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.

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

Sunday, September 30, 2012

You know you are a Waldorf parent when....

  • your son comes home and chastises you for "never making kale chips"
  • your daughter wants to give a friend brie for a birthday present
  • your daughter receives seaweed as a birthday present
  • the highlighter you have at work is a wooden pencil that came from Life Without Plastic
  • your lunch box collection includes - plastic bento lunch boxes, metal bento lunch boxes, handmade fabric fliptop lunch baggies, travelling chopsticks, titanium sporks and more metal water bottles than a sports team should have
  • your kids wear a hat outside without even thinking about it
  • the most important factor in getting dressed in the morning is the weather check
  • your fronthall looks like a photo shoot for MEC
  • you know exactly what is meant by 'gifts from nature' and 'rainbow bridge'
  • your daughter wants to been seen in the yard wearing her violin on her back - as a symbol of being a really 'big kid' in the yard
  • you have purchased freshly butchered chickens, fresh vegetables, native perennials, samosas, eggs, handspun wool, honey and fair-trade coffee from people in the school community, at school
  • you feel a sense of relief when your children ask if they can stay at the school forever, or until high school anyway

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Is Active Play Extinct?

"Play comes in many forms, but it is generally freely chosen, spontaneous, self-directed and fun. The 2012 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth reports that Canadian children and youth are not playing enough; assigning an “F” grade for Active Play and Leisure. Forty-six per cent of Canadian kids are getting a mere three hours or less of active play per week, including weekends. Additionally, kids spend 63 per cent of their free time after school and on weekends being sedentary. "  The report also says that children are getting more than 7 hours a day of screen time!!

read more here

Monday, May 7, 2012

May Fair is this weekend!

One day not too long ago, I had occasion to go back to the school after the children had all gone home and the yard was empty - or so i thought. I happened upon the teachers in the yard having their own little May Fair and I grabbed a few moments of the magic with my phone.

I have written about May Fair before and this video includes images from years past.

See you on Saturday!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Do not train children to learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.
-- Plato

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Waldorf in The Ottawa Citizen

Yesterday The Ottawa Citizen ran an article about The Ottawa Waldorf School that specifically addresses issues related to technology. It is worth the read and in the online version there is a lovely video that showcases some of the musical talent in their older grades and also some kinesthetic mathematics in the classroom.

The comments on the article are the usual mix of clarification, testimonials and harsh warnings about the cultishness of Wladorf, including a link to an old article that warns against Waldorf education since everyone truly believes in Gnomes.

In the end, Waldorf is a pedagogical approach, not dogma, not a cult.  If people are interested in learning more and considering this as an option that might work for their family, then this article is a nice Canadian resource to add to the growing list of accounts in the media about the benefits of the Waldorf approach to education and delayed integration of technology in the classroom.

Teaching without distraction (with video)

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Waldorf Orthodoxy Scale - WOS

How Waldorf are you??
Completely unvalidated, unreliable and irreproducable 19 times out of 20 and JUST FOR FUN!

Quiz can also be found here

Friday, February 24, 2012


'I can't believe that!' said Alice.
'Can't you?' the Queen said in a pitying tone. 'Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.'
Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said 'one can't believe impossible things.'
'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.'

Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll, illustrations by John Tenniel

This morning we followed Tomten footprints in the snow all the way to school!  
My little guy excited pointed them out (and my heart melted).  

My big girl responded first with agreement and then caught herself and started coming up with plausible explanations (and my heart sank a little bit as I witnessed a piece of childhood wonder slip away). But with only a wink of the eye between us she was joyfully back on the Tomten trail.
The imagination of childhood is worthy of protection; for what we have once it is gone is Coleridge's "willing suspension of disbelief" which allows us to go back, but as tourists. We can also experience a new joy by witnessing imagination and wonder in our children - that requires no suspension of disbelief, only a belief in childhood.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


There is no doubt that the sense of community around the school appeals to me.

One of the things that builds a sense of belonging for me is the opportunity to participate, to be involved. Real involvement, not selling chocolate bars or cheese or magazine subscriptions - those are a special form of torture, just for parents.  They ask very little and mean about as much. Real involvement asks something of us - time, creativity, commitment and caring.  In return we receive a sense of connection, belonging, and ownership.

Involvement means many things - choosing to teach here, sharing gifts of music and art, helping with reading in the classroom, skating with the class, baking (and baking some more!), building and repairing things, being part of committees, attending the craft circles and making things for Winter Fair, going on field trips or worrying about the finances like they were your own.  The list is endless and it really starts with caring about the school and doing what one can. Participation changes over time - from each according to their ability. Time and financial constraints are a form of ability and the school seeks to make room for all abilities.  The is no pressure if now is not the time to participate, we all ride the ebb and flow of life with children.

The school is a labour of love that starts with the teachers and ripples out to include everyone. It is not a product to be purchased, it is an enterprise. Within the word enterprise are notions of  purpose, undertaking, adventure, complication, risk, scope and significance, effort and boldness. It feels good to be part of such an enterprise and I believe it is good for my children to see me participating in something larger than us, something with optimistic and altruistic goals. Just as the children benefit from meaningful work, so too do I.

Through want of enterprise and faith men are where they are,
buying and selling, and spending their lives like serfs.
Henry David Thoreau

Monday, January 2, 2012

Celebrating Light and Community

There are two events at school that mark "the holiday season". The first is Winter Fair, a community gathering of music and food, crafts for the kids to make and art and crafts for the adults to purchase. The silent auction represents the generosity of local businesses and often includes books written some or all of the writers who are part of the school community. Many of the vendors are parents or linked to the schools and the cast of musicians includes professional musicians from town, friends of the school and parents - some are all 3.

The school is decorated to the rafters and looks its best for the event.

The teachers of the youngest children prepare a puppet show that runs multiple times over the day. It is a lovely gift of time and attention.

The children make crafts to sell and prepare food to share in the cafe. During the event they are hosts and consumers and run and play as children do at large family gatherings.

Events at this time of year are always tied to some tradition or another but I feel that these events, Winter fair and the Spiral Walk, steer clear of Santa and overt Judeo-Christian imagery and no mention is made of Solstice, Saturnalia or Pagan anything but the event includes a strong infusion of greenery and candle light. The sense of festival, hope and sharing are tradition themselves. In my mind it is the best of the season.

The second event is the Spiral Walk.  The older children walk the spiral with their classes at a different time. Parents do not participate except with the youngest children.

From  a darkened gym drifts music - this year it is piano; other years it has been violin or woodwinds. Inside, taking up much of the floor lies a spiral of pine boughs, a table set with unlit candles and, not visible until fresh-from-outside eyes adjust, in the dark sit silently the parents and older siblings of my son's class.  Eventually we hear the shuffling of feet and hushed but familiar voices outside the door.  The children are led in by the teachers and as they pass the circle of families each joyfully slips onto the lap that belongs to them.  The teachers light the candles and tell us that the candles represent the earth, plants, animals and humans and they tell us an abbreviate summary of the story that has accompanied the lighting of the candles in the class in recent weeks. I am not doing this justice.

One teacher walks to the centre of the spiral and in turn each child walks the spiral of fragrant green boughs and is given a small lantern which they carefully carry on the path that leads out of the spiral. On the way they gently place their lantern on one of the gold stars within the spiral.  This boisterous group of high energy children, barely more than toddlers, are silent and participate with rapt attention.

The dark, the music, the light, the ritual, the coming together, the ceremony create a quietly uplifting meditation on hope and perseverance. I leave feeling more relaxed than I arrived and with renewed strength to continue to find and create pockets of light.

The children are excited to share with us the gingerbread cookies they have made and we all gather in the classroom for cider, cookies and an explosion of energy before the term ends for the holidays.