Winter Spiral 2017 at Sanderling Waldorf School

Deep Mid-Winter drawing near,

Darkness in our Garden here – –

One small flame yet bravely burns

To show a path which ever turns.

Earth, please bear us as we go,

Seeking Light to send a-glow:

Branches green and moss and fern,

Mark our path to trace each turn.

Brother animals, teach us too

To serve with patience as you do.

We walk with candle toward the Light

While Earth awaits with hope so bright:

In the Light which finds new birth

Love may spread o’er all the Earth.

Deep Mid-Winter drawing near – –

May Light arise in our Garden here.

—-Poem by Nancy Foster
🌲🍎🕯

Earlier this morning I watched Chloe’s first grade class walk their Winter Spiral, a beloved Waldorf school tradition held as we approach the darkest time of the year.

The Eurythmy room at Sanderling Waldorf School was transformed with a double spiral made from evergreen boughs and interspersed with golden stars, crimson poinsettias, gleaming shells and crystals.

The children quietly enter the darkened room, a single candle burning in the center of the spiral and the sweet song of a lyre playing softly in the background. One at a time the children are invited to enter the spiral, unlit apple candle in hand, where they walk silently and reverently toward the center, going inward into the stillness where the light is. They light their candles, their angelic little faces aglow, and place them along the evergreen spiral as they exit, illuminating the path for their friends who will follow them.

By the end of the walk the darkness of the room is dispelled by soft, golden light and the children leave in quiet confidence, carrying their rekindled lights inside of them out into the dark and chaotic world.

The symbolism of this deeply moving tradition isn’t explained to the children, and it doesn’t need to be because the experience of it lives inside of them in a way that words are too clumsy to express anyway. ❤️

Winter spiral is beautiful and touching and I never leave there with dry eyes. 🕯

Winter Wonderland Faire 2017 at Sanderling Waldorf School

We had our Winter Wonderland Faire at school today and it was truly magical. The parents and faculty of Sanderling Waldorf School really know how to throw events!

When I arrived to help set up my booth (I was in charge of the Chat n Craft store) I took a peek into the Angel Room. It was STUNNING. Chat n Craft and Grade 1 did a beautiful job on the hand made gifts for that room. In case you’re not familiar with an Angel Room, it’s a room where kids enter (sans parents) with tokens to do their own gift “shopping.” This is to foster the spirit of giving. The room featured a beautiful angel, and 1st grade parent volunteers to accept tokens and wrap gifts for the children. Look at how beautiful it turned out!

We have so many talented and crafty parents at our school!

Here’s a video I took of the room during set up:

I didn’t get to explore the Winter Wonderland Faire because I was busy working the Chat n Craft store the whole time, but Keith, Jeffrey and Chloe really enjoyed themselves! There were Renaissance games, mining for gems, a Crystal Cave, Tea with the Snow Queen, Stories with Father Winter, a pocket person, a natural children’s craft room, a zipline, organic food and baked goods and so much more. It was so amazing. I love our school! For more info on our school and on Waldorf education in general, check out Sanderling’s website at http://sanderlingwaldorf.org/.

Organic Gardening in the Waldorf 3rd Grade Curriculum

3rd grade garden at Sanderling Waldorf School

Jeffrey was really excited at school pick up this afternoon because his class harvested some organic goodies from their garden today!  He filled his basket with spinach, kale, butter lettuce, speckled lettuce, arugula, fennel and calendula flowers. He let me sample some of the spicy arugula and it was divine!  There’s nothing quite like fresh organic produce the same day it was picked. 🙂

My little “Farmer Boy” Jeffrey bean with his basket of organic produce
Organic leafy green goodness! Those 3rd graders are great gardeners!

Gardening is a big part of the 3rd grade curriculum in Waldorf schools around the world, and not necessarily for the reasons you might think. 3rd grade is a big year of transformation. It is during this stage of development when children start to view the world through a vastly different lens and begin to feel a deeper sense of being separate beings in the world. They are experiencing a very significant shift in consciousness where they are leaving behind the dreamy, magical realm of childhood and entering into a very different world, like Adam and Eve being cast out of the Garden of Eden.

Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf education, refers to this period as the “9 year change.” When they leave that carefree space of taking everything at face value and questioning nothing, it can be very jarring for many kids. It can be a time of loneliness and insecurity, and there can be many thoughts of mortality and emerging fears that weren’t there before, like fear of the dark or monsters under the bed. It’s during this time when many 9 year olds will start to feel very alone in the world and begin to question things that were once taken for granted. There can be tears—LOTS of tears—and moodiness, but it’s different for every kid.

Going back to the Adam and Eve metaphor, the 9 year change marks a “fall from grace” and the third grade Waldorf curriculum is designed to meet the children right where they are.  The curriculum gives the 9 year old (or in Jeffrey’s case, almost 9 year old) the gift of meeting the world that he has come to acknowledge with the tools he will need to live in his new home, the earth.

3rd graders learn about three essential, practical requirements for all of humankind—how we work with nature to provide ourselves with food, clothing, and shelter. So far Jeffrey and his classmates have created their garden which they care for each week, they’ve built a sukkah from bamboo, they’ve built their own one-legged wooden stools and they’ve done quite a bit of food preparation.

This is the sukkah built by Jeffrey’s 3rd grade class earlier this fall. It is a hut or temporary shelter from the Hebrew tradition.

These kinds of activities are just what is in order and turns this year of turmoil into a rewarding experience. The 3rd grader goes forth with gusto, tools in hand—literally, to conquer the world. By the end of the year the third grader has the confidence in their abilities to navigate their way through life with a true sense of knowing that, if need be, they could make it on their own.

 

Organic Buckwheat Pancake Making with Sanderling Waldorf 3rd Graders

This morning I volunteered to help Jeffrey’s 3rd grade class make organic buckwheat pancakes.  In Waldorf schools across the globe, much of the 3rd grade curriculum is centered around life skills and the practical, like cooking, gardening, even construction.

They are currently reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which is where they got the idea to make their own buckwheat pancakes, complete with molasses just as Almanzo Wilder ate them in the story! (We also had organic maple syrup for the kids who didn’t care to try molasses.)

This was the recipe we used, and we broke up into small groups to make them:

I worked with some of the girls in Jeffrey’s class.

Jeffrey got to work with his friend who has been in class with him since the Waldorf nursery kindergarten days.

The kids made SO many pancakes!

Yesterday, the 3rd graders got to make homemade ice cream from scratch, and their teacher let it get good and frozen overnight. The kids make ice cream once ever month and they use it to celebrate the birthdays in class. This month there are 5 birthdays to celebrate! These lucky kiddos got to enjoy not only their own homemade pancakes, but their homemade ice cream as well!

These lucky kiddos have no idea how good they have it! 🙂 Two days from now, they will also get to celebrate Sanderling Waldorf School’s annual pie day, which always takes place on the Friday before Thanksgiving break. The school will gather together at the start of 4th period and say their class blessings, sharing heartfelt gratitude with one another, and then we will all get to have delicious homemade pies. And then we will dismiss for Thanksgiving break! This has been a fantastic school week indeed!

Martinmas Lantern Walk 2017

We just got home from Chloe’s lantern walk for Martinmas, another beautiful Waldorf school tradition celebrating the light within. Her 1st grade teacher wrote “From France comes the legend of St. Martin, who, as a young man, passed under an archway in the city of Amiens and discovered a poor beggar huddled there. The man was nearly naked, shivering with cold, and had received no alms to assist him. On seeing him, the young Martin took his own cape from his shoulders, tore the garment in half and covered the poor man to warm him. The following night Martin had a dream in which he saw Christ wearing the same piece of his cape. The experience confirmed in him his devotion to all humankind regardless of their station in life.

This time of year, we are invited to enter into the Martinmas season both as the beggar and the giver. As we near the darkest time of year, we have an opportunity to see the parts of ourselves that are in need of healing and comforting, and we experience the light of our own higher selves as we meet those in need. We celebrate this symbolically by carrying lanterns out into the darkness of night and bringing the joy of our songs and light into the darkness of sky and soul.” ✨🕯✨

Michaelmas at Sanderling Waldorf School: A Festival of Strength, Courage and Will

Today the kids’ school celebrated Michaelmas, the festival of strength, courage and will. The entire school (minus the nursery kids) performed a pageant in which Archangel Michael helped to subdue a fierce dragon, saving throngs of villagers from their demise.

Archangel Michael, protector from darkness and administrator of cosmic intelligence, serves as a symbol of the triumph of good over evil, of courage over cowardice. In times of chaos and uncertainty it is critical that we have the resolve to summon our strength and inner light so we can transform the darkness and be the beings of light we were created to be.

Transformation of darkness requires fearlessness and compassion. It requires accepting the shadow and subduing it—with love. Only light can conquer darkness. The songs and stories of St Michael nurture the inner light so that the children can go into the world ready to face all of their inner and outer dragons in a courageous and heart-centered way. 

At the end of the pageant the school gathered in the yard where the traditional dragon bread, baked by 1st grade moms, was waiting to be shared with the community. I am so grateful to be a part of this community. Happy Michaelmas, friends.

Autumn Chat ‘n Craft and musings on being part of Sanderling Waldorf School

When our family joined our local Waldorf school four years ago, one of the things that really attracted me was the deep sense of community, and the warm way in which we were not just welcomed with open arms, but genuinely embraced as though we had been there for years and years; it felt amazing.

Another thing that really drew me in was the way they appealed to my artsy side. To be a part of a Waldorf school is to be immersed in a world of reverence and beauty, a celebration of the natural world in all of its glory. Everything is deliberate, from the colors of the walls in each grade’s classroom, to the way that only certain materials are used in play.

We were a homeschooling family, but after attending a free puppet show the school put on for the community, we were sold. That probably sounds silly, but that one little puppet play—in all of its simplicity—suggested to me that this style of education was more than meets the eye. (Spoiler alert: it is.) On our walk back to the car, Jeffrey bean (who was 5 at the time) said, “Mommy, can I PLEASE go to school here in September?” The thought had actually occurred to me too.

When we looked into Waldorf, it was right in line with our values. Some of the philosophies were foreign to us (ie: holding off on learning to read, especially since Jeffrey started reading in his toddler years) but it all made sense and it just felt…right. I really can’t explain it. It just felt right in my gut. It was a more of a knowing.

Long story short, we ended up enrolling at Sanderling and haven’t looked back. When I was brand new Waldorf mom, I was invited to attend a parents’ group called Chat ‘n Craft where we got to learn the ways of Waldorf arts and crafts. This style of crafting using natural materials like sticks, acorn caps foraged from beneath the trees, naturally dyed silks and wools really appealed to me. It reminded me of a simpler time, like my childhood summer vacations when my mom would snuggle my sister and I and we would read the whole Little House in the Prairie box set and then takes naps.

After a year of attending as a guest, as I was asked by the veteran Chat ‘n Craft mama if I might be able to take over as the lead, to which I gave a nervous but enthusiastic “YES!” I have been carrying on the tradition at Sanderling Waldorf since, with the help of said veteran mama of course.

This morning we had our first Chat ‘n Craft meeting of the year, and it was sooo good to sit with fellow mamas and talk and vent and sew and needlefelt and share and laugh at our silly mistakes and just BE, in the present moment, together. So, so good.

We worked on sweet little autumn inspired treasures for a store we’ll open at an upcoming musical event with local children’s group Hullaballoo.

We needlefelted apples and sewed squashy little pumpkins. We made gnomes, each with its own personality. We embroidered leafy, woolen beds for sleepy nature sprite babies. We even made fairy dust necklaces. And it was glorious.

I am planning on sharing tutorials for some of the darling things we created this morning, but for now you can enjoy some photos. 🙂

Hand sewn harvest pumpkins
Sweet wooden peg babies with acorn caps, nestled in leafy woolen beds
I loooooove these needle felted apples!
And of course, we are Waldorf, so we have to have gnomes. 😉

Magical, right? Thanks so much for visiting with me while I rambled on about how much I love Waldorf education and arts and crafts and magic and gnomes. Sometimes I do that. 😉 Until next time my friends.

Santa Lucia Day 2016

Today was Santa Lucia day.  Yesterday I volunteered in Jeffrey bean’s class to help the second graders make Santa Lucia saffron buns, and I got to be with them this morning as they walked allover the school singing a sweet song and handing out their saffron buns.

It is our school’s tradition that the eldest girl in the second grade class gets to play the role of Santa Lucia.  Our Santa Lucia was very brave as she walked from classroom to classroom, with a crown of boughs and candlelight atop her head, and Jeffrey bean followed closely (and cautiously) behind her.

This was the song they sang.  I may have cried a little.  They looked and sounded so angelic with their sweet little faces and white clothes. I was able to capture the very first class they visited on video, which you can see below.

My heart!  This day was so beautiful and wonderful and I will always remember it.

The saffron buns. Photo cred: Alex Rymal

Winter Spiral at our Waldorf school 2016

Winter Spiral Photo cred: Embry Rucker

As the days grow shorter and darkness engulfs us, it is time to turn inward and create a little light of our own.  The kids’ Waldorf school has its Advent Spiral today, during which each child carries an apple candle through a winding maze of boughs towards the center where the light is.

They light their own small candles and carry their light forth on their return trip around the spiral, and then they set them down along the path.  While the children travel through the spiral, a harpist plays a soft, angelic tune.  When it is over, everyone exits the room singing Silent Night, softly.

I really love this festival and it’s among my favorite Waldorf traditions.  It really sets the mood for a different sort of holiday season filled with more stillness, reverence, contemplation and beauty, a stark contrast to the usual hustle bustle that we’re all accustomed to this time of year.  I always get emotional watching this, and I walk the spiral myself whenever I get the chance.  There’s just something so special about it.  I know I say this a lot, but I am so grateful my kids get to experience this each December.

Saint Nicholas Day 2016

Every year Saint Nicholas pays our little Waldorf school a visit and stops at each classroom.  He reads from his magical book and leaves the children with gifts of nuts and apples or clementines.

This was Chloe’s first time experiencing St. Nicholas, and it’s something she’s been waiting for since she turned 3 years old. The children were asked to open their gifts after school, so we went to the office while we waited for Jeffrey to get out and I let her open her little gift there.  Her reaction was priceless and I am so thrilled I got it on video.

She is such a sweet little girl, and she is filled with so much love and gratitude.  I wish I could bottle it up.

Jeffrey’s second grade class was also visited.  Saint Nicholas usually addresses each child individually and reads each of them a special poem, but this year—due to a very tight schedule—our teacher said he addressed each child by temperament.  Jeffrey is phlegmatic and this was the poem that was read to him and his phlegmatic classmates:

Dear Golden Retrievers, (Phlegmatic):

Peaceful happy puppy, on soft velvet paws,

Plays with everybody, nips with gentle jaws.

Doesn’t need to be the center of attention,

Happy to receive an occasional mention

Staying out of trouble, wanting to keep peace,

Like a sweet little lamb, wrapped in golden fleece.

Who wouldn’t want to be in your company?

Kind pup, so cuddly, never uppity.

Though sometimes suddenly hungrily grumpy,

Funnily clumsy, or a little sulky.

You are loved by all and all feel loved by you,

For you’re a golden-hearted pup, through and through.

Yup, that’s my Jeffrey bean alright.  I am so grateful that they are able to have such a rich festival life at their school, and that they are still very much in that magical realm.  I am going to enjoy this as long as we can.