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!
Here is another great article about what fairy tales can teach the young and the old. James Parson’s piece explores the lessons from educationalist and psychologist, Dr Bruno Bettelheim, who, “suggests that children need dark fairy stories to deal with their inner turmoil and fears about life and death.” Parson’s discusses why fairy tales give insights into existential questions, independent living, assurance, evil, and happy futures.
For an even deeper dive into the psychological underpinnings and importance of fairy tales, visit, http://www.endicott-studio.com, where the writings of Terri Windling, in particular, shed light on topics like orphaned heroes and transformations in these stories.
Here is an example of her keen insight on the predominance of orphaned children in folk tales.
“The orphaned hero is not, however, a mere fantasy cliché; it’s a mythic archetype, springing from some of the oldest stories of the world.
… The heroism of fairy tale orphans lies in their ability to survive and transform their fate, and to outwit those who would do them harm without losing their lives, their souls, or their humanity in the process.
… Calamity thus has a function in these tales: it propels the first hard step onto the road that will lead (after certain tests and trials) to personal and worldly transformation, pushing the hero out of childhood and towards a new adult life (the latter often symbolized by marriage at the story’s end).
… For young readers, there is a distinct brand of pleasure in inhabiting the skin of the orphan hero, tasting both the joys and terrors of operating as a fully independent being without the protective cushion (or burden, depending on the child’s circumstance) of parents standing between them and the wide, wide world beyond.
Read many more of Ms. Windling’s writings about fairy tales HERE.
If you’re interested in learning more about Waldorf education or looking for an enriching toddler program this summer, check out Spring Garden’s Parent Child classes.
The 2 ½ hour classes are for parents and their children ages 18 months to 4 years old. Class begins at 9am when everyone comes together in a warm classroom environment that imitates the rhythms and atmosphere of a Waldorf early childhood education. Roberta Miday, a certified Waldorf Early Childhood teacher, guides the young children through the morning with the gentle rhythm of circle time, creative play, snack and story time. Parents engage in home-like activities or make simple crafts while their children help them or play nearby.
Each session is from 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. and runs for one day a week Mon, Tues or Wed for six weeks.
- Monday Class runs from July 16-Aug 20
- Tuesday Class runs from July 17-Aug 21
- Wednesday Class runs from July 18-Aug 22
Classes are $150 for the first child and $75 for each additional child for six weeks.
Registration is due by July 1st. Register Online Today.
Waldorf educators are not alone in their call for developmentally appropriate learning in early elementary education. The month of May adds another study on the pile of research supporting the benefits to delaying overzealous academics in early childhood.
This report from New Zealand, covered by The Telegraph, says, “Pupils kept out of formal schooling until the age of seven perform just as well those subjected to normal lessons at five… In some assessments of reading skills, those with a later start actually overtook their peers by the age of 10, figures show.”
This study release comes close on the heels of recommendations by Dr Richard House, a senior lecturer at Roehampton University’s Research Centre for Therapeutic Education, to delay formal schooling for bright kids.
This article summarizes his recommendations, saying, “…gifted pupils from relatively affluent backgrounds suffered the most from being pushed ‘too far, too fast.’ He quoted a major US study – carried out over eight decades – that showed children’s ‘run-away intellect’ actually benefited from being slowed down in the early years, allowing them to develop naturally.”
The Harvard Education Letter harps on these issues as well. The results from this study, answer these questions: “Have kids gotten smarter? Can they learn things sooner? What effect has modern culture had on child development? The surprising answers—no, no, and none.”
This prompted Jerlean E. Daniel, executive director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, to say: “Above all, young children need time—time to manipulate objects and ideas, time to make the information their own,” says Daniel. The Gesell study, she says, “is a resource to people who want to find greater balance in kindergarten.”
Why find greater balance? Because, as the Harvard Education Letter also reports, there are serious concerns about the current state of the early education environment, including:
— A narrow range of literacy and math skills
— Eliminated recess or physical education
— Scripted curricula
This piece says these have caused, “Several prominent early childhood organizations [to issue] reports on the importance of incorporating developmentally appropriate practice into elementary school classrooms, based on what research has confirmed about early learning.”
They’ll be in good hands with Kathy Miller, SGWS parent and our Early Childhood Extended Care Lead teacher. Kathy has worked with children for over 20 years, has a BA in Early Childhood Education, and has graduated from Lifeways Waldorf training. Learn even more about Kathy Miller here.
Children will experience a typical Waldorf rhythm each day, including purposeful work in and out of doors, snack, circle, free play, lunch & rest. A morning snack is provided. Lunch and an afternoon snack must be brought from home.
Summer Care is available every week this summer starting on Monday June 25th and ending on August 24th. Children start their day at 9:00 and go home at 3:00. Three and five day options are available. Three days will be W, Th, Fr. Cost is $200/wk or $140/3 day option.
Space is limited and registration is required. Sign up online HERE or visit the office for a registration form.
“According to the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 37% of fourth graders and 26% of eighth graders cannot read at the basic level; and on the 2002 NAEP 26% of twelfth graders cannot read at the basic level. That is, when reading grade appropriate text these students cannot extract the general meaning or make obvious connections between the text and their own experiences or make simple inferences from the text. In other words, they cannot understand what they have read.”
When learning to read, comprehension is key, not the ability to decode letters and form words. In many U.S. schools, children are taught to first memorize the alphabet, then sounds, and then piece together phonics into words and finally sentences. Vocabulary and spelling lists are then memorized and readers are often timed for speed. Teachers then guide students toward sentence and paragraph comprehension.
Teach Comprehension First
As outlined at WhyWaldorfWorks.org, Waldorf schools take an opposite approach, believing that for comprehensive reading to occur, a child should first obtain the skill of forming an inner picture of content, inside their mind, as they decode. So, in consideration of child development, Waldorf educators work to develop these comprehension capabilities at a time when imagination thrives in the child – before age seven, which is also before eye tracking and other developmental milestones for reading are strong.
Fairy tales, songs, poems and rhyming become the basis for the Waldorf language arts curriculum through which a child comes to learn expansive vocabulary and eventually printed word. The idea being that younger children are first given the gift of a strong foundation in comprehension, vocabulary and the sounds and meanings of language. Then, and only then, are students introduced to the external expression of those well-formed concepts and taught to write and spell the letters and words that are part of these richly imagined texts.
Introduce Decoding Through Writing
Wade B. Holland in his book, The Waldorf School: 32 Questions and Answers, talks about those first steps toward reading, which begin in first grade by hearing story and then writing what the teacher prints on the board.
“Reading in a Waldorf school follows acquisition of a firm grounding in writing — just as humankind had to develop systems of notation in order to have something to read. By exploring throughout the first grade year how our alphabet came about, and letting the children discover each letter in the same way that its form evolved to the ancients out of a pictograph, writing comes out of the children’s art, and their capability to read evolves as a natural, and indeed comparatively effortless, stage of their mastery of linguistic communications.”
Does This Approach Work?
Barbara Sokolov, author and Waldorf parent, gives a highly echoed testimonial to the results in her popular article There’s More To Reading than Meets the Eye.
“The first book that my daughter, Anna, read when she was “finally taught to read” was not a dull primer, but beautiful prose by E. B. White,Charlotte’s Web. True, she learned to decode later than many of her public school counterparts, but she learned to read fluently, with understanding and enjoyment, much sooner than most. Take a look at the sophisticated novels and poetry that upper grade Waldorf students are reading. Take in an eighth grade production of Shakespeare, and you will see the wisdom of the Waldorf approach to reading. Working with a true knowledge of the human being, a true understanding of the stages of child development, the Waldorf teacher is able to educate children in ways that enable them to blossom forth with joy. As Rudolf Steiner says, “It is indeed so that a true knowledge of man loosens and releases the inner life of soul and brings a smile to the face.”