Saturday, April 21, 2018

Things as They Come

My children look at the world so differently than I did at their age.  They are so much more awake.  I've considered that my own childhood was a series of things that happened to me.  Maybe much of my life has been that way?  I was just swept along with the tide, ever-accepting of things as they came. 

Am I now in a new season of my life where I take the reins and make things happen on my own?  I see myself making new connections in everyday settings.  I see people happy to meet me.  I see the world as an open place, and myself ready to meet it!  What a powerful feeling to have!

I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element.

It is my personal approach that creates the climate.

It is my daily mood that makes the weather.

I possess tremendous power to make a life miserable or joyous.

I can be a tool of torture, or an instrument of inspiration.

I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.

In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and person humanized or dehumanized.

If we treat people as they are, we make them worse.

It we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.

~Goethe, as taken from The Waldorf Book of Poetry

Thursday, April 19, 2018


I looked out the window on Monday night and it was snowing sideways.  Spring is so slow in coming to stay this year.  I guess nearly everyone has the same thing to report.  It was gloriously warm yesterday and we did our best to soak it in.  Nature school at our local state park, time on the porch, and a picnic in the backyard.  The wind kept me up much of the night, along with the restless feelings that April always seems to bring me.  I didn't mind this time.

My mind is so full of things right now that I don't think I really form words around it all.  It is good, mostly, to be sure, some of it overwhelmingly so.  The new shape of my life suits me very well and I feel myself coming into a new place.  This little quotation has been a help to me lately, so I thought I would share it here.  I found it in The Waldorf Book of Poetry, which seems to have no end of good material, all around.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?'

Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

~Marianne Williamson

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Song from the Suds

Queen of my tub, I merrily sing,
While the white foam raises high,
And sturdily wash, and rinse, and wring,
And fasten the clothes to dry;
Then out in the free fresh air they swing,
Under the sunny sky.

 I wish we could wash from our hearts and our souls
The stains of the week away,
And let water and air by their magic make
Ourselves as pure as they;
Then on the earth there would be indeed
A glorious washing day!

Along the path of a useful life
Will heart's-ease ever bloom;
 The busy mind has no time to think
Of sorrow, or care, or gloom;
And anxious thoughts may be swept away
As we busily wield a broom.

 I am glad a task to me is given
To labor at day by day;
For it brings me health, and strength, and hope,
And I cheerfully learn to say- 
'Head, you may think; heart, you may feel;
But hand, you shall work always!'

~Louisa May Alcott, as taken from The Waldorf Book of Poetry

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Nature School at the Water's Edge

Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
Which I gaze on so fondly to-day,  
Were to change by to-morrow, and fleet in my arms,
Like fairy-gifts, fading away!  
Thou wouldst still be ador'd as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will;  
And, around the dear ruin, each wish of my heart
Would entwine itself verdantly still! 

It is not while beauty and youth are thine own,
And thy cheeks unprofan'd by a tear,  
That the fervour and faith of a soul can be known,
To which time will but make thee more dear!
Oh! the heart, that has truly lov'd, never forgets, 
  But as truly loves on to the close;
As the sun-flower turns on her god, when he sets, 
  The same look which she turn'd when he rose!
~Thomas Moore

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Supporting Self-Directed Play

The past week has brought a transformation here, both as we have checked off some big tasks and as the children's moods have shifted in a big way.  After supper last night, they involved themselves in extended train play, with tokens to pass between stations, an infirmary, and office workers.  The transitions between all those things were largely seamless, disputes were handled good-naturedly, and the coming of bedtime song was met happily.  It was amazing.

I wanted to elaborate more on self-directed play, especially since I have seen such an improvement in this area.  With my children being the center of my efforts, I have been free to begin to shape things around their needs and mine.  This is very freeing for all of us.  Furniture has been moved, added, removed, and so on.  Feeling so crowded previously, it is so nice to have some space and flexibility.  I have chosen to go back to a kindergarten mood, with a corner to be quiet (or have sheep) in, more house play, more vehicle play, more everything play.

The weather has cooperated by being cold and wet, so time inside has been quite welcome.  The children all took turns at their own pillow houses, as they called them, sometimes sharing and sometimes not.  There was some possessiveness over these houses, but each owner still felt it was nice for them to have them for a time.  Willow's house is below.  Just as I had lost hope in her "good ole days" of play, she has surprised me.  I had a feeling she needed some of that familiar activity, in addition to her time spent on higher pursuits, like Nancy Drew and piano.  Perhaps, through healthy play, she is freed from the feeling of being the oldest?  I am interested to see how things go.

I really wanted to share more about Supporting Self-Directed Play.  I found the book to be immeasurably helpful in a home setting with multiple children.  I've read nearly all the Waldorf titles and scoured the Online Waldorf Library, and this is the best resource I've found.  It discusses the kinds of self-directed play children engage in (mandalas!), gives numerous accounts from teachers, and provides many helpful photos.  There are pictures that are very familiar to me!  It also gives charts with differences between children who are well engaged in their self-directed play and those who are struggling. 

Time and again, in my parenting journey, I've found that there is not some magic spell that changes everything.  And yet, there are moments when everything changes.  What has shifted?  Has the world suddenly become easy?  Not in the least!  I have simply looked at the same thing with renewed eyes or returned to something that was allowed to fade away.   Often, it is my own change of heart that allows things to get past a sticky spot and move on a more even keel.  This book stresses that the inner life of the teacher matters greatly.

I wanted to share a short list of books that I think are essential to understanding children's play, in addition to Supporting Self-Directed Play:
  • Toymaking with Children by Freya Jaffke :: This book discusses the stages in play between birth and seven, along with recommended playthings for each age range.  It includes instructions for Waldorf dolls, play stands, knitted cords, bunting beds, wooden toys, silk marionettes, and the very open-ended toys seen in kindergartens.  
  • Children at Play by Heidi Britz-Crecelius :: Consider this a history of play.  The author collected numerous first-hand experiences, along with those from literature, of how children played up to the age of ten or so.  All age ranges are discussed, with particular interest in older children who were able to have "free-range" experiences.  It includes "The Day We Flew the Kites," a personal favorite of mine.
  • Spindrift from Wynstones :: This is part of a seasonal collection that I really love, but this book stands out as a good all-around resource.  It has verses for work and play, songs in the pentatonic scale, and a large number of stories from around the world.  The children enjoy hearing them time and again.  I include it because I think it can inspire everyday work to be more playful, and it can provide material for circle times and read-alouds.
  • Work and Play in Early Childhood by Freya Jaffke :: I guess you can figure that I like what she has to say, and I appreciate the wisdom of older Waldorf teachers.  This book offers more detail on how children play, with color photos and suggestions for inner work for teachers.  I enjoy books with photos, because I like my children to see how other children play and work in a similar setting. 
Lastly, I'd like to include some videos that show children at play in Waldorf Early Childhood settings: 

It's time for me to get on with other work, though you can tell that I am so pleased to be writing about this topic and our improvements. I wanted to share a few final thoughts.  Things have been messier, the best kind of messes-- the kind that are alive and energetic, calm and thoughtful.  I thought this quote from Supporting Self-Directed Play really captured what the children are doing when they play:

We have built the whole world.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Symbols of Eternity

The hills are our symbols of eternity.  There they stand, the evidence of things seen, as nearly everlasting and unchangeable as anything man may know.  One who has dwelled within them senses that they are beyond the horizon, even when he is in the level lands.  For this reassurance, all hill people will be duly thankful. . . 

In some manner, a mountain country places its mark on those who dwell within its shadows.  Scots carry with them a Highland pride of birth and place, even though they may wander thousands of miles from heather-covered moors. . . And thus it is with those nurtured in Appalachia--they leave, but they look back, remembering pleasant things.  The land has claimed them, and its ties will not be severed.

Maurice Brooks :: The Appalachians

We traveled over to Rich Valley yesterday, a winding and welcome journey after a long Winter.  We visited the Swing Place, of course, and collected daffodils for our pleasure at home.  I never tire of these views, never.  I would gladly live in that little house with the karst limestone so very near.  When I do leave these mountains and find flat, straight roads, I feel oddly without my navigational bearings.  I hardly know what to do when I am not hemmed in and I always feel glad to come home.

As my life changes and I find new footing, I feel glad for these mountains.  Of course, I have to redefine my mental picture of many of my favorite places.  Fifteen years prior, that seemed almost too painful for me to do, but now I see them with new, hopeful eyes.  These places have been here years beyond counting.  They know what to do.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Easter Things and Self-Directed Play

The weekend was so difficult for me, truly, that I hardly knew what to do.  The unexpected grief that comes up at unpredictable times is baffling.  I do not miss my old life, and I have all that I need here, but there are such feelings of despair that well up.  I was just so sad, in the midst of what should have been joy.  And then yesterday--yesterday it was mostly gone!  I was productive and present and feeling much better.  I guess that is the way it goes.

The children have been doing the same, I venture to guess.  There are times of relief, of seeing that what is new is also good, and there are dark times where they are plumbing their own depths.  And how funny (and appropriate!) it is that divorce is mentioned when you do a grammar check on that phrase!  Equilibrium takes wider swings these days, but we are seeing it.

Self-directed play has improved, as you can see from the birthday party Laurel threw for Healing Mouse.  The wee mouse is at the center on the swing.  He lives in the doctor kit and Willow helped to make him.  I got a book in the mail on the topic of this kind of play and the photos themselves are a wonderful inspiration.  The children photographed have made wonderful creations--the best kind of "messes."  They are masterpieces, really.

Play has been disjointed here for a couple years.  I used to take such pride and wonder at how creative the children would be, but then it crumbled as various stresses reached boiling points.  We had difficult neighbors, the traveling job saw more travel, we became last place.  It feels so piercing to write that that last one, but it is true.  This situation did not arise out of arguments, but out of a silent dysfunction of which we only knew the surface.

My hope is that things will only continue to improve, as they should.  We have a few more humps to get over in the coming weeks, and then I dream of Summer.  Imagine that!  Dreaming of Summer!  It will be hard-won, for sure, and I cannot help but feel or wish that something really good and boring is coming our way.  May there be many more hours of self-directed play.  That simple thing would bring such gladness!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Palm Sunday

As far as I know, there are still some folks East of here without electricity.  We were just on the edge of some big snow, it seems, and our eight inches could have easily been thirteen! 

We thoroughly enjoyed it and there are remnants of snow girls and a snow fort outside.  The weather has turned now, looking more like Spring, which helps with the Easter Mood.

Still, there had to be the obligatory snow photos.  I never tire of those.

I remembered quite last-minute that it was Palm Sunday.  So, I scrambled around getting things in order and planning a supper with Becky. 

The children love making their own bread, so it was not hard to talk them into bread cockerels from All Year Round.  Laurel had a bunny in mind, as our friend has her own pet rabbit.

I am enjoying this little gnome bringing carrots to the rabbits entirely too much.  I wish you all a lovely Holy Week!