If you Google, “Summer break with children,” you get two types of search results — a variety of activity lists or articles about the evils of summer’s off. Turns out they call it “summer fade,” which is a one month backslide in learning coupled with an increase in Body Mass Index (BMI) for kids.
Many parents counter these issues with a rigorous schedule of summer camps, sport practice and tutoring. While watching television all day with a box of pop tarts is obviously not good, there are some other options beyond a highly structured and scheduled summer.
When planning, or not planning your child’s summer, consider the scientifically proven benefits of boredom, free play and time in nature. These research studies about children and learning support the idea of a summer slowdown.
In a recent BBC news article, Children should be allowed to get bored, Dr Teresa Belton said, “Cultural expectations that children should be constantly active could hamper the development of their imagination.”
Now couple that reality with studies connecting time in nature with increased learning and emotional capabilities. The positive results of being outdoors for children are vast as seen in this PDF of a decade of Scientific Studies on this topic. Some highlights include:
- “When children engage in authentic play in nature-based outdoor spaces, they develop skills in a variety of domains simultaneously.” - Miller, D.L., Tichota, K,.White, J. (2009).
- “Sullivan has revealed that the symptoms of children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) are relieved after contact with nature. The greener the setting, the more the relief.” – Taylor, A., Kuo, F. & Sullivan, W. (2001).
- “Children who regularly have positive personal experiences with the natural world show more advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility.” - Fjortoft, Ingunn (2001).
In addition to the learning benefits to boredom and time in nature, there is also the issue of free play. This article from Parenting Science explores over a decade of studies about the benefits of unstructured play time. The author is careful to note that free play does not mean physcial education classes or sports. Free play is just that. Unstructured play time, which is proven to help math skills, language development, and creative problem solving.
- “Play and exploration trigger the secretion of BDNF, a substance essential for the growth of brain cells.”
- “Psychologist Edward Fisher analyzed 46 published studies of the cognitive benefits of play (Fisher 1999). He found that “sociodramatic play”—what happens when kids pretend together—’results in improved performances in both cognitive-linguistic and social affective domains.’”
And finally, before you schedule a summer of busy stimulation, consider this article and advice from Simplicity Parenting writer Kim John Payne. He says:
“[When Google is hiring they say] ‘we’re less concerned about grades and transcripts and more interested in how you think.’”
If we rewind to a childhood that makes an adult like that, what do we see? Is it racing around from one prep course to another? From soccer to piano to Mandarin? A childhood on the clock and filling up the gaps with zoning on the iPad and obsessing about making more friends on Facebook?
I don’t think so.
When we really look at what happens for a kid when they slow down, tune in to themselves, take space and get busy in serious play, we can see that what they are learning is how to be create a kind of inner structure that will serve them (and us) well in the world ahead. … Play provides a deep and wide-reaching domain for kids to experiment with the real work of the real world.”
Here at Spring Garden, parents receive regular communication from class teachers about what the children are learning and what the teacher’s are observing. We wanted to give an example here on our blog of our thorough, and some might say, inspired, teacher communication.
This letter is from our Extended Care, Early Childhood teacher, Kathy Miller:
Dear Extended Care Families,
The children came back from holiday break relaxed, calm and happy to see one another. The afternoon life rhythm here at Spring Garden has become such a strong part of the children’s daily life that with only a few gentle reminders we were able to get back into the swing of things. It was like we had never been away from one another.
As a mother and teacher I always like to stress the importance of a daily life rhythm. Having a consistent routine (rhythm) is also a preventative to illness, builds an inner knowing of time, makes transitions easier, eliminates discipline problems, builds trust in children’s surrounding environment and overall decreases stress in children because they always knows what is going to happen next. Wow, all these benefits when we simply provide a rhythmical daily.
There have been a few questions/requests from parents regarding lunch meal requirements. The following table provides the elements of a recommended healthy lunch and some ideas for meals.
Bread/Bread alternative (1 serving)
Grains –oats, barley, millet, couscous
Fruit & Veggies (2 servings)
All types of fruits and Veggies.
Recommended amount( ½ cup of each)
1) 2 servings of veggies
2) 2 servings of fruit
3) 1 serving of each
(fruit cereal bars, fruit snacks, fruit roll ups, juices etc… do not count as one serving of fruit)
Protein (1 serving)
Milk (1 cup)
Meat/Meat alternative (2 oz)
Yogurt (¾ cup)
Cheese (1 ½ oz)
Peanut butter/or other nut or seed butter (3 TBS)
Peanuts/soy nuts/tree nuts/seeds (3/4 oz)
Cooked or dry beans or peas (1/2 cup)
I have recently introduced the Old Mother West Wind Series for the nap time story. The chapter book tells about the adventures of animals that live in the “Green Forest”. Throughout this series the children have been introduced to many different animal characters such as; Bobby Raccoon, Johnny Chuck, Jimmy Skunk, Jerry Muskrat, Grandfather Frog and Danny Meadow Mouse just to name a few. I read one to two chapters every day. Many children have captured these characters into their hearts as I’ve heard children question, to each other, whether the animals live in our woods next door.
Before winter break I mentioned that we were going down to the woods to play in the afternoon. I strive to go there every afternoon. However, it does depend how sleepy our children are and how the nature of the afternoon is unfolding that will predict whether we get there or not. With this being said, dismissal area has become different on a daily basis. If we are not in the meadow playing, it means we have made it to the woods and therefore dismissal will be in the hallway at 3:20 pm. If we are in the woods and you need to pick up earlier then 3:20 pm, please see Hazel at the front desk and she will verbally guide you down to where we play. You could also check the extended care room. Your child may still be in the room with Ms. Lori as she is helping the last group of children get ready to go outdoors.
The play area in the woods is quite, still and very magical this time of year. Together many of the kindergartners have created a home out of large sticks (tee pee like). I’ve observed children sweeping the ground with large sticks preparing the home. Some children have gone fishing (large wet soggy leaves have become large tasty fish) for dinner in the large puddle of standing water not too far from where the home was built. Sometimes the roof of the home falls in and the children call the ‘roofers’ to come and fix it. It really is magical to see all the children working together. The preschoolers continue to explore the open area. They are busier with moving their bodies. They climb and swing from fallen logs and branches. Some love to dig in the large dirt mounds. Some love running up and down the hill that guides them to the play area. The paths in our play space have slowly come to life again with work from teachers and children. These paths provide a large running area for all the children.
With a very chilly week a head of us, please remember to dress your child in layers. To dress in layers please consider the following; three layers on top for example: t-shirt, long-sleeve cotton shirt or sweater and two layers on the bottom for example: cotton PJ or long underwear & Pants. Going outside in cold weather provides opportunity for physical movement and sensory experiences. When the children dress for the outdoors we guide them in the following way; snow pants, boots, jacket, hat, scarf, and mittens/gloves. All children are encouraged to dress themselves. It is important to provide children with outdoor gear (including boots) to be successful in dressing themselves. This is the time of year we begin to get older kindergartners prepared for 1st grade, which includes dressing self.
Based upon the different areas I have touched on in this newsletter, there are follow up articles located in the Early Childhood Hallway, (by Extended Care Classroom on round table by double doors). Feel free to take and read.
As always if there are any questions or concerns do not hesitate to email or call me.
Stay warm on this chilly day!
Mitten Strings for God; Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry by: Katrina Kenison (Rhythm)
Illness By: Gudrun Davy (Trust, Blessing of a fever, Illnesses of Civilization)
More Nutrition Ideas By: Susan R. Johnson, MD. (Guidelines about the foods we eat & health)
Do Kids Catch Cold Outside? By: Robert Needleman, M.D & Gloria Needleman
Last week Early Childhood celebrated Martinmas, a lantern festival celebrating the life of St. Martin and reminding us that we each have a light inside of us that we can share with the world.
St. Martin was a soldier in Rome in the 4th century. Legend says that one wintry night, he met a poor beggar, half dressed and freezing. Martin removed the heavy cloak from his shoulders and, drawing his sword, cut it in two, and gave half to the beggar. That night, Christ appeared to Martin in a dream, wrapped in the same piece of cloak Martin had given the beggar, and said, “Martin has covered me with this garment.” Martin became the patron saint of beggars, drunks, and outcasts, dedicating his life to helping others.
When parents are researching private schools, the myriad of options and different educational philosophies can sometimes be overwhelming. Many of the parents considering Waldorf education also consider Montessori. This is probably because both education methods cater to a student’s individual learning style with reverence and respect for each child and their gifts. But how each method approaches this objective varies greatly.
One might be tempted to summarize the differences in this way: Waldorf puts high value in art, imagination, and creativity and does not pursue academic instruction before the age of seven. Montessori puts high value in real life experience and an orderly environment and pursues early academics at a young age.
But this does not shed much light on the multi-layered and nuanced approaches of each methodology. In an effort to clarify, we have created this chart describing similarities and differences in each educational system. But, for true clarification about these methods and their appropriateness for your child, visit schools in your area and experience in-session classroom visits.
|Early Academics||Play is the work of a young child. Waldorf seeks to nourish and inspire imagination and creative thinking. Academics are delayed until Grade 1 so that the child has more time for make believe, art, music and the building of social skills and class cohesion.||The young child is a sponge. Montessori seeks to expose young minds to a rich array of academic tasks and experiences. Early education focuses on challenging intellectual tasks, which build upon each other for early academic adoption.|
|Curriculum & Later Academics||In a same-aged classroom environment, Waldorf educators encourage a love of lifelong learning through the use of multi-disciplinary methods that incorporate art, music & craftsmanship. Lessons are language rich and focused around all arts and multiple senses. Subject integration and classroom collaboration are key to the holistic academic experience.||In a multi-aged, multi-graded classroom, Montessori educators encourage children to engage in self-disciplined learning. Lessons are focused around real-life and classroom manipulative material. Subjects are approached with step-by-step procedure that guides students, individually, toward learning specific concepts.|
|The Classroom||Waldorf believes the child thrives in a rhythmical and predictable environment. The teacher leads the students and guides them into time of coming together and working or playing individually.||Montessori believes the child thrives in a free and self-led environment. The teacher withholds their will and allows the children to choose their own activities in the classroom, providing guidance when necessary.|
|Teaching Methods||Waldorf believes that young children learn primarily through imitation and that, even in older children, watching and working with a teacher facilitates developing age-appropriate academics and skills.||Montessori believes young children learn best through focused individual learning tasks and are self driven. Teachers strive to stay out of the way, allowing the child’s interests to drive learning.|
|Materials||Waldorf classrooms are filled with all natural materials and children are encouraged to create their own toys, learning materials, and textbooks. No plastic toys/materials, or popular culture references are allowed within the class or school.||All of the learning materials in the Montessori schoolroom were designed by Maria Montessori for a specific academic purpose.The Montessori method is multisensory and uses uniquely designed sensory materials for different subjects.|
|Society||A high goal in Waldorf schools is to give students a sense of ethics and to produce individuals who can impart meaning into their lives and contribute to the greater good of society.||A high goal in Montessori is to nurture the child’s understanding of life processes and awareness of the world and society around them, so they can develop their own values.|
|Social||The development of the young child in the social realm is as important as any other academic learning. The teacher plays a key role in orchestrating how this happens.||The development of self-discipline in the young child is key along with encouraging cooperation and respect with other, varied-age classroom children.|
|Individuality||Waldorf teachers believe children come into the world with unique personalities and gifts. The teacher’s role is to get to know the child, respect their nature, and guide and inspire them to reach their full potential.||Montessori teachers believe children discover their gifts through intellectual and personal freedom.The teacher’s role is to respect the unique individuality of the child and allow their nature and will to freely emerge.|
There is a great quote from the education blog, Education Japan, saying this about each of these educational models: “One thing is clear… Each brings a high level of love and caring and a path through childhood vitally needed by children today. Both of these paths are brilliant, full of compassion, and honoring of the child.”
We agree. But which is right for your child is up to you and your family. We encourage you to tour a Waldorf school while class is in session to experience Waldorf education first hand. Learn More HERE if you’d like to visit Spring Garden Waldorf of Northeast Ohio.
Susan Mayclin Stephenson http://www.michaelolaf.net/MONTESSORI%20and%20WALDORF.html
Home school Reosurce http://alisaterry.blogspot.com/2010/12/montessori-versus-waldorf-education.html
Education Bug http://www.educationbug.org/a/montessori-vs-waldorf.html
Our Parent / Child classes offer a warm, enriching environment for children ages 18 months to 4 years old. Parents are nearby to observe and interact as their children are guided through the morning by the gentle rhythm of circle time, creative play, snack and story time.
Parents are encouraged to discuss child development and parenting issues with our experienced Waldorf teacher.
Sessions are once a week from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. for 7 weeks
On Thursdays, Jan 31 – Mar 14
On Fridays, Feb 1 – Mar 15
On Saturdays, Feb 2 – Mar 16
- $200.00 for one child and parent(s)
- $100 for each additional child
- Families who enroll for the entire year will receive a 10% discount.
This post is particularly for our new parents, but everyone may find it handy! Like at most schools, here at Spring Garden, we hit the ground running. So here’s some basic information about scheduled events that happen early on in the school year. For more detailed info, please talk with your class teacher, the office, and other parents.
On August 24th, we have our new family orientation in the Spring Garden gym at 6pm. New parents should plan to attend. This orientation is followed by a welcome back dinner for new and existing families. This is a great opportunity to ask questions and learn about upcoming events.
August 27th is our first day of school and we begin this year, as we do every year, with the Rose Ceremony to welcome our first graders to formal schooling. The eighth grade and first grade class have special roles in this ceremony and parents from grade 1 and 8 are encouraged to attend. Oftentimes, older early childhood students will attend the ceremony as well (to see what awaits them next year), while younger students continue with their regular preschool day.
The beginning of September brings a series of meetings to the calendar. New parents should note the Class Meetings on the 13th, 18th and 25th. These are required meetings held by your classroom teacher to discuss the goings on and other news for your class.
Many new parents ask about “Parent Council Meetings.” These meetings welcome everyone, but are specifically held for the assigned parent council representatives from each class. If you are not this representative, then you do not need to attend these meetings.
On September 28, we have kite flying during the afternoon, early dismissal, and then hold our Michaelmas play at 6:30PM. Grade 1-8 parents should plan to attend and see their children participate in the Michaelmas play. Class teachers will have more information as the event draws near.
The evening of October 31st brings Spring Garden its beloved Halloween Festival, also known as the “Pumpkin Walk.” Parents play a special part in this day – decorating a themed booth for their class, where the teacher sits to pass out candy. Children also carve pumpkins for the festival that are beautifully lit and line the trail walked to collect goodies. Children walk through the school grounds with their parents to collect their treats and then are welcome to cider and snacks in the gymnasium.
On November 1st and 2nd, required Parent-Teacher Conferences are held.
On November 7th we have our new parent tea. Please come and ask questions, meet other new parents, and give us feedback about your experiences at Spring Garden.
Much of October and November, you will hear about the Children’s Festival held on November 17th. The Children’s Festival is held all day on Saturday and is a parent run function that the children adore. Each grade level is given a leadership role for a particular activity for the day. The Friday before the festival, the school is transformed into a community fair, in preparation for the hundreds of people that come through the doors to enjoy our creative spirits and partake in the day’s festivities. All are encouraged to participate.
And finally, on November 29-30, all students take part in the Advent Spiral. This ceremony is a sacred time to celebrate the dark days of winter. Volunteers are needed for setup and to make music while the children carry their candles and light the spiral.
Looking forward to an exciting start to 2012!