festivals

Celebrating Michaelmas

The seasons are shifting.

For some of us the relief of fall is on the horizon. For others, the arrival of spring has been long awaited.

Last week I noticed that I was craving soup. Like, CRAVING. Never mind that it's still in the mid 90's where we live. For Brian, this seasonal shifting means a trip to our local foothills and his beloved Apple Hill (insert images of apple cider, apple donuts, etc, etc, here). Of course, we're a few weeks ahead of ourselves still, but....it's coming. Can you smell it?

Michaelmas is approaching as well. This brings to mind the year that Brian almost (almost) had our kids believing that he saw a Michaelmas dragon sale going up in the parking lot of a local chain store near us. Think Christmas tree lot, but with dragons of assorted temperaments, colors and sizes. Thankfully our kids (mostly) appreciate our sense of humor. So far anyway.

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Here are two pieces that we love for this time of year.

"Modern parenting seems to dictate that we should protect our children from the bogey and even from knowledge of its existence. But “it is in the world already.” Children know the terrors that lurk under the bed, in the dark, and in the whispers of grownups. 

With fairy tales and golden capes and wooden swords and songs, we stop lying to them. When we show them the monsters and evil hiding in the stories, and help them shape their weapons, when we give them the words to “conquer fear and wrath,” we validate what they already know – that there are dragons." 

On Dragons and Making Swords... read the full piece here



No matter which hemisphere you call home, this piece also offers many ideas for consideration. 

"As a Waldorf-inspired homeschooler, you have no doubt noticed that a healthy festival life is one of the anchors around which Waldorf Education is organized. These rituals and festivals have traditionally contributed to the stability of communities of the past, and now brick-and-mortar schools of current time. They create an opportunity to relate to the seasons, and to each other.

What then, does this mean for those of us who have chosen to leave a local Waldorf school, or, to never attend one at all? What meaning do these festivals, or feast days as they are traditionally called, have when they are practiced in much smaller group settings without institutional support, or even at home within individual families?" 

In Praise of Balance: A Healthy Festival Life ... read the full piece here

Additionally, take a look at our Michaelmas Pinterest board for plenty of ideas, tutorials and resources.

All our best to you,

Robyn & Brian Wolfe


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New course line-up!

We've finalized our course offerings for our next school year! Individual info pages for each one will be available soon on our website. For those who, like us, get a little twitchy with all the waiting, here's what we know for certain .....

 

Geometry  

Photo credit: Jessica Richardson

Photo credit: Jessica Richardson

Brian is teaming up with fellow Waldorf teacher, Caitlin Amajor, for this G5-8 series! We have a FAQ page here, where you can learn more about this artistic, inspired program. Registration opens on July 15th! Courses begin on Sept. 3rd. There is also a link to a new free lesson on the FAQ page. 

 

 

Grade One wet-on-wet painting

Waldorf teacher Amanda Mercer has been busy creating a beautifully supportive program for the Waldorfish community! This video series will guide parents & teachers on a journey through each primary color via wet-on-wet painting techniques & original verses. G2 and G3 courses are in the pipeline as well, although release dates for these are not set yet. The G1 course is OPEN for enrollment! Learn more about it, here!

Photo credit: Amanda Mercer

Photo credit: Amanda Mercer

 

Weekly Art (Anthology)  

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For the 2018/2019 school year we are pulling together our favorite lessons from the first two sessions of this program! This collection will be perfect for families who have not participated in WA previously. As in prior sessions, the lessons will post x1 per week, and Brian & I will be actively involved in the classroom. Registration will open July 15th, the course will begin August 10th. (see updated info, here!)

 

Festival Art  

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We're teaming up with storyteller Sara Logan for this new course! 10 original/adapted stories paired with art lessons to carry your family through the full circle of a festival year!! This course is ideal for families who have previously participated in the Weekly Art program, or those looking for less frequent art lessons than offered in our other programs. NOTEthis program will initially only be available to WA students currently enrolled in the '17-18 session. It will become available to the whole community in time for the '18 Advent season!

 

As always, send us your thoughts + questions by emailing us at support@waldorfish.com

All our best to you from the garden,

~Robyn (& Brian nearby) Wolfe

 

In Praise of Balance: A Healthy Festival Life

As a Waldorf-inspired homeschooler, you have no doubt noticed that a healthy festival life is one of the anchors around which Waldorf Education is organized. These rituals and festivals have traditionally contributed to the stability of communities of the past, and now brick-and-mortar schools of current time. They create an opportunity to relate to the seasons, and to each other.

What then, does this mean for those of us who have chosen to leave a local Waldorf school, or, to never attend one at all? What meaning do these festivals, or feast days as they are traditionally called, have when they are practiced in much smaller group settings without institutional support, or even at home within individual families?


If you’d prefer to listen to the audio version of this post, you can do that right here:


It becomes easy to slip into thinking that our home-grown festivals and celebrations need to resemble what's happening at Waldorf schools - and if they don't, that we are not doing it correctly - that our children will be missing out on something vital. Spend any time at all on social media and this feeling increases exponentially.

Waldorf Education • Festivals • Waldorfish

(Initials in parenthesis indicate which author is speaking.)

(RW) For several years in a row I was a single parent. I single-mama'd my way through all the holidays and festivals - most years missing several altogether, especially the first week or two of Advent.  Generally by the time I realized it was underway (usually because I saw someone else's beautiful post on social media) I considered it a major victory if I could slide across the evergreen bough finish line with a lit candle in hand, muttering "...the fourth light of advent, is the light of.....".

I started out those years feeling as though I was giving my children a somewhat "less than" festival experience. Thankfully (and a bit painfully) it was also during this time I was reminded that "comparison is the thief of joy". I began to recognize that all the striving to provide my children with an experience as good as their school experience was ultimately only making me feel like I was failing. Clearly it wasn't serving me or them. Eventually I realized there was far more value in doing a few festivals really well each year (i.e., deeply imbued with spirit) rather than trying to cram them ALL in in a somewhat half-assed fashion. Forced march to the May Faire anyone? What feeling exactly am I trying to achieve here?

 

As homeschoolers we have infinitely more freedom to dance to our own drumbeat.*

 

This applies no less to our family's festival life than it does to choosing the curriculum we're going to use! When considering the festivals coming up in any given season, we encourage you to start by identifying the overall feeling you'd like to imbue in your children/family with any given season. Then, work backwards from there and....

Ask yourself:

+ which of the festival options for this season will help us achieve that feeling?

+ do we need to do all of them? (seriously. do you?) 

+ is there one that resonates the most with our family's values?

+ how can I keep this simple?

+ what ONE or TWO activities might we do?

Remember, even in Waldorf Schools there is great variation in terms of participation in festivals. 

(CH) Most importantly, don't be afraid to improvise. The first Michaelmas after we started homeschooling, my husband and I were working away from home and 20 minutes from the ocean. It was exciting to have the freedom to take school on the road, but we were feeling the separation from the Waldorf school we had celebrated festivals with over the previous five years. After reading Michaelmas verses together at home we drove to the beach and made a big dragon in the sand. That night we lit a fire and wrote our personal "dragons" down on paper, then threw them into the flames to be slain. 

Our son, who was 8 at the time, took it all very much to heart. As we wrote our wishes on paper by the fire, we glanced over to find that on one piece he had written: "For those who don't have anyone to help them slay their dragons." He clearly understood that the act of transforming paper into ash was a form of prayer/intention.

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Keep it simple, believe in the ritual yourself, and the messages will not only reach your children, they will be mirrored back to you in beautiful and unexpected ways.

Last year we missed Martinmas (a personal favorite of mine) but this year we made lanterns in stages the week before the Feast of St. Martin. On the night of November 11th we made and ate soup together, read Martinmas verses, and walked the dark streets of our neighborhood together by lantern light -- just as children on the streets of many European countries do (lanterns being a sophisticated extension, some believe, of the bonfires that preceded them).

My husband's uncle is a priest with a deep knowledge of the saints, and I sent him a picture of our son walking with his lantern. His response: "Great experience. He is blessed to learn these traditions first-hand." There was no question about how many others were celebrating with him. Clergymen-and-women understand better than anyone what these fall and winter rituals mean. They are taken in community (and what is a more primal form of community than family?) but ultimately, they are solitary expeditions into our most hidden aspects of self.

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There is clearly no substitute for the excitement and energy of large gatherings. In their healthiest forms we mirror one another, and we grow. However in some very important ways, the smaller-scale the ritual (and sometimes, the fewer the rituals we engage in) the more direct the experience can be and the more deeply the meaning can resonate. 

 

Sending love to you all this season,

Cristina & Robyn


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Cristina Havel lives in Southern California where she and her husband have worked together for nearly 2 decades. They homeschool their son using the Waldorf pedagogy as a guide and believe in the transformative powers of art and nature.

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An early career as a park ranger led Waldorfish co-founder, Robyn Wolfe, to her love of illustrating and education. Trained initially as both a public school and Waldorf teacher, she has been involved in art + education for over 20 years, including homeschooling her two children. Robyn is currently working as the manifestor of the creative vision held by the Waldorfish team. Working out of the premise that life is short (but sweet!), she empowers soul-filled teachers & families to (re)find their JOY in teaching and making art.

All photos: Cristina Havel

(*We believe Waldorf homeschooling families are uniquely positioned to carry forward a faithful interpretation of Rudolf Steiner's vision for education. Here's an additional post focused on this idea.)

 

 

Celebrating Advent

The season of Advent begins four Sundays prior to Christmas and culminates on December 24th. In the tradition of the Christian churches, one candle was lit each Sunday until the light of four candles heralded the birth of Christ. Writer Annie B. Bond reminds us that “Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, Diwali, and the celebration of Buddha’s enlightenment all take place in December, the darkest time of the year.” Despite these different leanings, our common searching for Light in the darkness of Winter unites us.

Within Waldorf classrooms, festivals such as Advent are not taught as fact but are offered in the form of stories, allowing the children great freedom to absorb the festivals as they will.

When presented in a spirit of wonder and awe, something of the true spirit of each festival will speak to each child in unique ways. Many Waldorf classrooms celebrate Advent, beginning with a simple candle-lighting in preschool to an all-class assembly in the grades. Each grade class leaves the assembly with their own candle enabling them to carry the light and warmth of Advent back to their individual classrooms.

 

BRINGING ADVENT HOME

For those with spiritual leanings who don’t feel that they have arrived at a well-defined spiritual destination, this time of year can present a predicament. You may find yourself wondering what you can share with your children about this time of year when you yourself don’t feel like you have it all figured out. If you are looking for ways to incorporate the Advent season into your homelife, perhaps consider some of the following suggestions.

*Build a small Advent wreath out of plant boughs, or other natural material. The wreath can be held together with ribbons or wire. Add elements each week to correspond with the verse below.

*Recite the following verse, spoken in Waldorf classrooms around the world, while you light a candle each Sunday of Advent.

 

"The first light of advent is the light of stones, Stones that live in crystals in seashells and in bones.

The second light of advent is the light of plants, Plants that reach up to the sun, and in the breezes, dance.

The third light of advent is the light of beasts, The light of hope that we may see in greatest and in least.

The fourth light of advent is the light of man, The light of love, the light of thought, to give and to understand"

 

*Advent is a time of preparation. Children can busy themselves making handmade gifts and cards, or holiday decorations for your home. We are curating a growing collection of gift ideas that children can make for others!

*Invite family or friends over to join your family for an evening of carols and gift-making or baking.

 This list is by no means exhaustive. What’s most important is to find or create traditions for your family that are meaningful. My hope for this holiday season is that no matter what our beliefs are, that we are all working towards being the most loving, compassionate people we can be — bringing the light into ourselves. Our children need that.

All love this holiday season,

Robyn & Brian Wolfe


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