Author Archives: Lianne Mease

September term 2020

Just like the beech tree that we planted when we moved into these premises three years ago, the children have grown so much during lockdown and over the summer. It has been absolutely joyful to have the children back at Beechtree, to welcome all our new starters and to be operating more fully again. The building and garden are once more resounding with the sounds of laughter, chat, singing and general busyness, the children are loving playing with their friends and their increased resilience is clear to see.

Class Years

For Class 1/2/3 the first week back to Beechtree felt as though we’d never been away. The children moved into their sunny new classroom eagerly and almost effortlessly and began the journey of gelling together as a new class, with the class staff team for this term, Nicola, Ziggy, Gabriella, and Victoria. Already the class has ridden the waves of some of the inevitable changes that will characterise this period. Nicola is especially proud of how the children have adapted to a different rhythm in their own unique ways and also of how their increased resilience shines through everything.

We are all so excited for the term ahead, for the golden autumn sunshine, the falling leaves and the start of a whole new year together.

Learning through lockdown at Beechtree

This week we marked the end of what we think has been the strangest year in Beechtree’s 20 year history.

Keeping our staff and families safe from Covid-19, both in terms of their physical and mental health, has of course been our first priority, but rising to the challenge of providing continuity for the children in our care and support for the parents as they switch to home-learning instead of attending our setting has meant some big adjustments for our whole community. Particularly going from a screen-free world to having to make use of technology!

We are so proud of our staff’s incredible resilience and leadership. The way they have managed to deliver their Beechtree magic via live Zoom sessions or by sending stories and songs via audio recordings and videos has been so inspiring. For teaching the Waldorf Steiner curriculum remotely via the parents, by preparing lesson plans that work from home and creating support groups to monitor progress and keep that sense of community going, all whilst creating new policies for these changed circumstances… what amazing staff we have! Thank you for all you do.

We’d like to especially thank our parent community for their continued support and trust during these strange times. We are planning to be open this September, with some adjustments, of course, to ensure we follow the government guidelines to keep our staff, children and their families safe for the duration of this pandemic.

For now, though, we hope you all have a magical and relaxing summer.

With love

Lianne Marie Mease
Trustee at Beechtree Steiner Initiative

The role of calm and slowly evolving stories in Eurythmy

by Gabriella Vasas-Turnbull our Eurythmy Teacher

Children learn by imitation, repetition and movement. Eurythmy stories are mirroring the world around them and how to live in it, like putting on their shoes, jumping into puddles, digging in the garden, baking bread, going to a farm and milking cows, or being a princess and a king in the castle. The images of the fairy tales and the connected sounds and movements awaken and develop in the children creativity, imagination and reverence.

Old English folk tales and folk tales from other nations, like the Grimm fairy tales, with rhymes and singing games, are invaluable for eurythmy lessons. Finger games and dances can be easily embedded in these stories and will support the children’s development, strengthen their etheric forces and achieve the harmonising effects of eurythmy.

I would like to share with you a story which you can read in parts to your children who can create some drawings, movements and activities to it.

The Little White House at the Edge of the Forest
Once upon a time Ivan Ivanovitch and his wife, Katushka, lived in a little white house at the edge of the forest. One day as Ivan sat mending his axe by the fire, Katushka came to him and said, “Ivan Ivanovitch, we are going to have a son, but our house is too small to hold the three of us. We will have to find more room. Go to Little Father Tsar and ask his advice.”
So Ivan went to Little Father Tsar and asked him how he and Katushka could find enough room for the three of them in the little white house, now that they were going to have a son. Little Father Tsar replied, “I hear your old grandmother is not well. Take her into your house at once.” So Ivan brought his grandmother to live with them.
“Heavens,” said Katushka to Ivan, “what will we do for room when the baby comes? The house is too crowded even now. Ivan, go to Little Father Tsar and ask his advice.” So Ivan went again to Little Father Tsar and Little Father Tsar told him, “I hear your Uncle Fedor, who lives by the river, has had rheumatism. Take him into your house at once.”
So Ivan fetched his Uncle Fedor from his cottage by the river and took him to live in the little white house at the edge of the forest and, oh, the house was very crowded now, with Ivan and Katushka, grandmother and Uncle Fedor. “Heavens,” said Katushka “the baby will soon be here, whatever will we do? Ivan Ivanovitch, go to Little Father Tsar and ask his advice.” So Ivan went again to Little Father Tsar and Little Father Tsar told him, “I hear there is a newborn calf in your barn which is very weak. Take it into your house at once.”
So Ivan went to his barn and brought the calf into his little white house on the edge of the forest and oh, the house was so crowded now that it was hard for all of them to find a place to sit down. Soon after the baby came and the house was even more crowded than before. Katushka said to Ivan, “Heavens, Ivan Ivanovitch, we must try to do something. Run quickly to Little Father Tsar and ask his advice.”
So Ivan went once more to Little Father Tsar and told him that there was no room in the little white house on the edge of the forest. Little Father Tsar nodded and said, “I hear you have an old goose who is nearly blind and can never find her way to her hut behind the barn. Take her into your house at once.”
So Ivan went into the yard and found the old goose and led into the house, where he made a bed of straw for it by the fire, but when Katushka came into the room, she threw up her hands and cried, “Something must now be done! No man or animal can live this way, we must have more room. Ivan Ivanovitch, run to Little Father Tsar and tell him I have reached the end of my patience.” So Ivan ran straight to Little Father Tsar.
When he heard Ivan’s story, he laughed and his grey beard bounced up and down, “Go home,” he said, “and take the old goose out and build her a hut in the yard so that she can easily find shelter at night.” So Ivan went home and did as Little Father Tsar had told him. When the goose was gone, Katushka said, “Ivan Ivanovitch, run to Little Father Tsar and thank him, there is so much more room, now that the old goose has gone.”
So Ivan went to Little Father Tsar and he said, “The new calf is now strong, take it out and lead it into the barn to live with the other cows.” So Ivan went home and did as Little Father Tsar had told him. When the calf was gone, Katushka said, “Ivan Ivanovitch, run to Little Father Tsar and thank him, there is so much more room, now that the calf has gone.” So Ivan went to Little Father Tsar and he said, “Uncle Fedor’s rheumatism is much better and he wants to start to work on his summer garden. Take him home again.” So Ivan went home and did as Little Father Tsar had told him.
When Uncle Fedor had left, Katushka said, “Ivan Ivanovitch, run to Little Father Tsar and thank him, there is so much more room, now that Uncle Fedor has gone.” So Ivan went once more to Little Father Tsar and he said, “Your grandmother has recovered and would like to go home again, so that you and your wife can visit her at her house with the new baby after the christening. Come back if there is still not enough room.”
So Ivan went home and did as Little Father Tsar had told him. After his grandmother had gone home, there was just Ivan, Katushka and the baby and how much room they all seemed to have! They never realised what a big house it was. So Ivan didn’t have to go to Little Father Tsar ever again about this matter and the three of them lived very happily in the little white house on the edge of the forest.

Creating a new normal

Some wise words to our community from Beechtree’s General Manager Cath Thurlow.

After these first weeks of acclimatising and trying to build a new routine, I’d like to share some things that have helped me to create a new sense of normality.

In a web conference with other Waldorf Steiner Kindergarten teachers, the lead host Janni Nichols shared something that really inspired me. She talked about finding our own rhythm and routine in whatever form that may take – be it starting with a morning verse or meditation or having meals at regular times and making time for movement, and remembering to find time for yourself, and taking care of yourself. This may not always be possible, but as little as five minutes can make a world of difference – a part of my new routine is to sit outside for at least five minutes with a cup of tea and enjoy the sounds of the birds and the stillness around us.

Janni also spoke about working with gratitude, and I think with all of the negative influences around us (from social media and the news) this is more important than ever. I have started to make a mental list of three things I am grateful for every morning, and this could be as simple as being thankful for the new day, for being well and being grateful for all that I have.

A friend recently shared an article which also moved me; here is a snippet from it:

“There are distances that bring us close and solitudes that unite. We are learning that our life and well-being depend on the life and well-being of the other; that the fate of the people we love and the whole community also depends on my fate and actions; that personal interest must be overshadowed by the collective need. It is an important evolutionary step. We had to stop in order to hear … And understand. When we stop to listen we hear everything that happens, inside and outside ourselves. Anger, helplessness, frustration, anxiety, despair, fear … but also empathy, compassion, love, gratitude, kindness, silence. Everything. There is the whole life inside ourselves that just waited to be listened to and welcomed, to allow us to return to the natural rhythms of life and to cultivate those values so important to the survival of this planet and in this planet.”

The article made me think about our own rhythm, and the balance that we need between in-breaths (periods of business!) and out breaths (moments of pause and rest), and the gift that we have been given, of time to be with our families, to stop and listen, and to come together as communities, even if we are a few metres apart!

In all of the negativity around us, it is more important than ever to focus on the light – the silver lining in the clouds above!

Eurythmy arrived into Beechtree!

by Gabriella Vasas-Turnbull our new Eurythmy Teacher

“Eurythmy lets the soul life flow outwards and thereby becomes a real expression of the human being, like language; eurythmy is visible speech.” Rudolf Steiner

From end of February, the timetable of the school expanded with fortnightly eurythmy lessons for the Kindergarten groups, Class 1-2 and for parents and staff.

Engaging with eurythmy engages and fosters the growing child, evolves the social fabric of the class and creates many smiling children who are enjoying the movement.

Learning in eurythmy means that the children and adults exploring meaningful movement, developing:
– bodily and kinaesthetic awareness spatial orientation, lateral thinking and subtle, feeling capabilities;
– a healthy relationship to self and others;
– an understanding of form and metamorphosis;
– knowledge of the relationship between time and space and how movement exists through the interplay of these two elements;
– a harmonious relationship between qualities of expansion and contraction and the three directions in space;
– movement in symmetrical forms and choreographic skills;
– performance skills which encompass, age appropriately, an awareness of ensemble members and audience; appreciation for their own and others’ works.

Making in eurythmy begins with imitation of the teacher’s movements and combinations of patterns and gestures which give expressions to simple characters from stories and poems as well as to forms in the world around them in combination with the Main Lesson.

In the festivals, the children will be able to show these stories and poems through movements and gestures specific to eurythmy.

Afternoon Care

by Karpale Kaur

Afternoon care begins at 1:45pm after Kindergarten and our Bluebells and Snowdrops meet together and have a snack. Snacks usually consist of raisins and seeds with some fruit, some days we may even have warm chapattis.

Then it is time to snuggle down for rest time and children may read a book for 15 minutes then have time to rest their heads. At 3:15pm afternoon play commences and children are able to play and even to do some baking such as making flapjacks or biscuits. Some children undertake sewing during this time to express their creativity!

Children do take part in a range of activities that may also include: creating wooden-plank structures, drawing and dressing up (with capes and crowns).

Celebrating Candlemas at Beechtree Steiner

Candlemas marks half-way between the shortest day and the Spring equinox. We have been in a period of hopeful waiting and the forces of nature begin to stir new growth all around us.

The children have noticed the bulb children poking their heads above ground on their walks to our local park. Light and warmth move more freely again and there’s hopefulness in the air.

Here’s how the three elements of our setting come together to celebrate Candlemas in age-appropriate ways.

In Parent & Child (from birth to age 3 years) we were greeted today by a beautiful new nature table featuring Spring elements. Our songs and stories today changed with the new season and for a Candlemas activity, little hands got to work warming and moulding sweet-smelling sheets of beeswax into candles to take home and light.

In Kindergarten (age 3 to 6 years) the children from both classes had a joint outdoor day where, after making chapattis on the fire for snack, we walked to the local park together and had our ring time around candles in jars (to protect them from Brother Wind!) and played a lovely game of Lady Spring. (Lady Spring wears a beautiful pink flower crown and chooses who will partner for dancing)

In the School (age 6 years+) the Class 1 and 2 children celebrated Candlemas by writing out the Candlemas verse and hand-dipping candles in layers of red and green that looked like beautiful spring bulbs. As the children are passionate about our planet, this was a lovely zero-waste activity – the wax was melted down from the leftovers of December’s Advent festival candles.

Teacher Nicola presented each child with an early daffodil, ready to bloom and an Imbolc candle she had made from very special wax which was leftover from candles lit by the peace flame a few years ago.

Our stories in Kindergarten and School have recently centred around the beautiful story The Root Children by Sibylle Von Olfers which ties in so beautifully with Candlemas, where we set candles in the ground to warm the earth and help the bulb children come to the surface and bloom. The Kindergarten children planted their candles in the park today and the School children planted theirs in the class garden.

When the Kindergarten children returned at lunchtime, the School children joined them for a special feast in honour of St Brigid followed by a beautiful puppet show and some time to sing together.

The puppet show followed the theme of The Root Children using beautiful puppets made by Teacher Maisy.

Snowdrops in the Beechtree Garden

by Kindergarten teacher Maisy Carlucci

“Snowdrops Snowdrops, little drops of snow
What do we do when the cold winds blow?
We shake our little head and sing:
Ding a ling, ding a ling,
Here Comes Spring”

This time of year the nights are long and the days are cold but everywhere we look the children find little promises of spring: in the mornings that grow brighter, the robins that appear in the garden and the tiny snowdrops reaching up from the cold earth.

Next week, we will celebrate the end of the winter and the gentle coming of spring by creating candles from sheets of beeswax, symbolising the new light of spring, and planting the candles in the ground to wake the bulbs up.

As this is a good time to start preparing for the spring flowers, the daffodils and the bluebells, the children have been weeding the flowerbeds and tidying up the garden.

Having respect for allergies

Class 1/2 have been busy making posters collaboratively today after a class discussion about the importance of taking care of each other by understanding the allergies we have in our community and what we need to do.

The posters will be displayed in the building as a gentle reminder to all to check the ingredients for everything we bring into Beechtree as we have a child and a staff member who are both severely allergic to nuts.

You can learn more by reading our food and drink policy.

Laying the Foundations

It’s been just over two years since August 2017 when Beechtree took the big step of expanding to become an Independent School and this has been a time of laying the foundations to ensure that the school is as solid as possible. From our tiny beginnings as a parent and child group in a front room in Woodhouse and as a well established Early Years Setting our aim has always been to provide high-quality Steiner Education and an alternative method of teaching and learning for families in Leeds.

Becoming a school was the natural next stage of the journey albeit a daunting one especially as it was also accompanied by a move to new premises in Chapeltown,

As we grew, we kept much of what has always made us unique; the children at Beechtree are at the centre of all we do and they are surrounded by a community made up of staff, trustees and parents working together to make the setting robust. Staff use an in-depth curriculum rooted in child development that is also reflective of the needs of the specific children in the school and designed to cultivate motivated, responsible and competent young people with a life-long love of learning. Parents work hard to provide much-needed resources and funds to Beechtree and were instrumental in our move from packing to painting to bringing to life our outdoor space, and trustees provide the support and legal governance necessary. Staff have a genuine love of teaching and many have moved from mainstream settings, drawn to the child-centred education we offer, with a methodology backed up by current research and to the skilled and professional staff team we have.

The community at Beechtree has sustained us all as we have tirelessly laid the foundations for the future, working with Ofsted to ensure we have everything needed in place, making sure that our curriculum is reflective of and right for the children at Beechtree, and that we have enough of the recourses needed and our latest Ofsted Inspection that took place in November 2019 in which we achieved a Good judgement across the board is a testament to the solidity that we now have in place and a tribute to the school we have established. We are clear that we couldn’t have achieved this without everyone in our community working together and we are grateful for all the support and trust we have received from our parents and trustees, for the hard work of the staff team and for the children who teach us so much every day and who arrive at school ” with happy and beaming faces ” (Ofsted report November 2019)

by Cath Thurlow, General Manager, Beechtree Steiner Initiative