These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: February

Generally, February is one of my most hated months of the year.  There.  I admitted it.  However, this year I am determined to change my own attitude and find all the beauty in this month of love and kindness!  Who is with me?

February starts out with the beauty of Epiphany , the fun of Carnival, the love of Valentine’s Day and then we go into the Lenten season of quiet and silence.  This should make for a beautiful month!

Here are some of my favorite things this month for our family:

  • The festivals!

Candlemas  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2016/01/31/beautiful-meditative-candlemas/

Chinese New Year:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/09/chinese-new-year-in-the-waldorf-home/

Valentine’s Day

Lent:   https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/18/lent-in-the-waldorf-home/

  • Fostering Community.  We stayed at home more throughout the fall, but recently added in some Waldorf based classes two days a week for our smallest child.  I am looking forward to seeing beautiful people who love Waldorf homeschooling several times a week now!  We also joined a homeschool field trip group and we have not many field trips planned, but a few.  For us, this is a small miracle because I am not a very field trip oriented person as much  as I would like to be.  We have already been on several field trips this school year and have a few more planned.  Hopefully, the love of community will keep February looking bright!
  • Fostering health -keeping all of us moving and outside should help keep all of us happy.  We are having a little activity challenge to make movement one of the first things in our day after breakfast and chores.  We hope to instill a habit in our children to take care of themselves daily with movement that will stick as they grow older.
  • Kindness – in this month of love, I want to really emphasize kindness and manners. Manners are just a way we show kindness to one another.  In small children, this is done through modeling.  Middle schoolers and high schoolers  can receive more direct instruction.

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

  • Rest and sleep.  I think February is the perfect month to focus on rest and sleep and solitude.
  • Working with beeswax.  It is sweet to set up a little scene with natural objects, make a little something out of beeswax and add it to the scene, and then let your little one try!
  • Changing the nature table.  We changed ours this week to coincide with Candlemas and we have on it a picture of St. Offerus.
  • We also have a little bare tree, but with a few bees, to remind us of the gifts of the bees in our beeswax candles of Candlemas, a little wooden groundhog, a wooden angel to remind us of Lent, and some small winter animals.  During Lent, we most likely will add a bowl of mixed soil and ash that will remain empty until we plant some seed for an Easter garden, and a little vase of bare branches or pussy willows.
  • Focusing on ME modeling good manners and kindness, and clear thought by my clear speech.

Here are a few of my favorite things for older children:

  • Celebrating Lent by creating a mood of silence and quiet each day.  This can be getting up early to see the sunrise, it can be taking a few minutes before bed with a lit candle, it can be understanding more deeply what goes on in church during the Lenten services.  It can be learning new prayers or about a new Holy Man or Holy Woman.
  • Learning to cook simple meals that are in the spirit of Lent – more plant-based foods, less sweets, more simplicity.
  • Focusing on ME modeling really good manners and kindness, and clear thought by the way I structure my clear speech.
  • Vigorous exercise.  The children I have noticed lately ages 10 and up are fairly bouncing off the walls.  This is the age to have opportunities for the children to move!

Here are a few of my favorite things for teens: 

  • To talk directly about sacrifice during Lent.  An idea of perhaps not just “giving up” in the traditional sense (“I am going to give up candy”) but this idea of what we really want to cultivate that is hard sometimes.  Cultivating kindess and inclusion, even when we don’t want to.  Cultivating perseverance.  Cultivating a good attitude when we just want to be snappish.
  • Vigorous exercise!
  • Creating things of beauty for the home during this time. I especially like rose windows and transparencies.  Teens are really able to do these well!

Here are a few of my favorite things for my own health:

  • Adaptogenic herbs.  I am not a herbalist, but I have been reading Susun Weed’s books and putting together some teas for my own usage.
  • Follow up from any doctor’s appointments from last month where the results need follow up.
  • Simple, clean meals for Lent.
  • Vigorous exercise!

Here are a few of my favorite things for homeschooling:

  • Double check materials if you didn’t order last month and get re-stocked.
  • If you don’t have your start and end dates, vacation dates, blocks and length of blocks planned – get moving!  Make a goal to plan at least two or three blocks this month, so order the resources you need to be able to do this.

Please share what is inspiring you this month!

Blessings,
Carrie

Block Layout Plan for Sixth Grade Waldorf Homeschooling

This fall will be my second time through sixth grade.  I have a plan made of our block layout and thought I would share for anyone else getting ready to start planning sixth grade.  This is only one way of many ways to do this, of course, but perhaps it will stimulate some of your own ideas as well.

This is what I am planning on doing:

Physics – 4 weeks

Geometry – 3 weeks

Business Math – 3 weeks

Roman History – 6 weeks

Christmas Break

Medieval History – 4 weeks

Astronomy – 3 weeks

Medieval Africa and Japan – 3 weeks ( an out of the box block!)

Mineralogy – 4 weeks

European Geography – 3 weeks

 

Update 10/2016:

We started with Astronomy

We are now in Mineralogy

We will do two to three weeks of European Geography and integrate ourselves into Rome and do Roman History

Winter Break

Medieval History (including Africa and Japan)

Business Math

Geometry

Physics

 

How is your planning coming along for fall?  If you get your start dates, end dates and vacation dates planned, you can start planning out your blocks and how long you think they may last.  Then you can start getting resources and digging in to the flow of a block!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: Advent Week Four

The week is upon us!  Christmastide is almost here!  For those of you counting up to Winter Solstice, that day is coming as well.  A week of love and rejoicing! 

This week, we are also celebrating the crowing kingdom to rejoice in Christ’s coming: mankind.  In following this week’s theme of man, I have chosen the following books (the older children and I are also reading “The Return of Light

20- The Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett.  I love these, because they talk about finding rest and joy in friends and in community and belonging.  I know the gingerbread baby and his friends are not people, but the qualities they convey are certainly very human-like!

21-  Getting ready for the Winter Solstice!  The older children and I are reading “The Return of Light:  A Christmas Tale” by Dia Calhoun; the youngest and I read “The Sun Bread” by Kleven.

23– Little Golden Books – “The Christmas Story”; also Reg Down’s “The Cricket and the Shepherd Boy”

24 – The Night Before Christmas – any of the many illustrated editions will do and “Christmas in Noisy Village” by Astrid Lindgren

There are also many wonderful stories for this week in “The Light In The Lantern” and “The Christmas Story Book” by Floris Books.

Some activities for the week:

  • Random acts of kindness for other people.  The possibilities here are endless for paying it forward.
  • Assisting in any way possible to help others who need it – we have participated in gift and food drives for the poor, wrapping gifts for homeless children…this week we will be keeping our eye out for anyone else who needs our help.  
  • Look for the people you know that are lonely and sad with the holidays.  Maybe they are dealing with divorce, the loss of someone they loved through death, poverty.  Take your time and spend it with them.
  • Honoring the wonderful people who impact us  personally every week.  I am thinking especially of our children’s teachers, such as our choir director at church and our horseback riding instructor, our county’s 4H staff.
  • Honoring our town and county’s police and fire personnel.  We are so lucky to live in a county with a wonderful police, fire, ambulance response team.
  • Make gingerbread men cookies!
  • Celebrate the First Day of Winter.
  • Prepare  for the flow of Christmas Eve Day and Christmas Day.  These can be quiet days, or in some families it can be days of family coming in, lots of cooking and craziness and small children can have a tough time without their regular rhythm. 
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas, or Christmastide, begins on Christmas Day.  These twelve days can be a time of inner work, inner preparation for the New Year.  This is about the The Twelve Days of Christmas  and  Celebrating Christmastide
  • Here is a message for Christmas Day about wonder 

Blessings,

Carrie

Weeks Twelve Through Fourteen of Homeschooling Eighth Grade, Fifth Grade and Kindergarten

Week Twelve was the week of November 9th, we took two weeks off due to a family wedding and Thanksgiving and came back to do Week Thirteen of school the week of November 30th and Week Fourteen the week of December 7th (this week).  Normally, we slow down in December or take quite a bit of time off in December, but we have lost a lot of time this fall due to varying circumstances, so I actually feel the need to power through a little bit.  So, please know this isn’t a normal December rhythm for us!

Kindy –   There has been a lot of “life” and less normal rhythm than I would have liked leading up to our family wedding and Thanksgiving..So, we are enjoying getting some balance back with a small circle, stories to go with the weeks of Advent and the Saints we celebrate in Advent, holiday baking and crafting and long walks outside in our nice weather.

Fifth Grade –  We finished India during Week Twelve. We were exceedingly lucky as that week was the celebration of Diwali and whilst we had already attended a Diwali cultural event at our local library that had crafts, food and Classical Indian dancing, this week we had a wonderful neighbor who invited us to their home for their Diwali celebration, complete with sweets and dinner and fireworks.  So, that was a wonderful way to cap off India.  We spent most of Week Twelve talking about the caste system, reading the Mahabharata, and finishing the book, “The Iron Ring.”

I realized that in fifth grade with our first daughter, she did about fourteen pages of paintings, summaries, drawings.  This time around we did about half that – seven pages.  Part of this is due to different temperaments and capacities and part of this is due to the fact that I am much better at not over-assigning workYou do not need something in a main lesson book for every single thing you do.  Even in the Waldorf Schools, from what I have seen, most blocks seem to have around 6 to 10 pages in the Main Lesson Books, depending upon the block.  (If someone reading this has a child in fifth grade in a Waldorf School, please do write in and tell me how many pages in a Main Lesson Book your child’s work on Ancient India was, for example.  I would love a larger sample than my local area).  So please do think projects, modeling, field trips.  You are in the home environment and you are a homeschooler.  This is and should be different than the school environment.  I think if you push main lesson book drawing and writing in the grades 1-6, many (not all, but many!  There will always be those students who love to draw and write) seventh and eighth graders homeschooled students will really balk when the see main lesson books in those grades. Being mindful of the amount of sitting work for a particular block you are asking for with a particular child is so important!

Then we moved into Persia – the land itself, the creation of man, the story of King and his golden dagger and then into the life of Zarathustra and the Magi.  We painted the Land of Persia, wrote a summary about that, modeled King Djemshid and his golden dagger and did two separate pictures of Zarathustra in a chalk pastel medium.    There were also some beautiful verses and poetry I found.  Now, in  the middle  of Week Fourteen we have moved into Ancient Mesopotamia – the land and the people, Marduk, Hammurabi and his code, and hopefully into Gilgamesh by Friday.

Math and spelling are still coming along and being practiced daily in addition to our block work.   Spelling is making a few leaps;  because of challenges we are still in the land of short vowels and initial and final consonant blends but it seems as if there is an increased awareness these days that shows more is clicking and being retained in the memory.    Our daughter read “One Day in the Desert” on her own,  and we are currently reading the Childhood of Famous Americans “John Muir” since that touches on botany, ecology, upcoming mineralogy.  4-H has been busy with the homeschool meeting and the Fall Fun Day.  Choir is also busy now that we are in Advent and all of the end of the year horse show and banquet and barn work.

Eighth Grade –  We moved into Chemistry during Week Twelve, but honestly, we were still finishing up a lot of work from our American History block and didn’t get to start Chemistry until the last day and then we had two weeks of vacation.  So, we are moving slower than I would like as we mainly started Chemistry this week and I really wanted to finish this block and a block on Asian Geography before Christmas but it looks like that is not going to happen, so I will have to decide what we will begin with in January after break. 

So far we have done an intensive look at carbohydrates – sugars and starches, the solubility of sugar and salt, enzymes and how they break down carbohydrate, Fehling’s solution and the use of hydrochloric acid in breaking down carbohydrates and how this is indicated, and on a practical level how sugar is processed from sugarcane.  We looked at the history of sugar cane in the United States in Louisiana, St. Croix (US Territory), and Maui.  Now we have moved into proteins, and I hope to wrap this block up next week or so.  With proteins we are looking at how heat denatures proteins, coagulation of proteins, (cheesemaking would be great here, but we have done that quite a bit in the past). We have cooked quite a bit (meringue cookies, fudge, meat dishes)  and that has been an enjoyable part of this block for our teen.  In our look at fats next week, we will be dealing mainly with rendering fat, extracting essential oils, oil and water.  Soap making is good here, but I decided to try to keep our practical things to food making this go around, so we may experiment with some of the things we have done before, like making our own mayonnaise and ice cream.   I have tried to make this block as hands-on as possible.

In our year long course of World Geography, we finished up our page for the United States.  I gave homework about the United States and Canada,  an end of unit test for the United States  that focused on several questions to be answered in paragraphs, labeling a map with all 50 states and capitals, and labeling a physical map with natural features.   In Canada we reviewed from fifth grade all the provinces and capitals, all the physical features and then the history of independence of our neighbor and some current events with Canada’s new Prime Minister.  Our daughter finished the Canada pages, including a products of Canada map.  Spanish is also coming along; we are almost halfway through this high school level course (which, by the way,  has been so much work!)  Typing is also coming along, and our daughter got to help my husband build a new computer from scratch and learn all the parts of the computer and their functions.

We are still reading “Elijah of Buxton” but almost finished!  Finally!   Independent reading has been difficult these past weeks as “Riders of the Pony Express” was not enjoyable to our eighth grader, and she never really dove into the biography of Harriet Tubman I shared with her.  I hope to return to Harriet Tubman’s biography this spring with our Peacemakers block, and plan to instead  assign Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles” on Friday.  The next book we will read together will be “Brooklyn Bridge” by Hesse.

Math is still happening daily, mainly right now we are reviewing fractions and all the operations in fractions and financial math.   This has been a busy time with 4-H as our daughter attended the overnight Statewide Junior Leadership Conference with all kinds of leadership sessions and service opportunities; we also had the Cotton Boll and Consumer Judging Competition, and portfolio for District Project  Achievement.  I would love to talk a little bit more about homeschooling with 4-H in a different post.  I think there are many ways seniors (so for us, starting next year), can use the 4-H events and knowledge gained in preparing for DPA as part of academic credit. Choir is also busy since we are in Advent!  And the horses!

I would love to hear what you have been working on in November and December.

Blessings,
Carrie

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: Advent Week Two

The second week of Advent reminds me of the rejoicing of the plant kingdom as we progress ever nearer to the Nativity.  I love the short, little stories in the “Light in the Lantern” book for this week.  Here are a few more of our favorites this week, focused on the upcoming St. Lucia Day on the 13th, and plants and flowers:

7- Little Tree by ee cummings, story and pictures by Chris Rashka.  My father loved ee cummings, so this little book has special meaning to me.

8-  Christmas Farm by Mary Lynn Ray

9- Night Tree by Eve Bunting

10-  Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

11- A Christmas Tree for Pyn by Olivier Dunrea

12-  The Star Tree by Gisela Colle

13- Grandfather’s Christmas Camp by Marc McCutheon

If you would like to learn more about celebrating the Feast of St. Lucia, please see this back post.   Here is a  lovely gentle story for St. Lucia Day for little ears. 

These are a few of the things we love for this week:

  • Creating little moss gardens with floating walnut boats can be wonderful for children under the age of 9, although older children may (secretly) like it as well.  You can use a small tin tub, or a small pottery bowl – fill it with soil and moss and add little treasures throughout the week.   Save a walnut shell with wool for Christmas Day in which to place a little beeswax baby Jesus. 
  • This would be a wonderful week to have an Advent Spiral.  I doubt we will get to do one this year, but we have done this for many years and it was always beautiful and reverent.
  • Singing!  Many churches have caroling this week, or services of “Lessons and Carols” – Scripture reading and singing.
  • Making small gifts – candle dipping, candle rolling or other little gifts can be lovely.  We will be making some things this week.
  • Finding beautiful verses, poetry, Scripture to capture the essence of this Season.
  • Planting sweet little indoor bulbs
  • Spending time in the woods, the meadows, the farm.  Enjoying the solitude.
  • Are there any Swedish groups in your area holding special events for St. Lucia?  Could be worth it to check in your community!
  • Some wait until the last minute to get a Christmas tree; we usually do although last year I have to say the ones in the size we usually get at our local Christmas tree farm were all gone – so this could be a week to think about a tree if you don’t mind having one during the second week of Advent.

Please share the wonders of your week.

Blessings and joy,

Carrie

The Lovely Feast of St. Nicholas

Did St. Nicholas come to visit your house yesterday morning?  We have been celebrating St. Nicholas Day for many years now, first as part of the cycle of the year in Waldorf festivals in addition to our Germanic roots, and now as part of our liturgical year in the Episcopal Church.  Such a lovely day!

I love this little quote from Sarah Ban Breathnach’s “Mrs. Sharpe’s Traditions” about St. Nicholas Day:

For parents who feel frustrated by the fact that Santa Claus’s visit inevitably overshadows their religious observance of the birth of Christ, a visit from St. Nicholas can help tremendously.  For modern children who no longer believe in Santa Claus (and to Mrs. Sharp’s dismay, it seems they get younger with each passing Christmas), a celebration of St. Nicholas Day can satisfy a deep desire in children to believe in a benevolent and generous gift giver who rewards the good.

The author goes on to discuss her little treats of choice: seasonal cakes (such as iced gingerbread, lebkuchen,), a small bag of gold foil covered chocolate coins and one longed-for gift.  From Waldorf resources, “Festivals With Children” by Brigitte Barz actually has no mention of St. Nicholas Day (but does cover St. Barbara’s branches!), but Freya Jaffke covers the role of St. Nicholas in the Waldorf School setting quite extensively.  She writes:

St. Nicholas brings another true and resonant image to children on their journey through Advent…Legends about St. Nicholas describe how he emanated love and benevolence and was willing to sacrifice himself. Thus he becomes a figure who prepares and heralds the Christmas festival, at which the birth of Christ can be renewed in us each year.

When St. Nicholas visits a Waldorf classroom, he often carries a large golden book and offers the events of the past few days for small children – Jaffke writes that he does not judge, but  does expresses pleasure at things for the small children.  Only after the age of seven could one expect children to begin reflecting on their actions and perhaps undertake to improve anything or change something.  The author goes on to describe three traditional gifts – the apple (knowledge); nuts (strength!) and sweets such as gingerbread (warmth).  The author writes a lively description of the morning of a St. Nicholas visit  to a classroom with order of events.  Most of all, St. Nicholas becomes an inner preparation for the Advent season for adults and children alike.

In our home, we focus on stories of St. Nicholas and  the life of St. Nicholas.  In the past sometimes we have done homemade gifts and sometimes it was a more major gift-giving day.; sometimes we gave out nuts and fruit and made iced gingerbread.   This year we had gold foil coins and one gift plus a little set of Nativity Icons to color as ornaments for our Christmas tree (which we will get this week, I think).  I didn’t make a golden scroll or note from St. Nicholas, which I have done in past years as well, but we did go to church and celebrate again.   I have kept things as simple as possible this year to just relax and have fun with our children of widely different ages, especially when a Feast Day falls on a day where we will be at church, which is a busy day of the week for us.

This week marks the second week of Advent and tomorrow I will be sharing with you the things I love in the second week of Advent.  Please share your traditions, successes, and joys.

Many blessings,
Carrie

The Quiet of Advent

In 2009, I wrote a series called, ‘The Inner Work of Advent” and it featured twelve posts.  You can see the posts in this series in this round-up post.  This year, I would like to approach Advent through the topic of calm and quiet.  I think most people intuitively know this is a time of year to prepare, to wait, to anticipate, but somehow along the way it gets hijacked by commercialism, materialism, busy, too many end of year parties and holiday festivities.  I have fallen into that trap myself, and would like to encourage all of us toward some time of re-centering toward what is important in this time of year.  Creating light to prevail over darkness. Wholeness to prevail over brokeness.  Health to prevail over illness, in body and mind and spirit.

In order to do this, we must carve out time to be at home and not running off somewhere. We must carve time to be in solitude and think and re-center ourselves.  What are our priorities?  What are our values? What is our vision for our family, our mission (more on that soon).  If we homeschool, perhaps we might think, without even putting a label of what “methodology” it is – what do we value?  How do we connect to others in meaningful ways? How do we shine light in our corner of the world?  How do we find ourselves and our joy?

These are big topics, but I hope to dive into these swirling depths over the next few weeks during Advent.  Won’t you join me?

Blessings,
Carrie