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What Is This Childhood?

Finding the Spirit of Early Childhood in Language and Creative Living with Our Families

Carol Toole
Illustrated by Eva Hoisington
October 2023
More details
  • Publisher
    Bell Pond Books
  • Published
    24th October 2023
  • ISBN 9781952166150
  • Language English
  • Pages 136 pp.
  • Size 7.5" x 9"

“This book succinctly explores the consciousness of the young child through a weaving of journal entries (made as a teacher, a young mother, and later, a grandmother), observations and musings, as well as practical activities from my parenting workshops. It is a journey through the child’s world, trails marked by their own words. Their speech, as it naturally unfolds, leads the child to self-consciousness and critical thinking. But not too fast! Stay to savor soft grass brushing bare feet, the skid of sneakers on hot sidewalks, even the ‘gentleness of a mosquito’ as she bites. Find a partner to try out the practices and a quiet moment to journal. I hope this book will serve as invitation to look through a child’s eyes and to hear with heart—it’s no mistake that the word heart has ear inside.” (introduction)

What Is This Childhood? explores the consciousness of the young child through language development, often in their own words. The child’s early utterances reveal a unity of word and experience and of experience and meaning. Children live more fully in perception than conception. Yet, speech as it unfolds eventually leads the child to abstraction, self-consciousness, and critical thinking.

This journey into childhood will deepen the quality of our attention and presence in each moment, enlivening our speech and interactions and thereby preserving our children’s sense of wonder and spiritual connection.

“A treasure-filled journey through the central role of language in the young child’s development. With insight and whimsy, Carol Toole shows us the links between perception, sound, movement, meaning, and early language explorations. The three “Rs” of rhyme, rhythm and repetition are cardinal rules for language acquisition in these years, and Carol gives her readers a wealth of hands-on ways to bring these activities home. She moves from language itself into the ways story and language support the child’s primary work: creative play.”

— Sharifa Oppenheimer, author, Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children

“Carol Toole offers us a glimpse into the child’s enchanting world as it finds expression in their newly acquired language. Her insights take us on a developmental journey and offer the reader stories, poems, verses, and many practical suggestions for parents.”

— Jack Petrash, author, Turning Lead into Gold: The Transformative Alchemy of Waldorf Teaching

C O N T E N T S:

Author’s Preface: My Brother Michael

1. What Is This Childhood?
2. The Dance of Reciprocity
3. Sound, Saying, Naming: A Mother’s Observations
4. Rhyme, Rhythm, Repetition: In Praise of Mother Goose
5. Language as Expressive, Creative Power
6. Oneness to Separation / Experience to Concepts
7. The Heart of Experience
8. Me, Myself, I
9. Memory
10. Living in Pictures: Story through the Ages
12. A Person Becomes a Person through Other People
13. Attention Is Love: What’s Outside Will Later Be Inside
14. Play Is Doing: Nothing Is Everything
15. Language Matters
16. What Is This Childhood? 94

1. Prayers / Meditations for Parents
2. Nature Story Favorites Retold: Life Affirmations
3. Two Teaching Stories
4. A Grimm’s Fairytale
5. Instructions for Felt Standing Puppets

Sources that Inspired This Work
About the Author and Artist

Carol Toole

Carol Toole: In the mid-’70s, the parents of a nursery cooperative in the spiritual community where she lived asked her to be lead teacher. She was just 21, but they often noticed her in the doorway observing the children. Soon her quest to create an environment that fosters children’s innate sense of wonder led her to become a Waldorf kindergarten teacher. Later, she pursued training as an educational therapist, focusing on sensory development and written language instruction.

During the past forty years, she has been a teacher, storyteller, puppeteer, writer, and parent educator, creating a popular series called Creative Living with the Young Child. More recently, she provides Academic Language Therapy, movement therapy, and strategic tutoring to grade-school children and oversees the literacy program at the Austin Waldorf School. Now a grandmother, she is inspired to combine her parenting workshops, observations of children, and love for language at its inception to ponder the question, “What is this childhood?”

Carol’s publications include articles in Renewal Magazine, poetry and essays in the Real Women Write Anthologies, and Tara’s Spring Wish, a book for children.