In this final Newsletter I will accept one final opportunity to express my gratitude to all the parents, drivers, neighbours, lunch makers, volunteers, and huggers of the CVWS community as well as all the teachers, staff and board members both past and present. What a ride it has been! Without the dedication of all of you we would not have had the incredible community we have been able to create for all the 150+ children that have spent time with us over the years. For myself personally the past 10 years have been a time of great loves and growing. It was through my time at CVWS that I discovered my love of policy:), who knew?
If ever there was an effort to create a way for children to develop the skills they need for meeting the world with purpose, that is needed now. If ever there was an effort to build conscious community, that is needed now. If ever there was a wish to develop in the children a sense of responsibility, compassion, and innovation, that is needed now. Our mission at CVWS was to walk side by side with you in support of these important things, we dedicated our time to holding this vision, and inspiring it in you. We believe that you can continue to carry that vision and light as you go forward on the educational journey with your children. May you forever light the path with hope, love and faith.
Thank you for all the hugs and smiles over the years. Although it was a unique ending to the year I am happy that each child and parent was able to close the year with something solid, in the form of a rock. Please continue to add rocks to the Gratitude and Rememberance Rock Garden as you are inspired to do so.
All the best to you and your children.
It is with heartfelt gratitude that I write this final letter to our Comox Valley Waldorf School Community. The past month has been filled with packing and closing up our programs and our buildings, and officially saying goodbye to students and colleagues. The overriding feeling I had, throughout this whole time, has been of gratitude. There is nothing like a Waldorf Community to put into practice, in real time, all of the values that are taught and illustrated through lesson and curriculum. Each day, throughout the years, we all showed up, whether it was to bring your child to our little school in the valley, or to help clear snow in the winter, support a fundraiser, or attend a meeting, we all showed up, and became better and more conscious within ourselves, and towards each other, every time. The world is crying for conscious community, and I know that we have practiced this together since our school began. And now that we have established what it means to work and communicate together clearly and consciously, with respect, compassion and humility, then we can continue to do this in the next phase of our lives together. And we can inspire others around us, near and far, to pick up the torch, and to participate in this same work.
These last months of isolation have brought humanity incredible experiences, challenges and hurdles to overcome. Adversity is what challenges us to take a step further in our consciousness, wake up, and expand more fully into our possibilities. What I know is that the world needs to get to the point where a Waldorf Community, is just called a community, and Waldorf education is simply called....education. From our time together, we know that our students received the foundation for living healthy, connected, meaningful, purposeful, compassionate, conscience lives on earth, and that this positively affected parents and even grandparents in our community. This inner knowing of what is truly possible, we must each carry out into the world, because I cannot think of a better hope for humanity's next phase of evolution. The time is now.
Blessings to all of you,
What crazy and challenging times! Had someone told me last fall that the school would need to close for the following year, I wouldn’t have believed them. With all the hard work the board has done over the past few years to help the school gain momentum, it feels all to surreal that this is what it has come to.
It just goes to show how precious and fragile an education as incredible as a Waldorf education is, and something not to be taken for granted. With so many critical and delicate moving pieces to run and maintain a school such as this, just one broken piece can bring it all to a halt.
It was truly an honour to work with such a great board of directors, each offering their individual gifts. This board was a dynamic and committed group of people who worked collaboratively and with the best of intentions for the school. In the end, we had to make the most incredibly difficult decision of closing the school, which really didn’t even feel like a choice at all.
I want to thank each one of them for their countless hours of voluntary and passionate work. It is my hope that this flame will once again be ignited in our valley. In my honest and biased opinion, there’s no better education out there and one that is needed more than ever.
I thank every family for being a part of our school, no matter how long or short it was, and I hope you all find the path best for you and your children next year.
Dear Parent Group… it’s so hard to believe that after gaining so much momentum as a school community, all has abruptly come to an end. As if learning that the school couldn’t continue next year wasn’t hard enough! And then to be hit with Covid-19 completely shutting us down and preventing us from wrapping up the way we would have liked, feels all too harsh and unfair. Having said that, I’m sure many have felt as I have, that it has been a blessing to gain some momentum at home and with our families.
I want to express my gratitude to all for having been a part of our school community, and for all you contributed to the school in your own way. The parent group plays such an integral role in the heartbeat of a Waldorf school and I know the friendships formed will continue to live on even outside of the school. I will continue to hold hope in my heart for a new Waldorf school initiative to form again for our community to be apart of.
Prior to everyone being forced into lockdown, the Parent Group had decided to help fund a parent appreciation event at the White Whale for the end of May. Unfortunately, this was not able to come to fruition. Having said that, we are still considering ways we may be able to still do something over the summer as restrictions are lifted. So, if anyone has any suggestions for us to consider, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A special thanks to Sarah Chase our treasurer, Nathan Rothgeb our secretary, and those who faithfully attended our PG meetings to offer ideas, insights and help make decisions.
I wish you all a joyful summer and all the best wherever your family ends up next year. We will forever value what we and our children gained, however short or long it was, from the Comox Valley Waldorf School.
Parent Group Chair
The tide goes in...and the tide goes out
The tide goes in...and the tide goes out.
But when a big wave comes, we all run and hide!
And then we come back again.
As we find ourselves unsure of how long we'll be staying home, we might wonder how to help the new situation feel normal. Young children especially look at daily/ weekly events to anchor them in time and space, as they don't have the abstract understanding of planning and world events.
It might be helpful to consider creating a simple "home rhythm" that gives the children points to anchor themselves to: it does not have to be meticulously planned and observed, but just as a boat would float aimlessly if not held, children will feel safer if they know there are moments in their day they can anticipate and rely on.
WECAN has also issued this document including simple statements meant to inspire and support parents:
Resources for Families of Young Children in Difficult Times
WECAN has posted a number of helpful articles on the Parents and Families page of the WECAN website that you may want to share with parents. The address is http://www.waldorfearlychildhood.org/family.php. The resources include the following:
Resources from the Waldorf Community:
How Do I Find and Create Goodness for My Children
Communicating with Children and Supporting Them in Difficult Times
Support for Working through Flu (treatments which should help with coronavirus, too)
Suggestions for Parents for When the Kindergarten Needs to Close (Letter from Norwegian kindergartens)
Other Resources for Families:
How to Talk to Kids about Coronavirus
How to Stay Sane When Working from Home with Young Children
Why the Coronavirus (Mostly) Spares Children
School is Closing. Now What?
Easter brings the hope of rebirth and beauty. It could give you a point of focus when choosing stories, crafts and activities to do as a family:
The Easter Bunny: a charming, simple story about how the Easter Bunny learned how to deliver eggs. This is the story we work with in class around this time:
*This website has really great resources on further ways to celebrate the seasons, ways to bring Waldorf into the home, etc.
Right before the break, we had started playing a "Little Brown Bulb" game that the children love:
For this game, the child curls up on a ball and we cover them with a blanket (a nice, heavy one that blocks light really gives an idea of what it is like to be underground! Then the adults says:
A Little Brown Bulb lay asleep in the ground (hands resting on child's back)
And there she slept very sound (caress the back)
While Old King Winter raged and roared overhead (walk fingers like spiders over the child's back)
The Little Brown Bulb did not stir in her bed (rest hands)
Then came Lady Spring tip toeing over the lea (tip toe fingers)
Fingers to lips as quiet as can be (whisper)
The Little Brown Bulb lifted her head (child lifts head)
She slipped off her nightie and jumped out of bed! (child lifts the blanket and jumps up!)
This song can be played while lying down on the floor/ grass/etc. As the song indicates, once you wake up you hop about!
See the little bunnies sleeping until noon
Shall I wake them with a merry tune?
Oh so still.....are they ill?...
Wake up little bunnies, hop hop hop!
Wake up little bunnies, hop hop hop!
Natural dyed eggs are usually a 2 day project. In class, we have collected leaves and flowers, and secured them to the eggs using panty hose or cheese cloth (they work best when freshly picked, as maleable and moist sticks best to the eggs). After they have sat in the dye, the wrapping is removed revealing the beautiful stamp of the chosen flower or leaf.
How to Make 9 All-Natural Easter Egg Dyes | Allrecipes
If you're turned off by the chemicals in store-bought Easter egg dye, try these nine all-natural options. Each features a coloring agent — a vegetable, fruit juice, or spice — that gives color to hard-boiled eggs.
Spring is a time to observe growth and life, and what better way to pass the days than seeing a baby bean grow right before your eyes?
Growing Beans on Cotton Balls - The Imagination Tree
We have been doing lots of indoor growing recently and planted some beans at the same time that we grew our cress letters last month. This is a really easy, visual way to teach children about root systems and is something I used to do with my school children each Spring time. Plus it’s very...Read More »
*Five year olds might also like to hear the story of Jack and the Bean stalk. In our class, we often save it for the end of the year, when children are older and ready to experience stories with an element of fear in it.
The Story of Jack and the Beanstalk
Free, printable crafts, coloring pages and educational activities for preschool, kindergarten and grade school children.
This is a version I like (although I would probably take away this sentence :And with that she did the worst thing Jack had ever seen her do - she burst into tears. 🙄)
Paper seed bombs
This is another multi step craft that is easy to execute and very rewarding. If you have any old seeds handy, this is the perfect way to use them! Perhaps you can plant to make them as gifts for friends and family, as a way of looking forward to seeing your loved ones again.
How to Make Seed Balls- a fun, eco-friendly activity for kids!
Turn old paper into some super cool seed balls! This easy science activity and craft are perfect for Earth Day or a unit on gardening or plants and seeds!
Finally, I am including a Protective Story from renowned story teller Suzanne Down. She is a master of writing thought out stories that can deliver a feeling or a message better than any abstract concept. In this story, a moment of loss and grief turns out to be the perfect opportunity for the creation of something new and beautiful.
A 'Protection Story' For Uncertain Times. – Juniper Tree Puppets
In our uncertain times, we feel ourselves becoming more anxious about all the chaos and panic over all the world. Our children pick up on our stress and worry. The simple act of telling them a 'Protection Story' (a kind of story I developed to help children feel all is well in the world), can help soothe the confusion.
I hope all or some of these resources can help ease your family's time at home.
Miss Lucia and Miss Jumana
We had a wonderful month of studying Canada in many ways, from many perspectives, in all 4 directions! The students worked with the geography and landscape of Canada from sea to sea, they worked with memory games to connect provinces/territories with capital cities, they learned about many fascinating geographical features of Canada, they learned about many explorers that staked claim on this land, and drew many maps.
They received further education regarding the history of the indigenous people of this land. They learned about the various ways of living, based on the landscape the aboriginal settled in. We had a visitor, Daryle Mills, from the Cree Nation. He now lives in the valley and does a wonderful job of sharing his culture, and the history of indigenous people throughout Canada. He spoke about Residential Schools, the history of inequality for the indigenous, and shared ceremonial practices with us. It really spoke to the children. They were engaged and respectful as we sat in a circle, listening to his songs and drumming, and participating in his smudging ceremony.
The next day the children were asked to work in partners to design a new Canadian flag. Many children created beautiful new designs that included sage and sweet grass burning, symbols of the 4 elements of the earth, and animals of Canada. This to me is clear evidence that these children hold a new vision of Canada, a vision that encompasses the truth of our history, and a feeling of pride for the magnificence of this country.
Throughout the block the children worked in pairs to research a region of Canada. This was an excellent opportunity to work in a group, share skills, manage time, and present orally. Each group prepared a paragraph of interesting facts, an image or flag, and a regional map. The students then included this research in their own main lesson books. The result is a wonderful, factual homemade text book that I am sure will be useful in future grades when learning about Canada!
Candlemas (or Groundhog Day) marks the middle point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. For light lovers, this reminds us of the return of warmth, the lengthening of days and the tides of life turning. It is interesting to know that mid seasons festivals were celebrated in the past as they represented the peak of a season. Often times, the thick of winter occurs close to this date. March will most likely be cold and damp, while May day (another mid-season festival) usually comes accompanied by flowers and certainly more light.
In our class, the beginning of life is fascinating the children. They are curious to learn what my baby is doing in the tummy, often telling me "baby is eating your oatmeal" and reminding each other "not to lie on Ms Lucia's tummy or you'll squish the baby". A student suggested that tomorrow when my baby is finally born, I should bring them to school so they can meet them.
Not surprisingly, because children make sense of their environment through imitation, we have had many "pregnancies" and quite a few "deliveries". Once a friend would go into labor, they would call for the doctor immediately. The doctor came and often times asked a "nurse" to find a knife because the baby needed to come out now. With surgical expertise, they lifted shirts and happily delivered the baby to the mom, who carried on with her baby in tow.
When it happened that the doctor was unavailable, I volunteered to midwife a mom who was in labor. We set some soft blankets down, and I asked if she wanted to give birth alone, or invite a friend. They invited a friend, who held their hand. I asked her to let me know when she was ready, and to take a deep breath, and give a short push, and baby was out! Mom was happy to hold baby on her breast for a bit, and move on when she was ready.
The rest of the children were fascinated by this scene, and it didn't take long before every child, girls and boys, were pregnant as well. We repeated the scenario for the rest of free play, delivering babies, a set of twin bean bags, and many kitties, some of them with their clothes on already!
Eventually, all the children settled around their laboring friend, some quietly observing, some wiping foreheads, some offering words of encouragement or reassuring touch. One of the boys said at the end "That was so much fun, can we do it again?!"
It was heartwarming to see the children organically assist each other, either by taking charge and helping the parent deliver safely, or by being a supportive observer. By acting out and reshaping stories or experiences, children can integrate the knowledge in a more practical way, while rehearsing how to act in every situation. This dual quality of play (instructive and creative) puts the child at the center of their own learning experience, by drawing from past concepts and planting a seed for future behavior.
We have also dived into handwork, with many children trying their hand at sewing with colored thread on burlap stretched over a small embroidery hoop. I have been impressed by their capacity to focus and carry a project over many days, as well as their aesthetic choices of color and pattern.
We worked with the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, first hearing the story orally, then watching it come alive in a puppet show, and finally acting it out. This sequence follows the same pattern as free play, where children are invited to imbue knowledge that they have with their own personality, thus integrating what they have learnt and giving it new life.
The Grimm's fairy tale "Sweet Porridge" tells the story of a little girl who is gifted a magic pot. The right words will make it bubble with good, sweet porridge, and "Stop, little pot, stop!" will make it stop. One day, when the little girl was out of town, mom forgets the final magic words and the porridge threatens to drown the whole town! The little girl arrives just in time to say "Stop, little pot stop!" and whoever wanted to go back home, had to eat their way through.
In this story, the children feel emboldened as it is the child who knows the magic words. They feel the bubbling activity start as welcome, and feel the drawbacks of it getting out of hand. The magic of being able to say stop! saves the day.
This wisdom can be applied when the sillies get out of hand, when a game goes on too far, and when one is searching for the words and courage to say "no more". This is especially timely as the Spring sap starts to run through the children 😉
February will find us making Valentine's Day cards, and looking for the first signs of Spring. We have already observed some brave bulbs peeking through the ground and cannot wait to see what color they will be!
Snowdrop, snowdrop, little drop of snow,
What do you do when the cold winds blow?
I hang my little head and say:
"Cold winds, cold winds, go away!"
Snowdrop, snowdrop, dressed in green and white,
What do you do when the Sun shines bright?
I lift my little head and say:
"Ding-a ling, ding-a ling, ding-a ling,
Here comes Spring!"
Director of Education's Report
Connection and collaboration seem to be the themes we are working on as we near the Festival of Wisdom. All year long, our school festivals serve to connect us as a community of teachers, parents, children and friends as much as our work in the classroom and meeting spaces do. The collaboration between parents and board, board and teachers/staff, parents and teachers/staff and inside the classroom between students, is the gift of a conscious community. Lately, I have really felt this beautiful aspect of being part of a growing, conscious, school community.
This time of year is a time for reflection, review and intention setting as we kindle our internal light during the time of dwindling external light. In the classrooms, you may see an extra teacher sitting in the back of the yard/classroom. Each year, our teachers are offered feedback during an evaluation process during the fall. This connects us to each other and the world-wide Waldorf community as we reflect on the task of the Waldorf teacher and how best to support each other’s striving. This reflection is often followed by the assignment of mentors who have the intention to support professional striving through weekly support meetings and classroom observations. We consider this process to be a gift of collaboration, connection, integrity and support.
In meeting spaces, you may see gatherings of teachers with papers strewn about under furrowed brows of concentration. Each year our pedagogical leadership team (Director of Education and Faculty Director) leads the teachers through a program review process. We delve into our programs and measure them against our mission and Waldorf principles to ensure we are doing our very best to provide Waldorf education in the valley. This work leads us to reaffirm or recreate our programs for the next school year.
In classrooms, you may see children reflecting on their own development in age appropriate ways. In the upper grades, students might reflect in writing how a certain assignment showcases learning in a certain area and how it fits into their own learning goals. In the Kindergarten, you may see a teacher listening carefully to the words her students are saying as they play and collaborate. She might quickly scribble down their words, “I got to the top this time because I practiced so much” to show how her student assessed his/her own development. In every classroom, children are reflecting and making goals whether in writing, purposefully thoughtful, or organically arriving in the play yard.
This is what I love about Advent time… connection and collaboration through reflection, review and intention setting within a conscious community.
Happy holidays to all of you!
Faculty Director's Report
The life we have been born into, perfectly crafted to build the muscles of self-development, is a wonder to continually behold. Living in the northern hemisphere and experiencing four distinct seasons, is an aspect of our life that provides a certain workout for the soul. Can we see it as part of our destiny, that we repeatedly experience this season of the fall? Can we begin to observe how we make our way through this time and, just as a squirrel gathers nourishment for hibernation, can we be aware of what nuggets of nourishment we need as we descend into external darkness?
The fall asks for courage: courage to face the darkness of the world, courage to let your light shine despite the signs of death all around. Each year, the faculty work with this theme throughout the fall term, and looks at it from different angles, studying various lectures from Rudolf Steiner and sharing together as a group of seekers.
How different we all experience the fall, and how different it can be from one year to another. There is so much we can learn from the other as we share our heartfelt experiences together. Building connections forms community and creates light, and though some of us may feel the darkness more pronounced, there is comfort in the light that the group can kindle.
How do we give and receive this light? How do we kindle it, stoke the little embers in our hearts, and fan the flames to encourage brightness? One way is that we tell each other how we see them. We show them their light from our perspective. What a wonderful practice it is to be able to receive this beautiful and kind light from others. What a gift it is to then reciprocate.
In November, we celebrated our Festival of Compassion. Steiner said that compassion is a great and mysterious secret. He said that when we feel compassion for another, we are transcending our physical limitations, our ordinary existence, and entering the world of another being. Part of being a Waldorf teacher is the commitment to a path of self-development. Every word we breathe, every feeling we feel, every action we take is our responsibility to choose consciously. It is our responsibility to look at, explore from various angles, understand motives and impulses, desires and beliefs. This is a life-long practice that strengthens with each day one is committed to it. Being surrounded by others on the journey strengthens our own commitment to it.
This term we explored the nature of our chosen profession and took some time to discuss the demanding workload in relation to the financial compensation. What a healthy trust we have built as a faculty, that we can speak about our feelings around money and work expectations, and practice equanimity under potentially emotionally stressful discussions. What a wonderful opportunity to also practice compassion and respect. These discussions that took place over a four-week period, led us back to a place of honour and respect.
The richness we receive from the daily work with the children, the opportunities for learning as we delve into the curriculum, the development of the self from every angle as we are challenged to gain grounded depth and spiritual heights, does not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Our work environment is like no other. The depth of our work allows for deep and meaningful partnership with the adults in the community. Through this fall, we explored darkness, we asked difficult questions, we nurtured ourselves and others with compassion, and we carried the light within us and between us. For it is courage and compassion that leads us to wisdom, that leads us to trust that the sun will be reborn, and that the light does always return.
Blessings of light to you,
Board Chair's Report
On November 18, we held our annual general meeting and are pleased to welcome Georgia Pears, Nathan Rothgeb and Melanie Bean to our Board of Directors.
In reviewing our budget and measuring it against our school needs (physical and cultural), the board created a non-standing committee to investigate how to meet these needs. As a result, the committee has identified two options to support the goal of creating community whilst meeting the physical needs of the school.
Option one includes a tuition increase of $600 per full time family and $300 per part time family, to cover the cost of a full-time building and maintenance manager. As there will already be a 5% tuition increase for next year, the board has opted to move forward with option two which will meet both physical and cultural needs.
Option two allows each family to choose one of the following:
We strive to work hand in hand with parents and create a bridge between home and school. Parent and community engagement is an integral part of our collective operations. Our children experience connectedness and unity when they see their family members working with their school. This helps close the gap between school life and home life. Being active in school life also makes children feel supported and helps them develop their capacity as future citizens.
Thank you for your support!
I would like to start by welcoming everyone to the 2019/20 school year! It feels like we are all starting to get used to new/old routines, getting up in the dim light of morning, finding an acceptable parking spot in Tin Town and all the gifts that the start of a school year brings. It has been such a delight to greet new and familiar faces in the mornings, thank you all for finding your way to CVWS.
Did you know that at CVWS our students get to receive the well-researched benefit of play-based learning for longer than most schools are able to offer? Our preschool accepts children aged 3 years (by start of school year) and gives space for them until they are up to 5 years old.
Our Kindergarten program accepts children age 4 (turning 5 by December 31) to age 6 (Grade one for students age 6 by June 30). This allows for up to two years of Kindergarten where play based, hands on learning is a focus. Research on the importance of play during childhood is a hot topic in education due to provincial changes in mandatory instructional hours for Kindergarten. Time for play is under threat when it comes to provincial policy.
Being an Independent School allows us flexibility to show how we meet learning standards set out by the
province through play and over time. Read more about the research on play here (https://www.waldorfresearchinstitute.org/category/research-on-play-in-childhood/).
Did you know that at CVWS we graduate our students after their Upper Grades (Grade 6/7) year? Students will be ages 11 to 13 in their final year. For a child beginning their educational journey at CVWS at age 3 and graduating at 13, that’s a long time to make connections and become an important part of a community.
At CVWS we include our Alumni in as many events and opportunities as we can. This inclusion has many benefits. CVWS benefits from the Alumni’s knowledge of and love for the Waldorf community, and the Alumni benefit by staying connected to their childhood community where their value is recognized and celebrated.
My own daughter who is now a student of a local public high school, began her Waldorf education at age 3 and graduated from CVWS at age 12. She was with me last week as I greeted families in the morning and said, wistfully, as we were leaving, “It’s so nice here, the tinkling school bell, nobody on their phone, everyone greeting each other outside…”. I am reminded to express my gratitude for this very special place.
~ Rebecca Watkin
Faculty Director’s Report (Jen Irwin)
The beginning of a new school year always involves the strengthening of will forces as we adjust to new rhythms and routines. As we shift away from the glorious beauty and freedom of summer, we are now called to bring those feelings and memories inwards, storing them for the winter ahead.
The fall season is preparatory, ensuring that we build up our own inner light to guide our way through the dark season ahead. The summer has turned to autumn, the leaves are beginning to fall, the mornings are darker. It is now the season when our inner life awakens more brightly than in summer when the glory of
nature shone more fully. Then, we were lost in the outward senses.
Now, at this time of year, let us each recognize the power we have to awaken our own self. As nature slowly passes away in front of our eyes, we realize that we are not only part of nature, but that we have individual selfhood, and that now our will forces must be fully exercised.
Rudolf Steiner always pointed to the cosmic battle of light and dark being strongest at this time of year. Just as our ancient ancestors watched the light dwindle each year, and watched the crops die away, battling faith and doubt, hope and fear. Would the light ever return?
We too, often in our unconscious feeling and will, come up against these same struggles and fear each year. Can we make it through another dark time? Of course, in our thinking we know that we will. We have modern technology to support us with heating, cars, refrigerators, stocked grocery stores, and Wi-Fi.
However, this fall time still brings a level of anxiety, fear and doubt, whether we are conscious of it or not. Possibly, we can detect these scratchy feelings to be heightened under the surface: irritability, frustration, anger, anxiety.
Steiner was clear that this time of year brings the forces of darkness closer to the earth, and that humans will find this cosmic battle of light and dark also playing out in our innermost being. We are a reflection of the cosmos. We must awaken and harness the power of our self-consciousness now, while all of nature around us is dying from lack of light.
In our culture, in our hemisphere, seasonal depression is very common. What is seasonal depression other than a feeling of loss and hopelessness due to lack of light. I ask you to deeply ponder this incredible transition from summer to fall, as we head into dark times. I ask you to contemplate Rudolf Steiner's wisdom, that it just might be possible that the most important thing we can do during this time of year is fill our inner self with positive thoughts of faith, hope, love, and enthusiasm for inner creativity, thus kindling the inner light we need to see through the dark.
At CVWS, as all Waldorf Schools, we spend the fall honouring this battle between light and dark through the celebration of festivals. First, we have St Michael (light) conquer the dragon (darkness) in our Festival of Courage, calling everyone to bring the light now into our hearts. While this light is kindled in September and October, we feel the flames grow warmer, as we approach the November Festival of Compassion.
In late November, we hold a Lantern Festival to honour St. Martin, who shone his inner light through deep compassion for others. At this time, we are reminded that our individual inner light is only a start, it is not the goal. The goal is to shine our light to help others, and to shine our lights so that each spark comes together to create the bright inner light of community.
In December we celebrate Advent, the four weeks leading to Christmas. It is at this time that we celebrate the Festival of Wisdom. We are immersed in the darkest times, but also getting closer to the Birth of the Sun. We have gained new insight, inner wisdom and strength.
Each year, these three festivals encourage and support us to stay clear, strong and bright as we move towards December 25th. And when we arrive at this day, three days after the Winter Solstice, it marks the first time we, humans, can detect the light returning.
Blessings on a deeply rich and wisdom-filled fall.
~ Jennifer Irwin
Board Chair’s Report (Christine Farrell)
A sincere welcome to all the new families this year and a hearty welcome back to the families who are
continuing with us for another year. It was a joy to see such a great turn out to our first parent group meeting of the year and to meet others who have expressed interest in joining our board or committees.
Our school functions on a three-fold social order—the faculty focus is on pedagogy, the board focus is on sustainability and responsibility of the school’s finances and administration, while the parent group works on building school community.
This means there is a place and need for everyone involved in our school. We all have individual gifts and experiences to offer. So, I extend to each of you, an invitation to reflect on your own gifts and talents you wish to share with our school. We welcome you to communicate this with your class teacher, principal (Mrs. Watkin), office administrators (Sarah or Marussia) or myself.
Thank you for choosing to be a part of our great school and I wish each and everyone one of you a successful year!
~ Christine Farrell
It is with great excitement that we write to you today to let you know some exciting news! After 7 years of operating in the Valley, Saltwater Waldorf School is getting a new name.
When our school first opened, we couldn’t use the word Waldorf in our name as we were not yet a certified Waldorf School. This title came a couple of years later, changing our name from Saltwater School to Saltwater Waldorf School.
Now 7 years later, as a more established school in the Comox Valley, we are changing our name to reflect this. In order to mitigate confusion with us being a sailing or water sports school and to literally land us on the map, beginning next school year our school will be the Comox Valley Waldorf School. Our families come from across the Valley, and we are thrilled to have a name that reflects that.
What does this mean for our school? It means new signs, a new logo and new branding, but everything else will pretty much remain the same. It will also mean that more people will be able to find us and discover how great our big little school really is.
Thank you for all your support and your commitment to Waldorf education.
The Saltwater Education Society Board of Directors
Seven years ago, the Saltwater Waldorf School was a budding dream for 4 parents who lived in the Comox Valley. The school started out as two small classes in the homes of two founding parents and teachers. Since those early days, Saltwater has become a member of the worldwide Waldorf school movement, and has met the BC Ministry of Education’s learning outcomes for each grade. After extensive renovations, including seismic upgrades, the school opened its doors in 2011. A second building (1 block away) was then added in 2014. Today, the Comox Valley’s only Waldorf school is proud to be expanding again.
Renovations will be done over the summer months, as part of a long-term plan to create more classrooms. Currently the school has 65 students from preschool aged up to grade seven. With the expansion, the school will be adding a multi-purpose room, a parent room and space for all grades classes under one roof. The 'Hemlock Building' at 2398 Rosewall Crescent will provide education for Grades 1-7 students.
The 'Cedar Building' at 2311 Rosewall Crescent will house the popular preschool program for children who are 3-4 years, a Kindergarten class (ages 5-6) and an aftercare program for students from 1 to 5 pm. The school will also again offer a Parent and Tot program which introduces Waldorf style learning to families with young children ages 1-3.
Waldorf is the fastest growing educational movement worldwide. Despite being a century old, the value of Waldorf philosophies and methods are increasingly recognized today. Even the BC Ministry of Education has recognized the value of these approaches, and has incorporated some of them into BC’s recent curriculum updates.
Like other Waldorf schools, Saltwater is dedicated to nurturing the whole child, and the school’s carefully-paced curriculum is rich in the arts, music, movement and contact with nature. The school offers small classes and plenty of outdoor time in nearby parks. More information on Saltwater School and Waldorf in general can be found on the school’s website: www.saltwaterschool.com.
The following article by Jeff Tunkey "sets the record straight" and dispels the many myths and misconceptions about Waldorf Education. To read the .pdf version CLICK HERE.
Waldorf Education started in the early twentieth century, under the guidance of Rudolf Steiner. Since then, it has become one of the largest independent school movements, with over a thousand schools, two thousand kindergartens and sixty special education schools in over sixty countries.
One of the reasons why this educational approach has been taken on by so many various cultures is that Waldorf education aims to educate and accompany the life journey of the whole child, as a person discovering the ways of the world in a certain place and time.
As opposed to a “from the outside in” approach to schooling, Waldorf education nurtures the skills and capacities that are always emerging within the child. Instead of relying on an externally fixed curriculum (often not developed by educators) or expectations of children’s performance in a “one size fits all” model, Waldorf education bases its approach on the very foundations of human experience.
In order to provide age appropriate curriculum while challenging and respecting every child’s individual journey, Waldorf teachers have extensive studies in child development. Both mainstream science and pedagogy, alongside with Anthroposophy, inform the practices of the teachers.
Rudolf Steiner proposed that human development happens in stages (not unlike renowned child development psychologist Jean Piaget), each lasting about seven years:
Birth to Seven: As new beings in this world, very young children are striving to unite with their surroundings, as well as learning that this is a good, safe place to come into. Most of brain development and neural connections linking sensory experiences happen in early childhood, as well as the so called “windows of opportunity: crucial times in development where there is a major opportunity for an experience to have the greatest effect. Some of these experiences are attachment (the life-giving bond between child and caregiver, arguably the most important factor in healthy development), physical growth, motor and speech development.
In the preschool years, it is also the first time a child might be cognizant of experiencing the changing in seasons for the first time, and their social horizons are being expanded beyond the family nucleus.
The preschool then, becomes a home away from home, where children can experience the world around them in a safe and open way, within a physically nurturing, warm and child minded environment.
In Kindergarten, children are aware of their ever growing skills and are ready to use them to serve their evolving ideas. The teachers provide a variety of challenging opportunities for each student to expand their knowledge and mastery of crafts.
In the early years, teachers understand that young children want to be part of what is happening in the world around them, so they teach out of imitation. By being present and compassionate, the teacher sets the tones for the “rules of the land”, and the children understand that this is the expectation in the “kingdom”.
Because the expectations are developmentally appropriate and expressed lovingly and firmly, the children feel a safe framework around them within which they can act freely. If a child is having trouble remembering or following the rules of the land, the teacher will kindly bring the child closer and help her remember, reinforcing rapport and a support, providing the tools the child needs to do better next time. A consistent routine and rhythm also aid in creating a healthy breathing sense of time, as well as allowing the child to chose a different way of acting the following time. This fosters self discipline and awareness for others and their needs. It also offers the possibility of coming to these experiences out of one’s own volition (not because of externally imposed constricts). These skills can be the key to a successful and productive life in the future.
The teacher provides plenty of opportunities for chopping vegetables, baking and using kitchen tools, sewing, painting, woodworking and many other practical and artistic activities. There is no need for constant verbal instruction as the children are drawn to the teacher’s meaningful activity, and observation skills are developed and translated into action. In this time of their lives, children are experiencing the world through their will: their drive for connection and exploration is the main force behind their growth and development.
In order to nurture this growing body, Waldorf teachers provide wholesome snacks and an aesthetically pleasing environment. Understanding that young children are literally using large amount of energy in building their bodies, teachers nurture the sense of warmth and touch.
Natural materials provide non synthetic sensory experiences, and care for seasonal appropriate clothing protects the growing forces of the body, so the building blocks can develop in a healthy, thorough manner. Through movement, children also explore all planes in space and develop a sense of balance and an awareness of their place in the physical world around them. By observing the child and out of their knowledge of child development, teachers plan to provide movement opportunities that will allow for the neural and motor development that is so crucial at a young age. Since the outdoors provide rich, ever changing sensory experience and countless physical obstacles, Nature Walks and time outside are usually a staple in Waldorf programs. Children also feel the dependability and fluidity in Nature’s reliable yet ever changing essence.
Open ended toys such as wooden blocks, silk scarves and a basket full of stones elicit a child’s inner picture and promotes social interaction, as children explain and negotiate ideas with their peers. The building steps of physics are explored when blocks are stacked and buildings are erected, math is put to use in the kitchen while measuring, and problem solving is an everyday thing when one needs to “feed” a whole class with only a basket full of shells.
Simple, open ended toys also allow the possibility of re creating the environment at the whim of imagination.
In the most natural way possible, and out of their own inner experiences, children develop resilience, flexibility and ingenuity: skills that will prove helpful in any walk of life.
Bearing in mind the relationship between physical movement and speech development (pattern, metric and the mood of sounds and words), early childhood Waldorf teachers provide daily chances to develop a relationship with the spoken word through the class’ musical framework, traditional songs and games. This is seen specifically in Circle time and Story Time. In order to meet the child’s quest for authentic knowledge, Circle Time and Story Time are carefully planned to meet the children where they are at: sometimes therapeutic stories are picked, sometimes folk tales and songs, and many times fairy tales, which feed the child’s imagination with an archetypal image they can recognize as true.
The inner wisdom of these tales, plus the rich language they provide, are nourishing for the young child. Oral stories are often told, so children are allowed to create mental pictures (a skill which will come in handy when formally learning how to read). The teacher might also present a puppet show, deepening the experience, and with favourite stories, sometimes plays will arise after the children have internalized the sequence, plot and lines of the story.
As the class follows the cycle of the year in the form of the seasons, many opportunities arise to develop powers of observation and connection. Believing in meaningful learning, teachers plan according to seasonal moods and colors, edible produce and crafts for festivals. Watercolor painting, cooking and handwork showcase the colors of the rainbow and the flavour of the seasons, spanning from yellow paint and corn, to apples and red leaves, to orange pumpkins and pies in the fall. With winter, the cooler colors and warmer foods and products such as soup and wool might become a staple in the class life. With the growth of Spring, rainbows of color and garden produce announce the return on the Sun to our land.
During the school year, children develop at their own pace, while being supported and encouraged to grow and experience in a conscious, patient manner. Through many movement and speech experiences, children grow confident in their physical abilities, and their capacity for expression and social interaction evolves in many ways. The feeling of family encourages children to work cooperatively while asserting oneself and caring for others, as well as nourishing the sense of self within a community. By being trusted and encouraged to participate in meaningful activities, children’s confidence in their skills and their understanding of the environment grow, creating a healthy framework of how the world works upon which the child will build later experiences. As a consequence, self awareness and discipline, the ability to tackle challenges creatively and confidently, and the foundations for human experience within and with others are gifts children are receiving during their first years at a Waldorf school
-Article written by Lucia Perez, our Preschool Teacher
-Free to Learn: Introducing Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Education, Lynne Oldfield, Hawthorn Press, 2001.
-Our Twelve Senses: Wellsprings of the Soul, Albert Soesman, Hawthorn Press, 1990.
-Beyond the Rainbow Bridge: Nurturing our children from birth to seven, Barbara J. Patterson and Pamela Bradley, Michaelmas Press, 2001.
-Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching from the Inside Out. Jack Petrash, Gryphon House.inc, 2002
-Developmental Signatures: Core Values and Practices in Waldorf Education for Children Ages 3-9, Rainer Patzlaff, Wolfgang Sassmannshausen, et al. AWSNA Publications, 2007.
-The Foundations of Human Experience, Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophic Press, 1996.
-Children: A Chronological Approach, Robert V. Kail, Theresa Zolner, Pearson Canada, 2012.
- Foundations of Early Childhood Education, Dietze, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006.