As the days began to grow shorter the Rose Garden families gathered in the magical forest around Sharifa and Eric’s home. We each brought a dish to share for dinner. We feasted on the bounty of summer’s harvest as the gardens were winding down.
Just as the sun began to set behind the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains the children patiently waited for their teachers to kindle the little lights that we would all carry out into the darkness.
With joyful reverence each child carried a lantern with a burning candle over sticks, stumps and fallen leaves out into the forest.
We quietly sang our lantern songs as the moon rose over the tree tops, circling the field before winding our way through the forest and back to our picnic blanket.
When every friend had made their way back to our circle the children joined me in telling the families the story of Huggin and his turnip lantern. We ended by singing our “farewell” song that ends our storytime each day at school.
As I clean up my home from my own family’s festival of Thanksgiving I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to create community with the wonderful families of the Rose Garden School. I hope that the images from our lantern walk back in October help to kindle an inner warmth during the coming cold and dark days of winter.
The Rose Garden families gathered at Henley’s Orchard on a glorious September morning. Tim and Sarah Henley have been graciously hosting the Rose Garden for several years. Their orchard has been family owned for generations, and now their children (one of whom Sharifa taught in kindergarten) are joining in the operations. The Henley’s are a low-spray orchard at the foot of the Blue Ridge mountains in Crozet, Virginia.
The children filled their bags with Jonagold apples that were almost as big as their heads!
When their bags were full the children brought their apples to the basket and tub until those were overflowing with deliciousness. We are currently polishing, peeling, coring and slicing those apples to turn them into the apple butter that we will eat on our cornbread throughout the year.
Once our bags and baskets were so full that no more would fit we gathered to share our circle with the parents. The children have been learning verses, songs and games in the first weeks of school. We had so much fun playing with the parents and grandparents!
And then we shared a delicious snack of apples and rice cakes with sunflower butter. I had been so busy picking, playing and serving that when I finally took my first bite of an apple the burst of sweet sunshine and love in that fruit was a pleasant shock!
I know that in the deepest darkness of the winter the starlight from the round red house with no door, no windows with a chimney on top will warm our tummies with memories of this day.
The first year of our new Rose Garden is quickly coming to an end. This time of year the children are growing and changing so much. They remind of the mammoth sunflowers that are growing up to create the walls of our summer house.
One year ago I was finishing up the school year at Sharifa’s house while preparing this school. I loved dreaming about what might become. There were so many possibilities! I was also a bit scared that I would not be able to create the same magic that Sharifa had created around her magical little house in the forest.
Every day of this year my dreams have been turning from concept to reality. I still ask myself if I will ever be able to create that same magic. Luckily, many parents, colleagues and friends have assured me that the new Rose Garden School IS a magical place. The beauty of the ever changing big sky, the sunny yard with more gardening space than I can use just yet, the embracing shade of the weeping willow tree, the multitude of birds that visit each day, and the joy on the children’s faces as they make this space their own are all evidence that magic is real!
I hope that you, reader, have the opportunity to come and visit our little corner of the earthly garden some day soon!
I have dreamed of gardening with my students for many years. Until moving into the current home of The Rose Garden I did not have the right conditions for taking on growing food. I am also the one member of my family that was NOT gifted with a green thumb.
When looking for a new home for the school I had hoped to find a space that would include good gardening opportunities. Our yellow house on the hill has that in spades! As soon as I visited the property for the first time I began planning a serious deer fence. I knew that I would be so sad if the children’s efforts were devoured by the massive herd of deer that lives in this neighborhood.
Last summer I started small. I planted a few tomato plants and flowers. I was advised to put my energy into creating a compost pile first then work my way into filling the yard with plants bit by bit. That was good advice! I am playing at gardening. I want the children to share in my joyful learning.
This past week has been so satisfying. Watching the children eat tender leaves of kale right out of the garden bed fills my heart. I had to actually stop them from eating all of the baby plants. I promised that we could have a feast when it was time to thin the rows. Today we brought out a beautiful wooden bowl. We carefully pulled out the plants and pinched off the dirt covered roots.
Even my pickiest of eaters was brave enough to taste the kale. She quickly stated, “I don’t like it!” However, I was so proud of her for even trying. Within minutes our big wooden bowl was empty.
I look forward to many years of growing in our beautiful Rose Garden!
During our winter break I learned how to use a chainsaw!! My friend and neighbor on the farm helped me cut down two big cedar trees that had been standing dead behind our barn for years. I had been eyeing those trees for so long fantasizing about all the fun the children could have with that wood. It was so satisfying to realize those dreams. Some of the cedar has already been turned into a picnic table and a stump garden, with many more projects to come.
On a recent Saturday morning several parents, students and friends came to work on our playground. We moved a mountain of pine bark mulch, moved our old picnic table to the back yard, put the new picnic table in its spot, made an obstacle course out of those cedar trees and began installing monkey bars.
Our monkey bars are ALMOST finished! Today we got close enough to test them out. During the East Coast Waldorf Kindergarten Conference in February I was reminded about the vital need for children to have an opportunity to hang. The children have been busy helping me dig the post holes, using the level, measuring, etc. We have been brainstorming ideas for the best way to reach the bars. Next we will be smoothing the rough edges of the posts. We will show you our results when it is finished!
Our mild winter seems to be turning into spring sooner than imaginable. This week is our winter break. I have been using my time away from teaching to catch up on administrative work. I have also finally had the time to work on a project that I have dreamed of for years.
On our farm there are old cedar trees that died years ago. Every time I pass those trees I see playground stumps, tree blocks, fence posts, possibility. I just spent the last two days moving forward in turning my vision into reality. My friend and neighbor, David Gorman, is a careful and thorough teacher. Under his careful eye I learned how to use his chainsaws. I also learned how to use our farm’s dump truck.
Now comes the work of sawing, sanding, polishing and playing! (after a little recovery time for me. That was hard work!)
Michael Hedley Burton translated Rudolf Steiner’s collection of 52 verses, The Calendar of the Soul, into English for children and “the Child in each and every one of us.”
I would like to share the verse written for the third January week in the Northern Hemisphere. It is such a timely meditation for me.
When winter wraps a mantle dark and drear
Around the world beyond my own warm hearth,
Then am I called to rise and conquer fear
And bravely meet this darkness in my path.
My light each day in brightness is increasing.
Its glow of warmth reveals the stir of life.
The light-stream of my heart is never-ceasing.
And so I’m strong, come grief or pain or strife.
“King Winter is in the land! He reigns with cold and freezing hand.”
After two weeks of family time and holiday celebrations the children returned to school eager to play with their friends. The quality of their play always amazes me this time of year. Indoors and outdoors the children continue to unfold their rich imaginations inspired by the world around them, our circle games and stories.
This past week started with single digit temperatures and just enough snow for some serious sledding. By Thursday we were eating lunch outside at the picnic table in short sleeve shirts. We were intimate with the mud!
Time flies by. The time has come for families to begin enrolling for the 2017-2018 school year. One of our students will be moving on to first grade. Everyone else could return though I know some families will be moving on to new schools. I have been hearing from many new interested families. We will be having visitors in the next months observing our school to decide if we might be the best community for their child and family. I love sharing the magic of the Rose Garden!
In the not quite so distant future we will be enrolling for summer camp. There will be six weeks offered this coming summer. The first three weeks will be June 19th through July 7th. We will then take a one week break. The second three weeks will be from July 17th through August 4th. Please stay tuned for information on signing up for 2,3 or 5 day spots.
We are now officially a not for profit school!!!
While we’ve never been profit-driven, the Rose Garden is now officially operating as a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. The paperwork took over six months months, but came through with the start of the new year. Anyone can make a tax deductible donation to help the school meet its operating expenses or attain the goal of purchasing the property. We recently received an anonymous donation that will enable the school to pay for the expenses of setting up the new location and pay for ongoing bills. In the future we hope to install a full solar array, build an addition onto the house that will be the new entry and coat room, and create the permaculture garden integrated with our playground.
Please contact us if you would like to help or know someone who might like to support our goals.
After many weeks of polishing, peeling, slicing and cooking apples that we picked at Henley’s orchard and baking our Harvest loaf of bread the children and teachers shared the abundance of deliciousness with their parents and families on Friday evening. Sharifa and Eric graciously invited us to celebrate our festival at their home, the former Rose Garden School site.
Every person enjoyed a plate piled high with the yummy potluck dishes shared by all. Then we shared our fall circle songs and verses. The sunlight was quickly dwindling as we finished our last song just in time to light the lanterns that Kim, Sarah and I had created with help from the children over the last few weeks.
The lantern walk is a chance for the children to bravely take their own light out into the darkness. Our path was twisting, steep and a bit scary at times, but their lantern shed just enough light to guide their steps. At a time in this world when darkness can seem overwhelming it is also a chance for the adults caring for the children to symbolically share their own light with the world.
Please spread the light!
Many people worked very hard to have the school ready for our first day of school on August 31st. Our initial inspection and conditional license are complete! The Rose Garden is official.
The moment the children walked onto the playground on Wednesday morning my heart filled with joy, relief and hope for our future. We colored at the picnic table, explored the new playground, picked ripe tomatoes from the garden, ate a delicious snack of millet with sunbutter and carrots around our dining table crafted from a fallen cherry tree, went galloping on a journey to the orchard in our circle time, played with familiar and new toys in the living room, listened to a story about a little boy searching for a round, red house with no door, no windows with a chimney on top and a star inside, then ate our lunches from home. We ended our day with books in the nap room or one last exploration of the playground before a cozy nap in the darkened living room.
Tomorrow morning will be another first day for some of the children. I am very much looking forward to welcoming returning children and new families into our new space.
Sharifa welcoming her grandchildren to their first day of school at the new Rose Garden
I am busy working on the administrative work of preparing the school while watching the steady rainfall outside my window. We have 21 days to finish installing the deer fence, swings, cubbies and hooks, etc. I am trying to be grateful for the water while trying to not be frustrated by the delay the rain causes.
We will finish before our first day of school! Let me know if you have an hour or two to work outside in the yard. We can use help putting down a weed barrier for the fence, spreading mulch, weeding, etc.
Hope for some steady sunshine so that the ground dries out a bit!
As the last day of summer camp is just around the corner we have been busy preparing the new home for The Rose Garden School. We have four and a half weeks to create an inviting space for the children. Thanks go out to all the folks who have already helped me along this path.
We will be moving toys, shelves, materials and playground equipment from Sharifa’s home into my home next weekend. We will begin packing it all up on Friday, August 5th. If you would like to lend a hand, please contact us.