Slay Your Dragons


As we prepare to enjoy our Michaelmas celebration and feast today, we share the thoughts our faculty have about this fall-time festival.

Being outside these last couple of weeks, we have become aware of a particular hue of golden light slanting through the early morning coolness, the ripening and dropping of fruit in the yards, and how nightfall comes creeping earlier and earlier, encroaching upon our daylight.  The brilliant summer with all radiant glory gives way to a different experience as school begins and the Autumn Equinox and Michaelmas approach.  As these pivotal points of the year draw nearer we are directed to shift our focus inward. Warm afternoons and outside chores no longer hold our attention; the mighty arrow of our internal compass redirects its aim toward an expanding inner terrain.  We begin to cultivate our inner selves illuminated by our own golden light.

Archetypal truths find their expressions in many cultures and this is true of Michaelmas as well.  Autumnal Equinox festivals are practiced in the Earth and Goddess religions, Judaism, and Christianity. Cosmic equilibrium is the harbinger of our own aspirations of equanimity. We seek opportunity to attain balance. These festivals are an effort to bring that which we experience in nature to human expression.  We seek to reckon with our internal night and day: order/chaos, point/periphery, and ultimately good and evil.

In our community, we introduce the dragon as an aspect of our shadow selves.  Michael (my-kai-el) is the archetypal hero who comes to aid us in bringing balance between the light and dark. We often picture him standing erect upon the dragon now overcome. He is steadied with scales in one hand and a sword in the other. The scales we readily recognize in the equinox. What can we bring into better balance? Does the sword bring to mind focus, bringing one’s consciousness in from the swirling heat of summer into activities which require our full attention? Or perhaps the sword could become that which cuts away at what we no longer need, allowing us to move forward in our lives? Michaelmas invites us to attend to these explorations.

Waldorf Education and the Not-so-Common Core

Waldorf education has it roots in a developmental curriculum based on physical and cognitive markers that occur during a child’s life.  It takes into account where a child is in their development before introducing certain academic concepts.  This allows the child’s natural ability to learn the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic at pace that matches their cognitive development.  In addition, Waldorf education uses the child’s natural ability to use their imagination to picture what they are experiencing in the classroom.  They take the concepts of the letters of the alphabet, word formation and writing from a pictorial perspective and create their own mental pictures.  With the use of stories the teacher tells children are able to recall images and themes that speak to their social and emotional growth.   Arithmetic is also presented in the form of stories that relate to the qualities of the numbers, counting, and the four processes.  Each grade has certain new concepts that are introduced that build on one another with corresponding themes and stories that match the child’s maturation.

The current trend of meeting common-core standards that have been adopted by the many states including Washington places an emphasis on guiding students using a set of checklists or “I can do” statements that are set for each grade.  Children are measured by how well they adhere to these standards. They are research-based standards that take into account what children need to know to be successful in high school and college.  They were created from the top down meaning they began with the oldest students and worked backwards.  While Waldorf education does prepare students for the rigor of academic life in high school and beyond it allows children to learn higher and more complex academic concepts when they are ready and uses developmental markers established by Rudolf Steiner and Jean Piaget to let teachers know when to introduce such concepts.  It does this a way that accommodates many learning styles and appeals to a child’s natural ability to emulate in an environment that is rich with visual, oral, musical, and physical activity.


Come learn more about how “Waldorf Education and the Not-so-Common Core” at a special presentation by our Grade 1 Teacher, Anand Maliakal, on August 20 at 5:30 p.m. (Waldorf Experience Open House to follow at 6:30 p.m.)  The 2016 Waldorf Experience Open House will be held August 25 from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. Adults only please. RSVP to


The Working of the Spirit: A Continuation of Steiner’s Mystery Dramas

Saturday, March 21, 5 p.m., Tacoma Waldorf School

Join us for homemade soup and bread and a presentation about a continuation of Steiner’s Mystery Dramas.

Beginning with a failed initiation in the temples of Egypt, a group of friends meet again and again over several lifetimes until we find them in modern personalities working together in a furniture factory on the question of how to transform the business and finance operations of their company to be in alignment with what was being demanded from the spiritual world and yet meet the challenges of operating a sustainable business.

Passed down through the years, the Mystery Drama differs from other plays by showing on the stage the connection between the spiritual world and the earth; it reveals the activity of the spiritual beings who work from the heavens to help or hinder human beings in their earthly lives. For the classical Greek playwrights, such as Aeschylus, the involvement in daily human life of divine forces, personified in the gods and the furies, was a reality that they allowed to appear on stage.

This new story brings to life the interworking of human karma and beings of the spiritual world through verdant images, speech, music, and movement. In 2012 after the completion of a tour of the last of Steiner’s dramas, producer Marke Levene imagined a continuation of the story in a new play. Levene shared his notes with playwright and actor Michael Hedley Burton, who was inspired to write a script for the new work.

Our evening will include a presentation from Marke Levene and Edward Schuldt, actor and consultant, about how the story The Working  of the Spirit came into being, as well as an excerpt from The Soul’s Awakening, one of Steiner’s Mystery Dramas.

Steiner studied and wrote about a great number of topics including education and biodynamic farming, but many people don’t know he also wrote four dramas known as the Mystery Dramas. Originally written in German from 1910-1913, the plays have been re-produced and acted by groups around the world.

The Working of the Spirit is a community of individuals worldwide who study the various works of Rudolf Steiner and share them with the world through the arts, primarily through performance of Shakespeare, Steiner’s Mystery Dramas, and Symphonic Eurythmy.

Four Elements, Four Human Temperaments

Many of us may have taken personality tests of one kind or another. The Waldorf version of the a personality test is tied to the elements and the four human temperaments. Waldorf education was founded by Rudolf Steiner in early twentieth-century Germany, seeking a richer and more holistic way to educate children and help them become the best version of themselves. Steiner theorized about a lot of things, including the four temperaments of humans.  See if you find some familiar things in them, about yourself or your children.

If we start with an quick examination of the four elements of the world (earth, fire, water, air), we set the stage for an examination of human nature. Earth. Solid. Life-giving. Cool. Perhaps simple from afar, upon closer examination may yield myriad depth and detail. Fire. The gentle flame of a candle, the devastation of a forest fire. Both are aspects of fire. Unpredictable. Warm. Consuming. Water. Calm on the surface may hide great depths. Earth-shaping, calming, penetrating. Changeable. Mysterious. Air. Refreshing. Floating. Constantly moving. Escaping confinement.

Now let’s look at Steiner’s four temperaments. See if you feel some elements in these characteristics. They are not mutually exclusive; we may all experience each temperament from time-to-time, but we may lean more heavily toward one or two.

Melancholic (Earth)

A shy, quiet person who stays on the outskirts of his or her group, always observing. Perhaps hesitant, a bit withdrawn. Uncomfortable when attention is directed his or her way. Most comfortable finding a quiet corner to ponder the world. May surprise us with an especially astute observation showing how she is always watching. Could be overly concerned with each nick and scratch, certain doom lies ahead. Rarely in a rush, our composure can be shake when plans or rules are suddenly changed. Feels things very strongly. These characteristics are attributed by Steiner to the temperament known as melancholic, and might be likened to some of the earth attributes. But don’t forget that what we see on the surface with melancholic temperaments, like with the earth, may belie engaging depths. Melancholic temperaments may thrive as artists, musicians, inventors, philosophers, or doctors.

Possible melancholic strengths: gifted, analytical, perfectionlist, conscientious, loyal, aesthetic, idealistic, sensitive, self-sacrificing, self-disciplined
Possible melancholic weaknesses: moody, negative, critical, rigid, self-centered, touchy, vengeful, persecution-prone, unsociable, impractical

Choleric (Fire)

Next, a person who is always first to be noticed in a group. Sturdy, sometimes loud. May take a leadership role. Definitely not shy, but decisive and not to be deterred. With a strong, direct gaze, this is a person of action and involvement. A hard worker who gets the ball rolling and to motivate others, but may also have fits of temper. Self-discipline may be a challenge. Ready to take on the world. Warm-natured, ready for adventure, perhaps full of humor. These characteristics are known to be associated with Steiner’s choleric temperatment, which you may see akin to the element of fire. But like fire, a choleric can burn too bright and needs to be tempered a bit. Choleric personalities may succeed in roles as leaders, producers, or builders.

Possible choleric strengths: determined, strong-willed, independent, productive, decisive, practical, visionary, optimistic, courageous, self-confident, leader
Possible choleric weaknesses: unsympathetic, insensitive, angry, sarcastic, unforgiving, self-sufficient, domineering, opinionated, proud

Phlegmatic (Water)

What about that child that seems, well, ordinary? Average, for lack of a better word. Perhaps a bit more focused on the day-to-day tasks of life than on the big events. Easy-going and appreciative of the comforts of life, but also changeable as he ponders things one minute and chats a mile a minute the next. Usually likes to go along with the crowd, though there may be great insights and moments of genius showing through. Largely unperturbable. Down-to-earth, realistic. Loves routine, but may take the easy way when possible. Steiner associated these characteristics with the temperament he called phlegmatic, in which can be seen parallel to the water element. Still waters run deep and always keeps flowing, generally downhill. People with a phlegmatic temperament may find their role as a diplomat, accountant, teacher, or a technician.

Possible phlegmatic strengths: calm, easygoing, likable, diplomatic, efficient, organized, dependable, conservative, practical, reluctant leader, dry humor, introvert
Possible phlegmatic weaknesses: unmotivated, blase, indolent, spectator, selfish, stingy, stubborn, self-protective, indecisive, fearful

Sanguine (Air)

And lastly, that lively one, full of life. Flitting from here to there, constantly craving excitement. Very likable, generally, but can be demanding. Graceful and light-hearted, yet restless and spontaneous. Passionate about her project of the moment, but detests boredom. Dedicated to learning a skill, but less so to perfecting it. Craves constant reassurance she is loved. Speaks her mind, and may be very verbal. These are characteristics Steiner called the sanguine temperament, and one can so easily see how it’s fluttering can be associated with the air element. Sanguine personalities may find their place as actors, salespeople, or speakers.

Possible sanguine strengths: outgoing, charisma, warm, friendly, responsive, talkative, enthusiastic, carefree, compassionate, generous, extrovert
Possible sanguine weaknesses: undisciplined, weak-willed, restless, disorganized, unproductive, undependable, obnoxious, loud, egocentric, exaggerates, fearful, insecure

As noted above, a person is rarely limited to one temperament, and indeed, some share commonalities or connections. Sanguine and choleric both share an outgoing nature, both being warm, open, and direct. Phlegmatic and sanguine temperaments enjoy the social scene, energized by being with others. Choleric and melancholic personalities tend toward being thoughtful, pondering life’s weighty issues. While choleric and phlegmatic may both have a bit of a temper. Sanguine and melancholic share a penchant for great observation skills, though where they go from there may differ.

We may all exhibit different temperaments in our life seasons and daily rhythms. And seeing tendencies in our children toward one or more temperaments may help us devise ways to support them that may be unique to their blend of temperaments.


Want to learn more about the four temperaments and your child? Consider some of these resources–don’t forget to set up your Amazon Smile account to support Tacoma Waldorf!

Fox Boy, Oscar Otter, and Other Number Games

Fox Boy, Oscar Otter, and Other Number Games

In the last 24 hours I’ve witnessed several excellent examples of how our first and second graders are learning numbers not just through rote memorization, but through games and movement and song, as well.

Last night was one of our Grade 1/2 parent evenings, and a room full of parents sang, talked school business, and, most fun of all, sat at our first and second graders desks (or tried!) to sample a game they play in class called Fox Boy. So much learning in Waldorf education is tied to rich stories that give the students something to tie their learning to, engaging them in the story and the math lesson within it. Fox Boy is no exception. As Mrs. Evans, the Grade 1/2 teacher, started an abridged version of the story of Fox Boy last night, telling of how he couldn’t hold any more than nine pebbles in his hand because try as he might, a tenth always slipped out, and then introducing a game with pebbles and pouches, little did I know that I was engaged in a fun way to start learning place values and double-digit addition!

In front of us were two sheets of paper, one red (left) and one white (right), along with several pouches containing ten pebbles each and some loose pebbles. Mrs. Evans would talk about Fox Boy’s journey and how he found 3 pebbles (which we put on the white paper on the right) and then two pouches (which we put on the left-side red paper). Then we counted them and found it was easy to see: two pouches of ten gave us twenty rocks, plus the three on the white paper. Twenty-three. Here Mrs. Evans had us use a piece of rainbow-colored string to draw a line across our papers with our pouches and pebbles above the line

Fox Boy continued on his journey and found two more pouches, which we added to the red side. And then three more pebbles, which we added to the white side. Again, twenty-three. But. Now she showed us a trick. Adding all the pouches on the red paper, we now had four pouches of ten rocks: forty. And adding all the individual pebbles on the white paper: six. Forty-six. My first grader who just a few weeks back was learning individual numbers and adding and subtracting with small numbers was now finding a creative way to learn to add complex numbers: 23 + 23 = 46! I was so excited when I realized the complexity of this entertaining and engaging way my daughter was learning numbers and mathematics.

Then this morning was one of our grades assemblies, held roughly every six weeks to showcase for the school what the grades have been working on. My first grader was especially excited to play her pentatonic flute for the first time since they started learning that instrument. And that was wonderful to hear. But after last night’s math epiphany, I was just as excited to hear the verses they recited while marching and skipping rhythmically in a circle showing how they were learning to count by twos, threes, fours, fives, sixes, and even tens. The recitations and movement helped the students embody this knowledge in so many different ways rather than simply trying to memorize a list of numbers counting by threes or fours. It was exciting to watch.

Since today was also our first Grandparents’ Day, parents and grandparents were welcomed into the classroom following the assembly to learn more about the students’ daily routines and what they were learning. After a brief overview of the day’s rhythm (in Grade 1/2 on Tuesdays that included a two-hour main lesson block where they do either math or language arts, snack and recess, handwork where they are knitting, Japanese, lunch and recess, Sun Circle and Grade 1 dismissal, and Grade 2’s extra main lesson time), they broke up into pairs to play another number game called Oscar Otter that the teacher told us about last fall so we could play at home. One student would take a number of glass stones and hide some with an overturned cup. The other student would count the stones outside the cup and then calculate how many were hidden, knowing how many they had started with. Each student’s sack has a different number of stones, so depending on their partner, they get to practice with a wide variety of number variations.


All-in-all, an enlightening and inspiring twenty-four hours of Grade 1/2 Waldorf math lessons!

More thoughts on rhythm

Our lives are becoming exponentially more busy. Comings and goings, recitals and games, playdates and meetings. Even when you make a conscious effort NOT to overschedule your children, life happens. And sometimes those things all seem to happen at the same time. The recital happens to be on the same night as the school parent meeting AND your spouse’s big business meeting. Or there’s a school meeting you need to go to, but one of the kids has ballet class and the other has a birthday party. While this kind of thing happens to all of us from time to time, despite our best efforts not to over-schedule our lives, one thing that can help everyone to feel more grounded and steady when this scheduling craziness DOES happen is the creation of a general rhythm in your lives.

Following on the theme of our last post, we wanted to share some more thoughts on the role of rhythm and its importance in today’s busy world. The following passage is from another handout from the January Cherry Blossom parent meeting, this one specifically on the topic of rhythm. We invite you to take a few minutes out of that busy schedule to see if anything resonates with you in this piece.


Rhythm permeates life. It is in our bodies–in our heartbeat and breathing, for example. We walk and talk rhythmically. We wake and sleep rhythmically. Rhythm infuses the natural world, too, in the seasons, the tides, the lunar cycles. Human culture, when it was more connected with the natural world, used to be much more rhythmic. People did rhythmic labor–scything, woodcutting, laundering–often accompanied by rhythmic work songs. Hard work was punctuated by rest. The seasons had a profound effect on daily life–on what people ate, what tasks they did, and how comfortable they felt.

Today technology has enabled people to live far removed from natural cycles. With electric lights it can be “daytime” anytime. Heaters and air conditioners can keep our houses in perpetual spring temperatures. We can eat refrigerated strawberries flown from Chile in the middle of winter. The rhythm we hear is often the hum of that refrigerator, or our car, or clocks. The rhythm we feel is often the quick pace of traffic or business.

Certainly this technology benefits our lives tremendously. But I think it is important to recognize what we lose in exchange for the conveniences of technology, and to try to reclaim what we can.

Our children in particular benefit from a rhythmic lifestyle. Regular times and routines for going to sleep, waking up, and eating give children a structure to “settle into” and a secure base from which to explore life. (I don’t mean a rigid, down-to-the-minute inflexibility but rather a reasonable consistency to how and when things happen.) A rhythmic home life helps with discipline, too. It limits those meltdowns that result from hunger and/or fatigue. Bedtime arguments lose their footing when bedtime always happens in generally the same way at the same time each night, for who is there to argue with? The routine becomes “just the way it is.”

Dr. Jane Healy, an educator and neural science scholar, in Endangered Minds–Why Our Children Don’t Think, argues that a rhythmic home life is vital to developing thinking skills. Establishing order from chaos helps develop neural pathways, the “routes of ideas.” Speaking rhythmically also aids this process. You may notice how many of the fingerplays and rhymes we do during circle time have a sing-song rhythm: this gives the children a “handle” to grasp and learn them.

Besides a rhythmic home life, spending time in nature also nourishes children’s rhythm. It puts us in touch with the seasons, first of all, so we physically feel where we are in the cycle of the year, and it helps children make that connection with the order of the year. It also gives us slower rhythms to synchronize with. Rather than the hurried pace of contemporary society, we can open ourselves to the rhythm of birdsong and cicadas and breezes, and let them influence our internal rhythm to be slower and more peaceful. Living in harmony with the rhythm around us, and setting a rhythm for our daily lives, can help our children dance into their futures with security, discipline, intelligence, and joy.

Waldorf in the Home: Rhythm, Technology, and Over-stimulation

Waldorf in the Home: Rhythm, Technology, and Over-stimulation

Friday night we had one of the regular parent evenings our teachers schedule throughout the year to give parents a time to socialize, ask questions, and learn more about the ways of Waldorf education, and what they can do in their homes to continue the careful and nourishing work done in the classroom. This particular evening session was for our Cherry Blossom preschool, including 15 parents from the three-day class and our new two-day class. Cherry Blossom teacher Ms. Chandra always begins with a descriptive look at the work being done by the little ones in class of late, telling tales of circle work and play time. And true to Waldorf form, she doesn’t expect even grown adults to sit through the hour-and-a-half meeting on their chairs with no movement! Friday night’s agenda included a movement section where we got to live out the circle work that our children have been enjoying in class, including a song with movements where we all got to be little gnomes mining gold deep in the mountain, heaving our sack over our shoulders, and then trudging back out with our heavy imaginary load in our circle while we sang the rhythmic song that the children love.

Most parent evenings at Waldorf school also include some kind of reading on parenting or Waldorf theory, and this evening was no exception. Cherry Blossom parents and Ms. Chandra read several brief passages on the topics of rhythm, technology, and over-stimulation, one of which I have reprinted below, before joining together to make needle-felted moons for the craft portion of the evening. Some people even went further and made stars to go with their moons! These parent evenings are a great way for parents to hear what their little ones are experiencing in class and learn more about Waldorf education, perhaps including some inspirations for things to include in their home rhythms.



Waldorf in the Home

Because Waldorf education is an impulse toward wholeness, it does not end int he classroom. The Waldorf teacher creates lessons which nurture learning, but also which nurture rhythm, knowing that children need the security of order. Rudolf Steiner says that rhythm is the healer of life–that which unites and makes whole.

This rhythm of the daily lessons, of water color painting and form drawing, of festivals in harmony with nature, is most meaningful when it is extended into the home.

Parents can create a rhythm consistent with the values of the Waldorf classroom in many ways.

Sharing an evening meal together each night unites a family at day’s end. If there is time to play, the child can have some quiet time ending with the child putting toys away. This gives a sense of order and completion to the day’s activities. To prepare the child for bed, warm bath, warm bed, covers turned back, are all inviting. A candle during story time, a song or gentle conversation, give a sense of peace into sleep.

This rhythm continues into waking and the first good morning kiss. Children create each day anew. The day is spent in play, singing, laughing, imagining, dreaming. Even quarreling and crying are an important part of the child’s natural learning activities. There is, then, little time to allow for the watching of television. indeed, watching television has many negative effects that last beyond time spent in front of the television set. It influences the ways that children play with others, listen, and imagine.

When children are at home, they project fantasy and imagination into their play, and their toys. The ideal toy is one which imposes the least possible limitation on the child’s imagination. A good toy will also satisfy the sense of touch. Natural materials, such as the ones used in the classroom, seem best suited for this. Limiting the number of toys can be a help in creating a sense of order and appreciation.

Above all, the parent who by example shows reverence to the earth, respect to self and others, and follows healthy rhythms in his or her own life gives a precious treasure to the child.

TWS will celebrate 25 years in 2015-16!

Sometimes one gets so caught up in the day-to-day work of operating a small, independent school that we forget the history of our organization. This year we were blessed to have school co-founder Ruth Peterson re-join the faculty as the Grade One Main Lesson teacher, as well as taking over our Parent/Child classes starting this month! With Ruth’s presence around our hallways and play spaces, we revisited some of the school’s early founding memories and evolution. Which made us realize… she and co-founder Maureen Conlen started their Waldorf-style preschool class in Tacoma in October of 1990. Next fall, in October 2015, our little school will officially be 25 years old! Definite cause for celebration!

Discussions have begun to plan a fall celebratory event to which we hope to invite as many Tacoma Waldorf alumni, and Pierce County Waldorf alumni in general! The inspiration for Ruth and Maureen’s Waldorf program in Tacoma was the Morning Star Waldorf School in Gig Harbor, which operated from 1983 through spring of 1990, graduating the first Waldorf eighth grade in the state of Washington before closing due to a lack of location. We welcome these alumni to also celebrate with us, as our combined years mean a Waldorf education presence in Pierce County beyond our 25 years!

We invite TWS and MSWS alumni (and other Pierce County Waldorf alumni who wish to take part in our fall celebration) to send us your contact information at so we can be sure to keep you apprised of progress towards this exciting event!

Play is the Work of Early Childhood

Play is the Work of Early Childhood

As mainstream early childhood programs push academics younger and young, many kindergartens are now doing the work that first graders did a few decades ago. Some mistakenly believe this push will result in our children achieving more scholastically and intellectually than if they start academics at a later age, but many are realizing the fallacy of this assumption. (The wonderful photos in this post are taken in our Cherry Blossom preschool by TWS mama and photographer Tania Zimmer.)


In Waldorf kindergartens and preschools, play is considered the primary work of the early childhood student. They are learning proper social interaction skills, developing etiquette, building their imagination muscles, and honing their verbal skills. Articles like ParentMap‘s recent “Preschool Choices: Play is the Way!” highlight some of the benefits of play-based education.


A 2010 CNN piece on play- versus skills-based preschool programs outlines the conflict this way:

The beauty of a play-based curriculum is that very young children can routinely observe and learn from others’ emotions and experiences. Skills-based curricula, on the other hand, are sometimes derisively known as “drill and kill” programs because most teachers understand that young children can’t learn meaningfully in the social isolation required for such an approach.


A Waldorf early childhood classroom is filled with a variety of open-ended play things made from natural materials: wooden blocks, colorful silks, cloth dolls, wooden play kitchen items, even items from nature. While our classes include a regular rhythm to the day that is soothing to the young child (each day has a predictable pattern to it that they can settle into), part of that rhythm always includes unstructured free play, a time for the kids to follow their imagination and play (safely) as they will with their classmates and the variety of items in the classroom. It’s always interesting to see the tales they tell and the games they create when not led by an adult.


But there is time, too, in the rhythm of each day, for coming together as a whole. For circle work, where the teachers and students sing and say verses together with movements. For family-style meal time, often a snack that the children themselves helped to create, for little ones love to contribute with their practical skills to the cutting of soup vegetables or the setting of the table.


And always a time for outside play, to explore the natural world. Instilling a reverence for nature is a strong point of Waldorf education, through lots of outdoor time and the inclusion of natural objects in the classroom.


Many parents and educators are starting to realize that this is what young children need: the ability to be a child, not pressed into academic work not fit for their current developmental age, but rather to play and learn all the social lessons of this age in a safe and nurturing space. To become a kind of a family, where each person is encouraged to grow from exactly where they are.

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Tacoma Waldorf School is expanding our popular Cherry Blossom Preschool program to include a new two-day option beginning January 2015. The new class will meet on Thursdays and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. For more information on this exciting new opportunity, please contact or call 253.383.8711. 

The inner work of Advent

To quote a paragraph from our December newsletter (subscribe),

Advent is a more of a time for making ready, than for celebration. Years ago it was used for fasting, for inner reorientation, for taking the little flame that began to shine brightly at Michaelmas on an inner journey through the darkness of the soul towards the light of Christmas and solstice.

At Tacoma Waldorf School, as with many Waldorf schools, this time of year is recognized with a quiet observation known as the Advent Spiral. A spiral of fragrant green boughs adorned with seashells and other goodies leads to a stump with a flickering candle. Inspired by beautiful music, each child in turn quietly carries his or her candle, usually stuck in the top of an apple, through the spiral to the central flame. They light their own candle, then walk back out, finding just the right place for their own flame along the way.


At home and in the classroom, many celebrate Advent daily, sometimes before mealtime, lighting a candle that may be placed in their tabletop Advent garden or standing alone, one candle for each week of the Advent season. A song that can be sung with the lighting of the candle has these lyrics:

Advent, Advent, a candle burns.
Advent, Advent, a candle burns.
First one, then two, then three, then four
Then the child of light stands at the door.
Advent, Advent, a candle burns.
Advent, Advent, a candle burns.

After the candle is lit, there is a verse that can be spoken to correlate to each week of the Advent season, and a small token might be placed near that candle marking the special theme of that week (stones, plants, animals, and humans):

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 the greatest and 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.

Some use this as a time for introspection to fan their own little light of the soul. Here are some simple ideas for reflection and action for adults celebrating the season of Advent.

Week One: Cultivating hope and a spirit of stewardship.
Sunday: Seek to be content.
Monday: Make a conscious effort to avoid that which oppresses others.
Tuesday: De-accumulate. What can you give away?
Wednesday: Share your talents. How can you use your gifts to help others?
Thursday: Appreciate creation.
Friday: Care for the poor and forgotten. Visit someone in the hospital, a nursing home, a prison.
Saturday: Set a goal. Make a plan.

Week Two: Seeking peace, both at home and in the world.
Sunday: Simplify your commitments.
Monday: Go on a media fast.
Tuesday: Simplify your holiday celebration.
Wednesday: Is there anything in your life that is an addiction to you? Seek to eliminate it.
Thursday: Pray or meditate.
Friday: What keeps you from living peace? Prune what distracts you.
Saturday: Slow down. Seek peace.

Week Three: Creating joy.
Sunday: Share a favorite book from your childhood.
Monday: Exercise gratitude.
Tuesday: What brings you joy? Make a list.
Wednesday: Teach something new to a child.
Thursday: Schedule a date with a loved one.
Friday: Seek to bring joy to others.
Saturday: Do something that brings you joy.

Week Four: Loving ourselves and others.
Sunday: Seek to love without judgment–this applies both to others and to yourself.
Monday: Help someone you know.
Tuesday: Help someone you don’t know.
Wednesday: Make a conscious effort to speak the truth in love.
Thursday: Practice hospitality in your home.
Friday: Encourage someone today.
Saturday: Practice patience.


Above all, take time this Advent and holiday season to nourish yourself and your family, in spirit as well as physical food!