Thursday, September 25, 2014

the first month, 1 and 4

We have now rolled right through the first month of the school year! Since we school through a charter, our first day was designated for us (more or less) and we began in mid-August. We have had an incredible start to the school year!

For the nuts and bolts of it, we have been busy doing a variety of activities. Both kids have been doing swim lessons and we have done some family swim sessions. The kids are also in a theater games class, which has been a lovely success and includes 4 other kids they adore. We have been doing regular cooperative activities with friends, plenty of activities outside, weekly classes have begun through their charter, and 4-H projects have begun now, with both kids in projects Endangered Species, Environmental Stewardship (a restoration project they were part of last year as well), and Amateur Naturalist (a project I am co-leading). Lala is additionally in a California History project, which will dovetail beautifully with 4th grade local and native studies. (She missed the first meeting due to being sick.) She's also taking piano lessons.

We go for a walk and have verses, songs, and Brain Gym exercises that we do daily. We have just shifted all this into a circle time that includes recorder again, at the kids' request! (We abandoned it last year after too many fusses.) And we are slowly, but successfully building  baking, handwork, form drawing, and arts back into our days/weeks.

It sounds like a lot, but most weeks we have 2 weekdays during which we can be fully home or take a field trip.

 Above, thank you notes. (She didn't have to be reminded or asked. She happily and excitedly did them on her own.) Below, the start of the neighborhood map project.


Finn Luca has begun the year with a toned down geography lesson to dovetail with Lala's lessons, and with a block of math (the quality of numbers). I am able to push him and/or back off in a way I simply didn't know to do with Lala when she was his age (not to mention I wasn't homeschooling when she was this age), so we do lots of games and living for learning, and he still gets lots of play time. He's still smiley and happy and sweet, and is quite independent (and yes, tall) for his age...until he's had his fill and then he pulls mamma or dada in close.

(Above, view from a 4-H hike. In the foreground, Huckleberry plants. Photo by Lala.) Below, learning about and writing about some of the plants encountered on the above hike.

 Above and below, Grasshopper Math from Games for Math by Peggy Kaye. One of three Peggy Kaye books that I borrowed for so long from the charter library that I finally bought my own copies.
Lala has begun the year with a geography block. She measured our property and our house, did some math and drew a "plan" of those. She mapped the neighborhood, added a grid, used it to do a treasure hunt. She's learned about latitude, longitude, the equator, prime meridian, and did a "who lives here?" treasure hunt of the world. She's been writing stories, copying song lyrics, reading, reading, reading.
I guess what I am saying is...oh my goodness, the change and progress has been amazing. While we still make plenty of time for her to play, she's now able to stay and finish her work when Finn Luca is excused. In some subjects, she asks for more work. To warm this home teacher mamma's heart "Fourth grade is fun!" She is still my sweet, sensitive, attached girl, sometimes comfortable using her wings on her own, sometimes staying close. She's excelled at swimming to the point that her ability exceeds her comfort, so she's continuing to practice understanding fears and working to tackle the ones worth tackling. I am continuing to practice staying connected (to both kids).

 Above, homemade sushi for lunch, always with Lala's baby in attendance. People often think this doll is real. And below "Mamma! Get ready for the best show in the world!"
Even though I am teaching in blocks, we are doing all subjects regularly, because that's just part of life (or where I think we need a little extra work/attention). Math, science, writing all happen as fun activities or just naturally blended with or pulled from other activities we are doing.

 Above, colorful milk experiment. Below, Finn Luca's lemonade stand. This was amazing...I came home from an errand to find Finnian sitting on the front walk as seen below. Mike, who was sick, was laying behind him "supervising." Apparently, Finnian, who is a budding entrepreneur, took it upon himself to make lemonade all on his own (you do not want to know how much sugar I discovered he had used), asked for help with spelling and wrote his own sign, got some cups and set up shop. Unfortunately, we live on a less-than-busy street, so the only buyers were us, but I was impressed with my little self starter. Any local friends on busy streets want to coordinate and help our kids set up a stand together?

All in all, a motivating, joyful, exciting start to our year, one in which I can tell is a shift year. I am trying to connect and enjoy it all.

Such days to be treasured.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

so lucky

F: "Mamma? You are so lucky to have me."
Me: "Yes! I am so lucky to have you!" (Picture me smiling.)
F: "And you are so lucky to have Lala, too." (Only he doesn't call her Lala.)
Me: "I am so lucky to have Lala, too."
F: "You are lucky to have a boy and a girl, not a girl and girl or a boy and a boy."
Me: "I would be lucky if I had 2 girls or 2 boys."
F: "Yes. You would be lucky if you just had 1 child. Some people can't have kids."
Me: "Yes, you are right. I am very lucky."

Well said, little brown mouse. I am very lucky. Thank you for reminding me on the very day I am feeling a bit of bittersweet melancholy about how fast this is all going and that there seems to be new babies all around and not right here with us. You remind, right to my core, that I need to treasure what  and who is right here with me.

Here are some images from the day yesterday.
(Mike worked from home while we had a semi-normal homeschool day, then we went roller skating, (which was a months-long promised activity) and out to dinner.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

oh, lala

Oh, Lala. What to say? Today you are 10. T.E.N. Double digits. An entire decade has passed since your squirmy, strong, chubby, pink little body came wailing (and soon after, smiling) into this world at 10:31 pm, just a few hours before you were scheduled to be induced. Well past your due date, arriving in your own time, just as you do now, too. 

I wonder everyday. I wonder where the years have gone, the days have gone. I wonder how you have grown into this beautiful, amazing, now-big kid, who is still ever-so-young at heart. I wonder how you will continue to grow, and I hope. I hope good, healthy things for you. I hope love and strength, spirit, confidence, and joy for you. And I hope I haven't screwed up too much so far.

This year....oh my have you grown and changed. You are to my shoulder in height now, your hair has never been this long. You have more freckles, long legs, and I am guessing big physical changes will be upon us soon, although for now, you are all child. The heart of childhood.

Last week, you told me that 8 to 9 felt much bigger and harder than 9 to 10. Funny, I have to keep smiling and encouraging this positivity, because to me, 10 feels so much bigger, and I feel a little stuck with how to embrace this. You are through the hardness and melancholy of the 9 year change. You are at peace with this, but still so you, and as dada noticed, still possessing such a deep, rich, and lively imagination.

I love you so very, very much, just as you are. You are teaching me to notice, embrace, change, and understand so many things about myself. You make me a better person.

Happy birthday, sweet Lala bug!

For Lala's birthday, we had a party this year. We don't do parties often, but a pioneer themed party was requested and seemed just right. 

Both kids were tired leading up to the party, but were helpful despite this and handled themselves beautifully throughout the party, including everyone, which was wonderful as the group was a mix of friends, none of whom know each other.  (5 girl friends and their younger siblings. The group included dear friends in town from Alaska and dear friends in town from about 4 hours away.) 

Mike had gotten elaborate and made a horse (built onto a saw horse) and a wagon (which I thought was going to be hoops over the sandbox with a canvas cover, but was actually its own elaborate thing) and was finishing just as the first guests arrived, so he was exhausted, but it was all a huge hit. (What girl can really say she got a horse for her birthday!?)

Each child got their party favor at the start of the party; a tin pail with popping corn on the cob, a bandana, and pennies. The pennies could be spent at the "General Store," where Finnian was fabulous at selling candy and pickles. We had corn husk doll making, button necklace making, bobbing for apples (which moved into clothes washing with the wash board), and butter making. And the cake was made in the dutch over over coals. I don't have many photos to show for it, because I was busy with the kids and didn't really have time to snap many pictures. It was a success, though. Everyone had a great time.

Monday, September 8, 2014

a little surprise, a little adventure, a little camping, a little sand

We spent a lovely weekend down the coast, camping and celebrating the birthday of our dear friend, J.  The party was a beautiful surprise, hosted by her husband, and I think she had a great time. We had fun visiting, enjoying the beach, and trying to stay on the down-low until the party. (The goofy part of the adventure was seeing J on the beach before the surprise, having to pack our stuff and bolt, before she saw us!)

Monday, August 25, 2014

and so we begin again ~ 4th and 1st

And so we begin again, this time, 4th grade and 1st grade. Where did the year go? Really, I went forward, learning, loving, adventuring, growing, day by day, but somehow, those days added up so quickly and an entire year rolled over. The new school year is opening its arms to us now and we are ready.


This year, I have a 4th grader, still youthful, yet changed slightly, as she has crossed through the rough waters of the 9 year change. It was bumpy, yet amazing. I held her hand when she needed it, yet there were moments she swam strongly on her own. I didn't understand at the time, but now I do. This passage didn't mean the teen years were steps away. My girl is the same again, just with a view of the world expanding beyond me. We are on the banks again together now, nearing 10. It is so hard to believe. I hope to bring her the wonder and joy of 4th grade, freely, but I think this might be the age when it becomes so hard for parents to balance the idea that we are raising these little people to leave us one day soon. Soon comes closer everyday, doesn't it?

This year, I have a 1st grader. My baby is crossing the rainbow bridge from his early years into elementary school. In the Waldorf world, this little being is welcomed into "real" school by an older student, after crossing over or under a rainbow (silk or similar) and often offered a token, such as a flower. (See here.) In preparation, I told Finnian this story about a leaf, leaving the tree. At the surface, it was just a story, but Mike patted my shoulder and smiled, knowing my intention and meaning. My little guy is ready. In the past few months, he has lost his first 2 teeth, he has begun to show an interest in reading, he's tying his own shoes, he's grown inches, and he's so capable and eager to do things himself. 

As we begin the school year, I have already changed my plans since my last post (my first post on these grades). While the bulk of my post remains the same, I have decided that I will not be using Oak Meadow at all this year and I will be using very little of the Waldorf Essentials curricula. I will continue to use the Waldorf Essentials Thinking Feeling Willing program, which has been such a support to me. For teaching materials, I will be using Christopherus (beyond the resources I mentioned in my last post, I now also have materials for 4th and 1st grades) as well as the previously mentioned guides from Marsha Johnson of Waldorf Home Educators (Yahoo! group) and also the guides from Waldorf Inspirations, depending on the blocks I am teaching. I am struck by how much fabulous information is available at no or low cost, particularly if one wants to take the approach of making it "their own," which is ideal for each child and family when homeschooling.

A rainbow for Finnian, a California Quail for Lala. We had some, um, troubles with the chalkboard this morning, so Lala, once ready, came and helped re-do my drawings. The column is actually our first form drawing, the lines at the top and bottom representing the sky and earth, to teach Finnian where to start and end his vertical lines.

As the parent-teacher, I am excited this year (and nervous, too) at the idea of co-leading a project for the kids' homeschool 4-H club. In addition to this project, the kids will participate in several others, supporting their science and social studies needs, as well as getting them outside and physical. We are also going to be doing a small co-op with new, like minded friends. Kindred spirits. Lala is continuing piano lessons and as we did last year, the kids will be in classes through their charter. It sounds like a lot, but as we begin the year, I have mornings blocked off for home learning and one full weekday a week at home, with no obligations.

And so we began...

The start of the day was a bit bumpy, with a girl feeling left out of the rising grade welcome and sadness at her own move up a grade (growth and change are hard, just like for her mamma), but with love and empathy and a realization that we can go at our own pace, we moved on to a beautiful, smooth, wonderful day.

I asked the kids to paint what their image of the summer had been; something tangible, a feeling, a color representation, whatever. The top painting above is Finnian's. It is a green canoe in the water, with sun and rain. This was our time at the lake. The bottom picture above is mine. It is hands coming together, as we spent a lot of time with friends, family, and each other, making connections. Below are Lala's paintings. The top one is a yellow canoe, also from our time at the lake. After this, she wanted to paint again, so I asked her to paint something that represents what she wants to gain from the school year. She painted a butterfly, because she wants to learn about them during our animal block.
 4-H begins for the year and a proud girl turns in a complete record book from last year.


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