On Thursdays we bake. This is a favorite day of the children. After putting their slippers on, they quickly skip to the table in anticipation of helping prepare the day's snack. The table is covered with white floury dust as the children squish the dough through their fingers and form it into buns. Sweet, lilting voices sing along to the baking song as they place each bun carefully on the baking tray. When they're done baking, the warm, fragrant buns are brought to our table wrapped carefully in a tea towel like a treasure. We spread sunflower seed butter on them, sing our snack blessing, and enjoy our meal together.
We all agree that, as parents and teachers, it is our main goal to raise and educate children in a healthy way. We wish to see our young people grow up resilient and active, confident in themselves and their place in the world. We like to see children who demonstrate a love of learning and who are physically, emotionally, and spiritually able to do so. The Early Childhood program at our school plays a foundational part in the children's schooling, and the Nursery is at the very start of this journey!
The Berry Blossom Nursery has grown into a full day program this year, and much of the inspiration for its inception has come from a movement called LifeWays. I would like to give a brief overview of this model of child care, as well as give you a glimpse into life at the end of the hallway!
The LifeWays model was pioneered by Cynthia Aldinger out of an impulse to serve the young child in a nurturing, holistic way. It is built upon the philosophy and principles of Waldorf Education and has translated and expanded these to include the very young child. In their book "Home Away from Home", Aldinger and her colleague explain that "LifeWays practices are based upon the fundamental need for relationship-based care (bonding and continuity), neurological research, and recognition of the living arts (domestic, nurturing, creative and social arts), as central to the advancement of the children's social, emotional and intellectual skills."
A LifeWays setting aims to be a "home away from home," an environment where everyday life happens. Life itself is the curriculum. Nursery life is busy with chopping, baking, polishing, folding laundry, etc., all of which are part of the domestic arts that the children witness being taken up around them. The children are always welcome to participate. Washing the dishes is a particular favorite! These daily activities give rhythm to the day and to the week, and help the child feel secure and part of the important tasks that have to be done to make the "house" run smoothly.
As Waldorf/LifeWays teachers, we recognize that human relationships form the backbone of healthy development. Children in the Nursery span a wide age range, especially this year with all of our beloved babies. A child who becomes a part of our Berry Blossom family at eighteen months stays with us for at least two years before joining one of the Kindergarten classes. This truly is a gift as it enables the children to learn from one another and to form a close bond with their "siblings" and caregivers. It enables trust to grow, and the child's awareness that she is seen and recognized. It is amazing to see the older ones engage with the little ones - how carefully they will help spoon-feed a baby, help each other with getting outside gear on, or "read" to each other.
The LifeWays experience is such a wholesome beginning to their educational journey, and I am truly delighted to be a part of their lives in this way.
~Submitted by Miriam Greiser, Berry Blossom teacher