Frequently Asked Questions

Do you teach academics?


Kindergarten readiness is a topic of considerable activity of late. Please note, The Secret Garden serves children from 2 to 6 (or first grade) and holds that these first years are of paramount importance to the child’s continued success. Even though there is a push to have children go to “Kindergarten”, it is well known in the Waldorf and holistic education arena that the multi-age group typical of many Waldorf early childhood programs is an ideal environment for the children to complete their development prior to entering first grade. This program is what is traditionally known as a Kindergarten. First grade, or at the loss of the first teeth is the time for children to begin more formal instruction and engagement of their intellect. Prior to that we are cultivating strong physical body, creativity and sense-of-self and wonder. 

Readiness to continue on to first grade is determined not merely by the child's date of birth, but by observation of a very broad spectrum of physical, emotional and intellectual indicators. 

Referencing Paula’s education and experience in Remedial/Therapeutic Education, these indicators, combined with our direct knowledge and observations of each child's strengths and challenges, gauge readiness for academic learning. Our goal is not only the immediate success of the child in first grade, but also his/her long-term success throughout the grade school years. A child who is ready socially, emotionally and physically will do well to move on to first grade, as a child who is not ready in these areas will benefit from an additional year in Kindergarten in order to complete their development. 


Kindergarten , (literally meaning 'garden for the children') is a preschool educational approach based on playing, singing, practical activities  such as drawing, and social interaction as part of the transition from  home to school. Such institutions were originally created in the late  18th century in Bavaria and Strasbourg to serve children whose parents both worked outside home. The term was coined by the German Friedrich Fröbel, whose approach globally influenced early-years education. Today, the term is used in many countries to describe a variety of educational institutions and learning spaces for children ranging from two to seven years of age, based on a variety of teaching methods.


Our job in caring for your child and family is greatly facilitated when there is a feeling of mutual support. Following are some suggestions for how to work together to provide the best experience for all. 

Guiding Behavior (rather than discipline)

Communication with children works best when it is clear and uncomplicated. Engaging them with endless decision-making questions about what they want to wear, play with or do, tends to overwhelm young children, and they can often feel overly conscious, even burdened. Children need for us to provide them with the security that can come from our making healthy decisions for them. 

Here are some hints based on our experience: 

  • "May" is the magic word when working with children, as in, "You may clear your place",  or "you may put your shoes on now...it is your time".  It is neither authoritarian nor permissive but carries a quality of privilege; "you may" invites the child to be the beneficiary of your guidance and loving sense of knowing. 
  • Staying calm and centered while addressing children in the throws of their feelings, helps children to regain their composure, and trust that they are safe and loved. 
  • Explaining and reasoning with little ones tends to do no good, because developmentally, they are not yet capable of reason and logic on the same level as an adult. It is our experience that this approach of reasoning a child into compliance prematurely awakens the intellect and pulls them out of the dreamier world of early childhood, and is so rarely effective.   Children need to be able to  push up against us, to feel the boundaries.  Boundaries help us know where we begin and end, and where other begins and ends.  These boundaries are set with warmth and kind eyes, not rigid and cold.  This is such an important part of being with children in a healthy way.  
  • Kind, respectful words in all directions.  Notice how your child speaks to you, and how you speak to your child.  Is it with kindness?  Do you bark at them and wonder why they bark at you?  It is part of the work of a parent or one who cares for children, to instill a sense of respect and kindness through example, not admonition, shaming or blaming, but simply through speaking and behaving kindly, and respectfully.  That we have enough self-respect to ensure that our children, (well, anyone really), speak to us in a kind, respectful manner is vital to the well-being of each other and the world at large.  What are the children learning when the adults in their world hop-to and respond to their demands, allowing the children to rule the roost, with their gruff words and actions?  No thank you!
  • "Why?" does not require a lengthy explanation for these early years.  "Why do your eyes have cracks in them?" can be simply answered with a smile, kind eyes, and  "mmmm, I wonder?"  A repetitive "why" can be a way of getting attention, so how about giving attention before the "why's" start?  Try the 5-minutes-of-undivided-attention game.  Give your child 5, 10, 15 or more minutes of your complete attention, every day.  No phones, no interruptions, no washing dishes or folding laundry, nothing.  Just you spending time doing whatever your child would like you to do together for a set amount of time.  You could set an egg timer so your child can see how long you have together, stating at the beginning that you have x number of minutes of special time together, and when the time is finished you are going to wash the dishes, or whatever it is that you are going to do.  All with kind eyes, breath in your being and an open heart.  It is not always easy to stop everything and be with your child.  It can take practice, to stop and be fully present for that short time.  It is not your whole day, or life, just a short while, and it will work wonders.  We all love a little attention and presence don't we!
  • A rhythmic lifestyle can create the security and sense of expectation that lessens the need for "discipline". The comfort of knowing what is coming eliminates the insecurity that can lead to unruly behavior. 
  • Young children learn through imitation and self-discovery. We  strive to support this by:                              a) Providing appropriate play spaces that foster imagination                        b) Communicating through clear verbal messages with limited choices c) Establishing a rhythmic lifestyle      d) Offering real work experiences to develop a sense of purpose, and maintaining a positive attitude. 

When home and school share the same or similar philosophy, the children feel more deeply nourished. 



Audrey McAllen, a well-known Waldorf educator, states that two of the most important educational factors in the life of young child are learning how to sleep and to eat. Sleeping is a rhythmic activity akin to breathing. Monitoring your child's sleeping and waking, meals, amount of play, and stimulation during the day helps to create a rhythmic life pattern. A special bedtime ritual of perhaps lighting a candle and a simple story or verse is food for sound, deep sleep. 

During the first 7 years of life, children absorb everything in their environment through their senses. Exploring and experimenting within their surroundings, children constantly have new experiences. They take in every word we speak (the sounds of words particularly interest them as well as the tone of voice we use). These daytime experiences are often processed at night, so consequently a healthy amount of sound sleep is necessary for the full digestion of the day's experiences. 


Premature exposure to media can work against the healthy development of children. Exposure to media inhibits a child's natural ability to create worlds entirely from imagination. From our experience, allowing the children the freedom and space to develop their imagination to its fullest extent during the early years will enable them to be more self-sufficient, purposeful, creative problem solvers, later on. Media exposure is also inherently passive, encouraging neither exercise nor activity. 

For these reasons and more, we strongly urge parents to limit their children's exposure to electronic media in its various forms. The ideal we strive for is no media exposure in the early childhood years. In these early developmental stages, when children learn through imitation, (first 7 years), being mindful of the images we provide is key. “Is _x,y,z__ worthy of imitation?” is a useful question to ask ourselves. Often, children may be adversely affected causing disturbances in their behavior, sleep or play activities. These disturbances are frequently normalized, as the way things are these days.  It does not have to be this way, at all.  Media-influenced behavior tends to be a detriment to the atmosphere of the classroom. We have found that a home as free of electronic media as possible contributes to an improved quality of life for the whole family and our school culture. Media mindfulness...our children count on us.