the village waldorf school

The life at the Village Waldorf School in Pretoria, South Africa


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Take It Slowly

Another year has passed, and with it, joy, dreams and lessons learned.

As I busied myself sewing a doll, I could not but draw a parallel between the education of our children and how long it takes to complete each part of the doll with care, making sure that each step is done as well as possible and finished before starting another. It is all about patience and love, and only when I put the pieces together, can I appreciate the result. So it is with education, to a certain extent.

Educating our children should be all about love, believing in what they are and what they will become. It is about the time we spend with them, playing, laughing, crying, talking, discussing, arguing, teaching, creating, observing, being happy, being sad, and looking around us. And each moment, day, year passing reveals more of the character of our child. And it has to be respected. And, one day, he or she will become an independent, responsible adult; there is no doubt about it.

I am glad that the teachers of the Village Waldorf School taught me to have a broader appreciation of my daughter. They taught me that it is worth waiting for every milestone in my child’s life and not to rush her into learning material she is not ready for.

And it has been difficult because children from Waldorf schools are often seen as being behind those attending main-stream schools, when, in fact, they are learning the many ways people of our world lived and evolved, with their diverse cultures and beliefs. It helps the child, as an individual, to find their own place in the society. It is quite different from learning subjects that do not seem to relate with each other.

To find their place in the society the child must have a balanced and well rounded education: all subjects must be taken into account: music, sewing, wood working, knitting, sport as well as academic subjects. In a Waldorf school, academic children are invited to learn to use their hands and to exercise; creative and manual children are praised.

This broad approach is most effective if the children are encouraged to do all kinds of activities at home as well.

Of course, we parents tend to see mostly the amount of mess it is going to generate! But when our children show the will to create, there is no way that we should stop them.

A problem, for me, is that my youngest daughter always wants to do projects that seem beyond her reach. They are all in her head, these big projects of hers whether she inspired herself from a book or researched them on the Internet.

So, how do we cope with it?

First she has to explain verbally what she wants to do and for which purpose. Then, her father will ask her to draw what she intends to do as well as she can. Most of the time, we have to convince her to simplify it to make sure the project is viable and can be done in a feasible period of time (and that it will not lie around for weeks on end). She accepts these compromises with complaints and vociferation, because, of course, all looked so easy on the internet. Depending on what she wants to do and on our own skills, we, the parents or older sisters, try to show her what techniques she can use to achieve her goal (papier-maché, copying a pattern, sewing, crocheting, knitting, cooking, etc.). Finally, we discuss what material or ingredients she needs (and how much it will cost) and she has to promise to clean up afterwards (which is the most difficult part of the project).

Now, at the age of 12 she can set her heart on ‘running’ a project from A to Z and she is really proud of it (and us too!).

I am telling you all this just to prove my points above: you child will grow and show you what it is capable of in its own time (whether you despair or not, so see him or her growing up faster). Comparing your child to another and rushing him or her to achieve tasks he or she cannot do yet only results in making you and your child miserable.

Love your child as he or she is, give him or her opportunities and have faith!

Emilie et pinata Jan 2015

My youngest with her Spinosaurus piñata

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HOW TO MAKE STRAW STAR ORNAMENTS? from Nova Natural.com

These stars are so lovely that I could not prevent myself from putting it on the school blog. Happy crafting!

stars

A tradition in Germany and Sweden, these simple, all-natural straw ornaments are beautiful, affordable and fairly easy to make. Make some to grace your Christmas tree, then make some to give away as gifts. This is a good craft to do with children over the age of 5.

Materials:
Straw
X-acto or sharp knife
Thread (gold thread blends in better, red thread gives a festive pop)
Iron
Thumbtacks or pins (helpful when working with kids)
A cutting board or piece of scrap wood to work on

basin and straw

Soak your straw in a basin of water for about an hour to soften and prepare it for ironing.

 

Instructions for an eight-pointed star:
Choose eight or ten pieces of straw to begin with. Cut them to about the same length—3.5 to 4 inches is a good starting point. Narrow, hollow pieces which are fairly uniform in size work best. You can also choose wider hollow pieces, slice them open and iron them flat to create wide strips.  Alternating wide and narrow pieces of straw is one technique used to create an interesting design.

straw piecescut straw

Iron the damp straw pieces. Ironing the straw allows the pieces to lie flat against each other when tying up the star, which will make that step much easier.

iron straw

Place two pieces together in a cross formation.

cross straw

Add two more pieces diagonally to create an eight-pointed star. You may want to pin the star down in the center at this point, especially if you are working with younger kids (the straw can be a bit slippery). As you gain confidence and experience, you’ll be able to pinch the star tight in your hand as you wrap the thread around it.

double cross

Wrap a length of thread (doubled up helps to add structure) over one of the topmost pieces, under its neighbour, and so on, as you work your way around the star.

straw star thread

When you get back to where you began, tighten the thread so there’s no slack. It’s a bit tricky, but once your star is woven with the thread you’ll be able to pick it up and tie it fast.

star almost done

Using your x-acto or knife, cut points at the end of each piece (parents may want to do this part for their children). Shorten and even out the pieces if you’d like—try alternating short and long pieces or alternate different points. There are many styles of points; try double arrows, slanted cuts, or a simple sharp point.

star finished

You’re done! Tie the extra thread together to make a hanger for your ornament.

If you want to create a sixteen-pointed star, place one eight-pointed star atop another and weave them together using the same method: starting over one of the topmost pieces, then under the next and so on, all the way around. You can then cut off the original thread binding the eight-point stars if you wish.


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Class 6-7 at work!

Once or twice a week I am happy to assist Class 6 and 7 with their Waldorf doll making project. Making a doll is a long-term project when you are a child!

The initial enthusiasm subsided a little after a few weeks spent on cutting patterns and sewing (by hand) the legs and the body of the doll. However, the making of the doll’s head brought back an expected interest. A couple of points were to be made: where are the eyes situated in a human head? “Certainly not in the middle of the head” was I told; “the nose is!” Jordan took out his ruler, measurements were taken and force to admit: the eyes are in the middle of our head!

First, the children filled a tubular cotton bandage with wool, quite tightly, forming a pear shape knotted at its extremity. Then, the children had to help each other with tying lengths of thin rope around the head, first to delimit the neck and then the eyeline and finally, the chin. This exercise demands quite strong hands and some agility to knot the rope without letting it slip away.

Once a rough head is formed, one has to decide whether or not the doll should have a nose. Most of the class decided they wanted a nose. It is made of a ball of wool and sewn just under the eye line in the middle of the face.

Then, the entire head had to be covered with the doll’s skin made of cotton knit.

At last, the fun part came: embroidering the eyes and the mouth. How far apart should the eyes be? What colour, which shape? And the mouth how big should it be? Which shade of pink or red?

From there on, the doll definitely comes to life. Its character starts showing. Making the hair gives it  the final touch: should it be long, short, gathered in ponies, have dreadlocks, be curly, straight?

Toni, the expert in hairdo decided that his doll will get the latest trend which will require a professional haircut. Jordan wanted dreadlocks. Nevada and Calista voted for ponies and Rebecca, Aidan, Arthur as well as teacher Elizabeth choose to have a head full of separate hair.

One must realize how much chatting goes around these subjects. After all, the children are about to become teenagers (or are already there) and their looks are very much part of their interests as well as their place in the society. They cannot help but projecting a little of themselves in the doll.

Anyway, there are many techniques to implant hair on the dolls. They are all time consuming especially when it implies to fix the hair one by one!

The class is now sewing the doll’s arms except for Nevada who has almost finished her doll.

Next term these dolls will get dressed. It will conclude a year of work and an exceptionally out-of- the-ordinary time for me.

IMG_2074

In front: Rebecca and Nevada

At the back: Jordan, Xavier, Toni and Aidan

Arthur blog 13 2014Xavier blog 13 2014

Arthur was hiding away.                 Xavier could not join us in making dolls but had to learn to knit

Calista was not present on the day we took photos, sorry Calista!


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Little Services That Nourish the Soul

Too often we see the things we need to do as a burden, even labeling them tasks or chores, rushing through them, sometimes with frustration or as society expects; with speed and efficiency. Not always considering what our gift of service means to the person or people on the receiving end.

Khalil Gibran said: ‘Work is love made visible.’ Let’s face it a shirt ironed by my hubby because I’m running late feels a little softer and a little warmer to the touch. An omelet prepared by my daughter might still be made of eggs; it just tastes better as each bite is appreciated a little more. A room or even a couch prepared for you by a friend makes you feel welcome in their home.

A meal can change from just feeding the organism that is our body to feeding the soul and mind as well. By taking time to give gratitude for the people who were involved in growing the food, harvesting it, transporting it, the person who did the groceries, the person who cooked the meal and even further than that the people who care for these people and make their work possible, that is when a meal becomes a matter of community.

We consider if our behaviour is worthy of the effort that was put into the meal and we become mindful of the meal and instead of greedily gobbling it down we savor every bite accepting the offering in to our bodies. It is this mindfulness that allows the meal to feed the whole being. This very much reflects Rudolf Steiner’s theory of the living picture.

In many of our lives; meals have become just one more thing that needs to be done between coming home, homework and bedtime. There is something to be said for a pot of potatoes banging its lid on the stove, the soft sound of butter or ghee spitting in the pan. Not to mention the inviting smells of a meal being prepared. Compared to the sterile sounds of a microwave indicating another grey meal, served on plastic, is ready for consumption.

Sitting around a table over a new food experiment that may or may not have been a success laughing and sharing, discussing what was the best and the worst of the day that feeds the soul and allows the body to receive its nourishment. Yes the time spend on preparing the meal may have been turned into a precious half hour with a book, but sitting around a table with family and friends, the apron still tied around the neck, makes the task of cooking a service which feeds the soul.

Kahlil Gibran goes on to say: ‘and if you cannot work with love, but only distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of the people who work with joy.’

Grada Scholes


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The four temperaments

Why does it seem so much easier for some, under normal circumstances, to communicate, and for others to create, philosophize, follow the flow of events or get things done?

When people meet each other they present a certain outer projection of themselves, which is expressed by their body language. In spite of the fact that each individual is different, the human being shows main characteristics that the Greek philosopher Hippocrates, classified in four temperaments. Temperaments are mixed in an infinite array of different proportions. However, the predominant temperament that manifests itself in a person can be easily recognized: the choleric, the melancholic, the phlegmatic and the sanguine.

To understand where these temperaments come from one must consider the person as a whole.

Steiner links the temperaments to the four parts that together form our entity: the etheric body, the astral body, the physical body and the ego.

The etheric body is equivalent to life strength. When the etheric body is harmed, the person will not feel well. The etheric body leaves the body when we die.

The astral body represents our spirit: our passion and feelings, our joy and sadness. The astral body is what will remain of us on earth once we die. It contributes to the good and bad that is on our earth.

The ego represents our unique self, made up of all the experiences accumulated in our different previous lives.

The physical body is what we inherit from our parents, our genetic heritage.

Each of these four parts corresponds to one of the four different temperaments.

The ego is linked to the choleric temperament. The choleric child is, I would presume, the child that all parents would like to have in today’s life. With a strong ego, he will become a person that will go forward, take decisions, get things done; a manager in other words. He wants to do things by himself and does not like to be helped. He often takes on work on his own, but can also sometimes accuse the others that they left him do everything on his own.

The astral body tends to fluctuate and is linked to the sanguine temperament. The sanguine child’s interest will “fly” from one subject to another, due to the fluctuating astral body. A sanguine person tends to be creative. The sanguine will not look like someone who really listens, but he will be aware of what has been said and done. Sanguine people are often entertainers and tend to have a lot of friends.

The physical body is linked to the melancholic temperament. The melancholic child will find its life quite hard, with many whys and interrogations on life. He will not trust easily and will tend to be a loner. He will have to push himself at every step along the way in order to surmount every obstacle, but will have a deep insight into subjects that touch the very reason of existence. His conversation will often be too serious (or boring) for his entourage and he is not very social.

The etheric body is linked to the phlegmatic temperament. The phlegmatic child will go with the flow. The phlegmatic person tends to avoid decisions and likes to agree with the people around him. The phlegmatic person loves his physical comfort.

We, as human beings, should strive to become well-balanced adults who are able to employ all four temperaments in a considered manner.

Waldorf school teachers have to observe and work with the prominent temperament of each child entrusted to them. A teacher should not counteract or try to repress the child’s temperament. For example, the teacher should make sure that the choleric child respects her but she will give such a child tasks to complete in order to satisfy its need for achievement.

A melancholic child should be shown all the misery existing around it so that it can feel for the others’ hardships.

A phlegmatic child will need friends with all kinds of interests to arouse his own.

Sanguine persons often have difficulties to finish tasks, which can create problems for them in a work environment. The sanguine person needs to find a way of moderating its temperament by finding a central interest. The sanguine child will have to be given many tasks which will not retain his interest for long, so that he can live out his sanguinity, then, when the teacher notices a stronger interest in one subject, she will have to present this subject again and again so that the interest of the child starts focusing on this subject.

Knowledge of temperaments can also be used in order to make children understand and accept each other. This aim is often furthered by coupling children with different temperaments together. For example, whereas two children with a same strong temperament will probably irritate each other greatly, a choleric child can learn a great deal by sitting next to a sanguine one in order to quieten his urge to order people around.

One of my daughters is strongly choleric, and I can now see that a choleric person has huge problems overcoming their ego. Choleric persons regard themselves as so superior to others that they fail to understand why everyone cannot be like them. They have little respect for people who do not conform to their ideas of life or who are not achievers. Choleric persons are terribly competitive and will always want to be “better” than others. Choleric persons should definitely try to find qualities in others that they do not possess. It seems to me that our present society strongly favours cholerics and does not listen enough to philosophers. This becomes evident when we see how technology progresses without any legal rules attached to it and what problems are created as a result of this.

Learning how to interact with other people and knowing what you can expect from them is crucial in life. Mariana, one of our school’s parents, once said during a meeting “Let the creative person be creative. You cannot ask a creative person to be a business person as well. The business person is there to help the creative person to reach her goal.”

This is the kind of understanding which comes from knowing yourself and others, and which enables a more amicable and prosperous society. Our society is a big pool of different kinds of people with different abilities and talents, and this should be recognized and used to the benefit of all.

Emmanuelle and Linda


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Arithmetic

One.  Just one, not two. What is one?

Everything is one. One sun, one earth, one I, one me. One is the indicator of individuality and identity, but also of unity. One man, one community. One earth, one universe.

And, one is everything, because in that concept, in the concept of One lies the beginning of human reasoning. And Arithmetic. And Mathematics. And Science. Even Music and Poetry, profoundly so.

Arithmetic is the language of numbers, a universal language which leads the child from playing to thinking.

When a two or three year old counts one, two, three, four, they are reciting a string of words and most of the time there is little if any meaning to the words other than the sequence. For unless meaning has been given by way of a carefully considered process of experience, these words are just names given to randomly selected, for the child, objects or fingers.

Arithmetic and numbers are very abstract concepts and can only be effectively taught to young children using a practical, story based approach. And this is why the Waldorf method of teaching Arithmetic is so remarkably successful.

In Classes One to Three, children from regular school might be more advanced in skills and arithmetic operations but their actual understanding of numbers is often almost non-existent, whereas with children in a Waldorf school, the Arithmetic concepts are learned as doors which open in an age-specific sequence, and with the story based method, the understanding of numbers becomes deeply entrenched.

The children in Class One in a Waldorf school take their first step in Arithmetic by being introduced to the concept of One. This first step, together with the aid of many stories, verses and practical engagement, allows the sequence of numbers, and their value as quantities and qualities to unfold.

One head, two hands, three heavenly bodies as earth, moon and sun, four legs of a horse, five fingers, six sides of a honeycomb cell, seven colours of the rainbow, eight legs of the octopus, nine planets, ten toes, eleven brothers of Joseph and twelve sons of Jacob. We really work with those first twelve numbers, laying out rows of beans to form rectangles, triangles and pyramids, counting forward and backwards and making groups of 1,2,3,4 and 6. And only then do the children encounter the four operations with the help of four little gnomes, Farmer Plus, Mrs Minus, Tommy Times and Farmer Divide, each with their own colour, temperament, persona and task to do for the King.

Later in Class Three the children will use their own bodies as the benchmark of measurement, and the cycles of the moon and the sun as units of time quantified as years, months, days and hours.

The Waldorf principle of “from the whole to the parts” is also applied when Fractions are first introduced in Class Four. One as a pie, an apple or a batch of biscuits is divided into its parts of halves, thirds, quarters etc, to be shared amongst the children in the class.

In Class Six the children explore the circle and its dimensions which soon leads them to the intricacies and beauty of Geometry in a Waldorf school. With the use of colour, and following the paths of the angles, jewel-like patterns emerge as the children apply simple techniques of construction in a circle. Later they will see how a simple arithmetic sequence is applied to geometric construction to become a principle of design used by the Renaissance artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Christopher Wren.

And thus the steps are taken from Numbers to Arithmetic to Algebra and on to Higher Mathematics. A very special journey for the child.

But Arithmetic and Mathematics are also more than numbers and the processes of logic. Arithmetic is also about patterns, repeated and extended patterns and this is where  Mathematics becomes the creator of Beauty, synthesizing melody and verse, music and poetry, rhythm and composition.

Engaging the senses and fulfilling the soul of the Child.

Linda


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Reading

Reading is certainly a milestone in your child’s life and the way she learns to read might influence the rest of her life.

When a child attends a Waldorf school, early reading is not, as many would believe, considered an achievement. Some children are asked to read as early as 4 or 5 years old and let us say it: they are not ready. They are not ready with regard to several aspects:

First of all, physically: it is hard for a child to stay sitting on a chair and concentrate when all she wants to do is explore the many functionalities of her body. Running, jumping, climbing, balancing is certainly good practice for a child. She develops her muscle tone and coordination that, you will agree, is a prerequisite for reading and writing.

Secondly, intellectually: the 2 sides of the brain are not ready to work together yet as needed in the reading exercise: hence the child will use her right hemisphere to “photograph” the words and learn them by heart, but will not be able to use her left hemisphere to combine sounds together and form a word and put the words together to understand a sentence fully (or at least as thoroughly as she should).

Thirdly, emotionally: for sure, it is not good for the child to be condemned to feel like a failure at such a young age just because parents cannot prevent themselves to compare their children’s “success”: “My child read at the age of 4, she is soooo clever”.  It does not matter what it costs the child, and whether later she will only read reluctantly because it is such an effort.

All this said, of course, once you know your child is ready to read, around 7-8, you wonder when and how it is going to happen.

I can only guess it will be easier when parents read too and talk about what they read, why they liked a particular book or disliked it, whether it was well written or not. How can a child understand why she should read when no one else does around her? Children are always curious about what their parents do and are still in an imitation period.

It is only fair, when your child starts reading, to take away what might distract him in your home for as long as the reading exercise takes place. Dedicating a few minutes of your day on reading alone with your child, as you would do for playing an instrument, is probably a key to success. It is also important that parents spend some time with their child to help them choose a book. Make it an exciting special event. Let’s go to the library or the book shop!

Sometimes it takes a little bit of diplomacy and compromises to agree on a book. Sometimes it needs a little convincing that the book is worth reading. In this case, the parent, sister or brother can start reading the first pages aloud and stop at a most intriguing event of the first chapter. The curiosity of the child is often aroused and she will want to know how the story will continue.

It also helps to start with books written in a bigger print and that include some drawings.  I personally think that books from Roald Dahl such as “The Magic Finger” are wonderful books to start with. They are funny, easy to read and comprehend, and Quentin Blake’s drawings are fabulous.

Soon, the parents will not need to help so much anymore and the child will be very proud to be able to read a book on her own.

If you do not know what book to choose for your child at her age, you will find, at the school’s office, a list of books for the children from class 2 to 12 adapted to the Waldorf school‘s curriculum. I can recommend most of them from my experience.