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

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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.  

 

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.  

Advent at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

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Thoughts for Advent

 Asleep is the soul of the Earth

In Summer’s heat,

While the Sun’s outward glory

Rays through the realms of space.

Awake is the Soul of Earth

In Winter’s cold,

While the Sun’s inmost Being

Lightens in Spirit.

Summer’s day of joy

For Earth is sleep.

Winter’s holy night

For Earth is day.

~ Rudolf Steiner

 

Rudolf Steiner relays a beautiful image of Advent.  At this time of darkening days, there is an inner light in the depths of each Human Being’s and the Earth’s soul.  The rising cold which marks the winter season is our invitation to look deeply within our own being and freely radiate warmth and light to all around us.  With our dear partner Earth, we live through the season’s changes to bring renewal of life and beauty to all the magnificent kingdoms on Earth.

The gift of light we shall thankfully take

But it shall not be alone for our sake

The more we give light the one to the other

It grows and gives light and shines even farther

~Ashley du Pont

Community Chair

This article originally appeared in the December 2011 edition of the Garden Breeze Newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.  

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The Advent Garden at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

Linden Tree Photography 2011 Advent Spiral 006

As with so many festivals of early Winter, bringing light into the darkness is the essence of the Advent Garden. The form of the involuting and outgoing spiral was one that Dr. Rudolf Steiner gave as a form recommended to walk involving the whole child and their sensory systems. Form drawing is part of the curriculum in Waldorf schools, and children experience these forms in many ways, drawing them and walking them for instance. Around 1923 children in the first Waldorf Schools walked this form, but it was not until around 1926 when Bavarian farmers and a German nurse came together to create the custom of the garden. They laid out the spiral with moss and evergreens with a central candle, which was raised on a mount. The candles were brought in, carried by each child as they walked the spiral holding their apple with the candle in it. As they came to the center and lit their candle they placed it along the path on their way out, and the garden glowed with light.

This experience of beauty, music and solitude resonate with this time of outer darkness, and renewing our inner light. Diwali, Winter Solstice, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and Christmas are some of the festivals that include this element of light, along with the qualities of mystery, gratitude, generosity, and the upholding of high ideals kindled within us.

The children experience coming into a darkened room, hearing lyre, violin, guitar or flute music playing softly, and waiting their turn to receive the apple with an unlit candle and being led to the beginning of the path. They walk the path showing us all so much by how they navigate their way, and their own special walk. It is beautiful to watch, and hold with reverence. The children experience this wonder without explanation. The event has of course brought some parents to quiet tears, or a very quiet chuckle – or both, as they watch their child and dear classmates.

At the Waldorf School of Atlanta this festival is for kindergarten through second grade. Some classes have extended it in different forms further into the grades with a labyrinth or walking outside at night. Some classes let it “rest” after second and then bring the essence of this festival in a different way. The high school students at Academe of the Oaks look forward to walking the spiral again, understanding in a whole new way what they experienced when they were little.

“What a different time it is today, how much greater is the need, the need to go into the darkness, spreading the light as we go out.” ~ Christof-Andreas Lindenberg

~Annie Sommerville-Hall

Preschool/Kindergarten Teacher

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

 

Michaelmas at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

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In autumn St. Michael

With sword and with shield

Passes over meadow and orchard and field

He’s on his way to battle

‘Gainst the darkness and strife,

He is the heavenly warrior

Protector of life
~ Anonymous

The festival is named for St. Michael, known as the protector of humanity, who inspires qualities of courage, initiative and steadfastness. Waldorf schools utilize this allegory of good versus evil to incite courage and inner strength in the students. It is especially useful in the fall, in preparation for school work and the upcoming academic year.

In The Waldorf School of Atlanta’s tradition, the Michaelmas festival is celebrated on the last Friday of September. A variety of activities will take place for our grade children to celebrate this festival of courage. As in past years, the grade school students will be joined by the faculty and students of Academe of the Oaks to celebrate Michaelmas. There will be games, drumming, festive songs, and a visit from St. Michael and the dragon! Parents are joyfully welcomed.

Michaelmas is a symbolic, ancient tradition celebrated in autumn. As the days grow shorter and the sun wanes, human beings often feel called to sleepiness. The strength of our will seems sapped, and we feel pulled towards complacency. To conquer this lethargic “dragon,” we must look inward to find strength and an “inner light” to guide us through the darkness of winter. We cannot sleep like many of the plants underground or hibernate like some of the animals. We have work to do, we must awake!
~Ashley du Pont
Community Chair

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

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Michaelmas Dragon at the Waldorf School of Atlanta 2011