Lynn Hill – 3,000 feet up the world’s most famous rock wall: Yosemite’s El Capitan


“People said, Oh, no, you can’t do that. That’s too hard‘.

It doesn’t look like there’s holds, but I just looked at it with an open mind and found just enough to make it possible.”

                                                                                                                                                 – Lynn Hill

In 1993, Lynn Hill became the first person to free-climb the Nose of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, California. Revered as one of the best rock climbs in the world, it boasts a 3,000 foot pitch straight up solid granite. Lynn attributes her success to adaptation. “It’s all about adapting yourself to the rock,” she says. “The rock is what dictates the moves.”  Fear and awe dance together with each finger hold, and a cavernous feeling works it’s way across my gut just watching Lynn and fellow climbers Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell inch and jump their way up and across the Nose – without ropes. Their amazing feats have been captured on video by Google Maps, the company’s first ever vertical “Street View” camera work, which gives all of us non-climbers and climbers alike a climbers-eye-view, safely accessed right from our desktops and kitchen counters.

In 1996, Erik Weihenmayer successfully climbed the Nose, and became the first blind person ever to do so.

I’ve never climbed, yet I’m fascinated by people who do. I am thrilled every time my eleven-year old daughter moves effortlessly up the artificial turf in snake-like fashion, as indoor rock climbing has become her passion.

If adaptation is the key to success, let’s use it. The only way we can adapt is to first know the basics. Beginner’s mind is a very appropriate way to honor adaptation. Mindfulness – it’s important. It’s important to be present to a student’s process and needs.

In my work, adaptation is the tool I offer so that students may climb and achieve the “Oh no’s.” Every teacher of the blind knows that a blind child’s hand is a treasure. In Waldorf education, we understand on a very deep level the importance of the hand, through Steiner’s insights, research on brain development, plasticity and connection, as well as the care of the hand in particular. It is not uncommon for Waldorf nursery and kindergarten teachers to consciously devote their attention to providing hand massages to the children in their care. In our work, we say, “This is a necessary component. This is kindness. This is life-giving”.

Arthur Auer, Program Director of the Waldorf Education Program at Antioch University, New England, expresses how Waldorf teachers view the connection in this excerpt from Learning About the World Through ModelingSculptural Ideas for School and Home. “Physical grasp and manipulation thus set the stage for emotional and mental grasp of experiences and ideas.  Hand activity and grasping not only initially help establish the awe-inspiring neural network of the mind in our very early years, but also contribute to keeping it vibrant, flexible and active throughout our most formative learning yearsfrom birth to 21and into adulthood. Without regular, rhythmic, and active engagement of our hands, many neural pathways would remain unused, underused, or would fail to receive the permanent myelin sheathing they need around them for remembered and repeated action. They would remain disordered and chaotic, atrophy, and wither away. Our minds would be reduced to underdeveloped reflections of their true potential.”

As always, I am inspired by the healthy insight that Waldorf education provides and by individuals who climb 3,000 feet up sheer granite rock. I am most inspired, as always, by the children who must climb the world without sight.

If you’re so inspired, as I am, you can learn more about the world’s top female rock climbers through their essays in: Leading Out: Women Climbers Reaching for the Top by Rachel Da Silva. For children, No Summit Out of Sight: The True Story of the Youngest Person to Climb the Seven Summits by Jordan Romero and Linda Leblanc, available from Bookshare through Sonne Valley School, and book sellers.

Getting to Groundbreak

Ground break seed

What is important to me, especially as a single mother, is that my child does not continue to struggle to learn at any stage. Growth, of course, includes the initial ground-break – forces needed to propel a seed upward and out of it’s casing, through the earth, to ultimately sprout and flourish. I want my child to experience the ground-break as well as the flourish, because both are needed to achieve balance and foster a true sense of independence and achievement.

As a teacher, I have observed and taught children with special needs struggle to get to ground-break. I have observed and worked with teachers who struggle daily to help them access it. It’s a daily practice – and there is nothing wrong with it. Except, the goal is for the child to learn in the process and find clarity within themselves. If we are not achieving this in the classroom environment, something is wrong.

Learning that meets the child at every stage
Learning that meets the child at every stage

There are tools and methods to help children access a way in to their process without forcing an impression or creating more disturbance. This is where fluidity happens, and it is crucial to learning. For the child with low vision, or without sight, to have the chance to experience learning in this way is the goal.  It is not a small task. It can be done.

Connect this learning style with the teaching of braille, available books in UEB braille throughout the grades, and current technology to support the child’s transition into adolescence with real world skills – that is the goal I am continually striving to achieve.

Until next time…with more good news…I welcome the Spring, which is fast approaching here in Pennsylvania, and I applaud you for the ground breaks in your own life.



A New Year Unfolding, Embracing Strength

Nautilus color

“Nautilus revealed that there is so much more than we see or hear in this world.
There are other worlds underworlds that were being kept secret until now.
More will be revealed in the future, so stay tuned for the new mysteries to be revealed.”  – Nature’s Blessings

The strength of a teacher lies in being intuitive and present to what the student finds in their work.  The nautilus represents the past and the future, which is directly how Rudolf Steiner believed that a teacher should see the child.

In my first year of coursework as an art student, I was introduced to simple materials; shaping them, constructing with them, finding all of their capabilities, strengths, limits, and basically how each material performed when manipulated.

A beautiful way to introduce the strengths of a material and explore geometry in mathematics work with children who have visual impairments is through tactile work such as Origami and material manipulation.

Richard Sweeney gives us a fascinating artistic experience of this through his work. Listen to how he describes his process. Then think about the possibilities of origami and material manipulation in the classroom.



Richard Sweeney video describing his artistic process:

Happy New Year, and may it unfurl with beauty.

With Kindness,




Experiencing Warmth and Allowing Natural Movement

Warmth and Movement
Warmth and Movement

(photo credit Shining Rivers Waldorf School)

Experiencing what’s possible. For a child with visual impairments? Yes. Warmth, open space, softness, natural light. Moveable tables. Natural objects, colors, fabrics. All this and Braille enrichment, too? Yes. It is possible. Here, at The Sonne Valley School. ©

This is the Waldorf education experience. A classic education. Free from textbooks, tests, and tracking. Children learn and excel at their own pace. Classical literature, knitting using natural dyes and fibers, mathematics through movement, and more.

Interested? Let’s get a dialogue going! Leave me a comment here, on my new site.

Can’t wait to hear from you!


With Kindness,


P.S. This educational model and adapted curriculum is the sole Intellectual Property of this site owner and © copyright by the owner.