Friday, April 28, 2006

4/28/06 Daily Flow

Once again I awakened early but stayed in bed with Boy #1. When I did get out of bed he wanted to join me, but I told him I needed some time and had him stay in bed. I turned on the computer, made a cup of tea, and got started with some breakfast preparations while it brewed. Then I headed back to dress. Boy #1 really wanted up at this point, so I let him dress and play with a peg game while I read my email. He had Boy #2 up by 6:45 a.m.

Breakfast went fine. I am eliminating cold cereal, even though we bought the "healthy" kind (and GF too). They accepted hot cereal just fine today. Papa and I had smoothies.

Time for dressing and morning chores. I started the kitchen, but Papa had time to finish it so I made the boys' bed (with a little help from Boy #2) and helped Boy #2 dress while Boy #1 brushed his teeth. Then I brushed Boy #2's teeth. I set them free for a few minutes while I made my bed and took care of my personal hygiene. Then I wiped my bathroom sink and the boys' sink and toilet. I put out new hand towels in both bathrooms.

We went on our walk, this time in another direction, with the "goal" of determining how long it takes to walk to the video store (15 minutes, walking briskly). We did some rhythmic counting, mostly by 2s, 3s, 5s, and 10s, although they did ask me to count to one 1000 so I did it by 100s, and to 1 billion by 100 millions.

Once home we tried spinning again. Both were resistant, but we persevered and made a game of it. We finished with a game of Ring Around the Rosey.

We had a quick fruit snack (Boy #2 tried to assert his will and have kettle corn, which was scheduled for after our morning lesson, but I held fast). Then we were off to light our candle and say our verse.

Writing our sentence was difficult, and in the end I shortened it for Boy #2. Neither of them write neatly or carefully, but they arent ready to copy and copy until they get it right. We need more practice work on individual letters.

I then read a nature story I pulled off The Baldwin Project. I wasn't very happy with it, and really feel that I need the Enki resources! We said our closing verse and Boy #2 blew out the candle.

They had their kettle corn snack, then headed out to play. After awhile they came in, aimless, so I took down the kitchen box and they made an elaborate spread for their stuffed animals. They didn't want to clean up, but did, and went out to play again.

We had lunch; they didn't want the same thing which meant by the time I cooked for each of them and made my salad everyone else was pretty much finished eating. I'd like to simplify this, but they don't always eat the same foods (Boy #2 eats scrambled eggs, Boy #1 doesn't. Boy #1 could eat refried beans for lunch daily, Boy #2 likes variety).

Papa helped a bit with clean up, then enlisted the boys in assisting him in washing his bike while I finished. I felt this was important and kept to the flow of the schedule, rather than the actual timing. Then they both wanted bananas, and they wrangled a bit over which story CD to listen to for quiet time. Boy #2 has certain stories on each CD that he doesn't like. I just want to take control and choose the CD, but I also want to respect his fears. Next week at least one quiet time is going to be story free.

We picked up after quiet time, then had a snack. I had prepared a quick addition worksheet so they did those as math practice. We sang "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" through twice, with Boy #2 not participating in singing or the movements. Boy #1 thought it was great fun. We went out to the couch and I read Hands, Hands, Fingers, Thumb to them, with the idea that it might make an easy reader later on.

Then they did some scratch-off bookmarks, because I had them on hand and wanted to hold the space while I am still planning projects and crafts. They had a blast with them. While they did that I chopped vegetables for tonight's pizza and tomorrow's stir fry.

That left us a long afternoon for playing. They went outside, then came inside, then went out again. I spent time reading Enki, working on the computer, and preparing dinner.

I tried a transitional activity between play and dinner. After I got the pizza in the oven I gathered them in with a song and we all washed our hands. I read a book while we warmed our recorders, then we spent about 5 minutes practicing. Boy #1 wants to imitate and follow me, Boy #2 wants to do his own thing, and can't even be gently reminded how to hold the recorder. Papa came home and I asked him to keep it low key, so he read the evening paper while the boys and I read another book.

At dinner we practiced recall, even though we'd been through the 3-fold process during the week. I want recall to happen at dinner on Tuesdays (we are following a 3 day school week). Boy #2 fell apart when we got to the end; he doesn't like that the wolf swallows the lazy man.

Clean up and movie time. We had rented the old version of the Shaggy Dog. Both boys found it rather suspenseful, and Boy #2 ended up choosing not to watch it. He and I talked, played dominoes, and then he played on his own. He came back to the movie for the last 20 minutes; he couldn't resist the car chase.

Bedtime routine went well, except DH was in a hurry to get them to bed so he could watch the Laker game. While he was reading I made sugar-based pancake syrup (we don't eat corn syrup, and real maple syrup is too expensive to use in the quantities Boy #2 seems to feel he needs for his mush). Then is was teeth, candle, sing, hugs. They fell asleep nearly immediately.

I took an Enki break last night; I have a lot to digest.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

4/27/06 Daily Flow

I woke at 6, and just as I got out of bed Boy #1 woke up and wanted to snuggle. I climbed back into bed for 25 minutes. When I got up again he wanted to come with me, but I told him I needed some time alone and suggested that he snuggle Papa.

I made a cup of tea and got on the computer. The ideas I had slept on (see previous post) had congealed and I needed to start planning.

Within 20 minutes Boy #1 was up and was disturbing Boy #2, who really wanted me to sing. I did, and we all moved toward breakfast. Afterwards we made beds and got dressed. I forgot to brush their teeth, though. I sorted laundry and got that started.

The boys played while I continued planning. Then I packed snacks for the park and we headed out, even though it was cold and overcast. We had 5 families at the park, so that was good. I enjoyed talking to everyone.

We came home later than I had planned (because it was cold I thought we would leave earlier). I made refried beans and we had tostadas for lunch. The boys had quiet time and I planned some more. I should have spent at least 30 minutes just resting or reading.

We cleaned up with no protest from Boy #2, but no help either. Today Boy #1 did more than I did. He was motivated to paint. We had a snack of corn tortillas, plus scrambled eggs for Boy #2.

I didn't have what we needed to do wet-on-wet watercolor painting. My first thought was to not paint today, and instead go out and buy painting jars. But I really don't want to take them shopping on school days. Instead I had them paint with some artist's pan watercolors, again to hold the space. It worked beautifully. I set them up, and was then able to cut vegetables for dinner while stopping occasionally to change the water or hand out another piece of paper. I got almost all of the dinner prep out of the way. We cleaned up the painting supplies and they went outside to play while I finished cleaning the kitchen.

I didn't find a way to have a settling-in or transition before dinner, because I was cooking. That needs some work.

We had dinner, then cleaned the kitchen and walked to the farmer's market. We got lots of citrus, plus tomatoes and fresh, organic, free-range eggs (from the woman who grows the tomatoes). Then we walked to Von's for bananas and cantaloupe, and Trader Joes for a few things. Our push-basket is really useful.

At home, the boys put on pajamas (Boy #2 asked for help), then had a snack. Papa read to them, then we completed the bed time routine with brushing teeth, lighting the candle, singing, and hugs.

I took a bath and read more Enki :)

Reimagining everything....

I finished the Enki Early Childood Education Guide last night. I gained a lot of insight into Boy #2, who is really just on the cusp of 1st grade. The reading I had done in books 1 and 2 of the Guide last August, as well the reading in book 3 of the guide, all started coming together. And I got an idea...

(Okay, pieces of this idea had been floating around in my mind for a few weeks.)

Enki recommends taking off your 3 best months, weather-wise for your break. For us that is easily Fall. So I thought, what if I extend 1st grade through September? It gives Boy #2 more time in 1st grade, and Boy #1 a chance to gain some of the 1st grade concepts that our Waldorf curriculum didn't even introduce. It also give us more time to work on sensory integration before beginning grade 2 concepts.

We would start grade 2 in January. That would be "late" for Boy #1, and early for Boy #2, but with Enki you work both together in the same grade anyway (when they are less than 2 years apart in age). It is far better for Boy #2, and it doesn't hurt Boy #1.

Today I worked and planned. I have a daily flow, a weekly flow, and a core plan for May-September. I have to plan May's block quickly, but I think flying by the seat of my pants will be okay as we get started, since most of the material has had time to sleep and I am transitioning from Waldorf which isn't a huge change (okay, it is a big change, but not as big as changing from something like The Well-Trained Mind). We'll have to catch up on the key word journals. I obviously have to finish the Grade 1 Guide, and quickly. I did skim it before.

I am feeling much better about our schooling.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Day 2 of our "new" routine...

The morning routine went fairly well; we are taking pictures to document our routine in a scrapbook, so they were very cooperative.

Our activity today was walking Papa to work; he was surprised at how quickly we walk. We then went to the park near his office, but the playground was tiny and the park didn't feel "safe" (it is recessed and not visible from the road), so we walked home. I tried to throw some skipping and balancing into the mix. Once home I suggested spinning; I can see it is something we need to work on.

The boys had each eaten a banana on the walk, so we skipped snack and moved into our main lesson. I might not do that in the future.

Today we started our main lesson by lighting our candle and saying this verse (leftover from Oak Meadow kindy):

Morning has come
Night is away
We rise with the sun
to welcome the day

I'd like a new verse, but it is overwhelming to come up with verses for all of the transitions of the day, and of course they are quite attached to this one. We may end up using it until next fall.

Our first task was to review our language arts MLBs, pausing to review the stories we told and placing special emphasis on the vowels sounds we learned. Then Boy #1 and I read the verses he wrote in March.

After that we reread the story of "The Laziest Man", with me pausing at times to allow them to recall the story. I was going to do straight recall, but Boy #1 asked to hear the story again. This leaves me wondering if we should get more than one telling in before moving to recall. We then drew a scene from the story. I have separated the drawing from writing because I think we need to pay attention to careful drawing, and because they often got too fatigued to draw and write during the same hour. Boy #2 still struggles with perfectionism and the desire to have me complete parts of his picture so they will be "right", so I spent a lot of time reassuring him that whatever he sees in his mind is fine. Boy #1 took advantage of my being absorbed with Boy #2 and added a light saber to his picture. We had to have a talk about what belongs in main lesson books, and how he can draw light sabers in his journal and on practice paper, but not in the MLB because there are no light sabers in the story.

They went outside to play basketball; mornings may call for creative play, but the clouds were threatening rain and they needed to play outside while they could.

Our clean up transition time went fairly well, in that there was no melt down, but Boy #2 still didn't offer much help. They were happy at lunch and are then had quiet time. I'm not sure how to get them to rest during quiet time. They do sit for some of it, but they always build. It is a "quiet" activity, but really isn't resting their minds.

We cleaned up, and even though I took a picture of their creation we had tears from Boy #2 when we put it away. I would have left it for a bit, but half of it got knocked over, so it was more mess than creation. I see this as part of his extreme reaction to any change.

They didn't agree on snack, so Boy #1 had a grapefruit, while Boy #2 had popcorn. We put on a pot of beans and headed back for our afternoon lesson. I started with a new verse for opening the afternoon, and lit the candle. Then we talked about wool, and touched raw alpaca, plus handled carded fleece, wool yarn, wool felt, a crocheted scarf, a knit hat, and my winter coat, which is made of wool fabric.

They wanted me to read, so we read Sheep in a Shop (wool theme) as well as The Three Little Javalinas (in honor of our trip to the desert yesterday).

They headed outside again, and were out for quite awhile. I did a few things and then sat down to look at a magazine with a cup of tea. Papa came home and they came in. We spent a few minutes tidying their room, then had dinner.

It was cold and still threatening rain, so we didn't go to BMX (they hadn't updated the message and we didn't want to waste the gas to find out if it was cancelled or not). We quickly cleaned the kitchen and headed out for an evening walk, umbrella with us just in case.

Boy #1 ate the last of the citrus at dinner, so we headed up to the independent market to see if they had any local citrus. We were in luck! We only needed enough for tonight/tomorrow, as we buy citrus at the farmer's market each week (last week's oranges were particularly sweet and were devoured at a quicker than normal rate). We also bought bananas, and non-hydrogenated corn tostada shells.

Back home, it was pajama time. I helped Boy #2 without talking about it. My goal is to first get him used to switching from pajamas from clothing without fuss, then to transition him to doing it himself.

I fixed them a snack of GF zucchini bread (the recipe I made Monday - it was a hit!) and headed back to take a quick shower while Papa read to them. By the time I had showered, put on my pajamas, dried my hair a bit, brushed my teeth, and checked my email they were ready for tooth brushing.

At bedtime I now turn out the lights and light a candle. Then I get in bed between them and sing our 3 songs (Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Catch a Falling Star, and Oh Bear) before giving hugs, kisses, and "touches" (they touch my hair, something Boy #1 has been fixated on since he was a toddler). Then I blow out the candle, turn on the nightlight, and leave the room. They were asleep in about 20 minutes.

I spent 10 minutes in the kitchen, washing my tea mug, loading their snack plates, starting the dishwasher, and putting on a pot of cornmeal mush for tomorrow's breakfast. Then I settled in and finished the Enki Early Childhood Education Guide. A little surfing, and now I am finishing this journal entry. Next I'll climb into bed and read a bit before turning out the lights.

Notes...

Playing a game before bed doesn't work. It's too exciting and fast-paced (at least Trouble is).

Find a way for Boy #1 to feel loved in the morning. He is a second half of the night co-sleeper, only over the past couple of months he has come later and later. I attribute this to the fact he now shares a bed with his brother. Anyway, this morning I was already out of bed when he went to my bed. He didn't call out for me, but I heard the little sobs and sure enough the tears were falling. I went and settled him in, but I know it isn't the same. This is a hard change for him.

It creates an issue all day, with a child that starts the day deficient in the physical affection he so desperately needs. Not just because I am up earlier, but because coming later also means he spends less time snuggled up to DH (who is gone bike riding this morning).

Yesterday we bookended the day with rhythm (our waking and bed routines) but we were out all day at the Living Desert. I had the opportunity to observe how often we say "look at this" or "isn't this pretty". It's hard to be surrounded by beauty and not talk about it, and certainly to not point it out to your children.

I'm feeling pretty lost in the Enki world right now. Reading about circle planning refers you to the resource materials so often and I don't have them!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Getting back in gear...

So I planned like crazy last weekand today we moved right back into rhythm. I need to document it so I can refer back to what worked and what didn't.

After a week of waking at least 30 minutes before the boys, today I "slept in" and got up with only enough time to dress before it was time to wake them. Throughout the morning I was really wishing I'd had time to greet the day slowly.

Singing to wake the boys works well. Boy #2 smiles as soon as I start. They are getting used to me being out of bed and just giving hugs vs. spending a lot of time in bed snuggling.

Deciding to make breakfast and not offer choices worked well. But I realized making smoothies for DH and I takes more time than I had planned on. We sang a new blessing and lit the candles, which we have previously only done at night.

I guided Boy #2 to his room and helped him dress - no words, just doing it. Then we made the bed and brushed their teeth. At this point I settled them in with clay while I brushed my teeth, put my hair in a ponytail, and did some chores. I made the bed, sorted and started laundry, started some quinoa in the rice cooker and garbanzo beans in the pressure cooker, made out a deposit...I'm not sure what else.

We quickly cleaned up (a bit of protest) and headed out for a walk. While I plan to add a few SI activities to our movement, I couldn't get it all planned in time, so this week we are "holding the space". DH is going to help me put our song/fingerplay CDs on iTunes so I can burn a CD for the current circle and not have to skip aound. Anyway, we walked to the credit union and back (they weren't open yet, we had to use the ATM). When we got home we cut our first roses of spring (exciting) and put them in a vase. Then we had a snack of cut fruit.

Next up was our "main lesson". We read our story (The Laziest Man), then a library book (The Hero and the Minotaur). Since we just got restarted this week we were mostly "holding the space."

At this point we moved into creative play. The boys built a train track; they squabbled a bit but I only intervened once (fight was over motorized trains - I might take them away for awhile). I stayed in the living room reading Enki, listening to their interaction. After 45 minutes they moved outside. (At this point I wondered if I should interrupt them to clean the room, but decided to let them go.)

While they were outside I moved to the office and updated Quicken while listening to them play (right outside the window). They mostly played basketball. They came in while I was finishing up. I went to gather them by singing our clean up song. Boy #2 was highly resistant, as he had returned to his clay and did not want to change activities, especially to clean up which he hates. I took him by the hand and guided him to his room, still singing. He sat on his couch (futon bed) and melted down the entire time Boy #1 and I picked up the track, singing.

Next up was lunch. That went well, although they squabbled about setting the table. DH was late and his energy changed the balance when he got home. Boy #2 played Trouble while DH and I ate (they always eat before me because we eat different things and I make them a hot lunch almost daily). While I cleaned the kitchen I suggested that DH take them outside for 15 minutes of shooting baskets before quiet time.

Quiet time: they did fine with this. They listened to The House at Pooh Corner. I read a magazine for 30 minutes, then used the remaining half hour to make a quinoa salad for tonight's dinner. I chatted with my dad for a few minutes while I chopped onions; he was very excited that someone had given him a forklift. I decided not to tell the boys so they will be surprised next time they are at his house.

After quiet time we picked up again, as Boy #1 had built Legos while listening to the story. Then we made popcorn for their snack. (I bagged the extra popcorn for a snack tomorrow at The Living Desert.)

Time for the secondary lesson. We're moving into handwork again. We read Pelle's New Suit (about processing wool), as well as an April poem by Elsa Beskow, and then The Rainbabies (they been asking for a few days). We have more planned Wednesday, once again we were mostly "holding the space".

Time for more play. They separated for a bit, with Boy #1 building and Boy #2 playing outside in the dirt. I did more laundry, then headed back to sort and file paperwork. They ended up in the office with me (It needs another name! It's our office, but also our school room, craft room, etc.), so I suggested they draw in their journals while I worked.

Next I set up a "settling in" activity, listening to music in the living room, while I made their pasta. (Note - I will have to choose the music ahead of time, because they can't decide and can't agree.) This would also be an excellent time for clay, or simple watercolor painting.

DH came home and we ate an early dinner. Then he loaded them into the truck for BMX practice. I spent almost an hour (!) making GF zucchini bread and cleaning up the mess. I hope it turns out well, because it's time consuming and expensive.

Now journalling...then a bit of a rest before they get home.

Crazy Busy!

I have been so busy. I'm reading the Enki, planning the year, cleaning, decluttering, cooking, baking...the list is endless.

I changed the plan so we have a slightly longer break.

4/24-5/5 Finish 3rd Language Arts block
5/8-6/2 3rd Math block
6/2-6/4 Trip to visit great-grandparents
6/5-6/16 Form Drawing (reintroducing this now that Boy #2 is 6YO)
6/16-6/25 Beach Vacation/Unschool Nature Block
6/26-7/21 Final Language Arts block (Word Families)
7/21-9/10 Summer Break
9/11/06 Begin 2nd grade

That gives us 7 full weeks of break. I think it will be better for all of us, especially since I will need some of that time for planning and some for taking a complete break from thinking/reading/doing "school".

Monday, April 17, 2006

Planning

We're ready to revamp. Well, all that really means is that I want to change things. The boys are just along for the ride. They need rhythm, and anything I do to make that rhythm stronger and more natural for them will do them good.

First, we're going to move main lessons back to mornings. It really did seem that afternoons worked best, but what that really meant was they work best for ME. I like lazy mornings, sipping my smoothie while on the computer, soaking in a long hot bath, and maybe being ready to head out around 10 a.m. Boy #1 likes sleeping in and snuggling, Boy#2 likes a few snuggles and then wants his breakfast. Other than the fact that he would rather stay in pajamas all day, he is raring to go after he eats.

I know Donna recommends morning work, but I kept telling myself that it didn't work for our family. I have to be honest and admit that it just doesn't work best for me, but that afternoons aren't working best for any of us.

To make this change I have to think outside the box. I used to bathe at night, but I hate blow-drying (frying) my hair. I'll have to bathe either right after the boys are in bed, or before dinner, so my hair has time to dry. (This may seem trivial and not part of a Waldorf blog, but it is part of my daily rhythm. I have 30" of hair to dry!)

I'll have to get up a little earlier, but I naturally wake earlier and then choose to stay in bed, so I don't think it will be a problem. I also have to give up the morning computer time. Again, I don't think it will be a problem - it is just a habit and habits can be changed. Lately I've been thinking that I should join the boys at the breakfast table anyway, as a way for us to reconnect after a long sleep.

We'll probably have to give up our Wednesday story time, unless we really get going in the morning. I'm not going to count on it. We have to work on the basics of the rhythm first and then see how other things fit in. I'm a bit sad about this, but I do see how the rhythm changes will give us more time for reading out loud in the afternoons.

So, tentatively, Intake on Monday (story), Assimilation on Tuesday or Wednesday (artistic expression, manipulatives, etc.), and Output on Friday (written work, understand and apply). Core story work will be done in the mornings, preceded by some sort of physical activity. Practice work, secondary lessons, crafts, will happen in the afternoons. I'm not sure we'll do a formal circle; as the boys gets older it becomes more forced. I'm looking to create a more organic circle as we transition throughout the day.

Why the change? I've been re-reading the rhythm section of Book III of the Enki Teacher's Guide. I can clearly see where we are missing the wave.

The second thing that needs to change is working within the 3 day rhythm. Donna's 1st grade syllabus has more of a 2 day rhythm (2 cycles in 4 days), but it isn't working for us. My boys, especially the 6YO, aren't ready for assimilation and output on the same day. They find it very hard to draw their pictures AND write the same day. Well, the 7YO can do it, the 6YO can't, and this is real life and I am teaching them together in a Kindy/1st grade year. Plus I think the 7YO could benefit from more time as he rushes through the writing and it can be sloppy, or he rushes through his drawing to get to the writing, again not taking care with his work.

Enki suggests one cycle of 3 days, or two over five days. For the rest of first grade I am going to slow us down to one cycle a week. This will leave more room for the secondary lessons, which we always seem to run out of time for. I think it will also be better for my 6YO. He is doing a combined Kindy/1st year and I think we've been going to fast for him, which is why he opts out so often.

Another thing I have decided is that I am giving up the idea of a 3 month summer break this year. I realize now that we needed the flexibility for weeks off throughout this past year. Also, I am slowing down the Christopherus syllabus to one story a week, so some of the blocks are going to take us longer. For instance, I am going to stretch the final math block from 3 weeks to 4 weeks, and the final language arts block from 2 weeks to 4 weeks.

So we are putting off formal lessons for yet another week, while I plan and rearange our rhythm. Tentatively, this is how I see the next few months unfolding:

4/24-5/5 Finish 3rd Language Arts block
5/8-6/2 3rd Math block
6/2-6/4 Trip to visit great-grandparents
6/5-6/16 Summer Nature block
6/16-6/25 Beach Vacation
6/26-7/7 Form Drawing (reintroducing this now that Boy #2 is 6YO)
7/10-8/4 Final Language Arts block (Word Families)

8/5-9/10 Summer Break

9/11/06 Begin 2nd grade

2nd grade will be interesting. We're going to start with 2 weeks of form drawing, which is currently followed by a planned week at the beach. I didn't want to start the term late, but I also don't want to be in the middle of a language arts or math block during the trip. So it will probably be a nature block, heavy on the unschooling. One week for intake, and one for assimilation and output. The other option is to cancel the beach trip and reschedule it as a desert trip in November. We'll have done a lot of beach study this year, so the desert might be a better choice.

2nd grade needs a lot more planning. I am starting to look at resources and will be buying what I need soon. I want to read through everything over the next few months, then do the bulk of the planning in July, so we can all take August off. Right now I am planning to buy the A Path of Discovery books for 1st and 2nd grade, plus the Christopherus Saints and Heroes book. When Donna finishes the Christopherus Language Arts book I will probably buy that. I'm also looking at the Noble Knights of Knowledge math curriculum.

Of course, in reality it is a 1st/2nd grade year. I can't gauge now in April what my 6YO will be developmentally ready for in September. Beth (Enki) recommends combining the children; using the younger child's stories earlier in the year and the older child's stories later in the year. As far as math goes, they seem to be right in sync, and of course nature and science are easily combined. It may be that next year I separate the boys for language arts; after nearly 2 "school" years of homeschooling I feel confident about doing this, especially if we are using the slowed down 3 day process each week.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Fridays

Most homeschoolers that I know (the ones who use some structure) take one day off a week. For us that has traditionally been Fridays, and yesterday was no exception. We woke up, had a lazy early morning, then I sent the boys outside to play before the rain hit (very important to me that they get some physcial activity in before being cooped up for the rest of the day). I went to work tidying the house, as we are fortunate to have someone come in and clean for us weekly.

In my opinion, playing outside, without structure, is vital to learning and growth. I spent many long hours playing outside when I was a child, and I want the same for my boys. There are many things that they do play inside: Lego, Rokenbok, K'nex, etc., but there is no TV watching and no video games (consoles or handheld). So they like to play outside. They have a swingset "fort" that they play on for hours. They also have a basketball hoop; we bought a good one that can be set from 6.5 feet to 10 feet. They also enjoy pulling up chairs (to stand on) and watching what the neighbors are doing (they are very often outside working on the boat or RV). They dig in dirt (DH never would agree to a sand box). They check to see if any of the neighbors lemons have fallen into our yard. Yesterday I gave them some sidewalk chalk and they drew some fanciful portraits. DH and I were both impressed with the way their chalk drawings have changed.

The boys were outside for 2.5 hours, then I pulled them in to help clean their room. This would be one of the lessons they don't like. They are still very imitative, so I help them and give them small tasks to do. It seems easier for them to pick up the Hot Wheels cars and put them in a bin if mom is doing it too. This is a tough one for me; I would prefer that they clean their room on their own and do a good job of it. But I think of two things: First, I like to be helped whenever I am doing an unpleasant task. Second, as a child I did the "stash and dash" type of cleaning too, well past the age they are now. I want them to learn to do it right, which means I have to model the right way to do it.

We went to Target to kill time because it was raining. Boy #2 had a lesson in holding an umbrella, especially how to do so in a parking lot and stay aware of cars so you don't get hit! We got a few things we needed, but did not go down the toy aisles. I'd rather keep my boys out of such stores, but we had the time to use and needed a few things. I'm glad we went when we did; it absolutely poured after dinner and I didn't want to go out then. Plus I generally don't go out on Friday nights.

Friday is movie night, and we had rented The Sword in the Stone based on some good reviews on Netflix and Amazon. Uh, not. In Charlotte Mason's words, it was pure twaddle. So far the boys have only heard the tale of Arthur told on the Jim Weiss CD, King Arthur and His Knights, so they kept telling us that the movie was wrong. From now on I will refrain from renting any movies that are based on archtypal stories I want my boys to hear and read.

We're coming to a place where it is harder and harder to find good movies for the boys to watch. I'd like to turn movie night into family game night, at least every other week. I just have to get the rest of the family to agree. It's time to get creative and come up with something better than movie night.

The boys drew a lot of pictures Friday, using markers which is a new medium for them (they pulled them out of the park day craft box). Boy #1 found that he could make a picture by making many dots clustered together, which was cool.

Boy #2 wants to draw a picture for the Easter Bunny, of an Easter Bunny with jelly beans. Last night I reviewed Donna Simmons' book, Drawing With Your Four to Eleven Year Old to get some ideas. I think we'll modify the cat.

I also spent some time looking at All Year Round, Festivals Family and Food, and Festivals Together. The yearly rhythm of festivals is one that we haven't spent much time on, other than most of the major holidays and birthdays. I'm trying to figure out which festivals resonate with me, so I incorporate them into our year.

Today (Saturday) we're going to get some supplies at Office Depot or Staples, including a big calendar so the boys can keep track of what we are doing each month. I also read that blank flashcards fit perfectly into coin envelopes and are really cheap ($20 total for 1000 cards and 500 envelopes) so we are going to buy those and have the boys start corresponding, or even just have them to make small drawings when we wait places, and then send them off to the grandparents. At that price they can play post office!

I'm going to clean my bedroom today (it smells dusty) and spend some time tidying my desk. I need to find and sort all of the Stockmar crayons, and to figure out which colors we need to reorder from Paper, Scissors, Stone. I love that they sell individual crayons; we need another Umbra stick, and a Blau (blue) block, at the least. (BTW, "blau" is one of the few words my boys know in German, just from using the crayons.)

Tonight I hope to spend some time planning a spring circle for the next few weeks. If I get to it, I'll write.

Friday, April 14, 2006

An Easy Day

Thursday was a very busy day, but it was also relaxed and easy.

We started as we start most days, waking somewhere between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. and snuggling and whispering under the covers. I got the boys their breakfast, then made smoothies for DH and I. I hopped onto the computer for a few minutes to check my email and to finalize plans to visit a friend. Then I took a long bath. (I believe long, hot, aromatherapy baths do much to help maintain a homeschooling mother's sanity.) The boys played outside.

We popped some popcorn, packed a cooler with frozen waffles and syrup, and headed out to see our friends. We had a great time too. I don't really know what the kids did; my friend and I are both pretty hands off and since they were getting along we left them alone (obviously there was enough supervision that we knew they were safe). We had our waffles for lunch; it wasn't the most nutritious choice but was something easy to feed a gluten-free child away from home, and heck, waffles for lunch is quite a treat!

It was a gorgeous day, nearing 90 degrees. I wore capris and sandals for the first time in months (not including Hawaii). Even this morning the sun is shining, and it is hard to believe that we are supposed to have rain within a few hours.

After our visit we went to the oral surgeon. My boys have been at the dentist/specialist's office so often these past few months I'm surprised neither of them wants to take up dentistry. I'm healing well, but still need to stick with softer foods. If I'm still in pain next week I need to call. I got the release to use mouthwash, which means I can start using my Eco-Dent Oral Mouth Rinse and Wound Cleanser. I think it will help. If I am feeling industrious later I may attempt to make a homemade version, but I certainly don't have all of the ingredients.

We came home and I spent some time on the computer, checking email and just taking a few minutes to unwind. Then we set about to getting ready for a visit from "Abuela", my MIL. We put a tablecloth and newspapers on the table in the breakfast nook, and mixed our egg dyes. We cleared the dining room table and changed the golden table cloth for a pink one. Then we went outside and picked flowers. We had some light purple irises, some lavender, and some Euryops, as well as one white rose on a short stem. It was very exciting to bring in our first flowers of spring!

Abuela arrived bearing gifts. Boy #2 was very polite about receiving food that he couldn't eat, and we sent the pretzels and gelatin-containing candy back home with Abuela to give to the cousins. We may occasionally break our veganism with the most humane eggs we can find, but gelatin isn't on the menu. Still, Abuela brought Hot Wheels cars, a game, and a dinosaur puzzle "train", so the boys were excited and happy.

We finally got down to coloring eggs. We did two dozen and observed the way the brown eggs and white eggs took dye differently. At the end the boys tried using every color of dye and ended up with a couple of deep brown/black eggs.

We cleaned up and I started on dinner while Abuela played with the boys. I made gluten-free pizza for the boys, and regular wheat pizza for us. That was a real treat; we rarely eat so much bread and haven't had pizza since boy #2 went gluten-free. I topped one with pizza sauce and lots of veggies (onions, red bell pepper, zucchini, black olives, and mushrooms) and the other with a mixture of artichoke hearts and kalamata olives (chopped fine in a mini food processor). I also made a salad of cucumbers and tomatoes with balsamic vinegar.

We ate dinner in the dining room (!) and even had lemonade as a special treat. After we cleaned up we walked downtown to the farmer's market. This is a weekly event for us, but this time Abuela came too which made it even more fun. We bought tomatoes, yams, red onions, lemons, oranges, and grapefruit. The boys ran into an "old" friend and the three of them went on the slide and obstacle course together.

Market Night is an important part of our weekly rhythm. The boys look forward to it, and early on it helped them differentiate Thursday from other days. I love having them meet the people that grow the food.

While we walked home we remarked that it was still light out, and I realized that this is how it will be for the rest of spring and all of summer. The change of seasons seems very real now.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Copy Work

Even on a day with no formal lessons, the boys are eager to learn and work. Boy #1 just brought me a piece of paper on which he had written the sentence "In an old house in two" along with drawing a picture of a house on the other side. I'm not sure where he copied the sentence from, and it obviously isn't complete, but I'm not saying a word. He drew his golden paths and put asterisks between the words, and he even used lowercase letters (except the first word, which was capitalized!). The picture side of the page is awash in color - no white to be seen.

(Okay, he had out Madeleine and it was supposed to be "In an old house in Paris", but who cares?)

Story Time

I apologize for posting so often, but part of my goal with the blog is for me to document all of the ways we are learning so I can really see how it all works.

We walked to the local independent children's bookstore this morning. We've been attending story time for 5 years now; I started going when Boy #1 turned 2YO. The boys know Miss Rita well and today they each enjoyed getting to choose a book for her to read. Story time ebbs and flows; today we had a small crowd. The boys really enjoyed listening to the stories; Miss Rita is a great reader. I think children should hear lots of people read - Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, the librarian, and others. Everyone brings something unique to it.

I took my handwork as usual, but I also tucked in Donna Simmons' The Christopherus Waldorf Curriculum Overview for Homeschoolers, which I am going over again. It is a great book; this week I have been planning so we can return to Waldorf lessons next week, and I wanted to see the big picture again. While at the bookstore I glanced at the reading list for 5-8 year olds, and decided to buy a copy of Mr. Popper's Penguins. DH has been looking for a good chapter book to read at night.

It was a choice to buy the book. I could have borrowed it from the library. I could have bought it at Barnes and Nobles for 20% off with my educator discount. But every now and I then I make a choice to buy from the independent bookstore, because we get so much from story time and because I would hate it if they went away. We also like to buy birthday presents at the store; if you're going to spend the money anyway why not choose a local business instead of Target? Buying local is one lesson we are trying to teach our children.

After story time we walked through the little mall. We tried to find an apple cutter that would be safe for the boys to use, but had no luck. This afternoon we'll head to the thrift shops and see if we have any luck there.

Spring Evening Walk

This was our first after dinner walk since the time change. I always forget how nice it is to head out while the sky is still light, and of course it makes for a natural "nature walk". We spent a lot of time observing new leaves on trees and the first flowers of spring. By the time we got home it was dark, and I was able to point out the "Big Dipper" hanging in the sky (Boy #1 thought it looked like a piano).

We love to walk. Sometimes our walking has a purpose, such as getting us to story time at the children's bookstore or to the library for new books. Sometimes we go on planned nature walks - on guided trails, at botanical gardens, and at local parks. But oftentimes we just walk, usually on a nice weekend day or after dinner. These days the boys often run ahead and DH and I can talk about the day's events and what is going on in the world. Sometimes the boys are bubbling over with things to talk to DH about, like BMX, Lego, and whatever books we read that day.

We walk for an hour or so. We started in earnest when Boy #2 was 3YO and was deemed old enough to walk on his own two feet for a couple of miles (we did walk regularly before this, but usually with a stroller or other carrier). This is also a good way to burn off some energy before bed. Everyone returns home a little quieter and a little happier.

Tuesday Dinner

I don't always cook with my boys. There are times they are busy playing and I don't want to disturb them, and times that I need the quiet and to hear the "thunk" of the knife as it hits the cutting board. And sometimes I am just in a rush.

Last night, however, I wanted their help. I'm still recovering and making dinner wasn't something I even wanted to tackle. So I set Boy #1 to washing baby potatoes and pricking them with a fork, while Boy #2 chopped carrots with this crinkle cutter. Our rule is that both hands stay on the black portion of the handle while cutting, and we've yet to lose a finger. I chopped an onion and tossed that at the bottom of my Le Creuset 5 Quart Buffet Casserole, then we added garlic cloves (boy #2 hit them with the bottom of an olive can to make them easier to peel) and chopped parsley, plus the carrots and potatoes. I put the covered pan in the oven to roast.

The boys headed outside to shoot hoops while I took care of the "green" portion of our dinner. I cleaned and chopped zucchini, broccoli, and field peas for steaming. Sometimes we add green vegetables to the roasting pan, but these were all quick cooking so steaming them seemed easier.

I promised to let the boys help make lemonade. We used some Rapadura sugar I bought last month, which made hot tea "muddy" and had been relegated to the back of the pantry. It worked fine for lemonade, but it was definitely brown in color. The boys had fun making DH guess what it was.

Most homeschoolers will tell you what a great lesson cooking is, with measuring, fractions, etc. For me, those things are incidental. Much more important is learning to make a meal, appreciating food, and working together. Making meals is one of the main rhythms of our day, repeated continuously.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Waldorf and Unschooling

I realize I jumped right in posting, while some people are still trying to wrap their heads around the idea of combining Waldorf education and Unschooling.

I guess I could start by explaining how I got here. My first homeschooling mentor was an unschooler. I saw her bright, happy, successful children (hmmm...successful to me because they were bright and happy) and I began to consider unschooling, which I had never really heard of before meeting her. Granted, my children were 10 months and barely 2 years old at the time, so I hadn't done much research.

At the same time, as an attachment parent (natural parenting) I became exposed to Waldorf education. At first I was probably attracted to the simplicity of Waldorf, as well as the beauty of its arts-centered approach and natural materials. Waldorf methods really mesh well with natural living, although that wasn't the intention.

When it came time to actually begin "schooling" our children (an artificial construct as they have been learning since they were in the womb) DH and I had a nice talk and he just wasn't interested in unschooling. We'd been to a lecture by Sandra Dodd, and he was less than impressed. He needed a little structure to feel more comfortable with homeschooling.

Here is where our story veers into outerspace! We looked into and decided to try the ideas in The Well Trained Mind. After all, it seems exciting to give your children a classical education. The Trivium! Latin! It lasted less than 2 months. My boys were too young (I knew that, deep inside) and not interested. The 4YO flat out refused to do anything (good for him!) while the 5YO tried to please me but his heart wasn't in it, and after 8 weeks he said he "hated" phonics and I knew at that very moment that we had to stop.

We took 6 weeks off. I called it "unschooling" because deep at heart, I am an unschooler. I looked within and decided that if we had to use some structure, it would be Waldorf. Really, I would have liked to stop everything until fall 2005, but DH wanted us to be doing "something", so I decided to introduce the alphabet while I worked on laying the framework for a good daily/weekly/monthly/yearly rhythm.

I gathered up some resources from Christopherus Homeschool, and was lucky to find a older used copy of Oak Meadow Kindergarten. Using the Oak Meadow as a resource, we spent 5 months alternating between the uppercase alphabet and the qualities of numbers, doing about 30 minutes of formal instruction 3 times a week. We read fairy tales and drew lovely pictures. We also went on nature walks, cooked and baked, did wet-on-wet watercolor painting, sang songs and did fingerplays, kept house, and so much more.

(Disclaimer: Oak Meadow is not a Waldorf curriculum. It is watered-down Waldorf, designed to please public schools officials and states with strict homeschooling laws. Older editions are better than new ones. The only reason Oak Meadow worked for us us because I had read enough about Waldorf to see what Oak Meadow was doing wrong (In my mind). In the end, all I took from it was the fairy tales and pictures. I could not have been successful those 5 months without the resources I got from Christopherus, and everything I read on the internet.)

We took a break over summer. Because I do not completely agree with anthroposophism, several people suggested I take a look at Enki Education, which is another holistic method of education, without the anthroposophy. I actually ordered my materials in March, but there was delay after delay and by late August it was clear I wouldn't be getting any Enki resources. I started to panic, but since I had so many of Donna Simmon's books from Christopherus I decided to take a deep breath and order her newly released Grade 1 Syllabus.

(Side note: what I did get from Enki, I loved. If Enki had been a full program with resources, ready to go, I would have used it. The Enki philosophy still influenced our learning, even though I didn't use the methods or resources.)

I like Donna's materials. We have loved using the first grade syllabus; of course, I tweak it to make it fit us, but that is what homeschooling is all about. Whenever we have a nature block I go into unschooling mode and we just live and learn. Donna also runs an email list, Waldorf at Home, that is an invaluable source of inspiration from many homeschooling parents.

The unschooling part, that's our safety net. I never worry that my children aren't learning, even when we've taken 3 weeks off because of a bad tooth infection. When you watch children, when you give them room to play and explore, you realize that they really are "Learning All the Time." (I love John Holt!) And Waldorf combines with unschooling so effortlessly. A couple of months ago I introduced the Four Processes to my children, and then we let that block go to sleep. Two weeks ago my youngest started writing out subtraction problems on his own, asking me a few questions. He was really grasping it. I didn't tell him to wait 3 weeks until we start math again; I just let him have at it. An hour later he was satisfied and the subject has been dropped again. I am convinced that he got more from that hour than from any time I could have scheduled to "do" math. Many unschoolers speak of "strewing the path." For me, Waldorf is how I strew the path, and also provides the philosophy of why, when, and how to introduce various subjects.

Another unschooling idea I use is that I never force my children to do anything (although I proudly admit to NOT letting them do many things). I encourage them to draw in their main lesson books and to write a few words, but if they don't, I accept that. My 7YO is up for the challenge; my newly 6YO more often than not chooses to do something completely different. That's okay; he's a kindergartener and isn't in the stage that is ready for academics (though he is wicked good at mental math).

So that is how we got here. Day in, day out I plan to write about what we do, what we're learning, our main lessons, our activities, our time spent unschooling, and more about holistic education as we travel this path...

You Never Know...

...what lessons will come your way.

Technically, we are on break this week. I've been dealing with some health issues and one great benefit of homeschooling is that no one is breathing down my neck telling me when I have to "do" school. I know that my children are learning all of the time. I may have had a goal to finish "official" lessons by Memorial Day, but that isn't going to happen and I am fine with it.

Today we went on a field trip. I'll admit to not knowing much about the farm we went to, other than that a few other area groups had gone and liked it. I should have done more research. I knew they raised calves, and well, I am almost didn't go because of that. But I figured my boys would enjoy seeing the animals.

I am naive. Raising calves means the calves are taken from the mothers and raised at this facility on bottled formula. They stand (and lie down) in their own filth. My youngest couldn't even believe that it was true, that the calves were taken from their mommies and not fed mommy's milk. Really, this has nothing to do with my personal ethics; it is something deeper than that. Mammal babies belong with their mothers; it is the way of nature. I know they can't do it in the factory farm setting, but it was just heartbreaking. It was absurd to hear Farmer "Amy" talking about how they bottle feed the calves so the cows can share their milk with "people".

It did spark some good conversations on the way home, about factory farming, natural (attachment) parenting, eating animals, etc.