Eastertide: 50 Days of Beauty and Joy

Happy Eastertide!  I love the season of Eastertide, which began on Easter Sunday and will last until  Pentecost Sunday (which is on June 4th this year).

I find it comforting that the spiritual journey of Lent, often hard and arduous, gives way to an even longer period of joy and yes, even fun.  There are forty days in Lent, and fifty in Eastertide, which to me signifies and marks the very adult needs of beauty, fun, and play.

Oh yes, to play.  Adults need to play.  Play is not only the realm of children.  Play is often the creative wellspring of adults as well.  I am also convinced it a the key to adult  mental wellness.   We often seem to forget this in our drudgery of work, traffic, children’s activities, cooking meals and changing diapers and cleaning the house over and over, but  our need to play (and rest and relax) is every bit as real as our need to work and help each other.  The child inside of us is never far down if only we reach for him or her.

We recently began Eastertide by spending a few days camping on a remote barrier island that was accessible by ferry.  It was full of palmettos, sand dunes, beach,  live oak trees to climb,  and places to swim and walk.  There were wild horses grazing in the sand dunes, armadillos crossing our path (and raccoons trying valiantly to get into our food and water jugs).  It was five hours away from our home, but still in our state, and yet was so far away from the large and busy metropolitan area in which we live now.  We used to live in this area when we first were married, and moved for job opportunities, but I often miss the quiet, slower pace of that beautiful area of sun and sea.

In this fifty days of Eastertide, I challenge you to play, to rest and relax and notice beauty, and to find and take your joy in the ordinary moments.  They are there, even amongst the chores of housekeeping or holding tiny children.  They are there, even in the times of your teenager dealing with end of semester tests and finals.  They are there, even with your children who are feeling the call of spring and nature to be wild and untamed.   They are there, even in traffic and whizzing cars.  Find those moments and hold onto them for what they are; the seeds of creativity and relaxing love.

Happy Eastertide, my friends.


Sixth Grade Medieval Block


We are in our second week of our sixth grade Medieval Block and this time around I have done very different things than I did with my first student so I thought it would be a good time to update some notes on this block. If you are interested as to what we did the first time around, you can see here and here.

This time around, we finished our Roman block by reading the book, “The Dancing Bear” out loud and our sixth grader completed a report about Attila the Hun in between our Roman and Medieval history blocks.  I also had our student read, “Favorite Medieval Tales” by Mary Pope Osborne and Troy Howell and have her pick her favorite story and re-write in her own words.  I think this can be a great exercise for children who struggle with writing.  Usually what the children who don’t like to write will do is make a numbered sort of list of plot points and then you can work with your student on turning the plot points into good descriptive sentences.  We also started the book “Son of Charlemagne” as a read aloud between blocks as well, and finished that book the first week of our block.

Our first week included a look at the Byzantine Empire, with special emphasis on the following: Constantinople as a strategic location, Justinian I and Empress Theodora and their biographies, the Hagia Sophia, icolonclasm, and the structure of Byzantine society.  This is important information for laying the groundwork for the Ottoman Empire, and in understanding the schism in the Catholic Church.

We also spent time last week and this week talking about knights and chivalry, advances in horseback riding that made being a knight possible, the manor and how these grew into castles and the feudal system, and monks and monasteries.  Biographies covered included Pope Gregory the Great, a mention of Pope Leo the Great (also mentioned at the end of the book, “The Son of Charlemagne,”), St. Benedict, St. Hildegarde, and St. Francis and more.  We have painted, and drawn, listened to Gregorian chants, looked at illuminated manuscripts, worked on calligraphy, and we will be working on rose windows and a cathedral drawing this week and into next week.  I wish I knew a stained glass artist for this block, but I don’t, so tissue paper will have to do!  This week we will finish up with an in-depth look at castles and the role of women and children in the Middle Ages, and re-iterate the life of the peasant.  I also want to highlight  some of the technological advances of the Middle Ages (we have already talked about stirrups and horseshoes for knights but for the peasants the heavy plow was an advance).  I have plans for a writing assignment here as well.  We have been reading the book, “Castle,” by David Macauley.  We will spend one day at the end of this week talking about the Ancient Puebloan civilizations, and I have a little kit to make an Anasazi bowl.

Plans for the third week and into the fourth week since we will have a short week due to travel:  Mohammed and the Islamic World.  We will be talking about the symbols of Islam, the difference between Sunni, Shiite, and Sufi branches, studying the construction of the  mosque and hopefully visit a mosque, make rice and date pudding and Seviyan,  and talk about the wonderful scholars of the Muslim world and the arts of calligraphy, Islamic geometry, paper making, the pointed arch in architecture, the wheel/the crank/the rod – lots of projects here! And we will end with the biography of the Father of optics, Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham, and the pinhole camera.  I also have plans for a writing assignment here, and to read the book, “Mosque,” as a read aloud.  I also have several biographies of Mohammed ready to read and look through.

Week Five will include a look back at Charlemagne with some primary source readings , the Vikings and the impact on the British Isles (did you see one of the most recent National Geographic issues had Vikings on the front cover?  I just got a copy of it; it proves to be interesting reading!), William the Conqueror, Eleanor of Aquitaine,  Richard the Lionheart,  and Saladin.  I have a little game ready about the life events of Eleanor of Aquitaine that I found on the Waldorf Inspirations website – have you all seen that?

Week Six will continue with the Crusades, and end with the Magna Charta.  We will also look at the Maya in Mesoamerica and since we just returned from a whirlwind Central American trip, we have some experiential things already in place for this endeavor.

Things happening in other parts of the world during this time period which includes the great kingdoms in Western Africa (my personal favorite), and feudal Japan. I have plans written out for all of these areas, but we will see what we can get to before the end of the school year.  Whatever we do not get to, I will probably start there as our first block of seventh grade.  Look, some seventh grade planning done already!  LOL.

Many blessings,

April Beauty

We were away for the first week of April and came home to green grass, blooming ornamental trees, and cold nights but warm temperatures during the day. Spring is here!

This month, we will be journeying through the heart and soul of Holy Week and celebrating Eastertide in its fullest glory, despite the often horrifying and somber events of the world as of late.   The calendar of the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church include an amazing array of Saints this month; so much wonder in the midst of darkness to remember.   Our main family  festival dates  this month include:

9- Palm Sunday

10-15- Holy Week

16- Easter


25- St. Mark

29- St. Catherine of Siena

I am looking ahead to Ascension Day in May and the Rogation Days that precede Ascension Day ( the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday prior to Ascension Day).  There is also a Novena of 9 days that begins on Ascension Day and ends on the Eve of Pentecost.  So I am really thinking about how to mark that.

These are a few of my favorite things this month for my family:

  • Since we will be in Eastertide in just a short week,  I am thinking of all the creative and wonderful ways to dye eggs,  thinking of the Paschal candle and light in our home, indoor dish Easter gardens, Easter carols (yes, they are real!) and attending church
  • Gardens outside as well – especially leading up to Rogation Days which is a wonderful time to have seeds, gardening tools and homesteads blessed.
  • Spring cleaning and decluttering
  • Spring menu planning!
  • OUTSIDE PLAY!  How often do we, as adults, forget to play?  Play has really been on my mind lately as a depression and anxiety buster, as a health enhancer, as a way to create family memories and fun!  Look for some ideas about PLAY coming this month to this space.
  • Camping.  It is a nice month to camp where we live, and we will be taking advantage of that by camping at an uninhabited barrier island mid-month.  Wild horses and beach fun!

These are a few of my favorite things for small children:

  • Ramping up all kinds of physical activity since the weather is generally nice…hiking, kayaking, roller blading, walking, playing in the yard never disappeared these past months, but I feel so drawn to these activities now.
  • Incorporating more and more loose parts play and re-arranging indoor and outdoor play areas.

P.S. — For those of you who are using any form of screens with your small children, how about looking at rhythm, play and outside time in preparation for Screen Free Week?  Screen Free Week 2016 is coming May 1-7! You can see http://www.screenfree.org for more details. 🙂

These are a few of my favorite things for grades-age children and teens:

  • Spring handwork – wet felting, making beautiful spring crafts
  • Movement outside and exploring nature
  • Adjusting our rhythm to the seasons, but sticking to strong awake, rest and bedtimes, along with regular nourishing whole foods mealtimes.
  • Exploring local history through geological and nature study, and also through local historical events of significance.  There are so many National Park sites and museums to explore!
  • Letting teens sleep.  Spring is a time when a lot of physical growth seems to occur, and teens need their sleep!

Please share with me what is inspiring you this month!



Extending Latin America Through The Curriculum

After my post about extending Africa throughout the curriculum, a long-time reader 🙂 wrote in and said she would appreciate suggestions for including Latin America throughout the curriculum.  I agree that this is needed, and in a way this comment was wonderful timing as we just returned from visiting Mexico, the Mayan ruins at Lamanai in Belize, and from snorkeling in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.  Latin America is on my mind!

I think as Americans working within the Waldorf tradition of education, (whether North, Central, or South Americans), we should and must consider what contributed to the consciousness of the American soul in our own homeschooling. Although it is not as well spoken about, the basis of Waldorf Education does actually consider this.  While the Egyptian Epoch is seen as the platform for Western Civilization,  David Mitchell, in an essay in the free ebook,  “Riddle of America,” wrote about how the legends of Mesoamerica, particularly the Legend of  Huitzilopochtli,  and those found in the temples of Mexico in particular were congruent to those found in the Egyptian Mystery Centers.

And, of course, the point of Waldorf Education, is to work with where you are in the world, and with the cultural heritage of your family or your classroom.  This is important and being done in Waldorf Schools around the world.  So, without further ado, this is how I see the Latin American influence unfolding in the American Waldorf homeschooling curriculum:

In kindergarten and first grade, I use Latin American fairy tales.  I like the Bear Prince from Mexico (“El Principe Oso”). Juan Bobo, the trickster from Puetro Rico, I think could be used in first grade as lighter and funnier stories or in the second grade stories as he is quite a trickster.  Other stories that come to mind for the trickster part of second grade include Ananzi the Spider, originally from West Africa, but extremely popular in the Caribbean Islands.  There are stories about the fox and the guinea pig from South America, and  the tiger and the rabbit tales from Puerto Rico.  There are also many nature stories that could be used throughout first and second grade. This, in many ways, is an easy part of the curriculum to infuse. Festivals, cooking, and music can round out these grades in a lovely way.

In third grade, I really have enjoyed the approach of how man lived on the land through the stories of the First Peoples, and I think the Olmecs and Mayans should be included here.  One could also include the mound-building practices of the indigenous people of the Amazon River. What I normally do is refer to the First Peoples by geographic area, the way the Christopherus Third Grade curriculum does.  This makes sense to me in the consciousness of the child, but you may feel differently.  At any rate, what I think should be included here is shelters, food sources, clothing, and save the societal structures for fifth grade.    If one talks about time in second or third grade, I often see such books as “Thirteen Moons on A Turtle’s Back,” referenced by homeschoolers for block studies on time, but one could also include the Mayan calendar as part of this. In third grade, some Waldorf homeschoolers include more creation stories as part of their curriculum, so I was thinking that the Popul Vuh could be included here.

In fourth grade, one could choose animals from Latin America as representatives for the different categories of animals, and choose a favored animal found in Latin America as a subject for a report.  I think the fractions block could be done around something such as preparing for a festival, in practical form and Main Lesson book form.  Fourth grade is the year for the Norse Myths, and I think stories from the Popul Vuh might fit in nicely here.

For fifth grade, I would include a block on the Olmecs, Toltecs, Maya, and Nazca civilizations. The Olmecs certainly need to be covered, as they are a river valley civilization just like the civilizations that sprung up around the Indus, Nile,  and Yellow Rivers. ( If there is not time to include the Toltecs, Maya and Nazca, I would put at least several days of the Nazca in with the Roman Empire in sixth grade as the Nazca also used aqueducts, and focus on the Olmecs and Maya).  There are many beautiful artistic ventures that could be explored just from these two civilizations, the Olmecs and the Maya in fifth grade.   Fifth grade botany typically focuses on the vegetation in the student’s world and beyond into the different types of plants, but one could also talk about the ethnobotanical practices of the Maya that are still used today as related to the palm trees and other types of trees.  The British military even learns about some of these plants when they go to Belize to do jungle training; the give and take tree comes to mind.    I would consider purchasing Master Waldorf teacher Marsha Johnson’s block unit guide on “Chocolate Math” as this talks a lot about the use of cacoa and how chocolate is made and would fit in nicely with Ancient Civilizations of Mesoamerica.  It would also be nice to include a tie-in to Mayan mathematics much the way some homeschoolers focus on or at least touch upon Vedic math in fifth grade.

In sixth grade, some schools do Latin American geography as a block at this time.  I tend to do that in seventh grade.  In sixth grade, there could be a focus on naked eye astronomy, with a return to astronomy with lenses in seventh grade, so I would bring the Maya back in sixth grade to talk about Mayan Astronomy.  I would try to include the Incan Empire at the end of sixth grade if possible, as this fits in chronologically and in consciousness with the Medieval time period often covered in sixth grade, or begin seventh grade with this if you run out of time.

In Seventh Grade, I normally do a Latin American geography block and spend time on the Aztecs (and review the Inca and Maya).  Then,of course, during the block on Exploration, the sad effects of the Europeans on these civilizations must be discussed.  However, I think it is also important to say that Mayan people are alive today.  For example, in Belize where I just visited, the Mayan population is about 11 percent of the total population.  Incan people are still in South America today.   This is important for children to understand.

In Eighth grade, I like to do a World Geography course that counts for high school credit, so that would be another place to look at Latin America and perhaps pick up more modern streams of thought about this region in current events, more modern history from World War II onward. It usually takes us all of  eighth and ninth grade to get through American history because we literally start at the Paleo-Indian Era and work up, but there are many points to include Latin America in both of these subjects. A Revolutions block in eighth or ninth grade should include Simon Bolivar and all the Latin American revolutions.   Tenth grade typically includes a block of Ancient Civilizations, and I intend to focus again on the river civilization of the Olmecs and the Maya as well.

Lastly, if one is studying Spanish as a language, there will also be many more cultural opportunities for exploration through the grades as the language is learned.  As homeschoolers, many of us are on a tight budget, but if you can save up money and travel to Central or South America, I would highly recommend it. There is nothing like standing in front of a Mayan temple that was built 1500 years BCE to bring all of this to life.  Homeschooling is about using the ordinary minutes of every day, and there are some homeschoolers who embrace roadschooling and worldschooling as their medium, but wouldn’t it be nice if more of us had the opportunity to see culture and history come to life?

I hope this helps provide ideas for how to extend Latin America  throughout the curriculum. I  think in Waldorf homeschooling, we must always consider our cultural heritage and what streams make up the Americas as a vital part of the educational process.

Many blessings,


Block Rotations For Tenth, Seventh, and Second Grade

So I have gone through a good deal of thinking recently about these grades. I have been writing things down (and scratching things out), and have come up with a yearly plan, a weekly plan, and a daily plan for my first time through tenth grade, my second time through seventh grade, and my third time through second grade.

To help clarify the roles of yearly, weekly, and daily plans, I think of the possibilities in the following ways. The yearly plan is our start and end dates, vacation dates, any field trips I know about.  It is figuring out how many weeks we will run total.  It is festivals and religious observances and seasonal fun.

The weekly plan includes things like how many days I week I will teach, how many days will we be outside the home (unfortunately, with a high schooler, more than I would like).  I think about things like how many times a week do I need to teach X high school subject that runs all year and is not in a block, or does my seventh grader need extra help in an area outside of block scheduling?

The daily plan includes things such as how to get everyone’s school in, what can we all do together as a family or what can I do to combine my seventh and tenth grader, what can I do for self-care and my own health each and every day, how will the house and meals be handled.

The block rotations are specific to Waldorf homeschooling and how I prefer to teach and how my children prefer to learn. So, the block plan rotation for each of these grades looks  like this so far:

Second Grade:

  • August – Nature Tales for form drawing and to review the alphabet and all letter sounds
  • September – Math through Trickster Tales
  • October – Fables
  • November – Math and American Tall Tales
  • December – Stories of Light
  • January – Math
  • February – Chinese Fairy Tales
  • March – Math
  • April – Native American Tales
  • May- Gardening and Herbs, more Native American Tales

Seventh Grade – We will be doing practice math daily and in blocks; we will be doing extra writing twice a week combined with our tenth grader, and we will be folding the physiology block into some of the things for health our tenth grader is doing weekly. Also, I am planning a once a week “together” block with some of the areas that overlap between seventh and tenth grades:  Africa, Oceanography, Navigation, Mechanics, Exploration and World Geography, Latin America, Colonial America, Poetry.

For blocks, I am thinking (totally subject to change!)

  • August/September – The Renaissance, The Reformation, and Perspective Drawing
  • October- Math
  • November – Africa – geography, people, animals (may work in poetry writing haikus about animals as well)
  • December – Physics and Math
  • January – Latin America
  • February- Exploration (with a focus on writing with a Wish, Wonder, Suprise theme.  We will also be doing this in our two day a week writing throughout the year).
  • March – Math
  • April – Colonial History – Biographies
  • May- Astronomy and Magnetism
  • I am thinking of skipping chemistry and combining seventh and eighth grade chemistry into one block in eighth grade but we shall see!


Tenth Grade – Classes that will run all year will include geometry, United States Government, Environmental Science, Health, and possibly Spanish 3.  English will run in blocks and twice a week during non-writing blocks.  United States Government will run in much the same way – in blocks but also in weekly classes when we are not on that subject as a block.

Block Rotation will include: (also totally subject to change!)

  • August – United States Government
  • September – Embryology
  • October- United States Government
  • November  and December- Ancient Civilizations with Ancient Literature
  • January – Hands On Trigonometry, Triangulation
  • February – Contemporary African-American Literature (6 weeks)
  • March/April – United States Government
  • April/May – Poetry

We shall see how it all works out!  It promises to be a busy year.

Many blessings,

Extending Africa Through The Curriculum

If we are Waldorf homeschooling within the Americas, I feel the streams of the Native American culture and African culture must be represented as foundational and carried through all grades of the Waldorf curriculum.  I wrote a brief post about multiculturalism in the Waldorf Curriculum before, and highlighted the wonderful Waldorf Teacher resource book Hear The Voice of the Griot!  by Betty Staley that will carry you throughout all the grades, including high school.

For the early grades, the thrust, should of course, be stories and activities.  First Grade can include African fairy tales; Second Grade can include Aesop’s fables and all the African folk tales and trickster tales, including Ananzi the Spider and the stories that Joel Chandler Harris wrote down as the B’rer Rabbit stories.  In Third Grade, I like doing a another block of African tales and also in our focus of how people lived on the land and built shelters, I like to include that Geechee culture that is here in the Sea Islands of my state (you can see this link for more information).  In talking about the farmer and crops and such, I also talk about indigo and cotton.  This could be included in a fibers/textile block or the farming block or both.

In fourth grade, I like to have a block of Bantu and San tales along with the Norse Myths.  This is mentioned by Betty Staley as fitting nicely here. In fifth grade, I  spend a good amount of time studying the Nubians, who came from what is now present-day Sudan.  We talk about the Kingdoms of Kush and Meroe along with Egypt, and the connections between all of these kingdoms.  I like to point out that at that point, the Sahara Desert was semi-arid to downright lush around the southern Sudanese Sahara and that Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt.  The Ancient Egyptians wanted to control the wealth of the Nubian kingdom, and after the decline of the Egyptian dynasties, the Meroe kingdom became the center of power and increased links and trade to Sub-Saharan Africa.  We also spend time talking about trade routes across the Sahara, and return to this theme in sixth grade mineralogy when we talk even more about salt and its importance in trade.  The Kingdom of Askum would be great to cover in Fifth grade since it is also an ancient civilization, but I find I rarely have time and often it has to go into sixth grade.

In sixth grade, we cover more about Northern Africa in regards to the Roman Empire; and then I like to do an whole block on Africa beginning with the Kingdom of Askum , which I rarely get to cover completely in Fifth grade, and move into Medieval Western African kingdoms. I also do a mini-block in Islam – not just how this fits into the Crusades, but the religion of Islam and how many of the African kings were Muslim and how Islam spread throughout the African continent.  We cover Timbuktu and the importance of the Niger River; Ghana, Songhai and Mali, salt and copper mining;  and then I like to talk about Swahili-speaking peoples. We often, in Waldorf Education, say that Latin phrases should be brought in during this grade.  I feel Swahili could also be brought in as well.  The Swahili-speaking peoples were extending trade across the Indian Ocean.

In Seventh grade, I pick up with Africa beginning with  whatever I didn’t get done in sixth grade, and move into an entire block on the geography and peoples of Africa.  Last time I did seventh grade, this was probably my longest block of the entire school year!  We really get into it and paint and draw and cook and make things and learn songs.  If anyone is interested, I am happy to post an outline of this block in the comments. In our Explorations block, we also talk about African explorers – the connections with Meso-America, the explorations by Africans into the Indian Ocean, Ibn Battuta.  We talk about the deadly impact of the European explorers in both our Africa block and our Exploration block and start to tackle the very hard and real subject of enslaved, kidnapped people brought here to the United States.   This sets us up well for the Colonial America block I usually do as the very last block of Seventh grade.  We also talk about the biographies through sixth, seventh, and eighth grade of black scientists.

Eighth grade and ninth grade brings us to an entire curriculum of United States history where we study the times of Lewis and Clark onward to the very present day in eight grade, and in ninth grade I go back to the pre-European beginnings of the Americas in order to make a full American history course that hopefully brings the stream of Africa into the consciousness of the high school student and how we look at American history.  We talk a lot about enslaved people in our country, but also the settlements of free black people, the role of black people in the Revolutionary  War and the and Civil War.   I also devote a good amount of time to the struggle for Civil Rights in our country, the peacemakers in our country in this movement, and also the struggle for freedom in South Africa.  We also focus on Africa in world geography, including ideas about renewable enery in Africa,and the economy of the continent of Africa.  In literature in eighth and ninth grade, we look at both African-American literature in prose and poetry, usually through authors more well known in high school literature classes – Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, the play The Raisin In The Sun, and various poems, along with “Black Like Me,” by John Griffin.

Next year, in tenth grade, we will be doing an entire unit on  contemporary African-American literature, which will cover truly contemporary literature (not the Harlem Renaissance!).  We will be studying U.S. Government and will be looking at the issue of white privilege, the prison system, inequality and poverty and more.  We will be reading “Just Mercy,” by Brian Stevenson, and the book, “Between The World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Eleventh and Twelfth grade ideas will unfold next year.

I hope this post brings you some ideas for bringing in Africa throughout your homeschooling years.

Many blessings,


Winds of Change

I love this spring season of winds and showers.  It feels like a cleansing breath in the middle of not only Lent, but also in this season of the year and perhaps also of  this time in my own life.  A season,  for me at least,  where burnout in homeschooling and in parenting lurked in every corner; where every foray seemed frought with difficulties.  Have you ever been there? Perhaps, like me, you have been, and perhaps like me you also find the cleansing spring tides that most perfect remedy.  Beautiful and lovely days are here!

I find this a wonderful time to…

  • Begin your spiritual practices anew
  • Clean out clutter in the home
  • Spring clean
  • Jump start healthy eating with a spring cleaning of the pantry
  • Make plans for a new school year
  • Make homeschooling fun again
  • Change tactics regarding a troublesome situation in parenting
  • Observe the children in front of us and how we can best guide and help those children
  • Cast aside the things that are not working
  • Renew putting your self -care at the top of the list
  • Find your own strength courage as we head toward the end of the school year

Last night I attended a Tenebrae Mass.  In the Episcopal Church and Anglican tradition, this is a service of  darkness usually celebrated during Holy Week.  Prayers and readings are chanted, sung or read as candles are extinguished one by one until the church is in darkness with the exception of the sanctuary lamp.   In our parish, we also use incredible choral music. The children sang, and it was an amazing and stirring performance.

How often life is like that service; we feel at the end and in the darkness but yet there are others beside us and walking with us.  And if we look up just right, we can see in the distance the light just like that sanctuary lamp and the promise that things will come together and it will be good.  Life is always and still beautiful, my friends.

May you all have a blessed spring and find the renewal that is so important this time of year.  It promises to be a glorious time ahead.

Many blessings,