Inspiration, Under the Bed

And Baby Makes Three


I hate keeping secrets... especially exciting and happy ones. But I've known about something for about 2 months and I've finally been given permission to blog about  it :) My youngest son, Drew, and his wife Meghan, are going to be parents. They are expecting their first baby September 25 and we are all soooo excited!
 
It has been 3 years since Pixie was born... before Wee Folk Art was created... so this time we will be able to share all our excitement and baby projects as we prepare for the new wee one. Yay!  

For the Birds!

One Is Silver and the Other's... Old


Lately I've been thinking about all the lovely new friends I've been meeting recently... many of them from the blogging world. It reminded me of this piece I had written for One Generation to Another March 9, 2008. So, for no particular reason, this is for all my friends... old and new!  

If you were ever a Brownie you know the song…

Make new friends, but keep the old,
One is silver and the other’s gold.

New friends are great! They’re kinda like a “do over”. I ran into a neighbor “boy” that was home visiting his parents. He is now married and he and his wife bought their first home. After we were chatting for a while he said, “Boy, I was a jerk in high school. I wish I could go back and apologize to a ton of people.” The truth is he was a jerk. He was a bully, and he and his friends terrorized many insecure classmates. A dear friend’s son was often the target of his cruelty. And perhaps not surprisingly, but totally irrational, this “jerk” was quite popular. I looked at this neighbor “boy” and I thought, “You know, I think you really have changed.” He was nice mannered, pleasant and very communicative. Anyone who met him now would have a profoundly different impression of him than his classmates and teachers did back in his high school days.

New friends fall into the category of “Variety is the spice of life.” As we go through our lives, interests change. Maybe in college you were the partying sorority girl. Now, by some cosmic hiccup you’ve become, of all things, a crunchy mom. How is that even possible? And although you hold tightly to your old friends, it’s wonderful to make new friends that share your present mindset. (There’s no way your still single college roommate who continues to party every weekend would give a flying leap that you found a supplier of organic diaper wraps!) So, new friends, with common interests, allow you to share a slice of your life…maybe, some day, they will become “old friends”, but for the time being, they enrich our lives and embellish our personal tapestry.

But this blog is really about “old friends”…those friends that have been with us through thick and thin. They’ve seen us at our best…and our worst. They may be people we talk to every day or just exchange annual newsletters with at Christmas time, but they are the people who “knew us when”. Several years ago I took an “old friend” to the community Bible study I belonged to. We’ve been friends since she was 16 and I was 19…so, hmmmm, OMG…34 years! Irrelevant, other than demonstrating that we’ve been together for a long time! Anyway, we were sitting in the pews of the church where a visiting speaker was talking about temperance. She was this little old lady, who was standing on a stool to be seen above the podium. She was waving her hands, slamming her fist on the lectern, talking about the evils of alcohol. Now, I can guarantee you, being raised Catholic, I had never once heard a sermon quite like this one. I think this is what Carrie Nation must have sounded like! Anyway, with a grin on my face, I leaned into my friend to make a comment, but when I turned around I noticed she had slid about 6 feet away from me. I whispered, “What are you doing?” And with a completely deadpan face she whispered back, “When the lighting hits, I don’t want to be sitting too close to you!” I faked a coughing attach, and made my way to the bathroom just in time to avoid wetting my pants! There wasn’t a single other person in that room who could have made that comment to me. She continually tells friends that the only time she ever got in trouble was when she was with me. When our children were young, her father always grimaced when she mentioned I was watching her kids and to this day he develops facial tics when my name is brought up! Old friends!

Every Wednesday morning I meet a group of “old friends” for coffee, aforementioned friend being among them. We’ve known each other for eons. I remember when we use to talk about “boys”, then babies and stretch marks. We’re still talking about stretch marks, but also about menopause, our husband’s heart attack, saggy boobs, and the grand babies. We also talk about politics, books, our children, and hot actors. (Quite true!) And we still talk about our youth. (Again, ask my pew pal about “chaps and the Marriot”…I think she blew the entire thing out of proportion…at least that’s what the guys in the band would say!) But, I digress…

But there you have it…our existence is a kaleidoscope of old and new friends, everyone adding a little to our life. As time goes by we find some of our new friends and acquaintances are temporary or “situational” friends, but some hold fast and become kindred spirits. I’ve forgotten the name of some friends I’ve made over the years, yet I am grateful that they were there when I needed them. But I must admit, I am every so grateful, and feel blessed, every time I think about my handful of close friends. The ones who knew me when…and to quote Simon and Garfunkel in their song Bookends…

Time it was and what a time it was it was,
A time of innocence, a time of confidences.

There is no overriding purpose to this week’s blog other than acknowledging the value of friendship. I wish all my friends out there, the old and the “new”, a lifetime of friendships that grow and flourish and bestow untold smiles upon your days!

Interview with Sarah Baldwin of Bella Luna Toys


 

We are very excited to introduce our newest sponsor, Bella Luna Toys, and specifically Sarah Baldwin; owner and Waldorf educator. In keeping with our philosophy of offering sponsorships to shops that reflect the values of Wee Folk Art, we can honestly say we would be delighted to own ANYTHING Sarah offers at Bella Luna Toys. We thought it would be great fun to interview Sarah so we all got to know her a little better. 

If you are a Waldorf parent, you will find Sarah to be a kindred spirit. If you're not quite sure what Waldorf is all about, Sarah does a wonderful job of sharing the basic philosophies and how they impact education and home. I am grateful that Sarah has taken the time to share her extensive expertise with us, and I know I am a little wiser after reading the interview.

Make sure you take the time to not only read this delightful interview, but to make your way over to Bella Luna Toys, and take a look around. I spoke to Sarah several days ago, and as the new owner, she has big plans. Over the next few months you can expect to see a new look to the website, and the addition of many wonderful toys. And, oh yes... I almost forgot... we talked about a super Give Away that is sure to excite all Wee Folk Art readers. You'll hear about that in a couple of weeks. Yay! For the time being, grab a hot beverage, a few quite moments, and enjoy getting to know Sarah. I know I did! If you have another question for Sarah, just post it in the comments and she'll answer it as soon as possible.   

Kimara: In a nutshell, what distinguishes a Waldorf classroom from a more traditional educational environment?

Sarah: There are so many facets and layers to Waldorf education that it is nearly impossible to describe it in a neat, tidy package, even though I am frequently asked to do so! Since I am an early childhood teacher, I will highlight three of the key elements that distinguish a Waldorf early childhood classroom from that of a more mainstream preschool.

• A homelike environment with an emphasis on natural materials

A Waldorf kindergarten is typically furnished to look much like a home, with silk curtains, wool rugs, a rocking chair and wooden tables and chairs. Teachers consciously choose playthings for the classroom that will nourish a young child's senses, and sheathe them in beauty. Toys found in the classroom are made from natural fiber and materials to nourish a young child's senses.

• Real work for a real purpose

Waldorf teachers model meaningful, purposeful work in the classroom by engaging in activities such as cooking, cleaning, baking, sewing or knitting. Outdoors, teachers may be found raking, gardening, filling bird feeders or shoveling snow. Out of imitation, children engage in, and help with, all these activities. The children are learning real life skills, as they become confident and capable helpers.

• Imagination and Play

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, emphasized the importance of the imagination in childhood, and Waldorf educators believe that imaginative play is the key to creative thinking later in life. In a Waldorf early childhood classroom, ample time is allowed each day for unstructured, imaginative play without a lot of adult interference. This is when an observer might see children becoming cats and mice; witness tea parties in the play kitchen; boys and girls building large structures out of Waldorf wooden playstands draped with large silks; building with stumps and natural tree blocks; and other children donning capes and crowns to become princesses and princes. One might say that free play is the heart of a Waldorf kindergarten morning.

To read the remainder of Sarah's insightful interview, click HERE!

Interview with Sarah Baldwin of Bella Luna Toys

We are very excited to introduce our newest sponsor, Bella Luna Toys, and specifically Sarah Baldwin; owner and Waldorf educator. In keeping with our philosophy of offering sponsorships to shops that reflect the values of Wee Folk Art, we can honestly say we would be delighted to own ANYTHING Sarah offers at Bella Luna Toys. We thought it would be great fun to interview Sarah so we all got to know her a little better.

If you are a Waldorf parent, you will find Sarah to be a kindred spirit. If you're not quite sure what Waldorf is all about, Sarah does a wonderful job of sharing the basic philosophies and how they impact education and home. I am grateful that Sarah has taken the time to share her extensive expertise with us, and I know I am a little wiser after reading the interview.

Make sure you take the time to not only read this delightful interview, but make your way over to Bella Luna Toys, and take a look around. I spoke to Sarah several days ago, and as the new owner, she has big plans. Over the next few months you can expect to see a new look to the website, and the addition of many wonderful toys. And, oh yes... I almost forgot... we talked about a super Give Away that is sure to excite all Wee Folk Art readers. You'll hear about that in a couple of weeks. Yay! For the time being, grab a hot beverage, a few quite moments, and enjoy getting to know Sarah. I know I did! If you have another question for Sarah, just post it in the comments, and she'll answer it as soon as possible. 

Kimara: In a nutshell, what distinguishes a Waldorf classroom from a more traditional educational environment?

Sarah: There are so many facets and layers to Waldorf education that it is nearly impossible to describe it in a neat, tidy package, even though I am frequently asked to do so! Since I am an early childhood teacher, I will highlight three of the key elements that distinguish a Waldorf early childhood classroom from that of a more mainstream preschool.

• A homelike environment with an emphasis on natural materials

A Waldorf kindergarten is typically furnished to look much like a home, with silk curtains, wool rugs, a rocking chair and wooden tables and chairs. Teachers consciously choose playthings for the classroom that will nourish a young child's senses, and sheathe them in beauty. Toys found in the classroom are made from natural fiber and materials to nourish a young child's senses.

• Real work for a real purpose

Waldorf teachers model meaningful, purposeful work in the classroom by engaging in activities such as cooking, cleaning, baking, sewing or knitting. Outdoors, teachers may be found raking, gardening, filling birdfeeders or shoveling snow. Out of imitation, children engage in, and help with, all these activities. The children are learning real life skills, as they become confident and capable helpers.

• Imagination and Play

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, emphasized the importance of the imagination in childhood, and Waldorf educators believe that imaginative play is the key to creative thinking later in life. In a Waldorf early childhood classroom, ample time is allowed each day for unstructured, imaginative play without a lot of adult interference. This is when an observer might see children becoming cats and mice; witness tea parties in the play kitchen; boys and girls building large structures out of Waldorf wooden playstands draped with large silks; building with stumps and natural tree blocks; and other children donning capes and crowns to become princesses and princes. One might say that free play is the heart of a Waldorf kindergarten morning.

Kimara: How can parents bring the Waldorf philosophy into their homes?

Sarah: Waldorf teachers work consciously with the idea of "rhythm." We talk about the rhythm of the day, the rhythm of the week and the rhythm of the year. The daily rhythm is a regular, predictable schedule. An example would be a morning that starts with free play, which is then followed by cleanup, circle time, rest time, snack time, outdoor time, story time and lunch. This daily rhythm would be the same all year long without variation. Once the children become familiar with the rhythm, they relax into it and benefit from the predictability of the day. They feel confident and secure, knowing exactly what to expect. Children can be become quite anxious when their days are irregular and unpredictable. So one important thing parents can do is to bring more rhythm into their home. Have regular times for meals, bath and bed, and add little rituals to each of these activities.

Another thing parents can do is to bring reverence and ritual to the family meal table. Even if you are not religious, take a moment to light a candle and say a verse of gratitude for the food you are about to eat. One can thank God, or simply thank the sun and the rain for producing the food. What's important is to cultivate a sense of reverence and gratitude in your children. And, of course, eating meals together as a family!

Kimara: Before the birth of your first child, you were pursuing a career as an actress. How were you able to utilize that training in the Waldorf classroom?

Sarah: Before my son Harper was born, I was working as an actress, but even then I had been thinking about going to back to school to become a teacher. At the time, I thought of this as a career change. However, after I discovered Waldorf education, with its emphasis on storytelling, puppetry, singing and reciting verses, I came to think of it as a career progression. Not only did those artistic skills lend themselves to my work as an early childhood teacher, but it also allowed me to be quite comfortable "performing" in front of parents when I taught Parent/Toddler classes. I felt like I was still performing, but now for a higher purpose and for a much more appreciative audience!

Kimara: I know I’m asking for a very condensed explanation, but implementing the Waldorf philosophy, what are the attributes parents should look for when crafting or purchasing playthings for their children?

Sarah: One exercise I used to do with parents in my classes during a parent evening on “toys and play” was to blindfold them. Then I would hand them different toys. Some were typical toys from a modern child's toy box, such as Barbie dolls, action figures, metal trucks, plastic baby dolls and so forth; alternating with toys from our Waldorf classroom, such as shells, stones, sanded pieces of wood or dolls made from cotton and wool. I would ask each parent to feel the toys, smell them, and even taste them, if they dared! (Because all babies WILL put toys into their mouth.) I urge you to try it. Even when blindfolded, this exercise will really "open your eyes" as to how children experience toys with all their senses. The experience of touching cold metal vs. warm wood, or the different qualities between a plastic doll and one made of natural fibers can really be appreciated when not relying on one's sense of sight.

Rudolf Steiner once described the young child as a "wholly sense organ." That is, a child’s senses are much more sensitive than an adult’s, and her experience of the world relies less on sight alone. A child takes in the whole world through all of her senses, so we want to choose toys that are going to nourish and feed the senses in a healthy way. Furthermore, toys made from natural fibers and materials seem to have a calming quality, which can be observed in children’s play.

Another thing parents should look for are toys that will inspire and ignite the imagination, and toys that are open-ended (that is, toys that can be played with in a variety of ways). They should look for playthings that are not too formed and fixed, that leave some room for the imagination. For example, Waldorf dolls usually have minimal features, and Waldorf puppets typically have no face at all. This allows a child to imagine the face happy, sad or angry, and to develop his inner picturing abilities.

Kimara: What role do you think parents should play in their children’s creative expression and play?

Sarah: In general, Waldorf early childhood teachers do not directly engage in play with the children. Children, left to their own devices, are usually so much freer in their imaginations and richer in their play than we are as adults! As teachers, we work alongside the children as they play -- sewing, preparing food, or the like. We work, we hum, and we watch. A parent can stimulate a child's imagination by providing the kinds of playthings that invite creative play, and even nudging a child's imagination if she seems stuck. For instance, a child may start throwing blocks. We can take the blocks and pretend now that they're teacups, inviting the child to have a tea party with us, thereby guiding the play into a new direction.

Kimara: Given the fact that most of us are dealing with limited resources, what do you think are the basic toys or supplies we should have available for children, and when creating a "Wish List", what items in your shop would have to be on the list?

Sarah: A parent needn't spend much to provide a rich array of playthings for a child. At least half the playthings in my classroom were either gathered from nature or handmade. A basket of shells, a basket of smooth river stones, and branches cut up and sanded into natural blocks were among the toys I considered essential.

That said, what comes to mind as other essential items, which can be bought or handmade, are:

Play Silks. A basket of brightly colored silk squares can be used in an endless variety of ways. They become scarves, capes and skirts; they can swaddle a baby; they become tablecloths; a blue silk becomes a river; a green one, a meadow. They are also lovely for decorating a “nature table,” or draping a puppet play. The quality of the silk makes the colors shimmer, and feels heavenly next to a young child’s skin.

A Waldorf Doll. Both boys and girls would take turns caring for the “babies” in our classroom. The Waldorf 16" dress-up doll is often what's most readily recognizable as a Waldorf toy. These dolls are best for 4- to 6-year olds who have the fine motor skills to be able to dress them and comb their hair. For younger children, a bunting doll, such as our Cuddle Doll, is soft and huggable, perfect for toddlers; and a Blanket Doll is a wonderful first doll for a baby, with a human face that babies respond to, but with a soft blanket body, which often becomes a special "lovey." All these dolls are made with natural fibers and materials with cotton knit skin and stuffed with wool.

Playstands and Play Clips. These are also classic Waldorf toys that are found in virtually every Waldorf kindergarten classroom. With two playstands, long pieces of silk or cloth, and a couple pairs of play clips, children can build houses and forts. They use the shelves to play "store," or as a stage for puppet plays. They have an endless variety of uses, and are used heavily by the children every day.

• A Play Kitchen Corner. The most popular spot in my classroom, year after year, was the play kitchen--a corner blocked off by two playstands. In the cozy corner was a wooden play stove, a small table set with wooden dishes, chairs, and doll cradles. During free play, this area was always bustling with tea parties, cooking, caring for babies, setting the table and washing. Here, the children would imitate the work of the adults in their company.

Kimara: On a rainy afternoon, what is your favorite way to while away the hours with children?

Sarah: My favorite rainy day activity is one we ONLY did on rainy days. (That is to say, torrentially rainy days, otherwise we'd be outside!) I have an electric hot plate with a glass top that I got at a yard sale -- the kind that is meant to keep food warm and doesn't get too hot. I'd take a sheet of drawing paper and tape it to the hot plate, then invite the children, one at a time, to color with our beeswax crayons on the hot plate. The warmth would melt the beeswax, producing beautiful wax “paintings” that looked like stained glass. Afterwards, we would hang them in the windows and, once the rain ended, we would admire the way the sun would shine through them!

Kimara: Finally, what prompted you to leave the classroom and run Bella Luna Toys?

Sarah: After more than ten years of teaching full-time in a Waldorf school, I was discovering that my two teenage boys needed me as much (if not more) than they did when they were toddlers. While I’ve always felt that Waldorf teaching was my life’s calling and absolutely loved my time in the classroom, I was looking for a way to put my expertise and love for Waldorf education to use in a new way—one that would allow me to continue working to promote Waldorf education in the world, but also give me more time at home. Just as I was pondering what new direction my life might take, a newsletter arrived in my mailbox, announcing that Bella Luna Toys was for sale. Bella Luna was a well-established Waldorf toy company of which I had long been aware, and I knew its founder, Miaja (prounounced “Maya”) Rocciola through Waldorf homeschooling circles. After many conversations with Miaja, I became the new owner of Bella Luna Toys in September 2009, and the company moved from the beautiful coast of California, to the equally beautiful midcoast of Maine. I'm learning a lot, and having a ball!

EDIT: The following question was asked by one of our readers and I wanted to make sure that the question and Sarah's answer were included for posterity in the interview :) Thanks for the thought provoking question, Ashlie, and thanks again Sarah, for your thorough reply!

Ashlie: This truly was an enjoyable article, but I really would love to hear more about children crafting and artistic expression. Are there "typical" Waldorf crafts and can you recommend books or websites to foster intrinsic artistic expression? Love your classroom. Heading over to check out your shop now.

Sarah: Well, Ashlie, you are in the right spot! Wee Folk Art is a great resource for parents who are drawn to Waldorf education and interested in crafting. The crafts offered here by Kimara are the kinds of things typically made by teachers and students in a Waldorf School. As I said in the interview, there are many facets to Waldorf education, and I failed to mention them all. But since this is a crafting blog, not mentioning the importance of handwork in a Waldorf classroom was a big omission!

All children in a Waldorf school learn handwork beginning in early childhood. Children in my kindergarten class would learn to "fingerknit" (creating a crocheted chain with their fingers) and to sew. Craft projects were created all year long connected to the seasons and festivals of the year. When children at a Waldorf school get to first grade, they learn to knit with needles, and as the years go on, they learn to crochet, embroider, make dolls and more. Much research in recent years has documented the benefits of developing fine motor skills through handwork to brain development, so the goal in teaching handwork to children is not just about the finished product!

I also failed to mention in the article that Bella Luna Toys carries a wide variety of craft kits that come with all the materials needed and instructions to create animals, gnomes, angels, fairies and more. In addition, I can highly recommend the book Crafts Through the Year (also available on the site) that has beautiful photographs and instructions for making many seasonal Waldorf crafts connected to the seasons and holidays.

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