Sunday, August 30, 2009

mahatma gandhi

spiritual leaders at syrendell

Creating wood toys for our Syrendell Etsy shop has been a rewarding experience. For me, the creative process of working with wood is quite satisfying. For the families who own our wooden sprites and streamer wands, they are enjoying the natural beauty of handcrafts. And certainly, the toys can also be educational. But can they also have a spiritual nature?

Mother Teresa joined us at Syrendell as one of the first of a series of wood figurines I called the Leaders of Peace. Mahatma Gandhi is our latest addition to the Syrendell family. I had to carve his distinctive steel-rimmed spectacles and prominent ears! He wears the traditional Indian dhoti. He holds his hands as if in prayer or as if ready to help. I wanted the piece to express a sense of reverence and meditative quality, capturing what it may have been like to be in his presence in his efforts for world peace.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

syrendell academy

a creative workshop in the dell

Thinking, feeling, and willing. Head, heart, and hands. The balance of the human spirit. We strive for this in our inner lives. Steiner believes the thirst for knowledge is what gives humankind the boundless freedom to seek truths and to lift ourselves into higher planes of consciousness. This thirsting for knowledge can only be quenched with willful action. Perhaps this is the role of the educator. Knowledge is meant to be shared and teaching others is a way of willful action.

My wife Jennifer and I feel blessed to have had the opportunities to learn from wonderful teachers who gave us skills we ourselves enjoy, and can share with others. Parents to their children. Friends to friends. Teacher to student. Through each individual soul the thread of knowledge weaves. As Steiner points out in his book Philosophy of Freedom, "In so far as we think, we are the all-one being that pervades everything."

Education connects us and enlives us. Everyday, Jennifer and I model for our children, and impart in our children what we know - and we likewise learn things from them as well! The thread of knowledge remains unbroken, and to expand it we are also compelled to share with other families what has been given to us.

We are hosting through Syrendell Academy a workshop for parents in beautiful Fair Oaks. It will be a day of cooperative learning, the synergy of willfulness. Painting, fiber crafting, a nature hunt, music, verses, and playing. Visit the Syrendell Academy website for info on Creative Family in the Dell: A Workshop for Parents and Toddlers. If you know anyone in the area who may be interested in attending, please let them know, and Jennifer and I will be happy to receive them.

Good day to you!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

verses versus verses

and the snail goes to...

The title suggests a competition (I just liked the homophone!), but our first verse-writing give-away was really a way for my readers to have an outlet to express their Inner Poet! Heartfelt, genuine, ethereal, clever, brilliant, inspiring, poignant, personal, funny, bold, and expressive. Thank you to the FOUR who submitted a verse for me to post on this fine Saturday morning -- we all win as we are graced by your creative striving, but alas, only ONE receives the syrendell snail.

The snail is given to Diana. Congratulations! You can find Diana on her blogsite My Artemis Moon. Here is Diana's verse entry:

My dearest little one
so fiercely growing
willing yourself your brother's equal
and yet the years between you remain.
Constantly striving to reach out beyond
the footsteps that have gone before you
There will come a time
when you forge out on new paths
spaces and places where none before trod
but for now feel the joy and the wonder of childhood
our love here will hold you and carry you on
till it's time for your own paths
and destiny's journey
and your love here from family
will light the path home.

Beautiful, wonderful all, here are the other verses.

From Hallie, she wrote about her verse entry titled Summer Rain, "I originally wrote this for MY best friend but now often think back to it when I see my daughter with her best friend...ironically playing in the rain!"

I remember hot summer rains
When I played with my very best friend
Under umbrellas and pretended
We were sisters

We played dolls on her porch
And it rained all around us
So puddles grew great
Just waiting to be jumped in

We had our favorite lunch
Of macaroni and cheese
And we pretended we were in
The nicest restaurant ever

When we grew tired of our game
We took our socks and shoes off
And ran around in the rain
Still wishing we were sisters!

From Angela (and Ruth and Bea), she writes, "I love my children - a quick poem about my three little ones and how they've been instructing me in savoring the moment and learning to be silly once again."

I see in you
the parts of me I had let fade away
but am rediscovering, rekindling -
drawing back to myself -
by being in your presence.

Mothering you
is a second chance -
to see things as you see them -
to find joy in simple moments.

"Oh, and my 6 year-old Ruth's contribution - she chose to write a poem about her sister, Bea, who is 4."

Bea is sweet
Bea is kind
Bea is more gentle
than anyone you can find.

"Okay, and now Bea says she wants to make up a poem about Ruth."

Ruth is nice
Ruth is sweet
She's sweeter than a sugar beet.

From Suzane, her verse titled The Unfolding, is about Rudolf Steiner, "his philosophy speaks to us as parents and I could not think of anyone who has made such a difference to our living. My verse is about how my life with my children has grown through the Waldorf way."

As the Seasons of learning unfold before me,
I am taken by its splendor.
As I am guided through my human life,
I awaken to the needs of my children.

Rudolf Steiner spiritually inspired by masterful thinking
has taken hold of my mind.
Like the dawn awakens my soul from slumber.
Something wonderful has begun.

I am Like a watered seed
emerging towards the light.
I have been given a tool, a treasure to share.
I must use it wisely.

To see my boy when ready,
with burning desire to read
is warming.
I am glad we waited.

Little hands that touch and mould
exploring with nature.
Fingers that paint and fiddle with instruments.
The gift of a picture and heavenly music.

Minds that expand , knowledge yet untold.
No limits to learning here with my fold.
Knowledge has given power to the learner here.
Our philosophy a road worth the travel.

To Hallie, Angela, and Suzane, who did not receive the give-away snail, I am offering a syrendell snail at a 20% discount from the listed price on the Syrendell.Etsy shop. To all the verse entrants, again Thank You!

Friday, August 21, 2009

last day of give-away

submit your verse today!

Today is the last day for submitting a verse for a chance to receive one of our syrendell snails. Click here for details on the give-away. Tomorrow, I will post the submissions, and announce the person whom I will send the snail to.

This is a verse I wrote for my instructor, Astrid Schmitt-Stegmann, who is a wonderful speaker, writer, and teacher (her assignment to us was to write a verse for a second grader, so I chose her, imagined as a young child, before her academic achievements in comparative literature and oration):

She warmly welcomes
the misty morn
"guten morgen"
her day is born
oh how the world churns
in God's hands
she sees beauty and grace
throughout the land
she searches deep
within her heart
no words yet
to describe this Art
soon I know
with voice and pen
her words will flow
again and again

Thursday, August 20, 2009

first day

the homeschool rhythm

Here are just a few highlights from the Tan family first day of school.

biking on the American River bike trails

scavenger hunt

circle time with Mommy

design stage of a wood project

an overnight camp-out on the backyard deck

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

world as percept

philosophy of freedom, chapter four

Steiner states in chapter four: "The failure to recognize the true relationship between mental picture and object has led to the greatest misunderstandings in modern philosophy."

By modern, of course, we must put Steiner's ideas in the context of the time the book was published, 1894. And the misunderstandings were among his contemporaries who had a spectrum of philosophical viewpoints on the topic of the human's relationship with the world. (One blog is not enough to distill the nuances of thought among the philosophers of the time, so forgive me, if you are a scholar of philosophy, if I oversimplify the concepts presented. My aim is to try and understand the material, often made easier for me through visual representations. In so doing, I am striving to follow the threads of Steiner's thought processes - which I believe is an honest approach to Philosophy of Freedom.)

In this chapter, the relationship of the human to the world is explored as subject and object. Object is anything that can be observed. Subject is the one doing the observing. So, because it is from our perspective that we can speak and know of anything, we can say that the human is a subject, and the world is the object. Steiner introduces the word percept. A percept is essentially an object, but Steiner uses the word to further add the quality of man's perceiving, sensing, and cognizing that object, and that a "perspective" exists, as in, from my perspective, I see the object, the percept.

Where the divergence of viewpoints occurs is in the question, "The thing, the object, the percept, that you are seeing in your mind, what is its true nature?"

Here, I must now introduce the idea of mental picture, or percept-picture. In your consciousness, you see an object, for instance, a flower, and it is a metal picture, a perceived picture of that flower. Three viewpoints that I believe to be presented in chapter four are: naive realism, critical idealism, and Immanuel Kant's theory.

The diagram I created illustrates my understanding of these three viewpoints. Each view is represented as a human figure in brown. The peach-colored circle in the head is conscious awareness (one can say it is the I, or the conscious soul). The flower in the middle represents the outer world. The flower within the peach-colored circle is the mental picture, or percet-picture, of the flower. The lines from the human to the flower represent the process of perceiving the object or percept (the flower) - each has a different quality, which is crucial to the argument. So here goes!

The naive realist sees the flower. All of the flower's qualities that this person discerns - smell, color, touch, form, are that object's true reality. The fuschi line, the perception process, transmits from the flower to the mental image of that flower, without any changes as that may be produced by the body's physiological organization. Deliberately, I did not use a continuous line that passes through the material of the body.

The critical idealist also sees a flower, but there is a huge difference with the naive realist. Steiner cites George Berkeley as the "classical representative" of the following view: in Berkely's words, " long as [objects] are not actually perceived by me, or do not exist in my mind or that of any other created spirit, they must either have no existence at all, or else submit in the mind of some Eternal Spirit." In other words, things do not exist outside of the person. Mental pictures, the percept-pictures, are all that there is. In my diagram, the flower is in the consciousness of the person, and the perception from the outside object is non-existent, hence the transparent line.

Now the Kantian view. Immanuel Kant acknowledges that a flower exists outside of the person. However, he asserts that the human being's ability to really experience the object, the thing-in-itself, in its true nature, is not possible because by the time the perception reaches the consciousness, the percept-picture has been completely modified by the body's physiological organization. In other words, as the object is observed by the eye, for instance, that stimulus upon the retina of the eye, the optic nerve, the white and gray matter of the cortex, is not even anywhere close to the reality of the object by the time it is transmitted to our consciousness. Hence, in my diagram, the line from the flower undergoes a color change when it enters the body and to the consciousness.

In this chapter, Steiner mostly refrains from interjecting his own viewpoint, as his main task in this chapter is to elucidate and refute the other viewpoints. But in every case, Steiner sees the faults in each one as giving limitations to our knowledge. In every case, it is the element of thinking that is not as valued by each of the viewpoints, the human's ability to form concepts is not addressed. For instance, the naive realist accepts the world objects as is, therefore, there is no gain of knowledge as there is nothing deeper than what the person immediately experiences. The critical idealist, since all the pictures in his mind are essentially figments of his own imagination, then this dream-state provides no impetus to know more. For the Kantian proponent, knowledge is limited to what his or her body can transmit and process from the reality outside of the body.

In trying to follow Steiner's own thoughts on all this, he himself does not directly present his viewpoint, so I am eager to discover as I continue to read, what's he thinking?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

snail for you

(first, a verse occurs)

I am sending home with you one of our beloved syrendell snails!

You have seen the verses I have been posting on my blog, some I have written (like the verse for joey), some from Steiner, and others. It is a Waldorf tradition to write poetry - anyone can be a poet if you have something wonderful to inspire you!

Write a verse about someone you love, venerate, admire, or are inspired by.

Email your submission to It must be your original work. I will read them, post all of them by next Saturday, and choose one poet to send the snail to!

Happy verse writing!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

syrendell snails

handcrafted critters on etsy

Through our Syrendell shop at, my wife Jennifer and I, and our children as well, are able to share with many families throughout the world our creative endeavors. It is an exhilarating feeling knowing that there are children playing with our syrendell sprites in Africa, streamer wands in Cananda, and syrendell snails in Sweden! The energy of handmade toys, especially if made with natural materials such as poplar, Stockmar paints, and beeswax, resonates with our inner spirits, as experienced through our sense of touch. (I'll do another blog post that features Jennifer's naturally-dyed silk scarves!)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

verse for my mom and dad

abundant love and generosity

Mom and Dad leave on an Alaskan cruise this weekend. Driving first through Oregon and then to Washington, they board the Norwegian Star from a port in Seattle. Have fun, you young'uns!

My kids, their grandkids, call them Lola and Lolo, Tagalog for grandmother and grandfather.

In Waldorf, we are always focused on our children. But the continuum of life encompasses our parents. The spectrum of the developing soul, if indeed it follows the path of transformation, must culminate at a highly enlightened state within our elders. So today I decided to write a verse for my parents.

from the philippines to america

from a place of a thousand islands
two souls fall in love
he a duck farmer's son
and she of noble blood

in chivalric knightly fashion
he rises to become a doctor
she sees his handsome face
his gallantry and ardor

in true love they marry
in secret their union made
three children soon are born
the provinces they lived and played

a quest for a better life
prompts a journey across the pacific
to the united states of america
chicago, illinois, to be specific

another son is born
a celebration of togetherness
the american dream on the horizon
to california's wilderness

another son is born
a family of seven
one amazing woman
and six males in heaven

creating a joyful home
where the children learn and grow
through respect, love, and trust
spirits shine and goodness flows

from the philippines to america
their history is written here
two souls who fell in love
and five sons who love them dear.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

verse for thinking

dynamic reflection

This is a short verse I wrote inspired by chapter three, thinking in the service of knowledge, from Philosophy of Freedom.

picture taken from our garden

dynamic reflection

my eyes start
the mechanism of observation
a passive process
that ends with my mind's vision

yet my soul
remains blind and blinking

if i do not activate
the mechanism of thinking

to think of thinking
is a meditation
the spirit self's will
for transformation

thinking of thinking
i must contemplate
dynamic reflection
is an exceptional state

Monday, August 10, 2009

monday market

sharing the creative spirit

ocean dance

ocean dance
in a milieu of salt water
micro-organisms thrive
threads of phytoplankton
specks of zooplankton
an aquacosmo jive

This painting is an acrylic and plaster on canvas, 24 x 48 x 1 1/2. A Pollock-esque piece, abstract expressionist, perfect with an ecclectic or modern home decor. I enjoyed making this piece and would love to find it a home. You are invited to visit the listing for this piece on my Etsy shop:

Thank you!

sunday reverie

flowers for contemplation

Just a few pictures I took from this morning - a quiet moment in commune with nature.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

thinking of thinking

philosophy of freedom, chapter three

Before anything else can be understood, thinking must be understood. (Steiner, Philosophy of Freedom, Chapter 3)

You can really hurt your brain thinking about thinking! It is not an activity we often engage in in our daily rhythms. It is the unobserved element in our ordinanry mental and spiritual life. (Steiner) But if you stop and think about it for a moment - actually, Steiner encourages one to set aside some time each day to do just that - the act of thinking is quite amazing, a unique human power.

We interact with the world through our senses, perceptions, observations. If we regard observation as a singular event, a passive act that is given to us by the object of that observation, we really can know no more about that object other than the percept of that object. The apple on the table is just an apple on the table.

adds another dimension to the observation of the apple on the table: concept. Forming a concept of that event is an active human-willed process. That delicious looking apple was picked from a tree and I wonder if it is ripe enough to eat...

It is an empowering thought that thinking occurs out of your own active device. No other human can take ownership of your thinking, no other human can take away this eternal freedom.

What if you make thinking the object of observation? Thinking of thinking. Steiner states that one can never observe present thinking. I can only subsequently take my experiences of my thinking process as the object of fresh thinking. (Steiner)

This makes sense, as thinking is, I believe, a mechanism. The process of forming a concept of the observed event occurs by way of the thinking mechanism. Similarly, the act of throwing a ball is like the act of thinking. In the split instant when the ball leaves your hand, the mechanism of the electrical impulses traveling through your nervous system, the actin and myosin filaments racheting to contract your muscles, and sodium-potassium pumps transporting ions between cells, the hand-eye coordination, the vestibulocochlear signals to keep you oriented, your circulatory system dilating the capillaries in your active muscles, the parasympathetic nerves telling your digestive system that it is not the priority, all is happening in some physiological, magical way so the ball reaches your target at just the right speed and trajectory. You are not thinking of the physics or physiology involved at the time it is occuring. Just like thinking. The end game is the concepts your brain is forming, not the thinking process itself.

Steiner states that there are two things which are incompatible with one another: productive activity and the contemplation of it.

If you took the time to contemplate the physiology of throwing that ball, you'd be tackled with lost yardage! Thinking is a productive activity, engaged in the service of knowledge.

Friday, August 7, 2009

calendar of the soul

for the week of august 4 - 10

Can I stretch my soul
so that it unites itself
with the cosmic seed-word it received?
I sense I must find the strength
to form my soul worthily
to become a garment of the spirit.

Rudolf Steiner


Thursday, August 6, 2009

weary warrior

being in a reflective rhythm

Today, at this moment, I am feeling a bit reflective and melancholic. It is my natural inclination to become contemplative and withdrawn when I am worrying. That is just where the rhythm of my life is at at this moment, right now. Last week, the last five weeks, the surreal experience of Steiner College caught me in a whirlwind of spiritual consciousness and pedagogical studies, and I was breathing it everyday for five weeks. A new rhythm is present this week, today. A new dynamic equilibrium must reset. I am home, other elements of my life I must now re-attune myself to. There are practical stuff, logistics, the materiality of life that does not always jive with the soul life. Things I worry about. My dad's health. Car repairs. Meaningful work. The recession. A leaky faucet. Food on the table. Lack of time for everything I want to do. Today, at this moment, it all seems overwhelming. I know I must not dwell in the negative space. The rhythm of life is such that those spaces are present, the trick is not to get stuck in it, to rise from it, to be mindful that the rhythm will flow positively. Be patient. Be courageous. Be at peace. Listen to the angels. I must call to mind whom I venerate (Lolo Victor), and draw strength from his spirit. I must also recite my warrior dad code: Fight for love, Aim for victory, Embrace fear, Accept my destiny. Today, my Spirit Self needs nourishment. Rest. My children. Jennifer. A little blogging. Piano. A cup of coffee. Reverence for the rhythm of my I.

Monday, August 3, 2009

summer teacher program

course description at-a-glance

The Summer Waldorf Teacher Training Program is a four summer program designed for students who have other obligations during the year whereby the five-week summer session allows for some flexibility. The program emphasizes a practical approach to allow students who may be Waldorf teachers to apply the knowledge in their classrooms. The program balances the course schedule with self-knowledge inner work, which is key to the Waldorf principle. Go visit Rudolf Steiner College online for more information, or if you are in the Fair Oaks area, you ought to visit the campus in person - good vibes there!

The program schedule is grouped into FOUNDATION COURSES and PEDAGOGICAL COURSES. (The courses in blue are the ones I took.)


I. The Path of Self-Knowledge

Rudolf Steiner's Autobiography PSY400

Nature of the Human Being PSY400
Inner Work PSY400
Biography PSY400

II. An Introduction to Waldorf Education

Intro to Grades Curriculum EDU400

III. Epistemology and Phenomenology

Anthroposophy and The Philosophy of Freedom PHIL410
Phenomenology SCI400

IV. Self-Transformation through the Arts

Wet Method Painting
Handwork Personal Studio
Personal Studio Portfolio

Veil Painting
Handwork Curriculum
Handwork Around the World

Handwork Around the World

Eurythmy and Practice Log
Singing and Practice Log
Recorder Assessment and Practice Log

Movement and Spatial Dynamics
Singing and Recorder Assessment

Movement and Spatial Dynamics
Singing and Recorder Assessment

V. Topics in Anthroposophy

Three-Fold Social Order SOC400
Cosmology PHIL403
Karma and Reincarnation PHIL404
Christology PHIL405


I. The Philosophical Foundations and Epistemology of Waldorf Education

Knowledge of the Human Being EDU500
Inner Development of the Teacher EDU501
School, Community, and Individual EDU502

II. The Artistic Approach in the Practice of Teaching

The Time Arts (Speech, Drama, Music, Movement) EDU503

The Visual Arts EDU504
Wood Carving, Form Drawing GR1-3, Clay Modeling, (Summer1)
Wood Carving, Clay Modeling (Summer2)
Painting, Clay, Music (Summer3)
Nature Drawing, Choir, Coppersmithing (Summer4)

III. Curriculum Development, Differentiation, Delivery

Waldorf Pedagogy for the Early Years EDU505
Art of the Main Lesson
Fairy Tales, Myths, and Legends
Art of the Main Lesson Book
Grades 1-3 Math
Grades 1-3 Language Arts

Waldorf Pedagogy for the Golden Years
Grades 4-5 Math
Grades 4-5 Language Arts
Grades 4-5 Local Geography and History
Grades 4-5 Human and Animal

Waldorf Pedagogy for the Middle School (6-8)
Language Arts
Physiology and Anatomy

Field Experience EDU508

Sunday, August 2, 2009

verse for destiny

by rudolf steiner

Meniscus Horizon by Rick Tan, acrylic and plaster

The wishes of the soul are springing
The deeds of the will are thriving
The fruits of life are maturing

I feel my destiny
My destiny finds me
I feel my star
My star finds me
I feel my goals in life
My goals in life are finding me
My soul and the great world are one

Life grows more radiant about me
Life grows more challenging for me
Life grows more abundant within me.