Thursday, January 30, 2014


One of the wonderful parts of homeschooling this way is that I must do my own creative work. I draw every picture, make every form, write every sentence, read every story, and knit every pattern before I bring it to my children. It forces me to slow down and focus, training my will just as my children train theirs.


When E was younger, I had great difficulty writing in a straight line or free-handing even squares. In school I always had lined paper, a ruler, and beautiful handwriting. The few times my children have written on lined paper, it's a mess. They don't yet understand how the letters should be arranged, such as the g trailing its feet in the water. Or they write ON the line, as in the line going straight through the letters as if they've been crossed out. Is that bad? I don't think so. My children can write in straight lines where there are none; I believe that takes more practice and will than writing on a line. Think spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination. When the skill of writing on a line becomes necessary, they'll learn it easily.


Anyway, today is another snow day! Daddy's home from work again and there is plenty of white stuff to jump around in. Both kids finished their schoolwork and chores by 10:30am and were out the door by 10:35!


E painted Muspelheim and worked on some heart forms (mine is pictured above) while e drew hearts upon hearts after finishing her dwarf picture.

Now to bake some apples and enjoy this day together! Happy snow day!


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lessons as Planned

This week lessons have been completed in full, axactly as I planned them. This never, ever happens. Ever. I have to admit I'm feeling a little stir crazy staying focused that long, but the kids are loving it.

E had a moment of self-consciousness while molding Thor and his hammer. It has been a long time since I last heard one of my children lament how much better my work was.... But here it was again. I emphasized how many more years I'd been working with my hands, how it was not perfection but excellence we were striving for, and that art is not to be judged. In the end I made Thor and he made Mjolnir. Later when he was modeling with e, he made Thor and ran to show me. Happy mommy dance!

Our schooling is brought to us by Stockmar. I cannot emphasize just how much we love Stockmar! We have our original set of block and stick crayons from five years ago that we would probably still be using if we hadn't been using umbrella school funds in Aaska. They last that long! That set is now our travel set, for drawing in the car, at the gym, and at meets. We have two large sets of block crayons, colored chalk, window crayons, a medium set of stick crayons, two large sets of colored pencils, 6 watercolor bottles, lots of modeling and decorating beeswax, and just yesterday I found a huge set of new stick crayons I forgot we had! It was like Christmas. These supplies will most likely last us for years and years, and we've already had them for years. Our last Crayola markers died in Alaska, and no one has even commented on it.


Why do we love them so? Vibrant color. Color, color, color. Wondrous colors that blend well and look good. Smooth, silky texture. No crayon crumbs. And amazing color. Did I mention color?

e's little piggy is finished! Ears, a tail, and other piggy friends. Piggy is from this book. Lots of easy patterns knit flat and in plain language.

G has spent quite a bit of her time napping here while the cold winds blow outside! She is directly above a heat register. Nothing better than radiant heat....except perhaps a shelter over one's head! E thought she would appreciate a bit of safety in her new warm spot, so we left the lazy Susan open.

Jotenheim, home of the frost giants, and the horse that can fly through flames.

This form is proving tricky to draw, so we tried our hand at it with string! No easier, let me tell you. Start practicing now. I might get it by the time e is in 4th grade.

e is onto her next main lesson block! Language arts. Stories upon stories. The first is The Clever Farmer. Even C and E were listening in. Christopherus stories are very well written; everyone enjoys them! e took great pride in her writing today. Notice how straight and even her writing is? I think she might be settling into the new routine.


Now to head outside into the deep snow we've been gifted with!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

No-Bake Cookies...or maybe Granola Bars


My mother doesn't like to bake. Or cook, for that matter. I ate a lot of rice with ketchup, raw fruits and veggies, and canned food growing up. It only makes sense that the cookies she made were no-bake, too. They are a great comfort food without much effort, and she had a few varieties. My favorite was chocolate.


Since going grain-free and (almost) cane/beet sugar-free a year ago, I haven't found a no-bake recipe I am that happy with...until now. These came out super yummy. They aren't like the no-bake cookies we are all used to; they are more like a coconut granola bar. But they hold together, make a lovely snack, and are very little effort to make.



3 c shredded, unsweetened, dried coconut

1/4 c maple syrup

1/2 c chocolate chips

1 T vanilla


Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor. Process until part of the mixture has turned a bit creamy, or at least begins to stick together. This creates a binder to hold the cookies together but leaves enough whole for texture. In a vitamix this simply means not using high power and not much tamper. Perhaps in a food processor it means mixing the ingredients in a bowl and only processing 3/4. Whatever method you use, you should end up with a sticky mixture that can be pressed into balls or candy molds. I used our Easter bunny-head silicone candy mold. Place in fridge to harden, then pop out.


As I type this, e is eating one for breakfast! First breakfast, that is. We are somewhat like Hobbits when it comes to meals.


Monday, January 27, 2014

A New Week

Our new week began with e in tears. Why? Because I asked her to read the word list again in order to correct a few stumbles. She despises re-reading with all her heart. But I requested it, and even told her that she would need to read the list of 6 words again before watching Wild Kratts. It isn't that school comes before screens, it is that when we begin something, we must finish it. After over an hour of complaining and whining, she did it. And she felt good about it. She closed her lesson book feeling like she had accomplished something.

e's pig is coming along nicely, and has even acquired several lace dresses with fancy buttons sewn during quiet time. Ears were finished this morning, to be sewn on after lunch. e even tossed one ear that did not come out to her liking. Proud does not even come close to describing how I feel about that! She isn't in this to simply finish the task; she wants to do it right.


E also is knitting an animal. E has a love/hate relationship with knitting. He loves the final product, but the process, especially if it involves a new skill or pattern, quickly frustrates him to the point of yelling and slamming doors and hiding under blankets. So I was pretty surprised when he asked me for the shoelace yarn and- in one afternoon- knit almost an entire animal. He calls it a 'shlamb'. Half sheep, half lamb. No pictures are allowed until it's finished.


Last week was a crazy weather week. On Tuesday we raced to the beach to enjoy the last few hours of warm-ish weather and thus witnessed the sudden swirl of wind changing direction, turning cold. The waves increased, the sand blew, and seagulls hunkered down low.

The next morning we awoke to icy temps and several inches of snow! Our first snowfall since leaving Alaska.

e could not wait to get outside!

Schools and libraries closed, choir was cancelled, and we stayed at home and played. Thank goodness for our all-wheel drive Subaru, though. C was able to drive E to and from gymnastics. We all know E would have been a mess without it!


We continued on with bits of school, but quite a lot of it took a backseat to the snow, as it should. This is how E pictures the Norse creation story.


e painted a person fishing. Our friend K has promised to teach e how to fish this summer, and she has not forgotten!

Division has proven to be as easy as multiplication for this girl. She is working on her 3s times table now.

Kids in the kitchen means pulled pork for lunch! We do a lot of lettuce wraps. Who needs tortillas?

e kept bringing in the snow to melt. She was amazed every time at how little water it melted to be, and how dirty!

e embroidered the signs on her math squirrels. The mom's sign is a heart!

I like to give e a shorter poem than E, but the truth is they always both memorize both! They love the verse and rhyme (and the attention they receive while reciting, I believe!).

E usually turns his into a song. Everything turns into a song for my children. :)


Sunday, January 19, 2014

My e

My e is in a bit of a rough patch. She has never been content as the little sister, and now with E sailing along so smoothly she's even more jealous of his abilities and privileges. Sometimes I fall into the trenches with her, trying to lecture and guilt her out of her funk. I'm sure you all know how well that works.

I started a new planning sheet a few weeks ago, originally to help E see his choices and progress, but e is actually the one I see benefitting most. She loves coloring the boxes and seeing what is planned. She fights the daily rhythm, not the schooly stuff (as long as I have waited until she is more than ready-more on that in a minute).

When E was 4 I bought a workbook about the body. We started it....and then like most pre-made lessons with E, it fizzled. Last summer e found it and BEGGED to do it. Interest did not wane, so here we are. After Christmas we traced and cut out bodies. She is excited each day to learn a new part's function, eagerly coloring, cutting out, and 'doing surgery' to her paper body. I love her enthusiasm! This girl holds nothing back.

She is my treasure-seeker, nature-lover, and noticer of all things small. Even though I get impatient at times with her slower pace and absolute need to bring everything home (be it something from nature or something from the store), e is just as eager and enthusiastic about giving to others. That has been a lesson for me: accepting her exuberance in all areas- sadness as well as happiness, selfishness as well as selflessness.

Her math main lesson is coming along nicely.

She has known how to add and aubtract forever, and not because she was ever formally taught. I think she has absorbed and picked up quite a lot from E, as well as from daily life. She easily adds numbers past 20 in her head, and when introduced to multiplication had no trouble understanding its link to addition and counting-by.

e gets up well before E, now that he stays up late for gymnastics. She and I do most of her lessons before he rises, as well as bird-watching. Lots of bird-watching.

It has been fun to again be chanting '2 is 2 times 1. 4 is 2 times 2. 6 is 2 times 3.' with clapping, snapping, stomping patterns. This was one of the few first grade things E enjoyed, and still does, only he has moved onto much higher numbers, of course. I'm dreaming of all the things I'll get to do with e in the next few years that fell aside with E. This is going to be good. IF I can help her to see that her current age is wonderful for right now, that is.

For instance, had she been in first grade 3 years ago, we could not have used acorns. I never realized how lovely acorns are to work with!

She is also learning to read. Sort of. She already knows how, but she doesn't know she knows. Seems to be a theme in my family, lol. E didn't read until second grade, but could have much, much earlier. Both children have this idea that learning to do something should not be gradual. One should be an instant master. Which, if you wait long enough, perhaps is sort of true. E went from not reading at all to reading above grade level in four months. e went from not knitting to casting on, knitting, and casting off in two days. Both of them even refused baby food, preferring to wait until 15-ish months when whole food became an option. So why should I expect reading to be any different for e? She has decided it might be time. She's working through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons on her own. Yep, that's right...on her own. With me there, but not saying anything. Which tells you she already knows it.


e is starting children's chorus this week. She auditioned and was accepted with flying colors, including a 50% scholarship! She still isn't sure about it, primarily because she has no idea what choir is like. C and I are hopeful that this might be her thing.


I had a talk with her the other day. She had mentioned going back to gymnastics, and I told her no. I told her it wasn't her thing. Why would I do that?


It wasn't out of fear, though I do fear. Remember that her broken arm came from trying a layout; she doesn't always recognize her limits vs her brother's. It wasn't because of expense, though we are barely affording one child on team. It was because after she broke her arm, her coach requested that she attend the half-hour of warm-up in order to maintain her leg strength and ability.... and she refused. She didn't consider it important and preferred to wait until she could again do trampoline. Gym as a whole was not her thing.


Shouldn't a parent allow her child to continue with whatever activity they choose, whether or not it is their thing? Up until now, I would have said yes, enjoyment is what matters. Now I have seen that children can get caught up in the activity, moving from one level to the next, all the while gaining in expense and parent-time-commitment (hello fundraising hours- wow!), perhaps simply because it's 'what I do'. The activity begins to define the child; to quit or switch at this point would be difficult. Not impossible, but difficult.


I want e to try anything, everything....but only stick with the thing that makes her heart sing. The thing she can't live without. The thing that challenges and energizes her, that brings her immeasurable joy. Gym is not that.


So I talked her into choir. Maybe she will love it, maybe she won't. If she doesn't, she'll try something new in the fall. She has her eye on tap dancing.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My E


My E has settled right in. He is not fighting our new rhythm. He has moments of frustration, but what child doesn't? I'm talking about the anger- the yelling and stomping and pounding- and outright refusal. It's gone. We have moved into the smooth part of his year, and I am enjoying every minute!

He is still E, of course. I still follow his lead, while at the same time guiding. We still accomplish only a fraction of what I plan, but it is accomplished happily. He's back into reading, currently whipping through The Borrowers. He competed in his third gym meet, this time reaching silver on floor and bronze on vault.

What I don't do is insist on any extra writing. He loves cursive and will happily copy a few sentences. He enjoys illustrating stories that speak to him. He is passionate about form drawing. But as far as constructing a paragraph.... I don't see any reason to push it right now. Nor do I tear apart stories for analysis. The stories remain whole. That is important.

He is still into duct tape. This is a much prettier pencil holder than a plain jar, no?

Form drawing! He and I have missed it greatly.

This picture of the 9 Norse Worlds caused some frustration. Writing so small did not agree with him.

First cursive in over a year, at his request. Suddenly he doesn't mind writing, if it can be big and cursive.

Tilting the cursive but not the line was hard!

Here E took the 4-triangle form and made it his own. He loves bold colors and patterns.


He is still working on Math 3 of Teaching Textbooks, and I'm okay with that. He's doing it without a fight, he's understanding complaints.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Learning Ventures

At long last, e's math squirrels have made their appearance! The wise old owl is there also, watching and teaching the little squirrels as they gather their acorns. First comes Addition.

E and I are greatly enjoying this book of Norse myths. The illustrations are amazing!

Our new routine is two days old and a bit stressful to keep on top of right now (for me), but we all like seeing how much we accomplished. It will get easier with time. If it doesn't, well...back to the drawing board. Homeschooling is a continuous work in progress, right?


Sunday, January 5, 2014


I have been busy planning, planning, planning. A change is in the air at our house: E is officially ready for fourth grade material! Not because of ability- skill level has almost nothing to do with Waldorf early grade placement- but because of development. E is almost ten. Ten is the age when Norse myths, local geography, the four elements, and man and animal speak to the child. Teach them sooner and the child will learn facts. Wait for ten, and the child will relate to and own the material.


I did not fully appreciate this perfect layout until this year. I started the grades when public school would have, meaning for the majority of third grade E was eight. Almost a whole year young for what Steiner intended a Waldorf student to be. I thought it was okay; he wasn't that far off. Then for some reason I made the choice to continue third grade subject matter into this past fall, rather than jumping ahead to fourth.


The change was amazing. The material spoke to him. He ate up the third grade stories of wonder like he never had before. Even though he was (and is) the same E, marching to the beat of a different drummer, insisting that we not follow anyone's path but his, working with third grade material felt like it fit. And now it doesn't. He is moving into becoming ten.


Now as far as what grade E tells people he is in: we match that to public school. It bothers me when homeschoolers, when asked what grade they are in, say some level way above their age. Or three different grades, because they read at fifth, do math at third, and write at seventh. Ridiculous. When people ask what grade a child is in, they are trying to gauge the child's age without asking it directly, trying to fit the child into a box of sorts, not identify a child's specific reading level. We all know how widely ability ranges can be within one public school classroom. So as far as others are concerned, E is in fourth grade. In the fall he'll be fifth, then sixth, etc, even though now I know that the thing to do for him is switch grade material with the new year.


So....what about e? She's a June baby. She is an entire year young for her grade by Waldorf standards. At this point, I haven't decided what to do. Almost everything in me says to follow Steiner's wisdom; over and over (and OVER) it has been proven true with E. Yet she is not her brother. We are playing it by ear, going bit by bit. It could well be that first grade continues on fine, but the jump to second grade is too early. Or third grade. And at that point, we will simply draw out the grade level that speaks to her until she is ready to move on. We will, however, always identify her as her public school grade equivalent, as I said for E.


I can't wait to share pictures of e's math squirrels! They came out absolutely adorable. Today we are counting out acorns, readying them for the addition adventures that tomorrow will bring. For now, I leave you with this:

Another selfie by the piggy.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Happy New Year!

How did you ring in the new year? We spent the night at the gym!


For families with children on team, 70-some hours of fundraising time is required each year. We accomplish our hours by supervising at overnights (plus a yard sale a few months ago). Parents pay for their kids to spend the night at the gym, running and jumping and eating pizza and building forts. Usually a teeny bit of sleeping happens, too. And always a handstand competition.

My E does not like handstand competitions. Upside down in a crowd, he can't see or hear very well. So he avoids them. This time he gave it a shot. Go E!


Then for fun, a few dads decided to try it.

Some did better than others, lol.

These two dads even had an Army vs Navy obstacle course race. It was uneven to begin with, a musician against a special ops diver, so amid the silliness our children ran interference for their daddy. :)

Then a countdown to midnight, complete with a balloon drop.


The majority of those 500-ish balloons were inflated by C earlier, faster than I could tie them. Reminiscent of the blow-the-candle-out-from-across-the-room competitions I'd witnessed at saxophone studio parties in college. Saxophonists do have very strong lungs.

We arrived home in 2014 with piles of chalky blankets and pillows, tired but happy children, and an indignant pig who considered us late for breakfast.


Happy new year!