The Honeybirds program is for children aged 2.5-5. School runs Monday-Friday, from 9am to 3pm. There are two groups, the Little Birds (2.5-3.5) and the Big Birds (3.5-5). Part-time enrollment is available for Little Birds. Big Birds must enroll full time.
Upon arrival, children are greeted with modeling clay, drawing, bread dough, or another tactile activity to create a grounded beginning to our day. Sometimes this activity might be the planned lesson for the day. Children are also welcome to find games to play or initiate artistic endeavors on their own during this time. Open play happens until there is a good transition point for everyone. As a play school, we do not break up a good game! Circle time follows, where we greet everyone, employ songs and rhythmic play, and tell the story of the month. Afterwards, we all share a snack. We try to go outside every day, even if it’s just for a walk around the block during inclement weather. We might go to a neighborhood playground, or to our backyard. Afterwards, everyone comes together for a communal lunch. The older children wash and dry the dishes and tidy up after lunch. Quiet time occurs after the meal and lasts 45 minutes. The little ones who need to sleep nap in the backroom behind a closed door. The rest of the group stays in the front room for their quiet time. Every child has a rest mat and bedding. During this time, children are encouraged to look at books quietly, practice an individual craft like braiding, beeswax modeling, or finger-weaving and use whisper-voices. After quiet time, we have an afternoon snack, followed by one last activity until pick-up time.
Honeybirds is a very small school. We believe that a small mixed age group is beneficial to both Little Birds and Big Birds, which is why keep our numbers small. There are never more than 12 students at school. Little Birds take cues from their older counterparts and Big Birds love the responsibility of leading by example. We also take steps to make sure that both groups are receiving all of the support they need. We require that Big Birds be enrolled five days per week so that they may reap all the benefits of our curriculum, the social setting, and the developmental environment. Little Birds may be enrolled between two and five days per week. Big Birds have slightly different experiences throughout the school year than the Little Birds.
As educators, we aim to take the whole human being into account. We are focused on both what the child is and what they are becoming by keeping in mind that the child is an individual and a citizen of humanity. We use the rhythms of nature and the human body to allow for development in the most natural way.
We realize that early childhood education differs considerably from grade school. The young child is something akin to a highly sensitive organ of perception. What is most important in these first few years is creating an environment where the child can absorb the essence of character building qualities through indirect means. Our method incorporates aspects of the Waldorf method, principles present in yoga, ecology and general-mindfulness cultivation practice. Some of these principles include:
- non-violent communication
- empathy for fellow human beings
- awareness of the interconnectedness of all things
- respect for and integration of nature into daily life
We feel it is vital for our work as teachers to exemplify these principles. We strive to create an environment that gently instills these values in the core fiber of the kids. We understand that Honeybirds will most likely be a child’s first classroom experience. The environment should therefore be as safe and comforting as possible. We refer to the space as the "nest.” The nest belongs to all of us. We all strive to upkeep it and make it better. The classroom itself is simple; toys are few in number and ambiguous in nature so as to allow children to imagine them in infinite ways. Artistic activities include painting, clay modeling, and weaving.
Our curriculum is based on seasons, nature, and goings-on in the world. For example, September is harvest month, when we discuss the hard work farmers have done all year to prepare for the harvest. We might harvest some things ourselves, grind wheat and turn it into bread, have a harvest festival at school, and paint with wheat shoots and stamp with acorns.
There are no formal math or reading lessons for the children. As they become ready, the Honeybirds will be introduced to these subjects through conceptual artistic and game-based methods.
Honeybirds is located in the garden apartment of a brownstone in Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy. We have two play rooms, a kitchen, bathroom and large back garden. We are excited to work on the backyard as a group and watch our raised garden bed grow along with our Honeybirds! We have a large sandbox to accompany our garden bed.
We make plentiful use of our kitchen! Every day, we prepare lunch and two snacks for the children. Through our weekly Food Fairy program, we supply the whole school with homemade, delicious meals. All food comes from the local food co-op, is organic, non-GMO and vegetarian. Helping to prepare these snacks and lunches - and helping to clean up - will be part of the children’s daily rhythm.