Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Waldorf Curriculum


If you're familiar with Waldorf education, you know that it has distinct characteristics. One of them is the curriculum, one that is taught at Waldorf schools around the world.

The Waldorf curriculum unfolds through the grades with a particular series of subjects that are taught in Main Lesson Blocks. These subjects that are studied in Main Lesson Blocks are not studied for information and facts, the way more mainstream education does, with a sort of filling up the child with information on a topic, or an era in history.  The subjects taught in Waldorf education are chosen and used because they reflect a changing aspect of human development, of the history of humankind, that is reflected in the child, at that particular age/stage/grade. These topics are taught artistically with stories that create inner pictures of how people lived, with stories, myths, legends they lived by. The stories that are told are rich in pictures of what it means to be human and meet us at a deep level, a soul level.

These topics reflect the change that humanity, that human consciousness was experiencing during that epoch. These changes are reflected in how people lived, and the stories we have from their times. 

The only way for Waldorf homeschoolers to be exposed to this without doing teacher training,  is to look at how Waldorf school teachers teach particular subjects. 

Charles Kovacs, twenty year teacher at the Edinburgh Steiner School left a legacy with his lectures in book form on topics that span Grade 5 though 8, and may also be applicable in 9th and 10th grade.

Eugene Schwartz in his lectures speaks to this. He is at Millennial Child

Others leave little bits, sort of like a trail of crumbs that become familiar once you begin to recognize them. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Hello February!

During the month of February there is plenty to rouse us from our hibernation to celebrate:

February 1st ~ Groundhog Day
February 1st ~ Imbolc
February 1st ~ St. Brigid's Day
February 2nd ~ Candlemas
February 5th - February 19th ~ Chinese New Year
February 12th ~ Lincoln's Birthday in 1809
February 14th ~ Valentine's Day
February 22nd ~ Washington's Birthday in 1732

February is a very special month, distinct from all the others in that it has just 28 days for three years in a row, and then has 29 days making it a Leap Year. Next year 202 is a leap year. Hence the verse:

Thirty days hath September
April, June and November
All the rest have thirty one
Excepting February alone,
And that has twenty-eight days clear
And twenty-nine in each leap year.

On February 1st, we find ourselves smack in the middle, between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. We're six weeks away from each. It can feel like a tipping point in the year, when we know that despite the cold and snow and ice, the days are indeed growing longer, the buds on the trees are swelling, the hens will lay eggs again, and the blue skies are still there. It feels like an intense energy point in the year. 

I do feel a little overwhelmed with these different days to celebrate coming all at once, so I simplify, here's how:

Groundhog Day is so simple and child friendly that I include it each year. We go outside and stomp on the earth and remind Mother Earth to wake up. She's usually wrapped up in her thick comforter of snow, but we like to let her know that we're waiting.

Saint Brigid's Day or Brigid's Day is one that intrigues me, so I learn a little something about her life each year. When my children are in second grade I share a story with them about her life. Some reflections here.

Imbolc inspires me to reflect on the mood of the season, on what is happening in my inner mood, and what is happening in nature.

Candlemas is another one of those days that intrigues me. It is, as a religious holiday, the day of the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus and the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a Christian Holy Day commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. It is based upon the account of the presentation of Jesus in Luke 2:22–40. (That's from Wikipedia here, I couldn't make that up.) What intrigues me is that return of Mary to the Church 40 days after giving birth. And the notion of purification after giving birth makes me a little uneasy. As if the process of carrying a baby and giving birth makes one impure. The candle light is to honor Jesus as "Light of the World."

Another face of Candlemas that I've watch grow and transform is one of candle dipping and celebrating the bees that, if I have it right, seems to have originated from Marsha Johnson of the Yahoo Waldorf Home Educators Group, Shining Star School and the Magic of Waldorf. It's become a community celebration. I don't know anyone else who has had such enthusiasm for this celebration. More here.

Some years ago, I made a very conscious decision to no longer dip beeswax candles indoors after we set the stove top on fire in the process of dipping tapers. It was quite an adventure and I am now quite happy to do it out of doors when the weather is warmer with a dedicated hot plate and pot and pan. One pot dedicated for holding the beeswax and the pan for water.

Chinese New Year is one of my favorite celebrations in February because it is so uplifting and fun! The good food, dragon parades, the color red, prayers to the ancestors and gods for a good planting and harvest season, lucky money in red envelopes, revisiting the Chinese zodiac, it's a lovely awakening from hibernation.

Then there's Valentine's Day which I love. Maybe it's the chocolate, or the flowers or the frilly hearts, or the even the cupcakes. I've shared a bit from our celebrations here.

For the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, I like to read or tell a little story about the lives and the times of the presidents Lincoln and Washington. Who can pass up Cherry Pie or Cherry preserves? As my children grow older it becomes a good opportunity to talk about what the times were like then, what is still with us and what have we (humanity) learned.

If you'd like more support and resources for celebrating February, come on over and join Celebrate the Rhythm of Life in February! For this one month only, you can join the monthly guide living curriculum program and the Celebrate Community focus topic on Love:: the Heart of Discipline for just $30. That's a 30% discount off the regular enrollment fee of $49. Use code LOVE2019 for the discount.

What's your February like? Leave a note in the comments below.






Deep Discounts in February

If you've been on the fence about checking out the Celebrate the Rhythm of Life ~ living curriculum program, or thinking about signing up one of my courses, this is YOUR moment. 

For the month of February only, as I reformat the program, I am offering a deep discount in registration fee for both the Monthly ~ living curriculum program (stories, circles, songs, recipes, activities, crafts, festival celebrations) that includes the online class Love the Heart of Discipline, and the online class by itself. 

The discount is 30% off the normal registration fee. 

To enroll in the living curriculum program for February with monthly guide  materials, support + the online course Love the Heart of Discipline, use code: LOVEBOTH for a discounted registration fee of $34.30. It's normally $49 or $59, depending on the month. 

For Love the Heart of Discipline as a stand alone use coupon code: LOVE2019 for a $17.50 registration fee. 

I hope you'll come on over and give it a whirl! There's a warm and wise community, plenty of good information, support and opportunities to ask questions and connect with others. 

I hope to see you over there! 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Toot Toot!


I'll confess to you that I am challenged with tooting my own horn. I am striving to learn how to do it better and promote my work. It does not come naturally to me. I am however, quite good at supporting others on their journey. Sound familiar?

For twenty years I have been freely and generously giving support to the Waldorf homemaking, homeschooling and parenting community. It comes easy for me to share in person, face to face, in workshops, in Yahoo Groups, Facebook Groups, private conversations and gatherings. Yet when it comes time for me to toot my own horn, wave my own banner, and say hey! come on over and sign up for this course, and pay me for it, I have a hard time.

I know my work is reaching and inspiring moms, teachers and caregivers because you tell me. I see bits of my work trickle out here and trickle out there, in some cases inspiring moms to start businesses of their own.  I imagine how many children are being touched in the sharing of this work as it ripples out and changes lives. I feel grateful to be a part of that movement in the world.

Gratitude alone, as important as it is, does not keep the lights on. It doesn't buy a new pair of winter boots for my child, or buy groceries. So I am learning to become better at promoting my work. Because I love it, and I give so much of myself to it.

For today I've decided to take a deep breath, wave my flag, and share with you the work I do, because it has been my guiding star, fills me with passion and joy, and has been my life for over twenty years. I love working with parents and children and watching parents find their voice, and uncover their power and step confidently into their role as parents.

My business is called Celebrate the Rhythm of Life, just like this blog.

Okay, I said it, my "business."

I'm working on making the shift from passion and joy, to passion and joy that's a business. With business smarts.

What Do I Offer?  Each month I offer an online gathering/class with a focus topic on an aspect of Waldorf homemaking, homeschooling or parenting. Each month the Celebrate Community delves deeply into that one specific topic on a private site where we chat freely. We have a community of wise and wonderful women, and a very rare - but occasional dad. You are all welcome dads! Some months we have a guest speaker. We've had many excellent guest speakers over the years including Howard Schrager, Lynn Jericho, Connie Manson and Cynthia Aldinger. 

The Celebrate Community focus topics include planning the year, and sinking into your family rhythms with Get Organized :: Sketch it Out!, work on daily rhythm with Rhythm in the Home, exploring warm, loving guidance with Love :: the Heart of Discipline, Storytelling, fostering imaginative Play, Starting a Playgroup, The Speech We Bring, Cultivating Your Family Values, Storytelling with Table Puppets, Simple Celebrations, The Sense of Warmth, Warmth in the Kitchen and more.

This month's Celebrate Community focus topic is Love :: the Heart of Discipline. We'll focus on warm, firm, loving guidance, with information, exercises, tips and strategies to help you better understand yourself, and your child, and feel more clear and confident in your parenting. It's included as part of the living curriculum program or you can join just the class with the focus topic for $25 . I keep the registration fee low to make it accessible for all. I hope you'll join us each month in the Celebrate Community focus topics where you'll find wisdom, warmth and community.

Each month of the year I offer season based online Monthly Guides in the form of a living curriculum program. This living curriculum program focuses on the inner and outer mood of the month as well as seasonal changes and celebrations. I include all the materials you need for both the nursery and the kindergarten years, including materials and suggestions for festival celebrations. Each month I include a Tip from the Morning Garden for childcare providers, from my own home based program. The living curriculum includes movement and circle games and for different ages, stories for different ages, songs, verses, fingerplays, crafts, nature activities and support for the weekly rhythm activities of painting, wet on wet water color painting, soup making and bread baking. Members of the living curriculum program also join the Celebrate Community topic.

When I began offering the monthly guides based on the season, and they do have a northern hemisphere perspective, I felt that it was not right to throw materials out there without providing more support and a foundation for home life and parenting. To include everything about every single possible topic each month felt like way too much information. For that reason I offer the focus topic each month. 

After a few years of only offering the living curriculum with the ecourse focus topic, I began allowing folks to join just the focus topic/ecourse each month. I've kept the monthly guides, called the living curriculum program coupled to the monthly focus topic because it complements them so well. They complement each other.

Each month, as part of the living curriculum program,  I include materials for festival celebrations as well, as I cannot find a way to hinge them from the living curriculum program.  September includes Michaelmas, October includes Martinmas and Lantern Walk ideas as well as Halloween celebration ideas. It flows this way through the way, with festivals and celebrations integrated into the stories, songs, activities, verses and songs. 

I know this is a challenge for my friends in the southern hemisphere, and I just don't know how to create this community based on the seasons, and hold the space for everyone to feel that their experience is fully reflected, when in February I am offering stories about snow and in March about sugaring. One possibility is year round membership to have access to year round materials, receive the daily notes from me, and be included in the Celebrate Community topic each month, which is not so directly related to the season. 

So there's a little bit about me - I mean my business. I hope you'll become part of this wonderful and wise community. Some of the moms who began with babies are now homeschooling in the grades. Which leads me to, oh yes, toot toot! I have created a support place for each of the grades, for Celebrate the Rhythm of Life Year Round Members, which is a lifetime membership, by the way. See what I mean!?

Toot Toot!


Friday, January 25, 2019

Rose and Thorns

As I work on re-formatting the Celebrate the Rhythm of Life Living Curriculum Program, I'll be sharing with you some of the material from the program. That way, when you hear about the new format and special offer, I am hoping you'll say, "Yes please!" and join the Celebrate the Rhythm of Life community. 


My children were young when their dad and I separated sixteen years ago. One was seven years old and the other was a newborn. It's hard to go through separation and divorce with young children. With divorce come new relationships, some are long lasting and some are not. The sense of who is family and who is not can be fleeting.  For several years after the divorce, my children were fortunate to have a "bonus mom" who served as a consistent, warm and loving person to guide them and care for them when they spent time with their dad. Among the many ways she warmed their hearts and inspired them was one that migrated over to my house and has stayed with us, to be shared with guests at our table. That is the gift of rose and thorns.

Rose and Thorns: We can't have one without the other.

At dinner, after the food is served, the candle is lit and the blessing has been said, we settle in a bit, taste the food, and then I announce that it is time for Rose and Thorns. If we have guests at our table I explain to them what it is, that we take turns sharing a little something from our day that was beautiful, sweet or beloved like a rose, and we also share something that was prickly, hard or challenging. Each person shares both a rose and thorn.

If there is a singular event that we're all wanting to claim as our Rose, we might place that aside, and dig a little deeper into the less obvious. Same with the Thorn.

Some days a person may not have a Thorn to share, that's just fine. Sometimes a person doesn't want to share, there's no pressure to join in.

What I do notice as my children have grown older is that Rose and Thorns can spark conversation into topics that might not have come up. They help us see each other a little better, and they help us to feel compassionate towards each other, as we are reminded with the Thorns that each of us has challenging moments in our days.

We began sharing our Rose and Thorns when my oldest was seven, school age, and that felt right age wise developmentally.

We recently had a friend over for dinner, who upon coming over the next time for dinner asked if we were going to play that game again, about the Rose and Thorns. And so we did.

My warmest thanks to the "bonus mom," for opening her heart and home to us, and for all the sweet rose goodness she has shared, as well as for providing a model of grace in meeting the prickly bits of life. The dinnertime Rose and Thorn tradition has nourished us and gone on to inspire many others.


Monday, October 1, 2018

A Quick Seasonal Meal

You know what it's like to have nothing prepared for dinner? One of those days when the day was fuller than you expected, your budget tighter than you'd like and you didn't make it to the store because that felt like one expense and one trip too many?

I do.

At this time of year with so many fresh garden vegetables and herbs, I assume that something will come to mind. 

And then it doesn't.

Here's one meal I made last week, that was really tasty and a big hit, with little planning, from seasonal food I had on hand.

It involved:
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Pasta
I cut the vegetables into wedges, sprinkled herbs on top, drizzled olive oil over all and roasted it at 400 degrees until the tomatoes and onions looked soft and smelled good. 

et voila, dinner is served!


Clean up was easy too. One pot, One pan.

Thank you summer for all the tasty goodness!

Thank you Lorrie for bringing over some of your tomato trove!

Read more about meal planning here.

What vegetables would you roast like this? Share your ideas for quick meals or roasted vegetables in the comments below.



Friday, August 17, 2018

Do You Struggle with Rhythm?

If your answer is yes, you'll be happy to know that...

Rhythm Boot Camp is Back!
4 Weeks
$49 
  • Is rhythm one of those mysterious things that you just cannot seem to grasp?
  • Do you fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day?
  • Do you wonder how Waldorf kindergarten teachers seem so calm and manage to sing through the day and knead dough, bake bread, chop vegetables, make soup, color and paint with children every week?
  • Would you like to bring harmonious rhythms to your home or to the children you care for?
  • Are you struggling to homeschool and finding you need to work on rhythm?
  • Is there more you want from each day but cannot find the time for?
  • Do you sometimes look at the clock and panic because you have no idea of what to serve for dinner?
  • Are you struggling with tired, hungry and cranky children while you are making dinner?
  • Would you like more peaceful bedtimes for your children and yourself?
Join When Less is More :: Rhythm Boot Camp
If you pause and pay attention, you'll notice that all around you there is rhythm, the rhythm of night and day, the rhythm of your menstrual cycle, the rhythm of the waxing and waning of the moon, the rhythm of the sun's movement, the rhythm of heartbeat, of breath, of growing through phases of life, of starting and ending. Rhythm embraces us. It's like a big warm familiar hug.
Before electricity, electric lights and central heating were available with the flip of a switch, people lived in rhythm with nature. We slept at night and worked in the light of the day. We chopped wood, carried water and kindled fires.The stars guided travelers. Food was only available in season. We lived in the rhythms of the natural world, deeply connected and carried along through the year without conscious attention. 
Early people deeply felt the earth's rhythms through the day and all through the year and celebrated significant turnings in the wheel of the year. The return of the sun meant life was renewed in the earth. The sun's departure signaled a time for pilling in, going inward.Today, we can flip a switch and experience light and heat. We no longer live in the rhythms of nature. We have disconnected. We are plugged in and no longer attuned to the rhythms of nature. Our own inner rhythms can be overwhelmed by the distractions that come from the busyness and noise of daily life.

Yet we are rhythmic beings. When we find our way into a rhythm that flows for ourselves and our families, we find harmony, peace of mind, inspiration for new endeavors and time to take up activities that deeply nourish our families and ourselves as parents. We can bring rhythm into our lives with conscious intention. We can tap into the energy that flows when our rhythm is balanced.

Children thrive when their life is rhythmic. It is so healthy and nourishing for children. Rhythm makes children feel confident that life is predicable, that adults are reliable and in knowing they can rely on order and harmony in their lives. With predictable days, children relax and can let go and be children.
A solid rhythm can eliminate frustration, increase a child's ability to play and to make transitions. Rhythm helps us breathe when we are frustrated and can carry us through times that are chaotic and unpredictable.

:: Gift yourself and your family
 with a strong rhythm to your days and weeks for the new year by simplifying your life through a strong rhythm.

:: Imagine pleasant mealtimes, smooth transitions, peace filled bedtimes and breathing time in your day. Yes, it can be done. By you.

:: Know this. It is already there, within you. The ability. Everything you need to bring some sense of rhythm, harmony and joy to your daily life with children.

This course is designed to help you access that inner wisdom and put it into action with daily notes of encouragement and reminders, videos, worksheets and activities, conversation and community.
  • You'll explore what rhythm looks like and feels like and look at sample rhythms of the day and the week.
  • You'll delve into what gets in the way of the rhythm you want.
  • You'll practice how you can make your rhythm breathe for you and help you flow through the day.
  • You'll examine how rhythm can help your child be more imaginative, playful and creative.
  • You' ll work on how your meals can be healthier and more pleasant with rhythm.
  • You'll be supported to practice routines for peaceful bedtimes and restful sleep.
  • You'll work on incorporating a rhythm for housework.
  • You'll practice using rhythm to make transitions smoother.
  • You'll experience how a strong rhythm supports homeschooling if you're a homeschooler.
  • You'll experience how a strong rhythm makes home a sanctuary for the school child.
  • You'll work on establishing and maintaining a rhythm that supports your life.
  • You'll discover rhythms you already have and build on them over four weeks.
  • You'll explore and experience how rhythm supports daily life with children and helps you carve out time for yourself.
  • You'll become more able to recognize the difference between breathing in and breathing out qualities of experiences.
  • You'll receive daily reminders and enthusiastic support.
  • You'll have the option to download and print the exercises or do them online.
  • You'll find templates for sketching out your rhythm, and explore the difference between writing it down, and living it from within.
  • At the end of the course, you'll be invited into a private Facebook community.
  • You'll always have access to the course and the materials.
  • You can return at any time.
When Less is More :: 28 Days to Rhythm Boot Camp 
Start the new school year with support for healthy home rhythm!
*28 days of enthusiastic support and encouragement* 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Summer Sundays


Sunday has, for the most part, been a day of rest and renewal for me. I was a child during the years when shops were closed on Sundays. We went to church on Sundays. We had a big early dinner and for the most part took it easy. It's a pleasant habit that stuck with me and carried over into my family life.

Lately, we've been falling into a new habit on Sundays. The family meeting. We share our rose and thorns from last week, and look to the week ahead, to have a sense of who is doing what and when, and organize our meal plans accordingly.

This time of year is such a great time for fresh locally grown food. Our backyard garden and the farmer's market are bursting with summer goodness: ripe tomatoes, fresh herbs, summer squash, corn, green beans, yellow wax beans, a purple string bean, scallions, lettuces, onions, sweet peppers, hot peppers, cucumbers, even the first of the sugar pumpkins. The smells and tastes are exquisite. It's as if the senses have become wide open and everything is better, the color, the textures, the smells and the taste. During the cold, dark days of winter, it's easy to fall into the lull of eating food that has traveled or somehow miraculously been stored to make it through the winter and then forget how good fresh locally grown food can taste.

I want to savor it. It's a bit like those moments with children when you are certain you will never forget the exact moment, or words. And then you do. I do too. We all do.

So, with that in mind, this week we'll be eating lots of tomatoes, basil, corn, string beans, cucumbers, peppers and fresh herbs. They are so good fresh, I just can't commit to cooking them. Not today.

What fresh and local or homegrown foods are you savoring this week?


Monday, April 23, 2018

Thanks to the Children

In the early years of life, we make an enormous impression on our children by the examples we give them, every single day, in how we live our life, in how meet the world.

Whether our actions, gestures and speech are conscious or unconscious, our children learn how to live by our example. Children imitate what we do and say and how we move in and through the world.

Whether we take risks, handle our mistakes with grace, blow up and yell with frustration or remain calm in a difficult moment, our children are taking it in and learning how to be human, based on what we do.

They also learn what it means to be human by how we respond after we look silly, make a mistake, blow up and yell or stay calm by taking deep breaths. They get to see us learning to do better. They learn that life is a process of learning.

You know the saying of how we become our parents? Have you had the experience of saying something and then realizing, "I sound just like my mother."

I remember when my first born picked up his beautiful hand cut and sanded wooden block and put it to his ear to imitate me talking on the telephone. Hmm, I wondered, "Is this how he experiences me?" That wasn't how I imagined him using those blocks.

That was one little wake up call to pay attention to what I do.

We can uplift our actions and deeds in reminding ourselves that living life is an art, it's ways unique to each human being, with unlimited creative capacities.

The art of living is what we teach our children.

With this, we have a choice to become conscious of who and how we are in the world, and to work on that, to be the best we can be.

We grow as human beings in our quest to be good parents. This is the best example we can give our children, of life as a process of learning and growing, of showing up,  being vulnerable, taking risks and failing. And doing it all again, learning as we go. A process.

In this way, the path of parenting, as well as homeschooling and caring for other people's children becomes our own journey, into understanding ourselves and how we show up in the world, and in daily life.

We have this opportunity to uplift ourselves and how we live into an art that we practice each day.

Thanks to the children.




Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Festival of Candlemas

Sundays are a day of rest and renewal for my family. That was how I experienced Sundays growing up. We went to church in the morning. That was followed by a big breakfast and then an early big dinner ~ Sunday dinner. There was plenty of down time in between. It's always stayed with me, and I am happy for it.

I like to keep some spaciousness in my family's Sundays. One of the things I like to do is to quietly take some time to look ahead at the week, review what is coming, and make sure I have in place what I need, to be prepared for anything outside of the ordinary.

Ideally the meal plan is sketched out, our work is planned, and I know where everyone is going each day. This moment on Sunday gives me time to have a picture of the week ahead.

This week as I look ahead, I see the week brings three things that are out of the ordinary, three, well almost four, feasts or celebrations that all fall on February 2nd, which happens to be on Friday of this week. They are:
  • Groundhog Day
  • Imbolc
  • Candlemas
  • Brigid's Day
Groundhog Day is a fun little day that doesn't require too much forethought or preparation to celebrate.

Imbolc is the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. It "crosses" the quarters (or seasons) of the year.

Brigid's Day ~ I wrote about this day here.

Candlemas is a church feast. Whenever we have the suffix ~ mas added to a word, we know it refers to a feast day. Besides Candlemas, there's Michaelmas, Martinmas, and Christmas too.

Sometimes Candlemas, Brigid's Day, Imbolc and Groundhog day are conflated.

I'll begin with Candlemas and come back with some reflections on the other celebrations over the next few days.

~ painting by Lodovico Caracci 
This feast has layers to contemplate. Candlemas is celebrated in the Catholic and Orthodox Church as the Feast of the Presentation at Church of the Blessed Mary, and is also known as the Feast of the Presentation of the Holy Child, or more popularly as Candlemas. It has its origins in what is known as the rite of the "churching of women," the return of a woman to the Church after 40 days of rest, after giving birth to a child. It signifies the return of Mary to the Church after giving birth to the Christ Child, along with the Presentation of the Child in the Church.

 In our busy modern world, the notion of convalescence is becoming obsolete. Women are encouraged to "do it all," which we can't, but that is another conversation. More traditional cultures honor the postpartum period as a time of rest and of nourishing both the mother and baby. This piece by Joyce Gallardo explores this very topic, here.

Was the churching of women a recognition of the importance of rest and slowing down after giving birth, or was it a banishment that needed "purification" of the fleshly body in order to re-enter the life of the Church?  It strikes me as rather odd that it was a question for men to expound on, rather than women. But the women were busy tending to daily life, so that the men could expound on such things. Ha!

Yet we know that the question whether a mother who had given birth recently should enter the church or not has been debated long before the eleventh century. The most prominent example is Pope Gregory the Great's letter to Augustine of Canterbury, as we find it in the Venerable Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England. Augustine had asked among a number of other questions: 'how long after she has brought forth, may she come into the church? and then adds in the end: 'All which things are requisite to be known by the rude nation of the English.' Gregory answers that even if she came the very hour after giving birth she was not committing a sin, but rather forbidding her to come would turn the punishment she was bearing for the sin of Eve into a crime. But the Christian tradition is not clear and uniform on this question. It seems that Gregory remained an exception and traditions like those of the penitentials which strongly suggested the need for purification became more influential. In the fourth century Hippolytus records that a mother who had just given birth was to be seated among the catechumens. Emperor Leo in 460 forbade women to take communion within 40 days after the delivery, but did not count it as a grave sin, if they did in case of emergency [Stephens 1854, 1751f]. 

This comes from here.

As for the feast of Candlemas - this is a feast of initiation, of possibility, of light, of the old meeting the new and the old giving way to the new, the frozen earth giving way to the stirring of new life. This is why candles are blessed in churches on this day.

This is the time of year in which the light is growing brighter, the buds on the trees are beginning to swell, the birds seem to be singing more, and on some days the feeling of the return of warmth and sunlight is in the air.

We put up our Christmas tree up later than most, close to Christmas Eve. This has wonderful benefits and challenges too. Some years we keep the tree through January, with Candlemas as the final marker - the end to Christmastide. I like the word Christmastide. It feels like so much more than a singular day that has a make or break quality to it, with reverberations that last through the year, and eventually a lifetime. Christmastide makes me think of the tide of the sea that rolls in, pulsating with energy, and then rolls out, as seasons do. Each year bringing something new.

How does this all fit in with Waldorf education and life? This is a really good question. The 2nd of February is a significant day in the rhythm of the year, as it is the mid-point, a cross quarter day, one that falls smack in between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. We are six weeks from each of those turning points in the year. On February 2nd, we are as close to spring as we were to the winter solstice. After February 2nd, we are closer to the onset of spring that the onset of winter. It is a threshold day in the year.

In looking back, and wondering how this day came into celebration among Waldorf Home Educators, I think of Mrs. M, who started the Yahoo Group that inspired (and continues to inspire) so many Waldorf home educators, as the first to make something of the day, in the context of Waldorf education. You can find the Yahoo Group Waldorf Home Educators here. It's been quiet lately, or visit her Facebook group, the Magic of Waldorf to see what she is up to. She has celebrated with a Festival of the Bees at this time of year in the past. 

What are your thoughts on the rite of the churching of women? Is it in recognition of the need for women and child to rest after birth, or in disdain of the female body? Does it matter? What can it inspire within us today? I'd love to read your thoughts in the comments.


Monday, January 8, 2018

A Give Away



Announcing.... a give away!


Each month I provide an eCourse for members of Celebrate the Rhythm of Life in Caring for Children through the Year. This month's eCourse is called The Temperaments, it's an exploration of the temperaments. This is a wonderful way to bring depth and breadth to your understanding of Waldorf in the home, Waldorf homeschooling, Waldorf education. Teachers and childcare providers will find a deepening of relationship with parents. Parents can understand each other better with a working knowledge of the temperaments. And of course, the children can be better seen through the lens of the temperaments.

We'll cover:
What are the temperaments?
How do you tell them apart?
How do they interact?
How does you temperament shape your day, how you plan, how you parent?
How can you work with the temperaments?
What insight do they provide?
How are they used in Waldorf education?

We'll be exploring these questions and more. You can read more about the class here.

Registration is $25 (free for the Give Away winner!) to keep it accessible to all. Please help spread the word by sharing the link to this page. This helps me keep the registration fee low and develop new classes for YOU!

I hope you'll join me and plunge into a study of the temperaments.

I am giving away ONE spot in the class.

The winner will be announced on Wednesday at noon.

Good Luck to all who enter!

To enter leave a question you have about the temperaments in the comments below.

If you're contact information is not in the comments be sure and check back on Wednesday to see if you are the winner!

There's another Give Away over on the Facebook page. Be sure to enter there too!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Storytelling with Young Children :: Waldorf Style

~ this is a piece I wrote for Rhythm of the Home in the Winter of 2010. As Rhythm of the Home is no more,  I am sharing this article here on my blog. This is exactly how it appeared on Rhythm of the Home. The text and photographs are my own, with the exception of the intro paragraph written by Heather Spedden Fontenot.
Storytelling fosters imagination and creativity like little else can, and it is a very important aspect of Waldorf education that transports children into magical worlds and far away places. Storytelling can often be daunting for parents and teachers alike, so today we sit down with Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie to hear her thoughts on the art of the story, and the many ways we can bring it into our daily lives. ~ Heather Spedden Fontenot
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Storytelling is life. Waldorf education is a live education, it takes place between human beings, this is why one does not see textbooks, CD players or videos in Waldorf classrooms. Storytelling brings pictures to children of life, of what it means to be human, of how we can serve one another.

Imagination
is about making pictures in our minds, learning through pictures, through imitation of the pictures, of the gestures, of the movements brought through the storyteller and the stories that are told. When a child sees a pre-formed picture of a story in a book or on a screen, the image is made; there is no room for the child’s imagination to create the picture.

Storytelling provides a strong foundation for literacy. Literacy begins with the experience of being with another human being who speaks to the child. Very young children watch our mouths as we form words. Stories told by humans rich with language, rhythm, and repetition spark a love of language and a lasting literacy.

Storytelling conveys rich language, full sentences and an extensive vocabulary to children.

Human connection is strengthened through storytelling particularly when we tell stories of our own childhood or that of the child’s grandparents.
Right now approaching Saint Nicholas Day, I am telling stories of Saint Nicholas from Christine Natale of the life of Saint Nicholas. Favorite family chapter books are Mary’s Little Donkey, The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Gingerbread Boy.

After the snow has fallen and the ice on the lake is frozen, and the north wind blows hard and cold and dry, I like to tell the story of the little brown duck, Shingebiss. It is said to be an old Chippewa tale.

Upon lighting the Advent candle, we recite this verse:

Winter is dark
Yet each tiny spark

Brightens the way
To Christmas Day

Shine little light
And show us the way

To the great light of Christmas Day


A Chubby Little Snowman

Here’s a little verse that is lovely done with finger puppets; one for the snowman, one for the bunny. A silk over the hands makes it even better. It can be done as a finger play as well and acted out by the children.


A chubby little snowman

Had a carrot nose

Along came a bunny

And what do you suppose?

That hungry little bunny was looking for some lunch

He saw that snowman’s carrot nose

And went nibble, nibble, crunch!


That chubby little bunny hopped into the woods.

He wiggled his ears as a good bunny should.

He hopped by a squirrel, he hopped by a tree.

He hopped by a bird and he hopped by me.

He stared at the squirrel. He stared at the tree.

He stared at the bird and he made faces at me.


Be sure to put your thumbs to your ear lobes and encourage some fun face-making with this one.

I spend much of my time with children who span the ages of two to fifteen years of age.

With the youngest children, in the Morning Garden, I tell simple nature stories about Mama and Papa Redbird and Squirrel Nutkin, creatures who live in the garden and trees, and whose antics we observe daily.

I often tell a story of a small child while creating the puppet from a silk square, with a rolled ball of wool roving for the head, and then I tie it at the wrists. The child awakens, goes outside for a walk, encounters the animals in the yard, says good morning, rambles about, returns home for lunch and a nap.

In autumn, we have so many wonderful stories to tell. I like to weave in many of the nature tales from Suzanne Down’s Autumn Tales and expand upon them with figures and activities that connect to the stories. Pumpkins, apples and squash grace our seasonal table at this time of year and sometimes an acorn child peeps out from the “garden.”

Something very special I have done with my own children is to reverse their names and create a royal character who has daily adventures. We have two brothers, Prince Sugna and Prince Nacnud. Their parents are kind and gentle rulers of a large kingdom. They have adventures in the kingdom with their dog and cats and always return at the end of the afternoon to the royal kitchen for a cup of tea and a cookie.

I also tell stories in the car, at bedtime, in the afternoon, with seasonal puppet shows and finger puppets.


Often we begin before birth, in talking to the child that is to come. I had a name for my youngest for two years before he was conceived. I knew he was coming. I felt his presence and spoke to him. With my oldest, I gave him a womb name and spoke to him and wrote to him. His dad told stories to my belly.

Sometimes women will hum or sing spontaneously in labor. This is instinctive, the mother’s voice and movement is the story, the beginning of the story telling.

To begin storytelling with a toddler, tell a little story of daily life, focus on the description of the doing, the movement, use rhythm and repetition in speech, the rabbit went hippity hop, hippety hop, the wings fluttered, the boy climbed and climbed, use movement and repetition. Children love to hear the same stories over and over again.

Sometimes yes, with a little puppet story, I use props, puppets, silk, bits of logs, maybe stones or seashells. I use wool roving to create very simple puppets: butterflies, rabbits, an owl. I use very simple felt finger puppets of animals as well as standing puppets and marionettes for more elaborate stories.

You can make little felt finger puppets for the children. Especially loved seemed to be bees and baby chicks. Puppets and simple figures create archetypal images for the child to live into, they enliven the world of the child, a silk becomes a landscape, a pinecone becomes a tree

It begins before birth when the children come to us with a story, their story. We are part of their story as much as they are part of our story. Our task is to let it unfold, unhindered, and remove obstacles, for them and for us.

Children are full of stories from the first little sing-song chatter to themselves while they play to the more formed performances they might produce. The fewer images they see in books and screen, the more room in their mind to image-make of their own imagination.

Yes, it echoes the elements of nature and the cosmos. What is happening outside? The days are darkening now, the trees are bare, the squirrels are busy hiding nuts and we are looking within to find our own little lights. The stories reflect the rhythm of nature. In the warm weather, I often tell stories outside.

Finger play helps the children use and enliven their fingers. Young children are in a process of embodiment, of coming into their bodies. Finger and toe play helps them move into those far reaches of their body. Nowadays machines do so much work that was once done by hand. Children have fewer opportunities to use their fingers; finger play is a fun way to foster healthy development of the hands as is tiptoeing and stomping for the feet.

A fun game for the toes is for the child to pick up marbles with his toes and drop them into a basket or basin. The child might pick marbles up from a basin of lavender water and drop them into another basin with her toes. Use a scarf in the same way. Rudolf Steiner also recommended that children write with toes of their dominant foot when learning to write, that it supports the development of handwriting.

When I lived on remote islands in the South Pacific, I noticed that the local people were so adept with the use of their hands and toes, in weaving, in climbing, in cutting, in preparing food and creating mats and roof tops. It is remarkable how little we develop the hand and feet.

Observe the natural world. Look at birds, squirrels, cows, how do they move? Look at their gesture, how does a rabbit hop? Observe what is happening outdoors. Set up a bird feeder and create a cozy perch from which to watch. Make some simple animal puppets from felt. Bring those gestures with consciousness to the finger play and hand gestures.

Use a little rhyme, make it up.

Fingerplays can ease transitions, during car trips and in the grocery store line. Rhythmic verse and repetition is reassuring for children and build neural pathways in the brain. Most of all, it’s to relax, have fun, be playful.

A story can present archetypes to children that open the doors of possibility, that kindle the imagination, that stir the child to action. Storytelling can be healing, can soothe hurt feelings, mend conflicts and inspire a child to good behavior. Stories can be assuring that the world is good, and that in the end, goodness triumphs over evil.

A child who has an adult that tells her stories and plays lap games and sings songs is blessed with a connection to a human being and to generations of human beings who once transmitted all stories through human communication. Storytelling fosters human connection, connection to the natural world and even to the cosmos. It fosters the healthy development of a human being.


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Lisa is a Waldorf Early Childhood Educator, Mom to two boys, homeschooling one of them with Waldorf education. She has had a child of her own in early childhood for the past fifteen years. Currently she tends a home-based anthroposophical nursery program and is writing monthly guides on on the elements of early childhood for parents and home programs celebrating the sacred in the everyday. She can be found at her blog, or the group blog for Waldorf Homeschoolers that she founded.


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