Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bugs in the yard

Sunburst, bustling with excitement, pulled me outside yesterday to have a gander at this:

This is her bird's eye view from the wooden plank swing out back. Maybe I'm getting old-- I didn't see anything. She had to point it out to me.


Ew. Lovely.

What we have here is some kind of winged ant-like creature perched atop a white spider. Apparently Sunburst watched the entire battle scene with rapt fascination as the white spider fell. She thought maybe the victor would now proceed to dispatch a quarry of eggs in the spider's head... but it doesn't appear to be the case. We crouched there together and watched for a little bit as the victor worked at moving his victim ever so slowly along, and I was reminded of how much I take for granted. And how NOT at one with the universe I am these days.

But Sunburst? She noticed all this from the swing!

When she came in for lunch she began regaling me with tales of nature. How the mouse she found in the yard that morning was covered in maggots, and did I know that pirates used to eat maggots?

"We're eating lunch," I said.

"So were the pirates," she said.

And about that maggoty mouse in the yard? Without my knowledge Sunburst grabbed a plastic sack from the house, and used it to pick up and dispose of the mouse. AND she washed her hands.

Just when I thought I knew my kids... I think we've crossed some kind of threshold.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Taste of Waldorf

You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one.
~John Lennon

Remember that dream I was talking about? I heard from so many of you in the comments and through private emails echoing this dream. It seems that I'm not the only one. The people have spoken. They want a community-created platform that's inclusive of all Waldorf-inspired homeschoolers-- from those who homeschool using Waldorf exclusively to those who like to combine their Waldorf-inspiration with other things.

I love that this isn't just my dream anymore.

Over the last few days I combined all your brilliant ideas and created two things:
  1. A Taste of Waldorf --a community Waldorf-inspired blog!
  2. Waldorf-Inspired Homeschoolers Web Ring!

Go there. Join if you like. Let's see where our dreams can take us...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Buried treasure

In our first grade Language Arts block last year, I introduced the letter "X" through the story of Pirate Jack looking for buried treasure. We accompanied him on his journey-- pacing out the steps with him and pretending to dig alongside him for the bounty. It wasn't long before our mutual work uncovered a large treasure chest. Upon opening it, the pirate discovered more gold and precious jewels than any of us will ever see in our lifetime. He would be a rich man, indeed, if he were interested in all this "wealth." But he wasn't. He kept digging through that chest until he uncovered the real wealth. And old, dilapidated book of stories that belonged to his great, great grandpappy. The pages were loose, the spine ripped, the cover well-worn and askew... but Pirate Jack was beside himself with joy. He walked away from the gold and jewels clutching the old book to his chest and grinning madly.

I'm wont to agree with Pirate Jack.

Recently we have come into possession of a large lot of lovely, old books. We are a family passionate about reading. Addicted, one might say, to the pleasure of well-written, simple, pure-hearted books. Surely, we read a bit of candy here and there. But lovely old books are a staple of our literary diet. And nothing tickles me more.

I was fortunate enough to find a few of these gems sifting through stacks at the used bookstore and in library discard. Others were given to my children as gifts from an elderly neighbor who is cleaning out her attic. And the last one, The Wee Scotch Piper, I found in a Scottish shop while Einstein was trying to buy a new drone reed for his bagpipes. I thought it was a decorative display, but to my utter delight, it was for sale!

The one book of the lot that was the most surprising find of all is Our Singing World: Singing and Rhyming, a U.S. school song book copyright 1950 by Ginn and Company, republished in 1957. I picked it up at the used bookstore for a mere $2. It's chock full of songs that we have already come to know and love through various Waldorf resources and contains countless others that we WILL come to know and love. It's a real treasure.

As an added bonus, every song has musical notation. I plopped open the book and picked out a morning song aptly titled, "Morning Song." I started singing it, and before long the girls started singing along with me. Sunburst came over to where I was sitting and asked if she could have a turn looking at the words. I handed the book over to her, and next thing I knew she had hauled over the toy piano and began trying to plink out the notes. YES!

So what's a mom to do, but grab out a pentatonic flute and play along with her. She had to fudge it a bit since the toy piano doesn't give you a whole lot of scale to work with. I had to fudge it a little bit too, since the song has more notes than the pentatonic scale. We ended up having a little talk about "fudging" it, musically. I'm planning on sticking with this same song for a week or so to see where it takes us.

Morning Song (Swiss Folk Song translated by Margaretta Wassali)

The sun is shining brightly. Get up, Katerlin.
The birds are singing sweetly. Get up, Katerlin.

Hurry up, out of bed. Time for breakfast, sleepy head.
Ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling. Get up, sleepy head.

The rabbits jump and scamper. Get up, Katerlin.
The cows are in the pasture. Get up, Katerlin.


As if that wasn't joy enough, there's also a knitting song. A knitting song! And yes, I'll post it soon. Sunburst just cast-on for a new project, so I think we'll be singing this one next. But right now, I've got to go clear a shelf to hold all this glorious treasure.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

So I have this idea...

For the last several months I've been dreaming about a way to connect all these lovely, inspirational homeschooling blogs. I originally posted this idea to Lucie on her (now defunct) Homeschool Diary blog. She had asked about visions for the direction of the (soon to be defunct) Wonder Homeschool site.-- Lucie is a genius. Her Science Smorgasboard page comes pretty close to what I envisioned, but it's only up for the next two weeks. After that, my like-minded and lovely homeschoolers, our blogs are pretty much free-floating entities.

Basically, my idea is very, very simple. I want to see what other similar-minded homeschoolers are doing. How the lessons are being applied and interpretted. How people are using ideas in their own home speaks volumes to me. I want to list them. Be able to sort through them. Archive them, if you will, even if only by links. I realize that links aren't the safest way to archive anything, but it's the easiest. And they take you directly into someone else's homeschooling world. I love that.

I think there has to be a better way to share what we're all doing. So many of you have the coolest ideas-- complete with pictures! I can bookmark them to death for my own use, but it gets unwieldy. I want to be able to say, ok, Grade 3... what's out there? How are other people handling Old Testament stories or housebuilding? --and be able to click on these things and really see how it works outside of a school classroom. So many of us are posting our ideas anyway. I just want to see them organized.

Is that too much to ask?

We're all one family here, scattered across the globe, trying to achieve the same thing-- a workable, inspired home education for our children. To the best of our abilities. Classroom teachers freely share their ideas. Why can't we?

I'd love to hear what you all think!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Dust and heels

Friday was the blessed day they came and hauled it all away.

Piece by piece. Bit by bit. Fifty years worth of dust. Gone!

I'm so elated! And those are just the air return ducts. The HVAC got cleaned out a bit as well... though exactly how well remains to be seen. I'm not running to turn the air on just yet.

In other news I went and had an MRI on my heel on Saturday. This also elates me because I'm hoping that someone will finally give me a real diagnosis on my heel pain. If we know what's wrong, then maybe we can fix it. Of course it has been almost six months since the car accident-- it would have made more sense to me to have done this sooner... but what do I know. I'm just the person attached to the heel.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Been there, done that

create your own visited states map

Forty-three states and counting. Though I've only actually lived in six of them for longer than two weeks. Einstein and I spent a long ago summer before kids driving around the country, pitching a tent, and seeing the sites. We went from the deep South up the coast to Maine, across to Washington State, and down the West coast. We hit all the major attractions-- Statue of Liberty, Ben & Jerry's, Acadia State Park, a Dead show in Albany, Niagra Falls, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, Powell's Bookstore, The Redwoods, Zion National Monument, and everything in between. Gas was 98 cents a gallon that summer!

Sunburst joined our traveling family eight years ago, and because we've since toted her along with us, she has seen her fair share of the country as well. She's been working on her own "been there" map of the states since just before our move from Texas. She works on it sporadically, maybe every couple of months she'll sew a new state on. Not because we travel every couple of months, but because her pile of "been there" states has not been exhausted yet. She hasn't even come close!

I caught her working on it again, the other day.

I copied the artful map from the very cute book The Scrambled States of America as a template. I cut the states out from wool felt, matching the colors from the book, and then handed Sunburst a needle and some embroidery thread. Her sewing skills have greatly improved from the first few attempts.

I've promised Moonshine that I would make her a map just like this one when she was old enough. We're slated to move again next summer. I think by then she'll be more than ready!

Ew, that smell!

Do you ever find that you wake up in the middle of the night scratching your eyes out and sneezing uncontrollably? Even in midwinter? Does your family seem plagued with months and months of colds and coughs and allergies? Does your house have an unmistakable funk that comes and goes, and yet after months of investigating you can't find the source?

Did you ever think in a million years that it was because you wash laundry?

Me neither.

We've had a funk in our house for awhile now. It mostly comes and goes, but the sneezing. The coughing. The itching and feeling miserable has lingered throughout. I finally gave up and thought maybe this is just what a house with a crawlspace smells like. Or we're allergic to the midwest. Since we moved here my otherwise healthy family has been sick, sick, sick. We finally bought a HEPA air filter for the bedroom, and that has helped, but the smell is back with a vengeance. Now that the weather has turned nice, we've had the air off, and a putrid funk has descended upon us like a moldy, disease-born fart through the cold air return in the top of our hallway. The utility room has it going on, too. One breath of that air leaves me nauseated, and FINALLY we have discovered the source!

For the last 18 months our washing machine has been draining into our HVAC system. This is the bottom of the HVAC unit and the well below. It's not supposed to be a cesspool.

Not a pretty sight is it?

By chance I happened to be running a load of wash when the fix-it guy came a couple of days ago. He opened my furnace and out poured a bubbling froth. Apparently our landlord ran a line from the AC to the sewer pipes to collect the condensation. I guess he didn't figure on the pressure exerted by the washing machine draining. The water flows where it can since the pipes in this house are old and small. With this new bit of line in, some of the the water gets pushed up and out into the well of my HVAC. Where it sits and gets warm and cold and grows stuff and slowly evaporates until the next time I wash a load.

So what's a little gray water, eh? I mean, could it actually hurt you to breathe the vapors off this for 18 months? Yes. Despite the fact that it's freaky, there are two things that concern me:

1. Mold spores. I'm no expert, but these filters looks pretty bad to me.

2. Human waste particles. Sewage. I have a baby in the house, and there's the issue of cloth diapers. Anybody who uses cloth diapers knows that a good dunk in the toilet doesn't wash it all off. Know what I mean?

So what's in the air YOU breathe?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

May Day

And the May month
Flaps its glad green leaves
Like wings...
--Thomas Hardy

Yesterday we stumbled upon some May Faire fun. These lovely Morris Dancers put on a show and then orchestrated some fine Maypole dancing. The last time we did any sort of grand May Faire celebrating in public was five years ago! Since then, with a lack of community activities, we've been constructing a very low scale Maypole in our own yard and celebrating amongst ourselves. Which is fine, but this was a nice treat for us.

And here are those happy Morris Dancers!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Making Dolls

Over the last month or so we've been knee-deep in doll-making. While we were at The Gateway Arch bookstore over Spring Break, Sunburst and I honed in on a little booklet entitled Easy-to-Make Early American Folk Dolls. Sunburst has been wanting to sew stuff for a while now, and she was still looking for a project for our local homeschool History Fair, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity. And it was something that Moonshine could help with, too.

Tonight we fastened the dolls onto the presentation board with wire and schlepped it over to the library. I vastly underestimated what a load of work it was going to be. We made EIGHTEEN different dolls, including two that weren't in the book! The girls both did a fair share of that work, but of course I had to help a lot. And I don't mind that. We all had a load of fun! For Moonshine it was all about loving the dolls. Each new one was her "favorite," and she gave most of them names. Sunburst enjoyed the hand and machine sewing, but it was also a bit of a history lesson. She knows about early America-- the colonists, the revolution, and folks moving West-- all from reading American Girl and Little House books. So we took her prior knowledge and added some dolls and a timeline to it. It was great. Or at least, I thought it was great. The girls were really into it, and Sunburst really understood the ins and outs of each doll and why it fit the time period.

But then we got to the library and she gave her presentation. She stood with her back to the small group of parents and kids and numbly whispered. My extroverted, energetic, non-stop talking, forever fidgeting, bright-eyed, confident, sharp-as-a-tack daughter is suddenly a lot like her dear, old mom. Shy and totally freaked out to be in the spotlight. Now, I've long since grown out of that. I'm no longer a barnacle on my mom's leg... but Sunburst? How did this happen? And what can we do?

Luckily, Moonshine got up and chitter-chatted in her usual way. You almost have to gag her to get her to be quiet these days. She willingly told the names of all the dolls and the history of those names and so on and so forth. On the way home I overheard her offering to give Sunburst's next presentation for her, too. Free of charge.

Here are some close-ups of a few of the dolls (including the one made with homespun yarn.)

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