Thursday, January 31, 2013

Revisiting The Heart of Learning

Lately I've been revisiting Waldorf  inspired material I haven't read in years. This personal education renewal has helped both in the classroom and at home, but most of all it's inside of myself that I feel the greatest transformation.  Sometimes I get too focused on what's going on outside myself, with other people, projects, etc. and forget to rely on the foundation that already exists - those pieces I've built on my own and those pieces I've gained from other peole. 
Here's an excerpt from the Introduction of Oak Meadow's The Heart of Learning, by Lawrence Williams.  The following excerpt is an eloquent reminder of why I chose to school my children non-traditionally and why I encourage others to consider new and creative ways of supplementing their own education as well as that of their children:

"Every six seconds, a child is born somewhere in the world; over 10,000 children every day of every year. From the very moment of birth, each child displays remarkable intelligence, the ability to act decisively, and the capacity to love deeply. However, also from the moment of birth, we habitually respond to children in ways which begin to limit the extent to which these innate capacities will manifest. Within a few short years at least part of the infinte potential whilch held us in awe at the moment of brith has been reduced to deeply entrenched patterns of predictable behavior. At that point the child enters school, and several years later emerges, having supplemented the predcitable behavior with a limited range of marketable skills, having reduced the infinte potential of milions of children to a few predictable responses and a hatful of skills, we declare them to be mature adults, and praise ourselves for the good job we've done. . .
Fortunately, a few children survive this process to realize the promise that was so vibrantly alive at the moment of birth and make a contribution to humaity that is recognized for generations.  But many emerge as mere shells, destined to lead lives that are mediocre at best, filled with desperation and despondency, while some never make the adjustment at all and spend their lives in prisons and mental hospitals, isolated from the rest of humanity.
We continue with this sad charade generation aftern generation, crushing the boundless potential of billions of children, yet we never consider trying another approach, an approach which would permit those infinite resources to flow abundantly into the world for the healing of us all. 
It isn't quite as hopeless as it sounds.  In the midst of all this, there are those who catch a glimpse of what could be, and they manage to insprie others to see the possiblities. . ."
-from Oak Meadow's The Heart of Learning  (2005)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Enchanted Glade

Today we have the pleasure of meeting Carmen, a Waldorf on Etsy artist from Italy.  Her Etsy shop, named Radura Incantata translates as Enchanted Glade.
 I'm Italian and live in the north of Italy, I have two children and two cats, my love for the creations of needle felted carded wool was born from the purchase of one of them by a friend ... and there was born the desire to learn. 
I grew up in the mountains with my grandmother.  It was heaven, the stables with cows, chickens, and even snakes encountered on the trails.  I now live in the city and all that, the nature. . .I miss her.  For me Waldorf is this:  a return to nature.

What I create is inspired by the fairy world: fairies, gnomes, elves ... In short the little people.  I love fairy tales, and I am a avid reader of fantasy books.
My creations are alive.  I don't seem them as objects, but as a soul that comes to life.  Waldorf has been a wonderful discovery for me.  I searched the web, read a lot and my enthusiasm grew.  
Through discovering the creations of Marie from Soft Earth, I realized it's part of me too. 
To connect with Carmen and see more of her creations please visit her Waldorf on Etsy shop: Radura Incantata 
and check out her blog at:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Early Childhood Education

After an extended winter break I'm resuming my Waldorf inspired school this week.  To continue my own education I've been reading a wide variety of materials.  I recently came across the following article by Susan Howard of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America which I found both informative and inspirational.  I especially appreciated the reminder that they key ingredients of Waldorf early childhood education are:
 love and awareness/presence

Essentials of Waldorf Early Childhood Education

 by Susan Howard

Is there a Waldorf early childhood “curriculum?” Are there specific activities — perhaps puppet plays or watercolor painting, for example-that are required in a Waldorf program? Are there certain materials and furnishings-lazured, soft-colored walls, handmade playthings, natural materials, beeswax crayons—that are essential ingredients of a Waldorf setting? What is it that makes Waldorf early childhood education “Waldorf?” Rudolf Steiner spoke on a number of occasions about the essentials of education and of early childhood education. His words shed light on what he considered fundamental …
Download full article
The Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America or WECAN
website has other great articles as well resources for parents and teachers.  In addition to online resources like WECAN, I've gained lots of great Waldorf inspired ideas for my classroom and home from the team of  Waldorf on Etsy artists who all take great care in their work. 
By bringing hand made quality playthings into our homes and classrooms we foster our children's imagination while at the same time supporting and encouraging artists and craftsmen to continue to create these eco-friendly, kid friendly creations. 
Thank you!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ziezo Designs

Today we meet Andrea, a Waldorf on Etsy artist and shop owner of ziezoDesigns.

The origins of ziezo

Ziezo is a Dutch word that means it’s all right’. It reflects my feeling that I had when I accepted being able to be a stay at home mom of 3 little ones and being able to spend more time crafting again after years of studying and being professionally engaged. It also means ‘sawa’ a commonly uttered word, actually more an expression in Swahili, one of the languages used here in Kenya.
 Reversible Apron, Kanga
Ziezo is the label I created when I rediscovered my desire to create beautiful and functional items, after a long time of focusing on professional advancement. The creations are heavily inspired by Waldorf Education and Steiner philosophy as my children are attending a Waldorf Kindergarten/School here in Kenya. It all started with some kiddie aprons in the beautiful traditional materials such as Kikoy and Kanga fabrics (both 100 % cotton), grew to 100% wool felt crowns, wool and cotton Waldorf dolls, 100% silk butterfly wings and it is still expanding as the kids are getting bigger and their play changes.
 Butterfly Wings
I prefer to use natural materials and try to source them locally. That might mean buying and using raw wool from the local weaver, or that I use a 100% lambs wool jumper that originated in Europe or North America but bought at ‘mitumba’ (the second hand market) here in East Africa.
Knot Teething Doll
In the end it does come down to the fact that each product is carefully handcrafted. Thanks for considering to purchase a creation!
Jacaranda Tree Seedpod Gnomes
Please visit Andrea's Waldorf on Etsy shop ziezoDesigns to see more of her unique, playful handcrafted creations!
Birthday Crown
You can also connect with ziezo Designs and stay up-to-date with new offerings by 'liking' ziezo on Facebook 
As well as by following her blog at

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Little Bit about Etsy

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Etsy, here's a brief introduction to the innovative online marketplace for artists and craftspeople around the world.

Etsy's Mission Statement:

Our mission is to reimagine commerce in ways that build a more fulfilling and lasting world.

  • We are a mindful, transparent, and humane business.
  • We plan and build for the long term.
  • We value craftsmanship in all we make.
  • We believe fun should be part of everything we do.
  • We keep it real, always.
 Some of my favorite things about Etsy are browsing the eclectic mixture of artistic creations, connecting with people all over the globe and sharing what I love with the world.
 Etsy is a wonderful place to find unique, handcrafted gifts that delight and inspire.  Not only is it a place to find original, meaningful gifts, it's also a great place to support individual artists in their creative pursuits.
Inspiring, creative, innovative, friendly and global are just a few adjectives that come to mind when describing Etsy.  Add some creative time to your day by exploring the artistic world of Etsy. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fairy Shadow

Today we meet Tania, artist and owner of the the Waldorf on Etsy team shop Fairy Shadow.
 As a teenager I made hand pieced quilts for my brother and sister after receiving and being inspired by a quilt my great grandmother made while in her 90s. It was
a log cabin pattern made from the scraps of her family’s life.  It was so curious to see bits that were parts of one person’s dress and another’s pajamas. This was the beginning of my interest in
upcycling textiles.
In 1994, my sister and I produced a mail order catalog catering to Waldorf families.  We had so much fun and worked very hard making natural fiber dolls and costume wear.  After three years we
found the cost to our home lives was just too high and closed up shop but I continued as a handworker for Magic Cabin Dolls and later Sarah’s Silks.  My sister is now a Waldorf teacher.
Today I focus most of my energy on a line of floral hair accessories handcrafted from recycled t-shirts. I love taking the cast-offs of our culture and making something new and beautiful. As any
gardener knows, out of the compost heap come the most lovely and healthy plants. I want my customers to first fall in love with my blossoms and then be pleasantly surprised that they are made from
reclaimed materials. In addition to my Etsy shop, Fairyshadow, I wholesale my accessories to small boutiques as well as vend at local craft shows.
Blue Flowered Organdy Ribbon Headband
I began making my flowers shortly after my sixteen year old daughter was successfully treated for cancer and we needed add to our income stream. My daughter is my hero and inspiration. One
doesn’t consider that there will be hardships when one has a new babe but it is a joy to admire the strength of your child. If you visit my shop you’ll find her as a frequent model. She is the sparkling
blue eye greeting you in my banner and pictured above.
To see more of Tania's fun and beautiful upcycled artwork, to purchase her pieces for your own or to contact her about wholesale lots, please visit her shop Fairy Shadow on Etsy.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The First Seven Years

We do not educate the child for the age of childhood, we educate him for his whole earthly existence.’ Rudolf Steiner. The Roots of Education, 17/04/1924 
 Infants and young children are in the most absorptive stage of human learning. They are totally open to external influences. From birth, babies learn to stand, to talk, and to think through a combination of inherent ability, instinct and imitation. Rudolf Steiner viewed the physical, social, spiritual and cognitive development of a child as all interconnected. Waldorf education takes into account the whole child and believes that learning during the first seven years gains meaning by how it relates to daily life. The learning experience for this age group deals directly with the familiar daily activities of the home. For example mathematics can be introduced while a child helps out in the kitchen. 
To a healthy child, playing is not only a pleasurable pastime, but also an absolutely serious activity. Play flows in real earnest out of the child’s entire organism.’ Rudolf Steiner. The Child’s Changing Consciousness, 18/04/1923 
Imitation characterizes this first stage of a child’s development from birth to seven years. Young children mimic everything in their environment uncritically-not only the sounds of speech, the gestures of people, but also the attitudes and values of parents and peers. Imitation is one of the most effective and natural means of learning at this age. Teachers and parents perform their tasks consciously and carefully, aware that they may be models worthy of imitation. 
There are three primary virtues which we must develop in the child: gratitude, love and responsibility. These three virtues are the foundation on which the whole social life is built’ Rudolf Steiner. Education of the Child, 15/04/1923 
Encouraging children to share, to work together, to care for each other and to respect the needs of others during this stage of development helps them build a healthy foundation of learning. The behavior of a child is molded by what surrounds him. Kindness is especially important in dealing with children of this age group. Sharing traditional fairy tales and nature stories with them addresses the feeling realm and gradually awakens a fine moral sense for knowing right from wrong. 
In order to become true educators, the essential thing is to be able to see the truly aesthetic element in the work, to bring an artistic quality into our tasks, such as the creation of play materials.’Rudolf Steiner. The Child’s Changing Consciousness, 18/04/1923 
Many fine artists, who belong to the Waldorf on Etsy team, are committed to creating children’s tools and toys for this very important first stage of development. The love and care they put into their work can be see and felt. Quality materials along with special attention to the imaginative side of their work makes these unique pieces perfect for the play of your young learner. Please visit us on etsy to see many more examples of Waldorf inspired playthings.
I gathered the information in this blog post from these resources on Waldorf education on the web:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Soft Earth

A special part of this blog is dedicated to meeting members of the Waldorf on Etsy team.  These individual artists and shop owners come from all over the world and each share a special connection to Waldorf.  Our first artist of the new year is Marie from New Zealand.  She shares her inspiration with us, along with some of her beautiful Soft Earth Art creations.
 The Enchanted World of Needle Felting is full of Rainbow
dyed soft New Zealand Wool.  Its warmth and light speaks to
me, I feel it breathe in my hands and fingers. I want to
warm peoples hearts and ignite in them a stirring of their
spirit. Magical creatures, fantasy figures, Waldorf
Inspired, Gnomes, Fairies. Living out in the rural
countryside. I am inspired by Mother Nature. Here all is
calm and peaceful.

Children especially find my art appealing as it appeals to
their wonderful imaginations. My small homestead and garden
is organic and was built 25 years ago. I work on the kitchen
table, the sun's light bounces off the wooden
walls, to create a heart-warming glow.
I started making a few small wool dolls, and took them to
markets and fairs to sell. They were well received. A friend
suggested that I start a blog, and I have been astounded at
the interest and following. I joined Etsy and the New
Zealand on-line shop Felt. I wanted to share my art with
others globally, to let them have in their homes a little
piece of me. To this end my art is affordable to all.
 By going global this has extended my view of the world. New
Zealand is a fairly small Island nation, but now I consider
the seasons happening in the world and create items for
other's Seasonal Nature Tables.
My original designs come easily to me. I feel I have a
spiritual connection to each piece and that the receiver is
imbued with my light. This I feel is what I am meant to be
doing in the world.
To see more Soft Earth Art creations and to connect with Marie online please visit: 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What is Waldorf?

Waldorf is the largest independent, alternative education movement in the world.  There are independent Waldorf schools located in 60 countries, as well as public and charter Waldorf schools and numerous Waldorf homeschooling environments around the world.
Waldorf is a form of education developed by the Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner in 1919 that emphasizes imagination in learning.  Steiner, born in Croatia in 1861 advocated a form of ethical individualism. He based his beliefs both on personal experience and on Goethe's world view, in which “Thinking … is no more and no less an organ of perception than the eye or ear. Just as the eye perceives colours and the ear sounds, so thinking perceives ideas.”[1] One consistent thread running throughout Steiner's life work is the goal of demonstrating that there are no essential limits to human knowledge.[2]

Waldorf Education is based on a profound understanding of human development in order to address the needs of the growing child. Waldorf teachers provide a richly artistic curriculum that works with and enhances a child's developmental stages from early childhood through high school.  In addition to fostering a child's innate sense of creativity, Waldorf education cultivates social and emotional intelligence and works to connect children to nature.  An important goal of Waldorf education is to ignite passion for lifelong learning.[3] 
Teachers in Waldorf schools are dedicated to generating an inner enthusiasm for learning within every child. They achieve this in a variety of ways. Even seemingly dry and academic subjects are presented in a pictorial and dynamic manner. This eliminates the need for competitive testing, academic placement, and behavioristic rewards to motivate learning. It allows motivation to arise from within and helps engender the capacity for joyful lifelong learning. [4]

The Waldorf curriculum is broad and comprehensive, structured to respond to the three developmental phases of childhood: from birth to approximately 6 or 7 years, from 7 to 14 years and from 14 to 18 years. Rudolf Steiner stressed to teachers that the best way to provide meaningful support for the child is to comprehend these phases fully and to bring "age appropriate" content to children that nourishes healthy growth.[4]
Here are a few links to help you get started on exploring Waldorf Education on your own:

 References for this article: