Interview with Housatonic Valley Waldorf School Early Childhood Parent Jill Douglass

Recorded July 10, 2019 Archived July 10, 2019 22:38 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: APP648858


Dr. Jill Douglass, Professor of Speech-Language Pathology, shares her thoughts about the importance of authentic learning experiences.


  • Christina Dixcy
  • Jill Douglass
  • Housatonic Valley Waldorf School



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00:00 My name is Christina Dixie. I am 44 years old. Today. Is February 11th 2019, and I am speaking with dr. Jill Douglass. Who is Apparent at the Housatonic Valley Waldorf School where I work and we are recording this interview at the Housatonic Valley Waldorf School in Newtown, Connecticut.

00:28 Are we going to be leaning forward this whole time? I think it's helpful because they tell us to say certain diff distance from the microphone to his neck. So, how did you, how did you come to Waldorf education? Wow. Until the little bit about yourself, too. So, I am a professor here in Connecticut at a university. I teach research and do service is only three criteria for what my job is. And I'm a professor in speech-language, pathology.

01:03 So which brings me to how I came across Waldorf? Was it all started when I was working on my PhD? And when I was working on my PhD, the focus of many seminars was child language development and language and learning. And it was then that I started to become.

01:32 Have a critical eye of children's learning and the rule that environment please in children's learning and I was studying and reading the texts of vygotsky Piaget and Bruner, which were so far above me. But I think things the conversations stuck as to what these people were even saying in their texts, but and one of the reoccurring theme was

02:04 It's based on constructivist Theory which I think in the roundabout way. I'm going to describe so that

02:13 Children are meaning makers and they make meaning based on.

02:21 Meaningful engagement and that context is everything. So having a meaningful learning environment a language and sensory Rich learning environment. There's a high regard for role models for the adult sets around them and then the children that surround them. But that the adults should be providing this language and sensory, rich, and meaningful, learning environment, and it's about authentic learning opportunities as well. So,

02:57 I immersed myself in this constructivist Theory. And then I also read on, you know, the unfortunate reality of what some schools do, which is very much decontextualized learning and in authentic learning opportunities, and it was then that I got a pit in my stomach and me, and my other 20-something, your old friends, all who we were all pretty much single and no kids. And I had a moment of like, what are we going to do? Now that we know all this, when you have kids, when I had his, what are we going to do with this? This is going to be awful. This is awful. We know too much now. And so

03:46 And we know how good learning can be. And so anyway, so I eventually did get married and get pregnant and immediately, what I got pregnant. I do that's of this daunting task of having to choose my child's school and we were in the midst of moving. And so once I, once we settled in Connecticut, we were in New Zealand, with that whole country is Waldorf basically, but we were in New Zealand and then we moved to Connecticut and

04:22 Once I settled in Connecticut, I started looking into alternative schools and

04:28 And it had you already encountered Waldorf as it as a pedagogy when you were in school.

04:34 You're not you're not really. It was most so appeared appeared shape. I got ski Brunner. Are very much Reggie. Oh, I didn't know that term until I was researching schools. And everybody was saying, oh Reggie was based on. I got Steve Brunner, a note, there's a word for it. So so it's very Regio Focus, but I had only come across Waldorf a friend who adopted the child. Anyway, she was putting much of her story on Facebook of the going through this adoption process of adopting, an older child, and she was sending this child to Waldorf nose in Michigan and all I know is this child was wearing my fairy wings for her birthday, and I was just like,

05:21 This is amazing, this mess with me, Michigan thing. First time I encountered it and

05:30 So it's stuck with me cuz I thought that was just too magical like that. I couldn't I we don't have that medical for me. And then I when I was looking in the Connecticut, state alternative schools or whatever. This is called, which is just so funny. It's alternate to the right non-mainstream.

05:49 I saw this one Waldorf School.

05:53 And I was like that as I can remember, playing with my phone in bed pregnant and Zack was still in New Zealand by myself. In the second trimester myself able to just obsessing over my child's schooling and I was like, this is that I need? This is his school and then I looked at the cost and I said, okay, so maybe we'll be able to afford it when he's 10. So, okay, and that's why I just like to swallow that pill and I was just like, what I found the perfect school for him once he's 10 once we can afford it. And but it it's sad in my head cuz I was like that as the school I need and then my child comes into the world.

06:40 I was walk out. We were living in downtown Milford and I was walking around downtown Milford Momo. And I, my child is Momo. We were always walk around downtown and do all the shopping. Now. She's an infant at this age. But, you know, he was about one-and-a-half to where I was like, I need to start really Thinking Beyond this corporate day care that he's in, and I saw a different doing there. So I run into David Fernandez, who's the downtown Milford? Owner of beautiful restaurants in and he's a beautiful person and I was talking to David about I said, you know, I'm really am. I'm having a hard time with the schooling concept and said, where did you send your girls are really funny and he said in his beautiful French way. He sent them to Waldorf.

07:40 I can't believe I said you, since your kids to that Walter school and he was like, of course it is, you know, the European is beautiful, and whatever David says is just magical too. And so, I was like, 15. I want to send Momo there, but we cannot afford it. How did you afford it? And it was like, they now have a financial variable to a variable Wishin. He said, you put it out into the universe. You need to go see for yourself and talk with them. They are amazing. People, if you want that, you should go for it because it's so special. And not many people have such their eyes set on something like that and they want people who know, it's so good. And

08:34 So I just like I was on cloud nine after that conversation with David that this was even a possibility. Like it was unbelievable and Zach came home from work that day and Zack had no clue. I was so excited and he did not under, did not understand how huge this is for our life and for a child to have a waldorf education. And I so, you know, small world after SmallWorlds. I was in the middle of our the university and we had guest speakers and one of the guest speakers was Joe defeo Fairfield University in total. Found. He had this amazing presents Suddenlink name-dropping. I'll deliver right now. But so I show up to do the tour and Therese that the tour with me and I talked to Theresa about being a professor and

09:34 Call my husband works at Fairfield and I said, you know, I only know one person at the Airfield and it says Joe defeo. MacRae says, that's my husband. And so I was just like out of all those guest speakers. I was just like I'm following Joe defeo, whatever he died. And I was just like the universe is just like, I don't know many people in here. These people are Waldorf is Affiliated people and it was in. So so we're here.

10:05 And I were meant to be here. And so now that you're here, how would you describe a waldorf kindergarten magical?

10:16 Waldorf kindergarten is magical, truly. It's everything that we're supposed to be doing with our children is what they're doing in the kindergarten, which is so funny that that's magical, but it really is.

10:39 So, it's just

10:43 How would I describe it?

10:45 I personally would I see for my Momo is that all of his needs are being met. He's outside. He's playing getting dirty. He's scooping up worms. He's investigating animals. He's investigating mud-puddles. He's swinging. If he wants to swing, he's

11:06 Playing monsters. That was his plan today. Anyway, he's playing monsters with his friends with sticks. He's so the Vault, so it's just natural and then carry my soulmate.

11:29 I mean, I keep kind of telling her that she said soulmate and she just keeps going past that. But anyway, try and carry put this Rhythm to this very natural day. And you know, I love the concept of Rhythm. They have a rhythm to their denada schedule. You do not think of it as schedule and its Rhythm because they go with the natural rhythm of what the kids pretty present to them. And so it's kid-centric. It's child-centric, which is what we need with our children. It's child-centric.

12:08 It's, it's

12:11 Needing their sensory needs with outdoor time that breathing in the fresh air at grounds them and then they come inside. And when they're inside, there's just the warmth of inside with these natural textures. I'll never forget. I was trying to help carry pick up one day and I put all the Skins into one basket in is Carrie said, oh this one's for Beaver skins in this one's for rabbit skins. And I just was like, of course we have been designated baskets, one for Beaver skins and one for rabbit skins because this is Waldorf and it was just they have all at Morrison has like responsibilities in class and, you know, the tidy up. So and then the soul food, that is the daily snack.

13:02 I just tried to describe to Outsiders about this daily snack, and I try to that's that's the reason already and that I chose the school. When I was like trying to figure out it was his night. I was like I got to go here for this. Next really does represent everything about the Early Childhood. The Rhythm that they can anticipate the same snacks every day of the week and the role model and a process and role modeling a. Yeah. And how to nurture our bodies and the reference of sharing the meal together and Momo loves serving. And I'm just like these are life skills that if you love to serve for the rest of your life, I am good. I have done my job. My child loves to serve others and make sure everybody's well fed, and if you want more, get more and

13:50 How it's just amazing. And unlike out we were telling our friends went, I'm about the bread thing and she was like, are you kidding me? They make bread. She was like attending a brand new school. I think of it as like a plastic piece that's in the pretend kitchen is plastic bread. Not that they could do in the smell of the Easton, everything. She lets him taste test the do because he cannot help it. Like he has to taste. S s o.

14:21 The Walter kindergarten. And then, and then the traditions. This is something else I could go on about as the traditions of the Waldorf in the Early Childhood Program. And the food is one of those traditions in any way I missed out there and okay, so I can go on and on obviously. I don't really know what are the things that I've come to appreciate about myself. That I didn't realize is how much I cherish tradition and

15:01 As someone who was raised Catholic and no longer is Catholic, something that I miss about like the ritual is the ritual and tradition and hear the, the, the time that it really I was brought to tears was the Advent Circle Evans by role that the first Advent sorrow. We went to, which is every year, the oven spiral for the Early Childhood kids. It's complete darkness in the room and the Beautiful like music and someone reading were in there, and it's just silent. And I know how it's so thoughtfully set up the Advent spiral.

15:46 And how Momoa and his classmates all sat there in reverence. And I realize that that's one of the things about rituals and tradition is the reverence and honoring and learning how to be quiet and still when you're supposed to be not in these silly moments of like random sit still and be quiet and it's like a very designated time that they can anticipate and they know and they value and honor themselves. They had this intrinsic value and those moments and in the complete darkness and then each child with the candle and walked around and each of their little personalities shows as he has a little. It's amazing. You wouldn't so precious and get wet that it's in. And so I sat there and I was just a nut that was out of. I would have never put Momo in that situation like that would have been out of my comfort zone to expect that of him. But Carrie did and

16:46 I just I saw like these rituals traditions.

16:54 Bring out the best in my child and put him in a situation that is in a good way out of my comfort zone, his comfort zone and it's such for a beautiful reason and it's something that he can expect and I just loved that it was about

17:11 The season, it wasn't necessarily about any necessarily.

17:17 Godhead them anytime. And so I love that we can have these Traditions surrounding Mother Nature, father sky. And

17:30 And that's part of my child's life and it adds a rhythm to all of our Lives. That's one of my top cherish things on my list of 1000.

17:42 And so I think this might be the last question. What are the sounds and smells like my favorite part sounds and smells of the kindergarten classroom.

17:52 Can we sell the textures? Yes, okay, textures. Because I think of those skins and when my husband first went in there and saw the classroom, he saw a seed pod and was like a basket of dried seed pods and my husband was just sitting there and studying it and he's like, I just want to play with these like I'm taken in by them and that there are everything in there is natural.

18:25 Or made some way of Nature, and

18:30 It really adds a difference when you're surrounded by things that are natural. So those those textures of those first and then you have the kids chopping the vegetables and fruits for the day and you know cotton napkins and real utensils and real bowls and real Cups.

18:53 And then when you walk in and they're cooking, whatever it is, they're cooking in the morning to prep for the day. You can smell it and it always like that mixed with beeswax, beeswax, red onion.

19:07 There's always an undertone of beeswax. I don't know it well enough.

19:17 I don't even know what is a bread day that off and I'll pop in and I'm just waking up. I got this.

19:28 Oh, so and the kids singing is always such a sweet sound and Momo has a song in his heart. He taught me Babushka Babushka yesterday and today and he told me to hand motions and so they're singing, it's, it's a full sensory experience there. You know, it's funny when you talk about loving the ritual and I went to church some when I was little and I don't now and my, my kids are now. But that's really, I think some sort of religious practices. One of the only places where you sing with people in public. Like, it's not something that we normally do anywhere. So that's another thing in addition to having these rituals and traditions. I love that our children have an offer to like a regular frequent opportunity to sing with other people.

20:28 It's not like to a recorded song. He has like just it's so beautiful and you really feel your voice is working together. So it feels like a joint project. Like you really feel like you're working with someone when you're singing with them. Really true. I'd ever thought about this. And that's what is I did love 2 about

20:45 Church isn't my mom. I think this is the most. She was little singing. It's made us a better family, and it's buried my husband and I better people. And so there's this trickle-down effect of goodness of Waldorf, you know, in our house. We do a lot of music now, and my husband has picked up the ukulele and has learned how to play it and we do a lot of singing together. And we do very, very little TV watching, and we just really honor the silence. Also, the house and Silence of car rides and letting Momo, just tell us what's up rather than from boarding him with our adult Centric, whatever. And we think whole grains at home, more and wholesome.

21:45 And we try to think of our daily rhythm with him and we try to also get him outside when it seems. So we are such a better family unit because of Waldorf. So that's something that

22:02 I knew what I meant. I knew my husband took like a little bit of time before he would, he just his eyes opened of

22:11 Seeing this beauty and the power of all the adults and in our child's life and at school like they, this is why we have such an impressionable little human. And what do we want him to be impression by?

22:26 So those are my final thoughts. I think but thank you very much. Are your thoughts with us today?

22:33 Thank you.