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!

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.

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.

Our first day

Today we began our new school year. Ninth grade for my 14 year old. Third grade for my 9 year old. And second year kindergarten for my 5 year old. We covered a lot and had a good start. Tomorrow, the mother (me) needs to work on having a wee bit more patience and on being ‘unflappable’ as they say.

Following are my week’s plans for each older child, along with the weekly paper I give them so they know what to expect and accomplish each day.

Grade three:

Grade nine:

Three years ago, I had this last minute idea to do a mini survey of the kids on the first day of school. So I quickly wrote this up. I’ve been making photo copies every year. Today was their 4th time filling it out. They all enjoyed hearing their responses from years past.

We always start the morning out with a walk. Our goal is to be home by 8:30am to get started on our day.

I had the 3rd grader prepare our morning snack.

Teaching the third grader crochet. He’s a good knitter already. The ninth grader is also doing crochet for handwork time because we never got very far with it when he was younger (he started late with Waldorf). They will both be making washcloths to begin.

My chalk drawing for third grade. Last night when i was drawing this, i decided that I must make a new chalkboard. This one wasn’t done properly, as I used a brush to apply primer and the primer left ridges. It is very frustrating. On the left hand side on the small chalkboard, are his math facts for the week.

We will be dying yarn this week, before the weather gets cold. We will be well stocked with yarn for crocheting!

Painting to prep

I’ve been needing to do my prop paintings for my 3rd grader’s lessons, and this week, I finally got the paint out and knocked them out. I had to do 9 paintings for the first 4 months of lessons. I still have 2 drawings to draw and some modeling figures to create, but those will be done soon enough. The painting can take a bit more time.

Here are some photos from my first night of wet-on-wet painting. Note that I intentionally try to make sure my paintings are perfect. They will be used as the prop while my son and I paint it together during his main lesson, and he can be a bit of a perfectionist. So, it is best if mine don’t look stunning.

I use stockmar water colors.

My kids have been painting rocks almost everyday. My daughter found a painted rock at the library and is hooked! She likes to leave them places for others to find.

Look for a blog post coming soon with a mini run down of what our planned out year will look like. I’m excited to start the new school year next week!