Waldorf Curriculum Homeschool Blog

Having tried unsucessfully to get Blogger.com to work for me, I suddenly realized that I can easily create journalling pages linked to my site without extra help. This is a very informal page with my personal notes as to how homeschooling is going for my family. Please feel free to email me with comments. Learn more about my preschool curriculum by visiting the Curriculum Packages page.

Other Waldorf-inspired homeschool blogs you may want to check out include:

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August 2006

  • Natalie is 4 years, 5 months
  • Leah is 2 years, 9 months
  • Rebecca is 1 year, 7 months

August 28 - Yesterday when Steve turned the hot water back on, he flooded the basement! So not a lot got done, besides running errands and picking the dog back up from my mom's house (he returned calmer and thinner, which was a nice surprise). Today we have hot water so here is the to-do list:

  • laundry -- wash clothes, sort, fold, and put away -- the kids love helping with this
  • get back on our proper sleep schedule, having gotten in at 2:30 am Sunday morning
  • take Toby for a nice long walk in the park
  • sign, stamp, and mail a thank-you card to Jenn and Glen, our hosts for our vacation

and I also have to call someone about how to train Toby on our electric dog fence, which came with the property, so that he can continue to get more exercise. I realized when I saw how slim he was that we tend to rely a lot on indoor play and my entire family needs to be outside getting fresh air more often! So I will try to add a long daily dog walk to my schedule -- it's always been in the schedule, but I will focus more energy on trying to make it happen. That's the difference between a schedule and reality. :-) The new habit of the month for August had been laying out the children's clothing the night before. I guess September's will be going to the park every day.

While I was in CT I made some notes about what we were doing, for my blog, so here goes:

Arrived Sunday 11:30 pm

Went to visit the cows
Fed cows grain
Visited calves
Kids went down for a nap, Steve and Glen watched them
Jenn and I went grocery shopping, bought socks (8 pr) to wear with tennis shoes
Kids went to play on swing set, Leah helped Jenn with clothes pins - never seen clothes hanging on the line before
Natalie fell and got a bee sting
Met grey cat - who hasn't had her kittens yet
The doilies were the toy du jour. Jenn couldn't get over it! She had a collection of antique doilies which the children were using in their pretend play (stoves and cooking pots, plates of food, hats, etc) but the kids loved them so much we went downstairs to her MIL (live on the family farm in the family farm house) and asked to borrow some more. They remained a favorite toy to the end of the visit.

Sam came over, we went to the library to get 10 books (tired of reading The Lorax, the only book Jenn had), Natalie loves Sam and really looks up to him

Saw calf being born (just fore legs, saw the complete calf later but he was a bull so they sold him - Steve helped with the delivery)
Played with bubbles, pedal tractor
Natalie and Becca helped pick vegetables (cucumbers) for dinner
I took Leah down to the barn to see the new calf
Stopped and talked to Betty and snapped the ends off green beans from the garden
In the afternoon it got really hot, we put on swim suits and ran through the sprinkler which the kids hated! And they got exhausted and we put them down for a nap.
Began and finished knit chickens kit (2 chickens)

Mystic Aquarium!
Took all the kids, Sam, and aunt Jenn. Jenn paid for us which was very generous. First we visited the baby beluga whale. You should have seen the expressions on the childrens' faces as it swam by! Then the sea lions. Then the African penguins (above and below the water). Then the marsh and saw tadpoles, which looked just like they did in the book. Also a turtle sunning itself on a log. Dragonflies. Inside we first saw the jellyfish tank, then the Amazon rainforest exhibit, then we split up and walked around to look at various tanks. Natalie petted a one year old alligator and got her photograph taken with Sam (a museum fundraiser) - we got a really nice print of that. While the photo was developing we went to see the sea lion show, then got our prints and Sam wanted to through the Titanic exhibit so Jenn took the double stroller and took the two little ones and Sam to walk through that. He actually got to see it twice because Leah dropped her hat and they had to walk back through the entire exhibit to find it again.
Began and finished knit duckling kit (four ducks - one large, three small)

Steve and I left the kids with Jenn and went to Massachusetts. After we switched vehicles, having been broken down on the side of the road in Connecticut for two hours in Jenn's car, we went to South Hadley and visited Mount Holyoke College. Then we went to Northampton and visited Smith College (these are the two schools I went to). We walked around downtown Noho and visited a bunch of great shops including A Child's Garden (a Waldorf toy store which is going out of business and had great prices - but I either had or could make nearly everything in there so we didn't buy anything), The Hempest (a natural fibers clothing store where I bought a sweater. It is made of organic cotton and dyed with clay dyes) and Northampton Wools, a yarn store where I got a wonderful textured cotton yarn for knitting horses (the pattern in Toymaking with Children). While we were gone, Jenn spent a lot of quality time with the children. They visited the barn, played outside with bubbles, chalk, and the pedal tractor, had a special princess snack (with hats and wands) and took baths. In the morning before we left Steve taught Leah how to throw overhand and supposedly she wacked her in the arm with a golf ball. Natalie walked up and bopped her on the face, trying to hit a mosquito, but overall I think Jenn really loved spending time with the girls.
Began the horse.

The Brooklyn Fair (the oldest fair in the country). It rained in the morning and was cold - 69 degrees - so I had to go out to the department store and get some long pants and long sleeved shirts for all the kids. After naps the rain let up slightly so we all got in the car (all the kids, Steve, I, Jenn and Glen) and headed to the fair. We first visited the fiber arts display (no surprise there) and Sam got to see how wool is carded. Llamas and goats came next. Cow barn. The kids loved the cow barn - and it was what Natalie talked about to the end of the day. Why, I don't know. We certainly see a lot of cows here each day. All different kinds of cows were represented - jerseys, brown Swiss, black Angus, pulled Hereford, red and white Holsteins, black and white Holsteins, Galloway, and more. Went to get food and I had my favorite moment of the day. Natalie and I went off to get apple crisp and went to sit in the bandstand and listen to the band. Live country music, warm homemade apple crisp, and we watched a single blue balloon fly up into the sky. It was so wonderful! We all got back together and went into the barns of homemade items where people won ribbons for their entries to the fair. We loved the bunnies and chickens tent. I completely fell in love with the roosters - beautiful coppery and iridescent feathers, some had fuzzy black feathers and tufted feet, they were so striking. Wonderful blues and greens! there was even a peacock. I was in love. But Steve said I couldn't have chickens until I knew how to take care of them properly. He and Glen and Sam went off to do the rides and still haven't come back… we went to see the pottery demonstration. And got Natalie the most amazing gift. There is a woman at Sawmill Pottery who takes plain white vases, heats them up in the kiln, and then lays feathers and horsehair on it while it is still hot and they burn up to a crisp, leaving amazing organic markings on the surface of the pottery. You get about 30 seconds before the pot is too cool to do the process. The woman before us brought a whole variety of materials from different animals (wool, cat hair, feathers, etc) but we just used the feathers they had available. Jenn held Natalie so she could see the process, and she was allowed to pick some of the feathers used (you can choose what materials you want used to decorate the vase, she wanted all feathers. Some of them are captured in amazing detail) - I had the camera and took photographs of every part of the process. We came back ten minutes later to pick up our vase, which had cooled. It was just such a nice day. Taking two cars (we had more people than could fit in the minivan) meant that the boys could stay later and continue to ride the rides and we could bring the girls back early - we spent about 2 ˝ hours there - when they were acting tired. Natalie is not allowed to go on any of the rides, I think she's too little. Maybe the carousel, but she was already blasted by the time we got to that part of the fair. So we just said good-bye to the boys and hopped in the car. It is so beautiful to drive around the little roads here, all old houses, old stone walls, fields of crops, rivers and streams. It is just gorgeous. Tomorrow we are going out to a special family breakfast, at a local diner, visiting the cows for the last time, and packing. Jenn had the idea to roast marshmallows in the firepit as a special treat before we get in the car to go home. I guess that will depend on whether or not it is raining. We don't know what time we are going to leave - last time we left at 2:45 pm and stopped once for dinner, then drove the rest of the way while the children slept. This time we are considering waiting until after dinner and then hitting the road, driving most of the way in the dark so there is less traffic and no need for potty breaks. We can do the entire trip on one tank of gas so that it not an issue. I know Steve wants to get as much time in on the farm as he can. He absolutely loves coming here and doing working holidays. Usually a process improvement specialist for a computer software company, shoveling manure on his vacation is a welcome change of pace and tossing bales of hay is just right up his alley. I am having a vacation because I have a second pair of hands (Jenn) and so it is less taxing to take care of the kids. She is absolutely loving having them around too. This vacation has gone so quickly! We have loved every minute of it.

* * * * *

I really enjoyed my vacation, which helped me to see how much my business had been stressing me out. I think the goal is to simplify and re-focus. The group will focus on families who are new to Waldorf, since I think that's basically what my curriculum addresses. I know not everything on the website it as Waldorf as it could be but that's because I started out not knowing much (as we all do) and have progressed. I think it's important for there to be resources which address what it's like to start out! And I have on my site that I kept the initial units unchanged so that they bridge the gap -- instead of people feeling badly that everyone else is doing it right except them. :-(

I love documenting my homeschool journey and I'm glad people find it helpful and supportive. I am not going to shut my business down. Anyone who knows me knows that I go through this constantly. Should I charge for my curriculum? Yes, it takes a lot of time to write but I don't have any Waldorf teacher training (although I have a huge library!) and I am writing it anyway so it's not really a big deal. Shouldn't I just focus on my children, post curriculum when I can, and just be happy if it helps others? That's what I want and what I keep coming back to but in between I get very stressed out. I wanted for a while to make money but hey, that's not really a big deal. Then I was worried that people would object to me not being Waldorf enough. But I am what I am and there are lots of people in the position that I'm in. I'm not trying to blend Waldorf with other things, I'm trying to learn as much Waldorf as I can and do it properly but we all have to start with where we currently are and go from there. I have learned a tremendous amount in the past several years and if documenting my journey helps other people and gives them the encouragement to try Waldorf, then that makes me happy. Having people think they can't do it right is the number one thing that makes families not try Waldorf. Number two is the cost. And I'm happy to break down that barrier as well. Not charging for anything I write (although frustrating, because most months I can't pay my hosting bill) means that no one can attack me for pretending to be a Waldorf expert and leading people on. I've had people threaten me with AWSNA coming after me for using the word Waldorf in my title but I've never heard from them. And tons of Waldorf people, from Nancy Parsons to Sarah Baldwin to Jack Petrash to Barbara Dewey, have told me that they support what I'm doing. So I am standing my ground and that's that.

* * * * *

I just thought of something. It would be really neat if you used the duckling pattern (now no longer avail. from MC but I'm sure there are others online) and made a larger grey cygnet so that your children could act out the story of The Ugly Duckling (H.C. Anderson). Of course, I suppose then you'd have to knit a large full grown swan, too. If anyone tries this, let me know how it turns out!

August 27 - At 19 months my business is in crisis. I can't decide between making money and helping people. Does it have to be one or the other???? I'd love to be able to have all my curriculum online for free -- it's easy, it's relaxing, and I don't have to worry about a customer who doesn't like it. I had wanted to make some money simply so I could afford to buy more Waldorf books, attend the conferences, and so on but I am TOO stressed out. I dread checking my email, I am constantly in fits about how to price things and how quickly I should be churning stuff out so that no one complains. I think I'll keep the Store because it's helpful to people, keep the Amazon links which provides me with a small bit of income, refocus the Yahoo group to be specificially for people who are new to Waldorf (lots of veterans find the group annoying and I was constantly trying to juggle everyone's needs -- unsuccessfully. Not everyone in the world has to be my friend! I need to get over that) and just relax. I love writing curriculum, I hope it helps people, and besides basically being my own personal bulletin board, it doesn't need to be much more than that. Why can't I have a 145 page blog, with free downloads of things? And I hate being miserable. I'd like to look into becoming a nonprofit someday when I can afford it. Then I can make sure the Amazon credits are used to keep the website running and the business can continue to exist after I'm gone. I love the idea of spreading Waldorf ideas to the world, and the Internet is a good forum for it.

August 20 - Today we head up to to Connecticut!

August 18 - This morning, Natalie helped me make mango smoothies for breakfast. Yummy! The kids are still hovering around being sick (Leah didn't wake up until 10 am -- and I had to wake her) so no tea party for today. Instead we will be

    making Oatmeal-Honey soap as a housewarming present for my friend and her husband

    making Black-Olive Yogurt Cheese (a Bon Appetit recipe) which has to stand overnight, for snack tomorrow

    sorting the boxes of Winter clothes and seeing what fits everybody and what my shopping list is for the kid clothing budget which I will receive September 1

    making packing lists for our trip

    preparing to frame the schoolroom walls tomorrow
    (which is nifty because -- I didn't know this in advance -- the Mister Rogers theme of the week was getting ready to go to school for the first time. What happened was that King Friday proclaimed that they needed a school for the children and he wanted it built in three days! When the children showed up the first day, it was still just a frame and not yet completely built... so school their first day, they got to watch it being finished. I nearly fell off my chair yesterday when I saw that -- when we start to frame the walls it will be so familiar to Natalie now -- and she'll love helping with it!)

and generally relaxing and trying to get everyone feeling better. I certainly don't want to take a road-trip with a bunch of grumpy kids. And I'm sure they don't want to be trapped in a car with a grumpy mama either!

August 17 - Book swap time! Here are the new picks for the next couple of weeks.

August 15 - I have a friend whose wife is a first year teacher. She is three weeks into the school year and ready to quit because her kids are so out of control. So he wrote to me asking for advice, what should she do? I just have to smile because I remember how hard that is. You are so baffled. And then you look back later and realize that you were just exuding insecurity and a lack of confidence through every pore and the kids pick up on it and whammo! I wonder if I've reached the point where I can walk in and have a room that runs smoothly now, or if I am still in that early teaching place. The years off make it hard to tell. I still have nightmares about my bad school moments, times when parents were angry or the principal wasn't happy with me or I'm in front of a room and I can see it just ripple through the room and I know I have lost control of the class. Or I panic and can't remember a child's name. Is that all over? We'll see!

Last night Steve and I began the process of building our schoolroom walls. Hopefully it will be done by the end of August so we can get into it! I miss having a regular school time -- even though I know that in Waldorf, school is so much just being together as a family and doing things. But having that block of time where I just spent time with Natalie was wonderful and I don't feel as close to her as I did before.

* * * * *

I cancelled going to the farm (Steve can stop and get the food on the way home from work) because the kids are acting like they don't feel well. Natalie smells sick -- you know how that is -- so I see no reason to drag them all out of the house. Right now, everyone is napping and I'm baking scones (from a mix) and I have a tiny bit of whipping cream left so the kids can make fresh butter when they wake up, to go with their scones.

We have planned to leave for CT on Sunday which means we can attend my aunt's "Thanksgiving in August" party Friday night. The reason for this is that she has been living in Cambodia for the past 16 years and hasn't had a big turkey dinner with all the fixings in a very long time! So we are bringing the green beans with slivered almonds and I'm sure a good time will be had by all. This will be the first time the girls have been back in that house since we moved out, so I am trying to find some good stories about moving to read to them, leading up to Friday. The only one I can think of is A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle. Other suggestions? Maybe a book where I child goes back to visit a place where he used to live and it's strange... because everything is familiar yet different. I'll have to think about it some more.

I have a big cornucopia in our pile of harvest decorations -- I wonder if I could bring that all overflowing with summer produce. Wouldn't that be funny! It's not my job to bring decorations, though, I always seem to have a need to run everything. I don't know why that is. I'm sure she can come up with her own centerpiece. Maybe we can set up the cornucopia here, though, and have a summer's bounty blessing or something. This week is about the peak of summer produce, so it is good timing. I wonder what Summer festivals there are? Let me check my copy of All Year Round. There's Midsummer's Day (which has passed) and St. Swithun's Day (it doesn't say when that is). Oh, let's see. August is in Autumn here... August 1st is Lammas. The next one is September 21, the Autumnal Equinox. Nothing in between. There must be some kind of festival for this in some culture. I'll have to do some research on this. Maybe we can have a festival after we get back from staying on the farm, and before school starts in September. Just a small family celebration. Put this on my to-do list...

August 14 - I love this design for a balance beam (from Back to Basics Toys) but the more I look at it, the more I think, we can build that ourselves! So if there is an enterprising wood-working family out there that knows how to draw up a simple materials list and plans, please let me know and I'd love to add it to the site. If you're looking at PE stuff for first grade, please don't forget the new beanbags we have in our Store -- we also carry a flaxseed version for those with children under 3.

August 11 - This week's homeschool purchase is the washing machine from Nova Natural. They are doing 15% off (it and all Elves and Angels products) plus it is coming up in the computer system as free shipping which I don't know if that's a mistake but hey, I'll take it!

For school, we are drying our tomatoes (in the oven) in the morning and going to tea party with my grandparents in the afternoon. Steve's mom is coming over to babysit for our date night so the kids will get a special evening with Grandma. I would love to call it Friday Night Taco Night because that has such a nice ring to it but I think the kids are still too young for such a messy food. Maybe a taco salad though... For handwork, I am mending Natalie's Waldorf doll (so glad I got that book, because now I know how to do thread joints) and working on knitting her mermaid costume. N is practicing her finger knitting with her Knitting Nancy.

Tomorrow for their field trip Steve is taking the kids to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore. They are doing a special event with live turntable demonstrations and train rides.

    Turntable Demonstrations
    Saturday, August 12, 2006

    Demonstration begins at 11:30 a.m.
    Ever wonder how the Museum moves locomotives and cars in and out of the 1884 Roundhouse? Watch Museum staff use the turntable to move an historic railcar. Free train rides included in the price of admission.

Steve is a real train fanatic and enjoys passing that down to the kids. Tomorrow is also my work day and I am doing the first module for 1st Grade (form drawing, beginning recorder, watercolor painting) and some custom unit design.

August 10 - So, last night I attended the meeting for prospective Sunday School teachers and found out that the class for which they had no teacher was 3rd/4th/5th -- the grades I wanted! I don't have to fight the delayed academics battle, like with a younger class, and I want so much to do some of the wonderful Waldorf things for the older children like the Saints block, the Old Testament Block, Roman History, and so on. I also love the idea of having a class again and 9 students is a great size. And they just handed it to me. I gave a little speech about my background and I guess it was persuasive. I hope so -- I worked on it for several days in advance. :-)

My room is so beautiful; it is in the corner of the new church building so there are two walls of windows! And even though it is cinderblock they painted it a nice light blue color so it's not too bad. I want to change how they do some of the services here, so having the older class is a way to do that, since they are old enough that they can put on a service and no one will be raising eyebrows. I have so many ideas! I was saying, when they were asking how to promote Sunday School, that there should be display space in the fellowship hall where each class put up what they were working on and everyone was like, yeah... there's absolutely no sign anywhere in that church that there are children. It's sad. Anyway, they took me all around after the meeting and showed me empty display cabinets and space where student work could go. I really felt like this was the way in -- it's easier to make changes from the inside. My husband is upset because he thinks I'm taking too much on but he was the one who said, stop complaining and do something about it. Besides there are several boxes of a curriculum that was left in the room by the previous teacher (who, apparently, also did a lot of fun and creative stuff) so, if I get really in over my head, I can just switch to using the plans that are there. But, of course, I want to try my own ideas! I also really feel like I can handle a classroom; there were some things I saw my master teacher doing when I was in college that I never felt like I would be organized enough to try and pull off (like her marvelous way of organizing classroom jobs) but I feel like I would be successful now. Getting into planning the way I have has given me a lot of new skills, confidence, and self discipline -- whereas, when I was a new teacher, I just winged it, going on raw talent. I was up for several hours last night brainstorming and outlining the school year plan. I have to turn in my curriculum Sunday August 27th so I'll work on it over my vacation and the first day is Sunday September 10th. I am SO excited! The supervisor took me around and she was saying how she wanted a lot of drama and art and music as well as some back to basics like memorizing scripture and I was all over it. She was saying that the children purchased hats and mittens last year to donate to a shelter and I immediately told her I was planning on teaching them to knit and she was really happy about that. We'll have three project arcs, one for Autumn, one for Winter, and one for Spring. Autumn we are taking over the aluminum can drive and talling and graphing the cans as they are collected. Winter I will begin to work on handwork and we'll be making ornaments to sell and raise money for Heifer International (as was done last year) and Spring we will plant a vegetable and flower garden. We can contribute flowers for the church and donate the veggies to a shelter. I counted last night and there are 66 books in the Bible (New International Version, which they use -- I prefer King James but I got overruled on that one) and we will work our way through from the beginning. The first 22 books are Genesis through Song of Solomon. Each child entering third grade gets their own Bible with their name engraved on it, so it is just perfect to say, now you have this book, let's read it. We'll do main lesson books as our "workbooks" and the children will have a verse to memorize each week. Anyway, I don't want to spend all day writing about it, since as soon as I have my curric. written to turn in to Nancy I'll pop in on the site and then I'll put my weekly plans up too, since I'm not writing a preschool newsletter this year. I know that not everyone is a Sunday School teacher but lots of people do Bible study at home; besides which, there will be ideas in there for some of the blocks which are traditionally done in Waldorf in 3rd/4th/5th (like gardening) so it should be helpful in that regard as well.

I hope this will be a situation where I have support from the administration and staff and can actually teach instead of being mired in politics and paperwork and having my hands tied at every turn, like in the public school system. I know I have to do attendance and fire drills and find out what allergies the children have, and so on, but I'm also hoping this will be a great creative opportunity -- and FUN!

P.S. I'm really having a tough time with the First Grade Overview, getting it down to a manageable size, but today is my drop-dead date for it so look for it to be released somewhere around 2 am. :-)

* * * * *

Yesterday we went to the farm and picked about 25 pounds of tomatoes. I was planning on drying them in the sun, since I want to try different methods of preservation and last time I made a froze a bunch of pasta sauce. Besides, it has been so hot here and I had visions of trays of delicious sun-dried tomatoes spread out on the deck. However, I wake up this morning and it is raining! I'm gathering up my how-to notes so I have them organized and come back to them later. Here is

I think we'll try each way and then I can report as to which was most successful. Apparently, what variety you choose is important, which I didn't consider yesterday when I was picking them. Plum tomatoes such as Roma or Principe Borghese (the standard one used) are best. I have Daniela, which is not an heirloom, I think, it is a standard greenhouse tomato with a very uniform size and shape and is supposed to keep very well. Here we go. From Rachel's Tomato Seed Supply:

    DANIELA ( Long Shelf Life )
    Fruits are 6-7 ounce, firm and deep red with excellent flavor. Long shelf life of 3 weeks or longer. 77 days.

At least now I know they'll keep well while I decide what to do with them. Here's a good picture. I'm a little stunned, actually, to find that it's a disease and pest reistant greenhouse grown hybrid, since I thought we were in the heirloom section of the garden (and there were lots of heirlooms in other rows) but we picked these because they were so firm and lovely-looked. Uncracked, unblemished, just like a tomato should look. Of course, now that I know they were bred for that, it makes sense. Not heirloom. :-( Oh well. We all make mistakes. I'm sure they'll dry beautifully and be delicious.

* * * * *

FYI, here's the entire text of the Bible, verse by verse (with nice navigational up and down arrows so you can find your way around) and including international translations. I'm sure the Bible is on the internet a million times but I think this site is handy and easy to navigate. I found it when I was searching for a Jakob Streit book And Then There Was Light (English translation of Und es ward Licht) which I want as a teacher resource for the seven days of creation. Anyway I'm putting the Multilingual Bible link here so I don't lose it, until I have a chance to create a page on the website about the Sunday School program with favorite resources and links to my lesson plans.

August 9 - We had a wonderful morning. I made up my to-do list with all the meals we were going to have, what I wanted to do for my household chores (laundry, phone calls, mend Natalie's doll, etc), for school, for work, and for my evening errands and it's been great. We always do better when I get organized before the day begins. I feel more focused and I am definitely more productive! Today is Anti-Procrastination Wednesday so I called Sears to complain about my dryer and the repair guy is coming next Tuesday. I called my mom and invited her to come up to the farm with us this afternoon to pick heirloom tomatoes. Natalie and I worked on our decoupage project and I found lots of lovely drawings in back issues of Organic Gardening magazine (which they were giving away free at the farm) as well as lots of useful gardening information -- I may actually subscribe. While those were drying, we sorted the four baskets of clean laundry (one basket for each child and one basket for grown-up stuff like sheets, towels, and the adult clothes) and then made our shakers which we have been wanting to do for a long time. I set out six empty bottles and we put 1/2 cup of grain in each. Two couscous, two long-grain rice, and two bulgur wheat. Natalie loves shaking them to compare. I haven't figured out a way to glue the lids on yet, so they are school-only for right now (my way of childproofing for the younger ones. Board games, art supplies, musical instruments and so on are school-only.) After naps we'll go up to the farm, then dinner and I have to go to the meeting for Sunday School teachers at the church. Tonight I'm going to make a special dessert, when I get back, for my hubby which is Grilled Chocolate Sandwiches. Very gooey and decadent. Giant had some challah bread in the clearance section (when it is the sell-by date -- they call it "Oops, we over-baked" instead of "this bread is old" but it's the same thing). It doesn't matter if it's a little stale because it gets soaked in egg, and I really prefer buying it presliced instead of making my own challah bread just for this recipe. They get it thinner than I ever could. I also got some raisin bread in the Oops section so the kids had raisin bread with almond butter for their lunch today, which they really enjoyed.

So, today looks like it will be a very good day! It's even a little cooler outside and less humid. The sun has been so bad for a few weeks that we lost a lot of plants, including one of my new blueberry bushes. We almost lost our wedding tree (raised from one of the Osage Orange fruits that was on the ground at the historic home where we got married -- my grandmother picked it up and raised a group of seedlings, then gave us the tree as a gift when we moved into this house). I would have considered it such a bad omen had it died. I moved it into the kitchen (it's still in a pot -- we'll be planting it in the fall) and have been coaxing it back to life. The sun just burned it really badly. Yesterday at the farm they had dill seeds (still on the flower heads, that was neat) for us so I have to figure out how to dry and store them properly. I just love the idea that the kids -- and I -- get to see where things really come from. When I was little I thought corn (frozen or in a can) and corn on the cob were two related vegetables. I didn't know they were the same thing. I CANNOT wait to get up there and snack on all the heirloom tomatoes we can handle. I have to dress the kids for it, knowing they'll get juice all over them. Leah ate so many tomatoes yesterday she threw up! There is just nothing like eating sun-ripened fruit right off the vine.

Some of the heirloom tomato varieties -- see link for a very interesting list, compiled by the nice folks at Wikipedia -- I have really enjoyed and would like to plant are

I'm not much of a gardener but there's always soooo much I want to plant for school.

We just purchased Cinder Block Gardens and I am really looking forward to reading it. Since next year the garden shed will become the playhouse, I'm moving the vegetable garden over there and I'll keep the space by the dog house for the chickens (the dog house, which was here when we got here, will become the coop). I've heard a lot about building raised beds with cinderblocks and I really like the ideas of planting things in the holes -- no space is wasted -- like mint, which is incredibly invasive. In fact a vegetable garden with an herb border sounds like a great idea. Raising the beds not only gives you better results with the plants, but it is easier to tend for grown-ups and puts things right at kid height as well. If you're interested in vegetable/herb combinations which provide stellar results (or which veggies not to plant next to each other, I really recommend Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte. She also did one for flowers, which is called Roses Love Garlic. They say the best time to build your beds is in the autumn and then you plan what to plant in your gardens for the following year during the winter.

Some other things I'd love to plant, sometime when my kids are older, are

    Dragonsclaw Millet (it's ornamental and edible)
    Flax (not a link for where to buy it, a link for how to prepare and spin it)

I found a great website some time ago, where you could buy all kinds of exotic seeds, like cotton and cinnamon (you harvest the bark, that's why it has that curved shape) and it really stuck in my head like, oh, we should grow some of this stuff -- but now I can't find it anymore. Does anyone know? It was a long page, all the information was on one page, the background color was orange (it was really tacky) and they had hops, coffee, and other things too.

By the way, I have a great tip on organizing your decoupage supplies. If you take two tins (like cookie tins or other foods -- sometimes stationary sets come in tins), one long and flat and one tall and round, you can keep everything all together. The long flat tin holds your decorative papers, scissors, and any tools you use for smoothing papers and getting things to lie flat in tight corners; the tall round tin holds your jar of decoupage medium and your sponges and brushes. Stack them on top of one another and chuck them on the shelf. Then when you find ephemera (little scraps of this and that which would be great in a collage), you already have a place to stash them and you'll have it all together later. You can buy lots of ephemera on eBay (by which I mean Lots as in a big pile of it sold as one auction). One of my favorite books on collage, which I recommend in one of the preschool units, is Collage Discovery Workshop; the other paper art book I recommend, which is making paper dolls (another art where you use a bit of this and that to decorate -- Elisa Kleven's books are great for showing your children examples and inspiring them, especially The Paper Princess -- there are lots of books which use collage for their artwork but this is actually about a girl who is making a paper doll and trying lots of different things for her hair and trying to decide what works best) and I love Soul Mate Dolls for this. It's actually a wonderful book for adults, as well, because you go through a real healing process making your own dolls, especially if you are making a doll which represents something you have gone through in your life. Anyway, if you get into collecting bits of wonderful things, thinking "I can do something creative with this later on", I recommend checking out those two books. And tins are definitely the way to go when it comes to storage. They look attractive on the shelf, close tightly, and are stackable. I keep all my buttons in tins. There are usually a lot of foods sold in tins, if you start paying attention in the grocery store, and then you get double for your money -- a nice tin AND something to eat. I bought a tin of Pepperidge Farm Pirouettes last night for just that reason. Walker's Shortbread Cookies come in nice tins, too.

* * * * *

I think I found it. They've changed the site to green but it still has that tackiness factor. I don't see cotton or cinnamon on here (so I'm not as excited as I could be) but if you want to grow a Venus Fly Trap from seed, visit Whatcom Seed Company. They have a lot of fun stuff, actually, so be prepared to be sucked into a little computer browsing time warp.

Okay. Nicky's Nursery in the UK sells coffee seeds (Coffea arabica nana -- will take approx. 4 years for first harvest). I don't know if anyone here would want that. It might be interesting to try to grow carob, though, since in third grade we read The Magic Bean Tree and learn about how carob beans are so uniform that they were actually used as a weight measure (from which we get the jeweler's unit of weight "carat"). It would be interesting for your child to see if this is true. According to Wikipedia, a 2006 study by Lindsay Turnbull found this to not be the case -- carob seeds have as much variation in their weights as other seeds. This is the kind of thing where you have to be organized in advance and start growing the plant early (which is my excuse for spending some time on it right now). Because third grade is so much "where does this come from" you'll definitely want to be prepared to grow a variety of crops. Let's see... carob seeds. Here's information on growing carob. Here's everything you need to know about "The Truth About Cauliflory: Flowers That Bloom On Tree Trunks" (a category under which carob falls). This might, perhaps, be useful to someone about to do Botany. It's actually a VERY interesting category of plants -- I'll put the link over under the Botany notes for fifth grade. I'm not having much luck finding the things I want today but I am finding some neat distractions. But I really want seeds for linen and cotton the most so if you know of a source for them, please share it.

* * * * *

So, I got it! I'm now the Sunday School teacher for the combined 3rd/4th/5th grade class. I can't wait to start brainstorming curriculum!

August 8 - I finished the Playful Penguin last night -- now if I can polish off the rest of my ongoing knitting projects by the end of the month, I'll be ready to start making Christmas presents!

Natalie and I are working on a project all week which is to decoupage a set of wooden trays for the play kitchen. We got a set of three inexpensive trays from Michaels, a jar of Mod Podge decoupage medium, a bag of small sponges, and a pack of decorative paper (I really like the Bitty Scrap Pads by Provo Craft because you get a wide variety of colors and prints but they all coordinate). It went really well. Natalie loves to decoupage, as it turns out, and enjoyed tearing her papers up into little pieces and carefully layering them over one another to cover the entire surface. She really got a kick out of it. We used up a lot of Mod Podge, though, because of her enthusiasm, so I would recommend the larger jar (16 oz.). One thing which worked really well was that we covered our work surface with bubble wrap (bubble side up) instead of newspaper since setting wet craft projects down on newspaper usually means a little news gets on your work. The bubble wrap worked great and also allowed for some air flow to the underside of whatever we were working on. One thing I would change, though, is to use sponge brushes (with a handle) instead of plain sponges because we spent a lot of time washing decoupage medium off our hands. Natalie is too young to figure out that it's going to gradually seep up through the sponge and onto her hands. I found that about 25 minutes was as long as we could concentrate on it before Natalie started to get bored -- plus the papers need time to dry -- so we'll do little chunks throughout the week. At the end, I hope to glaze them with some Plaid glaze, either silver or gold, and maybe add some antique looking vegetables or fruits. We have a lot of gardening magazines but I'm looking for something old fashioned, to go with the paper we chose (all antiqued or faux finishes), like old seed packets or something. The people from Renee's Garden Seeds have lovely old-fashioned packaging -- they are one of my favorite companies. Since these trays are used in the play kitchen to sort foods, a fruit or veggie theme would definitely be appropriate. I feel so Victorian! Victorians were obsessed with ephemera, decoupage and all other sorts of over-adornment. Did anyone read To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis? A sci-fi fantasy about travelling through time but very readable to anyone, whether you like time travel or not, because it's so well written. It uses a science-fictional premise but it's really a historical romantic comedy. They keep going back to Victorian times to rescue this artifact called the bishop's bird stump (maybe that will ring a bell) and the descriptions of Victorian-era England are hilarious. Going into the woman's parlor and it's flowered wallpaper, flowered rugs, flowered furniture and curtains with doilies everywhere and it just goes on and on and on... gives you a headache just imagining it. Clutter everywhere. Anyway, my husband and I really loved this book and even toyed with naming one of our children Tossilyn for the fun of it.

August 7 - I stayed off the computer yesterday, Sunday, to try to stay closer to my goal schedule for my business work hours. I just have to write some, though, while the kids are napping, about my church experience and the struggles I am having there. First, I have to start out by saying we have a very nice church. I became a member when I was 17 and the current pastor is the man who married my husband and I. The church recently put on a huge addition which more than doubled its size but most of the addition stands empty. They have a ton of classrooms for children but there are no children there. When we sit in the pew as a family, people keep coming to ask if my kids would like to be in day care or if they want a bag of crayons and coloring books. My kids are not being bad, the overall message of the church is just that kids really aren't going to get anything out of the service. The membership when I first began to attend was families with older children (teenagers) and the elderly. Now it is completely grown adults and the elderly -- I guess most of the teens grew up and didn't come back -- and they are running about $1200 short each week of the money they need to maintain their services. People in the congregation keep dying off and there is no new blood coming in to replace them. The entire Methodist church has, apparently, been keeping track of which age group they are having trouble attracting and at their last conference, the pastors were told to focus on ages 18-35. In my mind, this is obvious. They are looking at young families. Parents with very young children. How do you attract these people? Well, obviously not by making them feel like their children aren't welcome at church!

I am planning on meeting with the pastor to give him my suggestions (of course, how can I keep my mouth shut? -- besides, he announced to the church that he was looking for ideas). Here are some of them. One, there should be at least one service a month which is billed as being family-friendly. A big sign outside the church that said Family Service, Children Welcome! would be a big help. They could do this with the money the were going to use for a new cross (unnecessary, and besides it can be handmade perfectly easily and would probably please God more that way) and, in addition, a sign outside the church with what is going on there each day would be better than just a small sign with the hours. They could shorten the service, use songs that the children can learn (by repeating them over and over) and let the children clap, dance, or play tambourines during at least one of them. The children's sermon would be enough, you don't have to have a second one for the adults. I usually get more out of the children's sermon anyway. Then the group could disperse into the fellowship hall for a follow-up activity. Older kids can knit or do woodworking projects. Younger kids can do watercolor painting. They should hold parenting workshops there. Gentle Discipline would be a great topic. I'd love it if there was a small playground, or at least play area, and parents with little kids met there for impromptu gatherings, like a park. They put a park in between the old building and the new one but paved it and when I took the kids out there to run around, Leah fell and skinned both her knees. A garden that the children could plant and help tend each week after the service would also be good. These people have all their energy focused in the wrong directions. Last week we were shown a video of segregated churches and told that there will be weekly potlucks and discussion seminars about the racism that has gone on in the past and acknowledging that wrong was done -- we're not inviting people from the black Methodist church a hundred yards away to our services, or holding a joint event, NO! We're just going to meet and talk about how we should think about being more open. It is mind-boggling to me.

I am thinking of becoming a Sunday School teacher (they're currently recruiting) in part so that I can go into one of those classrooms and show what I am talking about instead of just being a loud-mouthed complainer. I'd love a 3rd/4th grade room. We can paint the Seven Days of Creation, teach the children to knit and knit blankets together, count the aluminum cans we've gathered for donations (some kind of fundraiser they are doing -- but there's no reason why the adults have to do the tally) and graph them then calculate how much money we have raised... it can be very fun and lively. I'm not talking about diluting the message; I'm talking about getting people in the door. They just don't bother to come! The biggest thing is for it to be relevant. So many people feel like church isn't relevant to their lives. But we all need some time each week to think about what we are thankful for, to talk about how we all have goodness inside of us, and to hear inspiring stories of people who are taking action and making changes in the world. Sort of an antidote to the nightly news. I'd love to do a huge tiled cross where each person painted a 2 inch square tile and we gathered as many as we could, this would be a wonderful fellowship event after the services for a month or so. Then we could have several volunteers build a simple cross out of 4 x 4 lumber and we grout all the tiles on. Collaboration, people! It doesn't have to be expensive. We are trying to build a community here. But all their attention is focused on the semi-monthly fundraisers, because money is so tight, instead of looking at what can be done with the resource they have: people.

The more a church shows that it values it members, the more members it will have.

Who knows, perhaps I will become a Sunday School teacher or assist with the family-friendly services (assuming I can talk the pastor into trying it) -- and, if I do, I will put all my ideas and curriculum notes on the website. Especially if I can get my hands on the infants/toddlers daycare room and rip all the plastic out of there!

August 5 - Yesterday we went to the store to get more yarn for the mermaid dress-up and playful penguin projects I am knitting for Natalie and Leah, respectively. While at A.C. Moore, I saw a really cute book called Just Hats, by Lion's Brand Yarn. (Thinking Christmas already.) It was $12.99 in the store but just $9.24 on Amazon. I try to support small businesses when I can (like Bob & Nancy's Bookshop) but sometimes Amazon is just the way to go. You get more books for your budget and they are delivered right to your door! So put that down for a future knitting purchase. I am hashing out the final details of my Christmas gift-making list and will post it shortly -- simply so that I don't lose it! I have much better luck keeping track of my lists and things when I have them on the website. I hope it's useful to other people, too, to get ideas for handwork projects.

I'm hoping to finish my two current knitting projects before we leave on our summer vacation to CT. When we get back, I'm giving Natalie the stable for her playroom and I want to knit a whole set of animals to go with it; I think I'll pack patterns and yarn when we go to the farm so I can get a head start. And maybe her Aunt Jenn would like to knit some of the animals, too! I knew I would want to do this so I made a whole list of all the knitted animal patterns I could find... now let's see what I want to make first. I think I'll try

That should be enough to keep me busy! It's also only one book to pack since the Magic Cabin ones are kits. Of course, I'll need an entire suitcase full of yarn... :-) We already have the stable from Nova Natural (now out of stock), a set of birch branch fences (from our Store), and plenty of small silks. I also have some wooden figures from Anne Moze (and since I got the Gigantic Turnip scene, there is even a man bending down and pulling something out of the ground. Perfect for farming!) I'll be sure to take pictures of the finished farm scene and post them. I can't wait!

I just realized that, although we're doing to a dairy farm and Natalie is certain to be very excited about cows when we get back, I haven't found a single cow pattern. Does anyone out there know of one?

* * * * *

I just had a customer turn me on to a wonderful book. It's called The Knitted Farmyard by Hannelore Wernhard and is absolutely delightful, not to mention really cheap ($4.95). I just bought a copy and can't wait to see it! Find a picture of the inside here. What a perfect use for odds and ends of yarn!

August 4 - I think today is my lucky day. I got up this morning and dashed out the door to put some money in the bank for some waldorfcurriculum-supplies list purchases I made. I'm excited about the Wet on Wet Watercolor Painting book which Marsha Johnson is distributing -- if you don't know what I'm talking about (or you're looking for a place to find tons of used Waldorf books for sale) definitely join that group! Then I realized that I had a small amount -- $12.18 to be exact -- left over. So I thought to myself, I wonder if that's enough to get the felted hat kit from the Metropolitan Museum of Art which is on clearance right now for a really good price. The kit for non-members is $6.23. I add it to my cart. Then I click on shipping rates to see how much they would charge me (I have $5.95 left). Shipping is $5.95! How lucky is that? So now I am thrilled and can't wait to see what other good things are coming my way today.

I hope my good fortune continues over to my curriculum writing project. My mom was here from 11 am to 7 pm yesterday so I could work and I am now finishing up the final pieces. The document (my initial series of notes) was over 150 pages! So I'm pulling it all together and organizing, editing, etc. In fact, there's so much that I am considering making it two documents: Teaching First and Second Grade (which is the how-to) and First Grade Curriculum Overview (which is the what). But we'll see...

    Gray skies are going to clear up,
    put on a happy face;
    wipe off the clouds and cheer up,
    put on a happy face;
    spread sunshine all over the place -
    and put on a happy face.

    from Bye Bye Birdie

* * * * *

If you live in the Mid-Atlantic region, you may be interested in this website I just found called the Small Farm Success Project. Location and specialties of agritourism farms (ie. ones you can visit) -- a great resource for homeschoolers! If you own a farm that is not on the list, you can have it added. One nice thing is that there's a direct link to MapQuest directions for each site as well as contact information and website links. My husband is taking the children to the exotic petting zoo at Serenity Farm (home of the pastel colored barns, it's quite a sight!) on Saturday for their field trip. I, of course, get to stay home and work. :-)

We've had quite a conversation about this, actually, basically non-stop for the past two days (during my writing frenzy). I love my work and I am happy to honor my commitments to people but working 5-6 hours a day is not what I bargained for. I hardly see my children! So we are making a new schedule where I stay off the computer except for checking my email and doing customer correspondence during the time he tucks the kids into bed at night (their special time) from 7 to 8 pm. Saturdays have always been my day to do my own things and he spends time with the children, so it easily becomes my one work day. Hopefully I can adjust to only working 17-20 hours a week instead of 35-40! I love sharing my ideas with people and it makes me feel good to be a source of support. But, really, I have to make sure my time with my children isn't compromised. AND I have a lot of work to do to become a better parent so I need to make sure there's plenty of time in the day to do that! I hope to find a better balance in my life and hopefully that more positive outlook will be a good influence on my work.

August 2 - My husband and I are having an interesting conversation about imaginative play. He watches the kids and sees that, really, all they do is put on their dress up clothes and walk over and play with their kitchen. So he told me that he thinks Natalie needs something more. His reasoning is that everything they have just becomes play kitchen food and so they need more variety. I don't agree with this for the little two; I think cooking is a perfect activity for them. But I can see that maybe Natalie might need something more. So I asked him for some examples of what he's looking for. He wants another area of the classroom that is designated for a different kind of play. (Musical instruments corner didn't work out, they just became play kitchen food.) We love to look through the Nova Natural catalogue -- it's my favorite; I really think the toys seem so alive -- and we found

    dollhouse (which I think she's too young for, better for 7 and up)

    small stable (which we have and I'm going to knit some animals for and give to her when we come back from our farm trip)

    washing machine (we have a clothesline and washbasin and cloths in the housekeeping area but they don't get much use, except for the cloths to become placemats in the play kitchen)

    playstands (the Waldorf standby but which we can't have because of the toddlers in the room -- a playstand is really safe for ages 3 and up -- L/B will climb on the shelf and it will tip over)

    parking garage (she has nothing resembling this)

    giant crane (which she would love!)

    a large fire engine (this would be great, too, she is very interested in fire trucks and ambulances. actually, she's very interested in two things right now: vehicles and farms [both farm animals and crops]. so maybe one of these and the stable will do the trick)

They used to carry a wooden store which I loved and really wanted (especially with the scale) but it appears to be gone. I'll contact them and see what happened or if there's another supplier. Steve was thinking then Natalie can run the store and two little ones can shop at that store for their play kitchen food and then go off and cook with it. :-) Anyway, I am getting her the marble run for sure because I think what she needs is some cause-and-effect experiences (basically, early Physics) -- also the silk parachute and I think some Steve is making some stilts for Leah (you can find directions for this in Toymaking with Children) -- but we'll have to make some decisions on what else. I've also been looking at more board games, too, since pickup sticks was such a big hit. She really seems to like things with rules.

So, anyway, this week's homeschool money will be the marble run, Varialand game, angel candleholder, and the supplies to make a set of stilts for Leah.

* * * * *

I'm kind of observing what happens in the playroom and making my decisions from there. Any toy which isn't being played with "properly" -- a certain amount of imaginative play is fine, but I'm looking at toys which routinely get thrown on the floor, forgotten about, and walked on -- are getting packed up and moved out of the room. In this case, it is the clothesline and cloths, the silks (I know! You are always supposed to have silks. But Leah and Becca just ball them up into little wads and walk around chewing on them. Not OK! I'll move them up to Natalie's room to play with on her own), and the Nautilus puzzle. These were all loved at some point but the kids are tired of them. I also see that there are a lot of toys which are still played with, maybe more than Steve realizes. The felt balls (from Feltcraft one dull rainy week) are still going strong, all of our wooden blocks and the little knitted gnome which lives in them are doing fine, the giant stacking rainbow is OK, etc. The play kitchen, of course, is the biggest draw right now. They do put their costumes on, they just don't act out any roles with them. Leah and Becca are still too young.

The only thing I see that's really missing, besides what I talked about earlier, is a doll corner. That's because Natalie has her Waldorf doll upstairs in her bedroom because the little kids were intent on pulling out her hair. So I think Natalie will keep the dolls in her room; Becca's old Moses basket is Isabella's bed and there's plenty of room in it for the two dolls who are coming along. We also have the doll hammock. When all the girls are older I think we'll set up a really strong doll play area in the playroom, with a high chair, cradle, little doll table and chairs and so on. But they're just not all old enough to be ready for that yet. There are Waldorf dolls appropriate for infants and toddlers -- they just aren't the fully formed style with clothes and hair. Toymaking with Children is really handy for this, actually, because they actually give a little run-down of what toys are appropriate for which age.

Another thing we're missing is a puppet theater and puppets. Again, Leah and Becca are too young. They'll just chew on the puppets. I think when we set up the schoolroom it will have its own play area with some of the older toys in it; otherwise, it's really not fair to Natalie who isn't getting the things she needs. I have a pattern in one of my knitting books (Nursery Knits by Zoe Mellor) for a hanging puppet theater design. I don't like how patterned she made it but that's easily changed. So maybe I can do something like that in the future for Natalie.

It's scary because giving them the proper kinds of play is one of the most important things you can do as a parent, so there's all this pressure to create the perfect play space. That and the perfect daily rhythm, which I'll talk about below. I am always worried because we haven't built our clay pit in the back yard, haven't done this, haven't done that. But there's always a limited amount of money and the other big limit is time. If you make your own toys for your children, it's a time-problem not a money-problem. Anyway, if you're currently worrying about this, relax. We are ALL thinking we don't do enough for our kids! So beat yourself up over it. Steve and I talk about our children and what they need more than anything else. And we talk about it every single day. Last night we listened to the first part of "How to Get Your Child to Do What You Want without Talking Yourself to Death". It wasn't really informative, mostly things we already knew. It would be a good intro to parenting the will-driven child if you were just learning about Waldorf, though. Two things she said that were new to me. One was that you get the child moving before the command. I thought you were supposed to just get them moving. (If you want them to do something new, you do this by redirecting their body, showing them what to do.) But she says you can start them on the correct movement and then say, it's clean up time. So I thought that was helpful. The other is that you should lay our your child's clothes the night before BUT if you have a picky child who will change her mind in the morning (that's Natalie, she'll object just because it was your suggestion -- she got that from me) set out two outfits and let them choose. Then it's a choice between two, not a choice between everything in your entire closet which is too overwhelming. The part she is talking about now is having every day follow a predictable routine. And for you to model to your children that you also follow your own predictable routines in your own life. Not something I'm good at! I still struggle with going to bed at the same time each night. Again, something to work on. In our house Natalie is supposed to get up, go to the bathroom, and get herself dressed, then play quietly in her room while she waits for breakfast time. But since we never lay out her clothes she instead gets up, goes to the bathroom, and opens my door to ask me to help her get her clothes down. Since she wakes up around 6:30 in the morning, this is usually how I wake up. Not a good way to start the day (and the reason why I have fallen into complaining that she "bosses me around" -- which is ridiculous! -- the child simply can't reach her own clothes). We've talked about lowering her clothes rod but, again, my husband already has a long list of things that I want him to do around the house so this hasn't gotten done. But laying out two outfits we can easily do! So that's our new habit for the month.

Waldorf is all about setting up the environment to help your kids achieve success. Because children age 0 - 7 are so will-driven, you can't keep the house grown-up friendly and expect your children to operate self control. They'll have self control at some point but this is not it. Or, alternatively, they will develop it but it's a real shame, since their bodies are meant to be moving and exploring and if you stifle this it will show up later in long-term health problems. The will forces need to be able to work on growing the body -- this is their primary function in the early years. So stifling their will is not the way to go. That being said, you don't let your kids run the household. You are setting things up so that they are not penalized for behaviour expectations which are completely out of line with what they are capable of at this age BUT you do have high expectations for how you want them to behave in the future and you work to help them develop to be the best possible grown-ups they can be. One example of this is that my two oldest children LOVE to climb up on the windowsills in their bedrooms. Both of their beds are by the window. We cannot stop them from climbing and standing full height in the window, potentially falling (4 feet) to the ground below. We have moved their beds to other positions and it didn't help; they still climbed up there. We constantly catch them at it and it's just not safe. So what to do? The answer is Cat Scat, a prickly plastic mat meant to deter cats from climbing on places where you don't want them. We'll screw some pieces of this stuff onto the windowsills (replace the sills when we move out of the house) and they won't climb on them anymore because it hurts their feet. After a few years, they will have lost the desire to climb up, will have the logic processes to realize it's not safe, and we have saved ourselves years of yelling at our children for something that they are just naturally curious about. Save the yelling. Family harmony is the key here, so just look at teach situation that's driving you crazy and think, how can I change

  • my behaviour,
  • my expectations, or
  • the environment

so that this situation is resolved. Don't try to change your children. You're the grown-up. You have to be the bigger person here. Yelling... Hitting... are just forms of bullying. That's not going to teach your child what you want them to learn. Try to understand them.

(This is not meant to be a lecture, by the way. These are my own personal notes to myself because this is something I struggle with all the time. I have a lot of parenting strategies that aren't really working, because they aren't based in an understanding of the young child -- even though I have all this training, it's easy to fall back into what you saw your parents do -- and I work every day to reprogram myself and become better. So I'm not yelling at anyone here... other than myself!) :-)

* * * * *

Okay, I just went to get Toymaking with Children and here is what it says for each age:

    Toys for the first year (page 22)
    Soft small cloth, for example cloth diaper (nappy) material
    Cradle doll
    Wooden doll

    For the playpen:
    Felt ball
    Embroidered ball
    Wooden spoon
    Blocks of wood with rounded corners, without bark
    Strong basket
    Empty box with a lid
    Small cloths

    Other toys for up to 3 (page 26)
    Knotted dolls
    Simple basket pram
    Basket of building bricks
    Carved wooden spoon
    Basket of chestnuts (conkers)
    Rocking horse

    Toys for 3-5 (page 27)
    All the things mentioned in this book under the sections "Building on a Large Scale" -- "Building on the Floor or on Tables" -- "the Doll's Corner" -- and "the Play Store".
    Various baskets, you can never have too many. For example baskets with shells, stones, bark, feathers, pine cones and unspun sheep's wool (magic wool).
    Bunting bed
    Doll's spoon
    Hammock for dolls
    Play pillows
    Wool carpets and fleece
    Outdoor toys

    For special moments, for example to distract the child or calm it down:
    Russian doll
    Moveable toys: two hammering or sawing figures on a push-pull bar; pecking chickens
    A few good picture books
    Tumbling man

The wonderful thing about this book is that it tells you how to make nearly all of these things yourself. If you're a new Waldorf parent, this is a Must-Have. I still refer to it a lot myself, as you can see. :-) And it looks like we'll be making some new toys in the near future!

There are also notes for the fith to seventh year-old child (pages 28-29) which I need to read carefully since that is where Natalie is headed. It's always good to be one stop ahead of the game if you can.

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We got our lovely Mother Holle silhouette from Nova Natural yesterday and set up our Kinderkram nightlight in the living room for the first time last night. This morning Leah was enchanted with the beauty and the newness of it and couldn't keep from touching it. In fact, she took it and snuck it off into her room during playtime. So it looks like Steve and I will have to build a high shelf and a new (high) electrical outlet for it and raise it up out of reach. Just another example of changing the environment so you don't spend all your time yelling at your kids. In fact, if we put it up high it will look like she is perched in the branches of the tree shining out. Just lovely. It will be even better that way!

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Book swap time. (If you're wondering why I'm spending so much time on the computer today, it's because I'm finishing up the First Grade Curriculum Overview which should be completed tomorrow -- my mother is coming over to babysit all day so that I have the time to work undisturbed and look through all my notes and make sure I have written about everything I wanted to.) My new choices for the basket under the coffee table:

I love to share what we're reading in case it helps you find new favorites. Please always feel free to write to me and share what books your family loves best. Book swap is always a special time -- the kids love the change. And the books don't have to be new, they can be old favorites just rotated in and out. The basket under the coffee table works really well for us. When some kids are ready to go out the door and others are still getting dressed or putting on their shoes, the children who are done first can sit by the front door (on the sofa) and read a book of their choice. I can still find them when we're ready to go, but they aren't just standing around bored. During the day Natalie and Leah both get to run down the hall and choose their favorite book for naptime and bedtime. Whenever people come over and want to cuddle with the kids and spend some time with them, they can just reach down to the basket and pick a book. Works great! Also, my kids can pick easily -- they are not overwhelmed with the entire childrens' book library I own! -- and I change out the books frequently to keep up with current interests or to introduce something new. I try to always have fiction, nonfiction and poetry selections as well as shorter books (for Leah) and longer books (for Natalie). They aren't limited to these books, but I like to keep each child in mind when I make my selections. Natalie also gets a chapter from a chapter book every night at bedtime but I don't keep those in the basket -- that book is a special book and stays on my bedside table where I go get it each night in order to read to her.

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Guess what? I'm on the computer again. Actually, that's not really news. :-) I just found out that Chiron holds three conferences this year. I missed the one in Canada but I think I might be able to attend the other two. One is sponsored by Bringing Waldorf Home and is held in Fairfax VA (right near me); the other is sponsored by the Waldorf Family Network and Brenda has already been in touch with me about attending that one. So I no longer feel completely out of the loop. And I might be able to get my Waldorf fix after all! See my Conferences & Workshops page for all the conferences I know about and also visit Lucie Smoker's site regularly -- (I do!) -- as she sometimes finds out about things I don't.

August 1 - Happy August! This month's poem in Around the Year by Elsa Beskow is all about ripeness. Natalie loves this picture, of all the berries on parade following the Berry Queen. Today is our day to go to the farm, so it's just perfect for us to read before we leave.

We had planned to have the schoolroom partition built by the end of July but that didn't happen. So the new plan is to officially take the month of August off from school, as our vacation (instead of trying to do school each day, without a proper organized place to do it and most of my stuff still in boxes, and being SO frustrated about the poor quality of it) and to focus on setting up the school space for September, the beginning of next school year. For us, we'll be going through the first series of units ("The First Year") again, for part of the year with Natalie alone and for part with Leah on board. She won't be ready to start school for a little while (40 months is the recommended age -- this is actually the timeframe I came up with on my own but then found out later it was something Steiner specified -- the exact same age I had picked so I was thrilled! -- it has to do with the length of time Christ was on the earth [from baptism to death] and how the first 40 months of the child's life is analagous to that Christlike state, also that they still consider themselves a part of their mom and then awaken or are born again into a state of awareness and a new independence and then therefore are ready to leave her -- this is also why in Beyond the Rainbow Bridge she writes that 40 months is when the child begins to refer to herself as "I") -- anyway, Leah will not be 40 months until March, which is when Natalie turns five. So they will probably overlap for Color and Insects and then Natalie will go off to begin the Kindergarten program ("Around the World") by herself over the summer and Leah will continue with Preschool. I have big plans for the schoolroom. We actually decided to change our mind about the sliding room dividers and build a real wall (thereby adding an extra bedroom to the house, for when we resell) and moving the playroom to the back and the schoolroom will be in the front, with all the windows and natural light and the door to the outside. Looking at the longterm view, the kids will spend more and more time in the schoolroom over the years, an extra bedroom is a good thing, and the playroom will morph into more of a hangout space (teenagers!). Also, completely dark rooms are a big sell now, as people want "media rooms" for their TV equipment and watching movies. So we'll build a full wall, with a dutch door and a big window in it and then put in a regular door and close off the window when we go to resell.

Since the first preschool unit in the series we'll be doing is a Winter unit, we have the Autumn to do something new. I'd love to try some more Reggio-inspired stuff. I'm very curious about how that fits in with Waldorf. In listening to the CD from Waldorf in the Home on Working with the Temperaments, I became especially intrigued because so much of what she said about working with the sanguine child was exactly like the Reggio approach. They're very active. They need to do everything again and again, always in a new way. They are attracted by beauty and use their senses heavily. You provide them with new materials and a new approach each time, tempting them with the newness of it, encouraging them to go deeper. She says

    "help them go a little more deeply with that experience"

    "they are so interested in beauty of all kinds"

    "they often need help with that in their work, coming back from another angle"

    "they need new fresh things, new ways of doing things... variety"

So August will be setting up the school room, and then we'll do some more work with exploring Reggio. It's important to know that, since it affects how we'll set up the classroom space. I'll take lots of notes, when we get to that point, and try to write it up as much as I can.

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By the way, I don't mean to imply that you can't homeschool properly without a schoolroom. I know plenty of families who use their kitchen table. But I'll take a picture of the chaos here: our homeschool closet and the dozen or so boxes heaped in front of it, all partially unpacked, clogging the hallway and the door to my office, not to mention the heaps on my bedroom floor! Words really fail to describe it. We need a big -- organized -- dedicated space for school. The closet is not doing the trick. Plus, you really need the mental calm in order to be a good teacher. Beyond the Rainbow Bridge talks about "re-forming" the space in order to help a child who is misbehaving get calm again. The same is true of adults. I get really tense when I try to teach but I can't find any of my materials, everything is in piles on the floor and falling over. My office is tidy, because I unpacked my books first in order to start to write units again. See, I had a plan. I knew that I couldn't do school if I didn't have a place to organize my thoughts and plan each day. BUT what I didn't realize is that you can't teach, no matter how much time you spend planning, if you can't find anything. So this month is all about reforming our school space so that it is inviting, calm, and efficient. And I think anyone who homeschools is probably doing the same thing this August, whether it's an entire room or a small table. When I first started teaching, a veteran teacher gave me some advice. He said, the number one thing that makes you a good teacher is being organized. I ignored him, because I was more concerned with being inspirational. Of course, I soon found out he was right!

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