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 links on my homepage.

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

June 2006

  • Natalie is 4 years, 3 months
  • Leah is 2 years, 7 months
  • Rebecca is 1 year, 5 months

June 30 - today's homeschool plan is to take our pails and go pick raspberries (which are everywhere here, all along the road to our house), to hang some fresh lavender and fresh thyme to dry, and our tea party with my grandparents at 3 pm. tomorrow is the beginning of the community festivities with a turtle race, games, and an ice cream social tomorrow night. Sunday we are having our party and I chose a menu that the kids can help prepare (not the grilling part, obviously, but the side dishes and dessert) including a yummy looking but super-simple Mixed Tomato Salad for which they can pick some of the cherry tomatoes out front in our big pot by the front door, and some of the big red ones from our veg. garden if they are ripe, and a scrumptious recipe from last year -- Red, White, and Blueberry Trifle -- which uses our fresh blueberries and raspberries. The children will be so proud that they helped with the food! And the phrase "Sun that makes it ripe and good" is starting to sink in from our mealtime blessing. Because now they see how food ripens and becomes ready to eat. I hope it's a wonderful party and that they have a great time.

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Well, new things are happening every day with my business. More and more pages are changing over to the new look -- I just discovered my contact form isn't working so I'll have that fixed shortly -- and Steve just recommended a website to me to help me with a quote of the day. There are so many things I read that I'd like to share as inspiring quotes for the website, so if you're working on a website of your own, here's the link to a page from Matt's Script Archive which teaches you how to write code for a "Random Text" program. It's free. (Thanks, Matt!) Soon I'll add a thought of the day to my website homepage! If you have inspiring quotes to share, please let me know. It can be anything related to parenting, teaching, children, or living a whole, happy, healthy, and rich life.

June 29 - So, I'm having some trouble with my website. The images and style formatting aren't showing up properly. That's okay, the content is still there. And I can work on it over time. It's frustrating for me, since my husband keeps telling me that my job is to write curriculum and not to spend hours on my website, but unless he does it there's no way I can have it done for free. And I don't want it to be a burden on him, so I'm struggling with the html and trying to fix the problems myself. If anyone out there has website design experience and would be willing to volunteer some time, please let me know. I'm really desparate for some help. This morning for breakfast we had fresh blueberries and yogurt. I had the kids get up, get dressed, and put their shoes on, and I then gave them each their pails (from Easter, but we've been using them constantly for berry picking) and out we went to our little blueberry patch in the front yard. It was a delicious breakfast. For playtime, I gave Natalie our two blueberry books (Blueberries For Sal and Peter in Blueberry Land) and her pail, so she could play at blueberry picking. Now I have to get off the computer and go put on a blue silk so we can dress up and I can play at being the Blueberry King.

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That was fun! We took a really large blue silk and draped a small bookcase with it, covering it completely, then pretended it was a blueberry bush and picked lots of blueberries into our pail (Natalie was a flower child, she dressed all in flowered silks) and then she took the berries over to her play kitchen and baked us a cake which we ate and it was delicious! It was nice to play with her for a while. Then we put everything in the playroom away with very little argument, a nice change, and that's that. This afternoon we'll do some outside play time, since the sun is out, and maybe try to walk across the street to the park (my husband took my car today). It's not far, maybe a mile, but I'm not sure if it's too much for Natalie. I wouldn't think so. We can just do the walk and then come back, not also go to the beach (we'll be doing a ton of that this weekend) because then I know she'd be too tired and cranky to walk back. But we have the double stroller so there's no reason why we can't try a long family walk. There were too many cars and we were too close to a major road before (two houses ago -- and at the last house we lived at the bottom of a wretchedly steep hill, so no dice). It'll be something new and different. A great way to get some fresh air. Other than that, I have no plans for today. I used up my first skein of yarn so the knitting is on hold. Flylady does this great thing where she emails you every day at 9 am to ask you if you know what's for dinner. I've started planning out all of the meals first thing in the morning, a good way to make sure you're hitting all your food groups, and it makes preparing meals and snacks soooo much less stressful. So today for lunch we are having Simple Cheesy Bread Pudding from The New Laurel's Kitchen, snack is Creamy Sweet Corn Soup (bought from the store) and biscuits, and dinner will be Roasted Eggplant from Rodale's Basic Natural Foods Cookbook (my very first cookbook, given to me by the woman I first babysat for -- when she found out that I was in high school and had never learned to cook!) and Prosciutto, Fig and Mozzarella Salad from the June 2006 issue of Everyday Food. Yummy! Tomorrow I am making the Tex-Mex Enchiladas, also from this month's Everyday Food, for the potluck since it makes two 9 x 13 pans and gives directions on how to cook and serve one right away and how to freeze the other for a later meal. They really do have some nice features. Freeze It is one of them. There's also Zap It which was really good this month, Curried Chicken. I know some people don't like microwaves but if you have one, try this dish. If you can fall off a log you can make this recipe. I used chicken tenderloins and it took NO time at all. Seriously. Anyway, off my bandwagon -- let's go make some bread pudding!

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Troubles with the website are over. Enjoy! I hope to do about ten pages a day so that I am done by the middle of August. Hmm... maybe I'll do this one next...

June 28 - I just got a HUGE box from Magic Cabin which I am totally excited about. The Talking Drum for Natalie (ages 3 and up), the three mohair critters kits -- yes, not only have I started shopping for Christmas, I am actually ahead of the game for next Easter! -- and a yoga mat for Leah, to help with the balance thing (on sale for $9.99), plus two books illustrated by Allison Jay, The Race and The Emperor's New Clothes, both on sale for $9.99 each -- cheaper than Amazon! Oh, happy day. The July issue of Everyday Food magazine came today too so I can happily sit down with "The Grilling Issue" and plan out the menu for Sunday's party. The rain has stopped, the sun is out, and we'll be able to go to the park this afternoon when the kids wake up. For snack, I made the delicious Coconut Tapioca Pudding so they will wake up to a wonderful sweet treat, sunshine, fresh air, and new books and toys. Hooray!

June 27 - Yesterday was a lovely day. I made a delicious dinner of Open-Face Roast Beef Sandwich with Blackberry and Ginger Trifle for dessert (a real knock-out recipe!) and did some knitting. Very laid-back. We tried to do some blueberry picking and have yogurt with fresh blueberries for snack but it was pouring so that didn't work out. I did read Natalie her new book, Peter in Blueberry Land by Elsa Beskow, which she loved. I have a bunch of new books coming for her, including the newest book in the Tiptoes Lightly series, Big-Stamp Two-Toes the Barefoot Giant by Reg Down. I have planned in our Rhythms unit to make some of the characters from this book, including Tiptoes herself, Jeremy Mouse, and Pine Cone and Pepper Pot, two friendly gnomes. (I was inspired to do this because I saw these characters at A Toy Garden -- Pine Cone and Pepper Pot are two wrapped wire figures, Jeremy Mouse looks to be a simple wet felting project, and Tiptoes Lightly is a beautiful dry felted figure, an original design, which I love.) It will be wonderful to make these characters on our own and have Natalie involved. She loves these books! Today's plan is simple. For school we are going to the farm this afternoon to pick up our share. That's pretty much it. We usually take the end of the month off, and we will definitely just be relaxing over the Fourth of July weekend. So no school for a while. Sunday we will have a big party with lots of people over who haven't seen the new house yet. (So I guess our school project for this week will be to tidy up the house!) Steve brought home the Backyard Firepit from Smith & Hawken yesterday and it is all set up on our deck. Did you know that you can get their products at Target now? So drive to a store and get it and save yourself the shipping. That's also something we'll be using in the Rhythms unit (although Sunday it will be all Steve, doing the manly grilling and tending the flame thing -- he gets a kick out of it and it's less for me to cook) because one of the things I want to focus on is the four elements. Earth, Water, Fire, and Air. Not that I will allow Natalie to light a fire by herself, but we'll definitely be doing some backyard camping and maybe even some art projects with the charcoal. I've always wanted to play with charcoal so maybe this will be my chance. It does kind of go along with earth pigments and I think it would be great for the children to experience, even if it is black. I still haven't figured out that whole thing. I think very few people have. I read somewhere that a guy questioned his local Waldorf school about the no-black thing and he was told it is because it wasn't a color which naturally occured in Nature. Which is silly. Because he's like, what about penguins? And they finally admitted that they didn't really know but this is the way it was done. Just hearsay, of course, I've never asked a Waldorf school this question. If you know, please email me. I know that black must be used in some ways because art therapists are always talking about when emotionally disturbed children are drawing, the children reach for the color black first thing . There is a wonderful passage about this -- and how she helped the child -- in The Healing Art of Eurythmy. Alan Whitehead also talks about a child using black in its drawings in his book, A Steiner Homeschool? The black always symbolized sickness, of course, but still, black was an option on the table, is what I'm saying. Anyway, I don't use black crayons or paints with my children but I do sometimes let them paint on black fabric or black paper (which I suppose can be construed as bringing light into the darkness) and I do think it will be interesting to explore charcoal drawing in the next unit. At least, that's what I intend to do. I have to sit down and think about it some. I think we will just be basically experimenting, and not doing very structured activities with it.

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Well, today I have started transitioning the first few pages of my website over to the new look, Why Homeschool? All the links should work -- if something doesn't, please tell me! I am currently working on trying to get myself a little icon to appear next to my webpage addresses in your browser window. Nifty, huh? The way to do it is to choose a graphic, save it as 32 x 32 pixels, and name it favicon.ico. Then the browser will search for this name (you have to give the file that exact name) automatically and pop it up. If there's nothing, it just does a boring blank page. Which is what I have had up until now. Don't know how to create a .ico file? Simply download this freeware from Icon Edit -- nothing downloads until you say so, so it's okay to click on the link -- and you're on your way. Now, let's see if I can get it working...

June 25 - Well I didn't crash and burn on my mermaid knitting project after all; in fact, I'm quite excited about it. We have been having electrical storms here day and night on the East Coast, so my computer has been off for a while. What's new? Well, my husband and I went out for a date night last night. I had wanted to go ride a camel -- this is something new they are offering at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore -- but it was raining too hard to go so we went to see "The Lake House" and went out to dinner. Other than the date and hunkering down trying to weather the storms, there's been nothing else going on. Well, that's not true. Friday night we went to a church potluck (I took the Sour Cream Pound Cake from the June 2006 issue of Everyday Food and, because there were only three families there, everyone got to watch me try to get it out of the pan, ha ha) and then took the kids to the playground afterwards. My mom came up to play with them -- she lives right down the street from the playground. Next weekend is the Fourth of July which is a HUGE event, three days of festivities, in my community so I am very much looking forward to that. I think we'll have all the family over Sunday after the pool races for a grill-fest to celebrate our new Backyard Firepit. Oh, I love copper! And this is wonderful because it can be a bonfire, too, for setting up a tent and doing a little camping with the kids in the back yard. It's not just a grill. I am drafting the Rhythms unit and when that's done, it will be the finale to the preschool curriculum. No more units or newsletters. Next summer when I start our Kindergarten units I can pick back up with the newsletters. It is fun to share teaching ideas. But I think there's more than enough for Preschool and I don't want to overwhelm people. Already, people have a hard time knowing where they want to start with my curriculum! I purchased a unit from Kathe Forrest of Mother to Mother Homeschool and I look forward to reading over that. I don't feel the need to reinvent the wheel, and I don't know if I will ever have a complete soup to nuts curriculum for 1st through 8th grade... there's a lot of good stuff out there. I have fun reviewing and recommending other people's work. I just want to meet a need if there is a need and find my own little niche. Plus I'm trying to make sure that if people with older children come to my website, they still find recommendations of resources, even if I haven't personally written anything for that grade level yet. Right now the most Waldorf-y thing I've found is Alan Whitehead's work. He also has a very comprehensive book series, so you can find help with almost every subject. That's nice, to have everything in one place. Not everyone likes his writing style, though; he can be a little hard to follow. I try to have a little bit of everything on my shelves so that I can help people decide what works for them. And I know that most everybody uses a blend of resources so I certainly want to be able to give other recommendations. I'm only one person and Waldorf education has been around for a long time! Anyway, I look forward to reading Kathe's work. Here's her personal story on the Wonder Ranch Homeschool site, put together by Lucie Smoker.

June 23 - If you're looking for a good laugh, check out my knitting blog where I will be describing all the headaches and difficulties of transitioning into the world of intermediate knitting. I'm trying to make Natalie the gorgeous mermaid dress-up costume from New Knits on the Block by Vickie Howell. I told her that I would make it for her birthday so I'm running a little bit late. Hey, it's a great project and I'm excited about it, just a little intimidated. Our fairy house making yesterday was terrific. Natalie was so into it and we took a ton of pictures. (Someday when the cable which goes from my camera to my computer gets unpacked, I can add them here to the website.) I'm thinking it will be a definite addition to the backyard play activity list, which is currently somewhat short. Mr. Rogers (yes, I've decided to keep one television program, becuase I think this one is really good) talks all the time about using your imagination and even though we have all these wonderful open-ended Waldorf toys, I've noticed that she mostly just stacks them or moves them around the room. Not so much imaginative play. That's why the fairy houses, why I'm encouraging her to play at being in a band, and why I'm adding all these dress up costumes to the room. I picked Mr. Rogers by the way, because he's very calm and soothing, the camera isn't jumping all around all over the room, and he always talks about how wonderful it is to just be you. How special you are, and how much he likes spending time with you... I think it is helpful for her to hear that with all the stress she's having. He also talks about doing things slowly and carefully, always trying your best, picking up your toys, and so on. My favorite is that every day he shows her how something is made or how something is done, like how they make grape jelly. A few days ago it was how to play soccer, which she thought was fantastic, and it was very timely given her interest in soccer. He's very dependable, always changing his shoes and getting into his cardigan, always remembers to feed his fish. And I love the emphasis on make-believe. I get a real kick out of watching the show too, I have to say, and it's been a nice addition to our day. Even though I'm a grown-up, he makes me feel good about myself too. Is that weird? I don't know. He's a nice guy, I think. Doesn't talk down to kids. I remember watching him when I was a little child, at my Aunty's house (my parents didn't have a TV) so maybe it's partly just that warm feeling of remembering good times.

June 22 - Last night with Natalie was marvelous. We went down to the beach at about 8 pm and talked about fireflies and waves and stars and all kinds of things. I found out that although she didn't like the concert she would definitely go along with my idea of hanging up the postcard of the Milkshake band up in the playroom above our (new) musical instrument area. She told me that she would like to learn to play a musical instrument and she had decided on the drums. So this week's homeschool money will go to adding a variety of new musical instruments to the little corner of the playroom which I was previously uninspired by. I have to spend a few bucks on a frame for the postcard (which I'm putting up there to remind her of the band and to inspire her, especially because Lisa, one of the singers, loves to dress up in crazy costumes when she performs... like a pirate hat paired with a large tutu), and then the instruments themselves. When we went into the performance we were all given milk bottles made into shakers -- when I got home I realized, guess what? The shakers they were passing out were the bottles from the Stonyfield Farm smoothies. Which we drink every day! So it's no sweat to switch from chucking them in the recycle bin to filling a few with different kinds of rice and beans, sand and pebbles, pasta shapes... whatever takes our fancy and makes a great sound. I'm also looking at buying some things: the Musical Instrument Set from A Toy Garden and the Talking Drum from Magic Cabin. Sounds like it will be a lot of fun! In other homeschool news, I have decided to switch today (Baking Day) with tomorrow (Handwork Day) because we will be going to the Friday evening potlucks at our church and I want to bake bread for our first time. I don't really know what kind of food people bring and the cupboard is kind of bare, so bread sounds like the perfect choice. It goes with everything. For handwork, I wanted to go ahead and move forward with our fairy houses -- can't believe we haven't done that yet! -- and I started reading some of Finding Fairies to her last night because there's one fairy which travels around on the backs of fireflies. Did you know that? Called the Weeng fairies by the Ojibwa Indians of North America. They help you go to sleep by whacking you on the head with a tiny club. It seemed perfect to end our magical day and help Natalie transition into sleep. This book, by the way, is full of a ton of great fairy projects, more variety than your ordinary fairy book, and tells stories of fairy legends from all over the globe. It's very nicely illustrated, too. The last page is the one which inspired me for today. It's called "Grow a Gorgeous Fairy Garden" and the plants they recommend are bluebells, daisies, foxglove, jasmine, marigolds, pansy, primroses, and pussywillows. They also recommend rocks and mirrors. So I will take this list with us when we go out today (on our emergency grocery run) to switch it from being an errand to being a school project and on the way back from the store we can stop at a roadside stand and buy some fairy-inspired flowers. Then in the afternoon we can plant the flowers, build a fairy house and voila! By the way, I had a friend whose wife insisted on naming their daughter Aires (which we all hated) but now that I know that it's the name of a Mexican water fairy, I think it's pretty cool.

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So, things this morning went great. We found pussy willows (cut) in the floral department of the grocery store so I added them to our cart which, as it turns out, was a good thing because the roadside stand we stopped at on the way home had none of the flowers from our list. So we will build our fairy houses after nap and add a small vase of the pussy willows so the fairies can have pillows when they sleep. The roadside stand did have some wonderful looking blueberry bushes so I got two of those -- since I'm trying to go with a sort of naturalized garden in the backyard, with flowers and shrubs planted in and around the woods area, so that we can take nature walks and discover beautiful hidden areas of plants. I have to read up on what spot would be good for the blueberries but I've always wanted to have blueberry bushes so I'm excited about that, even if it does mean going outside and planting on an incredibly hot day! They also gave us a free 4 pack of tomato plants so we have some new additions to the veg. garden. I have to say, although our garden is small and somewhat bare, it is nice to have it set up so that when people just suddenly start giving us plants it's not like, oh, where will we put these? We have a mostly-empty vegetable garden so we just pop them in there. Natalie is so excited about the fairy houses she may not sleep... so I didn't really think that one through all the way... she is planning all the shells and feathers and things she wants to decorate it with. I left her in bed reading Fairy Houses and planning away. It will be neat to see what she comes up with. It would have been nice if we could have had a playdate to do this, but there's no reason why Natalie's friends can't add houses of their own later on and then we will have a real fairy village. Now if I can just keep Toby from peeing on that tree...

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I just created a new Amazon list: favorite books about berries. If you have some to share, please email me.

June 21 - Happy First Day of Summer! I just discovered that all of my children have fallen asleep -- finally -- so I can get back on the computer and write for a bit. It has been a loooong time. My friend Jenn and her husband were here Sunday night and Monday morning. When they got here, we all went down to the beach and they took the two older girls wading in the Chesapeake Bay (not a big hit -- in fact, Leah got really upset because her special clothes got all wet. she didn't realize that a bathing suit is supposed to get wet! it was absolutely hilarious!) and then we had a nice hearty Father's Day dinner with steaks and loaded baked potatoes and then scrumptious banana splits for dessert. Monday morning Jenn woke up early and had a blast playing with all our Waldorf toys (having slept in our playroom) and made me promise to teach her how to make some of them. She says she thinks Waldorf toys are the best (in her words, "better than all that plastic crap" -- and, I have to say, I agree!) so I think I might send her a copy of the catalogues from Nova Natural and Magic Cabin. She loves to shop for children's toys. I hope that maybe I can teach her how to make some toys, too, because it's really the most wonderful thing to give a child a toy that you have made and to see how much they love it, and have it become a cherished posession, even something really simple. Anyway, when everyone else woke up the three girls all had a picnic breakfast out on the deck with our tea party set and enjoyed hanging out with their Aunt Jenn. Then we went to play in the backyard and showed off our three favorite activities -- digging in dirt with scoops and a pail, playing with balls, and climbing on the old fallen tree. Which Jenn did a little of too and almost fell off! After the two younger ones went down for a nap, Natalie suddenly decided to go on a hunt for acorn caps and we ended up in the front yard under an oak tree gathering up several handfuls which I set aside for making flower fairies. Finally, after a quick snack and before they packed up to leave, Natalie asked if they could play Dwarves and Dice with her which they did. Natalie drew a picture with her beloved colored twig pencil set to give to her Aunt Jenn and Jenn drew a picture of a butterfly for Natalie. And then they went out the door! We didn't do a whole lot yesterday, recovering from the excitement. Then this morning we went to a children's music concert with the band Milkshake where Natalie met up with her friend Pattie and in theory they were going to dance and sing and have a good time but in reality Natalie hated it because it was too loud. So live and learn. We'll get together again with Pattie for a playdate July 10th. Today being Solstice, the naptime story for Natalie was The Summerfolk by Doris Burn, a story about fairies which only come out on the longest day of the year. Leah got the June poem from Around the Year by Elsa Beskow as her naptime poem, which is about children finally being able to swim in the water now that it is warm enough. (Maybe this will encourage her!) In fact, I was hoping to take them to the beach after dinner and stay up late and watch the sun set but it depends on how tired people are. The concert this morning really wiped them all out. I have a bunch of notes of things I wanted to blog about and links I wanted to add, so hopefully I'll get some time on the computer soon. But for now, Rebecca is waking up so it's time to go start dinner.

June 17 - Not much is new here. We have houseguests coming tomorrow so I'll be cleaning house all day. A few random thoughts: I found a great new bedtime story for Natalie called The Goblin Under the Stairs by Mary Calhoun (now out of print, of course! all the great books seem to be. grrr). It's about a boggart which moves into an English farmhouse. It is not only about fairies, which I want to spend some time on -- hopefully building fairy houses if our playdate ever happens -- but the most interesting thing is how the family members see the boggart. The little boy wants a friend so that's what he sees. The mother wants a helper around the house and that's what she sees. The father thinks the boggart is trouble and tries to run him out of the house so... of course... the boggart does make trouble. Only when the mother prevails and starts leaving out fresh cream and honey cakes for the boggart -- a traditional gift for fairies -- does he start to reciprocate and help out each night while they are sleeping by cleaning the house and the barn. It reminded me of how people see children. If you look at a child and think, what a nasty rotten child, that's what you'll get!!! (I'm getting blog deja vu -- I think I've written about this before.) Anyway, I believe that Natalie really identifies with the boggart so that's a good thing. It is like the little troll in The Little Troll by Thomas Berger. When given the opportunity to be good, he is good. It is perfect timing since Steve and I had a looooooong conversation about her this morning. Some interesting things came up. For example, we are still having the food problem. She won't eat. Now she's taken to refusing to drink her milkshakes (for him, not for me -- I think it's a test). His feeling is that if she refuses to eat her breakfast, she should be punished and sent to her room. My feeling is that we should set a timer for 20 minutes, anything she hasn't eaten at the end gets taken away, the timer is set for 10 minutes, she gets 10 minutes of playtime and ding! When the timer goes off again, she gets fed again. No blame-shame game, just quiet persistence. I suggested that she be given a different food each time. When she does decide to eat, she has a way to do it, a way to give in without losing face (because it's a new food, not the same one she just refused to eat) and, after all, she wants to please us. She just needs to figure out that food is not something we will allow to be a power struggle. Now, Steve's point of view is that she is "winning" here -- she doesn't have to eat the food she didn't like, she got playtime, and when we present her with a food she does want, she can eat it and all is well. He believes that there should be more of a punishment, a way for her to know that it is wrong to refuse food just because she doesn't want it. Well, we got to talking... My parents made me eat what was on my plate, all of it, no exceptions. No matter what. His parents said take a few bites, you have to at least try it. Now, fast forward to the present. If Steve is presented with a food he doesn't want, he eats it anyway because he knows that eating is important to his body and if he doesn't eat, he'll feel like garbage. If I am presented with a food a don't want, I won't eat it. Even if I know perfectly well that I'm going to pass out later (and I do), I just won't eat it. I am still rebelling against my parents! His parents were more relaxed, so he doesn't have anything to rebel against. Overall, everytime we have compared my habits with his and then my parents' parenting style and his parents' parenting style, it has turned out that the authoritarian way yields BAD results. In effect, you aren't parenting your children, you are just controlling them. Or managing them, if you don't like the word control. I am working with Steve to get him to see that the idea with Natalie is not to find a way to punish her where she'll know she's been punished -- an immediate and very strong negative reaction (which is where spanking first begins, I think, you want something immediate and crystal clear) -- and I think that because he's looking at making sure we send a strong message, something like putting her downstairs very calmly and not making it a scene and then just giving her another chance at breakfast again and again doesn't work for him. Where's the "you've been bad"? And I'm saying, parenting is not about punishments and rewards -- "you've been bad" -- "you've been good" -- it's about teaching her how to be good. How is pitching a fit and screaming at her that you don't waste food and breakfast is the most important meal of the day teaching her how to eat breakfast? It's not. Short answer. Long answer. I don't care how much time you spend on it. It's just not. I realized the other day that the phrase "raising children" is very powerful. You are raising them... you are showing them how to rise above their baser instincts. You are parenting towards the long term. The short term -- she threw her food in the trash behind my back and I want her to know that's not okay -- of course tells you that yelling or spanking is the way to go. But think long term. What do we want here? We want her to understand that it's important to eat breakfast, and that we will make sure that she eats it because that's what is best for her. That we will be quiet and firm and that it is not a game. So, anyway, Steve is all upset because he feels like he "doesn't get it". He can see where I'm going but he can't tell how it works in practice. And the other thing is that it's hard to tell if your parenting style is working because it takes so many years to see the results of what you've done. Basically, you have to see how your children function without you, as adults. You really have only one choice if you want to try to see into the future and that is to look at other people and discreetly find out how their parents handled an issue, and judge for yourself how you want to be. So far, I think that Steve's parents did a great job and it is fascinating to compare how we each turned out. So that's the big issue of the day. By the way, if you have an under-7, you might want to read this article by Donna Simmons on A Child Who Hits -- it's about hitting but can be applied in any situation where your child is doing the "wrong" thing with their hands. Like Penni Sparks was saying, Waldorf kindergarten teachers have this down. Instead of yelling at a child who is slamming his toys around, you swoop down on them and say, I was looking for a child with just this kind of energy. I really need you to hammer these nails into this board for me. We tried the "hands are for helping" thing today with Natalie when she took all the clothes out of her closet and threw them on the floor. It is exhausting to try to be one (or more -- wouldn't that be nice?) step ahead of your child so I'll keep posting links as I find them. Obviously, for the under-7 crowd the two main parenting books are Seven Times the Sun and Beyond the Rainbow Bridge. (By the way, if you buy them both from Amazon, it comes to more than $25 so you get free shipping. and they really do complement each other well.) I have to go back and spend some time re-reading both of them. Beyond the Rainbow Bridge is wonderful because it breaks up the under-7 years into smaller chunks and talks about what your child is going through developmentally during each time and what to expect. She doesn't pretend that the whole thing is just made up of one phase. We all know that's not true! Seven Times the Sun is more of an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure approach. Beyond the Rainbow Bridge is almost strictly the developmental part, and how to make sure your expectations for your child are reasonable and developmentally appropriate and Seven Times the Sun is basically how to parent. So there you go, if you don't have them and are wondering what the fuss is all about. If you're having trouble with your child, I highly recommend checking out the online store at Waldorf in the Home. They have a ton of parenting workshops -- real ones, that have been taped from their conferences, with real people asking questions about their kids. Oh, and I love Penni Sparks, so see if you can get some of her workshops. :-) I think she's great! Also, if you have a child in the 7-14 stage, please write to me to let me know what parenting resources you've found to be helpful as there's not so much for this age group (that I've found) and I'd like to be able to list some more resources on the website. Thanks!

June 14 - rain, rain, rain. we woke up this morning to another rainy day. there goes our afternoon at the park. the kids are getting pretty stir crazy. they especially miss playing with their playground balls, throwing and catching. so I think today we will make some soft felt balls (from Feltcraft) which the children can throw inside. Natalie is still working on her flower crown (from Earthways) so that's an option too. we just put up a huge mirror in the playroom and are working on setting up a dress-up space. I found a large woven grass ottoman from Target with storage inside so I'm trying to decide if I want to shell out 80 bucks for something which a child may climb into and get stuck in. not a good idea, huh. I know that Waldorf also discourages the bin approach to storage becuase it doesn't really show children how to be gentle with their things. throwing everything into a heap and covering it with a lid is not taking good care of your toys. at museums and what-not, they have a series of pegs for the children to hang their costumes on (that's also what I saw at the Washington Waldorf school) but we don't have a place to put pegs until we build the new wall. so I think it will have to be a large basket of some kind for the short term. our dress-up options are a little slim right now, a princess crown and a set of butterfly wings. a friend is making me two fairy costumes. the Washington Waldorf school simply had a selection of capes in different colors so maybe I'll spring for a set from Fairy Cove. They have beautiful capes in a variety of colors and you can order them in a Big Kid size (for ages 5 and up) too. the Sherwood Forest cape is absolutely gorgeous. the capes are $25.00 except the newest color, Gothic Rainbow, which is on sale for $22.00. We are supposed to be working on setting up the indoor play space for the Texture unit this week, so maybe five new capes will be my homeschool purchase for this week. I think I will go with

  • Gothic Rainbow $22.00
  • Pastel Dreams $25.00
  • Sherwood Forest $25.00
  • Sweetheart $25.00
  • Girly Dreams $25.00

I like the Dragon Dreams one but we don't usually have boys over to play, and if we did I'd like to start getting some of that pretend armor wear from Nova Natural (or maybe make the knitted chain-mail dress-up from New Knits on the Block). I don't want there to be so many capes hanging in the dress-up section that it's overwhelming and not fun. I think five is a good number. That's five capes, a princess crown, several flower crowns, a set of butterfly wings, and two fairy costumes. More than enough!

June 13 - it has been raining almost every day here so we still haven't gotten outside to build our fairy houses (it poured on the day of the play date). today we went to the farm for our vegetables -- which the children have started to really look forward to, and are starting gradually to eat more veggies because of it -- and tried to also go raspberry picking but the bushes had already been stripped by the time we got there. red raspberries are not in season yet but apparently the black ones are. Natalie and Leah each also chose a wishing stone so today we will make Stone Soup (from The Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book, page 20) for the first time. I told them that whoever got their wishing stone in their bowl of soup would be able to make a wish. I was afraid they might choke if we just used small river rocks, like the recipe suggests, so I had them choose larger ones. They'll make quite an impression in the bowl! Upstairs now to clean them off and start the soup...

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well, it turned out to be Anti-Stone Soup because I wasn't able to get the rocks clean enough. they had bits of tar stuck to them. the recipe calls for river rocks, which you can buy bags of at a craft store (like Michael's) and I have some but couldn't find them so I thought we'd just find our own. it didn't really work out, though. I recommend going with the river stones and you can always put them in the dishwasher first, in your silverware caddy, to make sure they are sterilized and safe to put in your food before adding them to a pot of soup. that's what I did when we used a river rock to make butter. Natalie had a great time, though, helping me wash vegetables and taking the unused parts to the compost pile. Our soup ended up with: onions, carrots, kohlrabi, snow peas, and baby spinach with two ripe cherry tomatoes from the plant out front thrown in for good measure. Natalie picked those herself. She was so excited! :-) It is just nice being around a four year old child and seeing how much joy they get out of things. Just makes you happy to be alive. Anyway, served with some whole wheat bread and a cup of milk, it made a nice dinner. I can't wait to do it again next week! some things from the farm we saved to use for other things, like our kale (saute with some onions and pancetta to make a great side dish), lettuce mix (for a salad), and beets (for dyeing our wool). there's also some Chinese cabbage that I'm not sure what I'm going to do with. we have really enjoyed going to the farm, though, and I wouldn't trade my odds and ends of mystery vegetables for anything.

June 12 - well, I found the Planning and Zoning Board link for my county. Now I just have to determine where we live on the town map. In the last place we lived, I actually did all of the research on having a goat and then found out we weren't zoned for it. I believe, if I'm reading this correctly, that animal husbandry is OK at our new house as long as you follow the restrictions. that's probably a restriction on how many animals you can have without crossing the line over into being a small farm. (ha. like I'd ever be running a farm in my backyard. stranger things have happened, though.) There are only a few houses on this road, though, so I wonder if I can just get a chicken and call it a day. How would anyone know? I know nothing about chickens so I'll have to do some research. I read The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald but that was just mostly complaining about what a pain in the neck baby chicks are. I'm not entirely sure why the idea of chickens has entered into my mind -- mostly, I guess, because the dog house is there and has straw in the bottom which immediately just made me think of a chicken coop (it's a large doghouse) and I know they are supposed to be good for gardening. You can build little portable cages (I forget what they are called, "cars" I think) which you move around and the chickens peck away and eat all the bad insects in your garden and leave their droppings behind for fertilizer. When you want them in a new place, you just move the pen. The pens are open to the bottom. I'm not sure if they are also open to the top -- my husband says that a chicken will just walk all around the inside of its fence but doesn't have the sense to fly up and over. Maybe that's just modern birds which have been bred to be so heavy as to be unable to fly. Believe me, if you know about chickens you are probably laughing yourself silly. I know nothing. That's no reason not to try it! I think I will look around for some information. Aha! Links galore - feel free to check them out. How to build a chicken coop from scratch, how to build your own incubator, how to get plenty of inexpensive grit (oh, yeah, we have to feed them. hmmm). Ah, here we go. Utilize chicken manure with a portable cage. Looks like they scratch up all the plants, so maybe not the best idea for an existing veg. garden but maybe to help prepare the soil for a new one... We subscribe to a magazine called Hobby Farms, which I love. I'm sure we have a lot of information in there I can read too.

June 11 - Summertime! I know Solstice hasn't happened yet it just feels like Summer. I saw the first lightning bug a few evenings ago, the daylilies are in bloom, and we had a delicious dinner of Asparagus, Snap Pea, and Avocado Pasta with asparagus and sugar snap peas that Steve brought home from the farm. The first tomatoes on our tomato plant out front are ripening and it just feels like Summer. I am so happy right now. I'm excited to be finishing up the Preschool curriculum (two more newsletters and then the Rhythms unit to go) so that the whole thing can be online and helping people. I've gotten lots of positive feedback. Which is a little funny to say because the people who don't like your work don't usually write to tell you so. :-) But overall, I'm very happy with the direction my business is heading in and I think good things are ahead. The First Grade Curriculum Package is my big project for the summer and I've got books all over my office floor to prove it. :-) Then this school year I'll be doing some custom units and enjoying having Leah in school along with Natalie. We're nearly settled into the new house and ready to build a wall dividing the downstairs rec room into two parts: we will have a smaller playroom but an official School Room which I am just thrilled about. I can't wait to get a class pet. When I was a teacher I had a terrarium full of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches (my personal theory is that if you're afraid of something you should just embrace it. forced exposure) but I don't think those would survive here with the cats. I'm not sure what kind of pet would make it, actually. Maybe just some plants. But I can't wait to choose paint colors and get going on that. The backyard will have a lot of changes too, with bales of hay for a play structure and turning the garden shed into a playhouse. We have a vegetable garden, a compost pile, and maybe I can figure out a way to sneak in some chickens, turning the old doghouse into a chicken coop. There are farms all around here but I'm not sure if we are zoned agricultural in this part or not. Coyotes have moved into Maryland, though, and have been reported in all counties so perhaps chickens are not in my future. I'm not completely sure if a coyote would eat a chicken but a big part of me is saying YEP.

June 9 - Another Box! I am happy but even with spreading it out it's a lot to read, so I'll list them here and put notes later on when I have something to say. Here is my batch for today

  • One Way to Teach the Writing of Poetry
  • The Wonderful Adventures of Nils
  • Teaching Mathematics for First and Second Grade in Waldorf Schools
  • Norse Mythology and the Modern Human Being
  • The Interpretation of Fairy Tales
  • The Curriculum of the Rudolf Steiner School
  • The Norse Stories and their Significance
  • The Human Being and the Animal World
  • The Winding Road
  • Why the Setting Sun Turns Red
  • Dancing in the Fire (that's my free bonus book)
  • Leaving Room for the Angels
  • Will-Developed Intelligence

You can see why it will be a while before I read them all!

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This morning we had a highly successful outside free play time. Natalie and Leah split their hour three ways pretty evenly, some digging in dirt with their scoops, some throwing and catching balls, and some climbing on the old fallen tree in the back yard. This was the first time they had ever ventured onto the tree, so I was happy to see that. I spent my hour cleaning up trash in the yard since we are still finding little bits of plastic everywhere. Maybe it was my being so active that got them exploring. I found a wonderful nook, the perfect spot for a fairy house, so we can do that on our play date Monday. I'm sure the other girls would like to build fairy houses. It has been on our schedule for a while but I hadn't found a good spot and I didn't want to just chuck a house in some part of the yard, I wanted it to feel right and really be special. The other child coming is a 14 year old boy who Mom says will just sit in the corner with his Game Boy. Of course, I want to bring him out of that world so maybe I can get him interested in digging our pit for the clay. I don't want to be like, here come over to my house and do manual labor, but it is probably a project that would interest him so I'll keep it in the back of my mind. Other things I'm thinking about are carding wool for the 10 year old and weeding the vegetable garden. My plan is to just start with free play, but I want to have some ideas in case things fizzle. And even though those are "chores" they are some of what we do for outside play time so my kids would certainly eagerly join in. We'll see. I don't really know the mom but I'd love to do a weekly Monday thing if our two families get along. Her kids are in the regular school system to they probably don't know how to knit or anything, and I would love to be around some more children and try out some of my ideas for older kids. The problem, as I listen to myself, is that I am crossing the fine line between brainstorming and taking some other mother's children and "teaching" them what I want them to learn. It's not my job to play school with someone else's family. So I need to back off. But if she and I become friends and start a weekly thing, maybe I can ask her if she'd think it would be appropriate or if her kids would enjoy trying some of these activities. People know that I'm a homeschooling mom so they pretty much expect me to have these kinds of things up my sleeve. My husband says that I'm extremely bossy but just don't know it so I have to keep my eyes open to that, especially when meeting new people. Her daughter closest to Natalie's age is almost five years old and can already write her name so I'm pretty sure she's in to early academics -- that and I know her daughter is in school, at the same elementary school where my husband and I met, by the way -- she will probably ask me questions about what Natalie knows, since it always seems to come up when moms are talking and if I tell her a little bit about Waldorf, I'll see her reaction. I really get stressed out when I meet new people, thus the over-planning for this 2 hour playdate, but at the same time it's really rewarding so I'll just try to relax. I love talking about Waldorf, though, and "spreading the word". My best friend is a high school teacher who is looking into some Waldorf workshops at Sophia's Hearth in New Hampshire because she's heard me talk about it so much and it has piqued her interest. And what 14 year old boy wouldn't love to dig a pit? :-) I have some other ideas for the backyard so I hope they continue to come so I can watch it really come alive -- or learn what doesn't work -- like buying bales and bales of hay and setting out the hay and a variety of boards so children can build play structures of their own devising. We have a shed here for storing all this stuff in so it doesn't get wet. I'd love to see how they enjoy that!

June 8 - I got up this morning and leaped out of bed, so eager to open my box for today. So here we go!

  • Making Fairy-tale Wool Animals - wonderful! in addition to a ton of really nice patterns, there are songs, verses, and games to accompany the animals. the newly hatched chicks in a basket of partial eggshells (page 67), the bumblebee mobile (page 75) and the baby guinea pig (page 77) are special favorites. a wide range of techinques are taught here including wrapped pipe-cleaner frames for flexible characters, flat animal shapes cut from wool batting and decorated, and pompoms
  • Making Magical Fairy-Tale Puppets - this book uses dry felting needles extensively (puppets are made in the style that Suzanne Down taught me, there are excellent directions) and the ethereal quality of the characters is just marvelous. many of the characters are taken from Grimm's Fairy Tales, making this a good book for a Kindergarten or First Grade teacher. Little Red Riding Hood, The Seven Ravens, Hans in Luck, The Goose Girl, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and Rose Red, and Rumplestiltskin are just some of the characters shown. in addition, the character of Nils from The Wonderful Adventures of Nils is shown here, including the goose he is carried on in his adventures. If your children are under the age of 9, this is a must-have for storytelling in the Waldorf tradition
  • A First Book of Knitting for Children - the lion pattern is cute but other than that, I liked Kids Knitting by Melanie Falick better. I think the directions are too babyish for a child old enough to read but there isn't a wide variety of patterns enough to help a parent using it as a teaching resource, doesn't seem to fit well in either niche
  • Knitting for Children: A Second Book - also didn't like this one too much, but there is a wonderful pattern for an Inuit boy which would be good for 3rd grade (the Inuit are studied in the Building block)
  • One, Two, Three!
  • How Children Play
  • The Way of the Storyteller
  • Stories for the Festivals of the Year
  • Resource Teacher's Developmental Exercise Manual
  • The Art and Science of Teaching Composition
  • Toward Freedom in Singing - this book plunged me into the depths of despair. It starts out very positively, saying that they have developed a new method of singing that takes the focus away from charts of the human mouth and into the spiritual level, a method which makes free and open singing accessible to all people. As the book goes on, I realize that I don't understand any of the music terms they are talking about and... as it ends... she says that if you can't sing on pitch you should not be singing to your children. You will damage them just as surely as if you slurred when you spoke in front of a baby who is trying to learn English from you. Kindermusik teaching says that parents should feel free to just sing out unfettered because what your children will learn from you is an important love of music and joy in singing and that they will hear enough "proper" singing to pick up how to sing on key. This book disputes that and left me very frustrated. Their opinion was that you, as an adult, should be taking singing lessons so that you can then teach your children how to sing. I guess my kids will just be going to a music teacher. :-(
  • Eurythmy for the Elementary Grades
  • Miscellany (by Roy Wilkinson)
  • Indian Why Stories
  • Teaching Mathematics
  • An English Manual for the Elementary School

My box from A Child's Dream Come True came yesterday and I had a few books in there, too, that I wanted to make notes on. They were Liputto and Puck the Gnome. I read them both yesterday and there's a considerable difference between the two. Liputto is comical but gentler, and would be a good intro to the first math unit where math gnomes are mentioned, in First Grade. If your child is not familiar with gnomes. Puck the Gnome is deeper, begins somewhat harshly but ends beautifully with a trip up to the surface of the earth and Puck discovering the great love that humans share for one another. Another gnome reports back to the king his viewings of a happy farmer (who lovingly tends for the soil and cares for the animals) and the angry farmer (who considers both the animals and the soil to be a burden). For this reason, I think it would be a good choice for Third Grade.

June 7 - We had a tremendous amount of success yesterday. Steve noticed it as soon as he got home, Natalie was better-behaved, I was more relaxed. He ate dinner with her and tucked her in with no problems. She fell asleep shortly after 8 pm and woke up this morning at 8:15 am. wonderful! Rescue Remedy, the Carnation Instant Breakfast shakes, removing the pressure of eating with the family (although who knows why this is stressful -- but it may have to do with her just being tired and cranky in the mornings because today she had her milkshake then ate two bowls of cereal and had a small cup of juice!), being moved to another room when she was starting to lose control, the timer (I got a digital one that clips to my jeans pocket) and the sense that I had a plan, all of that helped. My inner work reading right now is Difficult Children: There is No Such Thing which arrived yesterday also. It's amazing how different his perspective is from traditional education (well, I expected that) but he actually gives concrete examples of the perspective from which you should view your child. A lot of it is based on the idea that your children came down from Heaven with a spirit and a will and a purpose for being there -- which is what called them out of Heaven, they weren't able to achieve what they wanted there -- and they chose you for their parent. You are their advocate and you have to believe that they are the way they are because it is part of the larger plan. Instead of the question in Therapy being "what's wrong with me that I am this way?" it should be "what does my angel want from me?" The qualities of your character are all there because you need them to handle the challenges you will be faced with later in life. He's talking mostly to parents whose children have been labeled by the school system as "difficult" and our society has made people feel that they aren't really fit to be parents, that it's a job for the experts, and since they are already a little insecure of their ability to parent, they fall for the criticism hook line and sinker. He says that Maria Montessori shared a lot of Steiner's views about the incarnating child -- and actually used the same language -- but those parts of her writings are rarely quoted. But they both believe that if you think of the child as belonging to you and a product of you, and you work to mold them into something that reflects well on you, wrapping all your pride up in it, and try to control them, you are killing their personality. You have to think about it more like, this child is a guest in my home and my world and I am a host. If they feel alien and like they don't belong, it is my job to soothe and comfort them and help them to adjust. I have to reach out to them and make them feel safe and welcome. This is the job of all parents and teachers.

Here's a meditative verse Steiner gave the teachers at the first Waldorf school in 1920:

      From the spiritual world
        this child has come to you.
      You are to solve his riddle,
        from day to day, from hour to hour.

You aren't letting your child just raise themselves, running wild -- and Henning Kohler speaks out very strongly against anti-education and un-schooling. The answer is the curriculum of the Steiner school. The Waldorf curriculum is based on the age of the child and is what's designed to meet the child's developmental needs at each step of the way. It's not a science, it's an art. The part I'm really trying to learn more about is pedagogical stories to help me learn to tell stories which will help her work her way through her struggles. In Loving Authority: Building Up, Not Tearing Down, a workshop by Penni Sparks (who is amazing by the way), she was talking to a man whose daughter used to bite herself to get attention. And she starts telling a story that she thought he could use at bedtime and it just flowed out of her and I thought, I want to be able to do that! Anyway, I did get a book on pedagogical stories from Bob & Nancy's so let's open up today's box and see what's inside.

Looks like this is the spiral-bound box! We have

  • In the Light of a Child - beautiful verses which reflect the changes going on in Nature during each week of the year (Northern and Southern Hemispheres both), these would be a good morning verse for a child a little older than preschool, maybe Kindergarten, to help you notice the subtle differences from one week to the next as you take your Nature walks
  • A Steiner-Waldorf Mathematic Resource
  • Path of Discovery 4
  • The Healing Art of Eurythmy - this book is incredible, very intense, I'm emerging from it blinking in the sunlight having read it cover to cover and obviously will be going back to it again. she gives lots of very specific eurythmy treatments for different health and emotional problems (including asthma, arthritis, depression and abuse, diabetes, problems with the digestive system, and so on) but there are not actual pictures of any of the eurythmy movements so if you don't know eurythmy, this is not the book to start with. but if you have learned some movements and want to delve deeper into the art, this is an amazing book. by the way, Steiner apparently said that people from ages 3 to 80 should do eurythmy, so feel free to explore it with your children or just for yourself
  • From Nature Stories to Natural Science - good overview, but very basic, I'm sure if you bought this you'd end up buying a lot of other resources too to help you teach science but it does give a good idea of how the curriculum unfolds from one grade level to another
  • The Lonely Lake/Der Einsame See
  • Phonic Rhyme Time - wow! amazing resource, very thorough. a definite must for the First Grade curriculum. really well organized, too. she says that a lot of damage can be done by casually choosing the verses used to learn each phonetic sound, where it may turn out that they contain too many other sounds or contain sounds which are too similar to the one which is to be learned, and these verses are chosen especially carefully. I believe she designed nearly all of them herself after careful study. there's some good background information, too, I think this book is definitely accessible to the homeschooling parent

Nancy does such a good job of packing these. She arranged the books by size and shape and grouped them into the boxes that way so nothing is getting bent with a big book on top of a little one, and wrapped each package with several layers of bubble wrap taped securely shut. In fact, they're a little hard to open! :-)

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I just got a phone call from one of the naturalists at the park system here and we had a great talk. She did a program on ochre which I attended last year and she's doing one again so I tried to sign up for it but it's only for 6 - 9 year olds. Not fair! Anyway, I told her that I wanted it because I wanted to learn more so I could do it for homeschooling and she told me that she's actually the one who does all the programs around here on earth paints, natural dyes, natural inks and so on. So we're going to get together at her house and she'll give me the lowdown on all of it. And then I can write an article for the website! So that'll be a fun new project.

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Today we had a fabulous school session. It lasted about an hour and a half. Leah participated for the first time through an entire lesson (she's done some activities with us but not really a "school" session before). We started with a story, the same one from yesterday (The Paper Princess Finds Her Way by Elisa Kleven), and then did some yoga. I used a book from the Insects unit, called Fly Like a Butterfly: Yoga for Children. We began with Tune In to Begin (page 4), then warmed up with Washing Machine (page 9) and Dryer (page 10). Finally, we did Butterfly (page 11) and I sang the song while they did the pose. It ends with the butterfly coming to rest and going to sleep, so it's a good conclusion. I thought that "being" butterflies would help them when it came time to model them. Sure enough, they remembered to put in wings -- I wasn't really sure what Leah would come up with -- although Natalie was the only one who also remembered to give her butterflies a body. I didn't put the butterfly nature table card up on the easel since translating a flat colorful picture into dark lumpy clay would have been really frustrating. Whereas making something with your body three-dimesionally, then creating it in a three-dimensional sculpture makes a lot more sense. And the yoga was a good bridge between the two activities, not to mention healthful in its own right. I think they could have gone on for much longer but I hadn't been sure, since we haven't done yoga for quite a while, so I had only planned those four poses. Finally, we got out the clay and everybody made a butterfly with their clay. Leah had never experienced clay before, and didn't really work too much with it, but Natalie was very focused and worked for about 40 minutes on hers, making a series of small butterflies and finally using all the clay on her paper (we worked off sheets of parchment paper) to make one large, elaborate, highly decorated butterfly. I took some pictures of her and she just looked so happy. So that was definitely a success. Tomorrow is beeswax modeling day so we'll be able to do another round of sculpure, this time adding the element of color. I can't wait! We are going to go to the park after dinner, since it is staying light outside so late and the kids are having a hard time falling asleep. That ought to wear them out! Sand sculpture is one of the art media I picked to work on in our daily schedule, but I think it's important to have a free play time at the beach as well as an Art day at the beach. Otherwise, she doesn't get the open-ended exploration time that she needs.

June 6 - Today during their outside play time, Natalie noticed that a bird had build its nest right under our deck, up high in the supports. She was very excited and stayed very quiet, watching. We decided to spread some bird seed on the ground by the nest so she and Leah each took a bag and dumped it out. Our other bird feeder was broken by a squirrel, so we had some extra seed on hand. In the afternoon, she had her crayon drawing day, with block beeswax crayons. We have a easel set up in the schoolroom on a large piece of tempered glass (I think it's glass) that was left at the house when the previous owners moved out. It's the kind of thing you put under your rolling office chair so it doesn't damage the carpet. It is the perfect surface for under the easel because it's clear (so it's unobstrusive), anything that spills on it can easily be wiped up, and it makes it clear to the children where the art supplies should stay. And they don't go wandering all over the room. The book we read before Art time was The Paper Princess Finds Her Way by Elisa Kleven, a story about an amazing journey on the wings of butterflies. This ties in nicely with the butterfly scene in Fairy Houses (one of the books in the Texture unit). The topic of the book is a good fit, too, about growing and changing as you get older and finding your way. Natalie needs some examples of that. We have implemented a pedagogical story recommended by Suzanne Down for children who are having behavior problems -- we are reading it every night, and it ties in especially well with our family starting to go to church again. It is by Thomas Berger, called The Little Troll. This book made me cry like a baby and I got so choked up the first time I read it to Natalie, that I could only whisper the end. If you have a child under the age of 9, you should definitely buy this book.

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For her drawing today, Natalie made a set of closed shapes to start (the paper doll, the dog, a foot) and then decorated the whole rest of the page with little short lines of each color of the crayon set. She made some lines within her shapes, for decoration, but never completely filled anything in. She really likes making a mark and then trying to figure out which crayon made it, holding them up to see if they match, and then making test lines to know for sure. At the very end, she made a large swooping line, going in and out around all the shapes she had made and sort of finishing off the piece. It looks nice. I mean, you can tell it is finished. She isn't doing the kind of drawing I've been trying to teach her, where she fills out her picture from bottom to top, following the shape of what she is drawing instead of working with outlines. We've been working on this since the Families unit! I have a nature table card with a butterfly on it that I think I will set on the easel tomorrow and we can make butterflies for the next seven days, in each medium. Then it will be interesting to compare her drawing next Tuesday with today's. I'll have to take a picture of it. I have been dying to do more Reggio blogging but I can't do an activity with her and also transcribe what she's saying and doing so I really need to find a tape recorder in order to move on to more sophisticated documentation. That is the absolute next must-have thing on the list of homeschool expenses. We were teasing wool yesterday and she was describing what it looked like and I was so frustrated because I couldn't write it down without taking my focus off the wool which destroys her focus, so it ruins the whole point of the quiet contemplative time. I do remember that she was amazed that they looked like angels and was very quiet and awed. She came up with some other descriptions too, like clouds and dandelion fluff and bunnies. It was a nice time. On the documentation front, I do know, because I'm carrying a timer now, that she colored for about 20 minutes in her Art time today and then got off into building with the crayons (their shape makes them very appealing to play with) for the last 10 minutes. 20 minutes is not the kind of concentration time that I want to see, I am striving for something more focused and richer. That's the Reggio influence. We'll see how tomorrow goes -- that is clay day. I'm sure now that we're looking at them, we will see more and more butterflies around; probably will see some at the farm today when we go do pick up our produce. She also has a set of dress-up butterfly wings; it will be interesting to see if she starts playing with them more and more as we explore the topic.

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My six boxes from Bob & Nancy's Bookshop arrived today! I'm so excited. I asked her to break it up so it wouldn't be too overwhelming and I could spread it out and enjoy it. So I am opening one box each day. Today was the Spiritual Syllabus box. Here's what was in it

  • The Fables of Aesop - second grade, a very cheap copy but packed with stories, nice illustrations, a good buy! although there are bound to be a zillion copies of Aesop's Fables at your local library, this makes a good backbone to the unit and the others can supplement, I think I will use it when I write 2nd grade fables
  • Take Time: Movement exercises for parents, teachers and therapists of children with difficulties in speaking, reading, writing and spelling - WONDERFUL book which I am going to recommend to anyone who has a child with a learning problem, it's a combination of traditional exercises and curative eurythmy, especially helpful is the way the book is organized, very easy to use, and the activities are designed to be fun but they are so carefully orchestrated you can tell a lot of thought and research went into it. it's really going to be one I turn to again and again

Now, on to the Spiritual Syllabus selections

  • A Children's Anthologia
  • Child Awake!
  • Logios
  • Lore of Life
  • Archios: Spirit of Number
  • Sacred Fauna
  • Sacred Flora
  • Grail of Beauty
  • The Golden Path
  • Hornes of Hermes
  • Journey to Numeria
  • The People Pool
  • Magic Mangrove Seed
  • House of 3 Froggies

I don't have any reviews for the last set, yet, they are still in their shrink-wrap. I am especially interested in the Magic Mangrove Seed (a graded reader) and House of 3 Froggies (health and nutrition). I'll post some thoughts later on.

June 5 - We were able to go to Children's Day on the Farm yesterday. I really enjoyed it. We petted oxen, horses, and goats; listened to a live music performance and saw a puppet show; Natalie and Leah had their faces painted; and Natalie got a pony ride. The girls also took turns using an old fashioned corn picking machine. You turn a crank which gets the machine going and then drop a dried ear of corn in the top (husk removed). The wheel just picks all the individual kernals of corn off the cob and dumps them down into a bucket underneath and the cob shoots out the end. It was a blast. Shortly after we got home (about a minute and a half) it began to rain, so we timed our exit perfectly. What else has been going on here? Becca is walking. Not just when you hold out your hands and coax her (she took her first steps on Preakness Day) but all on her own, for fun. That's a big step! No pun intended. Our wool is dry (took several days) but our carders aren't here yet so Natalie and I are going to start teasing some of it. I have to remember to set some aside untouched, so that at the end we have a display of all the stages in the process and I can set up a little area in our living room about it. I need to start tape recording some of our conversations together as we work on the wool so that I have some dialogue to include in the display. What else is new? I just am on the edge of my seat waiting for my boxes from Bob & Nancy's to get here. Steve filled another wall of my office with shelving yesterday. I think this will actually be the first time in my life I will have enough room for my books. I remember as a child that I had to double them up on the shelves and it made me nuts because I couldn't see what was in the back row. I swore that someday I would have floor to ceiling bookshelves covering walls and walls, so I could see every book and that my children would NEVER have to give away a book if they didn't want to, just to make more room. I always hated culling my collection and I threw out many many books that I wish I still had today. I have the last three newsletters to write for the Texture unit -- that has been very interesting for me. I hope that people realize how much room for flexibility there is in the preschool curriculum and I hope that no one is biting their nails because they are "behind" or aren't doing it properly. Hopefully, showing the steps between the initial overview planning (the unit), the actual weekly planning (the newsletters) and the implementation (the blog) will help people see that I only use about 20% of my ideas and that they can feel free to do the same. It's all about just relaxing and enjoying your children. If there's a block of time, it's nice to have some ideas already lined up, but if it seems like you should take a day or two off because someone is sick, do it! Don't even think twice. Or if you want to just go down to the beach and play in the sand, that's a wonderful activity. It doesn't have to be Day One through Day One Hundred Eighty, bam bam bam. The curriculum is ideas. Use them as you like.

* * * * *

Natalie is totally off. There's just no other word for it. She's not herself. We are really struggling with her. My husband is even considering taking a few days off from work to stay home and help me with her. We can't tell if it's a normal four year old thing, pushing the boundaries, or if she's really in total internal turmoil due to the move and my stress levels. He's at the store now getting some Rescue Remedy. Basically, she's refusing to eat all of her meals, she won't go to sleep at night, and she'll do anything to get attention. Including regressing in her potty training. I know that to some degree this is normal but this child seems extremely stressed out to me. So here are the things we are doing to try to diffuse the situation:

  • first, she will be eating her meals just with me, not her sisters, to reduce the showing off and attention-getting behavior
  • we will have a rigid daily schedule, instead of a flexible rhythm, where meals and naps will be at the exact same times from day to day, and I will carry a timer with me and we'll move on to the next thing when it dings
  • when she misbehaves (throwing her food on the floor, yelling, etc.) we will simply say "That's Finished" and move her to another room where she will get no attention, then I can come back to her and spend time with her one on one later
  • school will become just music & movement and art time and we will focus on doing art every day therapeutically, with a different medium each day, and to give her other sources of expression besides power struggles. yoga should also help.
  • I will lay her clothes out for her each night so that she can get dressed in the morning with the sense that we have a plan and we are in charge
  • she'll be put on Bach's Rescue Remedy and any other flower essences as needed, I have to do some research there
  • she will get Carnation Instant Breakfasts for breakfast and snack and the one food she will eat (Stouffer's Meat Lasagna) for lunch; dinner we will have as a family but if she refuses to eat it, at least she will have gotten some calories and nutrients for the day

I know that there is a lot of other strategies we can implement and they all have to do with love and not control -- this list may sound very harsh -- and I have a lot of Waldorf books on the way which should serve as a great source of help but this is the outline of our plan. I know that the Waldorf thing to do is to picture your child before you go to bed each night and send your question up to her guardian angel. You are supposed to wake in the morning with a fresh perspective. Steve is saying that she needs to go to a psychologist, I'm telling him that she's just a normal little girl who is trying to find out what the boundaries are and make sure the world is a safe and secure, predictable place after all these moves (FIVE in just 12 months). My heart really goes out to her. We have blessings and morning and evening verses, one on one time during the day, and cuddling at naptime. It's not like I've shoved her in a closet. But she just seems so unhappy and lost. I hope we can find out how to do what's best. But if I'm blogging somewhat erratically, that will be the cause. Right now, I'm so exhausted at the end of the day with trying to fill her emotional needs, get us on a good rhythm, give the other children some attention too so she's not just running the show, that Steve is taking over as soon as he gets home from work and we're all getting so worn out. We just have to figure out how to be 30 or 40 steps ahead of her so that she knows that we are in charge, and gets the security from that, but still has all the room she needs to grow and develop and be a person. We are trying to give her structure to ensure her success and not just squish her down. Parenting is so complicated. I'm really hoping that I can use Reading Children's Drawings: The Person, House and Tree Motifs by Audrey McAllen to analyze some of the work that she does at art time and try to get a better handle on what may be going on with her inside. I also may purchase Working with Anxious, Nervous and Depressed Children: A Spiritual Perspective to Guide Parents by Henning Kohler to help; I already bought his book Difficult Children: There is No Such Thing but it hasn't arrived yet. I'll post my thoughts on what I find to be the most helpful resources.

* * * * *

11 pm. I just can't sleep. My mind is going around and around. Am I prepared for tomorrow? Can I parent calmly and with confidence? Can I use all my senses to hear Natalie's heart with my heart and know how to help her heal? I just re-formed the playroom, the space where she will go first thing in the morning to get dressed and start her day. This way she won't be immediately told to go back to bed and not wake her sisters, something that no doubt causes her to act up and be restless at the breakfast table (and may contribute to the not eating). The playroom space needs to be very calm in order for her to start her day calm, and to quiet the chaos within. Also, I removed some toys and set something out which should be interesting. "Activating" the space. The playroom is also the place where we plan to put her when she misbehaves. Steve says this is rewarding bad behavior. I say that the root of the bad behavior is wanting attention and putting her in a different part of the house takes attention away from her -- not what she wants -- so it's not actually a reward at all. Plus it gives her a chance to redirect her energy, whereas putting her in her room just means she will sit there and fume and it means that she won't sleep at night because of all the bad energy and negative associations with the space. We moved her in with Rebecca since she was saying she was so lonely and gave Leah a room by herself. Leah is perfectly fine with this; I hope it works for Natalie too. I can understand her being lonely, having shared a room with a sister for half her life and then we suddenly put her alone and say, look isn't this a privilege! Except it wasn't, for her. I'm going to reorganize the homeschool closet and move some of the other materials to lower shelves to that music & movement and art are the focus. When I look in the closet, I'm prepared. I would like to bring back handwork soon, though, because making things is a good use for the hands and gives direction to the will forces. It helps her see herself as someone who makes things, not just someone who breaks things. You always have to look at what they're getting in trouble for, I think, and see if it's their fault or your fault. Like when she and Leah were writing on the walls with their wooden toys (painted play kitchen food). Rhonda Kellogg -- an incredible researcher -- says that children have to draw and they will do whatever it takes to be able to do so. It's just the way they are wired. So if my kids are drawing on the walls, it means they are not getting enough drawing time in art. And I looked at it and thought, yes, that's true. The crayons and chalk were packed for the move and haven't come back out. No wonder. So chalk that one up to me -- it was my fault. I really hope that I can find a balance between reflection and staying up late at night worrying about my child and my parenting skills. :-) Time to go to bed.

* * * * *

Or not. Okay, I'm thinking two other things. Too much stimulation (we brought the TV back trying to use it as a parenting strategy to help her fall asleep -- I know, bad idea, but we were desperate!) and diet. Cut out TV all together, that's a no-brainer. I don't even know what I was thinking there. Just scrambling for ideas. Also, we need to start working on diet. Not just to give her the tecnical number of calories and nutrients but to stimulate her body to grow and heal properly through food. What to do there? I have to get back out The Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book and try to focus on the seven grains a week. Even if she's not eating a lot, I can give her that variety and that will be very strengthening to her. Let's see, where are they? Oh, yes, I posted it to the Group a while ago.

    Sunday - Sun - Wheat
    Monday - Moon - Rice
    Tuesday - Mars - Barley
    Wednesday - Mercury - Millet
    Thursday - Jupiter - Rye
    Friday - Venus - Oats
    Saturday - Saturn - Corn

Each grain works on the body in a different way. I wonder what else I can do? I can't really cut out dairy and meat since it's all she will eat. I know some people say that is helpful though. Cleansing the body and spirit... anyone have good ideas? Appropriate for this age? I'm always open to suggestions. Movement options include yoga and eurythmy. For art, I'm thinking a plan like this

  • painting day - Monday
  • crayon drawing - Tuesday
  • clay - Wednesday
  • beeswax modeling - Thursday
  • collage - Friday
  • chalk drawing - Saturday
  • sand sculpture - Sunday

What else can I do?
I can sleep. A good night's sleep will help everyone. Wish me luck for tomorrow!

June 2 - Natalie's bathing suit came today but since she's been so sick (her fever last night was 102.2) we weren't able to go to the beach. So we sat in the back yard with our basin and a hose and washed our wool. She got to try out her new suit and I could get her back inside as soon as I felt she needed to rest. We used Dawn dishwashing liquid and cold water. A LOT of cold water. I set up our little washing station in the vegetable garden because I figured a little sheep manure wouldn't hurt the plants. It was a lot of fun and the perfect choice for today. We have been waiting for a long while to wash that wool (donated by a WC member -- thank you!). I am hoping our hand carders arrive soon. I didn't want to start the process of working with the wool if there would be a long delay in the middle before I was ready for the next part. We laid it on the deck on a towel to dry but a gigantic rainstorm just came through here so it is in the bathtub. Amazing how much water the wool will hold. Now that the rain is ending we can go jump in puddles (Leah got a new pair of rain boots yesterday -- you guessed it, June 1st is when I get my summer clothing budget -- and she's very excited about them). Natalie helped me make Basil Butter this afternoon which distracted her from the thunder and lightning so we'll have that with corn on the cob and roasted chicken for dinner. In other news, I just opened up my new Store to the world by advertising it on the Group. How exciting! I hope to be able to carry a wide range of curriculum support materials in addition to the curriculum that I offer for sale, so that people can find everything they need in one place. I was especially adamant about finding the main lesson books with onion skin paper in between the pages; they are supposed to be the best. Nothing but the best for my customers. :-) And for my family, too, because obviously everything I carry will be things that I myself purchase when my kids get older.

June 1 - Natalie spent the whole morning throwing up. So I guess she's sick! I always spend so much time doing lesson planning... and I don't think there has ever been a day in which we did exactly what was planned. That's okay, because constantly churning out ideas keeps me flexible (I hope) and when there are sudden blank spots I'm likely to have a project or two stashed away. Our hand carders from A Child's Dream Come True are on the way, so Natalie can spend the next few days recuperating and playing with wool which should be very soothing. I only hope she's feeling better by Sunday which is Children's Day on the Farm, one of our favorite events to go to as a family each year. I picked a great book to go along with it, called I Had a Cat. Of course, we can read the book without going to the event... but it would be better the way I planned it. :-)

hmmm... so much for that flexibility I was talking about!

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