Posted by: Alex Borders | May 19, 2011

Pirates of Penzance

Thursday 19th May

Congratulations and Good Luck to the 8th Grade on their sold-out performance of The Pirates of Penzance.  Tally Ho!  Or should that be Yo Ho Ho?!!

Photography by Lisa Phillips

Posted by: Alex Borders | May 17, 2011

Myths of the Maori

Tuesday 17th May

Myths of the Maori in Ms Stevenson’s Fourth Grade

It is traditional to teach Norse mythology in fourth grades in Waldorf Schools around the world. Ever since visiting New Zealand in 1991, during my first sabbatical, I have felt that Maori myths and Maori songs and stick games would be equally as popular and appropriate with this age group as the Norse myths and Anglo-Saxon alliterative riddles are. We started with the creation story – how the gods Rangi (Sky Father) and Papa (Earth Mother) had to be separated so that Light could enter into the world. We then went on to the stories of Maui tikitiki a Taranga (Maui born from the topknot of Taranga). Maui is a demi-god who combines the qualities of Loki, Thor, Prometheus, Heracles, and Odysseus.

The myths have really touched the children. One of the children said, “That is the best creation story so far!” and there were murmurs of agreement from other members of the class. The Maori song and stick game is challenging, and the struggle to learn the Maori words to the song has us all laughing. Occasionally, the sticks fly wildly, but mostly, the children are hard at work to keep the pattern going without mistakes.

I have included a few children’s versions of the myths we have heard so far.

The Creation by Rylee

The gods were getting tired of living in Te Po uriuri, the dark night. So they decided to try to push Papa and Rangi, Earth Mother and Sky Father, apart. First Te, the god of war, tried to push them apart but he could not. Then they all tried, except Tawhiri, the god of winds and storms. Finally Tane, the god of the forests, tried and he grew like a kauri tree and pushed them apart.

Tawhiri was angry; he thought his brothers would take over so he made a big storm. Rongo, the god of cultivated foods, and Haumia, the god of wild foods, retreated underground. Tangoroa, the sea god, retreated to the depths of the sea with all the sea animals. And Tane retreated deep into the forests.

The winds went on and on. Finally Tawhiri grew weary of making storms so he stopped. But sometimes he still remembers his anger, and then he makes great storms.

Rangi was so sad, he kept crying and crying. Soon his tears began to flood the earth. So the gods decided to turn Papa over. When they turned her over, she was still nursing her youngest child, so when the earth was turned over, he was underneath Papa. Papa made fires to keep him warm, so that makes volcanoes, and when he walks around, that makes earthquakes.

How Maui was Born by Julian

Maui mua, Maui roto, Maui taha, and Maui pae were walking with their mother Taranga. Now one night a strange boy came to her home. “Who are you?” asked Taranga. “I am your son, too,” he said. “Are you Maui roa?”  “No1”  “Are you Maui roto?”  “No!”  “Maui taha?”  “No!”  “Maui pae?” “No1”  “Then who are you?” “I am Maui tikitiki a Taranga! You were by the sea when you gave birth to me. Immediately you wrapped me in hair from your topknot and flung me out to sea. The sea took care of me until a breeze blew me to shore. There Tama nui ti ke Rangi saved me. So here I stand as a human child.” Taranga cried out with joy, “You are the child of my old age! I thought you were lost, yet here you are.” She welcomed him to her home.

How Maui Found His Parents by Alexis

Maui transformed into a wood pigeon and flew down into the other world and landed on a branch. Right below him, he saw his parents. He used his beak and plucked a berry off the tree. He dropped it on his father’s forehead. His father thought it just fell off the tree on its own. Maui plucked two more berries and dropped one on his mother’s forehead and one on his father’s forehead. Then all of the people started to throw rocks at the tree. Maui dodged all the rocks but he let his father hit him. The rock hit Maui’s leg and he fell to the ground.

When his father learned his name was Maui tikitiki a Taranga, he said it was a warrior’s name. He went to make a blessing, but he made a mistake, and so he said one day Maui would have to die.

The Separation of Rangi and Papa by Hana

Rangi (Sky Father) and Papa (Earth Mother) were locked in an embrace. Some of their children were getting very upset about Te Po nui (the great Night). Te (the war god) wanted to kill them but Tawhiri (the god of winds and storms) liked Te Po. The decision was made to push them apart. All of the gods tried, except Tawhiri, and finally Tane (the god of forests) put his shoulders on Papa and his feet on Rangi, and he grew like a kauri tree. When they were pushed far enough that the sun could come in, they were done.

Now Tawhiri was so mad that they had not listened to him, that he made storms, and storms, and storms. And all the creatures of the sea went deep under water to hide, and the food went into the earth, and the animals went deep into the forests. At last Tawhiri calmed down, and the children of the gods could live on the earth.

Posted by: Alex Borders | May 16, 2011

My Kids Don’t Watch TV

Monday 16th May

Writer Abi Cotler O’Roarty recently published this article in the Huffington Post titled “My Kids Don’t Watch TV (But I’m Not Judging You!)  The article is about the author’s choice to live media free, something I can relate to as my own family has recently laid the t.v. to rest, unplugged in the basement.

O’Roarty’s experience really resonated with me.  I can hardly believe what we have reclaimed for our family.  Time filled with glorious acts of imagination and discovery! Boredom?  Surely, sometimes.  But the boredom doesn’t last long and then gives way to huge, vast lakes of creativity.  I love our low media life.

What choices regarding media have you made for your family?  Share your stories here.

Also please read Abi Cotler O’Roarty’s full article at – you gotta find out if she is a Waldorf Mama!

Posted by: Alex Borders | May 15, 2011

Fast-tracking to Kindergarten?

Sunday 15th May

Browsing the New York Times today I came across the article Fast-Tracking to Kindergarten? by Kate Zernike.

The article explores how some parents are choosing to tutor their 3-year-old children in order to give them an edge in school.  “Programs like Kumon are gaining from, and generating, parent’s anxiety about what kind of preparation their kids will need.”  In the article, Kumon’s North American CFO says that “age 3 is a sweet spot. But if they’re out of a diaper and can sit still with a Kumon instructor for 15 minutes, we will take them.”

“The best you can say is that they’re useless,” said Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, who compared the escalation of supplemental education with Irish elk competing to see which had the biggest antlers. “The result is that they go around tottering, unable to walk, under the enormous weight of these antlers they’ve developed,” she said. “I think it’s true of American parents from high school all the way down to preschool.”

Professor Gopnik said that “we are in a culture where education is the path to success, and it’s hard for people to recognize how deep and profound learning is when children are just playing.”

“When you’re putting blocks together, you’re learning how to be a physicist,” agreed Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a psychologist at Temple University and an author of “Einstein Never Used Flash Cards.” “When you’re learning how to balance things and calculate how tall you can make your building, you’re learning how to be a physicist. Having your kid drill and kill and fill in worksheets at 2 and 3 and 4 to the best of our knowledge so far does not give your child a leg up on anything.”

“Yes, your child might know more of his letters than the child who spent Saturday in the sandbox,” she said. “But the people who are team players, who are creative innovators, they are the ones who are going to invent the next iPad. The kids who are just memorizing are going to be outsourced to the kids in India who have memorized the same stuff.”

Programs like Junior Kumon may not do harm, she said. But they do help push a consensus that young children need more and more structured curriculum.

For the full article visit and for the antidote visit or

Read also Alison Gopnik’s article for posted on our blog on Tuesday 29th March – Why Preschool Shouldn’t be like School

Posted by: Alex Borders | May 9, 2011

Mt Airy Day

Monday 9th May

Good times were had this past weekend when The Waldorf School of Philadelphia presented a traveling kindergarten.  Early Childhood Teacher Miss Patricia and teaching assistant Miss Ariel spent the day at Mt Airy Day chopping apples and teaching finger knitting to the families who stopped by the booth.  The sun shone, friends stopped by and good times were had.  Thank you to all of the visitors, teachers and Parent Association volunteers who made the day so enjoyable!  Here’s a few snaps from the day.

Posted by: Alex Borders | May 2, 2011

Bin Laden and the Billy Goats Gruff

Monday 2nd May

Filtering Out the Adult World — Bin Laden and the Billy Goats Gruff

This month in Parent Study we are reading a chapter called “Filtering Out the Adult World “ in Kim John Payne’s book, Simplicity Parenting. We often equate parenting with the word “worry.”  That is part of our job as parents, but we should not define childhood by it.  Of all the things one can simplify – toys, food, schedules – he says this is the hardest.   To help, Payne recommends reducing the amount of screen time in the home from TV, videos & movies to computers and electronic games.  This can be a challenge, to say the least, in today’s culture, but can seem downright impossible on a day when there is a big news story, like today.  We find ourselves glued to the television.  “It is history,” “It is healing,” we justify, but this is not so for our children.  For how does one explain to a young child that people are happy because someone was killed?  Even if that someone hurt many others?  For the young child it is confusing … in one way.  And yet, we do tell them fairy tales where bad things happen.  And that is the answer.  Fairy tales are archetypal stories – ancient – that convey what needs to be conveyed in the biggest sense without overwhelming the senses of the child.  Whereas the news is filled with a lot of people talking quickly, plus pictures, maps, graphs, explanations, questions, and theories.  Lots of excitement.  For our adult minds, we love it.  But children it is simply too much.

Ten Years ago this September the world was stunned by the events of 9/11.  I remember dropping my children off in kindergarten and the 2nd grade that morning and heading home with my youngest.  Then I heard about the twin towers.  No one knew what would happen next – could Philadelphia be a target?  The Waldorf School dismissed the kids early, sending a letter to remind us to protect our children from the news.  This was a hard task for us parents and for the teachers who taught again the next day.

I, like many others, did have my TV on a lot that first day.  At one point, my 3-year-old son came into the room.  A picture of Osama Bin Laden was on the screen.  He looked and pointed, saying, “Santa Claus.”  I scooped him up and we went in the other room.  I did not contradict him.  I did not tell him that the bearded man was not the patron saint of children but rather a terrorist mastermind.  He did not need to know that.  It would have confused him terribly.

I remember all this today as the news of Bin Laden’s’ death sinks in.  My youngest is now 12, and he actually was one of the first to know (he had covertly worn earphones to bed, feigned sleep, and was listing to the Phil’s game when the report was made.).  So, how does one deal with this news in regard to our children, particularly our young ones, those below the age of 9?  Well, the Truth is that the world is a safe and bountiful place filled with loving people.  Young children do not need to know about Homeland Security.  For them, it need only mean a roof over their head, food on the table, and adults who love them deeply.  Yes, that is security.  Not whether Osama bin laden is dead.

So, I suggest a fairytale.  The one that popped into my head this morning was “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.”  In it there is a bridge that cannot be crossed because a mean troll lives underneath and will eat all who try.  Three goats need to cross to get to the fresh grass on the other side.  The youngest goes and when confronted by the troll, says the troll should wait for the next goat because he is bigger and will make a better meal.  The troll agrees and the young goat passes.  The middle-size goat comes to the bridge, is confronted by the troll and has a similar conversation.  The biggest goat, Big Billy Goat Gruff, now comes along.  His large hoofs bang loudly on the bridge.  The troll shouts and threatens from below.  Big Billy Goat Gruff dares him to come up.  The troll does so, but is fiercely killed.  The three goats, and others, can now safely cross the stream.  (here is a link to story: Of course when telling such a story to your child today, you do not need to include that Billy Goat Gruff was a Navy SEAL, trained in special ops and flying a Blackhawk helicopter!  But you can get the idea:  the bully is not going to win, the strong will protect the young, and life is safe and good.

So, when listening to today’s news, and whatever may come about in the following days, please remember the children.  Let us as adults filter out what comes to them.  Each family will do this in their own way depending upon many circumstances.  But if we all try to be conscious, to remember that adults and children are different, I know it will help.

– Shannon Stevens


Posted by: Alex Borders | April 2, 2011

The Hottest Tickets in Town!

Saturday 2nd April

The hottest tickets in town are for the WSP Spring Fundraising Auction.  Tomorrow evening The Waldorf School of Philadelphia Silent Auction and Banquet Event will be held at Spring Mill Fire Company in Conshohocken, located at 1210 E. Hector Street. Doors open at 5.00 p.m. and bidding begins at 5.15 p.m.

To view items up for bid visit

If you’ve already purchased your tickets – we’ll see you there tomorrow night!  If you’re still thinking about coming, be spontaneous, get a baby sitter and come join in the fun.  Come support your school tomorrow night – all proceeds benefit The Waldorf School of Philadelphia Scholarship Fund.

Posted by: Alex Borders | March 29, 2011 – Pre-Schools Shouldn’t be like School

Tuesday 29th March

Why Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School

New research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever-younger ages, may backfire – By Alison Gopnik

Ours is an age of pedagogy. Anxious parents instruct their children more and more, at younger and younger ages, until they’re reading books to babies in the womb. They pressure teachers to make kindergartens and nurseries more like schools. So does the law—the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act explicitly urged more direct instruction in federally funded preschools.

There are skeptics, of course, including some parents, many preschool teachers, and even a few policy-makers. Shouldn’t very young children be allowed to explore, inquire, play, and discover, they ask? Perhaps direct instruction can help children learn specific facts and skills, but what about curiosity and creativity—abilities that are even more important for learning in the long run? Two forthcoming studies in the journal Cognitionone from a lab at MIT and one from my lab at UC-Berkeley—suggest that the doubters are on to something. While learning from a teacher may help children get to a specific answer more quickly, it also makes them less likely to discover new information about a problem and to create a new and unexpected solution.  Knowing this, it’s more important than ever to give children’s remarkable, spontaneous learning abilities free rein. That means a rich, stable, and safe world, with affectionate and supportive grown-ups, and lots of opportunities for exploration and play. Not school for babies.

Posted on on Wednesday, March 16, 2011, at 2:15 PM ET –

Posted by: Alex Borders | March 28, 2011

Einstein and Fairy Tales

Monday 28th March

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking ~Albert Einstein~ Scientist  (1879-1955)

Posted by: Alex Borders | March 25, 2011

Eighth Grade

Friday 23rd March

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