Monday, December 9, 2013

A Letter from a Parent

Dear Spindlewood Families, 

What a beautiful and magical evening in the Kindergarten last night.  It's one of my favorite Spindlewood festivals.  I love watching the concentration on each child's face and seeing them so carefully and intentionally walk forward (and backwards!) with their candles.  It must take quite a bit of courage for some of them. 

This is a bit belated, but I feel moved to share.  I was honored to spend two mornings helping Miss Elisa a few weeks ago.  I loved getting to know your children a little more.  I enjoyed experiencing the kindergarten rhythm where I felt nurtured by the flow of the morning.  Usually when I drop Ami off, the morning feels quite short, but those mornings stretched out so wonderfully and indulgently.  It was as if a whole day had happened in 4 hours! 

I feel grateful that a magical place like Spindlewood still exists for the children where there is a sense of timelessness, safe sanctuary, nourishing food, and imaginative indoor/outdoor play.  I love the community that it creates for me. 

I look forward to building on my relationship with each of your children as the year progresses.  And I also look forward to getting to know you all more.  I'd love to find a morning in late January that you could stop by at my house after drop off for a cup of tea/coffee, scones, and your company! 

(Ami's mom) 

May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.

May you allow the wild beauty of the invisible world to gather you, mind you, and embrace you in belonging. 

--John O'Donohue

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Light the candles one by one
Count off the days in rhyme
Every day a task well done
For now it’s Advent time
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. The third week brings the animal world. Finally, we come to the human realm, represented by a candle.
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 8th at Spindlewood.
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; 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.
The feast of St. Nicholas is December 6 – Who knows, perhaps by the following Tuesday he will find his way to our polished boots and shoes?
On Thursday, December 19, families are invited to come in from 8:30 – 9:30am for a Gingerbread Tea Party. According to our tradition, the oldest girl in the kindergarten will dress as Santa Lucia, wearing a crown of light and carrying the gingerbreads, accompanied by the baker boys. 
Wishing you all joy and deep peace,
Miss Susan & Miss Elisa       

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

An Alumna Board Member Reflects on the Lantern Walk

Below is a letter from one of our Spindlewood Board Members Liz Hannibal Drury. Her three  sons attended Spindlewood. Now that the youngest has begun college, Liz has been given a sabbatical year from her middle school teaching position to complete her Masters in School Development at Harvard. She has given me permission to share parts with you. I though you would appreciate her response to my note on the Lantern Walk....

We look forward to Liz’s return to our community. In the meantime, she joins our board meetings by speaker phone. (Our next meeting is November 21. It is always an “open” meeting if you would like to join us at 7pm.)

Warmly, Susan

From: elizabeth drury []
Sent: Monday, October 28, 2013 10:53 PM
To: Susan Silverio
Subject: Re: Lantern Walk next Thursday, November 7 at 4:30pm

Hi Susan, 

This note could not have come on a better day. I have been a bit nostalgic about the boys' childhood, went back through the photo albums, and showed them to new friends in Cambridge....

I remember the Lantern Walk as a magical yet hauntingly challenging time. It seemed to mark a transition toward introspection that required community and a little candle in the soul. Oddly, or serendipitously, I feel those feelings again at this time. Perhaps I need to have my own little lantern walk of sorts here in Cambridge

 I love my experience at Harvard and am so very thankful for my experience of growth here. Many new friends, many young as my guys. As comes with awareness and growth, comes some discomfort as well. One thing working on me in this learning time is the conflict I feel about education. I am so dearly drawn to wanting to help the public school child, to really offer nourishment. I also see the trend toward strict testing and form, especially here in Boston Public Schools. The school I am at is a highly successful "turnaround" school which means the children of poverty have had the valuable experience of moving from violence and uncertainty of a failing school to a stable, highly functioning, much more peaceful experience. There is no doubt that there is good work going on here. However, I am adrift in my soul......knowing that really my wellbeing comes from God, not a person. Yet the aloofness (here) leaves me parched for a deeper and more meaningful, nourishing experience, myself. This has me wondering about the wealth of a true foundation for living that Waldorf kindergarten established in us. Education is so much more than the "thin" calling of the competitive test. And, paradoxically, there is no disputing that good is happening here..I am coming into a cold time and I just want to have a little light and warmth there at my school with me. I am dedicated to learning what I need to learn here, to being loyal to my commitment but I pray for a narrow path toward beauty out of loneliness. 

 And so I enter the dark time of cold, with a hope of a little shelter for my tiny candle. 

 My best to you, and such gratitude for the lesson of your loving tutelage over the years. 

Love, Liz 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

    Martinmas Lantern Walk 
for Spindlewood Families and Friends
 November 7, Thursday 4:30 – 5:15 pm
This week, each child is making a lantern by painting a glass jar with egg white and covering it with a mosaic of colored tissue paper. They will be ready when you arrive for the Lantern Walk. You are welcome to bring other candle lanterns also, but please no flashlights.

'Martinmas', November 11, is a festival with European roots. Martin (named for Mars) was a Roman soldier of the fourth century who gave his cloak to a beggar. (This was more than an act of charity. It was considered to be an act of treason.) Later in a dream Martin saw Christ clothed in his cloak. He subsequently devoted the rest of his life to helping the poor. He was a man who carried an inner light in a time of darkness.

This festival provides us with an opportunity to consciously mark the point in the cycle of the year when the light and warmth of the sun is retreating. The Lantern Walk allows us to experience the change of season in a sensory way.
A small bonfire and warm apple cider that we pressed at our Harvest Celebration will await families upon their arrival at the kindergarten. When all are gathered we will celebrate the circle time that the children are doing in the kindergarten. In the Waldorf School, we wait until second grade to tell stories of the saints. So our circle game presents a picture of the elemental beings whose task it is to bring cosmic light into the earth, bringing life to the seeds and light to the growth of crystals.
After the circle, parents or grandparents may light the children’s lanterns (we will provide long matches that you may wish to keep just in case a lantern needs to be rekindled) and I will lead the way along the lighted path. The walk is not long but the experience is memorable. Stepping into the darkness we are guided only by the light of our lanterns and the luminaries placed along the pathway and a bit of moon if the night is clear. We may hear an owl, a crackling stick, or the wind. We return to find the bonfire extinguished, but the sparks of light in our lanterns creating a large circle of warmth and community. We sing a final song, receive a ginger cookie and then carry the lanterns with the same quiet intention to your cars and on to your homes.

To strengthen the mood of the Lantern Walk, some possibilities are:

* Please be here by 4:30 so that car headlights don’t interrupt our walk. Dress warmly and wear good walking shoes. Please, no flashlights on the walk.

* Although the event is short, you might expand it into an opportunity to have a more mindful day in order to be more receptive to the mood of the evening. You might try to notice some of the signs that mark the retreat of autumn, or to work a little more slowly and deliberately than normal throughout the day, or to have a pot of warm soup ready upon return home to eat as a family by candlelight.
* You could end the evening by getting ready for bed early and then telling your young children a story rather than reading them a book. Children love any story you tell, no
matter how simple you think it is. If you have never done this, here is a suggestion:  Tell a story about a family - with the same makeup as your own - that walks by a lantern one night in order to help an elderly neighbor who is sick.
PS - If you prefer to have a Lantern Walk at home, your child may bring home the lantern!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Parent Evening, Notes from Parents

Hi Susan,

Thursday night was a wonderful and informative experience into our child's time at Spindlewood. Gaining insight into how all the ages there play and interact was great. The activity that Susan led was excellent in opening our eyes to our own senses and responses to items often around our children. It really made me go home thinking and reassessing items that find there way into my own home.

As always it was nice to chat and see parents in the Spindlewood Family.       

Hi Susan,
Thank you so much for the parent evening that you and Elisa hosted last night.

I was just telling a friend of mine about the toy exercises you led us through. It was so interesting to think more deeply about children and their play, and about the role the toys themselves have in sparking play. What a joy it was to hold and smell and look at the toys that the children can play with at Spindlewood! The materials are one of my favorite parts of the Spindlewood environment.

I enjoyed hearing your perspective on the development of 3, 4, 5, and 6-year-old's. I recognized my own daughters in your descriptions! I look forward to continuing our dialogue at our parent conversations next week.

Thanks again and take good care,

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Groundhog in your hole so deep,
Lift your head and take a peep,
If your shadow makes you leap,
Curl back up and go to sleep.

Dear Spindlewood Parents,

Now that the light of day is increasing, the class seems to be "waking up" from our midwinter dream. We have carried the mood of Christmas for 40 days with our Three King Play, but I think that the children would have been happy to carry it on for another forty, never seeming to tire of donning the capes and crowns and the astronomer’s pointed cap. During this sweet quiet (well relatively) time, each child has been sewing with colored floss on an embroidery hoop. (Sharp needles require focused attention.) Now we are removing the cloth from the hoops and fringing the edges so that they will serve as candle mats. And now that the weather is a bit warmer, and the children are running and playing out of doors, we have found a large sapling to saw into slices to drill as candle sticks. We hope to be sending the completed set home with each child by Valentine’s Day. I hope they find a place at your dinner table or bedside stand.

We will observe Valentine’s Day on Wednesday, February 13 with our tradition of posting a heart "mailbox" for each child in the mudroom. We invite children to bring a homemade valentine for each of their 13 classmates that day. A simple heart cut from paper will do nicely. (Please no candy.) Your child can sign each card with his or her name or symbol. Whoever brings your child that morning can see that one valentine is placed in each of the "mailboxes". I will send home a list of children’s names and symbols just in case your child enjoys seeing and recognizing the letters and symbols.

February Break is February 19-21. There is no school that week.

Please save the date of Thursday, February 28 for a Parent Evening from 6:30-8pm. We hope that at least one parent from each family will be able to attend. I will present a description of a "Day in the Life of Spindlewood Kindergarten" so that you can get a sense of the dynamics and activities of the entire class. I would like to say a few words also about the social development of the 3-6 year old, and what Waldorf schools look for as "first grade readiness". Then when I meet with you during the first week of March for a Parent-Teacher Conversation, we will have a context in which to consider your child’s development.

Next weekend, Miss Elisa and I travel to Sunbridge Institute in Spring Valley, NY for a Waldorf Early Childhood Conference. She and I have been preparing by studying the recent book Under the Stars: Foundations of Steiner Early Childhood Education by Renate Long-Breipohl, the keynote speaker. We are both excited and enthusiastic about what is always an inspiring assembly.

All our best,

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Accreditation Report from WECAN Site Visitor


Driving onto the Spindlewood Property is somewhat like driving into an enchanted world. At the end of a long unpaved road, the surrounding buildings are of a delightful architectural design that only adds to the feeling of magic. The Spindlewood Kindergarten is located on the property of Susan and Jack Silverio, in the small town of Lincolnville, Maine. The school building itself is a renovated cabin which has been lovingly added to over the course of Spindlewood's twenty-six year history. Susan and her husband Jack live here on the property and Jack (the architect behind those magical buildings) has his office/studio there as well. The school also functions as a "LifeWays" training center.

At the time of my visit, total enrollment was 14. The Kindergarten program runs Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with an extended day program offered on all three days. This aftercare program is in the hands of Miss Elisa Olds, Susan's assistant. Six children are enrolled in aftercare on Tuesday and Wednesday, no children attend on Thursday at this time. Susan and Elisa teach the morning classes together each day.

I was warmly greeted upon my arrival by Miss Susan (Silverio) and her assistant teacher Miss Elisa (Olds) The wood stove warmed the room, and the smell of bread dough filled the air. I was immediately enveloped in a feeling of homelike coziness. The rooms themselves were obviously well-tended, the playthings and small tableaux were artfully arranged and the entire atmosphere was pleasing to both look upon and to be enveloped by. We began the day, as they do each and every day, with two verses. One from the "Calendar of the Soul" and one from "In the Light of the Child". This was followed by the "Halleluiah" eurythmy series of gestures. It was a touching and reverent moment, and a lovely way to begin the morning.

The children soon began arriving, some bearing offerings (such as freshly laid eggs from the family chickens) and they came individually to have their hair brushed by Miss Susan. In the meantime Miss Elisa was busy in the kitchen preparing the dough for the children to knead. Miss Susan sang the most delightful song about brushing the starlight through their hair, and then helped them into their aprons. As she sent them off to the baking table, she warmed their hands on a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel upon her lap. What a loving transition from home to the Kindergarten!

The children kneaded their bread with good industry and when they had finished, they went off for indoor imaginative play time. There was a happy "hum" in the room. I saw them riding stick horses and building boats and houses. Some children came to set the table and to fold the laundry. All this was carried along in a dreamlike manner, and I felt a deep sense of peace and timelessness.

Now it was clean-up time and all of the children helped to put things away in their homes. This was followed by a most reverent morning circle time. I was visiting on the first week of Advent and the theme of the circle was centered around the birth of the child of Light. I was struck by the children's deeply engaged attention to the words and gestures...Miss Susan is obviously a master at "holding" the circle and this was very apparent. I consider this ability to be a great gift.

We were then treated to an enchanting puppet show. As this was the first week in Advent, the puppet show was "St. Nicholas and His Journey Through the Stars". The children were deeply absorbed and attentive, and a feeling of hushed awe pervaded the class.

We then washed hands and said a blessing before having our snack of freshly baked bread together. The children helped with serving and pouring and a lovely chatter accompanied our snack. Cleanup time followed smoothly, and all of the children were aware of what their tasks involved. The rhythm of the day was strongly evident and the children were held by this as well. The two teachers were engaged in practical work in a soothing manner. They modeled this consistently throughout the course of the morning.

Now it was outside time, and the children got themselves ready to gather moss from the forests surrounding Spindlewood. While they went off, I took this opportunity to speak at greater length with Miss Elisa the assistant teacher. Miss Elisa has taken the LifeWays training and stepped up to her current position when a temporary period of unsettled times manifested itself at the school two years ago. (This was elaborated upon in Susan's most recent self-study.) Elisa obviously loves her job very much and it is quite evident in her presence and manner. The two teachers have an easy yet professional rapport and the care and respect for each other is evident. Elisa is obviously mentored by Ms. Susan in the classical tradition. Their harmonious work together contributes to the mantle of warmth which extends over the entire atmosphere of the classroom. I felt the children to be fortunate indeed to be held every day in this mantle of caring warmth.