Handwork at the Waldorf School of Atlanta – Grade 1

 

The Handwork Curriculum at the Waldorf School of Atlanta is led by Lisa Roggow.    Her loving care of the children is evident in these letters to parents of each grade.  

grade 1 knitted chick

Dear Grade One Parents:

In all likelihood we will begin having first grade handwork class next week.  Before we begin I would like to give you a preview of the work which we will be doing.

A great deal of the first grade curriculum, in every class, has to do with working in a circle – both literally and metaphorically.   While we generally stay seated in Handwork class, we do reinforce that circular gesture.    One of the most important ways we do this is to work together, at a similar pace.   It is very important that the children’s early exposure to handwork be in a non-competitive, supportive environment.   Ultimately, our goal is to nurture a sense of confidence and capability in the children.   This unfolds most naturally when the process is non-stressful and reverential.

Therefore, the early part of our year will be spent reinforcing skills they may have learned in kindergarten, specifically making twisted ropes and finger chaining.   Not only are these activities fun, but they also wake up the fingers and strengthen fine motor skills.  Also, in the case of twisted ropes, they require team work, which is an excellent activity to help form relationships in a new class.  Next we will take a closer look the medium we will be using for the next two years and play with raw wool.  We will hear about where it comes from and how it is turned into yarn.  We will make bits of yarn and poof it up into clouds.  All these activities are a fun way to heighten the children’s tactile sense and get them accustomed to the materials.

When the children are all ready we will move on to making our knitting needles.   We do this by taking a pair of dowels and sanding vigorously with two or three different grades of sandpaper, until they feel as smooth as glass.  Then we rub beeswax onto the needles to condition them, and finally we rub and rub with a soft piece of felt in order to polish the wax in and clean the surface off.    By the time the needles are done the children will be ready to have the eighth graders come and teach them to knit.   They will be a more experienced class, with knowledge of  many of the skills important in first grade, such as knowing when to leave your seat and when to stay in it, when to raise your hand and when to ask for help.   And so they will hear our knitting story…

I will them about a little shepherd who has ten sheep to watch over.   As the story progresses, the sheep all disappear one by one.  The shepherd goes on a journey to find the sheep, and discovers them behind a fence in a pasture.   She calls to them, but they cannot come past the fence.   So the little shepherd goes “under the fence, catches a sheep, brings it through, and off it leaps”.   This is our knitting verse, and it gives a name to each step in knitting a stitch.  As the children become more experienced knitters we can diagnose problems with the language this verse provides – for instance I may tell a child who has wrapped his yarn around the needle twice that he caught an extra sheep.  The children who know the verse immediately know what happened and are able to correct the problem the next time.

Before the eighth graders arrive, the children will choose their color and my assistant, Ms. Bulmer and I will cast on  ten “sheep” and knit a few rows for everyone so that the children have something to hold on to when they begin knitting.   The older students are already looking forward to working with the first grade during these two magical class periods.

After that visit we will work for a few weeks on finishing up a small piece about the size of an adult hand.  To promote that feeling of working together, Ms. Bulmer and I will try to ensure that we are all working at about the same pace, checking all the work before class, fixing the many little mistakes that crop up and keeping the work at about the same level of completion.   These first little pieces will be sewn together and turned into bean bags for the classroom.   As adults, we are often very aware of small errors in our work, which can be discouraging.   Some children, when they are first learning, will often joyously gloss right over such things, caught up in the wonder of their new skill.   Turning this first work into bean bags not only gives us an opportunity to work in a circle by making something for the group, but it also gives the handwork teachers the flexibility to turn these first pieces into something that the children will see are of real use in their world.

With this first bit of knitting under our belts, we begin knitting in earnest, and you will most likely see three projects coming home after midyear.  Their needles will come home at the end of the year and we will use school needles in second grade.  With each project we do through the end of second grade we will add another skill to the student’s knitting repertoire and continue to reinforce old skills.

I am looking forward to getting to know your children.  Should you have any questions about  our work together, feel free to drop by the handwork room or email me.

Lisa Roggow, Handwork Teacher

grade 1 -knitting needles and cat

AUTUMN MIDDLE SCHOOL MAIN LESSONS at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

Adolescence is an expansive age. Throughout the autumn middle school students have been asked to extend themselves both in the variety and the depth of their studies. The approach of the holiday break is a time for culminating all the efforts made over the previous months, and the main lessons reflect that.

drawing in ml book

The sixth grade, for example, has just finished a writing block with a special focus on dialogue and style. One way of developing your own style is by experiencing someone else’s. Each student set the stage for a scene, drawn from history or other familiar subjects. The composition was then collected and typed up without naming the author. This was passed on to a second student who developed the rising tension. Following that, it was passed on to a third student, who wrote the climax. To supplement the element of dialogue, students worked daily on a recitation of Mark Antony’s oration at Caesar’s funeral, drawn from Shakespeare. At this time, the sixth grade has taken up the subject of Astronomy. Having focused earlier on the earth forces of Geology, they now turn their attention to the cold, clear constellations of autumn’s night sky.

The seventh grade students are also occupied with earth study, developing group reports for European Geography. The subjects are wide-ranging for each report, including biographies, current events, and artistic renderings of both physical and cultural geography. The block will close with a European “feast,” featuring food samples from many regions. In art, the students have explored perspective drawing, painting, and pastels over the autumn, and will now move into the careful copying of Renaissance portraits.

Eighth graders have finished their main lesson on the Civil War. As with the previous grade, they too developed group reports that included biographies of both an African-American and a spy, along with battlefield maps. Their current study is Solid Geometry, taught by Academe’s Sharon Annan. This subject combines the spatial thinking of geometric drawing with the linear thinking of algebra, and is something of a culmination of many years of Waldorf math. Additional subjects in math have included a study of the binary system, which is the language of computers, and an algebraic expression of the Pythagorean Theorem.

platonic solids

The students’ autumn efforts have yielded a bountiful harvest! This harvest, of course will become the seeds of future growth, and we look forward to what will unfold next.

~Jim McClurkin

6th Grade Teacher

jim mcclurkin

This article was originally printed in the December 2010 edition of the Garden Breeze newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.  

Advent in a Kindergarten Classroom at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

advent 4 weeks

As we move into Advent time, the classroom is cleared of the abundance of autumn to create an open space for life and goodness to come. There is a vine wreath on the table in the classroom with four candles. One is for each Sunday before Christmas. The first week of Advent honors the earth – the mineral world. The second week, we behold the plant world. Greenery and flowers are added to the wreath and classroom. The third week, we honor the animal world. During this week there are often conversations about some of the dear animal pets that live with the children.

The fourth week of Advent, we light a candle for humanity. In this dark time of year, we as human beings must let our inner light shine out to others. This is the verse we say as we light the candles:

The first light of Advent is the light of the stones,

That live in the seashells, crystals, and bones.

The second light of Advent is the light of the plants,

That reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.

The third light of Advent is the light of the beasts;

The light of hope that we may see in the greatest and in the least.

The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind

The light of love, the light of thought, to know and understand.

~Rudolf Steiner

~Annamay Keeney

Kindergarten Teacher

This article originally appeared in the December 2010 edition of the Garden Breeze newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.  

FAMILY RHYTHMS AND THE HOLIDAYS FROM WSA’S PARENT ENRICHMENT CLASS

Linden Tree Photography 2011 Advent Spiral 013

We are in the midst of the Holiday Season, with its joyful sharing, various festival celebrations of light, and special visits with treasured family and friends. It can also be a stressful time for families who are seeking to maintain a sense of regularity and familiar rhythms for their children, while also wanting to enjoy the change of pace that visiting with loved ones can bring.

Here are a few simple suggestions to add to or affirm your parenting wisdom at holiday time:

1. Just knowing and acknowledging that daily life may be different for a little while can be very helpful.

2. The most important rhythm, especially for our children under 7, would be the bedtime rhythm. While it may be later than usual, do include as much of the normal routines as possible; if traveling, do pack any familiar dolls/teddy bears, and books to support familiarity.

3. If your child still naps, do support a nap rhythm as much as possible.

4. While striving for regularity, do be flexible, and enjoy the change of pace that awaits you.

5. Notice, and attend to, stresses that may arise for yourself. Allow yourself a break, stepping outside, a ‘time out’ as needed. Just adding a few extra conscious breaths to your day can make all the difference.

6. Verbally preparing your child that things will be different can also go a long way in supporting their experience of the holiday season.

7. Do share, if possible, and if helpful, with family and friends, your routines that will support your child’s enjoyment of the holiday season. Including them in your plans of achieving a sense of regularity, may go a long way in friends and family supporting your efforts.

8. No matter how cold, do include outside time everyday or as much as possible, for you and your family; from walks in the neighborhood, to hikes in a favorite park, the invigorating cold winter air can renew everyone’s spirits; there is no wrong weather, only wrong clothing!

These are just a few ideas that can support a meaningful holiday season for all families.

~Sara Michelson,

Class Facilitator, Morning Garden Teacher

sleeping child at HF

This article was originally printed in the December 2010 edition of the Garden Breeze newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.  

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MICHAELMAS at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

The beating of a drum warns of the coming of the dragon. Through the trees we can see its shape moving swiftly toward the field where we are standing. As the ugly head rushes into the clearing, pandemonium breaks loose and children scatter to and fro to escape the foul beast. Then, the piercing call of a single trumpet summons the Archangel Michael. Atop a white horse, he rides carrying a flaming sword. His helmet and armor of gold glimmer in the catches of the late afternoon light. With his mighty sword, he tames the dragon.

st michael 2013

Singing praises, we gather around the Protector of Life and celebrate with a feast. All the fruits of the harvest are gathered and tables of food are prepared under the autumnal sky. When the light has grown dim and bellies are full, the crowd departs; each into their own home. Winter is coming and it is time to go inside. That was one Michaelmas celebration I remember during the years I spent living in an Anthroposophical Community for children with special needs. Being unfamiliar with Michaelmas, I wondered about its origin and meaning. St. Michael is one of the four Archangels found in the book of Revelation (Rev. 12:7). In ancient Chaldean/Babylonian mythology, he was called Marduk, the angel who killed the dragon Tiamat and created heaven and earth from its body. The Hero of the Sun or Protector of Life are two names given to St. Michael.

Michaelmas correlates to festivals in ancient cultural/religious traditions. The Festival of the Harvest , usually held in late September, is common among all cultures with an autumnal harvesting time. The Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur is also connected to Michaelmas. Yom Kippur is the culmination of the Jewish high holy days of Rosh Hashanah meaning, “head of the year,” the time of the Jewish New Year. It is a time of self-reflection and evaluation of one’s moral quality: a spiritual new year. It is no accident that the tradition falls during the constellation of Libra (Sept. 23 – Oct. 22) in the zodiac. Libra is the sign of the Scales signifying a weighing of one’s deeds. Deeds are the proverbial fruit of the harvest being gathered in for the winter of the soul. As we bring in the harvest in preparation for winter, we must ponder the deeds we have accomplished.

Michaelmas has great significance in connection to the symbol of the scales. Michael is often depicted holding a scale in religious iconography. There is a meaning here regarding the balance between the expansiveness of summer and the contractedness of winter. This is the time of the fall equinox when days and nights are equal lengths.

abby wright michael chalkboard

Chalkboard drawing by Abby Wright, WSA teacher.  

The archetypal drama between the horse & rider and the dragon has its symbolism, too. The horse & rider is the representation of a pure soul (horse) guided by its ego (rider). This is not a self-seeking sense of ego, but rather an image of spirit power, which gives us the will to do in the world. In the same way that the rider guides the horse on its path, spirit guides the soul. The sword is directly connected to the symbolism of spirit power because of the iron from which it is made. Physiologically, if the iron level in our blood is too low, we experience a lack of energy (will power). Anthroposophically speaking, iron is viewed as the carrier of spirit power in our bodies. As it so happens, the atmosphere of the earth experiences a barrage of meteor showers every year during late August which can be seen as the universal iron permeating and strengthening the earth. The dragon is the representation of evil in the world. Evil, in the sense, can be understood as an impediment to spiritual growth: i.e. fear, doubt, impatience, hatred, rage, etc. The struggle between the horse & rider and the dragon is the archetypal struggle between good and evil.

Each of us, in our own lives, experiences the battle between good and evil every day. People on a spiritual path are concerned with personal growth as a path of development. Forces that inhibit this growth are the dragons of our lives. Often we feel a need for heavenly assistance to battle these spiritual burdens so that we may continue to grow.

St. Michael is the spiritual representation of one who understands the paradox in the relationship between the light and the darkness; between growth and hardship; between good and evil. He shines the light of truth on the darkness of falsehood, which would enslave us, but understands that it is this very light that creates the darkness. The radiant brilliance of good casts the tenebrous shadow of evil. Light cannot exist without darkness.

dragon compressed

With this understanding it becomes necessary to face the dragon as a part of ourselves which is necessary, but not permanent. St. Michael leads us in battle against our own dragons with the light of truth and love as our guide. He imbues us with courage to face the hardships of our lives. Rudolf Steiner once said about the Michaelic impulse in the world: “The Michael force, which must completely change the ways of life of people, must find expression in great Michael festivals. This must be our goal, that the awakening of life; planting seeds of the festivals of hope, in festivals of expectancy, in festivals where the only bond is through hope and expectancy, be experienced…and not through sharply outlined ideals…Communal experience is required in order to work towards a Michael festival where the spirit of expectancy, can live.” (Breslau, June 9, 1924)

~Tim Smith

3rd Grade Teacher

This article was originally published in the December 2010 Garden Breeze newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.

MARTINMAS at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

As our school year unfolds and cooler temperatures arrive, our festivals at The Waldorf School of Atlanta give us the opportunity to look inward and strengthen our human soul. November 11 marks Martinmas, in honor of a Roman soldier elevated to sainthood for his selfless kindness. Martin is the patron saint of the poor, beggars, outcasts, and the homeless. He is known for his gentleness, his unassuming nature, and his ability to bring warmth and light to those who were previously in darkness.

 Linden Tree Photography 2011 Lantern Walk 030

 Each year, Martin’s deeds of goodness and acts of kindness are remembered with singing and a Festival of Lanterns. Children in kindergarten and the younger grades, together with teachers and families, carry handmade lanterns as they walk into the cold, dark evening. A story recognizing “the light” of another gives the children an experience of caring and sharing as we move toward the darkness of winter. The older grades may do outreach projects in celebration of the spirit of St. Martin.

wsa lantern walk 2010

This article was originally printed in the December 2010 edition of the Garden Breeze newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.  

 

MATHEMATICAL THINKING IN WSA HANDWORK PROGRAM

A flourishing handwork program is one of the unique hallmarks of Waldorf education. Dr. Rudolf Steiner, the creator of this educational system, identified handwork as an important component, famously remarking that “knitting is cosmic thinking.” But how are we to interpret this concept, and what relevance does handwork have today? Remarkably, recent research, such as Frank R. Wilson’s The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture, elucidates Dr. Steiner’s observation, and begins to show why working with the hands supports the development of logical and mathematical thinking.

At WSA, our handwork program covers a variety of crafting knowledge including knitting, crochet, cross stitch, hand sewing, wet felting and machine sewing. Each of these areas facilitates the development of coordination and fine motor skills through the wide variety of techniques presented and mastered as the children move through the grades. In addition, these activities support the acquisition of new math skills as they are presented by the class teachers and stimulate thinking through awakening the hands.

grade 1 knitted chickGrade 2 knitted gnome

At WSA, we begin our handwork journey in first and second grades with knitting. In The Recovery of Man in Childhood, Steiner remarks “…both boys and girls should learn to knit. This is good training for the fingers in skillfulness, but it is far more than that. The rhythmical thinking with the fingers which knitting demands grows with the child, and when he grows up the man will think more cogently and more harmoniously because the child practiced this skill just at a time when his first independent thinking was born.”

During these first two years in handwork class, we are overtly working with basic math facts and number sense. We are continually counting our stitches, and discovering what happens when we lose one or gain two. Later we learn that “ridges” are made by knitting two rows, and the children delightfully calculate that two ridges are equal to four rows. Ambitious second grade mathematicians might discover that their rainbow ball, which is made of four ridges each of six colors, has a total of 48 rows or 24 ridges. They will continue to progress through several patterns which provide questions in applied mathematics. For instance, our washcloth begins with three stitches and adds one lace stitch per row. It continues to grow until 30 stitches are reached. But how to maintain the lace pattern and make the washcloth shrink back to 3 stitches again, thus creating a serviceable square? The answer is to take away one stitch, (-1) add the lace stitch (+1) and finally take away one stitch more (-1).

As the second graders knit their way through this question, their nimble fingers are, as Steiner indicates, absorbing much more than how to make a washcloth. They are developing number sense in a practical, meaningful way, and they are learning how to think.

Conversely, sensory integration researchers have shown that children with certain arithmetic challenges show a high incidence of finger agnosia – they are unable to identify the position of their fingers in space. Knitting in Waldorf schools provides regular “rhythmical thinking with the fingers” that awakens motor control and brings the children’s awareness to their hands.

 grade 3 mug mat, pencil case and hat

After two years of knitting, the children are generally quite dexterous with their needles, and are ready to move on to another challenge. In third grade we bring crochet. Third graders are increasingly aware of themselves as individuals, and as they are stepping into the world we present a form of handwork that relies on the dominant hand. However you knit, both hands will have to work the needles to some degree. But crochet works with one hook. With that hook our third graders work to create a variety of useful everyday objects which all have a practical purpose in the real world.

In this pragmatic tone, we do not forget our math skills. Third graders have to learn to “read” their crochet. First they identify their own stitches, and then they move on to working with patterns of stitches. For instance, circular items begin with a 10 stitch round. If they are to stay circular, we must add stitches as the project grows, or it will begin to curve up and make a bowl shape quite quickly. The practical exploration of this concept resulted first in a flute case, which started with 10 stitches, grew to 20 and stayed there. As a result, the base curved up into a pouch shape, which was elongated to a tube.

Next we are ready to try a more complex sequence. Our rainbow circle mats deepen the concept of the circumference – we are trying to make a large flat piece, and so we must go from 10 stitches to 20. Soon this will not be enough, and we again work to increase the circumference by doubling our stitches. This is accomplished by identifying each stitch in the circle and placing two stitches into it on the next round. And so we have 40. From here third graders begin to work with the individual nature of their own creation, using their observation to determine when and how to add stitches in order to expand the circumference of their work evenly. This provides an opportunity for working in patterns: 2 stitches in each stitch doubles, but a pattern of increasing every other stitch will work differently, as will increasing in every third stitch. And so our third grade handwork classes continue to strengthen fine motor skills and reinforce basic math skills such as counting, addition and subtraction, but they also add number patterns and a smattering of practical geometry and fractions.

 grade 4 pincushion

Fourth grade brings greater intensity to our work with dexterity and fine motor skills. Now we take up small needles and cross stitch. Waldorf cross stitch is unique in that there are no patterns to follow except those which the children create themselves. In main lesson, the class teacher is bringing the leap of faith that is fractions. In handwork we support this work by making bookmarks and pin cushions. The bookmark consists of a canvas that is divided into two equal halves. The children are set the task of filling every hole in their canvas with a color of their choosing – but they must mirror the design exactly on both halves of the canvas. This is a real world image of the concept of “one half ”. The children rise to the challenge of creating one thing which is exactly like another. Next, they move on to pincushions, which have a midline and four quarters. Here there is nothing for it but to plot a point in space – I have put one yellow stitch four steps over from the center and two steps in – and to plot its coordinating point in three other areas. The result is a design which is mirrored horizontally, vertically and diagonally, all four sections exactly alike; the representation of one quarter.

 Grade 5 socks

Fifth grade sock knitting is perhaps the culmination of our mathematical handwork experience. The children work on three needles at once, wielding a fourth to knit in a circle. By now most Waldorf children are so dexterous that they have very little difficulty adapting to this challenge. However, it is still a magical moment when, having worked a few rows back and forth in order to begin, they divide their work onto three different needles, bend it into a triangular shape and join it together so that they are suddenly working in the round. Even more interesting is the fact that once they are knitting in the round, they no longer have to alternate knitted and purled rows in order to create a smooth surface – now knitting alone will suffice because they are only working on one side of the surface. There are so many instances of flexible thinking and fascinating cases of applied mathematics in sock making that it would be impractical to address them all here, but suffice it to say that we work with percentages of our stitches and decrease using ratios (sets of 10, 20, 10 stitches become sets of 9, 18, 9).

All of the work mentioned above is encased in a form that is enticing to the children. Items the children have created with their own hands become so precious that they inspire a sense of reverence, and rightly so. In the creation of each of these projects we find experiences in applied mathematics and flexible thinking, in addition to a world of information about color and texture to stimulate other types of thinking and knowing. In this context, knitting is truly an experience in cosmic thinking.

In the larger world, researchers are continuing to discover connections between how we use our hands and how we learn to think. Meanwhile, young knitters in Waldorf schools develop number sense and work their way through problems in applied mathematics while they labor to create toys and practical items to enjoy.

~Lisa Roggow

Handwork Teacher

This article was originally printed in the March 2012 issue of the Garden Breeze of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.

MATH at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

Waldorf schools are often fond of speaking about how we are different, and math is no exception. We do approach math differently than traditional schools, but we do many things the same. As Yogi Berra might have said, ”Math is, after all, math.” In grades one through eight at the Waldorf School of Atlanta, a child will learn the same math skills that s/he would learn at other area schools. The primary difference is in how it will be learned.

 Linden Tree Photography 2011 Winter Assembly 042

Movement and Rhythm

At some time in our lives, we have all wrestled with the multiplication tables. How were we to learn such a long list of dry facts? At our school, we first teach math facts by “getting them into children’s bodies.” In the younger grades, the children will spend some time each day clapping and stamping different number patterns. First graders may walk in a circle like an old man and count extra loud when his cane lands: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12. This lays the foundation for learning the multiples of three for multiplication and division. Better still, it gives a child a feeling for three, a relationship that exists in her body and not just as a symbol on a page.

Another exercise that comes later is to have four children walk geometrical figures that are all joined at a central point.  A child walks each figure repeatedly counting each time she comes to a corner. The children take note of the “friendly numbers” where they meet in the middle. For example, 15 is a friendly number for the triangle and the pentagon because both of the children walking those figures will meet in the middle when they say “15”. There is quite a bit of excitement when the children reach 60, the first number friendly to all of the figures. This exercise lays the foundation for a meaningful relationship to the concept of a common factor that is needed for working with fractions.

Story and Image

During the elementary school years, we strive to educate children through images. There is a twofold purpose to this. First, children love to live into stories and pictures. They develop an active relationship with material when it is presented in this way. Second graders often hear a story of gnomes who are digging gems from a mountain. When the gnomes get ten gems, they put them in a bag. Ten bags are too hard to carry, so they put those in a cart (100 gems). Ten cart loads go into a wagon (1,000 gems). Thus the children are introduced to the concept of place value.

The process of creating exact mental images is a thinking skill in and of itself. The stronger and sharper images a child can create, the sharper is his thinking. In eighth grade, we study the Platonic solids – a series of “perfect” solids described by Plato in his dialogue “Timaeus.” When we introduce each figure, it is described by a story (e.g. an ant walking around a cube or a series of ropes in a zero gravity room) to lead them through creating a picture of a three dimensional geometrical solid in their minds. Ideally, the first time a child “looks at” these figures, she sees a picture she created internally.

mr evans math

Meeting the Developing Child

The benefits of math as a learning tool are well known. Since the time of the Ancient Greeks, math has been the accepted method for developing logical and abstract thinking. In Waldorf schools, we pick the topics for our curriculum not only because children are intellectually ready for them but also because it meets a developmental need. In fourth grade, for example, a child separates from the unity of the world and often feels the loneliness of emerging individuality. We see this reflected in the introduction of fractions, where a whole number falls into many pieces. The work with fractions helps to support the child through this life transition.

Seventh grade can often be a tumultuous time for children due to physical changes in their bodies combined with drastic emotional swings. For this reason, we take up the study of algebra

in seventh grade. The process of unraveling difficulties using a clear, steady process of maintaining balance (i.e. balancing equations) is a balm to the young adolescent soul. These are some of the ways that our curriculum works with math and strives to make it more than a collection of skills. Perhaps you will have a chance to observe some of these activities in our classrooms this Grandparent’s Day.

~Randy Evans

Faculty Chair & Math Instructor

Originally printed in March 2012 Garden Breeze of the Waldorf School of Atlanta

 

Parent Perspective from the Waldorf School of Atlanta

My husband Steve and I have two daughters. Our youngest, Isabel, age 14, is about to graduate from the Waldorf School of Atlanta. She has attended this school since age four, and will continue her Waldorf education at Academe of the Oaks high school next year. Our oldest daughter, Jessie, is 19. She also attended WSA from pre-K through eighth grade. She graduated from Academe last year, and just finished her freshman year at the GSU School of Music. We are grateful for the high quality K-12 Waldorf curriculum in Atlanta.

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How can I put into a few hundred words my journey as a parent at one great school for fifteen consecutive school years? All I can offer are a few tastes.

Our first Lantern Walk was in 1996. I was asked to bring up the rear, relighting blown-out candles. Jessie and her tiny classmate Meagan walked with me, singing the Lantern Walk songs. Their candles blew out. They dropped their lanterns. As a self-conscious new parent at the school I scrambled with the awkward lighter I had been entrusted with. None of this clunkiness touched the two little girls. They were content and steady as they sang and walked behind their teacher in the chilly night. I’ll never forget Meagan’s tiny voice sounding like a happy little bird as she sang “pee-wit, pee-wit, rick-a-tick-a-tick.”

One of my favorite aspects of Waldorf education is the way it spirals back to subjects studied in younger years, but in a different, age-appropriate way. I enjoyed the synchronicity of Isabel and Jessie studying Ancient Civilizations at the same time, one as a fifth grader and the other as a high school sophomore.

I was recently in a conversation with some kindergarten parents about the Waldorf kindergarten birthday celebrations. We got goosebumps remembering how difficult it could be to get through the reading of the birthday story without weeping. A beautiful story it is, about the baby sliding down the “Rainbow Bridge” at the urging of an angel, and into the waiting arms of her or his loving parents. How significant is each child! I got to have my five minutes of fame (or so it felt to me) as the “big kid” — a parent of an eighth grader. I shared, “Well, listen to this!” The eighth graders had just finished their Physiology block, which included lessons on human reproduction. My daughter’s assignment was to interview us about her own birth. Steve and I had so much fun telling her all about it. Isabel did a great job taking notes, and I was amazed at the concise essay she wrote for Main Lesson.

Part of the delight in sharing the (physiological) birth story with our eighth grader was that, just as adolescence is gearing up, with its requisite pushing away, we got to relive, with her, how absolutely amazing her arrival in our world had been. This very different telling of the story of her beginnings had the same essence as the kindergarten story: You are a miracle. We cherish you.

There are many factors that contribute to a young person’s development, to be sure, but it is clear to me that my children’s Waldorf education is key to their growth as “whole” people. Jessie is a vocal performance major in college. While this is a more specialized trajectory than that of many early undergraduates, she is a well-rounded person with a wide range of interests and skills, including interpersonal skills. I was grateful to see that it didn’t take her long to find her own community in the music school.

I treasure the memory of another Lantern Walk, this time at our current location. Isabel was in first grade. After the walk through the woods, singing the same beloved songs and carrying our lights, families and teachers gathered around the bonfire. The firelight glowed on all the contented faces, and I reveled in the community embrace of safety and love. There is nothing quite like knowing that my children are being held in a circle of warmth. Thank you, Waldorf School of Atlanta.

Linden Tree Photography 2011 Lantern Walk 023 Linden Tree Photography 2011 Lantern Walk 003

I’m especially thankful to our children’s class teachers, Gavin Connor, Jim McClurkin, David Florence, and Jenny Dilworth. Also, each specialty teacher has been an indispensable part of our children’s education, and I thank you all, especially those who have accompanied our family the entire 15 years: Eleanor Winship, Francisco Moreno, and Laira Covert.

You are a miracle. We cherish you.

 ~Carol Lane
WSA Parent

lane family

This article originally appeared in the June 2011 edition of the Garden Breeze newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.

Waldorf School of Atlanta History

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The Waldorf School of Atlanta began with the inspiration of Katie Reily, educator and speech therapist, who had a way of pulling community together. Her interest in Rudolf Steiner’s educational philosophy and enthusiasm for people was infectious. After a few years of leading a play group for children in her home and studying Waldorf education with parents, Katie invited Susan Jones, a trained Waldorf teacher to lead our first kindergarten class in the fall of 1986. It was called “The Children’s Garden”… a bold and beautiful beginning. Through the years many dedicated parents, faculty, and staff worked alongside our children to create the vibrant Waldorf School we have now.

Some glimpses of our history-

  • • The Waldorf School of Atlanta with its varying classes occupied and improved six different locations in the Decatur area.
  • • The first Holiday Fair fish pond was held in a small room. The whole pond was about 4’ in diameter. The line of “fisherpeople” went through the hall and down the stairs.
  • • Our first Advent Spiral and Lantern Walks included every child and person in our school. Soon they were just too big and these festivals had to divide into smaller groups…still beautiful and heartwarming.
  • • The Board of Directors met once a month and the meetings often went on until 11 at night.
  • • At one time the administrative staff of four to five people was housed in the same tiny office together and somehow they managed to squeeze in the school store too.
  • • In every location volunteers have shoveled untold amounts of woodchips and sand, built play yard fences, helped to unload, lay, cut and install many square feet of carpet, knocked down walls, put up dry wall, painted, tiled bathrooms- all to make a beautiful place for our children to thrive.
  • • Our school graduated its first 8th grade in the spring of 2000.
  • • Our sister high school, Academe of the Oaks, graduated its first 12th grade in the spring of 2006.
  • • Our school now has five Kindergarten classes and Grades 1-8 with a faculty of 34, a staff of 11, a board of 13 and enrollment in our pre-k through 8th grade of 227, and so many wonderful parents.

We have worked, played, sung, studied, struggled and persevered together for the children who are the heart of the school. We continue to grow, to be inspired by this educational philosophy laid out by Rudolf Steiner and to continually re-dedicate our vision on a daily basis.

~Annamay Keeney & Annie Sommerville-Hall

Kindergarten Teachers

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This article was originally published in the Spring 2012 Garden Breeze newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.