Spotlight on Terri’s Morning Garden
I am delighted to bring you a picture of Terri’s Morning Garden, joyfully tended by, Terri Petrie. Terri welcomes children from 18 months to 9 years of age and has been doing this work for the past decade. Teri’s Morning Garden program is located on the edge of a wood and a lovely meadow in Shelburne, Vermont and is inspired by the teachings of Rudolf Steiner.
What brought you to Waldorf education?
Like so many of us, it was my children. I remember the day… I was in a child development class, my daughter Ashley was getting close to Kindergarten age, and I was sharing that I was interested in an alternative that would honor her shy, sensitive side and allow her to blossom at her own pace. A woman in the class suggested that I check out the Lake Champlain Waldorf School. I did. The day I walked into the school, I felt as though I had finally come home.
My daughter began Kindergarten that fall. I was already on the path to get my teaching degree and having entered the school I became that much more imbued in this thing called “Waldorf”education. I began to read everything I could get my hands on, which as you may know, is a lot. I began substituting in the classrooms and then joined the Enrollment Committee. It was here that we came up with the idea of a satellite program to meet the interest outside of the community of Shelburne and to act as a “feeder” into the school. After some Waldorf early childhood training, I became that ‘satellite” in Richmond, Vermont. Some of the very first children in this program have graduated from high school and have had their first year of college.
My program now is in Shelburne Vermont, it’s called “Terri’s Morning Garden.” I call it this mostly because I am always hearing it said “my daughter goes to ‘Terri’s Morning Garden” and so it is…
I heard Hella Heckman speak on her first trip to the United States, She was in Wilton, New Hampshire and it was probably fifteen years ago. She spoke of American children being fat and lazy… and that they needed their “will” to be awakened. She had a radical* tone but, was an inspiration because I felt she was speaking “truth” to me. I went home and created a program with the inspiration of Hella Heckman. My program has evolved into it’s own energy with the inspirations of the truth that lives in me.
Each morning I meet the children outside, no matter the weather. We feed the bunnies and then off we go on some sort of walk on these twenty acres. We might go to the “pirate ship” in the middle of the field far away or we might walk the Labrynth. Some days we slip over to the ponds see if there are geese stopping by on there way north or south.
Other days we take the path to the see saw deep in another part of the woods (Mother Nature’s playground, the built up ones are over rated… and create too much intervention into “play management).
I transition the children from outdoors to indoors by stopping by the balancing log (a good size tree outside..)
We then go inside and the boots or shoes nice and neat under the cubbies, coats are hung up and slippers put on.
Next the children get to the work of “play”. They know the rhythm so well that I am practically invisible. I begin moving towards snack, perhaps I will suggest to the children that they set up for tea and I will prepare it. Other days, I might suggest a puppet show but first make the tickets, set up the seating and I will make the popcorn.
Ms Terri’s popcorn is becoming famous, mostly because it is regular ‘old fashion” popcorn popped on the stove and yes… butter and salt added. (not to mention the silly popcorn dance)
As the children play, I set up the artistic as well as, helping them here and there. We will paint, bake, and color each week. I will add all kinds of other artistic work depending on the season and or festival. The children enjoy this moment to breath a little quieter with friends and have a little space. Once they have completed the artistic, back they go to whatever they were playing with renewed fresh energy.
Meanwhile, one or two others maybe helping me to clear and set the snack table.
Next the dusty Gnome appears… and everyone gets busy with a new type of play… cleaning up.
After, I will sing ‘Let us form a ring, dancing as we sing….” And the circle is formed. Now this is our other work… to wake up the Earth and say good morning. I believe that some of my best circle times are like Steiner said, either the ones that I totally live into and find reverence in or the ones that I have made up my self. These are truly the moment the children enjoy themselves.
We then rest but, the joke is “No…sleeping at Ms. Terri’s”! Those words were really said in the “Ms. Terri” jokingly manner when I could sense a child feeling worried about rest time. No worries … no sleeping at “Ms Terri’s, just a short rest.
We then rise up, stretching “tall, tall like a tree keeping your roots strong in the earth.Oops brother wind blows you a little to the left and now to the right.. oh here you go backward stretching, stretching and now down… down… touching your toes.”
The children love this too …..
“Wash, wash wash, those hands.” We then go to the table… light the candle, say a blessing and eat.
After snack… we wash and use the bathroom and outside we go…
The children will play, and just before going home I will race them to the “story circle” which is outside in the woods next to the three sister white oak trees.
Then, it is “good bye, now…”
How do you support parent and family life?
I think the success of my program is pure flexibility, honesty, intregrity, and non-judgment all wrapped up in to a lot of JOY and humor.
The parents are working hard. If they aren’t working hard to make the money, the parents are working hard to be PERFECT. One Parent evening I told them that they are all doing an amazing job as Parents and that I didn’t think they knew it… there we tears in their eyes. PARENTS need to know that they KNOW the answers; it’s not always in a book.
Children too… are working hard. Bring in the JOY! (Everybody!)
I find the spring months, the most satisfying time of year ~ at least at this moment!
Every fall when we start anew, I am open to a new year, new children with some of last years children returning, but the work to get children to work together in a community-family like manner, the work to create a strong rhythm within the children, the trust and confidence to be gained by the new parents dropping off their babies for the first time…
NOW, in May I am seeing the fruits of this work (oh… I think so much of it is developmental but, wow each year they come a long way by this time).
What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
The most challenging… I would say this year it is different than in years past. This year (and I felt it a bit last year) I don’t seem to have parents with the interest or the energy to come together for parent evenings.
In the past we would do an artistic activity, have a parenting discussion, and learn about each other. I have always had huge interest in building community with the parents. (I have families from six years ago still meeting once a month that have become really good friends.)
I keep trying but I don’t feel the vibrancy in the parents as we come together as I did in the past. It could be the make up of the families. There are many first born children with baby siblings or older children with pregnant mothers. Perhaps, everyone is just tired. One aspect of this work I like best and find most satisfying is the work with the parents. Again, are we being called to just be flexable.
*Editors note~ note that the word “radical” means at the root, from the root, the root of a problem or situation.
A Bio for Terri Petri
(www.terispirit.com)291 Thompson Road, Shelburne. VT.
Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie is the Editor and Publisher of The Wonder of Childhood and has spent the past fifteen years with one of her own children in early childhood (under seven years of age.) She was blessed with a wondrous, rhythmic and outdoor childhood on the coast of Maine. Lisa has worked with children and their families for the past twenty two years, initially as a homebirth midwife. Lisa’s home based program The Children’s Garden began twelve years ago on a remote tropical island in the Pacific Ocean. Lisa’s current focus is on supporting parents of very young children and exploring the needs of boys in relationship to the Waldorf curriculum and ways of implementing support for those needs within the Waldorf curriculum as well as her own writing. She lives with her family in Vermont. Lisa blogs at Celebrate the Rhythm of Lifeand hosts a discussion groups for parents of young children here.