Hutterite Kindergarten: Kleineschul
While I'm in Europe gathering the seeds for my next book I leave you with this excerpt from , I Am Hutterite.
(The gorgeous and delicious cake on my Facebook page was made by Sue Hein from Prince Albert and commemorates the 10th anniversary of the publication of I Am Hutterite.)
At two and a half years of age, I started Kleineschul, kindergarten.
The Hutterites created kindergartens three hundred years before kindergartens were established in Europe. Early in their history (in Moravia) Hutterites prospered as physicians, farmers, and artisans and enjoyed universal literacy. Children from royal households often attended Hutterite schools, including their kindergartens.
The Kleineschul was a vibrant part of our youth both socially and spiritually. We were taught traditional German prayers, stories, and songs which our young minds soon committed to memory.
Mother would take me to the kindergarten before breakfast, and it was where I spent the balance of my day until I was five years old. Bowls filled with cream so thick it couldn’t be poured, baskets of golden buns, and jars of strawberry jam awaited us on the low, wooden tables in the Kleineschul. Freeing myself from Mother’s grip I hurried to my seat. Schmond Wacken (dipping cream) was my favorite breakfast. We eagerly clasped our hands and bowed our heads to repeat our German prayers in unison before diving in, scooping generous dollops of jam onto the linen-colored cream and plunging the soft, fresh buns into the decadent dip until there wasn’t a white streak left at the bottom of our bowls.
When our bellies were filled, we were entertained with songs, stories, and games. We also had regular outings to see the geese or visit the colony garden. We developed our fine motor skills opening pods in the pea patch and pulling out baby carrots to see what size they were.
The Kleineschul was run by three Kleineschul Ankelen (kindergarten grandmothers), a post assigned to senior women on the colony whose own children were grown and whose experience and wisdom was valued by the community. In Fairholme, Sana Basel, Suzanna Basel, and Ravekah Basel shared the position in rotation, each with a distinctly different approach.
Suzanna Basel, was Hilda’s mother. Since my birth, I had spent so much time at her house I sometimes referred to her as Muetter (mother). It is common for a Luckela (mother’s apprentice) to take her charges to her own home during the day, and I soon became very attached to Suzanna Basel. She indulged me with candy, but best of all, she let me clean her dentures. Every day I would climb onto a stool next to the bathroom sink, sprinkle her false teeth with Ajax, and scrub them with a toothbrush under running water. Then, without fail, I would try them on. I couldn’t wait for the day I would be fitted with a pair of my own.
During our afternoon naps, all the children slept on rows of mattresses in the sleeping area. The boys were on one side of the room and the girls on the other, but I slept with Suzanna Basel on the double bed in the corner. Leaning heavily on the edge of the big bed, she would take off her plain black shoes and place them evenly in the corner. Then, with a heavy sigh, she would remove her glasses and Tiechel and put both on a stool nearby. “Schlofst du nonnitt?” Aren’t you sleeping yet? She would ask with a yawn as the back of her head fell on the pillow next to mine. The plain hair needle that held up her long, dark hair was always the last thing I saw as I too, drifted off to sleep.
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