We have two mixed-age kindergartens, serving children ages 4 years 3 months old to 6 years 2 months (at the beginning of the school year). Typically, each kindergarten has twenty children daily with a lead and an assistant teacher. Waldorf educators have always sought to protect the wonder and magic of early childhood. Our Waldorf kindergarten provides a nurturing, homelike environment, full of natural beauty, from the corner nature table with its changing seasonal tableaus, to the simple, unfinished toys that stimulate the child’s imagination. Baskets of river rocks, seashells, slices of birch branch, simple cloth dolls and wooden frames draped with gauzy cotton or shimmering silk come alive during creative play. These materials are transformed by the children into villages, castles, ships and forests as the moment’s drama unfolds.
This play is the children’s work, exercising their creativity and imagination and laying the groundwork for the life-long love of learning. Recognizing that young children learn most directly through imitation, the kindergarten teachers strive to be a worthy example, modeling respect for each individual and reverence for all living things. The Waldorf kindergarten creates a secure bridge for the children, smoothing the transition from home life to the new life of school. The celebration of seasonal traditions and festivals also draws families into the school community, further supporting and encouraging the growth of the whole child. Our program is offered five days a week from 8:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Children may be dropped off as early as 8:00 a.m. for no extra charge. An optional extended-day program is available until 5:30 p.m.
The children begin each day with a short Morning Gathering Circle for parents, teachers and children from both kindergartens, saying good morning to the earth and the sun. As with the preschool programs, the kindergarten programs have a breathing rhythm of creative child-led play time interspersed with teacher-led activities. As is developmentally appropriate for this age group, the duration of the stories and circles (teacher-led activities) are longer than in the preschool.
Stories are told in three to four week blocks. The first week, the teacher tells the story by heart. The second week, the same story is performed as a puppet play. The third week, depending upon the story and the children, the children may move the puppets. The final week is a “people play” of the story. Stories include Grimm’s fairy tales and folktales from various lands. Circles are also generally in the same three to four week blocks and are a combination of large motor, small motor, verse, song and dance around seasonal themes.
Inside play time and outside play time are approximately one hour each and include clean-up time. The children play a large part in the daily care of the kindergarten, inside and out. Our school has included animals in the kindergarten (chickens and a rabbit), for which the children also help to provide care.
A warm and hearty snack is served daily in the kindergartens, which the children often help prepare. The children bring their own lunch for later in the day. The kindergarten program runs from 8 a.m. until 1:15 p.m., with the first half hour being the grace time for arrival and the final fifteen minutes the grace time for pick-up.
We have an open kindergarten, in that generally, after the first six weeks, teachers invite parents into our classes to help out in the kindergartens. Each teacher has specific guidelines for parent helpers, and each make sure the child is not experiencing major separation issues due to having their parent come in to help.
The kindergarten year is filled with celebrations and festivals that follow the seasons. The year starts with Michaelmas, a fiery festival, marked with courage and strength to face the dragon. During the month of September the children rasp, sand, paint and polish wooden boards to make golden swords. White capes are dyed golden, and the children are knighted with the following verse:
I will use it for the right
Not for a silly quarrel or fight
But to drive away evil I will try
And protect those weaker than I
In October, we host a Halloween celebration. On this night, many families also walk through the Protected Path where they experience a story or fanciful vignettes performed and put on by grades parents.
As we move to November, the children truly begin to feel the changing of the seasons and notice the days growing shorter. The children create paper lanterns from tissue or painting paper. On a very special night in mid-November, the children return with their parents once it is dark and we go on a walk, singing and bringing forth our light.
In December, reverence and awe for all things is brought through the Advent Garden. Teachers light candles each week and recite a verse to honor stones, plants, animals, and man. The winter spiral is held in the kindergarten rooms and each child gets a turn to walk the spiral, light their candle from the innermost candle, and place their candle on a golden star, helping to light the path for others. December is quite the joyous time of year as the kindergarten receives visits by Saint Nicholas and the Second Grade (for Santa Lucia) bearing delicious treats.
After winter break, the children return fresh in the New Year and are ready for the celebration of Three Kings Day. Special cakes and breads are baked with magical beans placed inside, and whoever finds the beans gets to be king.
Love is in the air in the month of February, treats are shared, and the children exchange handmade Valentines. The Kindergartens welcome spring in March along with the coming of Easter. The children plant green baskets and seek hidden treasures in the grass.
April is time to prepare for May Faire. The children dance around the May Pole and practice dancing for the King and Queen. The first Saturday of May is the school-wide celebration of May Faire. The children wear garlands of flowers honoring the bounty of spring and lead the May King and Queen to the procession on a path sprinkled with rose petals. May is a busy time of the year. The children feel the expansion of summer on its way. The children saw, rasp, sand, paint and polish wooden boats. One day in the first week of June the children, parents and teachers visit the American River and sail the fine boats made by the kindergarten children. It is a joyous, full day outing that families look forward to all year.