Tuesday, September 04, 2012

First day back

Today was our first day back to lessons, and the shining faces of my children said it all.  They were so ecstatic to begin another learning adventure.

We started the day with a little ceremony outside in the sun.  I led the children into the back garden with a little follow-the-leader movement song.  It was mostly for Kitty Bill's benefit, but all of them were happy to participate and take up the wonder of the moment.

Tip-toe, tip, tip-toe
Tip-toe, tip, tip-toe
Gallop, gallop, gallop, tip-toe
Gallop, gallop, gallop, tip-toe
Hop, hop, hop, tip-toe,
Hop, hop, hop, tip-toe
Skip, skip, skip, tip-toe
Skip, skip, skip, tip-toe...

It's actually a long path to the back garden, but when we finally arrived I welcomed the children with a little song that I made up on the fly-- I can't always manage to plan these things ahead of time.  I welcomed Sunburst into Grade 8 by waving the rainbow over her head, tying a silk around her shoulders, hugging her tightly, and giving her a little something to keep in her pocket.

She helped me wave the rainbow so I could call Moonshine forward to run under the rainbow into her Grade 5 year.  She has been counting down the days until lessons started again, and she was absolutely beaming!  She also had a silk cape, a warm hug, and a little something put in her hand to wonder over.

Then it was Kitty Bill's turn.  He was so happy!  I sang him a little song about growing up and being ready for first grade (again, something I made up on the spot), and then welcomed him under the rainbow with a silk, an extra large hug, and a little something.

The idea for the little somethings  came to me late last night.  I had been racking my brain trying to come up with something special to commemorate this year-- a really special time with all three children engaged in formal learning together.  In my planning over the week I realized that each of them were facing a different adventure this year.  I decided to represent that in symbols.

I went outside and found a suitable branch in our wood pile, sawed off three rounds, and gave them a minimal sanding.  Then I sketched out the symbols and took a woodburner to them.  Kitty Bill received a heart; it's a perfect representation of Grade 1 qualities.  Moonshine received a leaf which represents the new beginning in Grade 5.  We'll dip our toes into the creation stories and myths of several ancient civilizations this year, and we'll learn about the growth of plants in botany.  Sunburst received a compass as we begin our voyage into the discovery of new lands and new ideas, battles and rebellions, but it's also so she doesn't lose her way into the teenage years.  I purposely left the directions off the compass so that she could find her own north, her own way.

She seemed to get it.

The special somethings were a big hit.  Throughout the day I spied each one of them taking up their wooden symbols and caressing them, studying them, even smelling them.  Sunburst and Moonshine are already planning to independently knit special bags to keep them in.

And all that worry about how I was going to adjust our rhythm to teach three children was for naught. Somehow I managed to present three main lessons today.  I led Kitty Bill into the opening of his wondrous alphabet story, walked Moonshine into the realm of the mysterious, sinking Atlantis, and dove headlong into sea voyages of discovery with Sunburst.  It was a day of stories, singing, forms, bean bags, counting, balancing games, clay modeling, knitting, German, and mathematics.

Around four o'clock, after completing two pages of review on geometry and ratios, Sunburst asked me, "Is that it?  I feel like we haven't done enough today."  Silly girl.  As Moonshine was busy modeling her idea of Atlantis in clay, even Kitty Bill asked for more work.  In the end, he agreed to take up his new block crayons and draw a picture of his entrance into first grade.

I remember when the girls first tried out drawing pictures with their block crayons.  I vividly recall teaching each one to gently shape the forms instead of drawing with lines.  Neither of them thought it was easy.  They both struggled with holding the blocks in just the right way.  Sunburst used too much force; Moonshine didn't use enough.  Drawing with these crayons really is an art lesson in and of itself.

Since I wasn't having Kitty Bill draw in a lesson book, it didn't occur to me to guide him.  I wasn't even watching.  I didn't model anything for him to replicate.  I just said, "Why don't you draw something from today with the rainbow," and this is what he came up with.

The girls saw it first, and they were amazed.  How did he know to do it without lines?  How did he know to shape it?  How did he know to make the cape behind?  How did he get everything so perfect?

He shrugged his shoulders and told them that he had been watching them draw for a long time now.  As if it were that easy.

Each of them shared their hopes and dreams with me for learning and growing this year, and when I kissed each one of them goodnight, they all remarked at how excited they were for tomorrow.  It can't come soon enough.

I have a feeling this is going to be a really great year.


  1. You truly are the best mom and your kids amazing! It always feels so magical when I'm reading about your homeschooling adventures. I'm inspired to write a story about you guys with lots of happy magic, but I think it'd be an even better story if you wrote it. :)

    Big hugs and good wishes for an enchanted school year! xo

    1. Thank you so much, Teresa. You are too sweet! xo

  2. yay for wonderful new beginnings! xo

  3. Jonathan was impressed when he saw your son's drawing! He didn't think a boy could draw like this! My girls so far are light drawers. You sometimes can hardly see that there is anything there!

    Lovely beginning and good luck with the rest of the year!

    1. Thank you, Eva. That's a sweet comment from Jonathan. Usually Kitty Bill is drawing machinery, dragons, or robots, so it is definitely a step in a different direction for him.

      I can't wait to see what fun things your family is doing this year. xo

  4. HI,
    It's so nice to read about your homeschooling, I dont think i ll do that for Alex, i dont even know if it's legal back home :) but it feels very inspiring :) I have a question if u dont mind: what do you mean "to draw without lines"? i think i have come across this on other Waldorf inspired places but i am not aware of this concept.
    thx and good luck

  5. Hi Emilia,
    It's a good question. I'll do my best to try to make it more clear.

    Children first learn to draw with lines-- they move from their first delightful scribbles to stick people to outlined, round shapes with stick arms and legs and a dozen fingers. This is a natural progression in the early years, and it's wonderful to watch. The drawings get more detailed as the child grows, but they are still drawn by outlining the shapes and then coloring them in. Adults, unless they've had art training, do this too.

    In Waldorf ed, when a child starts first grade, they teach the child to shape the figures instead of outlining them and coloring them in. You start small and grow the form outwards, whether you are drawing a person, an animal, or anything. The block crayons are great for this, because they let you draw in swaths of color. Also it's much easier to correct drawings this way, get the proportions correct, and it really helps develop their artistry as they grow. Does that make more sense?

    Another way to put it would be that drawings that are outlined have hard edges, like coloring book pages, while shaped drawings tend to look a bit more organic... though not always. It can be difficult.

    It's important not to teach this kind of drawing until they have reached Grade One though, because the early drawing progression is very important to a child's developmental process. Plus, I don't think there is anything sweeter than those first drawings.

    I can recommend two books on both types of drawings if you're interested in reading more about it. Understanding Children's Drawings is about the early drawing progression, and Coloring with Block Crayons is more of a "how to" book.

    I hope that helped a little bit. Thanks again for the sweet comments.

  6. I really love Kitty Bill's drawing. I would say not just his sisters but his mom also have greatly inspired him. You are all wonderful artists!

    So nice to hear about your homeschool beginning, glad it is going well with all 3. It is still just sinking in with me that I am teaching 2nd and 6th...

    I hope pigeon is okay. And happy happy anniversary!

    1. Thank you so much, Renee. I can't wait to see what lovely things you and yours create this year. Second and sixth are both such fun years-- definitely two of my favorites. Coming at the same time, they are perfect-- the corruption of absolute power in Rome (animal brain) juxtaposed with the quiet, contemplation of the saints. I am almost envious, except that we will be in the exact same place next year with my two younger ones. I can hardly wait. :)

  7. I love your idea of welcoming your children into the new grades with a little ceremony and treasure. My son is starting his next grade in about a week, this has given me a beautiful idea to think about, and hopefully do something similar with him, thank you.

    1. Thanks for your sweet comment, Danielle. I'm so glad this idea inspired you. I'm wishing you and your son a wonderful year of learning together.


Thank you for taking the time to leave a message. I appreciate your sweet words so much!

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