"The sun shines not on us but in us." ~ John Muir
From the ages of Birth to 7, we work to create for our children a lifelong foundation rooted in the practical arts (meaningful and purposeful work in our environment); rhythm (the in and out breaths of our days); and repetition (the warmth and security of stories, blessings, festivals and traditions). But as children grow beyond the protective sheath of the first 7 years, how do we as parents and educators hold intact that early foundation amid the challenges we face today?
As children grow and leave early childhood behind, there are less and less opportunities for them to experience quiet purposeful work, the reverence of blessing our food, or the wonder of winged things. One of the effects of our technological society is that our children are leaving these worlds behind much too early. As the mother of a rapidly growing boy, I find myself often wondering how to help him navigate the challenges of cell phones and media while still nurturing his freedom and independence.
More than ever, today's children need our energies placed on upholding the strong foundations laid in early childhood. As they grow and enter the grades and beyond, the wisdom of those early years never changes. No matter the age of our children, they feel loved most when we are really present with them. And presence is what is at the heart of everything we strive towards in Waldorf early childhood education. From lighting a candle with our meal, to preparing the same familiar meals week after week, to telling folktales and singing together, to working and playing together indoors and out.
One important way we can keep those early foundations intact as our children grow is by upholding as many of those simple routines as we can throughout the grades and high school. Meaning, at its simplest, to continue to practice moments of presence such as lighting a candle at meal time, reading a good book out loud, singing together as a family, and continuing to find new ways to work and play together as a family. We can't control what challenges may come to our children as they grow and enter the world, but we can continue to maintain strong rhythms at home that will help them weather the storms.
This spring and summer, we are offering classes to help families find and keep rhythm at home as children grow. The series of four classes for parents, grandparents and educators will cover fire making, bread making, gardening with children and singing together. We hope to see you there.
This article was originally published in the Glebe Report but I realized today it never made its way onto the website! I hope you enjoy it! :)
When I was a child, my sister and I didn’t have access to the wonderful range of toys and kits that children do now. But we were never bored! My parents were raising us on my family's 300 acre homestead in the Midwestern United States. There was always work to be done and my sister and I took great pride in helping out where we could. When I became a parent, I loved watching my son’s creativity bloom with each passing year but I also sensed a restlessness in his handiwork. Children want to imitate what their parents are doing and while he met each new toy or activity with an initial joy, in the end he always preferred to join me in what I was doing, usually cooking or baking in the kitchen. For a long time it was a struggle trying to sneak in quick moments of cleaning or prepping dinner while he was busy, or worse, putting him in front of the television to buy some free time. It wasn’t until he was almost two years old that I realized what had been so naturally evident to my own mother: children love being involved in the meaningful work of the house. I reflected upon the many happy summer hours my sister and I sat in the sun in the front yard snapping green beans or husking ground cherries. In the winter, when there were fewer garden veggies to be scrubbed or berries to be picked, she kept us involved in her work by having us cut the soft dough of her homemade egg noodles into bite sizes. This realization that my son could join me in the work of the day transformed both how I parented and took care of our home. Including my son in our daily work translated to fresher, healthier meals for everyone and a more beautiful home as I simplified everything. There are so many wonderful ways to incorporate children into the purposeful work of the home and finding the art and beauty in each of our tasks can make a world of difference in how we relate to our home and to our children.
The Parent and Child program at Stone Soup Crafts is centered around homemaking with young children and offers gentle ways to create a beautiful home rhythm and environment for both stay at home and working parents through bread baking and the nurturing arts.
For more information on our classes, visit www.stonesoupcrafts.com
Darla Barrows is a teacher at Stone Soup Crafts in Old Ottawa South and recently returned from a year in rural Wisconsin where she taught in the Parent and Child program at Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School.
February has arrived in golden sun, bright blue sky and sparkling white snow. Paper hearts are now beginning to appear on our frosted window panes, our hyacinth bulbs have begun to bloom filling the air with sweet fragrance, and the days are at once becoming longer. With Candlemas and St. Valentine's Day just around the corner, our hands and hearts are looking toward the work of spring.
In December, we gathered in Storytelling and Crafts to make sweet holiday ornaments from felt and pine cones and sing carols together. The Parent Child classes spent January with the story of Shingebiss and the North Wind and have just begun the story of King Winter's Garden. The children continue to knead and bake small loaves of bread each week as the core rhythm of our weekly program. As friendships are being formed in the classes, it is heartwarming to see the children holding hands with one another as we gather for circle time.
We have a number of new classes posted, including a new adult class and one for Parents and Big Kids. Classes are listed below and registration is now open online for all classes.
Storytelling and Craft Classes
Valentine's Day Storytelling and Craft
Wednesday, February 10th from 10:30 - 12:00
$10 per Parent and Child Pair, $5 supply fee for additional siblings
Join us as we make a sweet Valentine's Day turtle and snake from walnuts, fragrant beeswax and soft wool.
Carrot and Bunny Storytelling and Craft
Wednesday, March 16th from 10:30 - 12:00
$12 per Parent and Child Pair, $6 supply fee for additional siblings
Join us as we make a sweet felt carrot and wool roving bunny.
Adult Crafting Classes
Making a King Winter for your Nature Table
Sunday, February 7th from 1:15 - 3:15 pm
This class is for adults. Babies in slings are welcome.
Cost is $40 and includes supplies.
Advance registration is required.
Daytime Classes for Grade School Children:
Waldorf Handwork Taught by Tonia Tam Von Burg
Waldorf French Taught by Gabrielle d'Unienville
For more information on any of these programs, please visit:www.stonesoupcrafts.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
For the last 14 years, All Year Round has been our calendar and we are now on our third copy. My first copy, bought from Peapods Natural Toy Store in Saint Paul, Minnesota, when my husband was in graduate school and I was staying at home with our little one, had to be sold for grocery money (or as Tasha Tudor frequently said, "to keep the wolf away from the door"). My second copy, bought at Great River School when our son was in Grade 1, served us well for six years until last year when the binding split from so much use and it fell apart. Every year by Christmas, it gets a bit neglected in the piles of holiday books but in February, when it is retrieved for Valentine's Day, my heart always skips a little beat when I open those first pages. In All Year Round, spring begins not when the snow melts or daffodils bloom, but in still cold February, with the lengthening and brightening of days and the beginning of the agricultural year and lambing. It is always a reminder to me if we haven't yet begun to plan our garden and order seeds that now is the time to do so.
We have made the bird valentines from All Year Round every year, but this year I decided to do it a bit differently. Matte paper looks lovely on the other paper crafts in this book, but it has never suited this craft. So this year, I decided to use pale pink watercoloured paper. It turned out so much better than using matte paper and I am glad I took the extra effort with the paint. I hope all of your paper valentines are coming along well!
When my son was six years old, we were travelling overnight by train from Washington DC to Chicago to spend Christmas with friends. When we boarded the train, after several east coast commuter rails to get to DC, we were told that the train had over sold and there was not a single seat open for us. My husband headed to the lounge several cars away but my son was exhausted and in those moments of figuring out what to do, a fever hit him as well. We needed to sit down and rest wherever we could find it and at that moment, the nearest place was the floor. Several women were kind enough to move some luggage around to clear a space for us and between suitcases, at the feet of our fellow travelers, that is where we curled up and snuggled for two hours. A few hours later, we were finally in our sleeper car, the stars blazing out our window. When we reflect on Christmases past, my son and I agree that those hours spent on the floor of the train as it hurled through the starry night were filled with magic.
Last year, I wrote the following piece when I realized that we were again in a new surrounding without our possessions but what a wonderful gift that was. Being out in the world without our possessions seems to bring us closer to the meaning of Christmas and to the choir of stars that sing to us this magical time of year.
Here is the story as I wrote it for our school newsletter:
When we travelled to Viroqua this spring, we brought only what fit in the 4 ft sportrack on top of our car. Everything else went into storage, one thousand and thirty seven miles away. A hundred times I have wondered how we would do without this or that but one by one we have gotten by without each “thing”. I felt I was growing in gratitude for the simplicity of living this way until this weekend when it hit me: we had brought nothing for Christmas. On Sunday, as I made my mental preparations and lists for Advent, I felt certain I must have tucked away a box of stars, Mary kneeling, the angel chimes. But I hadn’t. And thus on the eve of Advent, I found myself sitting in our dining room with a sweet but simple paper advent calendar I picked up at the co-op. I began to make a space for it on the hutch when I noticed that behind some of our books was a large blue felt sack. My heart leapt. We had not brought stockings or any of the wise men, but we had brought my son’s bag of stones. I brought the bag over to the table and began to take them out one at a time: smooth black slate stone from summers in Vermont on Lake Champlain, a sharp amethyst given to us by the Waldorf school as a house warming gift when we moved to Canada, a spongey brown pebble fished from the nearby creek with grandpa this summer. There were many crystals and quartz from Winter Fair’s past, each one imbued with its own special feeling. But my favourite were two small, painted gold stones, their sheen now dull from play. It feels long ago now when our school's Kindergarten teacher, Mr. Daniel, took a quiet joy in hiding these in the school sandbox before the children arrived. No fuss was made over them, but the children were delighted when one was found, a remembrance of the mineral world in all four seasons. Here, in the noiseless winter night, caught without our possessions, Advent did arrive in the light of stones.
The magic time is upon us - twinkling stars dance in the deep blue evening sky and the warmth and candlelight of the indoors beckon. It has been a joy to watch the bread making journey of the Tuesday morning children and parents. They began in September making simple buns and by the middle of the session little braids and wreaths began to appear on the pans as well. Together we enjoyed trying new flavours like orange chocolate bread - the sweet aroma so warming on a frosty morning! In the seasonal crafting classes we made felt pumpkins, hedgehogs and one of my favourite crafts: autumn leaf crowns. Our Advent class began with the gentle first snow and we are hoping that the snow will soon return to our play.
I have made a few changes to the winter schedule and am still trying to fill requests so keep checking the website and Facebook page for updates.
Holiday Storytelling and Craft for Children and Parents
Friday, December 11th from 10:30 - 11:30
Join us to make a sweet heirloom Christmas ornament with white wool felt and a golden star. We will begin with a holiday puppet story. Cost is $10 per Parent and Child Pair. Siblings may join for $5 supplies fee.
Friday, December 18th from 10:30 - 11:30
Join us as we make pine cone elves with a warm wool hat and scarf. We will begin with a holiday puppet story. Cost is $10 per Parent and Child Pair. Siblings may join for $5 supplies fee.
We are looking forward to celebrating the Season of Light with your family!
The maple tree outside our window has finally begun to turn a bit orange at its tips and there are a few golden yellow leaves beginning to fall to the ground beneath it. I have been waiting so patiently to begin autumn stories until the world outside reflected the picture I would be creating inside. Finally! After a quick trip to the farmer's market this morning to get (and eat all of) the last of the season's ground cherries, I made a little crop of needle felted pumpkins and and a family of hedgehogs. I don't usually make things with eyes on them so it is fun having these little fellows peering up at me while I work.
This week as we said goodbye to August and the official end of our sabbatical, I realized that our happiest memories of the past year have all included the glowing embers of a fire. From the first days of our journey in New Hampshire learning about teaching with fire to the last days in Wisconsin watching my son and his friends send fire boats down the Sidie Hollow creek, fire was a recurring character in the story of our year.
We began our travels last May creating sparks that fell like snow from flints as we held class in the woods behind Antioch University in New Hampshire. We were learning to build small "fairy fires" and even smaller fires in Kelly Kettles for children in schools or neighborhoods where a larger fire can't be experienced. The class was called the "Importance of Teaching with Fire" and in a warm spring mist, we each gathered enough tinder to build a tiny "hearth" from twigs and branches. Inside the hearth, we assembled a small nest of bark to receive the falling embers. It was so simple and such an amazing gift to bring to our children. Once our little fires were blazing, we used the fire in the Kelly Kettle to heat water for peppermint tea.
Summer and fall were filled with smoky bonfires overlooking the fields and hills of my childhood landscape and in landscapes new to us like the Norskadalen wheat threshing bee where we filled our tummies with freshly cooked lefse with the heat of the wood fired stove still on it.
In November, families gathered at Sidie Hollow, with burning tea candles tucked inside Martinmas lanterns and walked to opposite sides of the small country lake to sing back and forth to one another like birds calling to each other late in the evening.
When we journeyed north to Grand Marais and the North House Folk School on the shore of Lake Superior, winter had covered the earth in a blanket of ice and snow. A local ice sculptor had braved his way onto the Lake Superior to carve a lion's head rising out of the water and we all felt a little enchanted as for weeks we had been referring to our trip as "North to Narnia". In blowing snow and a wind that burned our lips and fingers, we ducked inside an outfitter to thaw. There, my son found the same flint the teachers had used months earlier in New Hampshire and back out in our Narnia he scraped at it until tiny silver stars began to appear and mix with the blowing snow.
When spring arrived, the families in our Waldorf community gathered again at Sidie Hollow for a May celebration and released dozens of fire balloons over the lake. The children ran barefoot crisscrossing the meadow while the orange embers rose up over our heads and disappeared into the waning light of dusk. In the dark, my son and his friends linked arms and began singing heartily: "Rise up oh flame, by thy light glowing, bring to us beauty, vision and joy!" As we walked to our car in the dark, all flames were out and and a large toad sat waiting to be carried from the path of cars.
We spent our last day at Sidie Hollow making boats and sending them down the creek, the boys deciding that the finale should be a sending a ceremonial fire boat down.
Thoreau said that fire is the most tolerable companion. If we are lucky enough, it is our constant companion.
This past year during my husband’s sabbatical, our family had the opportunity to live in a friend's certified Passive house in rural Wisconsin. With 18 inch thick walls, the house required only a hair dryer to heat the entire house on the coldest days of winter. There were a thousand things to love about this eco home: the entirely edible landscaping, (cabbages are my new favourite flower), the outdoor shower and indoor swingset, the Finnish sauna with matching chicken coop in the back yard. But our favourite place to be was the cozy Scandinavian stuga. To get to the stuga, which was the main hanging out area with a fireplace, you had to first go outside.
Something about having to go outside made you completely forget why you wanted to go be a couch potato in the first place. In that moment between the two buildings, you passed the cat, the herbs, the wood pile, the laundry rack (one of several). You could hear the hens and they could hear you so they usually began calling to you to bring them some bolted lettuce. Up to this point in my life, I had no idea what bolted lettuce was. (Don`t ask me how I grew up on a dairy farm without catching this one.) Bolted lettuce is what you call lettuce that is past its prime and has gone to seed and the hens love it. So I would scratch the kitty behind his ears, gather an armful of greens for the hens, gather the eggs from the coop, realize the coop needed mucking out and grab the pitchfork from the shed, filling the wheel barrow with straw while I was at it. As I passed the garden I would rescue a few over ripe tomatoes and bring them inside with the eggs, grabbing the compost bucket and bringing it back to the hens……
Usually about an hour had passed before I finally made it into the stuga where I could then sit and watch all of this beauty from the heart of it. My goal for Stone Soup Crafts is to help families find that magical place between the house and the stuga, where the natural world calls you outside to pull a few weeds from the garden or let the wind dry your laundry. That place, where nature and creativity and daily work all intersect, is the sweet spot of homemaking.