Tuesday, July 15, 2014

a little pottery

I am sharing a little pottery with you today. A little of the lots (and lots) the kids dreamed up and made all on their own (with a little support from the fabulous staff at the kids' pottery studio).

Below, a bowl (Lala), lion fountain (Finn Luca), bowl (Lala), random assortment (both kids), marble run (seriously! Finn Luca), whistle (it really works! Finn Luca), cat (Lala).  Not pictured is another stack of bowls, some useful and some unique plates, a fairy fountain, an elf bath, a hand plane (yup), a saw, and a massive collection of ceramic food, and a number of other items.

Can you imagine your first introduction to clay being unlimited? Dreamy (and prolific)!

Monday, July 14, 2014

a new purse for mamma

That is a big statement...a new bag for mamma. Two reasons; 1) I have happily been using my Tom Bihn on and off for maybe 20 years. It's timeless, really. I am sure it will be on again some time in the future, but for now I needed a little something feminine and fresh. 2) I sewed it myself, which meant I got sewing time. Time to sew. Time completely unrelated to the kids. (Thank you, Mike!) The (free) pattern for the bag is the April Bag.

I love it. It is just the right size. It feels nice with its solid straps and lining, and I love the fabric I used. I purchased the bird fabric new, over a year ago, with a bag in mind, but never got around to sewing anything. I believe it is Oh Deer! fabric by Moda.  The lining is leftovers from these pants I made Lala (which are already too short. She and I just chose some new fabric to make longer, replacement ruffle cuffs for them!)

Friday, July 4, 2014

right now...

Right now...

I am:
  • Enjoying a break, but missing you, too. (I heard Landslide again. I think that song becomes truer every time I hear it.)
  • Getting a lot done, but realizing the list never seems to get shorter. Trying to distinguish the rocks from the sand.
  • Missing taking photographs. And writing. And sewing for pleasure. Realizing the me things I haven't been doing.
  • Feeling a little lighter and perkier with a hair cut.
  • Feeling grateful.

You are:
  • Seeming so much bigger and more independent, but still little enough to be absolutely exhausted at the end of all day summer camp.
  • Loving, needing, wanting, whining for shop time with dada.
  • Falling out of the lower bed bunk, now that it has no railing.
  • Disliking hearing "no," but saying it oh so clearly.
  • Wearing through your jeans at an alarming rate.
  • Avoiding the camera.
  • Frequently grinning.

You are:
  • Seeking independence and uniqueness, but quick to come back for comfort.
  • Maturing emotionally.
  • Loving 4-H.
  • Giggly.
  • Excelling at swimming.
  • Often loyal.
  • Still spirited.
  • Still loving music and learning the piano beautifully.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

planning for 4th and 1st grades

Sprouting sunflower

After a full year of homeschooling 2 children and trying to describe how we homeschool while not applying too many labels, I am currently (for this may change) describing us as Waldorf inspired child-interest learners. We are not unschoolers. I like to make a plan and have a rhythm. I want to bring as much of the beauty and child-developmentally appropriate lessons of Waldorf to our family, but I have learned that pushing my own agenda on my children doesn't work, so if I can pull this off with consideration to their interests, we are all happier.

This year, after much reading and much thought, I am shaping my own curriculum plan. This feels most comfortable for me for a number of reasons.

1) I am pulling from multiple resources already.
2) I need the flexibility my own plan provides. Trying to stick to someone else's plan makes me anxious.
3) I can plan around charter classes and activities, and
4) I can tailor what I am teaching to meet both kids.

Here are some of the key resources I am using this summer as I plan:
  • Waldorf Inspirations. (It helps me a lot that they are in California, as 4th dives into local geography and history!)
  • The WaldorfHomeEducators Yahoo! Group. (Marsha Johnson has an incredible, free Files section.)
  • Waldorf Essentials. I have a lifetime membership to the Thinking Feeling Willing program, which covers all aspects of Waldorf homeschooling, so I will always look to this for support and connection. The TFW program helps me with skills, support, and inner work as the parent and teacher. I won't be using Waldorf Essentials curriculum so heavily this year, at least for 4th. While it is a lovely Waldorf curriculum, in 3rd, I was adapting so much to fit our family and the requirements of our charter, so I was supplementing. In general, I start to feel anxious that I am missing things if I am not following a book as laid out before me.  I read through both 1st and 4th and can certainly fall back on it as necessary. I call it my backbone. I plan to use 1st more consistently than 4th.
  • Christopherus. I have their Curriculum Overview for Homeschoolers, From Nature to Natural Science, and Living Language guides, all of which have been helpful in my planning for both grades. 
  • Oak Meadow. I have both 1st and 4th. I am not sure how much I will use 1st. I prefer Waldorf Essentials' stories and layout for letter introduction. I do like being able to pull project ideas from OM and I like having it to refer to, especially for 4th. It is most in line with mainstream schools, which helps me since we school through a charter.
  • Bedtime Math
  • Of course, loads of other supplemental books. I have an ongoing resource list, by grade, as well as by subject, specific topic, and for me as parent-teacher.
I am uncertain about whether or not we will use Life of Fred for additional math.  We all like it, but by the end of the year, it felt like one more thing we had to do. (For those interested, it is math, with other subject blended in, in story form. There are a number of God references, though, and as a secular family, those seem unnecessary.) I am not incorporating it into my planning, but I may assign it as reading for Lala. (Finnian will begin learning to read this year.)

This summer, I have approached planning a little differently, after a very stressed time planning last summer. By the time I put a plan in place last summer, I also made a list for myself of what the criticial things were that I needed to do to begin planning next time around. As a result, I have taken some time, created a 6-month inventory for each of us (needs, goals, and an intention), and made several calendars for myself. This year, I am using the computer (Evernote, Word, and Outlook) to do my planning. Editing is easier and creating summaries for our charter will be easier than by hand, although I do like my hardcopy, so I will be printing!

The calendars are all August 2014-2015 and are as follows:
  1. Our overall calendar (my Outlook) with appointments, repeating events, holidays, celebrations, etc.
  2. An overall calendar showing, each month, what blocks each child will cover.
  3. A more detailed calendar for each child, with each month showing all subjects (incorporating Common Core for our charter, as well as Waldorf). So two, one for Lala, one for Finnian.
  4. A more detailed calendar for each month, which includes both children, and details verses, songs, music to be taught, specifics of what I want to cover for each block the children have that month, assigned reading, and lists the resources I plan to use that month. (I am still fleshing this one out.)
Month by month, I will make adjustments and fill in any gaps. Now I need to set it all aside and just start reading all the materials I want to teach them or want them to read!

Friday, June 13, 2014

looking back; kindy and 3rd

I swear, I blinked and the school year went by. Actually, I blinked because wasn't Lala just graduating kindergarten? Now, here we are with a girl finishing 3rd (and I still think how big she is and that I will look back and realize how little she still is) and her little brother is now through his kindergarten year! What a different kind of kindergarten he experienced! No "100th day of school" celebrations, no gift for the teacher at the end of the year, but no pressure to read yet, either. With homeschooling there doesn't have to be that final day of school pressure, so at the grocery store the other day, a chatty cashier asked the kids about school and when I said we were done for the year, Finnian looks at me and said "Mamma? Kindergarten is over?" with big, amazed eyes. A first grader. (My heart is half bursting with pride and half with sorrow as I realize my baby isn't so much of a baby anymore.)

Looking back, this was an incredible year. It was my first teaching two kids at home. (I hadn't realized that even the little bit that Finnian was at preschool last year was so helpful for one on one time with Lala.) It is hard to balance three personalities, temperaments, and sets of needs when we are together all day, but we did it and I feel good, overall, about how far we have come. There are things we missed, but I think they will come, with time.

Here are the main posts from our year. There were many, in between, which can be found by clicking the homeschooling link in the topic sidebar.

My first post, my plan
The first two weeks
Through the first trimester of school
A day in the life

To wrap it all up...

This year for kindy and 3rd grade, I did ultimately branch out on my own a bit. I used Waldorf Essentials as my backbone curriculum for both kids. I did not have a copy of Oak Meadow for kindy but for 3rd, I read through Oak Meadow before the school year and several times throughout, just to look for additional ideas. Oddly, each time I did, I realized we had already done a number of the additional activities or suggestions described.

For 3rd I strayed a bit by building up the farming as a main theme through the year. While we did study Old Testament, I didn't feel right making it the central theme of our entire year. The times it touched us both the most deeply were the stories directly related to the Jewish festivals that I had chosen to celebrate throughout the year. I absolutely love celebratory anchors throughout the year and as someone who is secular, the spiritual history of some of these celebrations resonated with me more than I anticipated.

Math studies included time, measurement, and the four processes. We are heading into summer continuing to practice multiplication. (Has anyone else found themselves singing the four times table to the Lonely Goatherd song from The Sound of Music?)

Since I began homeschooling, I have been adding to a growing list of resources for each grade, special subjects, topic studies, parenting, and my own spiritual growth. Here are the resources that I thought were essential to our approach to 3rd grade.

  • The Family Treasury of Jewish Holidays by Malka Drucker*
  •  Farmer Boy (and any others in the Little House on the Prairie series) by Laura Ingalls Wilder. (Farmer Boy; we skipped the first few chapters about the teacher being beaten.)
  • All of a Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor
  • A Farm Through Time, DK Learning, illustrated by Eric Thomas and written by Angela Wilkes
  • Building Our House, by Jonathan Bean
  • the buildings series by David Macaulay
  • Any of the Pearl series Jewish holidays picture books by Jane Breskin Zalben
  • A Pioneer Sampler by Barbara Greenwood
  • Math in the Garden, from the Lawrence Hall of Science
  • Reader’s Digest, Back to Basics
  • And There Was Light by Jakob Streit (book 1)
  • Journey to the Promised Land by Jakob Streit (book 2)
  • We Will Build a Temple by Jakob Streit (book 3)
  • OR instead of the Jakob Streit books, use a story Bible or Torah. I used one described below, but Pear Buck's is often recommended.
  •  Kirsten series from American Girl books (I wasn't sure I would like these, but they were the perfect books to begin the idea of "assigning" reading to Lala.)
I should comment that, while I did include the Jakob Streit books, and we did read the first one, and they are frequently recommended for Old Testament stories, Lala didn't love them. It was becoming a battle. At the big annual white elephant sale I attend, I found a brand new copy of a DK picture story Bible, and this did the trick for re-engaging us in the stories again.

For kindy, I used the stories from Waldorf Essentials and then toned down and made more gentle many of the topics Lala was also doing. Finnian was enthusiastically engaged! For our charter, I did have to introduce printing a bit sooner than I would have liked and as a result, wish I had consulted some of the Waldorf first grade material to approach it more beautifully. I will do so in first, as planned, and think Finn Luca will still gain plenty. His progress toward reading and understanding phonics happened naturally and clearly this year, without pushing. I might describe math in a similar way as I did printing, although this just sort of flowed out of him more naturally. There was even a stretch during the year when he would say things like "Mamma? 5+2 is 7."

With both kids, we read Life of Fred. Both loved it, until a point. I am not sure whether or not I will continue with Life of Fred. It is a fun, engaging way to learn math, yet it veered us off track a number of times, so in an effort to complete our "Fred" work, sometimes I ended up feeling as though perhaps I let other, more important math tasks slide. I also found so many references to God and prayer unnecessary.

Both kids participated in gymnastics the latter half of the year. I should not have pushed the final session with Finnian. He wasn't interested in the arrangement we had set-up. We have a gym that allows "free play" use of the gym, supervised by coaches, during certain hours and that is what Finnian would have loved. The class the kids were in was a bit too formal for him and his behavior, unfortunately, reflected this.

Both kids also participated in 4-H this year, which perhaps, was another golden highlight for us. (The 4 Hs stand for head, heart, hands, and health. Everyone who is familiar with Waldorf knows that there is a strong belief that every child should learn through their head, heart, and hands, so already there is a sweet tie of 4-H to our Waldorf-ish style.) The kids were very happily engaged with two projects this 4-H year. One about corn (which tied in sweetly to our farming studies) and a citizenship project, helping restore and maintain natural space tied to park land in our urban neighborhood.

Additionally this year, we did a lot of hands-on activities, including several building projects (the biggest of which are the hand planes the kids are just finishing up with Mike). We also spent time consistently at a local farm, watching it change through the seasons, and engaging with farming activities each time we visited.

And with that, I begin to plan for the year ahead. Oy.

Welcome, summer.


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