The Heart of Childhood in the Heart of Winter February 20 2017

Waldorf Early Childhood Conference
Spring Valley, New York 

The Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN) holds its annual east coast conference in Spring Valley every year during the first or second weekend of February. A while ago this coincided with the beginning of February break for many schools. Now school districts do winter and spring breaks at different times; however, the established rhythm was set and has remained. That this rhythm has withstood the test of time is fine tribute to our Waldorf Early Childhood teachers who understand better than anyone in the world how powerful rhythm is in cultivating the foundation senses and strengthening our life forces. Of all the conferences, the WECAN conference is the most cheerful!

This conference weekend almost always includes a snow storm or the threat of a snow storm. Part of the annual tradition is to rejoice in the intrepid hearts of all present who overcome fear, daunting weather, and difficulties to attend the conference. This year over 400 early childhood teachers, assistants, nap supervisors, aftercare attendants, parent/toddler class teachers, administrators, advocates, and vendors attended. It is inspiring to see so many people gathered to learn and to share together. Something in early childhood education holds the optimism and idealism inherent in the little tykes they protect and for whom the teachers care each day.

Waldorf Publications attends each year as sponsor and vendor. In the Vendors’ Hall, as vendor and publisher, we make our books visible to the teachers there to complement the rich resources published by WECAN specifically for early childhood educators. We are in that big hall along with beautifully crafted dolls from Peru, woolen clothing exquisitely crafted, fuzzy stuffed animals, hand dipped candles, hand crafted wooden toys and gifts, hand done soaps, handmade lyres and many, many more darling, remarkable, beautiful, glorious, useful things. The risk is ever present to spend much more than one takes in!

It’s heartening to see old friends, hear compelling questions, share stories about the successes and striving in our schools. This year’s keynote speaker, Susan Perrow from Australia, spoke on the theme of therapeutic storytelling. Indeed, the many stories shared in the Vendors’ Hall, at the Waldorf Publications table alone, were enough to lift the heart and banish whatever ails thee!

There, in that Vendors’ Hall, a community always rises up in the day-plus-a-little we all have together. It is striking to see this manifestation of the culture we have built in our Waldorf community around the world. It is a culture of mindfulness, care, goodwill, and beauty.  It is not easy to find so much commitment, care, love, and friendliness gathered in a single place.

Waldorf Publications carried back many fewer books that it took to Spring Valley.  [The Dragon Boy series, Jonathan and the Tree, and The Invisible Boat were popular for older brothers and sisters. Books on child development, games and songs for young children, and books about helping children who struggle, along with books about technology were also scooped up by attendees.] By American standards this selling of a good number of books constitutes a “good day,” a “successful venture.” There is no value that can be placed on the halo-glow in the Vendors’ Hall, forged of hard work, big hearts, dedication to Waldorf education, and to each other. Therapeutic story telling — one colleague, one friend, one teacher to another — rushes through the hall like a brisk, cleansing wind and reaffirms our dedication and enthusiasm for this work we all have chosen to support and to help stimulate.

So, hail to our colleagues in the early childhood programs around our good world!  They do so much invisible magic in making children laugh, allowing them to play, and making the weary parts of the world more light-hearted. They also fill the culture with good ideas, and, most importantly, good ideas about healthy child raising.