• Paula Gray

Updated: Aug 25, 2020


To say the world is having a collective moment at present would be an understatement. Unprecedented circumstances have irrevocably impacted our society, economics and politics and forced many of us to experience both connection and isolation like never before. And as our social and work habits have changed, many of us are also beginning to re-evaluate the role and purpose of education. What would an education that can prepare children for this uncertain world look like? What kind of education would impart the skills, critical thinking and knowledge our children need, while also instilling hope, healing and humanity?


If you’ve been following me on Instagram, been a part of my online Waldorf community/playgroup or have had the chance to read some of my posts on the “parenting“ page of this blog, it may be pretty obvious that we are a Waldorf inspired family.

Waldorf education is a beautiful and holistic philosophy that emphasizes nurturing and developing a child’s head, heart and hands. This is achieved by integrating arts, academics and practical skills, to develop their full potential as compassionate, creative and free-thinking human beings. With a focus on resourcefulness and sustainability, it is far more than simply an educational model, but a lifestyle (and one that many of you may already be living without being aware of it!)

So whether you are entirely new to this idea or well-versed, I hope you’ll find this post insightful. I’ll go over an overview of what it is/why we chose this path and why it may be the holistic education you may be looking for.


Receive the children in reverence, educate them in love, and send them forth in freedom.

— Rudolf Steiner


Waldorf education, also known as Steiner education, is based on the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy. Its pedagogy strives to develop pupils' intellectual, artistic, and practical skills in an integrated and holistic manner.

The first Waldorf School opened in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919 and has since grown into an international movement with over 1000 schools and 2000 early childhood programs in over 60 countries. In 2019, Waldorf had its 100th anniversary, coining their education with the aptly chosen slogan "Learn to Change the world"


(See these 3 beautiful short films highlighting Waldorf for the occasion: 1: Learn to Change the World, 2. Learn to Change the World, Part 2 3. Becoming)


Now you will likely have heard of Montessori and may be wondering about the difference. I can tell you the differences are so vast they merit a different and very detailed discussion (which I will get to another day) so let's focus on what makes Waldorf so uniquely special.


Simplicity, Beauty and Warmth


One of the first things you may have noticed about Waldorf - and especially if you’ve had the opportunity to set foot into any Waldorf setting - is the sheer beauty, magic and warmth. You'll see silks draped across the ceiling, dreamy lazure painted walls, natural baskets full of handcrafted toys, bountiful plants, watercolour paintings hanging on the walls, the smell of freshly baked bread or soup, a nature table that reflects the changing seasons, even essential oils diffusing. And of course: handmade everything.

The environment is designed to be nourishing to the soul. Everything is well-thought out and made to nurture and inspire. No corners are cut. Every lesson, material, story, song and experience is beautifully, lovingly and mindfully crafted.


Everything exudes purpose and intention


In a Waldorf setting, all tasks are nurtured and encouraged to be carried out with purpose, love and joy. There is a balance between individuality and community. You’re just as likely to see children drawing, painting and working individually on their main lesson books or projects as you are to see them working, singing and moving together as a community. But overall, there is a very strong sense of community and rhythm. Because in the end, no matter how capable and competent you are as an individual, how we relate and meet one another as human beings - how kind, compassionate, generous and empathetic - is just as important. Because Community is essential to human survival. This is education that deeply considers and holds in utmost importance not only what our children learn, but what kind of people they become and how they connect with others (with focus on the striving, and not perfection).


“Our highest endeavour must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility—these three forces are the very nerve of education.” - Rudolf Steiner

Creative and Practical


Activities are designed to engage head, heart and hands. Lessons are taught in interdisciplinary main blocks ie: they'll focus exclusively on Ancient Egypt for a few weeks and will study its history, geography, art, etc. in depth. There are no textbooks - students create their own from the lessons taught by the teacher, and they take great pride in making them into works of art in their own right.


Furthermore, subjects are interwoven. Math may involve music and movement. Geometry is taught with art, crafts and movement. History lessons may involve sculpting. Botany will include gardening and nature walks. Students start sewing and knitting from as early as kindergarten.


On a practical level, science has shown us that integrating art and movement helps stimulate left and right brain hemispheres which increases learning engagement and retention.


And in my opinion, being able to cook a healthy meal, identify edible plants, grow your own food, sew and knit your own clothes, woodwork and build by the time you graduate gr. 8 at a Waldorf School (really!) are some pretty useful skills to have.


Nothing boosts confidence like self-sufficiency!


Humanist and Inclusive


Waldorf Education is based on Rudolf Steiner's philosophy known as Anthroposophy (anthro = human + sophia = wisdom) and all teachers are required to take an immersive Foundations in Anthroposophy program prior to Waldorf teacher training. Steiner was an Austrian, Christian White Male but his ideas are universal and non-denominational. Critics have accused Steiner of being outdated, sexist or racist - but that is unfairly short-sighted and dogmatic. What they are missing is this: Steiner tells us to always think for ourselves and not to blindly follow anything that he or anyone else says.

"To be free is to be capable of thinking one's own thoughts - not the thoughts merely of the body, or of society, but thoughts generated by one's deepest, most original, most essential and spiritual self, one's individuality." - Rudolf Steiner

Ultimately his goal of Anthroposophy is to elevate human understanding and create a world where we can - through inner work and personal development - move into our higher faculties of compassion and empathy and ensure nobody is suffering.

It's a very humanist philosophy.


The curriculum at grade levels also encompasses and encourages a broad scope of cultural studies, festivals and traditions from around the world. Waldorf educators are mindfully finding ways to move away from the Euro-centric foundations. Because it is our role as human beings and job as teachers, to actively do the inner work required to de-construct prejudices, unlearn privilege and incorporate inclusivity in meaningful and authentic ways.


And an important note: Anthroposophy itself is not taught in Waldorf schools. It is simply the philosophy behind what and why they do things the way they do.


Honouring the Child as a Three-fold Human

(Thinking, Willing & Feeling )


Waldorf education is rooted in the belief that human beings have a threefold nature, meaning they are comprised of mind, body and soul. Education should thus support and develop the healthy unfolding of all three. You can also think of this as thinking (head), feeling (heart) and willing (hands)

Thinking (thought) and willing (action) stand on opposite ends with the heart (feeling) connecting and being a bridge between the two. The heart brings feeling and purpose to our thoughts and actions. We can be taught to analyze a situation rationally but in order to connect with others, we need to have an empathetic heart.

How many people do you know who are intellectually brilliant but can’t connect emotionally well with others? (IQ vs EQ) Our personalities tend to be dominant in one over the other. Waldorf seeks to nurture a healthy balance so we can reach our fullest potential. That’s why you’ll hear phrases such as “working with the will” or “nurturing inner life” used by Waldorf parents and educators because when learning and human development are viewed within a holistic context, knowing what to nurture and when is crucial - allowing the importance of each stage to unfold.


Understanding 7 Year Cycles


Child development is distinguished in seven-year cycles, with a correlating pedagogical focus for each.


Age 0-7: Willing/Goodness


In the first 7 years, the children are still incarnating into their physical bodies meaning simply they are learning to live in their own bodies (experiencing themselves as separate from mother) and are developing their senses and motor skills. They learn by imitation and example so we need to work with their Will. Our task as parents is to provide them with nourishing sensory experiences and be “worthy of imitation”. The focus during this time is to let them experience the world as a good place.


Age 7-14: Feeling/Beauty

In this second cycle, children move away from learning through imitation and towards loving authority, with a focus on rhythm and aesthetics to help develop their imagination and feeling. Stories and lessons appeal to feelings and the vivid pictorial life of the imagination. The focus is on the expression and experience of the world as beautiful.


"Those human beings who have not learnt to work in the ways of beauty and through beauty to capture truth, will never come to the full humanity needed to meet the challenges of life." Rudolf Steiner

Age 14-21: Thinking/Truth


This is the age where thinking and ideas come to the forefront and children form their own thoughts, judgements and identity. They are able to think conceptually, critically and rationally. Along with their search for knowledge, children at this age also search for truth. This seeking becomes part of their identity and they incorporate it as part of their personal journey.


An Antidote to Modernity


I say this slightly tongue in cheek. Waldorf may seem old-fashioned or outdated with its focus on self-sufficiency, imagination and handwork skills, but it is an antidote in many ways to the pitfalls of modernity - especially as we are navigating a period of collective fear and uncertainty. By limiting the influence of mass media and consumerism, we encourage children to find their own voices and not just follow the herd. In our age of too much, too fast, and now - too fearful - this unhurried approach lends itself to a natural and wholesome lifestyle, builds resilience and celebrates in essence: slow living, mindfulness, childhood and what it means to be human - so we can support our children's development into individuals full of hope, confidence, courage and fortitude - who will lead the way to a more sustainable and compassionate future.

I hope you found this post insightful. I will be sharing plenty of tips, resources and advice on Waldorf homeschooling and education on this blog. Please tell me a little about yourselves and where you are in your holistic parenting/educating journey if you'd like more specific resources/recommendations.

Serenely,


Paula

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  • Paula Gray

Updated: Aug 17, 2020



Clothing is an extension of our identity, serving many purposes from expression to function. Have you ever exclaimed “I have too many clothes” and “I can’t find anything to wear” in reference to your own or your children's wardrobes? If you've grappled with choices and find you're spending a lot of time (and angst) getting yourself and your kids ready every morning - then a capsule wardrobe will streamline this process.

It will help make your lives easier by simplifying your choices, saving time, making coordination a breeze (especially if your children dress themselves) and lessening the amount of laundry you’ll need to do (!).


Are you sitting there nodding and thinking this is exactly what you need?


Perhaps you’ve also been wanting to incorporate wardrobe choices into a more sustainable and minimalist living ethos. If you don't know where start or are concerned it is not an affordable option, then please read on for some helpful tips and pointers.


What is a Capsule Wardrobe?


The term Capsule Wardrobe was originally coined in the 1970s. It is simply a small collection of carefully selected pieces of clothing that change with the seasons. In essence, instead of having your whole inventory of clothes out on display in your closet (with perhaps a seasonal rotation) you select a few pieces of each and create a “capsule” for each season. These should be clothes that you truly love, can be worn in versatile ways and be coordinated together, ie: 1 dress, 10 looks.


You may have already encountered this concept several times. It's become prevalent in the eco-conscious movement for its emphasis on minimalism, simplicity, mindfulness and resourcefulness. It’s no wonder that it’s an important component for creating a more sustainable lifestyle.


Let’s delve into the why.


Because, Slow Fashion


Slow fashion is the movement of designing, creating, and buying garments for quality and longevity. It encourages slower production schedules, fair wages, lower carbon footprints, and (ideally) zero waste. 

If you’ve ever wondered or cared about who made your clothes, what kind of conditions they worked in, how they were treated and compensated, what environmental impact the material and dyes may have, then on an ethical level - a sustainable capsule wardrobe is for you.

As part of the slow fashion movement that has gained momentum over the last couple of years, a sustainable capsule wardrobe emphasizes mindfully choosing clothing for quality, simplicity and environmental impact. I will be providing plenty of reviews and recommendations for ethical/sustainable labels on this blog.


Because sadly, the hard truth is this: if we continue to purchase cheap, mass-produced clothing then we are supporting poverty and exploitation. But we can choose instead to support smaller businesses and clothing makers and as the demand for sustainable/ethical clothing grows, pressure will be put on fast fashion companies to pay their workers a living wage and use more sustainable production processes.


Quality over quantity



For clothing to truly be sustainable, it needs to be made from natural textiles. Not "sustainably made with plant fibres" (that also contain a substantial percentage of polyester) a "natural/synthetic blend" or "made from recycled polyester" It's a place to start, but that's basically green washing for clothing (See: Let's talk Sustainability: Are we wearing Plastic?)


Sustainable/ethically made clothing will be higher quality: they will feel better, last longer and be better for your health and the environment.

The price tag is also higher. Why buy that 100% linen dress for $100 when you can pick one up for $25 at Wish, Shein or your local department store? Because you are paying for quality garments that will not fall apart, and supporting ethical production practices instead of enabling poverty and exploitation. If you're now thinking you can't afford this, please consider the following:


Less is more

With a capsule wardrobe you don't need 30 dresses, you could have 5 or 10. The whole idea is to minimize. So invest the amount you would have spent, but do so on a smaller quantity of quality garments that you will be able to wear forever instead of a ton of fast-fashion pieces.


Sustainable clothing doesn't need to be expensive

It can be thrifted, swapped, gifted or found for a great discounted price. My advice for getting the best price is to wait for the label's end of season sale, inquire for sample sales or "seconds" (these are items that have small, often imperceptible flaws or imperfections).


Choice and Simplicity



One of the best parts of having a capsule wardrobe is how much easier dressing yourself and your family will be. Choice can be overwhelming and stress-inducing, especially for children. So take the guesswork out and pare down their wardrobe choices. Keep or acquire pieces that you truly love. There is no set rule as to how many pieces to have in your capsule, but keep it simple and seasonally appropriate. The whole idea is to minimize and simplify the dressing process. Example: 6 dresses, 6 tops, 4 bottoms, 3 pairs of shoes.


Versatility


Because you're simplifying and paring down your choices, be sure to choose pieces that can be worn and coordinated in different ways. You would be amazed how many outfit combinations you can actually create with a few quality pieces, ie: a linen dress can be dressed up or down and with layers for cooler weather.


Work with Colour Palettes



This is a chance to get creative. We like to go with seasonal colour palettes: rich earthy colours in the Fall, cool tones in the winter, pastels in the Spring, etc. I have found using a colour palette particularly helpful when coordinating and choosing clothes for children. Because who am I kidding - my kids dress themselves! So my tip is this, instead of garish colours and bright patterns - choose earthy, subtle, neutral colours or just colours that go well together. Avoiding bold, loud, clashing designs and colours will ensure they look effortlessly coordinated no matter what.


Sustainability Now


As a society, we need to re-condition our consumerist and fast fashion mindset and as individuals we can do both by investing in a sustainable capsule wardrobe. These are the clothes we are wearing everyday and the choices we are making are so important. So let's be mindful and consider who are we supporting? what are we expressing? what stand are we taking?



It can be argued that Sustainability is a privilege, but we can level the playing field by advocating and expanding education and accessibility.

Remember, I am not here to ever judge or critique your choices, but I DO want to empower you with knowledge and ideas so you can choose what aligns with your values, and ultimately live a life in harmony with those beliefs.


Serenely,


Paula

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Updated: Aug 25, 2020


Crystals. Those beautiful natural adornments of the earth, how they enchant and charm us with their uniqueness and beauty. If you’ve ever held one you know what I’m talking about - the instant connection and attraction you may have to certain crystals. Chances are, you’re reading this and either thinking yes, in love! are skeptical or dismissing the notion already as new age hippy pseudoscience. Chances are, even if you are feeling the latter, you still know your own birthstone ;)


Well, you’re still here, so you’re at least curious.

Remember when we were children, we believed in magic? Then we grew up and learned about science and using the scientific method to understand the world, applying reason, logic, skepticism and evidence-based judgements to our decision making.


But as we get older and (hopefully) wiser - we begin to realize and understand that both consciousness and the physical world, with all its perplexities, mysteries and complexities are deeper and far more complex than we ever imagined.

The heart and mind are real and more than the sum of its mechanical (biological) parts.

Magic and Science intersect. What we see as magic is merely what science has yet to explain. No longer the realm of New Age curiosities and oddities, science is shedding insight into what we crystal lovers have felt all along, that there is something very real happening with its “magic”.


“If you want to understand the universe, think of energy, frequency and vibration” - Nikola Tesla


Fact: Everything resonates at a vibrational frequency


Resonance Theory of Consciousness

Let's look at this excerpt from Scientific American:


“Resonance—another word for synchronized vibrations—is at the heart of not only human consciousness but of physical reality more generally.


So how were the hippies right? Well, we agree that vibrations, resonance, are the key mechanism behind human consciousness, as well as animal consciousness more generally. And, as I’ll discuss below, that they are the basic mechanism for all physical interactions to occur.


All things in our universe are constantly in motion, vibrating. Even objects that appear to be stationary are in fact vibrating, oscillating, resonating, at various frequencies. Resonance is a type of motion, characterized by oscillation between two states. And ultimately all matter is just vibrations of various underlying fields.


An interesting phenomenon occurs when different vibrating things/processes come into proximity: they will often start, after a little time, to vibrate together at the same frequency. They “sync up,” sometimes in ways that can seem mysterious. This is described today as the phenomenon of spontaneous self-organization.


Examining this phenomenon leads to potentially deep insights about the nature of consciousness and about the universe”


Yes, you read correctly: They sync up. That’s the law of attraction right there folks.


Like attracts like.


Which begs the question: what vibrational frequency are you putting out? what experience are you creating? For empaths and children, in particular, they are even more sensitive and attune - being affected immensely by their emotional environment, which in turn affects their physical and mental development.

Don't understand what I mean? Think about when you've walked into a room where an argument just took place and you can literally feel the tension in the room or how being with positive and peaceful people inspires and uplifts you.


Both the physical and the immaterial can affect our emotional and psychological states:

such as music, sound and frequencies have the ability to profoundly influence our emotions.


To recap: everything has a vibrational frequency - you, me, plants, animals, objects. And we are now beginning to understand - as part of the mind-body puzzle - that our emotions themselves operate on a vibrational scale.


People on the higher vibrational scale radiate love, kindness, peace and happiness. People with lower vibrations experience emotions such as fear, anger, guilt and shame.

Because we are human, our vibrational frequency is unstable, we are constantly changing influencing and being influenced by others. Here is the interesting part: You can actually learn how to process and centre your emotions to move up (or down) on this vibrational scale.

How do you raise your vibrations?


Crystals can support this process (so can yoga, meditation, spending time in nature, music/art therapy and essential oils - big time). As promised, I’m going to talk about crystals in particular and how they can be used to support your emotional wellness. Because unlike humans, Crystals are composed of fixed geometric patterns of molecules and hold a stable energy frequency that does not change.

Furthermore, because of the law of attraction, you can use them as tools to attract more peace, joy, love and courage in your life by using them for focusing and channelling your intentions.


These are some of my favourite crystals I recommend to use as a starting point or to add to your collection. Remember, these are not magical stones that will do the work for you, they are tools to help you anchor and focus your intention, while you move through the layers of your inward journey. As such, choosing crystals should be a similarly intuitive process.


Rose Quartz: Love + Kindness + Harmony

The fair and lovely Rose Quartz, with its gentle pink essence, is a stone of the heart, a Crystal of Unconditional Love. It may have been used as a love token as early as 600 B.C. and is still an important talisman of relationships. According to the myth, Cupid, the Roman god of desire, or Eros, the Greek god of love, bestowed the gift of love to humans in the form of rose quartz. Later in Ancient Native American cultures, they believed that this love stone could be used in amulets to resolve anger and disappointments and bring love into the newly harmonized emotions.


Rose Quartz carries a soft feminine energy of compassion and peace, tenderness and healing, nourishment and comfort. It speaks directly to the Heart Chakra, dissolving emotional wounds, fears and resentments, and circulates Divine loving energy throughout the entire aura. Reawakening the heart to its own innate love, it provides a deep sense of personal fulfillment and contentment, allowing one the capacity to truly give and receive love from others. Chakra: Heart


Amethyst: Peace + Stability + Focus


"Amethyst's inherent high frequency purifies the aura of any negative energy or attachments and creates a protective shield of Light around the body

Purple Amethyst has been highly esteemed throughout the ages for its stunning beauty and legendary powers to stimulate, and soothe, the mind and emotions. It is a semi-precious stone in today’s classifications, but to the ancients, it was a “Gem of Fire,” a Precious Stone worth, at times in history, as much as a Diamond. It has always been associated with February, the month the Romans dedicated to Neptune, their water-god, and is the traditional birthstone of that month. It carries the energy of fire and passion, creativity and spirituality, yet bears the logic of temperance and sobriety.


Amethyst is a remarkable stone of spirituality and contentment, known for its metaphysical abilities to still the mind and inspire an enhanced meditative state. Its inherent high frequency purifies the aura of any negative energy or attachments, and creates a protective shield of Light around the body, allowing one to remain clear and centred while opening to spiritual direction. Its ability to expand the higher mind also enhances one’s creativity and passion. It strengthens the imagination and intuition and refines the thinking processes. It helps in the assimilation of new ideas, putting thought into action, and brings projects to fruition. It is a talisman of focus and success. Chakra: Crown


Clear Quartz: Healing + Balance + Growth

"In the metaphysical world, Clear Quartz crystals are the supreme gift of Mother Earth. Even the smallest is imbued with the properties of a master healer teacher. Ancients believed these stones to be alive, taking a breath once every hundred years or so, and many cultures thought them to be incarnations of the Divine.


Today's healers agree, believing crystals are living beings, incredibly old and wise, and willing to communicate when an individual is open and ready to receive. Wearing, carrying or meditating with a Clear Quartz crystal opens the mind and heart to higher guidance, allowing the realm of Spirit to be transmitted and translated into the world of physical form.

Resonating at the level of an individual's needs, Clear Quartz also amplifies whatever energy or intent is programmed into it, and continues to broadcast that energy throughout the world and into the etheric realms. This may accelerate the fulfillment of one's prayers, intensify healing or spiritual growth, or simply allow the crystal to hold a pattern of energy long enough and strongly enough for the manifestation of a goal to occur".

(from https://www.crystalvaults.com/crystal-encyclopedia/quartz)


Celestite: Calming + Tranquility + Courage

A heavenly blue colour, this crystal inspires deep relaxation and calm. Keeping a stone in the bedroom and bring tranquillity and harmony into your space, the perfect companion for a restful sleep. Before you close your eyes at night, hold the Celestite crystal in your hand and let it give you the wisdom and strength to allow your dreams to outweigh your fears and your actions are louder than your words. The day might be over and what's done is done, but the gentle and soothing Celestite reminds us that each day brings new opportunities to pursue our goals, giving perspective and renewed hope for tomorrow.

Chakra: Throat

(Adapted from https://www.energymuse.com/celestite-meaning)


Citrine: Joy + Energy + Positivity

Reach for this crystal for a "pick me up". Citrine is like a crystallized ray of sunshine. It represents spiritual joy since it spreads positive, energetic light around its aura.

Citrine frequencies are some of the most powerful for motivation and perseverance. Because of its association with the solar plexus chakra, Citrine crystal properties are effective in increasing your personal power and self-confidence. Enhancing this energy center can help dissolve blocks and stagnation, resulting in higher energy levels and a boost in overall circulation. Citrine’s bright and happy energy fills your spirit with positivity and the highest vibrations, with its sunny energy. Meditate with Citrine is by repeating a mantra that reflects its healing properties: "I am light" Chakra: Solar Plexus


Selenite: Purity + Peace + Cleansing

Selenite is a specific variety of the mineral gypsum named after the Ancient Greek goddess of the moon, Selene. The Greeks especially appreciated the beauty of selenite, even making windows with the stone.

The gemstone selenite is most closely associated with the crown chakra, which represents wisdom and spirituality, as well as the third eye chakra. The colourless beauty and translucency of selenite are often attributed to purity and peace in both metaphysical beliefs and colour theory. Selenite is excellent to use when meditating or trying to achieve mental clarity, as it is believed to compel the person holding it, to be honest with themselves.


Selenite is considered a high-energy crystal that vibrates at a high frequency. Despite being an incredibly soft stone, so soft a fingernail can scratch it, selenite gemstones are believed to be a stone of protection that wards the mind. It is commonly used by crystal practitioners as a way to cleanse the body, mind and spirit of negativity and self-limitation--as well as cleansing other gemstones being used in healing practices.


Look for these crystals at your local health food store, holistic fair or rock shop, take some care to enquire as to where they come from to ensure ethical origins. Once you get started with crystals, you will be in love. There are many, many more.


I also highly recommend the book: "Crystals: the modern guide to Crystal Healing" which you can purchase here.




How to use:


There is no right or wrong way to use your crystals: meditate with them, keep them on your bedside table, wear them and keep them close.



Essential oils and crystals work synergistically when you imbue them with positive intentions They are reminders that the earth has everything we need to heal and feel whole, that life is about appreciating moments of wonder and beauty, that we all have the power to create. That everything is interconnected, what you do matters - and acts of love transcend lifetimes.





Serenely,


Paula

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