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Letter from Cynthia



Thank you to everyone who sent in these lovely stories of the garden.  I hope they serve to inspire all of us to garden with and on behalf of children.  Gardening for ourselves is also so fulfilling.  One thing I have learned is that keeping it simple is really important when you first start out.  Otherwise, it is easy to become overwhelmed.  Even a container garden with a few plants can be a great way to begin if that feels more manageable.  Then to graduate to real digging and tending a small garden becomes very satisfying.  And I think we never grow too old to appreciate an impressive earthworm.  This spring Michael and I got to share this beauty with our grandchildren [see attached photo].  There is so much magic and mystery in the garden - even in the lowly worm which produces rich, fertile soil through its own body processes!  So amazing!


Although this is not a garden story, I want to share one of my favorite nature excursions.  Our sons joined us for our thirtieth wedding anniversary in Maine thirteen years ago, and one of our favorite outings was to a beautiful artists' island off the coast.  Famous for its beauty and bounty, one of the attractions is called "The Cathedral Trail," where one discovers numerous tiny, fabulous gnome homes.  It becomes clear fairly quickly that adult human beings have likely been involved in these creations, clever as they are.  As soon as we entered the forest, our two sons (in their twenties at the time) commented, "Mom! This is totally you!"  Please note, however, that it was not Mom who then spent the next half hour creating a magical miniature abode.  It was these grown young men, having a great time!   


I, on the other hand, went further down the path and came upon a tousle and tumble of stones, plants and other natural wonders, somehow woven together in a most amazing sculpture.  No human creation was this.  In fact, I truly had the feeling that the elemental beings, the nature spirits of the forest, had had a jolly time one silent secret night (or hundreds of silent, secret nights) crafting their project, perhaps bemused at the imitative efforts that had been made by human imaginations.  While I understand that they do not necessarily have a sense of humor, I did sense a bit of irony, and I had to smile on their behalf!


Behind all mystery, magic and wonder, there is spiritual reality and the dedicated exertions of beings almost too profound to understand.  So, let us be sure to pause before such wonders and offer words of gratitude to those invisible forces that work with us to produce our gardens, to sustain our forests, our waterfalls, glens, meadows and all natural beauty. 


May the blessings of spring open your heart,


Cynthia Aldinger is founder and director of LifeWays North America  

Introduction to our ThemeIntroduction
Back to the Roots : Gardening with Children
girl with sunflower

"Sometimes since I've been in the garden I've looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something was pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast.  


Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden - in all the places." 

~ Frances Hodgson BurnettThe Secret Garden 


Once upon a time people were more connected to nature, to the rhythms and cycles of our planet Earth. We honored her healing energies and respected our dependence to survive and also thrive. Things have changed and many of us feel a longing for something that we may no longer feel-a deep spiritual connection to the natural world. In this newsletter our focus will be on gardening with children and all of the magic and wonder it brings. Happy Spring!


Love & Light,

Amy Gerassimoff, Editor

Bees, Worms and Slugs - 
Enjoying the Seasons and the
Garden with Children
By Julie Zacharias, StarSong (CO)

I recently learned that one of the names for the March full moon is the "Worm Moon."  This is because the ground is softening, bringing the reappearance of earthworms and their castings, which also invites the return of robins.  Here in Boulder, Colorado, at StarSong, we began the month of March with a good amount of lingering snow still on the ground, so I thought, "Surely, the worms won't be returning just yet."  How wrong I was!   

hands with worm
Our Little Earthworms
                        Love the Spring
By Adana Whyte, Seaside Playgarden (FL)

Everyday, in all weather, I take my class outside to play in the garden, to make dirt muffins and mulch soups in our mud kitchen, and to swing in the trees. Always, the day is a new adventure and my children find unbounded ways to reinterpret and reinvent the world of our small preschool backyard by the sea. Like the rounded wood toys and fluid silks inside the school, nature outside is also round, fluid, and ever-changing. This environment encourages open-ended and imaginative play.
The Wonder Garden - 
Keepers of the Magic
By Amy Gerassimoff, Prairie Hill (WI)

When I was younger I remember reading The Secret Garden and being completely bewitched by the imagery I had created in my head of this beautiful garden. Fortunately I grew up before cell phones and modern technology took over, and spent all of my childhood days playing freely outside discovering.  

     Gardens are such places of beauty and wonder. We honor each plant in its perfect place, watching it go through each phase of its life cycle to be reborn again each spring. Butterflies dance, sparrows sing, dragonflies hum their wing songs, and we become quite sure we may have seen a fairy peek out from behind that leaf.

As teachers, parents and caregivers we are the keepers of this magic....  

A Spring Morning in the Garden
By Jane McCoy, Singing Winds Playgarden (CA) 

It's a quiet moment on a Monday morning - my son and husband have left for the day and our Playgarden friends have yet to arrive.  I'm standing at my kitchen sink looking out into our front yard - our garden - while sipping a warm cup of tea. Spring has sprung here in California, and it is a glorious time of the year - the hills are green, the tulips that we planted as a "winter gift" to Mother Earth are poking out, the onions and garlic planted in the fall stand a foot high. I am filled with joy and gratitude as I witness this new life before me.  

A Gardening Project Retrospective
By Jaimee Trobough (Omaha, NE) 

Jaimee is a recent graduate of the LifeWays training in Portland, OR. All LifeWays students are required to complete a gardening project as part of the course requirements. This is her very moving report:


For everything there is a season,

a time for every activity under heaven.

A time to be born and a time to die.

A time to plant and a time to harvest.

~ Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2

This is not the gardening project I had planned. I wasn't even the one who planted it. My mother did. Two weeks before I began my LifeWays training, reluctantly leaving my 3-year-old daughter in her care. Two weeks before Easter Sunday. Two weeks before my mother's last day in her body.

Further reading & other resources on our topic

Share the wonder of gardening with your children through any of the books by Sharon Lovejoy.  This one describes theme gardens you can plant with your child.  Her other books are equally magical--try Sunflower Houses or Hollyhock Days.  Available from Amazon. 

"Time to Play Outside!" is a blog post by Faith Collins, LifeWays Student Services Director in Boulder and founder of Joyful Toddlers.  It's filled with practical suggestions on ways to encourage children to be outside, including planting a bean teepee, gardening, and creating spaces that encourage imaginative play.

Little Brown Bulb Puppet Story Kit  from Suzanne Down
Everything you need to make this delightful puppet story.  Suzanne is also offering a kit to make "Mama Birds and Babies in a Nest," and her book of Spring Tales is also available.  The Little Brown Bulb Kit is $16.95, from  

The Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
This classic children's book will delight you and your family!  Great to read aloud with school-aged children.  Available from Amazon.

"Creating a KinderGarden for Young Children" 
Video of a keynote address with slides by Betty Peck.  With over 50 years' experience working with young children and nature, Betty Peck has been called a national treasure. Program includes slides of her garden-centered program for young children. You'll be inspired whether you're at home or teaching in a program for young children!  Available as a download (no shipping) or as a DVD.  $20 from Waldorf in the Home.

"Gardening with Children: The Waldorf Curriculum" by Carolyn Brown (audio recording). 
Carolyn shares how the gardening curriculum she developed at Waldorf School of the Peninsula relates to and strengthens the development of the school-aged child and relates to the main lesson curriculum.  Audio recording available as a CD or MP3 download, $12.50 from Waldorf in the Home

News from LifeWaysNews
New Additions

LifeWays Board member Rahima Baldwin Dancy (aka "Oma") welcomed two new grandbabies since our last newsletter!  Rowan Kensho Dancy Kato (left) was born at home in Boulder to Jasmine Dancy and Dai Kato on Jan. 21, and Hannah Iris Baldwin was welcomed by Oma, Seth, Maureen and big sister Ruth (aged 4) in Portland, OR on March 6, 2015.

Stefany Feliciano and her partner, Ingrid, welcomed their baby, Rio Andres, on March 15, 2015. Stefany is a student in the current California Coast LifeWays Training.

Two of our Buffalo graduates gave birth recently.  Little Walker was born in February to  Katie Perry and her family, which includes two big sisters, and Sally was born in March to Xan Robins and Angelique, their first.  

LifeWays students and graduates, when you have exciting news to share, please let us know!

In Memoriam

One of our students from 2010 passed away on February 10th...Anneka Foushee died from a very rare form of cancer commonly caused by asbestos. Anneka was beautiful, vibrant, an artist and for a number of years a nursery teacher at Morning Glory a Waldorf home program in San Francisco. In the past month, as she became very ill, she moved from the Bay Area to her family home in North a farm where she grew up and in the care of her grandparents.  

Too young, so wonderful, so loving.  Many of her classmates have stayed in touch with her as she moved from home care to art...we are so, so sad. This picture was taken of Anneka by Amber Risucci, a student in the same LifeWays class when we were on retreat in Big Sur.  --Marianne Alsop, LifeWays Director, California Coast Training  


Employment Opportunities

Brooklyn-based Waldorf family is seeking an experienced, dynamic, creative, organized/tidy, holistically inclined, ideally Waldorf or LifeWays-literate caregiver for our imaginative, energetic children. Majority of time would be spent with our 2.5 year old son, and then after school with our 6 year old daughter as well. For more information, email  

Bloom, a LifeWays-aligned program in picturesque, coastal Rhode Island, is looking to welcome two early childhood teachers into our school community beginning in mid-June 2015.   We are seeking teachers who are warm and welcoming to families, and who see teaching as a path of inner self-development.   We offer toddler and preschool programs for ages eighteen months through five years old, in a unique and beautiful country setting. Competitive salaries and generous benefits are available.  Visit our website at for more information, or email Bethany Stewart, Owner/Director of Bloom at   


News from LifeWays Graduates   


Lucy Vowles, a graduate from the 2014 Callifornia Coast LifeWays training, has recently opened her LifeWays program in the Totnes, Devon, in the UK.  It is called Play Garden Home-based Childcare offering "A nature-based programme for children in the Early Years, providing a family-style approach to childcare."  Congratulations and best wishes, Lucy!

New LifeWays Board Members 


We want to express heartfelt thanks to Rosario Villasana, who has served on the LifeWays board since 2006 and recently stepped down.  Rosario is also the Director when we have offered LifeWays workshops and training sessions in Spanish.

With Rosario's absence, we have added two new board members, Ashley Masters and Rhoda Kambandu, who are serving along with Cynthia Aldinger, Mary O'Connell (new Board President), Kerry Ingram (VP), Rahima Baldwin Dancy (Treasurer), Sara Baldwin (Secretary), Marianne Alsop, and Lisa Boisvert-Mackenzie.


Ashley Masters, left, completed the LifeWays Training in 2010 in Boulder and was the force behind bringing the training to her area in Asheville, NC last year as Student Services Director.  

Read More.


Rhoda Kambandu, above right,  lives in Green Bay, WI with her husband and four daughters.  She was the Parent/Child Teacher at Tamarack Waldorf School in Milwaukee, WI for five years, and concurrently taught preschool at LifeWays Milwaukee for three years.  Read more....

New LifeWays Book from Cynthia Aldinger available soon!

Life is the Curriculum, a new book by Cynthia Aldinger, will be available by summer - we'll be sure to let you know! The subtitle is Exploring the Foundations of Care for Young Children

through the Insights of Rudolf Steiner, Founder of Waldorf Education.  Like the online course, described below, the four sections of the book describe how Life, the Child, the Adult and the Environment all form the perfect learning ground for the young child.  Descriptions and stories by Cynthia illustrate how LifeWays puts into practice indications Steiner gave about the young child in various lectures. 

Upcoming WorkshopsWorkshops
New Online Course!!
"Home as the Model -
      Life as the Curriculum" 

with Cynthia Aldinger and  Mary O'Connell


Our first online course started April 6th with 75 students and will run through May 4.  It is based on themes developed in our newest book, Life is the Curriculum, which will be available in a few months.  

Students in the course are exploring how the best curriculum for the young child springs from life itself, this interactive multi-media course consists of four weekly lessons that provide an introduction to how LifeWays nurtures children and families.  Students will be learning how Life, the Child, the Adult and the Environment all form the perfect learning ground for the young child, whether at home or in childcare/preschool.   


Other online courses are in development.   



What Do Young Children Really Need?
Friday Evening Talk and Saturday workshop

with Cynthia Aldinger,  

Founder and Director of LifeWays North America


"Taking Life as the Curriculum" 

Friday, April 24, 2015 7:30 pm in Austin, Texas 


Note - Saturday's workshop is full, but you may still attend the Friday evening talk.  Advance registration online, only $10. Read more and register.

Email Kelli Hoisington or call her at 512-971-2223 for information.

Location: Good Earth Day School, 10820 E Crystal Falls Pkwy, Leander, TX 78641.  

Cedar Park/Austin area.  


LifeWays BlogBlog
Did you catch our recent posts on
Speech and Language Development?
Read about
Learning to Speak by Mary O'Connell
Speaking in Stories by Jaimmie Stugard
I Hear You, and I Understand You by Jeremy Bucher
The Joy of Connecting Face to Face by Sandra Schmidt
Upcoming Training ClassesTraining
 Inspire your life with young children!

Completing the LifeWaysŪ Early Childhood Certification Program can open new opportunities for you-both  professional and personal-in the fields of early childhood, parent education and after-school care.

Our one-year, part-time curriculum includes over 200 onsite hours, with independent study and personal mentoring between sessions. It can prepare you to open or transform your own in-home program, classroom or early childhood center.  Many parents also enroll for inspiration in the Living Arts.  Certification programs are currently available at locations throughout the United States and in Vancouver, BC.

Our students graduate with a renewed sense of purpose and joie de vivre in their daily lives.  Strengthened by an amazing view of the developing human being, a lifted experience of personal growth, guidance in establishing successful programs, and a sense of being grounded in practical, artistic, and nurturing skills, they tell us over and over again that this training was a life-changing experience for them.


Find a LifeWays Training Program near you!  

      Click here to request an information/application packet. 


Alaska, May 2015 - June 2016,     Learn more.  
Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley, Alaska (alternating sessions)
Lori Berrigan, Student Services Director, 907-315-4030. 

Marianne Alsop, DIrector, 415-453-9122.

Canada, April 2015-March 2016, Vancouver, B.C.  Learn more.  
Margo Running, Director. 604-375-2959.

Colorado, May 2015 - June 2016
, Boulder, Colorado.  Learn more.   
Suzanne Down and Mary O'Connell, Program  Directors; Faith Collins, Student Services
Maine/Northeast,  dates to be announced (2016-17)

North Carolina, dates to be announced (2016-17)  
Oregon, July 2015 - June 2016, Portland, Oregon.  Learn more. 
 Anne Kollender, Student Services Director, 503-786-6010,

Pennsylvania, March 2015-April 2016 , Kimberton, PA.  Enrollment full.

Marianne Alsop, Director, 415-453-9122,

Southern California, July 2015 - July 2016, San Diego Area (Oceanside)
Bianca Lara Amann, Student Services Director, 760-525-8569,    Learn more.

Kelli Hoisington, Student Services, 512-971-2223,

Bridget Shetty, Student Services Director, 414-476-5149,

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