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. 🕯

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.

 

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.