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: Making Peace with Toddler Conflict
Conflict is inherently distressing for all but the thickest-skinned among us. And, yet, there is a subset of people who seem, in contrast, to be enlivened by conflict. Perhaps humanity can achieve a healthy balance - one that can be learned beginning in early childhood - in which conflict is neither eschewed nor ignited, but is instead met with understanding and finesse. In this article, I hope to shed some light on this age-old challenge and, perhaps, offer some tools that may help us and our children deal more successfully with this inevitable aspect of life.
Download the article: The Sensible Child?
The following article is an excerpt from the introduction to Rudolf Steiner and the Twelve Senses, a collection of extracts from Rudolf Steiner's lectures on the subject of the senses. It was compiled for the 2008 Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship Easter Conference at Ringwood Waldorf School in England. The compilation was revised and re-edited from an original collection based on the work of Elisabeth Grunelius, Cornelia Hahn, and Helmut von Kiigelgen, compiled for 1992 Kolisko Conference with introductory commentaries by Kevin Avison.
In the first epoch, before the change of teeth, we may describe the child as being wholly "sense-organ." You must take this quite literally, wholly sense-organ.
-Rudolf Steiner, The Kingdom of Childhood
Download the article: First Grade Readiness: The Development of Memory and the Transformation of Play
This article is part of the forthcoming WECAN publication First Grade Readiness: Resources, Insights and Tools for Waldorf Educators, edited by Nancy Blanning. This much-requested volume will include perspectives from experienced teachers, doctors, therapeutic educators and others on what to look for in children who are preparing for the transition to the grade school, as well as examples of actual procedures used in serveral different settings. Contributors include Joan Almon, Michaela Glockler, Audrey McAllen, Ruth Ker, and Nancy Blanning. The book is expected to be available by June, 2009.
It is increasingly apparent to those of us working in the educational realm that the age at which a child enters first grade can be very significant in terms of academic and social success throughout the entirety of the educational process and beyond. A child who is too young for first grade, although many first grade readiness signs are already apparent, may spend his or her grade school years working very hard to keep up, never feeling that he or she fits into the social or academic world of his or her classmates. For some, this feeling of having to pedal very fast to stay on a par with others continues into adulthood, where they always have the sense that they don't quite "get it" Others may feel that there is still something unfinished in their growing up years. Early in my teaching career, I had the great good fortune to work with a very experienced and inspiring early childhood teacher. When I asked her, what in her life had led her to teaching kindergarten, she answered in all seriousness, "I went to first grade when I was five"
We are given through the insights of Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy a deep understanding of the young child. An archetypal image of health for the whole human being is continually guiding our work. This archetypal childhood is surrounded and penetrated by the calming strength of rhythm, physical and soul warmth, healthy nutrition, purposeful work, ample time in nature, healthy sleep habits, physical movement and above all love. We know too that the soul life of the mother and father deeply affect this incarnating child. It can be said that the child lives within the soul life of the adults surrounding her, especially the mother.
The mother's soul can be pictured as forming a protective cloak around the baby - a Madonna's cloak, raying out into the environment and affecting the whole atmosphere surrounding the child. It enfolds him in warmth and deeply affects him (Salter 91-92).
This true image of the young child lives within us, but the realities of modern life and our own development as human beings can leave us many obstacles and challenges. These challenges can prevent our ability as parents to offer the ideal to our children.
Download the article: The Role of the Evaluator
There was an old woman lived under a hill And if she's not gone, she lives there still Baked apples she sold and cranberry pies And she's the old woman who never told lies
The Role of the Evaluator
A visitor to an early childhood classroom can bring a great deal of delight to the children, especially if the visitor slips in unobtrusively and is as happy to be there as the children are to have a guest. Imagine, on the other hand, how it might be for the children and their teacher to host a frowning, tight-lipped "know-it-all"! While every fairy tale may have need of such a hard-hearted character and the challenge that it represents, we would not choose such an archetype to be our evaluator.
Experience in Waldorf early childhood settings is not the only necessary qualification for an evaluator. There are specific qualities, capacities, and skills that an individual serving as an evaluator will want to cultivate.
Download the article: Emmi-Pikler Haus
A Pikler/Waldorf Residential Home for Young Children in Germarny
Emmi-Pikler-Haus, a residential home for children from birth to six years old, is located in Gersdorf, a rural hamlet of Dahme-Spreewald, Germany, halfway between Dresden and Berlin. The nine children who live here range in age from five weeks to six years old. They are mostly social orphans-children whose parents cannot take care of them because of substance abuse or mental illness in the family. The children may have social-emotional or developmental disturbances, as many come from homes where violence, abuse or neglect is common. Each child's story is unique.
Here at Emmi-Pikler-Haus, the children live in a family-like life community with their caregivers, where they are sheltered and protected and given respectful, loving, and tender attention. Consistency and continuity in their daily life is so important for these children, for whom life before coming to Emmi-Pikler-Haus was a series of disconnected, fragmented, and often painful events.
Here life is rhythmical and predictable-bedtime and naps are at the same time each day; nourishing, wholesome meals are served at the same hour each day; there is time for indoor and outdoor play and time for rest. The regular, focused, and respectful caregiving times provide opportunities for intimacy and the cultivation of a special I-Thou relationship between the child and his caregiver; as the child's trust in the adults who care for him is slowly restored, a healing process can begin.
Download the article: Book Review: Parenting With Spirit
Parenting with Spirit; A Waldorf Guide for the Three Phases of Childhood by Cindy Brooks and Joya Birns (Parenting With Spirit Publications, 2008).
Cindy and Joya have put together a wonderful booklet for parents on how to relate to children during the first three phases of life. They offer an easy to understand picture of child development and simple guidance on various aspects of connecting with the children, from communication to discipline to the therapeutic use of story. The last issue of Gateways included two stories from Cindy Brooks that are included in this book.
Articles included in this issue include:
Letter from the Editor by Stephen Spitalny
Reading the Book of Nature by Jo Valens
Creating Partnerships with Parents in First Grade Readiness Decisions by Ruth Kerr
Therapeutic Stories by Cindy Brooks
Reflections on the Sistine Madonna by Nancy Jewel Poer
Working and Living with So-Called Difficult Children, Part 2 by Nancy Blanning
Supporting the Development of Movement in Children Under Three by Renate Long-Breipohl
The Stars are Brightest in Your Peripheral Vision, Part 2 by Adam Blanning, M.D.
Incorporating Movement for the Epileptic/Hysteric Indications by Nancy Blanning
Download the article: Letter from the Editor
Silence is golden! Yet silence is not something highly valued by the mainstream culture. It is a rare experience in most lives these days. Just listen to the sounds of modern life all around us. We resist the experience of quiet; perhaps we even are afraid of silence. It is a common practice for a family to have their radio or TV on as long as people are home and awake, as background noise. Few people drive without the radio or CD player sounding. And one needs only to look at all the people with their headphones and earpiece cellphones to see that many, many people want to be filled with electronic sounds wherever they go.
As childcare givers and guides for parents we have great opportunities to model being comfortable with silence, actually enjoying silence-we are the example for the children and parents alike. If we want children to grow up with the capacity for their own meditative practice, we have to show them that we both value and practice silence. They imitate us, and our actions are an imprint for their later activity, like a seed. We all know that in kindergarten, in our Steiner-inspired early childhood work, we do not fill the silence with our own speaking. We allow the children to be in the quietude of their inner life as they experience the outer world, or to initiate the talking to which we respond. We don't need to intrude into their world with our speaking except when necessary. We don't chat for the sake of chatter, to fill a void. How do we help the parents to discover the importance of giving the children the gift of silence?-not only for their own sake, and for what the silence gives them, but also for their children and for the future. Can we be agents of renewing the practice and valuing of silence?
Download the article: Reading the Book of Nature
Science Education in the Kindergarten
There will come with the greater love of science greater love to one another. We cannot see how impartially Nature gives of her riches to all without loving all, and helping all.
-Maria Mitchell, nineteenth century astronomer
I have just been out in the woods, standing still and waiting for the birds to come back again after my approach initially disturbed them. The effort of patience relaxes into a satisfied waiting. My eyes are open, I feel the cool, wet air. Then, there it is! The fluttering wings of the chickadee-I cannot see the bird, but I have learned to distinguish that sound. When, how, where did I learn that? Nobody told me and I didn't read about it. I've learned this information over time; it's not just a thinking-knowing but a body-knowing and, as such, I feel I can claim it as my own. When one can experience such a thing, one needs very little else except, perhaps, a hot cup of tea to go home to. When Nature reveals herself to you, it fills you up. Who needs greater entertainment? As a teacher of young children, I wish to offer an education that will foster this ability to "read the Book of Nature." This, as I see it, is the essence of scientific inquiry. How can we teach this kind of "reading" in an appropriate way to the kindergarten children?