What excitement, as our class reunited after Spring Break! Everyone enjoyed their break immensely and spent glorious hours with family in nature. What beauty Spring brings! And what a happy, humming hive our class is. This week, we're finishing up work on word families and continuing to savor our work together on the class play. Soon, we'll be hiking to Sugarloaf for our nature unit and then starting our final math block, continuing and deepening our understanding and practice of the 4 math processes. The end of the year is right around the corner! There are so many moments when the children are just...shining. They're supporting and challenging each other in amazing ways, both academically and socially.
Our class has definitely formed its sense of itself! We can do this same work in our parent community, too. The very best thing you can do to support your own child is to love all the children in our class, truly. And to commit yourself to growing an amazing relationship with me, their teacher, and with your fellow parents. In the rising first grade parent meeting, Dana reminded us that the reason Steiner created this education was to stop war. This unique anthroposophical picture of the human being that results in such a nourishing environment that feeds body, soul, spirit—it's to effect social renewal. The work the children and I do in class each day is deeply meaningful, as is the work we do together as adults in this community. I don't think that means we stick our heads in the sand and pretend challenges don't exist. They do, they always will. But it does mean that we have a perspective and strength that goes beyond ourselves and comes from what we bring as a group, together. Something amazing. We're holding both the long view, of what a beautiful thing this education is leading us to, and the short view that allows us to see the joy and challenges of each day through a lens of wonder and beauty and gratitude.
A very happy new year to you! Winter Break was wonderful, but it was so good to come back and find the children ready, joyful and so eager. And what a beautiful way to start our new year, with our vowel unit. The children have already been introduced to consonants through the use of story image and evolved pictograms; vowels evolve out of interjections and expressions of feeling. So we began our new year with the story of “Ahmal and the Night Visitors” from Menotti’s famous one-act opera. Wonderment can sound like “ah!” Whereas surprise can sound like “oh!” Eurythmy gestures, an art form that Steiner calls “visible speech,” deepened our understanding of the mood of the vowels. Experiences like this at the level of feeling, embedded in short description and expressed in a picture, are paving the way for our class's discovery of the letters for the vowels.
Learning in the early grades does not depend on literacy skills, but on the skills of orality, and so considerable learning in a wide range of topics and areas is happening; rather than literacy being the chief end of the learning process, it’s complementing and supporting it. The moment your child learns to read will be very individual; they will read when they are ready. Our rich and systematic introduction benefits all of our children, especially those with learning differences. For those who apparently acquire the skill easily, the time and care taken will only enhance their sense that writing and especially reading are something very special.
November has been an amazing month for reflection and gratitude. From our Martinmas lantern walk, reminding us all of the light we carry inside us, to our celebrations of harvest and opportunities to share food and warmth at social and familial gatherings, November was ripe with beauty and meaning.
I begin to understand why all of us have been brought together. We have so much good work to do with and for each other. The dark of this advent season only serves to emphasize the bright light we each bring. I was very moved by Dana's words at the all-school meeting, when she talked about how each of us is an equally important member of the circle; to thrive, our circle needs all of us working together with gratitude and love and purpose.
I came away from this month's parent meeting hearing that parents long to know more about their child's daily and weekly rhythms at school. As parents, most of us wish we had attended a Waldorf school, and we want a window into our child's experiences—to know that they're thriving, but also because of what we've missed and long for ourselves.
To that end, I'm including some links:
As we enter into our 6th week of school, my heart is filled with gratitude. I see our children growing and thriving as they become increasingly comfortable and confident in our first grade daily and weekly rhythms. Together we're creating an atmosphere of joy and reverence where the good work we're doing can flourish.
Our Form Drawing unit concluded, the children have been applying the pre-handwriting and math skills they learned in our current Language Art unit. Together, we've wondered, "How many thoughts do you have in a day? How many songs do you know by heart? How many books are in your house?... Isn't it amazing that all those thoughts and dreams and stories can be captured and written using only 26 letters (each of which can be made with a combination of line and curve forms)?"
The richness of our 1st grade fairytales give the children wonderful images and from those images they work into an understanding of each (Capital) letter, allowing them to anchor an abstract symbol to something nurturing and deeply meaningful. Our B was from the bear-prince of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," our G came from the "Golden Goose," our M from "Simile Mountain," our F, from the talking fish in "The Fisherman and His Wife," our W from a fairytale of "Strong Wind, the Invisible." Currently there is a D-shaped Dragon on our board...
These first weeks of 1st grade have been the beginning of such an amazing adventure. The children are so wonderful, so curious and so courageous. Each brings their own light to our class community. Our very first story was a Grimm's fairytale, "The Golden Key." The children each received their own key, and together we observed that their designs contained (they were skeleton keys) the two forms from which everything in the entire world is composed—the straight line and the curve! These keys also symbolize the great secret to unlocking education: our love and interest.
One of my favorite moments that first week was when I drew those two forms on the board and then each child, one at a time, came up to draw a line or curve. Oh, the reverence! (You could have heard a pin drop.) We've done so much good work in these beginning weeks; it's very rewarding to see how the "I" of our class is beautifully forming.
An excerpt from the poem "September,"
our seasonal poem of the month."
The golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.
The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.
From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes' sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.
By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather,
And autumn's best of cheer.
Helen Hunt Jackson