Saturday, February 20, 2010


awakening to a new season

A recently felled tree serves as a tranquil sitting space among daffodils awakening to the upcoming season.

A burst of color from this beautiful bulb signals the fading gray of winter.

The winter season is a time for rest and restoration, where we find solace in the quiet hum of our inner lives. In spring, the hum becomes a choir of nature's children. We lift our voices, restored from slumber, and sing praises of gratitude and hope. The choir steadily crescendos, sweetly harmonizing.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

discovering waldorf

reaching families everywhere

Blessings to the The Magic Onions. Their blog has reached so many families throughout the world, touching lives in ways that strenghthen the love of learning, creating, and family togetherness.

Today, on "Discovering Waldorf," I am guest blogger with my blog called Elemental Simplicity. Please stop by The Magic Onions' beautiful blogsite and enjoy their wealth of creativity and magic!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

divine proportion

da vinci, algebra, geometry, and business math

A three week math block for grade seven at East Bay Waldorf proved that math equals fun! Students often dread the idea of math, so I told the students at the beginning of our block that I would avoid using the word math, and yet introduce the basics of algebra and geometry.

I created a fictitious corporation that gave me a vehicle for creating interactive lesson plans. Through it, I organized the students into "departments" with department heads, allowing for group work, and building leadership skills and effective team dynamics. The topics in algebra covered were variables, expressions, equations, formulas, and signed numbers. The topics in geometry included Thales theorem, Pythagorean theorem, the Golden Ratio, the Golden Rectangle, Fibonacci numbers.

I explained signed numbers by illustrating the corporate ladder, using promotions and demotions to move up or down numbered levels in the company. For instance, if your office is on level 5, and you were given 4 promotions, your office is then moved to level 9 (5 + 4 = 9). Conversely, if your office was on level 9, and you were given 4 demotions, which are negative, your office is now on level 5 (9 + -4 = 5). What if you were on level 2 and 1 demotion was taken away? Then you would be on level 3, since having a negative number removed actually moves you up the ladder (2 - -1 = 3).

The products that our fictitious corporation sell included such items as Algebratwurst, or Algebran Cereal! We were able to create formulas, such as Total Sales = $6 x Algebratwurst sold + $5 x Algebran Cereal sold, or TS = 6B + 5C. Then, in groups, they designed new products and made commercials.

In geometry, the students continue to hone their use of a straight edge, right angle ruler, and compass by constructing the Thales triangle, the Pythagorean squares, and determining if their own hands fit the dimensions of the Golden Rectangle.

The last week of the block at the end of February, I will have the students prepare a song based on mathematicians Thales, Pythagoras, Archimedes, and Euclid. Thus far, I am pleased with how much the students are enjoying the block. I think they may have forgotten we're actually doing math!

I am also very pleased with how my homage to da Vinci turned out. Using chalk and some shadow techniques, it looks like an old parchment page from his journals! In the Waldorf classroom, it is traditional for the class teacher to create an artistic rendering that honors the current subject being taught.

enter the teen

ricky's rite of passage celebration

Thirteen years ago, Ricky, our first born, made Jennifer and me into parents. Our lives transformed instantly as we held a tiny precious human in our arms. February 10, 2010, thirteen years later, our lives continue to transform, and the tiny human is taller than Jennifer, and holds his own among my four brothers.

With four uncles, or titos in Tagalog, a rite of passage celebration was in order!

With other family members present, including Ricky's grandparents (lolo and lola), we celebrated his entering into young adulthood. It is a time when the child is in a new arc of development where his will forces begin to extend out to the world. He begins to realize his actions can influence his surroundings and he begins to attach a value to those actions. He becomes a global citizen. With guidance, so crucial to this stage of his life, he exerts his will forces towards positivity. He will challenge authority and established precepts, and it is through guidance that this energy becomes a constructive force in our ever-changing world.

In the Waldorf curriculum, the child of the upper grades is introduced to woodworking, physics, human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, history of world leaders and the Renaissance. All prepares the child to know himself, know the elemental world, and know human history. In this global scale does the child see the potentiality of his power.

In our initiation for Ricky, the struggle for power starts with an arm wrestle! I created some additional games: 1) a traditional duel, using tennis balls, counting off a few paces and throwing the ball at each other, 2) rolling a log up a hill, 3) nailing as many nails into a chunk of wood, 4) estimating lengths of cut branches, and 5) calculating areas of rectangles, triangles, and circles.
(I wanted to playfully balance the ideas of chivalry, strength, coordination, bravery, and intelligence, mixed with plenty of plain old male silliness - and Ricky and my brothers had fun!)

The celebration culminated in a ceremony where I had my brothers help me in presenting symbolic elements and reciting short passages for Ricky.

Wood represents growth and strength. Ricky, care for your physical self, for in health, will you make a positive impact in the world.

Fire represents power and love. Ricky, be courageous in following your heart, and be generous in loving from your heart.

Earth represents stability and justice. Ricky, hold your ground when you are standing with integrity and fairness.

Metal represents sharpness and wisdom. Ricky, hone a sharp mind to be an insightful and wise leader.

Water represents fluidity and freedom. Ricky, living under the sign of Aquarius, let your creativity flow to free your your spirit and inspire others.

A bit of percussive drumming from other family members, and we launched into spontaneous primitive chanting!

Ricky enjoyed it, judging by his smile, his thirteen year old spirit in his eyes.