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 (*exceptions may be made by the teachers). 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.
PART TIME ATTENDANCE: Children who attend part time (less than 5 days a week) are expected to attend the same number of days or may increase the number of days they attend the following school year. Increasing the days per week supports the child physically and socially by increasing the sense of belonging and building a stronger connection with the other children in the class.
FULL TIME ATTENDANCE: All 5 year old children in their last year of kindergarten are expected to attend all 5 week days of school, full time attendance. This is to ensure that the kindergarten child has experienced the full range of activities that set the foundation for first grade. Additionally, attending full time assists in developing a rhythmic habit life that facilitates the smoothest transition to first grade.
AGE CUT OFF DATE FOR FIRST GRADE: For a child to be considered ready for first grade they must turn 6 years old by May 31st the summer before attending first grade.
EXTENDED KINDERGARTEN CARE: 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
Each year in January and February a team consisting of an Early Childhood Teacher, Lower Grade Teacher, Resource Director, and Therapeutic Eurythmist, observe each kindergarten child who will age six by May 31st. This screening takes place in small groups and includes a movement circle, drawing, specific fine motor and gross motor movements. An Anthroposophic Doctor visits each Kindergarten classroom to observe the children and consults with the Educational Support Committee (ESC). The team then meets with the entire ESC to discuss the children, as well as their physical development, emotional maturity, and how to meet their potential needs. Occasionally the child’s parents are consulted to provide more information so that the best decision can be made for each child. The ESC then determines if the child appears ready to take on the challenges of first grade or if an additional year in Kindergarten would best serve the child.