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.

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!

Homeschool Planning

I’ve been in the process of planning out our next school year. I started in May this year, but have taken breaks here and there. I thought I’d share some resources I use, and a bit about my process.

This year I am planning second year kindergarten, 3rd grade and 9th grade, all using Waldorf curriculum.

I always start with my Planning for Peace journal. This is my second year using it and I love it. It was revised this year and is even better than last year. It breaks up the whole planning process into 5 months and includes everyone, including rhythm, meals, inner work and block planning.

I’m almost done with planning for my 3rd grader and I’ve totally finished kindergarten. What does this look like? For my kindergartener, I have my weekly stories planned out, crafts and cooking planned, and I know which props I’ll need each month for story telling.

For my third grader, I have the block plans done for the whole year and daily detailed plans done through the end of December. In November , I’ll go through and plan out the daily plans for the remaining months. All I have left to do is create the artwork (painting and drawing) that I’ll use for his main lessons, and to plan out his music lessons. I’m waiting for my hard copy to arrive to do that. We are using Music Unfolds and the lessons are already laid out as daily lesson plans, so the work will be minimal.

Below are many of the books I’m using for planning. We use Waldorf Essentials curriculum and love it. It’s what we’ve been using for going on five years. I love their work so much that i became a TFW leader for my local area, so if you are local to me and looking for curriculum or support on how to make Waldorf happen at home (hint: the answer is the Thinking Feeling Willing program), message me and I can help.

I have many books that i use for verses and songs and activity ideas, and I’ve included some in the photos below

Planning high school is a bit different. I don’t use a laid out curriculum (but for math, I do) but rather I first look at the suggested blocks for the 14-15 year old and figure out how to arrange their order for our school year. Then I break the blocks into weekly plans and figure out which main lesson topic will be focused on each week. After that, I start hunting down resources. They may be books I own, library books, websites, and even YouTube videos.

In 9th grade, our blocks include: review of 15th-19th centuries, 20/21st centuries with a focus on revolutions, nature study (homeostasis and immunology), geology, meteorology, chemistry, and physics. I’m still looking for resources and planning that part out, but I’ve finished the most of September-December. Here are just two books that I already own that he’ll be using. Most of the books he’ll read, however, will be library books.

For math, we will be continuing with Making Math Meaningful by Jamie York. Jamie is a Waldorf math teacher who has written a fantastic math curriculum. We started using it in 6th grade. I can’t deny that I’m slightly nervous about high school math, but as long as I stay a few steps ahead of my son, it’ll be fine. The resource book has never failed me, and has helped me to understand math in a whole new way.

Planning is key for a successful school year. It can feel tedious but it is vital. Last year, my planning was less than thorough and there were many holes in my plans, as I’d just had a baby and didn’t spend enough time planning before he was born. This year, I want my year to feel smoother, so I’m putting in the time to properly plan. I know it’ll be a much easier school year!

Our day in pictures

(This isn’t our cat but we saw him on our walk, and he is blind. I had to take a picture of him enjoying the sun.)

Of course, there was much much more to our day. Lots of meals and talking and fighting and crying and dishes and playing and laughing. Life is never dull.