October 1, 2023
A Reflection Upon Michaelmas Festival by Sharifa Oppenheimer
This morning I joined the CWS community for Michaelmas festivities. We gathered in the Pavilion as the 7th and 8th grades processed in with song, each carrying a brilliant autumn banner. One by one the classes entered; slowly their pure child-voices began to fill the pavilion, until the great hall echoed with the music of courage and hope. Each child in the grade school played a part: first grade gnomes, second grade meteors and comets, third and fourth grade farmers, fifth grade knights, a glorious dragon, villagers and royalty composed of middle schoolers.
As I witnessed the collaboration among classes, the pageantry, the earnest excitement of the students, and was aware of the weeks-long preparations learning music, songs, lines, the choreography of each section, my thoughts turned to other Waldorf schools the world over. Today all across the globe, moving through time ~ hour by hour like birdsong at dawn’s blush ~ children, their teachers and parents were honoring and celebrating courage, right action and hope for a new day. A wave of new life traversing our world!
We are Waldorf teachers and parents; we know the power of story and images. We know they sink deeply into the psyche as seeds, and grow toward inspired actions in the world. I understood at a deeper level today that our Waldorf children world wide, from diverse cultures and geographies, are being shown the most skillful ways to meet the powers of greed and destruction. In the ancient way of Story they learn how to engage the dragon, not through brute force ~ the sword of iron ~ but rather through the miracle of transformation ~ the sword made of heaven’s light. The dragon is not slain, rather, is tamed and everyone in the kingdom benefits from his labor and warmth.
Our own children will continue to carry this banner as they step out into the world. They are being well-prepared, not through knowledge alone, but through self-knowledge as well. It is in these years of art, story, music, drama and collaboration, which permeate the curriculum, that the children slowly layer-up the strata of the individual Self. By the light of this Self, they will find their way and their unique contribution to the world they inherit.
Both faces of knowledge, inner and outer, are necessary now and will be even more so in the future. It is the gift of this inspired education and the dedication of the teachers that offer our children a rich, fruitful and also galvanizing journey toward the fullness of Self.
Please also enjoy this delightful Michaelmas Story by Sharifa Oppenheimer, appropriate for children ages five and above.
Today’s article was written by Sharifa Oppenheimer, a longtime Waldorf Early Childhood Teacher and the author of the bestselling book Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children. Sharifa was the founding teacher of the Charlottesville Waldorf School in Virginia where she taught kindergarten for 21 years. A master teacher, Sharifa has mentored teachers at Sunbridge College and Rudolf Steiner College. The author of many articles on Waldorf education, she recently began a home-based kindergarten program. Her current research is devoted to the ways in which Steiner principles support the latest findings in brain development. Sharifa is the mother of three grown sons. Learn more at sharifaoppenheimer.org.
Sharifa is currently instructing her LifeWays’ course, Brain Science and your Child’s Journey Toward the Self. Learn more about this course and register today!