The first half of December

December is well under way. We’ve had plenty happening and much more breathing out time in the coming weeks.

Our advent spiral for this year.

As part of our third grade journey, we learned about Hanukkah, which lasted all of last week. My third grader made a menorah and helped light it each night. On the first night, we said a traditional prayer during the lighting. We read lots of library story books about Hanukkah. We made latkes and challah. We made dreidels out of two kinds of clay. (We also made some Christmas tree ornaments.)

We celebrated St Nicholas’ day. No pictures, as I forgot. St Nick brought everyone chocolate coins and wool socks.

This week, we are celebrating St Lucia’s day, which is tomorrow. In preparation, today we made lussekater (Lucy buns), pepparkakor (small ginger cookies), a crown for my daughter and two star boy hats for my sons. They plan on waking up before me tomorrow morning and brining it in to me for breakfast. It may be tricky to wake up before me, as my baby is an early riser. It’ll be fun either way!

Autumn wreath

We collected some autumn leaves a few days ago and melted some beeswax. (Our beeswax is red because I added some old bits of colored beeswax candles to our pot.)

We then dipped the leaves in the wax. All of the kids had a go at it. They were dry within minutes.

To assemble the wreath, I hot glued the leaves onto an old wooden wreath base that I had in my garage. It is lovely!

A time of reflection

I haven’t blogged in nearly two months. It has been a time of adjustment and reflection. There have been some bumpy days (weeks?) and I’ve had to do lots of inner work and refining my own habits to find a sweet spot again. I’m getting there.

I’ve joked half seriously that I should start a blog called ‘Things My Kids Tell Me’. Not with the purpose of complaining or making jokes, but so that other moms out there don’t feel alone in their struggles. It can feel so isolating and depressing to think to yourself that the (unkind) things your child says couldn’t possibly be said by other kids, because no one you know has ever shared such things. I mean, we don’t really talk about it. Social media is full of the edited happy moments and lots of happy faces. But that’s not real life. And no matter how amazing you are as a mother, it is no insurance against your child saying hurtful things to you. Because what comes out of their mouth is a reflection about what is going on within them. I’ve found again and again how powerful it is to speak up and share with friends what happens within my house. It is sure scary to be vulnerable in that way, but I’ve found again and again that it not only is healing and helpful for me to share but that other mothers then feel less alone. Mothers then open up to me about the things that go on in their homes and how they’ve struggled. Our culture doesn’t do vulnerability very well. So, it takes intention and practice.

In our house, we’ve been in the thick of the 9 year change. I think we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but that light is still a far way off yet, truth be told. I’m remembering how absolutely vital the inner work piece is and how making time for mediation and mindfulness and fun are is not optional. It is necessity. I’m reminded again and again that the only thing I can be in control of is how I react. So, I’m in charge of me, and that’s my main job as a parent.

I have taken some photos here and there of our homeschooling and life. Things are moving along nicely and we are settling into a workable rhythm. Lots of grace is given, daily. Grace, flexibility and self-compassion. Those are my tools lately.

Michaelmas

Tomorrow is Michaelmas. This is our 5th year celebrating it, if I’m doing my math correctly.

We haven’t done nearly as much for it this year as in years past as we are focusing on the Jewish festivals this year. But, we can’t just skip Michalemas, as it has become a tradition!

Earlier this week, the kids made swords from a precut sword kit that I bought on Etsy. It’s our first time doing that, usually we just make our own. We’ve been hearing stories all week, as well, and this weekend we’ll make dragon bread! Always a favorite.

Today, our Waldorf Co-op met and we dyed silks with turmeric, for some very festive capes for Michaelmas! It was lovey! The children also enjoyed collecting piles and piles of chestnuts.

Our very simple nature table at the moment.

We haven’t had one for a few months since the baby was mobile, as it was low enough for him to destroy. I finally just figured out a place to have it that is out of his reach, but low enough for my 6 year old to see and reach.

Our chicks

About five weeks ago we brought three baby chicks home. I affectionately call them ‘the babies’. We already have 6 free ranging chicken in our yard so they will soon have more friends to be with as soon as they are big enough to go outside.

This is the day we brought them home.

The yellow one is a salmon favorelle, the gray one is a blue chochin, and the black one is unknown. We are starting to suspect she’s a copper marran. Time will tell!

Getting some outside time while we clean their cage.

They were running out of space in the guinea pig cage we initially had them in. I’d been stressing about what to put them in when a very large box arrived yesterday with guinea pig supplies. I suddenly realized it would be perfect for the babies! Here is our new set up.

I think it’s spacious enough until they have enough feathers to sleep outside. They spend a bit of time outside every day unless it’s cold and wet. I’m looking forward to seeing them becomes friends with the older hens.

Learning about Rosh Hashanah

As part of our third grade year, we are learning about and exploring the Jewish festivals. Our first one to come up was Rosh Hashanah and we had such a fun time celebrating it.

It was a few weeks ago, so I’m a bit tardy on writing up this post.

Here are some pictures from our celebrations.

I made two loaves of vegan challah, one to have each night. There are different traditional foods that are eaten, depending upon the culture/region. We ended up checking out the book shown above from the library and used that to plan our meal. While a Seder isn’t always done at Rosh Hashanah, it was a great way to really learn about this festival. Rosh Hashanah is like the Jewish New Year. A Seder is basically when you eat certain foods that represent something or have meaning, in a certain order.

The kids spent the week before reading picture books from the library about the festival.

We ate dates stuffed with walnuts, apples dipped in honey, green beans, leeks, spinach salad, winter squash with couscous, and a head of lettuce made into a salad. (We didn’t manage to get to the store to buy a pomegranate.). We also had grape juice in lieu of wine, and of course, the challah.

We lit the candle before we began and before each dish, we said the blessing (in English). The book above explains the reason for each food as well as giving the blessing in English and Hebrew to be said before eating the food.

We celebrated Rosh Hashanah two nights, although we only did a full Seder on the first night. On the second night, we had challah and apples and honey and said some blessings.

We will be celebrating Sukkot this coming week. I’m not sure what kind of a shelter we will manage to build, but we’ll figure something out. It’s sure to be fun, though!

Finishing off our first week not-back to school

We had some bumps along the way this week, but finished on a good note today.

Some pictures from our day.

Vegan nectarine cookies that I made with my Kindergartener.

Form drawing review for the third grader.

Daily math practice sheet for the 3rd grader.

The third grader was learning about the Jewish days of the week and months, as part of his block on the Old Testament stories.

Speaking of OT stories, I just got these two gems in the mail today. I’m a huge Roy Wilkinson fan. These are for the parent/teacher to read, not the student.

Our family isn’t religious, though we are spiritual and I’ve done a TON of inner work over the past five years to get though the baggage I used to have around all things Christian. I’m looking forward to this block because I grew up never knowing any of these stories, many of which are woven into the everyday of our cultural references. Who is Cain? Lot? Seth? I grew up in the dark about who these characters were.

This is the block that often turns people away from choosing Waldorf. Many people are very uncomfortable telling the OT stories to their child if they are not Christian or Jewish. And I get that. That would have been me six years ago! I often joke that it’s a good thing that when we started using Waldorf education with my oldest, he wasn’t in third grade (he started in fourth grade) because I would have been turned off and immediately said no and we would have missed out on the education model that is a perfect fit for our family. But when you look at the curriculum as a whole, when you zoom out and see the big picture, it becomes clear that it isn’t about indoctrinating your child. It is about how these stories speak to the child on a soul level, meeting them where they are at developmentally. In first grade, it is fairy tales. In second grade, it is stories of saints (from any religion or tradition you choose). In third grade, it is the OT stories. The third grader is entering a new developmental period, leaving the misty imaginary realm of young childhood and on the brink of adolescence. They are in the thick of the nine year change. This is a time when the stark black and white of the OT stories speaks to the child in a unique level. In fourth grade, it is Norse mythology stories. In fifth grade, Greek mythology stories.

You can approach the OT stories as fact or myth, depending upon your family’s beliefs. For us, they are a story, just like the other mythologies.