It’s 8:30 am. In the south end of Shoreline, Tia Aureole (pronounced like the Baltimore Orioles) is making the final preparations for her children to arrive. One by one, they come in, shaking the morning mist off their coats. “Good morning children!” she says as she lightly touches each one on the back. There’s a song in her voice, as there is in pretty much everything she does. Tia Aureole is actually Aureole Lopez-Shulman, owner of The Winding Willow Preschool. She calls it “Waldorfy” or “Waldorf Inspired” because of her strong connection to the community started by Rudolph Steiner in 1919.
Both of Aureole’s kids have been through the Waldorf curriculum, and she was the lead after-care teacher at the Brightwater School before she left to start her own preschool in 2013. Coming from a Danish and Mexican background has created a strong sense of family and community which Tia Aureole shares with everyone she meets. A kind and compassionate woman, Aureole’s ideas for how to lead the children is based in song, nature, and love.
We think about school generally to mean ABC’s, counting, mathematics, and recess, but at the Winding Willow School this is far from accurate. The Waldorf philosophy has the children spending all of their time using their imagination rather than using their analytical minds. Here’s an example of how different the Waldorf philosophy is from traditional schooling. Recently at Shoreline Community College the Parentmap Preview event was held. All the preschools from the Seattle area come to this convention of sorts and the parents come to wander around and look at all the schools. While the majority of the tables are staffed in regular convention fashion with foldout boards, flyers, and tchotchke giveaway items, Tia Aureole folded up the table and stashed it away. She decked out the booth in a wooded wonderland motif and she sat in the open space allowing children to come play on the carpet with wooden blocks made from actual tree branches.
At the preschool age, you might think that it’s really just more like a daycare but that’s not so. At the Parentmap Preview people were coming by with children that weren’t even a-year-old and they were already planning for where they were going to send their child to preschool because they heard the competition was so tough to get into a good school. While some preschools focus on academics and others focus on nature they all have one goal in mind and that is to produce healthy happy imaginative children.
Ask Tia Aureole what the biggest thing is she sees in her school as a result of working with the children and she’ll tell you it’s love. “The children just learn to love each other. It’s already a natural thing for them to do, I’m just here to encourage it” she says. The children are involved in all aspects of the school from grinding fresh corn to make fresh tortillas to washing the dishes after they eat their meals; they are hands-on and they love it
It’s a difficult choice for a parent to make a decision like this, because there are so many choices. Aureole says “You just have to do what feels right. You’ll know if it’s a good fit. The parents will know, the teacher will know, and the child will know. “
Besides operating the preschool, Aureole gets involved in the community. She assisted on the planning committee for the Ronald Bog Arts Festival, she sings in the church choir at the Shoreline Unitarian church, she’s the singer in “Bossa in Wonderland” a local Jazz Band, and is also a Doula, helping mothers with the birthing process.
If you are considering starting your youngster in preschool or are thinking about making a switch, Aureole offers tours and holds open houses as well as offering a parent-child class for those who are not yet old enough to come solo.
As a matter of full disclosure, besides everything I’ve said here, Aureole also happens to be my wife of 15 years, which makes writing this article that much more special for me.
Winding Willow School can be found online at www.windingwillowschool.com
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