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Experience is the best teacher at new Waldorf-based childcare centre

This What’s Up Wednesday features Karen Weyler director of the new Star Seedlings Family & Childcare Centre on Speedvale Avenue

Albert Einstein said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.” It’s an observation shared by many early childhood educators including Karen Weyler director of the Star Seedlings Family & Childcare Centre on Speedvale Avenue.

“Children are the future and we don’t have a clue what that future looks like,” said Weyler. “The world we are preparing these children for is beyond our imagination but we have to prepare them to be secure in themselves, to be flexible, to think outside the box. To fall down and try again and again and again.”

Technology will continue to play a dominant role in the future development of children and while it offers unprecedented access to knowledge and communication, Weyler has concerns about the isolating effect it appears to be having on their interpersonal relationships and connections to the natural world.

“In my teaching I saw very much how childhood was changing,” said Weyler. “Children were changing. They were becoming more anxious, less imaginative and playful, so I became more and more interested in the very young child from birth to three.”

Weyler was born in Bermuda one of three sisters and two brothers.

“My first career was in hotels and restaurants,” she said. “Being in Bermuda, that was our industry. Being a teacher was a second career.”

Her world view and career path changed when she moved to Germany with her husband and two children to open a restaurant.

“It was through my four-year-old son and it was all very strange,” she said. “We were coming from a beautiful island where the temperature was warm and you could just go in and out the screen door, to the third floor of an apartment building in the city with a new language.”

She enrolled her son and herself in a Waldorf kindergarten.

“We went together one day a week as visitors and I had to transform myself to go into the the imaginative play world of a child. I could really see how important the environment was for him to be confident, relaxed and open to learning and trusting. That experience convinced me there was something very good here. I think that was the turning point for me to leave the hotel-restaurant world.”

The family moved to Canada in 1994 and Weyler became more focused on teaching. She was trained in the Waldorf method at Antioch University in New England and is also college certified as an early childhood educator.

“In 1996 the Trillium-Waldorf school opened here in Guelph and I was very much involved in putting that on the map,” she said.” I was the chair of the board and then the kindergarten teacher at Trillium for three years and then I moved to Richmond Hill and taught at the school there for seven years.”

Weyler teaches teachers the Waldorf method through the Rudolf Steiner Centre in Toronto and has taught overseas in China, Nepal and Vietnam. She moved back to Guelph five years ago and is scheduled to open the first Star Seedlings Family & Childcare Centre on Speedvale Avenue next month.

“They have given me the task to open 100 childcare centres like this across Canada,” said Weyler. “It is a very ambitious task but why not?”

She said there is a shortage of childcare centres in Guelph with only 20 per cent of families being served. She said parents that attended the centre’s open house last weekend are looking for more than a place to warehouse their children while they are at work.

“By age five, about 80 per cent of the brain has already developed so, it’s hard to go back and remediate and change things,” said Weyler.

“Our childcare centre is very much relationship based. I don’t call it daycare and it’s not an early-learning centre. It is very much the relationship with the caregiver and the relationship with the other children and the environment. So, they are learning but it is not an abstract learning.

"They are learning through doing and participating. Our culture is very fear based and I want this childcare to be full of joy and wonder. We sing and we have time to dig up a worm in the garden. That’s joy.”