Martinmas – A Path to our Inner Light

Sarah Wiberg (Meadowbrook Parent Child Teacher) and Nancy St. Vincent (Early Childhood Class Teacher) describe Martinmas and the introspection encouraged through the fall festivals of a Waldorf School. 

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Photo Credit: Seth Jacobson Photography

Autumn is a time to reflect on our inner selves

As the leaves change and the world puts on a beautiful autumnal cloak of orange, red, and yellow, we are reminded that winter is coming.  There is much we do to prepare for winter. We may gather firewood, put our gardens to rest or finish canning the bounty of the harvest.  But this time of year, with its shorter days and longer nights, not only prompts us to complete the familiar external preparations, but can also be a time of inner preparation.

Autumn is a time to reflect on our inner selves, to find the inner light that will carry us through this time of darkness. It can be a time to look forward to, with its opportunity to know ourselves in a deeper way.  Waldorf schools mark this season of inner searching with three fall festivals to help guide us on this path of introspection.  In September, we celebrate Michaelmas and St. Michael urges us to battle with courage to face and vanquish our “dragons”.  In early November, we celebrate Martinmas and observe St. Martin’s compassion for others.  In December, St. Nicholas brings the gifts of wisdom, reflection, and review upon the events of the year.  These three figures model strength in the qualities of willing, feeling and thinking.

The festival of Martinmas asks us as striving adults to bring forth our inner light and share it with those around us.

At the festival of Martinmas we hear the story of St. Martin, a Roman soldier who lived in the fourth century.  As St. Martin approached the city gates at Amiens, he came upon a poor beggar who was shivering with cold.  St. Martin, who lived in the utmost of simplicity himself and had nothing to give the beggar, drew his sword and cut his own cloak in two and offered half to the beggar.  The following night, Christ appeared to St. Martin in a dream wearing the half-cloak he had given and said, “Martin has covered me with this garment.”

With St. Martin’s example, Martinmas encourages us to meet each other with a compassionate, giving heart.  It asks us as striving adults to bring forth our inner light and share it with those around us.

The Martinmas lantern walk lights this path. 

At Meadowbrook Waldorf School, we celebrate this festival with the Martinmas Lantern Walk.  We begin the week before with the children in Kindergarten, First, and Second Grades making lanterns in school.  On the night of the Martinmas celebration, the children and parents arrive at school to see a marionette performance of Spindlewood, the story of a girl who has an encounter with Mother Earth as she is preparing for winter.  This story depicts the outer world of earth going to sleep while the inner world is coming alive.  Following the performance, the children and families walk with their class through the forest surrounding the school singing songs of light.  Carrying the lanterns they have made, it is like witnessing many beautiful stars joyfully winding a the path through the woods.  Afterward, the children and families leave in a mood of quiet reverence, carrying their light out into the world.

“I walk with my little lantern, my lantern, myself and I.

Up yonder bright little stars shine, down here were stars to the sky.

The new moon shines, the cat meows…

La bimmel, la bummel, la boom…”




A Different Approach to Financial Aid

This post is written by Tabitha Jorgensen, a current member of our Board of Trustees.  Tabitha previously served as our  Admissions Coordinator, welcoming new families to Meadowbrook for more than 14 years.

Part of the Mission Statement of the Meadowbrook Waldorf School reads, “We strive to offer this education to those who seek it here…” One of the ways MWS supports this part of the mission is through financial aid, and like many things at a Waldorf School, we do it a little differently. For one thing, we call it “adjustment” not “aid,” and this is quite purposeful.

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A more traditional financial aid system works something like this: The school has a line item in their budget designated for financial aid. This is a specific amount of money set aside and given out to families who qualify. Once the limit is met, the school generally won’t give out any more. The allocated amount can be adjusted during budget planning, but generally not during the school year.

At Meadowbrook we don’t have a budgeted line item for financial aid. So how do we responsibly budget this way? How do we meet the needs of our community members for whom full tuition is not possible? How do we work with a family facing a financial crisis?

First, we rely on our experience and make some educated estimates. Based on past experience, we are able to determine the percentage of students that will need adjustment with reliable accuracy. An “average” tuition amount is calculated per student and a budget is built around that number. In this way, any new family who applies to MWS late in the season adds to the bottom line of our budget, even if they are not able to pay full tuition.

Second, we have cash reserves for a rainy day. If a particular year turns out to be financially challenging for our families and more requests for adjustment are made than anticipated, or emergency situations arise during the school year (job loss, unexpected medical conditions etc.), we are generally able to meet those needs. If a trend begins, as it did when the recession hit, future budgets are adjusted accordingly.

Third, we are committed to working this way. It is a time consuming process to manage every case through our tuition-adjustment committee, but every family and every circumstance is unique. This work provides an opportunity for MWS to show that we honor and value all our families, and it is also a time when our families can see Meadowbrook principles in action.

It is through working with families, and not merely formulaic calculations, that we strive to reach a tuition level that is acceptable to both the family and the school. As with any agreement between two parties, there are expectations. Families can expect a confidential, fair, thorough process from MWS, a process in which they are active participants. In turn, MWS expects that our families will make choices to demonstrate they consider this education is a priority.

Part of managing a thorough process means a family must provide financial documents, honor deadlines, and present a complete picture of their circumstances.  Part of creating a fair process means MWS cannot support certain “lifestyle” choices through the tuition adjustment program. For example, our policy statement indicates both parents should be employed once all children are of school age. MWS cannot subsidize a choice to be unemployed at the expense of our other families or our faculty. Of course there are exceptional circumstances and times where employment is not about choice – illnesses, job changes, divorce, etc. Exceptional circumstances will always be considered.

The tuition adjustment program is designed to meet as many families as possible, sustainably and fairly. The tuition adjustment committee works to balance the needs of our families with the needs of faculty, staff, programming, and facilities. The tuition adjustment program is an area where we express our belief that those in a Waldorf community carry one another’s destiny. Meadowbrook is entrusted with supporting the destiny of a child and that child’s family. The family, in turn, supports MWS through tuition, and by participating in the vibrant community life of the school.

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The Art of Story Telling to the Preschool Child

Contributed by Sarah Wiberg (Parent-Child Class Teacher)

& Nancy St. Vincent (Early Childhood Class Teacher)

Waldorf story telling captivates preschool children

Preschool Puppets

One special part of a Waldorf Early Childhood experience is the use of puppetry to tell a story. The teacher is able to express a variety of deep story themes and soul moods with the simplest of gestures.  The magic for the viewer, whether they are young or old, is that the atmosphere surrounding the story is held with complete reverence and respect.  Lighting a candle and singing a simple song marks the beginning of this special time.

Engaging imagination in a preschool child

Stories rich in language and archetypical characters lay the foundation for creativity and imaginative thinking in the child. Colored silks and wools are used to reflect the seasons and the gestures of these archetypal figures.  Puppets that are lovingly handmade bring the story to life. The puppets are often without faces so the child is free to have their individual experience of the story.  The puppets and the props for the story are made from natural materials such as wool, silk, and wood.  This connects the child to the natural world. Stories follow the characters as they experience joy as well as struggles.  The characters are always able to find their way to the safety of home.  This is a very comforting message. The life of a young child can have many challenges and they need to know that they have a safe and secure place to return to.

Experience the Waldorf way of story telling with your child

Every year, the early childhood faculty at Meadowbrook Waldorf School present a marionette or puppet show for Holiday Faire visitors. This event allows parents a peek into the special world that their children get to experience, and for children and adults who have never seen it before, an opportunity to connect with something truly magical.  We invite you and your child to experience the wonder of story telling and puppetry at the upcoming Holiday Faire.  Please come to witness this simple, beautiful gift.

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Come join in the 2014 festivities at the Meadowbrook Waldorf School Holiday Faire.

Friday, November 21rd from 6-9 PM (Adults’ Night)

Saturday, November 22th from 10-4 (Family Day) 

Holiday Faire 2014

It is almost time for our annual Holiday Faire!

This is a wonderful, free family event with crafts for all ages, music, children’s activities, gently used toys and books, and a stunning array of handcrafted and natural gifts for purchase. Please bring your family and friends to enjoy a beautiful day welcoming the holiday season.

Friday, November 21,  6 – 9 pm for adults

Friday evening gives an opportunity to shop out of sight of ‘little eyes’ for a wide range of unique gifts including high quality children’s items.

Saturday November 22, 10 am – 4 pm for families.

Saturday is a festive family celebration with music and marionette shows, lots of craft activities too.  The hugely popular Crystal Cave, filled with tiny gnomes and twinkling lights will open for young visitors and outside will be pony rides on our beautiful woodland campus.

Holiday Faire Location
300 Kingstown Road
West Kingston, RI

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