Thank you for being an agent of change in early childhood!

Dear LifeWays Friends,

A recent study from the University of Virginia compared kindergarten teachers’ expectations for their students in 1998 to today. The differences were striking. In 1998, 31% of teachers thought that kindergarten students should be able to read by the end of the year. By 2014, that figure was 80%. Overall, the researchers found huge decreases in the amount of self-directed, creative play time and increases in the amount of time students were involved in teacher-directed, whole-class instruction.  The recent trend in early childhood education is disastrous for young children, and we are seeing the results of this developmental mismatch all around us. The inappropriate standards in kindergarten have trickled down to affect preschools, childcare programs, and ultimately home life as parents try to navigate the challenging terrain with and for their children.

While challenging the system every day can be exhausting, one of the things we love about our work at LifeWays North America is that we get to interact daily with childcare providers, teachers and parents who are soulfully striving to provide the very best care for children in a more developmentally appropriate, spirit-filled way.  The knowledge that so many outstanding caregivers are out there doing this work, literally swimming upstream against policies that don’t have children’s best interests at heart, is truly a healing balm.  Our LifeWays community is diverse, free-spirited, and we come from a variety of backgrounds. And yet, somehow, we are all connected in this wonderful work of relationship-based care that honors the spirit of children. We have grit, passion and love in spades!

Twice a year we pause the Living Arts Weekly blog to ask for your support.  In December, we asked for your help to replenish our scholarship fund, and you were very generous!  Today, we are asking for your support to help us further our work of program development.  We have you and thousands of caregivers like you around the world in mind as we craft programs, workshops, trainings, blog posts, newsletters and other messages we hope will support your soul, challenge your thinking, and move your body in compassionate caregiving. Here are some of the new ways we are working to support you:

New online offerings – Watch for a course in therapeutic approaches to care, as well as a wonderful “Mothering and Fathering Infants to Teenagers” online workshop featuring master Waldorf Teacher Jack Petrash and Cynthia Aldinger, both coming in fall.

Our all new LifeWays Fundamentals Course – for those who are just beginning the work in Waldorf Schools and other Steiner-based early childhood settings

Advocacy work – Thanks to some passionate members of our LifeWays community, Observing Young Children has been submitted to the state of Minnesota for approval as an assessment tool and has already been approved in Wisconsin.  We’d like to work towards approval in states across the U.S. for caregivers and teachers who wish to follow a more holistic approach of observing and assessing children.

International expansion – Students from all over the world continue to join our online learning community, and LifeWays is beginning to offer in-person trainings outside of North America.  The first LifeWays Birth-to-Three training begins in Xi’an, China in August.  LifeWays South Korea graduated their first group in 2018; LifeWays Ontario graduates their students in late April; and a LifeWays workshop is being offered in Japan in June.

I can’t predict the future, but I know that our work fundamentally matters. Our community’s past generosity helps us keep resources like our Living Arts Weekly blog posts and our newsletters free for thousands of people. You help us continue to develop new avenues of support, and you help us provide a living wage for our staff, who all declined pay increases this year to keep the LifeWays ship afloat.

Please consider making a donation! As President of LifeWays North America, I hope to see this work continue to serve future generations of children and the adults who care for them.

Thank you for being an agent of change in this ongoing evolution of early childhood work!

With all good wishes,

Mary O’Connell

for the LifeWays North America board

Click HERE to make a donation — any amount is helpful!