Using Our Voices with the Young Child, Part 1 by Jennifer Sullivan

This piece, taken from Jennifer’s 2013 LifeWays paper on "Becoming Worthy of Imitation," is the first of three installments on “Using Our Voices.”

My World of Language

When I first discovered my daughter was hiding snug in my tummy, my life changed.  As the months progressed, I found myself humming quietly as I prepared for her arrival.  I did not seem to notice the drastic changes within myself until I had spent weeks, perhaps months, after the birth staring at her beautiful body and witnessing the life that was continuously transformed in front of me. 

The Grace of Illness in a Fast-paced World by Jane Sustar

“A mighty creature is the germ,

Though smaller than a pachyderm.

His customary dwelling place

Is deep within the human race.

His childish pride he often pleases

By giving people strange diseases.

Do you, my poppet, feel infirm?

You probably contain a germ.”

-Ogden Nash

Childhood at a Child's Pace by Beret Isaacson

Beret writes: One of the things I love most about the LifeWays approach to early childhood is the respect given to a child's pace. Children are given ample time to get through any given activity. They are not rushed or told to hurry. Adults do not do things for them even though it may be easier and faster in the moment. Once they are old enough, they are given the time and support needed to complete their own tasks, such as hanging up their coats, getting dressed, etc. Mealtimes and snack times are sit down events, allowing for good digestion, appreciation of the food that has been prepared and each other's company. Lots of time is spent in free play, both inside and outdoors. Adult led academic learning is delayed until grade school. This allows time for the child to grow a healthy physical body, which is the main task of the first seven years.

At My Child's Pace by Jennifer Sullivan

Jennifer writes: I am one of those people.  One of those annoying people that cannot be quite satisfied with the way I am.  What I mean is, although I make changes and have even completely transformed since let’s say five years ago, I know I can always improve.  To the people around me this comes across as though I am too hard on myself, as though I feel my accomplishments are not good enough.  They are good—in fact they are great, perhaps even somewhat astonishing considering the path I was on ten years ago—I just wouldn’t throw that word enough in there.  I don’t believe that when it comes to my children, the word enough should ever apply. 

Our children are our teachers.

The Santa Lucia Angels and your Child’s Sleep by Rahima Baldwin Dancy

There are so many festivals of light at this time of year, especially in countries where the days grow short. You may have seen pictures of the oldest daughter in Sweden, wearing a crown of burning candles and bringing pastries to the family on the morning of December 13th, Santa Lucia’s Day. (It’s a long, interesting story how this celebration got from Sicily to Scandinavia!)

This festival of light was also celebrated at the Waldorf Institute when we did the teacher training there: all the families with children were invited to leave their homes open the night of December 12th for the Santa Lucia angels to come in singing and give a star cookie to each child they gently awoke.  I was living with five adults and three children at the time and decided not to tell anyone else about our angelic visitors, so you can imagine that the adults were even more amazed than the children….

Sharing Christmas with Children by Laura Cassidy

Laura writes:

“The notes I handle no better than many pianists.

But the pauses between the notes—

Ah, that is where the art resides.”

-Artur Schnabel, legendary classical pianist

Thanksgivakkuh by Serenity Gordon

Serenity writes: This year Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving for the first time since 1888. It won't happen again until 70,000 + years from now. So this Thanksgivakkuh is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday.  Although it is often compared to Christmas, the meaning is actually much more  complementary to the meaning of Thanksgiving.  Hanukkah commemorates the Maccabees who fought for religious freedom, and the miracle of the oil that burned in the temple for eight nights, when there was only oil enough for one.  Thanksgiving commemorating the pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower in pursuit of religious freedom and the gratitude for that first bountiful harvest.

Using Touch Relaxation by Kate Castellani

With an average of ten toddlers from the ages of 18 months to 3 years in an indoor space, there are times during the children’s free play when they need additional quiet rest times, that supplement the traditional afternoon nap.  These “rest times” generally do not involve sleep, but allow children who have been hurt, anxious, overtired or overwhelmed to settle back into their bodies and gather themselves. These framed rest times positively affect the quality of the day not only for the individual who receives them, but for the other children and teachers as well. This allows for a more peaceful and fluid day all around.

White Noise and Cognitive Dissonance by Rahima Baldwin Dancy

It’s a puzzle to me how and why so many of the Waldorf and LifeWays early childhood programs I have visited turn on some kind of mechanical device to make “white noise” when it’s time for nap.  These teachers have heard and believe Rudolf Steiner’s indication that “the young child is all sense organ,” and they apply this understanding in a wide range of other activities.  They wouldn’t think of putting a lullaby on a CD player before leaving the nap room, or playing recorded music during the morning. They go to great lengths to try to create a harmonious environment that surrounds the children with living sounds and are even likely to use a broom or carpet sweeper rather than whipping out the vacuum cleaner after snack, to avoid the noise. Yet they don’t hesitate to turn on a fan or the clothes dryer or a machine with recordings of static or nature sounds, all in the name of lulling the children to sleep and keeping them there.

Finding Grace by Jennifer Sullivan

Jennifer writes: I don’t know when I became so judgmental.  Was it in grade school when I realized there was such a thing as competition?  Or was it junior high when I became so insecure after being judged by others?  No matter when I decided that Judgment was necessary in my life, I thought I had worked really hard since then on getting rid of it.  It turns out, that Judgment had partnered with Cunning and stayed hidden from my introspective inquiries, until I became… a mom.

Life's Mirror by Jenyng Wu

Jenyng writes: Recently, Noah, my two-and-a-half-year-old can be heard shouting, "BABY BROTHER, BABY BROTHER!  NO, BABY BROTHER!"  Somehow, baby brother (Thomas, nine months old) has crawled his way to a toy that Noah does not want him to have or play with.  As I am preparing lunch in the kitchen when this happens, I wonder why the sudden outburst while Noah is hovering right over his little brother.  It isn't until the evening, when I am reflecting on the day's events, that I realize and shudder: Noah is imitating me!

Peaceful Beginnings by Serenity Gordon

Serenity writes: When I had my first son, Noah, I had to return to work quickly. I was lucky that as a private-duty nurse I was able to bring my baby to work with me and have him looked after by the wonderful loving family of my patients. I planned to practice attachment parenting and was a co-sleeping, baby-wearing, exclusively breastfeeding new mother. I was a happy new mom, but I always felt rushed through my day, trying to get everything done and be good at every role I played. I thought at the time that I should offer my son every educational gimmick on the market. I purchased programs that claimed to make my baby an Einstein and teach him to read as early as humanly possible, as well as other books and videos that are promoted throughout parenting magazines and baby registries.

Back to School: Another Lesson in Letting Go, by Mara Spiropoulos

For the first time, my house is feeling a bit empty. We were blessed with the opportunity to send our two older children, Ellia (newly 5) and Lincoln (my almost-4 Michaelmas babe), to the school of our dreams – Prairie Hill Waldorf School. Though this entails more financial cutbacks in our home and a lengthy drive to and from school daily, it is worth that and more to us. We fell in love with this school many years ago and now feel so humbled that our children are among those who attend. That said, it has not been an easy transition for any of us.

Joy in My Heart by Cynthia Aldinger

Words from an old campfire song (with third verse revised by Cynthia):

I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart


Down in my heart


Down in my heart

I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy,  down in my heart


Down in my heart to stay

I’ve got the peace that passeth understanding down in my heart

(Repeat above refrain)

I’ve got the love of all the little children down in my heart

(Repeat refrain)

So, we ask the question – from where does joy come?  Down in my heart.

A New Mom Balancing Fundamentalism with the Fundamentals of LifeWays, by Kerry Madrid

Kerry writes:  I grew up on the East Coast, lived for eleven years in a tiny ski town in Colorado and five years ago moved to the North Bay area of California.  My westward migration opened my mind more and more, the closer I got to the Pacific.  We settled in a small progressive town about an hour north of San Francisco in Sonoma County.  The weather, beautiful coast, foods, and free-spirited lifestyle still feel like I'm on a long vacation.  The biggest change is that all of the things in my life that were once considered "different" or "alternative," were very much the norm here.  There are three Waldorf schools in town and, for a Waldorf teacher, this is really nice.  Yes, for the job opportunities and to send my own child to one of these fine schools--but also because I was tired of being asked, "A Waldorf teacher? Like the salad?"  Yes, like the salad.


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