Main Teacher

Karen Brennan
  • Karen Brennan

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  • 773.465.2662 x8351
  • Biography

Welcome to the Parent Child Program

Sunday, August 18, 2013

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