Thursday, January 3, 2013

Accreditation Report from WECAN Site Visitor


Driving onto the Spindlewood Property is somewhat like driving into an enchanted world. At the end of a long unpaved road, the surrounding buildings are of a delightful architectural design that only adds to the feeling of magic. The Spindlewood Kindergarten is located on the property of Susan and Jack Silverio, in the small town of Lincolnville, Maine. The school building itself is a renovated cabin which has been lovingly added to over the course of Spindlewood's twenty-six year history. Susan and her husband Jack live here on the property and Jack (the architect behind those magical buildings) has his office/studio there as well. The school also functions as a "LifeWays" training center.

At the time of my visit, total enrollment was 14. The Kindergarten program runs Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with an extended day program offered on all three days. This aftercare program is in the hands of Miss Elisa Olds, Susan's assistant. Six children are enrolled in aftercare on Tuesday and Wednesday, no children attend on Thursday at this time. Susan and Elisa teach the morning classes together each day.

I was warmly greeted upon my arrival by Miss Susan (Silverio) and her assistant teacher Miss Elisa (Olds) The wood stove warmed the room, and the smell of bread dough filled the air. I was immediately enveloped in a feeling of homelike coziness. The rooms themselves were obviously well-tended, the playthings and small tableaux were artfully arranged and the entire atmosphere was pleasing to both look upon and to be enveloped by. We began the day, as they do each and every day, with two verses. One from the "Calendar of the Soul" and one from "In the Light of the Child". This was followed by the "Halleluiah" eurythmy series of gestures. It was a touching and reverent moment, and a lovely way to begin the morning.

The children soon began arriving, some bearing offerings (such as freshly laid eggs from the family chickens) and they came individually to have their hair brushed by Miss Susan. In the meantime Miss Elisa was busy in the kitchen preparing the dough for the children to knead. Miss Susan sang the most delightful song about brushing the starlight through their hair, and then helped them into their aprons. As she sent them off to the baking table, she warmed their hands on a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel upon her lap. What a loving transition from home to the Kindergarten!

The children kneaded their bread with good industry and when they had finished, they went off for indoor imaginative play time. There was a happy "hum" in the room. I saw them riding stick horses and building boats and houses. Some children came to set the table and to fold the laundry. All this was carried along in a dreamlike manner, and I felt a deep sense of peace and timelessness.

Now it was clean-up time and all of the children helped to put things away in their homes. This was followed by a most reverent morning circle time. I was visiting on the first week of Advent and the theme of the circle was centered around the birth of the child of Light. I was struck by the children's deeply engaged attention to the words and gestures...Miss Susan is obviously a master at "holding" the circle and this was very apparent. I consider this ability to be a great gift.

We were then treated to an enchanting puppet show. As this was the first week in Advent, the puppet show was "St. Nicholas and His Journey Through the Stars". The children were deeply absorbed and attentive, and a feeling of hushed awe pervaded the class.

We then washed hands and said a blessing before having our snack of freshly baked bread together. The children helped with serving and pouring and a lovely chatter accompanied our snack. Cleanup time followed smoothly, and all of the children were aware of what their tasks involved. The rhythm of the day was strongly evident and the children were held by this as well. The two teachers were engaged in practical work in a soothing manner. They modeled this consistently throughout the course of the morning.

Now it was outside time, and the children got themselves ready to gather moss from the forests surrounding Spindlewood. While they went off, I took this opportunity to speak at greater length with Miss Elisa the assistant teacher. Miss Elisa has taken the LifeWays training and stepped up to her current position when a temporary period of unsettled times manifested itself at the school two years ago. (This was elaborated upon in Susan's most recent self-study.) Elisa obviously loves her job very much and it is quite evident in her presence and manner. The two teachers have an easy yet professional rapport and the care and respect for each other is evident. Elisa is obviously mentored by Ms. Susan in the classical tradition. Their harmonious work together contributes to the mantle of warmth which extends over the entire atmosphere of the classroom. I felt the children to be fortunate indeed to be held every day in this mantle of caring warmth.