Children, Birth and Sex Education

Pregnant, w toddler.jpgby Rahima Baldwin Dancy
Where do babies come from? What do children need to know in terms of “sex education,” and when? What about when a new baby is going to be born at home?

Young children today are usually quite aware that a baby is growing “inside mommy’s tummy,” and they will sometimes give kisses to the baby or tell you something about him or her during the months of pregnancy. But how did the baby get there, and what will help prepare them for the birth?

Regardless of the question, young children are not asking about the mechanics or even the physical realities–which is why they are usually satisfied with an answer that emphasizes the spiritual realities. If you are telling them the truth, it doesn’t have to be the whole truth and can be augmented as they grow and become “more earthly.” The very young child has just come from the spiritual world and still has one foot there, which is why talking about a little angel or Star Child coming to earth to be their brother or sister makes sense to them–they were recently in that state themselves and are still strongly in touch with their own spiritual reality.

So–if this applies to your family situation–you might say something like, “When you were a Star Child up in heaven, you saw how much your daddy and I loved each other and how much we would love you, too, and you decided to come down and be part of our family. And our new baby saw this, too, and also wanted to have you as big brother (or sister).” Some children’s books that reinforce this understanding include Little Angel’s Journey by Dzvinka Hayda (available on Amazon). This book retells the Waldorf birthday story of the child coming to birth over the rainbow bridge. Birthday by Heather Jarman tells the story of young children, on their birthday, waiting to travel with Father Time from heaven down to earth (from Steiner Books). And, if you don’t know On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman, it’s a real delight (from Amazon).

Here are some other suggestions: “The baby is growing, getting bigger and bigger, and when the leaves are turning colors this fall, it will be time for her to come out and join our family.” “Mommy has a special place between her legs that opens up for the baby to come out and closes back up again. When the baby and mommy will be working together so he or she can come out, it’s called ‘labor,’ which means ‘hard work.’ So mommy might be making noises then, like moving a piano. That’s how hard she’ll be working” (then you could make grunting noises together).

Having been a midwife for many years, I’ve seen many children participate in birth to varying degrees, from going over to grandmas, to wanting to be present every moment, to just missing the birth by a few minutes. It’s important that the parents decide to what extent they want their young child or children to participate and, if so, that they have someone who can take his or her cues from the child, leaving both parents free to focus on this unique labor and birth. My own thoughts at this point are that birth is really intense and, just as a couple wouldn’t have intercourse in front of their child due to the intimate and intense nature of the energy, I would think twice before having a young child present for the actual birth. Having said that, however, I would add that I have never seen a child upset by birth–they tend to be self regulating if someone is sensitive to their needs. However, young children don’t need to be present for the actual “coming out” to take in the message that birth is a normal part of life and is happening with everyone’s love and blessing. Coming in shortly after the birth (or even in the morning), can be plenty soon enough to meet the new baby and participate in the loving atmosphere.

In thinking about having children at birth, the first consideration is that the mother feel comfortable and able to concentrate on the work at hand without having to divide her attention or be afraid of ignoring or frightening a young child. If she feels she can do this with children in the house, then the second most important thing is that there is someone to be with the other child or children who is there only for them and who is willing to miss the actual birth, because young children often arrange to be away at the park or asleep at night when the baby actually comes out.

When I took the Waldorf teacher training, the teachers (mostly from the UK, Germany and Austria), talked about the story/image of babies being brought by the stork and how this was an image of the spiritual, not the physical reality–nobody was trying to say it was “literal,” the more so because children in earlier times were probably even more familiar with birth and farm life. Neither was it a “cute story” or a con for the children; rather, it was a “true image” in describing the spirit of the child coming to earth, accompanied by a white bird like the dove representing the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.

The spiritual realities about birth, combined with a few simple sentences about how the baby comes out are almost always enough for the young child. As the child matures, more information obviously needs to be given. Human Fertility, a guide for teachers (and parents) by Waldorf teacher Linda Knodle contains lesson plans to use in grades 4-7. Her sequel, Lessons for Middle School Issues, is for use with children in grades 8 and 9. She has also written a Rites of Passage Workbook, and all are available from her website, www.lindaknodle.com. We offer a CD or MP3 of Linda’s talk “Navigating the Terrain of Sexuality.”

Another internationally known writer and teacher, DeAnna L’am, is also a Waldorf parent and has written Becoming Peers for mothers and other women who care about girls’ coming of age. A lot of DeAnna’s work with women involves helping them release their own confusion and pain around menstruation and fertility so they can be clear guides for girls’ becoming women–so it’s never too early to start. We off her book and a CD/MP3 of hers, “Mentoring Youth into Adulthood“; or see her website at www.deannalam.com.

One remaining question is how and when to teach young children about boundaries and body integrity–please note that I use those words instead of “sex education” and “stranger danger”–since most cases of sexual abuse or even abduction involve people well known to the child. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any resources developed from a Waldorf understanding, and much of what is available is far too hysterical, burdening the child with unrealistic expectations. One of the guidelines I do like is from Blue Sky Bridge in Colorado, “Some Simple Tips to Help Keep Your Children Safe from Sexual Abuse.” Their sensible suggestions include listening to your child and maintaining a “secrets-free” home; and teaching your children that each person is in charge of their own body and no one is allowed to touch their body or make them touch another person’s body. Read the complete list here.

A Child’s Seasonal Treasury

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A Child’s Seasonal Treasury, by Waldorf early childhood teacher Betty Jones, is a valuable resource for any early childhood teacher or parent with young children.

One homeschooling mother wrote: “Although other books were also helpful, A Child’s Seasonal Treasury was really all I needed, as it provided me with everything: seasonally based songs, poems, verses, games, activities, and recipes, in a very easy to follow way, and the layout was simple and beautiful. There were books which contained almost too much information, and they overwhelmed me, whereas Ms. Jones’ book gave just enough materials and I was sable to actually makes use of what was offered.”

In the forward Betty Peck, Anna Rainville and Nancy Mellon write: “”Contained in this one lovely volume is a very generous supply of original and traditional materials for parents and teachers, providing practical ways to engage children while enhancing family or classroom culture….Whenever you are longing for artistic guidance and inspiration with young children, reach for this compendium of treasures.  As early childhood educators we are thrilled and grateful that it is returning to print, and is to be widely available again.”

You can learn more and order your copy from www.bettyjones.us.

Naturally You Can Sing

In Memory of…
Mary Thienes Schunemann
“Naturally You Can Sing”
October 7, 1960 – August 30, 2007

On the 30th of August 2007, Mary Thienes Schunemann passed the threshold. Many of you know Mary through her music books and accompanying CDs that have helped so many parents discover the joy of singing with and for their children. If you don’t know Mary’s work, we highly recommend it and have always offered it at our conferences.

For more information please visit her website: www.naturallyyoucansing.com. There you can listen to her last recorded work “I Still Have Joy,” which she recorded during Labor Day weekend, and write your stories and recollections of Mary in the Journal.

Her husband, Sven, writes:
Mary explored in her vocal work a spectrum of soul rarely encountered in contemporary culture. Her commitment to healing the human soul through music led her to teach singing to those of all ages – from the very young to parents, teachers and musicians in many contexts.

Mary’s humor and lightness of touch penetrated her teaching and led those with whom she taught and sang to a deeper understanding and use of one of our most intimate human instruments – the Voice. She rejoiced in pure music and encouraged all to Sing, yet not only to Sing, but to unlock this sacred gift of Voice in our lives and our world.

Mary was also a taskmaster of sorts, working toward the highest standards for herself and those fortunate enough to work with her, always pushing toward heights that without Mary’s touch may well have been unattainable. Through Mary’s remarkable work it often seems that the heavens are opened and our consciousness bathed in Divine Light and Love.

Mary lived to influence these times and was deeply appreciated for her gifts of creativity, joy, and unconditional dedication to Singing.

Mary, singer of the heavenly spheres, rest in joy-filled peace.

Mary Lived from the 7th of October 1960 to the 30th of August 2007

Rudolf Steiner Library

A wonderful resource for books on Waldorf education and home schooling is the Rudolf Steiner Library, which lends books by mail throughout the US, from its location in Ghent, NY.

The Rudolf Steiner Library has over 27,000 volumes and lends books for no charge to member of the Anthroposophical Society in America and for a small fee for those who join the library only. Their collection inlcudes all available Rudolf Steiner titles in both English and German, as well a hundred of his unpublished manuscropts of essays and lectures. In addition, it has a wide collection includig waldorf education, alternative health and nutrition, holistic sicenc, Goethean studies, death and dying, world mythologies, and world religions.
Their website and an online public access catalog can be viewed at http://www.anthroposophy.org/index.hph?id=31 (library webpage) and
http://rsl.scoolaid.net (library catalog)

For membership materials, call 518-672-7690, or you can email the libary at rsteinerlibrary@taconic.net.

Early Childhood Resources

Rudolf Steiner College Book Store has produced a wonderful 100-page catalog of Early Childhood Waldorf Resources for Families, Teachers, Caregivers and Children. This is the definitive source for buying books and finding other resources. You can request a copy by calling them at (916) 961-8729 or going to the book store at www.steinercollege.edu.

Books on Waldorf

The amount of material available on Waldorf education can seem daunting. Here are my recommendations on where to start. These “gateway” books will lead you to further resources. Enjoy!

All are available from the following sources:

Anthroposophic Press, PO Box 799, Great Barrington, MA 01230. (800) 856-8664, unless otherwise noted as:

AWSNA, 3911 Bannister Rd., Fair Oaks, CA 95628. (916) 961-0927

Rudolf Steiner College Book Store, 9200 Fair Oaks Blvd, Fair Oaks, CA 95628. (916) 961-8729

WECAN: Waldorf Early Childhood Association of N. America, 285 Hungry Hollow Rd., Spring Valley, NY 10977. (914) 352-1690.

For other resources or tracking down the source on a topic, see the Online Waldorf Libary, www.waldorflibrary.org

To borrow books by mail, contact the Rudolf Steiner Library, 65 Fern Hills Rd, Ghent, NY 12075. (518) 672-7690. rsteinerlibrary@taconic.net. Their website is www.anthroposophy.org/index.php?id=31 and the Library catalog is available at http://rsl.scoolaid.net.

The “Big 3” on Child Development and Waldorf Education

Early Childhood: You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy

Elementary Grades: Understanding Waldorf Education by Jack Petrash

Adolescence: Between Form and Freedom by Betty Staley

Parenting/Other

Natural Childhood by John Thomson, [Simon & Schuster-unfortunately out of print, so check Amazon]

The Waldorf Parenting Handbook by Lois Cusick [RSC]

Lifeways. Working with Family Questions by Gudrun Davy and Bons Voors, Eds.

Seven Times the Sun. Guiding Your Child through the Rhythms of the Day by Shea Darian

Sanctuaries of Childhood. Nurturing a Child’s Spiritual Life by Shea Darian

Encountering the Self. Transformation and Destiny in the Ninth Year by Harmann Koepke

On the Threshold of Adolescence: The Struggle for Independence in the Twelfth Year by Hermann Koepke

Raising a Son by Don and Jeanne Elium

Raising a Daughter by Don and Jeanne Elium

Early Childhood/Waldorf Kindergarten

The Incarnating Child by Joan Salter (birth-age 2)

You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy (through age 6)

Beyond the Rainbow Bridge by Barbara Patterson and Pamela Bradley

Children at Play by Heidi Britz-Crecelius

Work and Play in Early Childhood by Freya Jaffke

Early Childhood Education and the Waldorf School Plan by Elizabeth Grunelius

The Education of the Child by Rudolf Steiner [AP and RSC]

Understanding Young Children-excerpts from Rudolf Steiner [WECAN and RSC]

An Overview of the Waldorf Kindergarten [WECAN or RSC]

A Deeper Understanding of the Waldorf Kindergarten [WECAN or RSC]

Overview of the Waldorf Approach

Understanding Waldorf Education by Jack Petrash

The Education of the Child by Rudolf Steiner [AP and RSC]

The Kingdom of Childhood by Rudolf Steiner

School as a Journey by Torin Finser

Waldorf Schools: Volume I, Kindergarten and Early Grades by Ruth Pusch, Ed.

Waldorf Schools: Volume II, Upper Grades and High School by Ruth Pusch, Ed.

Waldorf Education-A Family Guide by Pamela Fenner, Ed. [RSC]

Waldorf Curriculum/Teaching

The Curriculum of the Rudolf Steiner School by Roy Wilkinson [RSC]

Curriculum of the First Waldorf School by Carolina von Heydebrand [RSC]

Teaching as a Lively Art by Marjorie Spock

Putting the Heart Back into Teaching by Stanford Maher

Waldorf Student Reading List by Karen Rivers, Ed.

Waldorf School Curriculum Wall Chart, Grades 1-12 [AWSNA or RSC]

Wool, Fiber and Fabric Supplies

The following are some valuable resources for craft suppllies.

The Colors of Nature, natural-dyed fabrics and wool at www.thecolorsofnature.com

A Child’s Dream Come True sells wool roving, wool felt, silks, gauze and more from achildsdream.com or (800) 359-2906.

Bella Luna Toys offers natural craft kits, Waldorf toys, homeschool supplies, and more. 888-502-3552 or www.bellalunatoys.com

Sureway Trading Enterprises, [silk] 826 Pine Ave, Suites 5 & 6, Niagara, NY 14301

www.aToyGarden.com, PO Box 3001, Orangevale, CA 95662. Phone and fax: (916) 988-8100. service@natomatrading.com.

West Earl Woolen Mill [wool batting and roving], RD 2, Ephrata, PA 17522

Wilde and Wooley, 3705 Main St., Philadelphia, PA 19127

Weir Dolls, 2909 Parkridge Dr., Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Dyeworks, 2750 Nicollet Sq., Minneapolis, MN 55408

P & B Fabrics (800) 247-3467. Cotton gauze, bolts of cotton fabric, high-grade cheesecloth

Aetna Felt, 2401 W. Emaus Ave., Allentown, PA 18103

Handworks, Rt.1, Box 138, Afton, VA 22920 (kits for children)

Basket Works, The Dickey Mill, 4900 Wetheredsville Rd., Baltimore, MD 21207

Toys, Art and Craft Supplies

The following are only a few of the sources available today for toys and art and craft supplies.
Art of Learning: a fresh choice in quality Waldorf-oriented teaching supplies. Gayle Griffith. www.art-of-learning.com, 916-723-4225.

The Puppenstube: Christine Schreier has been a master doll and toymaker for many years. See her own and imported work at www.thepuppenstube.com.

North Star Toys: a wide selection of great toys and supplies! Tim and Connie Long. See

Bella Luna Toys: Waldorf toys, homeschool supplies, natural craft kits and more! 888-502-3552 or www.bellalunaatoys.com

Home Again, 1825 N. 183rd St., Seattle, WA 98133

Down to Earth Toys: specializing in wooden and natural toys made in the USA and Europe. Carrin Weirauch. www.DownToEarthToys.com

www.aToyGarden.com, PO Box 3001, Orangevale, CA 95662. Phone: (916) 390-5320. Sonya@aToyGarden.com.

Patterns for making playstands and wooden canopies are available for purchase from www.playstandpatterns.com.

Three Sisters Toys, www.threesisterstoys.com, 1721 Penman Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32250, 888-537-9293.

Paper, Scissors, Stone, PO Box 428, Viroqua, WI 54665

Heartwood Arts, PO Box 1469, Lower Lake, CA 95457

Puppenstube, Christl Schreier, 3252 CR16, Erie, CO 80516. (303) 833-2028

Dandelion Summers, Ami Mockett, www.dandelionsummers.com

Playful Pixie: Toys from nature, hand-crafted rocking horses, rolling ponies, play stands and play clips. www.playfulpixie.com

Nova Natural, 817 Chestnut Ridge Rd., Spring Valley, NY 10977

Camden Rose–wonderful selection from www.camdenrose.com

A Real Doll, PO Box 1044, Sebastopol, CA 95473

Joy’s Waldorf Dolls, 5114 Pt. Fosdick, Dr. NW, Gig Harbor, WA 98335

Magic Cabin Dolls, 1950 Waldorf NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49550. 888-623-6557.

Dollies and Company, PO Box 17804, Boulder, CO 80308

Weir Dolls, 2909 Parkridge Dr., Ann Arbor, MI 48103. (734) 668-6992. Waldorf dolls, dolmaking kits and supplies, wool felts and rovings, Waldorf knitting kits, yarns and books. www.weirdolls.com

A Child’s Dream Come True, PO Box 163, Sandpoint, ID 83864. (800)359-2906. www.achildsdream.com

Camphill Village Products, Chrylser Pond Rd., Copake, NY 12516

Vidar Goods, PO Box 41, Faber, VA 22938

www.naturalworldarts.com, Lisa Sevin makes puppets and dolls

Great Spirit Works, 217 Mape St, Viroqua, Wi 54665. (608)637-2698

Community Playthings, Rte. 213, Rifton, NY 12471

North Star Toys, 617 North Star Rte, Questa, NM 87556

Hedgehog Farms, 8 Grand Oak Farm Rd, Hadley, MA 01035. 413-586-5267. www.hedgehogfarms.com

The Playstore, 508 University Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301

Gaia’s Children, 126 Brookbend Rd., Mauldin, SC 29662

Family Pastimes, RR4, Perth, Ontario, Canada K7H 3C6

Aristoplay, PO Box 7529, Ann Arbor, MI 48107

Hand-dyed yarns from Color Song Yarn: www.colorsongyarn.com

Kinderharps and Musical Instruments

Looking for Kinderharps or other instruments used in Waldorf? Here are a few sources:

Choroi Musical Instruments, 1880 Landis Place, Pullman, WA 99163. 888-424-6764.

Harps of Lorien, P.O. Box 77, Questa, NM 87556

Music for Little People, PO Box 1460 Redway, CA 95560

Rose Lyre Workshop, PO Box 538, Claverack, NY 12513

Song of the Sea, Ed and Anne Damm, 47 West St., Bar Harbor, ME 04609

Ted Maehr, 701 Fernwood, Monterey, CA 93940

Josef Friedman Musical Sales, 366 Captain Clark, Wilton, NH 03086