I teach on a biodynamic farm at The Little Turnip Farm School. Today, as in most days, my day starts with the children outside for an hour. First we go and get firewood from the wood-shed. This may mean watching me chop kindling or the six year olds learn how to chop kindling. We then carry the wood. Sometimes like today we load the wheelbarrow and then I let them sit in it and I push them to the school through the farm yard. Other times we just all carry what we can or maybe a sleigh or wagon is loaded.
Today when we returned we then unloaded the wood onto the porch wanted to take turns and we raked the treasures that recently showed up due to the snow melting.
It wasn’t too long before the children were playing around me. We have a small sleigh that a horse would pull that the children use to play on and they were all going on trips. When I finished the raking and had the wheelbarrow full we all pulled, pushed and ran ahead to the burning pile. There I dumped the raking. Noticing that the snow had melted from the nearby hillside where the orchard was they asked to go up there so we went to see the two huge ant nests. Then they asked if it was all right that we played house for awhile. So sitting next to a Juniper Berry bush where they made their house in, I began to pick the purple Juniper Berries. They soon came by and tasted them. The boys loved them, and wanted to find more. The girls didn’t, however, upon seeing the relish of the boys they tried again. As we ran down the hill the mullein stalks were too interesting and they broke off each a very tall mullein stalk to carry. We returned to ride again in the wheelbarrow and park it into the woodshed.
Once back into the yard, we heard the familiar song, snow boots and place them in a neat way on hooks, hanging by the fire to dry. Those who wish not to undress may ask me or another child to help them. I usually encourage that they pull the “zipper train” . . etc.. I “Chick-a-dee-dee.. Sitting in the tree…Singing snack time, snack time. And we all went in to learn how to take off our mud suits, snow suits, have little stories and songs to get everything thing off or on and put away. After with a special hand washing song we wash up, for some they are still learning how to stand in a line, wash with soap and water, dry and put the paper towel in the waste-basket. Then we sit waiting for all to come, getting our snacks, which were prepared at home with their parents. (Yes, I no longer make grains for each day!)
One reason is that I teach all day, one class in the morning and one in the afternoon, another reason is that we have many parents who need help in feeding their children and this gives me an opportunity to involve myself in nutrition for young children. I have those parents who pack wonderful snacks with a hot thermos full of grain, soup, pasta, crackers, fruit, water, and so on and I have parents who send their very hungry child with half a slice of white bread with nothing on it!
Some of the younger children will eat for up to 3/4 of an hour, sitting at the snack table slowly chewing while the others play, and they just watch them. To me this is perfect, just like at home. Why should that three year old boy have to follow the “school” schedule and not a home schedule? I must mention here that I have also cut down on the class sizes. I now have anywhere from four to twelve, instead of the the twelve to twenty size. This has made it much more “homier” in the classroom. Our room is also quite small and we share the kitchen with the farm which is not always available to us during the morning or afternoon.
When I set up painting and begin to paint, those children who wish to join do the others continue to play. It is very, very unusual if the whole group does not join in painting. They love it as most things and I do not have to call them into the activities all I have to do is start doing it myself. Today as we prepare for the Easter Festival, I placed on the table a dozen eggs, and not too long after that the five olds were asking about them, what were we going to do today? This anticipation and excitement runs through the morning, as they had to wait until it was time. Because I had other chores to do first: carry and stack the firewood, clean the fish tank and refill it, water all the watermelon, cantaloupe, flower starts, as well as the horse chestnut trees that we started in February. These all line our many windows in every room, bathroom, hall way, cloak room, classroom.
Each morning I have many chores to attend to, from the usual household cleaning, gardening, harvesting, maintenance, to preparing for a birthday etc. Then I call the children to clean-up which they happily do. As they are finishing cleaning I prepare the chairs for our “silver story boat” and before the chairs are all there some will be asking if they can blow out the candle, others will be helping me set up the chairs and before I am ready they are all sitting in the boat. I then sing a few songs, some the same to light the candle and greet the morning, others seasonal. After I may do a few finger plays, this usually helps the younger ones focus and sit for the longer stories. Then I tell the story, sometimes with puppets, other times with just a few props to act it out with the children after they have heard it a few weeks, and on very special occasions I may read them a book. Or it may seem to them that I read them a book and I tell it with the book in my lap. On other occasions I still will pick up a nursery rhyme, riddle or children’s story book and read a story to them.
After story we may color, play inside or out as I do mending, ironing, craft etc. Today I began to blow eggs, and the children came from their play and all joined in to blow the eggs, wash them with vinegar and water, and dye them. By the time we finished it was time to go home. The afternoon group is of the older children and they play much less and do much more work. Today we blew, washed, dyed the eggs. We colored baskets and learned how to fold them and then they were available for us to put the sweet biscuits we baked from the eggs into and take home. They help to carry kitchen cookware, go to the mill room to get the flour, and in the day while we are outside we may check the chicken coop for eggs in their nests. The children learn how to stir the batter, beat the eggs with an egg beater, knead the dough. We have songs that we sing with the baking activities as others. By the end of the year the children know all these songs. They like to repeat them over and over. At snack we have three blessing songs and some days they ask that we sing them all!
Before we go home we have a time clean up and then games. In the good weather we play games outside, or do a movement circle outside. If the weather is nice and warm in fall, and late spring we also do our story outside, usually on our farm or forest walk in that first hour from 9 am until 10 when we have our snack. We have special places in the woods where I tell the children stories. When I started the stories outside I used puppets at first to draw their attention after that they would sit quite still and listen very very well.
I work on a farm where the children see the workers everyday doing the jobs of the farm. We visit the animals, the greenhouses, the hay barns. The children learn the difference between a toy and a tool. We have tools to sew with, cut with, hammer with. They have a home and we learn how to care for them, carry them, clean them, etc. I have very very few toys in the classroom. Most of them I try to make either myself with the children watching, or with parents at workshops. There are some special toys that we purchased from non-profit societies, or a Waldorf Woodworker. We do field trips to see community members who are crafts persons, such as the drum maker, candle maker, pizza maker, jeweler, as well as orchardists, sheep herders, horse loggers. The children and their parents join us on these field trips.
As for breathing in and out. I find that the seasons, festivals, are one kind of breathing in and out in the classroom. The cold weather needs are different for us here in snow mountains and we need to chop wood, light fire, shovel snow, every morning. In the warmer weather we prepare garden beds, flower beds, seed, water, harvest but we have enough time to do a daily forest or farm walk. On those walks we visit the animals, learn how to mix the feed for the cows and let them give us “cow kisses” we visit the horses with treats and sing songs for the sheep. The turkeys love to go on walks with us. We go to the pond and watch the fishes, frogs, dragon fly’s and feed the ducks. We taste the herbs, vegetables, and right now we are tapping the birch trees for birch water. We smell the earth, feel the earth, taste the earth, lay amongst the many varied flora and faunas. We play hide and seek in the forest, sail leaves in the brooks and learn how to climb steep hills to see the valley on the other side.
In the horse barn a father and son built a hay bale castle and we go to visit it and play on rainy days. I find that I spend more time outside in the spring and fall then inside. We may not even go in. The children are not called to learn long movement circles instead the circles become part of our play, and if you were watching you may not even now that it was a circle. That was how I was trained in my Waldorf Kindergarten training to make the circle.
~A very special thank you to Waldorf Teacher, Elyena Lundh, for writing and sharing her wonderful day!