Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Letter to Parent-Child Families from the teacher

December 6, 2009

Dear Parents,

Saturday evening, while most of my garden was at rest, I was gratefully harvesting some hardy kale and parsley, dusting off the snow, as the world around me turned white! We had a fire going outside and Soren was busy making paths in the snow with his shovel, moving in many directions across the yard, so filled with excitement. A moment of true harmony in family life I so relish when it happens! This morning he woke up ready to go outside and said he wanted the snow to stay forever. The making of all white definitely offered a moment of respite in this busy time of year!

Sorens’ response reminded me of the oneness our children feel with their environment. Through their senses children are learning about their world, and are also being shaped by the senses they take in, this is especially so for ages birth to seven. As Soren was making all these paths in the newly fallen snow, crossing one over another, it spoke to me of all the many paths we take in our lives and the weaving that happens with one another as our paths cross.

This gift of snow and sun today was refreshing in the midst of the increasing darkness of shorter and grayer days. With this darkness and the liveliness of the plant world at rest, we also begin our celebrations of light! Advent, Christmas, Hanukah, and Solstice all are holidays celebrating the darkness with light. We decorate our houses, make gifts and special foods, see our relatives and friends and celebrate. Perhaps we can each ask ourselves in our own way what this light means to us?

This being the second week of Advent, we celebrate the plants, as last week we celebrated the stones. In the weeks to come we will celebrate the animals and then human being. This is truly a time of expectancy and waiting! The solstice brings the beautiful birth of the sun. As we do our ‘outward’ preparations for the holidays, one can look to the more inward nature of Mary in her blue cloak, which surrounds and protects, while her red garment shines warmth from within. In cultivating a mood of inner quiet and contemplation we can become more conscious in our own individual ‘inner becoming’ and of the human soul’s willingness ‘to become’ and continue to renew our own light within, each on our own individual paths and as we crisscross and weave together! The gesture of Mary’s reverence and devotion of the child is also an inspiring mood to carry in our hearts for our children!

Lastly, a quote from Rudolf Steiner, “The festivals are the nodal points of the year which unite us with the spirit of the universe.”

Thank you for letting me share some thoughts with you as a hopeful support to our lives as loving parents. Many blessings and light filled moments to you all and your families this holiday season. I think I can speak for us all in wishing Jody, Matt, Isabella, and Paul a special place in our hearts and thoughts at this time. May the loving light of the sun, moon, and stars surround and guide you.

Michele Beckstrom

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

St. Nicholas Day

Dear Parents,

In case you were wondering, the clementines and chocolate gold coins found in slippers this morning were gifts from St. Nicholas. This is a remnant of a tradition dating back before the time when St. Nicholas began to visit the Kinder Faire. An older boy asked "Where are the nuts?" remembering that in past years St. Nick also brought golden walnuts. He was assured by another older boy that at Ashwood St. N leaves only clementines. These traditions have lives of their own....

But our morning in the kindergarten was a golden day, perhaps with a bit of afterglow from the Advent Spiral, with some younger children playing "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and others building a zoo for land and sea animals.

We also opened several windows of an Advent Calendar depicting a very Special Family - Polly, Prentice, Joseph, Ben and Abel - our friends at Village Farm.

May peace and joy reign,

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Advent Spiral for Families, December 6, Sunday 4:30 pm

From the forest bring the boughs
Of fir and spruce and pine.
Bring them home, bedeck the house
For now it’s Advent time.

December 1, 2009

Dear Spindlewood Parents,

It is always with joy that I write to you of the coming season that we will share with each other and the children. “Advent” means a solemn approaching. It is a season of preparation. Just as the November winds and rains have swept away all signs of early autumn, we are cleaning out and making ready for what is to come. The woods and frog ponds are growing still, and daylight is dwindling. It is as if the entire natural world is coming to a point of stillness – waiting. Throughout history, humankind has waited for the return of the sun and the rebirth of life. There are as many ways to celebrate this as there are individuals. Here is a description of some of the activities and events to come in the life of the kindergarten.

The Moss Garden – Each child will receive a ceramic bowl. During this first week of Advent, beginning with the sparseness of the empty bowl, we will experience the gifts from the mineral world – sand, shells and crystals. There follows the plant kingdom. Now that deer hunting season has ended, we will once again roam the woods and carefully gather greens and moss. Of course we must ask permission...and as the older children know, we must wait and listen for Mother Earth to say “yes”. Following this is the animal world. Finally, we come to the human realm, represented by a candle. Here we make way for the arrival of the human family. The father, the symbol of meeting this earthly world as it is; the mother, the symbol of nourishing what wants to grow and become; and the child, symbol of inexhaustible potential, of the human spirit. As in the wisdom literature of fairy tales Man can represent the Wise Self, the Woman can be seen as the Universal Soul, and the Child the Universal Spirit.

For our young children, the center of their lives is their family. Father and Mother to a little child are much more than individual personalities. They are the fullness, love, support and encouragement that surround them. And surely every family who receives a child has a moment of experiencing that they receive a gift from heaven. Somewhere in our consciousness we regard them as a little King or Queen, and of course during infancy they are treated as such.

So it is for this that we build our gardens during the season of Advent. We celebrate the family (not necessarily the historical Holy Family, but a Universal Family). This is what surrounds our children as they become a part of this world. We mark this coming into the world or “incarnating” with the family festival of the Advent Spiral. This will take place at 4:30 pm this Sunday, December 6 in the kindergarten. It is our wish that each family be seated in the kindergarten by 4:30 so that we may begin promptly. The rugs will be rolled up so we will not remove our shoes that evening (imagine us all trying to find them again in the dark!)

Inside the Kindergarten, a spiral of evergreens is built on the floor with a large pillar candle standing on a stump in the center. At the opening of the spiral are set shining red apples with small white candles placed in the center. Here we find the spiral form as symbolic of the universe. Everything – galaxies, growing vines, seashells, our bones, the inner part of our ear, move or are formed in the dynamic of the spiral. When we wipe a table, sweep the floor or rake leaves, the movements are in the spiral.

The evergreens placed in this form are “everlasting”, eternal. The child takes her apple that is symbolic of one’s own individual karma or life challenges, walks into the spiral, lights her candle from the central pillar, walks out of the spiral and places the apple and lighted candle on the spot that she chooses. The child finds her place in the world. As each child adds her lighted candle to the dark garden it gradually becomes illuminated. This beautiful ceremony is accompanied by singing and the gentle tones of the harp of our neighbor Cheryl Martine.

Of course, no discussion of how the symbolism is interpreted occurs before or after the event. We allow the child to take what he may from the ceremony. We allow him to enter fully, without discussion. For safety, long hair needs to be tied back away from the candle flame, please. Skirts must not be so long as to brush the lighted candles on the floor. (Needless to say, this is a ceremony that keeps us adults quite alert.) Afterward, the apples and candles will be brought outside and distributed. Sometimes, if it is not too windy, families like to relight the candles and carry them to the car as was done at our Lantern Walk. The entire family is warmly invited. Please let me know if there are siblings or guests four years of age or older who would like to light a candle so that we will have an apple and candle ready for them!

On our last day of school before vacation, Thursday, December 17, families are invited in from 8:30 – 9:30 for a Gingerbread Tea Party. The oldest girl will serve as Santa Lucia in the Swedish tradition, and...we may share our circle Shepherds’ Play!

Wishing you all joy and deep peace,
Miss Susan

PS – See you again on Tuesday, January 5.