These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: April

April can be such a lovely month in the Deep South.  We have tulips blooming, everything is turning green, and the weather, whilst at times unpredictable, is generally heading toward warm.  It is also a lovely time to explore the mountains and the seaside and to revel in all of nature awakening.

This month, we are celebrating Eastertide in its fullest glory.  The calendar of the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church include an amazing array of Saints this month; so many wonderful people.   Our main festival dates in our family this month include:

23- St. George

25- St. Mark

29- St. Catherine of Siena

and I am looking ahead to Ascension Day (Thursday, May 5th) 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 are still in Eastertide here,  dyeing of eggs,  thinking of the Paschal candle and light in our home, indoor dish Easter gardens, Easter carols (yes, they are real!) and attending church are in my heart
  • 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, decluttering, and moving ahead with some simple decorating I have wanted to do in our home.

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 2-8! You can see for more details.:)

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

  • 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.

These are a few of my favorite things for teens:

  • 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 occurs, and teens need their sleep!

These are a few of my favorite things for my own inner work:

  • I am in the midst of creating a Sacred Hour – half to be spent in personal study, and half to be spent with our children in sharing the Saints, the Bible and Anglican traditions.  I am feeling very happy about this.
  •  I have been looking closely at boundaries on my own time and what truly makes me feel comfortable and happy in the way I use time

These are a few of my favorite things for my own self-care and health:

  • Continuing to get up and work out before my day starts with the family.
  • Drinking water.

These are a few of my favorite things for homeschooling:

  • Well, I had started planning and got most of sixth grade planned and two blocks of ninth grade (first year of high school), and then I need to get back to planning again.

Please share with me what is inspiring you this month!




Weeks 25 -28: Homeschooling Eighth, Fifth and Kindy

These last few weeks have been heartbreaking.  The giant dog that we owned and loved, the best dog we have ever had out of the four dogs we have owned over our nearly twenty-four years of marriage, was diagnosed with bone cancer and died.  So, it has been a time of  great sorrow and now emptiness in our household.

It has also been a time of spring, of new life and new beginnings, and trying to homeschool in the midst of the jumble of emotions and juxtapositions has been a challenge.  We move forward each day, one foot in front of the other, and sometimes that is all that there really is.  In the meantime, we are moving slowly through our blocks, but here are some of the things we have been working on (if you need to see where last were, try this back post:

Kindy:  Holding a steady rhythm has been a real challenge throughout all the uncommon things going on.  However, we have managed to do braiding, wet felting and knitting; loose parts play; painting and modeling; hiking and biking and being outside in the yard especially.  Our dog really enjoyed that most in her last days especially, even when we all had to carry her outside.

We were doing an Early Spring Circle but now have changed into a circle of “Rabbit’s Adventure” as I have modified it from the book “Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures”.    Our story earlier this month was Suzanne Down’s “Lucky Patrick” and now we have moved to one of my seasonal favorites for spring, also by Suzanne Down, called, “Spring Kite Magic.”

Our preparations for Lent were way behind what we normally did, other than making wet felted eggs and dying eggs.  We missed all the Great Liturgies for Holy Week because I just felt too fragile and sad  (except for the Great Liturgy of Easter),  but I hope to attend the celebrations of Eastertide to the fullest.

Fifth Grade: We finished our Greek Mythology and we finished our math block of the Ancient Americas/Chocolate, where we focused on all four math processes, the stories of Toltec and Mayan mythology, and cooking with chocolate.  My original inspiration for this block was from Marsha Johnson, and you can find her notes on her “Magic of Waldorf” website, but I built on it quite a bit from there.  We also spent a bit of time this week on the  Ancestral Puebloans of the American Southwest and will swing back around to this when we do North American Geography in a few short weeks.  We kept on with geometry and have worked our way through the six types of triangles, discovering interior angles, the chords of a circle, quadrilaterals, some biographies of Ancient mathematicians and their discoveries,  and will be moving into circles and ellipses this week in conjunction with our new block.  This week we will be beginning a block on the metric system based around the geography and sites of our neighbor, Canada.  We just finished  the read-aloud of Padraic Colum’s Children’s Homer and will be starting Holling C. Holling’s “Seabird”.  My original goal was to make a board game of the journey of Odysseus, but I feel as if we are running out of time and no longer in that place as we have moved on in blocks. We shall see.  Other than that, we have been working on spelling in addition to the math.  I find when we have a math block it is very taxing for our fifth grader and there is not a lot of energy left for as many artistic pursuits, so cooking has been a good adjunct to this block.

Eighth Grade:  We finished the Gilded Age with a summary and a lovely map of the Biltmore Estate that is our regional representation of the architecture of the Gilded Age.  We did talk about Einstein, we discussed Trotsky and Stalin and the Russian Revolution and spent some time comparing totalitarian regimes to our own country and our Bill of Rights, and then moved into the causes, events and outcomes of World War I and read a biography of Woodrow Wilson.  (The causes of World War I tied in nicely into our World Geography course where went back over the history of the Middle East and the Ottoman Empire).

We talked about the outcomes of World War I planting the seeds for World War II, the Jazz Age and the Harlem Renaissance and  some poetry from that time period, drew a picture of the flapper for the Main Lesson Book, discovered the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, along with more poetry.  This week we are finishing up World War II – we looked at the causes of the war and conditions in Germany, Japan, and Italy;  we are reading a biography of Churchill; I told the stories of FDR, Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito; we discussed the complete horrors of the Holocaust and the people who were lights within the Holocaust  – for this time around I focused on the role of the Grand Mosque in Paris as a short-term safe haven; we reviewed all the events of the war and the prominent American generals of the war, the horrors of Japanese-American Internment and the reasons the Allies “won”.  We looked at if there were any parallels between WW II and what is happening in our world with the Islamic State. FDR died here in our state, so it is my hope to visit Warm Springs and talk more about FDR’s life.  We are now moving into the aftermath of World War II and the timeline and  development of the events of the Cold War, including Korea, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War – mainly through biography, just as we did in studying World War II.   This week has mainly been the history of this period, including the struggle for Civil Rights, through the biographies of Dwight D. Eisenhower and JFK.

We will also look at the  Space Race, and the era of Reagan and  end with the War on Terrorism and the Age of Digitality before this block is over.  I Our eighth grader read “Breaking Stalin’s Nose” and we discussed it as a piece of literature, and now she is reading JKF’s “Profiles in Courage.”

In World Geography, we finished Oceania and also finished the area of North Africa/Southwest and Central Asia.  We looked thoroughly at the Middle East and its history again, through the modern era, and focused on OPEC and the Creation of Israel.  We read Julia Johnson’s “Saluki, Hound of the Bedouins” and our eighth grader drew a picture from that.  She also made a very large map in which we labeled all the tribes of the Middle East.  We covered the geography and culture of the sub-Saharan African countries and discussed the intertwining of electricity, economic growth and how South Africa has been displaced in economic growth by Nigeria and how it is predicted that Nigeria will be replaced by Ethiopia and possibly the Democratic Republic of Congo (in second place) by 2050 depending upon infrastructure and power.  We also have discussed President Obama’s 2013 initiative, “Power Africa”.    We have Russia and Europe to finish off our World Geography course.  I feel this course has been a very successful one this year and a high school credit will be well-earned for the amount of work it has been.

We are working on math daily as well, and I am looking forward to ending our World History block and moving into Oceanography and Meteorology in April.   Our eighth grader did her presentation on the Junior Ranger Badge/Get Outdoors Program for her 4-H presentation and is looking at options for 4-H next year.  I am also excited about a regional homeschool field trip group that has formed that has over 3,000 members and will be doing all kinds of wonderful field trips this summer.

I hope your spring is springy and sprongy and full of sweetness, always full of light in the shadows –



Finding Peace: Nourish

We want to nurture the highest levels of empathy and compassion in our children and yet we so often fail to model this in our attitudes toward ourselves and our own health.

If we think about it, we often perceive we have no time to spend on our own health.

We do not move our bodies as often as they should be moved and we eat things that do not make us feel well.

We often don’t say positive things about our own body.

Time flies by, and we are so good at getting the children into their doctor, dentist and other health care professional appointments; yet we haven’t been to a doctor or dentist in years.

We are so good at making sure our children relax and rest and go to bed, yet we consistently de-value our own need for rest and relaxation.

Time flies by, and we fail to re-connect with friends or give ourselves time and space for building community.

We fail to let people in on our deepest emotions and trials, for fear of being vulnerable or that no one will really listen or care.

So, in this glorious Eastertide,  I ask that you consider nourishing yourself in whatever form that looks like for you.  The simple act of putting your own needs for health and whatever that may look like to you may be the single most radical  thing you can do to hold a steady home and steady parenting this year.

Nothing will happen without a plan and without wanting this transformation.  It takes courage to say that you need to exercise each day for your own health, to have a night out with friends, or to make all those health care appointments that need to happen.  Yet,  what a positive thing we can show our children:   that parents taking care of themselves and being human beings and adults is also of value and that these things can be balanced with being a wonderful and connected, mindful parent.  So, if only in baby steps, I encourage you to nourish yourself.  Let this be your legacy for this year and here to finding yourself on this same date next year in a better and more wonderful place.


Finding Peace: The Steady Home

One of the first ways we often try to bring peace to ourselves and our families is through our physical homes.  I think this is a lot of the popularity of the simplicity and minimalist movements – this longing for peace is at the root of taming our physical environments.

Sometimes our physical surroundings can be a great place to start.  When I see new mothers come to Waldorf parenting and education, they often are very interested in playsilks, wooden toys and the seasonal table.  This is because perhaps in transforming our environments with our hands, we transform a little bit of our hearts.

What would a steady home look like to you?  To me, it would include:

On a physical level:  knowing where things are and where they go, at least in general.  The ability to keep clutter at bay.  A general cheerful cleanliness that is not too fussy but is maintained.

On a rhythmic level:  having enough time at home that there are routines to managing the home, cleaning the home, and for meal planning and preparation.  Also, on a rhythmic level, I think a steady home includes time for rest, naps, and  sleep.

On an emotional level : knowing that we have unrushed time.  Unhurried time.  Knowing that there is time for self-care and also for spiritual needs to be met within the home.  This may be a little out of the realm of the physical home, but I think these emotions come out in the physical surroundings in the home.

I think what all these areas have in common is TIME.  As parents and homeschooling parents, we can look at our days as time. Sometimes when all children are small, we are looking at ways to fill time – the long walks outside; the afternoons of blowing bubbles or playing outside (or just general ways to feed everyone and keep them safe and alive until bedtime :)). Sometimes as children grow up, we are looking at ways to capture time and make more efficient use of it because there are more things that are happening.  Time gives us the ability to be rushed or not, and rhythm provides a key toward unlocking time and energy as we parent.  We have to begin with some sort of end in mind of how we want time to impact how we manage our homes.

Please share your favorite ways to look at time and rhythm, your priorities in the physical home, how you tame clutter and how you find rest.

Many blessings,


How To Protect The Middle Years of Childhood In Four Easy Steps

We read a lot about protecting early childhood in the literature of  Waldorf education and Waldorf parenting, but did you ever stop to think that the time of middle childhood is also a time to also be honored and protected?  There are certain watermarks in Waldorf education where the child is seen as undergoing substantial developmental and transformative change – usually at six/seven, age nine, age twelve and age fifteen/sixteen. So, the logical conclusion is that a child experiences the nine year change and the twelve year change before he or she enters the fifteen/sixteen year old change.  This seems so obvious when one says this – that the years between ten and fourteen are steps leading up to the changes at fifteen and sixteen –  and yet in our society it all seems to become rather blurred.  I think we should honor and protect this time instead of rushing through it on the way to driving, dating, and getting ready for college.    The years in which  a child is ten to fourteen is truly the heart of childhood in so many ways, this truly golden middle of childhood if we as parents and we as a society can really take a step back and protect and honor this time.

Nourishing play is one of the top ways to protect these years.  Ten to fourteen year olds still really play and play hard if you let them and this impulse for play has not been squashed!  This is a ripe age of all kinds of outdoor play, large games of different types of tag and pick-up games of any kind of sport are enjoyed typically.   If you give a child unstructured time instead of a busy structured schedule, this can be such a gift in nourishing play!

Simplicity is another key in protecting the middle years…simplicity in scheduling (and not over-scheduling) a child in these ages leads to the time to play, daydream, rest their growing bodies, read, create and tinker.  These can be some of the most fruitful years for this sort of exploration and freedom.  Ten to fourteen year olds are full of wonderful, innovative ideas.

Autonomy  is another way to protect this beautiful age of the golden age of childhood…but perhaps not in the way we often see  in society.  Please, please remember that there really is a difference between a ten and sixteen year old, and yes, even a fourteen year old and a sixteen year old.  Let us not rush into freedom of technology without boundaries, or such a peer-oriented state that we associate with those who are on the verge of young adulthood.  Freedom for this age group might mean being able to shop alone in a store for a few minutes while you are in another part of the store , maybe it is the ability to ride or walk somewhere  in a group of peers,  or being able to find and be in some secret place outside alone.  All of this, of course, depends upon what kind of place you live in and safety factors, but I think it is safe to say that many of us remember being this age and having the freedom to be gone most of the day riding our bikes or being outside between after school and dinner without parents knowing where we were every second.  Every family will feel differently about this, of course, but I think that is one example of the type of freedom that seems normal for this age group and wanted by children of this age.

Lastly, I think one of the most important ways to protect this stage is seeing the sacred.  One of the things I have noticed about children today of these ages compared to years past is this “dropping down” of an attitude of toughness and boredom and “I am too old for that”.   I am sure many of the mothers out there remember playing dolls or Barbies at ages ten to twelve, whereas for many little girls these days, these are not activities for ten to twelve year olds anymore.    Nurturing wonder, nurturing joy and  love and compassion are really important for these ages.  Toughness, boredom, rolling of eyes and not wanting to participate in family activities may be considered part of these ages these days, but I think parents of children these ages really need to step in and gently guide and lead.  Lead with love and connection.

Please share with me your favorite ways to honor the child who is ages ten to fourteen…and how to make this a lovely,  slow stage that is honored and not rushed into the realm of being an older adolescent.

Blessings and love,


Block Layout Plan for Ninth Grade Waldorf Homeschooling

So this coming fall marks a big occasion – we will have a high schooler in the house!  Making the decision to homeschool high school is a big one in and of itself, but to try to homeschool high school in a Waldorf way is also a big decision and an interesting project.  Many of you know that the Waldorf Curriculum really culminates in the high school and speaks to the development and awakening of the adolescent in a beautiful way.  In a Waldorf high school the subjects are taught by specialists and there are still blocks but there are also classes that run in tracks – (usually math, foreign language, some sort of Literature/Composition) plus all the increasing artistry around things such as blacksmithing, glassblowing, and other manner of things that we don’t often have access to at home.  It can sound daunting, but the home environment can be a truly great springboard toward preparing  a student for the future due to its inherent flexibility and real- life experiences.

So, we are hoping our high school will be a mix of blocks and tracks, of course, but also that it will be experiential, artistic, centered around outdoor education, 4-H activities and outdoor skills and also around our student’s passions and interests and serving in our community as well.  Having this real hands-on component I feel is essential for the restlessness of most teenagers who are ready to “do”.  So it may or may not really look like a “traditional” Waldorf high school depending upon the day, but I think it will very much meet the needs of our adolescent who likes to “go and do” and “learn and teach”.

These are the blocks we are planning for ninth grade in a very preliminary state:

Living Chemistry – 3 weeks

Native American and Colonial History with Basketry and American Art – 5 weeks – tracing the Native American tribes of the Southeast and focusing on some of the beautiful Native American sites in our own state along with Colonial History

Comedy and Tragedy – 4 weeks

Earth Science – 4 weeks

Christmas Break

Physics –  3 weeks

Revolutions – 3 weeks – will recap American, Industrial and Digital Revolutions along with Russian Revolution and Chinese Revolution and Chinese Cultural Revolution from eighth grade; will add in this block a more in-depth look at the French Revolution,  Simon Bolivar and Latin American independence, and also the Mexican Revolution

The Short Story – 3 weeks

Math/Probability – 2 weeks

History through Art – 4 weeks

Physiology – 3 weeks

The “tracks” we are planning include high school Spanish II through an outside source, English Literature, Algebra I, probably a separate “Art Foundations I” tract of studio art projects and field trips to combine with hours from History Through Art block to make a credit, and most likely biology.  I know Waldorf Schools don’t run biology in a track class, but I am a science geek and I need the higher end of  biology hours for our daughter who is most interested in medical careers.  So, in total we are hoping to earn credits for those track classes, plus American History (blocks from ninth grade combined with blocks and experiential hours  from eighth grade), and Music I.  This year our eighth grader will earn high school credits for World Geography and high school Spanish I.

While it may sound like a lot,  it actually is not that different from what we have been doing in seventh and eighth grades. If you are in the lower grades and reading this, please don’t panic.  It will all make sense when you get here.  Your homeschool high school  will look different than mine because every child and every family is different, but you will come up with the best way to meet your homeschooler’s needs. That is the whole joy of homeschooling high school.  Trust that the homeschooling that worked so well for your younger child can still work for your adolescent.

Blessings and love,



Great Sixth Grade Read-Alouds

I realized I have a post for great books and read-alouds for the Early Years through fifth grade but nothing for the older grades!  So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite and recommended books for sixth grade, along with some suggested by other parents.  I have not read every book on this list, so please leaf through for yourself.

For those of you Waldorf homeschooling, I tried to note books that would go great in those sixth grade blocks!  Also, please realize that most Waldorf sixth graders are twelve years old or very close to twelve, so these are listed with that age in mind. And as always, please pre-read for your sensitive reader!

Possibilities from Grades Four and Five that you might have missed or want to re-visit:

  • All of A Kind Family – Sydney Taylor  (series)
  • Augustine Came To Kent – Willard
  • Because of Winn-Dixie – DiCamillo
  • Bed-knob and Broomstick – Norton
  • The Bee Book ; Little Bee Sunbeam – Strait (Waldorf book)
  • Big Red – Kjelgaard (series)
  • The Black Stallion – Farley
  •  The Children of Green Knowe – Boston
  • Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
  • The Dragon Boy – Samson (trilogy)
  • Finn Family Moomintroll – Jansson (series)
  • Anything by Edith Nesbit
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – E.L Konigsburg
  • Anything by Eleanor Estes
  • Anything by Elizabeth Enright
  • Anything by Edward Eager
  • Heidi
  • Hitty: Her First Hundred Years – Field
  • The Matchlock Gun- Edmonds
  • Tuck Everlasting – Babbitt
  • The Great Turkey Walk -Karr
  • Secret of the Andes – Clark ( or save for when you study the Incan Civilization)
  • The Wheel on the School – DeJong
  • I hope if you are American you have read the Wizard of Oz series!


Sixth Grade:

  • Adam of the Road – Gray (Medieval)
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn;  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Twain
  • Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
  • Ben and Me – Lawson (and others by Lawson)
  • Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Bronze Bow – Speare  (Rome)
  • Brother Dusty Feet – Sutcliff (Elizabethan England)
  • Call It Courage – Sperry
  • Captains Courageous – Kipling
  • Carry On, Mr. Bowditch – Latham (could be in seventh grade with navigators and exploration as well)
  • Catherine, Called Birdy – Cushman (Medieval England)
  • Crispin:  The Cross of Lead – Avi (Medieval England)
  • The Dancing Bear – Peter Dickinson (Byzantium, 558 AD)
  • Dogsong; Hatchet – Paulsen
  • The Door in the Wall – de Angeli (Medieval)
  • El Cid – Geraldine McCaughrean
  • Far North – Hobbs
  • Favorite Medieval Tales – Pope
  • Galen and the Gateway to Medicine – Bendick
  • Geron and Virtus – Streit (Waldorf book) (Rome)
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – Rowling – the characters grow up, so please be mindful in looking at the later books when the protagonists are 16 and 17 year olds!
  • The Hidden Treasure of Glaston – Jewett (Medieval)
  • The High Deeds of Finn Mac Cool – Sutcliff
  • The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkein
  • Homecoming – Voight
  • Books by Lois Lenski
  • Books by Jules Verne
  • Books by Jean Craighead George
  • Books by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Books by Rudyard Kipling
  • Stories of King Arthur
  • Little Women – (and others ) – Alcott
  • Mansa Musa – Burns (picture book, fascinating subject)
  • Mistress Masham’s Repose – T.H. White
  • A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver – E. L. Konigsburg  (Eleanor of Aquitaine) and also The Second Mrs. Giaconda (Da Vinci)
  • Queen’s Own Fool – Yole and Harris (Mary, Queen of Scots)
  • Redwall – Jacques
  • Anything by Jean Craighead George
  • Smoky the Cowhorse – James
  • Son of Charlemagne – Willard
  • String, Straightedge and Shadow – Diggins
  • Sundiata (picture book but fascinating subject) – Wisniewksi
  • This Dear-Bought Land – Latham (1607 America)
  • Tuck Everlasting – Babbitt
  • The Trumpeter of Krakow – Kelly (15th century Poland)
  • Walk Two Moons – Creech
  • The Weirdstone of Brisingamen – Garner
  • The Westing Game – Raskin
  • The Wilderness Tattoo – Steele (Hernando de Soto)
  • The World’s Desire – Haggard and Lang
  • The Yearling – Rawlings

I saved most of the explorer and American history related books for seventh grade (when I usually do a Colonial History block and also explorers ) and eighth grade (especially for literature related to World War I and World War II) but if you are looking for titles related to this for sixth grade, I am happy to throw them out there.  Please look for upcoming posts on great books for grades seven through nine, and also I would love to hear your suggestions for sixth grade/twelve year olds.