Thursday, November 29, 2007

Correspondences

This is for my friend Anthromama, whose blog was one of my very first Waldorf faves, long before I was a HSer. She brought up the idea of correspondences, which is something I have been working on since bringing the girls home. Here's what I know, which is Waldorf-y:

Monday = Moon, Rice, Jasmine and Purple

Tuesday = Mars, Barley, Cloves and Red

Wednesday = Mercury, Millet, Copal and Yellow

Thursday = Jupiter, Rye, Cedar and Orange

Friday = Venus, Oats, Rose and Green

Saturday = Saturn, Corn, Myrrh and Indigo

Sunday = Sun, Wheat, Frankincense and White

Melisa Neilsen, of A Little Flower Garden, has a Day Planner to go with her Curricula and she has added some spirituality to this list by bringing in Deepak's Seven Spiritual Laws, one for each day.

Interesting sidebar, there are slight differences in the Kabbalistic correspondences:

"Sunday corresponds to the Sun, Leo, yellow and gold.
Monday corresponds to the Moon, Cancer, purple and silver.
Tuesday corresponds to Mars, Aries and Scorpio, red (more cranberry red than the common fire-engine red), and iron and steel.
Wednesday corresponds with Mercury, Gemini and Virgo, orange and mercury (quicksilver).
Thursday corresponds to Jupiter, Sagittarius and Pisces, blue and tin.
Friday corresponds to Venus, Taurus and Libra, green (or pink) and copper.
Saturday corresponds to Saturn, Aquarius and Capricorn, black, and lead."

Hmmmm, Correspondences -- more things to perfect, err, I mean, more ways to train the will :-).

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Roses, Turkeys and Sleeping In

Aaaah, Mommy nirvana! Going with the Flow (see below) worked! My children are embracing my natural schedule and for the past week, they have risen at (drum rolllllll) 8-9am. Woot! They are staying up antil 8ish, but it's the middle of Summer and I am a night owl and everyone is waking up sooo much happier. Plus, they are getting to swim almost every day and they are blissfully tired come bedtime, so less grumbling.


So while I will never be an unschooler, our best day last week was an Unschool Day. Every Thursday in our home is Nature Day, when we make ourselves do something in, well, Nature. This week, we decided that we would go to the Parnell Rose Gardens, home to not only many lovely rose varietals, but one truly breathtaking "Grandpa Tree."

(There should be a photo here, but Blogger is having issues.)

As we were walking out the door Thursday morning, Biggie grabbed her yet unmarked drawing pad and decided that she was going to write down the name of every rose she saw. And that's exactly what she did. With dedication to her mission, she wrote down the names of dozens of different roses. I, having had a peaceful night's sleep, had the forethought to grab the camera and thus, our first book is formed. (Well, actually, it's only half finished because I need a photo printer, but that's another story.) More than anything, I am just so proud of her, because I know that she learned more that day, in her self-initiated work, than in a whole day of "lessons."


On to Saturday: Thanksgiving! Maybe not for you guys, who get to eat cheap turkey (way expensive in NZ), real gravy, and cranberries. But a bunch of Americans got together on Saturday, ate excessively and watched videotaped football (USC!!! I was sooo thrilled by that stroke of luck). For me, there were two big moments in the day. The lesser of the two was the presentation of a peanut butter pie. Now, if you've never had it, you've gotta try it; and if you have enjoyedPB Pie, you probably know that it requires CoolWhip...which we DON'T HAVE IN NZ! I haven't had PB Pie in ten years, so when this was busted out, me and the Texan went at it.

The second, and by far more memorable, event of the day was when Littlie stabbed herself in the eye with a green plastic fork. I cringe just thinking about it. She is okay, but her eye is bright red. What was really disturbing is that she was sitting right beside me, sticking her fork into the crack where two pieces of wood came together to form the patio table, and then pulling really hard to get it out....pulling right toward her face. I asked her twice to stop, but she didn’t and that third time was the doozie. I am just so grateful that she wasn’t hurt, and now I just keep hearing, “It’s all fun and games, until.....” She must be able to see, tho', because today she created her Meez, just there to the right! Dear G-d, is that portentious?

As for Thanksgiving-proper, isn’t it a wonderful holiday? I think that it is the one holiday that every nation should figure out a reason to celebrate. It’s the only holiday when family comes together just to be grateful for our many blessings. I feel the loss of Thanksgiving far more than I feel the weirdness of summer Christmas. It was funny tho’ to be in a house of ex-pats who brought everything with them and had the Turkey apron, the decorations, even the matching Thanksgiving towels in the bathroom. While my practical self would never want all that STUFF, I can’t help but think back on our departure from the States, which included two suitcases, our cd’s, as many bottles of wine as we were permitted, and two cats. Selling everything we owned, in retrospect, may not have been the wisest action ever, but it has made us minimalists. No matter how much I may love those Williams-Sonoma Thanksgiving plates, I will never buy them because I look at material possessions now and think, “Would I move that across the world?”

But my ex-pat experiences are for another time. I must now plan my lesson for the week.

Happy week to all. May we each endeavour to remain full of gratitude and love every day of the year....not just when USC kicks ASU’s butt!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Totally Addicted

I got to 1000 and stopped. Making myself not go back. You gotta have a go!




Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Why won't they follow the Rules

I have had a tough day today. I had my girl-doctor appt today (once in four years ain't bad), and it resulted in me feeling pretty yucky for the afternoon. The girls knew that I didn't feel well (uh, yeah, because homeschooling Mom laid down for two hours this afternoon! duh), and as I rested on the couch, I saw that they simply don't get the Basic Rules -- you know, those ones that prevent you from breaking your friggin' neck! Such as: clean up after yourself when you finish a task (so I don't bust my butt on a piece of toy on the carpet), move your shoes away from the bottom step (doesn't every family have that one?). There are others: remove your tights and knickers - crotch up - from the floor beside my dining table (ok, maybe a bit too grown up, but still annoying), hang up your wet swimsuit instead of leaving it on the floor by mom's bed, or kindly refrain from serving yourself until Mom has actually made it those five feet to the table with the napkins/water/forks in her hand. These are all so basic: my husband and I both do them, we are consistent that the girls need to do these things, and yet these Rules just don't seem to sink in. WHY? WHY? WHY?

Really, what am I doing wrong? I have worked on routine, set up happy-happy task songs, asked, pleaded, and today, screamed my head off because I was shocked at the condition of Biggie's room (mess created ensemble) after my genuine need to rest.

What's worse for me is that we have always been without a support system (no family for, oh, about 11000miles) and I have raised the girls to see that we are a team. We gotta work together and be caring and kind to one another because we have no aunties to come over and give us a break. DH and I have had ONE NIGHT away from our children in six years of parenting. I need us to work together, and I just don't know what I am doing wrong.

Anyone, anyone? Bueller, Bueller?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Goin' with the Flow

So last night, I tried to "go with the flow." The girls were playing together so happily that I wasn't strict about bedtime. Here's the result: today, they awoke far too early, given their late bedtime. They were fighting within moments. I finally contracted dh's mildly sore throat and stuffy nose, therefore I was in no humor for sibling angst at 7am, and I just didn't feel well enough to start a new "chapter" in our current lesson. They kept fighting, I continued to feel yucky, so I simply turned the couch around and let them watch dvds on the computer (no tv). I made popcorn, they veg'd. I think everyone was happy. Downside, they now know that the desktop can play dvds, whereas before today, they had only experienced videos via the laptop.

However, I had a wonderful day! We made felt! Three times, in an effort to figure out the best method. In the end, I think merino, piled thick, felted in a ziploc bag, is the way to go. I am attempting this because I really want to make a playscape. I also worked on some Christmas gifts, which involved needlefelting and crocheting. I then made bread (I'll get to that in a minute). I did laugh that the day was in my hands, and not my head, which probably suited sicky-ness.

I must also post a picture of Biggie's first needle felting. She begged to be allowed to do this and, as I was worried about safety (that's a big needle!), it took some time for her to wear me down. The design is entirely her own, and blood-free to boot:


Aaah, yes, they shall be just as weird as us.

My yeasty mission

Now, bread...I could do post after post on my breadmaking experiences. This has been a mission of mine, well, probably for the past five years. You see, we kept both girls off of wheat and dairy for the first two years of their lives, as that's when allergies tend to develop. And six years ago, there was no place in New Zealand to buy packaged spelt bread, so I shuffled off, bought a breadmaker and "had a go," as Kiwis would say. It was okay, but it wasn't bread that you just want to eat and eat and eat until your sides hurt. So over the course of these years, I have researched and experimented, I've discarded the breadmaker as I have discovered that I truly love breadmaking by hand (I think this should be mandatory learning for everyone!), and now, I feel I can call myself a very good breadmaker.
I have discovered that the secret is the yeast. No, not the age of the yeast, but the taste: each yeast tastes different and the packaged yeast here in NZ is yuucky. I sourced some wonderfully-flavoured dry yeast from a local baker, but the best by far is the frozen live yeast sourced from the local German bakery. I know there is something wrong with me that I can swoon over yeast, but this yeast proofed beautifully, the bread felt right, and the loaves tasted perfect -- mildly sweet, roundish on top, but not so high as too make the crumb fall apart in the middle of the loaf. Aaah, heaven.
And since this sight is dedicated to my megalomania (hehe), I have learned that most of the things in a bread recipe are rubbish. I use flour, sugar (or honey, agave syrup, whatever), water and yeast. I also learned one really smart thing about making bread with oil/melted butter, and it was such a well-hidden secret that I want to share it: if you are making a batch of bread which includes oil/butter, add the oil after you have kneaded in about half of your flour. Otherwise, the oil prevents the water and flour from properly coming together.
Golly, all this thinking about it makes me want to go have another piece (waistline, we don't need no stinkin' waistline!)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Finding Balance

This is my struggle this week. How do I balance Biggie's academic work, Littlie's creative work, my housework and a bit of fun. I don't want to have a homemanagement binder! I don't want to rigidly plan my life and stick with it every single day for the next eighteen years!

I have been reading Steiner's Six Exercises and I am working so hard this week on differentiating the Essential from the Nonessential, for this is where I think I tend to fall down. I tend to see everything as essential! Ve haff vays off making youuu verk on yourselff. That's my Steiner impersonation of inner work ...hehe.

I have also been trying not to be such a bitch. Why is it that I am so lucky to be able to stay home and teach my children, I have a wonderful, supportive husband, a good business, organic food on the table, and yet I can still be miserable and find fault with my kids all day. I have such good kids, too, that's the clincher! So I am trying not to always say no and embrace flowww. (Just a question: would you let your little kids skip aimlessly thru the grocery store? I just couldn't do it this morning.)

Anyway, a bit of ramble about what's going on in my head this week.

My beef with Steiner

Now, many aspects of Waldorf-ism are dear to my heart; however, from time to time I encounter a real issue with Steiner: something that doesn't make me abandon Waldorf, but by choosing not to engage in a specific part of the development and curriculum, I will never be truly Anthroposophical. Most of these beefs begin with, "Yeah, 'cause he was GERMAN!!!" For instance:

Wool, lots of it, including slippers and a hat. First, I am allergic to wool. Love to knit with it, but won't be wearing it! Second, I am from Southern California and my kids grow up in NZ. Not quite the same climate as Dusseldorf. They don't need a wool singlet in the middle of summer. And I think that kids need barefeet -- not in the snow, admittedly -- but when it's suitable.

Grimm's. Great stories, I use them, I read them, I teach them. But they are German, and I am not; therefore I also use Native American stories, and Japanese stories, and Southern stories, and lots of other stories. I think Grimm's Fairy Tales is a good example of a great idea, totally appropriate at the time and place, that has become such dogma that no one remembers why Steiner originally chose these stories.

Knitting. I enjoy knitting, sort of. I learned to knit to support Biggie, who learned at ther Steiner school. She was taught when she was five! Her hands are just too small to easily manage even her home-made needles. I remember reading why knitting is taught first: that both hands work for knitting, the whole to parts, and so on BUT, as far as I can determine, the left hand really only holds the "full" needle, while the right hand does the work. Moreover, I have read that left-handers (that's Littlie) are supposed to knit exactly the same as right-handers. That just makes no sense. HOWEVER, I love crocheting, and as far as the rationale goes, I see just as much work with the left hand in crocheting as I do in knitting. All of this is my excuse for allowing Biggie to learn to crochet. She is consumed by her need to crochet and I just can't see letting dogma intrude.

Undoubtedly, this is all part of my homeschool journey -- understanding the goals and then figuring out what to keep, what to amend, and what to gurg'late (that's our word for the disposal!)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Mom's Day

I loved it! Wish I had the words...oh, wait, I do...hehe...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

For some great reading, scroll down and move right

I tho't it too cheeky to cut and paste something from the site that immediately precedes mine in the Waldorf HSers webring, so for a really funny post, entitled "A Bitter Homeschoolers Wish List," please scroll down (to that little rainbowish circle that reads Waldorf-Inspired Homeschoolers) and hit Previous. Merriconeag has a little that had hubby and I rolling!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Giftedness, Waldorf and Balance

Right now, I am having an interesting blog conversation with my friend Patience. The subject is how to foster both intellectual and soul development in our precocious children. How much academics v. creative work, and so on. I originally set up my blog for my family, who know my girls' histories; now that I have web-friends, I tho't a bit of history was necessary to clarify my current position.

For me -- and Biggie -- I know that it is a constant struggle to achieve balance between her head and her heart. She is extremely gifted with language (any language, in fact) and, I believe, she would read and write to the detriment of all else. She gets everything -- even her Waldorf teacher said that we need not ever worry about her academics because she was always the first in her class to absorb the lessons. This in itself would not be a problem were it not for two things: my personality, and our educational choices to date.
First, I am one of those gifted kids who grew up and learned that academics weren't everything. I am a bookworm, and extremely competitive. It is in an effort to overcome these less attractive aspects of my nature that I have consciously chosen Waldorf for my kids.
Second, Biggie went to Montessori preschool and spent one year (age 4-5) at a very "exclusive", heavily academic private school. It took those experiences for us to see our path. We spent six months at a Waldorf-inspired school, where Biggie was put (incorrectly, I think) into Class One, at the early age of 5 1/2. blah, blah, blah, story goes on, suffice to say that she has had ALOT of opportunity to work with her head, but by the time we left school, she needed to work with her hands and her heart. And that's why I am so concerned right now with keeping her out of her head.

My four year old, alternately, has not had those same educational experiences. She's left-handed, totally imaginative, and VERY good with math. I am far more free with her work, and I'm happy to learn as she expresses interest. Once Biggie has reached a better balance, I will probably just go with the flow. But, for now, we knit, and paint, and play.

**Just as an aside: last week, I accepted Biggie's need for words and we are doing one short acadmic portion of the day. I can't say she loves it, because I do actually make her do her work properly (forms correct, good listening, and the like). I had to do this because, in teaching herself, she was developing some poor habits and I felt like I would rather introduce proper methods now than have difficulting overcoming poor habits later.

Finally, a note on Waldorf and giftedness: I have yet to see how Waldorf positively approaches gifts. Honestly, I look back on my "gifted education" and see how many other children's gifts were overlooked because they weren't academic in nature. My nephew, for instance, is a natural athlete and has amazing coordination. That is a gift. I know kids who can build with their hands. That is a gift. But those gifts aren't recognised by traditional schools. Conversely, I see academically-gifted children who are hindered by Waldorf dogma.

In the end, it is because I see the pros and cons of my children's gifts that I have chosen to homeschool them. I am the only teacher I have ever met who will work her ass off to teach these beautiful girls what they need at the time. And I am grateful everyday to have this opportunity, even when we do nothing!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"It's the most wonderful time of the year"

I am very excited because my favourite day of the year is coming....This Saturday is the Michael Park Steiner School Fair. This fair is the reason I am a Waldorf mom. My family goes EVERY SINGLE YEAR. When DH worked Saturdays, we would close the office for this fair. I turn down invitations to go with people because I don't want anyone interfering with our fun. Littlie has been every year since birth, and Biggie has only missed one year.

The fair has jousting, food-colouring free cooking painting, wheat-free/dairy-free/egg-free/nut-free/free-free bake sale items, and (drum roll, please) and organic sausage sizzle. It has face painting and pony rides, of course, and it also has a Fairy Cafe, a kids bazaar (at which Biggie enjoyed her first ever shopping experience), an archery field and a coconut toss. It hosts some of the most remarkable vendors I have ever seen (one year, there was a man selling perfect miniature bricks, only about one inch big), and it's one of the few places where I am happy giving my kids money and letting them spend it wherever they wish. It even has a Waldorfy book sale (frankly, given my book addiction, I don't know if that feature is good or bad). It's guilt-free shopping at its finest. Honestly, this is better than Disneyland for me. I am so excited.
(Dear heavens, I am tempted to delete this entire post for fear that Murphy's Law will now strike and I won't be able to go.....)

I hate fireworks.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a professional fireworks display just as much as any other American on the Fourth of July. BUT, I did grow up in a state where fireworks were ILLEGAL (!!!) and I just don't understand how the New Zealand government can kowtow to the masses and continue to allow fireworks in the home (as DH would say, "WTF?").
Background: NZ has just celebrated Guy Fawkes Day. I won't go into the details because, in almost ten years in NZ, I don't see any reason for it except as an excuse for drunken pyrotechnics. (At least in the States, most of us really appreciate the reason for Fourth of July. Talk to my friends who immigrated to the US: they are the most patriotic people I know. But I digress.) Back to Guy Fawkes...
So we have this holiday. The Warehouse (read: NZ's Walmart) sells cheap fireworks to every kid in town, the NZ Fire Dept has its busiest day of the year, and injuries abound. The most recent story (and that which sparked this tirade) is of a one-year-old girl whose parents misfired and the firework landed in her pram causing serious injury.
Maybe I am a killjoy, but for weeks surrounding this day, my animals freak out, my kids think I'm mean (because they've yet to know someone who was hurt by fireworks), my Kiwi friends think there is something wrong with me because I won't bowl up for booze and explosions, and I glance at the headlines and once again wonder why the New Zealand government doesn't see the forest for the trees.
Why, why, why?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Socialization and Homeschooling

Who'da thunk it? All those comments about HSing and socialization were 100% correct! Only, it's not my children's socialization that's suffering, it's mine! I simply can't stand to be around most children anymore, before their so poorly behaved and pumped full of sugar that they are unbearable. And I find that my friendships are changing because some of my friends just don't get my decisions (and I don't get theirs). I have realised that I am now sub-culture.

All this would be fine if I lived in Berkeley. But nooooo, I had to make my home in Auckland, where Waldorf homeschoolers represent the tiniest subculture in town. aargh. where are my comfortable shoes?

Been in my head (my long post)

Just haven't wanted to blog this week. I overplanned, by accident.

I decided a while back that we would celebrate Beltaine this year, as I have latched on to Pagan (Seasonal) festivals to replace the Christian festivals common in Waldorf. GREAT! Girls and I began planning, creating, etc., only to remember that Halloween is the DAY BEFORE BELTAINE. And we always have a specific family over for Halloween, but this year, that turned into said family, plus one of their friends, plus another family....all at the last minute! That was Wednesday, Thursday, and then Friday, some very close friends of ours decided to have a last-minute Halloween party.....and then this weekend, thanks to the British need to have their own Fourth of July (just kiddin') we have Guy Fawkes fireworks going off around the friggin' clock.

My kids are hyped, grumpy, and overtired. We've lost all rhythm. Have they learned anything...G-d only knows, but I know that I need to be a better planner. Ugh.

Anyway, Scarlett, tomorrow is another day, in fact, it is another Monday, which means that we can get schooling back to normal.

As for schooling, I have had a critical look at Biggies' behaviour and I have seen that she is bored. She really wants to read and write, and I want her to read and write well. So I have decided that I am going to do the alphabet properly according to Waldorf tradition. My concession to her age (she turned 6 in Sept) is that I am not going to force her to sit for long lessons. I am very proud of myself (since this sight is dedicated to my megalomania!!) because I bit the proverbial bullet and I have written our own overarching story for the Alphabet. Woohoo.

On the topic of writing, I have spent hours today working on our Homeschool Exemption Application. I had to outline how I would teach one topic....whew, that's a toughy! Do you pick something "soft" like Roman Numerals, or do you jump straight into the academics and hope they don't call you a quack? I went for the latter risk and wrote about Addition via Math Gnomes. If you haven't had a look, Elisabeth Foss has the most wonderful Math Gnomes segment going on right now at http://ebeth.typepad.com/serendipity/2007/10/gnomes-and-gnum.html

Now for my disturbing news of the week: the tiny little semi-Waldorf school that we left because of its poor management is closing. There are families who have no place to send their children to school because of this, families who have committed to Waldorf who now must face the public school system, all because this school, which was privately-owned, was poorly managed. Oh, and because the owners can sell the land for more money than they can make by running a school. I am really controlling my comments because blogs remain a public forum.

Selfishly, we are unscathed: I learned some months back that there were problems at the school, bad decisions, etc., and I was lucky enough to be in a position to take my kids out before everything went sour. In truth, I look at this as the necessary thing to push me into homeschooling, an option I had considered since my first pregnancy. But what about the families who do not have that option? I have agreed to help them in any way I can, and I believe that things do happen for a reason, but I am sad for our friends.

I am also sad for my self-centeredness. I know that I could undertake the task of a Waldorf initiative, but I don't believe I can do that and do a good job teaching my children. I am sad to know that I have to place my family first instead of helping a larger community. It's like a loss of innocence: we would like to believe that we would always act for the greater good, but sometimes, we simply cannot.

hmmm.