LifeWays Principles for Caring for Young Children


1. Young children thrive in the presence of parents and other devoted caregivers who enjoy life and caring for children. They learn primarily through imitation/empathy and, therefore, need to be cared for by people with integrity and warmth who are worthy of being imitated. This is the foundation for learning and healthy development.

2. Having consistent caregivers, especially from birth to three years old and, preferably, up to primary school age, is essential for establishing a sense of trust and well-being.

3. Children need relationship with people of all ages. Infants and toddlers thrive in family-style blended-age care, while older children see nurturing modeled by the adults and experience their own place in the continuum of growing up. Children of all ages can both give and receive special blessing when in the company of elders and youth who enjoy children.

4. Each person is uniquely valuable, gifted with purpose and worthy of respect throughout all phases of his or her life’s journey.

5. Human relationship and activity are the essential tools for teaching the young child all foundational skills for life. Infants and toddlers develop most healthily when allowed to have freedom of movement in a safe environment. For three- to six-yea-olds, creative play, not technology or early academics, forms the best foundation for school work and for life-long learning.

6. In infancy and early childhood, daily life experience is the “curriculum.” The child’s relationships to the caregivers and to the environment are the two most important aspects through which the child can experience healthy life rhythms/routines. These include the “nurturing arts” of rest and play, regular meal times, exploring nature, practical/domestic activities, social creativity, music and simple artistic activities.

7. Young children thrive in a home or home-like environment that offers beauty, comfort and security, and connection to the living world of nature. Healthy sense development is fostered when most of their clothing and playthings are of non-synthetic materials and their toys allow for open-ended, imaginative play.

8. Childhood is a valid and authentic time unto itself and not just a preparation for schooling. Skipping or hurrying developmental phases can undermine a child’s healthy and balanced development.

9. Parents of young children need and deserve support in their path of parenting–from professionals, family, and one another. They thrive in a setting where they are loved, respected and helped to feel love and understanding for their children.

10. Caregivers also have an intrinsic purpose and need to be recognized and appropriately compensated for the value of their work. They need an environment where they can create an atmosphere of “home,” build true relationship to the children, and feel autonomous and appreciated.

LifeWays Trainings

Northeast LifeWays Early Childhood and Human Development Training
2008-2009 in Freeport, Maine
Director: Susan Silverio – 207-763-4652 –

Information Sheet

Dates: Session One: July 14 – 24, 2008; Session Two: Oct.10-13, 2008 (Friday evening – Mon. noon) Session Three: April 17-20, 2009 (Friday evening – Mon. noon); Final Session: July 20 – August 1, 2009

Location: Community Hall, Merriconeag Waldorf School, Freeport, Maine

Sample Schedule:
Opening Night
3:00 p.m. – Registration Open
4 – 5:30 p.m. – Welcome, Introductions, Biography

Weekdays and Saturdays (summer sessions have a Sat. field trip to Spindlewood in Lincolnville, Maine)
Breakfast on your own
8:00 a.m. – Morning Song and Announcements
8:15 a.m. – Human Growth and Development Course
9:30 a.m. – Movement – Spacial Dynamics/Eurythmy
10:30 a.m. – Break
1:00 a.m. – Child, Family and Community Course
12:15 p.m. – Lunch
1:15 p.m. – Clean-Up/Fresh Air Walk on your own
2:00 p.m. – Domestic and Nurturing Arts
3:00 p.m. – Music/Speech
4:00 p.m. – Handwork (snacks available)
5:30 p.m. – Closing Verse
Dinner on your own
7:00 p.m. – (Most evenings have no classes; Open Discussion/Artistic presentation on some evenings)

Core Teaching Staff: Susan Silverio (Child, Family and Community, Domestic/Nurturing Arts), Rachel Ross (Human Growth and Development, Eurythmy), Donna Wenckus (Handwork), Mariah Moser (Music) John Saccone (Spacial Dynamics), Suzanne Down (Puppetry/Speech Development), Elizabeth Sustick, R.N. (Nurturing and Nourishing)Sarah Baldwin (Parent-Child Program Development) and many guest teachers.

Tuition, Mentor, Supply and Application Fees: Tuition is $3400 plus a $500 mentor fee and $300 supply fee. If full tuition is paid by May 1, there is a $400 tuition discount. Please write or call regarding limited scholarship or to set up a payment plan. There is a $50 non-refundable application fee.

Housing: Some guest houses and rooms from $25-45/night. On campus, cots and sleeping bag space, as well as areas for tenting at $10/night. Local bed & breakfasts and hotels.

Meals: Snacks and daily organic hot lunch are included in tuition. Student provides own breakfast and dinner.

Other Possible Costs: Student is responsible for mentor’s travel expenses for two-day observation. Student is also required to bring a pentatonic lyre or kinderharp to the training. They are available for purchase through Ted Maehr 831-277-3971, A Child’s Dream Come True 208-255-1664 and Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore 916-961-8729 among other places. Required books are available from SteinerBooks 800-856-8664,; Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore 916-961-8729; or Sunbridge College Bookstore 845-425-0983. The Developing Child: the First Seven Years is available through Waldorf Early Childhood Association Publications 845-352-1690, Sing a Song with Baby and This is the Way We Work-A-Day can be ordered directly from or 262-642-5921.

LifeWays North America
403 Piney Oak Drive, Norman, OK 73072

New LifeWays Trainings

New LifeWays Trainings Starting in Wisconsin and Florida

The next Wisconsin LifeWays training begins June 11-22, 2007, in Milwaukee, and we are delighted to be welcoming back our dedicated teaching staff which includes Music Teacher Mary Schunemann, Master Puppeteer Suzanne Down, Director and Human Development Teacher Cynthia Aldinger, and other outstanding colleagues. Other sessions for this training include a long weekend in the autumn 2007 and spring 2008 and the graduation session June 11-22, 2008. Wisconsin is where the LifeWays Child Care and Human Development Training first took root. It is held in a beautiful location and offers the advantage of being able to visit several LifeWays centers, homes or parent-child programs. For more information please contact Cynthia Aldinger at 405-579-0999 or 405-245-8033 or

We are truly pleased to announce a new training starting up in Sarasota, Florida with Rena Osmer in the autumn 2007. Rena, who is the Director of this training, is gathering her fellow teaching staff and establishing a schedule that is likely to meet once a month with a long session summer 2008. Located at the lovely Sarasota Waldorf School, we are grateful and pleased to be launching a Southeast LifeWays Training. For more information please contact Rena at 772-287-8058 or

The most recently launched LifeWays training just started in January in San Francisco. Rosario Villasana-Ruiz, one of the founding board members of LifeWays North America is the Director of our first Spanish-language training. This group will occasionally join the English-speaking LifeWays training at Rudolf Steiner College. For more information, please contact Rosario at 415-587-0802 or

Two LifeWays trainings are currently in session and will graduate their students in August 2007. The North Coast LifeWays training is held at the Merriconeag Waldorf School in Freeport, Maine with Director Susan Silverio. Susan is working with an inspiring group of colleagues and twenty students, and from what I hear, all are very pleased with their experience. The next training to start up in Maine will be in summer 2008. For further information, please contact Susan at 207-763-4652 or

The other currently running training is at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, California with Director Cynthia Aldinger and another outstanding group of teaching colleagues and students. The next LifeWays training at Rudolf Steiner College begins in October 2007. For more information please contact Cynthia at 405-579-0999 or

Another significant step for LifeWays North America is the development of our new Board of Directors and the acquisition of our federal non-profit status, thanks to the tenacity of Rahima Baldwin Dancy, one of our founding Board members. Other Board members include Neil Weinberg, Susan Silverio, Rena Osmer, Rosario Villasana-Ruiz, Mary O’Connell, Trisha Lambert, Marianne Alsop, and Cynthia Aldinger. We are currently developing ways for individuals or organizations to become more involved in our work, and we would love to hear from you if you are interested in being on our mailing list. You can email Cynthia at or give one of us a call.
Blessed New Year to All,
Cynthia Aldinger

Re-Inventing Spindlewood

Re-inventing Spindlewood:
A Waldorf School Off-site Kindergarten Embraces LifeWays
by Susan Silverio

No one was more surprised than I to find myself waking up early one morning and saying Yes! to LifeWays. I had cultivated the Waldorf Kindergarten here on the grounds of our home where Ashwood Waldorf School first took root in 1986. As the school grew up and expanded onto a more central campus, this kindergarten continued as on off-site mixed-age kindergarten, now a “branch” of Ashwood. With the help of many parents the tiny cabin was enlarged three times over the years and when it was complete we named it Spindlewood. I held onto the ideal of the Kindergarten, reclaiming the traditional “children’s garden” from the conventional modern academic model of pre-first grade. Friends who taught in the local public school kindergarten and first grade encouraged me to keep the children here as long as possible. The Waldorf Kindergarten morning program seemed to me to be all that was needed for young children.

But much has changed over the course of these 17 years. The founding parents of the school here on the coast of Maine were home-based, often building their own houses, always gardening. Children were surrounded by real work, and often saw their parents doing carpentry, baking or craftsmanship as their livelihood. Parents seemed to be seeking the kindergarten for their children for the sake of the social and spiritual enrichment it provided, and when the children left school after a long morning of stories and play, they returned home for lunch and a quiet afternoon.

Now computers allow all manner of creative and technical work to be done from rural Maine and have invisibly transformed the world of work. Often now both parents have ongoing careers, and even those parents who are choosing to become homemakers have offices at home. Today’s fast-paced lifestyle seems to have reached as far as the toddlers. I was finding that the children were not going home at the end of the kindergarten morning, but on to more public childcare situations, or to afternoons of scheduled activities. Lunch was eaten “out” or in the back seat of the car. There almost seemed to be a new kind of modern homelessness developing.

Meanwhile, on the main campus of the school, the mixed age kindergarten had proliferated into a patchwork of programs for early childhood, specialized by age, with an aftercare program attached with additional staff. Although as a Waldorf school we still felt passionate about a teacher carrying a class through the grades, our youngest children went from teacher to teacher and classroom to classroom. The school was noticing that a nursery program with a small number of children, and separate afternoon staff was not financially feasible. For my part, I began to question how we could provide young children with more continuity of caregivers with whom they could bond, and a more familiar environment where they could gain the sense of mastery and security that could free their imagination. I was also hearing a call from parents who were still attempting to keep their children central to their lives, but needed a larger portion of time to focus on their work during daylight hours.

The time was ripe for Ashwood to consult with Cynthia Aldinger, Director of LifeWays North America. In the course of our conversations, while still working as a Waldorf school, I found myself experiencing a shift in focus to relationship-based care with the adult as curriculum, and an appreciation of ordinary life including the Living Arts of nurturing, domestic, and social arts, with the creative arts revolving around the seasonal festivals.

The shift was a re-visioning of the “morning program” to an 8:30 am – 3:00 pm day that allows time for the nurturing physical care of the children, and includes children in the daily work, rest and play of life. Rather than the fairly intense 3 ½ hour program of structured, organized activities for children, framed with hours of adult-only preparation, clean-up, parent contacts and seemingly endless faculty meetings, the door was now opened to living with and around children, still keeping our rhythmic pulse of stories, games and verses throughout the morning and breathing into a quiet and restorative afternoon.

As the children come in doors in the morning, I greet them and assist them in brushing their hair. I am reminded that my colleagues in remedial training have for some time recognized the need for remedial work for today’s children, and although I had participated in a number of courses and seminars, there had never seemed time in the course of a kindergarten morning for some of the individual care and attention needed by children. LifeWays’ inclusion of the nurturing arts introduces natural activities of hair brushing, lavender face cloths, and warm lavender foot baths that allow the possibility of close observation of the child, and the bodily care that meets two of the lower senses identified by Rudolf Steiner as the sense of life and the sense of touch.

Seven of the sixteen children go home at the end of the morning. While I say good-bye and speak for a moment with each parent, the assistant teacher sets up the room for “siesta,” and finishes preparing a simple one-pot meal for lunch. The parents contribute food items each week, and we find it infinitely more satisfying to sit down to share a simple hot meal at the end of our morning than to the chaos of lunch boxes and wrappers.

As we work together in clearing away lunch and toileting, the children take finger knitting or a book to their mats. Perhaps because siesta time was new for us, we originally adopted the practice of setting up “sleeping houses” with playstands and clothes. Perhaps we just couldn’t imagine this lively group of children settling down to sleep without their own “bedrooms”. Perhaps it gave us (as teachers) a sense of order and beauty as well. But we experienced that some children did not wish to be enclosed, and that many did not want to be cut off from eye contact with the other children. It took some time for the assistant and I to gain confidence in the value of rest and to learn to practice and model it. A quiet, restful hour after lunch flies in the face of our hectic “on to the next activity” culture. At first some of the older or more wide-awake children resisted it (or picked up on our resistance,) but gradually we became able to frame siesta time not with wooden structures and cloths but with lullabies, verses accompanied by nurturing touch, and a story. Now, after three years of creating and practicing an interlude of rest, the afternoons have become a time for a true “out-breath” from the morning, with younger and sometimes older children crooning the day’s songs to themselves and often falling into a sound sleep. The ones who don’t sleep now rest very quietly as they listen to the tick of the timer and wait for others to fall asleep. A very active seven-year old boy finds quiet, rhythmic satisfaction by finger knitting during this time.

The rosy cheeks of the sleepyheads as they arise testify to their sense of life and well-being. Upon arising, I assist the children in washing their faces with a crocheted cotton cloth from a basin of warm water and lavender oil. Then we brush their hair with their own small brush laid out on a tray. At the end of the year, one child “wrote” me a letter saying, “Dear Miss Susan, I love you and I miss doing circles and washing my face at siesta time!” Some children are then ready to bound outdoors for more climbing and digging. I accompany them while others walk up slowly and play dreamily indoors with the assistant.

Even a welcome change can mean the loss of the familiar, and so also with my LifeWays transition. Like a caterpillar in a newly formed chrysalis, I found my regular morning dissolving into a bit of chaos until new rhythms and forms could emerge and hold a wider range of daily life. I felt challenged as I stepped out from my teacher role and closer to the parental realm. I even missed the familiar excitement of the often-painful interminable group process of faculty meetings.

But what has been gained? The slightly more relaxed rhythms have allowed the assistant teacher to emerge as a person in her own right, and she has discovered a deep well within herself of stories and vignettes that amuse and delight the children, and sometimes meet them in a curative moment. We rejoice to see the children who were quiet and withdrawn last year now becoming more playful.

We have expanded our sense of community by welcoming regular visitors, including my husband who plays his mandolin after lunch on Corn Chowder Day. Prior to this, the children passed Jack’s studio as they walked the path to school and some of them thought Studio was his last name.

I sense a new feeling quality with the parents. If perhaps I have been a warm teacher, I now stand in the place of a caring person in the lives of their children. Parents seem a bit more relaxed as well, and I now notice them holding, nurturing and playing with their children when they greet them. Because there are now two pick-up times (after lunch or after siesta) there is no longer one grand dismissal time. When parents arrive to pick up their children, there is now something a of a “tidal pool” effect. At the end of the afternoon, one child might invite a parent in to see his puppet play. Another parent might arrive a few minutes early and offer to help us tidy up. I have at times felt defensive of our kindergarten mood, but now want to cultivate an atmosphere of hospitality. Life abounds at these moments, and I find that parents are grateful and respectful.

What else is gained? In spite of my own resistance to being still for a while during siesta, I am learning to have a full thirty-minute out-breath myself after the back rubs and lullabies, a moment of meditation that provides rest for my soul, even while staying in-tune with the children. During the quiet time that follows, I can even weave in a few other duties that I would have done ordinarily in the afternoon anyway: folding a basket of laundry, having a conversation with a parent, or setting up for the next day.

Also gained are several children who could not have been accommodated in a more formal kindergarten morning. Some are young; others require a bit more adult interaction to find their way through the day. The other children, some of whom have no siblings at home, gain the opportunity to observe a younger child being cared for. The simple acts of assisting a child in dressing and undressing for outdoor play nourish the sense of touch and can be a nurturing activity if not rushed and perhaps accompanied by a song. A child who has difficulty entering into social play in the morning becomes quiet and observant as I brush his hair before he enters the room. This nurturing touch seems to bring him into his own body and allows a smoother transition to the group.

One of the many gifts of Rudolf Steiner to our search for wholeness in the lives of young children is his recognition of the twelve senses of the human being. In addition to the familiar ones of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing, he describes four lower senses as paramount for child development. These include touch as well as the senses of life, movement and balance. Together the lower senses foster the development that in later life will be able to support the human faculties of the higher senses of hearing/tone, speech/language, thought/concept and the sense of perceiving the unique individuality of another human being. Without the necessary grounding of the lower senses, the higher ones may not be able to develop in a truly human way. I feel that I am better able to cultivate all of the four lower senses of life, touch, movement and balance (as well as the fifth one of warmth) in the course of the slightly longer morning and the full kindergarten day that allows us time. The senses of life and touch are especially addressed by the nurturing arts, including the hair brushing, warm lavender foot baths and face cloths, as well as materials of natural fibers for resting with at siesta time.

Much has also remained the same in our Waldorf Kindergarten, and our full hour outdoors in the morning allows us to live more fully into the activities that vitalize the two other lower senses of movement and balance: sledding down the old woods road during the several snowy months, collecting maple sap buckets and pulling them to the sugar shed, swinging on the swings that parents have hung from the peeled log that they lifted up and pinned to two trees during a family work party, hoisting buckets of water from the well for the sheep and chickens. Our woodland paths are irregular and “rooty” and occasionally a city-dwelling child will trip upon one as he makes his way along in the beginning of the year. But during the subsequent weeks, the children learn to feel their way over the surface of the woods, letting their feet reach out as sensors to maintain their balance as they move. The little frog pond is a touchstone of changing life. In the fall, the children are engaged body and soul in the joy of catching frogs, throughout the winter they are observing and testing the ever changing frost and ice, in the spring the children can pump the hand pump to create a waterfall over the flow forms to freshen the water that is now teeming with frog eggs and tadpoles.

Even indoors there is opportunity for movement and balance. Parents who advised me that their active boy could not live without a “4-wheeler” are amazed to see him create one out of a plank and four short logs. In fact, his wooden board can do almost anything – become a slide, a seesaw or a boat (and he now takes a board to bed with him as well). A small “rock-a-boat” holds four children at a time. The senses of life and touch are nourished by the natural fibers of the play cloths and toys as well as by the hot water bottles for cold days.

I am still learning to breathe into these new, lighter rhythms and the nurturing arts of LifeWays. There are still things that I want to hold onto and find a place for, like fairy tales for the older children. But most of all, I have the satisfaction of cultivating a place in the world where children can grow, learn and thrive that feels more like a neighborhood than an institution. I still refer to this as “kindergarten”, but whenever Elliot who is four years olds hears me, he exclaims mightily, “This isn’t kindergarten, this is SPINDLEWOOD!” And indeed he is right; beyond all categories and models of education, it is the living experience that is real and creates a foundation for a meaningful future.

[Revised from a previously published article in Gateways, A Newsletter of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America, Fall/Winter 2004 issue, and in SteinerBooks Education Catalog, 2005. Written May 11, 2004.]

Susan Silverio was the founding teacher in 1986 of Ashwood Waldorf School, in the State of Maine. She is now the director and lead teacher of Spindlewood Waldorf Kindergarten and LifeWays Center at her family homestead. Susan is the Director of the East Coast LifeWays Training. This one-year part-time training for those who care for young children began in July 2006. For more information on LifeWays, see or

LifeWays Training

Things are in full swing right now at the LifeWays trainings in Wisconsin and at Rudolf Steiner College in California. The Wisconsin students are halfway through their training and are looking forward to an inspiring weekend in March titled Nurturing and Nourishing:Caring for Children and Ourselves. With two medical practitioners and a curative eurythmist they will be bathed in nurturing experiences including massages, wraps, soothing inhalations, foot rubs and more. Every caregiver of young children deserves a weekend like this! In fact, this is one of the weekends we open to public enrollment. Due to the size of this LifeWays class, however, outside enrollment is limited. If you are interested, let Cynthia know soon at

The students at Rudolf Steiner College are also in for a treat in March. At the end of their week of training they will have a three-day workshop with Suzanne Down of Juniper Tree Puppets. She brings such joy to storytelling and puppetry. This is one of the students’ favorite parts of the training, and it is the other piece that we open up to public enrollment. If you are interested in joining the California students for this delightful treat just contact Rudolf Steiner College at Tell them you are interested in the LifeWays workshop with Suzanne Down.

Probably our most exciting news, however, is that our new East Coast training is ready to launch this July/August and enrollments are coming in already. The training will be located at the beautiful Merriconeag Waldorf School in Maine. The early childhood center there, a lovely, artistically-designed strawbale building, will house most of the classes, but the whole campus will be there for the students’ enjoyment. They can even stay in the farmhouse right on campus. As is keeping with the LifeWays training, nutritious, delicious organic lunches will be served on site, and a LifeWays-trained caregiver is offering child care for students who need it. Susan Silverio, the East Coast LifeWays Director, has gathered an impressive teaching staff for this new training. For more information contact Susan at

LifeWays Puppetry and Speech Workshop

The LifeWays training in Wisconsin is offering an “open-to-the-public” workshop on puppetry and speech development with Master Puppeteer Suzanne Down of Juniper Tree Puppets September 23-25, 2005 in East Troy, Wisconsin. Come join the training students for this inspiring weekend of creativity and fun. To receive a registration form, contact Mary Schunemann at or Cynthia Aldinger at

Suzanne, who offers trainings and workshops around the world, is highly respected in her field and brings a delightful element of whimsy and joy into the puppetry work for young children. Her workshops fill up quickly, and a limited number of spaces are available. Registration deadline is September 10th.

LifeWays Trainings

I just learned that the upcoming year-long (but at-a-distance) LifeWays training in Wisconsin is full with 25 registrants. It’s exciting that the training programs–now offered in three locations throughout the country–are filling in advance. There are still a few opening for the training at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks (near Sacrament), starting in October, 2005. And applications are now being accepted for the East Coast training in Maine, that will start in the summer of 2006.

To learn more about how a LifeWays training transformed one teachers work with a group of preschool- and kindergarten-aged children, see Susan Silverio’s article Re-inventing Spindlewood. But LifeWays is also for mothers who are at home with their own children–or who are caring for other’s children as well in a home-based setting.

The training has been designed so that it only involves travelling three times during the year (four for the Wisconsin training)–the rest of the work is done on your own and in contact with a LifeWays mentor. It’s a way for mothers to gain the understanding so being with young children can be fulfilling and nourishing for both the children and themselves. And it can transform center-based care (even Waldorf) into a program that emphasizes the living arts–domestic, nurturing, social, and creative

To learn more about the LifeWays training programs, you can request information from Susan Silverio, East Coast Regional Director at or from Cynthia Aldinger at the “Contact” option on the right.

LifeWays Training Programs

The LifeWays Child Care and Human Development Training is a specialized program developed specifically for this new approach to child care and parent education. Along with the study of child development from pre-birth to young adult, there is an emphasis on the training of the caregiver’s speech, voice and movement skills, handwork, and domestic arts, as well as social exercises dealing with cultural diversity, personal development and adult relationships. There is also a component on government regulations and requirements for both in-home and center locations. Ongoing continuing-education programs enhance the initial training.

“The training is nothing short of extraordinary! What a gift to children and their parents and caregivers that the wisdom of the nurturing and domestic arts is being revived. You are a master at blending deep knowledge of child development with the practical skills of parenting and nurturing, balancing it all with wisdom, sensitivity and humor! It’s nothing short of genius that you have created the vision and the actual framework to put it all together into a year-long program. Wow!” – Theresa Catlin, 2002 LifeWays Graduate

Training Centers
LifeWays is currently offering the certificate training program in three locations:

East Troy, Wisconsin at the LifeWays Centers in East Troy and Milwaukee
On the East Coast in Maine
On the West Coast at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, California

Contact Cynthia Aldinger at or telephone 405-245-8033 for more information.