While the temperature is still on the high numbers over here, the subtle changes on our little island of the changing season can definitely be felt.
You can read more about how we welcome Autumn in these posts here and here.
Next week Malta celebrates Independence and of course the Autumn Equinox. Then there is Michaelmas and well, Autumn is FULL of festivals that brings joy to our hearts.
Independence here in intertwined too heavily with politics so the reality is that Independence Day is not quite celebrated much (unless you hail from certain political factions). It was felt though, that to instill pride in our country we should celebrate this milestone. So we do just that at home! We decorate the house with many a flag, we eat traditional food like timpana and lampuki (local dolphin fish). For breakfast I usually prepare red and white foods to reflect our flag colours and I tell them the story of history that got us independence.
Autumn Equinox is celebrated by watching the sun rising. We also sing, tell stories and do crafts. Lastly we renew our pledge to help our Mother Earth.
These two festivities are like the start up of many others that bring hope and courage in the waning light that is brought by Winter.
As a parent who teaches and parents in the Waldorf way, the festivals are important because they teach valuable lessons to our children. They not only remind us to work with the seasons, be aware of them and honour the changing Earth. It also reminds us to take stock of what we have done thus far, be courageous to change the things which are not helping us or not in alignment with our hopes and wishes and ultimately helps the soul grow!
Spring has started early here this year. At the end of February, I could deeply feel within me the awakening of nature on our little island. The sudden perfume of flowers all around, the bees and wasps buzzing abundantly and the butterflies flitting about.
And our home is also taking up the spring experience within it – although slower! Our nature table is not yet Spring, because we are observing Lent and so it will burst full of life, vibrancy and flowers in April with Eater Sunday.
Yet our Spring books have come and are gracing our home. They are geared mainly for the 4-7 year old bracket, however, my older children still enjoy listening to them. Each book is read daily for a week before it is replaced by another. Every week we also hold crafts, reflecting what was read in the book as much as possible.
This enables the younger child to make sense of the changing seasons, the passage of time and the beauty of Earth through books, nature tables and activities. It also keeps the older child aware of this and helps them slow down a fraction, in a world that is always hurried.
Here is our list of books for Spring:
Good bye Winter, Hello Spring by Kenard Pak: It is a very simple story about a boy saying hi to all that represents winter in nature and them saying hi again and what is happening and ending with the arrival of spring. A very simple and easy way to explain children about the seasons.
Spring by Gerda Muller: This board book, like the rest of the set has only pictures depicting Spring. This is a lovely book where you can re invent the story in any way you like and in any language you prefer.
Spring Story by Jill Barklem: This is also one book of a series. The Spring story falls perfectly well as it is about one of the mice boys having his birthday and how they surprised him with a picnic. Since B’s birthday is in March, I like keeping this book for his birthday week.
The very hungry caterpillar by Eric Carle: Probably no need to introduce this book, but it is a great one to add for spring as it goes through the stages from caterpillar to butterfly. Last year we were fortunate enough to grow some caterpillars at home and seen them transform. It was a lovely experience for my children seeing them becoming butterflies.
The very busy spider by Eric Carle: I like to use this book in spring, because every one in nature is busy building nests, foraging for food etc and so it feels this book, giving us the story of spider building a web brings forth the busyness found around.
Up in the garden and down in the dirt by Kate Messner: This is an amazing book! Love the pictures, love the way it is written. It starts with a child ready to start planting their garden and her nanna explaining what is happening beneath the soil and on top going through the cycle of all seasons from spring to winter.
New Beginnings: celebrating the Spring Equinox by Wendy Pfeffer: Now this is a new book for us. I am really happy we bought it. It starts about how spring starts and how Spring Equinox is a day of equal day/night and goes through the ages of how this festival has been celebrated by different people. There is a lot of teaching in it about tolerance, difference and sameness.
Nature’s tiny miracle Bee by Britta Teckentrup: A ‘mistake’ book! I got it because I liked the outside picture but when I opened it and read it, the story is amazing. It shows children the cycle of life how a bee pollinates the flowers and how everything lives because of her. The story is lovely written in rhyme and the pictures are amazing.
What are you doing to welcome Spring? How do you bring it to your children?
Christmas is literally round the corner and I am sure all parents are now starting to work on Christmas for their families!
What is Christmas for you? What do you want to bring to your children from this festival? Is the way you have been celebrating it reflecting this?
There are also many families who have different spiritual leanings and Christmas as a christian festival does not really work for them but the holidays are still celebrated worldwide with a lot of fanfare. So how do you bring this festival to your children when you are not christian?
I think looking at Christmas as a festival of light can help many a parent whether christian or not to embrace more and find what this season truly means for them. Essentually, Christmas is the birth of Jesus the bring of light to humanity. Throughout this season there are also other celebrations that have similar meaning like Diwali, Hannukah and Solstice. These festivals of different faiths all bring us the celebration that means from the darkness of winter we are now moving towards the light of spring.
So through this wonderful time, I invite you to draw inward and to really penetrate what you want these festivals to be for your family and how do you propose to celebrate them as a special time of family closeness and togetherness.
I look forward to hear more of your own plans. I will definitely be updating you on my celebrations in this space.
As Autumn makes its way toward us, our home started reflecting this change with many little gestures.
Our nature table, is now reflecting autumn with its oranges and yellows. We have added a lot of crystals in it and a cave with wee gnomes – a reflection that this is the season to look inward. Soon we will also add pumpkins there and by the end of the month a dragon will appear gracing the sky…
Our autumn books have also come forth. We will also have other stories throughout this season that are not mentioned here because they are stories that we have found online or passed through friends that encompass the festivals we celebrate. As always our books reflect the current season and a story is retold for a whole week before another one is read.
Here is a list of our books.
Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak: it is a great book to understand the changing season – a boy greeting the trees, puddles, sticks, leaves etc and them telling him what is happening to them now that autumn is approaching.
Autumn by Gerda Muller: like its sequel Summer, this is a lovely picture book that leaves you open to invent the story you wish in the language you wish.
Brambly Hedge Autumn by Jill Barklem: A lovely story of mice harvesting and by the end of the day a storm started and one young mouse was missing and the adventure till she was found and went safely home.
The Little Yellow leaf by Carin Berger: this is one of my favourites. The story of a leaf afraid to let go but finally she does and finds that it is not so hard and lovely to let go of fears.
Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert: a sweet story about how leaf man got blown away by the wind and the many places he could have passed – which of course are all autumn related.
Wild Child by Lynn Plourde: another favourite in this house! Not only the pictures are alive, but the story is of a mother who is trying to put her child to bed and it goes through all the changes of autumn before that happens and then ‘winter child’ wakes up.
Harvest by Kris Waldherr: this is a wonderful story to teach about how we get our food. The girls tells how hard she worked till she got to today – harvest day- and how after the harvest everyone, including the garden will rest.
The butterfly children, Nuts & Leaves by Angela & Pat Mills: another autumn story, involving butterfly children gathering fruits and nuts and how they helped a squirrel find its missing winter store.
Flower Fairies of Autumn by Cicely Barker: beautiful poetry and pictures by this wonderful author who takes us through the whole 4 seasons describing the flowers that we are likely to see through autumn.
Lastly this month we will start celebrating our beloved festivals: Autumn Equinox, Independence day, our main festival Michaelmas and this year because my second is learning about the Jewish religion and customs Rosh Hashannah.
As Summer hit our shores, today me and B put up our Summer Nature Table.
For him who is just 4 years old, it gives him a better visual of the season we are currently in. For me and the older 2, it is now more a pleasure to see the beauty of nature reflected at home.
As Summer goes by, more Summer treasures will find their way into the nature table. These little pockets of nature at home, also bring serenity, as we put them into a central point of the house.
Our Summer books have also appeared!
We have a couple more that are not showing here! Again these books are aimed for the younger child (4-7 years), but I enjoy reading them and my older two still enjoy listening to them as well.
The books were carefully chosen to reflect the current season. I would read a book every week, with the story being retold on a daily basis. The activities I do with my younger, will also reflect the books we are reading.
This will continue help him, make sense of the different, changing seasons. It will help him identify the passage of time and how everything changes all the time.
Here is a list of the books:
Sunflower House by Eve Bunting: this lovely book tells a story of a boy who plants sunflowers and sees them grow into bloom. The sunflowers become like a house where he and his friends play all summer long. Eventually though they wilt and die, leaving behind more seeds. I think the most profound part of this book is summed perfectly in this sentence:
It is neat to think when something’s gone, a part of it goes on and on.
Summer Days and Nights by Wong Herbert Wee: the pictures are lovely and it depicts a girl as she goes through a typical summer day. Catching butterflies, watching fireflies, going to the beach, eating ice-cream. It is nicely written!
Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe: A sweet boy, sees fireflies while eating dinner and he goes out to catch fireflies with his friends. Eventually he does get his fireflies and goes home to have a piece of moon in his bedroom. The fireflies though, start to stop glowing and seem sad. Eventually he let’s them go again and he smiles as he sees them flying by the moon.
Summer by Gerda Muller: Is a lovely book of a set of 4 depicting each season. This book has only beautiful illustrations, leaving you open to discuss what you are seeing or inventing a story as you go through the pictures with your child.
A house for hermit crab by Eric Carle: Again, this book shows how changes are happening all the time, yet we must be open to possibilities. We go through the months with a hermit crab that is growing and changing its shell. How it decorated its home and felt unwilling to part with it at first but eventually did and it looked forward to finding a new home with all the possibilities that brought with it.
Summer Story by Jill Barklem: Is a sweet book, again its a set of 4 depicting each season. We go through the mice of brambly hedge, discovering nature according to the season and what the mice are doing. In this particular summer, 2 mice are getting married and we are wafted through the start of their love story, engagement and marriage and how the mice around them are reacting to these happenings.
Flower Fairies of the Summer by Cicely Mary Barker: these lovely books (again according to season) are beautifully illustrated! You have wonderfully written poems about the flowers you will see in each season. It is still relevant to our little islands and all children enjoy them so!
As a family we take this opportunity to further inspire our children to love our Mother Earth.
We look at things in a positive perspective, because we have enough negativity but not enough positivity!
This year, we will walk whenever possible to help our Earth breathe. We will pick up trash whenever we see any, to help Earth be nice and clean. We will spend time in nature – probably in our field tending our crops and flowers. We continue with our pledge to reduce plastic so that one day we will manage to fill a recycling bag once every fortnight than once a week.
From a parenting perspective, we are teaching responsibility for one’s actions, confidence in speaking our truth, caring for others (whether animals, humans or plants), loving everything that makes up this world among others.
Do you celebrate Earth Day? What are your thoughts?
The last week of Advent was a very short one this year and the focus was on Christmas eve. We added humans to our crib and Mary & Joseph reached the grotto. We also prepared the star path for the magi. Christmas eve in our family is a day where we spend it together, having a fun meal, opening presents and watch a movie.
Christmastide, which starts on Christmas day and ends 11 days later is a very important time of this season. On Christmas day, after the lighting of the last candle, we bring out the magi to start their path towards ‘Bethlehem’. We read stories to remind us in these 12 days to choose goodness, kindness and all virtues really throughout our lives as told to us by Jesus Himself.
Christmastide, is a time of reflection, of how far we have come, how further we want to go the following year. What worked and what did not. How to help our children do better. It works well that we have a small family meeting and discuss what values etc we wish to have as a family and form a family mission statement to help us focus on throughout the year.
The third week of Advent is the week of animals according to the Waldorf verse. So we added animals to our crib and lighted the 3rd candle which is pink. Pink which means to rejoice…..because the Lord is near, He will soon be born!
At home the 3rd week we do some acts of kindness related to the animal world by leaving food for them outside. We also do a kindness tree and write a letter to Jesus. The letter will bring forth gratitude for this past year and our hopes for the coming. This will then be burned on the Winter Solstice.
The 3rd week also brings Winter Solstice. In our home we bake the sun bread, we wake early in the morning to see the sun rise. If we meet with our friends we do an Advent Spiral – a reminder that while this is the shortest day and darkness is around us, we will soon have the expanding sun again bringing light with the promise of Spring and Summer. The spiral can also be seen as the darkness being taken over anew by our Lord Jesus, bringing us back to light and being saved. We usually do a bonfire in the evening in which we burn our Jesus letter and enjoy some family time together.
The second week of Advent starts on Sunday. Here at home, we will add plants to our crib. We will also do some activities related to plants like sowing them, gifting them etc
The second week also has within the feast of St Lucy (13 December). Her name (Lucia) means light. She used to feed those persecuted and living in catacombs. She gave light and hope to those people a long time ago and was filled with kindness and generosity. Another beautiful saint to learn about!
For St Lucia, we will bake Lucy buns and eat by candle light. We will also make some lanterns to give out randomly to people. Everyone loves an unexpected present, a gesture of kindness. We will also be reading the book Lucia saint of light which is a wonderful book with insights about the saint as well as traditions from Sweden and a recipe.
The first week of Advent is characterized at home with the making of the Advent wreath. I love gathering the greenery for it! We go to our small woodland and find pine needles and cones that have fallen on the ground yet still green; and this year I added some bay leaves. The base is a piece of sectioned tree stump which I bought from Wied Incita Nursery.
Apart for the wreath, we will set up the calendar with the story of Jesus to read and add every day. Lastly, our crib will be set up. Tomorrow we will fill it with shells, stones and crystals of every kind. Many Waldorf families, use this verse throughout each Advent week:
The first Light of Advent It is the Light of stones: The Light that shines in seashells In crystals and our bones.
The second Light of Advent It is the Light of plants: Plants that reach up to the sun And in the breezes dance.
The third Light of Advent, It is the light of beasts: The Light of faith that we may see In greatest and in least.
The fourth Light of Advent It is the Light of humankind: The Light of hope, of thoughts and deeds, The Light of hand, heart and mind.
For me personally, this verse reminds me of how God made the world starting with the earth and rock itself, plants, animals and finally humans. It is a good reminder for us as Christians. And so as the verse indicates, each week we will add up to the crib till in the end only baby Jesus needs to be added on Christmas day.
The first week has within it the feast of Saint Nicholas (6th Dec). This week will be mostly dedicated to this great Saint who helped so many and was so humble. At home we read the book, Saint Nicholas: The real story of the Christmas Legend. We will gather the money saved throughout the year and give part of it to a charity chosen by the children. Sometimes, we give it to the school, our church or similar. This we do to simulate Saint Nicholas giving out money to the poor, being kind and generous just as Jesus asks us to. If you wish to learn more on this wonderful saint, you should head to the St Nicholas Centre. It has lots of stories and activities you can do with the family.
We will also start our advent magic, with the teaching of being observant and patient for the children. Every day, an envelop is put somewhere with an activity, something fun to do together and random acts of kindness. So they need to be on the look out and sometimes patient as it might take long for them to find it.
This year they will also have the gift of a new book which will take us all through a wonderful journey in Advent. It is called Jotham’s Journey and it filled my heart with joy whilst reading it that very first time. It also reminded me a lot of our own journeys on this earth in search of God and the truth.
Wish you all a lovely first week of Advent. May your hearts be filled with peace and excitement!