The Olympics Games – A Fifth Grade Waldorf milestone.

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At the end of the Fifth Grade, when a child is of secondary school age, it is a tradition amongst Waldorf schools to hold an athletics event, that they call the Olympics, based very loosely on the original Olympic Games held in Ancient Greece. In the fifth grade curriculum, pupils study Ancient Greek and Ancient Civilisations, so by the end of the school year they are very familiar with Ancient Greece.

Waldorf schools consider children of 11 years (grade 5 age), to be at the height of their strength and stamina, before the onset of puberty, and what better way to celebrate this time than this unique athletics event.

My daughter’s school went one step further and turned the whole preceding week into a feat of determination and stamina, when they undertook to hike the 24 mile plus distance between their school and the host school.

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Here they are being waved off and cheered on by the whole school 

Leaving on a hot Monday in late June, they walked eight hours a day, for three days, cross country, in the relentless heat. Every night they camped somewhere different.

Parents were tasked to set up and take down the camp daily and were responsible for catering, shopping, walking and all the preparations. It was a big job, but absolutely worth it: the teacher and children so appreciated arriving at a well set up camp and immediately being able to relax, cool down and play after their long walk. They most certainly deserved it!  I hear there were plenty of water fights! 🙂

We were so impressed by this small class of nine’s determination and fighting spirit to complete the walk without complaint and to enter into the spirit of the event.

They arrived at the host school, to a “Welcome”banner and many of children from other schools, who had just arrived by bus, were in awe of their achievement, before any of the athletic training had even started!

This particular Olympics was held at a large Waldorf school with extensive grounds. There were over twenty different schools taking part, from England and abroad, including Poland, Bulgaria and Germany and all were camping on the school grounds in preparation for the event.  I estimate around 350 pupils or so.

My daughter’s class had spent many months last year training; with morning runs around a track in the park and practising a variety of Olympic sports, including javelin, discus, high and long jump and wrestling, so they were well prepared for the next three days.

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There were two days of training before the actual event, where the children from the different schools were divided up into groups, representing Ancient Greek Cities. It  was an opportunity for children to get to know other Waldorf schooled children. Each City was led by an Archon, who was typically a fifth grade teacher, and had a different ribbon colour. Ribbons were tied to a long pole that the Archon held, so that the groups knew where to assemble. My daughter was in “Marathon” which had a light blue colour. She was happy with that, loving blue as she does 🙂

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It was such an inspiring event, I just had to share it with you and I must say I am enjoying reliving it myself! 🙂  Unfortunately I lost my camera battery the day before the event and didn’t have the time to purchase another. Luckily after trying all kinds of options, I was able to borrow a friend’s camera for the event. The photos aren’t as clear as I would have liked, so I apologise in advance for some of the fuzzier photos, but I wasn’t used to the camera and there was a lot of movement! I wouldn’t have missed recording this milestone event in my daughter’s life, for the world. It really is such a glorious way to mark the end of the primary school years and this memory will last the children lifetime, of that I am sure.  I certainly still carry the memory in my heart with such pride. 🙂

The families were able to camp onsite overnight on the Friday, but away from the pupils. This was just as well as we had to rise early on Saturday!

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By 7.45am we were all gathered for the Opening Ceremony. It started with a steady drum beat echoing through the arena, followed by a torchlit procession of children (one child chosen from each City). The other children followed in their “Cities”, all dressed in white tunics with bare feet, as they would have been in Ancient Olympia.

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Each child wore a belt that they had made themselves (parents had made the simple tunics). My daughter had embroidered some Ancient Greek writing on hers. I don’t think it was anything too meaningful though!!

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The big torch was lit and the Games could begin.

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The first event was the “Marathon”, which was a mile long run around the grounds, finishing on the running track. My daughter loves to run and is the fastest in her class, over long distances, which she is proud of. Due to every child running the race, she found herself quite far back at the beginner’s line and it was difficult for her to push forward until part way through the race, but she did herself proud, being one of the first girls to reach the finish line and beat a lot of boys in the process- an important detail!! 😉 She is only a slight thing but built for speed, with fierce determination. She certainly doesn’t get her athleticism from me – I was always last to be picked for sports!

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Then there was a sprint, called “The Dash”, where the children raced 70m, ran round a javelin, and raced back. This was divided into girls and boys races.

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High jump and long jump followed. The children could choose between these.  My daughter chose the long jump and each child was allowed three attempts.

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The queues were long, but the excitement was papable and every child was applauded for their efforts.

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Wrestling was next. My daughter didn’t want to participate, but we watched her classmates. The wrestling is done standing up in a circle. The aim is to push your opponent out of the circle, whilst palm to palm. No other part of the body is to touch the other. It was a very civilized sort of wrestling!!

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Then came the javelin or discus. These events went on simultaneously, so the  children had to choose between them. My daughter chose the javelin, as she said she didn’t want to offer up the discus to Zeus!!! 🙂 They were once again allowed three attempts.

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There was a “mini marathon” in between that my daughter didn’t participate in, which was a 400m race I think. She and her classmates enjoyed wandering around and enjoying refreshments instead.

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The message was clear: the event was not about winning; it was about participation and doing the best of one’s own ability. The children were each praised for their own individual efforts: the grace of their running; the focus in their wrestling; the steadiness of their hand in their throwing; their determination and skill. It was a very encouraging event.

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Lastly there was a relay race, which everyone took part in, running 80m each. Luckily my daughter took part in an early race as the heat was really getting to us and I was suffering from bad hayfever due to being in a freshly mown field all day long!

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After the final race, there was a very moving closing ceremony.

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The children sat in their ‘Cities’, in a circle around the central Olympic torch. The Archons called each child up individually and gave them a medal with a ribbon in their ‘City’ colour and praised them for their acheivements on the day and told each child what they had appreciated about their individual performance and efforts in the previous two days.

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Some children were given slips of paper with these written down. My daughter’s group didn’t receive one and she has forgotten what was said to her because of all the excitement. I remember hearing grace, focus and determination, which I would definitely say apply to her! It was very moving and meaningful. Apart from tears of emotion, my eyes were unfortunately streaming with hayfever and the heat of the big torch close by, that I could barely see any of this or even find my way back to our camp without help!! 😦

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There was a lot to celebrate, not least our lovely, supportive School Community 🙂

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I love how Waldorf education celebrates the seasons, yearly festivals, important  milestones and The Individual. There is so much reverence and meaningful attention to detail. I feel this sends an important message to the Children of the Future; that their contribution is recognised and valued and that the Earth and it’s gifts are to be treasured and protected.

Anyone who has visited this blog will know I am a passionate advocate of Waldorf (Steiner) education. For those that want to know more, I wrote this post.

In the past I have written about the wonderful celebrations in the Kindergarten years, including the beautiful Kindergarten birthday celebration and the very moving Kindergarten leaving festival – see here and here.

In previous years, I have written about the meaning of some of the festivals we celebrate at school and how we honour them at home. These include: Candlemas  (2nd Feb), Valentine’s Day (14th Feb), EasterMay Day festival (beginning of May),Whitsun festival (end of May), Midsummer and St John’s (24th June), Michaelmas (29th September), Martinmas (11th Nov) and Advent (four weeks leading up to Christmas). Hope you find some food for thought here for creating your own seasonal festivals. 🙂

***May your life be filled with awe, reverence and celebration – of Mother Earth and of the gift of Life! ***

 

 

 

Surrender – lessons in letting go

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I am slowly learning to let go…to accept things as they are….to trust in Divine Order…to surrender….

There are circumstances in life that can be trying. I find that fighting them or resisting them can be exhausting and cause more suffering than the actual circumstance itself.  I have been on a spiritual path for several years, but it has taken me a long time to reach this understanding and to be able to use the trials of life as “spiritual practise”.

To trust that everything is unfolding as it should be – that there is Universal Order, is difficult for us humans to comprehend. We like to control outcomes, to measure, to have scientific proof, but if we could only let go and trust, rather than micro-manage our lives, things would flow easier and the channel to our higher wisdom and the Divine would be more accessible.

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As we trust that a seed will grow into a plant that will nourish us or lift our spirits with joyful colour in the spring and summer months, we must trust that we too are undergoing necessary growth and development through the challenges we meet. If we trust in Divine Order, the struggle goes out of things, we can relax and be open to receive. There is great freedom in this.

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At this time,  both my daughters and my husband are ill in bed with a virus and I am holding the fort with a heavy cold of my own. 😦 All our lovely plans for the weekend had to be cancelled as well as a long awaited meeting with a dear friend after College on Tuesday.
I have been practising patient acceptance for a while now and realise I have a choice – to feel frustration and disappointment at what I could be doing (and to try to do some of it anyway…college work etc); or to surrender fully to this time at home and let go of expectation. In the act of surrender, I am able to be completely present to minister to my children both day and night and to answer their calls for loving care and physical affection at this time of vulnerability.  I am grateful for this time of closeness, when usually the girls are so independent.

Now my daughters’ fevers have passed and they are more alert, we have been watching some cosy old fashioned films together, including our two new favourites: Little Women and National Velvet and we will watch Anne of Green Gables (which we have already read and enjoyed) tomorrow, as these were some of my favourite films from my childhood, that I had yet to introduce my daughters to.

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We have also cuddled up to read some of our favourite winter books, including The Sea Mice and The Stars, enjoying ginger biscuits and spicy apple juice as the Sea Mice do in this wonderful story. 🙂

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I rarely sit down to share a picture book with my eldest daughter anymore, so it is a treat for me!

I have had a chance to do some knitting whilst my daughters rest and am making good progress 🙂

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and even managed to sew two sets of bunting for my sister’s friends in the snippets of time in-between caring for the children. Hurrah!

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The girls have helped to make pom poms for a “snowball” garland in moments when they have felt like sitting up, so we even have something to show for our time spent at home 🙂

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And I have been inspired to write this post slowly…but surely…

It will probably be a couple of days before the girls make a full recovery, but what could feel like an inconvenience has actually been a gift. A gift of the present moment, of connection, of retreat, of hibernation even 🙂

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There is always a gift if we look for it, I find. Happiness does seem to be a choice.

During the months, whilst I have been away from this space, there have been a few challenges in our lives. One of these has been changes in my childrens’ school life:

My eldest daughter’s class size shrunk at the end of last year (when some children left to start their secondary school education in the State system, including a best friend). This resulted in a class merger between her class and the class above – Grade 6/7 – and her class losing their teacher to a younger class 😦 My daughter felt her disappointment fully and whilst I sympathised with her frustration and disappointment, I tried to remain calm and centred so I could be proactive. Some words that resonated with me at this time were:

” God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”  Dr R Niebuhr

So I did all that I could to prevent the merger, including rallying parents, helping with marketing efforts to try to attract more students to the school (with Brexit, these are difficult times for attracting new business…), writing copious letters and arranging a string of meetings with members of staff to see if there could be another way forward. I used prayer and meditation to help ground myself, but ultimately I had to accept that the merger would go ahead and that our dream of my eldest daughter staying at her Waldorf school until 16yrs may not come to fruition. I have had to let go and trust in the greater plan, whatever that will be. It will become clearer in time….

At the same time, I was meant to be studying for my Biomedicine exam in June and had to resign myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to study as much as I would have liked, due to prioritising my daughter’s class’s needs. I did what I could with the time at hand and had to trust that if this is my path, I would do o.k. It was another lesson in letting go and trusting in the rightness of things as they are. Fortunately it seems I am on the right path…..

And just this last week we found out that our youngest daughter will also be losing her much adored teacher in May as she returns to her home country.  😦 My daughter spent a whole day sobbing on and off, but has reached a level of acceptance despite her sadness. I think when something cannot be changed, all we can do it accept it. The future remains uncertain, but we are choosing to stay positive and trust that whatever changes come along, we will find a way that works for us.

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I am trusting in the bigger plan and trying not to get too caught up in the detail, whilst still being proactive. This has not been my habit in life thus far. I have been an over thinker and worrier – a family pattern –  but it has got me nowhere, except spiking my cortisol levels and affecting my health and wellbeing. I see that now.

I think trusting in the bigger plan is really helpful in difficult times. And remembering that we have a choice about how we react to things. Our thoughts and attachment to ideals can be our biggest enemy; imprisoning us and making us truly unhappy, if we identify too closely with them.

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The fire at our house that I mentioned in my previous post and the consequences, are another example of something that was beyond our control and where I had a choice about how I could react. I could have been frustrated that it created so much chaos and work and just before Christmas and even let it overshadow our preparations for Christmas, or I could accept what was and work with it.  I chose acceptance because it allowed my energies to be used productively; arranging our Christmas festivities etc. Of course I did feel fully the horror when it happened –  I certainly don’t want to deny my feelings.  But it really has been a revelation to see life’s obstacles as an opportunity to practise patient acceptance rather than resistance.

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a page from the year planner that a kind friend gave me for Christmas 🙂

I have had some health challenges over the past years, which were highlighted last year when I started my studies.  Nothing major, but some chronic short term memory loss, difficulty concentrating and very low energy levels, which were interfering with my ability to study. I have been seeing a healthcare professional since September and following a protocol, including going to bed around 9pm for several months and have been following a restricted diet with numerous supplements to support my recovery. It has meant letting go of seeing friends in the evening, starting new projects and spending time alone with my husband in the evening, but I have had to accept this as part of my recovery and that my body needs a lot of rest and nourishment to be able to restore a balance again after years of neglect. I have put some of my life on hold and trust that if I put the effort in with the protocol, it will be worth it. This certainly has been an act of Surrender on my part as the results did not show for quite some time and I am still in the process of recovering and will probably be for some time. But I know that if I am to study and do the things that I feel a calling to do, I need to be in good shape! So I must patiently accept this time of waiting…I am still studying this year; learning about all the different modalities in brief – Herbal Medicine, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Chinese Medicine, Nutrition and Iridology. It is fascinating!  It is supposed to be a lighter year in terms of study requirements, but there is still an exam at the end. I haven’t found time to study yet, with one thing or another, but am once again trying to relax and trust that I will be granted enough time to study so that I can pass the exam in June.

It is a great comfort trusting all will be well. In fact, one of my favourite simple mantras for uncertain times is:

“All is well,  all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well”

I put it to a little tune and sing it to myself to soothe myself and to silence the worried voices. It really helps.

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The agapanthus decided to bloom again in January 🙂

I could see all these challenges as a catalogue of frustrating circumstances that are ruining my peace of mind or getting in the way of my life’s purpose, or I can see them as an opportunity to practise surrender again and again. This does not mean denying frustration. Frustration at change or dismay/deep upset at bad news is totally understandable and a normal reaction to something that puts our life, as we know it, on hold or changes it irrevocably. It is necessary to feel our feelings fully, but ultimately we need to move beyond that to acceptance and surrendering to what is and move forward from that perspective. Surrendering may not change the circumstances, but it is a way to freedom and peace of mind.

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Because of the fire, we have a much reduced winter Nature Table scene, but King Winter had to make an appearance 🙂  

I attend a monthly Spiritual Philosophy group, in which we always do a guided meditation/visualisation. It is my absolute favourite part of the session as I spend time with my guardian angel. So much comes to light in these sessions, it is incredible. Last Thursday, we were encouraged to go sledging and we would meet our guardian at the bottom of the slope. I usually sledge with my feet as brakes when I don’t know the terrain or if it is a fast ride – I am cautious in that way – but as this wasn’t “real life”, I decided to take the brakes off and fly down the slope. Wow! My heart was so light and I felt so deliciously free, just imagining it. I can see this as a metaphor for life. If we put the brakes on (and try to control events), we are interrupting the natural flow of life and the joy of being in the moment. Life can pass us by and the opportunities that could arise often don’t when we are in a state of resistance. My guardian as usual had some wise words to impart, advising me that I already know what to do…I do think the answers are within us, the clarity that we seek, but we so often cloud things over with our overthinking, using our precious energy to try to control outcomes.

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So I am trying to make a point of noticing when I tense up and if my shoulders and jaw become tight (when I am resisting something or holding on too tightly to an ideal outcome) and consciously making an effort to let go.

Another mantra that a friend and counsellor gave me that I have put to a simple tune and sing when I feel the need is:

“ As I let go, I heal on every level”

I would highly recommend it. It literally dissolves my stress. My shoulders lower and I know letting go is the answer.

When I attended an Artist’s Way group some years ago, on the first session, we were asked to write three goals for the course down. We were given a few arts and craft materials and five minutes to do it in! Here is mine:

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To let creativity and ideas flow, we must let go and trust. In so doing we are opening the channels to Divine inspiration and what’s not to enjoy in this freedom! 🙂

These are of course just examples of my own recent personal challenges. The world is full of much greater challenges on a larger scale, but perhaps practising  meeting our own personal challenges with equinamity and acceptance is a good start. Many things are not within our personal control, so we do need to learn to live with uncertainty every day and accept it as part of life. But we do have some control over our inner terrain, our thoughts and reactions and we can practise choosing  peace and harmony.

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This has become an epic post, written over many days!!!  I felt I wanted to share my feelings on this subject as I know we all go through trials and challenges, some that in retrospect may seem trivial and some that shake the foundations of our life as we know it. We all need to have a toolbox of aids to get us through these times. Above all else, I think Faith is the most important; be it Faith in our ability to handle things; Faith that things are as they should be; Faith in Universal Order and of course Faith in the Divine.  Faith is such a comfort and so strengthening.

Wishing you all a good dose of Faith in your lives xx

I leave you with one more mantra that I have put to a tune and sing often. So joyful!

My love is vaster than a mountain,
My peace is a deep as the sea
My joy is like a radiant sun,
My spirit is strong and free”

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Why I chose a Steiner (Waldorf) school for my children – a UK parent’s perspective – highlights and misconceptions

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I am writing this because I don’t think enough parents have heard of or understand what Steiner (Waldorf) education is.  I thought it was time to shed some light on the subject because I believe it is a viable alternative to mainstream education and could benefit many children whom the current state system is failing. There are many misconceptions in the mainstream about Steiner education, so I also want to go about setting the record straight.

Let me say a little about our journey...

I have two daughters at a UK Steiner School and we have been involved in Waldorf education for nine years, since starting in the Parent and Child group when my eldest was two years old.

From an early age, I was aware that my daughters needed a different setting from the typically loud and chaotic toddler groups. I myself didn’t feel at home in the busy, noisy environment either, so I looked around for an alternative; somewhere quiet and safe for my children and somewhere to meet like-minded conscious parents. I was blessed to come upon a local Steiner School, who run a weekly Parent and Child group. As soon as we arrived, I knew I’d made the right decision. The mornings had a lovely rhythm: with free play, parent craft time (what a luxury!), baking bread, outdoor play, circle time and a shared lunch (which parents contribute an item to and always results in a feast!) There was an atmosphere of respect, anticipation, and joyful contribution and the space was wonderfully held by the Parent and Child facilitator. During this time I discovered a lot about Steiner education and realised it would be a good fit for my children. I already felt that an early start at school would “wake” my sweet dreamy children “up” before they were ready for it and knowing that most other countries do not start school until their seventh year, I felt confident that Kindergarten was the answer. I was not disappointed.

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My youngest daughter on her last day of Kindergarten with a hobby horse she made herself!

The Kindergarten years are the Wonder Years. The children slowly unfold at their own pace, unhurried and protected from the faster pace of life outside the school. They are free to make discoveries, to play, to imagine and create, without the pressures of academic achievement. Children are only assessed for their readiness for school in their seventh year (6-7yrs).

I fail to understand why the UK Government, contrary to the educational reports they receive on child development, insist it is in children’s best interests to start academic learning as soon as possible. They are even trying to push it into preschools! There is a feeling that children need to get ahead and this can foster early competitiveness in children or feelings of inadequacy,  particularly in younger, more dreamy children who are simply not ready for a school structure or academic learning at a young age. These feelings can remain for their whole educational journey if not handled skilfully by the teaching staff.

I have heard from both family members and friends how the daily pressures of homework, high expectations, not to mention SATS, have left their children feeling stressed, anxious and even depressed by the time they enter secondary school. Of course there are children that breeze through it all, but many children suffer big knocks to their confidence and many more feel demotivated at an early age. It saddens me that so many children are becoming a casualty of this misguided system.

Studies have shown that an early start can actually discourage a love of learning after a few years. There is absolutely no proof that an early start has a positive effect on learning outcomes. The UK has not improved its position in global education rankings, compared with several countries in Asia, Germany. Scandinavia and Finland, all of whose children start school at six or seven years.

In many countries, Steiner education is a State funded alternative to the mainstream education and it has produced many highly esteemed professionals. In this country, we have not reached this point yet, although there are currently a few Steiner Academies in Frome, Hereford, Bristol and Exeter.

I have heard that there have been further cuts to the Arts in schools. How sad that there is less and less of a place for creativity in schools. We are so much more than just our brains and not everyone will excel academically.  In Steiner schools, song, movement and art are integral to their learning, with teachers encouraging the children to produce beautiful work to feel proud of.

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Getting ready for our annual Christmas Fayre

Anyway back to our story…

As I mentioned, my children are very sensitive and don’t thrive in large groups: they feel invisible and quickly lose heart. I felt that mainstream education would do them no good because their needs wouldn’t be met in such large classes. The Steiner school class size is much smaller, with a maximum of 22 pupils and often smaller classes, and an emphasis on getting to know each individual child. The child feels seen and heard. It is a great gift, especially for a quieter child. My daughters have been allowed the time to develop in confidence and to learn at a pace that suits them. They are still enjoying a relatively stress-free childhood. I have seen my once shy and retiring children grow from strength to strength in confidence and ability. My children are now very confident speakers in their class, something I feel sure would not have happened if I had followed the mainstream option.  I fully believe that this type of education should be a model for the future.

Mainstream education tackles subjects like politics, sex education, environmental concerns and other subjects I feel are inappropriate at primary school age. Children can lose their innocence and belief that the world is good far too early on and some children can feel overburdened with worry when they are powerless to change anything. In contrast, such subject matter is introduced in Waldorf education when the right level of maturity is reached to receive it.

In Class 1 (6-7yrs), the child is in a reception-like environment with an emphasis on setting boundaries for behaviour in a school classroom and introducing the child to life in the main school. There is still much wonder and fairy tales form an integral part of the curriculum. Letters and numbers are introduced creatively as a prelude to writing and mathematics. The children are assessed individually so all their needs can be met, whether they are early readers or still need time. The child will still only initially attend one long day until 3.20pm. By the end of Class 1, they attend two long days. This increases every year until Class 4 when they attend every day until 3.20pm. In many countries, such as Germany and Finland (who are globally ahead academically) half days are still very common.

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A beautiful picture drawn by a class teacher in Class 1

Ideally the child will be with their class teacher from Class 1-8 (6-14yrs), so there is continuity of care and the teacher gets to know the child deeply. The child as a whole is educated, not just the brain, but the body, heart, mind and spirit. There are no screens or textbooks. Instead the child creates his/her own subject books, called the Main Lesson book. These are a real feast for the eyes and soul. Below are examples of a few pictures from my eldest daughter’s main lesson book. So inspiring, I find!

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Part of the Geometry main lesson. If you are going to do something, make it beautiful!

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In my eldest daughters class (Class 5) this year, the children are studying Ancient Civilisations, Local Geography, Geometry and Botany. There have been wonderful local geography project presentations, a superbly crafted class play of “the Adventures of Odysseus” and the children are currently working on a self guided Botany project. In the class the children support each other’s efforts. Other subjects in Class 5 include languages, as well as Ancient Greek , handwork, clay work, sports and a special kind of dance movement devised by Steiner called Eurhythmy. Below are a few samples of this year’s work. 

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A Local Geography presentation on the Lake District.

Each summer, the children go on a class trip to reflect what they have learnt in their curriculum that year and the stage in their development. The children in Class 5, at 11 years old, are considered to be at the peak of their strength (before they enter puberty), so in their final term in the Lower school, they will compete in a special Olympics, held in a large Waldorf school with extensive grounds, where they will meet up with other children of their age from Waldorf schools across England and from abroad. The children will undertake a three day hike, camping along the way, and will spend several days preparing for the Olympics. There is a tremendous sense of achievement by the end of the week. The children are feeling excited and proud of their place in the school.

My youngest, at eight, will be staying away for one night at a youth hostel with her class. She started school after she was seven as she wasn’t emotionally ready at six and I am so glad she waited as she is doing brilliantly and has fully embraced school life. They are in their second year of Handwork and she has been bringing back gorgeous knitted toys including this kitty and a piglet that our puppy has taken a liking to! 

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In this day and age, we are in such a hurry to “grow our children up”. We, as adults, surely know that there is no going back to the innocent days of our childhood; with no responsibilities, time on our hands and not a care in the world.  I feel we need to protect our children’s childhoods from the pressures of adult life as long as possible, especially in primary school.

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We all love our children and for many,  mainstream education fits the bill and children do well there, but I fully believe that at least 20% would do better elsewhere. There has been a 40% rise in Home Education because schools are failing many of our children. I believe Steiner schools are a viable alternative for many families, where parents would rather be working than teaching their children, but I think that not enough people know there is another way.

I have seen children breathe a sigh of relief when they enter a Steiner school after leaving mainstream education, once they have adjusted to the different way we do things. Finally a place where they can be themselves, be recognised and are allowed and supported to grow into the independent, confident people they can be, given the time and support they need.

To summarise, some of the Highlights of Steiner education for me are :

  • The creative curriculum – each year of the Steiner curriculum is designed to reflect where the child is in terms of their development. There are no text books: the teacher imparts all the information and the children create their own beautifully illustrated books by their own hand. They use good quality materials to achieve a high standard of work that they can feel proud of. Music, movement, art and handwork are an integral part of the curriculum and allow a holistic educational approach; educating the child’s mind, body and spirit. I can’t think of anything children need more in this day and age.
  • Recall – The class will spend a little time every morning going over what they learnt in the previous school day, having slept on it. This helps them to integrate their knowledge before moving on to the next topic.
  • Continuity – the teacher ideally stays with the class for seven years (6-14yrs) so there is continuity of care and the teacher knows his/her pupils deeply. This is not always possible in every case, but new teachers will work closely with a departing teacher to ensure that the children’s needs are still met. There is certainly greater continuity than in the mainstream, which I appreciate for my children, who do not do well with too much change.
  • Smaller class size – class size is no more than 24 pupils and often less, so each child feels seen and the teacher has a chance to know them deeply, not just based on academic performance.
  • Individual attention – often more reserved children in larger schools feel invisible, not heard and not able to access what other louder, more confident children can.  At a Steiner school, each individual child matters and the teacher will go to lengths to help the child to feel like a valuable part of the class. There is a sense of belonging and inclusiveness. There are also regular Parents Evenings and easy access to the teacher to voice concerns.
  • Later academic study  – children are considered ready for academic study from the time they start to lose their teeth. This is usually from 6 years. There is no pressure to comply with a fixed learning curve and each child will learn to read and write at their own pace with the encouragement of the class teacher. If a child is a late reader, as my eldest was, they still very much participate in the class and do not feel less than the others. There is learning support if necessary.
  • A cooperative attitude –  the children are expected and encouraged to behave respectfully towards each other and collaborative work is important. It is incredibly inspiring and heart warming to see how supportive the children are of each other’s work in the classroom.  It has certainly not been my personal experience of school life!
  • A community school – My daughters know most of the children’s names in the school. The children feel held and safe in a community of pupils, staff and parents. As they say ” It takes a village to raise a child”. This is the closest I have found to this. Parents are invited to be involved in school fundraising and caring for the school, including cleaning the classroom once a term, which is a lovely opportunity to care for your child’s learning environment and gives the parent an insight into what goes on in the classroom. There is even a school shop, selling healthy foods, run by parent and teacher volunteers which is a hub of the community.
  • Handwork Lessons are a wonderful opportunity to learn various skills. The first two years are devoted to learning knitting and the children make themselves a selection of gorgeous knitted toys of which they can be proud. The children learn crotchet in Class 3 and Cross stitch in Class 4. In Class 5 they return to knitting, making socks and my eldest is now knitting gloves. Here are a few examples of her work. What a wonderful achievement. 

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A cross stitch pin cushion made in Class 4 following a painting of their own design

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Cross stitch Christmas cards made in Class 4

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Knitted socks in Class 5

  • Yearly Class Plays – every year each Class performs a play for the rest of the school and their parents, which ties in with one of their Main Lesson subjects. The play forms part of their Main Lesson for half a term and the children work hard together; painting scenery, making props and some costumes and advertising their play.  This year, my eldest (in Class 5) performed a play of “the Adventures of Odysseus” to tie in with her studies of Ancient Civilisations and learning Ancient Greek.

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My youngest (in Class 2), performed a play about St Francis of Assisi to tie in with her studies of the Saints. They were both superb and the children felt they were part of something very special.

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School festivals – festivals are such a lovely way to mark the the passing of the year and reflect on seasonal changes. They range from special assemblies around Easter and Christmas, to Maypole dancing and jumping over a little fire at Midsummer.

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Lantern walks in November, as the light dwindles, are another highlight of the Early Years calendar and continue for a few years in the main school.

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The Festivals are particularly beautiful in the Kindergarten years when parents are able to participate in the festivities. The children are all very much involved.  

 

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My youngest daughter serving strawberries and cream at the Early Years ‘Strawberry Fayre’ festival  in her last year in Kindergarten 

So those are the highlights, now to tackle some of the Misconceptions of what a Steiner school is:

  • “A free for all Attitude”  –  Steiner Education was designed to educate the “whole child” in “freedom”, which has been misconstrued as a ‘free for all attitude’. This is absolutely not how a Steiner schools works. Children know their place and boundaries for behaviour in the classroom are clear, including expectations of respectful behaviour towards classmates and the teachers. The teacher is in charge and the children are led and held by them. Parents are free to speak to the teacher as often as they need to and there is an open line of communication so things can be tackled early on if necessary.
  • ” A load of hippies” –  If being a hippy, means believing in a peaceful, respectful environment for your child, then I’m fine with that! The school has rules and regulations, just like any other school. There is a code for dress and behaviour. It is not a democratic school. The teacher is there to guide and inspire the children to achieve a high standard of work and behaviour.
  • “Children just play” – In Kindergarten much free play is encouraged. There is a rhythm to the Kindergarten morning, with a walk in the park, followed by circle time, free play, the occasional seasonal craft, a snack, tidying up time and outside play, followed by story time. The children are encouraged early on to contribute to the class; by tidying away the playthings, accompanied by a song and they also help lay or clear the table at snack time. They learn a sense of responsibility and their place in the class through contribution. The ages are combined from 4yrs to 6yrs and the younger children learn from the older ones whilst the older ones are happy to inspire the younger ones by their example. It works very well.  There is no academic work at all. Instead the children have time to evolve as human beings, through their play: Play is considered “a child’s work”.

From school age, play is reserved for the playground and children are expected  to care for the classroom as part of their daily routine. There are movement games but this is all structured by the teacher. 

  • No discipline – this again is not the case at all. Teachers are very much in charge. Parents can approach teachers to speak about their children in detail and children can voice concerns, but ultimately the teacher is in charge and the children can relax and get on with their work. It is a school after all!
  • Not academic/scientific – the Steiner curriculum differs from that of mainstream education and this continues into the Upper school, where pupils will also study for GCSE’s. Although children do not study the three sciences separately,  the curriculum includes science from Class  6 onwards and several children from our school have gone on to study engineering and excel in their fields of interest. Sixth form colleges welcome Steiner pupils because of the broad curriculum and the children’s thirst for knowledge.  

I am so grateful that I was guided to the school so early on in my children’s lives, but it is never too late to give your child the kind of education that meets their need for a creative curriculum, that lets them grow and learn at a pace that suits them, without being overloaded with targets, SATS, homework, because after a long day at school, shouldn’t a child have some free time to download what they have learnt!?

So many of us were impoverished in the way we were taught as children. I for one, would have loved to have been Steiner educated. Being sensitive, creative and an observer, the competitive environment of a Public school killed my joy of learning: It was all about outcomes and exams. I withdrew and although I have come out whole, with very good grades,  it did nothing to build my confidence or self esteem to tackle the big wide world.

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My eldest selling her handmade gifts at the school Christmas Fayre. 

The way the world is going today, we need to find more ways to support the creative thinkers, the entrepreneurs, the inventors as we will need them even more for our future survival.

 

Happy New Year!

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We made it on holiday to Tenerife after all! There were a few obstacles as I mentioned last time, not least our eldest having a major panic attack in the car before taking our flight, poor dear love. It was so distressing for us all and with the pressure of getting to the airport on time and feeling exhausted, we didn’t handle it very well.  😦

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Once things had calmed down, we arrived at the airport with only 50 minutes to spare, but the Gods were with us as we moved easily through check in (we were brought to the front of the queue), breezed through security and amazingly didn’t have far to go to our gate  (it usually takes a good 15minutes walk).  The flight itself certainly wasn’t ideal. We had strong head winds so there was some mild turbulence on and off throughout, but our dear girl handled it admirably: she shut it out by closing her eyes during the stronger turbulence and otherwise distracted herself the rest of the time, by playing hangman, guess the animal and other games with us.

We also encountered several hours of turbulence on our return flight from the States which is why I imagine she went into meltdown, that being her last flying experience. I wish I had had the foresight to arrange a Fear of Flying for Children – will do so in 2018 for sure as my husband is fantasising about a journey to see the Northern Lights for his 50th…

We arrived at our villa by 8pm and were delighted to find that it has a lovely view to the sea and plenty of space around it to play and relax in.

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We are feeling very grateful. It was very bleak when we left the UK and the sunshine has cheered us up already.

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For our New Years celebration, we stopped off en route at a petrol station and bought some ‘junk foods’ like crisps and peanuts (special occasion foods for us) as the shops were all closed by the time we arrived. I tried to make the place look a little festive with bits and pieces I had on hand.

 

In the spirit of gratitude for 2017, I had cut some heart shapes out of card and we wrote down at least five things for which we were grateful in 2017. We all wrote on both sides, realising there was so much to be grateful for in the past year. We are all quite practised now at looking for things to be grateful for, I am pleased to say 🙂

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I have hung them from the ceiling using little pegs on a length of red yarn – there is literally nowhere else to hang them from, as everything is rather sleek and new here. They bring a lovely touch of colour to house 🙂

 

We also looked forward to 2018 by sending little walnut boats into a “lake” I set up. A birthday candle is placed in a walnut shell, by melting the wax into the bottom and the boat is placed in the centre of the “lake” with the candle lit. There are four corners, representing Abundance, Adventure, Healing and Love/Romance. and wherever the boat lands, is the area that will see or needs the most development in the coming year. I wrote how we did this in more detail here

Both of my daughters and I landed in the Healing Corner, where we picked up an angel card. Both my eldest and I picked up the Meditation card and my youngest picked up Spiritual Growth. This was very interesting as since Christmas Day, we have been sitting down for 10 minutes each evening together, looking at a picture of the Madonna for a short time and discussing what they would like to happen in the months ahead (each one of the twelve days of Christmas corresponds with one of the twelve months of the next year, so for example we started speaking about May on Christmas Day). We discuss what comes up for them when we think of that particular month and what their wishes are for that month in 2018.

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They come up with lots of interesting ideas. The girls then pick one of these angel cards (the messages are very suited to children) and I read what it says in the little book that accompanies them. Following this, they either draw pictures or write about what the cards ask them to do. For example my eldest daughter has drawn the “You are Special” card twice so far and we have been discussing what her strengths are. My youngest has drawn “Let go of Your Fears” and “Angel Lights” twice each and we have been looking at what she would like to let go of and she has been talking of the purple angel lights she sees, particularly at school, which I didn’t know of!

They were only asking me a couple of days ago if we could continue these meditations after the twelve nights are over, so when the “boats” landed in the area of Healing and we all picked the Meditation/Spiritual Healing cards, it felt like a sign to continue what we are doing as it is doing us good. Regular meditation and quiet contemplation are undoubtedly great healers. I have also been meditating on my own with the healing Madonna sequence each evening and am so relishing in the peaceful time spent in contemplation before bed. I have the lovely Stacey to thank for this suggestion which I found in her very informative Christmas Eve post (I love all her posts!) I am only now really discovering how special the Holy Nights are spiritually. I had some inkling of it before, but I plan to look into it further and look forward to working with them more deeply in the years to come.

My husband landed on  Adventure, with the Angel Card of “Children”, which was also interesting as he was just saying the other day that he feels he wants to work a bit less and make more time for fun, especially now he is reaching his 50’s this year.

We also wrote our wishes for 2018 on pieces of paper and wrapped them in burlap and string and piece of greenery from the garden. We set fire to them on the bbq outside, sending our wishes out to the universe. Besides this, we drew a simple ‘Wishing Circle’ and wrote these wishes down again, as we often forget what we have wished for. We all put down a dog as our wish! Let’s see…. My eldest decorated it so it looked prettier. We have taped it to the only chest of drawers in the house, next to our line of felt booties, which we peg up daily to mark the passing of the twelve days of Christmas.

One more thing we do at some point over the Christmas period, is draw around our daughters’ hands onto card/felt or whatever inspires us that year, to record how they are growing from year to year. This time they drew henna style patterns on their hands (my eldest was studying ancient India this year at school and is fascinated by everything Indian – except the food!). My youngest daughter doesn’t tolerate henna on her skin, so it was her chance to enjoy the experience 🙂

I find New Year’s Eve a very powerful time spiritually to set intentions and feel deeply into what it is I want to achieve in the coming year. I so appreciate the time and opportunity to do this together with my family.

Apart from this meaningful work, my daughters decided to make party streamers and cut up several paper napkins and used lots of cellotape and paper to create this ‘contraption’ (taped to a bucket!)  🙂 At midnight we waved them around like crazy cheerleaders and did a happy dance 🙂 followed by some time out on the terrace viewing the fireworks. We collapsed into bed at 1am exhausted, but happy!

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I shall leave you now until we return from our holiday. My mother is feeling better now and will join us on Thursday and my husband seems to be fine now too – hurrah!

Wishing you all every good wish for a joyful, peaceful and abundant 2018.

Small joys and deep gratitude

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Now that I am studying, I can only realistically devote a couple of hours each week to writing here and last week, I prioritised writing a Christmas letter instead.

I like to write long newsy letters to friends and family abroad at Christmas time and I usually spend considerable periods of time writing them; in coffee shops and at home (accompanied by Christmas tunes to get me in the mood!) Most letters are around four A4 pages long, some more. I started this in my twenties, when I was a prolific letter writer. I have always enjoyed letter writing as a chance to connect and “spend time” with friends who I rarely see. As you can probably imagine, this is rather time consuming, so this year with my study schedule going right up to the 19th December, I decided to handwrite a long “round robin”-style letter instead. It is eight A4 pages long!

Anyone who has visited my blog, will know that I always have a lot to say 😉

There is a lot to recount after a year has passed and I have tried to make the letter as personal as possible, considering it will reach over 25 recipients. I plan to photocopy it onto colourful paper and write a personal message in a Christmas card with a photo of the girls. Hopefully it will be well received.

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I don’t usually send a photo of us parents as we don’t change too much from year to year (and besides I don’t even think I have one of the four of us!!) I really should try to get one taken as we now sponsor a little girl in India and I think it would be nice for her to have a photo of our whole family. We sponsored a girl in Africa until she reached sixteen this year, when the sponsorship had to end – Jebbeh received a lot of photos over the years!!

In preparation for Advent and Christmas, I have been looking through all my Christmas books, magazines and my brown leather-bound book, in which I have written all our family traditions. I love spending time preparing for Advent and setting an intention for a peaceful, special time. I have made a few plans for crafting and baking and arranged a couple of family outings, but am trying to keep things relatively simple as energies are low at this time of year.  There is still a lot going on at school until 13th December (when we break up – nice and early, thank goodness!

Our Christmas Fayre is this weekend. My eldest has continued to work on the pretty things that she will sell on her stall in the Children’s market. She has finished her doll skirts, angels and small window stars and this weekend she needle felted some more baubles

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Some of these are her sisters, but she is happy to sell them for her. 

My youngest treated herself to an elf costume with some money left over from her Birthday. I think the girls are planning to do another Christmas play for us. Here they both are with their “elving” 🙂

The temperatures here have plummeted to 6 C and we even had ice on our pond.

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It has been so mild this autumn, it feels good to have colder weather in the lead up to Advent and I am sure our Christmas Fayre this weekend will put us further in the mood.

I am treating us to the Jacquie Lawson Electronic Advent Calendar again this year. It is so beautiful and my daughters look forward to it year after year. Originally a grandmother at our school treated us to one every year, which we so appreciated, but as she died last autumn, I have taken it upon myself to treat her grandchildren and some of my lovely friends’ children to keep up the tradition. 🙂

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One of my greatest joys in autumn and winter is to experience the sunrise and sunset – both of which are during our waking hours. The sun rises after seven now and sets around 4.15pm. We often gasp at the wonderful colours as we drive home from school; ranging from vibrant fiery reds and oranges to soft pastel pinks and blues. It is a real joy to experience such beauty in nature – it fills us with much needed reverence.

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Another moment of reverence the other day was peering in at our home from the outside. I had just been in our studio and it was raining and windy outside. As I looked towards our warm, cosy and colourful home, I felt such deep gratitude for this shelter; this refuge from the cold and rain and the outside world.

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I was walking around our City the other day and I was struck at how many homeless people there are. I always am in the winter months – it must be so tough on them, huddled in doorways in the cold, watching everyone hurrying by, doing their Christmas shopping and seeing people sitting in warm comfortable cafes. I am often considering ways to help. I plan to contribute some funds so that a few people can spend the festive season at one of the Crisis centres – a fantastic organisation that helps bring humanity and hope to the homeless. We are also planning to give a big box of food to one of the soup kitchens, who feed the homeless in the evenings. Sometimes I give a few pounds to individuals, but it never feels like it’s enough. The government needs to do something – this needs bigger solutions than I am able to offer….but I can send them my prayers, love and hope. That is what I shall do…. and make sure I always return a smile.

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I have been enjoying studying a couple of hours each day (but not on weekends). I recently spoke with a friend (and mentor) about how I struggle with concentrating for long periods of time and how, after my long day of lectures, I had craved using my hands to craft and relax my tired brain.  My friend had a really great suggestion for me!  She informed me that the brain is only able to receive information for 45 minutes at a time before it needs a break, so she suggested I study for 45 minutes – putting a timer on – and then craft or do something I enjoy for 15 minutes – again using a timer – before returning to my studies and repeating this as often as I have time for.  It is WONDERFUL!!! I enjoy the study and love the break. This week, I had time to fold lots of kite paper so I can make small window stars to include in some of my Christmas letters. Such joy 🙂

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I also finished knitting an Infinity Cowl for my youngest that has been sitting on the needles for far to long and it now very much needed!

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and last week I made some lantern “children”.

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Although Martinmas itself had long passed, I still felt that the Nature Table by our dining table would be enhanced by some lantern “children” 🙂

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Besides, our school lantern walk only took place last Friday (due to staff illness on two other occasions), so lanterns are still very much current here!

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I made them using peg dolls that I have had for ages. I just cut out some felt to fit the doll and glued it on with a hot glue gun (as I didn’t have high tack glue and PVA glue doesn’t work on felt). I also cut out some felt for a cape and hood. I sewed the hat together along the top using blanket stitch and then attached the hood to the cape with a running stitch. leaving two long ends on either side that I pulled together and tied at the front. The woollen hair was stuck on with hot glue, but I think a high tack glue would have been better. We gave the children a shorter hair do as the longer hair didn’t show and was bulky underneath.

My daughters liked them so much that they both made one for their own Nature Tables in their rooms 🙂 It feels good to add something new to the Nature Table every season. We have quite a collection!!

It is such a joy to make time to craft. I make sure I have the materials at hand so whenever I take a break from study, I don’t need to go anywhere (except to make a cup of tea!) and it makes the experience very enjoyable. I highly recommend it!

On the subject of joy and gratitude, we just recently received a new recyling bin. I know it doesn’t sound too thrilling, but it has made me so happy to be able to finally recycle plastic packaging (including fruit punnets, yoghurt pots, bottle tops etc). Until now, we have only been able to recycle glass, cardboard, paper, tin cans and plastic bottles and it has really bothered me not having anywhere to recycle all the other plastic. Friends and family in London have been able to recycle these for a while, so on my trips to visit them, I have sometimes been known to bring a big bag of plastic containers with me! (yes I really do!) I have also taken plastic lids with me to France to recycle!!!

Germany is amazing with its recycling. You can recycle pretty much everything which is astounding and I hope the way we will be heading.  Ideally I would prefer less packaging all round and we often have a fruit/veg box delivered in the winter months to help cut things down (and it has been a way to recycle the plastic punnets).

So right now I am feeling grateful for a lot of things, small things really, but they all add up, I find.

 There is always much to be grateful for if we look for it, isn’t there? 

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Joining the crafty folks at Frontier Dreams Crafting On

 

 

Hallowe’en Birthday

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My dearest eldest daughter celebrated her 11th Birthday last Tuesday.

My daughter’s Birthday falls on Hallowe’en: at the time she was born, around 4pm, the sky was darkening, the room was quiet and the lighting dim. As I recovered from the birth and held my sweet baby in my arms, from our window (on the 13th floor of our local hospital), my husband and I gazed out to see fireworks in the sky and the air was filled with a special kind of magic. Our baby had arrived and it felt like the world was celebrating 🙂

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So every Hallowe’en Birthday, we try to imbue our daughter’s Birthday with a touch of this magic (with a few cobwebs thrown in!) 🙂

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I have shared how we celebrate Birthdays in our family here and my eldest daughter’s Birthday last year here and here. Our Birthday routines are fairly consistent from year to year and my daughters wouldn’t have it any other way! They certainly notice if anything is missing or out of place. To that end, I have written down all our birthday traditions in a book so I can remind myself of what needs doing in case I am tired on the night before the birthday – often the case in the autumn months 😦 There is always something I have forgotten, so I am glad of it!

So the Birthday started as usual with 11 kisses on waking and a walk through a curtain of crepe paper streamers hung by the Birthday girl’s door (we had to go out the day before in search of crepe paper as we didn’t have enough for 11 strips – that doorway is getting so full! – not as easy to find as you might imagine…).  There was a star path to her Birthday chair, which was covered in rainbow coloured gauzy fabric and of course her Birthday crown (made so many years ago, but still going strong as it is made of good strong 100% wool felt!).

There seemed to be a mountain of presents from us, friends and relatives!

After a birthday breakfast and a little play with the new presents, we headed out for a couple of hours to enjoy the autumn sunshine at a nearby National Trust place (as is our tradition). Great quantities of leaves were falling from the trees, so we spent quite some time trying to catch them!

After lunch we headed back home to set our house and garden up for a Hallowe’en themed party.

From my daughter’s 3rd to 7th Birthdays, we held Hallowe’en themed craft parties at her request. Then we took a break for a couple of years, as she was struggling too much with having a party on her Birthday – it seemed to make her so tense, she couldn’t enjoy the rest of the day 😦 But on her 10th Birthday, last year, she wanted to restart the Hallowe’en party tradition and we have hosted two parties now that have been a hit with her and her friends. We play “spooky” games rather then doing crafts as that suits the age and lively temperaments of some of her friends.

The seven guests arrived around 4pm. When everyone was present, they all sat down whilst my daughter opened her presents and thanked her friends personally for their gifts (thank you cards to come). As I have mentioned before, I consider it best that the child open his/her presents when their friends are there, so the giver receives individual thanks, otherwise it feels like there is something missing from this exchange….the energy of giving and receiving…

As far as the games were concerned, they were very similar to last years games (see last years detailed post). We also added some dancing and musical statues to The Monster Mash  which the children loved.

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Apple bobbing of course 🙂 

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Mummy wrapping

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We did blind folded food tasting again. This time on the menu were:

Witches eyeballs – melon balls
Bats brains – marshmallows
Zombie Blood – beetroot juice
Bats Wings – flattened licorice
Warlocks’ vomit! – cold rice pudding
Monster’s fingers – cake fingers

My (scary looking!) husband also told a ‘scary’ story we made up about a headless ghost Arthur who roams our house every Hallowe’en night. He and his wife Nora lived in our house some sixty years ago when she killed him with an axe after several failed attempts. He was asking for our assistance to find evidence that his wife had tried to kill him on numerous occasions and he believed they were hidden in the garden. If we found them all, he could finally be freed from his tortuous existence.

So the children had to hunt the garden using a torch to find the ‘instruments of death’ that his wife had used to try to kill him before she finally murdered him with an axe. Sounds gruesome, but I don’t think anything is too gruesome for these children!!! It was tricky hunting in the dark, with only one torch between four children, but they found everything in the end. (Note to self to buy more torches if we do this kind of thing next year!) 

There were prizes for the games, either spooky shaped chocolates or sugar free juice sweets and for the more complicated games, guests received glow stick bracelets.

The games went very quickly and there was a lot of laughter. 🙂

We then went Trick or Treating for about half an hour or so. We found plenty of welcoming folks. Nothing too scary.

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My youngest never goes out as she is too scared of the impressions out there. She helped Daddy decorate the cake, set the table and handed out sweets at our door.

On our return, it was time for dinner – the same food as last year – mummy sausages and potato ghosts,  which went down well. This was followed by the “Best Birthday Cake Ever” made by Daddy 🙂

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and several rousing renditions of Happy Birthday from my daughter’s friends!

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My husband did some fireworks at the end of the party, which everyone always loves and is a long standing tradition from her birth onwards. 🙂 My husband always does a little dance at the end of each firework, which the children find hysterical! – a couple of the children have been attending since they were 3 years old and really expect it!!

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We also always carve our daughter’s name into a pumpkin because on her 1st Birthday some good friends came over carrying a lit pumpkin with her name engraved on it. We were so touched and it has stuck ever since. These traditions are so meaningful.

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It was a full day. After everyone left, we had a family dance like last year, which our daughter insisted on – her eyes were shining as we took turns to twirl her around the room. 🙂

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Of course we left a little bowl of sweets for the sugar fairy to keep her and her babies   fed through the winter months and she kindly swapped these for some beautiful ‘treasures’ 🙂

It was an exhausting, exhilarating kind of day.

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Dear sweet girl of mine, 11 years on, still marvelling at the wonder of you…

What’s with the weather?

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We have had a strange couple of days of weather here in the South East of England. Weather changes are frequent here of course and it is often a topic of conversation 😉 but yesterday was a particularly unusual day as far as the weather was concerned.

We drive to school along a coast road every morning and are always remarking on the ever changing moods and colours of the sea and sky. As a family we feel changes in mood and pressue in the atmosphere very keenly. Yesterday morning my daughters and I noticed the sun’s rays were just barely perceptible, but were still managing to make beautiful patterns through the clouds. What was an uplifting sight!

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When I picked my youngest daughter up from school at 1pm, she pointed out to me  how the sun was a pinky orange colour and could be gazed at without any glare.

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As we were driving to pick up my eldest from school at 3pm, the sky got progressively darker within a short space of time – very much like the solar eclipse we saw this summer in Portland, Oregon!

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The sky became a dark sludgy brown colour and the air was very still, as though holding its breath. It was very eerie!

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We haven’t experienced anything quite like this here, so I imagined it must have to do with weather fronts elsewhere in the world. My daughters, highly sensitive creatures that they are, remarked that they could smell burning in the air. My husband later informed us that there are forest fires in Portugal, a big hurricane in Ireland and the Sahara desert winds are carrying the sand far and wide. It all made sense finally….

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When I went out yesterday evening, the sky was tinged a yellowy/brown with a rainbow like stripe between the top of the sky (presumably clouds carrying the sands) and the bottom layer that was clearer. The sky got progressively more yellow as the sun set.

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I was just pointing and shooting, no filters!

This morning the sun was struggling to get through the clouds and even when it did briefly, it didn’t have it’s usual strength or glare for this time of year and was still a pinky/orange colour.

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There were a few glimpses of the sun on and off, including this uplifting sight

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Only this evening did the sky brighten up substantially and we enjoyed this heavenly sunset.

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What a funny couple of days it has been. I feel so grateful that we are safe and sound. My love, thoughts and prayers go out to all the places in the world where the weather is deeply affecting lives and the beautiful world that we live in 😦

I must say the gloom at 3pm in the afternoon was hard to take….I’m clearly not prepared for the winter months!!! 

Unsettling

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We have been having strong winds here in England these last few days. I have just returned from an evening walk and found my local park in chaos in places: branches have been ripped from trees and leaves lie strewn across the lawns. It feels more like autumn than summer, as I feel the crunch of dried leaves underfoot 😦

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The peas and beans have also suffered in our garden as their supports have been pulled out of the ground and many tall perennials look worse for wear too 😦

And the wind is still blowing…It is having an unsettling effect on us all; the children have struggled to settle at night and I have felt all at sea somehow (lack of sleep isn’t helping…)

To add to the unsettled feeling, our hen Delilah, who was doing so well after her troubles late last year, has become unwell. She has been losing weight recently and her feathers have lost their lustre. Yesterday she was barely moving and looking very sorry for herself. I took her to the farm again where we bought her to have her looked at, but the chap there didn’t seem to hold out much hope 😦 Another lady, who overheard our conversation, advised us to feed her cat food or scrambled eggs and to add some apple cider vinegar (with the mother) to her water for her gut health. I haven’t been able to locate any, but I do have freshly ‘brewed’ Kombucha in the fridge which tastes like apple cider vinegar and is good for gut health, so I gave her a little of that in her water.

I read somewhere online that watermelon is a popular choice, especially if the hens aren’t drinking so we gave her some of that. She certainly seems to be enjoying it, but mainly she has been resting.  I have had her on my lap a few times, crooning “Delilah”  to her – I have been a big Tom Jones fan all my life 🙂 – and other soothing tunes. I have always sung to our hens, funnily enough. It just feels right somehow!

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She is currently indoors in the guinea pig hutch so we can keep an eye on her. Poor dear, she really isn’t well, but we will continue to hope and pray for her recovery and above all that she does not suffer. In the meantime we are giving her lots of love and care.

Any ideas from fellow chicken keepers to help our hen would be very welcome.

Hmmnnn…yes it all feels rather unsettled here tonight…..

And to add to the unsettled feeling, the country goes to the polls tomorrow….

At uncertain times like this, it helps me to turn my attention to my breath; the one thing that is steady, reliable and always there and I choose to focus on beauty and abundance where it is to be found. It is everywhere if you look for it.

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The first ripe strawberries

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The generous quantities of elderflowers this year

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And summer storms do produce the most beautiful rainbows 🙂

Of course storms are just part of the weatherfront in nature and in the landscape of our lives. This too shall pass and the sun will shine again.

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I try to remember that none of this is in my control anyway and the best thing I can do is let go and trust. All is as it should be. 

A time to be thankful

I started this post at the beginning of June, but somehow never managed to finish it…anyway here goes!

Birthday time has come and gone and both I and my daughter C received some beautiful, thoughtful presents from family and friends.

It is a tradition in our family to write thank you cards at this time. Often the children will make the cards themselves, but my newly seven year old C wanted to buy a pack of cards and draw in them instead, so this is what she did. There were a lot of people to thank, so she took it in stages, doing a couple of cards a day ( ...or there won’t be enough time to play, mummy!)

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C drawing a little picture of the present she received.

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Here she is with her new roller skates and accessories 🙂

At C’s party, we made sure we opened the presents at the beginning so that the children could see her delight at receiving their gift and she could thank them in person ( sometimes I need to remind her still about saying thank you as she is so in awe of her presents and rather shy, she forgets!)

However we have gone to quite a few children’s parties where the birthday child doesn’t look at the presents until after the party, so my children haven’t been able to see them open the gift we gave them. Often we never even receive an acknowledgement of the gift or whether they liked it, let alone a thank you. Perhaps the child doesn’t even know who gave what gift, I am not sure?  Certainly it happens quite a lot, even in our immediate family and I must admit it doesn’t sit right with me. Of course the child may not think of saying thank you after the event, but I would hope that the parent would send out some form of acknowledgement or thanks, even if just a quick text message, on the child’s behalf, after all they must know that it takes some effort to go out and buy or make a suitable gift?

Are we losing the art to be thankful? What do you think?

Being thankful is so important in life, I feel. If someone does something for me, gives me a present or just shows kindness, I consider it important to recognise this gesture and express my thanks.

We try to incorporate moments to be thankful in our daily lives.

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Before our evening meal,  we sing our Blessing Song and during the meal, we each in turn say at least one thing that we enjoyed that day and one thing we are thankful for. The children struggled to begin with to think of something, but we kept modelling how to do it and now they happily regale us with the high points in their day.

Often melancholic children ( one of the four temperaments that are mentioned here by Steiner)  will come home and only speak about everything that went wrong in their day  or what they didn’t like rather than focus on the fun times they had and the things that went well. This is the case with my daughters, especially the eldest ( it doesn’t help that she is going through the nine year old change). I myself have a predominantly melancholic temperament so understand this, which is why I make sure I write a gratitude list every evening before I go to bed!  I list 10 things for which I am grateful: it’s a little ritual that I have been doing for over a year now. If I’ve had a  tricky day, it turns things around. I focus on the love, the joys and the blessings and trust that everything is as it should be.

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Talking of being thankful. I am realising that this little space here is also such a place; a place to embrace the joys of parenthood, my reverence for nature, my love of learning, my passion for making things, our journey in Waldorf education, the little triumphs and the small mercies and the magic of the everyday. Of course I could tell you of the discord, the sometimes incessant sibling squabbles, the moments I raise my voice in anger and regret it, the messiness of the daily life, which of course all happen, but I choose to focus here on the things that work, the things I am grateful for and to share the golden moments of our lives –  it is a constant reminder to me that there is so much to appreciate and be thankful for in life.

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In difficult times such as these, where news stories focus on fear, hatred and tragedy, I feel there is even more need to be thankful and to appreciate what we have; family, friendship, all our myriad of gifts. Now more than ever is the time to spread kindness, goodness and gentleness.

Since having children, I don’t watch the news as I am just too sensitive. I can take on all the anxieties and feel quite hopeless and powerless. I have felt this way since I was a little girl and as my children are also very sensitive, I make sure we never speak about anything that would scare or worry them and we never listen to the radio or watch television. I more or less know what is going on out in the big wide world, but I can’t watch the images…the Jack Johnson song Bad News really resonates with me…

Anyway I am certainly not here to spread bad news!  I want to share beautiful pictures and life affirming things, because we have been given this wonderful gift of life and there is much to be thankful for.

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I thank you for visiting and spending some of your precious time with me.