About Story Gathering

From Academy for the Love of Learning.

In Spring 2015, fourth graders from Santa Fe Waldorf School participated in Lifesongs' first Story Gathering Project, interviewing residents of the Santa Fe Care Center.

Sharing Stories Offers Intergenerational Connections The Story Gathering project brings youth, community members, and elders together to share stories and life experiences. Participants collaboratively shape stories into new works of writing and art to present to the wider community.

This creative engagement project, born out of the Lifesongs program, builds relationships across generations, fosters social inclusion for elders, and integrates the wisdom of elders into the community.

Be Worthy of Imitation: Why Modeling Matters at Home and in Class

From AWSNA's Essentials in Education Blog, July 2016:

We have dreams and hopes for our children that often extend beyond mimicry of our own lives. We hope they will do more, be more, and we define these “mores” in myriad ways. Yet the collective consciousness of “better” for a new generation persists, whether it is a desire for a better standard of living, better education, or a better world.

Throwing a wrench into this paradigm is the powerful force of modeling in learning. Children learn through imitation. It can be as simple as wearing a seatbelt. Parents who wear them have children who wear them. Or it can be as complex as using modeling as a teaching technique for self-efficacy and competence in reading and writing.

We know the power of imitation to be intuitively true as we often fall into the patterns of our upbringing. But it scientifically bears out as well. In fact, a recent study of indigenous children in Australia uncovered an important phenomenon in cognitive modeling.

Children in this study were found to “over-imitate,” meaning simply that they modeled all adult behavior in a teaching task regardless of whether it seemed to drive toward a purpose. The purpose in this case was opening a box. The children were shown a convoluted and complex method of opening the box and they imitated it exactly when given the task on their own.

Click here to read the full article.

This Is What Screen Time Really Does to Kids' Brains

From Liraz Margalit Ph.D on the Psychology Today Behind Online Behavior blog, April 17, 2016:

Screen time is an inescapable reality of modern childhood, with kids of every age spending hours upon hours in front of iPads, smartphones and televisions.

That’s not always a bad thing: Educational apps and TV shows are great ways for children to sharpen their developing brains and hone their communication skills—not to mention the break these gadgets provide harried parents. But tread carefully: A number of troubling studies connect delayed cognitive development in kids with extended exposure to electronic media. The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that American children spend a whopping seven hours a day in front of electronic media. Other statistics reveal that kids as young as two regularly play iPad games and have playroom toys that involve touch screens.

Click here to read the full article.

Debunking the Belief That Earlier Is Better

From Rae Pica, Education Consultant on parenttoolkit.com, June 27, 2016: 

A mother told me that her son was seven months old when she first felt the pressure to enroll him in enrichment programs. She said, “Here I was with an infant who had just learned to sit upright by himself, and someone was asking me what classes he was going to be taking, as if he were ten!”

Another mom, this one an early childhood professional who understood child development, complained to me that she was under tremendous pressure to enroll her daughter in the local, competitive soccer program. When I asked her daughter’s age, she replied, “Two and a half.”

What these stories – and many others like them – have in common is the belief that "earlier is better" – that you just can’t start kids too soon on the road to success. Whether we’re talking about academics or athletics, this idea has become deeply ingrained in our society. But where has it come from? Why are parents and children being burdened by this false notion? Why are parents being made to feel terrified that if they don’t give their little ones a jumpstart on the “competition,” their children will fall behind and end up as miserable failures?

Click here to read the full article.

Fostering Lifelong Learning

From AWSNA's Essentials in Education Blog, June 2016:

What motivates a baby to walk? Is it the same drive that motivates a business owner to work late or an elementary student to learn math facts? In the first case, most would label the baby as having intrinsic motivation – engaging in behavior that is personally rewarding.

But our other two examples? It’s difficult to know, but most would likely guess extrinsic – money, praise, grades – the carrot and stick concept that’s been in place to encourage workers and students for centuries.

What if, instead, the student and worker were intrinsically motivated? What would that look like and would that motivation be sufficient to accomplish the task at hand? Which works better, ultimately, for lifelong learning?

Click here for the full article.

Class of 2016 Valedictorian Speech

An inspiring message from Class of 2016 Valedictorian, Shaefer Bennett, as presented at the Santa Fe Waldorf High School Commencement Ceremony on June 3, 2016.

What does it mean to graduate? The dictionary states that to graduate means to complete a course of study and receive a diploma at the end in recognition of the completion. But is that all it is? A completion of series of classes that a person takes over the course of several years, supposedly leading to some sort of higher knowledge? Is a paper diploma really that important? Is it even real?

It depends on who you ask, but, if you ask me, I'd say no. No. A piece of paper, a robe,  a ceremony, none of it means anything unless the participant, the pupil, me, my classmates, or a thousand seniors, take the next step and realize that we make the paper worth all its fancy lettering. We are stepping into the world, a world fraught with problems, with conflicts, with dilemmas so intimidating and huge that they take our breath away. It seems as though a single person can do very little to make the world a better place. But that's not true. Each of us can make huge contributions to creating a better world for the future. But we can't do it unless we, the participants, begin to act. And I don't mean completely changing the way we live, but instead making the way we live now a part of the way that we can make the world a better place. Each little thing we do has an impact, and no matter how small it may seem, if we are conscious about our actions, if we act with integrity and truthfulness, if we always ask ourselves "Is this what I really want? Am I willing to make a change and do something positive?" then we will always be active and contributing members of a new world order. An order in which people care about themselves, but in which they also understand the importance of community, of giving back, of a global awareness in which we make decisions based on the impacts that they will have, either positive or negative, but either way, consciously, so that we are aware of what the impact of our choices will be.

This is where Waldorf Education gets a quick and well deserved shout-out. As Waldorf students, we have been taught to think independently. We have been immersed in an environment that nurtures and cherishes creative individuality, while at the same time subjected to, at times a seemingly strange world of an all required curriculum. This, I think, is the key to Waldorf success. My classmates and I have, somehow, been able to learn about who we are as individuals, while at the same time focusing on a common theme. our classes, throughout our education.

I have spent the last 4 years, and in some cases, 9, even 14 years, becoming the person who I am today with these people sitting here graduating with me. I would not consider them my friends. I would consider them my family. And in this crazy world that we live in today, I could not be more proud to be standing here addressing you, at the forefront of this incredible senior class. I feel confident, that when each of us goes into the world, we will always bring with us an idea of the larger picture. We have been taught to think about the larger world community throughout our education, and if we can hold on to that sense of community, of family, then we won't be able to make decisions that put our future, the future of everyone here, and every person, and plant, and animal, and system, in harm's way. I am saddened to know that this is not the case everywhere. This is a rare and important opportunity that has been given to us through our Waldorf Education.

I am positive that each one of us will make the next step in our lives in his or her own way, but
each, as we move forward, will make the world around us a better place. Perhaps Gaby will
warm the hearts of her future fans in the pages of a novel, or five. Maybe Augie will become an
influential man of business. Evan might go on to show the world's hunks that being vegetarian is great way to build lean muscle, and Ivan might inspire others to follow their physical dreams.
Sean could design the next technology in aeronautical engineering, and Sienna could bring
beauty and creative genius to her future endeavors. Maybe Har Simran will create a handmade
skateboard or climbing company. Elle could continue to bring joy and life to elders in her
community, and Sundarta might bring her music and friendship with her wherever she goes.
And who knows what I'll do.

So, as we end this chapter in our lives and begin the next, I urge each of us, as well all of you,
to be active participants. Don't let this beautiful and amazing world pass you by. Find the beauty in the little things, and don't dwell on all the negativity. Do everything you can to make
yourself feel fulfilled, but don't lose sight of the bigger picture. Try to make everything you do
matter in some way, big or small, and don't forget to laugh as much as possible.

So please, reduce, reuse, recycle, and let's go make his(six)tory!

Grade 10 | Forest Ecology Week

Last week Grade 10 was taken on daily outings by their adventurous teacher, Will, for the Forest Ecology Week. Experiencing a little rain and cold mixed with some hot and sunny days (in typical New Mexico spring fashion) the class visited the Santa Fe Ski Basin, Rowe Mesa, Villanueva State Park, Pecos, Truchas, Caldera Canyon & White Rock. Three of our newly-arrived international students joined the group, getting a special look into New Mexican ecology - what a great time for them to visit! And what a wonderful opportunity for all these 10th graders, and just one more thing that makes a Waldorf education so special! Thanks, Will, for being such a good leader and educator.

Notes From A Parent - Recalibrating to Nature

This is a guest blog by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan, who has a daughter in 4th grade here at Santa Fe Waldorf School. "Notes from a Parent" will be a reoccurring column here throughout the school year.

Recently at the monthly parent education meeting with Kay Hoffman, Pedagogical Director at Santa Fe Waldorf School, the group was discussing media—always a hot topic. Parents were sharing how they personally use media. When I shared, I explained that I use media to unwind. As the meeting was taking place just after the Richard Louv event, his discussion of how important nature is for kids and adults was present in everyone’s mind. In response to me, another parent mentioned going for a walk to unwind instead of using media.

Brilliant, but that can be oh so hard to do.

Getting connected to Louv’s message in a personal way involves changing habits. It’s possible, but it takes work and commitment. My own media consumption can sometimes involve either watching a movie after my daughter has gone to bed or surfing my Facebook feed on my phone for news to read.

Taking a walk doesn’t seem like an option unless I recalibrate my day—and my thinking. 

Soon after the Louv event and that meeting—I had a particularly awful morning with my daughter. I hated leaving her at school when we had had such a difficult morning. I am particularly haunted by Sandy Hook at those moments. For me, there is nothing worse than a school drop off when a child is upset. Driving away I had that feeling of inflicting damage—but for what—at this moment I can’t even remember what was at stake. Clearly, my own triggers as a parent were fully activated. Tiredness, financial stress, having no physical backup with my husband working on the road were all contributing to the unhappiness of moment and the tone of the situation—a bad mommy day.

As I drove away, I had the quiet I needed to collect myself and think about what I could do to mitigate the situation. As my own anxiety was still present I felt that to leave the situation unresolved for the whole day was a mistake. After meditating I decided that I needed to do something different and I reasoned that being outdoors could be a new and possibly healthy antidote to address our stress. I returned to school to pick my daughter up for an appointment and I also planned to take her for a mini hike in Hyde State Park.

After arriving at our favorite little spot, I watched as the healing and restorative powers of being outdoors had an immediate and direct impact on her. The snow covered trail; the gurgling stream peeking through ice formations; the clearness of the air; and the brightness of the sunshine were truly restorative. She was so in the moment scrambling up the hillside shouting back at me “Mom, look at this.” “Mom can you still see me? Look how high I am.” And on it went—the awfulness of the morning melting away.

I felt myself relaxing too, but at times my adult brain was replaying the morning over again trying to think of how I could have handled the situation better. Bit by bit, through her infectious enthusiasm of exploring the snow covered scene, I became more mindful, present and just enjoyed focusing myself on really connecting with my daughter and all the beauty around us as she called out things for me to come and see.

My hope was that the angry intensity of the morning was obliterated by the unusualness of a quick outdoor moment during the school day. I think it was. I know for myself by the time I was driving her back to school I felt peaceful and she too was ready to head into her day more relaxed as well. This recalibrating to bring the restorative properties of nature into the everyday is something I am working to translate into new habits. It’s the notion of taking a walk or just getting outside to unwind or reconnect to one’s peaceful center.

In my ponderings and quest to recalibrate with nature I was also struck how different my life is now that I live in Santa Fe. Since my daughter was born our family lived inside a park, first at an Arizona State Park and then at City Of Prescott Park inside the Prescott National Forest. In these locations we just stepped outside our door into nature. We rarely “planned” to hike. We went for a walk on a daily basis to see what work my Park Ranger husband had done for the day. We took our dog for a run through the woods after the park was closed. We sat outside regularly to a wonderful fire in our backyard. Nature surrounded us. Being outdoors was easy.

Now getting outside in that kind of wilderness takes effort—planning. Last Sunday while doing errands, my girl asked to go to our second favorite spot in Hyde State Park. I hesitated. We both weren’t dressed for “hiking,” but I said yes. It was warmish and felt like spring was finally arriving. I decided—since “hiking” was not going to happen—that we would get food for a little picnic during our last errand at Trader Joe’s.

While parking and walking to the picnic tables I was reminded that in many ways childhood is a collection of many small memories that create a tapestry of feeling. Big events definitely have impact, but it is the accumulation of the nearly invisible moments that create a sense of happiness.

The spontaneity of just getting outside and frolicking at the edge of a very cold stream and the having a mini picnic can be as fun as if I planned for a whole outdoor day. Picking up trash; climbing on logs; and exploring can be as relaxing as doing a more traditional outdoor activity. Again I am seeing how easy it is to recalibrate my thinking and just get outside to unwind.

On the way home we decided to that we needed to put together a “spontaneous” hiking kit: old boots, socks, water bottles, hats, and an old TJ bag for picking up trash could just live in the truck so that whenever the mood struck us we could go outside and play.

For a few outdoor ideas consider checking out the link here at the bottom of the Santa Fe Waldorf School Louv event page, which has a regularly updated list of outdoor activities for kids and families and ideas for getting outside.

As a final thought—though some may consider it incongruous in a Waldorf blog post about getting out into nature—below are two video links (from nature-rx.org) about using nature as a prescription for what ails us. The shorts are funny—the deep belly laughing kind, so laugh out loud and then go take a hike… NatureRX Part 1 and  and NatureRX Part 2.

5 Ways To Get Kids Into Nature

Santa Fe Waldorf School was so pleased to host Richard Louv for his lecture in Santa Fe-- his message is of profound importance to children and parents both.

He spoke with Outside Magazine during his visit:

Louv has spent most of the past decade traveling the country and promoting his brand of nature parenting, and says kids not getting enough time outside. As a result, he says, we’re seeing increasing rates of childhood obesity, anxiety, depression, attention disorders, vitamin D deficiencies—the list goes on.

But here’s the good news: it’s never too late to improve. No act is too small. And each and every single child and family can make a difference.

Senior Class Short Films

Congratulations to the senior class for completing three short films which were successfully screened at the Center for Contemporary Arts last week!

This is the second year that our Senior class has been led through the detailed process of imagining, producing, and directing a short digital movie with this year seeing the creation of three short films rather than one longer work.

Great work, seniors!

Heaven

Old Man and Boy

Lost and Found

My View: ‘No child left inside’ approach could prosper in New Mexico’s great outdoors

An insightful article by SFWS parent, Maureen Eich VanWalleghan from The Santa Fe New Mexican on Sunday, February 14, 2016.

In 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics, in its “Policy Statement: Council On School Health,” states that it “believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.”

Improved learning outcomes are noticeable at schools where more recess is included in the school day: less fidgeting and more focused attention in the classroom; more student friendships; an increase in independent thinking; and fewer behavior issues.

Imagine taking that a step further and creating nature-centered play spaces on playgrounds or taking students into nature on a regular basis — as Louv suggests — to promote a deep, personal connection with nature. The outcomes for academic success could be even greater. What if New Mexico, which is 49th in the country in education, looked outside and saw that its greatest asset is its own backyard?

Click here for full article.

SFWS On The Radio

Santa Fe Waldorf School has been receiving attention for the Richard Louv lecture coming up on Sunday, February 21 at 7pm at the Lensic Performing Arts Center.

Most recently, our School Administrator, Jeffrey Baker, has been on two radio shows:

  • He was joined by SFWS Board of Trustees Member, John Braman, on Living From Happiness on KSFR hosted by Dr. Melanie Harth. They share "a lively discussion of the importance of nature in the learning experiences of children, as well as the overall health and well-being of everyone (no exceptions)." Listen to the podcast here.
  • He was also on The Richard Eeds Show on KVSF discussing Waldorf education as well as Richard Louv's upcoming lecture. Listen to the podcast here.

Coming up this Friday, February 12, don't miss Richard Louv on The Richard Eeds Show at 9:00 AM. Tune into KVSF 101.5 or listen online.


 

New Nature Movement

An article from Green Fire Times, February 2016 by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan. Maureen is a filmmaker and writer living in Santa Fe and has a daughter in 4th grade here at Santa Fe Waldorf School.

On the surface, the world looks like a child-friendly place. There are kids’ menus that can be colored with crayons provided by restaurants. There are organized sports of every type and for every age of child. There are play structures in most parks in cities across the country. Kidsized anything can be found at major department stores. REI has kid-sized outdoor gear that is just like the grown-up kind and just as pricey. Children are the target audience for TV, movies, books, games, computers, even food, and the list goes on and on.

But where is the child in all this? When is a child most happy? Let a kid go outside to run wild with a pack of other kids, and one finds an exhausted, smiling child who doesn’t want to come inside when playtime is done.


Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, is worried that kids aren’t getting outside enough to play, explore, touch, smell and generally get dirty in the environment. And that this lack of outdoor connection and playing is impacting the future of the planet.

The Santa Fe Waldorf School is sponsoring an event on Sunday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m., at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, where Louv will be discussing this issue, which he refers to as Nature-Deficit Disorder.

Click here to read the full article.

This Is Your Brain on Nature

From National Geographic Magazine, January 2016.

On the third day of a camping trip in the wild canyons near Bluff, Utah, Strayer is mixing up an enormous iron kettle of chicken enchilada pie while explaining what he calls the “three-day effect” to 22 psychology students. Our brains, he says, aren’t tireless three-pound machines; they’re easily fatigued. When we slow down, stop the busywork, and take in beautiful natural surroundings, not only do we feel restored, but our mental performance improves too. Strayer has demonstrated as much with a group of Outward Bound participants, who performed 50 percent better on creative problem-solving tasks after three days of wilderness backpacking. The three-day effect, he says, is a kind of cleaning of the mental windshield that occurs when we’ve been immersed in nature long enough. On this trip he’s hoping to catch it in action, by hooking his students—and me—to a portable EEG, a device that records brain waves.

Click here to read the full article.

A Daily Dose of Ecotherapy Eases Stress in Kids

From Outside Magazine, November 25, 2015.

“We evolved as human animals to be part of nature and to be outdoors, so even the tiniest bit of nature connection is good for us,” explains Buzzell. “We have a deep longing for nature; it’s in our genes.” E.O. Wilson called this primal urge “biophilia.” “You can see it in children so clearly,” Buzzell says. “Their need to be outside is not just a thrill, it’s a physical and emotional need. We’ve just forgotten it.”

The same treatments that are being used to help returning veterans suffering from PTSD can help bring balance back to kids’ lives: raising plants, spending time with animals, walking along the beach or a forested park. Exercising outside together may be the best way to help relieve stress. A 2013 study out of Princeton University and published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that physical exercisespurs the creation of neurons and stimulates growth in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that regulates anxiety.  

Click here to read the full article.

Preschool Without Walls

From The New York Times, December 29, 2015.

Prof. Bailie thinks the pushback against standardized testing and growing concern about young children spending too much time on touch-screen devices has helped the market for outdoor schools. She also credits the best-selling 2005 book, “Last Child in the Woods,” by Richard Louv, which helped popularize the idea that children should spend as much time as possible in the outdoors.

Mr. Louv argues passionately in his book that children should play and explore the outdoors in the same unstructured ways their parents and their grandparents did before them.

While reducing childhood obesity (8.4 percent of American 2- to 5-year-olds are obese) by increasing physical activity is a prime argument in support of outdoor play, Mr. Louv suggests that the need goes beyond exercise. Today’s children have fundamentally lost touch with nature, he said.

Click here to read the full article.

Notes from a Parent - Making Magic

 

This is a guest blog by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan, who has a daughter in 4th grade here at Santa Fe Waldorf School. "Notes from a Parent" will be a reoccurring column here throughout the school year.

What is magic? There are lots of ways that people use the word or refer to magic, but for me it is the triumph of good; a sense that mysteriously things will work out. It is a connection to one’s imagination that benevolent forces are at work in positive ways. Fairies or the Spirit of Christmas or Creation Myths all have a sense of wonder and belief that we humans are a part of something larger than ourselves. That kind of magic is seeped in the Waldorf curriculum and is also at the heart of what parents may value when making the choice to send their child to a Waldorf school.

Magic also lives in other ways at a Waldorf school. Each year a swell of energy from our parent body comes together creating an event in the Holiday Faire that is known throughout the greater Santa Fe community. I know this because last year when my family and I arrived at the end of July, more than once when we mentioned that we were here so our daughter could go to the Santa Fe Waldorf School, the listener responded by saying how special and wonderful the Holiday Faire was.

The creating of the Holiday Faire is truly magic making in action. It’s a big spectacular event that is at times exhausting and stressful in the making and presenting. But one only need peek in the window of the Wonder Shop or see the really long line to make candles or hear the shouts and laughter at the Games to see the magic. When I asked another parent what was special about the Holiday Faire, the reply was that is showed what Waldorf was about through the old-fashion activities such as games and candle-making. I couldn’t agree more.

The old-fashioned notion of barn building—of a coming together to make something and have fun manifests in the spirit of creating the Holiday Faire. It is not easy to create a huge event especially when enrollment is low, but the consistency of parents, students, staff and faculty coming together year after year to create such an amazing event impacts everyone who visits the school during Holiday Faire.

Last year I missed the magic. I was sucked into the stress that comes with throwing a big party so I didn’t really see the Faire, but my daughter’s joy and excitement let me know that it had been worth every bit of energy I had given to the task.

This year, my approach to the coming Holiday Faire was inspired by a Facebook post from an old friend, who lives in London with her husband and daughter. Last year around the time of the Faire, she wrote that she was making her last batch of cookies for the winter event at her daughter’s school. She was marking the first of many “last time” moments as her daughter was a senior and would be heading off to college.

After the Faire was over and I had time to reflect, I realized that I could resent what was required and the bigness of the task or I could revel in knowing that each year I would not pass this way again—that my daughter, year by year, would connect to the Faire differently as she grows, but that I as an adult could really enjoy the process even with it’s lack of efficiency and all the worry about whether things would come together. In short, I could invest in the magic and know that my contribution along with the tremendous contribution of other parents, students, staff and faculty would make a remembered event that becomes a treasured memory year after year for all of our children at the school and even for children beyond our community.

This year will find me helping with the library Book Sale, the Magic Pocket store and the Unicorns that will magically be visiting our school. There are so many places to find magic as everyone makes all the amazing activities happen. And just as a barn-raising needs so many hands to be lifted into place and secured, so our Holiday Faire is possible because of all the hands in our amazing community.

Thank you to everyone. Thank you for the magic. I’ll see you at the Faire…

 

Notes From A Parent - Erasing Fear

This is a guest blog by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan, who has a daughter in 4th grade here at Santa Fe Waldorf School. "Notes from a Parent" will be a reoccurring column here throughout the school year.

Today while I am writing this post, high school students are having their chorus class. “The weary night never worries me,” a verse from a harvest folk song is filling the office with almost adult voices.

Rather appropriate, as I wanted to write about how fear is not the dominant force on a Waldorf campus. In fact, sitting down in a Waldorf classroom, the sensation most people have is one of peace and relaxation. It is possible to leave the everyday world of fear behind and parents experience that peace—often in relationship to their own educational experience, when they sit for a moment and a ponder where their children spends their days.

The Waldorf classroom is serene in its lack of plastic, bright colors, and technology. The classroom is simple, but profound in its simplicity. The presence of creativity vibrates on the walls in the watercolor painting, on the shelves with wooden toys and flutes, and in the baskets of wooden colored pencils waiting to be used.

As a parent, as a citizen in the world—to be sure, it feels like a scary time, the fear is real . Technology—though wonderful and helpful—is changing so rapidly, that life feels like an earthquake: a constant shifting of the ground before one has had time to recover. 9/11 and threats of terrorism haunt the psyche, while worries of economic hardship still abound as the after effects of the Great Recession still continue to play out.

And in education, the fear being generated and consumed has parents running after test scores and a notion that life’s success can and will be determined by the grades dispensed beginning in kindergarten and even in preschool. (This falls into the category of great irony when considering that so many of our greatest thinkers, inventors, and political leaders have failed school or even dropped out—and some were even late readers.)

But in a Waldorf classroom all that is invisible. Fear is left at the door, erased.

The founder of Waldorf education, Rudolf Steiner, (see a biography in full text: A Scientist of the Invisible or on Amazon), intrinsically understood fear, as the world was in another scary moment in history, when Steiner developed the first Waldorf School in Stuggart, Germany after World War I and in the midst of the Second Industrial Revolution.

Steiner’s understanding of what the human spirit needed to flourish is everywhere visible in the Waldorf classroom, which is not random in its design. In fact, Waldorf classrooms around the world are very much the same, following principles put forth by Steiner. Parents and students will feel a serene sense of place whether they are in Maine, New Mexico or Japan.

A Waldorf education can help cut through the fear, which is often most prominent in all things related to child rearing. At no other time in the recent human history of the United States has the mass marketing of fear to save children from every possible hardship been so readily and steadily conceived and exploited; nor the ongoing news feed of all the dangers in the world that can hurt children been read by so many.

Erasing this onslaught of fear is actively pursued on our Waldorf campus and in all the small particulars that are requested from parents like not using cell phones at pick up to instead focus on one’s child who has just had a “wide-eyed experience” and may want to share that experience.

Anecdotal parent observation can articulate best the happiness and peace of a child who wants to go to school—when getting a child ready and off to school is not an issue because they can’t wait to get there. These things say a great deal about a Waldorf education and the way in which fear is kept at bay beyond our Waldorf School.  

As my daughter told me at when I picked her up on the first day of school this year and asked how her day went, “Mom, it was over so quick. I was saying the morning verse and then it was time to go. It was so much fun. I really don’t want to come home.”

 

Festival Life in the Early Childhood Program | Lantern Walk

From our Early Childhood Newsletter, November 2015:

The sunlight fast is dwindling. 

My little lamp needs kindling. 

It's beams shine far in the darkest night. 

Dear lantern, guard me with your light.

Each year, as the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer, we like to keep a little spark of the sun to brighten the winter days to come. We make lanterns in which to carefully guard it and keep it alive. Under the starry skies we walk with our lanterns as we sing.

This festival is held on Martinmas. The legend of Saint Martin comes from France where a soldier saw a beggar huddled to keep warm. Martin took his own cloak and covered the beggar to keep him warm. He became known for his gentleness, his unassuming nature, and his ability to bring warmth and light to those who were previously in darkness. As a symbol today we still carry the lantern's shining light into darkness of the gathering winter to show how our inner light can never be extinguished.

Our Lantern Walk

On Wednesday, November 11th the preschool and both kindergartens will share this special evening. Please arrive on time at 5:45pm and be ready to quietly enter your child’s classroom for a candlelit story. Leave on shoes and coats. After the story, the children will receive their lanterns and we will convene on the playground to quietly gather for our walk. We’ll join Grades One and Two and wind our way through the dark night together, filling it with song. 

It is important to recognize the quiet mood of this event for the children.

It is a time for the adults to model that we can have a quiet, beautiful moment together. It isn't an opportunity for grown up socializing.

Please leave cell phones turned off or on vibrate only.

For parents who would like to make their own lanterns, here is an online tutorial.

We will carry a strong heart memory of this event. In order that we carry the memory only of the little glow our lanterns, not the abrupt flash in our eyes, we do not allow cameras. Even the cameras without a flash prevent the wholehearted participation that we desire. Thank you for participating in this special family festival!

Notes From A Parent - Marking the Years

This is a guest blog by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan, who has a daughter in 4th grade here at Santa Fe Waldorf School. "Notes from a Parent" will be a reoccurring column here throughout the school year.

The beginning of a new school year is one of my favorite times of the year. The night before the first day of school, when I was a child, I would toss and turn unable to go to sleep. Each fall, the new school shoes and clothes, lunch box, binders, pencils and folders set out—in happy, but somewhat anxious anticipation—were waiting for me to take them into the classroom. I loved school. When I started teaching high school, I still had that same feeling: happy and anxious anticipation as my lesson plans, class roster and subject binders were neatly laid out on my desk. The start of a new school year is an annual ritual, but really the only one that happens in public schools.

I was thinking about my school year rituals as I stood watching the annual Lily Ceremony, which officially begins the start of the new school year at the Santa Fe Waldorf School. The incoming class of the oldest grade of the school (currently the seniors) gives lilies to the incoming first graders. Some form of this ceremony happens at private Waldorf schools and Waldorf-inspired charter schools all over the country. This ritual of handing a flower to the first graders so beautifully embodies what happens in a Waldorf education: the “slowing down to smell the flowers” to use a common cliché.

Standing next to me, a sixth grade parent (my daughter is in fourth grade), whom I had not met before said, “this is my tenth ceremony.” I, a bit weepy, felt the immensity of that statement. The calendar of my daughter’s life being mapped out before me on the stage: the striding—and if she could—the running toward that senior year—her babyness slipping away from her more and more. And her mature self, taking on a clearer form year by year, grade by grade: each Lily ceremony a reminder that we won’t be going back, only forward into adulthood.

So why have I chosen a Waldorf education for my daughter? The Lily Ceremony or any of the other rituals and festivals that are a part of the Waldorf experience is a big reason. But it’s what those moments symbolize in my daughter’s life and mine that keep us here. What does that Lily Ceremony evoke? It is a reminder of the journey my daughter will take each year of her education. It is a reference to the passage of time, the flowering of learning, and reverence for her endeavor in the classroom.

At the Michaelmas event I had the same sensation as I did watching the Lily Ceremony. Last year as a 3rd grader my daughter was a dancing villager. This year as a 4th grader with her hand-painted shield, she was defending the villagers. The seniors with their large wooden swords and slighted disinterested swagger were warding off the dragon. Again to look at each stage of my daughter’s upcoming life I felt myself tear up. At Michaelmas, seeing each progressive role of the grades was an opportunity to slow down. The days are not just a blur of activity. It’s as if the camera that is recording my child’s life is set to slow motion and I can enjoy the spectacle of each triumphant phase of her life.

A Waldorf education erases so much of what is overwhelming in our world today: the speeding up of everything to the point where time is whirling past. The Lily Ceremony, Michaelmas, the Lantern Walk, May Fair all track the years of my daughter’s education and create an appreciation of the slow and gentle flowering of her childhood. My daughter will be a senior in no time, but here at the Santa Fe Waldorf School I will have had many annual memories to appreciate her developing self.