Shining Mountain offers full and partial-week options for our mixed-age kindergarten, ages 3-6. This means that in each of our three kindergarten classrooms, there is a mix of children between the ages of 3 and 6 years old.
Walk into the soothing, home-like environment of the Kindergarten and feel the warmth and beauty of the soft pink walls, the colorful silks and cotton cloths, the natural materials in the toys, and the subdued lighting. Here your child plays contentedly and creatively, his or her imagination guiding the way. The teachers speak softly but firmly, and move with quiet purpose, as ones whose actions are worthy of imitation.
Regular rhythms – alternating vigorous activities with quieter ones – guide the structure of each day. The Kindergarten week includes arts and crafts, puppetry, eurythmy, cooking, bread baking, singing games, healthy physical play, and learning social courtesies. With exquisite attention to language, the teacher tells fairytales and stories over and over; children drink in the images and thereby strengthen an innate human capacity for forming inner pictures. This capacity, when properly nourished, becomes the basis for literacy and future critical thinking skills.
During walks and outdoor play times, children experience a sense of wonder and a love of nature. Celebrating seasonal festivals not only reminds children of the cycles of the year, but also holds them in the larger Shining Mountain family.
Shining Mountain has three Kindergartens, Red Rose, Larksong and White Dove. Each class welcomes 18 children, ages three through six, and is guided by a lead teacher with an assistant. Children may join the Kindergarten program if they are age three by May 31 and toilet trained. Kindergarten is a five-morning a week program from 8:30AM to 12:30PM, Monday through Friday. Children age three and four have the option of attending 3, 4 or 5 mornings a week. Children who are age five before June 1st are required to attend school 5 days a week the following year. Extended kindergarten care, called Rainbow Garden, is available from 12:30 – 3:00PM Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Thursdays the extended kindergarten care dismisses at 2PM. Rainbow Garden is offered 2- 5 days a week for all kindergarten children enrolled in the morning. In addition, we have an After Care Program available from 3-5:30 PM for those families needing all day coverage.
Through imaginative play with toys of natural materials, children develop sound bodies. From birth to age six or seven, children experience the world and learn primarily through physical activity and the effects of physical stimuli. Thus, our Waldorf Kindergarten environment is conducive to learning through exploration and play. Healthy movement and creative play in the early childhood years are keys to laying the foundation for later academic work.
The idea of rhythm is central to a Waldorf kindergarten: very active indoor games or outdoor play of jumping, running, rolling, shouting, and climbing alternate with a snack, story time or watercolor painting, which allow the child’s body to relax. A dependable sequence for the day and for the week, at home as well as at school, offers a child a sense of security and steady rhythm that is vital to healthy functioning. As night yields to day, as spring becomes summer, as the breath moves in and then out, so, too, children unfold best physically and emotionally when there is “a time for all things.”
At Shining Mountain our Kindergarten is based on the conviction that the young child learns best by imitating what is beautiful and meaningful. Each child’s innate capacity for wonder, reverence, and awe is valued and nurtured in a carefully planned program and environment. The teachers model beautiful movement and speech, refined table manners and social courtesies, peaceful conflict resolution and joy in daily activities – all of which are carefully observed and imitated by the children. The teachers perform real tasks with the children: grinding grain, baking bread, sewing, washing dishes after a snack, all the while empowering each child to contribute in meaningful ways.
“Once upon a time” the story begins, and sitting in a circle, the children drink in their teacher’s words. For weeks at a time, the story will be repeated daily so that a multiplicity of images can build and live in the children. Their concentration is visible: jaw drops down, focus is on the teacher, and stillness pervades the circle. Inner pictures arise again and again. Here is the basis for reading in the grade school and for imaginative problem-solving and critical thinking in adolescence.
FIRST GRADE READINESS
Children who are age six by May 31 are assessed for first grade readiness. Kindergarten teachers and the Resource Director carefully observe and interact with each child over the course of the last year of Kindergarten and evaluate readiness based on a multiplicity of factors such as physical and emotional maturity, fine and gross motor skills, and eye-hand coordination. Children attend all 5 days for their final year of Kindergarten in order to help ensure their preparation for first grade.