Tuesday, November 4, 2008


The other day we were over at our new friends' house and Mymy rediscovered the goodness of play dough. And I was inspired to make some- it had been months, since March maybe, since I'd made any, and that's practically a lifetime for a 2 year old. So he and I made play dough this morning and he played happily cutting and smashing and rolling and squeezing all the rest of the morning while ABCD tried to concentrate on schoolwork and NOT get sucked into making play dough snakes and pizzas. Here's my recipe:
1 c. flour
1/2 c. salt
1 T. cream of tartar
mix together, then add:
1 c. water
1 T. oil
and cook over med-high heat stirring constantly until it forms a big ball, then dump it out to cool a little. When it is cool enough to handle add a couple drops of essential oil and a couple drops of food coloring.
This time we made lemon, peppermint, and rosemary, though ABCD thought rosemary and its "invigorating" properties was perhaps not the best choice for Mymy and that it would have made more sense to choose a "calming" oil. Oh well. It kept Mymy busy and even drew Foal in when she arrived for an early-release school day afternoon play date.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Late Autumn Circle

Late Autumn Circle 2008

Rise up O flame, by thy light shining, Bring to us beauty, vision and joy.

There's the firm earth under me, The blue sky over me,
So I stride, So I stand, And I see You too,
With the blue sky above you And the firm earth under you.

I’m in the mood for singing, hey how about you?
I’m in the mood for singing, singing along with you.
Hey, hey, what do you say? I’m in the mood for that today.
Hey, hey, what do you say? I’m in the mood for that!
Clapping, whistling, stomping, learning, smiling, singing

Right hand, left foot, meet in the middle,
Left hand, right foot, meet in the middle,
Right arm over left arm, play the fiddle.
Left hand, right foot, meet down low,
Right hand, left foot meet down low,
Left arm over right arm, pull the bow.
Reach to the right, reach to the left,
Stretch in front, stretch behind,
Look down below, what do you find?
Right hand reach out to a friend,
Left hand reach out to a friend,
Make a circle without end.
Moving to the right, in a ring,
Moving to the left, we will bring,
Our circle to the center, move inside,
Then back out again, like the tide.

A diamond or a coal?
A diamond if you please:
Who cares about a clumsy coal
Beneath the summer trees?
A diamond or a coal?
A coal, sir, if you please:
One comes to care about the coal
What time the waters freeze.

The gift of light we thankfully take
But nothing may be just alone for our sake.
The more we give light one to another
It shines and spreads love, still growing further;
Til every spark is set aflame,
And from every heart Joy proclaim.

Come Ye Thankful People, come, raise a song of harvest home:
Fruit and crops are gathered in, safe before the storms begin;
God, our Maker will provide for our needs to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise a song of harvest home.
All the world is but a field, given for a fruitful yield;
Wheat and tares together sown, Here for joy or sorrow grown;
First the blade, and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
God of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

Brave and true I will be, each good deed sets me free.
I will fight for the right, I will conquer the wrong.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Waldorf Works

At least according to the standardized test ABCD recently took.
It is called the MAP test, and is a maze type test. The questions get harder if you answer correctly, and easier if you get answers wrong. It was horrible, and ABCD, who HATES getting anything wrong and has a really hard time trying things he thinks he MIGHT not be able to do perfectly had a terrible time knowing that he was getting answers wrong. He'd sit there at the computer and sigh, "Well, I guess I just have to give up and guess." The test took SIX hours, straight through, and covered reading, language arts, and math.
I've been feeling horrible for a week, making him go through this terrible experience. Well, not that the ends justify the means, or that the test results really mean anything to me as his Mom and teacher (I laughed out loud when the proctor said the test was important so that I would know "where he's at"), but it is easier to hold up a score than stop and explain all of the things you've been learning about. And my son scored in the 99th percentile in every single category, with reading and language arts covering the range of 7th-12th grades, and math solidly at 7th grade level. This is a kid who doesn't have all of his basic math facts (tables) memorized, and my husband was sure he was "behind" in math because he has to stop and figure questions out, and can't just spout off the answer. It has been one of the biggest sources of tension between us as parents. "He should know this" vs "But he understands it, and he'll memorize it when it makes sense to HIM to do so."
Oh well, pressure's off and I can relax and enjoy teaching him without worrying so much about whether I'm including enough of the stuff public school kids are doing. I have a score to hold up "See, he's learning plenty!"
Of course, my first thought when we got the scores back was "What the heck do they DO in school?" My child is bright and articulate, but he's not on track to graduate from high school at 12 or anything. He's just a normal kid whose curiosity and thirst for learning about the world hasn't been drudged out of him by a school system too over-burdened and under-inspired to teach children well. He's being given the time and experience to learn to THINK. And it works. He has the scores to prove it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Anti-Schoolers

This is an article about some modern, hip New Yorkers from the New York Times. It is not about me, or even the way we homeschool, but closer maybe than the stereotype of the beaten-down, exhausted, denim jumper wearing homeschooling Mom of silent, obedient stair-steps. Maybe. Except for the exhausted part. And I haven't even in been in a bar since the last millenium, so maybe I'm WAAAAY less hip than I think I am....
Anyway, here's the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/16/garden/16unschool.html?_r=2&ref=garden&oref=slogin&oref=slogin. Enjoy someone else's life for a moment. And who the heck gets free rent in New York City, anyway? Please.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This is the "Times Clock" we made, based on the directions from Robinsunne on her blog at http://www.robinsunne.com/robinsunnes_multiplication_clock . ABCD thinks it would be good to do it again, since our lines aren't straight, but I'm not convinced. Mymy already got us to make two, by decorating the first one with his own artwork. So, here it is, at least for now. The cool thing about this multiplication table is that the connection between the numbers is really easy to see, and you can see each table two different ways- around the clock, or radiating from the center. And it was kind of fun to do an art project instead of working in the math workbook.

Friday, October 3, 2008

What Passes For School Around Here

This is called the "Snotty Slime Clock". It comes in a kit from the Horrible Science people who also publish all of these fun science books- this year we have"Disgusting Digestion" which promises to answer all kinds of questions, like~ How much pee can your bladder hold before it pops? ~What disease makes your eyeballs bleed? ~Why can't astronauts eat beans before a space flight? Totally gross and fun, perfect for an 8 year old whose bedtime chatter last night was whether anacondas continue strangling their victims for so long after they are dead because they're really crushing their bones so the animal (or person!) is malleable enough to swallow hole, and exactly how big an animal can an anaconda eat? Of course, we haven't gotten to digestion yet- that'll be much later in the year. But I decided to mix things up a bit this year, instead of trying to follow a strictly Waldorf curriculum, or following in the classical footsteps of so many of our homeschooling peers here.

So... so far we've completed one Waldorf style block on farming-harvest, we learned about local agriculture, followed the pear cycle, and the life cycle of the honeybee, an important agricultural partner around here, for sure! For the bee bit we worked out the components of a sort of lap-book kit, which looked fun, with all kinds of little booklets to make and paper-cutting and folding and staples and brads and everything. ABCD was not impressed. "Its just a lot of filling in the blanks kind of writing, just on little pieces of paper instead of big ones. Boring!" And really, to have all of those preprinted funny things in the middle of his hand-made looking Waldorf style lesson book is a little jarring, just from an aesthetic side. So, no more lap books, at least not for main lessons, and not for awhile.
This week we started a block on time- clocks and calendars- telling time and history of- but we've been sick and not really gotten much done. Except he made the green plastic slime clock. I have to say, I bought two of the horrible science kits hoping they'd be worth the money, and they are, definitely. Some kid science kits are so flimsy and have such awful directions and boring experiments. After all, how many times can you find vinegar and baking soda interesting? (Well, unfortunately, quite a few times, it seems, but still, I don't need to pay $30 for a kit about THAT!) These kits seem quite sturdy and nice, with funny experiments that teach science between the giggles. Also for this unit we are enjoying the book "The Story of Clocks and Calendars" by Betsy Maestro, which is quite informative and very readable and pretty much covers everything we're going to talk about in this block, so there you go! We will be practising telling time and making a calendar for 2009, and doing the experiments in the slime clock kit and some others as well.

So far our school days look a little like this: light a candle, circle, harmonica (1/2 the time or so we get to it), oral reading (Old Testament stories mostly), puzzler/story problem/maze/paper folding exercise. Main lesson- Monday is Math, with a story from "Number Stories of Long Ago" or some other Waldorfy type math lesson story, then working out the story with manipulatives or figures or drawings. Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday is block lesson time (3 farm, 2 building, 1 clothing, time, money, 2-3 measurement). Friday is sort of our fill-in time right now. Snack, then 15 minutes or so for latin (Lively Latin, we LOVE it), oral math/math drill (grammar on Friday), cursive practice (copywork from OT stories on Wednesday). Tuesday is msnucleus science lab day, Wednesday is an extra math practice (Miquon workbook), and a local history story, Thursday is Leonardo da Vinci, and Friday is form drawing and another Math practice period. Lunch. And so far we're pretty much done at that point, but not for long....

We haven't started with regular nature walks and keeping a nature journal yet- that's this week, with a Waldorf style nature story first. We haven't started handwork up yet- its too easy to push aside for other things. I'd like to get ABCD to make another wood project for a Christmas present for his brother or the Grandmas, and I plan to have him sew himself a wool felt vest or something for the new baby. I haven't broken out the beeswax yet- not sure why. We haven't even done play dough in ages. Like, since spring! Guitar hasn't started yet either- we're still trying to work it all out, schedule wise and $ wise. Gym and swim at the Y is two days a week, two hours each, and Thursdays we go to the library after. Gymnastics starts Tuesday, so we'll probably do that instead on those days- it's only an hour and more fun,less hassle. But ABCD was moved up to the highest level swimming class at the Y, so we're a little torn. They're so disorganized and have such a variety of teachers its a little off-putting, added to the general atmosphere of world's most family un-friendly YMCA ever. And he has soccer team- U-9 is a bit more intense than last year, and ABCD is not competitive, so its a bit much at times. His coach is great at trying to keep it fun, but most of the boys on the team are feeling competitive and paying more attention to how the other's play, and demanding to know the score all the time (though officially its no-score still, for some reason all the Dads keep and tell the points). We're waiting for Rosetta Stone Spanish, Artistic Pursuits modern art, some more science kits, art supplies, and the nature journal still.

I started writing this post feeling like we were not getting much done school-wise, but I feel pretty good, actually, about how well I planned out the schedule, and what we're learning. Its pretty good, and fitting in the things we're waiting for shouldn't be too big a struggle. Good.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Year 3 Schedule

8:15-9:00 circle, oral reading, math puzzler
10:00-10:15 snack
10:15-10:30 latin
12:00-1:00 lunch
1/2 hour guitar practicebedtime story chapter
1/2 hr or so neighborhood walk or hike nearby
9:00-10:00 Math Story & Lab
10:30-10:45 Oral Math
10:45-11:00 cursive
11:00-12:00 spanish (la clase divertida 2)
1:00-1:30 nature story
1:30-3:30 nature walk w/nature journal & snack
3:30-4:30 nature/seasonal craft
9:00-10:00 main lesson
10:30-11:00 oral math, cursive
11:00-12:00 science lab
1:00-2:00 gymnastics
3:00-3:30 handwork
9:00-10:00 Main lesson
10:30-11:00 copywork
11:00-11:30 math practice
11:30-12:00 spanish
1:00-2:00 local history (stories)
2:00-3:00 art technique
3:30-4:00 guitar lesson
9:00-10:00 main lesson
10:30-11:00 oral math, cursive
11:00-12:00 leonardo da vinci
1:00-3:00 homeschool gym and swim
3:00-4:00 library
9:00-10:00 Old Testament (story, lesson book drawing, etc.)
10:30-11:00 Grammar
11:00-11:30 Math Practice
11:30-12:00 Spanish
1:00-1:30 Form Drawing
1:30-2:00 handwork

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wagon Train

We made covered wagons today. They came out pretty cute, but it was a lot of work, at least for Strongmom and I, while the kids grew restless and floppy. I made one up ahead of time, I really did, to make sure the glue and all would be easy enough for the kids to do. The sample came out easy and cute, and I was proud for being such a good Mom, all organized and efficient! Unfortunately I think I got the only kit with all of the pieces cut the right size and holes drilled in the right places.
In the end it came out okay, though I do have a renewed frustration with this town and the lack of decent crafting and fabric stores. I hate to say it, because the people at Craft Wharehouse are always really nice (except the quilting corner lady who is rude and awful). But really, you can't even buy silk here by the yard in this town, or dye-na-flow fabric paint, apparently. And because I am always gathering supplies at the last minute I didn't find that out until last night. Darn it!
Anyway, we had fun setting up the wagons in the grass after Strongmom and her two left. Foal chose circus animals to pull her wagon, which is appropriate (and she painted her wagon cover in polka dots). She is giddy knees and elbows and shining to applause. Mymy chose dinosaurs. I guess when you're two 1843 might as well be the time of the dinosaurs. ABCD and Sunny both refused to paint their wagon covers, despite my assurances that real wagons were often painted in bright colors and designs, and both claimed litle play horses to pull their little play wagons (both were disappointed we didn't have a stock of play oxen). They are strict.
Before we made wagons I read Chapter 2 of Little House on the Prairie, where they cross the dangerous stream and nearly drown and Jack is lost. The kids were shocked at my choking back tears while I read. But honestly! What parent can read that chapter and not feel how fragile and scary it all can be? Still, though. Crying?! As if I haven't read that book about 150 times in my life. Really!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Oregon Trail Curriculum

Week 1:
How did our country grow?
Why did people go west?
make walking sticks

Week 2:
What do we need and want?
Preparing to go- procuring supplies.
flower-leaf print painted tshirts

Week 3:
Famous Pioneers
make personal flags, have a parade around our cul-de-sac

Week 4:
Dangers on the trail.
drama camp this week- no big craft day

Week 5:
Frontier forts, pony express, and communication along the trail.
make wooden flower presses or marbled paper journals

Week 6:
Native Americans and Westward Expansion
bamboo lanterns?

Week 7:
Day in the Life of a Wagon Train.
Children and children's chores.
make whirligigs, pioneers toys

Week 8:
The Gold Rush
paint silk sun catchers or plant dye play silks?

Week 9:
The Mormon Trail
make soap or candles?

Week 10:
Life in a new land.
prepare for the show on Friday, no big craft day

Summer 2008 Circle

Our Circle verses this summer:

Morning is come, night is away, rise with the sun and welcome the day. (The children start out lying on the floor in a ring and slowly awaken and rise with the song)

There's the firm earth under me,
The blue sky over me,
So I stride,
So I stand,
And I see You too,
With the blue sky above you
And the firm earth under you.

Be you to others kind and true, and always unto others do, as you'd have others do to you. (Sung all together then in a round- challenging and fun for 8 yos.)

Whether the weather be fine,
Or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Or whether the weather be hot,
We'll weather the weather,
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not!
(which just cracks everyone up and they say it over and over)

Pioneers all work as one as one- work as one all pioneers
Pioneers all work as one- work as one all pioneers
Pioneers all work as one- work as one all pioneers
Peace shall be for all the world- all the world shall be for peace
From the dawn til setting sun- everyone finds work to be done
From the dawn til night does come- there's a task for everyone
Pioneers all work hard on the land- men and women hand in hand
As they labor all day long- they lift their voices in song
Let us work, my friends as one
Let us work til the task is done
(This is an old Israeli song "Zum Gali Gali", but we're just doing the English translation, sung as a call and response type, each child leading a different verse- lovely!)

Stillness soars as a mountain peak, seeking greatness in eagle's beak, striving lifting, reaching, climbing, gentle reason in numbers finding (They're hand in hand from "Pioneers" and join in a circle, crouch down then rise, then split into a line, marching. One child starts quietly counting the steps "1, 2, 3, 4....", the next child chimes in on the 2's, and the third child chants the 4's. In Time. We're challenged by this, but working on it! I got this from Miss Marsha's resources at waldorf home educators)

The coach is at the door at last;
The eager children mounting fast
And kissing hands in chorus sing:
Goodbye, goodbye, to everything!
To house and garden, field and lawn,
To meadow gates we swung upon,
To pump and stable, tree and swing,
Goodbye, goodbye to everything!
And fare you well for evermore,
O ladder at the hayloft door,
O hayloft where the cobwebs cling,
Goodbye, goodbye to everything!
Crack goes the whip, and off we go;
The trees and houses smaller grow;
Last, round the woody turn we sing:
Goodbye, goodbye to everything!
(Farewell To The Farm by Robert Louis Stevenson)

I can turn myself and turn myself and curl up as I will,
I can stand on tiptoe, reaching high,
I can hold myself quite still.
I can be as small as a small, small seed,
I can be as tall as a tall, tall tree!
I can be as wide as the wide, wide world,
I can just be ME!
(I wasn't going to include this one, we used it last year, and ABCD has used it since preschool, but the children begged and begged and so I included it)

Now the day is over, night is drawing nigh, shadows of the evening steal across the sky.
Father give the weary calm and sweet repose, with thy tend'rest blessing may our eyelids close.
(Sung softer and softer, as the children fall asleep, curling down to the ground.)

This circle will start each day, and also start the show we're planning for the last day of camp, at the end of August.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Oregon Trail Summer

This summer at our little "day camp" the kids and I are studying the Oregon Trail. Last week they made up "families" for themselves, took a period occupational interest test to find out what job their OT "Dads" would have. ABCD, in a stunning turn of events, ended up with an Industrial Technologies job, and decided that Blacksmith would be a terrific job no matter what the century. Foal and Sunny both ended up as Baker.
They also started their lesson books, colored in maps of the US to show the stages of our country's growth, and learned about some of the reasons why Oregon Fever hit so hard. Friends came over one afternoon and we made walking sticks- ABCD and Papa had previously drilled holes in dowels, and he and I sanded them ahead of time. On the big weekly Craft Day we threaded string through the holes to make a good hand grip, and all the kids decorated their walking sticks with stain pens and sharpies. Strongmom and I helped the kids mark inches on their sticks, for measuring puddles and things.
This week will be our first real week, with both Foal and Sunny starting Tuesday. We'll purchase wagons and supplies and pack up to leave. I've got lists of costs from the time, and weights, and we'll start out by measuring out a 4x10' rectangle to get an idea of what moving your whole life and family with really only necessities meant. This will lend itself to lots of math this week, as they spend their money and prepare their wagons. Oregon or Bust!
The kids all decided that instead of starting tennis right away, as usual, they'd rather ease into summer a little and have more relaxing and playing time and start tennis in mid July. Its fine with me- they're all getting along really well and having fun.

Third Grade Curriculum

Farming 1- harvest and preservation; life cycle bee
visit farms to observe and help with the harvest
visit beekeeper
cook with honey, make beeswax polish and candles
Farming 2- sprouts and microgreens; life cycle sheep
grow and taste many kinds of sprouts and microgreens
visit sheep and help tend them
Farming 3- planning and planting a garden; life cycle chicken
incubate chicken eggs
start a children's garden or herb garden
Shelter 1- history and geography of homes
draw and model many kinds of homes
Shelter 2- history and geography of clothing
visit spinner/weaver, help with wool -clothing process
hand sew wool vest; weave belt
Shelter 3- design and build a structure with a foundation
patio with pergola, playhouse, or walkway with arbor and benches
Time- history of telling time
make calendar, sundial, etc.
Money- history, practical skills
Measurement Linear
Measurement Weight
Measurement Volume

Math- Archios, Math Lessons for the Elementary Grades
daily puzzler/logic problem/diagramming/graphing problem
daily oral math
weekly math story and hands on play and solving
twice weekly Miquon 3rd grade/Key To Measurement
Language Arts- Logios
daily oral reading
daily circle with songs, poems, movement
daily cursive practice with art appreciation
weekly longer copywork
2-3 book reports
Old Testament- stories to set a backdrop for study of ancient Israel (Jakob Streit)
History- Lore of Life
our house, street, neighborhood, city, county, state
Form drawing-
daily knitting, sewing, etc..
Science- World Within Child Without, Child Awake, msnucleus
weekly nature story, nature walk w/journal, nature craft or picture
weekly story/project about Leonardo da Vinci
weekly experiments and projects
daily practice and weekly guitar lesson
daily harmonica practice
Art- Artistic Pursuits, art prints from Ambleside
daily viewing of artworks by: da Vinci, Picasso?, van Gogh
weekly story of the artist
weekly technique
drawing and watercolor in all subjects
twice weekly homeschool gym & swim at the Y
weekly homeschool gymnastics class
thrice weekly soccer U-9 fall and spring
weekly skiing lessons winter
Spanish- La Clase Divertida 2
Latin- Lively Latin Big Book 1