Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Calgon...Take me Away....*

What was I thinking? Where did the crafting bug come from today? Well, procrastination probably, and maybe a bit of nesting....Here's the scoop.

1~Last week, the girls and I babysat three seven-year old boys because my best friend got into a jam and couldn't find anyone else to assist; half-way into the day, I discover that one of the boys was up the night before with a fever and vomiting......niiiice. By Monday, the girls and I were all sick, fortunately sans vomit. But we have had some solid fevers and lots of snot (had to go there). 2~On top of that, I've had a wicked case of PMS. No further details needed, I'm sure.
3~I am supposed to be getting my house ready for us to go out of town for a week. We leave this weekend to go to Fiji (woohoo, but that's another story) and I have a housesitter coming, and my house is a disaster. Because, of course, while I was laid up with a backache and runny nose, my little girls were fabulous unschoolers and proceeded to cut and paste and draw and make such an array of projects that I was really proud of their ingenuity. AAAAND, all those leeetle, itty-bitty pieces of cut up paper all over the living room floor.
(as an aside, I realised that kids who go to school could NOT have managed the way the girls did while I laid in bed all day. They demonstrated that they really know what to do in the house each day, even if mom ain't participating.)
4~So what did I decide to do: I made dolls. Because, you know, there was some random bee in my bonnet at 2pm today. I made these, and I'll post photos some other time because right now I'm in bed and I'm not getting up. Actually, there was a confluence of events that led to my doll-making. Biggie couldn't find her "special blanket," which she's slept with since birth, and she has been begging for a Softie ever since she saw the book of the same name. I decided it was an opportune time to try and ditch the blankie, asking if she would be happy sleeping with her dolly instead. AND IT WORKED. Plus, Littlie turns five in just over a week, so I will be saving hers as a present.

It's this fifth birthday that takes us to Fiji. For parents of young children (or currently only one child) READ AND LEARN (sorry, feeling all-cappy today). What you do for the first, you must do for the others. Cardinal rule of parenting, especially if you are a Libra with a degree in conflict mediation. We went to Fiji for Biggie's fifth birthday because, well, it was a good excuse and we had never been. That was 20 months ago. When Littlie started discussing her birthday in earnest, she looked at us and said, "Are we going to Fiji for my fifth birthday?" Eeert. We're in need of a holiday, so we're all really excited. (So if you don't hear from me for a while, you know why!)

And before I go, one random update. I have orange hair. This is going to sound bizarre, but I am sooo happy because I found my favourite hair dye in NZ after ten years. The big deal is that it is easy to use, not terribly bad ingredients, reasonably priced, and it washes out. I went infra-red this time, which came out a really reddy-orange. (Not like accidental hair-dresser orange, but intentionally weird.) Next time, we're goin' pink. I did laugh at my Waldorf-self, however, when I took my girls into the punk shop to get my hair dye and they loved the clothes. Yep, one day, their gonna get pierced and bring home boys with mohawks. I can definitely live with that!

TTFN.

*For the non-Americans, or anyone younger than thirty, this harkens back to the days of super cheesy tv ads.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Crying on your shoulder.

I had a bad moment today, when I felt like I was villified for my choices, which then spiralled into a BIG fear that I am raising my children to be lonely. Here's the short version: I said to someone who knows my choices but doesn't really know me that we consume raw milk; she said, "Why? Do you want to contract Bovine TB?" I had so many responses, from informative to downright nasty, swirling around in my brain that I just turned around and walked off. Which would have been fine and dandy were we not at a dear friend's house for brunch. In the end, she approached me and I said I was sick of having my choices attacked when she probably knows nothing about the facts surrounding these choices.

So what was the big deal? Well, first, what I said was true: I am sick of having people who have never lifted a page to research homeschooling or organics or Waldorf or vacs, etc etc., assume that I am uninformed in my decisions. Second, why do some people think that my choices are negligent? What, because it's easy to homeschool, pay a homeopath (vs using NZ's free medical care for littlies), cook from scratch, drive all over hell and back sourcing organics and raw milk, blah blah blah. Really, it would seem to me that I have opted to make my life harder with these choices. Third, in my totally judgemental cow-ish way: I have a GREAT life. Unlike the women who question my choices, I am a happy, confident, well-loved human being, blessed with healthy children and a terrific husband. Finally, I see that I have few friends who really get me. While I may have sad moments because of this, on the whole I accept that I have made good decisions and like-minded people will come with time. But my one well-hidden little fear is that my children may grow up to be lonely because I made these decisions for them and they have a hard time finding friends as a result. I know that sounds convoluted, but I am probably not making much sense anyhow.

I think I am particularly peeved because I try to lead by example. It would seem to me that the people who like to denigrate might ought to keep their big fat mouths shut long enough to look at my life before they interject their comments.

So there's my big bitch session. I'll blog about other stuff tomorrow (Thanks, Gypsy, for giving me a chance to talk about my food obsession!).

TTFN.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Coming Unravelled

Sorry, guys, you've been abandoned. I got my Ravelry invite about a week ago and I just can't pry myself away. So far, I have made knitted gnomes, two winter hats, started a shrug for Biggie, and converted one knitting pattern to super easy amigurumi to make these wee guys.

We have also had a very successful schooling week, and for the Ministry of Education, if not my fanship (haha), here's a recap (btw, we've had a whole week of rain):

~I have finally managed to get the girls interested in Grimm's fairy tales. Prior to this week, whenever Grimmy came out, I got the "uggh, not that...." But this week, my girls discovered that some of their favourite stories live in Grimms. We also managed to read the same stories all week long! (We are all big readers, so I don't abide by the Waldorf one-book-only rule.) This week, we have read Rumpelstiltskin, The Cat and The Mouse in Partnership, The Wolf and Seven Little Kids, and Cinderella. Rumpelstiltskin and The Wolf were our daily tales.
~I have discovered that I can get certain stories in at bedtime that weren't working during the day, such as Margaret Peckham's Nature Stories or Susan Whitehead's kindy books.
~We painted and used the dried pages to make booklets.
~We had one amazing unschooling day when the girls just went on their own merry path, doing puzzles and playacting, they got to do workbooks that only come out two or three times a year.
~Our housekeeping schedule was followed, and by Friday, the girls were actually helping. Woot.
~We cooked. We ate. Biggie picked out a recipe that caused me to fall off the sugar wagon: basically, 2 macaroons sandwiched together with melted dark chocolate. mmmm.
~We began the process of papermaking, and during the tearing up stage, Biggie jumped up -- superdupery excited -- and had to run to her room to get her Click magazine that had a whole story about papermaking. I read as she tore, then we read all about commercial paper recycling, etc. She absorbed so much knowledge without even realising that "School" was in session. That's what I love about homeschooling.
~Biggie has rediscovered the piano and the knitting needles.

Also on the school front, I have dismantled the downstairs school room. Melisa was right; the separate space just didn't work. We felt fractured: whatever we wanted was somewhere else, and school was not fluid. Additionally, this is better for my budget as I won't have to heat both spaces. BUT, I don't know what I will do with one big empty room downstairs. I am just too practical to buy a pool table and we don't even have a tv to set up an entertainment room. For now, it will be the safe haven from rain, wind and wasps.

Tomorrow is the first Monday of public school holidays. We'll be doing a fair bit of socialising this week, trying to see all our friends who don't get to spend the day up a tree. I shall keep my fingers crossed that we are able to maintain some of this brilliant rhythm.

Finally, I wish you guys (okay, gals) lived next door. Really, there is so much that happens that I would like to share with one single person who might understand, and yet by the time I get to the blog, those moments have passed. I have a whole list of books that I want to discuss and ponder. I experience moments that no one in my real-life (except DH) would get, but my virtual friends would heartily chuckle. I have questions that I know you could answer, and ways that I could learn from you all. Alas, I am not vain enough to regurgitate all the minutae of my day.

My friend Anthromama asked, how do you have personal time as a homeschooling mom. Well, the answer is, I think the answers to your comments, but I never get around to posting the answers. I keep happy moments in my head and don't pick up the phone to tell a friend. I take mental snapshots, but I can't stop to hunt down the camera. aaah, I am lucky to be able to do it :-)

TTFN.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Me, @ random

Oooh, I've been tagged by Yarrow to share some random facts about myself. This seems a very fine line between vanity and self-deprecation, and I have spent a week or so pondering if I am at all interesting in my random ways. So here's what I've come up with, entitled Things you've laid awake at night wondering about the goodwitch.

1. My name isn't Glenda. The Goodwitch came about because my kids have been The Munchkins for as long as I can remember.

2. I am a blue jeans snob, but fortunately, as all my jeans come from America, people in NZ don't really know that I am a blue jeans snob, which somehow makes me feel better. Oh, and I couldn't be a snob without the help of my mother, who pays stupidly high prices to keep me in nice jeans ( I love you Mom!!!). Of course, my jeans are generally worn with tattered tees, no makeup and clogs; and I have chosen to wear nice jeans as the last vestige of my life before moving to a country with the worst clothes in the world!!! (sorry, Kiwis, but I just can't stand shopping here)

3. I went to USC. I've taught my children the Fight Song and the only time I wish for TV is during college football season. BUT (giant caveat!!) I went to USC on an academic scholarship, which I absolutely must mention because I remember how bad some of those spoiled kids were!

4. I have a potty mouth. 'nuf said.

5. (this is my vain one, which I will tell my great grandkids about) I have met Kofi Annan, Madeline Albright, Benjamin Netanyahu, one politician who has been assassinated and my personal favourite was getting to have a REAL conversation with Jose Ramos Horta, about whom I wrote my Senior Dissertation. ( I worked in politics before I left the States.)

6. I don't iron. I refused to own an iron for many years and only finally bought one because they were on sale for $10 and I tho't it might be a good thing, just in case.

7. The Corollary to #6, I am not a consumer. There is nothing to make you a minimalist like selling or giving away everything you own to move to another country. Now, when I stand in a shop looking at lovely knick-knacks and doodads, I think to myself, "Would I be willing to cart that around the world?" If not, I don't buy it.

8. Finally, I love Jane Austen.

That's me.

TTFN.

Page One, no less!

Check out this article that ran on Page one of Monday's WSJ! (btw, Marsha is the same Marsha Johnson who runs the waldorfhomeeducators yahoo group)

German Tots Learn to Answer Call of Nature --- Kindergarten Moves Into
the Woods; What About the Ticks?
By Mike Esterl
14 April 2008
The Wall Street Journal

IDSTEIN, Germany -- Each weekday, come rain or shine, a group of
children, ages 3 to 6, walk into a forest outside Frankfurt to sing
songs, build fires and roll in the mud. To relax, they kick back in a
giant "sofa" made of tree stumps and twigs.

The birthplace of kindergarten is returning to its roots. While
schools and parents elsewhere push young children to read, write and surf the
Internet earlier in order to prepare for an increasingly cutthroat
global economy, some little Germans are taking a less traveled path --
deep into the woods.

Germany has about 700 Waldkindergarten, or "forest kindergartens," in
which children spend their days outdoors year-round. Blackboards
surrender to the Black Forest. Erasers give way to pine cones. Hall
passes aren't required, but bug repellent is a good idea.

Trees are a temptation -- and sometimes worse. Recently, "I had to
rescue a girl" who had climbed too high, says Margit Kluge, a teacher
at Idstein's forest kindergarten. Last year, a big tree "fell right
before our noses."

The schools are a throwback to Friedrich Froebel, the German educator
who opened the world's first kindergarten, or "children's garden,"
more than 150 years ago. Mr. Froebel counseled that young children should
play in nature, cordoned off from too many numbers and letters.

They are also a modern-day snapshot of environmentally conscious and
consumption-wary Germany, where the Green Party polls more than 10%
and stores are closed on Sundays.

Only a fraction of German children attend Waldkindergarten, but their
numbers have been rising since local parent groups began setting up
these programs in the mid-1990s, following the lead of a Danish
community. Similar schools exist in smaller numbers in Scandinavia,
Switzerland and Austria. The concept is sparking interest far afield -
- even in the U.S., whose first Waldkindergarten opened in Portland,
Ore., last fall.

"The computer arrives early enough," adds Norbert Huppertz, a
specialist in child development at the Freiburg University of Education and a
Waldkindergarten booster in Germany.

Academic studies of such schools are in their infancy. Some European
researchers believe Waldkindergarten kids exercise their imaginations
more than their brick-and-mortar peers do and are better at
concentrating and communicating. Despite dangers, from insects
particularly, the children appear to get sick less often in these
fresh-air settings. Studies also suggest their writing skills are less
developed, though, and that they are less adept than other children at
distinguishing colors, forms and sizes.

In the rolling countryside of Idstein on a recent rainy morning,
parents dropped off their children at a muddy parking lot a bit after 8 as the
temperature hovered around 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some of the children, wrapped in thick winter clothing, stooped over
to inspect a worm. Then the five girls and four boys trudged into the
neighboring woods with their two teachers before pausing to hold hands
in a circle. "Good morning, sun, even though we can't see you today,"
said the 51-year-old Ms. Kluge, as the children joined in song and
then acted out a play involving rabbits.

They hiked a few hundred feet into the forest before settling down to
jump in puddles, examine a hibernating lizard and paint Easter eggs. A
girl named Maxi went off to whittle a branch with a hunting knife.
Another made "chocolate-vanilla-strawberry-herbal pudding" by stirring
mud with a twig.

At snack time, the children sat on logs and munched on carrots and
nuts while Ms. Kluge told them about the life cycle of toads. A boy named
Ben wanted to know whether a North American visitor accompanying them
was "a cowboy or an Indian." A bit before 1 p.m., after jumping in more
puddles, playing around a makeshift tepee and singing another song
involving the Easter bunny, the children emerged from the woods
grinning and caked in mud to be picked up by their waiting parents.

"It's peaceful here, not like inside a room," said Ms. Kluge, who has
headed the Waldkindergarten since it opened five years ago.

The children rarely venture into a trailer in the forest that's used
as a shelter in extreme weather. Ms. Kluge says no child has ever asked
for a toy. The children improvise instead with what the woods have to
offer. And there haven't been any bad accidents beyond the occasional scrapes
and bruises.

Not everyone has a feel-good experience. Frankfurt resident Donna
Parssinen sent her son to a Waldkindergarten last year but says he got
Lyme disease from ticks. It resulted in meningitis that temporarily
paralyzed half his face. "I still like the idea" of Waldkindergarten,
says Ms. Parssinen, "but once is enough." Her son now attends a
four-walled kindergarten.

Still, many German indoor kindergartens take children to nearby
forests once a week to tramp around. A spokesman for Germany's Ministry for
Family Affairs said it welcomes the arrival of Waldkindergarten, which
typically receive local government subsidies similar to those of
state-run kindergartens.

Iwao Uehara, a professor at Tokyo University of Agriculture, says he
has been trying to set up such a school in Japan, but the project is
struggling. Until there's evidence that Waldkindergarten graduates end
up attending "famous universities," it's going to be a tough sell, he
says.

In Portland, though, Marsha Johnson launched Mother Earth kindergarten
last fall to combat what she calls "early academic fatigue syndrome . .
. . We have 5-year-olds who are tired of going to school." The 14
children spend four hours a day at the privately run school playing
in a state park forest.

Among the nature-based activities, children learn how to handle a real
saw. "A plastic saw is no good," says Ms. Johnson. "You might as well
give them a plastic life." The worst that has happened thus far to the
children is the occasional bee sting, she says.

Mimi Howard, a director at the Education Commission of the States,
which advises states on policy from Denver, says some U.S. teachers feel
pressure "to push academics earlier and earlier." The federal No Child
Left Behind law introduced standardized testing for reading and
writing by third grade, but some studies recommend more "open-ended learning
experiences" for young children. "We're in the debate phase," she
says.

In Fife, Scotland, Cathy Bache recently took matters into her own
hands and founded a private nursery school. About 20 children explore the
local forests, "saw logs, make fires when cold and look at fungi," she
explains. Ms. Bache admits the children fall out of trees "quite
often" -- but that she doesn't let them climb higher than 6 feet, the cutoff
point for her insurance policy.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Buddhism and HS Planning

This week, I have been reading (a book, not the computer!) Buddhism for Mothers. This is my second book on Buddism for parents, and my second foray into Buddhism as a life-style/philosophy. Years back, when I first explored Buddhism, I was not at a place to really get it. I tho't its basic tenets were too negative (starting with the notion that there is inevitably suffering), but now as a mom, and able to see a bigger picture, I am absolutely enjoying this "study." Moreover, I am beginning to re-evaluate my views of happiness. I see that the Western world has an outcome-oriented view of happiness, or sees it as a place on a map to be sought out with the right directions. Buddhism teaches that it is inside each and every individual.

More a propos to my life, however, is an endeavour to find calm. I came from a family who thrives on drama, so a stable life has been a happy life for me. But now I see that said stability is only external; I am still at the whim of my emotions (some anthro writings talk about this is as the Parent-Child, if I recall correctly). What I see in Buddhism is a calmness, of letting life roll along and not be swept away by the emotional ups and downs. While I can't say that I shall become a devout Buddhist (who knows? maybe?), I can definitely see advantages, especially for a mother of young children, to a roll-with-the-punches worldview based on love, a space in which anger and hatred and offense, have no place.

Eastern Religion 101 set aside, I have a few questions for my fellow homeschoolers: how do you plan? how do you choose? and how do you ever manage to see your husband?

I can put the girls to sleep at 7/8 and then spend two hours reading lesson materials or doing work to become a better Waldorf homeschooler. Surely there must be some better system, right? Is this why every Waldorf school teacher I meet looks haggard? Gads, am I looking like them??? If you have a system that seems to be working (especially as regards the memorisation of stories and poems) would you please pass it my way? I would be forever in your debt.

And now, I shall log off so that I may read my Buddhism book and then pass out to sleep. Tomorrow night, I actually have a free babysitter (OMG!!!) and my husband and I are going out to dinner. Plus, the kids are spending the night at the babysitter (an close family friend) which means that DH and I get to have a cafe breakfast together, sans enfants, something that has never happened in 6 1/2 years of parenting -- woohoo!!

TTFN.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

For Bex, the rawing mumma, a food report

OK, Bex, I just had to chime in with moral support. You are doing so well!!!

Since coming off my fast, I have laid down the rule of raw breakfast, ideally raw lunch (not always easy) and then cooked food for dinner. That has worked really well for FIVE days now...woohoo...I am NOT blessed with strong self-discipline. It's especially good for me because I do not like breakfast. So a smoothie is sufficient to get my body going while not making me feel weighed down with food.

A more impt change since coming off my fast is that I have pretty much stopped eating bread and I am being mindful of my sugar intake. I had begun to nibble on bread (with this, that or the other spread) throughout the day, and my O blood-type hips really didn't like that; I had also gone overboard on the sweet-craving, so I'm glad to have that out of my system.

Of course, in the way of the world, and since it's mostly only girls who read this, I will admit that I came off my fast only to immediately become hormonal, which necessitated huge chunks of red meat (for a few days each month, I could live off meat alone). But I firmly believe that a healthy body can tell you what it needs, and this particular craving has been around for all of my adult life.

I haven't quite worked up to daily green smoothies. I have had one, using my own home-grown green leafy veggies, but today's banana and cinnamon smoothie from the cafe up the street was outta this world....just can't envision kale and cinnamon together :-)

TTFN.

Wow, check this out.

I have been having a contemplative week, reading your blogs and enjoying some books, and while we have been busy and happy, I haven't felt up to writing about it. I am working on my personal goals, and this week has been about perspective. I am endeavouring to keep in mind that, despite the habit of ho-hum martyr-ness that I somehow have acquired, I am sooo extremely blessed.

I had one post that I dearly wanted to share, but my scanner isn't working so that'll have to wait. But when I encountered this last night, I fell in love. I can't wait until my kids are old enough. You could do a whole year just travelling the world with these. Had to share.

That's really all the words I have for now. I'll be back, when the introverted mood has passed.

TTFN.