Friday, 14 March 2008

Last day before Easter break

Nature was the main lesson over the last five weeks. It began with the story of spring and the children prepared these beautiful books. Seeds were sown, the season was observed, eggs were painted, etc, etc.

This verse, for instance was read by the children. It is vital that not only nature is studied, but that it also informs all the other subjects that they do - in this case reading. It is this interconnectivity that is unique to the curriculum, reinforcing what is learnt during that period of time, both vertically and horizontally, thereby giving the children a deeper and more profound understanding of what is being taught.

The Easter egg tree, decorated and painted by the children.

Lis, the German assistant, left today, as her stint was over with the school. But she also left this verse which sums up Class One.

Here is Kolya's amazing gnome book!!! It should be published really...

Here are the Main Lesson results - the Spring story books.

Each child came up with two sentences of their own - and then did a drawing. In this one, Oisin said, The Mother Hen Awaits Her Chicks. And the drawing behind is a watercolour of a mother hen on her nest.

The seed trays were taken home to be tended to. Hopefully they WILL sprout.

Lining up to sing their song at Assembly.

Spring is coming!!! was sung with great adorableness and a collective ahhh!!! errupted from the audience when they had done.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Easter parade - or 101 things you can do with eggs

Sometimes, in the midst of all the preparations, we can forget why we have the lovely festivals that we do.

Here's why i think they're so fab...

Firstly they are just pain old fun. Secondly, the kids love them. Thirdly, they raise the money and give us good PR, but i think personally the most important reason is the way in which they are intergrated into the curriculum.

Documenting the last few months has made me appreciate how the children, especially in the Lower School, are so much integrated into the Wheel of the Year. And if you've followed the blog, you'd have noticed that the festivals are the crest of the rhythmic waves which begin in small observances and finish off at the festivals. Also the community and openness which this means that the school has is so essential to the Steiner ethos of society, thinking of others, the sociability and personality as well.

So it's more than just about the money or PR. It's about who we are as a school. That's what it means for me anyways. And so, despite all the hardwork, i do look forward to the day. I also look forward to hear how much we took. Despite the weather, it was a pretty good turn out.

So yes, yours truly was out there snapping away. If you missed the fair, or missed parts of it because there were so many, here are some of the highlights. Enjoy!!

The parents crafts stall offers some of the most angelic confections...


Good enough to eat

Basket making

Felted chickadees

Easter gardens

Lyre playing at the puppet show

Washing up - behind the scenes...

Egg candles

Easter branches

Friday, 7 March 2008

Big day...

What an incredible day it's been! I was out doing the rest of the photo taking for the website. It was a good day. The sun was out and the school looked great. Also i managed to get children in the pictures!!!! What a change as i usually end up getting pictures taken at break time - or the Open Day when there were no kids...

These were images which Tracy put up in the stairwell on the way to the Class One room. At first i thought that one person had drawn this by themselves - upon closer inspection it was clear that several persons hd been sketching - but what were they for? It turns out this was part of the Staff Development Day. They were etheral and uplifting and Judith and Liz and myself agreed that it was very reassuring that the teachers themselves were given the space to be creative. Perhaps they were shown slide after slide of Power Point presentations during this Staff Development Day, but somehow we doubt it. Anyway, if you aren't a Class One parent, do make your way to the stairwell and take a look at these lovelies for yourself.

Here's Class One under the big tree...and jumping rope.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

The story of spring

A thousand grovelling apologies for being so negligent with the site - but i have a good excuse - i'm also working on the new school's website - as you can see. This is the sneak preview, and it's going to be great.

There are some really lovely stories from pupils and there's also one from a parent whose child is now in Class 10. I'll include it further down.

But this week has been the burgeoning of spring. The children were out today sowing seeds - which i wasn't able to get pictures of because i had a flat tyre!! Sorry Tracy!!! However, in addition to everything as well, they are now starting to move from their main lesson in English to Nature - this will happen in ernest after Easter break.

Homework this week was writing a poem about a butterfly. It was really amazing to see the writing now so strong and formed as the weeks have gone by. Tracy remarked that it was amazing seeing how they had progressed from being unable to read and write to now being able to spot words on the board, copying it down in their main lesson book and putting sentences together. All this will come together as they make their very own book about spring. Oh yes, before i forget, they are also rehearsing for the school play, the Golden Bird. I hear that it's going to be an onsite production in the Forest. What was supposed to be something simple has now taken on what sounds like Busby Berkley-an size proportions. Wooden spears and daggers had been custom made for the production - it helps to have the school's woodworking expert on your side.

I also managed to do a personal interview with Tracy about what inspired her to become a Steiner teacher and why she sent her kids to the Steiner school.

But that'll have to wait until i finish the school's website. It's hard work you know!!! Writing and editing pictures till the wee hours of the morning. I can't quite believe that it's been almost a year since i began taking pictures of the school systematically. It has been a year of imcredible colour, images and tremendous inspiration. Everything just is as beautiful as it appears in the camera.

Meanwhile, do enjoy Mary-Lou's lovely story here - it was first published in the Broadsheet later year.

When we opt to educate our children outside the standard state system, a question we often as ourselves, or other ask us, is "Why?" There ought to be a simple answer. A common response to the choice we made is, it gave our child something that couldn't be had elsewhere. The 'something', of course, is valued by us. Our personal decision as parents, to move our child to a Steiner school, was motivated by seeing our child begin to lose something that was essentially in her and wanting to help her hold onto it. Often we don't know what it is we truly value until we see it slipping away. So, fear was the moving force for us.

What does an education give a child? I think it is hard to tell until it is complete. We don't trust ourselves that we made the right decisions, and so outside reinforcement is helpful. I find my personal reassurance, that this odd choice we have made is the right one, from a number of sources. Firstly, from the young adults I know who have completed, or almost completed, their Steiner Education. Their calm and centred approach and obvious social ease with themselves, their world and their place in it reassures me this is what I want for my child, or indeed, any human being.

Secondly, from the parents of these young people who seem to see their own values reflected back to them in how their children approach life.

Thirdly, I have had occasion to work with academics over a number of years and when I mention that my child is in a Steiner School, I am intrigued by the reaction of those who teach ex-Steiner School pupils. There is often an 'ah-ha' moment, a lightening in the eyes as they explain to the others present how these young people have a confidence and self-awareness that somehow differentiates them from their peers - yet without setting them apart. But the explanation is never quite as telling as the facial expression that precedes it - bright, soft, often fond in nature.

When, then, does a Steiner Education give a child? It took me a long time to work it out, probably because the answer is, effectively - nothing. Steiner education doesn't give a child anything; it simply refuses to take anything away. What Steiner gave my child was the space to be herself, without contrived conditions, restrictions or expectation. This requires a great leap of trust by teachers and parents that this little person has all that is needed to be a wonderful human being just as they are without moulding, forcing or expecting. It requires, also great skill to teach from a position of allowance and enabling rather than knowing what society expects and using that agenda to justify one's methods.

The teachers are so important in all of this. I was struck almost immediately when I first entered a Steiner School by the feeling that teachers were supported, whatever their own personal abilities or failings were, to be the best they could. This contrasted with the State School we had left where great teachers seemed to be constrained and often damaged by the system they worked in. How can the adults be okay with the children unless they are okay with where they are and what they are asked to call forth from themselves?

Allowing the child to be who they are is not simply benign neglect. It requires tremendous self-discipline and a deeply respectful outlook. This can only be done, I think, when education is an art, not a system, and when surrounded by like-minded others and supported by an environment that values each individual for who they are.