Light in the darkness: Waldorf initiatives in unexpected grounds

“If I meet other people and criticize their weaknesses, I rob myself of higher cognitive power. But if I try to enter deeply and lovingly into another person’s good qualities, I gather in that force.”

Rudolf Steiner

In the middle of so much bad news, war tension in the air, political leaders tending to fascism, environmental crimes against our planet (ergo to all of us), it is hard to see the light at the end of this dark tunnel. But, don’t be discouraged. The sparkle is there and will continue to shine as long as there is someone to keep it glimmering.

And that is what some amazing people do building initiatives based on Waldorf Education in unexpected grounds as favelas, territories devastated by military conflicts, and Indigenous lands. Due to political neglect and social prejudice, many children and families are denied to have hope and opportunities through education. However, this is changing due to the work and perseverance of individuals related to Waldorf Pedagogy.

In this post, you will discover four of these communities spread around the globe. Moreover, you will learn how you can help them. 

Protecting orphans in Burkina Faso

In 1987, a German named Katrin Rohde was visiting Burkina Faso and got sick. A customs officer brought her to his home and family and supported her until she got healthier again. To show them her gratitude, she promised to raise money on Germany to build a school in Burkina Faso. And so she did it. Coming back to supervise the construction, she was impressed by the extreme poverty of those people, especially children and decided to stay.

Mama Tenga is how Katrin Rode is known in Burkina Faso. Image retrieved from AMPO website.

After receiving orphan boys into her own house, she opened an orphanage for boys. The name given to the organization was AMPO – Association Managré Nooma pour la protection des orphelins (Managré Nooma Association for the protection of orphans). According to their website, “Managré nooma is a term in Moré, one of the official languages of Burkina Faso, and it means ‘The good is never lost.'”

Now, after 20 years, many other buildings and programs were made. An orphanage for girls, a house to accommodate castaways, pregnant girls and young women with AIDS, a consultation house for women, a hospital ward, projects for disabled, and a school for agriculture are a reality for that poor community thanks to the efforts of Katrin.

Freedom for HIV positives in India

In a society where AIDS is still a taboo, infected tend to be stigmatized and rejected. But the NGO The Freedom Foundation is changing this picture by working to give HIV positive in Hyderabad, India, a life with respect: bed, food, and care. They also have fun with games, competitions, and laughs.

Freedom Foundation logo, retrieved from their website.

It is more than a home for boys and girls from 3 to 14 years old who live there. It is an opportunity to study, to get the medical attention they need, and to have hope in the present and in the future.

Dignity in Brazilian favelas

It was founded in 1979 by Ute Creamer, a German Waldorf teacher, the Associação Comunitária Monte Azul (Community Association Blue Hill). It cares for almost 20.000 people living in three favelas, the most unfortunate neighbours, in São Paulo, Brazil.

Associação Comunitária Monte Azul logo, retrieved from their website.

More than educational and medical support, Monte Azul gives back dignity to people who were humiliated continuously in their lives. 

The association provides intensive work with teenagers, support of schooling, training possibilities, creches, kindergartens, preschools, recreational centres, and middle school. The initiative also hosts a medical centre, as well as a birth facility. The latest project, whose fundraising is ending in a couple days, is an anthroposophical and homeopathic pharmacy to attend free of charge the people from the communities related to the association.

Keeping the Sioux culture alive in the USA

In 1993, in one of the poorest regions of the USA, parents from a Lakota/Sioux group founded a small school in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota. The beauty in this initiative is the aim to keep their culture alive by teaching the children their own language and festivals, adapting Steiner’s education to their cultural reality.

Lakota Waldorf School logo, retrieved from their website.

In Lakota Waldorf School, the parents pay no fee to their children’s education. That is why donations are so important to keep the school running.

How you can help 

These were only four beautiful initiatives among dozens of others in all continents. To know all the Organizations worldwide and donate to them, visit the website Friends of Waldorf Education.

However, on their own websites (the link is in their names), you can find numerous ways to help them: donations, volunteering, and even letters of support. If your heart was touched by their histories, help them to keep the light of their organizations shining and donate.

Be light too!

Love and Gratitude!

Juliana Troll Trujillo

IWalComm creator

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January ́s Inspirations: begin the year with joy

New year, new inspiration

A new year begins and with it numerous opportunities. From anywhere on the globe, you can decide to make a small or great change in your life and this transformation can lead you to experiences you not expected. So how about to give it a try and start in January a simple challenge in your life that will help you to slow down and enjoy the rest of the year?

What is your inspiration for 2020? What is your challenge for the new year? How about to slow down watching nature?

It can be to observe a tree, a bush, or any vegetable in your garden every day during the year to see that insignificant changes on a daily basis make miracles happen in the long run. Or you could just make a panel where you can put a different word that inspires you every day. It could be anything that changes your routine and makes you focus on the task. So I decided to start every month with a post that brings inspiration for myself and for you, my dear reader.

Begin it now!

And I could not share with you a quote from William Hutchison Murray citing the last two sentences from the German philosopher Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe that inspired me in an important moment of my life. When my family and I decided to move to another country, I read it every day and it keeps inspiring me to make my dreams come true. My last one, publishing a book, that I tell more about after the quote.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

William Hutchison Murray, citing the last paragraph from Goethe.

Inspiration from the sky

In November of 2019, I finally brought out to the world a children’s story that I wrote and illustrated 2 years ago: Helio meets Luna-Luna meets Helio. (You can buy it here and support a new author in her journey to become a professional writer). I had to translate it to English, as I originally wrote it in Portuguese, and find out by myself how to self-publish. It was quite a work and gave me a lot of insomnia, but in the end, I loved the result. 

The cover of Heiio meets Luna – Lunas meets Helio. The sense of cycles and the continuity of life is experienced also by starting the reading by any side of the book.

The story itself is an inspiration for me. Two archetypes are presented in the characters: male and female, Sun and Moon, Helio and Luna. They go through different paths, wonder about their changes, doubt if there is anything else, and eventually find each other. And in this meeting everything makes sense. Like an eclipse, the encounter is ephemeral but brings hope for new cycles and new beginnings.

A page of the book about cycles, paths and meetings. The poetical inspiration to start a new year.

About flowers and Primavesi

And to finalize the January´s inspiration to begin the year with joy, a picture of a flower that I saw yesterday, after some days of snow. This simple plant flowering on a concrete corner on such harsh weather made me realize the following.

January´s inspiration: about flowers

And this sentence I dedicate to Ana Primavesi, the centenary jatoba who tumbled today with 99 years old. Leaving a legacy on Agronomic Science and on all of us inspired for her fight for nature. Thanks for the seeds of care and love you spread all around the globe. You are the flower I am talking about. 


Do you have some inspirational quotes, pictures, songs, or videos you would like to share? Contact us and help us to write February´s inspiration post.

Love and Gratitude,

Juliana Troll Trujillo

IWalComm creator

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The Holy Nights and a reflection about dark times

Three years ago, in the middle of December, I went to a lecture on the school I used to work. A lovely lady named Luciana Pinheiro* came from Campinas to São Carlos to talk to us about the 12 Holy Nights. Until that moment, I had no idea what it was and how important it would become in my life. So, in this post, right before Christmas, I want to share with you my experience with it, and maybe inspire you to try it too. Also, I will exhibit a critical reflection about the terrible times we are living in and the significance of practices like this.


But, there are 12 or 13 Holy Nights?

At the turning-point of time, 

The Spirit-Light of the World  

Entered the stream of Earthly Evolution.  

Darkness of Night had held its sway;  

Day-radiant Light poured into the souls of men,  

Light that gave warmth to simple shepherds’ hearts,  

Light that enlightened the wise heads of kings.

  O Light Divine! O Sun of Christ!  

Warm Thou our hearts,  Enlighten Thou our heads,  

That good may become  

What from our hearts we would find  

And from our heads direct  

With a single purpose.

Rudolf Steiner

First, we have to understand what they are. On our calendars, we consider the year zero the one predicted to be when the Christ would be born. Scholars say the real birth happened a few years earlier, but this subject is not for this post. So, our society considers two different eras: before and after Christ. However, it is not only a temporal mark. The birth of the baby Jesus has a deeper spiritual meaning: the birth of light in a world full of darkness.

So the defenceless infant in the arms of a caring mother, protected by the father, symbolizes the birth of the human “I.” This image makes the memory of our destinies and paths as individuals and as humankind. Then that almost magical scene became the signal of eternity renewed yearly, and the child, an archetype of spiritual development over all humans.

After his birth, the tree Wise Man started a journey to find the divine boy and to present him with symbolic gifts. That period between Jesus’ birth on December 25th to the arrival of the Wise Man on January 6th is known as the Holy Nights.

Christmas tree star
The star illuminated the path to the Tree Wise man for 12 nights, and since then, every year the divine light comes over us all to guide us through the following year.

In my research to write this article, I found different types of counting, starting and ending on different days. For instance, most of the North Hemisphere countries consider the start of the meditative day on the dawn, while in the South, at midnight. Some say the start day is on December 24th, others on the 25th. And the same occurs with the ending on January 5th or 6th. Either way, the essential part of the process is not so much the exact time of your meditation, but the intentions you put on it.

So during this time, it is said that the communication paths between the Earth and the Spiritual world are open, and divine blessings pour over us through the portals of the 12 constellations of the zodiac. 


How does it work?

Each night symbolizes a month of the following year and has a corresponding constellation and meditation. On that first workshop that I participated in, Luciana also talked about a stone that represents each day and brings specific characteristics to the meditation. So considering this, we should call it 12 Holy Nights. Yes, but most people use the night of December 24th or January 6th to have a glimpse of the whole year. That way, we can also say 13 Holy Nights. So, it is your choice, as it is not a standardized process.

Holy Nights open notebook
The notebook I made last year. Small to be carried into my purse in case I have to travel during the Holidays. It is nice to take some time to make your own notebook with one page for each the meditations you can find further on this article, followed by one page for each question, one for the dreams, feelings, and music´s notes, other for key-words, and the last one to the feedback. Repeat it for each month.

According to Steiner, each day is also governed by a spiritual hierarchy. (https://wn.rsarchive.org/GA/GA0110/19090412a01.html) Then, the first thing before you go to sleep each night is to ask a question related to the month to be meditated to the hierarchy of the day.

It is essential to create an environment of devotion and calm within yourself. We all know this time of the year is full of distractions and duties invented to divert us from our inner life. But be persistent, and you will discover amazing things about your following year, as it happened to me in these past three years when I dedicated myself to this practice. It is not a tool to plan your year, but it is a gift that allows us to be aware of what may happen and prepare our feelings and souls for what is about to come. 


Step-by-step

Here are some basic daily steps for beginners:

Lighting the candle for the Holy Nights
Prepare yourself to receive the light of 2020.
  1. Prepare the environment with something that relaxes and brings your attention to yourself, like a candle, aromatherapy, or a song.
  2. Do your meditation about that day and write a question to the correspondent hierarchy. Think of something that you might expect for that month, but avoid queries with “why” or “how.” Don’t try to find reasons, just events or feelings.
  3. Live a notebook and a pen beside your bed in case you wake up in the middle of the night with an image or feeling in mind. Write as soon as you can to avoid losing important information. Dreams use to vanish really fast, and materializing them by writing will help you to remember more details in the morning. And, even in the dark, try to write them on the order you dreamed. This can be more meaningful than the dream itself.
  4. As soon as you wake up, take a deep breath and try to remember the last dreams, feelings, songs, poems, verses, or whatever comes to your mind. Write them down in order.
  5. Now try to rewrite the drafts of the night, remembering all the details that come to your mind.
  6. Underline the essential words or sentences.
  7. Meditate over that images having your question to the hierarchy in mind. Don’t censor the flow of your ideas.
  8. Summarize the ideas in a few key-words.
  9. If you feel something, or start to sing a song, or meet someone during the day, you can always add that to your notes. It is not only what happens during the dream time that counts. Sometimes you may not have dreams, but a lot of things can happen during the day that will bring an answer to your question. So be attentive!

12 (or 13) Holy Night meditations in 5 languages

You can find the meditations in these links:

English 1

English 2

Brazilian Portuguese 1

Brazilian Portuguese 2

French

German 1

German 2

Spanish 1

Spanish 2

(Please, let me know if some link is not working).


My experience with the Holy Nights

One month that I will never forget is August 2017. On my small notebook that fit in the palm of my hand, I asked the questions: “How my life will be in general? How will I be dealing with my internal questions?” 

The dream I had that night is still as bright as water in my mind. A scene from the movie Titanic with musicians calmly playing while the ship sinks, people over the wreckage, swimming after the lifeboats. So, on my meditation page, I wrote that “ideas and ideals that have been the foundation of my life until then will sink. Art will bring me calm at this moment. There will be a great effort to survive, but I will pass through the storm.”

Holy Nights notebooks
My Holy Night notebooks from 2017 to 2019.

On that month, right on my birthday, I decided that I would not profess the religion I was born into and which I had intensely proclaimed for the last 30 years. My religiosity was my Titanic, and it sank indeed. It was a hard, however, a liberating moment of my biography.


The reflection about dark times

Writing about this important milestone in my history, I realized how much my view about life, religion, religiosity, and religious symbols changed. Also, after watching this video from Nina Veiga** to prepare myself for Christmas, I thought it was essential to bring light to a delicate subject within this post. With the raising of a fascist wave in numerous countries, everyone must be awake to what this political movement could mean to your community and to your individuality.

Colourful knitting ball
Fighting fascist ideals with love, art, and education. The enlightenment of the Holy Nights can help us all to overcome this dark period of our era.

Why am I saying that here? Well, first, because after I decided to become not religious, I was able to see and feel how someone who thinks outside the mainstream religious ideology is treated. Moreover, I realized how I was unfair and judgy while I was submerged into that religious frame.

Only when we know deeply about the other, and the other’s believes we can free ourselves from the hegemonic view of life. And the interest of these raging people in charge of many governments is to keep their status and power. And it happens by reinforcing old, misogynous, racist, homophobic, violent, and religious thoughts over the population. So the people who think and act differently will always be an enemy. Thus, what can we do as educators, teachers, parents, and citizens to avoid the support of these destroying actions without hurting our own faith and beliefs? What kind of changes in our routines, celebrations and symbols should we adopt as a protest in favour of life and diversity? 

The immanence of the times

I love the term Nina uses to describe this way to look and deal with the change in times inside the study of the man conducted by Steiner: Anthroposophy of Immanence. The times are changing fast, our culture and costumes too. So how the anthroposophical study can or should be moulded to adapt to our times, being more inclusive and propagating the good? I hope to delve into this subject and bring more questions about it in the next posts because this one is already too long.

Please, share your thoughts and come to build with me the world we want for our children and for us. You are welcome to continue this conversation in our Forum


I just would like to finish this post wishing you, your family, your community, and your country a Merry and Peaceful Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivals of Light, Summer/Winter Solstice, or just December 25th. It does not matter to whom or what you pray on this day. What is essential is to celebrate and keep the divine light shining inside ourselves!

Start and candle
Let the Divine Light shine upon us all!

Love and Gratitude!

Juliana Troll Trujillo

IWalComm creator

* Luciana de Andrade Pinheiro Ventre is a Biographical Advisor and Art Educator, Specialist in Anthroposophy 

**Nina Veiga is a Brazilian Doctor of Education, writer and Waldorf Educator. Know more about her on www.ninaveiga.com.br

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Celebrating Advent: Preparing our Hearts

The gift of the light we thankfully take,

 But not shall it be alone for our sake, 

The more we give light, the one to the other,

 It shines and it spreads, growing still further;

 Until every spark by friends set aflame, 

Until every heart, the joy to proclaim;

 In the depths of our souls, 

A shining sun glows. 

Advent Spiral Song

The cold weather already slows down our outside activities in the Northern Hemisphere, while the Sun warms up the air making everybody go out on the Southern. So, it is time to celebrate the Advent by preparing our hearts to receive the Christmas light.

Exactly four Sundays before Christmas, a time of wait and anticipation begins. It can last 24 to 28 days, depending on the day of the week Christmas is in that year.

Understanding the Origins

Adventus in Latin means “coming.” It is the moment of the expectation of something that is about to happen. In Christian’s religions is the coming of baby Jesus, who will later become the Christ, the Savior of humankind.

Romans before Christ considered the Winter Solstice on that date, not on the 21st, as we now understand to be the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere. So, Christians in the 3rd Century adopted the date of Summer Solstice, March 25th at the time, to celebrate Jesus’ conception, as he was seen in the scriptures as the Sun (“Unto you shall the sun of righteousness arise, and healing is in his wings.” Malachi 4:2). Ergo, precisely 9 months later, the Catholic Church defined his birthday.

Pinecone Nativity scene, celebrating Advent
A simple Nativity Scene made with natural materials.

But Roman pagans before Christ celebrated the Nativity of the Sun on that date amidst the mid-winter celebrations, which even includes a virgin goddess who gives birth to him. Coincidence? Who knows. Although, some historians say that the origin of what we know today to be Christmas, including most of the traditions, is the Yule-feast of the Norsemen and the Roman Saturnalia, two non-Christian festivals.*

Why am I telling this in a post about Advent? Well, it is essential to understand that Christmas is not connected with only one specific religion. Mostly it has, above the faith, an archetypical element: the image of a child that comes to World to bring light. And more than a real child, it is our inside light that shines outside of us when the World is in its darkest moment (considering the North of the globe).

Therefore, it is not the religious ideas, but the religiosity of the moment that must take place, mostly inside a school environment with different religious backgrounds.

So, how to celebrate Advent?

A number of different traditions can be used to celebrate Advent. From an Advent Wreath to an Advent Calendar, each of these activities may have special meanings and bring distinctive feelings and devotion to this observance period.

If you have a Christian tradition in your family, you can set up a table with a Nativity scene. You can buy one, but I highly recommend you make your own. I have mine since 2015, and it made me develop a routine to build it. I started with Mary, Joseph and the Donkey in scenery made basically with felt. Day after day, a new item or character appeared on the scene. The first week items from the mineral Kingdom, on the second, plants and flowers; the third animals and, last but not least, humans and objects made by them. And this is because I was telling every day the Russian legend of the four angels of Advent.

The Four Angels of Advent

(translated from herenotes about how to tell the story using the Advent Wreath in italic)

Advent Wreath with one candle of each colour: blue, green, yellow, and red. These colours symbolize the four kingdoms of the story: Mineral, Vegetal, Animal, and Human. You can be creative to make your Wreath: some green branches, some support for the candles and ornaments like pine cones, nutshells, shiny rocks, or any natural element that is easily found in your city.

“Long ago, men lived in the World, but they could not build houses, nor plant and care for the land. They lived in caves where it was dark, it had no light.

God then called the Angels to bring light to the four corners of the World and warn men that the Son of God would come.

The first Angel had blue wings. He went to illuminate the caves and caves with a ray of light that the Sun gave him. It was this ray of sunlight that helped the dwarves make coloured stones. This Angel brought the rain, and she washed the stones, filled the lakes, made the rivers run faster. (Now we light the blue candle. The story finishes here in the first week).

The second Angel had green wings. He left the sky very early, but as he was flying slowly, he came to earth at dusk. The ray of light this Angel brought colour and perfume to the plants. He also taught men how to plant and make the soil very soft to receive the seed. (Now we light the green candle. The story finishes here in the second week).

The third Angel had yellow wings. He went close to the Sun, and the Sun gave him a ray of his light to bring him to earth. When he was coming, the animals saw that light and were amazed. The Angel then explained that an exceptional child would be born and that everyone should prepare to receive it. The birds made beautiful songs, the butterflies coloured their wings, the fur animals talked to each other about the event, and the wind spread the news everywhere.  (Now we light the yellow candle. The story finishes here in the third week).

The fourth Angel had red wings. He wanted so much to help the men that he soon went to talk to God, didn’t expect to be called. God took a light from his throne and told the red Angel to put that light in the heart of every man, every woman, every child. Because the day of the birth of Jesus was very near. (Now we light the red candle).

This is why we still light 4 candles in the Advent wreath to remind the four angels who warned us of the arrival of the Son of God.”

Small gestures prepare our hearts

The first light of Advent is the light of stones

 The light that shines in crystals in seashells and in bones 

The second light of Advent is the light of plants

 Green plants that reach up to the light and in the breezes dance 

The third light of Advent is the light of beasts 

That shines in all creatures in greatest and in the least 

The fourth light of Advent is the human light

 The light of hope and of thought, to know and do what’s right

Advent Wreath lights

I’ve been telling this same story for the past three years, and my children are never tired of it.

Every morning, as soon as we all wake up and they discover what new thing the “angel” put on the Nativity Scene, we all sit around the Calendar, and I start to tell the story.

Celebrating Advent with a Nativity scene.
In the first week of Advent: only minerals besides the main characters. Rocks, sand, stars, lakes, clouds.
In the second week, vegetables start to show up: trees, moss, flowers, leaves, branches.
In the third, animals: chicken, cow, sheep, fishes, butterflies.
In the forth, humans and what they build: Shepards, fences, tools, bridge, the manger, and the barn where baby Jesus will be born.
Finally, on December 25th, Jesus shows up. As a mother, I don´t like to leave Jesus on the manger, so I put him on Mary´s arms.

While each candle of the Wreath is lit during the narrative, a respectful silence echoes in the living room. The young shining eyes and glowing hearts eager for this light.

After the story reaches its end, which is different in each week, we open the day task on the Advent Calendar. Each family can build its own according to their time and availability. Some put a treat inside a small bag, others some verse to read out loud, others only a star that moves each day until Christmas.

Despite my busy life, I always like to put some activities in our daily routines. It is something that inspires the Christmas spirit in the whole family. Simple tasks like “Make a cake with the family”, “Donate toys that you don’t play with any more”, “Walk around the town to see the Christmas ornaments”, “Make cards for the loved ones”, “Sing and dance Christmas songs”, “Compliment someone today” or only “Give a warm hug to someone you love.”

These small gestures usually make me focus on the meaning of this season. A simple gift amid the craziness of the busy life at the end of the year. It is an intense and rewarding experience, I can assure you.

Wonderful ideas for Advent

There are infinite ways to celebrate this time of waiting and searching on the internet I found a lot of great ideas. Check them below:

  • The Waldorf Connection: All the winter festivals – an excellent guide for beginners and experts with stories, poems, verses and activities.
  • Pinterest inspirations for Advent (by the way, follow us there clicking on the button at the end of the post).
  • Collecting the moments- A mom’s experience with an Advent wreath.

The Advent Spiral

Candle, candle, burning bright

Shining in the cold winter night

Candle, candle, burning bright

Fill our hearts with Christmas Light

Light the Advent Candle one

Now the waiting has begun

We have started on our way

Time to think of Christmas Day

Light the Advent Candle two

Think of humble shepherds who

Filled with wonder at the sight

Of the child on Christmas night

Light the Advent Candle three

Think of heavenly harmony

Angels singing “Peace on Earth”

At the Blessed Saviour’s birth

Light the Advent Candle four

Think of joy forevermore

Christ child in a stable born

Gift of love that Chrismas morn

Advent Song

There is one beautiful and meaningful act that most Waldorf Schools do. The Advent Spiral reminds us that we must go inside ourselves to bring our lights outside. In other words, this special and silent event warms our souls.

Evergreen branches forming a spiral with a candle in the middle is the symbol of the path we must endeavour to find our inner light and bring out love and peace to the World. Certainly, this quiet, simple and profound action prepares our hearts for the festivities of Christmas. Moreover, it is a reminder, a visual metaphor of what we should do daily, not only at this time of the year.

As I did not have a picture of an Advent Spiral, I inserted this picture of the Advent Wreath me and my children made this morning as the first task of the Calendar. We chose the branches and ornaments together. As I did not have at home the colourful candles, I used the white ones I had and rolled metal wires and a rattle of each colour around each candle holder to identify the weeks. It just takes some energy, creativity and a few supplies you probably have at your home.

Now you have some ideas to prepare your Advent with your family or with your class. Please share the activities you do with us. And leave a comment if you like the post telling what kind of subject inside Waldorf Education do you want to read about. Also, if you have any questions regarding Waldorf Education, go to our Forum and we are going to try to answer you as soon as possible or find someone who can.

Other sources and references about Advent and Christmas

*Christmas before Christ, Jerold Aust: it is an article from a church´s newspaper, but have some interesting quotes from historians and questionings about the beginning of the Christmas traditions.

Why Christmas: Christmas’ history, traditions and activities.

Christianity: explanations about the Advent.

Christams ornaments made withnatural materials and felt
And remember, Christmas should be about sharing moments and not buying things. So how about to spend some delightful moments with your children making some handcrafted Christmas ornaments? Try it out and let me know how it went.

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Communication methods inside the school: an academic review and the questions we must answer

Why schools should take more effort in engaging parents

As a mother and a former secretary and faculty member, I know that the most challenging part of the job inside a school is dealing with parents and make them engage in the proposed activities. It is well known that “parental involvement greatly influences students’ academic processes, their attitudes towards schooling and their educational success”[1]. Besides, Cary adds “higher enrollment in more challenging academic classes, better attendance and improved behaviour at home and at school” [3]. This result is seen in “families of all economic, racial/ethnic and educational backgrounds and for students at all ages” [3].

Bardroff & Tann summarize this theme by saying that “parental involvement can have a tremendous effect on the academic achievement of students” [2].

So why it is so hard to involve parents into the institution that is responsible for four to eight hours, five days a week of their children’s lives?

As a parent or a teacher, are you ready to jump in the waters of clear communication in your community to improve your child´s wellbeing?

Communication between schools and families is the key to success in this realm. However, even though most of the institutions still do not know how to do it properly, and miscommunication can make parents keep away or even rethink their choice even more on the internet and social media times. We, as human beings, are in the early stages to find out the consequences of the number of hours spent on technological apparatus in our daily routines.

In a Waldorf environment, this is not so different from any other community nowadays. Even though Rudolf Steiner schools do not have any technological device available in the classroom for the use of students, parents and teachers try to make the best use of email, apps and social media in order to improve communication. This text intends to show some recent studies about the theme and propose some questions to meliorate the information paths inside your community.

Communication inside schools: a two-way road    

“A Waldorf school is a living organization involving many people who each have their own relationship to the endeavor, and who find themselves in groups that have particular roles and responsibilities – all important to the overall function and health of the organism.”

M Soule, A New Image of Waldorf School Organization

           It is well-known that “many parents and teachers are still reluctant to use such media to enhance two-way pedagogical communication” [1]. However, it is impossible to deny that, somehow, these tools made the information reach its destiny in a more efficient way than the good old face-to-face.

Nevertheless, still according to Borbalda and Bochaca, this technology was used mostly to transmit information [1], not differentiating so much of the old student diary or notebook with the teacher errands for the day, and the parents´ role was just read it.

Information and Communication Technologies, also known as ICT, permitted parents and teachers to improve their relationship by using “easy, efficient, and effective methods of transferring information” [2]. Bardroff and Tann’s study shows that when the family is conscientious of what happens inside of the classroom, they can help the child in the learning process [2].

So teachers, don’t be afraid to talk with parents. They are your most precious allies when it is about the wellbeing and educational growth of their children. They are not your enemies, but even though you should keep them as close as possible to you and the school.

How to do it? 

“To believe that anthroposophists always rail against new technology is to seriously misunderstand this movement and its contribution to our knowledge of the human being. It is necessary to see the complexities of life from a holistic perspective.”

Rudolf Steiner *

Now that we understand the importance of having the parents’ support, we have to ask the question: How we do it in this 21st-century world?

Bordalba and Bochaca said that “alignment between the parents’ and the teachers’ behaviours is required” [1] which means they should agree about the paths information will travel. As institutions, schools should not wait for the parents to manifest their needs, but the managers should take the lead and guide the parents into digital communication. The use of technology does not mean to avoid the daily talks and goes massively into Digital Communication because it will not result in active engagement.

Still, according to Bordalba and Bochaca’s study, some teachers successfully adopted a double method in communication: face-to-face and virtual, using emails or some other platform. This situation occurred mostly because some families did not agree to use the digital medium to do it [1].

A school should feel like home not only for the students but also for parents. Open doors and open heart make the communication flow.

Talk to your child’s teacher in person is the essential aspect of a Waldorf school, not only in the scheduled meeting but in a daily or weekly routine about occasional ongoings and needs. The regular exchange enables teachers to know the general state of the students and parents to understand the behaviour and development of their child or teenager.

Digital media, on the other hand, is a variety of methods to share straightforward information between school (administration and faculty) and families. Simple information is, for instance, celebration reminders, copies of documents, calling for some activity, advertise some events, and so on. Therefore, “the role of ICT is just to redistribute the channels for a better communication, choosing the most suitable medium according to the nature and purpose of the message”[1].

Teachers’ communication over the grades

“There is no desire on our part to deride technical innovations, but we should be able to keep our eyes open to what they do to us, and we should find ways to compensate for any harmful effects. Such matters are especially important to teachers, because they have to relate education to ordinary life. What we do at school and with children is not the only thing that matters. The most important thing is that school and everything related to education must relate to life in the fullest sense. This implies that those who choose to be educators must be familiar with events in the larger world; they must know and recognize life in its widest context. “

Rudolf Steiner *

However, the communication pattern also changes according to the students’ grades. While the little ones need more attention and direct conversation with parents, the higher levels of students are more independent and can deal themselves with teachers. So, this is directly related to the fact that lower grades ́s teacher emails parents more, while the other end, teachers exchange more emails among themselves [4].

 As parents, we should realize that in any communication system, there are barriers that interrupt or block the flow and affects the teacher deeply in his role. Sometimes teachers experience “‘ socio-cultural,’ ‘accessibility,’ and ‘field and status’ related barriers” in singular moments, while the “‘individual’ barriers” are more common to happen, which is worse for novice educators at the school [6]. So, being a mother or father in any school demands perseverance in communicating with the teacher and availability to assist the professor with the transmission of general information. Only a supportive community can communicate appropriately and effectively.

A supportive community starts with each one of us.

About digital Communication, Kuusimaki et al. say that it is “one of the necessary twenty-first-century skills, including both technical and communication competences,” and teachers should use it to provide “truthful and supportive feedback to students and parents in different learning environments” [5]. Nevertheless, the teacher and the school board must set the limits between using virtual tools to send parents’ observations and comments on the student’s life and the interference of the families in the classroom’s decisions. Definitely, it is not an easy task.

Questions for the school community

“It is man’s thinking and inventiveness that has brought about technological innovation. Curiosity, playfulness and imagination are qualities that should be encouraged in education if we wish to perpetuate technological growth

David Mitchel, Technology and the Celebration of Work as Developed in Waldorf Education

Then, defining these limits is essential to improve the scholar wellbeing. Moreover, make all the reasons clear to the involved parts allows the acceptance of those rules. 

So, a community with communication issues should ask these questions as a group:

A. How our communication occurs nowadays?

B. How is the ideal communication inside of the school in our point of view?

C. What subjects must be discussed face-to-face and which can be discussed by emails or other digital platforms?

D. Face-to-face communication has any specific moment of the daily or weekly routine to happen? Why is that?

E. Which digital platforms will be used, and why? 

F. Who is responsible for sending each type of information? I highly recommend making a chart with pictures of the responsible person of each subject to turn this abstract information flow more visible to everyone. To place it on a wall in the main corridor and to send a copy for each family is the best way to make people go after the right information.

The middle way    

“When new inventions affect modern life, we must take steps to balance any possible ill effects by finding appropriate countermeasures. We must try to compensate for any weakening of the human constitution through our outer influences by strengthening ourselves from within. But, in this age of ever-increasing specialization, this is possible only through a new art of education based on true knowledge of the human being.”     

Rudolf Steiner *

 Although technology harms are not so clear for science and for all of us who make use of it, we must consider that they are sometimes the easiest way to reach all the community. So, find the balance and avoid an overwhelming amount of information at once.

Let’s use it wisely and encourage parents’ engagement in real encounters and talks. After all, a screen cannot transmit feelings and expressions, and a “lol” is nothing but words compared to a real shared laugh.

When we put our hearts in our schools, every communication issue is easily fixed.

References

1. Bordalba, M.M., and Bochaca, J.G. (2019). Digital Media for Family-School Communication? Parents’ and Teachers’ Beliefs. Computers & Education, 132, 44–62. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2019.01.006. 

 2. Bardroff, L., & Tann, J. (2012). Improving parent involvement in secondary schools through communication technology. The Journal of Literacy and Technology, 13(1), 30–54. https://goo.gl/CeCd8J.

3. Cary, A. (2006). How strong communication contributes to student and school success: parent and family involvement. Maryland, U.S.: National School Public Relations Association. https://goo.gl/Dd7AX3. 

 4. Hu, C., Wong, A., Cheah, H. M., & Wong, P. (2009). Patterns of email use by teachers and implications: A Singapore experience. Computers & Education, 53(3), 623–631. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2009.04.007. 

5. Kuusimaki, A.-M., Uusitalo-Malmivaara, L., & Tirri, K. (2019). Parents’ and Teachers’ Views on Digital Communication in Finland. Education Research International. https://doi-org.ezproxy.okanagan.bc.ca/10.1155/2019/8236786

6. Ozmen, F., Akuzum, C., Zincirli, M., & Selcuk, G. (2016). The Communication Barriers between Teachers and Parents in Primary Schools. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, (66), 27–46. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.okanagan.bc.ca/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1149130&site=eds-live&scope=site.

7. Citations retrieved from: https://www.waldorflibrary.org/images/stories/articles/WJP19issue.pdf

8. From “Soul Economy and Waldorf Education” lectures given in Dornach, Switzerland, December 23, 1921 to January 5, 1922—from the lecture given on December 31, 1921: “Children from the Seventh to the Tenth Year”


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To lighten our inner selves: The Lantern Festivities

“I go with my bright little lantern

My lantern is going with me

In heaven stars are shinning

On earth shines my lantern for me.´´

Song from “The girl of the lantern´´ play

On November 11th, several communities celebrate Saint Martin. His history lightens the good all of us have inside.

Born at the beginning of the fourth century, in which is now Hungary, grew up in northern Italy. Martin was the son of a Roman army officer and a pagan woman. After serving the emperor cavalry, he established a monastic foundation and was acclaimed bishop of Tours. [1]

Besides the vast number of miracles attributed to Saint Martin of Tours and his life of humbleness, there is a legend that sparkles the light of this festivity.


Legend of Saint Martin´s cloak (The whole story was taken from reference [2])

The Charity of St. Martin, by Jean Fouquet . Retrieved from: http://expositions.bnf.fr/fouquet/grand/f121.htm

“Accordingly, at a certain period, when he had nothing except his arms and his simple military dress, in the middle of winter, a winter which had shown itself more severe than ordinary, so that the extreme cold was proving fatal to many, he happened to meet at the gate of the city of Amiens a poor man destitute of clothing. He was entreating those that passed by to have compassion upon him, but all passed the wretched man without notice, when Martin, that man full of God, recognized that a being to whom others showed no pity was, in that respect, left to him.

Yet, what should he do? He had nothing except the cloak in which he was clad, for he had already parted with the rest of his garments for similar purposes. Taking, therefore, his sword with which he was girt, he divided his cloak into two equal parts, and gave one part to the poor man, while he again clothed himself with the remainder. Upon this, some of the by-standers laughed, because he was now an unsightly object, and stood out as but partly dressed. Many, however, who were of sounder understanding, groaned deeply because they themselves had done nothing similar. They especially felt this, because, being possessed of more than Martin, they could have clothed the poor man without reducing themselves to nakedness.

In the following night, when Martin had resigned himself to sleep, he had a vision of Christ arrayed in that part of his cloak with which he had clothed the poor man. He contemplated the Lord with the greatest attention and was told to own as his the robe which he had given. Ere long, he heard Jesus saying with a clear voice to the multitude of angels standing round — “Martin, who is still but a catechumen, clothed me with this robe.” The Lord, truly mindful of his own words (who had said when on earth — “Inasmuch] as ye have done these things to one of the least of these, ye have done them unto me”), declared that he himself had been clothed in that poor man; and to confirm the testimony he bore to so good a deed, he condescended to show him himself in that very dress which the poor man had received.

After this vision the sainted man was not puffed up with human glory, but, acknowledging the goodness of God in what had been done, and being now of the age of twenty years, he hastened to receive baptism. He did not, however, all at once, retire from military service, yielding to the entreaties of his tribune, whom he admitted being his familiar tent-companion. For the tribune promised that after the period of his office had expired, he too would retire from the world.

Martin kept back by the expectation of this event, continued, although but in name, to act the part of a soldier, for nearly two years after he had received baptism.´´


But why there is this celebration in Waldorf Schools?

Multiplying the light. Lakeside School 2019 Lantern walk.

“My light shines bright all through the night Ba bim ba la bim ba la bim.

My light grows deep as we go in ba bim ba la bim ba la bim.´´

Song from “The girl of the lantern´´ play

There are a handful of traditions since middle ages on St. Martin’s Day. In Flanders, parts of the Netherlands, and the Catholic areas of Germany and Austria still participate in paper lantern processions. A man in a horse representing the Saint, songs about him and lanterns chanted when the sun is already set on November 11th.

And Waldorf schools bring to this celebration a deeper meaning. 

In the Northern hemisphere, the Autumn is intensely undressing the trees and welcoming the cold. You may find schools that represent the legend told above in verse and music. The goodness and this kind of act reverberate in the children´s and the adults´ hearts. After the presentation, lanterns are lit, and a procession with the community in the schoolyard or in neighbourhood streets is made. Candles´ flickering fire and melodies about the inner light in all of us enlighten the paths and the present souls.

As well in the Southern hemisphere, this celebration happens in the Autumn, which means May or June. As Saint Martin´s festivity occurs in the South in Springtime, an adaptation was made. In some schools celebrated with Saint John´s festivities, in others as a singular festival. Still, in both cases, the light in the lanterns warms up hearts while “The girl of the lantern´´ story is performed by parents or older students. 


The girl of the Lantern

The story of “The girl of the lantern´´ drawn in a lantern.

As Saint Martin´s, this story encourages us to do what is right. This girl, whose lantern was extinguished by the wind, tries to find help to gain her light back, but no animals or humans were willing to support her. Then the stars show her the way, and the Sun relumes her candle. Even after her long journey, she shares her fire with the ones who denied help to her. The light of compassion and love is reinflamed after this staging.


Shining our lights

Lanterns shining waiting for the walk. Lakeside School 2019 Lantern walk.

The cold air softly strolling among coats and hats, the candles inside handmade lanterns waiting for their big moment, hearts avid for inspiration among a busy routine: the atmosphere is magical. One by one, the lanterns gain hot orange colours with the help of teachers who go with their long candles multiplying the fire. Families walk and sing some well-known melodies in a respectful and hearty ritual that leads all to look inside and increase the flame of hope and love that gleams in our hearts.

The expectations, the music, and the silence after the walk echos for days after the celebration. 

And our lanterns still shine brightly into days and nights.

Love and Gratitude,

Juliana Troll Trujillo

IWalComm creator

Lanterns made of paper glimmering in the dark night.

“The sunlight fast is dwindling,

my little lamp need kindling,

the beam shines far in darkest night,

dear lantern guard me with your light.´´

Song “The sunlight fast is dwindling

REFERENCES

[1]Saint Martin history: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_of_Tours#Legacy 

[2] Legend of Saint Martin´s cloak http://www.users.csbsju.edu/~eknuth/npnf2-11/sulpitiu/lifemart.html

Lakeside School – Kelowna, BC – Canada
www.lakesideschoolkelowna.ca

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It´s time to celebrate!

Almost everybody involved in a Waldorf community already knows that in 2019 we are celebrating the Centennial of Waldorf Education.

(If you wanna know more about the beginning of this beautiful and challenging history, click in this link)

Waldorf 100 logo, retrieved from waldorf-100.org

Waldorf 100 is the name given to the series of events that schools all over the world are planning to celebrate this important date when the first Waldorf School began.

To improve the environment by promoting bees reproduction, create artistical productions as musical compositions and drama projects, incentive body movements with a World-Wide Marathon, share knowledge in an International congress and exchange postcards among the 1182 schools and some of the 1911 kindergartens (numbers registered until April 2019) are only the main international activities scheduled. There are many other initiatives inside each school, accordingly with their on reality and possibilities.

And all these actions run around the theme of this festivity.


Logo and theme. Retrieved from waldorf-100.org

LEARN to CHANGE the WORLD

It couldn´t be different, right? We could even say that this is the first educational principle inside Rudolf Steiner schools. Since early childhood, respect to the self, the other, and the environment generated by pedagogical bases are developed by emotional intelligence before the intellectual one.

Children learn the good around them that allows hope to grow within, the beauty in everything that cultivates creativity, and the truth that shows them what needs to be changed. In all these years, they learn how to learn and it is the most important lesson they can take to their lives. They feel capable and confident in any path they choose to go.


Paths to celebration

Doesn´t matter where in the globe you are, or what is the size of your school, or how it is formatted, you are invited to join thousands of people at this birthday party that will last for more than a year (Yey!).

The Waldorf Centennial – Join the festivities. Retrieved from waldorf-100.org.

Videos

If you still didn´t saw all the wonderful Waldorf 100 videos made to show the world what Waldorf education is in different countries, cultures and realities, I recommend you to watch them with tissue paper. It is impossible not to get emotional even if you are not part of a Waldorf school (yet).

Waldorf 100 – Film
Waldorf 100- Film Part 2
Waldorf 100 – Becoming…

All the videos above are in English. You can see all of them here in other languages.


Projects

If you want to know more about the projects being developed during the year, you can visit the following links

Core projects of Waldorf 100 – Pictures retrieved from waldorf-100.org

CORE PROJECTS

In this link you may check the five core projects of Waldorf 100:
Marathon around the World
Metamorphoses
Bees and Trees
Postcard exchange
Drama Project “Where is humankind?´´


Bird’s eye view of Waldorf 100 – Picture retrieved from waldorf-100.org.

OTHER PROJECTS

Here you can find out what other projects are being developed worldwide, including international teacher exchange and actions beyond the schools´ walls.

The festivities already started. Take a look at what happened in Berlin, Germany at the anniversary festival on September 19, 2019. There are three videos of three hours each with amazing performances, deep discussions and a lot of emotion. So prepare the popcorn and enjoy this incredible event.


FESTIVAL

Festival´s Program cover. Retrieved from waldorf-100.org

Did you lose the Festival? Don´t worry, you can watch it in the comfort of your leaving room. And prepare yourself for this fantastic and long presentation (nine hours in total). It is divided into three videos:

“See the World” in the morning
“Love the World” in the afternoon
“Change the World” in the evening

Love the World – The afternoon program. Retrieved from waldorf-100.org.

Most parts of the speeches are in German with English synchronization in part of it. Even if you don´t understand what is being said, it is worth to check the elaborated and beautiful presentations that more than 140 schools prepared for this special date.

You can watch the three of them directly on the Waldorf 100 page, clicking on Livestream.


And what you and your school is doing to celebrate this special date? Please leave a comment telling us.

And how you and your community are changing the world? Retrieved from waldorf-100.org

Love and gratitude,

Juliana Troll Trujillo

IWalComm creator

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Improving multi-language communication: How to understand and make yourself understood all around the Internet World.

“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.”

Rollo May

In a World each day more interconnected, sometimes communication can become a problem instead of a solution. In front of a screen dealing with words, understand the feelings and intentions behind them is a difficult job, if not to say impossible. That´s because written letters don´t have tone, intensity or mood. Even an all-capitalized sentence with overwhelming punctuation may be a mad scream or an enthusiastic celebration, as in the following example:

 OH MY GOD…… YOU ARE CRAZY!!!!

Hard to tell, right? It all depends on the context, but sometimes not even understanding the whole idea can avoid different readers to read it in different ways.

So, it is essential to be careful with everything we write online. On IWalComm, we prioritize proper communication and incentivize our readers-users-members-supporters-friends to use the same methods in all their social media writings.

To develop a respectful environment that encourages a healthy sharing of ideas, experiences and knowledge, we motivate you to follow this simple guide.

GUIDE TO POSTS AND COMMENTS

Find the best path, find the best words, find the best way.
STEP 1 – WRITING

Before you write pass your words to the triple-filters test of Socrates (the whole story may be read here):

  • A. Is it TRUTH? Do I have the references for the study? Did I live it myself to pass on a reliable description of what happened, or it was only something that someone told me?) 
  • B. Is it KIND? – What I am writing is good? Is it hurt someone in some way? Would I like someone to talk about me or something I did?
  • C. Is it NECESSARY? What I am about to post is really needed on this page or is it just one more comment that adds nothing to the discussion? Will it be useful for someone?
STEP 2 – TRANSLATING AND FORMATTING

After you positively check three filters, it is time to review the language.

  • A. What dialect will I be writing? As we come from different places, please begin your post with your language and country between brackets. If it is not in English and you are not a fluent speaker of English, open a translator as Google Translator and copy the translation beside the text in your language. If you have enough knowledge in English, you may translate your post directly.
  • B. To avoid mistranslations and misunderstandings, don´t use idioms and prevent figures of speech. These language resources make writing more vivid. However, they usually are specific from each culture and translating them word-by-word not always makes sense. So, instead of saying that it is raining cats and dogs, just tell that it was a rainy day. Or, if you want to describe something using a metaphor or simile, remember to use universal ideas instead of local references. If you say that a child was peculiar as a blanket flower may be hard for people who never saw one of these flowers understand what you meant. But if you just say that this child was a rare flower, your meaning became more visible. So try to be simple, clean, and direct.
  • C. Sign your post to identify yourself. Please, write your name, school (if applicable), and City.

So, your post should be formatted like this:

[Language – Country]
Your text.

English translation.

Name, School, City

As in the following example:

[Português – Brasil]
Eu gostaria de saber em que escolas vocês trabalham ou tem seus filhos matriculados.

I would like to know in which school you work or have your offspring enrolled.

Juliana Troll Trujillo, Jasmim Estrela Jardim de Infância, São Carlos.

Or if you are writing in ENGLISH ONLY:

[Language – Country]
Your text.

Name, School, City

As in the example:

[English – Canada]
I would like to know in which school you work or have your offspring enrolled.

Juliana Troll Trujillo, Lakeside School, Kelowna

It may seem a lot, but all of us need to try our best to make ourselves understood and answer appropriately.

STEP 3 – SENDING
  • A. Select your whole message and copy (Ctrl+C) to guarantee that you have it in case something goes wrong. Click on the SEND button and wait for confirmation.
  •  B. In case you don´t receive your confirmation, come back to the page you were, paste your text again (Ctrl+V) and click on the SEND button one more time.
  • C. If it doesn´t work, please email us on iwalcomm@gmail.com, telling which page is having problems and copy the comment you weren´t able to post. We will try to fix it as soon as possible, and we will let you know.

QUICK GUIDE

Just follow the lead and you will get there!

So, to summarize the process:

  • 1. Think before writing: is it truth, kind and necessary?
  • 2. Write your language and country in the beginning.
  • 3. Write your text in your language.
  • 4. If it is not English, translate it to English (you may use an online translator) and copy below your original text.
  • 5. Sign your Name, School and the City you live.
  • 6. Don´t forget to click on the SEND button and check if you receive the confirmation.

Any questions, problems or difficulties in any part of this process, please contact us at iwalcomm@gmail.com.

Love and Gratitude,

Juliana Troll Trujillo

IWalComm creator

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