Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Using the Saints as lessons for moral development

In the Waldorf schools and community the second grade is a period of change. It is one of the biggest milestones called the "Seven Year Change." Suddenly our little ones aren't so little and innocent. They have become inquisitive, curious and questioning. This is also the time when the Seven Year Old starts stretching the boundaries and norms they have grown up with for seven years. 
In the second grade/ seven year old the stories of the Saints are so important to help develop their morality and ethics. The Saints are often contrasted by a "trickster" usually in the form of an animal. For science nature is used and living in nature are the gnomes, fairies, and wee folks that come out an help with math.

For this Viking Mom the elements of nature, gnomes, fairies, wee folks and the tricksters stories were easy to use and incorporate into our daily rhythm. The stories of the Saints is a whole other matter. I didn't grow up with the stories of the Saints and only vaguely knew about St. Frances of Assisi (because of the near by Carmel Mission and the statues), St. Nicholas (Christmas), St. Lucia ( The Swedish tradition), and St. Christopher (Oh, help me St. Christopher on this trip).

In September we begin with Michaelmas or in this case St. Michael the Archangel. This feast day also includes the other Saints, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael. The Viking Kiddos learned the Autumn Blessing. 

Autumn Blessing:
 Brave and true will I be,
Each good deed sets me free,
Each kind word makes me strong.
I will fight for the right! 
I will conquer the wrong!

Sword of Michael brightly gleaming,
Down to earth its light is streaming,
May we see its shining rays
In the Winter's darkest days.
We changed out nature table to reflect the beginning of Autumn and the changes on the Viking Homestead.

September: is always a crazy time of year in our house. It is the beginning of the school year and the end of the summer. Our homestead mixes a combination of modern reality and the needs to keep a stable and sustainable homestead. This year we used the metaphor of St. Michael struggle and pacification of the dragon as our goal to start the school year calmly and peacefully. 

October: started with the introduction and research for St. Francis of Assisi. Who was this Saint who is always seen with animals and birds flocked around him? I found a great resource here. When using the Saints their lives and Sainthood are told as a story. Many of the stories that surround the life of St. Francis deal with his love for animals. The most famous incident that illustrates the Saint's humility towards nature is recounted in the "Fioretti" ("Little Flowers"), a collection of legends and folklore that sprang up after the Saint's death. These stories from "Little Flowers" became my foundation for the stories about St. Francis of Assisi.  One a perfect metaphor on how to treat our environment and animals. I would say St. Francis of Assisi was the first environmentalist
On his feast day, October 4rd we washed all the Homestead animals. 

November: We have Lorraine Nelson Wolf's Come Follow Me CDs.  The Viking Kiddos have become intrigued over the song "Saint Martin". In the song we learn about a Roman soldier riding through the cold and snow and is approached by a freezing poor man. St. Martin cut his cloak in half and gave one half to the poor man. His act saved the man from freezing to death. To be honest, this song became the spring board in teaching the Viking Kiddos the goals of Charity and Giving. St. Martin is the patron Saint of the poor, soldiers and homeless.
The Saint Martin in this story is Saint Martin of Tours. There is another St. Martin but he's a bit spooky.
St. Martin's feast day is November 11th.  Children go to house to with paper lanterns and candles signing songs of St. Martin.  The two songs we learned this year.

Saint Martin

Saint Martin, Saint Martin, Saint Martin rode through wind and snow
On his strong horse, his heart aglow
He rode so boldly through the storm
His large cloak kept him well and warm
By the roadside, by the roadside, by the roadside a poor man arose
Out of the snow in tattered clothes
"I beg you help me in my plight, or else I'll die of cold tonight.”
Saint Martin, Saint Martin, Saint Martin stopped his horse
And drew his sword and cut his cloak in two
One half to the beggar man he gave and by this deed his life did save

I Walk with My Little Lantern

I Walk With My Little Lantern
I walk with my little lantern
My lantern, myself and I
Above, the stars are shining
Down here we're stars to the skyThe new moon shines, the cat meows
Ay, ay, ay! La boom-a-la, boom-a-la bay!
Ay, ay, ay! La boom-a-la, boom-a-la bay!

Inspired by St. Martin of Tour's sacrifice of his cloak the Waldorf School of San Diego gathered up blankets to donate to the local shelters. I think St. Martin would be pleased. I have used St. Martin's story as an example of Giving.

December: Saint Lucia or St. Lucy. I grew up with St. Lucia and celebrated her feast day on both December 13th and Christmas Day. I had always thought we celebrated her day on Christmas because that was when my family would visit my Swedish grandparents. I discovered that before the Julian calendar St. Lucia feast day fell directly on Christmas Day. Now, how did an Italian saint travel to Sweden? That story is deep in legend. 
I grew up hearing my Grandmother tell of a story that St. Lucia arrived at a small Swedish town during the Winter. The town had lost all of its wheat and grain and were starving. St. Lucia arrived on a boat all a glow with lights and candles. When her boat came ashore she began to hand out fresh grain to the town. The fresh grain allowed the town to survive the rest of the winter.This is why St. Lucia is shown with grain and a crown of candles.  I use St. Lucia's story as an example of Charity
In Swedish tradition on December 13th the oldest daughter of the house carries coffee and Lussekatter (Lucia Buns) to the Elders of the house. We have created in our home a new tradition. The Viking Kiddos take Lussekatter and coffee to their teachers.

This year we also included St. Nicholas. The origins of Santa Claus. You can read about here.

I found that the Viking Kiddos really appreciate and enjoy the stories I tell around the dinner table about the Saints. Viking Monkey Boy is always asking me to re-tell one of his favorites, which seems to change on a daily basis. But, I have noticed that the Viking Kiddos really have taken the messages about these saints to heart. Viking Lady Bug has been making sure we give to the Salvation Army Red Kettles and Viking Monkey Boy wants to make sure we share our abundance of St. Lucia buns with all his friends. 

I look forward to adding more saints as the year progresses into the 2013. In January I plan to introduce St. Thomas Moore and St. Thomas Becket. 

Bless Bless

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