Monday, August 28, 2006

Planning for Fall

With the recent events in my life being what they are, I've felt more than a bit unfocused. Scattered, emotionally and mentally. It's not a frame of mind I'd recommend to anyone, especially when raising young children and homeschooling. During my struggles this week to screw my head back on straight, I ran across a couple of quotes in my readings.

I'm always open to signs from the universe, and these two felt a bit serendiptious.

"Do not let the fact that things are not made for you, that conditions are not as they should be, stop you. Go on anyway. Everything depends upon those who go on anyway."

"There's a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it doesn't change. People wonder about what you are pursuing. You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can't get lost. Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die; and you suffer and get old. Nothing you do can stop time's unfolding. You don't ever let go of the thread."

There are a lot of ways to interpret this idea of "thread." It can manifest as one's faith --mine being weighted by ideas of destiny and the interconnectedness of the spirit world with our own, which is something I have felt and experienced many times in my life. I have to take a breath and remember that everything happens for a reason, as it is meant to happen or unfold-- and that nothing changes but the earthly body. It's hard for me to really hold these ideas in the thick of grief, though I do believe them with all my heart, they don't dissipate my human feelings of loss or helplessness or suffering.

Thread can also speak to our relationships with others-- mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, wife.... We have this uncanny ability to tether each other to the earth, to life in all its messiness and hilarities. It doesn't get any more real than wiping bottoms or the salty tears of a teething baby or a four-year-old's knock knock jokes during dinner.

But what about homeschooling and how it applies to my family? Thread is something like a rhythm we can hold onto, a set plan, an order to our days. A bit of stability we can count on.

It's time to get back to a steady beat. If we can hold onto that, maybe we can keep ourselves afloat in this murky current of emotion. Anyway, it's worth a shot. I've come up with a rough plan. We'll try it out and see how it goes.

Monday - wet-on-wet painting/washing
Tuesday - music
Wednesday - handwork/mending
Thursday - music/bi-monthly co-op/park day
Friday - circle/foreign languages

We'll also walk in the mornings and work our second grade blocks into this weekly rhythm. Thursdays are our only "day out" from the house, so it should be easy. I still have to figure out what those blocks are going to be though. I like to come up with a theme that guides the year. Last year was our "quest for the light," which showed itself in our Martinmas play and lantern walk, our letter story, our intro to numbers story (working through the Cave of Mysteries to the Sky Queen with her twelve white horses,) and Robin Red's form drawing story/song. It felt perfect for the first grade year, a child just setting out on the path, coming into the light of knowledge, getting her first taste of that brightness.

The second grade child is continuing along that path, bridging this gap between the animal and spirit world, base behavior and a higher calling. Most Waldorf folks teach Aesop's Fables and Saints' stories this year. Me? I'm not feeling it. I'm reading over the materials and waiting for divine inspiration to strike me. Presenting the Saints' stories feels important, but my intuition tells me they need to be grounded in/with something else. Reality. Truth. Experience. Something. And that these lessons need to cast some light on the things that are unfolding in our own family, hold our space. But how? And what? Hopefully the right answers will come soon....

In the meantime, I will go on anyway. Blindly moving forward, grounded in rhythm and family and friendship, and dirty bottoms.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Passage of Time

This summer we've been talking a lot about time and events and looking forward. Planning ahead. How many days until we go to the beach? How many days until someone's birthday? How many days until it gets cold?

With my stepmom in the hospital, I too find myself counting off the days. The doctors have diagnosed her with something called Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), and it could be weeks or months before she comes off life support, regains consciousness and checks out of the ICU. That's a huge chunk of time.

Sunburst has been filling in pre-printed calendar pages and putting together her own glimpse of the year. She's writing in the name of the months, the days of the week, and numbering the days. She's filling in birthdays and celebrations as she comes to them, and we'll bind it all up with string and hang it on the wall. It helps her to see ahead and really get a taste for how the seasons unfold and the map of our year is put together.

She was delighted to look on her page for August and discover that today is my birthday. So for the last few days she and her sister have been secretly preparing. I woke to a birthday crown on my bedside table. There were flowers, oddly-shaped packages, and a breakfast carrot muffin served with a hand-rolled beeswax candle.

I appreciate their collective excitement, but this year I feel dismally prepared to embrace this day with so much going on inside my head and my heart. Really, it's an imbalanced state where the hands have nothing to do but wring themselves, helplessly, over and over. However, I find it eerie that my stepmom apologized a month ago for missing my birthday. She was really upset about it, and we both had a good laugh when I told her she was a month early. But now she really IS missing it... oh wonder of wonders! How did she know?

Her health is still balanced on that precipice, and with a positive outlook, full recovery may take as long as six months. There's no choice but to keep on with our own paths, despite the heartache, despite the worry, despite the unknown. We have to keep moving forward.

Which means... we must eat cake.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Prayers Needed

My stepmother is in the hospital in extremely critcial condition.

Just this morning I was finalizing my order for school supplies, hemming and hawing and nitpicking it to death. Am I getting the best deal? Am I leaving anything out? Trivializing over trivial matters. And then I got a call, and those trivial things just go right out the window. Is this chalk better than that one? Does this paper absorb less water? Who cares.

Life is way too short. We've lost three people we love tremendously in the last two years, including my Dad, and it's excruciating. Welcome to the emotional carnage of my life. Chalk? Pah!

I haven't been able to get a good grasp on my plan of attack for Second Grade. There's so much rich literature to draw from, that I find it dumbfounding. But here it is, end of August-- cool morning air, darkness working it's way in earlier and earlier. It feels like it's time. But we may be out of here on the first flight tomorrow. Or next week. Or? There's just no telling. Extremely critical. That's something like pins and needles. Holding your breath. Poised on the edge of a precipe. And it's not okay. It doesn't feel okay.

So where does homeschool fall into this? Where do the kids fall into this? They have experienced more loss than I ever did at their age. Is it better? Is it worse? Is it healthy? It just is what it is, regardless. The unstoppable force of life... and death. Completely out of my hands.

Tonight we offered up all the love our hearts could hold.

I hope it's enough. That's all we can do.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

And we're back...

We took off last week and headed for the beach, specifically Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Sun, sand, surf... good times. Coincidentally, I spent most of them indoors.

Einstein's grandmother lives just a stone's throw away from the beach, but Kitty Bill came down with a funk enroute, and I spent the first few days holed up inside coddling him back into a reasonable state of health. By the last day of our trip he was feeling well enough to sit under an umbrella on the sand and finger some seashells.

We had a great time visiting with the relatives, which was the real purpose of our trip anyway. Nurturing our relationships so they don't crumble like sandcastles when the tide rolls in. This goes for our nuclear family unit, as well. It's amazing what spending two days in the car together will do for a family. We learned quite a few things about each other:

1. Einstein and I are getting older.
We think we're still young and invincible, but our bodies betray us. Long gone are the days when we could actually sleep on any pitted concrete slab the low-end motel chains feign to pass off as a "bed." On our return route we kicked in a few more dollars on a nicer place and were giddy with delight to discover high-end matresses with memory foam.*

2. I'm Henry the Eighth I am
Can be sung more times than necessary on the drive from Asheville, NC to Louisville, KY. It's a good way to accidentally practice counting and rank. "Second verse, same as the first..." "Third verse, same as the first..." "Eighty-ninth verse, same as the first..." Whew, boy. Einstein will die a happy man if he never, ever hears that song again.

3. There are not enough books
Sunburst reads much more voraciously than we had anticipated. We had lugged along a huge stack of books to begin with, but somehow she managed to polish them all off on the way to South Carolina. For the trip home we picked up a copy of The Wizard of Oz. It barely lasted the two day stretch.

4. It's not the destination that matters, it's the journey.

The bridge in Louisville. Heading into the storm.

The windshield wipers were actually on... somewhere in Kentucky.

Asheville, NC. An artist's paradise, and one of the easiest towns to be vegetarian in.

There was no shortage of cool things to see in Asheville:

The medicinal herb bench.

Star lamps. We were taken with them.

Hollywood Squares?

Knit hat wigs in the display window at a quilting store.

The best scenic view of the trip:

Veteran's Overlook on Clinch Mountain in Tennessee.

Oh, and the beach was nice, too...

*For those of you who must know, we stayed at the Ramada. The tv was also hidden away in an armoire, which was a huge bonus as far as we were concerned.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Grade Two Resources

** Updated September 2012 **

Waldorf Grade Two Resources

Essential Grade 2 (options for fables, saints, trickster, jataka tales)
Fables of Aesop   (Grade 2)*
Teaching with the Fables by Sieglinde de Francesca (Grade 2)*
Animal Stories - Streit (Grades 2 or 4)*

The Giant at the Ford  (Grade 2)*
OR Stories of the Saints (Grade 2)
Our Island Saints (Grade 2)
Saints and Heroes - Christopherus (Grade 2)
Various Saints books from Tomie de Paola (Grade 2)*
Clown of God by Tomie de Paola (Grade 2)*
Saint Odelia - Streit (Grade 2)*
The Man Who Loved Books - Fritz (Grade 2)*
Brother Juniper - Gibfried (Grade 2)*
Fin M'coul - de Paola (Grade 2)*
Lady of Ten Thousand Names (Grade 2)

Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock - Kimmel (Grade 2)*
Anansi and the Talking Melon - Kimmel (Grade 2)*
OR African Folktales (Grades 2 and 7)
OR Brier Rabbit stories (Grade 2)
Indian Why Stories (Grade 2 or Grade 3)
Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling (Grade 2)*
Twenty Jataka Tales (Grade 2)*

The King of Ireland's Son  (Grade 2)*

Poems and Rhymes/Grammar
A Journey Through Time in Verse and Rhyme (Grades 1-8)*
Waldorf Book of Poetry (Grades 1-8)
An English Manual - Harrer (Grades 2-8)*

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

Waldorf Teacher's Companion to the Pentatonic Flute (Grade 2 +)
One for the Golden Sun: pentatonic songs (Grades 2 +)
Clump-a-Dump- and Snickle-Snack (Grades 2 +)
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)*
Elements of Grade 2 (main lesson book images) - Millenial Child / Eugene Schwartz (Grade 2)*
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
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 Two posts HERE.
For the older Gr. 2 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 (saints, fables, etc.) 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

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Piano Lessons

A while back I made an agreement with Einstein that we'd sign Sunburst up for "formal" music lessons before her eighth birthday. Somewhere he read that this was Important for some such reason... maybe it was that they learn better, or faster, or fire some special neurons in their heads that only exist before the eighth year, I don't quite remember. I'm sure it was a Good reason. When she showed interest in playing the piano this summer, we conveniently signed her up to take lessons with our piano-teacher neighbor.

It didn't quite go as I had expected.

First, I'll say that my expectations always get me in trouble. However, when I sign a child up for lessons, I expect that they will be taught something, and that the person I'm paying will do the teaching. This was the way it worked when Sunburst took gymnastics lessons, trapeze lessons, and felted doll-making lessons. The only finger I had to lift was the one that signed my name on the check. I assumed the same would be true for piano lessons. Boy was I wrong.

The piano teacher taught only at the very first lesson and then assigned Sunburst homework in her music book, which then we, her parents, were supposed to help her figure out, i.e. TEACH to her. Sunburst went back to the next lesson, demonstrated the material she learned at home and received more homework. By the end of the third lesson, when Sunburst received upwards of a dozen pages of new material to learn while the "teacher" was on vacation, I about nearly split in half. What exactly was I paying for?

I've heard the horror stories of parents having to help their public-schooled children through two or more hours of homework a night, and oddly enough it's those same parents that say, "Oh, I could never homeschool." Don't they know they're already doing it? We're all homechoolers here.

Apparently I can now add Piano Teacher to my ever-growing list of credentials.

I pulled Sunburst out after the fourth lesson. She refused to go back until she had completed all the homework assignments, and was extremely dissapointed when the "teacher" didn't have enough time during the lesson to check all of these new songs Sunburst had worked so hard on. Worse yet, this teacher uses a reward system to get the kids motivated to play. After they master a new page/song, they get rewarded with a sticker on that page. When they finish the book, they get a prize.

The whole idea curdled my stomach. I'm one of those crazy fools that thinks learning should be its own reward. And it was hard to tell until that fourth lesson whether or not learning piano was it's own reward until Sunburst didn't get stickers for the work she had done. She didn't get the recognition for doing the work-- really, I think that's what the meat of it was, that she worked really hard to finish up those pages and learn the songs, and then they didn't even go over them. All that work for naught. I'm sure that's how Sunburst saw it.

She came home from that lesson completely disinterested in the two new pages she was supposed to work on. I cancelled her next, and final, lesson, and instead she just practiced the three songs she would play at the piano recital. She was so motivated to dress up and play in front of people that she woke up at the crack of dawn, slipped on her puffy crinolin-lined dress, and woke us up to the sound of her fingers plinking away with wild abandon. She practiced off and on all day, on songs that she could play with her eyes closed by now, and she did just fine at the recital.

But on the way home she asked if she could have a reward. "For what?" For getting up and playing in front of people. "Why should I reward you for something YOU wanted to do?" It was hard, she said. "So was learning to read," I said, "which was also your idea." True, she said. "And did you get a reward for doing that?" Yes, she said. The whole world opened up.

Such insight from a seven-year old! I had to pick my lower jaw up off the floorboard of the car before I could respond. "True," I said. "Welcome to the whole world of music."

As things would turn out, our piano-teacher neighbor moved out-of-state shortly after the recital. We met the woman who was recommended to take her place. Already feeling a bit jaded about the whole thing, I frankly asked her what her teaching style was. She didn't appear to have one or even understand the question. I tried again, "Do you teach using a rewards system?" Oh yeah, there's rewards, she said. Kids love the sticker thing.

Now for those of you that don't know me, my musical background is zip. Sure, I've been singing along with the radio since I could talk, and I seem to have this uncanny ability to memorize lyrics and sing along in the grocery store, but really I have never played an instrument, never had formal training in anything musical, and up until the flute business, I considered myself completely inept. Although I can hum like nobody's business, and as a child we practiced playing our noses while we sang along to "Winchester Cathedral." But that's it. When it comes to the formal subject of music I'm really, incredibly sensitive and hyper-critical Eggshell woman.

I know. A whole post about overcoming perfectionism, and like you, I'm all too human. This is that area for me. And yet... it appears as if "formal" music instruction will continue at home, taught by yours truly.

The earth is going to move. The ground is going to shake. And the whole world is going to open up... for both of us.
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