Thursday, January 29, 2015

Week 3... and a bit of reality.

The girls enjoyed their lesson last week on St. Francis. What better saint than him for two girls who absolutely adore animals? Here is e's MLB:

The spring chorus semester has begun! Oh the happiness...

E has been wanting to carve soap for a while now. Much easier than wood! e hung around, waiting for the chopped-up leftovers to mash into slippery playdough.

I finally finished the yarn I spun on my new drop spindle! Aren't the colors amazing? It makes me happy just looking at them. What shall I knit?

E and I spent his week's lessons on Mesopotamia.

We read Gilgamesh the Hero by Geraldine McCaughrean. Oldest recorded story, found on shattered clay tablets....what could be more intriguing?


Then there are Hammurabi and Shamshi-Adad. One believed everyone should follow a common code of conduct, while the other cut off heads and displayed them on stakes. Good thing Hammurabi won out in the end.

Animal stories galore for e:



And her forms:


With a bit of math thrown in.


Now comes the part about reality...

This. Based on the results of some functional medicine testing, we are giving E a whole lotta supplements. Lo and behold, he suddenly has his energy back. And I do mean back! Plus the attitude, the impulsivity, and noise level, too. Which is overwhelming for me. The cooperative, focused, relatively calm child that I have had the past few months is gone. Poof. Our new rhythm was working not because E had matured, but because he was chronically tired. Tired. I knew he was tired, he said he was tired...but the kid does 16 hours of gym a week and never stops moving, so of course he's tired. Thus I find myself getting mad and overwhelmed by him now being himself. Everything I loved about the past few weeks/months was possible because he wasn't himself. What does that say? It's awful. What kind of mother rejoices that her child is ill? It's heartbreaking! what? e has been blindsided by this also and raised defenses. They've been fighting, bickering, yelling. E tries to focus on lessons, but it isn't really happening. He's pushing back. The noise and energy levels are high.


I had a chat yesterday with Melisa of Waldorf Essentials, not really even knowing what I needed, and she gave me some insight and more info on temperament. Interesting stuff. Best of all is that she was able to reassure me (as the mother of a puzzle herself) that parenting and teaching a child like this is difficult, but it can be done. I can do this. I can also forgive myself for being so happy at his expense. I didn't know. That's pretty much how it goes- we don't always know. Like the time I made him walk his own bike home with a concussion. I didn't know.


Then my wonderful friend S took the girls to chorus (thank you!) while I dropped E at gym and, well, just breathed. Alone with my thoughts in the woods. I ran for a bit before the cold air made my lungs rebel, and had a good cry...


I can do this. I'm not sure how yet, but I can. E can, too. We are actually already halfway through week 4 now. Two days until we switch blocks. Two days until the end of our trial rhythm, but I feel like we need another 30-day trial because we've changed. For the better, right? Deep breath, first step- to the pool this morning.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Week 2

End of week 2. I can honestly say that our new rhythm is WORKING! It isn't perfect, so I'm still tweaking things, but overall it is working. And I stuck to it. I'm pretty proud of myself for that. 2 whole, entire weeks without tossing the plan!


More about that in a moment. First, Egypt. I didn't get to read Egyptian myths with E. He listened to them on Jim Weiss' CD. He also read the book about Egyptian jobs on his own, as well as Cat Mummies and a few others. All I have to do is bring the books home, stack them up, and attempt to look through them. They disappear faster than I can blink! Which is good for our time frame- so many books, so little time!


We built pyramids, figured out how many sides, angles, lines, and cubes were involved, and tried leaving central passages. The cubes were the most played-with thing for 4 days straight!


Next came cartouches. We read Casting the Gods Adrift, a fictional account of an ancient Egyptian boy whose task is to create the royal family's cartouches. E wanted to carve his, but the best I could do right then was glue and cardboard. Even E admitted that they came out well! E's is in cuneiform instead of hyroglyohics because.....well, because he's E.

Then there's this:

Totally E. He told me the other day that he likes Waldorf because it doesn't restrict him. :)


I took the kids to a library homeschool art program the other day. It was not quite what we expected for something billed for school-age children. It was more like a preschool presentation: a cutesy picture book, some painting activities, and a few slides with some big words like 'secondary colors' and 'osmosis' thrown in. Crayola watercolors and brushes, thin paper. My kids raised their eyebrows but quietly did the paintings. Once home, we tried it on our own thick paper with vibrant paint. Much better! The effects were barely, if at all, visible on the library paintings. On ours,'s the salt:

It was fascinating to watch! Not only because of the way the salt seemed to suck up the water. It has been a long time since we did a purely abstract wet-on-wet. The way the color fans out and blends is mesmerizing. How have we never done salt paintings before?


e is chugging along through her Animal Tales block. So many great stories of wisdom, trickery, and foolishness! E always listens in. Who can resist? Here is the hungry fox, who fasts for five days so that he can fit through a crack in the wall to get at the peaches....only to have to fast again in order to get out! (My painting is the top one, e's is the bottom.)

Which brings us to this- rhythm, routine, and planning. The piece I wanted to add this week was the meal plan, and I did! After our shopping trip, I spent an hour in the kitchen combining what I had bought with days of the week, and bam. A plan. Everyone loves it. It takes the guesswork out of food prep, keeps the fridge shut between meals, and E can relax because he knows what food is coming and when. I no longer run up against forgetting to thaw meat or trying to throw together random ingredients at the last minute, and the asparagus made it into the oven before it spoiled.

So, about this planning thing. When I was a teacher, I was a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants sort. My students had learning and behavior disorders, so my job was to fill in gaps. Gaps, by nature, are just that: gaps. Where they begin or end is not readily apparent. Once one is discovered, it could take a day, a week, or a month to fill. The end is usually discovered as abruptly as the beginning. How does one plan for that? So I didn't. I knew what was developmentally appropriate, I knew the standards, and I had a zillion tricks up my sleeves. It worked. With E, I have had to pull out every last trick. And it worked; I've gotten him this far! He always, always tests above grade level, as does e, and his thirst for knowledge has not waned. He still loves to learn, still has burning questions every day, still delights in new information.


Now, however, he's noticing that he spends so much less time at schoolwork than his peers. He doesn't want to 'fall behind'. He sees how much more of the curriculum e is getting than he did, and he worries that he's missed out. So- time for action, right? That's what E is working on. If you are worried, take action.


This is where the plan comes in. I bought two planners and laid out each child's main lessons. Then I overhauled our daily rhythm, turning it back to times when the kids were tiny. Morning outings, afternoons home. Getting myself out of bed consistently at 6am.


A few things have become cemented as they truly, wonderfully work: E's lesson time from 1:30-3 (with a whole lotta breaks). Swimming Tuesday mornings. Wednesday afternoon teaching trade with S. Playing cards in the evening with e before C goes to pick up E. e's independent math on the computer with Teaching Textbooks right after lunch. Getting up early to just breathe.


Others, well..... I'm still working on where to put e's lessons, when to do chores, which kid chores will be the most help to me, and, most importantly, how to get to bed earlier! Which goes back to finding everything a place earlier in the day so I'm not faced with it all after putting E to bed... time, trial, and error. I'll get there.

I'm just amazed at how far E has come. He has not pushed back at all about school time. When I forget math or spelling, he is quite quick to remind me. We are now working our way through Gilgamesh the Hero, and he is even doing some of the reading to me. Now my task is to stay on top of this new rhythm. It's working!


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Week 1


This week ended with E's third meet, which provided a learning experience (or three). A few weeks ago, E was told that there would be an hour-long warm-up rotation prior to competition, as opposed to a warm-up, compete, warm-up compete, etc format. He was convinced he would not do as well with this format. He worried about getting sick or injured before the meet. He wondered if his coach would be angry if he didn't score as well. He also felt a lot of excitement; he'd just added another bonus to his parallel bars routine. He knew his routines inside and out. He could close his eyes and visualize how his body felt moving through the motions. Yet he worried. In the end, he didn't score as highly as the first two meets. He earned third on rings, 5th, 7th, and maybe 4th. Plus sixth on All Around, which is the total of all scores. So not bad. Solid performance. No gold or silver, but solid. His coach's response? Good work. Solid performance. Not your best, but still good. It's just one meet. It's not any more important than any other meet. Have I said how completely blessed we are to have this man as E's coach?!? Plus he is working on E's mind game. When conditions of a meet are announced, the gymnast says 'Perfect! I'll do well.' No matter what. Early registration? Perfect! Warm up at the start? Perfect! Mind games.

But back to the week itself. New schedule, seeing how things will fit... So far so good. Above are moving pictures from The Tortoise and the Hare. Well, except E's. When he saw my project, he whipped out a car racing picture, lol. s and e made the pictures in the bottom row. Fun stuff.


Below is E's form drawing (plus a face!).

Then there's E's notes! First try at note-taking. Not bad. This is the first main lesson book he's had with lines, so I was curious how he'd react. Do you see what he did? He didn't picture the bottom line as a shelf for his words, but rather used the lines above and below as a frame! He centered his letters between lines. Interesting! (The headings are my writing.)

A map of the Fertile Crescent:

e and I read Hairy Hezekiah. Adorable story of a lonely camel.

This week is chugging right along. The biggest challenge is my own will. Get up before kids, stay productive, keep us all on track. I'm failing in so many ways....yet making a bit of progress also. Ups and downs. I'm determined to try this for a whole month!


Thursday, January 8, 2015

New Year, New Rhythm


Kings came riding, one, two, three

Over the desert and over the sea.

One on a horse with a saddle of gold,

The children came running to behold.

One in a ship with a silver mast

The fishermen wondered as he went past.

One came walking over the sand

With a casket of treasure in his hand.

Night came on as those kings went by,

They shone like the gleaming stars in the sky.

A new year and a new developmental stage (E is almost eleven!) have pushed me into changing things up around here. I'm taking Waldorf Essentials rhythm round-up lessons online, which delve into marriage, family, and temperaments. I hadn't given much thought to temperaments before, at least not as described by Steiner. It's given me some new insight into my teaching and my marriage...why I'm so content to go with the flow and find the path of least resistance, yet when push comes to shove I'm a force to be reckoned with. ;) Phlegmatic temperament is likened to the ocean: calm and steady or strong and moving. As it turns out, all four of us have a good bit of phlegmatic in us. E has a side of melancholic, e of sanguine.... Quite eye-opening, actually. Gave me a lot to think about.


Two changes to our weekly rhythm have made us very happy: an early morning sibling swim time (a quiet pool!) and a teaching trade for e and s one afternoon a week! I got to start us off with some form drawing and Three Kings shadow play yesterday. Much more enjoyable with a friend! Next Wednesday S will take the girls for some science experiments and embroidery while E gets me all to himself.


Sunday, January 4, 2015


We had a wonderful holiday break. C took leave for the entire two weeks, and his parents came to visit. It was a restful time, but still full of adventure! e tried out the adventure park, thanks to Nana and Papa:

Wow. She was waaaaay up there. She tried all three lines she was allowed, and decided that the third one (pictured) was a bit much! We are proud of her for giving it a go...nobody but daddy wanted to accompany her!


E spent much of his time at the gym, training with the big boys. I am grateful the coaches continued gym through the holidays. The workouts make all the difference in E's attitude and attention!


e also received some artsy Christmas gifts, including chalk pastels from Grandma. First things first: try out the new chalk pastels and the new beanbag! Grandad gifted her a few more art lessons with Ms. Holly, too. Below is the bird from her last lesson.

Here is little G. Her latest adventure consists of little bitey things. Mites, perhaps. Never a dull moment with her.

I received drop spindles and a niddy noddy for Christmas, so I've been busy spinning last Christmas' roving into gorgeous skeins of yarn. The wool is so soft, and is so easy to spin... e has caught on to the excitement and is now working on her own spindle of purple!

Now, about school topics...


I have never required e to write anything but copywork. Never dissected a story into its parts or examined adjectives. Yet the other day I found this on her desk. Waldorf at work!


And here is the final installment of Man and Animal: the scorpion. This was tricky, keeping sight of the scorpion shape while making dots all over the place! But fun and messy. We love acrylics.