Little Shearwater at Main Arm Road, Mullumbimby
Humming Bees and Blossom Bower: Kindergarten
For children turning 6 in that year.
Welcome to the Shearwater Kindergartens. This is a special time for your child as they journey through their 5th and 6th years of development. Until the age of 6 or 7 children learn primarily by imitation: seeing and doing. They are open to almost all influences in their environment so it is the first priority of a Steiner School Kindergarten to create a warm, loving, homely environment in which children do better if intellectual work is postponed. It is through ‘hands-on’ activities that the seeds for later subjects are sown.
The Kindergarten timetable consists of a rhythmical flow of different activities: artistic, social and physical. These include painting, drawing, modelling, play-acting, puppetry, singing, stories, poems, games, handicrafts, cooking, gardening and free play. Using a variety of natural materials fosters a scope of imagination in play which many finished toys don’t provide. It is also a time of wonder and veneration as they learn more about the world we live in with Father Sky, Mother Earth and Sunny Sun.
The Kindergarten curriculum
The beginning of writing in the Kindergarten at Shearwater is quite difficult to see because there are no actual letters written. However, letter forms can be detected everywhere and these forms are made by the children unconsciously in the widest possible variety of activities. For example, we might reproduce the ‘W’ of water in a watercolour painting or a two-branched tree might be drawn representing both the tree and the ‘T’.
It is an important Steiner principle that the strongest connection be made between the hand-and-eye faculties as, if there is even a slight lack of co-ordination between the dexterous and the visual skills in a child, then problems in writing will almost certainly be present. Therefore the attempt is made to develop these skills before the child enters his period of formal learning – that is from Class 1 onwards. This is also consistent with the method employed in the School of teaching writing before reading.
The child’s kindergarten day is full of activities as he/she is encouraged at this age to develop physical intelligence. We stress that every member of the child’s physical body should be educated to be (by age 7) a sensitive, strong, finely tuned instrument, which will serve his higher members and faculties for the rest of his life. The particular faculty dealt with here is writing and following are some methods employed which build the strong foundation mentioned above.
Eurythmy, as an art of movement, would take considerable space to elaborate upon. It is whole body movement within a set of disciplines. These are based on human language and the actual forms of the written word. An ‘O’ is a circle; the Eurythmy gesture for the sound ‘O’ is a circle made by the body of the child (arms in this case). All letters of the alphabet have a separate gesture in Eurythmy.
In the Kindergarten, the child is not made conscious of the letter forms he is gesturing yet, subliminally, they are entering his whole organism in a healthy way so that, later on, he will feel that he already has a relationship to those forms which he is then learning consciously as writing.
Eurythmy, as a principle, enters almost every aspect of the Steiner Kindergarten world because, strongly based on imitation, it is recognised as the most effective educational method for children under 7. The Teacher gestures, the child copies and therefore imitates stylish movement.
Eurythmy builds the formulation in the child of a ‘whole body’ experience of writing: a writing that will later contain principles of movement – the child first learns to write not just with his hands but also with his whole movement organization. (For more information also see Eurythmy in What is Steiner Education? and – as we are lucky enough to have a professional Curative Eurythmist working at the School – the section on Curative Eurythmy in Private tuition)
Acting, Miming, Dancing
The Arts are used deliberately in Steiner schools to draw the child’s consciousness right into the various parts of his body. In acting, miming and dancing, the hands actually become the artistic expression themselves.
For example, if the children play or mime, they have to tell a story mostly with their hands. It is found that the general uninhibitedness and confidence that these activities encourage, stay with the children as they grow. Each of these activities is a preparation for hand confidence, and will be required for good writing later on. A confident approach to writing is a most valuable asset and it is one that allows a child’s individual writing style (considered so important in a Steiner school) to be both legible and attractive.
Painting requires an acquired degree of fine motor skills, especially as the children are generally given transparent watercolours to paint with. The watercolour brush is the most basic and responsive writing instrument and lessons on grip, slope, pressure etc. are learnt here long before the child actually writes letters.
It is through these conscious shaping, colour activities that delicate application is educated into the child’s hands right down to the fingertips; this helps him in the artistic forming of letters later on; so that his writing is beautiful – not just correct.
Whilst painting, they also learn tactile sensitivity and shaping principles – principles designed to bring freedom and harmony to the hand-eye coordinative faculty.
The child expresses all the wide world of forms on the two dimensional page. Most of the forms he draws and masters will have direct application in the written letters to follow. There are lots of letters hidden in a child’s drawing of a house, for example the letter ‘H’ can be found everywhere. In the many drawings they do in Kindergarten they would have drawn the whole alphabet (unconsciously) many times over. The drawings are generally done in black, beeswax crayons and certain exercises encourage the vertical, the horizontal, oblique or curved line principles – predicating those found in written letters.
Musical instruments and singing games
Musical instruments and singing games contain many of the same basic elements as writing – particularly it’s rhythmic quality. Children have a long struggle overcoming basic arrhythmic disadvantages and it is found that if a child has difficulty in his rhythmic organization, then his writing will suffer – for instance from poor flow and chronic slowness. The more music in the Kindergarten, the more likely will it be that the children will recognise their basic rhythmic patterns and harmonise them.
We know that to help a 5 year old achieve success in beating a basic rhythm on a drum will also help him to write better and faster in his primary years. We also see that for some children this is sometimes a major achievement!
Modelling with bees-wax or clay actually strengthens the finger muscles, providing a basis for later consistency in writing. A great deal of bad writing in children is due to the fact that the fingers were not exercised sufficiently when the muscles were forming and they remained weak – this symptom can be seen in the child who complains that his fingers hurt when he writing.
Healthy, strong fingers are necessary for control of the writing instrument. The wonderful finger-tingling massage that occurs when children mould clay or beeswax is a sure sign that the blood flow is being stimulated right into the peripheral capillaries and that their finger muscle development is taking place.
The children model many forms from the real world; e.g. little green snakes, which later on (in Class 1) become the abstract letter form ‘S’ as we know it. Therefore, unconsciously, the children are already developing a familiarity with their letters.
Weaving, sewing, craft
Here we deal with the widest possible variety of activities, the least not being teaching a child to tie his shoelaces. These activities educate the hands and fingers in a variety of skills, all of which can only enhance good writing later on.
Weaving encourages rhythmic consistency; sewing – attention to detail and definitive skills (like threading a needle); and the many crafts like knotting, tie-dying, finger-knitting, etc. assure dexterity – the principle faculty required for writing. All these activities also encourage accuracy (dotting the ‘i’s).
Dolls, toys, nature play
The hand, which has been intelligently educated, will, hopefully, write intelligently. The dolls and toys in the Shearwater Kindergarten stimulate the child’s imagination, they are of high quality and many are inherently intelligent.
Children playing with toys mostly play with their hands – how well they do that can determine how well they later write. Intelligent, well-made, imaginative toys aid their writing skills later on. They make many of their toys so the children get double tactile experiences from them (like their hobby horses).
Nature play is when children experience the higher intelligence wrought into the created world – they are encouraged to play with rabbits, stones, pinecones, shells, frogs – whoever or whatever happens along. Nature’s textures are marvellous and these truly educate the hands intelligently.
Climbing, ball games, gardening, sand play, building
All of these activities (plus many more) assist in the general strengthening and versatility of the child’s whole body. Their aid to later writing is to provide the child with strong capable upper limbs – especially the hands (fingers were mentioned earlier with modelling). The children must be able to grasp securely, maintain pressure and be able to control the hand movements in a free way without trembling.
It has been found that children who are not reasonably well developed physically, cannot do the amount of writing normally required by a primary school child so they fall behind and become demoralised. The Shearwater Kindergarten assures that children spend a good deal of their day developing strong, healthy bodies by climbing, gardening, sand play, building, swinging, etc. Good writing (especially in the younger years) is dependent on ‘whole body’ participation.
By the time the children enter Class 1, they are so ready to write that the Teacher can hardly keep up with them and they retain a love for writing right through their school years – a writing which has (as far as the child’s potential allows it) inherent in it: movement, confidence, style, sensitivity and beautiful form shaping, consistency, rhythm and speed, skill and accuracy, imagination and intelligence, strength and quantity.
Kindergarten’s Daily Program & Practicals
Each day there is a routine that the children follow which is the same except for different activities in the main and middle part of the day.
Main Activities carried out each day
Friday: Nature Walk / Excursions
9.00am Children arrive at school. Fruit is placed in basket. Bags placed on hooks
Creative Play by Children
Inside: cubby house building, building with blocks, house/shop playing,
drawing, bees wax, sewing, fruit cutting, etc.
Outside: sand and water play, running games, climbing trees,
9.55am Change shoes. Wash Hands. Toilet. Sit on Benches outside room ready to come in.
10.00am Songs with hand and feet motions
10.15am Enter room with songs and movement. Morning verse in circle. Singing / Action verse. Another action verse. Take chairs back up to rounder /Rug for story
10.30am Story Time
11.00am Children take chairs down to work area for Main Activity which varies each day.
11.30am Wash hands and sit at outside tables for morning tea verse.
Morning Tea. Children acting as Waiters/ Waitresses serve each other.
(A cooked morning tea plus fruit is provided by us for the children.)
Children wash bowls.
12.00pm Creative play. Children play outside or remain inside as they choose.
12.55pm Wash hands /feet
1.00pm Songs and Movement
1.10pm Enter Kindergarten to music movement
then off to the work area for middle activity, which changes daily
1.50pm Wash hands. Lunch. Toilet
2.15pm Rest time: children make up their beds with their sheet and pillows then lay on beds quietly looking at books, doing jig-saw puzzles, etc.
Story Good-bye verse
Mattresses / sheet and pillows put away by children
Shoes on, bags collected
3.00pm Home Time
Days of Operation
Monday to Thursday 9.00 am to 3.00 pm
Friday 9.00 am to 12.30 pm
Things to bring each day
A wholesome lunch (Please no potato chips or sweets)
Fruit to share for morning tea
Change of clothes (Please try to keep active designs on clothing to a minimum and also the wearing of black, as it isn’t conducive to your child’s inner development.
Footwear (Your child needs to wear some kind of footwear to and from school. We also go for lots of walks.)
Things that Stay at School
A sun hat (to be labelled with your child’s name)
Sheet made of cotton (single bed size: 1 x 1.5m)
Slippers for life movement (to be organised later)
Pillow (to be made by children at School)
2 Face washers (with loops)
If your child wants to bring a toy, we would prefer that they bring only one or two in to play with as they can very easily get lost at school. The toy also needs to be an appropriate type (i.e. no war, fighting/horror toys).
We celebrate your child’s birthday at Kindergarten. We will need a birthday cake, photos of your child and a written story/verse about your child. This will all become clearer around the time of your child’s birthday. Please contact us a week or so before the birthday.
If your child will be catching the bus you will need a bus form from the Office. (Please also read the School Student Transport Scheme section in Shearwater’s General Handbook or the School’s website). If you change your child’s routine for home time please send a note in telling us so we can help your child to know what is happening. It can become very confusing at this age.
As your child is now in “Big School” and part of the Primary School Roll, they will need a note when they are absent from school.
Kindergarten sells Organic Cheese and Spinach Rolls at $3.00 each. So if you would like to buy one for your child’s lunch, please send in the appropriate money in an envelope marked with the child’s name, the order and the money you have enclosed. We do not access the School’s tuckshop, as our lunchtimes are quite different.
This grows at an alarming rate over the year. Try to label all clothes if possible. Whenever you visit the School, drop in and check the lost property. We send them off to the Op Shop at the end of each term.
We celebrate the seasonal solstices and equinoxes with a festival at the School. Please try to come to this, as they are a very special part of your child’s year. The School newsletter will advise dates. Parent involvement and attendance are an important part of these celebrations.
Parent/Teacher Meetings and communication
We try to have one meeting per term. Please come, as you’ll learn more about what is happening for your child. Over the year, we are usually available for talks after school is finished for the day or otherwise are happy to arrange a time to discuss your concerns or worries. Please note that before or during class times, we cannot give you our full attention. If you would like to make an appointment please contact the School Office. Phoning the Teacher at home should only be done in an emergency.
Shearwater has a weekly newsletter that is available on Fridays. It is a great way to read about upcoming events in the School and community, so please subscribe to the email version.
If you do not have Internet access you can collect a hard copy from the Class, the School’s Office or shop, Shear Delight.
We usually try to hold 2 to 3 working bees per year to bring order and sparkle back into our garden. It is a very good social time to enable parents to meet each other.
In the 4th term we have a block swimming program. More information on this as the year unfolds.