Summer Solstice

We are developing a seasonal yearly rhythm. orangefairy
Midsummer Fairy in the apricot tree

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A Waldorf daily and yearly rhythm are based around cycles of breathing in and breathing out. In Sufism we call this contraction/qabd and expansion/bast.

The whole of reality breathes in and out. 

In ancient times human beings were innately connected to the cycles of the Earth and the expanding universe. In the contemporary world however we are totally out of touch. We cannot even see the stars anymore because of pollution. Electricity has extended the day well into the night, we no longer follow the cycles of the moon or sun. Disconnected from the natural/created world we are also disconnected from our Source.

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When we bring our attention back to the natural world we increase in reverence for the Divine Reality that we Muslims call Allah/God. 

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Islam has always been a faith that pays attention to the cycles of the natural world. The Muslim calendar is a lunar calendar, our festivals are heralded by the sighting of the moon, we pray according to the position of the sun. So it seems like a natural extension of this to pay attention to the cycles of the seasons, to the longest and shortest day, to the tides. Giving attention to something is not the same thing as worshipping it as an individual entity. On the contrary paying attention to rhythm and cycles is a way of honouring the interconnectivity of everything. What Islam does is simply bring this multiplicity and interconnectivity and living-ness back to a Single Source.

I hadn’t organised anything for the Solstice so what we ended up doing was a kind of on the spot happening.
We gathered together some things orange and yellow, we made chalk drawings, we took Midsummer Fairy to a lovely spot in the apricot tree, we ate some oranges while basking in the sun and we felt ourselves radiating with the Summer energy. We recited a surah/verse that begins

‘Allah there is no God but He, the Living, the Self-Subsisting, Eternal’

We also recited the following poem.

‘The radiant beauty of the world
Compels my inmost soul to free
God-given powers of my nature
That they may soar into the cosmos,
To take wing from myself
In cosmic light and cosmic warmth.’

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A visit to a Waldorf school

Today we visited the Sophia Mundi Steiner School Spring Fair. I’ve been past the school plenty of times on the way to Collingwood Children’s Farm but this was the first time I have been inside. I took one step into the Prep and Grade One classrooms and just felt I was at home!

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I realised that in all these years of being attracted to Steiner education, I have never actually been to a school.  I’ve attempted to create a Waldorf influenced homeschool but I’ve never actually been out there and seen how it works in the world. steiner-way2

Of course it is about more than lovely wooden toys and soft colours and handmade things, there’s an energy to these spaces .  It’s a wholesome, enriching way that brings children through and into the world softly and in a gentle, subtle way draws them towards becoming full beings. I came away wondering why aren’t ALL schools like this? Why can people not see the difference between this and mainstream education? I wish so much that we could create schools that combined aspects of Steiner education with Islamic spirituality.

 

A Simple Day of Gift Giving and Making | Christmas 2015

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preparing Christmas boxes

 

 

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As we are approach the New Year the days are long and slow and so often hot. H was delighted when her strawberry plant presented her with the first strawberries and even our apricot tree made fruit this year.

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Curious for years about Christmas, this year I decided to show my children how we celebrated as a family when I was a child. Simple, not excessively material, non-elaborate. Just a small nuclear family, a couple of precious gifts and good food.

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December 2015 -weekly update – example

 H1 continued with The Ramayana in more detail and looked at some classical Indian painting.
I introduced him to Baraka Blue and he loved the clip “Love and Light’  since we have been to so many of these places in Fes together.
We talked about the elements that plants need to grow and about the differences and similarities between the way human beings and plants interact with the elements.

He started learning about the story of the Buddha’s life and we discussed the Four Noble Truths.

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We discussed the Tree of Life including plant/animal kingdoms and he made his own Tree of Life drawing.

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Then we started making a Family Tree to illustrate how the Tree of Life/Plant and Animal Kingdoms branch out from one another. I showed him the old coffee and burnt edges trick to make a document look old and he loved it. He finished reading Demon Dentist.

M learned about gravity and wrote a humorous story about ‘The Day there was no Gravity’. We did some grammar and spelling.
We discussed the basic elements of photosynthesis.
He read from Little House in the Big Woods.

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He read two Native American Creation Stories – Cherokee and Sioux.

A theme of one Creation Story was to not be scared of trying new things, we made a plate with some new (to M) tastes, mostly fermented goodies from my fridge that the children usually turn up their noses at…

We looked through a book I’ve had since childhood, Native American Portraits and began to talk about the impact of  colonisation upon the Indigenous people of North America and Australia….including in our discussion Little House in the Big Woods.

He started a unit on the Water Cycle and an experiment boiling water to show condensation. And an experiment about evaporation.

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Spelling and handwriting practise.

H – is six meaning she is at Kindergarten level according to our syllabus. The main thing is to focus on rhythm and play incorporating letter and number forms slowly.

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We have started in the garden. H was delighted when I gave her a garden bed all of her own and everyone gathered together to help assemble it. She had been asking me for days if she could grow strawberries so this was the first plant I gave her for her garden.

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We read ‘Does my Garden Grow?’ by Gerda Muller. The illustrations are wonderful and the story is very involved, it is more like reading a chapter book and we read a little every day rather than it all in one go.

Our cucumbers seedlings are already at least one centimetre tall, H was thrilled to see that they had already come up. We read a story about a germinating seed and we talked about how the sun ‘calls’ the seed to sprout through the surface of the earth. She has been watering her own veggie patch every morning and evening so she understands that the ingredients a plant needs to grow are sunlight and water and the nutrients of the soil. We talked about the number four and how there are four seasons and four elements. We read a story about the four seasons. And this afternoon it is raining heavily so the garden will be happily drinking it all in.

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Focused on the letter H and the number 5 so we listened to  ‘Aranjuez‘ and danced.

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She dressed as a Queen and we tried lots of different combinations of costumes made from play silks. These are really one of my favourite Waldorf toys, so incredibly simple and versatile and Hana loves them.
We then played Hopping on the H. Later she kept dancing while I read to her from Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Generally she loses interest in stories that are without many illustrations but the movement enabled her to stay completely absorbed.

She read the story of Eartha the Earthworm and then we went into the back garden to look for worms. It must have been too hot though as we didn’t find anything. Then we modelled the numbers one to six using modelling wax and played some number games.

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We sang a physical mandala, ‘Parts of Plants’ to the tune of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, an active way of learning the functions of the roots, stem and leaves….the leaves soak up the sun, soak up the sun.

The strawberries started growing well.

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She made a kite on a very windy day for the letter K.

We read Sonia’s Chicken’s.

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We continued reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales and her reluctance to sit and listen to non illustrated stories is now a thing of the past, it just took the right stories to captivate her attention.

Excursion TogetherHoli Festival of Colours at Ceres Environment Park

My favourite part was really the Welcome to Country. The elder spoke of the Merri Creek we sat next to being like the blood in our veins and this really struck a cord with me because I feel like the Huon River is my blood and I miss that landscape more than I can describe, I feel it like an ache in my body. I wonder sometimes if the discord in my sense of place related to my becoming a Muslim has really sensitised me to the reality of belonging and where and how we are owned, which atoms resonate with which atoms. Perhaps because my ‘belonging’ in relation to race is fractured, my sense of connection to land is heightened. The land does not belong to my cerebral interpretations, it simply exists and it is as it is and whether white, Muslim, city dweller or not it is the pulse of my childhood. I do think we are deeply connected to the land we grow up upon. But I wonder how my children can foster a similar sense of place since our connection to the land in suburbia is so weakened.

In the Welcome to Country he spoke about the genocide, about the stolen generation. At least two thirds of the crowd he was speaking to were not listening, already throwing colours upon themselves and laughing and dancing. I found it hard to hold back tears because it just seemed like a metaphor for the greater reality of our situation in Australia in which white people (and I am one of them) have not and will not and do not listen, not properly.

The elder also said we all belong to the land and we are all welcome and it is this humility and generosity that always rips my heart out because we white are welcomed, we are included, if only we could just start listening as well. He spoke about refugee’s and boat people and Manus Island, he said that Manus Island is the same as the stolen generation.

I know that it isn’t completely the same but I am so, so grateful for my experiences with sexism and my awareness of how male privilege works and how difficult it is to get through to some men about it because I can use it to recognise similar dynamics with white privilege and colour blindness. When we grow up white it is very, very difficult to start to understand how racism really works as opposed to what we have been taught racism is. We assume we aren’t racist, we don’t realise that our entire society and much of white culture is built upon structures that are racist. Recognising this is probably the most difficult thing a white person can do and therefore most of us won’t do it.

 

Made watercolour mandala’s and decorated some of the lemon branches we cut from our tree with some colourful wool for our nature table.

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Made our Summer Nature Table

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October 2015 – weekly update – example

 

I have two boys who don’t want to write. At all.

Two boys who have no interest in presenting their work beautifully.

I realise this is fairly standard for young boys but it’s something I find frustrating since my personality is the complete opposite and as a child I loved making projects look beautiful, presentation was really important to me.

Encouraging my boys to write is a real challenge but at least with this method the writing is also part of an overall creative package. Every day involves colour and drawings.
Whenever we do some writing I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot!

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H1  – wrote a story, the real story was far more realised and imaginative than the story that made it to script. He does not want to elaborate or use descriptive language if it means needing to transcribe it into letters. But the simple fact of something making it to paper is encouraging. I don’t correct their work in their books but make a note of spelling mistakes and we go over those words later. I have purchased some basic cursive workbooks so we can work on handwriting.

We are still working through the unit on Ancient Indian civilisation. Today we talked about some key concepts in Hinduism comparing them to our Islamic perspectives on the same thing. With our study of comparative religion I really want to emphasise the similarities between faiths but sometimes the differences are also food for conversation. H1 was really interested in the caste system and we watched a short Youtube documentary about the Untouchables/Dalits.

M – We made flat bread yesterday, we have just finished a unit on the Ancient Hebrews and now we have moved on to the Phoenicians. Because the children are half Lebanese I explained that the Phoenician civilisation was actually in what is now Lebanon.

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We are still reading aloud from Little House in the Big Woods. I’m going to approach colonialist attitudes as they come up and use them as reasons to discuss racism and indigenous issues comparing the North American situation to our own reality in Australia.

H  – loved it when we made bread, it struck me just how perfect these activities are for her age group. Initially we were working from the Gr 1 curriculum because I wasn’t sure how things matched to an Australian Prep but we have moved back to the Kindergarten book and it’s a much better fit. She doesn’t enjoy the stories in the Oak Meadow fairy tales book though so I am trying to find other stories to read to her. Today we read about a Fairy called Faith who couldn’t sleep for the letter F and we did some watercolour painting. Hana knows most of her letters already but I think the slow, rhythmical pace of the syllabus is really important. When she wants to she brings me the ‘Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons’ book and we do a lesson but I am not pushing it so we aren’t Waldorf purists – Waldorf Semi-Unschoolers – Flexible – Eclectic – I don’t know.

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She also spent time playing in the garden and we skipped to the end of her book and found the Spring science lessons since season wise we are in the Southern Hemisphere. We read a story about a germinating seed and next week hopefully we will plant some things ourselves.

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H and I today made a small painting for our Spring Nature Table which hopefully I will have finished before Summer 😉

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World War One Diorama

H1 said he wanted to learn about the First World War. I have to admit I really struggle with his interest in wars and weapons but I’ve realised his fascination with competition is simply innate. Superficially reading the Waldorf curriculum I have noticed that it comes up with developmentally appropriate means of stimulating this fascination with conflict and I hope we can pursue some of the themes relevant to his age group later on. For the time being I went with his suggestion and we started to investigate the causes of the war.

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I find that whilst he is really happy to discuss things for quite some time, there is a real resistance to doing anything like compiling points or lists or any of the methods we usually use to retain information yet I think pushing such forced academics would be really counter-productive. It makes me realise just how regimented we have been taught to be with our learning.

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The main point I think H1 took away about the war was how it escalated from a series of events impacting only a couple of countries into something impacting a good proportion of the world.

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