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About Festivals of Light

  Tanja Markies     02-12-2018     Comments (0)

About Festivals of Light What are festivals of light, how can we celebrate them and why are they celebrated
so widely in Steiner/Waldorf schools worldwide?

When the days become shorter, the nights longer and the weather colder, we slowly
turn inward, in many different ways.
We have a tendency to be less exuberant, we dress warmly to withstand the colder
weather and we make our homes warmer and cosier.
We light more candles and huddle around a fire if we have a fireplace.
We literally as well as figuratively turn inwards for warmth and light.

In the olden days people felt as though the sun had stopped functioning as her heat
became less and less and the days grew shorter, almost as if she had abandoned her
They would stop working and observe a period of rest out of reverence for the pausing
A cartwheel covered in fir green with candles in it was used to tide them over and
chase away the gloom.

Saint Martin, on November 11th, is the first light festival.
Saint Martin’s gift of half his cloak to a beggar suffering from the cold symbolises charity
and empathy.
It is celebrated by children singing songs and walking from door to door with hollowed
out pumpkins or sugar beets or other tubers with candles inside them.
The lanterns symbolize the light shining from within.

Advent is celebrated in schools by creating an advent garden.
A spiral of fir green is laid out on a floor and 24 (glass pots with tea lights or) candles
are positioned along the spiral, one for each of the 24 days leading up to Christmas.
Or (often at home) by making an advent wreath with four (dark blue) candles in it.
On the first Advent Sunday the first candle is lit and if you have a nativity scene, stones
and gems may be placed around it.
The second candle is lit on the second Advent Sunday and plants and greens can be
On the third Advent Sunday the third candle is lit, and the animals arrive.
And on the fourth Advent Sunday Mary, Joseph and the shepherds arrive.
On Christmas Eve baby Jesus appears in the crib.

Some people make a wooden advent ladder with 24 rungs and a star on top, along
which the angel descends with baby Jesus in his arms, one rung a day.
On the 24th day baby Jesus arrives in the crib. The arrival of Christ symbolises the divine
light reaching the earth.

The arrival of Saint Nicholas on December 5th in the first Advent Week invites those
who celebrate it to become one with our inner child.
You could say this brings one a step closer to the birth of the Christ child.

Santa Lucia, celebrated mosty in Scandinavian countries, arrives on December 13th.
She is a martyr who is said to have given the light in her eyes to her blind brother.
This festival is celebrated by children wearing a wreath with candles in it on top of
their head.

Christmas is celebrated during Winter Solstice. The sun has reached her lowest point
and moves towards longer days and stronger natural light.

On January 6th the Three Kings festival is celebrated. Symbolising the arrival of the
three kings at the manger, bearing valuable gifts for baby Jesus.

Candlemas on February 2nd is the last of the Light Festival days.
The days are longer, the sunlight becomes stronger and we are well on our way
towards Spring.

When the days become shorter and the nights longer, when the temperature drops,
and we have more inclement weather, we have a tendency to turn inwards.
This turning inwards can have a contemplative character but is can also cause an
emotional darkness or heaviness.

Festivals of light can really help us bring light into our inner being and help us experience
warmth and togetherness.
And of course also aid the rekindling of our creativity.
Christmas helps us welcome the divine light to earth through the birth of the Christ child.
We often celebrate Christmas with family and friends, candlelight, special meals and,
if we are so inclined, religious festivities.

We can feel our inner light warm us and bring us closer together.
And that in turn can help light our way inward.

In Waldorf/Steiner schools Light Festivals, like all seasonal festivities, are celebrated
abundantly. Through plays, songs, handicrafts and more.
This helps children become grounded in the rhythms of Nature, the year and,
ultimately, themselves.

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About Waldorf

  Tanja Markies     31-10-2018     Comments (1)

About Waldorf Waldorf; what is it, how is it used, why do we believe Waldorf/Steiner education to
be a contribution to a healthier world and why is our shop filled with items inspired
by anthroposophy?

Almost 100 years ago the first Steiner School (Waldorfschule) was founded by Rudolf
Steiner in Stuttgart, for children of workers at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory.
Since then over 3000 schools and kindergartens were established worldwide, all
committed to the healthy development of children in all aspects.

This philosopher and scientist’s insights inspired what has become a worldwide
movement of schools that uphold and promote universal human values, educational
pluralism and meaningful teaching and learning opportunities.
Steiner/Waldorf schools are always co-educational, fully comprehensive and take pupils
from three years of age to ideally eighteen.
Children of all abilities and from all faiths and backgrounds are welcome.

The aim of Steiner/Waldorf education is to provide an unhurried and creative learning
environment where children can find the joy in learning and experience the richness of
childhood rather than early specialisation or strictly academic development.
The educational program is a flexible set of pedagogical guidelines, founded on
Steiner’s principles that take account of the whole child.

Equal attention is given to the physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural and spiritual
needs of each pupil and is designed to work in harmony with the different phases of
the child’s development.
The core subjects are taught in thematic blocks and all lessons include a balance of
artistic, practical and intellectual content.
Whole class, mixed ability teaching is the norm.

Steiner/Waldorf education has proved itself adaptable. Almost 100 years after the first
Waldorfschule was started, this education continues to inspire people from all walks of
life and in all parts of the world.
Steiner/Waldorf schools have a reputation for producing well-rounded and balanced
human beings who are able to cope with the demands of a fast-changing and
uncertain world.
Their graduates are highly sought-after in further education and work place for their
unjaded interest in the world and their resourcefulness.

If one starts from the premise that each child is born with their own unique personality,
character, talents and abilities it would only seem logical to aid the development of that
uniqueness and allow everyone to become their own unique contribution to the world.

When we look at the development of for instance a caterpillar into a butterfly or a seed
into a plant, the elements of time, peace, nourishment and protection help it to develop
into maturity.
We could then conclude that it is essential to facilitate and stimulate all elements
contributing to a healthy development of all (human) beings.

The importance of observing and perceiving what each individual child needs in order
to mature into their own unique maturity is of the essence.

When we look at what a tiny seed needs to become a mature plant, what a caterpillar
needs to become a butterfly and what a child needs to become a healthy adult, the
larger perspective suddenly becomes important too.
How do we approach and care for the world within us as well as the world around us?

When we use sustainable materials, buy sustainably produced products, (hand) made
with love and attention and preferably produced close by, made by people who receive
proper payment for their work, we can contribute to a healthy world, even in a small way.

Our choice to offer durable, often hand-made and sustainable products in our webshop
is driven by our wish to offer children natural and durable materials to work and play with.
May that be our contribution to a healthy world.

Source: Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship

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About Handicrafts

  Tanja Markies     01-10-2018     Comments (0)

About Handicrafts What do handicrafts and needlework entail, how can you go about learning and expanding
on your skills, why is it not just fun to do but also a wonderful contribution to the healthy
development of children and why is it an important part of Steiner/Waldorf education?

Handcrafting entails working with textiles in the broadest sense. Knitting, crocheting, felting,
weaving, making dolls and seasonal figures and more.

The smallest children can start off by simply wet-felting a piece of brown (fairy) wool into
a chestnut or an acorn, or some red and green fairy wool into a small apple to put on a seasonal tableau.
Even dressing a small doll made of chestnuts or acorns with a small cape and hat and scarf made
of felt can be a magical activity.
All that is needed is some felt, scissors and of course treasures found during a walk in the woods.
Simply cutting leave shapes out of felt or using a needle and thread to embroider veins on your
leaf, even cutting a double leaf, placing a piece of pipe cleaner in the middle and embroidering
the two halves into one leaf that can be bent into a natural shape; you can keep it as simple or
make it as complicated as you want to or can.

Felting can be a magical thing to do for children. Using soap and water and simply rubbing wool
into the desired shape can be exciting and miraculous.
And creating a picture with a felting needle on a punch mat can produce true works of art.
Knitting, crocheting and weaving, often taught in school, are skills for life.

By physically moving, even in relatively small ways, flexibility in thinking is developed and
When you look at the movements involved in knitting for example, you could say children
develop the ability to open up to and close themselves off from the world around them
A eurythmy teacher puts it this way: when you knit, you create the letter E by moving in,
connecting then detaching and letting go.

Creating something with your own hands develops the imagination as well as creative
Imaginative powers are conjured and the ability to visualise is awakened. 
When you use warm materials derived from nature, and you create something
with your own hands, a connection is made between what you see and what you experience
and consequently create on a three-dimensional basis.
It conjures enthusiasm and the warm feeling of accomplishment when you see a lovely result.

An important aspect is being able to create something that can be of practical use as well.
Creating something for a seasonal tableau is a lovely thing to do, but often (and especially
at school) children learn to create something they can use on a day-to-day basis, like a pretty
bag for a flute, a knitted cap or hand-felted slippers.
Your patience is challenged, your hands become warm, your imagination is stimulated and
your skills improve all the time as you work on ever more projects.
This creates a wonderful feeling of autonomy.

It can be wonderful to engage in preparing seasonal celebrations as well and become inspired
and enthusiastic in developing the ability to create something tangible from an idea you conjured up.
It can even lay a basis for making your own clothes.

Steiner/Waldorf schools employ a lot of handicrafts and crafts from a didactical point of view.
Working with one’s hands at home has the same effect, even though it is usually done just
for fun and it can be incredibly satisfying.

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About reading

  Tanja Markies     04-09-2018     Comments (0)

About reading What is reading, how can we best go about learning, stimulating and supporting it, and why
is it so important?
Why also is the approach to learning to read so different in Steiner/Waldorf school than in
 mainstream education?

Even though what reading is seems obvious, it can be seen as a miracle.
Learning to read starts off by hearing sounds, then learning to understand language and finally
understanding series of words and putting them together to create sentences and stories.
Being read to or reading to someone adds the extra dimension of spending a relaxing time together.
Also, stories you read to a child can be more complex than the stories they can read

Starting off looking at a picture book together and naming all the things you see can be a
wonderful way to form the habit of taking time for reading.
Reading a bedtime story to a child is not only a lovely pastime, it can also make the transition
from daytime to night-time and sleep a more pleasant and easier one.
When being read to becomes a habit, it can be a great way to remove oneself from the hectic
bustle of everyday life and delve into a story together.
Thus a child can develop language skills and learn to concentrate in a playful manner.

Reading and language proficiency are very important for a child.
The earlier a child is surrounded by the sounds of language, the rhythm of (nursery) rhymes
and songs, the stronger language as well as the meaning of the words become embedded
in a child’s brain.
Sounds, letters and vocabulary can be learned in a playful manner, through songs, naming
pictures in a picture book or reciting or creating rhymes together.
There are other benefits to reading to or being read to as well.
It can be a wonderful way to relax together and enter a different world through a story.
It stimulates the imagination, a child’s ability to think in abstract and imaginative ways
and to create their own stories.

A lot of children will have a favourite story that has to be read to them time and again.
When the text is deviated from, the child will often correct you or point out the mistake
to you.
A child’s ability to learn and remember is quite fascinating, especially when there is repetition.
Repetition can lend a feeling of safety and security, there is an element of familiarity as well as
a slightly new experience each time.

Even when a child can read well, continuing to read to them is an important thing to do.
A child’s specific interest in a subject can prompt the choice for a certain book or story,
or the subject can pertain to a life event that can be difficult to talk about, thus introducing
it into the child’s consciousness gently.
When children become older, subject matter can change and stories can become longer,
more complicated or suspenseful.
When a child is used to taking time for a story, reading on their own will become a natural
and logical thing to do.

Learning to read is approached in a different way in Steiner/Waldorf schools than in
mainstream schools.
Stories in which a specific letter plays the leading role, are told.
A story about a king for instance will feature the letter K, a story about a bird the letter B
and so on.
As the child connects the story to the letter, the letter becomes deeply embedded in their
The process is certainly slower, but it can lend both depth and connection to learning
language as well as adding more joy to learning to read.
The musicality in language as well as learning foreign languages are stimulated
through the copious use of rhymes, poems and songs.
This helps to internalise the character of language.

Reading and being read to provide children with a solid basis for healthy
development and stimulate their curiosity and interest in the world around them.


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About Outdoor Play

  Tanja Markies     01-07-2018     Comments (1)

About Outdoor Play Outdoor play; how do you go about it, how can it be stimulated and organised,
why is it so important and why is it done in so many different ways, especially in
Steiner/Waldorf schools?

Outdoor play can be practiced almost always, and in almost all weather conditions.
You can play outside in simple ways, for instance play a game of marbles or playing
hopscotch or a ball game but you can also go on elaborate adventures or challenges
both in Nature and within yourself.
There really are no rules, as long as it is done outside and with respect and safety
for yourself, Nature and each other.

There are countless ways to play outdoors, alone or with others.
In an organized or planned manner or as you go. You can climb trees, go for a long
walk, play a ballgame, play soccer, skip rope, play hide and seek, build a hut, play
dexterity games, play hopscotch, play a game of marbles, go roller or inline skating,
karting, set up or execute a treasure hunt, fly a kite and so on and so forth.
You can play without attributes or with a whole range of toys or attributes developed for
outdoor play.
You can keep it simple or make it as complicated as you want.
You can use pavement chalk, a ball, a bag of marbles, a few branches or pieces of cloth,
or a lovely long skipping rope for a whole group or a lovely silk play scape that billows beautifully
in the wind or silk wings that really make you feel you can fly;
whether you make do with what you can find or whether you use toys especially
made for the purpose, it doesn’t really matter.

Being outside is healthy. When you are outside you experience the elements and
the seasons. When you are involved in Nature and you are constantly finding ways to
engage in it, you become more aware of natural processes and it becomes easier to
connect with them.
Through experiencing different weather conditions you learn how to relate to them
and go with the flow. You become more adept at accepting and dealing with changes.

You can experience a sense of peace and feel the grass or sand underneath your feet,
wind in your hair and rain in your face.
Nature can also put things in perspective.
You need to adjust to changes all the time; weather changes, seasons change and
those changes affect your environment and the way you play.
As you play outdoors you are stimulated to develop respect for Nature and thus for
your environment.
Experiencing a feeling of freedom as well as being part of a larger perspective are
wonderful contributions to a healthy development.
Feeling that you are part of  a world infinitely larger than your own inner world can
really help you feel embedded in a bigger whole.
You can also expend your energy and be exuberant and thus experience nature within yourself.
Nature challenges you to adjust, develop the ability to change, lose things
and gain new things almost constantly.
It stimulates our ability to move with change and through becoming active your
enthusiasm to discover and learn are awakened.
Outdoor play is a lot of fun but important side benefits are vibrant health, general
fitness and wellbeing and resistance against illnesses.
When you are used to playing outdoors you will develop the ability to face challenges
and overcome obstacles and that can really help you deal with the challenges
life can throw at you.

Waldorf/Steiner schools work with outdoor activities a lot.
Many seasonal celebrations are done outdoors and children are encouraged to play
outside during breaks.
That way all sorts of necessary abilities and skills for a balanced development are
awakened and stimulated in a playful way.


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