Sunday, February 24, 2013

Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner was born on this date, February 25, in the year 1861, in present day Croatia while his father was stationed in Kraljevec as a telegraph operator for the Southern Austrian Railway.  He died in March 30, 1925 at the age of 64.
Steiner made many important contributions to society during his lifetime.  His philosophy and ideas continue to have relevance to our world today.  Here's a brief excerpt from the wikipedia article on his life's work. I encourage you to read the whole piece about this inspirational philosopher and founder of Waldorf.
First Geotheanum

"After the First World War, Steiner became active in a wide variety of cultural contexts. He founded a number of schools, the first of which was known as the Waldorf school,[43] and which later evolved into a worldwide school network. He also founded a system of organic agriculture, now known as Biodynamic agriculture, which was one of the very first forms of, and has contributed significantly to the development of, modern organic farming.[44] His work in medicine led to the development of a broad range of complementary medications and supportive artistic and biographic therapies.[45] Homes for children and adults with developmental disabilities based on his work (including those of the Camphill movement) are widespread.[46] His paintings and drawings influenced Joseph Beuys and other modern artists. His two Goetheanum buildings are generally accepted to be masterpieces of modern architecture,[47][48] and other anthroposophical architects have contributed thousands of buildings to the modern scene. One of the first institutions to practice ethical banking was an anthroposophical bank working out of Steiner's ideas; other anthroposophical social finance institutions have since been founded.
Steiner's literary estate is correspondingly broad. Steiner's writings, published in about forty volumes, include books, essays, four plays ('mystery dramas'), mantric verse, and an autobiography. His collected lectures, making up another approximately 300 volumes, discuss an extremely wide range of themes. Steiner's drawings, chiefly illustrations done on blackboards during his lectures, are collected in a separate series of 28 volumes. Many publications have covered his architectural legacy and sculptural work.
His chief book on social reform, Toward Social Renewal, sold tens of thousands of copies in his lifetime. In this, Steiner suggested that the cultural, political and economic spheres of society need to work together as consciously cooperating yet independent entities. Each of these three realms has a particular task: political institutions should establish political equality and protect human rights; cultural institutions should cultivate the free and unhindered development of such realms as science, art, education and religion; and economic institutions should encourage producers, distributors and consumers to cooperate to provide for society's needs.[50] He saw the establishment of what he called Threefold Social Order as a vital response to what he saw as an already visible trend toward the mutual independence of these three realms. Steiner saw theocracy, conventional shareholder capitalism, and state socialism as attempts by, respectively, cultural, economic, and governmental institutions to dominate the others. In the present day, he suggested, such attempts by any one of these spheres to manipulate another would be contrary to society's interests; such negative mutual influences would include e.g. corporate pressure on governments, state attempts to interfere with science, education, or religion, or religious influences on governmental entities.
  • The cultural realm (science, art, religion, education, and the press) requires and fosters freedom;
  • The political realm requires and fosters equality;
  • The economic realm requires and fosters uncoerced cooperation and solidarity.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Art and Enjoyment of Storytelling

Long ago, before stories were written down, the only way to learn a new story was to listen.  Stories were passed down from generation to generation.  Shared throughout communities, a story spread as far and wide as a storyteller could travel, in this way archetypal stories traveled the globe.  With each telling, these stories took on a slightly new shape.  Storytellers were free to adapt their stories to changing times, seasons, cultures and events.  They were skillful in creating new stories to both entertain and impart their wisdom to the listener.  The act of storytelling brought people together for a shared experience.

Today many of our stories come from books or movies, but are still drawn from the same pool of archetypal stories that the storytellers of the past drew from.  While we can enjoy stories in these static forms, freeing them up from the confines of someone else's interpretation offers us a new realm of creative expression and helps encourage our children to develop their own unique imagination in an organic way.
Children love to listen to stories!  Instead of reaching for a book tonight when you tuck your child into bed why not create your own special bedtime story?  The characters can be ones you've read about before, people you know, complete strangers or new heros and adventurers. . .whatever you wish.  Don't feel like you need to have the whole story planned out start to finish.  Start with a character and describe his surroundings, her friends, their activities and so on.  It's fun to set the stage for your child ("He didn't know where to turn, if he took the road to the south he might run into the frog prince but if he takes the road to the north there's sure to be a storm. . .") and then ask for their input ("Which way do you think he should go?")
Another great way to start a story is with a favorite toy or doll.  This can be especially fun with a group of kids.  Introduce the doll to the children, give her all the details of a real person, a fairy, princess, etc.  Then create an adventure for your main character by having her explore the immediate surroundings - this works well if you've got some blocks to create little rooms, beds, etc. and also works well outside in nature.  Feel free to let the kids interact in the story.  Another good story starter can be a favorite painting - or a page from your calendar.
 Whether you tell your child a new story of your own, create one together or simply retell a favorite traditional fairy tale in your own words, share it will love and joy.  Both you and your child(ren) will reap the benefits!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Nine Year Old Child

The purpose of today's blog post is to acknowledge the special needs of the nine year old child and to celebrate their unique perspective.  My middle child recently turned ten, but last winter, early in his ninth year I was given a copy of an article that helped me understand some of the changes he was undergoing.  Not only did it help me understand his situation better but helped to remind me what a special gift it is to have a child transitioning into a new phase of life.  Following is  the orginal article as it was posted at
Parenting the Nine Year Old
by Rahima Baldwin Dancy
Parents of nine year olds often wonder, "What is happening to my child?" Children at this age can become very critical and argumentative, or very moody and withdrawn. Nightmares, irrational fears, headaches and stomachaches often arise. Some children feel as if no one at school likes them, or others become suddenly self-conscious about being rich, poor, or otherwise "different." Parents may be accused of being unfair or of not understanding, as the child rushes off and slams his or her door.
Searching for an explanation for the changes in behavior, parents sometimes blame a new teacher, a recent move, changes in the family such as separation or the birth of a sibling, or simply "growing pains". An understanding of what is actually taking place can help us avoid needless worry and provide the support and guidance that children need during this time.
What is Happening?
The special needs of the nine year old are the result of an important change in consciousness that marks the end of early childhood and the transition to a new developmental phase. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, states, "In the ninth year the child really experiences a complete transformation of its being, which indicates an important transformation of its soul-life and its bodily-physical experiences."
Earlier, before the age of five or so, the child has a dreamlike state of consciousness in which the outer world and inner experience end to flow together. Outer events are not "observed," but are deeply taken in through unconscious imitation. Whereas babies learn nearly everything through imitation, kindergarten-age children continue to imitate many aspects of their world, such as the movements of the teacher or parent.
While the power of imitation is so strong, the child feels united with the world and experiences no sense of aloneness. But with the loss of this power around the age of nine, the child feels separated from the world. Something that was hidden and slumbering begins to awaken. Nine year olds suddenly have a strong experience of themselves as separate beings, with a new feeling of distance from the world and other people. This sense of self, first experienced around age two-and-a-half, recurs now in a much deeper way, as the inner emotional life of the child begins to develop.
Although children react differently to leaving the sweet, dreamlike world of early childhood, one response is nearly universal: children become more conscious of their surroundings. You will probably find that what was once passed by unnoticed is suddenly focused on and questioned. This awakening to the world may be met with quiet astonishment or sharp criticism, depending on the child's temperament.
A critical child may notice whether the statements people make are grounded in the real world or are a veneer. He or she may begin to question parents and teachers, wondering, "How do they know everything?" and, indeed, "Do they really know everything?" Something in the child is seeking reassurance that the authority of the adult will stand the test of quality, and that it carries an inner certainty.
In contrast, another child may become more withdrawn and start to look under the bed at night, or may have frequent stomachaches in response to this new sense of being alone. Parents whose children suddenly want to be alone often feel as if they are "losing" their children, as if the children no longer want to share their developing inner worlds. This is a time when intimations of mortality and death can enter a child's consciousness. Religious questions and concerns about good and evil may also emerge with the child's increased self-awareness and sense of choice and responsibility.
Usually, within six months after the ninth birthday (and sometimes earlier), the children are profoundly aware of this new sense of separateness between the self and the outer world. As the "I" penetrates into awareness, children begin to experience themselves as self-contained beings. The often feel as though they are in a threshold situation, poised, as it were, on the cusp of their own destiny. A 70-year-old woman wrote of this time in her life: "In this year I had a significant I-experience. I had just come from school in the city and had to change trams. In this moment of waiting, the complete certainty came to me that now all of life lay before me and that I was the one that must travel it.
Essentially, the nine year old is experiencing his or her own identity-to become a separate individuality, able to confront the outer world. Ideally, the child comes through this difficult time with a sense of connection with his or her higher self, a kind of "knowing" that will remain even after the heightened awareness is integrated.
My son spent many difficult months in the throes of "the nine-year change." One night, as he popped out of bed for the third time, I had to muster great self-control to say, "What now?" "I'm glad I'm me!" he announced, radiating like the sun. He went on to explain, "It's just like the song "The Age of Not Believing." The words of the Disney song ran through my mind: "You must face the age of not believing, doubting everything you ever knew. Until at last you start believing, there's something wonderful in you." We all shared in his joy and thanked God that family life could once again return to normal.
Parenting Tips
What can parents do to help their child through this important turning point at age nine?
- Understanding what is happening will help both your child and yourself as a parent. When both parents, or parents together with the teacher, consider a child and his real needs, it can help give the child balance. Be patient-- this, too, shall pass. Ten is a wonderfully harmonious time between the crisis at age nine and adolescence, when the next intensifying of self-consciousness occurs.
- Be willing to let your child have her own inner emotional life. You can't "fix it." Honor her need for privacy or her sudden impatience with a younger sister. Be willing to let go and tolerate distance. Your relationship is changing and will improve again once alterations have been completed. Be nearby with understanding and reassurance that she is still loved.
- Share your thoughts with your child about things that go beyond the every-day affairs of life. But don't limit your child by providing "answers" or definitions that can't grow within the child when asked about things like God or death.
- Have faith in self-healing, in your child's ability to come through this phase. Support individual artistic activity that attracts your child (writing poetry, keeping a diary, drawing or painting, music).
- Support your child's interest in the world by providing opportunities to build things, visit a farm, plant a garden, do work in the real world. Encourage a connection with the plant and animal kingdoms and with simple human creative activities now before the child explores the world of technology, which is more appropriate for adolescence.
- Nourish your child with stories that illustrate the interconnectedness of life and the powers of fate and destiny. The story of Joseph and his coat of many colors has this element of the dream heralding his destiny and the patience he needed to see it manifest. In the curriculum of the Waldorf schools, the Old Testament stories are .told in third grade because they mirror 2- the inner state of the nine-year-old child. The creation story, for example, describes the child's own experience of leaving the paradisiacal realm of early childhood, acquiring new self-awareness, and with it the added dimensions of choice and increasing responsibility for one's actions. In fourth grade the heroic tales of the Norse myths represent the exploits of the new ego in larger- than-life fashion. The Waldorf curriculum also introduces the child to the world through projects in house-building, farming, and the study of the plant and animal kingdoms, not as abstract sciences, but in relation to the human being.
- Recognize that the child needs to establish a new respect for adult authority that goes beyond the blind acceptance of the younger child. Parents can encourage this by honoring a child's new relationship with a teacher or other adults in his life. Steiner states, "What matters is that at this moment in life, the child can find someone--whether this be one person or possibly several persons is of less importance--whose picture it can carry through life."(3) Parents can also help themselves be this kind of authority by presenting a united front to the child and by both sitting down with the child when questions of discipline arise (single parents may want to bring in a teacher or other adult during this time).
The magnitude of the changes that a child of this age is going through can be better understood if you contemplate the differences between the child of seven and the child of twelve. The seven year old is light-hearted and always in movement. The limbs are active for learning (through touching, doing, walking the times tables, and so forth). In contrast, the head is relatively large and still dreamy. The seven year old is just beginning to get adult teeth. His or her emotions are easily influenced by impressions from the world, with tears changing to smiles relatively easily.
The twelve year old, on the other hand, has a head that is very awake for thinking and longer limbs which seem heavy, tired, and often awkward to control. There is a rich and sometimes over-powering inner emotional life; the older child brings a great deal more to each experience. Physically, the sexual organs are beginning to mature as the child enters puberty.
The nine-year-old is in the middle between the world of early childhood and the world of adolescence. The physical and emotional changes which you may observe in your nine-year-old child are the outer manifestations of the tremendous change in consciousness which is going on within the child's expanding inner world. By understanding the nature of these changes, we can better provide support in parenting the nine year old.
Awakening to the world and a new sense of self brings with it a new need: to understand the real world of everyday life, while at the same time long for intimations of something beyond ordinary life. As parents and teachers, our task is to become loving authorities for the growing child, sharing both a true picture of the world and a sense of our own inner striving.
1. Quoted in Hermann Koepke, Das neunte Lebensjahr (Dornach, Switzerland: Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag, 1983), p. 41.
2. Ibid., pp. 32-33.
3. Rudolf Steiner, Soul Economy and Waldorf Education (Spring Valley, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1986), p. 167.
For More Information
Branston, Brian. Gods & Heroes from Viking Mythology. New York: Schocken,1982.
Colum, Padraic. The Children of Odin: The Book of Northern Myths. New York: Macmillan, 1984.
Crossley-Holland, Kevin. The Norse Myths. New York: Pantheon, 1981.
de Paola, Tomie. Parables of Jesus. New York: Holiday House, 1987.
Horn, Geoffrey, and Arthur Cavanaugh. Bible Stories for Children. New York: Macmillan, 1980.
Stoddard, Sandol. The Doubleday Illustrated Children's Bible. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1983.
Wilkinson, Roy. Old Testament Stories and Commentary on the Old Testament Stories. Available from Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore.
[This article is copyright 2012 by Rahima Baldwin Dancy and may be reproduced in full as a handout if reference is given to]

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Soft n Woolly

  Today we welcome the Waldorf on Etsy artist and shop owner of:
My name is Cheryl, I am a wife, mother, childminder and needle felter! My love for children, nature, fantasy and crafting has all come together in my shop on Etsy – Soft n Woolly.
For many years I have tried out different crafts such as tapestry, sewing, knitting (not very good Рalmost drove my Nan mad trying to teach me!), macram̩ and card making amongst others. I never, though, found the special one that had me hooked. That all changed when I attended a course run by a Steiner Waldorf Kindergarten teacher and learned many wonderful things Рone of them being needle felting.
I bought some needles, wool and foam of my own and began to experiment, using a few books for advice. I made friends at the Waldorf School Parent and Child group and we began to meet up and craft together when the children were in bed. We still do this and I still love it! After a busy week it is lovely to get together with friends, have a pot of tea, cut a cake, catch up on news and create little folks from fluffy wool and sparkly bits.
My Etsy shop was opened up when my love of needle felting began to outstrip the number of birthday gifts I had to give! I sold some of my creations at my local Waldorf School’s Advent Fair and lots of people seemed happy to purchase them. This made me wonder if there were more people out there who would love to own one of my warm and fluffy creations and so I opened Soft n Woolly.
I sold some of my creations at my local Waldorf School’s Advent Fair and lots of people seemed happy to purchase them. This made me wonder if there were more people out there who would love to own one of my warm and fluffy creations and so I opened Soft n Woolly. On Etsy I have found a wonderful team of fellow artists, advice and companionship as well as an effective outlet for my woolly art.
Needle Felted Tree
Needle felting has a magic that is very special to me. I love the gorgeous colours and textures of wool and other fibres, the endless potential embellishments of beads, threads and materials and the joyous feeling as my final creation in all its woolly glory is born.
Each and every one of my animals, fairies, people and homes I make is a part of myself, from the original design idea, choice of colour and materials, the felting itself and the little story about it that arrives in my head as I work.
Green Witch with Her Broom
All my creations have a very special character all of their own and are distinctive as mine. I send them out into the world to bring joy to their new owners and to be loved and cherished by them.
 Tree of Love
Visit Soft n Woolly to see more of Cheryl's wonderful creations!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Nature Tables

A nature table is a special way to bring a little bit of the beauty and magic of Nature into your home.  Creating and maintaining the nature table to represent the changing seasons is a wonderful activity for adults and children to share together.  Nature tables can be very simple or elaborately detailed depending on how they harmoniously fit into your home life.
  The first step to creating your nature table is to find a good location in your home.  You can dedicate a small table for this purpose, or you can use part of the space of a larger table, window sill, bookshelf, etc.  It helps for the nature table to be easy to reach for the little ones in the house. 
While out on a nature walk you can collect things to add to your nature table.  Things you  make together to reflect the current season or handmade items you purchase to celebrate nature are also great additions to your nature table.  Very likely you already have some special pieces you've collected over the years that can find renewed treasuring through display on your Nature Table.
 A beautiful rock, an interestingly curved stick, an abandoned birds nest, some moss, or any other item that seems right to you and your child.  A needle felted fairy, a family of wooden peg gnomes, or a seasonal angel resting amongst your natural treasures encourage children to dream and play.
The key to the nature table is that it's accessible to the children in your home.  Encourage your kids to play at the nature table, to move around the items, to play with the fairies and gnomes, to touch the rocks and leaves.   Let them add things they find to the nature table and change it to reflect the seasons changing outside your windows.
Don't feel constrained to keep your nature table on the table - pictured above is a beautiful example of bringing nature into your home in a unique way!  This kind of garland could hang above your nature table, or be a way to bring some of nature into your child's bedroom.  Remember it's your nature table - be creative and follow your heart in creating it!
  Let your imagination soar as you arrange the items on your nature table and enjoy the changing seasons! 
For more creative ideas to decorate your nature table, browse the Waldorf on Etsy team shops - you're sure to find something lovingly crafted by hand to enhance your own nature table.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Claudia Marie - Needle Felted Creatures and Fantasy

Today we welcome Claudia Marie, Needle Felt Artist and Captain of our Waldorf on Etsy Team!
If not for my journey into Waldorf education, I likely would have never became a fiber artist.  That journey began when I was assigned to write a story about Waldorf education for a Chicago-area magazine, Conscious Choice.  My son, Johnny, was an infant at the time.  As I researched Waldorf education, I was awed.  This was the education that I wished I had; this was the education I wanted for my son.  When Johnny turned 4, we found a Waldorf school; he is now in eighth grade at DaVinci Waldorf School in Wauconda, IL.

As a Waldorf mom, I reconnected with my artistic side. My mother had taught me all the handwork arts as a child, so it didn’t take long for me to remember how to knit and crochet. 
I so loved making toys for Johnny. Taking bendy figures and sewing little clothes that turned them into knights, princesses, and cowboys. I also created fingerpuppets in a free-form crochet style. I crocheted little kittens, unicorns and bunnies out of soft yarn like alpaca and cashmere.
That was when I first yearned to make animals out of wool. However, it was years later until I finally realized that needle felting was the perfect medium for what I wanted to create. I was very inspired by some of the wonderful artists on Etsy.
I make needle felted animals, fairies and angels. I love working with wool and other natural fibers. I feel like these contributions from beautiful animals adds spirit to my creation. 
Many of my animals and all of my dolls are poseable. I love to use very soft fibers on my animals—especially alpaca. Some of my animals are coated in luxury fibers, like cashmere, baby camel and angora. I pay a lot of attention to detail and my animals take a long time to create. 
 My dolls are also quite luxurious. I usually use merino wool in their dresses and often accent with silk on their dresses or in their hair. I love styling their hair!
Most of my items are better for room décor or storytelling, than for vigorous play.
I love being part of the Waldorf on Etsy team. We have real camaraderie and we are an international team. It is interesting to get to know Waldorf-inspired artists from around the world.