Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Inner work and Energy

I believe that inner work is very necessary and that we are continuously growing. We are faced with challenges and hurdles to overcome because that is what makes us better ourselves. I feel as much a "student" as my children are and I am eager to wake each new day to see what information and experiences it holds.

As a parent-teacher, we must seek the balance and interweaving of thinking, feeling and willing in ourselves.

In the Heart - the loom of Feeling,
In the Head - the light of Thinking,
In the Limbs - the strength of Will
Weaving of radiant Light,
Strength of the Weaving,
Light of the surging Strength;
Lo, this is Man!
~ Rudolf Steiner, Ecce Homo

Take note of how you are sitting at the computer right now... are you sitting up straight or are you hunched over. Stay comfortable but raise your shoulders, elongate your neck to hold your hear high instead of allowing it to just sit upon your shoulders. Raise your chest as well. This immediately opens your breathing and allows you to take in more air. Breathe....
Take a moment to think about the people you love. Did you let them know today how important they are in your life? Did you tell them that you LOVE them? You should. Right now...

Think about each and every thing you are thankful for. Hold the thought in your mind. Remember it when you lay in bed tonight and go over your "list" a few times. Aren't you so blessed? There are so many things to be thankful for! Going to be with this though will bring a better sleep and dreams and you will awaken feeling refreshed and revitalized.

When you wake up tomorrow morning, stand and walk tall. Look at yourself in the mirror and see the person you WANT to be. Spend the day walking around with the belief that you are this person! Watch your posture. Is your head held high? Are you breathing properly? Feel the power of this posture and how well you feel at the end of the day. Include this feeling as one of the things you are grateful for!

Take a break. The dishes, the laundry, even the lessons can wait for a day. Take your children outside and wonder at the beauty of nature. Walk barefoot. Climb a tree with them. Swing, don't just push them... Be a child for a day. Be their friend for a day. Make a picnic and spend the afternoon laying on the grass watching the clouds slowly drift by. Squat down or sit so you are at your child's level and look deep into their eyes. Tell them how blessed you feel that they chose you to be the Mommy! Hug and kiss and tickle and play with your child. Your child needs physical affection and thrives on it. Remember, that is what attachment parenting is all about - no matter if your child is a teen. Hug and hold your child! In the evening take stock of the beautiful day and think about how grateful you are for the moment.

Be less serious. Laugh a little... no, laugh a LOT. Remember that laughter is the best medicine. Be silly, be funny, allow your child to be silly! Your child needs to see you laugh and play too, and you'll feel better!

In Reiki, we are taught that all of us have the ability to tap into the universal life flow. When you become attuned to Reiki, you open up channels to allow this life force energy to flow THROUGH you. It is constant and ever present, it is all around us at all times, when you channel this energy, and it flows through you you can do wonderful things. It deals with opening your Chakras, understanding the flow of energy, etc. but the bottom line is that in a way you are "detached" because you are using the energy which is flowing through the world and NOT using the energy which is in you.

You do not go away feeling depleted, but rather refreshed and invigorated.

Let me share something that I strongly believe: Next to the power of the universe and it's life flow, the power of thought is the most powerful "tool" we humans have been given. We need to keep our thoughts positive and focused on what we HOPE to become. You become what you think about. Everything in the world is THOUGHT MANIFESTED.

The mindset you have is what will cause you to feel drained or to feel refreshed. When I get burned out - and it almost always coincides with the times they get all wound up and "trouble making" (lots of energy flowing without an outlet) we go outside and talk to the earth.

This ALWAYS seems to center and bring them back into balance. I feel myself getting agitated because they are no longer playing creatively and they just get into that too much energy but unfocused play where they will end up being destructive, too rough, negative, etc... I stand up and say something like "oh, I feel some strange energy in the house right now" then I look at the clock and say "have we been inside all of this time?" I start to quickly clean up whatever I am doing and I head outside... They model and follow. Outside I begin to talk to the earth, the trees, the birds, the flowers...

"Oh little flowers, I could feel you calling me outside. It's much to dark in the house and the air is not as fresh as it is out here. Thank you for reminding me to come and look at your beauty. What a lovely shade of violet you have become. Have many butterflies and bees come calling today? What's that? The tree needs a hug? My goodness, I will hug the tree! I like to hug all of the trees because they help my body to breathe! I feel better when I hug the tree too because I know that the tree is my brother. In spirit, all of my great great grandmothers and fathers who have passed away, and who were buried in the earth became a part of this wise old tree... This tree holds the secrets of the generations and I am blessed that I have strong arms to give the tree a great big hug. Oooohhh. can you smell the moss today? It smells like it's growing, the heavy rain last night must have really saturated the moss. (kneeling) Oh my goodness, look at this little rollie-pollie worm - pick it up gently, this is its new home...."

Each and every time I do this my children do a complete turn around from the afternoon energy and come straight into balance.

In Reiki, we work to become grounded and I think what happens in the afternoon is that we tend to come apart and "float" our energies. All we really need is to ground ourselves again. Walking barefoot on the grass and or hugging a tree really does the trick in my family. It's quick, it's simple and it brings us back into a calm center, always. As a matter of fact, I cannot recall a time when this didn't work.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Your impression on your child's soul!

Parents should understand and explore their own temperaments in a continued effort for personal growth. Steiner requested Teachers do self observation and study so they could learn more about themselves and how better they could serve the children. He stated the importance of the adult remaining in balance, because "a teacher's unbridled temperament can be harmful to a child".

"Everything that adults do makes an impression on the child's soul. These impressions work their way into the child's breathing, circulation and metabolism and can affect that child's health in later life."

"According to Steiner, teachers (and parents) with an overly strong choleric temperament cause children to live in dread of their fury. This dread penetrates into the child's metabolism and can lead to disorders of the metabolic system in adulthood. Teachers (parents) who are overly melancholic can be so preoccupied and self-involved that they behave coolly toward the children. This lack of warmth can cause disorders of the respiratory and circulatory systems in later life. Teachers (parents) who are overly phlegmatic and not sufficiently responsive to children can cause a certain dullness to arise in adulthood. Sanguine teachers (parents) who give themselves up to every impression, hastening from one thing to the next, fail to arouse sufficient inner activity in the child. The lack of inner activity can result in a lack of strength and vital force in adulthood.
As Teachers (parents) we therefore have a RESPONSIBILITY to strive to MASTER OURSELVES, to bring ourselves into harmony and balance, so that we can promote this health and well-being on the students (our children) for the rest of their lives.
Waldorf teachers recognize that we affect our students not just through curriculum and the subjects we teach, not just by the methods we use, buy by WHO WE ARE.
Who am I to stand before my students (children) as a representative of humanity? How can I, with all my faults and limitations, guide my students (children) toward their higher selves? We must remember that what is most important to our students (children) is not our achievements but our STRIVING.

Each of us in the process of becoming. Our students (children) are often our teachers in this process. They force us to face our shortcomings and limitations and inspire us to continue to strive to transform ourselves. By working on ourselves, we work on behalf of our students (children). By coming to know ourselves, we learn to know our students (children).

Anthroposophy is a meditate path and a WAY OF LIFE that supports this striving."
(source: Rhythms of Learning)

In The Four Temperaments Rudolf Steiner said: "We learn to know individual human beings in every way when we perceive them in the light of spiritual science. We even learn to perceive the child this way. Little by little we come to respect, or value, in the child the peculiarity or enigmatic quality, of the individuality; we also learn how an individual must be treated in life, because spiritual science doesn't merely provide general, theoretical directions. It guides us in our relationship to the individual in the solving of the questions we need to solve. Such solutions require that we love the individual as we must, otherwise we merely fathom others with the mind. We must allow the other to work upon us completely. We must let spiritual scientific insight give wings to our feelings of love. That is the only proper soil that will yield true, fruitful, genuine human love; it is the basis from which we discover what we must look for as the innermost kernel in each individual."

To Find out more about Temperaments click here

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lessons from a 4 year old

Our daughter is 4 ½ years old. Just take an example of our typical day together. I am awakened each morning with the touch of her small, soft hand gently stroking my hair and face. "Mama... Mama" she says until I moan an answer. "I want to snuggle in bed with you ," she says. I lazily roll over and let her come snuggle in bed, which at this age she seems to enjoy best. So there we are all snuggled up in bed it is wonderful. Sometimes our youngest Azeda Peace does not like this and will protest stating that she wants to nurse so she get her "own" snuggle time.

During this time, our seven year old jumps up, greets us all with a hug and is off to open all of the windows and curtains in the house and into the backyard to greet the day . My husband and I look at each other and smile, knowing too well that this morning ritual will end soon as she will be off with him to start the day... and so we allow ourselves to savor in each and every moment.

After getting her morning snuggles, she is ready to go. "Come on Kelly, Come on Ben" as she stands at the foot of the beds handing us our clothes... I am hungry and I need my hot cocoa" I am pleased that she knows this routine and her day flows with such a familiar rhythm. We get up, and by now, Gabrial has prepared a surprise breakfast (or at least set the table). "Wow Gabe, Thank you!" says Brook as she looks over each item with awe and wonder. (Yes, with awe, wonder and complete surprise, each and every day!)

After breakfast we set about our day's work. Each day the work is different, but we try to follow our weekly rhythm. Almost every day involves some sort of errand in the car and this is her favorite because Gabe knows the car isn't too much fun, so he opts to stay at home. This makes it all the more special for Brook as I believe she thinks that this too is "women's work". She kisses the men goodbye and we are off.

I used to feel guilty taking such a young child in the car to do the errands. I believed that it wasn't really the natural way, and that children didn't need to be exposed to vehicles, traffic, lines at the grocery store, etc. But I've changed my views as well as where and how I go about the errands. For example, we no longer shop at the mega-super stores and markets. It is a completely different experience for children to visit a small produce stand instead. We visit the local Co-op where we see the same familiar faces each week as we shop. We believe this show of support for smaller businesses is beneficial to our community as well as to our children.
Brook loves these errands. When she is offered a sample of cheese, or a cookie, she beams with joy and expresses a heartfelt "Thank you!" The post office is where she gathers her "business" and is always sure to take a few extra colorful sheets (of hold mail forms, certified mail and registered mail forms) home for her brother. After each stop she talks about it all the way to the next stop or until we get home. She is also so excited about money and has her "own" special purse for her coins and loves to collect any receipts she gets. She is also always thinking of her older Brother. While at the store she will say "I want to get a cheese for me and one For Gabe".

When we get home, we allow the natural rhythms of our moods, the day's events, the menu, the weather, etc. shape our day. The great advantage of choosing to work at home (very simply and frugally) allows us this luxury. We made the decision when we decided to have children that "careers" would be placed on hold, and more creative endeavors would have to take shape. This is a great asset to home schooling as well, because the children learn very much from having to "make something from nothing" so to speak.

But the magic of spending so much time with a four and a half year old is still one of the greatest gifts and benefits of choosing our lifestyle. Sometimes I see frustrated mothers at the store with their children. The children look so tired and stressed out, as does mom. I have gotten the comment " Today is just one of those days" from these mothers... as if they are seeking compassion and a comrade in their suffering. I politely smile and yet feel so hurt inside, thinking how society's expectations and "norms" have clouded their own experiences.

I think of how much pure joy is stolen from children in today's world. How many children get the wonderful gift of their parent's attentions? Most of our children grow up cynical and without any magic at all in their lives. This is why we have chosen this path. This is why we seek to build community with others who share the same ideals. This is why we study, we read and we get informed. This is the reason why we parent the way we do. It's not just the children's birthright. It's not a gift for the children. It is the way it should be.
My wonderful and brilliant Four and a half-year-old taught me that lesson. And I am forever thankful.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

May Day

"Spring, the most welcome of seasons, comes yet very slowly. The spell of winter is hard to shake off. Catkins seem in no hurry to lengthen, a new shoot passes through a clod of earth but lingers, reluctant to rise in the cold air. As the days grow longer and the breeze softens, we patiently wait and hope. The stony ground realizes, the ditches gurgle with the spring rains, and juicy buds swell on the twig. Suddenly comes the surprise of a warm day, and with it the urgent activity of growth. Beneath our feet the ground turns lush, the hedges fatten in a haze of green, and a hungry bee flies past. Nature springs effortlessly into creative action; the birds sing praise in concert."

From the wonderful book: All Year Round

Crocus / Krokus / Spring by Blende8.

May Day (May 1st) is celebrated in many places around the world. The traditions and stories surrounding May Day vary from place to place. There is, however, one thing that is similar in most celebrations - the use of Flowers!

One of the most popularly known May Day traditions is to hang a basket full of spring flowers and/or other small gifts on a neighbor's doorknob. The trick is you don't want the neighbor to see you! If you get caught, you are supposed to get a kiss.

A popular activity on May Day is to decorate a pole with brightly colored ribbon or paper streamers. Some also add flowers and balloons. The pole is usually carried in a parade and then placed in the ground at a designated area. People then dance around the May pole, holding the ends of the streamers or ribbon in their hands.


Miniature Maypoles for May Day

small glass or clay gardening pots (large if making a centerpiece)

gold or brown sprayed florist's picks

three shades of narrow ribbon

glue gun & stick

potpourri or potting soil

if using potting soil, moss

small flower or rosebud to affix to top

Make the poles by getting out all of your items. Wrap the florist's pick (pole) with the three shades of ribbon, weaving through in the traditional "around the Maypole" fashion. Tie the ribbon into a bow at the top and affix the rosebud or other small flower on top of that with the glue gun. Place the pole into the center of the pot (easier if you place a drop of the glue onto the bottom of the pole before placing it in). Then surround the pole with the potting soil and moss or the potpourri. Tie a color-coordinated ribbon around the pot and use as decoration at your nature table, dinner table or as a craft activity for the children and friends. Depending on the size of the pots and poles, we have used these as small favors at our May Fairy parties, as grand centerpieces at picnic tables and as Maypoles in our garden, inviting the fairy folk to participate in the fun. Enjoy!


The Celtic year is divided into the dark and the light. Samhain begins the dark half; its counterpart, Beltane, is the beginning of the light half. Beltane and Samhain therefore divide the year into the two primary seasons, Winter and Summer. Beltane went by many names: Beltaine in Ireland, Bealtuinn in Scotland, Shenn do Boaldyn on the Isle of Man and Galan Mai in Wales. It is also referred to as Cetsamhain which means "opposite Samhain."

By Celtic reckoning, the actual Beltane celebration begins on sundown of the preceding day, April 30, because the Celts figured their days from sundown to sundown. The word "Beltane" literally means "bright" or "brilliant fire," and refers to the bonfires lit to celebrate this festival. Sundown was the time when the great Bel-fires would be kindled on the tops of the nearest beacon hill (such as Tara Hill, Co. Meath, in Ireland). Cattle and sheep which had been kept inside or close to the farmsteads during the long winter months could now be turned out into the fields or led away to their summer pastures. The tribal herds were ritually driven between the bonfires, to purify and protect them in the upcoming year. Healing herbs were burnt in the fires, producing smoke which would help destroy parasites and help prevent illness among cattle, sheep and other livestock. Another popular custom was to leap over the Beltane bonfire. Young people jumped the fire for luck in finding a spouse, and pregnant women jumped the fire to assure an easy delivery.

Domestic fires, which were kept alight all through the year, were extinguished on Beltane Eve and then rekindled from the great Bel-fires with torches the next morning. Even these small household fires were sacred, and Celtic Christians developed trinitarian rituals associated with tending the household fires. When fires were smothered for the night, for example, the peat blocks were divided into three equal sections and prayed for in the name of the God of Life, the God of Peace and the God of Grace. Then the whole fire was covered in ashes in the name of the Three of Light, with the following prayer: "The sacred Three to save, to shield, to surround, the hearth, the house, the household, this eve, this night, O this eve, this night, and every night, each single night. Amen."

Beltane is a holiday of fires, flowers, fertility, and frivolity—celebrating the reawakening of the earth and the return of life to the world. Handfastings—binding couples together for a year and a day, were traditionally performed on this day. It was customary for young lovers to spend the night in the woods. The best known tradition associated with the day is to dance around a tree while weaving greenery around it. This dance around the May Pole, using cloths or ribbons, is still performed in many parts of the world, and is the primary Beltane ceremony that has survived to the modern era.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

No Thank You, We Don't Believe in Socialization!

I can't believe I am writing an article about socialization, The word makes my skin crawl. As homeschoolers, we are often accosted by people who assume that since we're homeschooling, our kids won't be "socialized." The word has become such a catch phrase that it has entirely lost any meaning. 

The first time I heard the word, I was attending a Catholic day school as a first grader.
Having been a "reader" for almost 2 years, I found the phonics and reading lessons to be incredibly boring. Luckily the girl behind me felt the same way, and when we were done with our silly little worksheets, we would chat back and forth. I've never known two 6 yr. olds who could maintain a quiet conversation, so naturally a ruler-carrying nun interrupted us with a few strong raps on our desk. We were both asked to stay in at recess, and sit quietly in our desks for the entire 25 minutes, because "We are not here to socialize, young ladies." 

Those words were repeated over and over throughout my education, by just about every teacher I've ever had. If we're not there to socialize, then why were we there? I learned to read at home. If I finished my work early (which I always did,) could I have gone home? If I were already familiar with the subject matter, would I have been excused from class that day? If schools weren't made for socializing, then why on earth would anyone assume that homeschoolers were missing out? 

As a society full of people whose childhood’s were spent waiting anxiously for recess time, and trying desperately to "socialize" with the kids in class; It is often difficult for people to have an image of a child whose social life is NOT based on school buddies. Do you ever remember sitting in class, and wanting desperately to speak to your friend? It's kind of hard to concentrate on the lessons when you're bouncing around trying not to talk. Have you ever had a teacher who rearranged the seats every now and then, to prevent talking, splitting up friends and "talking corners." Were you ever caught passing notes in class? 

Now- flash forward to "real life." Imagine the following scenes:
Your Employer is auditing the Inter-Office Email system and comes across a personal note between you and a coworker. You are required to stand at the podium in the next sales meeting to read it aloud to your coworkers. The Police knock on your door, and announce that because you and your neighbor have gotten so close, they're separating you. You must move your home and your belongings to the other side of town, and you may only meet at public places on weekends. 

You're sitting at a booth waiting for a coworker to arrive for a scheduled lunch date. Suddenly a member of upper management sits down across from you and demands your credit cards. When your friend arrives, you just order water and claim you're not hungry, since he stole your lunch money. 

You're applying for a job and in an unconventional hiring practice, you are made to line up with other applicants, and wait patiently while representatives from two competing companies take their pick from the lineup. 

You're taking your parents out for an anniversary dinner. After you find a table, a waiter tells you that seniors have a separate dining room, lest they "corrupt" the younger members of society.
You go to the grocery store only to find that since you are 32 years old you must shop at the store for 32 year olds. It's 8 miles away and they don't sell meat because the manager is a vegetarian, but your birthday is coming up and soon you'll be able to shop at the store for 33 yr. olds. 

You'd like to learn about Aviation History. You go to the library and check out a book on the subject only to be given a list of "other subjects" that you must read about before you are permitted to check out the aviation book. 

You're having a hard time finding what you need in the local department store. The saleslady explains that each item is arranged alphabetically in the store, so instead of having a section for shoes, you will find the men's shoes in between the maternity clothes and the mirrors.
Your Cable Company announces that anyone wishing to watch the Superbowl this year must log on a certain number of hours watching the Discovery Channel before they can be permitted to watch the game. 

You apply for a job only to be told that this job is for 29 year olds. Since you're 32, you'll have to stay with your level. 

In a group project, your boss decides to pair you up with the person you don't "click" with. His hope is that you'll get learn to get along with each other, regardless of how the project turns out.
These absurd examples were created to point out how absolutely ridiculous the idea of "socializing" in schools is. Many people had a friend who they stayed friends with all through grammar school- WHY? Because their names were alphabetically similar, and they always ended up in line with each other. As an adult, have you ever made friends with someone simply because your names were similar? How long would such a friendship last and how meaningful would it be, providing you had nothing else in common? 

People often use the bully as an example of why it's so important to let kids "socialize" at school. If that's so important, then the bully needs to go to JAIL after a few months, because self-respecting society simply doesn't put up with that, nor should my 6 yr. old. Sure, there are crappy people in the world, but the world does a much better job of taking care of these things. A bullying brat in the first grade will still be a bullying brat in the 6th grade. He will still be picking on the same kids year after year after year, unless he moves to a new town. How long would the average adult put up with a bully?

Personally, as an adult, I have only come across one grown up bully. I choose not to be around this miserable woman. So do many other people. THAT is real life. If she were a coworker, I would find a different job. If she worked at a business I patronized- not only would I refrain from doing business with that company, I would write a letter to the bully, her manager, the owner and the main office. A kid in a classroom has no way to emotionally protect themselves against such a person. I would never expect my kids to put up with bad treatment from a bully in the name of "toughening them up." For what? So they can be submissive wimps when they grow up too? 

So they can "ignore" their miserable bosses and abusive spouses? In real life, if an employer discovered that an employee was harassing the other staff members, that employee could be fired (pending the 90 day evaluation) or relocated. In real life, if you are so dreadfully harassed by a coworker you can seek legal recourse independently. In a classroom, the teacher and other children are often powerless. 

The idea of learning acceptable social skills in a school is as absurd to me as learning nutrition from a grocery store. 

As Homeschoolers, the world is our classroom. We interact with people of all ages, sexes and backgrounds. We talk to and learn from everyone who strikes our interest. We use good manners in our home and I'm always pleased when others comment on the manners my children have picked up. I believe good manners to be an important social skill. 

Respecting common areas is also of value to us. We often carry a grocery bag with us on walks, in case we find trash that needs to be discarded. When we're waiting at a bus stop, if there is trash on the ground, we make a point to carry it onto the bus and discard of it properly.

Once, while waiting at a bus stop- we saw a grown man drop his popsicle wrapper on the ground. He was 2 feet from a trash can- My daughter looked up at me with eyes as big as saucers. I told her (out loud) "It must have blown out of his hand from that little wind, because no-one would throw trash on the ground on purpose. I'm sure when he's done with his popsicle, he will pick it up and throw it away correctly- otherwise, we can take care of it so we don't have an ugly world." He did pick it up, rather sheepishly. I can't imagine expecting my children to have a respect for the cleanliness of common areas in an environment where bathroom walls are covered in graffiti and trees are scratched with symbols of "love" of all things. 

Another social skill we strive to teach our children is that all people are created equal. I can't imagine doing that in an environment where physically disadvantaged children are segregated into a "special" classroom. Or even children who speak a different language at home. They are segregated and forced to learn English, while never acknowledging the unique culture they were raised in, and not enabling the other students to learn FROM them. Learning, in school, comes from the books and teachers. We will learn Spanish from a BOOK, not from a Spanish-speaking student; and not until 7th grade. 

I have never felt it would be beneficial to stick my 6-yr. old in a room full of other 6-yr. olds. I believe God created a world full of people of all ages and sexes to insure that the younger ones and older ones learn from each other. A few years ago, we were living thousands of miles from any older family members, so I brought my kids (then 5 and 2) to an assisted living facility, so they could interact with the elderly. Staff members told us that many of the older people would wake up every day and ask if we would be visiting soon. We always went on Wednesdays.

My daughters learned some old show tunes while one of the men played piano, and the others would sing along. If I didn't have to chase my 2-yr. old around, I would have had plenty of women ready to share the art of crocheting with me (something I've always wanted to learn.) If a friend was too sick to come out of their room during our visit, we would often spend a few minutes in their room. I always let them give the kids whatever cookies they had baked for them, and I ended up cleaning a few of the apartments while we visited, simply because I would have done the same for my own Grandmother. Every room had pictures from my kids posted on their refrigerators. We called this "Visiting the Grandmas and Grandpas" and my daughters both (almost 2 years later) have fond memories of our visits. I'm sure that if we were still visiting there, my unborn child would have a thousand handmade blankets and booties to keep him warm all winter. 

I don't remember any such experiences in my entire School life, although I do remember being a bit afraid of old people if they were too wrinkly or weak looking. I never really knew anyone over 60. I never sped down the hall on someone's wheelchair lap, squealing as we popped wheelies and screeched around corners. I never got to hear stories about what life was like before indoor plumbing and electricity, from the point of view of a woman with Alzheimer’s, who might believe she was still 5 years old, talking with my daughter as if she were a friend. I never got to help a 90 yr. old woman keep her arm steady while she painted a picture. And I never watched a room full of "grandma's" waiting for me by the window, because we were 15 minutes late. 

On a recent visit to an Art Gallery, we noticed a man walking back and forth, carrying framed artwork from his old pickup truck. I asked my 6 yr. old if she thought he might be the artist. We both agreed that was a possibility, and after a little pep-talk to overcome her stage fright, she approached him and asked. He was the artist, and he was bringing in his work to be evaluated by the curator. We all sat down and he explained some of his techniques and listened to her opinions about which piece she liked best. He told about how he enjoyed art when he was 6 and would "sell" pictures to family and friends. He recounted how he felt while creating a few of the pieces, and how each one has special meaning to him. He even let her know how nervous he was to show them to the curator and how he hoped she found them as interesting as we did. As he was called into the office, a group of thirty-four 3rd graders filed past, ever so quietly, while their teacher explained each piece on the walls. The children were so quiet and well behaved. They didn't seem to mind moving on from one picture to the next (The problem with homeschoolers is they tend to linger on things they enjoy).

They didn't seem to have any questions or comments (Maybe they'll discuss that later in class). And they never got a chance to meet the gentleman in the pickup truck.
I hope my kids aren't missing out on any "socialization."

©2000 Lisa Russell ~~ Lisa Russell; A Gen X homeschooling mom, writer, wife, daydreamer, U.S. traveler, hiker, poet, artist, web designer, and whatever else suits the moment.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day !

In Honor of our Mother Earth we made beautiful Rain sticks today and danced outside . It was so much fun. Funny thing is today it was supposed to rain all day but it never did .We also made special Earth day cookies. The came out so yummy and delicious. Though it was quite a process and I was not sure if I would ever finish here are the results.

They came out great! The kids helped me out and loved that we could separate the batter and add our different favorites (raisins/chocolate chips) at the end. The raisins add just the perfect amount of sweetness.

We ended our wonderful day with an earthy dinner and a Earth Day Poem:


The Earth is ours to enjoy
For every little girl and boy.
But we must always be aware.
That all its beauty we must share
With all the children yet to come,
Who want to laugh and play and run
Around the trees and in the fields.

So we must keep our planet free
From messy trash and debris
With air that's clean and fresh and clear
For all to breathe from year to year.
We must never ever abuse
Our sweet Earth that's ours to use.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009



Natural Parenting

There is a wide range of Natural Parenting sites available, but below are some of my friends and personal favorite sites. The information offered is both powerful and inspirational. The greatest thing is that we live in a time and place where we can choose, and making an informed choice is a great investment in your future and the future of your families. Each site below has a unique offering of information, stories, and some products... I hope a bit of something for everybody! As for me, and who I am and how I came to this lifestyle, well... I looked over some of the informational pages below and I decided what would be best for MYSELF and MY FAMILY. I made an informed choice and so should you!
Note: If you follow these links, you will be taken out of my blog site, please bookmark it now ,subscribe or remember to hit "back" on your browser so you can return..

Monday, April 20, 2009

Homemade Maple Sugar

Mmmm......Maple sugar! Nothing beats the pure sweetness of this delightful delicacy. This past weekend we spent boiling and boiling sap that we harvested in hopes of making our own sugar.

When I was younger we used to make sugar on snow with my parents and it was one of my favorite childhood memories. I can distinctly remember the sweet smell of the syrup boiling and watching it boil up to the top of the pan all frothy. Then finally after what seemed to take an eternity my dad would pour the syrup onto the snow for the delicious taffy like candy. So wonderful for a child's teeth right ?

One disappointing thing about sugar on snow was you can only really eat it like candy and that is one of the many reasons we wanted to make our own sugar. We can use it in baking,on top of homemade toast , etc. there are many more options with sugar.

As you can see from the picture it came out perfect and we ended up with about 8 cups of our own wonderful homemade maple sugar.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Great article on reading readiness


Teaching our children to write, read & spell

Susan R. Johnson MD, FAAP, 5/7/2007

Part I— The Proprioceptive System

There is a widely-held belief that if we just start teaching children to write, read, and spell in preschool, they will become better writers, readers, and spellers by the time they reach the first and second grades. This is, however, not true. The truth is that children only should be taught to write, read, and spell when their neurological pathways for writing, reading, and spelling have fully formed. There are many neuropsychologists, developmental specialists, occupational therapists and teachers who are concerned that our current trend in this country of pushing “academics” in preschool and kindergarden will result in even greater increases in the number of children, particularly boys, diagnosed with attentional problems and visual processing types of learning disabilities.
To read the rest of her article click here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Checking out a Beaver log!




So a friend of ours gave us this really cool beaver log. The beaver almost made it all the way through but our friend got to it first before the beaver could finish this job.

The kids were so amazed to see how big the beavers teeth marks were. So we all did a bit of learning about beavers.

A Bit About Beavers

Beavers' ability to change the landscape is second only to humans. But that is just one reason why we find the flat-tailed species fascinating. Adults may weigh over 40 pounds, and beavers mate for life during their third year. Both parents care for the kits (usually one to four) that are born in the spring. The young normally stay with their parents for two years, and yearlings act as babysitters for the new litter. While some beaver behavior is instinctive, they also learn by imitation and from experience.

Wildlife rehabilitators find beavers to be gentle, reasoning beings who enjoy playing practical jokes. An Indian word for "beaver-like" also means "affable." Once weaned, their favorite foods include water lily tubers, clover, apples and the leaves and green bark (cambium) from aspen and other fast-growing trees. Tree cutting is part of nature's cycle, and beaver pruning stimulates willows, cottonwood and aspen to regrow bushier than ever next spring. After eating, beavers use the peeled sticks to build a teepee-like lodge (house) on the shore and/or a dam.

Wow! Really amazing!

Gabe counted the rings on the tree and found it to be about 20 years old. The bark on the tree was really cool too. The tree is a white birch so the bark peels off really easily. We left it on though because we are going to put the tree stump in Gabe's room.

Basic Waldorf Curriculum Outline

Grade One: Basic Math Processes, Folk and Fairy Tales, Form Drawing, Nature Stories, Pentatonic Flute, Reading through Writing, Weaving and Knitting

Grade Two: Math Concepts, Multicultural Legends and Animal Fables, Stories of Saintly People, Cursive Writing, Form Drawing, Crocheting, Pentatonic Flute

Grade Three: Fractions, Higher Multiplication, Weights and Measures, Stories of the Jewish Bible/Old Testament, Creation Stories, Composition and Grammar, Farming, Clothing and Textile Crafts, House Building, Reading Music, Diatonic Flute

Grade Four: Fractions and Decimals, Local Geography, Native American Studies, Norse Mythology, Regional History, Zoology, Musical Composition, Violin/String Instruments

Grade Five: Decimals, Agriculture and Economics Zoology, Classics, Persian, Indian, and Egyptian history, Greek History, Literature, Sentence Structure, Botany, North American Geography, Knitting/Textile Arts, Woodworking

Grade Six: Astronomy, World Geography, Medieval History, Mineralogy, Latin, Physics, Plane and Constructive Geometry, Roman History

Here is a great article on Main lesson block teaching in waldorf school

Number verse!

Verse for Introducing Number Qualities:
All together we are class ONE
See, the whole wide world is one
And the brightly shining sun
Sheds its light on everyone.
All alone I stand as one
And my heart shall be a sun.
You and I, we are TWO
And many things together do.
On two feet we walk and stand
With two eyes we view the land.
Two ears to hear what wise men tell
Two hands with which to do things well.
Father, mother and child are THREE
And make one happy family.
As head and heart and limbs so strong
Make one good man who'll do no wrong.
Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring
FOUR different seasons to us bring.
From East and West, and South and North
The brother winds come blowing forth.
We make FIVE with our head
And our arms and legs outspread.
Now we are most like a star,
Shining brightly from afar.
We find SIX in all that is around
See, sparkling crystals in the ground
The honeycomb made by the bee,
Six-petalled flowers we also see.
The shining rainbow shows us SEVEN
As it stretches down from Heaven,
And the week has seven days
Taking us on different ways.
Wriggling spiders on EIGHT legs crawl
Spinning webs on every wall.
Octopus has eight legs too,
Four times as many legs as you.
NINE is a mystery hidden away
A secret to be revealed one day.
TEN fingers have we on our two hands.
Ten toes, as on two feet we stand.
For ten contains within two fives
Which we'll remember all our lives.

The beautiful Nature table....

What is a Nature Table?

"Seasonal nature tables are an invaluable way of making young children aware of the changing cycle of the year."

"Young children do not grasp nature intellectually, but unconsciously accept its laws. When we bring the external world indoors, creating a seasonal table in colors and in tableaux without the use of words, children become aware of nature at work in their surroundings." (from the book The Nature Corner: Celebrating the Years Cycle with a Seasonal Table)

A nature table or seasonal table can be whatever you want it to be. Simple or elaborate.

The important aspect is that the child is able to connect with the objects and the scene depicted on the table. Generally, the scene will be related to the current season or an upcoming festival or holiday. The nature table is often the focal point of a Waldorf kindergarten classroom with the scene on the table directly related to the day's activities.

The Importance of Believing in Fairies.

Go to fullsize image

Fairies. Are they REAL? Fairies have a real importance whether you believe in seeing them, or not. When we experiment with believing in Fairies (make-believe), we explore the unseen world: the subtle world of forces and energies that affect all of us in ways that we are usually unaware of.

Have you ever had a fleeting sense of something? Perhaps you are learning to play an instrument, and you hear yourself suddenly create a quality of sound that is new to you, and wonderful. "How did I do that?" You go back and try to do it again. You try very hard, but no, you can't make it happen. Yet if, as you go on playing, part of you is open to receiving that sound again, it begins to happen more and more often.

Fairies are spoken of in the same way. You may see a Fairy out of the corner of your eye, but if you turn back and look, most likely the Fairy will have disappeared. Fairies are subtle and ungraspable. You cannot MAKE them do anything. But if they want to appear to you, or welcome you into their world . . . it is like grace. It is a gift, like being able to play that beautiful way on your instrument.

So while children are exploring their imaginative world, they are developing the delicate skills of awareness that will enable them to become adults who can do marvelous things: "grasp" intangible thought, perceive the inherent design, express the deepest feeling, understand the source or cause. . . .

Welcome the Fairies into your family's world. Who knows what richness is hidden there.
by Diane Katz © 2002
Rosenberry Books, where
Delightful Fairy story-letters and books can be found

Toys that Teach: A Lesson in Reverence, Gratitude and Beauty

Toys that Teach: A Lesson in Reverence, Gratitude and Beauty

A toy is something your child invests precious time in and in this way it acts as a teacher. The right toy can teach your child to care, to be watchful and conscious, to be careful, to appreciate, to love. In your child’s hands are the keys to learning to be grateful, to appreciate beauty, to have a sense of peace and reverence for life in all its forms… By the same token, the wrong toys can teach your child anger, frustration, disregard, insult and mockery. How many times have you seen this at the community playground? Children mimicking the grotesque objects they have been playing with? Making grimaces and bullying the other children. They are putting out what they have taken in, from their toys.

What can a plastic contraption possibly teach your child? What lesson is hidden within the action figure? When children have a room full of such toys they are often so overwhelmed, that they choose not to play at all. Grandparents come and say they are spoiled. Oftentimes, when they do choose to play, they play in a very aggressive and destructive manner. They show no sense of love or caring for these toys. They show no gratitude for these toys. These toys which growl at you and make grimaces at you seem to be designed to instill or teach anger, frustration, and hatred. Ask yourself "what does my child get from such a toy?" If you closely observe your child you will discover that their play lasts about 5 minutes at most and they end up being frustrated and overwhelmed. They physically look ill after playing this way, with these toys. 

The reason for this is that children take everything from their play and it becomes a part of who they are and who they are about to become. Children internalize everything from their surroundings. When they are exposed to synthetic and ugly toys, children are at risk of losing their sense of awe, their sense of reverence and beauty. They begin to internalize the messages that these toys put forth: Hit, Stomp, Slam, and Pound, Throw away. Replace. These feelings then grow within our children. Their relationships become "synthetic" and their play grows ugly.

These children then grow into teenagers who bulldoze through and over their fellow teens. They have grown up to think that just about anything can be replaced. Everything is meant to be handled roughly and without special care. They grow up with fast food and throw away drive-through toys, which mean nothing to them. They blaze through the world without worrying about what gets stepped on or knocked over, believing it can all easily be replaced or that it is the responsibility of everything in their way to be strong enough to last. They break their plastic battery operated gizmos and into the garbage it goes. Sadly, in our mass produced society, it often quickly gets replaced with one exactly like it. What does that teach our child? 

Many parents do not realize that the mind of a developing child takes in everything. These toys have very negative impact on our children and their behavior changes from inherently good and loving to bad and spiteful. The young child learns the most when at play. Play is the work of the child and it is through play that the child learns to be an adult. Why then are we not more careful and more aware when we choose our children’s playthings?

The majority of modern toys do not speak to the soul of the child. In this way they can actually damage the child. They not only rob the child of his/her imagination and sense of wonder, but they create a shell over the child’s heart. The toys of today are "dead". Obviously, they are not beautiful. They have no energy coming from them. They are just… ugly. Don’t our children, who only recently arrived and are still so intertwined with the spiritual world, deserve better? 

In looking at the writings of Rudolf Steiner, founder of the Waldorf Schools, we discover that the first seven years of life the child should see and experience the world as a place of goodness. The child in this age group learns primarily through imitation. Teachers trained in the Waldorf Education method are taught to be completely conscious of each and every movement, because they know they child takes it all in – good or bad. Waldorf Kindergartens are places of simple beauty for this reason. Children from ages 7 through the onset of puberty should experience the world as a place of beauty, because through beauty they will gain a reverence for life, which they will carry through to their adult lives. The Waldorf method of education is based completely on these beliefs.

Children need to have a few simple toys, ones that must be delicately cared for and lovingly attended to. They require toys, which they can wash by their own hand, hang in the air to dry and gently fold. They blossom when playing with toys, which need to be carefully polished, and which can be mended. They thrive when they have toys, which they know they will pass along to their younger siblings. It is through this that they learn to have gratitude, reverence, and a sense of beauty for their environment and surroundings. The majority of modern toys simply do not speak to the soul of the child.

Which toys do speak to the child? Silks, Woods, Nuts, Shells, Seeds, Stones, Crystals, Leaves, Ribbons and little baskets in which to carry their treasures. These are the types of toys, which speak to the child’s soul. These Natural Wonders instill awe and discovery, magic and wonder in your child. These toys have been created as "one-of-a-kind" treasures. These toys are special and can become just about anything your child imagines them to be.

Consider pure silk scarves for play. They are delicate and ethereal and they seem to naturally awaken that sense of awareness of beauty and reverence. They awaken the child’s imagination and inspire their creativity. Children appreciate their simplicity, and yet take such wonder in the magic that a simple little cloth can be transformed into so many wonderful things.

Wood is another example. It comes from a living, growing organism and has so much potential. Has this wood been carved or "decorated" by the creatures of the forest? What sort of tree did this wood come from? Imagine that two pieces of wood will never be exactly the same and your child can feel this and sense it when holding this toy. What a lesson of gratefulness for this piece of wood – which is here play with. What a wonderful discovery when playing outside your child finds this wonderful toy all by him or herself… as it was meant to be! Your child will carry this wood as a parcel, build with it as a block, cradle and hold it as a baby. This piece of wood can be turned into just about anything in the imagination of your child. Perhaps grandfather can carve this little wood into an animal friend, or a gnome to return to the garden.

Such treasures are not easily replaced. If you are not careful and you break a wooden toy (especially a hand made or found one) it is truly a tragedy because it is a one of a kind. If the child is lucky it can be repaired and will be cared for even more delicately because it has been weakened. Of course, this will make the toy be loved and cherished all the more for the wounds it bears and the effort that went into saving it.

The children of today have adopted many of their attitudes in life because of the toys they have been surrounded with in their childhood. The mass produced disposable toys of today are wasteful, ugly and harm not only our children but also our environment. They are impersonal and created for one purpose and one purpose only -–to make money for their creators. The next obvious reason is for them to break and be replaced easily, teaching your child to want more…

The life of a waldorf playstand!

No other piece of equipment is more standard in a Waldorf classroom than a play stand. Play stands are versatile, durable and provide the children with hours and hours of imaginative play. You child can use them as a home, store, tent, boat, fort, vehicle - just about anything! My children would even drape dreamy silks over theirs and pull in their sheepskin and sleep! This leads me to believe that their natural survival instinct is urging them to "create shelter" for themselves. Again, play as important and developmental learning.

Here are our playstands :

Backyard Discoveries

I have always kept my eye out for anything that may look like a little fairy house at craft stores, yard sales, etc...

Not too long ago, Michael's was having a sale and my husband had the afternoon off, so I got to go alone. In their floral section I found little "nests" and birdhouses, which didn't really look like functioning bird houses, but were made of wood and covered with moss, etc..

I purchased several items and kept the bag hidden in the car until they went to their grandmother's and I again had some free time. I carefully placed all of the items I had found all over the backyard, into hiding places within the bushes, on branches, etc...

Some they discovered right away, some are still awaiting discovery. It was interesting to watch from my window and see how they reacted when they suddenly made a discovery - precious!

It was also interesting to see what had happened to the ones who sat in the elements for weeks - how they became a part of the landscape and truly came to look like fairies had moved into them! It was an idea which has brought many hours of joy to my children...

All back yards have the potential for great discovery and activities. You should try to keep the area as natural as possible, and yet have a variety of "tools" on hand. These would include any of the following: a place for digging, a vegetable or flower garden, some wild growing plants (vines, wildflowers) wind chimes, windsocks, wind wands, pinwheels, prisms to catch the sun, gazing balls, a bonfire pit (obviously with supervision), planting sunflower houses or bean tents so children can experiment with light and dark, a water table, watering cans, seeds, potting soil and pots, scraps of wood (no nails!) for building, a long log for a balance beam, a hammock or comfortable chair, tree stumps which could be used for chairs & tables, cotton gauze cloths which could dirty, clothes pins or play clips, ropes, etc...

Simple Garden Magic:

Additionally, keeping a garden is a large part of the Waldorf curriculum. Even if you have an apartment in the city - try to keep a window box of herbs for your children. they will love it. It's also fun to take a drive out to local farms and farmer's markets.

Steiner said:

"Although it may seem absurd, it must be stated that a person who has not learned to distinguish an ear or rye from an ear of wheat is no complete human being. It can even be said that a person who has learned to distinguish between rye and without having observed them growing in the fields, has not attained the ideal. As teachers we should avoid going on botanical expeditions to collect specimens to be shown in the classroom. The children themselves should be taken out and wherever possible, be brought to understand the plant world in its actual connection with the earth, with the rays of the sun, with life itself. Through this we can find the transition in a quite naive way to something else which is very important."
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