to make knitted kitties for all the children in my nursery class!)  too many things, but usually I don’t.

I invite you to look back at your own childhood celebrations.  What would you like to share with your child, whether or not you still observe the same holidays?  What shines the brightest in your memory of this solstice season?

 I also wanted to share with you a quote from Kent Nerburn’s book, Small Graces:

“The true joy of life is not in the grand gesture but in the consecration of the moment.

 We dream of the touch on our shoulder that will call us to greatness, to an act that would change the world.  But the touches on our shoulder call us only to the small acts of everyday life—changing diapers, changing lightbulbs, changing schedules.  Far from being exalted beings, we seem to be prisoners of the ordinary, and we are haunted by the insignificance of our days. 

We must learn to see with other eyes.  The world contains many paths, some exalted, some mundane.  It is not our task to judge the worthiness of our path; it is our task to walk our path with worthiness.  . …

Yet it is just such a hallowing [of ordinary moments] that our lives require.  We need to find ways to lift the moments of our daily lives—to celebrate and consecrate the ordinary, to allow the light of spiritual awareness to illuminate our days.  For though we may not live a holy life, we live in a world alive with holy moments.  We need only take the time to bring these moments into the light.”


Thank you for sharing so many sacred/ordinary moments with me and filling my days with light.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A little lantern story

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 out loud,

"It will be Winter, by and by.


"The nights will be long, dark and cold,

Jack Frost will freeze the ground.

How shall I find the light,

With so much darkness all around?"


Said Father Sun, "I'll give you from my

Last Autumn rays--a spark,

If you will make a little house 

To hold it in the dark.


With paper, paint, some windows,

And a candle it was done!

George came out and held his lantern

Up to Father Sun.


Suddenly the windows lit,

The spark was dancing bright.

Carefully, George carried home

His lantern in the twilight.



This story can be followed with a lantern song, such as the ones we handed out with the letter this week.  We will be singing them at the lantern walk, too.

The four levels of home

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 child’s education, your own work? What do you bring from your own childhood that you would like to pass on to your children or else change? Are you connected to a faith or religion?
  • What are your hopes and dreams for your family?
  • What do you want for your children?


  • Emotional/Relational—How is your relationship with yourself, your spouse or partner if you have one, your child, your family and friends?
  • How is your balance between family and work, between family and time for yourself or with friend/family/spouse?


  • Rhythmical—Daily: Meals—are they at regular times? What is the quality of mealtimes? Do you eat together? Do the children help with prep and clean up?



  • What are bedtimes like? Do you have rhythms and routines?
  • Do you have any weekly rhythms—things you do on certain days?
  • What holidays do you celebrate? Birthdays?


  • Physical: What is the entrance of your home like?
  • What is the center of your home?
  • Is your home relaxed, controlled, out of control?
  • Where do your children spend most of their time?
  • What would an outside observer say is important to you?
  • Simplicity Parenting can help!


If you would like to make some changes (and who wouldn’t!) start with something small and doable—little things add up over time!

Kim Payne’s book, Simplicity Parenting, is a great resource for supporting this change process.

The living arts

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 and Leah Wallach:

Much of the sweetness and spice of life, for everyone of every age, is in the ordinary pleasures of ordinary days: in the renaissance of sunlight every morning, in the warmth of a dinner shared with close companions, in the touch of a loved hand, in the comfort of newly washed sheets, a hot bath, a soft cotton shirt. Most adults regret that someone has to wash the sheets and the shirt, clean the bathtub, shop for and cook the diner. Adults don’t generally enjoy the endless routine round of chores that keeps ordinary life going. Routines weave our lives together—but they aren’t interesting to us. We use the time we are shopping or filing our nails or cleaning up to think of other things.

As we’ve tried to show in this book, children under three don’t distinguish routine chores from play or work or adventure the way adults do. For them, every event is as sensually rich and as important as the next. But ordinary routines quickly become special to children because they are ordinary: they are repeated over and over. Children recognize them. They come to rely on them to give rhythm and order to their lives. They become familiar with the sequence of activities that make up each different chore. They begin to join in whatever way they can. Through their participation in everyday activities, they begin to develop the ideas about past and future, beginning, middle and end, space and time, cause and effect, pattern and meaning, self and other, friends and strangers that will help them sort out their experiences the way adults do.

In Home Away From Home, the authors compare “edutainment” with real life experiences. They ask us to consider the difference between showing a child a red square printed on a white piece of paper to learn the concept of red and being near and possibly helping an adult sort laundry by color or washing apples or slicing strawberries. The young child learns through all of their senses and the sounds, tastes, smells, sight of baking bread, for example, especially when you add in the preparation and clean up as well as the eating is a rich fulfilling experience for a child. Through observing our child, we can see what they are learning from the various tasks that they are with us for. What they learn from the same tasks will change over time.

And finally, for now, here is a quote from The Ordinary is Extraordinary, reminding us that we don’t have to be perfect:

“If you’re like most parents, you don’t always have enough time to give your children all the attention they need, or enough patience to keep everything under control without snapping. You make mistakes. But that’s part of everyday life, too. Even when you are tired, angry, discouraged, or confused, you are still teaching your child just by being with her. By being a little more aware of how much you already help your child, you can help her even more. You can involve her in everyday tasks, and in the ways she finds most interesting and absorbing. You can help her feel proud of her accomplishments and unashamed of her failures. You can let her know that her efforts to explore the world are important to you. You can step back when it is best for her to work things out on her own, and guide her when guidance is what she needs.”

Next week, we’ll start Chapter 3: Birth to Three.

chop wood, carry water:  the importance of home making

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 making.  We want to create a beautiful environment for the children, but we also want to give them something to imitate.  We bring as much love, warmth and consciousness as we can to whatever work we do.  Why?  The young child learns primarily through imitation.  But they imitate on a very deep level—imitating not just our outer motions but also our inner mood.  In The Challenge of the Will: Experiences with Young Children, by Margret Meyercourt and Rudi Lissau, they say that empathy is a more accurate word than imitation.  I like the quote from Mother Teresa, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” 

For the child, their environment is very important, and home is where young children spend a significant amount of time.  We discussed last week, and Rahima Baldwin also discusses in Chapter 2, the challenges of being home with children.  Making a home and raising children are not really appreciated in our society.  And being home with a young child can be very isolating.  Many of us don’t have family or community around us to support us.  It can be difficult to find any time for oneself as the parent of a young child, whether or not you are working outside of the home.  Community is something most of us have to create; it is no longer a given as it was not so very long ago.  And yet this work is so important.  We are creating the future of humanity and the world in our care for our children.  They need “to observe us doing ‘real work’ that involves movement and transformation of materials—something they can both share in and then imitate in their play.”  Rahima also mentions Jean Liedloff, the author of The Continuum Concept, who writes about the misunderstanding of her work on attachment parenting.  Many people, she says, interpreted her work as having the child be the center of attention, but in traditional societies, and for healthy child development, the child needs to be an observer of real work.

When I am at school, and sometimes when I am at home, I can find the joy in doing everyday tasks.  For me, I enjoy these tasks when I have time for them and when I get to them in a timely manner.  When I’m at school, I have created a rhythm that allows time for these tasks both before and after, as well as during class.  At home, even now that my children are older, this is still challenging for me.  But I keep trying, and it has gotten easier, and I have learned to let go of a lot of my own expectations!  Do you enjoy the tasks of daily life?  Can you find a way to bring awareness to chopping wood and carrying water?  Can you find time to do some tasks that you enjoy either with your child or as they play nearby?

Next week we will talk about the four levels of home life (see page 32-40) and my favorite, Simplicity Parenting!

Some basic principles of parenting

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 challenges.  When my girls were young, I worked very part time.  My family all lived far away and the friends I had from work lived very different lives from my new life after children.  It took me time to build a community of friends with young children.  Some were from my neighborhood and a little later, some were from school.  It was hard for me to not work when my girls were young.  It made me question my own identity which had been defined by my work and activities.  But I was so happy to be mostly home with my daughters.

We need all parents to be actively involved with children.

In two parent families, it is important that both parents care for the child and for each other.  In single parent families, it is even more important to have a circle of support

We need a true understanding of children and their needs.

This is something we will talk a lot about.  There are a lot of unrealistic expectations of children.  Of course, every child is different, but we really need to protect childhood and allow our children to unfold in their own unique way.

We need to trust the natural process of development and not interfere with it.

Although every human being goes through the same basic phases of development, each child unfolds in her own unique way and in her own time.  They bring with them different strengths and challenges.  We can hold both of these with “a view toward a balanced development of thinking, feeling, and physical abilities.”

We need to trust ourselves and our children and let go of guilt.

Many of us don’t really spend time around young children until we have our own.  I remember wondering when I was pregnant with Rachel, my older daughter, what I would possible do all day with her after she was born.  I figured all babies did was eat and sleep, so how much work could it be.  Boy, was I in for a surprise!  Rahima advises us to let go of guilt.  It’s easy to feel bad about the things we did or didn’t do.  But we can look at parenting as a path of inner growth and development and choose to stay in the present moment, not giving in to guilt.

We need to trust our children as individuals.

Sharifa Oppenheimer says that our job as parents is to hold the question, “Who am I?” for our children until they are able to carry it for themselves.  We don’t get all the credit or the blame for who our children turn out to be.  We can strive to do our best and trust that our children are resilient in spite of our flaws.

We need to value our parenting.

Parenting is generally undervalued in our society, but it is such important work.  In Waldorf education, we say that our children chose to come to us.  They chose us for a reason.  I don’t know if you remember those old commercials for the army, but I like to think of parenting as “the toughest job you’ll ever love.

We need to value our homemaking. 

“We are our children’s first home, which then expands to include life as it unfolds in our physical house or apartment…The more attention, awareness, and creativity we can put into the process, the more home life can become a platform that effectively supports every member of the family, including ourselves.” Which leads us to--

Next week, we’ll start discussing Chapter 2, “Home Life as the Basis for All Learning

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

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 when they may become shy of strangers.  This is also when they discover object permanence, although they still live fully in the present moment until around age three.  For a while, their memory is place related, dependent on sense impressions—they only remember what happened in school when they are in school.

It is around age 3 that thinking really begins to develop.  When I first applied to CWS, there was a question on the application that asked when your child first referred to himself as “I”.  I had no idea, and I also had no idea why that was important.   It wasn’t until I did the teacher training that I understood the significance of a child’s first use of this name that we can only use for ourselves, “I”.  It indicates a first sense of separation from the world, an experience of dualism.  This separation changes everything for the child, both their own self-image and their relationship to others.  It can be a difficult time for a child, and, therefore, also for her parents.  It can be what we sometimes call “the terrible twos,” although threes were much harder for me with both of my girls.  It is also a time where the child’s imagination blossoms.  They can pretend to be someone else—a mother or father, a farmer, anyone else they have seen.  But until they have some separation, this pretending isn’t possible.

When a child reaches this phase, they will start resisting not because they want to oppose whatever you say—although it definitely can feel like that—but rather they are affirming that they are separate, an “I”.  While they need that separation, and it is part of growing up, they also need a lot of reassurance that we are there for them.  As they come into this awareness, they really need us to set boundaries for them.  They need to bump up against us.  They need us to know what’s best for them even as they begin to know themselves.

Next week we will finish looking at Chapter one in You Are Your Child’s First Teacher.  (Pages 14-24)

Upcoming Crafts:  Please bring fall leaves and small twigs next week if you can.  We will be making pictures with them.  After that, we will start working on our lanterns.  And after that, we will make story aprons.  After that, who knows?!

The three gifts—walking, speaking and thinking

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 life, speaking in the second year and thinking in the third year.  I always found interesting this idea that thinking comes after speaking.  Of course, the development of these gifts is interwoven and they are, to some extent, interdependent.

Children are born with a lot of involuntary reflexes.  These reflexes serve the child until they can control their own body.  Children develop this control from the head down, first controlling the arms and head, then the hands.  Once a child is able to walk, they enter the world in a very different way.  They can use their hands in different ways and they meet the world differently as they go from prone or even sitting to upright; they are overcoming the force of gravity.  It takes a lot of work for a child to learn to stand and then walk, and it also depends on having people around them who are upright.

Almost all animals make sounds, and some have rudimentary language, or at least sounds that have certain meanings.  Language development begins with the first cry, and like walking, is learned, perhaps more obviously, through imitation.  Through listening and imitation, children learn their mother tongue, including the sounds, intonation, rhythm and grammar and syntax.  It is really amazing!  Scientific studies have now shown that children learn language only from human beings, not from media.  They need our loving presence, our speaking to them and singing to them, even if our stories and songs are less than perfect.

To foster language acquisition, we need to speak to our children, but this doesn’t mean we need to chatter mindlessly.  They need simple statements, rather than scientific explanations, and words that are imbued with warmth and love.  Steiner warns against the use of baby talk, saying it is really a caricature.  Rhythmical verses, nursery rhymes, and simple games are very nourishing for the young child.

When I was travelling in Europe a couple of summers ago, I became more aware of the musical quality of language, as I was surrounded by languages I didn’t speak (at least not very well).  Children understand the music and tone of language before they understand the actual words.  When we learn about storytelling for young children in Waldorf teacher training, we learn about the importance of creating inner pictures for ourselves, for the child lives in this world of pictures before they live in the world of human language.  This year, I would like to spend some time on storytelling with you.  I will share more with you about this next week, and will also share some thoughts on the beginning of thinking.

What young children really need.

What do young children really need?  We tend to make things more complicated than they need to be these days.  There are gadgets and programs and toys that claim to give our children all sorts of advantages. 

The article for this week—“What young children really need: The essentials of Waldorf Early Childhood Education”—is geared toward the Waldorf early childhood classroom experience.  Part of the reason I shared this article with you is to give you an idea about what goes on in a Waldorf EC class and why.  But the bigger reason is that the essential things that Susan Howard writes about also apply to the young child at home and in the Parent Child classroom, even though the specifics of how we work the child might be different in some cases.  Here is what Susan H says are the essentials:

Love and warmth
An environment that nourishes the senses
Creative and artistic experiences
Meaningful adult activity to be imitated
Free, imaginative play
Protection for the forces of childhood
Gratitude, reverence and wonder
Joy, humor and happiness
Adult caregivers pursuing a path of inner development

As you might notice, none of these essentials needs any technology or special equipment.  Instead they need us to bring our best selves to the children, and to keep trying.  When I first found Waldorf education, and I was feeling bad because I had already done so many things wrong, someone told me that our striving is what affects the children most.  I found a lot of comfort in that.  It’s good to remember that we don’t need a lot of special equipment, either technological or “Waldorfy” to nourish our children.  Please let me know if you have any questions about any of these essentials—it is a short article, but it contains a lot of ideas.  Are there any that surprised you?  Are there any that upset you?  Are there any that you hadn’t thought of before?

Crossing the river together

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 to learn to listen to and trust our inner knowing.  It is good to listen to or read about different ideas about parenting, but no one knows you or your child like you do.  What works for one parent and child may not even be helpful for another child in the same family, let alone for every other family.  The other important thing is to learn about child development.

This discussion reminds me of a speaker whom I heard many years ago at a conference that was actually sponsored by Rahima Baldwin, among others.  He told the story of St. Christopher. St. Christopher got his name because he carried the baby Jesus across a river during a raging storm.  He told the story not because of its Christian content, but because of the lesson he drew out of it.  The child came to Christopher on a night when the water was dangerously rough and the baby wanted to go across the river.  Christopher agreed to carry him across.  As he carried the child, he grew heavier and heavier, and yet he persisted and brought him to the other side.  This speaker said that if there were experts present, they would be standing on the shore, shouting out instructions—“Go a little to the left.”  “Watch out for that boulder.” Etc.  He said that rather than standing on the shore and shouting out advice as we watch the man struggle across the river with the child, we all need to link arms and go across together.

I will offer many ideas to you as we go through the year together, and I hope that you will consider them.  They are based on my training and years of experience.  But I don’t want you to do something just because I say so.  You know best.  When I first started teaching, and I’m sure it also happened when I first became a parent, although I don’t remember it so clearly, I spent a lot of time peeling away what I thought I was supposed to be doing so I could find my own way to authentically and effectively be with the children in my class.  Long before that, I remember going through a similar process when I became a lawyer.  Most of my images there were from TV shows I had seen, but I quickly realized that I couldn’t work well if I was trying to be Perry Mason (does anyone remember him?).  I had to find my own strengths and my own passion and be true to myself to do my work well.

Please bring any thoughts or questions about the book to class.  This is the first time I have used this book in parent-child classes, and I would love to know what you think about it.

Apple cake recipe

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 nutmeg 

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1-1/2 cups white flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. chop the apples

3. sift together flours, baking soda and salt

4.  Mix together maple syrup, spices, oil and water.

5.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until smooth

6.  Add the apples and stir again.

7.  Generously grease a 10x13" cake pan.  You could also use 2 loaf pans.

8.  Bake for about half an hour or until done.  If you use loaf pans, it will take longer.

Coming to terms with harmony addiction

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 soon realized that it wasn’t really about the toys or who had what first.  The children were learning how to interact.  What was important was not whose turn it was but there our children learned how to work things out.  It was also important for me to come to terms with my discomfort with conflict and to understand that the children were doing what they did with no intention to hurt or harm each other.  They weren’t there yet.  As I learned about Waldorf education, I learned about the importance of imitation for the young child.  It didn’t come as a complete surprise, but I did think about it a lot.  I came to realize that children not only imitate our outer actions, but also our inner ones.  The children are so sensitive to the atmosphere around them, and especially to their parents, caregivers and teachers. 

I came to realize that I was often projecting my own unresolved emotions onto the interactions between the children.  If we pretend that we don’t have those urges to just grab something from someone or to get angry or feel sad, we are denying part of our humanity.  Often, especially for women, we are encouraged to not rock the boat, to be nice.  Being nice is good most of the time, but it’s best when we have a choice about what we are doing, if we are nice because we choose to be instead of having to be.  I spent a lot of time recognizing and transforming those parts of myself that are sometimes considered negative.  I was determined that my own children and the children I taught would know that it was ok to be sad or angry or whatever they were feeling.

Children don’t come to us knowing how to share.  Developmentally, it will be at least a couple more years before they can really understand.  So in the meantime, we can try out some of the suggestions in the article on toddler conflict.  We can give the children a chance to work things out themselves as long as no one is getting hurt or upset.  We can redirect when appropriate or reflect back to them what we are observing.  We can recognize our own harmony addiction and look at our own attitudes toward conflict.  When something comes up that isn’t how you would like it to be, pause for a moment and notice what is going on with yourself.  How do you feel?  Take your time.  Be patient with yourself and your child.  Remember that they learn primarily through imitation and not through direct instruction.  Also remember that they learn not only through your doing everything perfectly, but through your striving to do better.


Next week, let’s discuss the other article I gave you, “What young children really need.”  It is a great overview of Waldorf Early Childhood education.  Bring your questions or comments.

Wet-on-wet watercolor painting

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 will ever send you! 

If you get a chance, please read the article that is in your folder, “Making Peace with Toddler Conflict.”  It is one of my favorite articles.  We will talk about it next week.  I would love to hear what you think about it.

Next week we will be painting in class, and so I wanted to write a little bit about the Waldorf Early Childhood painting experience, as it is probably different from what you have experienced elsewhere.  We use what is called wet-on-wet watercolor painting.  And we always use good quality paper and paint to give the children a more pleasant experience.  The watercolor paper is soaked briefly in water and the paint is pretty dilute.  In the early childhood classes, the process is a little more complicated than what we do here, but the basic idea is the same.  We want the children to have an experience of the color.  As the children approach kindergarten age, they will start making paintings that represent something, but the younger ones just like moving the color around on the paper.  We generally use colors that match the season and start out with one color of paint—which is what we will probably stay at—and then, in the EC classes, eventually add a second and third color.

 Children experience everything more intensely than we do, including color.  I invite you to observe how your child approaches the experience of painting.  Most children enjoy it.  But, as with everything, if your child isn’t interested, it’s fine if they sit out.  If they aren’t interested, you are welcome to give it a try and really focus on experiencing the color.  If you are enjoying the experience, maybe your child will want to join in. 

In our EC classes, the children all gather around the table and listen while the teacher tells a story about painting and about the color they are using.  The mood is reverent and talking is minimal.  While I wouldn’t ask our little ones to not speak, I would ask that you help to create a mood of quiet wonder and really enter into the experience of the color.  Afterwards we can talk about how that experience felt for you and what you observed.

Upcoming events:

You are all invited to attend the PC/EC Harvest Festival on Monday, September 29 from 10:30-12:00.  There will be music from Jutta and the Hi-Dukes, a craft and snacks.  It is in the parking lot next to the school and is always a fun celebration.

September 25-26: No PC classes (school is closed)

Happy New School Year!

welcome to the Chicago Waldorf School Parent Child Program

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 honored and loved for who they are.  We will sing and play, bake and craft, share ideas about child development, try to answer your questions, celebrate the joys and support you in the challenges of parenting young children.


I would like to go over some of the details of the program so you will know what to expect when you come to class.




I am Susan Bruck, and I am delighted to be teaching Parent Child Classes.


My own journey with Waldorf education began seventeen years ago, when I attended parent child classes at the Chicago Waldorf School with my daughter, Gabrielle.  Gabrielle graduated from the Chicago Waldorf High School and is now a sophomore at Vassar College.   I began teaching Hebrew to the 3d grade at CWS that same year.  By the end of the year, my daughter Rachel was a student in the first grade class.  She has since graduated from CWS high school and from Vassar College.  She is back in Chicago, working and writing.


I have been teaching early childhood classes at CWS since 2000.  I have taught the nursery/pre-kindergarten class, as well as parent child classes.  I completed teacher training at the Arcturus Rudolf Steiner Education Program.  I have also done additional trainings in puppetry, movement, nursery rhymes, parent child work and leading Simplicity Parenting workshops.  I also teach some classes in the Arcturus teacher training program, our Waldorf teacher training program here in Chicago.  I enjoy playing the clarinet, handwork, cooking and writing.


Karen Brennan will be my assistant teacher this year.  I will let her introduce herself:



My name is Karen Brennan, and I am very excited to be assisting Mrs Bruck in the parent child program this year.


I first met Susan when my elder daughter Anika and I enthusiastically enrolled, and were her students in the parent child program, starting our journey into Waldorf education. Anika is now in the eighth grade, and my younger daughter Reba is in fifth.


I have embraced the Chicago Waldorf School, first as a parent, actively volunteering in many projects, then as a student of Waldorf education in the Arcturus program in which I am currently enrolled, and as an employee of CWS. Last year I was the assistant in the Sweet Pea early childhood classroom, which was a delight.


My other passions are travel and reading, and I love learning along with my children. Using them as an excuse, I am learning to play the cello and one day hope to be conversant in Spanish.






Our class meets in the parent child classroom, which is located on the southwest corner of Loyola and Lakewood—1301 W. Loyola, across the street from the main school.  Parking is on the street, but please be sure to check the parking restrictions, as they vary from block to block.  We are also one block west of the Loyola el stop, if you are taking public transportation.  If you are coming on Saturday, you can also use the parking lot between the school and the church on the north side of Loyola Avenue.  It is a good idea to allow an extra few minutes for parking and a leisurely stroll to the classroom.  Many families spend a few minutes before or after class in the little school garden which is half a block west of our classroom.






Please bring a pair of slippers or warm socks for you and your child to wear in class.  This helps to keep our floors clean, but also helps to create the peaceful and cozy mood we strive for in the classroom.  We will provide a place for you to leave your slippers, if you would like to, so you don’t have to remember them every week.  Other than that, just bring yourselves.  Dress comfortably, both yourself and your child, as we will be moving together, as well as sitting on the floor.  Also, wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty, as we always bake bread and sometimes have other projects that can be messy—I will try to warn you if something particularly messy is coming. 





There are a few important things to keep in mind for our parent child classes.  First, since young children learn by imitation, it is best for the adults to be engaged in calm purposeful activity.  Baking, handwork, cleaning and setting the table are some of the activities that you can be involved with while the children explore the room, play and help.  When the adults are engaged in purposeful activity, the children can relax and play.   Of course, there are times with young children when they need our direct attention, and no one knows your child better than you, so please be with your child if he needs you. 




In our parent child classes, we try to create a community for parents and children, a moment of calm in the week where both parent and child can play and be refreshed.  Conversation among adults is an important part of this community forming, but it is important for adults to be aware of their voices and keep them on the quiet side so that the children can become more deeply engaged in their play, and so we can maintain an atmosphere of wonder and reverence.  If you can, take a moment to quietly observe the children every time we meet.  It is amazing to see how they play and grow and learn how to get along over the course of a session and throughout the school year. 


Parent child classes work best when each parent remains aware of and takes responsibility for his or her own child.  It is important to remember that one to four year olds are just beginning to learn social graces, and most simply cannot share yet.  They will learn in time, but what we do is much more important than what we say at this age.  Simply saying, “Madison is riding the horse right now,” and taking Jill away to the play kitchen to make tea works much better than trying to explain the concept of taking turns.   Redirecting in this way is not always easy, especially in a group, but it gets easier with practice. 


Also,  if your child does something to disrupt a group activity (for example, if your child grabs a puppet during the puppet play or is very loud and disruptive during circle time) first of all relax and know that this is normal toddler behavior.  But remember that it is your responsibility to promptly redirect your child.  It may be necessary to take her out of the room for a few minutes.  This helps the teacher to keep the flow of the activity going without having to interrupt it to deal with the situation and allows the other parents and children to enjoy the activity.  If you do end up leaving the room, please come back when your child is ready.


Finally, don’t despair if your child does not want to join the circle or participate in other group activities.  Again, this is perfectly normal.  Some children will join the group only after observing for several weeks, and some will never join in during the course of the session.  This is fine.  It is important to know that even if a child seems to be busily occupied in another part of the room, he is very often participating inwardly.  In his own mind, he is fully part of the group.  Parents often report that a child who has never participated in the circle in class will, upon getting into the car to go home or sometime the next day, sing every song and repeat every story word for word.  Always invite the child to join the group, but please don’t feel any pressure to have your child join in if she is clearly not ready to.    Please be aware of where your child is, but as much as possible keep your focus on the circle or the story.








As the class begins, at 9:00, please come in, remove your coats and shoes and put on your slippers.  We will begin each morning with bread making.  As with all of our activities, your child is welcome to join in or to proceed directly to free play.  It is your primary responsibility to watch your child, so if they are kneading dough or playing calmly, please come and work with us.  If your child is in need of your attention, please stay with your child.  When the bread is ready to bake, the teacher will gather everyone in the playroom for circle and story time.  The circle time lasts only about ten minutes and will include seasonal songs and rhymes and nursery rhymes and a puppet play that I will present.  The circle time is intended to be mostly interactive, between adult and child, with things like finger plays and tickling and bouncing games.  Please encourage, but don’t force your child to join you, and come to the circle yourself as much as possible, remembering that your child learns primarily through imitation.  Go to your child if she needs you rather than talking to them across the room, as this can be distracting for others.  Following circle time, we will have free play and a craft.  Most of the crafts will be primarily for the adults, but the children often like to help.  I will always have some way the children can help or work with the materials, if they want to.  There will be some crafts that are more geared toward the children, including watercolor painting.  We will work on many of the crafts over two or more weeks.  After about 30 minutes, we will clean up the room and set the table for snack.  Please help as much as you can with these activities, and let your child help or not.  They learn by watching the adults and imitating.  Encourage the children to leave the playthings in their place once they have been put away at clean-up time. 


Once everything is put away, I will hand out warm washcloths for hand washing.  After hands are washed, bring the washcloth with you to your place.  You can use it for washing hands and face after snack or for wiping up the table at the end of snack.  When the table is set and hands are washed and most of us are seated, I will light a candle and we’ll all sing a song to bless our snack.  We will share our snack together, which will generally be the bread we have made, with butter, if you wish, hummus, carrot and celery sticks and water or herb tea.  (Please let us know if you or your child have any food sensitivities or allergies so we can plan accordingly).  During snack time, we also have a few minutes for adult discussion.  I will let you know in class what the discussion topic will be for the following week.  There is more about this in the section below, too.  When snack time is finished, the teacher will put out the candle, and then it is time to clear the table.

We will end our morning with a goodbye song.  Then you and your child may put on your outside shoes and clothing and it is time to go.










You will be hearing these words often in our class. Young children delight in and are nurtured by familiarity.  Knowing what to expect and what comes next gives them a healthy sense of security.  For this reason, we may repeat the same songs, rhymes and stories for an entire session or even for the whole school year.  Children under five never seem to tire of hearing the same songs and stories over and over again.  As they begin to learn songs by heart and sing along, they gain confidence in their abilities.  Each time they hear a story; it goes in deeper and becomes part of them.  So please trust that the repetition you experience in class is done out a conscious desire to meet the needs of the child.  It is not due to the teacher’s lack of repertoire!


Remember that consistency is extremely important for young children.  Please try your best to make it to every class (unless of course you or your child are ill) and try to be on time.  It is hard for little ones to settle into the rhythm of the morning if they are not experiencing the whole day from the beginning.


You will notice that there are little rituals throughout the morning, such as hand washing, lighting a candle before snack and putting it out at the end, the same song is always sung at the beginning of circle time.  These repetitive activities that also bring a sense of reverence to these everyday actions help the child with the transition from one activity to the next. 




Our class is intended to give both parents and children an experience of Waldorf education.  In addition to experiencing Waldorf education, this class also includes parent education.  To this end, we will be using a wonderful book, You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, Third Edition by Rahima Baldwin Dancy.  We will give you a copy of this book the first week of class.   Discussions tend to be brief during snack time, but there is often a chance to ask questions during other parts of the morning.  Of course, if there are other topics of interest to the class, we can discuss those, too.   I also prepare a weekly handout with highlights and thoughts about the week’s reading, as well as information about upcoming activities and events.  In addition, I will also give you articles and other handouts that will provide additional insight or inspiration. Handouts, links to articles and sometime other things are posted on my blog on the school website, Also, I would encourage you to take a minute or two during class or at home to quietly observe your child while she is engaged in focused play.  Sharing what you observe will enrich our discussions.


There are many wonderful books on Waldorf Early Childhood Education.  Three of my favorites are Heaven on Earth, by Sharifa Oppenheimer, Beyond the Rainbow Bridge   by Barbara Patterson, and Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne.  I am happy to recommend others based on your interests.  We also have a small lending library in the parent child classroom.


Karen and I look forward to getting to know you.  If you have any questions, please contact me by email at .  I can also be reached by phone at 773-465-2662, ext. 8301.





Susan Bruck

The Art of Parenting

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 Simplicity Parenting, it’s a good time to take a step back, pause and reflect.  Parenting is, or can be, a work of art.  You are the creators of your family culture.  Remember way back at the beginning of this journey when we talked about our hopes and dreams for our families?  I still often look at the hopes and dreams we put on our wishing tree.  I hope that those dreams have come true.  I came across this quote (above) by da Vinci, and it made me think about the art of parenting.  The life of the artist may seem glamorous from the outside (I’m not sure that holds true for parenting!) but what it really requires is showing up, persistence, observation and trying, making mistakes and trying again, and just keeping at it.  There are moments of flow, and there are also moments of wondering why this seemed like a good idea.  I also think about the word “authority.”  It is a charged word for many of us, but the root of this word is “author.”  I invite you to be the author of your family life—with your partner, if you have one—it is good for artists to collaborate.  Many things are possible when we work together.  And in this huge undertaking of parenting in our modern, urban world, whether or not we have a partner in our home, we all need support and another point of view sometimes.  We artists of life need each other!

I was also thinking about the whole idea of simplification.  It is easy for me to think I should be creating some kind of stark, minimalist environment in my home.  But that is not really my goal—although it may be for some of you.  It depends on your artistic vision.  Whatever that vision is, the point of all this simplification is to make room for those things in life that are important to you, whether that means living with practically no things or surrounded by your collections of whatever (for me—books and art supplies).  Making room for what is important is not just about what stuff you have, but about making time for what is important—family, friends, creativity, travel—whatever it is for you.

Remember, that if you are not where you want to be in creating your family life, small, doable steps will get you there.  Come back to the canvas (manuscript, weaving,….) day after day, look at it, step back, adding a little touch here and there until it is how you want it to be.

I wish you much love and joy on your journey.  I know I will see many of you again, and hope to know you for a long time.  But whatever the future holds for us, I am glad to have shared this precious time with you.

Last day of school for parent child is Thursday, June 12.

Working together as parents, developing emotional intelligence and reviewing the day

The last sections of “Filtering out the Adult World” are about backing off and finding balance.

Backing off—Work Together:  Kim points out that in two parent households, often if one parent is overwhelmed and over-involved, the other parent is under-involved (and calm).  Often when this happens, but certainly not always, the mother is over-involved, often with generalized concerns about her child’s emotional, intellectual and physical development.  He also writes that the “experiential scale of parenting—anxiety versus joy—is tied to the “scale of involvement” between the spouses.”  One way to bring balance is for the over-involved parent to give over certain tasks to the other parent.  Dad (or the under-involved parent) can take over a few tasks such as bedtime or bath time or getting the children ready to leave in the morning.  It’s good for the child and good for the adults.  But there is often a period of adjustment and sometimes discomfort.  Letting another person take over a task involves letting them find their way and do it their own way, and this isn’t always easy if you already have it handled.  For the person taking  over a task, there is a learning curve and sometimes a sense of inadequacy, but in the long run, making this switch will pay off in a happier, healthier family.  Kim says that having these separate domains is a good way to bring balance in parenting.

Backing Off—Less Emotional Monitoring:  “Emotional intelligence includes a self-awareness that allows one to recognize and manage one’s moods, and to motivate oneself toward a goal.  It involves feeling empathy toward others, being aware of their feelings, and being able to relate to others through interaction, conflict resolution and negotiation.”  It is something we want for ourselves and our children. But like all of our child’s development, it can’t be rushed; it develops slowly over time. Kim says that we shouldn’t talk too much to children younger than nine about their emotions.  Certainly young children have emotions, but they don’t have a complex awareness of them.  “Emotional monitoring [of children under nine or ten] has an unexpected effect.  It rushes kids along, pushing them into a premature adolescence.”  Young children learn primarily through imitation, through the way we do things rather than through what we say.  When we ask children about how they are feeling, we often impose our own emotions on our children.  But we can be available to listen to them when they want to speak.  Young children process their emotions through doing.  To put things right, they need to engage with the world—and they may need some help with this, as in Kim’s story about his daughter and her first bike ride.

Backing Off—Into Sleep: Every day our children do some amazing things.  “The heart of being a parent—the joy of it—is still unpredictable.  Absolutely remarkable and unexpected.”  We live in an era of conscious, maybe overconscious, parenting.  There is so much information available to us.  Kim suggests that some of our anxiety as parents comes from all of the graphing and comparing our children to various standards.  He describes an image of modern parenting as looking at our children through a magnifying glass.  “But the magnifying lens is not helpful; its view is too close to be pretty, or even representative of the child”  Kim suggests taking a moment before sleep, just a minute or two, to review your day and recall a few of the lovely moments that happened with your child.  This practice will help us to feel joy, appreciation and wonder as we relax into sleep.

True, Kind, Necessary—the wise use of words

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 something, ask yourself these three questions: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

Is is True? Asking if what you are about to say is true will keep out most gossip and hearsay.  When your children are young, you can do this by example, and as the children get older you can use it as a guide for the children, as well.

Is it Kind? Just because something is true doesn’t mean it has to be said, especially if it would be truthful.  I also think that we do sometimes have to say difficult things to our children or others and then it is important to find a way to say it kindly (this leads us to the next question—is it necessary?).  Bullying often comes out of speaking the truth without kindness.  One of the tools Kim mentions in the book—for the adults to use—is the “Put-Down Diet.”  You will find a description of it on pages 15 and 16 of  “Justice without Blame—the social inclusion approach.”  He describes this exercise in terms of the eightfold path of Buddhism.  This exercise takes three weeks, and all of it comes under the aspect of Right Endeavor.  Also, each night of the three weeks, we are to reflect, in a self-forgiving way, on our progress (Right Remembrance).  The first week involves right speaking, both verbal and nonverbal.  In the second week, we work on Right Thinking, and strive to become aware of putdowns that form in our thinking and feeling, as well as in our verbal and non-verbal communication.  The third week brings us to Right Action, where we become conscious of the putdowns we hear around us and try to intercede and shift the conversation—of course we need to decide where that is appropriate—this was intended for use in schools and with families where we are responsible for what others say.  I’ve done this exercise before and will do it again for the next three weeks.  I invite you to join me.

Is it necessary?  Kim defines necessary as “more important that silence.”  This particular filter will probably lead us to talk less—it does for me when I remember it.  Kim also points out that this is mostly a filter for us to use on ourselves rather than with our children. (Although it might help when they have asked for ice cream for the third time after two no’s.)

Next week we’ll finish the chapter, “Filtering out the adult world,” by looking at the sections on “backing off.”  The following week we’ll look at the last chapter, which is a summary/review of the book—“Simplicity Parenting to Go”

Talking less and noticing more

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 learning. They are at a time in their lives when they learn best from direct experience.  The two worlds do intersect, of course, but “there are, and should be, conversations and topics that are for adults only.  There are some subjects that obviously aren’t appropriate for young children to hear, but the lines are sometimes blurry.”  What is important to remember is that, even more than the words that we say, the children pick up on our underlying emotions.  Sometimes we feel that honesty is the same thing as full disclosure, but full disclosure may not meet a child where she is developmentally—it can be burdensome for a child to have to deal with too much information, whether in the form of scientific facts or our own adult concerns about our lives and the world.  Boundaries make children feel secure, and it is up to us to draw those boundaries for them, although undoubtedly we will make mistakes.

Without Criticism or Compliments: Can you look at your child’s drawing and acknowledge it without talking, just take it in?  Or just notice something about it—“you filled the whole page” or “wow, there is a lot of blue in this picture.”  We want our children to feel good about themselves; we want to encourage and acknowledge them, but Kim tells us that “in a noisy world, quiet attentiveness speaks louder than words, and it gives a child more space for their own thoughts and feelings to develop.” Praise can be wonderful to receive, but it can also be stressful.  I have sometimes been praised for something I know I didn’t do well, or didn’t do my best on.  It actually makes me feel bad about myself or disappointed in the other person when that happens.  Always having to do a fabulous job can take the fun out of doing it.  Also, it can teach a child that they need to do things to please other people instead of themselves or instead of doing something for its own sake.  Once again, it is not always clear where the line is between support and over-praising.  I offer it more as something to consider.  Also, if you haven’t tried just noticing (or even if you have), give it a try and notice what happens.

Do you love the times you live in?: “Children need to know that theirs is a good world.  They need to feel that, sheltered by those they love, they are where they should be.  They have a place, in a time and a world of hope and promise.”  It is easy for us as adults to feel depressed, angry or just overwhelmed by the problems in the world over which we have no control.  A child’s world is much smaller than ours.  Children live in the immediate environment—first it is as small as their immediate family, then grows to include their neighborhood, their school, etc.  There will be a time when it is right for them to take on the problems of the world, later.  Now, “a child is preparing for world issues in their own ways, in vigorous interaction with their immediate sensory environment, their childhood world.”  It is sometimes hard to love the times we live in, but there are many things to love about our time, and it’s important to remember them for the sake of our children.

self compassion—from zen habits

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.


Fairy houses

Hi Everyone,

This Sunday, weather permitting, we will meet at the beach and build fairy houses and hang out.  For those of you not familiar with fairy houses, here are a links to a couple of websites:

How to build a Fairy House

Fairy Houses--Outdoor Imaginary Fun

I have a lovely book you can look at (or buy) called Are their Faeries at the Bottom of Your Garden? by Betsy Williams

And if you feel like looking at more (and it's not screen-free week!) Pinterest has a lot of boards with pictures of fairy houses.

Building fairy houses was a favorite activity of my daughters when they were little.  They built them indoors and out.  They left notes for the fairies.  Sometimes we left tiny fairy cakes decorated with flowers (we ate some, too) and little doll teacups with tea.  Those are fond memories!


Simplifying screens—part 1 and Screen free week

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 find just one word for the amazing and complex experience of parenting.  What would that one word be for you?  For Annmarie, who he writes about, that one word was “worry”.  In Heaven on Earth,  Sharifa Oppenheimer tells us that one of the core jobs of the parent is to carry the question “Who am I” for our child until they can carry it themselves.  What a wonderful and enormous task that is!  Kim writes, “But what strikes me so often is how often our fears and concerns for our children have eclipsed our hopes for them, and our trust.”

Kim talks about Uncle Andy, the houseguest who is a monologist.  He is entertaining, and since he knows a lot, he can also be informative.  But honestly, he really goes too far sometimes, sharing stories and pictures with the kids that are scary, brutal, or even provocative.  What’s more, it seems like every time you turn around he’s telling them about some cool new thing to eat or to play with…something they don’t have but now want.”  I don’t want to give it away—well, yes I do—but Uncle Andy isn’t my brother Andrew, who would never act like that, but it is the TELEVISION.  Which is rather timely since next week (May 5-11) is Screen Free Week, which I invite you to celebrate with me.  While simplifying screens may not be the best place to start simplifying, it is one of the best ways to safeguard childhood and simplify daily life.  Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television for children under 2 and very limited thereafter?  In the first two years, neurologists tell us that the child needs 3 things for optimum brain development—interactions with parents and other humans, to manipulate their environment and problem solving activities (like peek-a-boo).  Screens provide none of these.  Did you know that the average American 8-18 year old spends about 3 hours a day watching television, and when you add in computers, print, audio, videos or movies and video games it comes up to 6 ½ hours a day.

Kim also writes about the orienting reflex.  Have you ever noticed how children seem to be hypnotized by the screen—they can’t look away?  If you watch the movie, “Consuming Kids,” they also talk about this reflex.  “Essentially, if a child sees or hears something the brain doesn’t recognize as correct or normal—flashing, animated figures, rapid zooms and pans, dancing letters—he or she will focus on it until the brain determines that it is not a threat.”  Children’s programming uses this reflex to keep children looking.  It may also habituate the brain to a high level of input. Well,  that is enough about screens for today!  We can talk about them some more next week.

Please welcome Dagmara Marona—she will be student teaching in parent-child for the next few weeks. 

Also, Please join us on Sunday, May 4, from 10-12 for a spring celebration and kick-off of screen free week at Albion Beach.  We will be hanging out and building fairy houses.  Hope to see you there!

What is the best age to begin organized sports?

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 movement, like circle time and eurythmy.  In third grade, the children begin taking gym and playing imaginative cooperative games.  In fifth grade, when the children study Greek and Roman history, they also participate in a pentathalon.  They learn the classic events:  javelin, discus, long jump, running and wrestling.  They practice these events throughout the year.  I love to see those fifth graders heading to the beach with their javelins to practice.  In the spring, at least at our school, they gather with other Waldorf fifth grade classes from the area and are divided into city-states.  At the pentathalon, the children are really competing against themselves, trying to do their best.  Laurels are awarded for both truth and beauty.  If you would like to read more about them,  check out our gym teacher, Andrea Shaffer’s blog post about the pentathalon.  When the children are in 6th grade and up, they are then ready for the competitive/opposititional sports of adolescence. 

Of course there are children at CWS who participate in sports before then, some with great enjoyment.  But Kim writes about the “professionalization” of sports for children—children specializing at younger ages.  He cites a study that found that many children are burnt out from sports by the age of eleven, just when this type of activity would serve them well.  He isn’t opposed to organized sports, just too much and too young.  He is “against the way that we’ve transposed adult endeavors—with an adult sense of competition, fanaticism, and consumerism—into children’s lives….When kids younger than ten or eleven become occupied with organized sports, especially to the exclusion of time for free, unstructured plan, that involvement can cut crudely across their progression through a variety of play stages that are vitally important to their development.”  He gives a lovely description of what children learn from play children make up—where they make up rules which may stay the same or change or be discarded.  They create their own imaginative pictures.  In organized sports, the picture is already complete and defined.  And a child’s role in that game may become even more restrictive as they become better at it.

Life is also simpler for parents of young children when free play is emphasized over organized sports and martial arts.  Did any of you—or your siblings or close friends--play sports intensively when you were young?  How was the experience for you?  Do you think that the picture Kim Payne paints of sports and the child under ten rings true from your own experience?
When we return from spring break, we will begin discussing Chapter 6, “Filtering out the adult world,” an interesting and perhaps challenging chapter in Simplicity Parenting.

Spring Break is next week, so there will be no Parent Child classes until Tuesday, April 29.

Screen Free week is May 5-11.  You can get lots of information at

On Sunday, May 4, we will have a gathering for all of our Early Childhood and Parent Child families from 10-12 at Albion beach.  Hope you can make it!  I will post more information at the end of the week.

some links for places to get wool fleece and related supplies

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 places--where there are vendors and lots of other stuff, too.

Ewetopia Fiber Shop in Viroqua Wisconsin for wool fleece--they also have yarn

Esther's Place  in Big Rock, Illinois for wool fleece--they have yarn and kits, too.

Paper Scissors Stone for various waldorf type school and craft supplies

Knitpicks is a good place to get inexpensive and nice yarn

New England Felting Supply

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

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 child.  When a 6 year old tells her teacher that she is bored, the teacher will keep her close and give her some work to do with the teacher.  Her sense of imagination and play is becoming more inward and sometimes that transition is a tender time for the child.  It usually doesn’t take long for her to be ready to play with her friends again.  But boredom is also a gift.  When my daughters told me that they were bored, I would suggest that they clean their room or some such task.  I don’t remember them telling me that they were bored too often.  My other response was, “That’s great!”  Kim says that we often take our children’s boredom as a personal failure, but boredom is often the “precursor to creativity.”

This chapter also discusses bring a balance between arousing and calming activities.  If there is an active day, you can balance it out with a quiet day at home.  If there is a very active day—Kim gives the example of monster truck rallies—they can even be balanced by a calm day or days before and after.  You know your child.  Some children can handle more activity than others.  Observe your child on a very active day and for a day or two afterwards.  Does it affect their behavior?  Then it might be good to plan for a calm day before and/or after the next busy day. 

Another one of my favorite sections of this chapter is “Sabbath Moments.”  The moments Kim is referring to are not religious or spiritual, but rather a special family time that had a q; and now with emails, pagers, and every possible phone gadget imaginable we quiet peacefulness to it.  Do you remember the days before portable gadgets, especially cell phones?  “The evolution from fixed to portable phones was a big change; and now with emails, pagers and every possible phone gadget imaginable we are each a walking communication field, ever reachable, distractible and available.  However, given how reachable and distractible we are, you might question how “available” we really are at any moment.  Surely if you’re fully available to the person on the phone, you can’t be to those you’re with, and vice versa.”  Kim suggests having some gadget free, distraction free zones.  This could be turning off your phone during dinner, taking a hike every weekend with the family or having a day at home.  It can be a small thing, too—one dad turned down the answering machine when he came home and a mom stopped checking her email after dinner, finding that her child’s transition from dinner to bedtime was much easier when she was fully present.  Do you have times in the day when your phones, etc. are turned off or ignored?  When?  Is it helpful?  Difficult?  Would you like to do more?

Next week we will look at the sections on “Anticipation”—I’m looking forward to that!—“Seeds of addiction” and “ordinary days.”

Spring Break begins on Friday, April 18 and goes through Saturday, April 26.  There will be no Parent Child classes during that time.

How to create a balanced schedule—or—how to raise healthy crops without fertilizer

As we end our winter session (and hopefully winter, too) we move into Chapter 5 of  Simplicity Parenting, “Schedules.”  A lot of this chapter applies more to families with grade school age or older children, but there are some gems for parents of little ones, too. 

Although your children are not there yet, it is interesting to note that as of 1997, free time for the average school aged child—after sleeping, eating, studying and organized activities-- had decreased from 40 percent of the day in 1981 to only 25 percent.  Too many schedule activities might limit a child’s ability to direct himself and to find and follow his own path.  Even toddlers can be overscheduled, but it is more of an issue for the older child, so you might want to revisit this chapter in a few years.

Children need free, unstructured time—that’s the basic message of this chapter.  Kim gives an analogy between raising children and raising crops.  He compares enrichment of childhood to using chemical fertilizers on a field.  While enriched soil will produce more crops faster, overfertilizing exhausts and depletes the soil.  I think you can see where this is going.  He advises stewardship of the land—trusting rather than controlling, rotating crops, allowing time for the soil to rest.  “Rest nurtures creativity, which nurtures activity.  Activity nurtures rest, which sustains creativity.  Each draws from and contributes to the other.”  Our children, like a field, need time for leisure and rest.”  He compares deep, creative play to a cover crop.  Deep creative play or anything activity where your child is focused and in control helps them connect with who they are, helps them grow their roots deep.  Daily life is the field growing crops—it is the on-the-go time.  This part of life, the active, interactive part, is important, too.

Try picturing your child when she is playing deeply and creatively.  What is she doing when you and the surroundings disappear for her?  Do you recognize it when you see it?  “This is some of the most valuable time for your child to process sensory stimulation, and children who don’t experience it can be more nervous, less able to relax or sleep.  Remember that this deep play is something that you can create time and space for, but adults do not control or direct it.

Kim says that the first step to letting go of overscheduling is to notice.  We can make sure that our child has unscheduled time on the schedule.  More good news—simplifying your child’s schedule will also simplify yours!

Next week we’ll move on to the gift of boredom, balanced schedules and Sabbath moments.

In the meantime, have a wonderful week until we meet again!

2 upcoming events in Chicago sponsored by the Alliance for Childhood


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 of child-directed play!  Join playworkers from Pop-Up Adventure Play as they transform the Woods into an inspiring, rich play environment using large scale, loose parts.  Hosted by The Alliance for Childhood, the Winnetka Park District, and Meatheads Burgers and Fries.

Inspiring Nature Play in Spaces Large and Small: Lessons from Early Childhood Educators

May 7, 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., Chicago Botanic Garden
Fee: $35 (includes lunch, admission to the Garden, and parking)
CPDU credits available

Register here

Join this unique professional development event, featuring keynote speaker, Joan Almon, author of The Value of Risk in Children's Play and The Crisis in Kindergarten: Why Children Need Play in School.

Participants will gain new ideas for nature play for young children at hands-on activity stations, develop a deepened awareness of the research demonstrating that nature play facilitates all domains of children’s development, learn strategies to communicate the importance of nature play, and leave with a network of local professionals working together to promote nature play in formal and informal education settings.

Hands-on activity stations will be facilitated by staff from organizations including Backyard Nature Center, Baker Demonstration School, Chicago Children’s Museum, Cook County Forest Preserves, Greeley Elementary School, Heller Nature Center, The Grove, Imagine Arts Studio, Kohl Children’s Museum, Lake County Forest Preserves, North Park Village Nature Center, Schlitz Audubon Nature Center Preschool, Suzy Halpin Photography, Tinkering School Chicago, and Winnetka Community Nursery School.

The event is organized by the Alliance for Early Childhood, Chicago Wilderness, and Chicago Botanic Garden.  Special thanks to Backyard Nature Center, Greeley Elementary School, Kohl Children’s Museum, Lake Forest Open Lands, Northfield Community Nursery School, Wilmette Public Library, Winnetka Park District, and Bluestem Communications for assisting in the planning and facilitation of this event.

“Pressure Valves” help your child prepare for sleep

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 involves a sort of leap of faith, ‘a letting go’ that requires trust.”  He suggests having “pressure valves,” which he defines as something that lets your child release emotional steam.  Letting off steam during the day makes it easier for a child to let themselves sleep.  Kim gives examples of pressure valves.  Naps or quiet time can be a pressure valve.   An after school snack together or some other ritual can be a pressure valve.  A project a child enjoys can be a pressure valve.  “Any activity a child can ‘lose himself in’ allows for a release of tension, and the mental ease needed to process the day’s events.   Another pressure valve can be lighting a candle before dinner, or a moment of silence. 

If a child is having a hard time at school, one of the first things we look at is whether he is getting enough sleep.  Neural growth and pruning happen during sleep.  We all know that no one is at their best when they are sleep deprived.  It is very important that bedtime be rhythmical.  He suggests having a twenty minute window for bedtime—10 minutes before and 10 minutes after.  Bedtimes that vary greatly, such as very different bedtimes during the week and on the weekend, have the same physiological effects as jet lag.

Bedtime stories can be wonderful pressure valves.  The cares of the day can slip away as children are carried into the world of the story.  Being told a story is relaxing.  Nothing is required of the child as they listen.  “Stories affect the way children learn to narrate their own lives,” affecting the stories they tell themselves.  Kim quotes one of my favorite Einstein quotes: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”  But a word of caution before you pull out your book of Grimm’s.  Fairy tales are really more appropriate for children age 3 and up.  And for the 3’s, the simplest fairy tales are the best.  The fairy tales we usually think of, like “Snow White” or “Cinderella” are really more appropriate for first graders.  I have given you a list of suggested fairy tales for different ages from Beyond the Rainbow Bridge by Barbara Patterson.  For those of you reading this online, here is a link to an interesting article by Joah Almon, "Choosing Fairy tales for different ages." For the very little ones, simple nature stories or stories about your day or your own childhood are best.  There are, of course, very lovely books for our little ones.  I would suggest reading only one, or maybe two, at bedtime.  Stories offer security and connection. “Very powerful healing balms, stories give children the strength and the images they need to make sense of their world”  We often forget that children don’t understand facts in the same way we do.  When something difficult is going on in our lives, we want them to understand, so we often give them a detailed explanation. But children don’t process information the same way we do.  “They need simple truths, plainly spoken, especially in response to their own questions.  But children also need containers for the truth, for situations that may be difficult for them to understand…  Stories give young children wings, letting them fly free of the tyranny of facts.”

And so ends the chapter on rhythm—Imagine your family’s days acquiring a sense of order, rhythm and flow.  Has this chapter helped you along the way?  Next week we will begin the chapter on “Schedules”

the importance of family dinners and simplifying food

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, eat fruits and vegetables, and build their vocabularies, and the less likely they will smoke, drink, do drugs, suffer from depression, struggle with asthma, or develop eating disorders.”  Lots of good reasons to have dinner together besides that it is just pretty nice to sit down with your loved ones and share a meal at the end of the day!

If you want to read more about family dinners, check out

He talks about the rhythm of dinner, giving as an example snacks in the Waldorf Early Childhood classes.  The children help to prepare the snack.  Helping in the preparation of a meal does a couple of things—it makes the child more invested in the food and, therefore, more likely to eat it, and also the transition into an activity rather than sitting down at the table can be easier for a child and lead to fewer struggles around mealtime.  I will add, though, that having your child help with meal preparation does not guarantee that she will eat the food, just makes it more likely.  But even if he doesn’t enjoy the food, cooking with your child can be great fun and can be one of those pauses we spoke about last week.  Another nice place for a pause is to have some sort of symbolic start to the meal, such as lighting a candle, singing a song or even (gasp) a moment of silence. Having everyone help with the cleanup after dinner can be a nice way to transition from the meal to the rest of the evening.  It does take more planning to include your child in meal preparation and cleanup, but it is time well invested.  These can be joyful times spent together, as well as teaching your child useful life skills.

One interesting thing Kim says in this section: “What can kids do with powerful emotions, when they so often feel powerless: “Well, there are three areas where kids can exert control and win: eating, pooping, and sleeping.  More to the point: not eating, pooping, or sleeping.”  Working with simplifying and creating more rhythm around meals will not make a child eat, but it will help “even the odds.”

Simplifying Tastes: Like the issues around toys and clutter, food is another area where there can easily be both too much and too many choices.  Kim suggests limiting the number of food options available, as well as simplifying the tastes and ingredients of those options by lessening the availability of foods that are highly processed or sweetened.  “Food should be a source of nourishment for children, not entitlement, entertainment or empowerment.” He suggests the following questions:

• Is this food designed to nourish or entertain?
• To stimulate?
• Is the food designed or was it grown?
• Did it exist 50 years ago?

Like high stimulation toys, many modern foods are also high stimulation, hijacking children’s tastebuds and lessening their ability to taste subtler flavors.  Children’s systems can be thrown off by the effects of food additives, sugar and caffeine.  These foods are the enemies of rhythm.  “You can’t flow through speed-crash-and burn.”

Simplifying Dinner:  Kim recommends simplifying family dinners further by having a weekly rhythm for them.  In a Waldorf kindergarten, there is a rhythm to the weekly snack.  Monday might be oatmeal, Tuesday rice, Wednesday bread, etc.  The children come to know what day it is by the snack.  They might look forward to bread day or soup day; there might be a day they don’t like—for Gabi it was barley day, but they know what to expect whether they like it or not.  Kim recommends doing the same thing for family dinners.  In his example, Monday is pasta night, Tuesday is rice night and Wednesday is soup.  There are a lot of choices within each category and yet there is a rhythm to it.  He says that it is likely that there will be one night of the week that will be less popular than the others with your child, but that it’s ok.  “Consistency also teaches us that some things do not change, though we may wish they would.  Not everything bends to our personal preferences.  Once again, you are likely to find when you reach those teenage years that consistency and connection at home will really pay off.
Next week we will talk about sleep and pressure valves, the next section in the chapter on rhythm.

Upcoming important dates
March 31—winter session ends.  Please be sure to let Jenn know if you are planning to re-enroll (ignore this part if you signed up for the whole year) because we go right into the spring session
April 1—Spring PC session begins—the last day is June 12, a Thursday.  Spring break comes from April 18 through April 26.
Have a great week!

Building Relational Credits

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 I picked Rachel up from pre-school, I would often ask her what she did at school that day (probably not the best thing to do, but I really wanted to know) and she would usually tell me that she slept—all day.  Of course this wasn’t true, but my questioning did not elicit the information I wanted.  Sometimes later that day or even the next week she would tell me stuff that happened.  It was almost always during a quiet time in the day, often when we were preparing dinner together.  Kim says that to build these relational credits, we commit to regularity and also become a parent kids can be with doing nothing.  This reminds me of “The 7 habits of highly effective people,” where Stephen Covey writes about the emotional bank account. An Emotional Bank Account is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust, the feeling of safety, that's built up in a relationship. In the 7 habits, we make deposits in this account through courtesy, kindness, honesty, apologizing sincerely when we make a withdrawal, and keeping our commitments.  We make withdrawals through the opposite—discourtesy, disrespect, cutting a person off, overreacting, ignoring, being arbitrary, betraying trust, etc.  It really takes time to build up this account—time together without much of an agenda.

Creating these relational credits is not usually so challenging when your child is young, but it is great to have a large emotional/relational bank account as children reach the often turbulent years of adolescence.  It’s a long way away for you, but listening, waiting and pausing are good habits to build for now and later.

Do you have pauses built into your day?  Do you have enough of them?  Do you like them?  Do you have any pauses where you get a little time to yourself or with other adults?

The next section of this chapter is about family dinner and food.  We will talk about it next week—food is always a popular topic here in Parent Child.

We will continue knitting until the end of March—which is also the end of our Winter session, although hopefully winter will end before that!  If you have any projects of your own, feel free to bring them along.  I also have some simple patterns for animals or dolls, if you would like to try something else after you finish your washcloth.  You can also make a second washcloth if you want.

Every day is special, but there are no special events coming up at school, except:
Senior Projects!!! This Wednesday through Friday, including Mercedes (Ms. Kate’s daughter) at 6:00PM on Thursday.  You can check the CWS website for the complete schedule.

“how to get a job a google”—job skills for the 21st century

Here is a quote from Thomas Friedman's OpEd piece in the NYTimes this weekend:

“For every job, though, the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not I.Q. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information.

The world only cares about — and pays off on — what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it). And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where you go to work.”

Another unintended plug for Waldorf Education!


creating rhythm, consistency and connection

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 parental verbiage, less effort, and fewer problems around transitions.”

One way to help our families establish rhythms is to create rituals, usually little rituals, that bring not only repetition, but also show our love and caring.  This can be as simple as singing a little song each morning to awaken our child.  As I have shared with many of you, getting up and out in the mornings was an ongoing challenge for my family.  With my younger daughter, I woke her up for quite a long time with a little rhyme—one we used in our circle earlier this year: “Here comes a mouse, mousie, mousie, mouse; with tiny white ears and a soft pink nose, tickeldy tickle where ever he goes.  He runs up your arm and under your chin; don’t open your mouth or the mouse will come in, mousie, mousie, mouse.”  It was still hard for her to wake up in the morning, but she would at least awaken with a smile, as the mouse turned into a cat and then an elephant.  Even when she was in grade school, I would do this occasionally when she was having a hard time waking up.  Rachel, on the other hand, would wake up swinging if I touched her, so I would just touch her and then back away and let her go through her bad mood until she was done.  I also know people who play the lyre in the morning to gently wake their child up.  I have also heard that some children wake up all by themselves—amazing!  My mom used to leave out some food and a coloring book or something similar for my little brother, who was the only one in our family to wake up at the break of dawn, in hopes of getting a little more sleep.  For me, when the girls were little, and since they slept late, I would wake up early to have a little bit of time to myself, which made a huge difference in my day. 

Starting the morning the night before is often helpful—laying out clothes, preparing lunches if they are taken to school or work, preparing for breakfast.  And breakfast can also have some simple ritual—lighting a candle, especially on dark winter mornings, previewing the day.

How do your days begin?  Is your child up early or does she need help waking up if you have somewhere to go?  What is breakfast like? 

Quite Simply: The rhythms of family life provide consistency; the best ones also offer connection.

Kim offers the following question s to consider when you are considering increasing the rhythms in your family:
        • Would this make life easier, more balanced?
        • Will this help with what we need to do?
        • Most importantly, will they contribute to the way we want to live?

Kim reminds us that doing bringing more rhythm won’t make the unexpected or busyness or the need to improvise go away, it’s just that they won’t rule the day.  It will also bring more joy of anticipation and security in things to be counted out to your child’s life.

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

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 of rhythm in the life of the young child.  Even though it is easy to lose track of it, we live in a world of rhythm, starting with the bodily rhythms of the mother when a child is in utero, and out into the bigger world of day and night, waking and sleeping (hopefully in that order), the week, the seasons of the year, the cycles of life.  Through these rhythms, children come to know the world and their place in it, grow in security so they can begin to venture out into the world.  Rhythm “can facilitate [the child’s] mapmaking: the connectedness they are charting in their brains.”  Kim Payne tells us that “increasing the rhythm of your home life is one of the most powerful ways of simplifying your children’s lives.”  He also tells us that if our lives don’t allow for a regular rhythm, we can at least bring more predictability and transparency.  We often have a bigger picture of where the day is leading us, but small children usually don’t, so if we can’t get to rhythm, at least we can help our child chart a course through the day with some landmarks he can count on.  In this chapter, Kim shares many stories from families he has worked with to give us ideas of way to make life more rhythmical and predictable.  He devotes large sections of the chapter to meals and bedtimes, so we will be talking about those more in the next few weeks.

I previously mentioned the “three r’s” of early childhood, rhythm, ritual and repetition.  “Meaning hides in repetition.  We do this every day or every week because it matters.  We are connected by this thing we do together.”  You can bring rhythm to any repeated part of the day, from meals to bedtime to waking up in the morning to brushing teeth, anything you can do regularly.  I will put links to a couple of articles about rhythm on my blog, if you are interested in reading more.  But I would invite you to choose one repeated part of the day to bring more rhythm and ritual to.  Small, doable changes are the best.  Don’t forget to use the change plan if it is helpful to you. What would you do?  Let’s share some ideas and support each other in this.

When parents ask a Waldorf EC teacher about how we work with discipline in the classroom, part of the answer will be that we establish a strong rhythm for the children.  We think of it as a breathing rhythm—the in-breath is a time when we come together for circle time, perhaps, or snack, the outbreath is free play, indoors or out.  With a strong rhythm, there is less need for instruction from the teacher and transitions are easier.  Of course, some things are easier at school than they are at home.  At school, we have a dedicated time to be with the children, although on the flip side, there may be as many as 18 of them.

Simplifying books, clothing, scent, sound and light

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.

Books: As a lover of books, this one is and was harder for me than simplifying toys.  He says that books are often the second major form of excess after toys.  Do you think so?  He recommends, for children under 7 or 8, having one or two books easily accessible and another 12 or so favorite books available on a shelf.  As with toys, you can rotate them through.  And he doesn’t’ write about library books, which can be another nice way to rotate through some different books.  He suggests in deciding which books to purchase or keep looking at criteria similar to the criteria he suggested for toys.  Is it a story that leaves some room for the imagination? Is it developmentally appropriate? Is it a story based on a product or a television or movie character? Is it designed to engage or to stimulate? A book read at bedtime nourishes a child’s dreams.  We all know how much children enjoy hearing the same story over and over again.  “Repetition deepens the experience and relationship for a child; it helps them claim it as their own.”

Clothes: Guess what?  Fewer clothing choices simplifies getting dressed!  The suggestion here is to have available only clothes that fit and are appropriate for the season.  All other clothing should be packed or given away.  Until adolescence, children don’t really need to use clothing as a form of self-expression.  Someone told me about Minimalist Fashion Project 333,(for adults—I don’t think it would work for children unless you were willing to do laundry all of the time) where you leave only 33 items in your closet to wear for 3 months.  I’m not sure if I could do it, but it would be interesting to try and see if it is really possible.

Scent and Lighting (and sound): This chapter ends with a short section on scent and lighting.  It is so easy to get caught up in all the stuff that we forget about these other important parts of the environment.  “The amygdala, the ancient part of our brain, is the area associated with olfaction, or smell.” Artificial scents and too many scents get the amygdala firing and adrenaline flowing.  Simplifying smells in the home, including cleaning supplies, perfumes and other scented products, can help to calm the amygdala and bring a sense of safety and well-being to the young child. Kim points out that many of our homes have a lot of hard surfaces—wooden floors, plain ceilings, wood and glass.  While these offer “clean lines and a natural aesthetic,” they can also be challenging for children with auditory processing difficulties—in other words, the noise bouncing around these kind of spaces can be confusing to children. Lastly, Kim writes about lighting.  He writes about how wonderful it is to light a candle sometime during the day.  He also writes about the importance of natural light and also the importance of darkness.  He encourages us to wean our child off of nightlights.  “Most small children can sleep through loud sounds, but they are very sensitive to light.  If your child does not have “nighttime concerns,” a darkened room improves the quality of sleep.

Don’t forget small, doable changes!

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

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 out of what the Greeks called “chronos” or chronological time into “kairos,” or what we might call flow.  I know that for myself, when I start spinning (or some other craft) I lose track of time on the clock.  You may notice this during this time of the year in parent-child class when we are spinning and knitting; I will try to get us to snack on time, though.  I believe that this work of our hands can give us a taste of how children enter into the world and enter into play; they enter into it completely and with all of their senses wide open.  The child, of course, doesn’t have any sense of chronos yet.  We can bring them gently into the rhythms of the world, day and night, the changing seasons and ever so gently into the relentless ticking of chronos.  But it is important for us to remember to play, as well, and to enter into the flow.  We use our hands, hearts and minds.  We talk, we laugh, we create.  The children feel it.  We all breathe more easily in this atmosphere of purposeful work/play.

Last week, I wrote about simplified play and trial and error and the sense of touch.  This week we will touch on the other aspects of play the Kim Payne discusses in Chapter 3:

• Pretending; imaginary play:  This type of play begins as imitation in the newborn.  While imitation continues to be the primary way of learning in the first seven years, imaginative play begins in the second year and continues to blossom and grow through childhood and, hopefully, into adulthood.  I hear a lot about “executive function” these days.  Kim defines it as including “the ability to self-regulate, to amend one’s behavior, emotions, and impulses appropriately to the environment and situation.”  This type of play helps the child develop the flexible thinking that will serve them for their whole life.  Simple choices of props and costumes strengthen the use of imagination.

• Experience “Children need experience, not entertainment, in play.”  Children need to experience all four elements, and the tools needed are (surprise) quite simple—buckets, nets, shovels, kites, baskets and other containers, bubbles…
• Purpose and industry: Children love to be busy and useful, even if their idea of the ultimate purpose of the work is not the same as yours.  Giving them real child-sized tools is a great gift.  Kim says that this sense of purpose and industry “counteracts feelings of overwhelm.”

• Nature:  “Nature is the perfect antidote to the sometimes poisonous pressures of modern life.”  Nature, as opposed to screens, nourishes all of our senses.  Kim writes that we don’t need spectacular settings for our children—it is satisfying for a child to know even a modest place that is close to home well through the seasons.  I have watched the children in our school enjoy our modest sideyard through the seasons and the years.  Of course, it helps that their friends are there…
• Social interaction:  “Children need interaction with others, with human beings, to build social skills and their own individuality… The primary predictor of success and happiness in life is our ability to get along with others.” (There is more on the other side)

• Movement:  Children need to move in all sorts of different ways.  Rough and tumble play is important, too, for brain development.  “A childhood rich in physical play, in time and space to move, builds more than physical strength.  It expands your child’s lifelong access to fun, health and connection with others.”

• Arts and Music: “Children need to create.  They need to make art, to feel and see and move their worlds in new directions.”  Kim says that there should always be a place and materials in a simplified room for art.  Music is important, too, and simple instruments, especially homemade ones, can be a lot of fun.
Next week, we will finish chapter 3!!!!!
Upcoming events:
Thursday, Feb. 6:  7:55AM to 9:55 AM, opportunity to visit main lessons in classrooms.  For adults, RSVP required
Tuesday, Feb. 11: 7PM-9PM, Curriculum evening for Early Childhood and Parent Child parents covering the transition to first grade and how our early childhood program prepares children for the grade school.
Feb. 16-23: No school, mid-winter break
Also, if you are interested, I am providing links for a couple of articles about play :

Why Waldorf Works: From a Neuroscientific Perspective
By Dr. Regalena “Reggie” Melrose
--this one is posted on a wonderful blog called "The Magic Onion"

Toddlers to tweens: relearning how to play
Children's play is threatened, say experts who advise that kids – from toddlers to tweens – should be relearning how to play. Roughhousing and fantasy feed development.
By Stephanie Hanes, Correspondent / January 22, 2012, from the Christian Science Monitor

Simplified Play—trial and error and the sense of touch

Do you know that there is a wonderful Simplicity Parenting website and blog (and facebook page, too), and that you can, if you want, sign up for the Simplicity Parenting newsletter that comes out once a month? This month, one of our parent-child mom’s, Erica, has an article in the newsletter about her own Simplifying journey, including an adorable photo of her adorable children!

Have you taken on a small doable change?  How is it going?  I am enjoying my 15 minutes of decluttering, although I have changed it from daily to 5 times a week—some days I am just too busy or tired to spend even 15 minutes on this, but I would like to keep at it for a while, at least.

And we continue on our journey through Chapter 3—let’s look at the section on simplified play.  As we have discussed before, children don’t need a lot of toys, but they do need a lot of unstructured time.  “Sometimes we parents help most by getting out of the way, while being available.”  We can give our child the freedom to make their own decisions in play and progress at their own pace.  Kim writes about the importance of trial and error in the learning of a young child.  Anyone who has watched a child learn to roll over, sit up, walk  or talk has seen this.  He also writes about the rise in sensory integration therapy.  “There has been a dramatic rise in “sensory integration” therapy in the past ten year, which strives to build neural connections and pathways that were not established naturally through these early childhood activities.  In our hurry to have our children walk, or in our anxiousness to serve them, we may cause them to skip stages essential for neural development.”  When we give our child the opportunity to play and progress at her own pace, we allow our child to unfold in her own unique way and follow her own inner wisdom.  We foster the child’s curiosity, attention, perseverance and will.

Another important way young children learn is through the sense of touch.  When they are really little, they use their most sensitive organ of touch—their mouths.  The sense of touch both creates an awareness of the world around them and also helps them develop a sense of their own boundaries, a sense of self and other.  In this section, Kim speaks about giving the child access to natural materials to give them rich sensory experiences.  He includes not only toys, but playing in nature, cooking and baking and working with real, child sized tools in the kitchen, garden and workshop.

Next week, we will finish this section on simplified play and then move on to books, clothes, scent and lighting.  If you have any ideas to share or questions about any of these, bring them to class.  We would love to hear what’s on your mind and in your heart.

“What is rare is precious”

"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 locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

When I first read the quote by Hurston, I hoped that this would be a year of answers for me.  But I’m not so sure.  In life, especially in life with young children, there are so many questions.  I remember so often feeling, when my children were young, but not just then, that there was an answer out there somewhere if only I could find the right person to ask or read the right book.  Those people and books can, of course, be very helpful, but I really believe that we live into the answers by living the questions.  With young children, life changes so quickly, and though the specifics change, we still carry the same big questions.  What are your big questions about parenting?  Mine are something like—How can I best carry this question for my child, “who am I?” until he can carry it for himself?  How can I express my love –sometimes how can I stay in touch with my love?  What do I need to develop in myself to be the best parent I can for this child who is totally dependent on me?  What does she really need?

We can certainly help and support each other with the specific questions, but the answers to the big questions only come in the living of them.  One tool that helps clarify the questions is Simplicity Parenting (Were you wondering how long it was going to take me to get back to that?)

I received a link to Kim Payne’s presentation on chapter 3, “Environment: What is rare is precious”  If you have never heard Kim speak before, I would encourage you to listen.  He is a thoughtful, caring man and a delightful speaker.  We will talk about the chapter on simplifying the environment over the next few weeks.  Kim calls his lecture, “What is rare is precious.”  I am still thinking about that one and how it applies to my own life.

He also brought up a few points that I found very interesting.  Too much stuff leads to a sense of overwhelm and emotional disconnect.  He said that if there is less stuff, children attach more to parents and less to their things.  He quotes a parent who said, “As our stuff became less, our family became more.”  He also mentions how simplifying allows children the opportunity to play deeply.  Through play, children process all that they are taking in from the  world.  An environment that supports deep play can lead to easier transitions and better eating and sleeping.

Questions? Answers? I don’t know—we need them both, but here’s hoping for a year with more family, more love, more clarity and lots of joy! 

Welcome and welcome back everyone!

The best toys of all time!

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 Best Toys of All Time.” They are:
1.  Stick
2. Box
3. String
4. Cardboard tube
5. Dirt
6. Water

He also mentions that the fun is increased exponentially when these toys are combined.  This is a humorous article, but as with the best humor, there is a lot of truth in it.  Kim Payne writes that the number of toys your child sees, and has access to should be dramatically reduced.  I know that many of you have done this already.  I find that it is an ongoing process.  We don’t have so many children’s toys around our house these days, but we still manage to accumulate a lot of stuff, even with fairly regular purges.

Our motivations for giving toys, and the motivations of those who give our children toys, are generous and come from love and from wanting our children to have everything we can give them.  But, Kim says, “The attribution of creativity has shifted away from children, who come by it quite naturally, to the efforts of executives in toy company boardrooms who claim the power to “develop” and “stimulate” creativity.  An overemphasis on toys co-opts and commercializes play, making it no longer a child’s natural world but rather one that’s dependent on adults, and the things they provide, to exist.” 

What were your favorite toys to play with when you were a child?  I have observed the joy of so many children who find a stick or some other natural treasure during their outdoor adventures.  Often, these things are soon forgotten, although not always, but expensive toys are also often forgotten, perhaps after some initial excitement.  I remember as a child loving to find beautiful, to me, stones.  I remember looking for them whenever I was out.  I also remember my parents giving me a beautiful set of minerals which were glued to a card with descriptions of each stone underneath.  I remember peeling the stones off of the paper so I could enjoy holding them.  What children really need to develop their imagination is not specific toys, but rather time, “plenty of open-ended time, and mental ease.  As you decrease the quantity of your child’s toys and clutter, you increase their attention and their capacity for deep play.

I wish all of you a holiday season and new year filled with  an abundance of time, deep play and joy!
Happy new year!

Hidden messages in advertising and limiting choices for the young child

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 children.  He cites Mary Pipher’s book, The Shelter of Each Other on this subject.  She says that the unspoken messages of advertising are:

1.  To be unhappy with what we have
2. “I am the center of the universe and I want what I want now”
3. Products can solve complex human problems, and meet our needs
4. Buying products is important

Not really the lessons we want to teach our children!  But it is easy for us as adults in our society to feel this way, too.  I still sometimes feel that if I just had the right thing, I would be happier and more satisfied with my life.  Do you ever feel that way?

Another topic Kim writes about is choice.  He says, “Too much stuff leads to too many choices.”  In our society, we love to give our children choices.  We think it is kind to let them choose and that making choices helps them to develop their personalities. But Kim says, “If you overwhelm a child with stuff—with choices and pseudochoices—before they are ready, they will only know one emotional gesture: “More!”  We actually expand and protect their childhoods by limiting their choices when they are little.  They need us to be the adults and know what is best for them; they need us to protect them and not give them the burden of being responsible for making these kind of decisions.  In Beyond the Rainbow Bridge, Barbara Patterson describes too many choices as calling forth the “I want” part of their personality prematurely.  “They become more and more conscious of their likes and dislikes…In the long run, offering children choices breeds egotism: they become self-centered and less sensitive to the needs of others.”

But really, our children are making choices all of the time in their play and in their movement.  They are learning all of the time through the choices they make.  In Your Child’s Growing Mind, Jane Healy suggests that we offer young children uncomplicated choices that you both can live with.  Again, this comes down to knowing your child and knowing what they can handle.  By taking away a lot of the choices around toys, food, clothing and other stuff, we allow them to focus on the choices they make on their own, and we are given the joy and privilege of watching them unfold.   Healy says, “Learning to make simple decisions—and minor mistakes—is hard but necessary.  Children’s conception of reality needs to include close personal experiences of cause and effect. (“If I press too hard on the crayons, they will break.” “If I pull out the bottom shirt from the pile, the others will fall on me.”)  Children are able to make these kinds of choices, and they need to.  These choices are made with actions, and other than creating an appropriate environment and keeping them safe, they don’t need our involvement in these type of choices.

Soul Fever—what to do about it

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 with little ones.  Sometimes noticing is enough all by itself to bring a child back;  all they need is to feel understood and supported.  If we don’t notice, symptoms may worsen or reappear in a stronger form.  Sometimes we don’t notice because we are busy and preoccupied, and sometimes because children are already so “pumped up” that their norm is agitated.

2. Quieting things down:  Whether the child wants it or not, they need a break from normal routines.  Most children can regain emotional balance with 2 or 3 days of quiet.  While our impulse may be to fix whatever is wrong, in the long run, their success in resolving their own issues requires them to work through their own emotions, and a little break can really help.  These kind of breaks are easier to create when your child is still young.

3. Bringing them close:  “Physically and emotionally, they need to be brought close…When we change the routine and quiet things down, we are placing an unspoken emphasis on relationship, connection.”  This quieting down may mean spending time at home, but it might also mean spending time in nature.  This is also the time to ask what caused this soul fever.  Have you been doing too much?  Do you need to seek out guidance from someone else?  “When your child seems to deserve affection least, that’s when they need it most.”  And keep in mind that their soul fever can easily spark your own—or vice versa.  If that happens, it might be a good time to pull out the compassionate response meditation or baby pictures or to call someone who loves your child and ask them to remind you why.

4. Running its course:  Like an illness, a soul fever has its own life span.  We give our child the time, space and support to come through whatever they are facing.  When Rachel had tantrums when she was little, I thought of them like thunderstorms—they can be loud and scary and wet, but you can’t stop them until they are finished, and you certainly can’t fix them.  Remember that “no one gets to skip the soul fevers and growing pains of life.  In order to learn who they are, and what feels right to them, a child must grapple with these emotional upsets.  It does not feel good to see our child in pain and not be able to do anything about it.  Simplifying is something we can do.

5. A slow strong return:  We can see when the soul fever has broken and our child comes back to himself.  Now is the time to trust our instincts/intuitions as we re-enter regular life.  Do we need to ease back into the regular schedule or make some changes?  Recovery from these fevers includes a strengthening sense that “things get better.”  They also can bring us closer as a family, especially as we make extra time to spend with our child when she needs us.  “You don’t make them better whey they’re sick, yet your care and support allows them the ease to fight off whatever nasty virus they’re grappling with.  When they’re overwhelmed by the pressures and pace of daily life, or when their “fever” is emotional, you can offer the same pattern of care to support them.”

Simple gift giving

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 looking forward to having Gabi home for a few days and eating lots of good food, too.  For those of you I will not see next week, a very happy Thanksgiving
I tracked down the handout on gift giving that I told some of you about.  It is written about birthday presents, but it certainly applies to any time when gifts are part of the celebration.  I am also really copying the Compassionate Response meditation for you this week.  Sorry, I accidentally copied the other side of the page, so you got the summary of chapter 2 instead—interesting, but not what I was intending to give you.

After Thanksgiving, we will get back to the chapter on Soul Fever.  I am hoping that we can share some of our favorite simple holiday traditions and also any ideas for gift giving this week. 

I also wanted to let you know, at the beginning of this season of light, how grateful I am to all of you for sharing your precious time with me.  I am constantly reminded of the simple joys in life and how amazingly wonderful it is to enter into this life, with all of its joys and challenges.  Our early childhood classes have the names of flowers, and while we don’t have an official name, I think of Parent Child as the Wonder Garden—the unfolding and blossoming of the children and parents, and even sometimes the teachers, is a wonder to behold.

Here is the verse that our school, and manyWaldorf schools, recite at the end of our school assemblies.  It is one of my favorites:

To wonder at beauty,
Stand guard over truth,
Look up to the noble,
Resolve on the good,
This leads us truly
To purpose in living,
To right in our doing,
To peace in our feeling,
To light in our thinking.
And teaches us trust
In the workings of God
In all that there is,
In the widths of the world,
In the depths of the soul.

Imagine being the architect of your holidays by Sue Gimpel,

     Spend a few moments imagining your” Ideal Holiday Season”. Notice the environment you are in, what you are doing, and who you are with. Notice what you attracts and repulses you. Then make some notes and rate your preferences…  I’m Repulsed   I can take it or leave it Highly Desirable
Gifts:     1----------------2---------------3------------------4---------------5
What gifts specifically? Toys, clothes, tickets to events? Handmade, fine art, or gift certificates?

Spending time with certain people:
Who? What are you doing together? Do you need to be in a particular location together?
Decorations:    1----------------2---------------3------------------4---------------5
What specifically? How much? Where to decorate?

Spiritual Rituals or Religious Celebrations :
Which ones? I.e. “ I do NOT want another obligatory New Year’s Eve Party! I do want….”

Activities:   1---------------2---------------3------------------4---------------5
Cultural, Nature, Artistic/Creative, Spiritual?  i.e. Is seeing the Nutcracker Ballet one of your traditions?

Travel:    1 --------------2---------------3------------------4---------------5
Visiting relatives or recreation?
Specialty Foods:  1 --------------2---------------3------------------4---------------5
i.e. “Its’ just not __________without …”

This year we hope to create more simplicity, closer connections, and:______________________________


The things that are most important to include in our Holiday Festivities are:


The things  I most wish to avoid during the Holidays this year are:


It is important for us to align the Holidays with our family’s values. Yet, I already know that _____________________( certain person/group) will be resisting the new ideas we have to:

In honoring our values, dreams, and atmosphere we wish to provide for our family, we are ready to meet the resistance from___________________________ (certain person/group).
This is our strategy to meet the expected resistance (conversations, letters, requests for support from identified helpers):


These are the daily & weekly  routines we wish to keep alive for our children in order to provide a sense of rhythm and predictability to balance the excitement and chaos of the Holidays:


Congratulations, you’ve taken the first steps in creating your dream for your family’s Holidays!   May the outer darkness be filled with the Light of Your Warmth and Connection!

Simplifying Joyful Holidays

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 have some copies for anyone who wants of one of my favorite poems for the holidays by Maureen Flannery, a long time member of the Waldorf community and a wonderful poet, called “Mother’s expectations for Advent.”  She writes about the celebration she dreams of creating and the one that really happens and how the two don’t meet. 

I have copied a couple of handouts--these are in a separate post-- for you from my Simplicity parenting colleague, Sue Gimpel, about being the architect of your holidays.  I would like to invite you to remember back to your own childhoods and remember what was most meaningful for you.  What memories do you treasure from your childhood holidays or celebrations?  Mine are pretty simple—I loved lighting the menorah and watching the candles burn.  I also loved the songs.  I also remember looking out the big picture window in our backyard and watching the snow fall.  And I remember a lot of special holiday meals and sometimes being allowed to help to cook and the smell of latkes frying.

The authors of Unplug the Christmas Machine, Jo Robinson and Jean Staeheli, interviewed hundreds of adults about their holiday memories and found that they could rarely remember the gifts, but instead remembered the feelings, rituals and relationships.  “Children want their parents to interpret the season for them so that it has meaning,” says Staeheli.  “Traditions needn’t be expensive or elaborate.  Anything can be a ritual if approached with a certain spirit.”  Our lantern walk is one example of this kind of celebration.

With the little ones, simpler is better.  What is important to you?  Gifts, spending time with certain people, decorations, rituals or religious celebrations, activities, travel, food?  Something else?  There will be time to expand or add to the celebration as the children grow older.  Some pieces you will hold on to, and others will fall by the wayside.  It is, for me, anyhow, the hardest time of year to avoid the 4 pillars of too much—too much stuff, too many choices, too much speed, too much information.  But we do have many choices and we can bring some balance by having some quiet days if we have really busy days.  What is the most challenging part of the holidays for you?  What is your favorite part?

Soul Fever, Part 2—Compassionate Response Meditation

  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 snack.

I’m not sure if we will have much time to talk about Simplicity Parenting this week, but if not, we will get back to it next week.  Still, I wanted to write a little more about soul fever.

Kim talks about when a child’s well being is threatened, stepping out of the regular routine, slowing down and simplifying, whether it is a physical fever or a soul fever.  He says that often a quiet weekend is enough to bring back some equilibrium.  But as with physical illness, in addition to slowing down, we want to ask what might have caused it.  We won’t always know, but are more likely to now when they are little than when they get older.   He talks about the need to bring them close when they seem to deserve our affection the least.  Here is one of my favorite quotes from this chapter, which comes after he talks about how we hold our children close when they are ill.  “It is another thing to maintain a loving presence with a child who is exploring their inner shadow as they push every one of your buttons as though you were the elevator panel in a skyscraper.  This is where he mentions a wonderful exercise which I would like to share with you. If any of you have ever studied Tibetan Buddhism, it is similar to the Tonglen meditation.  Kim calls it the Compassionate Response meditation.  Kim has a CD that you can buy that guides you through the meditation.  Basically you picture your child (or anyone) in their soul fever state and pull that image close to your heart--or as close as is comfortable.  Then you picture your child in a golden moment and release that image out into the world.  It is a littlle more complicated than that, but that is the basic idea.  It only takes a few minutes to do.  He also suggests calling friends or family members and asking them to tell you wonderful things about your child or looking at photos of them.

Then he talks about letting the fever run its course.  In a physical illness, we can sometimes treat the symptoms and make the child feel better, but illness still has to run its course.  It’s the same with soul fever.  Even with slowing down, simplifying and holding the child close, the  soul fever must run its course.  I think we often feel like if we do everything right, parenting should be easy.  And sometimes it is, but other times it is challenging even when we are doing our very best.  We can’t always fix everything for our children, nor should we.  “Nobody gets to skip the soul fevers and growing pains of life.  In order to learn who they are, and what feels right to them, a child must grapple with these emotional upsets…Your support doesn’t “fix” anything, it just provides a loving container for them to process the things that are bothering them.  With warmth you can help keep their emotions, their sense of options, and their behavior pliable.  The roots of hopelessness and helplessness need hardened soil; you maintain fertile emotional ground around your child with the compassion of your noticing and caring.”  So rather than trying to fix everything for our child, we can create a safe space for them to learn and to grow and to rest and recover when they need to.

Next week we will talk about the compassionate response meditation, but I would also like to talk about simplifying for the holidays, since they are just around the corner. 

Soul Fever, Part 1

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 behaviors a child exhibits when she is overwhelmed.  As he points out, the way this shows up is different for each child, just as some children will get a high fever with the slightest sniffle and others can be more ill and only be sleepy.  “Each child wrestles their inner trials in their own way.”  .  He reminds us that we know our own children better than anyone else and that our own instincts or intuitions tell us when our child is in a state of soul fever.  Sometimes we are more in tune with our instincts and intuitions than at other times.  Sometimes we have our own soul fevers.  Our child’s soul fever can trigger our own, and vice versa.  But we can learn, if we don’t already know, to recognize our child’s soul fever.


The first step in treating a soul fever is to notice it.  In a child with a physical fever, we might notice that our child is sluggish, not hungry, not wanting to do the things they usually love to do.  I came to recognize with my older daughter that she would get really crabby a couple of days before she got sick—then she would spike a high fever.  I later noticed that I was the same way.  “Generally, we need to see a few symptoms of disquiet to identify a soul fever.  Inner turmoil extends beyond a bad mood or brief snit.  It also lasts longer.  A child with a soul fever stays “out of sorts,” taking more than a step or two toward their quirky tendencies.”  Younger children don’t try to hide their soul fever, so it may be more obvious than it is with older children.  And sometimes, especially with younger children, just noticing may be enough.  “These small acts of noticing can form the emotional foundation of “home” or “family”:the place where we were “read,” understood, held in balance.  If we miss the symptoms, they may get worse or disappear and show up in a stronger form.  I have experienced this on a smaller scale both at home and at school—trying to ignore some kind of unpleasant behavior because I want to get something done only to find the behavior escalating.  On the other hand, sometimes it goes away if we ignore it—that is not soul fever, but more likely just part of the normal ups and downs of life.

Next week we will continue into the other steps of treating soul fever.  I hope everyone stays cool until then!

help, someone has hijacked my amygdala: fight or flight and its effect on child development

The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears.  Ellen Goodman, journalist

Kim writes about amygdala hijack.  The amygdala is the ancient part of the brain that controls our fight or flight response.  This response can be very useful in emergency situations, where our lives are actually in danger, but as Sophocles said a while ago, “To him who is in fear, everything rustles.”  If we, or our children, are constantly in a state of fear, we will miss the signs if there is something dangerous happening.  “In response to a perceived threat, the amygdala the “hijacks,” or bypasses, the thinking and feeling part of the brain with a reaction that may be inappropriate to the situation.”  Especially for a young child, who is developing their thinking and feeling, this state is difficult and exhausting, physically and emotionally.  Think of a time when you were really frightened.  How did you react in the moment?  How did you feel afterwards?  Imagine how it would be to live like this most of the time.  We don’t really have access to our humanity when we are in this state.  As we discussed last week, we don’t want to be addicted to harmony, but we also don’t want to become addicted to adrenaline.

Quite Simply:  Behavioral tendencies can be soothed or relaxed by creating calm.

Kim broaches the subject of spirit, as well, in this chapter.  He writes that our children are more than the sum of their parts—genes and behavioral tendencies.  Our behavior is affected by more than the chemical makeup of our brain; we are more than tendencies, syndromes and labels.  There is something our children bring with them when they arrive on earth that makes them unique, which can be called spirit, or telos, “a thing or person’s essence, their intrinsic intent.”  He says, “A little grace is needed, after all, for them to develop into the people they’re meant to be, especially in a world that is constantly bombarding them (and us) with the distractions of so many things, so much information, speed and urgency.”  These stresses distract from the focus or “task” of childhood: an emerging, developing sense of self.  And this brings us to the answer to the question, “Why simplify?”  Simplifying gives our children time and space to become themselves with greater ease and a greater sense of well-being.  It also gives us, as parents, an opportunity to know, love and appreciate our child(ren) more deeply.

Next week we will begin to look at the next chapter, “Soul Fever.”

all children are quirky

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 child, one who stands up for herself or her friends and for what is right might slide into oppositional defiance disorder.  It is normal to slide back and forth along this spectrum.  “Just as stress can push children in one direction, the reverse is also true.  When you really simplify a child’s life on a number of levels they come back... By dealing with normal stresses, children (and adults) develop ways to cope.”  One thing he doesn’t write about in the book, but he has spoken about, is that these same quirks that can slide into disorders can go the other way and become the child’s gifts.  I learned about this in my own adult life.  I went to law school and then went on to work for Legal Aid, intending to help people in need.  I am sure that I did, but I am a person who doesn’t like to argue and this work was very stressful for me.  I like to bring people together, to create beauty and harmony.  I realized that while these were my challenges when I was working as a lawyer, these were my gifts and I needed to find the right setting for them.  Kim Payne does warn us of the dangers of harmony addiction in this section.  Trying to protect a child from all stress, hovering over them and trying to prevent them from facing any challenges is also a form of stress, for both parent and child.  We don’t need to seek out difficult situations, but we don’t need to avoid them at all costs either.  Harmony comes through resolving the dissonant chord rather than not playing it. 

We hear a lot about building emotional resiliency in children.  Payne compares building emotional resiliency to building a healthy immune system.  Just as the immune system needs to be exposed to bugs and viruses to get stronger, he says, so the child needs some stress to build emotional resiliency.  “By overprotecting them, we may make their lives safer (that is, fever free) in the short run, but in the long run we would be leaving them vulnerable, less able to cope with the world around them.”  I find this to be a difficult subject.  There are not clear guidelines; we have to find our own balance of what is enough and what is too much.  “The central struggle of parenthood,” according to journalist Ellen Goodman,  “is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears.”  Through observation of ourselves and our children, through talking to supportive friends and family, and through being willing to make mistakes and learn from them—avoiding being addicted to perfection, too—we can create a healthy life for our children.

Pressing the pause button—on our lives!

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 control, a lack of empathy and a lack of perspective taking.  Of course some of these attributes are still developing in our very young children.  Kim Payne and others  (e.g. Waldorf schools, The Alliance for Childhood) advocate protecting and slowing down childhood. Kim Payne begins, as I mentioned last week, by asking the parent(s)  to recall their vision of their family, “how they imagined it before they had children.  It is important for them to dream their way back before going forward, to reclaim the images and hopes most central and dear to them.”  Even if your dreams were not totally realistic—and what dreams are, really? –there is still truth in them.  Can you remember how you imagined life would be with your child or children?  Is it the way you dreamed it could be?  Have you gotten off track?  “Like any work of art, families need inspiration, fresh infusions of hope, and imagination.” Says Kim.  I really like that he describes the family as a work of art.  For me it is my most precious creation.  This book is really about realigning your everyday life with your hopes and dreams!  After remembering and recreating your hopes and dreams, you can start looking at any points in the day that are regularly difficult, remembering that the stresses around the rest of the day may be showing up at these points, as well. 

Also, if there are any of these parts of the day, or any other questions that you would like to speak with me about one on one, I will have a parent teacher conference sign up sheet available next week.  The school has these conferences on Thursday, October 31 and Friday, November 1.  There will be no classes on those days, as well.

If you feel like collecting nature’s bounty:

Over the next few weeks we will be doing various fall craft projects.  We will be using leaves—either fresh or pressed, pine cones and other treasures from the plants.  If you would like to bring some for yourself or to share, that would be great.

Upcoming events:

Parent teacher conferences—no school—Thursday and Friday, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1
Friday November 8—All new, all EC lantern walk will be held at Emily Oaks Nature Center in Skokie, 5-6:30, details to come
Saturday, November 16, 1-2:30 Early Childhood Open House for Parent Child parents, details coming—this is for adults only!

Introduction to Simplicity Parenting by Kim Payne

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 in the western world displayed the same stress symptoms as the children he worked with in these very difficult life circumstances.  He has conducted his own research which shows that the pace and stress of modern life can produce “cumulative stress disorder” in children and families. Studies have shown that children have lost more than 12 hours of free time a week in the last 20 years.  Kim talks about the 4 pillars of too much—too much stuff, too many choices, too much busyness and too much information from the adult world, including media. Through the book, he guides us through these areas, with humor and compassion, but also with lots of helpful examples and ideas.

One of the first things we do in a Simplicity Parenting Parent workshop is to think of a golden moment in our own childhood.  It can be a time when we were alone or with others, inside or out.  I would invite you to think of a moment from your childhood that was golden.  Then, I would invite you to ask yourself what qualities that moment had. 

Next week we will look at the first chapter, “Why simplify?” If you choose to make some changes in your home life, it is good to consider what is important and what is doable—and choose what is doable!  We will talk about this more as time goes on.  It is also important to work with your spouse or partner if you have one.  This work is meant to bring families closer together.

Imagine your home as place where time moves a little more slowly...
Imagine making time for fun, connection, relaxing .......
Imagine that your love will accommodate your child’s acting out without you losing
your cool.....
Imagine your child’s room uncluttered, peaceful......
Imagine your family’s days acquiring a sense of order, rhythm and flow...
Imagine your child having unscheduled time every day to daydream and play....
Imagine what is said at home becoming more kind, true and necessary...
Imagine using “unplugged” time for the family to be together…

Simplicity Parenting can support you in creating the family life you want.  I look forward to exploring it with you.

discussion of “What Young Children Really Need.”

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 activity to be imitated
• Free, imaginative play
• Protection for the forces of childhood
• Gratitude, reverence and wonder
• Joy, humor and happiness
• Adult caregivers pursuing a path of inner development

Obviously, these essentials are qualitative and not quantitative.  In an age of science, where we like to be able to test and measure everything, this can be troublesome.  And yet when we look at Steiner’s description of the young child as being all sense organ, of taking in everything that is in their environment, and it does seem that young children are this way to me, this list makes a lot of sense.  Steiner says that the young child learns through imitation and free play. He says that “The real educational value of free play lives in the fact that we ignore our rules and regulations, our educational theory, and allow the child free rein.”
Susan Howard summarizes Rudolf Steiner’s advice to the first Waldorf early childhood teacher—
                                    • Observe the children
                                    • Actively meditate
                                    • Follow your intuitions
                                    • Work so that all your actions are worthy of imitation

It would be nice, perhaps to have concrete answers to questions about what we do when a child does this or that, but human beings are so wonderfully complex and children especially are constantly changing.  There is a lot of freedom and also a lot of responsibility in the above description of the work of the adult who is working with young children. We can learn from each other and from reading the words of experts, but working from our authentic selves with love and joy is really at the heart of Waldorf early childhood education.

Next week we will look at the introduction to Simplicity Parenting.

Dealing with conflict

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 pieces are mine.
7. If it looks just like mine, it is mine.

Part of the reason these rules are funny is that there is so much truth in them—a truth that often makes us uncomfortable. Here’s the bottom line—toddlers brains have not developed enough to feel empathy, and so they can’t really share. Usually around age 4, children are able to share sometimes and by age 6 they can share most of the time.

So does that mean that we just let them do whatever they want? That is not such a simple question to answer. It requires us to ask many questions, such as “How do young children learn?” and “How do I feel about conflict?”and “What do I really want for my child?” Most of us feel uncomfortable with it, but by removing all conflict or frustration for our children (as if we really could!), “parents may be hampering their children in learning how to coexist with others. As teachers and parents, we can help children build character and important life skills by accepting conflict ourselves as a normal part of toddlerhood, childhood and adult life.” Making Peace with Toddler Conflict.

"Mindfulness can be summed up in two words: pay attention. Once you notice what you're doing, you have the power to change it."  Michelle Burford, Journalist

We can work toward observing what is really going on, which includes noticing our own reactions. If one child takes something that another child is playing with and the second child doesn’t care, is intervention required? Perhaps not. Watch for signs that you have what Kim Payne calls “harmony addiction.” Take a deep breath and observe the situation. Give the children a moment to work things out themselves. If a child isn’t upset when another child takes their toy, does it really matter? Do you feel that the child who is taking is a bully and the child whose toy was taken is the victim?. Do you feat that your child will grow up to be mean or unable to stand up for themselves—or is there some other reason that you think what is happening is wrong? These are your expectations, and again and again as a parent, you will have the opportunity to examine these. I would invite you to take this opportunity.

Your child is trying to grab a toy from another child. They are both holding on. What should you do? Well there are at least a couple of different helpful options, depending on your child. First of all, you can redirect your child. This often works well for the younger children, especially. Or you can stay close and watch quietly. If you do, it’s good to be at the child’s eye level. You can describe what you see—“I see that you both want the ball.” Sometimes some simple coaching may be helpful—“You can say no.” Continue to watch and offer comfort until the conflict is resolved. Often this is enough. Magda Gerber, founder of RIE (Resources for Infant Edu-carers) says, “If either child’s emotions reach the boiling point and his behavior falls apart, or either child is intent on engaging in aggressively hurtful behavior like hitting or biting, you may decide to separate them.” Again this is done without judgment.

Remember that young children learn primarily through imitation and not through our verbal instructions. Our modeling appropriate behavior and accepting them for who they are will serve them best in the long run. Does this mean that we let them do whatever they want whenever they want to? No, of course not. If children are fighting or upset, they need us to step in and help We can remove a child from a situation, help them find something else to do, hold them on our laps, apologize to a child if our child takes something from them or tries to. We can let them feel whatever they are feeling, offering love and comfort, as needed, remembering that they are doing the best they can.

While we all want our children to be happy, of course, we will serve them, and the world as well, if we support them in learning to deal with conflict. For better or worse, conflict is part of the human condition. Conflict is an opportunity for growth—for all of us. True peace comes not from avoiding conflict but by meeting it with love and equanimity. Let’s give it a try! 

Welcome to the Parent Child Program

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 who they are. We will share ideas about child development that come from the developmental picture we work with in Waldorf education, try to answer your questions, share both the joys and challenges of parenting young children. I would like to go over some of the details of the program so you will know what to expect when you come to class. INTRODUCING YOUR TEACHERS I am Susan Bruck, and I am delighted to be teaching Parent Child Classes. I will be teaching all of the parent child classes and am the director of the program, as well. I began my journey with Waldorf education sixteen years ago, when I attended parent child classes at the Chicago Waldorf School with my daughter, Gabrielle. Gabrielle graduated from the Chicago Waldorf High School and is now a freshman at Vassar College. I began teaching Hebrew to the 3d grade at CWS that same year. By the end of the year, my daughter Rachel was a student in the first grade class. She has since graduated from CWS high school and from Vassar College. I have been teaching early childhood classes at CWS since 2000. I have taught the nursery class, as well as parent child classes. I completed teacher training at the Arcturus Rudolf Steiner Education Program. I have also done additional trainings in puppetry, movement, nursery rhymes, parent child work and leading Simplicity Parenting workshops. I also teach some classes in the Arcturus teacher training program, our Waldorf teacher training program here in Chicago. I enjoy playing the clarinet, handwork, cooking and writing. Kate Randolph, my dear friend and colleague, will be working with me again this year as the assistant teacher for our program. This will be the tenth year that Kate and I have taught together! We have worked together in the nursery program and the parent child program. Kate began working at CWS eleven years ago as the teacher for the aftercare program. Prior to that, she had her own home daycare for many years. Kate and I attended parent child classes together many years ago, I with Gabrielle, and she with her daughter Mercedes, who is now a senior at CWS. Kate has attended the Arcturus teacher training program. LOCATION AND PARKING Our class meets in the parent child classroom, which is located on the southwest corner of Loyola and Lakewood—1301 W. Loyola, across the street from the main school. Parking is on the street, but please be sure to check the parking restrictions, as they vary from block to block. We are also one block from the Loyola el stop, if you are taking public transportation. If you are coming on Saturday, you can also use the parking lot between the school and the church on the north side of Loyola Avenue. It is a good idea to allow an extra few minutes for parking and a leisurely stroll to the classroom. Many families spend a few minutes before or after class in the little school garden which is half a block west of our classroom. WHAT TO BRING TO PARENT CHILD CLASS Please bring a pair of slippers or warm socks for you and your child to wear in class. This helps to keep our floors clean, but also helps to create the peaceful and cozy mood we strive for in the classroom. We will provide a place for you to leave your slippers, if you would like to, so you don’t have to remember them every week. Other than that, just bring yourselves. Dress comfortably, both yourself and your child, as we will be moving together, as well as sitting on the floor. Also, wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty, as we always bake bread and sometimes have other projects that can be messy—I will try to warn you if something particularly messy is coming. A FEW THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND There are a few important things to keep in mind for our parent child classes. First, since young children learn by imitation, it is best for the adults to be engaged in calm purposeful activity. Baking, handwork, cleaning and setting the table are some of the activities that you can be involved with while the children explore the room, play and help. When the adults are engaged in purposeful activity, the children can relax and play. Of course, there are times with young children when they need our direct attention, and no one knows your child better than you, so please be with your child if he needs you. In our parent child classes, we try to create a community for parents and children, a moment of clam in the week where both parent and child can enjoy and be refreshed. Conversation among adults is an important part of this community forming, but it is important for adults to be aware of their voices and keep them on the quiet side so that the children can become more deeply engaged in their play, and so we can maintain an atmosphere of wonder and reverence. If you can, take a moment to just observe the children every time we meet. It is amazing to see how they play and grow and learn how to get along over the course of a session and throughout the school year. Parent child classes work best when each parent remains aware of and takes responsibility for his or her own child. It is important to remember that one to four year olds are just beginning to learn social graces, and most simply cannot share yet. They will learn in time, but what we do is much more important than what we say at this age. Simply saying, “Madison is riding the horse right now,” and taking Jill away to the play kitchen to make tea works much better than trying to explain the concept of taking turns. Redirecting in this way is not always easy, especially in a group, but it gets easier with practice. Also, if your child does something to disrupt a group activity (for example, if your child grabs a puppet during the puppet play or is very loud and disruptive during circle time) first of all relax and know that this is normal toddler behavior. But remember that it is your responsibility to promptly redirect your child. It may be necessary to take her out of the room for a few minutes. This helps the teacher to keep the flow of the activity going without having to interrupt it to deal with the situation and allows the other parents and children to enjoy the activity. If you do end up leaving the room, please come back when your child is ready. Finally, don’t despair if your child does not want to join the circle or participate in other group activities. Again, this is perfectly normal. Some children will join the group only after observing for several weeks, and some will never join in during the course of the session. This is fine. It is important to know that even if a child seems to be busily occupied in another part of the room, he is very often participating inwardly. In his own mind, he is fully part of the group. Parents often report that a child who has never participated in the circle in class will, upon getting into the car to go home or sometime the next day, sing every song and repeat every story word for word. Always invite the child to join the group, but please don’t feel any pressure to have your child join in if she is clearly not ready to. Please be aware of where your child is, but as much as possible keep your focus on the circle or the story. RHYTHM OF THE MORNING As the class begins, at 9:00, please come in, remove your coats and shoes and put on your slippers. We will begin each morning with bread making. As with all of our activities, your child is welcome to join in or to proceed directly to free play. It is your primary responsibility to watch your child, so if they are kneading dough or playing calmly, please come and work with us. If your child is in need of your attention, please stay with your child. When the bread is ready to bake, the teacher will gather everyone in the playroom for circle and story time. The circle time lasts only about ten minutes and will include seasonal songs and rhymes and nursery rhymes and a puppet play that I will present. The circle time is intended to be mostly interactive, between adult and child, with things like finger plays and tickling and bouncing games. Please encourage, but don’t force your child to join you, and come to the circle yourself as much as possible, remembering that your child learns primarily through imitation. Go to your child if she needs you rather than talking to them across the room, as this can be distracting for others. Following circle time, we will have free play and a craft. Most of the crafts will be primarily for the adults, but the children often like to help. I will always have some way the children can help or work with the materials, if they want to. There will be some crafts that are more geared toward the children, including watercolor painting. We will work on many of the crafts over two or more weeks. After about 30 minutes, we will clean up the room and set the table for snack. Please help as much as you can with these activities, and let your child help or not. They learn by watching the adults and imitating. Encourage the children to leave the playthings in their place once they have been put away. Once everything is put away, we will wash the children’s hands at the small table next to the snack table. Most children enjoy this activity, but it is fine if they do not want to wash their hands with us. Some children need to watch for a while until they become comfortable enough to participate. A good way to encourage your child is to come and wash your own hands in the wash basin. Once your child’s hands are washed and dried, you may sit down at the table. The teacher will light a candle and we all sing a song to bless our snack. We will share our snack together, which will generally be the bread we have made, with butter, if you wish, hummus, carrot and celery sticks and water or herb tea. (Please let us know if your child has any food sensitivities or allergies so we can plan accordingly). During snack time, we also have a few minutes for adult discussion. I will let you know in class what the discussion topic will be for the following week. There is more about this in the section below, too. When snack time is finished, the teacher will put out the candle, and then it is time to clear the table. We will end our morning with a goodbye song. Then you and your child may put on your outside shoes and clothing and it is time to go. THE THREE R’S OF PARENT CHILD—RHYTHM, REVERENCE AND RITUAL You will be hearing these words often in our class. Young children delight in and are nurtured by familiarity. Knowing what to expect and what comes next gives them a healthy sense of security. For this reason, we may repeat the same songs, rhymes and stories for an entire session or even for the whole school year. Children under five never seem to tire of hearing the same songs and stories over and over again. As they begin to learn songs by heart and sing along, they gain confidence in their abilities. Each time they hear a story; it goes in deeper and becomes part of them. So please trust that the repetition you experience in class is done out a conscious desire to meet the needs of the child. It is not due to the teacher’s lack of repertoire! Remember that consistency is extremely important for young children. Please try your best to make it to every class (unless of course you or your child is ill) and try to be on time. It is hard for little ones to settle into the rhythm of the morning if they are not experiencing the whole day from the beginning. You will notice that there are little rituals throughout the morning, such as hand washing, lighting a candle before snack and putting it out at the end, the same song is always sung at the beginning of circle time. These repetitive activities that also bring a sense of reverence to these everyday actions help the child with the transition from one activity to the next. STUDY FOR PARENTS Our class is intended to give both parents and children an experience of Waldorf education. In addition to experiencing Waldorf education, this class also includes parent education. To this end, we will be using one of my favorite books, Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. We will give you a copy of this book the first week of class. Discussions tend to be brief during snack time, but there is often a chance to ask questions during other parts of the morning. Of course, if there are other topics of interest to the class, we can discuss those, too. I would encourage you to take a minute or two during class or at home to quietly observe your child while she is engaged in focused play. Sharing what you observe will enrich our discussions. There are many wonderful books on Waldorf Early Childhood Education. Three of my favorites are Heaven on Earth, by Sharifa Oppenheimer, Beyond the Rainbow Bridge by Barbara Patterson, and You are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy. I am happy to recommend others based on your interests. We also have a small lending library in the parent child classroom. Kate and I look forward to getting to know you. If you have any questions, please contact me by email at . I can also be reached by phone at 773-465-2662, ext. 8301. Warmly, Susan Bruck