We were introduced to Waldorf Education by close friends. The wife of the couple, an artist and educator, had discovered Rudolf Steiner in her professional reading. Once awakened to the joy of Waldorf Education, the couple became committed to making it available for their son. But what do you do if you can’t find a Waldorf school in your area? You start one. That’s how the Northern Lights Waldorf School near Lake Placid, New York was born.
We listened to our friends’ tales of starting a school: the visits to potential building sites; brainstorming ideas to raise funds; and, finally, the anxiety of actually opening the doors to children. At the time we were following our friends’ journey to opening their school, we were childless, but nevertheless captivated by the Waldorf philosophy. Ten years later, when it came time to send our son to preschool, there were no agonizing decisions for us; we wanted Waldorf Education. We found our school on the web and reaped the benefits for which others had toiled.
Today our daughter Taden is in Ms. Lucy’s Daisy Kindergarten. Taden has loved Ms. Lucy with a fierce passion from the moment she visited our house and sat on Taden’s bed, the two conversing like teenage girls at a sleep over. Ms. Lucy not only understands Taden’s mix of boldness and sensitivity, she values it and leads Taden tenderly into a place of harmony. As Taden’s parents we are thrilled that another adult knows and loves our daughter.
Ms. Lucy’s ability to balance distance and objectivity with love is priceless. Last spring, one week after her 5th birthday, Taden became enraged when she learned that she would spend another year in kindergarten. In Taden’s mind, her 5-year milestone meant entry into first grade the following September. Despite her initial disappointment, Taden is now fully engaged in kindergarten. As two of the oldest children in the class, Taden and her dear friend Emily are responsible for teaching the younger children how to tie their shoes. This gentle ordering of the social arena by age has given Taden the opportunity to experience the roles of follower and leader while she eagerly waits for the first grade where the mysteries of letters, reading, and handwork await. What sweetness, what wisdom there is in fostering this longing for learning in a child!
David and I don’t hear much directly about Daisy Kindergarten. Our questions are met with brief answers or a change of subject, but we do hear songs about green leaves, red apples, knights and ladies. We receive vibrant and colorful portraits of princesses, rainbows and flowers. We unpack a lunch box of nature’s treasures: leaves, flowers and stones. Each morning our daughter is excited to go to school where she will bake bread, pretend with friends, race to the big bush in the field, and know she is loved. David and I wish for a world where all children have access to a child-centered education that succeeds at celebrating the uniqueness of each child while thoroughly supporting and honoring the important journey of their development.
Written by WSP Parent, Diana Versaw-Barnes. This article was first posted in October 2010. Taden is now enjoying second grade with her teacher, Mr Petro. Her brother Kieran is in seventh grade.