Saturday Doll-Making Workshop in March and April


Spots Still Available in Saturday Doll-Making Workshop

Saturdays March 15 through April 5, May 10 and 17.
Time: 9:30 am until 12:30 pm
Fee: $100 for all materials and fees.
Choice of skin color and hair colors available.
Class size is limited and basic sewing skills required.
Email and return a $50 deposit.

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Annual Fund Success!

Annual Fund Challenge Met!  $10,000 Gift Spurs Success

Thanks to a wonderful response from the CAWS community, we met our challenge goal of 90% participation in this year’s annual fund! As a result, CAWS will receive an additional $10,000 gift from a generous, long-time donor.
This strong level of support resulted in our raising more than $55,000 for the 2013-14 annual fund. These gifts came from many sources, including:

    •  77 CAWS families
    •  100 percent of our Board of Trustees
    • 100 percent of our full-time faculty and staff
    • Grandparents, alumni parents and friends
    • A private foundation

All who contributed were automatically entered into a drawing for two free tickets on Cape Air, compliments of Stella Wolf, Goldenstar Teacher (see winners, below!).
We extend our deepest thanks to all who showed their support and found a way to contribute. The annual fund is the single greatest fundraising effort we undertake each year, and its success is crucial to the financial health of our school.
With appreciation,
Lori Etringer and the Development Committee


Fifth Grade Grandparents Win Cape Air Tickets
Robert and Dolores Lowe of West Virginia were selected as the winners of our annual fund drawing for two free tickets on Cape Air. Tickets are good anywhere Cape Air flies, including the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Cape and the Islands, Maine and New York.
“We are thrilled. We’re not used to winning anything,” Robert said. The Lowes made their gift to the annual fund because of their grandson, Samuel (grade 5). “We think Sam is getting a good education, and we want to support the institution that is providing it,” Robert said, adding that they are eager to plan their trip on Cape Air.
Special thanks to Stella Wolf for arranging for the tickets and deep appreciation to the many parents, grandparents, alumni parents, faculty, staff, trustees and friends who contributed to the annual fund. Thanks to all of you, this year’s annual fund was a great success and will help our school meet core operating costs.
With thanks,
Lori Etringer

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Inside the Waldorf School of the Peninsula


The New York Times sparked national media coverage with it’s front page story on why Silicon Valley parents are turning to Waldorf education. This film picks up where that story left off. “Preparing for Life” takes viewers inside the Waldorf School of the Peninsula where the focus is on developing the capacities for creativity, resilience, innovative thinking, and social and emotional intelligence over rote learning. Entrepreneurs, Stanford researchers, investment bankers, and parents who run some of the largest hi-tech companies in the world, weigh-in on what children need to navigate the challenges of the 21st Century in order to find success, purpose, and joy in their lives.

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See For Yourself Why Waldorf Education Works


See For Yourself Why Waldorf Education Works

Cape Ann Waldorf School, CAWS, Beverly MA Independent School Pre-k-8

On Saturday, October 19, from 10 a.m. to noon, families of students entering Pre-K through Grade Eight are invited to Cape Ann Waldorf School to learn more about Waldorf education.  Parents and children can speak with teachers, parents and students, and experience for themselves some of the activities that enliven a Waldorf classroom.

Kelly Hiselman, the school’s admissions director, is organizing the open house.

“At Cape Ann Waldorf School, and Waldorf schools all around the world, our goal is to ignite each child’s passion for learning,” Hiselman explained.  “We do this by focusing on how and when children develop, and tailoring the curriculum to the needs of the children in each grade level.  We also make sure the lessons are multi-sensory, and filled with opportunities for students to experience the material first hand.  In other schools children may read a story and write about it, and that’s it.  Our students may read and write about the same story, but they may also turn it into a play.  At many schools, music class is focused on listening to and appreciating music.  At our school, every student plays an instrument, so each of them can create their own music.  Through drama, movement, handwork and storytelling, we give our students continuous opportunities to directly experience what they are learning about.  This approach makes learning more fun, and more effective.  When you talk with our eighth graders, the results are impossible to miss—they love learning, they are self-aware and self-confident, they are creative, and they are completely engaged with the world around them.”

Parents at the school agree.  Jonathan Cosco is the parent of a current fourth grader.

“So many parents are focused on rigorous academics, because they want their kids to be ready to compete at the next level.  Waldorf students get great academics, but they get a lot more than that.  Parents here know that when our kids move on to high school and college, they will be prepared not only to compete, but to collaborate and to innovate—and these are the skills kids need to be successful today.”

The school’s approach to media and technology has been covered in recent years by national media outlets like the New York Times and CNN.

To learn more about Waldorf education, check out those sources, visit theschool’s website, and come to the Open House:

  • 10:00 a.m. – Live music from students, Classroom tours all morning
  • 10:30 a.m. – Puppet show from Early Childhood faculty
  • 10:45 a.m. – Lower Grades Watercolor Painting
  • 11:00 a.m. – Lower Grades Kinesthetic Mathematics Lesson
  • 11:30 a.m. – Puppet show from Early Childhood faculty
  • 11:45 a.m. – Middle School Science Experiment

Cape Ann Waldorf School has been serving children on the North Shore for 27 years and is part of an organization of Waldorf schools throughout the country. The school draws its students from more than twenty communities north of Boston.

The school’s 10-acre campus is located on Moraine Farm in Beverly—170 acres of protected forest, meadows and farmland.  The school’s non-profit neighbors at Moraine Farm include The Trustees of Reservations, who operate a community supported agriculture program, and Project Adventure, a leader in experiential adventure-based educational programs.

Visit to learn more about the school, its curriculum, community, and partners.


Saturday, October 19 at 10 a.m. to Noon



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A Grandmother’s Story about the Impact of Today’s Kindergarten on One Little Boy

reposted from the blog, “Defending the Early Years

A Grandmother’s Story about the Impact of Today’s Kindergarten on One Little Boy

Posted on 

This piece was written by our colleague Blakely Bundy. Bundy is the Outgoing Executive Director of The Alliance for Early Childhood, based on the North Shore of Chicago. We share her story here as an illustration of what is happening in too many kindergarten classrooms across our country.

A Grandmother’s Story about the Impact of Today’s Kindergarten on One Little Boy

I wanted to relate my “tale of woe” about my grandson’s experience in kindergarten this fall.   I will call him William. I know that it’s a common story now, but this is a first for me on a personal level.  Aside from being William’s grandmother, I am a former teacher and have been involved as an early childhood professional in several different capacities for my entire career.

Over the summer, my daughter and her family moved from Winnetka, IL, a progressive school district on the North Shore of Chicago, to a town on the East Coast. They chose that town after doing quite a bit of research on the schools and I even accompanied them and talked to teachers and administrators in three of the communities that they were considering.  We thought that the town they chose was the most similar to the school system they had just left.

William, a third child with two older sisters, had had a happy, fulfilling experience at  Willow Wood Preschool in Winnetka ,  a half-day (afternoon), play-based, NAEYC accredited program (where I had actually taught for 10 years in the 80s and early 90s).  He had eagerly looked forward to going to kindergarten at Hubbard Woods School, his sisters’ beloved elementary school, which has a half-day, play-based kindergarten, with a long history of a progressive, child-centered philosophy that has survived since it was put in place in the 1920s.  In our area, under the umbrella of The Alliance for Early Childhood, there are articulation meetings between the preschools and the area kindergartens each year and the message is loud and clear that the kindergartens have no academic expectations for their incoming students but hope for some social and emotional indications that children are ready for kindergarten (sitting still to hear a story, love of books, ability to wait and take turns, etc.).

The first clue that the new school was going to be different was when we learned that the first day of kindergarten would be a full day, 9 am to 3:15 pm, with no time or plans for transition beyond a reception for families in the kindergarten room two days before.  The second indication was the set-up of the classroom and, while there were blocks and a small housekeeping corner, there were also a lot of folders with the kids’ names of them for “reading,” “math,” and other academic indications and posted class schedules that indicated a lot of “work” and not much play.

My daughter expressed concern to the kindergarten teacher about the lack of a transition plan and the long first day (and the teacher completely agreed, but could do nothing about it).  William went off like a trooper.  After a long six and a quarter hours of waiting to see how it had gone, William and his classmates marched out to the pick-up spot at the front of the school (no parents allowed into the school) or, I should say, “dragged” out.  I’ve never seen so many exhausted kindergartners in my life (and all with the required large backpacks on their backs)!  The next two days, William went off to school somewhat reluctantly.  Though teary, the teacher emailed my daughter that he had recovered enough to participate in some of the activities, including some table work.  By the fourth day, William wasn’t sure that he wanted to go back to school.  There were emails from his teacher and the social worker and the social worker met us at the front door and escorted William to class.  (Again, no parents allowed in).

Later that day, my daughter and I met with William’s teacher and the school social worker to brainstorm how to proceed.  Calling on my many years as a teacher and early childhood professional, I suggested going back to transition procedures you might use with younger children, i.e., mom in the classroom and engaged with her child the first day; mom in the classroom but “busy” with a book or helping the teacher the second day; mom in and out of the classroom the 3rd day, etc.  Alas, both because of school procedures and the fact that they already knew that it was a challenging class with many crying children who would all want their mothers, that plan was vetoed, although, again, William’s teacher was sympathetic and truly wanted to do what was best for William.  We also learned that they had done an “informal” evaluation of William’s academic abilities and that he was “low.”  William reported that he hated the table tasks and said to us that he “couldn’t do them” and that they were “hard.”

By the way, this is a little boy who can spend hours creating elaborate block and Lego structures, inventing scenarios for his cars and trucks, which all have names and personalities.  Also, his fine motor skills are ahead of many five year old boys, as he observes and copies his sisters’ drawings.  On the other hand, he is not as interested in spending a great deal of time on art projects and drawing and has not indicated an interest in learning letters and numbers yet, although he adores being read to and has a long attention span for some fairly sophisticated books, including those of his sisters.

On the fifth day of kindergarten, William locked himself in his room and refused to go to school.  I raced over to their house to help my daughter.  I was able to get into William’s room, but, by then, he was hiding under his bed and refused to come out.  I tried to talk him out, but he wouldn’t budge.  The school’s social worker arrived downstairs but my daughter wisely decided that she needed to keep “school” out of William’s safe home and the social worker departed.  It’s then that we decided that we needed to find a different school for William.  We knew that this was not going to work!

My daughter had asked other moms and had learned that people have dealt with the highly academic kindergarten in this town in two ways.  Those who can afford it, send their children to an extra year of preschool.  Those who can’t send them to two years of (free) kindergarten.  At the open house that we attended, many of the boys were a head taller than William and, of course, had been “redshirted.”

We asked around and got some wise advice from a helpful early childhood colleague who happened to live in the town.  She knew all about the highly academic kindergarten and mentioned that she had stopped teaching kindergarten in a neighboring town for just that reason.  We eventually found a nearby preschool program with a young 5s class, which would help William with transition and also had room for him.  Although that school is play-based and child-centered in their philosophy, it introduces some more academic tasks during the school year to prepare children for what’s ahead when they enter the public kindergarten.

I often say that schools in Winnetka and surrounding communities are like an “island” in a “sea” of over-tested, push-down academics and this story certainly illustrates that fact.  I wanted to tell this story as one more indication of what is happening in kindergartens throughout the country.  We must keep fighting and educating and working on making changes!  And I understand more than ever– now on a personal level– how vitally important this work is and how many hundreds of thousands of “Williams” there are who are impacted by what’s going on in our nation’s too academic kindergartens –and who may not have families able advocate for them.


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Working Outdoors

Monday saw the whole school working outside, helping to weed and improve the kindergarten playground.  This was part of the annual Michaelmas celebration.  Unfamiliar to many, Michaelmas was celebrated in England on September 29 and marked the end (and beginning) of the farmer’s year.  At Cape Ann Waldorf School, it’s a time to work on school projects, as well as use one’s muscles in the annual all-school tug-of-war.


Children working to improve the school grounds.


Sixth graders help re-build the kindergarten sand box


The third grade makes apple cider for everyone!


The annual tug-of-war in the lower field.


Trying hard to hold on…


The first fire in the new clay oven. It was used to make rolls for the schools cross-country team after their afternoon practice.



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Oven Update

The school’s new oven is almost ready for baking.  The first step was making a sand dome of the proper proportions.  Yoko Yeaton, Daisy Nursery teacher, came out to help build the sand form.

IMG_6877 IMG_6879

The next step was checking the shape against our template.  Still needs a little more sand on the sides.

A mixture of earth, sand and water was used to form the oven walls.  After the clay walls dried, the sand was dug out by 4th grade teacher Aria Nevin.



Movement & Gym teacher Vanya Yoors lends a hand.  The wheelbarrow was full of sand before we were done.  Next steps — firing the oven to dry it, applying a layer of insulation, and putting a roof over the top.   (Top two photos by Anita Brewer Siljeholm)

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A New Look in the Hallways

This summer, we were fortunate to have the talented Lena Fransioli and Kasia Mirowska paint our main hallway.  Here are some photos from the undertaking.

P1070874-001Above: Kasia and Lena, hard at work.
Below:  Their brushes had to keep moving to create the effects they wanted.



P1070875-001Kasia Mirowska, Jonathan Poore (hallway project mastermind, architect, and CAWS parent) and Lena Fransioli (also a parent of a CAWS alumna, Zoe Fransioli).


Real shadows play with the painted shadows.



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CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s report on “The Waldorf Way”

“No-Test, No-Tech School” – a really nice piece on Waldorf Education.

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Huffington Post Story on Waldorf Education

A great piece on one family’s journey to Waldorf education.  Originally published here.

Knitting Is More Important Than Homework



Two years ago on the front page of the New York Times Sunday Business section, an article ran entitled, “A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute” about the Waldorf School in Silicon Valley. I had already made the decision to enter my oldest son in a Waldorf school before the article came out, but I pathetically admit that this piece in the New York Times validated my intuition regarding a Waldorf education.

Years ago when I was looking at preschools, I checked out a Waldorf School. At the time, despite my hippie pre-disposition, the environment seemed too “out there.” However, I trusted my intuition enough to send my kids to another somewhat alternative, small, liberal pre-school focusing on socialization, not academics. The kids were happy, as were we. My kids were little Huck Finns and I was comfortable as their pied piper as they explored their world, not competed in it. But when it came time for elementary school, going “alternative” seemed a little too “alternative.”

Traditional private school didn’t do it for me as a kid. I went to private school and felt stifled. I wanted something different for my kids. In my mind, I saw my kids being raised with limitless imagination and access to never-ending creativity, even after pre-school. My perspective always seemed to be different from the majority. My intellectual buddies (although many sans kids) served as the great validators of my gut feelings regarding how I handled certain situations. Over time, I also learned to rely on my own intuition. I felt that traditional private school was too regimented, so I naturally looked elsewhere for the right environment for my kids.

When it came to sending my kids to elementary school, it was determined that we would send them to the “best” (based on rating) public school in our area. We even moved to the “right” neighborhood to guarantee entrance. I must admit that we were relieved to not have to spend money on private school. So our oldest entered public school at the age of 5.

It took us time to adjust, especially me. I was expected to be very involved and was balancing working “part-time” raising money for an important charity while dealing with adjusting to homework and daily public school paper work. I remember thinking, Is this school or a government bureaucracy?

Two veteran moms, spotted this rookie and took me under their wings. They warned me about all the supplies we would need and special projects to prepare for. Because if I wasn’t, at this high-achieving school, my kid would be the only one without a pumpkin to carve for Halloween… you get my point.

My son’s teacher (who happens to be incredible and famous in the kindergarten world) charmed by my silliness, also took a special interest in reminding me of things via funny text messages. In time, we all adjusted. She also gave me interesting tasks to help in the class, like sharpening pencils or refilling glue. She was aware of my skill set.

I also wasn’t particularly sold on some of the curriculum. On several occasions, and by several I mean dozens, I couldn’t figure out the kindergarten homework instructions. I decided to do the mature thing and blame my son’s laziness and lack of focus for incomplete homework assignments. In no way was I admitting to myself or my son’s kindergarten teacher that I could not comprehend homework created for 5-year-old children. Fortunately, I overheard other parents admitting the same comprehension issue, and felt a sense of relief and quickly canceled my appointment to have a full evaluation with a neuropsychologist.

The more I saw, the more inappropriate the curriculum seemed. For instance, they showed a semi-violent video about Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement to a bunch of 5- and 6-year-olds (all I know is my son kept talking about a bomb being thrown in his direction). This was a school system-wide tool to teach kids Black History.

I also wanted to teach my kids about well-respected Black leaders. But discussing intolerance and violence with kids who are still so pure and full of love is opening an unnecessary can of worms and frankly, in my opinion, completely inappropriate at such a young age. Take the kids to an African-American church, feed them delicious Soul Food, visit a historically African-American neighborhood, that’s how you teach little kids about other cultures.

To my utter dismay, my son was so confused he thought Black people were the ones who didn’t share their water fountains with White people. So I, who worked at a charity in an African-American community, had a kid who believed the Black man oppressed the White man. That was a fun conversation to have!

You know when people say listen to your gut? One afternoon in first grade, my gut finally talked and I listened. And my gut was yelling at me to help my child be a kid.

I picked up Neal from school and he approached the car with this face of an old man on a mission. I smiled and hugged him (it was first grade) and said “Hey Neal, I brought your skate board, let’s go to the park, get some ice cream and run around!” Neal replied solemnly “No mommy, I have to go home and do my homework and study for my spelling quiz.” I thought to myself, This kid is 7, he should just be coming out of the eating glue faze and moving onto the making farting noises with body parts and perfecting burping the alphabet! I was mad. I tried again, “Ok Neal, how about I take you to get a chocolate-covered donut with sprinkles!” Again, sternly, “No mommy, I have to go home and do my homework!!”

OK, I know most parents would be thrilled with this high-achieving, focused kid. Me, not so much. I want my kids to be responsible and hard-working, but not at 7. At 7, kids should have absolutely no pressure, learning should be organic and socialization the main priority. My kid was under pressure and no offer of high-fructose-corn-syrup-laden food would tear him away from his homework.

That afternoon, I made the decision that my kids would have a completely different type of education. Now, I will say our kids public school had wonderful loving teachers, administrators and staff who work extremely hard and care deeply about the children. But public schools have to follow the guidelines mandated by our state and local government, no matter how ridiculous or impossible.

I realize that we are lucky to be in a position to have the option to pay for private school, as most people in this country do not. I will say that there are thousands of charter schools (some that are Waldorf-inspired) that are not only public, but small, nurturing and alternative in their thinking. Unfortunately, at that time, we would have had to move in order to take advantage of the charter schools.

So, I began looking at the many private schools in Miami. But they were really not that different than the public school we were leaving. I mean, they were nice environments, warm teachers, small classrooms, but they were traditional in their thoughts about learning.

Technology also played a huge role in how they taught. I kept hearing all about “smart boards” and my intuition was like, “Do I really want my kids staring at a huge computer screen all day?” That’s not exciting to me at all.

I really wanted my kids to be in a creative environment. To me, the arts are just as important as reading and mathematics. I never particularly excelled in “typical” academics, but only later learned in college that I was actually highly creative and very good at critical thinking. I wanted my kids to realize their gifts, way before college.

Then I remembered Waldorf. The one I visited years ago did not resonate with me. But there were others. I called a fairly new Waldorf school in Miami and made an appointment to tour the school. My husband trusts my intuition as a parent and basically was cool with whatever I thought was the best environment for our kids.

I toured the school and fell in love. So much so that, ironically, rather than celebrating a major find, in anger I called my mother to ask her why she didn’t send me to a Waldorf School. “Mom,” I spoke in my best moody tone, “why didn’t you find a school like this for me? Think of all the time I wasted learning how to forge your signature to get out of Physical Education!” I guess seeing this place made me realize how amazing school could have been.

My brilliant, Ivy League-educated friend Lauren sent her children to Waldorf and because I am not good with details, she convinced me that the academics were totally fine. Listening to her well-articulated explanation of the school’s overall curriculum, I realized my kids would become more than just awesome knitters.

Neal, and we, entered the Waldorf world. Without boring you with details about the Waldorf philosophy and its extension to our home life, I will tell you we limited all media to only minimal on the weekends, junk food is not permitted at school and they ask that kids don’t participate in competitive sports or overload on activities until they are older.

I noticed on Waldorf play dates that Neal was doing the same stuff other kids at Waldorf do — climb trees, build forts, look for insects and snakes, jump and run through puddles and play in the rain. And without technology present, they just did these things more. Even more amazing, they can do this stuff after school. Waldorf does not give homework until fourth grade. What a relief.

Waldorf teaches emotional/social development, which is insanely important. My youngest son Liam switched to Waldorf this year. He is different from Neal. Like me, he has a stop to smell the roses approach to life. Because it’s not a race at Waldorf, it’s more important to do things correctly no matter how long it takes. Liam is loving it.

All kids learn to knit at Waldorf. It is taught even before the alphabet. It perfects fine motor skills, has been said to improve memory, works both sides of the brain, and prepares children to be better readers when they are ready for that step. I find it so cool to watch my boys knit and crochet, they love it and it gives them a sense of accomplishment. Currently, I am using their skills to make scarves and sell them to cover their tuition costs (OK not really, but not a bad idea).

I am very aware that Waldorf is not free of controversy and it’s not for everyone. I know there is an idea about Waldorf parents being cultish hippies or extremists who make their kids grow their own food. That’s not true at all. Some follow all the “rules” and some, like me, do it in our own way that feels right for our family. I don’t believe in extremes, but I do believe in having a childhood that’s free of stress and pressure and filled with imagination and wonder.

Many people question how Waldorf’s belief in gnomes and other folklore may cause an unrealistic view of the world in early childhood. But the world Waldorf creates for children, is one that fosters total imagination — a world in which all children should live. I never really believed in exposing young children to the “real world” as other parents would mention. It seemed to them that not exposing children to this “real world” would somehow create naive, incapable and the worst of all “non-competitive” humans. These ideas to me were foreign. I wanted my children to be naive and wasn’t interested in fostering a competitive nature. I didn’t realize that my ideologies regarding child rearing was quite in line with the Waldorf philosophy.

My boys would have been fine if they stayed in public school, but Waldorf is a priceless gift and I am glad I unwrapped it. The Waldorf tradition teaches kids about humanity… how to just be good humans. For my son Liam’s birthday and his last day of school (we are moving to California), his teacher, Ms. Pattie, wrote him a beautiful poem. She lit the candle on his cake (freshly baked by my mom) and instructed Liam not to make a wish yet. Ms. Pattie looked at the class and asked each child to tell Liam what their wish is for him. Without hesitation (these are 7- and 8-year-olds), one by one, these well-rounded, wholesome, age-appropriate children looked Liam straight in the eyes and shared their sweet wishes. “I wish you love your new school and make friends in San Francisco,” “I wish you the best birthday and hope you love San Francisco, I will miss you so much.”

A moment like this one only makes me feel that I have made the absolute, unequivocal right choice for my children. No, they are not learning in a “traditional” way, but they are growing into empathetic, incredibly well-rounded, good and, most importantly, happy humans. And that’s what I want for my boys. Period. The end.


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