Monday, 29 September 2008

Michaelmas, the day of challenges

We celebrated Michaelmas on Friday last and here are the highlights. Needless to say that the performace went beautifully and no one got stagefright. In fact each one was a star and all cues were remembered. Pretty impressive considering that they performed in front of the whole school!!!

We had to come to school EXTRA EARLY to dress up. The entire class was a buzz and everyone was proverbially 'off their heads'.

Nathan was St Michael and Jago the dragon.

Somewhere in the Steiner archive i have a shot exactly like this one, except it was taken three years ago. I can't believe we've been at the school for four years now...

That's Jacob who gave a great performance as the irate villager who told the king where to shove it when he refused to give up his daughter to the dragon.

Donna is currently being mentored by Crystal and soon the classes on anthroposophic education will begin soon - second week of October. She'll also be doing art classes at the end of October and be sent to a school in England to observe class two there. But she's doing grand work, as you can already tell. Here's another autumn verse which the kinds have been learning.

If we go down to the woods today...

The crowd gathers.

The children recite the colours of autumn.

Observe, the knight in shining armour.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The challenges ahead

Last week's drawing of St Michael in his colours and aspect.

The last two weeks have been filled with the activity of autumn. The work in the classrooms have been mirrored in the work in the wider world. The mood of class two is perfectly captured in the song of St Michael which they'll be singing with class three on Friday at Assembly.

In autumn St Michael, with sword and with sheild
Passes over meadows, the orchards and fields
He's on his way to battle 'gainst darkness and strife,
He is the heavenly warrior, Protector of Life.

The harvest let us gather with St Michael's aid.
The light he sheddeth fails not, nor does it fade.
and when the corn is cut and the meadows are bare
We'll don St Michael's armour, and onwards we'll fare.

We are St Michael's warriors, with strong heart and mind
We forge our way through darkness, St Michael to find
And there he stands in glory, St Michael we pray
So send us into battle, and show us the way.

At this point i must pause to say that it is this which i find so important in the ethos of the school. This celebration of the seasons which eddies and crests, like a wave. As the light fades at the equinox, St Michael who embodies challenge and strength, is their guide into winter. They celebrate the end of autumn with a harvest feast and games and they prepare to light the candles in the darkness as the darkness draws in. The next celebration will be the lighting of the lamps at Halloween or Martinmas, followed by Advent and then Christmas. In this was, in this overly commercialised and secular world, the children are given this wonderful gift of awe, mystery, wonder and reverence for the natural world and the world about them. The narrative follows one which is rooted in the natural rhythms of the seasons. They make connections between themselves and their ecology. And they do it in a magical, non-pedantic way.

One of the verses on St Michael written as part of the English main lesson.

Here the children made up their own sentences and drew St Michael and the dragon.

Much work has gone into the poems and verses, as well as the costumes, where the children continue to practice their motor skills and come together as a class to create what seems to sound like a little masterpiece. I can't wait to see it!

Out in the grounds, Liz has been putting them through their gardening paces with basic tool care. Last week and this week they gathered what there was of the vegetables which had grown over the very WET and SOGGY summer. By the sounds of it the slugs got the lion's share of the takings. However, blackberries and elderberries were also gathered and this week, Liz made jam with them. She told me how they also managed to collect some sour apples and the last i spoke to her she was waiting to see if the bottles had set overnight.

Along with the skipping and the beanbags, the music - they're learning to play Speed Bonny Boat on the recorder - and the eurhythmy, the gym and the tearing about in the woods, life goes on pretty much as normal. It seems pretty wonderful when Oisin begins to start reading now. What does that say mom? he'll ask. And i'll say, well what do you think it says? And he'll attempt the word. It's difficult not to compare at this stage and feel that reading is an organic, gentle activity, a world a way from when i was growing up and it was drilled into us.

So the next posting will have the pictures from the play. And i'm sorry that there are no photos of the kids again, but it will be unavoidable in the next posting.

PS: The herbs which we generously donated by Camphill are now doing excellently! The sorrel, chives and sage are thriving in the planters and beds. They look absolutely fantastic!! Thank you Tony!!!

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Preparations for St Michael

St Michael is an important figure at this time of the year. He embodies will, courage, acheivement, motivation and activation. He also is the bringer of the gift of patience. And he is also locally in this bit of the world, seen as St George. I know St George is English, but he is also from this bit of the world. So this week the children, in addition (hee hee) to learning their 2 timestables, also worked at bringing St Michael to life.

In autumn St Michael with sword and with sheild
He passes over meadows and orchards and fields
He's on his way to battle against darkness and strife
He is a heavenly warrior, Protector of Light.

Here are the drawings of beans for the 2 times tables.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Back to school!!!!

Class two began with the introduction of new class teacher, Donna-Marie. We came back last Friday and already a week has flown. I was out weeding the school grounds, when i saw the kids coming out, first thing to do their skipping. Then later on during the week, they went black berrying. Because Donna was new, i didn't want to impose - so it was only at the end of the first week, that we decided that it would be fine to take pictures and get them up on the net. So here are the first shots from the year. I apologise that we didn't get too many of the kids, but i think we'll get that done in the coming week.

What would the school be without flowers? Here the children drew flowers they collected from the garden. As always that link between the external and personal is made from the very start. And of course that peachy colour is the colour of class two, the emergence from the pinky rosy colours of kindergarten and class one.

Our nature table with the blackberry fairy looking after the blackberries they collected.

A clearer shot of the table. Draped in the colours of autumn.

Ruth and Lara spent a few goodly hours getting the class room ready. In her pregnant state and with child by her side, Lara and Ruth, respectively, painted the whole class and scrubbed and polished the floor. We had a little picnic to celebrate on Thursday and the final touch was the picture of St Francis and the birds, which is the main picture for class two. It captures the lessons which the saint and animals have to teach us - from the saints and the animals we learn about ethics and morality, but in a non-dogmatic manner. It also reinforces the connection the child has with te spiritual and the world around them, which is a continuation with the fairies and gnomes and nature spirits of last year.

Here she is, Donna - her efforts have been greatly appreciated by the children, teachers and parents alike. On the left side is the drawing of St Michael, for Michalmas. And on the right a poem about the wind and autumn. We look forward to the challenges of this year!

Already this week, they read and discussed the fox and the sour grapes from Aesop's fables. Donna gave them a background on who Aesop was and there were several hours devoted to the discussion of the story, the traits of foxes and what the children thought themselves about its behaviour. I forgot to say that the main lesson was English this week.

As part of the main lesson they worked on a poem called blackberry time. Here's Oisin's work on that.

That's Iseult's

Here's the poem they copied from the board about autumn and St Michael.

To see how far they had come with their sums since she wasn't there last year, Donna set them a little exercise. Images and aesthetics ae extremely important, especially when it comes to maths!!! Donna said that there was great enthusiasm when she showed them the board with the beanstalk picture on it. And in fact there has been so much enthusiasm for homework - which they asked for themselves - that she is giving them six words a week to learn. Isn't that sweet?

Finally, the school being what it is, has required some fine tuning over the week in weeding and pruning. I've been working along side Liz the new gardening teacher, kindly paid for by the Children in Need. She has wrought wonders with the place. From the veg patch which had to be abandoned due to the art portacabin falling in, she has salvaged not only these vegetables, but with the assistance of the older kids and Luke, the Grounds and Woodwork teacher and Nathan's dad, the entire garden and some.

Here she is with the flowers she found there...