Creative play is like a spring that bubbles up from deep within a child. – Joan Almon
This past Sunday, we lost a bright shining light and advocate for children when Joan Almon passed away. Here are a few words from Cynthia about this remarkable woman:
There is a common idea that one will feel the impact in your soul when your parents die I believe this to be true even for those who may not have stayed close to their parents. There are others in our lives, as well, whose crossing over creates a temporary hole in our hearts – particularly a good friend, a colleague, a mentor. Joan Almon was for many people, myself included, all of these categories. Joan was one of the few people who could make me laugh til my belly shook. It was she who asked me join the Waldorf Kindergarten Board over twenty years ago, and in all the years we served together there were two things that happened at each meeting that I deeply treasured. One was the human development studies we did together. The other was all of us going out to dinner with Joan! We plumbed the depths in our studies and soared the heights with our laughter!
During those years, LifeWays came to birth, and we all owe a dept of gratitude to Joan for the existence of the professional development programs we have offered for the past twenty years. Enrollment was feeling not quite enough to me when we planned to offer the first LifeWays Early Childhood and Human Development Training (what we used to call it). I told Joan I was going to cancel the program. “No!” she said with absolute clarity, and then she went on to encourage me to give a discount to people who enrolled by a certain time and to recognize them as the pioneer class and keep moving forward. And we did! And we still are!
After quite some time, Joan became involved with other endeavors, all springing from a spiritual and holistic view of the human being. Joan’s work took her far afield, and she traveled the world (at the helm of our Waldorf Early Childhood work, as co-founder of The Alliance for Childhood in North America and for a short time as co-General Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society of North America). And if you choose to do further research on her life you will find that she touched and inspired countless numbers of individuals along the way. I think you will enjoy the video of her speaking at a conference on Play where she shares some beautiful stories of children in her kindergarten. Joan was a Champion, some say a Warrior, for the protection of childhood. No one can fill her shoes; yet, as she expands out into the Universe of Being, I believe she may help all of us to fill our own.
A powerful advocate for children
Joan Almon devoted more than 30 years to the education of young children, primarily within Waldorf/Steiner schools. She taught three- to six-year-olds in Maryland and then consulted with schools around the world, particularly in Africa and Asia. In 1999 she became the founding director of the U.S. Alliance for Childhood and went on to serve as director of programs. Here is a keynote speech she gave in 2013 at the 92Y Wonderplay Conference. It’s worth the time to watch it.
Playing it Up
Click here for a downloadable PDF file of Playing It Up, a wonderful publication from the Alliance for Childhood edited by Joan Almon. Learn how communities are making spaces for play, and be inspired to encourage and protect play for the children in your life.
Reading in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose
One of Joan’s true gifts was speaking to people from all backgrounds and pedagogies about the lack of evidence to support the increasing academic rigors of today’s conventional kindergarten classrooms. The Alliance for Childhood published a number of valuable, practical resources to bring awareness on this topic. Click here to download a free PDF that explains in terms everyone can understand why there is little to gain and much to lose from the current standard practice of teaching reading in kindergarten.