YARN - From the (shorter) Oxford English Dictionary:

Spun fibre of cotton, silk, wool, or flax.... fibre prepared for use in weaving, knitting...a fisherman's net...any of the strands of which a rope is composed...a (usually long or rambling) story or tale, especially an implausible, fanciful, or incredible one.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Mindfulness in Education

I am interested to see the overlaps between this conversation about mindfulness in education and some of the things I find in Waldorf education -
joyous educational environments, educational communities, social emotional learning, inner resilience, integrated learning, grounding, active movement, nature, virtue, making the world a better place, transformation, peacefulness, self-realization and awakening, being present...

Talking about Mindfulness and Education from Mindful Videos on Vimeo.

Wake Up Schools - Cultivating Mindfulness in Education is an initiative of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and associated communities to share these ideas with educators, administrators and students.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What IS eurythmy??

What IS eurythmy?

If you had asked me last week I would have said eurythmy had something to do with dancing and scarves, or maybe dancing with playsilks… clearly I had not the faintest idea what eurthymy was.  I knew it to be “one of those Waldorf things,” a hardcore Waldorf thing, and it was a bit of a mystery to me, one that I was fine with not knowing too much about.

This week I know enough to know how wrong I was to dismiss this important aspect of Waldorf education. Having participated in the workshop last weekend I can now say that eurythmy has to do with music and movement and language and evokes a strong sense of connection with others in the group.  Our school hosted a 1/2 day workshop with a guest eurythmist who led us through a series of eurythmy exercises that served to instruct and to whet our appetites for more.

I can now imagine how eurythmy in a curriculum would support the introduction of literacy in grades 1 and 2 and the whole body experience of learning to read and write in a Waldorf curriculum. And it was fun.

Waldorf education is rich with stories and the children learn to feel the rhythm, images and music in the spoken word.  In a second session a professional stage and screen actor coached us to pay greater attention to language, the words we use, and the ways in which they embody the essence of the thing they represent.  I came away with a new sense of how I might begin to speak in ways that support the intention of my words and strengthen my connection to both language and audience. I also feel a greater sense of gratitude that my children are learning not just the content of the words they use, but the power and meaning of them.

After looking for a video that captured my experience of the workshop these 2 came the closest. You can see why I linked it with scarves.  I am not so sure I can say that eurythmy is an art form for watching so much as I feel like it was a fun group activity and one that is rooted in the movement, language and music already so central to a Waldorf curriculum.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lantern Walk 2012

Last evening we were a community of more than 100 gathered in the school yard; children carrying lanterns newly made and parents carrying lanterns recycled from previous years. 

The evening, and the preparation by the children as they make their lanterns and learn the story and songs, is a celebration of St Martin and how he shared his cloak with another whose need was greater; a story that encourages us to be the warmth and light for ourselves and for others.  It is a story of our shared humanity. 

We were led in song by my son's teacher and we sang "High and Blue the Sky" and "I'm Walking With My Lantern" as we circled out of the yard and into the neighbourhood. We walk in silence except for the repetition of these simple songs celebrating hope and kindness and honouring those called to help others and be good in the world.  As the long parade of lanterns returned to the school yard the grade 1 and 2 class shared their musical telling of the story of St. Martin to end our celebration.

When we returned home we placed two more lanterns on our shelves to remind us of the teachings of St. Martin and the warmth and brilliance of this community.

High and Blue the Sky

High and blue the sky, 
trees are very tall, 
wild geese flying seem so small. 
See on silent wings in flocks they go, 
never parting from a single row. 
We go through the land, 
like a wild geese band; 
together in our flight are we.

Clear and dark the night, 
stars are very bright, 
lantern shining seems so small. 
See in single file we walk along,
 singing joyfully our lantern song. 
We go through the land,
 like a wild geese band; 
people of one light are we.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bringing up Bébé - Book Review


Bringing up Bébé is American journalist Pamela Druckerman's observation and analysis of French parenting. The book includes a fair amount of backstory and tracks her migration to France, her relationship with her husband (though he remains a fairly vague presence in the book) and the births of their 3 children as they form their family in Paris. It is the story of her conscious integration of French ways into her parenting and her mid-Atlantic critique of 'American' approaches to child rearing.

Waldorf Links: I can't help but wonder if some of the what is presented as 'the French' way of parenting may be European and may have infused into Waldorf education before it was transplanted into our corner of North America because lots of what Druckerman has to say will sound familiar to Waldorf parents.

Druckerman sees French parents helping their children to:
- develop patience and learn to wait
- cope with frustration
- play alone
- defer gratification /wait for the marshmellow
- enjoy a great variety of high quality and healthy foods

She finds French parents and care givers value, and are attuned to, the rhythms and individuality of their child. There is a high value placed on a predictable schedule and a respectful division between child and adult worlds.  Sounding familiar?

Druckerman explains the French 'cadre' as an approach with clear expectations and limits within which children enjoy a great deal of freedom.  Don't we all want to know where we stand and have agency within clear boundaries?

Without being overly academic she traces what she thinks might be some of the historic roots to the way the French parent, refers to studies, quotes experts she interviewed (she is a journalist) and anchors it all in her observations and stories. She is self depreciating enough to make the book an enjoyable and funnier-than-I-expected book. There is no real parental guilt residue after reading this book, which is nice.

I was interested to see some reviews of this book (NY Times) seem to respond almost viscerally to her discussion of the French health care system and other social benefit and indicators such as  better maternal and infant mortality rates, well funded maternity leave and publicly subsidized childcare. I was surprised by how often she noticed aspects of socially funded health care and commented on them as enablers of what she sees as a better way to parent.  This book might be about the socialization of an American.

Maybe I am shallow but I sometimes enjoy reading stories of other people's struggles, somehow it doesn't feel so lonely on the frontlines of unsuccessful efforts to get out the door in the morning etc.  Without being prescriptive there are some ideas and approaches in this book that are worth trying out.... my children are about to experience my attempt at the control tactic of "les gros yeux".

Sunday, October 21, 2012

9 Essential Skills Kids Should Learn

Over at ZenHabits Leo Babauta, whose children are 'unschooled', believes the 9 Essential Skills Kids Should Learn are:

  1. Asking questions
  2. Solving problems
  3. Tackling projects
  4. Finding passion
  5. Independence
  6. Being happy on their own
  7. Compassion
  8. Tolerance
  9. Dealing with change
He believes that we cannot predict what the future has in store for our children and that it is foolish and wasteful to educate them in preparation for what we think they will need. In high school the computer geeks sat by their lockers filling out bubble cards - who could have predicted all of this?

I agree that we need to teach our children to learn and allow them to love learning and follow their natural curiosity, to trust them to learn.  We need to give them tools knowing that we cannot even begin to imagine how they will apply them.

I am not sure whether this list is complete or exactly what I would have written, but it is close enough for me to hold it up to what my children are learning and make see what I think. I am pleased and confident that they are learning these skills, and more!

“Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility—these three forces are the very nerve of education.” 
 Rudolf Steiner