Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Michaelmas Story


Here is my mash up of two popular Michaelmas stories.

This is just an outline, as it was a verbal telling of an outline in my head.  It is a rather long, detailed story, and at first I was worried it would be too much for my kids, aged 7.5 and newly 5, but they were riveted the entire time and asked for it again after I was finished!  I love successes like that :) 

***Feel free to use this story with your family at home, but if you share it with friends, kindly link back to this page.  Thanks!***

Way up in heaven lived an angel named Saint Michael.  Michael was the keeper of heaven, made sure that all kind souls had a place in heaven as angels, and protected them from harm.  One day a dragon, flying high in the sky. He flew so high that he ended up in heaven. He was an angry beast and when he saw all the kind and happy angels he tried to extinguish them with is fiery breath.  Saint Michael told the dragon to leave, but the dragon refused.  So Saint Michael fought the dragon to protect his angels, but the dragon knocked him down.  Stunned for a moment, Michael gathered all his strength and bravery and raised his sword, which shone brightly with the glow of the stars.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Michaelmas

This is the first year we'll be celebrating Michaelmas, and I am very excited about adding this celebration to our year!

We are currently in the middle of a language arts block, so I'm weaving it in to our circles and main lessons.  The kids really thrive on stories, so they have been the main focus of all our circles so far this year, and the stories of Saint Michael and George and the Dragon are such great stories I really couldn't wait for the end of September to get here. 

Saint Michael is known as the Saint who conquered the "dragon" in heaven, a saint who gives strength to people, and a Saint who represent victory over evil.  Some stories say during his battle, he banishes the dragon from heaven, and the dragon falls to earth.  Michael then creates an earthly body of his spirit in George to fight the dragon on earth and protect the people from evil.

I love the focus on conquering the dragon, celebrating inner courage and strength.  During the week we will be focusing on identifying some of our personal dragons and how we can overcome them.  On the feast day, September 29th, we will have a small knighting ceremony to celebrate conquering our "dragons".  

I couldn't find any stories that had both stories woven together, so I had to create my own. I found some inspiration from this free ebook on waldorflibrary.org .  It has a few nice stories to tell young children.  I find they really focus on harvest, and less so on courage and bravery, so I really just took snippets and ideas to weave my own story together.

The kids came inside from their outdoor time early and were super excited to jump in to the new set up!  The props stay out and the children play with them reenacting the story all week long. We don't have a nature or seasonal table, so this is my compromise.   Mondays used to be a drag to get back in to our rhythm, but now they wake up excited about the prospect of a new story for the week.

I used a variety of the toys we had at home as props, but I did purchase a dragon because the one I attempted to make just wasn't cutting it.
The villagers hiding from the dragon in the castle. 

George and the princess battling the dragon.

George getting knighted by Saint Michael for his kindness, courage and bravery.

When Saint Michael knights George, I taught the children our verse for the week and introduced it to them as the Knights Oath.


For main lesson work we moved to the table and drew shields with the oath written on them.  My kindergartener really wanted to write the words herself, and I was really impressed with her attempt!
My second grader wrote the entire poem, but was thrown by the shape of the shield, so it came out a bit jumbled.  He is currently working on re-doing it on a larger piece of paper, because he isn't happy with the final main lesson book product. But for a kid who has really weak fine motor skills, I'm pretty proud he persevered through the poem, without complaint.
Typically he does a picture summary of the story we are focusing on and then prints a written summary a few sentences long (not copy work, his own original sentences describing his picture.)  I hadn't planned on the summary work today, mostly because I knew there was a lot of work in the shield and verse, but he still really wanted to draw a picture.
Michael and George conquering the dragon.
The kids were very excited about this story and played with the props all afternoon.  I am really looking forward to focusing on building our character through this story and working on some inner dragons.  The children really connected with that theme of the tale, which actually surprised me a bit.  I thought it would be all knights and dragons and battles that would stay as their focus.

Tomorrow I will post the story I told, in case anyone else wants a story with a bit of a different take.

What will you be doing to prepare for the Feast of Saint Michael?

Cheers,
Marina



Monday, August 18, 2014

Following the Sun

(This is the final installment in my rhythm series. To see the first three posts please see here: daily, weekly, monthly )




As the sun starts to fall towards darkness again, I can't help but be excited. 

I'm a darkness kind of girl. 

I love the shorter days, cooler temperatures, and festivals of the season.

The darkness surrounds me like a security blanket. I. Love. This. Season.



That being said, as a family we aren't as in sync with the sun as we are with the moon.  To be honest, all that extra daylight that starts in the early months of the year really throws us for a loop. The days are almost too long, the nights too short.  And not one of us enjoys the heat.  



I think the majority of our issue with all this darn daylight is that we are a family that thrives on routine.  And that includes bedtimes.  So in the summer, when the kids are tired and going to bed at 8:00 and 8:30, with the sun still streaming in their window (or busting through the edges of a blackout curtain), everyone gets a bit cranky. 

To illustrate our love of darkness, this quote comes from my son on the night of the summer solstice.
"FINALLY!  The sun will start sinking again so the nights are longer."

 Maybe we were all bears in a previous life, looking forward to the months and months of hibernation. HA.



So, moving right along, we suffer, sometimes not so silently, until we notice it getting darker again.

One thing that has really helped anchor our yearly rhythm is marking the year with celebrations.  We mostly celebrate the vernal and autumnal equinox and the summer and winter solstice, with a few other nature festivals thrown in the mix as well, such as May Day and Michaelmas.  These anchor points through the year help it us to move through the months back towards the end of the year, giving us something to look forward to while we make our way back to the dark.

Why celebrate festivals at all?  Well, simply put, they are good for the soul.  The help us to connect with the rhythms of nature.  Many of the festivals celebrated in the waldorf year have been celebrated for centuries, and as preparations take place, the anticipation and excitement of the festival create a quiet sense of joy and connectedness within the family and community.


Many first time Waldorf families will try and fit in many many festivals and celebrations, giving each and every one their all. And I get it.  There are so many wonderful things to celebrate, so many beautiful verses to say, so many stunning chalk drawings to covet.  But try and do too much and many families will also soon find out what burnout feels like. 

To them I say choose the festivals and celebrations that mean the most to your family.  Find the ones that really speak to you and your heart, and leave the rest. 

And don't over do it.  Keep things simple. The goal is to create an event that is special in a quiet, unobtrusive way.  A wonderful yearly routine that everyone looks forward to, but doesn't exhaust you just thinking about it. 

If  you start to think "Oh man,  not St John's Day AGAIN!", you are doing too much.  Each festival should be preceded with anticipation and calm, and shouldn't make you want to hide. 

If you really want to touch on all the festivals in the waldorf year, find a friend, school or community organization that celebrates the festivals and attend their celebrations.  It is nice to let someone else do the work sometimes!

Here is a list of what we celebrate through the year:

January - a small new year celebration
February - nothing
March - spring equinox
April - Easter
May - May Day
June - Summer Solstice
July - nothing
August - nothing
September - Michaelmas
October - Halloween
November - nothing (we might try Martinmas this year, as we'll be in the midst of a saints block)
December - St Nicholas / advent / Christmas (its a big month long celebration!)

As we go through the year, I will post pictures and explanation of how we celebrate so you can get a better idea of how we celebrate.

The most important thing to remember is it isn't what other families do that counts.  It is the memories and connections you make with your family that makes a festival mean something to your heart.

Cheers,
Marina