Category Archives: Teacher Consultation
Are you an Early Childhood Teacher or Home School Parent? Perhaps you would like a comprehensive year-long apprenticeship including a week of residential training each season. Or you may simply need a mentor at the other end of the phone line to listen and help with your classroom questions. And you may need something in-between. Programs are individually designed between the student and Sharifa. Together we will look at your goals, your main interests and questions, your time availability, and your budget to create a learning experience that offers what you want most.
One of The Rose Garden parents sent me this photo yesterday. The exquisite beauty of the young child’s connection to nature is so evident: these brothers are free and at-large in the woods….living a life larger than the confines of their small bodies. They are as large as their own imaginations, at home in the forest. I am reminded of something I wrote years ago, as I prepared to write Heaven on Earth:
“I have found in my many years of teaching young children, and in my years as a mother of young boys, that most children are happiest at play outdoors. Young children are close to the realm of nature because they are still very natural beings. Because their consciousness is not yet separated from the environment, because they still live in the consciousness of oneness, of unity, they belong still to the natural world. In time they will belong to themselves, as the process of individuation becomes complete. But for about the first seven years, they are still at one with the world they inhabit. The process of separating from the parents and from the environment buds only around age seven. Before that, the child is moved along by life, something like the way a tree’s leaves dance in the breeze. The young child responds to the environment in a very unself-conscious way, a very natural way, and the open, complex, and diverse environment of the outdoors gives him that opportunity. If, in his excitement at a butterfly, he needs to dance and pirouette dizzyingly around the garden, no one has to say, “Be careful of the table.” If he needs to shout for glee or weep for sorrow, he is free.”
Through play in the natural world, we give our child the gift of freedom, tethered by and rooted in a deep visceral relationship. Is that not the fundamental balance humanity strives for? Such joy!
“How does the world work, and how do I fit into it?” This is the daily, living question of the young child. We can allow plenty of time and plenty of space for our children to wonder, to explore, to experiment, to keep trying, to learn. And isn’t much of learning discovering the right questions to ask? In this way, the questions remain alive; the “answers” are part of an on-going process. When we allow this hands-on exploratory learning, and do not limit the questions or answers with our linear adult concepts, the children learn in the same way Mother Nature herself learns: through scaffolding, or “serial functional progression.” The answers become a platform for the next set of really interesting questions. Our children experience themselves as avid students of life.
In these photos we see the Universe hard at work: How many stumps, boards, bricks and pine cones does it take to make the see-saw go down and the children go up? How do “up and down” operate, and what is the relationship between stumps, elbow grease and results? And what might be the relationship between the big black bugs and the small brown one (in the blue bowl)? When we learn to live the questions, life is rich!
Hello, friends! It is September and school has begun again. The children are full of joy to be back into the simple warm rhythms; enfolded by this rhythmic flow, they grow more fully into themselves. Here is what one parent wrote me about the bridge her child has built between home and school:
“The school day doesn’t just stop when the day is over. Greer plays school whenever she is at home as well. At home she gets the chance to be the teacher. She sets up our living room like the living room at The Rose Garden. Moving the coffee table and couches so that the space is just right. She brings in her own chair along with a cup of tea and some crackers. She sets her babies up in a semi circle around her so everyone can see and then she begins to “read” her story always starting with the chime of the bell which at our house is the clinging of silverware. She then sips on her tea as she tells her story with a big (all words) book in her lap.
When the time for resting comes up she prepares by laying all the colored silkies around the room and placing each baby it the appropriate place. She covers them says sweet words to them and gives each a gentle rocking motion to help the fall asleep. Once everyone is satisfied she goes to her chair and has a sip of tea.
Watching this take place in my own living room gives me a sense of satisfaction and pure joy. What my husband and I are giving our youngest of three is a treasure that is molding her into the gentle and kind human-being that we had hoped for when we decided to become parents.
And thank you, Shannon, for sharing this with us! These rhythms create the foundation for a lifetime. During the summer, I had the pleasure of talking, on separate occasions, with two of my former students who are now college students. Each young woman told me how deeply her early years had formed and shaped her. The years spent in this forest busily building “homes” for insects & feeding the birds as well as singing, painting, playing and listening intently to stories had given them a deep love for the world, and also a beginning direction in their future work. One young woman is studying environmental law and she said she paints for pleasure, while the other is a poet as well as environmental activist.
The environment of our home gives shape to the young soul; let us be joyful for this gift, as we go about our “daily round!”
In agricultural societies, winter is the time to think-through and plan for the future. Decisions regarding which crops to continue, which fields to allow to remain fallow, and new seeds to experiment with are at the forefront of farmer’s minds. Today, as I watch the snowfall just outside my window, I also am thinking of seeds for the future. I am pleased to invite you to join me and others who contemplate our best future, to the March 4 -6, 2011 conference Re-Thinking Childhood: Parenting and Educating Children in a Time of Global Transformation hosted by Great Lakes Teacher Training, Milwaukee, WI.
Joan Almon, Executive Director of The Alliance for Childhood and I will keynote the conference. We will work with a host of workshop presenters who will offer topics for educators, parents, community leaders and all forward thinking people. This is from the brochure:
“Our world has been changing rapidly. We see transformation on a global scale in the fields of technology and science, in our natural environment and farms, in the economy and politics. It’s hard to even imagine the future our children will be entering into as adults. How can we best prepare them for the unknown? What experiences do they need to grow into adults who know themselves and have a sense of purpose? Can we imagine forms of education and childcare that support the development of meaningful relationships as a foundation for new and better ways of life”
Please follow this link, to visit and consider joining us for this important conference. Together we envision the future! www.waldorftraining.com/marchconf120610.htm
On a final note, here is a thought from one of my up-coming presentations:
Those of us who are committed to the future ask ourselves a critically important question: “What is the best thing I can do, for the children?” But I would propose that we consider another equally critical question: “Who is the best person I can be, for the children?” How can I become my very best self? Who we are is the subtext our children read while we live each day with them, as we go about our “doing.”
It is our consciousness, knowing who we are, that shapes our children and the future as well. Raising and educating our children to know themselves prepares them best for whatever the future may hold. For it is in knowing ourselves, that we hold the compass which guides our actions. When we know who we are, we will know what to do.
Virginia has had a very cold winter so far: many, many days the temperature is below freezing, and plenty of days in the 20’s. This has not phased The Rose Garden children, as we play in the woods! As Helle Heckman says: “There is no such thing as bad weather, there is only bad clothing!” Equipped with woolie long johns, plenty of layers, snow suits even with no snow, and snug hats and mittens, the children have flourished in the cold. “But why,” you ask, “send them out in such weather?” It is hard to convey the importance of Nature, in the development of young children.
I wrote an article that was recently published in the Winter edition of Rhythm of The Home (click on Connections) a beautiful on-line magazine that you will want to visit. These are beginning thoughts on outdoor play: ” Outdoor play offers the child the opportunity to step into the long slow rhythms of the earth. The child readily comes to know their own bodied-ness when in intimate connection to the body of the earth. Running, swinging, jumping, creeping, sliding, kneeling, splashing, digging…all of this develops familiarity with and fullness “in the body.” The child develops strength, balance, agility, grace, flexibility, competence and confidence. This kind of “body-knowing” lays a foundation for all of these qualities to permeate the child’s whole being. Years later, the young person steps into the world with these capacities intact and readily available for the challenges and joys of adult life”
Here is a little more from an article of mine to be published in the Rhythm of the Home spring issue:
“Much research has been done, observing children’s play in both natural spaces, and in “built spaces” Studies show that children engage in more creative play in green areas than in built spaces. One study observed children playing in both “vegetative rooms”, (little forts and such that he children had built themselves) and in playgrounds dominated by play structures. They observed that children playing on the formal play structures grouped themselves in hierarchical subsets, dependent upon physical abilities. Whereas the children playing in the natural vegetative rooms used more fantasy play and their social standing was based more on language skills, creativity and inventiveness”.
Language skills, creativity and inventiveness abound when children are given plenty of creative play time; time to run and frolic held in the arms of our Mother, the Earth!
Autumn is a time to turn around and survey the work of the year. A time to assess what has developed, before we make plans for what is to come. In doing this, I looked back to my first post on this blog, and here is what I found. At the exact moment we begin preparing for the Lantern Walk this year!
“All week long the children had been watching Rebecca and me make paper lanterns of their watercolor paintings, folding and cutting the stars so perfectly, gluing and stapling, attaching the wire handles, filling each one with a candle. Such anticipation….the Lantern Walk!
Finally in the gathering dark, each little lantern was lit, their cut out stars shone bravely and the warmth of their red and gold glow gave us good cheer as we walked the woodland path. Rustling through the fallen leaves, singing through the woods, happily we trudged up and ever up the forested hillside. Round we looped, until at my long driveway’s end, the children had a thrill: if their parents agreed, they might hand the lantern to the adult, then run like the wind through the dark, all the way to the playground gate!
Like the children, we can work, in our adult life, to create a sturdy container, then carry our light into a dark world. We can follow the thread laid out by our own heart, illumined by the heart’s light, regardless of the twisting path or depth of darkness. In the end, we run on light feet, we run toward Home! This is an image to live with, to give our children, an image to begin a new journey together.”
We live in the great round of the year, and the celebration of festivals lives deeply in our roots. Across all cultures and ages, humans have come together in observance of the progression of time, in recognition of our relationship to the earth. Although our western society has become far removed from these agricultural origins, we can give recognition to the way these rhythms still live in us through the celebration of family festivals. We can rejoice in the turning of the seasons at home with images, stories, foods and activities that evoke seasonal qualities. Many of the agricultural festivals and their closely associated religious holidays have been claimed by marketing agencies and have become overly commercial, devoid of soul. If we choose, though, we can ensoul them and make them our own unique celebrations. They can become a picture of our life together.
In the celebration of a festival, we take a moment outside of the inexorable progression of time. We stop time, so to speak. In this way we can assess where we are right now. We can look back over the last year, remembering where we were, what we did, and who was present this time last year. We can pause to glance over what the year has brought, how we have changed and grown, as individuals and as a family. We can also cast our glance into the future, looking to see how we will change in the coming year and what will be needed at that time.
In the Festival, we step into Eternity…come celebrate!
Our children, and indeed children everywhere, break into spontaneous circle games. Their small bodies, psyches, and souls reflect great cosmic circles. In our childrens’ joyous, dizzying games we can see intimations of the whirling bodies, vapors and colors sent back to us from Hubble’s photographs. Soon we will pass through one of these nodal points, the Winter Solstice, and Light will be born again. Not only in Springtime, but now deep in the winter, new beginnings stir.
Perhaps your family has managed to escape the crush of commercialism, and you are preparing for a simple and cherished holiday time together. It is at these festival gatherings that we have the opportunity to “step outside of time” to review the year we have just completed, as well as envision the year to come. Take a moment at the holiday meal, to recollect together high points of your year, and also look together toward the growth the coming year will bring. As we engage in this recounting of our family’s story, and creatively imagining our future, we build up an oral history. This Living Book of Life will nourish our children, as well as model for them how we create, through images, the life we want to live.
Our year here at The Rose Garden has been full. Family Camp was magical last summer, and our circle of friends has widened. The garden has grown and the children have too. Some of them have stepped into new adventures in Grade School, and have returned to visit us, shining with new capacities and knowledge. New families have joined us, and new friendships bloom. New Land has graced us!
Looking toward the future, here is an idea I want to share with you. Let’s use this blog as one forum for your parenting questions. (Check the Family Consultation page for other ways to address your questions, too.) It seems the downturn in the economy has brought into vogue the parenting values we have always held dear. Now you read about “free-range parenting”, or “slow parenting”. The Rose Garden’s description has always been “A Slow Meander Through Early Childhood.” Email me your questions, observations, thoughts, concerns, and I will be happy to share ideas with you. Your questions, most certainly, are mirrored in many other parents, and we can look at these together. Together we can explore the particulars of your own child’s slow meander.
My holiday wish for you and your family is that you go along slowly, enjoy one another, and spend plenty of time playing together outdoors! Let me know your thoughts and questions! Sharifa