## Thursday, August 23, 2012

A few weeks ago I had a dream that Kitty Bill was in school, and he had brought home pages and pages of math homework.  It was so much work that it took him hours to complete it all.  There was even a page of long division!  No one in this house is focusing on long division at the moment, least of all Kitty Bill, so I don't know where that came from.  But then, he proudly took it to school the next day and his teacher couldn't even be bothered to check that he had done the problems correctly.  I marched in there, unmarked papers in hand, and demanded to know what the point was.  And his teacher responded that she simply hadn't the time nor the interest.  I was outraged, to say the least.

Luckily, my husband Einstein showed up in my dream just then to remind me that we're a homeschooling family.  Our ideals were still intact.  We will just educate Kitty Bill at home.  It will all be fine.  I woke up feeling a bit off-center, but grateful for the strange dream.  It didn't take much work to sleuth out the meaning of this dream: it's time.

Kitty Bill is a driven child.  He has been watching this homeschooling thing happen since he was a wee babe in my arms.  He knows the drill by now.  If I tell him a story, he thinks he should go draw a picture of it afterwards.  If he hears Moonshine practicing math facts, he makes up some for himself.  He actually walks around the house doubling numbers.  When he's sure that he's right, he'll come ask me, "Does seven and seven make fourteen?"

Computations aside, a few months ago he decided that he needed a dart board.  I don't even know where he got the idea of dart boards, but he was adamant that he needed one.  So he drew one on paper, and somehow, he managed to write numbers all around it - in order - all the way up to 39.  Some of the digits are backwards, but he appears to understand the concept well enough on his own.

He also started reading several months ago.  He asked to learn, and we showed him how to sound out the letters.  Everyone else in the house spends a lot of time reading, so I think he just wanted to know that he could do it, that the powers were within his grasp.  Once he mastered about thirty words he lost interest.  He still gets excited when he recognizes words in the world, but most of the time he would much rather draw pictures involving gears and mechanisms than anything else.  The more complexity involved in the drawing, the happier he seems to be.

For the most part, Kitty Bill has spent the last few years playing independently while I did lessons with the girls.  Homeschooling doesn't really have set hours at our house, so sometimes there is a bit of cross-over.  For example, a few months ago my discussion with Moonshine about equivalent fractions carried over into lunchtime.  When Einstein came home from work, Kitty Bill took it upon himself to explain equivalent fractions.  He's only six.  What does he know about equivalent fractions?  Apparently a lot.

And then, two weeks later, his teeth fell out.  Both bottom ones suddenly gave way.  New ones are already pushing up to fill the space.

He's ready.  He's so completely ready for Grade 1 work now that it's palpable.  I would argue, that despite his only recent change of teeth, he has probably been ready for a few months.  But I haven't been ready.  I've been holding on to my last baby-- basking in the final, lingering strands of his early childhood days.  They really are so fleeting.

While I don't always agree with the argument that children should be seven before starting school, in this case, that seems to be how it's working out.  Kitty Bill will be turning seven in September, and he's so ready for learning you can see the excitement dripping off of him.

It's exciting for me as well.  I'll be teaching three grades next year.  I know a few of my readers have already been teaching three or more children at home, and I am in awe of you.  This last year of homeschooling was so busy and full for us, I felt like I hardly had time to breathe between lessons, let alone scrub the toilet or blog as much as I would have liked.  I'm not sure how I'll manage to pull it all off this year, but I'm sure we'll find a new rhythm that allows it.  It always boils down to rhythm, doesn't it?

I would really like to get back into the rhythm of blogging more of our homeschooling, as well.  What I've shown on the blog only scrapes the surface of my work with these lively children.  I'm sure from the outside it looks like we're off gallivanting around the world every day-- and while I'll admit to trying to make the most of our time here in Europe, we actually spend the bulk of our time sitting around the kitchen table working together.

So it's time for me to begin again, at the beginning-- Grade One.  I'm looking ahead to the new school year, looking at the strange lists I've compiled of resources, and realizing that these lists really need to be updated-- badly! I made that first list almost eight years ago!  It has been that long since I first walked Sunburst along the path of the lovely alphabet story, and back then I was just starting out.  I didn't even know what a main lesson book looked like, let alone how to create one.  And there were only a handful of resources to choose from if you didn't have money for Live Ed (we didn't).  So those lists are really just bits I cobbled together while trying to figure it out.

Today there are scads of resources available to Waldorf-inspired homeschoolers.  You could read a new book each day of the year and still not get through them all-- not that anyone can adequately get through an entire Steiner lecture in one day, but you know what I mean.  The resources that have been coming out these last few years are astounding.  Homeschooling is getting easier every year, in that respect.  We still have to do the hard work of bringing it to our children in a meaningful way, but the bevy of instruction, insight, and inspiration is so much more available than it was a few years ago, especially for the lower grades.  Most of the things on my old lists pale in comparison to what's out there now.

My knowledge of Waldorf and Steiner has also grown and changed so much over the years.  I'm always learning something new, some nuance of the education that I didn't know before.  And I've noticed that when I get around to teaching a grade the second time, I realize what resources were really invaluable, and which ones I truly wasted my money on, or how I could have taught something differently or better. Now that I'm starting out homeschooling my third child, I hope to get to those resource lists and revise and update them very soon.

We're not planning to start lessons again until the week after next, so I'm using the next week to plan and dream while I let the last rays of summer wash over me.  Not many rays mind you-- I'm still in England-- but enough, I hope, to fill me with the fortitude I'll need to weather the changes in the coming months.  Change is always hard, whether it's a change of location or rhythm or simply just mindset.

I'm excited about another year of being able to watch and guide my children as they learn and grow. Though the work can be truly hard at times, it really is a gift.  I'm looking forward to sharing more of our journey with you, both the ups and the downs.  I even have a bit of an announcement coming up in the next couple of weeks, so I hope you'll stick around for that.

Have you started back to lessons with your children yet?  Or are you savoring the last days of summer (or winter, for my southern hemisphere friends)?  What changes await you this year?

1. Sara, I've enjoyed your last few posts. Best wishes as you begin taking your third child through the grades. I hope Kitty Bill's leg has healed fully and look forward to hearing more about your schooling journey.

1. I happy to report that Kitty Bill's leg is back to normal. Thank you for the wishes and the sweet words, Rachel.

2. I've been on this Steiner/Waldorf homeschooling path for about 3 years now, and it's hard for me to imagine what it must have been like when you started out - blogging when there were hardly any other bloggers, and trying to understand Steiner and how to bring that to a home setting. Just in the time I have been doing this the amount of information has exploded, particularly on the web. In many ways it is a good thing - I certainly appreciate the benefit of being able to see examples of main lesson books, and form drawings and paintings etc. When we began first grade I used Christopherus and Donna spoke about making golden paths with the block crayons for my child to write on. I took a golden yellow block and, using the corner, drew nice straight lines and ended up with lined paper pretty much like you see in mainstream schools (only yellow lines) LOL. I had no idea - either how to use these strange crayons or what a "golden path" should look like.

I do think however that there is a down side to all the resources available now. Sometimes I find myself swimming in resources and it takes so long to go through them all, or I find something and think "That's great I'll use that when we get to grade X" then I spend hours looking for it again because I can't remember where I saw it. I have certainly learnt a lot about being organised by doing this!

I hope your new year goes well. It sounds like you have an enthusiastic new student. We are starting grade 3, which you haven't blogged about much - any tips?

1. Lol, Cathy. This was me almost exactly. I don't know who has learned more from this education-- the kids or me?!

I am a resource junkie, too. The overload of information does make it hard, but goodness if I can't help myself from buying "just one more" book... or three. I'm working on being more organized as well.

I have sadly neglected posting our third grade work. It has always been a pivotal year at my house, completely rife with outward change (overseas move, etc.). It's also a year I never seemed to fully wrap my heart around, if that makes any sense. I'll try to get some posts up, but perhaps "do what you can and don't stress about what you can't" is the best tip I can offer. For resources, I especially loved Eugene Schwartz's Grade 3 images, especially the housebuilding ones. --And please kick me if I haven't posted anything in the next month. Or feel free to email me at twiningoaks AT gmail DOT com.

3. Talk about "in awe" - I am in awe of you and other parents who are so organized and thorough in your homeschooling approach! As you know, my idea of homeschooling is tossing some book at B and going "read this" and calling it a year. ;) Okay, maybe not that bad, but nearly that bad (or nearly that unschooled, if one prefers). I still have to sit down and figure out how many more credits he needs to graduate from high school. I am such a bad mom.

I always complain about having to be hands-on with G because I never had been with B, but I should remember all the work that you do with your kids and just be grateful I only have the one that I need to focus energy on.

But, you're right; they do grow up so fast and I'm already missing B even though he's still at home and trying to annoy me with his teenage ways. LOL!

I'm on bandwidth curfew again so if I don't get over here right away to read, you'll know why. Photo-intensive blogs are nearly impossible to load.

Hope you've had a lovely week, and big hugs for your sweet baby! xo

1. Thanks, Teresa. You are one of the most talented and inspiring moms I know. You talk a good game, but I know you do way more than that. Plus, your boys learn more from watching you live your life and follow your dreams than most kids learn from a lifetime of books. I'm looking forward to hearing where their paths take them. xo

4. We will both have a first grader, but mine is more interested in letters! I taught her the sounds (in German) a few months ago, very informally, but now she is reading Enid Blyton books and is not stopping. She works in her math book as well (Miquon Math), but not with the same joy. She just turned 7, and is so ready for school as your Kitty Bill. I still have one more "baby," but I feel with you about your baby not being a baby anymore. I am sure you will find a good rhythm, your main
lessons always look so professional as if you've had Waldorf teacher training! It's been hard to put together good mainlessons for three children, I think the quality of mine have gotten worse because of all the work involved with three children. Now Jonathan is in high school, so technically there are no mainlessons for him anymore, but we never finished ours. So, I hope, I can combine him and Charlotte to finish what we haven't finished, but if it doesn't work out, I won't fret over it. Wishing you all the best with your three students!

Eva

1. Oh Eva, what a sweet compliment! Thank you! I am always amazed by the things you and yours are doing, and that you have the time and energy to blog every single day. How do you do this?!

How wonderful that your first grader has taken so avidly to reading. I love that. It will be fun to watch you blog her journey into first grade.

We are always playing catch-up over here with the grades work, too. Sunburst still has some 7th grade lessons to finish up before we start the bulk of 8th grade work. I love that homeschooling gives us time to do this, so we can actually tackle things in a meaningful way instead of just scraping the surface. I figure as long as they are still willing to learn, then we still have time. It's good to know we're not alone in this.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful year together. xo

5. An announcement???!!! :-P

1. Yes. Haha.

6. Oh, how exciting! I look forward to your adventures with Kitty Bill. I wonder how different the process will be with him, being a boy, being the youngest and being just a different person than your other two. It will be a fun year for your family!

1. Thank you, Alyss! It's so nice to see you here! :) And I agree, it will be an interesting year, especially since he's so very fiery. I'm sure he will teach me even more than I will teach him.

7. Ah, my third child was similar at the beginning of this year and walking the rainbow bridge with her has been incredible. Thank you for another inspiring post, your blog lights up my life.

1. Kestrel, thank you for the very sweet words. You actually made me cry. :) I imagine you're wrapping up your homeschooling year in the southern hemisphere, so I wish you a glorious, and productive spring.

8. You know, I don't blog every day anymore, at least not right now. I can only do it at night, but sometimes I'm too tired even for blogging :).