The Kindergarten Day: Free Play is King! (#20)

A Year in the Life: Ambient Math Wins the Race to the Top!
Day 20

For one year, 365 days, this blog will address the Common Core Standards from the perspective of creating an alternate, ambient learning environment for math.  Ambient is defined as “existing or present on all sides, an all-encompassing atmosphere.”  And ambient music is defined as: “Quiet and relaxing with melodies that repeat many times.”

Why ambient?  A math teaching style that’s whole and all encompassing, with themes that repeat many times through the years, is most likely to be effective and successful. Today’s blog will focus on a day in a typical Waldorf Kindergarten.

Free play is paramount here, and is attended to immediately upon entering the room.  Pretend is the order of the day, as play acting is the work of the young child, the dress rehearsal for life.  Many scenes are enacted, complete with props: flowing silk cloths, wooden playstands with chunky clips to hold the house “walls” up, tree branch building blocks, and whatever raw materials might be needed to add detail to a variety of created worlds.

The Kindergarten teacher is the nexus of this busy scene.  As the children play around her, she works at homemaking, performing the typical tasks of a busy mother.  Many children may be eager to help, as they gather around her to assist with the washing up, sweeping, polishing, chopping vegetables, sewing, cooking, baking, and more.  Whether working or playing, the children are engaged, purposeful, and happily occupied.

After a couple hours it’s clean-up time, and all work and play things are neatly put away in their places by the children and teacher alike.  Bathrooms are used and hands are washed in preparation for circle-time.  Singing, dancing, hopping, skipping, galloping, jumping, accompany seasonal songs and verses.  Play acting follows, the farmer tending his fields, the woodcutter filling her shed against the winter cold.

The circle ends, and all hungrily gather around the table for snack.  Warm, fresh-baked rolls or bread, fresh fruit and such are passed around for all to share.  A blessing is said and the nutritious meal is eaten, accompanied by lively conversation.  The talk turns to what might be waiting outdoors, for fun and games, as places are cleared and the washing up is done.

Outdoor clothes, boots, and hats (or rain-gear if needed) are put on, and the children eagerly bustle through the door to play and work.  The outdoors offers many opportunities to be busily creative: digging, climbing, building, and collecting nature’s treasures.  Joyful running, working, laughing, and playing continue for an hour or so.

To close the day, the children return to the room and gather around the teacher as she tells a fairy tale.  She uses words with intonation, gesture, and movement to tell the tale.  Most often, the same story is told every day for a week or two, to the children’s lasting interest and delight.

Weekly activities such as baking, beeswax, watercolor painting, and handcrafts are woven into the day as well.  Seasonal field trips and special events are welcomed, with celebration.  And beneath all the work and play, runs a current of learning: language arts through story, verse, and song as well as daily conversation, and numerous social and emotional skills.  Creativity, imagination, and initiative are all nurtured in the natural course of every day.

You can see how well this format fits a typical homeschool environment!  Very little adaptation is needed by a family making home school and school home.  A Waldorf classroom mixed with a one-room schoolhouse fits the picture very well.

Tomorrow’s blog will focus on a summary of the Kindergarten Common Core Math Standards and the ambient, alternative activities suggested in this blog.  How to gently integrate this work into a day like the one described above will be discussed as well.

Knowledge ensues in an environment dedicated to imaginative, creative knowing, where student and teacher alike surrender to the ensuing of that knowledge as a worthy goal.  More Kindergarten tomorrow!

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