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 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.
Michaelmas is a festival of inner strength. A time to conquer anxiety and fear. It’s apt that it’s the first festival in the Steiner school year!
In the legend, the archangel Michael offers four gifts – strength, courage, the will to do good deeds and love.
In Class 1 and 2 we celebrated by working together to create a conker dragon and making dragon bread.
We have also been practising several verses and our brave Class 1/2s acted out a scene from a Michaelmas play. Our favourite verse “Brave and true, I will be, Each kind word sets me free, Each good deed makes me strong, I will fight for the right, I will conquer the wrong” echoed out around the hall as the children recited it with tremendous vigour to the watching Bud children and Kindergarten teacher Ziggy,
I am parent to a four year old boy who has attended Beechtree Steiner’s Outdoor
Parent & Child from the age of eighteen months and Snowdrops Kindergarten from
the age of three years. He has very severe dermal allergies and goes into
anaphylaxis when exposed to non-natural cleaning products, meaning that he could
not attend mainstream education or enter childcare anywhere except for a very
strictly controlled and safe environment. Discovering Beechtree Steiner has been so
important to our family. The love and support that we have experienced from the
other parents and the incredibly dedicated teaching staff have meant so much to us.
Beechtree Steiner is such a special place and we are very proud to be part of such a
warm, loving and inclusive community.
The first experience of the Beechtree Steiner community that my husband and I had
was stumbling across a sea of brightly coloured picnic blankets in Meanwood Park.
There were families of every conceivable ethnicity all talking and sharing food whilst
their gloriously muddy children played together. It was a beautiful sight to behold and
we could tell that there was something really significant about this group of people.
Our son got to playing with a little girl and a week later we found ourselves sat with
her parents under the shade of a giant Beech tree eating campfire flatbread made by
the children. Fast forward two years of attending Parent and Child group every week
and our children are now enrolled together in Kindergarten and we and our
wonderful friends are discussing what we are going to do now that our building is
due to be demolished and we have to try to recreate the same Beechtree magic in a
We all come together with ideas and spend the year raising funds by having coffee
mornings, nearly new sales, fayres, pay as you feel haircuts, a duck race, raffles,
applying to local businesses for funding and by completing Total Warrior; an obstacle
course race over a 12k track comprising of 100 tonnes of mud and thirty obstacles.
I’m quite sure that every parent is alike in being willing to do anything for their
children’s well-being, but this is a community of people willing to literally jump over
fire for them!
As the term ends, my husband leads the “dismantling team” who are responsible for
packing up the old premises in Headingley and moving it to the new location in
Chapeltown whilst I busy myself with the working group responsible for creating our
We have teams of parents responsible for prepping and painting the walls, teams of
parents responsible for sourcing new furniture, floor coverings and materials to
create the outdoor space and teams of skilled people to create new internal walls,
hang doors, do plumbing, electrics and build kitchens.
It is an absolutely mammoth task but it is encouraging to see everybody come
together to make it work – the people who are there on the ground painting or
building stud walls have incredible support from other parents who offer them
childcare or drop off supplies or fill the boot of their car with rubbish for the tip. Every
contribution, whether encouraging words on our Facebook group as the progress
pictures come in or somebody dropping off a pint of milk and a tin of home-made
biscuits for the tired and hungry workers is so appreciated. A person there at the
right time to just sweep and mop the floor makes just as much difference as
somebody who has been trained to lazure the walls in beautiful swirls of pale pink.
There is no better way to get to know a group of people than when you are building
something together. Skilled tradespeople rub up against enthusiastic helpers who
are eager to learn and organised people direct the right person to complete a
suitable task for their skills or find resources to solve problems. We all chat about our
children, sing along to eclectic playlists and make sure that we are all drinking
enough water and going home at some point to sleep and eat and see our families.
In the weeks before term starts, the staff return from their Summer break to unpack
the classrooms and figure out where the new and old furniture needs to go and the
reality of everything we have achieved together in such a short space of time is very
humbling. Seeing familiar things like the art supplies, natural wooden toys and
outdoor clothes all ready for the children to discover provokes a surprisingly
emotional response. As the lights are softened to a pink glow, fabrics are fireproofed
and safeguarding procedures are put in place, we head for the rapidly evolving
outdoor space to fill planters with topsoil and compost, plant bulbs and herbs and lay
bark chipping paths and fill the sand pit.
There’s an old adage that it takes a village to raise a child, it is certainly also true that
it takes a whole community to build a Steiner school.