Wednesday, June 28, 2006

World Cup Geography

Our lives have recently become ruled by the World Cup soccer tournament. Einstein has been watching them faithfully at a local restaurant and keeping our family apprised of all newsworthy goals, wins, and red cards. I no longer ask him about meetings for the day ahead, instead I ask, "Who's playing tomorrow?"

Sunburst has been really interested in all this soccer talk. One day he took her along to watch one of the games, Portugal vs. Netherlands, and she came back with her eyes alight with the wonder of learning something new. After bringing me up to date on all the scoring, she and Einstein went out back and kicked a soccer ball around.

Today the whole family loaded up and headed over to join Einstein for the second half of Brazil vs. Ghana. Einstein used to live in Ghana, so of course our family cheered them on. I was surprised how friendly the Ghanain team was... helping the other team's players up, rubbing their heads, hugging them, smiling. They lost the game, 0 to 3, but what sportsmanship!

All this talk of other countries and teams has ignited a curiousity in Sunburst. She wants to know more. Who are these people? What are they like? Where exactly is Portugal? I think by watching these games she was touched with a larger sense of humanity, and she longs to situate these places/people in her head and make connections.

We found a few thrift store finds tucked away in the closet that helped her along with that:
The puzzle and the Usborne book were very similar-- lots of pictures of animals, major landmarks (mountains, rivers, temples,) and both were drawn in that same whimical style. The puzzle was actually a game where you have to search for different sites to uncover some crime (i.e. Mr. Crud stole Sugar Loaf Mountain and hid it in France.) That was less enjoyable than simply putting the puzzle together. But she got a basic sense of continents, oceans, and climate from it.

Maptitude, the card game, is labeled for 10 yrs and up. It's a mild game of world domination, each card bearing a different country. It teaches what countries border each other, area, population, and similar statistics. She learned that Russia and China rank pretty high in area and population, but she didn't learn anything about the people or the culture or what makes each place unique.

To fit that bill we picked out this kids' geography book:

It divides up each country and gives a little synopis. Some countries have more detail than others, but Sunburst loved hearing what each country was famous for, what the major exports were, and how to say hello in the native language. We learned that Ghana grows a lot of cocoa, and you can speak in English there. Brazil, she was amused to read, is famous for winning the World Cup soccer tournament. They also grow coffee, cocoa, and speak Portugese: bohn DEE-ah.

Sunburst also looked up Spain, who lost to France today. She learned that Spain has two famous artists, Salvador Dali and Picasso. "Oh," she said, "I know Picasso." Some of her best friends are Mr. Picassohead experts and have emailed us their creations. Einstein pulled an art book off the shelf and showed her a few examples by Dali and Picasso.

She was off and running with new inspiration:

The first is copied from Picasso's Harlequin, 1915. The second is from Joan Miro's, Nocturne, 1935. Miro is also from Spain.

Somehow we've managed to bring this learning experience full circle again. I love it when that happens.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Celebrating Summer Solstice

It's hard to believe Summer Solstice is here already!

Today we spent the day with some other homeschooling families out in the woods celebrating this mid-point in the year-- standing around a blazing fire pit, thanking the sun for its gifts, meeting new folks, and going on an invigorating nature hike down a steep trail to a gorgeous waterfall.

The kids all got together and made their own "suns" on t-shirts with paint and their handprints. It was a such a simple but striking craft idea, and my girls were really elated with how their shirts turned out. As a bonus take-home, we also brought back some chigger bites and a lone, fat tick.

Solstice, thematically, is about letting go of the past and embracing the future. Making a fresh start. We do a bang up job of it around Winter Solstice, which falls roughly ten days before the New Year. But in the summertime? It's not necessarily the first thing that comes to my mind. Or is it, and I'm just not putting two and two together?

This past week I've been on a rampage-- moving furniture, dusting, decluttering our space, and yearning to paint the walls a bright sunshiny yellow. It's like a fire has been lit under me. I'm driven to finish up old projects in an attempt to clear my plate so that new ideas can come to fruition. Even Sunburst and Moonshine are sorting and bagging up old toys for donation. (Okay, so I've bribed them with $1/bag-- but even goodwill ambassadors come with a price tag.)

Out with the old, in with the new. It can be a daunting task, but you've got to start somewhere. Me? I'm starting by bidding adieu to that tick.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Backyard Detectives

Two nights ago Einstein and I were startled out of sleep by the most horrendous noise. It was loud and otherworldly. My sleepy brain wasn't sure if I was thick in a jungle or a science fiction movie. I half expected wild-eyed monkeys to come crashing through the windows or some black vaporous force to slither in through the cat door. The noise was piercing-- some strange sort of screeching-whooping-yipping-screaming. Honestly, I was pretty freaked out.

I handed off the flashlight to Einstein and we headed out the back door. We were instantly met by two of our four cats who appeared just as startled as we were. The four of us stood there dumbly staring while Einstein swept a beam of light along the thick brush at the far end of our yard. He must have hit the right spot because the noise stopped with a certain suddenness, and everything went still.

We stood there a few minutes looking and saw nothing. We turned the light off and the noise didn't return, but as if by magic, we found ourselves surrounded by a multitude of fireflies. They must have taken to our flashlight, like a fertile mothership, and were all readying themselves to dock at our port. I hate to be such a tease, but it was dreamy to be surrounded by so many twinkling little lights.

The next day, in our sleuthing to uncover the source of all that crazy racket, we were pointed to some online audio clips. What we had heard was some variation of THIS... THIS... and THIS.

Could it really have been foxes? In our yard? In a residential area in town? Wild! Sunburst was so excited when I told her, and she helped me do some sleuthing through the bramble. We looked for scat, fur, blood, feathers, anything really. We came up empty-handed until Sunburst spotted this:

It could be a fox. It's definitely too deep and dog-like of an impression to be from one of our cats. Sunburst grabbed out our local animal tracks book and found these:

From that and another, albeit messier, print, she deduced it must have been a red fox. But that didn't stop her from looking for more clues. Next she found these:

  1. A fossil?
  2. Another track - perhaps dinosaur or mallard duck?
  3. Definitely the track of a snapping turtle.
She was undeterred by the apparent absence of standing water in our backyard. In science it's the thrill of discovery, not accuracy, that keeps the ball rolling. In the fertile soil of her mind, anything is possible.

Grade One Resources

** Updated September 2012 **

Waldorf Grade One Resources

Grimm's Fairytales   (Grade 1)*

Poems and Rhymes
A Journey Through Time in Verse and Rhyme (Grades 1-8)*
Waldorf Book of Poetry (Grades 1-8)

Making Math Meaningful - York (Grades 1-5)*
Math Lessons for Elementary Grades (Grades 1-5)*

Playing the Pentatonic Flute and Pentatonic Recorder - David Darcy (Grade 1)*
Music Through the Grades - Barnes (Grades 1-8)
Sing A Song of Seasons - Naturally You Can Sing

Art Resources
Painting and Drawing in Waldorf Schools - Wildgruber (Grades 1-8)*
Coloring with Block Crayons - de Francesca (Grade 1)
Elements of Grade 1 (main lesson book images) - Millenial Child / Eugene Schwartz (Grade 1)*
Form Drawing Grades 1-4 - Embery-Stine and Schuberth (Grades 1-4)*
Form Drawing - Niederhauser and Frohlich (Grades 1-5)
Inspiring Your Child's Education - David Darcy (Grades 1- 5)
Creative Pathways - Auer (Grades 1-8)*
Will-Developed Intelligence - Mitchell (Grades 1-12)*

Rhythms of Learning: Selected Lectures by Rudolf Steiner - Trostli (Grades K-12)*

Curriculum Guides
Millenial Child - Eugene Schwartz*
Path of Discovery - Fairman (Grade 1)
Waldorf Without Walls - Barbara Dewey
Christopherus Publications (First Grade Syllabus; Curr. Overview)

*All of these resources have been very useful to me at one time or another, but these are my personal favorites. 

Our Lessons and Resources
You can sift through my Grade One posts HERE.
For the older Gr. 1 posts, it gives you an option of clicking "older posts" at the bottom of the page.
Or if you're looking for something specific, please see the labels on my sidebar or use the search function at the top of the page.

Other places on the web
Chalkboard Drawing (images)
Waldorf Library (free e-books)
Waldorf Teacher's Gallery (images)
Waldorf Ideen Pool (images)
Baldwin Project / Main Lesson (free e-books)
Rudolf Steiner Audio
Rudolf Steiner Archive
Naturally You Can Sing (songbooks)
Waldorf Curriculum Chart (Grades 1-8)

My Favorite Unschooling Books

Learning All the Time - Holt
Homeschooling and the Voyage of Self-Discovery - Albert
Free at Last: The Sudbury Valley School - Greenberg

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Sunburst's week of Trapeze Camp was a grand success. She truly enjoyed herself and learned so much more than even I had anticipated. Obviously she learned how to trapeze --to climb the tall ladder and extend her body over the brink of space. To trust other folks and their safety equipment. To have faith. To contort her body mid-air and do tricks. To take direction and act upon it quickly. To wait in line for a good long while. To deal with other kids trying to annoy the heck of out her. Yes, she got a crash course in that, too, and it led to some interesting discussions.

Sunburst had never before been put into the position of dealing with obnoxious peers. We mostly hang out with other homeschoolers, who by virtue of being around their parents all day, are usually quite well-behaved. There isn't that "mob-rule" sort of mindset that creeps into the mix when kids get together in a largely unsupervised group. The first day out Sunburst got a bit hen-pecked by the obvious leader of the pack of older girls. It wasn't awful, but the girls were singing a particularly unnerving song to try to annoy anyone they could. The other kids, having been previously exposed to such ideas, groups, songs, or what have you, were immune. Sunburst was not and gave the girls just what they were looking for: a target.

They sang. She covered her ears. They sang louder. She complained. They sang even louder. She walked away covering her ears and complaining. They followed her and sang even louder. And on it went, until finally, Sunburst came running over to me feeling very confused and hurt and picked on. It's amazing that such a nonsense song can make one person feel that way, but when you add the mob mentality to it, it makes perfect sense.

People can get a bit weird in groups. It's almost like a group takes on a persona of its own. Individuals cease to think for themselves. The consequences begin to seem inconsequential. There's group force, afterall... a group carries one another. Like governments. By paying taxes do you support wars and laws you don't believe in? Like big corporations. By buying their goods, are you saying yes to child-labor in third-world countries? Like speeding. If every car on the freeway is going over the speed limit, do you keep up with traffic? And then again, is it safer to keep up with traffic? Like looting. Remember the visuals of the people looting in New Orleans last summer-- the folks walking out of stores with tvs juxtaposed with the folks walking out with diapers? That's a whole 'nother sack of beans.

Whenever I think about group identity and action, my mind always calls me back to that short story, The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson. It's heavy and deep and way too applicable to this world we live in. If you haven't read it yet, by all means you should.

But what about Sunburst and her forray into "socialization?" My advice to her on that first day was to ignore them. She couldn't do it. The group gained in force and continued a strong rally against her. Again, it wasn't name calling or anything like that, just that annoying song. At the end of the first class the group even felt carried and empowered enough to taunt her loudly enough to wake up Kitty Bill. Even my admonitions didn't stop them from continuing on the next day.

Again, I explained to her that they wanted her to react. If she didn't react, it would cease to be fun, and they would stop. Einstein told her to sing with them-- the old adage we learned from Bugs Bunny cartoons: "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

I wondered would she choose this route-- would she join them in the singing? She's only seven. I could hardly expect her to do more than that, but I silently hoped she wouldn't. I hoped that somehow she had a stronger sense of self than this. I want my kids to be able to stand up to adversity. To not be afraid to be themselves and hold fast to their moral ground. To be brave and true and kind. That's the goal right? But at seven?

Maybe we got lucky. She went back into fray and did something completely unexpected. She picked out the oldest and tallest girl in the class, one of the non-singers, and made friends with her. She found a common-denominator with a fourteen-year-old and they carried on an animated conversation for the rest of the class. The next day Sunburst made friends with the leader of the group of singers. She went right up to her and rubbed the girl's shoulders for a minute. And that was the end of that.

Sometimes I think we adults are way too complicated. Maybe the way to world peace is one back rub at a time.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Adrenaline Rush!

Trapeze Camp: Day Two.

Sunburst is thoroughly enjoying herself.

After three turns swinging upside-down on the fly bar today and practicing her back flip into the net, Sunburst was finally ready to fly.... straight into the catcher's hands. And she made it!

There's nothing like the adrenaline rush you get when attempting AND succeeding at such a daredevil task. Sunburst made her way down off the net and was positively glowing. She was so amped! She jumped up and down, grinning ear to ear, and started pestering the coaches to let her go again. It was by far the coolest thing she had ever experienced.

It appears as if I'm raising a circus freak.

The Flying Trapeze rig is set on frames 32 feet in the air (about 4 stories high.) The kids have to climb a 24 foot ladder and hoist themselves onto the pedestal, a 1'x5' board, suspended 16 feet above the net. From the pedestal, they grab the "fly bar," which is anchored to a steel bar 15 feet away, and fly out over the net. At their lowest point, they hang only 20 feet above the ground. If they get enough momentum, they can reach about 30 feet above the ground.

The kids swing forward once, and on the back swing they can flip their bodies into position on the bar, depending on what trick they are attempting. On the next forward swing they need to have their hands thrown straight out and back and their bodies arched backward looking toward the "catcher."

The catcher swings on a bar, called the "catch trap," 25 feet away from the fly bar. It's a matter of skill, patience, and timing. If everything goes well, you make the catch. If not... well, the net is anchored 8 feet above the ground.

Sunburst can't wait to go back tomorrow and do it again.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Book of Music

The last few days have been spent in recovery from a terrible head cold. Kitty Bill, Einstein, and I have been down for the count. Sunburst and Moonshine, on the other hand, have been bursting with energy-- so much energy in fact that Sunburst, after working on her Book of Music, put on her fanciest dress and decided to convene with the fairies 10 feet high up in the tree. It wasn't the highest she has ever climbed, ask all the anxious homeschooling moms in Austin, Texas. At the Valentine's party last year she must have topped 18 feet in a massive and sturdy oak tree. But this tree in our backyard is no oak, nor is it the icon of all things sturdy. The branch broke and Sunburst fell. Ten feet. Down. And landed on her back.

It knocked the wind right out of her, and her neck has been stiff and sore, but luckily she was more frightened than hurt. Nothing is broken but her faith in trees, and that will repair itself in time. Plus she got her fancy dress dirty, and I made her put it in the hamper. That was pretty much the nail in her coffin. With all the sneezing and coughing and tree-falling, I carted our injured chipmunk off to the local wildlife rescue center. There is only so much rehab a sick mom can do.

But what of that Book of Music Sunburst is making?

She is loving the idea of "owning" her music. I gave her xerox copies of the songs she has already learned on her flute. She cut them out and has begun pasting them into a new main lesson book. She wants to write in the song titles, herself, and this makes sense because she has different names for them than perhaps their proper names. For example, David Darcy's "Thumb Song" she calls "Deedle Dum."

What really makes sense is the owning. Sunburst does this when she draws a picture from a story I've told her. She did this for each letter of the alphabet-- she owned them because she wrote them down, the letter and accompanying picture. She owned the numbers as she learned them by putting them into her book. She owned the stories we told through form drawing by drawing down the forms. And she can retell them and relive them by opening a book.

Now she gets to do this with her music. Surely, the songs already live inside of her. I suppose I could have had her draw a picture for each song, but giving her the picture of the song itself, the notes on the bar, was what she truly wanted. She wanted to be like her Dad, who has music books all over the house. And this activity fit her need precisely.

She has also begun to transfer these flute songs onto a keyboard (set to piano sound.) She's not reading the music but only taking the sounds and trying to recreate them on the keyboard. It's not as easy as all that, since there are only seven notes on her flute and a multitude of black and ivory keys to choose from. But it's interesting and captivating, and she's doing a fairly decent job of it. The songs are recognizable albeit creative.

Our neighbor next door, the pipe organist, gives piano lessons to children. Sunburst is eager to try, and we'll let her follow that dream this summer. It won't usurp her flute lessons. Sunburst has a thick attachment to her flute, and we'll continue learning new pentatonic songs as the opportunities arise this summer. Perhaps the exercises and songs she learns on piano she will attempt to transfer to the flute.

In any case, I'm hoping it will keep her out of the trees for a few more days.

* I realize the songs appear illegible. That's a slight of computer trick, since they are not my songs. They were written by the wise David Darcy and are included in his wonderful booklet, Playing the Pentatonic Flute and Recorder. You can find him online HERE.
Feel free to use a song I did write, "Robin Red," in your own homeschooling endeavors. You can find the music HERE.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Multiculturalism through cooking

Tonight Einstein brought to the table the most exquisite salad I have ever tasted. It wasn't your typical salad, it was weird, and it seemed to have a bit of everything in it. The girls and I oohed and aahed over how pretty it was and how great it tasted. Moonshine, our pickiest eater, didn't have any complaints. Her mouth was too full to complain!

Immediately I thought of some dear little friends we know that have a bit of difficulty when it comes to trying new and/or mixed dishes. Their mom has had to get creative in the past, including finding an endearing bunny story to go along with The Yoga Cookbook's carrot soup recipe. Maybe her kids would like this salad, too. But what story would she tell them?

As I stirred it around in my bowl, it occurred to me that really it was a melting pot of many nations. She, I, or anybody could make this salad (or any other recipe, really) with our kids and tell a story as we go along. A story about some children from different nations all over the globe who somehow come together and create a meal with what they have brought from home-- sort of a Stone Soup without all that trickery involved.

How do these children come together anyway? Maybe they're on a boat ride traveling around the world picking up passengers as they go along. Maybe a child from each nation has been beckoned by the Fairy Queen. Or to borrow a theme from the Seven-Year-Old Wonder Book, maybe these children from different nations all just lost their first tooth and meet along the way to visit Prince Frey.

Anyway, they meet. They're hungry, and they decide to look in their satchels and share what they've got with each other to make a fine meal. Sakoto from Japan puts her rice into the big pot. Pedro from South America gets out his knife and slices up a ripe and juicy mango. Susan from America looks in her bag but all she has is a handful of rasins.... and one by one they take their turn looking for what they have and adding it in.

And at the end of it they have a grand meal fit for the Fairy Queen herself. Or maybe that's their task, to make a meal of love for the Fairy Queen to save her from a horrible spell? Whatever the case, it simply tastes good.

Einstein's International Salad1 can garbanzo beans
cooked rice ~ 1/2 cup
chopped mangoes ~ 1 - 1.5 cups
some toasted almonds (sliced) ~ 1/2 cup
some raisins ~ 1/3 cup
finely chopped onion ~ 1/4 cup
a touch of rice or white wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Friday, June 09, 2006

Raccoon Envy

Today our cat caught a chipmunk. This wasn't the first time it has happened, nor will it be the last. It's unfortunate and sad and really a whole host of other things, but "thems the facts."

I have a big heart and a small house, and thus we have four indoor/outdoor cats. Spayed, neutered, vaccinated, flea-treated, well-fed, curious cats that love to go outdoors and chase bunnies away from my vegetable garden, frolic after butterflies and fireflies, climb trees, people watch, nap in the sun, eat grass, and unfortunately pester the local wildlife. That's just what cats do.

Short of tying cowbells around their necks (one cat has FOUR bells!) there isn't much more I can do to help alert the wildlife that our cats are afoot. Despite my jingling efforts, our dear Friendly Friend cat caught a chipmunk while we were outside enjoying the nice weather, and the girls begged and pleaded with us to try to save it. Not only should we save it, but we should SAVE it. Coddle it, bandage it, and nurse it back to health. We've been down this road before, many times, but not with such fierce enthusiasm.

After Einstein had scooped it up into a box, and Sunburst began talking excitedly of vets and chipmunk poop, did I realize what was really going on here. She has a huge case of Raccoon Envy.

My mom was recently given a family of baby raccoons that had been nesting in an attic. The mama was startled away by some roofers when they tore the roof off the house, and well, now someone has to feed them. Enter my mom.

She has the biggest heart in the world, and she can't say no. This is where I learned it from. In the past few years she hasn't said no to four dogs, eight cats, four indoor birds, one crow, four bunnies, two horses, a hen, a rooster, and one ugly duck. Those are just the animals. She currently lives out in the country in California where she has been homeschooling my three younger siblings. They've got a lot of room, a host of ground squirrels, and a 92-year-old man to keep them entertained.

And now she has baby raccoons, four of them. They need to be fed via syringe all day long, like babies. They're only about four weeks old. Once they start eating solids on their own, she can turn them over to the local wildlife rescue. Until then, she's chasing them around her bedroom and massaging their bellies with warm washcloths and feeding them.

Sunburst has seen the pictures and spoken at length on the phone with my mom about them. She has asked every question she could think of, including a thought-provoking discussion on rabies. Sunburst is certain they don't have it, by her own calculations, and I hope she's right, given that my mom has already been bit.

They're cute, I have to give her that. Baby raccoons are adorable, fuzzy, ferocious little creatures, and she wants one. Just one. But if all you have is a chipmunk, well, I guess it will have to do. For now.

*That's permanent marker on their heads to tell them apart.

** For more fun with wild pets, check out The Tarantula in My Purse and 172 Other Wild Pets by Jean Craighead George. We've been reading this one over breakfast. It's simply fascinating and humorous, and yes, my mom did send it to us. Why do you ask?

***As if the homeschooling opportunities related to such things weren't obvious enough, my younger (albeit much taller) brother is making the most of raccoon-style learning HERE. The raccoon mileage is apparently limitless.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

We're still learning

I think I was onto something when I said Sunburst and I just couldn't focus. We're sick! She came down with it first. Coughing. Runny nose. Fever. Strange loud noises in her head, or under her bed, or some such thing. She said it sounded like someone meditating.

I don't know about that, but I feel like I've been catapulted into the side of a rock. I ache. My head is full, my throat is raw, my nose is red-- heck, even my eyes are running. Needless to say, I sat around today hoping to rebound as quickly as Sunburst.

Now that she's feeling chipper again, Sunburst quickly announced after lunch that she was bored. It stormed all morning, and the kids had already sat on the porch and watched the lightning for a good long time. I suggested she draw something. No. Knit? No. Read? No. "I give up," I said, and went back to my own knitting.

A little while later she emerged with her flute and pestered Einstein who had his nose buried in a blues songbook. "I want to read music, too," she told him. "Will you show me?"

So Einstein showed her his book and told her the letters for the bass notes he was reading. She caught on quickly, but of course bass notes aren't really going to work for the pentatonic flute. So he sent her over to me.

Reading sheet music. Are we ready for this? I stuck "Robin Red" through the copy machine-- a song she knows by heart, and another one we had briefly visited, "Saddle My Pony", from Clump-a-Dump and Snickle-Snack. I didn't give her much advice to go on, really. My heart wasn't in it today and my nose was running madly. I said, "See these? These are notes, just pictures of the sounds you play. You start here. This is a picture of these holes covered up. This is one less, like this. For every note you play, there is a picture here. Does that make sense?"

She carried them off into the laundry room, since Kitty Bill was napping, and she played for a good while. When she came out for dinner she announced that she had just about got "Saddle My Pony" figured out. "Did you hear it? Was I close?"

I think she needs to own this music.

Like I said, we'll be learning loads this summer, despite any intentions to take time off and have fun. Learning is fun. I'm so glad Sunburst is around to keep us all focused on the goal. All fun, all the time, learning as we go, together.

Tomorrow I'll break out a new main lesson book for her, and she can go to town filling it with the songs she knows. I'll print them out, she can cut them, glue them, decorate them, whatever. It's going to be great!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Summer begins

It feels a lot like summer over here. The dog days feel like they are upon us. The pools are open, the tomatoes are in full bloom, the mustard greens are bolting, and the eggplant leaves are covered in little black hoppers. Forget the delicate Spring flowers, they are beyond dead.

But what about this school thing? Are we ready to put our chalkboard and crayons away and call it quits? That's the talk on all the Waldorf message boards: how are you celebrating the end of the school year; or we have x,y,z to finish up; or should we even take a break at all?

To me this schooling thing doesn't have such a clear division. That's the unschooler in me. I know we're going to learn loads this summer, but as a mom who is offering that "school-like" experience to Sunburst, I get what they're saying. Do we go out with pomp and circumstance? Do we worry about marking off everything on our lists? How far and how long do we push the school envelope?

Surely there are things we haven't finished around here. We officially started our first grade lessons in November after welcoming a new baby into our lives, selling our house, and moving out of state. Those things took priority over "school" and Sunburst spent August and September teaching herself to read with McGuffey Readers and knitting up a storm.

Sometime in late October I purchased a first grade syllabus from Christopherus Homeschool to see what a first grade year entailed. It turned out to be a great resource. Although I didn't exactly follow the lesson examples, it did give me some insight as to what we might want to cover. According to the book I seem to have left out a whole section on fairytales and handwriting, learning word families, and another maths lesson. We started late, so inevitably we were bound to leave things out. Will she be damaged forever? Probably not.

As much as I'd like to press on, as much as Sunburst would probably benefit from the lovely fairytales and handwriting practice, I don't see how we could do it all as a homeschooling family. If you follow a Waldorf curriculum there's just so much to pack into your day. If we kept school hours without interruption, maybe we could do it all, too. But I'm living in the real world, washing dishes and folding laundry and changing diapers. I'm fitting in lessons as I can, when Kitty Bill is napping or squeezing them in between snack time and dinner preparations. It's not easy, but it's fun.

If I really pushed myself, would it still be fun? If I scheduled every second of my day to try to find more time, would any of us enjoy ourselves? Hurry up and eat. Hurry up and learn. That's not my agenda at all.

Summer seems to be here. It's not holding back waiting for us to finish up our lessons. The warm days are calling us into the garden, out in the yard, onto the swings, and out on the lake. It's just as difficult for me to focus on lessons as it is for Sunburst. So we're done. We've begun scheduling our summer fun-- circus day camps and fiber arts lessons. We're going to have a blast.

And strangely enough, this week's entry for Ruldolf Steiner's Calendar of the Soul seems to validate our inability to focus intellectually and our need to move on:
  The senses' might grows strong
 United with the gods' creative work;
 It presses down my power of thinking
 Into a dreamlike dullness.
 When godly being
 Desires union with my soul,
 Must human thinking
 In quiet dream-life rest content.
English translation by Ruth and Hans Pusch

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Shakespeare in the park

How now, brown cow?

Last night we strolled over to the park to watch a creative adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Perhaps not the best subject matter for our children, or was it?

This foray into the land of dramatic arts was Einstein's brainchild, and I knew there was no hope of actually watching the play itself. Kitty Bill and Moonshine can barely sit through dinner, did we really expect them to sit through Shakespeare? And what of Sunburst? How do seven-year-olds fare with the Olde English language? Doth thine ears quiver and thine head shaketh when thou speaketh? Would she dig the language and even get the faintest hint at what was going on? More so, did I want her to?

Twelfth Night is a story about a love triangle. Viola, disguised as a man, loves the duke. The duke loves Olivia, and Olivia loves Cesario (erm, Viola.) There's a bit more to it than that, obviously, but that's the gyst. While Kitty Bill and I watched Moonshine play on the playground, Einstein and Sunburst tried to decipher what was actually happening on the stage:

"If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour!"

Sunburst didn't really get the plot, but she adored it. She desperately wanted to know what was happening and couldn't take her eyes off the stage. During Intermission, Einstein walked her backstage and let her look around. She was awestruck! Later she told me there was a table full of food and books and lots of people in costume stumbling around. One of them even mimed to her. She found the entire thing fascinating.

On the way home, she had more questions than she knew what to do with.
  • How do they know what to say?
  • What's a script?
  • Did that guy, uh... Headspeare or whatever you called him, write the script?
  • Are there books about this stuff?
  • What was actually happening?
  • Why did that girl dress in the fisherman's clothes?
  • How does it end?
We left after Intermission, which was well after bedtime. Sunburst wanted to know right away what it was really all about. Einstein told her they could look for a book tomorrow at the library, but that wasn't quite fast enough for her. She had to know now.

"Aw Dad, can't we just google it?"

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Wonder Homeschool

For the past month Schooling from the Heart has been the featured Family Site of the Month over at Wonder Homeschool. My little blog, in its infancy, has been featured and recognized. How cool is that?!

Lucie, the genius behind Wonder Homeschool, has given so very much to the worldwide homeschooling community. She inspires countless numbers of people every day with her trove of wisdom and insight. If you haven't been there, go. Run amok. Get sucked in by all that wonder and let it spill out into your own homeschool life. You won't regret it.

**Wonder Homeschool was taken down off the internet in May 2007.**

O' Pioneers?!

Another month, another homeschooling fair. This time the topic was history, and Sunburst was all fired up to present on her favorite obsession of all time: pioneers.

Sunburst lives and breathes Mary and Laura Ingalls. She has been taken in by the Little House books for more than half of her short life, and now that she's reading independently and fluently, each progressive book in the series accompanies her wherever she goes. Her life and interests have been shaped by these books, and really, that's not such a bad thing.

Two hours after we arrived home from our trip to Michigan, Sunburst was slated to present. She put on her pioneer girl costume, grabbed her knitting, spinning, and embroidery projects, gathered up her prized collection of McGuffey Readers, and headed out the door. She wasn't entirely prepared to speak about the subject in a fluid, flawless manner, she's only 7 afterall, but she did manage to say a few words, show off her handcrafts and give an impromptu spinning demonstration.

I love that this pioneer theme parallels Waldorf education and unschooling in many ways. It's real life work, connecting first to her heart and then expanding out through her hands into concrete, meaningful creations. And she's engaged, cognitively. She learned to read using the same type of books that Mary and Laura would have used, McGuffey readers from the late 1700's. It was her idea, her passion, and completely self-directed.

Homeschooling doesn't get any better than that.

Highland cows and tuba museums

One bonus of homeschooling is being able to simply pick up and go whenever the mood strikes us. For Memorial Day weekend we decided to head off to Alma, Michigan to the Alma Highland Festival and Games, and we all had a great time.

Apart from my time in the womb, none of us had really been to Michigan before. It's not one of those states that you accidentally happen upon on the way to someplace else. You have to mean to go there. You have to drive through miles and miles of flat farmland to get there, where you see more miles and miles of flat farmland. And lakes. No shortage of water in Michigan.

I grew up in Southern Arizona, so the idea of having a lake in my backyard is purely preposterous. Water just didn't happen, unless it was chlorinated. People in rural Michigan know how to waterski and ice skate. They know all about swinging off ropes and canoeing and all that. People like me, desert folk, have to actively pursue experiencing these things. I still can't ice skate, but it's on my list.

So we went, we saw, and we danced to the sound of bagpipes en mass. And I think we learned a few things, too:

1. Always ask a local where to eat.

If you're ever in Okemos, Michigan don't forget to check out the Traveler's Club International Restaurant and Tuba Museum. Fine food and more tubas than you can shake a stick at.

2. Never, ever settle for the restaurant attached to the hotel.

We have a pretty strict diet, but we try not to be food snobs and eat out like normal folks from time to time. After an exhausting day in the sun and humidity with a satchel of peanut butter sandwiches, we dared to take a chance on dinner at TGI Fridays. If you need your innards greased, regardless of the fare, this would be the place to eat. For us, it was an exercise in futility. But we live and learn and keep smiling. We always travel with our handy dandy reference guide to healthy eating, Healthy Highways, a book brimming with health food stores and vegetarian eateries across the U.S. It's one of the better travel investments we have made.

3. Juice boxes, regardless of their contents, are never a good idea in the car. Period.

4. Michigan looks like a mitten, and somehow that's funny to my kids. (I always thought Texas looked like Fred Flinstone's head, but that trip to cartoonland is lost upon my poor, media-deprived children.)

5. You get great hotel deals by booking online via Hotwire.

We stayed our first two nights at the only motel near Alma with an available room. It was dilapidated and grungy, and we were afraid to let Kitty Bill touch anything. For the next two nights we hotwired a 3-star hotel for a few bucks more. What a difference! We spent some time in the indoor pool and the service desk actually called to see if we needed anything. We woke in the morning to a hand-written thank you note under our door and a complimentary newspaper. Who does that kind of thing anymore? Apparently, the Holiday Inn.

6. If you want anyone to come out of their house, you don't need to knock... just stand in their yard and play the bagpipes.
We met lots of nice folks in Howell and Brighton, Michigan where my parents grew up. Einstein played a bagpipe tribute to my Grandpa Jim, who was born near Edinburgh, Scotland but died in a farmhouse in Michigan when I was Sunburst's age. We drove out to the farm where he died, stood together under the great pine trees, and Einstein cracked off a few respectful dirges while the kids searched in vain for my mom's wedding band that was lost there in the snow over 30 years ago.

7. Highland cows are massive creatures of immense beauty.

We met two Highland cows at the Alma Festival. The bull stood about five feet tall with long, shaggy hair and protracted, curling horns. He was gorgeous and docile, with a nose as big as Kitty Bill's face. If you were hungry and had a lot of freezer space, I'm guessing a family could eat off one of these creatures for two years. We don't eat meat, but boy! For the first time ever I felt the calling to own a cow. I'm as bad as the kids: "Please, can't we just get one? I promise to feed it and turn its poop into manure for the garden."

Highland cow photo taken by Hajor, 21.Feb.2004. Released under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike License
Related Posts with Thumbnails
Site Meter