Slow Parenting with Teacher Helle Heckmann

slow parenting

Thursday, May 2 at 5:30 p.m., pioneering Early Childhood teacher and author Helle Heckmann presents “Slow Parenting,” a talk based on her book of the same name and her experience as the founder of Nokken, a Waldorf program in Copenhagen, Denmark which she developed for children from ages one to seven. Helle has spoken to teachers and caregivers in 50 countries, who share an interest in providing a healthy, nourishing environment for their children. 

In the school auditorium.

Adults only.

$10 suggested donation at the door.

Spring Events for Families

In the merry month of May, Berkshire Waldorf School invites the greater Berkshire community to two Spring events for families, May Day and “Slow Parenting” with Helle Heckmann.

May Day

On May Day, Wednesday, May 1 at 11:00 a.m., spectators are invited to join the colorful festival of May Day with all the trimmings, including singing, dancing, music, flower crowns and an authentic Maypole, to shake off the last vestiges of winter and welcome summer in the Berkshires. Free. On the Maypole Green at the school; parking adjacent. Rain or shine. Blankets and picnics encouraged.

Kindergartners heading to the May Pole Green on May Day.

Slow Parenting with Helle Heckmann

Thursday, May 2 at 5:30 p.m., pioneering Early Childhood teacher and author Helle Heckmann presents “Slow Parenting,” a talk based on her book of the same name and her experience as the founder of Nokken, a Waldorf program in Copenhagen, Denmark which she developed for children from ages one to seven. Helle has spoken to teachers and caregivers in 50 countries, who share an interest in providing a healthy, nourishing environment for their children. In the school auditorium. Adults only. $10 suggested donation at the door.

We look forward to celebrating Spring together!

Sharing the Solar Eclipse with Young Children

Sharing the solar eclipse with young children offers a rare opportunity to help your child learn that they can stay safe and grounded, even when something extraordinary happens.

Learning Through the Senses

For the young child, every day is a celebration.

Young children experience the world through their senses. They feel the light and warmth of the sun through their bodies. They marvel at the sun’s power to wake up plants and birds, chase the clouds away and peel off our winter coats.

Celebrate the Good

In Early Childhood classes at Berkshire Waldorf School, we celebrate all that’s good in the world: the beautiful light of the sunrise, food prepared with so much care, the children’s community of loving family, the safe embrace of Mother Nature, and so much more.

Instead of Explaining…

In our modern world, we focus on the scientific, material aspect of things. We tend to understand phenomena like a solar eclipse through intellectualized explanations. However, giving children rational explanations prematurely can contribute to confusion, anxiety and hypervigilance. It pulls little ones out of the developmental space where the world makes sense to them because they can experience it with their senses. The sages of old knew to meet events like this with the same wonder and reverence as other cosmic events.

Waldorf Education founder Rudolf Steiner writes about how children’s feelings during such moments are the same as what we could call “religious feelings” in an adult.

Focus on Experience

So instead of looking up during the time of the eclipse, how about we look down?

I invite you to tap into your inner quiet during the time of the eclipse, and observe your children and nature. How does the light and the mood change? Look for shadows and light. How are your pets behaving? And what about the other animals that might live in your backyard? The crows, the geese? Are the birds singing? Are the bees buzzing? How do the flowers and trees change? Is your child getting a bit clingy, or are they oblivious to what is happening in nature? Let the experience resonate without a verbal explanation.

Highlight with Gratitude

We can take this opportunity to give gratitude to the Sun and the Moon for sharing their light with us. How about planting some flowers for the bees, who are sometimes called “light workers”? Sunshine soup for dinner? Moon cakes (aka pizza or tortillas)? How about a candle for the moon and a candle for the sun, to give thanks for their life-giving light? These are just a few thoughts to fuel your imagination.

A solar eclipse is so much more than one celestial body passing in front of the other and blocking the light, it’s an opportunity to share the wonder of the world with our children.

by Star Room Toddler Nursery Teacher Rebecca Ruof

Woman’s History Month: The Three Mothers

Behind every great man, is a great…mother.

Much has been written about Berdis Baldwin’s son James, about Alberta King’s son Martin Luther, and Louise Little’s son Malcolm. But virtually nothing has been said about the extraordinary women who raised them.

In her groundbreaking and essential debut The Three Mothers, scholar Anna Malaika Tubbs celebrates Black motherhood by telling the story of the three women who raised and shaped some of America’s most pivotal heroes.

One of Fortune Magazine‘s 21 Books to Look Foward to in 2021

Badass Women’s Bookclub pick for “Badass Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2021!”

“Berdis Baldwin, Alberta King, and Louise Little were all born at the beginning of the 20th century and forced to contend with the prejudices of Jim Crow as Black women. These three extraordinary women passed their knowledge to their children with the hope of helping them to survive in a society that would deny their humanity from the very beginning—from Louise teaching her children about their activist roots, to Berdis encouraging James to express himself through writing, to Alberta basing all of her lessons in faith and social justice. These women used their strength and motherhood to push their children toward greatness, all with a conviction that every human being deserves dignity and respect despite the rampant discrimination they faced.

“These three mothers taught resistance and a fundamental belief in the worth of Black people to their sons, even when these beliefs flew in the face of America’s racist practices and led to ramifications for all three families’ safety. The fight for equal justice and dignity came above all else for the three mothers.

“These women, their similarities and differences, as individuals and as mothers, represent a piece of history left untold and a celebration of Black motherhood long overdue.” – Macmillan Books

https://www.insider.com/the-mothers-behind-martin-luther-king-malcolm-x-james-baldwin-2021-2 https://www.csmonitor.com/Books/Book-Reviews/2021/0224/MLK-Malcolm-X-and-James-Baldwin-were-shaped-by-their-mothers

https://www.csmonitor.com/Books/Book-Reviews/2021/0224/MLK-Malcolm-X-and-James-Baldwin-were-shaped-by-their-mothers

https://www.insider.com/the-mothers-behind-martin-luther-king-malcolm-x-james-baldwin-2021-2

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Happy Summer! Our Admissions deadline for Fall is July 15th. Our office hours are 9am-3pm Monday-Friday.

Meet Our First Grade Teacher

Wonderful news! Mabel Albert will be the First Grade teacher for our 2024-25 First Grade.

Join us WED, February 14 @ 8:30am for a special Valentines Day coffee to meet Ms. Albert, Class Teacher for the Class of 2032, and learn more about learning your child will LOVE! 

We’ll discuss the First Grade curriculum, and you’ll also meet First Grade Subject Teachers in Music, Games, Handwork, Gardening and World Languages

About First Grade Teacher Ms. Albert

A current Class Teacher at Berkshire Waldorf School, Ms. Albert is a Waldorf graduate who attended White Mountain Waldorf School (Albany, New Hampshire) from Kindergarten through Eighth Grade. She earned both her Bachelor of Fine Arts and Masters of Arts in Teaching from Tufts University, Boston. After graduation, she taught art for students in Kindergarten through Eighth Grade at the Coolidge Corner School in Brookline, MA. During that time, she also worked at the Brookline Arts Center, teaching children of all ages. Prior to relocating to the Berkshires, Ms. Albert worked as a substitute teacher in New Hampshire private and public elementary schools. 

At Berkshire Waldorf School, as in most Waldorf schools worldwide, Grades School Class Teachers start with their class cohort in First Grade, and move through the Elementary School curriculum together, to build strong, long-term relationships for up to eight years. Ms. Albert joined BWS with the “Covid class” in 2020, when her current students were in Fifth Grade, and immediately committed to teaching outside throughout the school year, so students could attend school in person. This Spring, Ms. Albert is finishing Eighth Grade with the Class of 2024. 

Next Steps Toward First Grade

At “Meet the First Grade Teachers,” you’ll learn more about what to look forward to in First Grade, and the admissions process for applicant families.

Both the event registration and First Grade applications for students who will be turning 6 by September 1, 2024 are open now in our admissions portal, Ravenna

Friends and family members (*grownups only) are welcome to join in this Valentines Day coffee event. Any questions, please contact Admissions Director Robyn Coe, admissions@berkshirewaldorfschool.org.

We look forward to seeing you at this exciting event! 

#GoBobcats!

Dr. King and the BWS Star Code

Do you know we learn from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ‘s legacy throughout the year at Berkshire Waldorf School?

Not just this month but every day, our unique teaching tool, the BWS Star Code, is a visual reminder posted throughout the school of our community values based on Dr. King’s work, and a practical teaching tool for social and character education.

The BWS Star Code: Our Agreement

The BWS Diversity and Inclusion Statement refers to our BWS Star Code as a focal point. It’s our “North star,” to help guide faculty, administrators, trustees, caregivers and students in the active practice of inclusion.

Developed in 2009 by students, teachers, and school psychologist Dr. Steve Hoff, the BWS Star Code visualizes the values our school community agrees to uphold.  Since Waldorf Education is not just grounded in child development, but also a social education, the BWS Star Code is posted throughout the school, to remind us all how to work together with respect and appreciation, not only in classrooms, but on the playground, on school buses, at after school activities and sporting events, and with each other outside of school.  

The BWS Star Code was presented to the school community in 2009, to honor Dr. King’s Day and commemorate President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Faculty member Ann Sagarin weaved the values represented by these two individuals into the presentation of the BWS Star Code, acknowledging that the values we practice in our classrooms every day have been passed down to us through the generations.

Grade School teachers use the BWS Star Code in developmentally appropriate ways, including role playing, mixed age group projects (especially revisited each year in honor of Dr. King’s Day) and lively class discussions, to address such topics as teasing and criticizing, peer pressure, Internet safety and healthy human sexuality and identity development. One prescient Middle School teacher reminded her students, working together through the Star Code in class, to remember to be kind to themselves.

Above, some of the books available for students to check out in the BWS library.

Growth Mindset

BWS teachers and administrators are working on two group reading projects this year, to re-enliven our commitment to anti-racism and social justice, as we learn and practice Dr. King’s principles throughout the year.

Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success uses research to help teach that “with the right mindset, you can motivate those you lead, teach, and love—to transform their lives and your own.”

At the heart of what makes the “growth mindset” so winsome, Dweck found, is that it creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval. Its hallmark is the conviction that human qualities like intelligence and creativity, and even relational capacities like love and friendship, can be cultivated through effort and deliberate practice.

from “Fixed Vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Live,” by Maria Popova, Marginalian

In My Grandmother’s Hands, Resmaa Menakem posits that biases are not just in the mind, but are stored in the physical body and need to be deeply felt to be healed, so we can grow beyond racism. The book offers a step-by-step healing process that readers can take into their own hands, based on the latest neuroscience and somatic healing methods.

It’s encouraging to understand that we can use the Waldorf way of learning with head, hands and heart to learn and grow at any age, and that by practicing the growth mindset, change becomes about lifelong learning and growth, not fear or failure.

Dr. King reading with his family.

Further Resources:

Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Michael Harriot’s Black AF History.

Read more of Dr. King’s words from parent Lev Natan’s recent post at Alliance for a Viable Future.

Great Barrington Proclaims Hilda Banks Shapiro Community Day

The legendary Hilda Banks Shapiro, Berkshire treasure and one of Berkshire Waldorf School’s founding parents, has been honored posthumously with her own Community Day.

Read in the Berkshire Eagle.

The Season of Light

As we approach the Winter Solstice on December 21, Berkshire Waldorf School, with Waldorf schools all over the world, enters the Season of Light.

During this time of the longest night and shortest day of the year, we celebrate the spirit of peace and joyful anticipation by bringing light and warmth into the darkness with candles, holiday lights and observance of the moon and stars. For inner warmth and light, we take comfort in family, friends, food and traditions of giving. 

Berkshire Waldorf School celebrates these qualities through a number of rich, reverent celebrations and festivals.

The Spiral of Light

Lighting the Darkness

BWS Kindergartners participate in the Spiral of Light, which brings a mood of quiet reverence to the season. Each child walks a spiral path made of evergreen boughs strewn with minerals and crystals. As they reach the center, children light their “apple candle” at the central candle, and place it along the path home, to light the way for friends.

Elementary and Middle School students mark the Season of Light with age-appropriate festivals and rituals that come out of the learning content from each grade. These speak to children with soul-satisfying comfort and peace. Practicing warmth and joy at a dark time centers us all in strength and hope.

Advent in Four Weeks

In Waldorf schools, students from all backgrounds participate in the month-long observance of “Waldorf Advent,” anticipating the rebirth of the light.

Grades and Middle School students gather on Monday mornings in December for special songs, stories and verses. Each Week, students light one more candle in the Advent wreath, to balance the increasing darkness outside. The menorah stands next to the wreath, and students light it, along with the wreath candles, during Hanukkah.

The weeks of “Waldorf Advent” honor the kingdoms of nature—minerals, plants, animals and human beings—and this theme is brought into classroom activities and decorations as well.

As the weeks progress, the Waldorf Advent wreath is decorated with crystals and shells, flowers, small animals and people (some hand sculpted by students out of beeswax). Early childhood students celebrate these festivals in their classrooms. 

Waldorf Verse for Advent

The first light of Advent is the light of stones.

The light that shines in crystals, seashells and bones.

The second light of Advent is the light of plants.

Plants that reach up to the sun, and in the breezes dance.

The third light of Advent is the light of beasts.

It shines in the greatest, it shines in the least.

The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind.

The light of love, the light of thought, to give and understand.

Celebrating Together

BWS families are invited to gather in the auditorium on Winter Solstice, Thursday, December 21 at 11:00 am, where our month of festivities culminates in a holiday assembly to celebrate the Season of Light as a community.

Berkshire Waldorf School faculty and staff wish your family a beautiful holiday season, and memories that bring renewed warmth and light throughout the years. 

Happy Holidays!

Ceremony focuses attention so that attention becomes intention….Ceremonies transcend the boundaries of the individual and resonate beyond the human realm. These acts of reverence are powerfully pragmatic. These are ceremonies that magnify life.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, from Braiding Sweetgrass

Snow and stars from Ms. Alessandra’s First Grade chalkboard.

In-School Festivities for the Season of Light

Wednesday, December 6, Saint Nicholas Day The story of a wise and generous person, Nicholas captivates the imagination of our youngest students, and brings the warmth of caring and giving to this season of celebration.

Early Childhood classes receive the surprise of a basket of treats that Nicholas brings (golden walnuts and clementines are favorites). They sometimes catch a glimpse of him passing across the landscape on his journey of good will.

Nicholas will visit children in the Grade School this year. Many of the children have heard the story of this wise person, also know as St. Nicholas, in their classrooms, but his visit is a special surprise for them. Nicholas represents one’s “higher self” to the children, embodying goodness, understanding and wisdom. Nicholas carries a golden book, and he reads a personal message to each Grade School student.

Wednesday, December 13, Santa Lucia Day In our school, Santa Lucia Day and the visit from Nicholas come out of the Second Grade curriculum of “Golden Hearts,” people who devote their lives to their values. We follow in the tradition of a day widely celebrated in Sweden on the feast day of the “Queen of Light,” an historical figure who brought food to the hungry during a time of famine. Second Graders perform this seasonal role, dressing in white with candlelight “crowns,” and visiting throughout school, including Early Childhood, to bring each class freshly baked saffron buns and a song to light the darkness.

December 20, 3:00 and 7:00 pm, Shepherd’s Play The Christmas image is one of a humble birth surrounded by love. In the Christian tradition, Christ’s birth is celebrated just after Winter Solstice, as the light of earth is returning. This humorous and joyful “Oberufer” Christmas story has been played for decades at Waldorf schools throughout the world, based on indications by Waldorf Education founder Rudolf Steiner, and is performed at  BWS by faculty as a gift to students, families and the community.

The Joy of Giving

In the Berkshires, when the earth falls quiet under winter snows, we look inward to reflect on the passing year, and look forward to the sun’s return and lengthening days.

As a community, we take comfort in the light of family, food and traditions of giving. We hope this helps you understand all we do to celebrate the Season of Light at Berkshire Waldorf School. What a joy to celebrate together!

One joy of the season – Middle School students cross country skiing during recess.

PIE! Parent Info Events START 11/29

You’re invited for some special PIE (parent info events, aka parent education), on the menu at BWS between Thanksgiving & Holiday Break! We are grateful to be together, in the spirit of learning and community. Bon apetit!

Waldorf 101: How, When & Why Waldorf Education Works

Wednesday, Nov. 29 | 6:00-7:00 p.m.

Join experienced Berkshire Waldorf School teachers Alessandra Profumo and Lynn Arches for an inspiring overview of how, when and why Waldorf teachers bring the “3 Rs” to students in ways that create lasting learning and meaning, not just rote memorization.

Free; all welcome. We will meet in person in the school library. Bring your questions! Bring a friend! Adults only, please. 

*PRO TIP: For real insight, we invite you to experience the school in action at our “Coffee, Tea and Tour” the same morning, WED 11/29, or the following week, WED 12/6, starting in the Library (Grades School building), from 8:30-9:30 a.m. For more info or to register, email Admissions Director Robyn Coe at admissions@berkshirewaldorfschool.org.

Since You Asked: Why We Do What We Do

Friday, Dec. 1 | 8:30-9:30 a.m.

Join veteran teacher and Berkshire Waldorf School Council of Teachers Chairperson Krista Palmer for a conversation about how BWS teachers meet the whole child, according to Rudolf Steiner’s indications on child development.

Mrs. Palmer will give an overview and answer your questions about the incarnating child from birth through adolescence, continuing her primer (begun at our “Looking Forward to the Grades” meeting in November) around the “Whys” of Waldorf Education and the philosophical understanding BWS teachers work from. Don’t miss this!

Winter Tips & Tools for Prevention and Wellness 

Monday, Dec. 4 | 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.

Join licensed acupuncturist, Berkshire Waldorf School alum and Board member Emily Kasten to learn basic acupressure, Chinese medical massage techniques, plus simple herbal and kitchen remedies for immune support, wellness and recovery.