Gateways is the newsletter of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America and is the professional journal for those working with young children in Waldorf early childhood settings - kindergartens, play groups, home care programs, parent/child classes and child care centers. Gateways is published twice each year, in the fall and spring.
The Online Waldorf Library offers Gateways articles from 1995, Issue #29, to the present.
Download the article: Letter from the Editor
More and more it becomes clear that it is all about the will!
The challenges we face as early childhood educators are, by and large, the result of the diminishing will capacities of young children. One of the causes is the proliferation of technological gadgets that are promoted as necessary for modern life, and specifically those marketed for children. Consumer culture has conspired to create products that deliver to young children exactly what is most detrimental for their development, while advertising wizards spin same products in such a way that parents line up in droves to make sure their child is not left out. The gadgets take children away from their life of will activity.
Similarly, the so-called "food" given to so many children is lacking in nutritional value and life energy. Food is the substance the digestive system, the metabolic system, has to work with. This is the sphere of the will in the physical body. Another factor is the way young children are related to by most adults, especially in the realm of verbal communication. Adults offer explanations, instructions, and questions, questions, and more questions to the young child. This prematurely awakens the child in his thinking, and diverts him away from the developmental relating through the will. We see children who don't imitate, who haven't achieved mastery of their own bodies, and who don't (or can't) seem to do anything.
Download the article: Deepening Our Capacities to Meet the Children in Our Care
The content which follows comes from lectures presented by Dr Gerald Karnow at the 2010 East Coast Early Childhood Conference in Spring Valley, NY, on Feb. 12-14. This presentation concluded a three-year consideration of the young child's journey into incarnation of the "I" and how we can observe this unfolding.
Secretly, began Dr. Karnow, we should consider early childhood as the most important work in Waldorf education. The experiences in early childhood provide the foundation for all of life and are most crucial in facilitating healthy incarnation of the human being. Last year the work in our kindergartens was characterized as "priestly." A picture from Steiner's Cosmic Memory describes a grove where the priestess sings her listeners into becoming the vehicle for the incarnated spiritual "I." Her priestly deed was preparation for the human being to be able to say "I." Likewise, the task of Waldorf early childhood education is incarnation of the "I" in the children.
Download the article: Observations of Children Under Three
The benefits of mixed-aged kindergartens are many, especially today with smaller families and frequently unsettled family dynamics. One important benefit spoken of is that young children will have fewer caregivers in the early years, if they have been included at earlier ages in the kindergarten. As younger and younger children come into the kindergartens in our schools today, many questions have arisen. This year, I had the valuable opportunity to experience and learn from the addition (due to school necessity) of several youngest children to my kindergarten class.
The primary questions that I carry now are: What is the long-term health impact for children under three years old, of the "kindergarten" experience? Shouldn't children from birth to age three, have an age-appropriate experience instead, because of their critical life stage? What does "kindergarten readiness" really mean, in this age of inclusion? I feel that we need to earnestly revisit this question, in particular.
Download the article: The Seasonal Festivals in Early Childhood
Seeking the Universally Human
One of the wonderful, and wonderfully challenging, characteristics of Waldorf early childhood education is that there is no curriculum. Unlike the education for older children, there is no specific outline of subjects offered by Rudolf Steiner for these early years. Rather, it is sometimes said that "the curriculum is the teacher." To that I might add two other elements, forming a threefold curriculum: the teacher or caregiver, the developing child, and the social and cultural community, including the parents, surrounding the school or program.
The teacher or caregiver, striving inwardly and outwardly to be worthy of imitation, creates an environment in which each child may feel recognized and held in a mood of dream-consciousness. The child, developing according to lawful, archetypal stages, yet a unique individuality, leads the deeply-observant teacher or caregiver to provide nourishing surroundings and activities. And the school community, offering its particular mix of culture, race, religion, ideals, and questions, all within a specific geographic location, provides a social context within which the teacher and children are active together.
Download the article: A Story for the Evergreen Garden
Author's note: After fifteen years out of the classroom, I stepped back in as a nursery teacher at the Washington Waldorf School in fall of 2009 to help a friend who was recovering from an illness. As Advent approached I knew I needed to approach the winter holidays anew. In the past I had drawn heavily on Advent circles learned from European teachers. Now I needed something that spoke to a 215t-century group of American parents and their children and was meaningful to me, as well.
I thought deeply about the families in my class. Of the thirteen, there were six Jewish families, two Islamic families, one Hindu Sikh family, and the rest I was not sure about. I sought for images that could feed the souls of the children but be accessible to all who walked the spiral of the Evergreen Garden (Washington Waldorf School's name for the traditional Advent Garden).
Download the article: Thoughts on My Visit to North America
First, I would like to thank all the early childhood teachers and the families I stayed with on my two month trip to North America. It was a fantastic experience for me to visit so many different early childhood centers that are as varied as the environment and community where they exist. Children of today have such different needs and that is why it is important that Waldorf education provide a range of choices. Our Waldorf early childhood centers have to meet the needs of the children that come to us. We are not a defined program, but must remain flexible in our options so that the needs of our children are met as our highest priority. This can include early childhood centers connected to grade schools, off-site early childhood centers, and in-home centers.
The loss of the world of childhood is a real danger today, especially with the onset of early academics in kindergartens and even with younger children. Instead of seeing the young children as something quite special in their own right, they are viewed and taught as little adults. Even in our Waldorf early childhood centers, it is common to observe a form of this "teaching" with a focus on the role of the teachers, schedules, and activities. The clearest example is the trend in Waldorf early childhood centers to separate the children into different age groups during the first seven years. The benefits of keeping children aged three to six together have been lost.
Download the article: Getting Over Easy
Challenging Ourselves to Learn New Things
I was in my late forties or early fifties when my eldest son taught me how to fry an egg over-easy. Up until then I had always scrambled. All my attempts at turning an egg had ended in the necessity of scrambling anyway. Recently, while preparing breakfast eggs for my husband and myself, I noticed how, with great ease, I can now turn an egg. In fact, my over-easy eggs are rather lovely! I remarked to my husband that I cannot understand why it was so difficult for me before. Seemingly without thought, I can turn an egg! With his marvelous scientific background, my husband explained to me that over time I have developed an awareness of the right amount of butter in the pan, how to crack the egg with ease, the way the egg looks when it is really ready to turn, how to slip the spatula under the egg without breaking it open, and how just the right motion of my arm and wrist flip the egg gently over – easy!
Together he and I are having a similar, though not quite as easy, experience with our current study of Rudolf Steiner's book The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. Decades ago, while studying this book with my fellow students at Emerson College in England, I considered the possibility that I might go stark raving mad before I would ever actually understand this content. Over the years of teaching in adult education, I dreaded the idea of being asked to lead a study or try to teach this content to others. In fact, I am still unprepared to do that. But, guess what—I am actually beginning to understand what Dr. Steiner wrote in this wonderful book.
Download the article: It Takes a Village to Raise a Child
Extended Care in the Waldorf Schools
This is a report from a three-day focus group that met to share and explore extended care programs in Waldorf schools at the 2009 AWSNA conference in Portland, Oregon. The purpose of the focus group was to shape a way of addressing the whole of the school leadership—faculty, College of Teachers, Board—in order to garner full support for the needs of these programs. The group attempted to address an understanding of what is best for children in need of care, while meeting the realties of staff, facilities and costs of providing care programs. Nine people representing six schools and one training institute made up the group. They represented both long-standing schools and younger schools, and included early childhood morning program lead educators, extended day educators and admissions officers. Participants offered a variety of reasons for coming to this focus group: school considering opening an extended day program; programs in a school seemed piecemeal; questions concerning how to design the programs with best pedagogical practices.
Download the article: Reflections on Working with Parents
For decades, pioneers in the field of parent education have been quietly creating exceptional methods of working with parents. Since having my own baby far from home at the age of twenty-three, I have made a life study of parent education. As a new mother in a small workers' community in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert, I was fortunate to find La Leche League leaders who introduced me to the "mother-to-mother support" model. '1his blessing inspired me to learn what I could about parenting the very young child and to bring this knowledge to other parents.
Today, in the parent-child classes that I teach, I draw on my in-depth studies of the diverse disciplines of La Leche League, anthroposophy, Waldorf education, the work of Emmi Pikler in Hungary, and the work of Magda Gerber in Los Angeles. In an attempt to integrate and synthesize the best and most essential ingredients of each of these models, I have come up with a number of approaches that I use in my classes with good results. Here are some of them.
Download the article: Wawa Munakuy Nursery Kindergarten
In early May of 2009 we had the good fortune to be present at the inauguration of Wawa Munakuy Nursery-Kindergarten (pronounced Wa' wa Moo nah ' koo wee, meaningfor the love of the children in Quechua, the indigenous language of Peru). As we crossed the beautifully decorated threshold that sun-drenched afternoon, the delicate aroma of calla lilies and native roses wafted in the air.
We gathered together in verse, song, and dance with parents, children, and friends to give thanks for the completion of the new building which would house Wawa Munakuy. The moment of dedication had arrived and the tones of indigenous instruments invited the procession of teachers and niños to enter the school. Adorned with flower crowns and dressed in native costume, the children were led by their teachers, heads dappled with flowers. Acknowledgements were made of the many friends worldwide without whose support this dream could not have come true. The Foundation Stone Meditation was read and we did the Hallelujah in eurythmy before the foundation stone was laid near the flower-bedecked arch of the portal to the kindergarten.