February 2013

Dear Parents,

Welcome back!  I hope you have had the opportunity to have more family time this week and reconnect with your budding children.  It seems that blossoms aren’t the only thing bursting around my house.  The children in spring have a wonderful giddiness about their spirit.  This past week for me has been rejuvenating and inspiring.  After spending time in the snowy Sierra’s, we headed to Marin County to a Waldorf teacher’s conference.  Ms. Stefani, Ms. Cindy, Ms. Jan, Ms. McGinley, Sra. Ana and I spent a few soul strengthening days together on the campus of the Marin Waldorf school.  For me, reconnecting with colleagues, old and new, is a big part of helping me see the whole picture of our school and what we are trying to create.

I would like to say a huge thank you to those of you who helped our Valentine’s Tea to happen, especially Lindy, Sam and Angie.  It was such a sweet moment to look around and see all these little people drinking tea and conversing with parents and friends.  What a lovely group of children and parents we have!

Upcoming Events

Feb. 26th 7pm – Parent Evening:  The Importance of Touch by Ms. Betsy

March 7th 7pm – Grades Parent Evening

March 11th and 12th – Picture Days (look for order forms this week)

March 16th – Open House

March 19th 7pm – Why Waldorf? – A talk given by out of town guest and very experienced Waldorf teacher Dorit Winter – TELL YOUR FRIENDS!!!

March 20th 6:30pm – Board Meeting

March 25th-29th – Spring Break

News from our classes and beyond

Kindergarten

The kindergarten has been busy with lots of doing. We started in January working with simple looms that we made from found branches and some from my Christmas tree. It was fun to explore all that is woven in our world and to try our best at basic weaving. That lead us in Feb., into stitching of different kinds, paper, felt and some individual projects that children have wanted to make. We also have been busy building our woodworking area.

Please bring in an Easter basket lined with a brown paper bag.  The children will be growing their own grass for their Easter baskets!

Our most recent parent evening focused on the 6 year transformation, where much of the recent activities in our classroom and out support this transformation. It was wonderful to share our struggles with our own children but also to gain a deeper understanding of what some of our children are experiencing in this shift that occurs from about 5.5 to 7 years old. There is compassion in walking in another’s shoes, even if they belong to your 6 year old. There is a lovely article written by a Waldorf kindergarten teacher in Long Beach, Ca. It is at the end of this newsletter if you’d like to read it.

Preschool

Ms. Betsy has joyfully been bringing a consistent rhythm to our preschool class. One way in which she has helped to form the class is through the sewing of some little gnomes. Each child has their very own gnome. It has been through this project that the children’s play has been transformed. Much care is taken with these little friends and the children in turn are caring for each other.

Grades

The grades class has been in a language arts block of study. In the grades program about 3-4 weeks is dedicated to an area of study. In Waldorf education letters and writing are introduced before reading. Historically, humanity’s relationship to the development of written words has been a similar process. First came pictures, then symbols, then a further breaking down into letters and eventually to deciphering the sounds into words that could be read. The graders performed a story for the kindergarteners and preschoolers that they had been working on and you could see the pride in their smiles. Ms. McGinley reports many “Ah’s” happening in the grades class this time of year. Seeds are starting to take root.

Spanish

Sra. Ana is keeping us all on our toes with her joyful smile. Each day on the bench she brings us songs and dances. Lately we’ve all been learning about all the “animales de la granja,” (animals of the farm). If you’re not careful she might choose you to hold the goose:)

Gardening

Ms. Mariah is busy most mornings with quite the crew of big and little ones out there. They begin their day with a verse, some deep breaths and a touch in of what the tasks are for that morning.  After hands have gotten dirty and tasks accomplished they circle again to close their time.  Our garden is expanding toward the circle of stumps. Coffee mornings will begin this Tuesday, 2/26.  We hope it will be a space for parents to meet and enjoy the garden.  Bring your mug!

K.I.N.D.

Ms. Cindy and Ms. McGinley have been dilligently taking out 4-10 children on Fridays to explore our beautiful coastal ecosystem. The children are transported in a “Funride” van which is alternatively powered. The children are loving exploring and the two teachers love it too. This first 6-week session has been a big success. Check the K.I.N.D. link or the homepage for a flyer about the next upcoming session.

Board

Our board meetings on Jan. 16th and Feb. 12th were wonderful. I tell ya, we sure do have an amazing group of parents at our school! The overall feeling is that there are lots of people who want to see our school thrive and have the time and energy to help make it happen. I feel so fortunate to be a part of such a striving group of people.  Check the minutes tab on the homepage to see minutes from our meetings.

As we jump into spring I am always surprised at the rapid growth of everything.  I hope that we can see in each other the growth we have made and will make as parents, teachers and a school.  We are on quite the journey together as our children and the gardens in our hearts continue to blossom.  Many thanks.

With Love,

Kim

The Six-Year Transformation

November 28, 2012 by maplevillage

The following article was written by Ms. Michelle, the kindergarten teacher of Maple Village School in Long Beach, Ca. http://maplevillage.wordpress.com/about/ 

The six-year transformation is an amazing and tumultuous time in the life of your youngling (and for you!).  This time is referred to as the “first puberty,” which gives a great deal of insight into the kind of behavior you might expect during this time.  Although it is called the six-year change, it usually happens between the ages of 5.5 and 7 years.  This developmental shift is not simply the next step in a linear progression, but rather a full transformation into a different being.  It is likened to a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly.  Everything changes for your child… physically, intellectually, socially, and emotionally.  His body is changing, his consciousness is changing and his connection to the world is changing.

Let’s start by getting a clear picture of the changes happening, then we can move on to ways to meet and to support our dear one as he works his way out of that cocoon!

Physically, your child is GROWING.  His limbs will stretch; he will loose his “baby fat” and those sweet dimples in his hands.  He will develop actual wrists, a waist and a neck.  This means he will be hungry and may have growing pains.  Leg aches, joint aches and even tummy aches are par for the course.  He will also loose his baby teeth and grow his adult teeth.  This is an uncomfortable and exciting process. At our meeting, I showed an x-ray of a child’s mouth and jaw at this age and it is full to bursting with new and old teeth.  Looking at this photo invokes a pang of compassion…it shows the crowded, shifting space of your dear one’s head!  Even his heart rhythm changes during this transformation.  All of these physical changes result in your child feeling “funny,” uncomfortable, moody and sometimes even in downright pain.  And the physical changes are just one element of this developmental shift.  Please hold your child with tenderness and compassion, feed him healthy, nourishing food and make sure he gets good rest.  His body is working hard and building!

Intellectually, a new world opens up to your child.  Until now, all of his life forces have been focused on developing and building the body.  The internal organs are not fully formed at birth.  It takes until around the age of seven to complete most of this formation.  Once this happens, the life forces are freed up to work on developing the feeling realm and the intellect.  Your child will suddenly view the world differently, he will understand more.  He will see that adults make mistakes and have more pointed questions about the world.  This induces a painful time of the loss of the magic of early childhood.  He used to swim in a sea of self-centered fantasy.  He was very connected the world and to you.  Now he has a more emerging sense of himself as separate and individual.  This is exciting and powerful, as well as terrifying!  You will feel him separating and this is a bittersweet time for parents.  We want our children to bloom and grow, to spread their wings.  But ouch…separating from us can be hard to take.  Be strong and have courage to allow your young one to go forth and to become the fullness of being he has come here to be!

This new perspective sets the stage for a new round of limit testing.  Everything looks different, so he needs to find the boundaries once again.  Don’t be surprised if he tries out new things–inappropriate language, arguing, outright refusal, disrespect, running around in a frenzy, telling white lies–the sky is the limit.  Again, this is the time to be strong without alarm.  If you hold the boundaries with love and understanding, he will find his center again.  We need to approach the six-year changer with the attitude that we have compassion and understanding of what is happening, and that we are here to hold him, to be in charge and to love him unconditionally.  We know his heart is still made of gold and that he must try things out to find his way.  We will remind him which way to go and help him to get there.

Although his intellect is beginning to bud, he is still not ready for full academics and intellectual explanations.  Your dear one still relates to the world best through story and creative pictures.  Let him dwell in the magic and wonder of early childhood that still remains for him.  First Grade is just around the corner!

Your child’s play used to be inspired from the outside.  He used to see an object and it would become something in his mind’s eye and he would play that.  Now his play is inspired from the inside.  He creatively imagines what he wants to play and now seeks objects to become the scene he sees.  He will spend more time setting up his play than actually playing it out.  Since this shift means that all comes from within, there are times when he cannot find the inspiration.  You will start to hear “I’m bored.”  This is ok, in fact it is good!  This is a big sign of First Grade readiness.  Let him sit with it and struggle to find his inspiration.  If he gets too distraught or moves into a frenzy, bring him into your work. Children at this age need real, meaningful work to help organize their energy and motion.  Let them help chop vegetables for dinner, set the table, take out the garbage with you, sweep, scrub walls, pull weeds, hammer nails, repair things…whatever you are working on.  Your cheerful, purposeful, competent action and energy will guide and ground him.  Usually after a little time working with you, he will find his way back into play with his frayed edges smoothed.

Up until now, your child has been a being of pure will.  His will has helped him to learn to walk and talk, to be a human child in this American culture.  He has been centered on doing.  With the six-year transformation, he shifts into the next seven-year stage of being focused on feeling.  He will begin to become more sensitive to the words and actions of others.  He suddenly realizes and notices more in this capacity.  An off-handed comment that he would have scarcely noticed a few months ago now really hurts his feelings.  Many children will say things like “everyone is mean to me,” or “no one likes me.”  This is an emotional time akin to adolescence.  He is developing feelings, empathy and compassion and can be very sensitive.  Please take these statements with a grain of salt.  Have compassion for your tender one, but know that things are almost always not as bad as he feels in that moment.  This is an important time to keep the communication flowing with your teacher.  Check in.   One day an incident or two can feel like the weight of the world and the next day, life is beautiful again.  Having all of these new feelings is hard at first.  Its a great feat to learn to sort through them, to identify them and to make sense of them.

With this new awareness of emotion, he will see that his actions can also trigger emotions in others.  Children learn that they have power.  They can make someone else do something they want with a word or action.  They can make others laugh or pay attention with a word or an action.  Kindergarteners experiment with manipulation and exclusion, as well as with being goofy or inappropriate.  It is our job to help guide this and to hold the boundaries.  I let the children know that “those words hurt feelings,”  ”we all play together in the Sunflower class,”  ”we will bring our kind ways,”  ”Sunflower words.” This is another place where children need boundaries and love.  I identify their need, name the emotions and give clear, simple words on how to be kind and appropriate and to do what is right.  We find compromises and solutions.  Sometimes it is hard.  Your child might have to wait or share.  But these are crucial lessons to learn for a healthy social environment.  This is where our stories are a lifeline.  When I see certain behaviors emerge, I tell a pedagogical story or faerie tale with a character engaging in the behavior and the resulting feelings and actions of those around him.  The character then goes on to take the path of right action, of nobility, and goodness is restored (and he usually becomes the King.)  Again, we should not be alarmed by this experimentation.  We simply need to guide them to the shining path and give LOTS of patient reminders.

This is also a time of emerging sexuality.  It will be interesting to see how this manifests in our class of all boys.  In the past, we always have a few children “fall in love” each spring.  We have weddings, princes seeking princesses.  One year, I had a boy find a crown at the start of each playtime. He would build a house, set a table with a fine feast and then call out “I need a queen!”  And he had a queen in mind.  Each day, Sarah would accept and be his queen.  She would sit at his table and he would serve her.  They were precious!  We often had to use our phrase, “we will save our kisses for our moms and dads.”  Your children were created to be sexual beings.  They need guidance on what behavior is appropriate, starting now!  Another phrase heard in Kindergartens around the world is “pants up and skirts down in the Kindergarten.”  Again, do not be alarmed.  Just inform your dear one of the right way of being with a neutral, firm, loving tone.

Children at this age also begin to talk about God and infinity.  Our boys are fascinated by the concept of “googleplex.”  They want to know the highest possible number.  What is the MOST!!??  They are so dear.  One child said “infinity is 1063!” and another corrected him saying “No!  It means it goes on forever!”  They have amazing philosophical and theological conversations.  Again, the world is opening up to them.  Their minds are expanding.

In the classroom, I manage nine of these emerging butterflies in a number of ways.  Of course I bring my loving firmness.  I make deep heart connections with each child and seek to understand his wholeness to the best of my ability.  I hold boundaries and give lots of reminders with a neutral, informing tone.  I set the example with my own speech and gestures.  I tell tales.  I model fine manners, joyful work, compassion for all, wonder and creativity.  I give the boys many opportunities for meaningful work.  We use real tools to hammer and saw to build our own toys and useful items for the classroom and the community.  We use our hands to help others, to give.  I provide physical challenges on our walks and in our circles.  We balance, climb, jump rope, play clapping games, run obstacle courses.  We have special, important jobs. We serve each other.  We practice our manners and “Sunflower words.”  Sometimes we make healing pictures for each other.  We give hugs and apologies.  We celebrate everything we possibly can and we give gratitude.  Today you heard our “Thank You” song.  We use this song to thank each other for gifts and kindnesses.  All in all, we seek to have the “right way of the world” affirmed in our beautiful Sunflower classroom.  It can be gritty work at times, but all is well. As we say at the end of each circle, “I dance with the flowers, I sing with the sun, my warmth I give to everyone.”

This is a time of great beauty, expansion, growth, confusion, sensitivity and change.  The best way to guide your youngling through this is by meeting him with deep compassion, loving firmness and a strong daily rhythm.  Our love and attention will see him through.  Let him work, venture out to seek new challenges and be there to enfold him in your arms when he needs it.  He will vacillate between going boldly out into the world with a new vision and regressing into clinging and insecurity.  He needs to be held between form and freedom, just as he will in adolescence!  And know that you are not alone.  We are the village.  We hold each other and all of our Sunflower boys together.  They are your nephews, your family. What a gift we all are to each other.

More stories and photos from our Sunflower Kindergarten class can be found on Ms. Michelle’s class blog!