Giveaway! “Parenting In The Here and Now: Realizing the Strengths You Already Have”

I am so excited to have author Lea Page with us for a giveaway here at The Parenting Passageway.  For those of you who don’t know Lea or her work,  Lea Page  has been counseling and mentoring Waldorf parents for over a decade.  She was a La Leche League Leader for many years and also homeschooled both of her own children.

This year, she  published a wonderful book called  “Parenting In The Here And Now:  Realizing the Strengths You Already Have”.  Her book is about parenting in the here, right now, and how to manage emotions and cultivate the calmness in the chaos of the moment rather than become overwhelmed.  Please leave me a comment in the box and YOU could be the winner of Lea’s new book on Friday!

I am honored to share a wonderful piece that Lea wrote with you all.  It first appeared  in The Elephant Journal. Thank you, Lea, for your wise words and wonderful perspective.  I know all of us want to win a copy of your new book!  Here is Lea: 

What Can Nature Teach Children About Resistance?

Children engage in play with wholehearted dedication. They sink into imaginary worlds with an intensity that is hard for us as adults to match. They can also, frustratingly, apply that same intensity and dedication to resistance—to not getting in the bath or not getting dressed in time for the school bus.

Children can discover a sense of power in resistance. In the ensuing struggles, parents often feel stuck between letting the child have his way or overpowering the child with some combination of yelling, threats or rewards.

The problem with power struggles, besides all the misery, is that both parent and child learn to equate will with power (willfulness). But healthy will is not about power. Healthy will is devoted action: our thoughts and feelings and choices manifested in our deeds.

We engage the will with action, not arguments. When parents attend to the activities of home life with warmth and care—sharing meals, pursuing recreational/creative interests and doing chores together as a family, they model healthy will for their children, who are natural imitators. A strong family rhythm that establishes a reliable pattern of events as the day or week unfolds can also go a long way towards creating a harmonious flow with fewer day-to-day power struggles.

But there will be resistance, even in the most balanced of households. The power to resist isn’t always negative, but children need to learn when and how to apply it so that their will develops in a healthy manner.

Is there a way to teach children about the forces of power and resistance without inviting power struggles or modeling an unhealthy will?

Yes. By going to the source: the forces of nature, specifically, the four elements: water, air, earth and fire. Not only are these forces life sustaining, they have lessons to teach our young children, who learn primarily by experiencing the world through their senses and through their actions.

The following are just a few ways in which children can experience these forces, outside and inside the home.

Water is deceptively heavy and remarkably persistent. Water finds a way around an obstacle or wears it down slowly.

  • · Swim (with supervision) in pools, ponds, lakes, the ocean, etc.
  • · Haul buckets or other containers of water for gardens, flowerpots, inside plants, etc. Spray indoor plants with a mister.
  • · Pour from one container to another, a pitcher to a glass, a bucket to a tub.
  • · Snow—anything involving snow.
  • · Float sticks or folded paper boats in puddles (or in the sink or tub). What else will float?
  • · Stomp in puddles. Try to catch water from a rainspout.
  • · Go out in the rain. Get wet. Get really, really wet.
  • · Wash dishes by hand. A sink full of warm soapy water has magical qualities.
  • · Wash bed linens or quilts in the tub. Get in there and use your feet as if you were pressing grapes.

Air can move anywhere along the scale from whisper soft to howling gale. Air hides in stillness. It holds heat and coldness and can carry smells and even physical objects when it is moving enough. It touches us but is hard to grasp.

  • · Go outside in all weather (when safe)—feel the breeze, the gust, the gale.
  • · Take a large trash bag as a cape and lean into the wind. Be blown.
  • · Fly a kite.
  • · Blow dandelion fluff and soap bubbles.
  • · Make paper airplanes or tiny parachutes out of tissue paper and dental floss.
  • · Blow up balloons but don’t knot them and let them rip (air can be funny).

Earth is so implacable, so generous. It can be heavy or light. One can move earth, but one must be willing to sacrifice energy and sweat in order to do so. Earth can hold water or release it. Dealing with earth requires patience. It holds secrets.

  • · Sow seeds in a garden, in containers or pots, inside or out.
  • · Dig. No child should go through life without the satisfaction of digging a really good hole. Encourage all manner of excavation and construction. In dirt and sand, dry and wet.
  • · Collect rocks. Move rocks. Build sculptures with rocks.
  • · Attempt to dam a flow of water.
  • · Mold real clay.

· Buy the cheapest 25-pound bag of beans (after your children have finished putting small objects in their noses, etc.) and fill a bucket or basket with them. Hide small objects like spoons or little toy cars in the beans and let your children dig around for them. They can use their feet, too. Try this yourself after a stressful day.

Fire is missing from most children’s lives. Fire can be so powerful, but it too has such a range: the heat of fire can consume wholly, and the light of a flame can glimmer with tender subtlety. Fire mesmerizes, soothes and engenders courage. Fire draws us to it and drives us away.

  • · An outdoor fire pit is a true luxury. Some parks have spaces for these.
  • · Involve your child in collecting wood, building the fire, striking the match, tending the fire and even roasting or cooking on it.
  • · Take a walk with candle lanterns. Make one with a glass jar, some wire and a stick. And the candle.
  • · Light candles for the evening meal. Let your children light them and blow them out.
  • · Spend at least one night a year with only candlelight in order to experience true darkness and the power of even the smallest fire.

The four elements have a tempering quality on the will of children. When our children have the opportunity to experience these elements using their bodies, they begin to develop a keen respect, not only for the forces of nature, but for the power of their own inner forces. By recognizing and honoring the forces of nature, we can bring the forces of will in our families into more balance.

Thank you so much, Lea. Please leave me a comment in the comment box in order to be entered for Friday’s giveaway!



Eighth Grade: Homeschooling for High School Credit and Why You Should Be Thinking About This Now

Some of you have listened to my musings about homeschooling high school in previous posts.  It can be overwhelming to look at high schools, and many mothers I have spoken with, no matter what methodology or pedagogy they use to homeschool, feel overwhelmed.

It is almost like being back as a parent of a preschooler when all the options for schooling and building up family traditions and dealing with childhood behavior seem overwhelming, but back during those early years most people had time to get together for playdates and to support each other.  Trying to figure out how to homeschool high school is like this, only there are no supportive play dates.  Sometimes not many people are homeschooling high school in a local area, so there is no one around the learn from, and then on top of that, no one has time.  There may multiple children involved in multiple things, and no one seems to have time to get together to discuss high school.  No more supportive playdates!

I am very lucky because my county has a BIG contingent of people homeschooling high school. The time factor is still very real, but at least I  know there are people to reach out to. 

Waldorf homeschoolers, have another issue and challenge though, that few traditional homeschoolers understand:  there are hardly any resources for homeschooling high school in relation to doing the traditional blocks mentioned on the AWNSA chart or Waldorf high school websites.  There may be paragraphs here and there, for example, about ninth grade living chemistry, but just a few.  Other blocks have even less then that!  There are samples of main lesson book pages for high school, but I find this is mainly for ninth grade and not much for tenth grade and up.

The curriculum can also be more fluid as well and difficult to pin down. as some parts of it are traditional and seen in every grade and other subjects seem to vary by region or school.  There are curriculum layouts from most Waldorf high schools on the Internet,  and some schools have published more specific things… The Chicago Waldorf School has done a terrific job publicly sharing some of their Main Lesson Block topics and assignments and it offers a tantalizing glimpse into the high school world.  One of the Waldorf High Schools in Hawaii has published some great main lesson book pages from tenth grade.  However, this takes a lot of time to sift through different websites and articles. (Although I am grateful for anything that is out there!)

Then these is the fact that we are not only sifting through Waldorf resources, but also mainstream resources.  If a credit is around 150 – 180 hours and we know how many credits our high schooler needs to graduate, we need to know if our homeschooler is interested in college what those credits need to be in.  Some colleges list very specific things such as “3 credits Social Studies – 1 American History, 1 World History, 1 American Government and Civics” for example, – and then YOU as the parent really need to know WHAT these credits entail so you can match what you do in blocks to fulfilling credit hours.

For example, in eighth grade, I realized we had an Asian History block, an Oceanography Block, a Meteorology Block, and a World Geography Review and deepening that I was planning to run all year twice a week as a review from all that geography from fifth grade onward.  When I looked at a mainstream geography book and syllabus and realized all of these areas were included in high school Geography, I knew between all of this, our hours doing Main Lesson book work,  plus performing music related to time periods, our hands-on projects, use of badges from historical sites from our National Park Services, our reading lists and reading reports, would certainly give us more than 150 hours in this area.  So there is a high school credit in eighth grade!

Sometimes what you will be doing will span more than one year due to the block system of Waldorf homeschooling.  So you may be doing a lot of American history in eighth grade and that combined with the blocks you are doing in ninth grade, may count for a whole credit of American history  completed in ninth grade.  Transcripts can be created that say when you “completed” a course, so it could theoretically cover more than a year but end in the year where a traditional American school may place it.  Examples of this might especially include the sciences, where transcripts normally place biology, chemistry, physics in separate years in that order but Waldorf puts them together every year.   

You may need to run a subject not only as blocks, but as a “track” as well, where you meet several times a week all year on top of one or two blocks.  So, the important thing is to look ahead and see how you want to divide things, what you want to run as track classes (like perhaps you run math as a year long course ON TOP OF the math blocks or run biology for a whole year ON TOP OF the blocks you will do that covers life sciences).  You can keep careful track of your experiential learning and reading lists as well as part of your homeschooling for high school credit.



Extreme Self-Care for the Homeschooling Mom: Join Me!

Have you ever felt resentful that you are always at the bottom of the list, trying to figure out when to exercise or go buy a bra or squeeze in a dentist appointment?   Me too!   Homeschooling is HARD work at times.  Especially as children get older and you are trying to meet academic needs that are more demanding, more social needs and extra activities.  You may end up feeling pulled from early in the morning until later in the evening after you get home from whatever activity was going on.  This happens, even in Waldorf families, especially when we are homeschooling teenagers.

I recently got to spend some days alone.   Our dog just came out of the ICU.  She was too sick to travel and needed rest and quiet at home to recover,  but we also had our once a year vacation plans that were paid for and we couldn’t get a refund.  So, my husband and I decided that he would take the children for the vacation and I stayed home with our sweet dog.  The wonderful thing was that she wasn’t so sick that I couldn’t run out for an hour or so and come back. (And thank goodness,  because there was nothing worse than seeing her so sick! So grateful she is feeling better even if she has a road ahead!)  So I went to the gym AND also walked on the SAME day!  I cleaned out closets and the pantry and the garage.  I did much of the paperwork kind of stuff that I almost never have time to call about and follow up on (or I have to miss time homeschooling in order to do that!)  I also went through things for homeschooling, including looking at things for high school next year,  that I probably would never had  time to do if I wasn’t alone!  I did all kinds of things that were so much easier in solitude.

And here is what I thought about this week:  we, as homeschooling mothers, often do put ourselves last. We really do very often.  We may go straight from one child to the next with homeschooling to meal preparation to activities for children to housework with no break at all until in the night after the children go to sleep.  And then we are tired! Teaching all day is tiring!  Many times this pace is a necessity in homeschooling. IAs people say, it really is just a season, but it can be a long season when you are in it.   So short of giving up homeschooling,which most of us are  not going to give up for varying reasons, what can we do for self care in the meantime?

Here is my list; maybe it will inspire you to make  your own list and share it here! Here is mine:

  • Make sure you have scheduled time every day to exercise.  Yes, that might be at 6:30 in the morning or 8 at night, but if that is what it is , then so be it!  I will be thinking of you at 6:30 AM.   It is NOT selfish to take care of your health and according to nearly every research study out there, exercise is a major key to good health!  Take charge of your health and exercise.  It is really important!
  • Make and keep your doctor and dentist appointments; make and keep appointments for things that nourish you and make you feel fabulous – whether that is finally getting some new clothes (even if they are thrift store clothes, they are still new to you!) or having a date with a friend..whatever that nourishing thing is outside your family, put it on your calendar, arrange someone to watch your children and go do that!
  • Be the meal prepper – but not just for the family, but for your too.  If you Meal Prep Monday, you can have meals for the whole week for you.  This is especially important if you need a diet that is different in some ways from your family’s diet.  I like Amanda’s  Instagram account   to follow for healthy meal prepping,  and I like divided containers or mason jars to put healthy food in when I prep food.  Planning out things like breakfast and lunch for the whole family has also helped me immensely. I generally always have a plan for dinner, but everyone was getting tired of the standard fare for breakfast and lunch, including me.  Take your time and think ahead for meals; can you cook in bulk or use a crockpot? 
  • Don’t let your passions die.  You are more than a mother and  a partner or spouse. You are the unique and wonderful you!  Is there any time, once a week, where the children could all GO and you could be alone?  This isn’t always possible with traveling partners and family far away or partners who work long hours, but then could you cultivate a mother’s helper, a babysitter,  a friend to trade with?  You are so worth this!  If your children are very small, under the age of seven, again,  this may be very difficult, so don’t  torture yourself over it, but do start making strides when children are five and six toward having some time to yourself for doing your passion – whether that is painting or hiking or reading or music.  I think it is important to make that effort.
  • Get organized – yes, use your calendar,  and set boundaries on your time.  You cannot do it all, and the more you run from morning until night, the more it will eventually lead to burn-out.   Steady pace counts for a lot in life.
  • Get your house in order.  Things are naturally going to be more chaotic with more people in the house and things will have to be “over-hauled” perhaps more often than you think..for example, I cleaned out all the dressers, drawers, storage areas over the summer and it needed to be done again.  Things pile up and especially with the change in seasons,  they need to be gone through again.  Or maybe you could use Flylady where you really clean out clutter each week!  Getting rid of the clutter makes it much simpler to clean!
  • If you feel nourished, calm, healthy …well, then you feel great!  You feel sexy! And that is such a great boost to those of us with partners or spouses in the house. Smile  

I guess most of all, what I have been thinking is to set your priorities and boundaries! We all only have 24 hours in a day, but if nearly all of those hours are devoted to our children’s schooling and activities and we can’t even get a twice a year dentist appointment in, for example, something is wrong.  We want to invest our time in our children and families, but we also really need to invest in our own health and well-being. This is about being a great model for our children when it comes to health and sanity.  Also, when we feel physically good and emotionally nurtured, everyone in the family benefits!

Please share your best ideas for self-care in the comment box.


Michaelmas Celebration For All Ages

Michaelmas is such a wonderful festival!  The inner strength and courage that Michaelmas represents is so fortifying as we look ahead to the winter months.  My family celebrates The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels in church; and we also celebrate this event at home.

I think one of the interesting things in the home environment is that if you have both teens in the family and small children, you may have been coming up with Michaelmas celebrations for fifteen or more years, and you may be  trying to find ways to appeal to both teens and tiny children.  This requires strength and constancy in festival making!

We have done all sort of things over years past:

  • Made felted shooting star balls
  • Made dragon bread
  • Dyed capes and sashes either golden yellow with natural dyes or red
  • Had obstacle courses
  • Hunted for “dragon tears”
  • Made dragons out of felt
  • Made dragons out of thin modeling material and put it on candles
  • Made blackberry crisp
  • Had puppet shows with older children presenting for younger children
  • Had music and verses specific to Michaelmas
  • We have made Calendula Courage Salve.
  • In accordance with our religious tradition, we have shared stories of angels and verses and prayers about angels from The Bible and other sources of tradition within our church.
  • We have told many stories of St. Michael and the Star Children, Little Boy Knight, St. George and the Dragon.  There are so many wonderful stories and legends!

It takes time to try things and build up traditions.  You can certainly build up slowly over the years, and also build up a community with which to celebrate.  This year, I missed getting together with folks on this special day – celebrating in community is so wonderful!  I asked my teen earlier in the month what she would find interesting for a  Michaelmas celebration and she mentioned putting on a well-crafted puppet show for younger children; an obstacle course (“the harder the better” she said!) and, of course, food.   I find something like a bonfire with food and other activities works well for teens.   If you have teens, what sorts of things are you doing for Michaelmas?  Please share in the comment box below.

Here are some links to some of our more treasured ideas  in this back post.

Here is a link to my Michaelmas Pinterest board with links for verses, songs, food, crafts, and ideas.

I hope you have a wonderful Michaelmas – may your courage be strong, your words so true and your deeds so brave!



Top Ten Tips For Homeschooling Waldorf Kindergarten

It is easy to get caught up in the external trappings of Waldorf kindergarten – the pretty silks, the wooden toys, and even things like the color of the day or the grain of the day or gnomes.  Not that we don’t love those things, but I think if that is where we stop, we are truly missing the heart of the Waldorf kindergarten.  So, here are my top ten tips regarding Waldorf kindergarten for the three to six year old at home:

1.  Be prepared to hold a daily and weekly rhythm, and firm and loving boundaries consistently.  This can be very difficult for parents as many parents have no rhythm to their days or are constantly on the go and too busy.  A healthy home life involves slowing down, being present, holding boundaries with love.  And doing it day after day.  This is our sacred work in parenting.

2.  Work provides the basis for healthy play; be prepared to stick to the rhythm of work even if your child does not participate. Older kindergarteners will participate; younger children may imitate in play; but either way the work is done because it is IMPORTANT work for the nourishment of the home.  My only caveat is that in the home environment we also should have the time, space and freedom for snuggles, for love, for being able to just be with our children.  It should all  have a balance to it, an inbreath and outbreath.  Conversely, if your whole day is following your child around and nothing is being led by you, then that is an area to look at and bring in the important work of the home.

3.  Create space and time for play; have warm natural objects for play.  It doesn’t have to be expensive wooden toys!  It can be boxes with stacks of seashells, stones and pinecones!  But the space and time for a child to learn how to play by themselves, from their own initiative, is important.  You can be a “character” in the play, but keep your hands busy.  This is your child’s work.

The other piece of this is the cues that we can take from our friends involved in farm and forest-based education.  Being in nature is the true place for beautiful play and the development of the senses and gross motor movement and core strength we are looking for in the kindergarten years.  This is the true preparation for the academic work that will take place in the grades.

4.  Your child needs more silence, more time to themselves,  and less of your hovering and words and direction.  It doesn’t mean that your children don’t need  you, but that it is part of the health of the individual child to have time and space to self-initiate, to learn in their own world of play as they imitate your work and your inner attitudes.

5.  Speak in verses and songs;  provide pictures with images as you speak with clear speech.  Silence provides time and space for your child to initiate his or her own words. Stories and songs are the food of the Waldorf Kindergarten.  The stories you make up about the little things around your home and neighborhood are the best stories.

6.  Protection is the key to the Waldorf Kindergarten – questions and answers and explanations for the child, more questions for the child, so many choices, the use of so many gadgets and screens to entertain children all takes away a child’s self-initiative, their own ability to modulate and self-regulate their own emotions, the unfolding of their own development, and their ability to imagine and problem-solve.  Protection is an important neuro-stimulator.

7.  Boundaries relax children.  They may kick and scream against it,  you may have to gently hold them while they scream and kick, but they will relax into it eventually.  Waldorf teachers vary on the use of the phrase “You may” do something versus  “You will” do something, but  no matter how you say it, a boundary still needs to happen.  A strong rhythm is the best boundary holder of all.

8. Help children learn how they can love and support each other.  We often don’t have this in the home if it is just a young child and us, without mixed age ranges. I don’t know as a three or four year old needs much in the way of “socialization” outside the family unit, but I think by five and six most children would like to have a friend or two and I think this is important for social development.  Building up community is important for the homeschooling adult and the children.  This may be done by you starting a homeschool group, a playgroup, or just an outside day at a park with friends. 

9.  And after saying all of this, I am going to sound paradoxical when I tell you that who we are is more important than what we do.  Are we truly loving and kind or do we bad mouth people behind their backs?  Do we approach our tasks lovingly and with joy or are we bitter and full of resentment?  How are we working to develop the inner qualities we want our children to emulate?  This involves taking up spiritual initiative within our own lives in whatever capacity that means to us.  Rudolf Steiner laid out a path with his ideas, I use a path of Christianity through my religious denomination, and different people have different ways, but the point is that you work on cultivating the spirituality that is within in you that connects you to other people and to the world and causes you to see how things are interrelated.

10.  Remember that the ultimate goal of Waldorf Education is that the human beings once again learn how to live with each other, that we can connect with the “other”, that we see how things are interrelated, that we can serve humanity with love.  It helps to begin with the end in mind.

I have very specific back posts about Waldorf in the Home for the one and two year old, the three and four year old, the five and six year old, along with posts on puppetry, festivals, stories, movement and gross motor development, the development of the hand, modeling and wet on wet painting.   You do not need a fancy curriculum.  Save your money for art supplies, and child-sized tools for work in nourishing the home or a membership to your state parks. 

Many blessings,


Connecting With Young Children–Educating the Will: Week Nine

This week we are looking at Chapter Four, entitled “Imitation, Life Activities, and the Role of the Adult as Example and Guide.”  What a great title!

This chapter begins with a lovely quote from Rudolf Steiner:

The task of the kindergarten teacher is to adjust the work taken from daily life so that it becomes suitable for the children’s play activities.  The whole point….is to give young children the opportunity to imitate life in a simple and wholesome way.

Imagine if that was the point of every kindergarten in North America! Just imagine!

So, in creating this type of environment at home for the kindergarten (ages 3-6) child, we need rhythm in daily life activities, safe and healthy boundaries, and adults’ consistency in maintaining the boundaries and rhythm.

These can all be very difficult things for the adult who is homeschooling.  We don’t live as rhythmic a life as in the past due to advances in technology and more urban lifestyles.  You will have to work on this.  However, as the author also points out, is that WHO we are is what is most imitated and has the deepest impact on the child and any attempts we make to better ourselves becomes important and worthy of imitation.  What we DO in response to given situations is what the young child imitates. 

Young children are about doing  – the older kindergartener will help and participate, the younger children imitate the activities in their play.  This is healthy.  It is worthy for you to do the work even if your children don’t participate.  The author writes, “If you are simply doing something so that the children will join in, and then when you they don’t you put away materials and tools, then clearly it was not something important that needed to be done.”

Suggestions for work in a “kindergarten home”:  washing, cooking, ironing, sewing, planting, weeding, pruning, repairing chairs, tables, dolls and other toys, making toys for the kindergarten and more. (see page 65).  In the homeschooling “kindergarten home” we could add in things such as care of pets and plants, cleaning with scrubbing and dusting, homesteading activities – the list is truly endless.  These tasks must be attended to with love, joy and care.  Our inner attitudes matter to the children!

As kindergarten teachers, we believe that imitation helps form the physical body.  This is part of the wisdom of the ages streaming down into the child, it is part of the spiritual work of the adults in the environment, it is part of what we show children through our habits .  We teach our children habits for health and hygiene, and also habits for resilience and how to handle challenges or when things don’t go quite right. 

A child’s education is rightly done when the child achieves something for himself.  We create situations where the child develops his or her own capacities.  This is so closely linked to the environment, and this is where lazured rooms, wooden toys and such come in to create a warm and engaging environment full of possibilities.  We may not have this in the home environment.  The most important thing is to have open-ended things to manipulative into different possibilities – things from nature, such as acorns, shells, seed pits from fruits are all ideal.  We also create spaces where a child can touch, climb, and just be without hearing “don’t” all the time. 

Plenty of time for free play should be worked into the schedule, along with time for nourishing songs and stories.  Quiet and silence are also very important.  No stream of consciousness humming or constant singing!  The author interestingly notes on page 73: 

The adult must be sparing with their attention and with their “I” contact with  young children, as it can easily overpower the young child.  The adult has a strongly developed sense of self, and the young child does not.  For some children, eye to eye contact is intimidating.

I think this is the area where most parents I know stumble.  The infant has a biologic need to have every need promptly attended to and met in a loving and gentle way.  However, once the shift comes to “Wants” versus “Needs” I think many parents of today continue patterns established in infancy and toddlerhood and do not provide the three to  six year olds enough time and space in silence.  How do we encourage resilience in our children by having our child play by himself or herself?  This is very difficult for some children.

We will come back to this theme and the rest of Chapter Four in our next post. If you need to see what we discussed in Chapter Three, please see the back post here.


Weeks Three Through Seven of Eighth and Fifth Grade

It is hard to believe that my last post on eighth and fifth grade was back in August; you can read that post here and see what we were up to!

Six Year Old Kindergarten – I described in my first post the joys of our liturgical year and August; for September we have moved into so many of the traditional Autumn things that I love – songs and verses about squirrels, chipmunks and apples; Suzanne Down’s sweet story about “There’s a Bear in Our Plum Tree!” and now the story “The Princess of the Flaming Castle” found in the red book, “Let Us Form A Ring”.  This month, we have focused on Saint Helena and Holy Cross Day, celebrated in the Episcopal tradition on September 15th, and reading lots of stories and saying verses about angels in preparation for the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels.  This has been a fun time of starting church choir for our little one, attending Sunday School and finally being old enough to go to Cloverbuds in 4-H when his big sisters attend our homeschool 4-H meetings.  So lovely!  Mainly we have been enjoying baking, painting, modeling, playing in the dirt, and being outside with the change of weather.

Fifth Grade – This botany block is stretching out to be the longest block we have ever done,much like the way our Native American block of Third Grade went on forever (same child as well!).  At any rate, once we got settled in, we enjoyed moving into algae and lichens and their varying connections to animals from our fourth grade Man and Animal block.  We moved into mosses and ferns with painting and modeling and walking in the woods.   We read “One Day in the Woods”, also by Jean Craighead George, and looked at the beautiful fern family in modeling and painting.  We went apple picking, and used the process of drawing and describing the apple tree and orchard as a basis for talking about the steps in writing – pre-writing, draft, revision, edit and final stage – and types of writing.  For conifers we have extensively discussed the ecology of the longleaf pine, which we will also be visiting this coming week; and how this habitat is intricately intertwined with the red cockaded woodpecker, one of the first animals I learned about when we moved to this state, and also with the keystone species of the gopher tortoise that we learned about in our fourth grade Man and Animal block and reviewed here. “Ecology of a Cracker Childhood”  by Janisse Ray is a great read for teachers looking to know more about this unique habitat.   We will have a field trip and poetry to look at trees, and a final look at botany with the flowering plants and an introduction to biomes.  It promises to be a full  last (hopefully last!) week. 

We have been reviewing a lot of math and spelling.  Music theory is going full force again with our choir director from church, along with choir practice itself and swimming and 4H.  Busy days! 

Eighth Grade – We finished our Platonic Solids (Stereometry) and Loci block.  Loci were great fun and we looked at the basic building blocks of loci and then moved into creating parabolas, hyperbolas and ellipses.  We then did some work with HOW one gets those formulas of volume.  Then we moved into American History.  We had done a Colonial/American History block last year in seventh grade, so in this grade we picked up with Thomas Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark and moved onward.  We have talked about the changes in transportation with the steamboat, the Golden Age of Canals, when Texas was an independent Republic and the Mexican-American War, the Pony Express,  and the inventions and changes that helped shaped America. I assigned a paper regarding Eli Whitney as I feel this ties into the pre-Civil War Era nicely.  We moved into the Civil War at the end of this week.

We did a more exhaustive literary analysis of Scott O’Dell’s “Sing Down the Moon”, looked at Navaho songs, and are now reading “Sacajawea” aloud.  There are many wonderful books to read about this time period in American history, and just not enough time!  We have continued with math, vocabulary and Spanish, and finally did start that World Geography, which will have enough hours at the end of the year and be rigorous enough to be a high school level course.  So far we have looked at types of  geographers and  their areas of study, the five lenses of geography, a review of globes, maps, latitude, longitude, different types of maps, and then delved quite deeply into Antarctica (where there is an island named after my husband’s family!), the explorers of Antarctica and its wildlife and now into North America.  

4-H has been busy with forestry judging (tree identification, tree diseases and insect identification, saw timber estimation and pacing) and now wildlife judging, along with choir and other activities. One interesting activity my eighth grader found through 4-H is Walk Georgia – for each certain number of minutes of movement, one “unlocks” one of Georgia’s counties on an interactive map and with this, pertinent attractions for that county are listed. What a fun way to review all of the counties of our state and stay active!

It has been a busy year so far…