Saturday, October 3, 2020

Saints of Africa and India

The Waldorf method is often criticized as being Eurocentric, but Steiner did not explicitly characterize it as such (in fact, quite the opposite; it is meant to be universal to all of humankind). But because it was started in Europe and so many of the examples of early Waldorf schools are European, and so many schools have imitated what others before them have done, early trends have become a bit entrenched. A lot of us are trying to change that!

The topic of the upcoming 2020 Teacher's Conference at Sunbridge Institute in November (which I am able to attend because it is online this year) is "Calling It Like It Is: Uncovering and Dismantling Racism in the Waldorf Movement." I know that there is much to discuss here, but some of this as a Main Lesson teacher is due to the blocks we choose to teach.

My Handwork teacher training this summer (Cycle 11 of the Applied Arts Program at the Fiber Craft Studio in NY) discussed the issue of cultural appropriation and how to bring handwork projects and techniques inspired by other cultures in a way which is respectful. I am also doing extra Handwork teacher training with Elizabeth Seward this year: The World of Needlework and Embroidery. We will learn about Otomi and Sashiko techniques, and discuss the same topic of cultural appropriation. Again, I am eager to have more professional development in this regard.

The Saints block is traditionally European but it certainly doesn't have to be. This classic second grade topic accompanies other struggles between good and evil considered this school year (Buddhist Jataka Tales and Aesop's Fables are the other blocks that address this theme). The idea is that we hold both archtypes within us... the hero and the villain... and the 8 year old child is especially keen to this. Ideas of justice are huge at this age! We want children to be gently supported in their internal struggles of which way to go, as they are tugged by temptations to do wrong but vividly aware of what is right, by hearing stories where this dynamic plays out over and over with what is GOOD and FAIR winning the day.

In this time of COVID, I think it is especially important to hear a satisfying ending where what is right is what happens. Children and adults right now feel adrift in a rapidly-changing world, and these ancient stories are a touchstone and a comfort.

I am really excited about choosing the stories for my class this October!

In 2015 I wrote a long and detailed post (and there are many more resources on the Saints webpage on my website) with lists of Saint stories:

The Giant at the Ford and Other Legends of the Saints is a particularly valuable resource right now because my students will only be meeting in our Outdoor Classroom two days a week. The rest of the week they will be learning at home. However, I can still have them hearing the same stories, and working on MLB summaries, because this book is now NOW AVAILABLE for free at

The Giant at the Ford and Other Legends of the Saints

by Ursula Synge
NOW AVAILABLE for free at

Some new resources I've recently purchased for the classroom include African Saints, African Stories: 40 Holy Men and Women by Camille Lewis Brown and The Monkeys and the Mango Tree: Teaching Stories of the Saints and Sadhus of India by Harish Johari.

The Monkeys and the Mango Tree would be a wonderful resource for the Jataka Tales block. It does not tell about the wise men themselves; rather, it is a collection of 25 of their teaching stories.

African Saints, African Stories is a good resource for teacher preparation for the Saints block. The stories would need to be fleshed out to be suitable for children. This would be an excellent task for the teacher, to bring the stories to the children in a living and emotional way. The book as it is written is meant for adults, and contains only a brief biography followed by scripture readings, prayers, and points for reflection (it is very Catholic). However, if you are wanting to include African saints and saints-in-waiting in your block, this gives you a good starting point of people to research further. The list is:

Saints, Blesseds and Venerables

  • Alexandrian Plague Martyrs and Other African Martyrs
  • Saint Antony of Egypt
  • Saint Augustine of Hippo
  • Blessed Isidore Bakanja
  • Saint Josephine Bakhita
  • Saint Benedict the Moor
  • Saint Cassian of Tangier
  • Venerable Theresa Chikaba
  • Saint Cyprian of Carthage
  • Pope Saint Gelasius I
  • Saint Julia of Carthage
  • Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions
  • Saint Martin de Porres
  • Saint Mary of Egypt
  • Saint Maurice and the Theban Legion
  • Pope Saint Miltiades
  • Saint Monica
  • Saint Moses the Black
  • Blessed Marie Clementine Anuarite Nengapeta
  • Blesseds Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa
  • Saints Perpetua and Felicitas
  • Saint Poemen
  • Blessed Victoria Rasomanarivo
  • Saint Serapion the Sendadite
  • Saint Speraus and Companions
  • Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi
  • Saint Thais
  • Saints Timothy and Maura
  • Venerable Pierre Toussaint
  • Pope Saint Vicotr I

Saints in Waiting

  • Mother Mathilda Beasley
  • Sister Thea Bowman
  • Henriette Delille
  • Father Augustine Derricks
  • Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable
  • Dr. Lena Edwards
  • Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange
  • Mother Emma Lewis
  • Father Augustus Tolton
  • Mother Mary Theodore Williams

In Waldorf, quality is considered more important than quantity, so you are only supposed to choose a maximum of 10 or 12 stories for a block. You want the figures to be carefully chosen and to really resonate with the children. Like all Waldorf teachers, it is up to me to choose the stories that I think are most suitable to the children I have in my class.

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

No comments: