The start of the 2013-2014 school-year saw the expansion of Waldorf's popular Parent-and-Child program. The classes, which have been offered at the Garden City school for the past 16 years, were expanded to two beautiful, natural settings – one at the Tanglewood Preserve of Rockville Centre and the other at the Garvies Point Museum and Preserve in Glen Cove. Both off-site locations immerse families who are new to Waldorf’s early childhood program in “all-things Waldorf” like wooden toys, bread-baking and helpful parenting skills.
"These satellite expansion classes – which are both 10-weeks in length – introduces families to the Waldorf approach to early childhood education," said Waldorf’s associate director of admissions Mrs. Carol Proctor. Mrs. Proctor, who handles admissions and enrollment for Parent-Child classes through Grade 3, reported that the Rockville Centre location had enrolled eight families and the Glen Cove location had seven.
Teaching both of these classes is Mrs. Stephanie Cleary, a Waldorf early childhood educator who has been working at the Waldorf School of Garden City for the past seven years. Carrying her baskets of yarn, knitting needles and baked bread, Mrs. Cleary has learned to package "Waldorf-on-the-go" and carry the Waldorf experience to different locations. "Wooden blocks, a butter churn and a few hand-made felted stuffed toys are part of each class," she remarked. "We gather for a snack in a family-like setting and the parents and I have discussions on important topics – like the effects of media on young children and the importance of discipline."
The program is changing attitudes about how to parent among fast-paced and tech-savvy adults. John Gehnrich, a chiropractor with a practice in Rockville Centre, was churning butter with his 16-month old son Alex. He remarked, "The entire program inspired my wife and I to parent differently. As parents, we learn how to be present while recognizing the importance of letting him play on his own. We think it’s just wonderful to be taught in a nurturing presence that is sensitive to his individuality."
Laura Franco, a resident in Sea Cliff, enrolled herself and her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Sofia in the Glen Cove program after seeing a flyer at the Sea Cliff Creative Arts Studio. "I’m always looking for things to do with my daughter in the neighborhood and I really like the creative and artistic qualities of Waldorf," she remarked. "Three-weeks-in and I knew I liked the program very much. It’s a very calming atmosphere."
Another parent, Valerie Ferrara, who lives in Glen Cove, found the program as a welcome alternative to the fast-paced activities that are normally marketed to parents with young children. Originally, she enrolled her two-year-old daughter in a music class but found the experience loud and hectic. While her daughter played in the background and she sewed a simple little pouch, Ms. Ferrara remarked, "The Parent-Child class is a great way to introduce her to a class experience."
Lisa Breen was immediately attracted to the program after reading You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy (Ten Speed Press, 2013). A resident of East Norwich, Ms. Breen had enrolled in the Garden City program the previous spring, "but the Glen Cove location is so much closer for me."
For Breen, the simplicity of activities is what kept her and her son attracted to the program. "Baking bread, churning butter – these are simple activities that my son and I can do together," she said. "I think many parents spend time entertaining their kids. But here, I love how parents are involving their children with these meaningful activities."