Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Visit from St. Nicholas

Dear Parents,


We began on Tuesday, basking in the afterglow of Sunday’s Advent Spiral. The children seemed peaceful and dreamy. Each child found his/her bowl and added fine white sand to it as the first layer of a moss garden. When we took our woodland walk, we found a patch of abundant moss and paused to ask Mother Earth’s permission to gather some.


Today, Wednesday, the children played energetically, and with a new mood of cooperation. The “sharks” that have been circling the rocking boat became “dolphins”. We polished boots and set them out in the mudroom. After the puppet play of a legend of Bishop/St. Nicholas who filled a ship with good food for families of a distant land who had nothing to eat, the story “came alive” when he appeared in our mudroom.

          “There’s Santa” said Maggie matter-of-factly.

James opened the door and Luka and Colt followed him out to quietly gaze as the robed figure with a shepherd’s crook and mitered hat silently filled each pair of boots with a clementine and a gold (chocolate) coin. Most kept a respectful distance and stayed inside, watching from the window. When he was finished he spoke a reverent message, asking the children to always be kind and good.

          James replied that he was practicing being good. (Aren’t we all lifelong learners?)

          Colt was eager to tell him about his family’s Christmas tree. (No, St. N did not inquire as to what the children “wanted”.)

After he departed, a lively controversy arose around the snack table.

          Luka: “That was Mr. Jack.”

          Maggie: “He told us to be good, so it had to be Santa.”

          Elsa: “That was St. Nicholas.”

          Maggie: “Yes, his hat was different. Santa has a fuzzy hat.”

          Colt (settling it): “You’re right, Maggie. He wears two hats.”


Out of doors, all 13 children were happy to find that the sand pile was no longer frozen. ALL 13 dug in together, creating pies, roads, volcanoes, and gardens. Miss Elisa observed that the children have now found ways of communicating with each other; speaking and listening to express interests and solve problems. This is the kind of harmony that we hope for by this time of the year, creating the hum that will carry them as a group through the year together.


Peace on earth, good will toward all,


Thursday, November 29, 2012

December at Spindlewood

It is always with much joy that we write to you about the coming season that we will share with the children. Yes, the shops downtown are completely ready for the holiday season, but here in the Kindergarten we possess the luxury of Time. Soon we will feed the last pumpkin to the sheep. Our leaves are raked and our firewood is stacked. 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 becoming quiet, and daylight is dwindling. There is an emptiness as the Earth breathes in and expectancy as we approach the darkest time of the year. It is as if the entire natural world is coming to a point of stillness – waiting for the advent of what… and who… is to come.


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. We experience it in several ways with the children. Here is a description of some of the activities and events to come in the kindergarten.


The Moss Garden – Each child will receive a ceramic bowl. During the first week of December, beginning with the sparseness of the empty bowl, we will experience the gifts from the mineral world – sand, shells and crystals. During the second week we find the world of plants, using the moss that we have carefully gathered. Following this is the animal world. Finally, we come to the human realm, represented by a candle.


(These four kingdoms are also celebrated in the four candles of the Advent wreath in the center of our table. The song that we sing as we light another candle each week before we eat can be found in the mudroom and attached to this email message.)


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 next Sunday, December 2nd at Spindlewood. We hope that each family will be seated in the kindergarten by 4:30 so that we may begin promptly.


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, all 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 sake, please no long dresses, and long hair needs to be tied back away from the candle flame. Afterward, the apples and candles will be brought outside and distributed. If there are siblings or friends between the ages of 4 and 9 who would like to carry an apple/candle, please sign their names on the poster in the mudroom, so that we will know how many to prepare.


Thursday, December 6 is the feast of St. Nicholas – Who knows, perhaps he will find his way to our polished boots and shoes?


On Wednesday, December 19, families are invited to come in from 8:30 – 9:30am for a Gingerbread Tea Party. Our regular morning resumes at 9:30. There is school on Thursday.


Wishing you all joy and deep peace,

Miss Susan         


PS – See you again on Tuesday, January 8.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hallowe'en in the Kindergarten

Our current story in the kindergarten is The Naughty Little Hobgoblin, who likes to play silly tricks but after finding a big, golden smiling face of a jack-o-lantern, runs away and “minds his manners”. The short article below by Eugene Schwartz speaks about the true nature of “All Hallows’ Eve” and how it relates to young children.

Hallowe’en is followed by All Hallows Day (All Saints Day) and All Souls Day. Much celebrated in Latin America and Japan as days to remember loved ones who are departed. In the kindergarten, those children who come on Thursday, November 1 are invited to bring with them a photo of a departed grandparent or pet that they remember. We will have a place of honor prepared for these photos, and we would like to hear if they had a favorite food! The story that day will tell how our loved ones are alive in our kind thoughts.


Eons ago, as they looked upon the mists that wove around their fjords and heaths, ancient Europeans had a particular experience as the days grew shorter. Toward the end of the month that we call October, they perceived the souls of all of those who had died in the past year gathering and preparing to ascend to their heavenly home, making a space for the souls

due to be born in the year to come. But before they could assume their place in the ethereal realm, the departed souls had to sweep away all the detritus of the life just past and cast it to the earth. Thus the popular image of witches riding on their broomsticks is a misperception: in reality, the brooms are sweeping away the witches!

At the time when the child is in fourth grade, a sense of human mortality begins to dawn within her. Children of this age are rightfully and healthily drawn to all of the frightful and gruesome aspects of Halloween, and they look forward with trembling anticipation to visiting a haunted house, watching an horrific form arise out of a swamp, or, if only through a well-told story, being scared out of their senses!

For the younger child, however, the situation is different. The spirits and creatures with whom the younger child communes are not those created by human error, but rather those in whom the innocent and wise powers of Nature reside: gnomes and undines, fairies and elves, the spirits of stones and streams, sun and wind. For young children to be exposed only to the dark and demonic qualities of Halloween is to deny the unspoken conviction that they carry in their souls that the world is good.

Eugene Schwartz, Waldorf Educator

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

This Week in the Preschool/Kindergarten

"Come, little leaves," said the wind one day. "Come over the meadow with me and play. Put on your dresses of red and gold. Summer is gone and the wind blows cold."
Dear Parents,

Yesterday the children all joined together to pluck the petals from the marigold flowers that we harvested before Jack Frost visited the garden last week. We filled a pan with the golden petals and made a "stew" of them with water and simmered it on the stove. When we went outside, we strained our marigold stew into a big pot, added more water and set it on the gas burner. One by one, starting with the youngest, each child dipped a silk into the pot, stirred it with a stick, and watched it turn golden!

Today, we hiked through the woods, over the stepping stones of the stream and up through the back fields on High Street to the Hazens’ ancient chestnut tree. Before starting out, each of the older children found a younger one to walk with and hold their hand. (Left to right: Zoe and Maggie, Luka and Colt, Adele and Elsa, Olivia and Hazel, Kennedy (my partner), and Rosalie and Seamus.) They watched over their friends carefully the entire way! After we stopped for our snack of peanut butter balls, popcorn and apples, each one donned a golden cape to run through the meadow. This hike is about two miles, and not one child asked to be carried! Upon our return to the school, the older children continued to laugh and play with the younger ones.

So we begin our journey through the winter together!


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Parent-Child Class this week

Dear Parent-Child Families,

Yesterday morning was a beautiful example of play being enlivened by work. Susan polishing blocks in the block bin with a tiny basket of small cloths and beeswax salve, enticed Walden and Owen to help, build and then play together loading the boat with "cargo" of "clean" blocks. Jenn harvesting mint at the table, and soon Owen was putting mint leaves in the jar and pouring tea and then he and Walden made snack and tea for Clementine and Carlos in the quiet room.

Outdoors we spoke of the pleasing scent of essential oils and I mentioned a blend that is used in the Kindergarten and my home for cleaning and refreshing. I first made and used it during my LifeWays training and below is an excerpt and recipe from a LifeWays newsletter.

And the words to a new finger play....

As always I look forward to what next week will bring with you and your children!

Take care,
"Miss" Elisa

FingerPlay: Seed pods, bean pods, pea pods, poppy pods! Spilt when they ripen! And open with a POP!

Thieves Essential Oil Blend:
Equal parts of Lemon, Clove, Cinnamon, Rosemary, Eucalyptus essential oil

For a small spray bottle: Mix approximately 5 drops of each oil with one tablespoon of rubbing alcohol. Fill the rest of the way with distilled water.

It smells great and research shows these essential oils have been noted for anti-bacterial, anti-viral, antiseptic and anti-catarrhyal properties while stimulating the immune system, circulation and the respiratory system.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Our First Day

Our first day was as if a sweet dream. With so many children returning, more capable than ever and with younger siblings who last year had their noses pressed against the window, now so eagerly entering in to the work and play, the class is quite harmonious. Miss Elisa is introducing a new bread recipe, with cracked grain soaked with yogurt to stimulate digestive enzymes. It was well received. She is also bringing a new dough-kneading song set in the mood of the fifth, which seems to meet and carry the children in a magical way.

Gates Open Back to Preschool

Children and families gathered Saturday, September 8 for a work party to spruce up the Spindlewood grounds. At the close of the morning, new gates built by parent Sean Donaghy (pictured top right with twin toddlers) were opened to signal the beginning of the preschool year. Posts were installed by alumnus Christian Wincklhofer.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ten Pillars of Good Childhood

The Association for Childhood Education International, a member of the World Forum Alliance, is promoting Ten Pillars of Good Childhood as the basis for their "Decade for Childhood" campaign:
  1. Safe and secure places for living and learning and access to health care, clothing, and nutritious food.

  2. Strong families and loving, consistent caregivers.

  3. Social interactions and friendship.

  4. Creative play and physical activity.

  5. Appreciation and stewardship of the natural environment.

  6. Creative expression through music, dance, drama, and other arts.

  7. Education that develops the full capacities of the child — cognitive, physical, social, emotional, and ethical.

  8. Supportive, nurturing, child-friendly communities.

  9. Growing independence and decision making.

  10. Children and youth participating in community life.

For the full article by Leah Pulkinnen from Finland, see the link below:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sheep shearing!

No, that isn’t a leopard that Emily Garnett is shearing! Buttercup looks different without her winter coat. Emily did such a beautiful job. She made it look easy. Now we have wool to wash and use for stuffing dolls and spinning yarn!

All winter, as you recall, we waited for lambs to be born, but when none appeared, we found a new companion for Buttercup. The children have named her Daisy.

Happy spring!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Regatta this morning!


The fleet is ready to launch! Sanded and drilled, with a peeled mast! When you arrive in the morning you can help us find just the right leaf to use as a new sail, and then we will begin our portage through the woods to the stream.

The captains of the boats have been alerted that the bridge across the stream is unfit for walking, so they will be issuing warnings. We will turn left upon arrival at the bridge, and proceed along the mossy banks to the sandy peninsula. The first to launch will be Strawberry, bearing candles for her summer birthday. The remaining vessels will launch in order of age, beginning with the youngest.

We will follow them down the stream and pull out when they have passed the bridge. Then we will break for watermelon!

Don't forget your safety gear! Rubber boots, long pants or tights, long sleeves and hats are needed for bug protection. We have a spray repellent you are welcome to use when you arrive.

See you early in the morning.

M. Susan

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mothers' May Celebration Today

At our Mothers' May Day Celebration today, the children wove crowns for their mothers and grandmothers and served them small breads shaped liked doves. We sang our spring songs as we wound our colored ribbons, and ended our morning with a puppet play of The Queen Bee.
So thankful that the sun shone at last!

Monday, April 23, 2012

To be a child...

"Know you what it is to be a child? It is to be something very different from the man of today. It is to have a spirit yet streaming from holiness; it is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief; it is to be so little that the elves can reach to whisper in your ear; it is to turn pumpkins into coaches, and mice into horses, lowness into loftiness, and nothing into everything, for each child has its fairy godmother in its soul."
                                                                                                                    Shelley, 1908

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

From the Parent-Child Morning Garden

Dear Parent-Child Families,

I want to thank you all for the good cheer you bring to our Monday mornings. It shows in the children! It is so sweet to hear their voices chime in for the “tidy-up” song, and coming to circle with “Skip to my Lou.” I revere their stillness as we quiet ourselves, for the snack blessing and story time. It’s wonderful to hear the anecdotes of how the children are taking in what we bring to them. They inspire and challenge us to be our best!

Here are some photos.  I look forward to seeing you again!

Yours Truly,

“Miss” Elisa

Monday, April 16, 2012

Note to Parents...."Just So You Know"

"Here at Spindlewood" as any of the older children will tell you, "firearms become firewood". Sticks have many uses and are often carried. But if they "shoot", they are collected with proper gratitude for kindling our fires. No lectures or moralizing. Just the way it is here.

Now it's remarkable how flexible thinking can become. We often see guns transmute into bows and arrows or "waterarms" (to put out fires). Even swords. We appreciate this kind of creativity.


M. Susan

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Life Sustained

Our Kindergarten Class parent Amy Donaghy is featured on the etsy blog!

Here’s the link for some adorable photos of her family and some inspiring examples of her felted wool creations!

Bravo, Amy!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Letter from a Parent

Hi Susan,

Thank you so much for the parent evening last night. Hearing a bit about the conference you and Elisa attended was fascinating. I loved hearing a little about Steiner's views and how they influence your work with the children. The anecdotes you told about a day in the Kindergarten were so sweet. Your explanation of how you usually take the pulse of the class and the place that modeling has in the classroom were equally interesting to me. I also loved hearing Elisa talk about the afternoons. I know they have been a special time for (our daughter) Elsa this year. Finally, I really appreciate the way that you invite the parent's voices during those evenings. The whole evening was interesting, informative, and totally enjoyable. Thank you so much for your time and thought.

Take good care,


Notes from our Parent Evening, March 5, 2012

Dear Parents,

Thanks to all of the parents who were able to reschedule your lives to attend our postponed Parent Evening yesterday evening! And thanks also to all the others who let me know that you were unable to be here.

What a warm and enjoyable evening with you! One parent asked if I could send around a few notes to summarize some of our topics for those who were tending the home fires that night. So here are a few:

We began by introducing ourselves and what our children's names meant to us. (Sometimes in the birthday story that I tell in the kindergarten, the Guiding Angel tells the Star Child that when she comes to the earth, she will have a name; and that whenever she hears that name she will feel strong.)

Miss Elisa and I traveled to New York in February for the annual WECAN conference (Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America). It is always inspiring to share meals and sing with some 300 Waldorf teachers. A few highlights from the keynote address by Susan Weber, founder of Sophia's Hearth in Keene, NH and a former mentor of mine:

Rudolf Steiner speaks of the new capacities that are beginning to ripen in human souls at this time.

We are beginning to see these in the children:

· The ability to feel the pain of others

· Freedom of thought

· Recognition of spirit working in the world

So what is it that the children need now?

· To re-connect with the world of the archetypes

· To experience uprightness in adults

o We can enhance this by truly listening to a child, and by holding him in our thoughts without using so many words.

· To experience clarity of form in the physical environment (This engenders clarity of thought in the developing child.)

In the kindergarten, we work with these indications by encouraging self-directed imaginative play, nourishing the children with fairytales and authentic experiences, and by engaging in mindful, purposeful work in their presence. Miss Elisa and I shared anecdotes from recent days in the kindergarten.


A show of the children’s watercolor paintings is on exhibit at the Lincolnville Farmers’ Market (at the corner of Heal and Main Street) this month. The market is open Wed. 2-5pm and Sat. 9 – noon.

Re-enrollments are now due for next year. Forms are available in the basket in the mudroom. You can reserve your child’s place before March 15 at a discounted deposit of $200. After March 15, the usual deposit of $330 is required.

Parent-Teacher Conversations are scheduled for this Thursday unless you have scheduled an alternate time. I’m looking forward to meeting with you.

Spindlewood (along with the other independent school of the mid-coast) will have an Open House on Saturday, March 31 from 10am – 1pm.

A new state law requires unvaccinated children to be excluded from school when there is an outbreak of a particular illness in the school. Thank you for keeping me informed about your family’s illnesses and exposures.

Social Game

In the spirit of the social art of speaking and listening, we opened the topic of conversation around the question “How do we navigate the normal illnesses and challenges of childhood?” As each person spoke, a ball of yarn was tossed to him or her, and we watched a web of yarn grow among us. At the end, we rewound the ball of yarn as each person recalled the spoken contribution of the person who spoke before previously.

I feel so enriched by all of your participation,

With gratitude,


Friday, January 13, 2012

Letter to Parents

Dear Parents,

What a joy to welcome your children back to Spindlewood after the holidays. They seemed to be filled with the magic of the season, and content to play in one large cluster (like the honeybees at this time of the year!). They have been creating their own imaginary landscapes with carved wooden figures and table dolls and enacting their own dramas, (still featuring taming, feeding and tending kittens.) 

We painted with all three primary colors last week, something we have built up to very slowly, beginning by experiencing first one and then two colors. With all three colors, there is the possibility of making only “mud” on the paper, but every one of the children created a painting with complete quiet and absorption with glowing colors. We will send it home soon.  

This past week the children also sewed together some of their previous paintings to make pocket folders to store their crayon colorings. They are collecting them carefully so that they can sew ten pages together to make their own books. 

Each child has also begun sewing with colored embroidery thread on cloth held taut by a wooden hoop. They delight in choosing their colors and use all of their powers of concentration to work the needle up and down. When it is finished, we will turn it into a balsam pillow. 

On our coldest day, we had a special session of beeswax modeling, warming a piece of modeling wax first in warm water and then in closed hands, and then carefully pressing the wax (as do the bees!) to form small vessels. The children spontaneously produced tiny boats, bowls and cups. Perhaps the most touching to my sensibilities was the six-year old boy who made a tiny “cradle”. 

Our daily story time has been a table puppet play of The Shoemaker and the Elves. Have I mentioned what an extraordinary class this is in their ability to listen in complete silence to stories? When a repairman turned up one morning to fix our gas heater just as the children were transitioning from rest time to story time, he seemed stunned by the quiet in the room of 12 children. 

This would be a good time for another child to join the kindergarten. Please let your friends know that we have an opening. 

At last we have snow! If it lasts, you may find us still on the sledding hill at 12:15. If you are able and willing we would welcome your support and assistance in rounding up sleds and returning them to the shed where we will have our closing circle promptly at 12:30.  

Miss Susan  

The North Wind doth blow and we shall have snow
And what will the robin do then, poor thing?
She will sit in the barn and keep herself warm
And hide her head under her wing, poor thing.

The North Wind doth blow and we shall have snow
And what will the dormouse do then, poor thing?
He’ll curl up in a ball in his nest oh so small
And sleep ‘til its springtime again, poor thing.
The North Wind doth blow and we shall have snow
And what will the swallow do then, poor thing?
Oh do you not know that she’s gone long ago
To a country much warmer than ours… Ah!