Waldorf In The Home

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Math By Hand

I had a delightful opportunity to introduce a kit from Math By Hand to my girls. I have been following Marin's work for about two years, always admiring her posts and her products. She sent us her Grade Two Kit #1.

First, there isn't anything much more exciting for my girls than getting a package in the mail. It was a nice kick-off to the start of our new season of  lessons, and I bet they would love to continue to receive the remaining kits throughout the year which will help me keep the lessons fresh and interactive and keep me on my toes. Math isn't my favorite subject, but please don't tell my girls that. 

This kit could not have been more perfect for me.  Introducing and reintroducing the times table - this kit was the way to go.  It included a huge poster to make our own poster-sized times table, colored pencils, an eraser, a card game and a great little booklet that really brought the times table to life. I couldn't have gathered all the materials as easily on my own, nor would I have been able to present it as well.  This kit did it for me. I was enthusiastic, Marin made the process so doable, so enjoyable, the presentation was fantastic. The girls were just as impressed. 

I am teaching both girls (ages 6 & 8)  the same math block. Second grade is middle ground for them and it is working out very nicely for us. 

We learned how to fold the poster to make 144 squares, then we highlighted the squares with yellow crayon and started filling the times tables we knew from memory. The we followed Marin's suggestions for building and filling out the rest the table. 

The process was a joy to experience.  Both girls are happy with their contributions to the table and the games. My youngest started to see patterns in the table right away, she seems to have a knack for numbers naturally, or perhaps she is just more fascinated with them.  Teaching Math from a Waldorf perspective was completely foreign to me and yet I am able to present it and I am having ah-hah moments. I have never understood the times table like I do now thanks to Marin and this very interactive Grade Two Kit. When I was a child, I used to sneak a peek at the table at the back of my composition book, and it was considered cheating, so I never really studied it the way Marin's little booklet suggests and reveals. If I had, I bet math would have been more enjoyable for me and I wouldn't have cheated. This huge times table poster has been the most useful tool for our math lessons thus far. It hangs proudly on our dining room wall, and it is as dear to us as it is invaluable to us. 

The kit spans several days of lessons. We started with it two weeks ago, and we will probably use the kit all year, and the times table poster for years to follow.  

You can find the Math By Hand kit here.  You can find her other kits here and her free newsletter. Marin's Facebook page is one of my favorites. Her posts are like receiving little gems in the mail. 

Thank you Marin. You are my math idol, no even better…a math Goddess. 

Happy Goddess Wednesday,


Monday, September 15, 2014

Knitting A Space

The spot between my shoulder blades are sore once again. Our knitting needles are back in motion. We are making new scarves for each other. 

Being able to knit certainly isn't a requirement of Waldorf-inspired education,  it does seem like that though, with all those crafty Mama bloggers who share their beautiful knitted work and all the posts and links on social media about the benefits of knitting - mostly come from the Waldorf promoting Mamas like me. 

I did not know how to knit. 

I wanted to learn. Ms. Eva, my handwork friend, comes every Monday and spends time teaching my family all sorts of cool fiber art skills. Knitting is one of them. My girls ages 6 and 8 picked up knitting much faster than me and their scarves look better than mine. For me learning to knit was a lesson in humility and perseverance.  My first scarf kind of looks like the story of my life. Messed up in the beginning, lots of odd stitches , some holes, and finally some neat, even rows, and once in a while a hole and an extra stitch,  then neat rows again. Of course the girls had struggles in their scarves, but the struggles are short-lived because when they ask for help it is offered, they don't have to do it alone. I was comforted that Ms. Eva was there to fix the mistakes. 

Knitting while my children played in the same room created a magical harmony between us. I was with them, present, aware, not lost in a screen. I could answer a question, or help zip the zipper on back of their dress up clothes without feeling disturbed or frustrated that I was taken out of a conversation that I was having online. They felt this connection, the hum of our energies working side by side. Play lasted longer and was more peaceful than if I had been sitting in the same spot with a screen on my lap. It is hard for me to sit down, I am always happily busy doing something, and I do enjoy connecting with friends on FB, but knitting has allowed me to stop my busyness, exhale, regain myself and ultimately create a space for us to be in each other's company without major distraction. I say "just one more row" a lot.  

I was knitting a space. 

For me knitting isn't about the final product, it is all about the process. Not at first though. At first,  I had visions of knitting a cool scarf, then maybe a warm waldorfy-looking hat. I had beautiful expectations of myself. But,  instead of experiencing making something beautiful, I instead felt internal struggles. Knitting did not come easy to me.  I am a perfectionist and I am also very visual. My scarf was raggedy looking.  The beauty that I experienced was the time spent knitting, not the scarf itself. I never give up.  I kept at it, adding  rows and stitches then subtracting them back again.  I must have started my scarf over at least 25 times!!! But it didn't matter I was knitting the whole time, creating that space that we all felt good in. The scarf was just the afterthought. 

I made my second scarf for Vivian,
and she thinks it is beautiful blue and very soft. 

The knitting needles became my magic wands and are very useful when I need to add a little magic and peace-fullness to our day. 

The girls though, they pick up their needles because they are making beauty, with their hands. They are so proud of their handwork. They are in complete concentration. They are determined and never feel like it is not pretty enough. I feel a sense of awe about them when I watch them knit.  

So if you ever had the desire to knit, find a friend to teach you. But if the desire is not there, and you only feel pressure to knit, let it go. Find another way to create that space. 

Namaste, Nicole

Saturday, September 13, 2014

52 Weeks of Nature ~ Blue Door

                            Philadelphia in September  35/52  ~ Blue Door

We added this blue door to our yard at the beginning of the summer to make it easier and safer to walk to our community pool. Before this summer, we had strollers,  then wagons, neither ideal for this rustic, "big-girl" path. This was the year of new beginnings for us. I was even able to bring a book to the pool. In the summer we live at the pool. Between swim team, swim lessons and swimming with friends we were constantly back and fourth and this door was our luxury.  

Now that the pool is closed and we said our sad goodbyes, this blue door now leads us right to the library that is located less than a hop, skip and jump from our yard.  

When one door closes another one does open. 

This door now leads us to faraway places, tales of Woodland People, fairy tales and not so happily ever afters. We have a constant stream of cookbooks, sewing books, gymnastic books, and my favorite herbal remedy books. 

Yep, I love this blue door. Now, I am just hoping that my library fines will be eliminated. Those two street blocks to get to the library last year, errr, got in my way to return books on time. I am blushing revealing this to you.  

This door continues to be a luxury but also represents my gratitude for the many blessings that I have in my life. It is a new symbol of my appreciation for our homeschool life. 

Love & Light, Nicole

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Why I Homeschool

Whenever anyone asks me "Why I homeschool?";  without hesitation I reply "I love the lifestyle."   My eldest daughter is entering the third grade, so this year will be our fourth year at it.  When she was of kindergarten age and all our neighbors were busy preparing their children for school, the big yellow bus, and buying cool lunch boxes and backpacks,  I admit I felt a little awkward because I was sitting back, relaxing and looking up recipes for homemade all-natural playdough, and buying supplies at the thrift store for our mud kitchen.  It felt like I was diving off a high dive. There wasn't a line of people, or friends waiting to dive in with me. It was aspirating and defying. I was diving into the deep unknown and landed in a beautiful, warm ocean.

When the private and public schools students returned back in the Fall on our first year of homeschooling, our morning walk ritual turned into waving to all the kids on the school buses that drove past us as we trotted along. It felt weird, and I wondered how did this make my children feel? Then our attention would quiet  down and we were drawn elsewhere, like the day we spotted a blue heron in the creek behind our house or the time we met Helen, our neighbor, walking her dog Sasha, and invited us to a tour of her beautiful garden. 

School and their buses became a distant memory. 

My eldest child did ask me if she could go to school at the beginning of that first year.  It turns out she really didn't want to go to school, she just wanted to ride on that spectacular yellow bus. Our trip on public transportation cured her of that desire. I also bought an orange punch buggy that we drive around in and it is very hard to feel unhappy in it.  When parents who are on the fence about homeschooling their children because they tell me that their kindy child really wants to go to school and has shown such a strong interest. I chuckle. I bet that kindy child really just wants to climb on that amazing gym structure on the playground, drink from that big kid water fountain, or like my child, ride the big yellow bus. Kindy kids don't really want to go to school, they don't know what school is just yet.  Kindergarten is no longer what it was designed to be. In our school district it is full day with many hours at desks.  I believe that most children, not all, would rather stay with their parents and discover about life at home and be outside and more and more parents are doing it. Homeschooling is no longer taboo. 

Socialization seems to be the first concern about homeschooling. There is no need to worry about socialization. Socialization is not sticking your child in a classroom with  twenty other children and one teacher for eight hours a day. Socialization starts at home. Learning to be a healthy, happy, contributing member of the family is socialization…and at its very best. Yes, we also have friends. Of course we do. 

 I want to preserve childhood as much as I want to preserve family life. I am raising children who will know what it takes and how to enjoy caring for their families. I want my girls to know that they can do it all just not all at once. There is a season for each one of our ambitions as women, motherhood being the most important. This is a  very short season of our lives and not only do I want to be present for it, I want to be calm and enjoy it. Homeschooling provides that for me. It gives my family the time to create and live the lifestyle that my husband and I desire.  

 Serving meals is the most challenging part of my days. My daughters, ages 6 and 8  both know how to prepare a meal, take care of sick family members and care for our home and pets. In order for our home to function smoothly we all have a hand in it. It is part of our daily rhythm. We don't pay our children to do chores, they do chores like Mom and Dad, out of necessity and desire to provide ourselves a nice, clean home to live in. 

My family doesn't homeschool out of necessity or because of the questionable school system.   I feel blessed that I can stay home and we can manage on one salary. I am aware that it is not a reality for many families.  We homeschool because we believe in preserving our children's childhood. We homeschool because we enjoy a slow, homestead-family life and I love my role as Mother.  I also believe that I can give my children a better education than I received, and a very compassionate connection to our earth and all living things. School can teach kids to sharpen the brains,   I am more interested in softening their hearts.   

I don't believe homeschooling is for everyone and I wish that those Mamas who want to homeschool but feel they can't because of their economy could find a way like we have. We do not live fanciful lives, we pinch every penny to make this lifestyle work. We love being at home and in our gardens. The sacrifices we make are merely a good practice of mindfulness and simplicity. We both work very hard and our luxurious vacations happens at home. 

 School officially starts with Kindergarten. Kindergarten at home is helping in the garden, raking the leaves, walks in the neighborhood, baking bread and mud pies, climbing trees, painting, listening to fairy tales, chasing chickens, finger knitting, painting, napping, imaginary play and working side by side with Mom and Dad doing chores. This is how kindergarten was meant to be except in a school setting  and with a teacher. The grades at home are just like Kindy, just a little more structured and with Donna Simmons curriculum, very interesting and age-appropriate. 

I had no prior knowledge of Waldorf education before I had children.  However, I did have a copy of Rahima's "You are Your Child's First Teacher" which led me to the way I parented. I discovered Waldorf-inspired homeschooling through a blog that I had stumbled upon during nap time when my eldest was three.  My family's life was forever changed. I learned everything I could about Waldorf education, Rudolf Steiner and some Anthropospohy. I am still learning. It is a process that I enjoy and it reveals itself deeply to me. The most important aspects of educating in the home is understanding  the developing child and the inner work I have to do to create and sustain our space and our vision. I visited Waldorf schools, joined festivals, attended talks by Eugene Schwartz, joined online support groups run by Lisa Boisvert-Mackenzie from Celebrating the Rhythm of Life In Caring for Children, read Mrs. M posts from her infamous yahoo group,  and supplemented my books with wonderful articles written by Carrie Dendtler from Parenting Passageway. I use Donna Simmons wonderful homeschool curriculum Christopherous and just recently I met Barbra Dewey from Waldorf Without Walls. She gave a wonderful workshop  for a group of Waldorf-inspired homeschooling Mamas and Papas. 

These men and women that I mention are not brands to promote. They are real people, with a real passion and desire to share their knowledge and preserve family life and real education.   This way of life isn't a new trend, and it isn't living back in time, it is a life of reverence and awe in the here and now.  

I started my blog Redbeet Mama which opened up an whole new world for me. It became a network for me and I've met so many wonderful people because of it. I also learned how to use a camera, and then fell in love with photography. Blogging has also given me a creative outlet that really encouraged me to write and express myself. Celebrating life and finding beauty in everyday life is the most satisfying therapy in my world. 

Being a Waldorf-inspired homeschooling family was  quite lonely at the beginning of our journey.  Our first year of homeschooling took a turn for the worst, as  Tropical Storm Lee came in early September and flooded our property.  It was a very traumatic experience for all of us and it took awhile for us to recover from it. We had to rebuild the mud kitchen. 

The breakthrough of loneliness came when my talented friend and music teacher Tara  and I offered a suzuki-style Violin Club at my house for homeschooled children that January. Twelve families, most of whom I've never met,  signed up.  Those weekly meet ups were so healthy and vital for me and my girls. The violin players would practice their violins with Ms. Tara and Mamas and siblings would gather in my backyard to converse and play.  It became a miniature support system for me and the kids loved playing in the yard.  Kids of all ages playing. It was beautiful. We played in every kind of weather which surprised and exhilarated my new friends.  No day was too cold or too wet to be outside. They all went home happy and reenergized. Being outside does that. 

The club lasted nearly three years and many bonds were created. Needs changed and some moved on to the orchestra at a local private school and enjoyed the transition. This year I am hosting a new Cello Club for my youngest daughter, and five other children. We are excited. 

 I use the term Waldorf-inspired because we are not pure Waldorf and we can never really be true Waldorf. Rudolf Steiner developed Waldorf Education for  group learning in a school setting.  So we are inspired by his teaching and philosophy and bring them both into our home environment and our lives.  It has become a lifestyle rather than a teaching method. I believe the most important elements in Rudolf Steiner's that finds its way into homeschooling is the inner work of the parent (which in his writings was meant for the classroom teacher) and the knowledge of the developing child. 

This coming September homeschool will be a little more structured in our house as my youngest is entering first and my eldest is entering third. I imagine a typical day where I continue to rise hours before them, and I can't imagine the day starting off any other way as I enjoy this time immensely but also need it.  I practice yoga, read, and wake up the house slowly, side by side with my husband.  The girls usually are happy to come down at 7. I start  breakfast, we eat together and off they go to get ready for the day while I set the mood for  our lessons.  I put on my apron, throw in a load of laundry, feed the cat and meet them outside.   We spend time outside in the garden, do outside chores, play, and connect. We return inside for some tea and circle time, which is just really a gathering of the minds. We'll practice tounge-twisters, read aloud poems, recite times tables, stretch, read seasonal stories, fairy tales, bake bread and prepare for lessons. I will sit reading aloud with my youngest while my eldest reads independently. We will switch up and my youngest will practice her cello,  then it will be my eldest daughters turn to practice her violin. I will work independently with them and help with their main lessons books.  We will break for a homemade lunch and play outside, while I keep the house humming along. There is always a sink full of warm, soapy dishes to wash. I especially enjoy listening to music when I am in the kitchen.   Depending on the day, we will indulge in wet on wet watercolor, form drawing, nature journalling, knitting, on-going handwork projects and this year building projects for my third grader. She wants to build a looking tower.  I am all for it. Then it is time for me to hang up my apron.  We all enjoy a quiet time, which includes independent reading and playing in their own rooms. I meditate and enjoy some screen time.  Then our day is open to whatever feels right. Our days will continue to be like our breath, slowing breathing in and exhaling out. We don't follow a schedule we follow a rhythm. This is how I imagine how our days will look like this year and I am really looking forward to it. 

We will have days out of the house when we have swim and orchestra and we have days in when we have a handwork teacher and music teacher come to us.  It is another nice in and out flow that I find very enjoyable but also very helpful for me supplement areas that I feel weak in.  I am not stressed or overloaded but by no means is homeschooling entirely a causal swim in the ocean. We have really awesome days and really crappy days. Just like everyone else. Maintaining a nice, constant in and out breath is the key to our happiness.  

This slow, intentional life that we have created for ourselves and our children would be lost if we sent our them to school. When curious people reply with their "I could never homeschool", I beat them to the punch and I say "I could never do it any other way."  Unless of course our needs change. This lifestyle works really well for us. 

The water feels good.

Love, Nicole

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Circle of Friends

I hosted a Morning Tea  for homeschool families this past Friday. Passionate Mamas and their children came to celebrate homeschool and community. It was a busy morning with lots of energy and good ideas swirling around.  I didn't get to take many photos, except for the start of the tea when my talented friend Darcy played her beautiful harp for us and at the end where my friends Sarah and Mandy performed a Rose Ceremony for mostly first graders but also a few others who wanted to join in,  like our hen Gloria.  

 I can't think of a better way to start our lessons this Fall than by surrounding myself with women who enjoy being Mamas and love homeschooling their children.  It is empowering, inspiring and I feel a great sense of community. I am grateful for those who attended. Thank you. 

I am not alone in my love for educating my children at home. 

We are not alone. 

If you are just starting on the path of homeschooling, or feel alone in your pursuit, know that there is a tribe for you, and if you can't find one start one. 

I feel very confident in going in the direction of my dreams and I am sending out blessings to you so that you will feel the same in whatever education path you choose to travel. 

If you are interested in waldorf-inpsired homeschooling and live in or around Philadelphia, check out this FB page

Love & Light, Nicole

Saturday, August 30, 2014

52 Weeks of Nature - King Frog

    Philadelphia in August  34/52  ~ King Frog

 Participating in 52 Weeks of Nature has been the perfect exercise for me and this train of thought.  I am finding truth, beauty and goodness in the everyday.
I am reading this book.   I picked it up for 25 cents at the thrift store. The first few chapters were a bit difficult but well worth the time as I started having ah-hah moments.  

I've also been reading Donna's Simmons third grade curriculum, and I am so excited to start lessons with Ella.  I have decided to no longer follow the Vimela Handwriting & Soul Development book, I think sticking to what I know is pretty good advice from Donna. I listened to her third grade audio this week and found it invaluable. Plus, I have pretty neat handwriting and so does Ella, it is just not Vimela.  Sometimes, I make things more difficult than they have to be. This time I am going to keep handwriting enjoyable and use what I know for the both of us. 

The weather has been cool and crisp for the last days of August. I feel very grateful for the cool nights and the beauty that I may have never found before 52 Weeks of Nature.  

Namaste, Nicole  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

52 Weeks of Nature: Up Early

              Philadelphia in August:  33/52      : Up early 

Geir and I were up early this morning. He drinks coffee and I have tea. It feels like August except a bit on the cool side. There are lots of woven spider webs capturing droplets of rain, it is muggy, and the cicadas are playing their song. 

Later today, we will be making homemade falafels for the first time. My mouth is watering just thinking about the dressing. 

What is your favorite August dish to make? I don't have one, but I figured falafels go great with cucumber and tomato salad, so maybe this will be it.