Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Some highlights from all class work on Open Day

There were so many beautiful images from the day. Here are just some of them.

Class Two
In Class Two the Saints and fables play a big part in the children's work. Here they learn about kindness and compassion...Fiona who's the class 2 teacher also put here three children through the school. One's a mother, another's a contemporary ballet dancer and one's doing her PhD.

Class Three
'How we are to live' sums up the work done in Class Three. The Creation, food and home making, agriculture and the farmer, our relationship to and care of the land form the basis of work done here. Students start learning about looking after plants and crops. They also learn how to cook. While so-called domestic science is learned in the state school after the ages of 12, in the Steiner school, children start when they are 10. While state schools were busy closing theirs in the last ten years, we have always had a kitchen and i have a feeling we always will. Recently, schools have been asked to reintroduce ''home economics' because children have little idea about nutrition.

Class Four
Gabriel is the Class Four teacher. Each teacher stays with the class all the way till Class Eight. This means that a deep commitment is built up amongst teacher, parent and student. Teachers and students also do not have to take the first two months getting to know each other.

Class Five
Class Five were doing civilsations. Enkidu, Enki and the Gilgamesh were the subjects of this week.

The nature table with Bhudda. Satish Kumar said that his mother once said that trees are wiser than Bhudda. How could a tree be wiser than Bhudda? he asked her. Teh wisest man to come out of India. She replies, Even Bhudda received his enlightenment under a tree.

the children write on clay tablets with reed pens. I remember reading about the Mesopotamians when i was 13 and it was all words. At 10 they are not only learning about the 'cradle of civilisation' but writing as the ancients did.

Class Eight - 13/14 years

Open Day

Last Saturday was the Open Day for the school. It was really heart warming to see all the best work collected and displayed. Sometimes, where you're running around, concerned with the everyday, an event like this enables you to life your eyes and gaze at the amazing work that is being done collectively. I took the opportunity to get pictures from the main lesson books which the kids had out on display.

There are no textbooks in a Steiner school. This is in keeping with the ethos of learning how to learn, rather than simply being told what is right. In addition to encouraging individuality it also give independence of thought as well. However, because so much is done together, the class operates as a single unit too, which contantly reminds the children that they work as a team. So, children enter the work that they do in their Main Lesson book. In class one this means that after they've written numbers and letters with their bodies, wheelbarrowed them, played games, knitted them, spoken them, done them in German, etc, they then enter them into the main lesson book.

Here are a selection of those books. No pencils, pen, or even crayons are used. Instead, they write with large, flat beeswax sticks. This is best suited for little fingers learning how to hold and control their images that they put to paper. to practise, they have a form drawing book which is filled with washes and spirals of beeswax colours.

Motor skills are paramount at this stage and creating things from tissue paper that encourages tearing and control is important. To this end, the class created St Michael in tissue paper for Michelmas.

Gifts of Music and Gifts of Gold

The sheer volume of STUFF which has recently taken place 'intimidated' me in putting it on. There was the talk by Brien Masters about the Music of the Spheres and how it related to the work that was being done in school, the usual weekly blog and then the school's open day. But now, with the baby asleep, we can tackle the world of Class One...

Brian Masters and Kathleen Galloway

Brien's talk on last Thursday was on the Music of the Spheres. We were given a very brief introduction to the influence that spheres played in our lives - a phrase that still lives on today in 'the sphere of influence'. (Spheres being the celestial bodies that we could see in the solar system from earth.) There were three ways in which this occured. Through the divine beings - or their spiritual influence that has its imprint on the many, many myths and archytypes that are continued in our stories, the physical influences such as the gravitational pull of the moon, etc and then there is the music, or the sound which is made. Those of us who are able to hear this music, then go on to become composers - and then convey the music of the spheres through their work. what i found really fascinating was the the pre-Copernican view of the universe - or the geocentric view - was the one that was applied in this concept. That it was what the eye saw, not a mental or abstract sense of the solar system and how it worked. Also because Jupiter was the last planet that could be seen, it was the last sphere of influence. There is something magical, even miraculous, when we enter this space. Things slow down, and as a person, i certainly begin to feel brave enough to feel my humanity, to go with instinct, to acknowledge, as Brian so eloquently put it, the knowledge of thousands of years which lie sleeping in us and are still remembered by our children. In other words to become a child again. He said that you could hear sometimes in the early years especially, when you listened to children who are deeply engrossed in activity, that they made a sound which was quite elemental. It was like standing under a lime tree in height of summer and that soft, musical but intense buzzing that bees made, that was the sound that children who were still at the stage of the pentatonic scale made. It was the very sound of life.

Snowdrops miraculously appear in the January picture in the class.

A most wonderful surprise awaited the children in Class One as well this week. Brian who had spent sometime with them last week, had played the wise man and gifted them with five verses which had the angel letters highlighted in each poster. They were the verses spoken by the kings about their experience/essence - and they were for the children to read. He told me that he had sometime to spare and the people in Glencraig were able to supply him with the necessary paper and crayons. It was so beautiful, like a magic spell, or a secret incantation from a deep past when i read the verses together. It made me think that the wisemen in the form of angel letters and these words were looking after and guiding our little class one as they made their way through their main lessons.

Beside it were the words from "We Three Kings" chorus - O Star of Wonder, Star of Light...Tracy had been singing this with them for the past three weeks and now they were ready to sing them off the board. She said, you should have seen their faces when they realised they were reading, she said. It was the first time they faced the idea of a discrete word. And so they sang the verse.

When i think that the first thing most people read is the Fat Cat Sat on the Mat, it brings home the message that education isn't just about facts or techniques or skills, but ensuring that beauty, spirituality and divinity nourishes the child's soul as well.

Tracy and Casimir her son inspect the finger knitting. Tracy is the Class One teacher.

Friday, 18 January 2008

The three kings bring angel letters

The Three Kings that are now a display on the main board in school.

Here they are, three candles on the nature table that has been decorated with gold and jewels. Gnomes are away now and only reappear in spring.

The angel letters in their own right.

Better view of the display board

Tissue paper pictures of apples, etc.

Knitting continues for the recorder cases.

Basket of recorders that the children use when learning the pentatonic scale.

Last week i was dosed with the cold, so apologies for not having anything up. However the main lesson over the last two weeks has been the epiphany and the gift of the vowels, or as Tracey calls them, Angel letters. This is because the vowels are the sounds of awe and wonder. They are singing We Three Kings and the chorus goes 'Star of Wonder, Star of Light...' and in the chorus they recognise the sound that these letters make.

So over the last week they've been dressing up as the Three Kings and playing with the sounds. They've also been playing their recorders, discovering the pentatonic scale. Tracey's hoping that next week they'll get out to do the writing on basketball court. On Monday, Tracey will be going through Oisin's work with us. Already she's said there has been such a big difference between when he began in October and now. He's work has really come on. And that's also true for the rest of the class.

Finally, last week we were gifted with an incredible wax and watercolour painting of the epiphany. The link between Christmas and the New Year continues apace. It is not simply something which stands on its own, but is part of the fabric and tapestry of our lives. Mathematics, music, drama, singing, literacy, dance, science and exercise all are part of the same continuum. Each discipline is like a single spoke on the wheel and the wheel spins round and round, further and further out, like the spirals which the children traced at the start of Advent. We are part of a community, the individual a mirror of the whole - in whom the light of the entire is then reflected.