Cynthia Aldinger

Cynthia Aldinger has contributed many articles to this blog. She is the founder and Director of LifeWays North America and worked for many years as a Waldorf early childhood and parenting educator. She writes:

When I was pregnant with my firstborn son about three decades ago, I developed a passion for learning all I could about Waldorf education and child development. When he and his brother were 9 and 7 years old, his father and I had the privilege of moving to Sussex, England where I completed my Waldorf teacher training at Emerson College.

Since then I have been involved professionally in Waldorf, first as the founding teacher of Prairie Hill Waldorf School in Wisconsin and now as Executive Director of LifeWays North America. You can learn more about LifeWays at I also served on the Board of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America for fourteen years.

I loved being a kindergarten teacher–especially the nature walks, the stories and the festivals. However, when I was on my sabbatical in England, a good friend, a successful businessman, asked me one of those life-changing questions. The question: “What are you going to do about child care?” He and a number of his business acquaintances were concerned about the quality of child care in Great Britain and the States, feeling that childhood itself was at stake. They felt there was too much emphasis on formal learning and not enough on quality of life and practical life skills.

In 1998, with the help of many individuals, I opened the first LifeWays Child Care Center in East Troy, Wisconsin, supporting families who needed care for their children from three months to six years old. I also began laying the groundwork for the development of a LifeWays training for parents, grandparents, child care providers, parent educators and preschool teachers. Since that time LifeWays has grown in response to the tremendous need for support for childcare providers and for parents.

In 2000, I moved with my husband back to my birth State of Oklahoma and became an active LifeWays consultant, traveling throughout North America and abroad. We now have trainings in six locations. Recently, I was blessed by the opportunity to live with my parents and my grandmother who is 104. Having the chance to help with the care of my grandmother reminded me of the importance of having predictable routines and rhythms in daily life. They provide a sense of security to both young children and the elderly. In many ways, it truly is the simple things in life that count!

Rahima Baldwin Dancy

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Rahima!.jpgRahima writes:

“I founded Informed Family Life in 1977 and worked for many years as a midwife and parenting educator. Discovering the insights of Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf education transformed my family life, starting when my children were 1-10 years old (they’re 32-42 now!). Since that time I’ve written and updated You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, now in its third edition, helping tens of thousands of families.

I’ve also worked closely with the development of the LifeWays approach for nurturing families and inspiring childcare, both as a founding board member and directing Rainbow Bridge LifeWays Program for 1-5 year olds in Boulder, CO from 2008-2012.”

Rahima and her husband, Agaf Dancy, are retired now and based in Boulder, Colorado, where they enjoy backpacking and online work.

Susan Silverio

Susan Silverio – A Short Biography

Susan’s homestead kindergarten, “Spindlewood,” which she began in 1986, continues as a branch of Ashwood Waldorf School and a model of a LifeWays center. Already a seasoned Waldorf early childhood teacher, Susan completed the LifeWays Early Childhood and Human Development Training, and has gone on to offer workshops at Waldorf Early Childhood Association conferences at Sunbridge College. She also taught “World Citizen: The Child from Birth to Three” at Rudolf Steiner Institute with Cynthia Aldinger in 2005. She is the East Coast Director of LifeWays Training and will be offering a one-year intensive training for those who care for young children, beginning in July 2006 at Merriconeag Waldorf School in Freeport, Maine.

“I grew up as the oldest of six children and navigated the 1960’s by operating The Lemon Tree (a coffee house) with friends and family. It was there that I first experienced the joy and satisfaction of a small cooperative initiative. After graduating from Edgecliff College in Cincinnati, I moved to Maine where I served as a social worker with Children’s Protective Services. It was a time and place for cultural creativity and I became a founding board member and teacher with the Community School, a small residential school for at-risk teens. I also had the opportunity to serve as a founding member of a community organization that brought agriculture back to the abandoned Maine State Prison Farm. After chairing a Care Committee for prison volunteers, we were able to establish Mid-Coast Hospitality House, an extended family farmhouse that continues to provide shelter for families and individuals in times of crisis or transition.

“As a single woman in the ’70s, I opened my own house as a family day care home, where I discovered children’s capacities for self-initiated movement and play. This has remained my lifelong interest. When I married John Silverio, I welcomed his son into our life. Together we created a family homestead with gardens, barn and an architectural studio that Matthew now shares with his father. There was also a small guest cabin, and it was here that Ashwood Waldorf School began in 1986 with my kindergarten class of 11 children. Several years later Ashwood purchased a central campus for its Early Childhood Center and Grade School in Rockport, Maine, and my kindergarten was expanded to become Spindlewood, Ashwood’s LifeWays Kindergarten.”

For more information on LifeWays, see Susan can be contacted directly at

Nancy Foster

Nancy Foster has been a Waldorf kindergarten teacher since 1973 at Acorn Hill Waldorf Kindergarten and Nursery in Silver Spring, Maryland, where she now works with parents and children in parent/ child groups. She also lectures, offers workshops for teachers at Waldorf kindergarten conferences, serves as a mentor for new teachers, and is on the visiting faculty of Sunbridge Institute in Spring Valley, New York.

She is the author/editor of two collections of seasonal music and verse, Let Us Form a Ring and Dancing as We Sing, as well as the new book In a Nutshell. Dialogues with Parents at Acorn Hill, A Waldorf Kindergarten. Her books are available from the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America,

She and her husband, a professional musician, encountered Waldorf education and Anthroposophy while seeking a school for their two sons, now grown. Nancy writes in In a Nutshell:

When I was a young parent, I once complained to a respected mentor, “I wish I were older and wiser so I could be a better parent.” “Well, just think,” she responded, “if you were older you wouldn’t have nearly as much energy.” Our children demand the best we have to offer, and many times that “best” does not seem good enough. We can easily become discouraged and frustrated; we may feel we are failing our children, whom we love so much. Since meeting Waldorf education and the work of Rudolf Steiner, I have had many reasons to feel grateful, both as a parent and as a teacher. Of particular help and inspiration has been an insight he offered in various contexts and which I would like to share here as I understand it: In living and working with children, it is not perfection we need. Rather, it is our striving to become better, to develop our capacities, that really nourishes those in our care.

It seems to me the very idea of “perfection” can convey a sense of coldness, of rigidity, of fixedness. Striving, however, brings warmth and movement, which can encourage our children and provide a wonderful example of the essence of what it is to be a human being: the capacity to grow and change, to learn, to exert ourselves for the sake of others. Such honest, consistent striving is, I believe, one of the greatest gifts we can offer our children. Of course our children, too, are constantly growing and learning–so it seems we will never catch up! May you enjoy the journey. Nothing can be more worthwhile.

Susan Johnson, M.D.

Susan Johnson, M.D.
I was born in Seattle, Washington and grew up in Claremont, California. I graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota with a major in Biology. I attended medical school at Northwestern University and completed a three-year pediatric residency at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. I then moved to San Francisco in 1987 to complete a three-year fellowship training in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. I worked for seven years as the Physician consultant at the School Health Center in San Francisco evaluating hundreds of children from the public elementary and middle schools with learning and behavioral difficulties.

The birth of my son and his challenges with sensory-motor integration and learning led me to Waldorf education and I became a certified Waldorf teacher through the San Francisco Waldorf Teacher Training Program in 1999. I then traveled to Arlesheim, Switzerland to begin my studies in Anthroposophical Medicine at the Lukas Klinik. I now work as a behavioral and developmental pediatrician for Waldorf schools, write parent newsletters about preventative health, and give community lectures. I have a private practice in Behavioral and Developmental pediatrics at Raphael House where I see children two through 18 years of age with their parents for developmental, behavioral and learning concerns. I strive to bring the best of both traditional and complementary forms of medical therapies.

[Learn more about Susan’s work by visiting her website,]

Esther Leisher

Esther Leisher shares:
Four children shared their lives with my husband and me in this rambling old house and this lovely mountain setting in New Mexico. They are grown up now, but when they were young so much living, so much family life, went on that I would hardly know how to begin to speak of it if people did not ask me specific questions.

Those questions come up in chats around a kitchen table, in Waldorf study groups, or during the questions and answers after a craft workshop. When the chats are by e-mail, some things get written down. I encourage people to add comments or suggestions, then pass it around. A file results that is a collection of ideas–women talking together about their lives.

About my life: When I had only two children, after teaching kindergarten for two years I decided to have another child and bring her up in an entirely Waldorf way. Life is unendingly amazing, and in the wisdom of the universe I ended up with two more children, Laurel and Paul. The odds and ends of Waldorf that I did with the older two, Mark and Craig, gave way to a life suffused with Waldorf, continuing into homeschooling until Laurel was 11 and Paul was 9.

I found Waldorf strange and difficult at times and yet heart-warming and appealing. It is so creative that I had to find qualities in myself that I did not know I had. In the beginning I could not even tell the story of “The Three Little Pigs.” By the end I was creating stories daily, writing musicals and illustrating stories with colored wool roving — and doing a multitude of other impossible things.

My Waldorf experience has been largely home based, though I had
mentors, a curriculum, conferences and study groups–and always, always, a
steady supply of radiant and life-filled thoughts. Understanding Young Children
–a collection of brief excerpts from Steiner–became for me a source of meditative thoughts. I tried to listen inwardly to one thought at a time, sometimes even saying out loud to the universe “I want to understand this.”

I think there are angel-like beings who are waiting to hear such intentions. Surprising things happen. A grace-bestowing being hears your reverent receptivity and clearly focused intentions, and is ready to help you in various ways. You know that from your own experience, each of you, for out of it you have created your own individual approach, your own unique family.