Let me walk you through our afternoon. We arrive at the classroom and my daughter skips inside to grab her sun hat. She lines up behind her friends and waits her turn to greet her teacher. The teacher is seated outside of the classroom with a soft pink apron on, her grey hair in two long braids, her eyes bright and shining. She hugs each one and sings “good morning, good morning, good morning to you.” She listens as they tell about a treasure they brought from home or show off what they are wearing. She looks so deeply at them that you can actually feel the love pouring off her.
Then we walk to teacher number two. She is waiting on the playground to greet them. She wears a soft green apron, her beautiful long, brown hair is peeking out from beneath her big sun hat and her face is glowing with love and anticipation. She hugs so big and chats with each child.
The children spend about 10 minutes swinging, climbing and running around. Then, prompted by song, we gather in a circle and welcome the day together. “Windows open wide, let light come inside” we sing as our hands reach toward the sky.
Then we go on a walk. It’s only around the block, but the children walk slow and explore. They pick wildflowers, see ladybugs, make fairy scissors and say hi to passing dogs and cats. A man is working in his yard and we stop to chat with him. He tells the kids about black widow spiders and how many bites he has had.
Arriving back, we take a moment to use the bathroom before heading into the classroom. Then, slowly, the children enter. “Little drops of water, one by one,” the teacher sings as they take off hats/sweaters and put on slippers.
Today is baking day. The children have a choice. They can play, bake or craft. I get a few bakers at the table with me. I sprinkle flour for them and they help me shape the bread into buns. We talk about all the ladybugs we saw and make some out of dough.
As I look around the room, I’m stuck by the peacefulness. The warmth of the soft-pink walls. The smell of lavender and bread.
Some kids are sitting with one teacher finger knitting or sewing. Another teacher is playing veterinarian with a group of children. They line up as hurt cats, dogs or guinea pigs. She uses pieces of wood to doctor them and gives little massages to help them heal. Another parent is slicing bagels and spreading sunflower seed butter on them, with the help of a few children, to prepare for their weekly journey to the river tomorrow.
The kids have built all kinds of homes around the classroom from long silk cloths, pieces of wood, rocks and seashells. Creativity is everywhere you look. Some have built a boat and are sailing the ocean. Another group has built a house with a mom, dad and two sheep.
Once the bread is in the oven, I set the table. Little square napkins. Red tin cups. Butter and honey ready. Water pitchers full for refills.
Then it’s time to clean up and get ready for snack. “The gnomes are working happily” the teacher sings as the children put everything away. Each child knows their task and sets to work. Before long they are all seated around the round, red rug and ready to wash hands for snack.
One by one they are excused. One teacher stands at the sink. She pours water that has lavender oil and soap in it from a bright, red watering can.
Everyone arrives at the table. There are little discussions and it takes a few minutes for everyone to decide where they would like to sit. Then, as a group, we say a little blessing thanking the earth for the food we are about to eat. Then, this is my favorite part, it is quiet. Only whispers until everyone is served.
My daughter was the sever and she walked around happily handing out the bread rolls with butter and honey on them. Then, after all are served, it’s time for conversation. It’s so fun to talk to 5 and 6 year olds. They are funny, honest and open.
After snack, the children are excused to wash their cups, scrape any leftovers into the compost bucket and then arrive back at the round, red rug for a puppet play. Again, I’m struck by the quiet. The kids are so into the story. They snuggle next to each other and some even hold hands. Some lie on their tummies.
After story it is rest time. The servers get a little foot massage with lavender lotion to thank them for their work. One teacher sings a beautiful lullaby and everyone rests. Many squirm and struggle, but they are silent and try hard.
Then it’s time to go outside. Shoes back on. Sun hats on. Time for jump rope, tire swing, hammock, sand play, climbing and running. Goodbye verse is outside under the big tree filled with white blossoms.
No books. No homework. No learning letters. And, no, I’m not worried my child is going to be behind.
Each day has a rhythm and snack attached to it. They paint, color, craft, garden, bake and play. Play is the essence of their day. They are learning to play with others and what it means to be a friend. They are learning virtues like patience, kindness and honesty. These virtues are far harder for people to learn then reading and writing.
I wish every child could start their education in such a peaceful, loving way.
I wrote this piece last year and just found it again. My daughter is in her second year of Kindergarten now and my love for the program has not diminished in the slightest. If you want more information on the beautiful, public Waldorf school my children attend, visit http://www.goldenvalleycharter.org