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“This school is a beacon of professionalism among UK Steiner schools and the children who emerge are confident, articulate, international, open-minded and grounded, lucky them!”

Good  Schools Guide 2014

CHALLENGES FACING MODERN PARENTS AND CHILDREN

HELLE HECKMANN - CHALLENGES FACING MODERN PARENTS AND CHILDREN

Notes from a talk at Michael Hall School 14th October 2014

How is it with childhood now? My international work helps me to see tendencies developing. 15 years ago the different parts of the world were more local and distinct, but world development subsequently has made for more similarities;

-         50% of children are now born in large cities with no access to nature;

-        The structure of the family has changed; there are fewer children, less shared knowledge and agreed rules, less support for parents. City people are often alone, away from grandparents and other family members.

-        As a child, I went out and grew up on the streets; if something was wrong, mother was at home, otherwise we only came home for food. Now the home environment and the outside spaces are not the same.

-        Small families make children much more central, the focus of attention.

We love our children so much and we want to make their lives happy and free of worry; but children need to experience the blows and joys of life, to feel the world around them, in order to grow up.

I started my initiative at Nokken 30 years ago because I wanted children to experience the outdoor life, to have access to mud and worms, to know that all weather is good weather. The biggest change I have seen is that I see so few people in nature, even in places like Australia where there is so much! The outdoors is related so strongly to the senses; it goes very deep with a child to listen to birdsong, or a flowing river, to see how the light is different in the mornings from the afternoons and to feel how our own activity is different too. Playgrounds cannot replace this and activity there is often sitting too, like with sandpits, with the child being brought there by car.

Children need to use their bodies, to penetrate them properly. Walking is especially good, with the crossing movements which are known to help brain development, for lack of movement damages the development of intelligence. In Nokken they walk 3km each day, and some of the boys who can be problematic in class probably could do with 10km! This 50 minutes of walking allows them to get into their bodies; they are not running or observing things, but walking. Do adults normally do enough walking? The children need role models.

We must trust our children and give them the time they need. Wait until they have the strength to climb into the tree rather than putting them into it and then having to be there to hold them or get them down as they are not ready. Children grow into these things at their own pace, and it is a huge challenge for parents to hold back; if we focus too strongly on our children we may deprive them of the time to experience.

We can also learn so much from the children by listening to them and NOT giving them explanations all the time. They need to develop their rich imaginative inner space as this is essential for dealing with setbacks in life as an adult.

Parental anxiety about “how will my child do in life” is relatively new and parents need to grow their own inner space, to be clear about who I am and where I am going. Then we will be less likely to ask the children; do you like this or that, what do you want? These questions give the children too much responsibility. Rather than being democratic co decision-makers, they need us to be role models, where the adults know what we want and where we are going (eg of shopping). This gives the child security, as do regular bed times, eating together etc. The adults may be tired of the routine but children love it and feel safe. The children don’t need to go to music lessons, ballet, gym, scouts, or to always be going to new places.

If they feel secure, then the children can make their world grow as they are ready. Regular domestic chores are wonderful and they should help with cooking, cleaning, washing, they need to be invited into the daily life of the family. Even if later they are going to be doctors etc they need to know how to change the bed and sew a button on!

I often see parents defending their children now; eg of a toy taken from the kindergarten where the parent was defensive, or telling teachers off. Children have to learn morality by parents role modelling it, and they need to learn from life’s lessons. This is especially hard for modern parents surrounded by the media. They must have the freedom to find themselves to become who they will become.

COMMENTS IN RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS

On walking;

-        There is something about just walking, allowing deep regular breathing to develop. Don’t talk all the time!

-        There are clear boundaries on the Nokken walks and regular stop places where the little ones catch up.

-        Cycling with children is fine; but it’s not walking!

3 days is not enough for the children to get into the rhythm of kindergarten, it is better with 4 or 5 days. Rhythm is healing, especially in the first three years.

Days without stress for young children are essential; the 6 hour days at Nokken go fast, surrounded by the same adults and routines, all related to the seasons. It is important that there are not too many transitions during the day.

Mixed age groups are essential in kindergarten; how else can the older ones learn to care for the younger ones?

Nokken food is porridge and rye bread; no dairy or sugar. Good sustaining food.

Information on  Helle’s    http://parentandthepro.com

Notes unrevised by Helle Heckmann, taken by Simon Gillman

Advent Fair 29th November 11 - 4pm

Please join us with your family and friends as we celebrate the Advent Fair at Michael Hall.

A4 Poster FINAL

Every year Class 4 parents will take on the role of organising the Advent Fair, each year bringing their own wonderful ideas and creativity, helping to keep it traditional and yet different each year.

Enjoy live music throughout the day, delicious food available in many different places to cater for every palate. There will be the nostalgic taste of roasted chestnuts as well as warming drinks.

Watch a Puppet Show, beautiful and gentle stories for little children and adults alike, make a Gingerbread House (please book in advance for this, check the Friday Flier to see when tickets will be available). Take your little ones through an enchanted wood and find the Gnomes, enjoy the living crafts, things to do for all ages and plenty of wonderful gifts to be purchased.

Here is what we offer this year to make a wonderful day out!

11am Opening Ceremony, near bonfire in the Food Court. Class 4 children will make a joyful start to the day with their singing.

Children’s activities: Visit the gnomes in the Gnome Home; create Christmas gifts and Advent Gardens in the Elves’ Workshop; build and
decorate a Gingerbread House (if you haven’t bought your ticket there will be some tickets available on the door at 11am and some more at 1pm - first come first served!); enjoy the quiet and fragrant magic of Candle dipping to the background of gentle harp music; remember Mary’s journey and ride a donkey in the Lower School playground; let off steam in the Jungle Gym (until 2.30pm); take some time out in the Quiet Room (ssshhhh!), next door to the Tuck Shop café in the Lower School; have a dip in the Lucky Dip in the Dick Chester studio; enjoy some storytelling in the Middle School building or a puppet show in the Lower School building. Round off the day beautifully in the Theatre by watching Class 12 perform an Indian fairytale at 4:15pm (tickets available from the Info Stall at the back of the Dick Chester Studio).

Craft Workshops: Local craftspeople will be demonstrating their work and running workshops in the craft huts. Come and watch a demonstration or even have a go at traditional crafts such as whittling, felting, spinning or working with clay.

Food: Sandwich lunches and afternoon teas in the Mansion Café; hot soup in the Canteen; jacket potatoes and BBQ outside in the Food Court; hot chestnuts in the Lower School playground; snacks, cakes and chai in the Tuck Shop café in the Lower School; hot drinks and mince pies near the tunnel between the Food Court and the Lower School playground.

Shopping: Don’t miss the Christmas Shop, back in the Dick Chester studio, selling homemade jams, biscuits and other deli goodies, Christmas decorations, handmade seasonal table items, handprinted wrapping paper, exquisite window stars, dressing up clothes, wooden toys and more! Support our Sister Steiner Schools who are in the Middle School building selling a range of handmade goods together with a carefully picked group of Artisan stallholders whose wares include knitwear, jewellery, leather goods, pottery, papercrafts and metalwork.

Artisan Stalls here

Music: Buskers young and old will entertain throughout the day in the Mansion café and around the school. Go candledipping to hear the magical harpists in the Eurythmy Studio!

3:45pm Closing Ceremony: All good things must come to end! Let’s make it a joyful end with some carol singing around the bonfire. Come and join the singalong! We wish you a very merry Christmas.

With thanks to Richard Dean for his kind donation of our Christmas Tree.
Next year’s Advent Fair is on 28th November, 2015!

 

 

 

CERN Trip

From 7 – 9 October most of Class 11 joined forces with the St Michael’s School (London) Class 11 to visit CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider and Higgs particle fame, in Geneva Switzerland. Although only two of our students had the opportunity to descend 100 metres underground to see the huge CMS detector, much learning took place from the lectures, demonstrations, and exhibits on offer. We also visited the University of Geneva for two workshops in Electricity/ Magnetism and Colour/ Environmental Chemistry and participated in the second annual Geneva treasure hunt, as well as enjoying a genuine Swiss fondue supper. This was our last possible visit to the detector area for the next 5 years or so as the proton beam is due to be switched on early next year.
Glenn Metzner, Physics teacher

 

"I've never felt so belonging". Isn't that what we would all hope for our children?

Being an Individual in a Community: The Importance of Balance in a Waldorf School.

Being an Individual in a Community

The world we live in today increasingly focuses upon individual success in a material society. Young people can easily get lost in their personal profiles on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. In a Waldorf Upper School, we place importance upon encouraging students to look out into the world around them and seek their place within the community. Through self awareness comes the ability to take responsibility for one’s own actions and to understand the consequences of these for the community at large. At Michael Hall, as students enter Class 9, they traditionally embark upon a week long Earth Stewardship Camp, where they build shelters, learn to create fire using ancient techniques, and experience bushcraft skills. Most importantly, they develop a mindfulness in their approach to others in their class and nature itself. Over the years, students have reaped the benefits of this experience, especially when they come to meet the world directly with external exams at the end of Class 10.

This year, a group of 40 students took this journey and came back enthused, engaged and ready to take on the challenges of the years ahead. In the words of some parents, the trip was clearly a success:

I was concerned about taking a week out of my child's learning in their GCSE years and what I have seen has confirmed that you know exactly what you are doing! My child came back transformed - full of gratitude for what life brings and its opportunities for the future - brimming with life and enthusiasm.

We had to go into the garden and light a fire and he sat down and talked to me for several hours about his experiences, feelings and hopes. What a gift this brings in parental - child communications and what confidence and new awareness he has about himself and the world – fantastic.

She talked for the entire journey home, telling me of the events of each day, and overall says she had a really good time. She says that after the first day she wanted to come home, but only because she wanted to tell me all about what she had been doing!!!!!!

I thank you for your welcome, for the structure and boundaries, for the consequences and guidance on behaviour, for the high expectations, for all the effort you (and the Lower School Class teachers, and the parents) have put into shaping this group of youngsters up to this point.

This group of students will have the opportunity to take this further, by taking up the Earth Steward Apprenticeship over the next two years; we hope many will embark on this journey, as our experience is that it strengthens their ability to cope with the pressures of exams and take responsibility for their learning. Most importantly, such courses help to maintain a balance in life itself. Whilst we need to ‘measure up’ to the rigours of academic study, and work hard to reach our individual potential, we also need to function effectively as part of a community and learn to value practical and environmental skills too. We set up our future through these formative years, and not just through the achievements we can put on our CVs. If we can promote an understanding of the need for a healthy balance in our young people now, we can avoid burnout, stress fatigue and anxiety in the future. We can also reap the benefits of a society that looks out for each individual’s needs rather than each individual looking out for him / herself.
In the words of a student on returning from the Camp; I’ve never felt so belonging. Isn’t that what we would all hope for our children?
When searching for some final words on the effectiveness of such camps, this message was passed on to me:

“Wilderness rites of passage reveal each person’s life as a story being written each moment, and they remind us deeply that each story is magnificent …
Alone, we seek support. 
Hungry, we seek nourishment. Vulnerable, we seek openness,
Cold, we seek the warmth of an inner flame.
Empty, we seek vision.
Human, we seek not to be different but to be ourselves,
Not to find another world, but to live fully in ours.
Most of all, we pray for a gift to bring back to our People and our Place.”

Jane Morris-Brown 7.10.2014

Outdoor Learning in Steiner Schools - Simon Gillman

Full PDF version here

PG_Autumn_2014_GILLMAN_Page_1PG_Autumn_2014_GILLMAN_Page_2

Revised GCSE Results

‘Following completion of the Post-Results Enquiry phase, we are delighted to announce that our GCSE results have been positively revised. 67% of our Pupils gained a grade A*-B in the Summer 2014 Examinations Series and 41% of our exam grades were pitched at the A*/A grade standard.’

2014 GCSE composite results

Home from home, beautiful Kindergartens, Open Morning

Slider EYOM 15th November

Open Morning 16th October - Whole School

A4 Poster 16th October

Activity Day - Kidbrooke Kids - All welcome!

Slider October 2014