Waldorf Curriculum Homeschool Blog

Having tried unsucessfully to get Blogger.com to work for me, I suddenly realized that I can easily create journalling pages linked to my site without extra help. This is a very informal page with my personal notes as to how homeschooling is going for my family. Please feel free to email me with comments. Learn more about my preschool curriculum by visiting the Curriculum Packages page.

Other Waldorf-inspired homeschool blogs you may want to check out include:

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March 2007

  • Natalie is turning 5 years old
  • Leah is 3 years, 4 months
  • Rebecca is 2 years, 2 months

March 31 - Yesterday was a day of many highs and lows. Which may be not surprising to people who have observed my mood since Natalie turned 5. It's been a nightmare! My daughter's birthday triggered all my homeschool insecurities, previously hidden, that I wasn't doing a good enough job. Now that the state has the legal right to observe and question me, I am feeling very ill at ease. What if they say I'm terrible at homeschooling and what I'm doing is completely inappropriate? So I purchased another curriculum package in a panic and, when I got it, was thrown into a complete state of turmoil. Instead of fixing my problems it increased them. I don't like the Sonlight method but it is easy on the homeschooling parent, there's no question about that. So the decision was, do I do Sonlight because it's easy and will therefore presumably reduce my stress levels (although adding a new level of guilt because it's not Waldorf and, although I am not the perfect Waldorf poster child, I do really agree with the principles and try my hardest) or do I return the package and relive the tailspin of choosing a curriculum? First I thought I'd return it. Then I thought I may as well keep it and try it since their return policy is so accomodating. Then I moved a bunch of stuff into the schoolroom yesterday and today and set up a new daily schedule and this morning I looked at the Sonlight shelf and those items just don't fit with anything else I own. It's obvious that they are completely different from what I want to do. I really feel like I wasted $350. So then the question was, do I keep it for a while, try it, and write a little article about how to Waldorf-ize Sonlight for the website, then return it. But I am looking at it more closely and I would have to basically take out every book. So that's a little silly. For example, the Social Studies, Nature and workbook sections of the curriculum are too academic. That leaves bible study, which you can do with just two of those books, the Children's Everyday Bible and and Right Choices (if you even want to do it at all). Their social studies books written by missionaries I find very offensive. It's not that they are too Christian; they are faintly racist (at least to my mind). I mean, why make fun of traditional Thai religion? Anyway, so if you leave in a weekly Bible verse to learn, a weekly poem, a weekly song, and cooking/helping around the house and some playtime plus an assortment of children's books read daily, you have the whole thing. Now, the anthologies of children's literature are an unnecessary expense. Don't buy them from Sonlight; you can find all those books at the library. Ditto with the Mother Goose (you read one nursery rhyme daily). The fairy tales, folk tales, and nursery rhyme part was what make me think this program might be Waldorf-
compatible in the first place. The pacing doesn't match Waldorf, though, since in Waldorf you slow down, do only one story a day plus a fingerplay or other movement verse, and repeat the story throughout the week. Plus Waldorf books have all the added puppetry ideas and so on & I think they are much better. So my final decision is to look through the Core B package, keep any books that I personally like, and return the rest and call it a day. I am going to keep the workbooks because I think it's a good idea to have some on hand in case I end up in a situation where my kids have to take a standardized test and they need to know how to do directions in a worksheet form. I may even do some with Leah, since she seems to have problems with auditory processing. But I would NEVER put my kids in a program that recommended daily worksheets, which Sonlight does.

So next problem. What am I going to use as my Official Kindergarten Curriculum? Well, the decision I made is A Guide for the Montessori Classroom by Gini Newcomb. This is a series of four books donated to me by a friend (thank you!) and I really like them. I began to post a detailed review but found I was getting too defensive so I just erased it and if you want to see samples, check out the site. This series is super easy to use -- really well organized -- and is based around a lot of nature studies (we won't do the math, language, and other aspects of the mont. curriculum, just use her ideas for themes and expand upon them in a Waldorf way). We will be beginning on Monday with April Week One which is Birds. It should be a smooth transition, since we just finished a big focus on feeding the birds and squirrels from Earthways. I just really feel comfortable Waldorfizing this where with Sonlight it would be practically impossible. And I just need to wake up in the morning and have someone tell me, how about painting with bird feathers, and I can say OKAY and do it.

Regarding the kindy units on the website, my plan is to make them live webpages -- instead of strict lesson plans -- with links to resources for doing the regular Waldorf kindergarten thing (refer to the Kindy booklist for help with this) in a way that exposes children to each of the cultures in question. So for the Asia page, there will be picture books, stories, recipes, handwork projects, musical instruments and recordings, links to purchase carved wooden figures of animals from those countries, buy seeds for native plants, and so on. I'd like these pages to be collaborative, especially since there are visitors to this site from all around the world and I know people have lots of ideas to share about their various cultures. So when I begin work on these pages, I'll post to the Group which continent we are developing links for and gather ideas from Group members.

Final problem is my perfectionism. I think perfectionists are drawn to Waldorf, since it essentially promises to be the best possible curriculum, tailored to your child's needs at each state of development, and will churn out the most well-developed mentally, physically, and emotionally children. But homeschoolers who are also perfectionists run into a lot of problems with Waldorf. For one thing, it's a philosophy and not a prescription, since it is so child-centered. This leaves people who want to be told what to do at a loss. The amount of inner work is astonishing and sometimes easy to shy away from (I speak from personal experience here). So you end up buying hundreds of dollars worth of Waldorf books, waiting for a prescription for a curriculum. This waste of money (also something I've personally experienced) is the reason I started writing my Dozens booklist series. Since I own so many Waldorf books, I feel I should share my experiences. Anyway, here's how perfectionism is currently rearing its ugly head. If I plan in advance (especially if my planning is too detailed), I nearly always end up scratching things out in my planbook and drawing little arrows as I move things from day to day, which makes me completely crazy. I actually get depressed. However, if I don't plan at all, and do a little unschooling, I feel unorganized and guilty. This is the guilt that got tapped into when Natalie turned five. Thus the Gini Newcomb books. They give me a theme but not a you-must-do-it-this-way approach. I feel it will be the perfect blend of organized and flexible. The other nice thing about the books is that almost everyone has heard about Montessori (although not so many about Waldorf) and so I presumably won't have to answer as many questions. I fall under the category of unusual but not weird or suspicious. And the guides are for ages 3 to 6 (says right on them) so I can do them with both Natalie and Leah and, as far as the state is concerned, be working at an age-appropriate level. Actually, my new homeschool plan is to spend time with each child separately and simply repeat (or modify) the activities, since I had so many management problems before. I was putting off doing school until everyone was rested and ready and that was never happening! They spend a lot of time together playing and also get their Nature programs and other things outside of the home together most of the time, so separating them for homeschool I think is fine. So I did blocks of time with each kid yesterday which worked great! That was the highlight. I was soooo much more relaxed. And the kids had fun too. Leah played in the bubbles in the sink, after we washed our dishes, for 34 minutes! I timed her. Handed her two measuring cups and she spent the entire time cooking bubble soup, bubble ice cream, and bubble oatmeal for me. :-) I had so much more time to enjoy my kids. The low point was the Official Curriculum decision which I finally sorted out by the end of the day, after a conference with my husband. I have the "plans" in Gini's books which means that I can use my planbook as a To-Did list (recording what we actually did) which means no crossing out and no arrows, relieving a big source of my stress! Another source of my stress is this blog. Although I like the journaling, it increases my feeling of "everyone is watching me fail." So my birthday present to myself (my birthday is in April) is to take a month off from blogging and updating the website and to see if I feel better and less stressed or if I miss it and want to continue.

See everyone on May 1st!

March 29 - This morning I got up and placed the Easter order from MC. It ended up being $75.74 total because I added on the 18 pc. Lyra colored pencil set in tin. Last year I got them the twig pencils from A Toy Garden which I loved, and were so organic looking, but are extremely hard to sharpen. So the kids haven't been getting much use out of them. I was lucky, too, because my subtotal was $64.75 and the top of the shipping tier falls at $64.99. So I squeaked in just under the wire and saved two dollars. Hurrah! Today is a cold day again (the past two were very warm) so we'll be staying inside and doing housework. I plan to read a cute vintage book that was my husband's: The Man Who Didn't Wash His Dishes by Phyllis Krasilovsky. In this book the man uses up every single clean dish in his house, finally has to load them all in the back of his truck and drive around in the rain to get them clean, and vows to never again let them pile up that way. I'd like us to do a little less piling up of the dishes, so hopefully this will inspire us!

Yesterday Natalie and I did laundry all morning. For the first time I let her in the laundry room to see how it all works. Always before she had sorted the dirty clothes into lights and darks and taken the clean dry things out of the basekts and sorted them into piles of who they belonged to and helped her sisters put them away. But my husband built a high shelf for all the detergents and bleach and so on (previously on the laundry room floor within reach of the children) so I felt it was safe for her to come in. She watched the entire wash cycle the first time. 37 minutes she stood there and watched it swish around. Then we turned on the drum light for a while so she could see the dryer tumble. I had no idea she'd be so interested. But it helped me get three loads of laundry done completely (washed, dried, and put away) so I was thrilled. We also -- once she could tear herself away from the machines -- hung up a fishing net in her bathroom and decorated it with starfish. We also installed some fish doorknobs on her bathroom cabinet. Then I read her Houses From the Sea for her nap story. She's had this book before but this time it really clicked. So interesting to see that happen. In the afternoon we headed down to the beach and gathered shells. Someone gave me an old straw purse which had some seashells glued to it for ornamentation and most have fallen off, so I decided we should refurbish it together as a project. Short on homeschool money right now because of buying the Sonlight curric, so I thought we'd have to save that project for later when it occurred to me that gathering shells is free! It was colder than I thought at the beach so we only stayed for about 20 min. But Natalie was so excited that the waves had brought her treasures (something she got from the book) so I was glad we did it to follow up on the story. It really worked well.

* * * * *

To clarify the Sonlight thing, the first list below (the longer one) contains the books which are the same between last year's curric and this. Last year's being 2006-2007 and this year's being 2007-2008. The second list is the books which were included last year but have been removed this year. The books I am about to list below are the replacements for the books they chucked. The instructor's guide is updated each year to reflect the new booklist.

books NEW to the 2007-2008 Core B curriculum package:

So I hope that helps people trying to follow along with my notes. The 2007-2008 package is the one they will be listing on the website for sale as of tomorrow.

By the way, she told me that they are moving some of the books previously included (Shapes, Opposites) to a package which will come before Core B -- still in development -- so I hope this does not mean that they are working to make B more academic. I really have my hopes up here! I promise that if the box comes today I will dive into it immediately and write my review.

* * * * *

Okay, so here's the deal. They cheated when they put their sample online; the curriculum doesn't give any indications but it is in fact academic. You could skip it, but if you did you'd just be reading a few stories each day which you can do without spending $350.00. The curriculum recommends several workbook pages each day (where you color the thing on the line that does not rhyme with the others, count the number of cylinders on the page, and so on. Pretty standard workbook stuff) and -- after the first few weeks -- starts to have you review each letter of the alphabet. It's not nearly as bad as most preschool programs, where you are really teaching the letters, but I wouldn't call it "non academic." So I measured Natalie's head to body ratio, which came up as 1 to 5 1/2, so not at the 1:6 needed for early learning to begin. And thus we will not be using Sonlight. Now, I'm not sure if I'm going to return it or not. I am upset at the curriculum being misrepresented, but a large part of me really wants a daily grid of activities. Leaving out the stuff I don't want and substituting other things will be just the same amount of time as planning from scratch, but I just feel a huge pit in my stomach at the thought of writing a kindy curriculum. I'm just too tired! On the other hand, not writing at all and having us just do things as they occur to us is fun but somewhat haphazard, and I'm not doing puppetry or storytelling or art or music or handwork as much as I'd like. I seem to be stuck in a realm of Play, Nature, Cooking and Helping. So I feel I need to push myself out of that. So my new idea (I can't believe I even have the energy to champion a new idea -- bleagh) is to create a weekly grid where I have to plan activities from all the areas but not a timetable or daily schedule saying when I have to do what. Because sometimes we have the energy for two hours of school and sometimes it is ten minutes. And I am not at a point where I can guarantee consistency. Of course, I don't want to do themes, because a unit on Birds is not very Waldorf, but without any kind of theme at all, you're just randomly choosing things out of books. And if you go with what your kids seem to be interested in it all seems so spur-of-the-moment. Unschooling is definitely not for me! Anyway, I think I'll go with the Around the World idea and choose recipes and stories from all the continents as I go around and we can learn about the animals and do some handwork stuff, but I don't know. I am so overwhelmed right now. If I write lesson plans which stick strictly to the Kindy and Preschool booklist, I know people would find them helpful but it means I am using none of the rest of the stuff I have, which makes it a waste of both money and storage space. If I refer to all the books I have, my notes aren't useful to anyone. I'm just in a black hole today I guess. I had my hopes pinned on the Sonlight thing being a guide to me and its not. The only real guide in Waldorf is the child you are teaching but you are not supposed to unschool but to prepare material suitable for them and what their needs are developmentally. Add in the two preschoolers, the custom stuff, Sunday school, and trying to make public notes on what I'm doing so that others can get some use out of it and I'm just exhausted. I guess I have to decide if the website is worth it, or if I should just do whatever I want, homeschool my kids however I want -- out of the public eye -- and everyone can just mind their own business. On the other hand, it's not the documentation that's stressful, it is the fact that I feel I am floundering. So it is not really the website's fault. The website is just what makes it obvious that there's an organizational problem. I really would like to do all the projects and I just don't have time. A Kindy curric which uses just the two dozen books would be a fun challenge. The Around the World series would be fun. Trying a curriculum written by somebody else so I can have time to sleep at night... also enticing.

Next Sunday is April 1st so it is the beginning of a month, the beginning of a week, and the first full month in which Natalie will be five. I guess that makes it the start of whatever we do for Kindergarten. Right now I just don't know.

March 27 - Well, some very interesting things are happening here. I decided to take the plunge and order the Sonlight Core B curriculum which by all accounts is non-academic; however, I've gotten some new information on what is and is not required by the state of MD regarding homeschooling so I have that to look over and process. Here's THE LAW for my state.

Since I am adding the booklist from Core B to my Homeschool Documentation Binder, I will go ahead and put the books here as well in case people are interested. Then, if I do use the program but substitute some books, I will be sure to create a webpage with my suggestions for adapting Core B in a Waldorf way. Here is what I purchased ($352.49 total cost)

items listed in the catalogue:


and the substitutions that they have made/items that are not listed in the 2007-2008 catalogue:


It seems to me that some of the books they list I will not like but I went ahead and bought the entire package because I can substitute other books easily and return the ones I don't like. Some of the books I was really looking forward to, that were listed in the catalogue, are no longer in the program. Eric Carle's Animals Animals, the audio CD of American Tall Tales, Stories from Around the World, and the Milly-Molly-Mandy storybook, to be exact. So I am disappointed about that. I have to admit, though, that I'm looking forward to this box! I really feel burned out right now, mostly by all the custom work I've been doing I think, plus the addition of Sunday School, and I have the energy to dig in and modify someone else's work -- I'm very excited about that -- but don't feel up to creating a kindy curric from scratch. I guess it's easier to complain about someone else's work than to do your own. :-) I honestly have to say that getting up in the morning with an infinite list of possibilities for things to do is wearing thin. I just really need some structure right now. My husband says that my stress levels are so high that he's considering putting the kids in school & maybe I'm too much of a perfectionist to homeschool... so this is a major crisis point. I have to show him that I can do it! I don't want to lose this time with my kids. My job right now is to enjoy school more and stress less!!!! So I'm hopeful that using this program as my backbone and modifying it as needed will be the solution for us right now.

This morning we went to the nature center to sign up for Friday's family program. It's called Pizza and a Program and you go at night, have pizza, and do the nature program. This one is about Slimy Slippery Salamanders. Fun! My mom is coming along so the kids will enjoy that for sure. Then we walked the boardwalk through the Cypress Swamp and looked for signs of spring. After lunch, the kids took a nap (still going on) and then we plan to do a big messy outdoor art project. It's going to be 80 degrees today so a lot of outdoor fun is in order. Then we'll bake a cake for tonight's dessert.

* * * * *

Okay, Steve took N and B to get haircuts. Leah and I popped the cake in the oven and she is playing in her room and waiting for it to cook. I called Sonlight to ask why the booklist on the website (the package I ordered) doesn't match the booklist in the new 2007-2008 catalogue and she said that the new catalogue kicks in March 30th and the website is updated at that time as well. AHA! So basically I bought last year's package. When the books arrive I can choose to either

    1) return the whole package and order the new curriculum, or

    2) keep the books I like that have been replaced and send the others back, get a refund for the books returned, and order the new curric, or

    3) keep last year's curric but order individually the new books which have been added plus the new instructor's guide ($20) to bring me up to date, or

    4) just go with last year's program.

I will probably go with option 3, since I get 10% off all purchases for the next year, as a Sonlight Member, and that way I don't have to buy twice the Animals Animals book (one I already have). That way, too, I don't have to wait for a refund. Don't really need an extra teaching guide, though. But maybe I can donate it to the church library, or lend to people from church who are considing homeschooling. Sonlight did, I notice, take out the collection of Grimm's fairy tales that was included in the old package. So perhaps I will prefer last year's program, as being closer to Waldorf and requiring less modification. I guess I will just have to hold my horses and wait for the books to arrive! Good customer service, by the way. They called and left an automated message to say that my box was shipped yesterday (plus an email) and when I called back with my question about the booklist discrepancy, my call was returned by a homeschool mom -- who had used that Core last year -- within just a few hours.

March 26 - Rebecca slept until 9:40 am this morning (very late), woke up crying, and then quite emphatically threw up her entire breakfast a short while later so, needless to say, not much school will be happening today. I think we'll cook dinner together in the afternoon and I'd like to teach Natalie and Leah a bedtime prayer and that will be it. Mostly they'll be doing free play time, Becca will be sleeping, and I'll be doing laundry! At least our sofa has removable washable covers on all the cushions. So it's not really a big deal. At breakfast the kids had fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice along with their cereal and banana. They love to push and squeeze the fruit to get all the juice out. I remember doing that as a child. Nothing tastes better than fresh orange juice! I don't know what the thing is called, it's not a manual juicer because those are machines with handles to press the fruit down. This is the kind where you press down with your hands, wiggle it back and forth, and squeeze. Lots of fun. Oh, here it is. They're called a citrus juicer. Then Natalie unloaded the dishwasher while Leah took out the compost. We're hoping to start a worm bin soon (vermicomposting) and I have been looking for resources on this. MS Living March 2007 has a nice article that I think will get me started. Anyway, right after that Becca got sick so all things halted. Hope she feels better soon.

* * * * *

By the way, I'm still debating the color of the schoolroom. Here's a great link:

http://www.openwaldorf.com/roomcolors.jpg

if you want to see room colors for different grade levels in a Waldorf school. Although I'm sure my husband wouldn't be willing to repaint the room every year :-) ... not to mention that we'll have kids of different ages in the room at the same time. I think right now we are leaning towards cream walls with a sage green carpet. I like the idea of floor tiles so that you can pick them up and wash them off. The color and texture I really wanted is on sale now, so I hope I have the chance to buy them before they go out of stock!

March 22 - Today we had a spiffy day. Natalie loved her peacock feather -- yay! I had the kids unload the dishwasher after breakfast, then gave them new books for each of their rooms (not brand new, we just traded out each person's pile for a new pile from the stash in my office). While they read, I loaded the DW and got ready for our recipe. Steve went to work late today so he read one book to all the children before he left; it was Whose Garden Is It? by Mary Ann Hoberman. That was a follow-up to all the planting we've been seeing lately. It seems there are tractors everywhere! The kids love watching them as we go down the road. Lots of fields are already turning green with baby crops.

Then we made a Confetti Beet Salad, which everyone hated. Oh well. Headed out the door to the community center for "Absolutely Incredible Kid Day." That was an interesting experience. Lots of well-meaning people but not that organized. First the kids colored a yellow circle that said Absolutely Incredible Kid on it and took it over to a table to be made into a pin. I think the idea was that they would put their names on them and the coordinators would be able to call the kids by name, but I labelled ours with our Heart, Fish, and Butterfly signs so that was absolutely no help, I'm sure. :-) But it works for our family & that's what matters. The kids, of which there were about 20, all finished coloring at different times and there was no filler activity so everyone ended up running around the room. Then we were handed brown paper lunch bags and a scavenger hunt list and went outside to look for all sorts of natural items which were on the list. We were to get glue and colored paper and make a nature collage. That was fine except that they put "find a piece of colored paper" in the middle of the list of outdoor things and all the parents were hunting for a stash of paper in the grass. Turns out the paper was inside and we were supposed to get it at the end. I probably would have had more fun if I'd only had one child but trying to corral my three as we went from parking lot to meadow to woods was very hectic. I kept being afraid I was going to lose a child. Then we finished our collages and went back outside for a candy toss (Valentine's Day heart candies). Kids had to toss their candies into Mom's cup. They weren't supposed to eat the candies. So a lot of food was dropped on the ground and wasted... I didn't really get that. We could have tossed pebbles instead with less waste; there were tons of small rocks around. I know, because Rebecca filled her bag with them and spent a lot of time gluing rocks to her paper. Then it was inside to choose a star from the wall because "everyone's a winner" and the stars had numbers on them which corresponded to prizes. Well, of course, tons of children were in tears because they didn't draw the prize they really wanted. :-( I had three stars but didn't feel we needed three prizes so I picked my favorite out of the group I was offered and we ended up with a pack of sidewalk chalk. Which was perfect because it is a lovely warm afternoon and the kids can color pictures all over the driveway to surprise their Papa with when he gets home. Then it was time for ice cream sundaes and juice boxes. I brought some Rice Dream ice cream for Leah and Becca because they are lactose intolerant so that worked out OK. BUT they popped in a Dora the Explorer video for the kids to watch while they ate dessert. I was pretty pissed off about that. I feel I wasted my $18 (it was $6 per kid) but what can you do? You can't win them all. And the kids had a good time in the scavenger hunt and nature collage part so that's something we can do again at home. It also goes well with the "painting with things other than paintbrushes" which Tania was trying to get the kids to do at yesterday's nature program (pine cones, gumballs, leaves, etc.) They refused to do it! So I have to work on instilling some flexibility. My kids are super at make-believe play but when it comes to activities they are very follow-the-rules. Probably from me, as I try to coordinate a group project I tend to get very rigid. Not mean, just linear. First you do this, then you do this. So they are picking that up. A Nature walk to find cool things to paint with would be fun!

March 21 - This evening I got a bee in my bonnet to go out and buy Natalie's next Tooth Fairy gift and good thing... when I came home my husband informed me that she pulled out her (loose) remaining bottom tooth after dinner. We've been reading Little Rabbit's Loose Tooth by Lucy Bate, which states that the TF brings a dime, and so I asked my husband if he wanted to do the money thing or continue with gifts. We talked it over and feel that her having money doesn't make sense. She's just too young to have money of her own. (Steiner, of course, says don't give kids money until 3rd grade.) A dime is too little. It's what I got as a kid so you have to count in inflation, not to mention that a dime was hardly the going rate in the 80's. A dollar, which is the minimum amount that would allow her to actually buy something, like a sheet of stickers, seems like too much money for a tooth, plus she doesn't really need a bedroom full of kitschy little things. So gifts it is. When I went out to the store I had a $5 in my pocket so I went to Hallmark. Good thing I did, too, since Magic Cabin is swearing up and down that their paper Easter grass is hard to find but Hallmark sells bags of colored shredded paper in their gift bags and bows section for $1.99. So I saved myself a few bucks there. (MC had me really going for Easter this year and I was all gung-ho to place my order but tallied it up first and was stunned to see that I would have been spending nearly $300! Yikes! So I re-evaluated and picked three beautiful Child's Brushes which I can tie with a pretty ribbon and a gift tag and give to each girl, and a set of Easter Postcards which we can write notes on and send to family and friends. You don't have to spend a fortune, I keep reminding myself! We already have pails, now I have paper grass, I can dye eggs, we have chocolate carrots and Easter stickers left over from Natalie's bunny birthday party, and I have the Hearthsong Handkerchief Bunny pattern so I can make one of those for each girl. That brings my total down to $50 which is much more reasonable.) Anyway, I continued to walk through the store and saw a lovely display with peacock feathers in it so I went up the front and asked the manager if the feathers were for sale or for display purposes only. She said that one of the girls who works there raises peacocks (how cool!!!!) and that there may be an extra feather in the storeroom, which there was, and I got it at no charge. I can't wait to see how Natalie likes it tomorrow morning! I'm pleased as punch and especially thrilled that it didn't cost me a thing.

* * * * *

I'm quite concerned about "The State" breathing down my neck, tracking down the scent of my Age 5 child and showing up on my doorstep. I don't know if they still have truant officers. Does that still happen? Anyway, I've decided that not only do I need an official schoolroom set up, but I should have a binder set up with a weekly page with an overview of what we did in all areas (nature, cooking, etc.); a tab for Finances, with how much I spend on school each week and what for; start a HS scrapbook with plenty of photos and journaling; make a bulletin board with same; and include a tab in the back of the binder for Philosophy and insert The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy (link to printer-friendly pdf version - I buy computer paper which has pre-punched holes in it for 3 ring binders, a real lifesaver!) by Rudolf Steiner. Also, I'd like to buy the Live Ed kindy curric as my official "curriculum" so that I can say this is what I'm doing and here's the company name (this was required in the last county I lived in, I'm not sure about this one) instead of a bookcase with 100 books and say, here, this is what I do. :-) So now I'm saving up for a used Live Ed curric pkg. If you have one for sale, please let me know! If they ask about my two younger ones, I have the Oak Meadow Preschool Package as my Official Curriculum. But I can't do that with OM Kindy since they teach letters and numbers which I am definitely not doing right now. So there's my official curriculum decision and I will keep you all posted as to what happens in my battle with The State. If there is one. Who knows. I kept putting it off because she wasn't five yet and we were below the compulsory age and therefore automatically off the radar, but now I worry...

March 20 - Today was a perfectly lovely day. A day of changes, in fact. Must be that Spring-cleaning mood. Some days I get up and just want to move furniture. Today I decided that the play kitchen would move upstairs into the living room, under the silk canopy (formerly a reading nook and board game playing space) and all the remaining toys in the playroom would be divvied up among the three children's bedrooms. Formerly we had the children in plain bedrooms with nothing but beds in each. Now they have toys in their rooms which is working out well. It means also that they never want to play in the playroom and so it is sitting unused. So the playroom (a large sunny basement room with a sliding glass door to the outside and several windows) will be the schoolroom! That was its original planned purpose so all is well. I can't wait to have a real space set up for school. We've been in this house for almost a year but are just now really getting settled.

So the living room will have the play store, as well as a house set-up with the play kitchen, washing machine, and drying rack. All the dishes, play food, kid sized cleaning stuff, and so on are there.

Leah's room has a dresser, toy chest, closet hideout (we are removing the door and hanging an old double bed sheet on a curtain rod to cover the entrance -- I found an old sheet which already has the large hem) and a bed with a book shelf headboard. She has the workbench, all the stuffed animals, a collection of books, a purse, some felt hearts, the sewing block, and misc. other special things.

Natalie has a bed with two drawers underneath for clothes storage, a closet with a dresser and a laundry basket, a small white desk with one drawer, a stool, and two low bookcases for toy storage. She has a set of wool figures (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves) on one windowsill, the nautilus puzzle, a set of six wooden monkeys, a jewelry box (with her hair bows, a charm bracelet, and a small mirror), a princess crown, a mermaid doll house, some shells, a fairy house with some flower fairies and a small set of furniture, a marble jar, a marble run, the bluebird musical tower from Hearthsong, a small bag of wooden circles with different colored fabrics inset in them, and a collection of books. On top of her desk is her knitted gnome (one of the first things I ever knitted) and our set of cherry tree blocks arranged into a house for him. She also has some special things in her desk drawer, like feathers and so on.

Rebecca has a rocking horse, a dresser, and a bed. She has her stacking stars, a set of nesting bowls, a tower of stacking rings, some small wooden vehicles from A Toy Garden, a large wooden dumptruck filled with Happyville blocks from Hearthsong, several felt balls (from the Feltcraft pattern), and a large tray. She also has a set of coasters which fit into a little coaster holder. My kids have always loved playing with coasters!

Currently the schoolroom has the easel and art supplies, several sets of bean bags, the balance beam, our collection of children's games, musical instruments, puppets, and dress up clothes in it as well as some small rocking chairs and a large braided rug for storytime. But I'm sure it will become more organized as we actually get used to having a schoolroom and I can plan the space. Paint, too... I'm going back and forth between sage green and shell pink.

In the afternoon we planted some flowers outside, filled the bird feeders, and did lots and lots of playing. First we played The Three Little Pigs, then Hide and Seek, then digging holes in the ground with a stick (and N found an acorn cap hat for her stick and named her "Mrs Smith"); then the kids pulled a lot of bark off a fallen tree to see what was living underneath it. Then we headed to the playground and did swings and slides. All in all, a very satisfying day.

Tomorrow is a program at the nature center about burrs, pine cones, and other kinds of seeds. The teacher called to give me a heads-up that a camera crew will be there from a local television station, doing a program on fun things to do in Southern Maryland. So I guess I'm going to have to take a shower tonight and put some thought into what the children wear tomorrow! :-)

March 19 - Well, as you can see I'm doing a better job of spending more time with my kids and less time on the computer! Of course, that means I am not blogging as much. Here are some things I have to share. First, I got up this morning and popped dinner in the slow cooker, thereby freeing up my afternoon tremendously. So I'm looking forward to a relaxing day. I signed Natalie and I up for our next Waldorf conference, and am really excited about that! This morning the kids had free play in the playroom (cold outside today) and then baths, which I also count in my planbook as water play.

The last time I blogged was last Monday. So, to fill in from there...

Tuesday I signed the children up for summer camps. These are the camps at our local nature center/park system which we are quite happy with. Leah's is a one-week, mornings only, Hand in Hand program which means a grandmother or aunt will be going with her. That's in July. Natalie is doing two, one in June and one in August. The June one is three mornings, the August one is five mornings. Those are drop her off programs. She will also probably be doing VBS which is one week in July, evenings (starting at 6 pm). Last year I thought she was too young for VBS, plus it started later, at 7 pm, and she knew no one in the program. Now it's a different story. She LOVES Sunday School and is constantly asking how many days until church. The program doesn't seem to be too academic, I told the teacher in advance that I didn't want her writing or learning to count and it was no problem, it's stories, songs, art projects and snack. Anyway, that's the summer camp plan. There will be nothing else, just playing outside. No summer programs at the nature center, no gym class. So I don't think they'll be "over scheduled." However, between now and summer there is one more series of classes at our parks 'n' rec and I am considering putting Rebecca in Kindermusik with my mom, something they both enjoyed, and Natalie in kids yoga. Still thinking that through. It's balancing what we can afford, what they would enjoy, and making sure nothing ends up being too academic. Anyway, Tuesday was also laundry day so that took most of the day.

Wednesday we did a nature program called I Came From an Egg. A puppet show with a ladybug, frog, and beaver. Then the kids took a nature walk to find places where snakes might lay their eggs (warm places with leaves and brush), birds might lay their eggs (trees) and frogs (ponds or puddles). And we found some frog eggs! So that was cool. In the afternoon we did a Sweet Pea Grow Kit (from the grocery store) for Natalie's bedroom. The seeds take about 10 days to germinate so we are still waiting on that. Helping was unloading the dishwasher and setting the table for dinner. Also some coloring with beeswax crayons. Natalie is very interested in drawing people right now.

Thursday Natalie had her five year check-up with the pediatrician. That went swimmingly well. Her four year check up she came up as 3 years, 8 months on the developmental survey form and the doctor was giving me a hard time. It was strictly because she couldn't draw a cross (two lines crossing at only one point) and she didn't know what her last name was. She didn't understand the question, what is your first and last name? Which I didn't think was a big deal because we had never taught it to her. So of course she didn't know it. And the cross thing was because she didn't know how to hold the pen upright to have it make a mark, having used only crayons and pencils. So, again, not really a developmental delay. But the doctor was concerned. This time she came up at 5 years, 3 months (ahead of herself) because of her assessment. She passed all the large and small motor skills, following directions, analogies and other verbal skills, and so on. She also came up at exactly 50th percentile in height and weight so she's the exact size a 5 year old should be AND a 20/20 eye test, which is better than average. So that made me very happy. I know she's healthy and doing fine, of course, but it's good to not have to argue with the doctor about it. He did tell me she was old enough to learn her letters, though, and I should start doing it and I just flat out told him no and that we were basing our decision on German research that children who delay learning academic content until later, at the age of 6, excel in future years. And he didn't fight me on it. Leah and Rebecca were with Steve over at the lab getting blood drawn for lead tests. So that was a fun morning! After those errands, I took Natalie to the fabric store to pick out fabrics for her new quilt. Yes... after all these years of saying so, I am finally beginning a quilt! So that's very exciting. Thursday was an exceptionally warm day so we played outside in the afternoon, Steve hung the Window Nest Box in Natalie's bedroom window (and hopefully a bird will discover it) and then they made dinner together.

Friday we made a special St. Patrick's Day dinner for Papa (one day early, since he and I were doing a date night Saturday) including a Slow-Cooked Potato Soup which Natalie helped with and a Wearin' o' the Green Cake which N and L both helped with. It was one of those plain white cakes which you jab with a skewer and then pour green jell-o over it which goes down into the holes and makes stripes. The kids thought it was really fun.

Saturday Natalie and Leah started their new 8 week session of gym class, together for the first time. They had fun but were really tired so we didn't do much in the afternoon. Sunday we did Sunday School and church (Natalie only), then a treasure hunt, made bread, and set out peanuts for the squirrels. The treasure hunt was really fun. I set it up and Steve did it with the kids. First they read Treasure Hunt by Lorinda Bryan Cauley, then they followed the clues I had set up on little sticky notes. The first was taped to the back of the book. The final one led the children to the kitchen where the bread recipe was laying out on the counter. Here are the clues I wrote (it only takes a few minutes. HINT: work backwards from the final discovery place) in case they serve to inspire you. :-)

    A new haircut, now do your hair.
    Look in your jewelry box - what's hiding there?

    Mittens and gloves, hats and scarves.
    Find a clue inside an arm.

    Under the table Toby sits.
    Look up high where the note sticks.

    Toss and turn, around and around.
    In the laundry is where it's found.

    Into the kitchen, it's time to cook
    Find a recipe in the book.

    And the final one said "Surprise!"

March 12 - The party went great! It was an amazing experience. My husband and brother in law led the games and they were a real hit. Ditto with the decorate your own bunny cupcakes. The book swap was a huge success and kept the focus of the party on friends and fun and not material things. In the evening we did a small quiet family dinner with the gift-giving.

Today was errands in the morning (grocery shopping, which they always enjoy) and then in the afternoon a Nature walk, Cooking (Fresh Strawberry Pie -- with leftover strawberries from the party), and Helping (Natalie washed the remaining strawberries, cut off the tops, and spread them out on a tray to be frozen). N got a large train set from my mom for her birthday -- this is "Waldorf legit" by the way -- I've seen them in Waldorf kindy classrooms. Steiner was against puzzles for the preschool crowd so it's a bit of a fine line, but the train sets seem to have passed the test. We set up a small bookcase in her hallway, which is the best spot for a large train layout, and carefully put all the pieces on the shelves. Then at nap I read her The Little Engine That Could. This was one she hadn't heard before. It's fun to me that even though we have such a huge library, I still have favorites from my childhood left to share with her. When I was book shopping for the Book Swap, I found several that went into my personal stash... The Three Little Pigs by Paul Galdone was one of them. Natalie absoultely loved it! I can't believe I never thought to tell her that story. So much to share...

My Uncle Wally having passed away a few months ago, there are now some family meetings about furniture. We were lucky enough to get a mattress and yesterday Leah moved from a toddler bed to one without a side rail (and fell out, of course, last night but seemed relatively unflustered by it) and Rebecca got the toddler bed! No cribs left in our house! Amazing how they grow. I always thought scrapbooking was stupid until Rebecca hit her second birthday and I realized how those memories were slowly fading away. Time is so precious.

March 9 - The Birthday Book by Ann Druitt, et al. is turning out to be a lifesaver! I have a great roster of party games lined up. For food, we are having "rabbit food" (fresh veggies), of course, and mini sandwiches. I found four great dip recipes on Family Fun. They are

Each comes with specific serving suggestions. I already checked to make sure none of the guests has food allergies. We'll be heading off to the grocery store after naps. This morning we walked out to the mailbox and found some deer tracks in the mud (the kids were very excited about this) and the children each broke off some dried grass stalks on the way home and swished them about in the air. Very wholesome. :-) I'm a little worried that the kids coming tomorrow aren't going to know how to play with their toys (Kyta wrote about this, kids having no idea how to do imaginative play) but we'll just have to wait and see. Yesterday I took Leah to the dentist and we had to hang out in the waiting room for a long time. We took trips in the "boat" all around town, to the doctor, grocery store, toy store, etc. Then we took our boat to the mountain and climbed up the mountain (giant steps all around the room) where I rested and Leah climbed back down and then brought me some snack. That was fun, she actually climbed over all the chairs and then brought me some tic-tac-toe markers she found. So we had "cookies" and then she went off to a little side table to do some cooking and then we had "pancakes." We had a blast! It made me really happy to see her doing so much spontaneous imaginative play. Remember the golden rule: Anything can be anything.

* * * * *

Poems for the night before a birthday:

    When I have said me evening prayer,
    And my clothes are folded on the chair,
    And mummy [or daddy] switches off the light,
    I'll still be ..... years old tonight.
    But from the very break of day,
    Before the children rise and play,
    Before the darkness turns to gold
    Tomorrow I'll be .... years old.
    ..... kisses when I wake,
    ..... candles on my cake.


    A goodnight kiss for the five-year-old
    To send her to sleep and to dreaming.
    And blessings on the six-year-old
    Who'll climb out of bed in the morning.


Poem for the birthday morning:

    Softly, softly waken
    To your special day.
    Let the bright sun lead you,
    Lead you on your way.

    Softly, softly waken
    To your day of birth.
    Take my hand and come with me
    To greet the shining earth.

    The stones, beasts, birds surround you,
    The fresh grass underfoot
    Your future steps await you:
    The world is sweet and bright.


Poem for lighting birthday candles:

    From the stars
    I did come down
    bearing my light
    to light a crown
    of shimmering stars
    to shine on earth;
    today's the day I came to birth.


Poem for the night following a birthday:

    Soon I will sleep
    and dream towards
    the humming stars;
    and of all nights
    this night is when
    I'll find myself
    deep-rooted where
    the stars grow wings,
    enfold me with
    the life that grows
    in me and sings.


These are from The Winding Road: A Family Treasury of Poems and Verses compiled by Matthew Barton. (All of the above are anonymous).

* * * * *

I also found some party-planning help in an old book called Betty Crocker's Games for Children. Here's the party itinerary:

  • 10 am
    Guests arrive

    "Let's pretend" free play (playroom)

  • 10:20 am
    Inside party games
      Bunny hop (race)
      Bunny in the hole - The Birthday Book, page 72
      Bunny and carrot - Games for Children, page 39
      Hot, warm, cold - Games for Children, page 47
      Hopping relay - Games for Children, page 86
      Jumping, Skipping, Combination, Under the Broom (variations of the above)
      Pat the pan (bunny tail) - The Birthday Book, page 72
      Spin a bottle (book swap) - The Birthday Book, page 72
      Note: children do not open their books from the book swap until they get home
  • 10:50 am - transition
    RNM reads Thunder Bunny by Barbara Helen Berger
  • 11 am
    Lunch - "rabbit food", dips, sandwiches, fruit juice, milk, soymilk
  • 11:20 am
    Outside party games
      Adam he had seven sons - The Birthday Book, page 73
      Ma and Pa's old clothes - The Birthday Book, page 73
      Water carrying relay - Games for Children, page 90
      Sardines - The Birthday Book, page 74
  • 11:50 am - transition
    Gather back inside (coats off, etc.)
  • 12 pm
    Birthday ring, song, blow out candles, cake
  • 12:20 pm
    RNM wash bunny molds from individual cakes
    Children decorate goody bags; stuff bags with bunny molds, candy, stickers

    Guests leave

Obviously, we may not do all games planned but it's better to have extra ideas.

March 8 - Busy, busy, busy. Today we scrubbed the kitchen floor. I've found the best thing to be just baking soda dissolved in warm water. Kid friendly and works great! The only thing is that if you use too much it sometimes leaves a white residue, so you can either damp mop again or just not worry about it if you have a white floor, which we do. The kids also got their own individual ostrich feather dusters today (found these at the grocery store) and we dusted and swept and had a grand old time. Plus, my mom came over to babysit so I could get a haircut and she and the girls did all the dishes that had to be handwashed. A great day of Helping all round!

March 7 - Things have been busy here, painting and getting Natalie into her new room. Yesterday we took down her mattress (she loved helping with that, and watching it slide down the steps bumpety bump) and she played and napped there. Then last night was her first night. I set up a nightlight (she's never had one before, in part because I read that having a nightlight as a child can contribute to nearsightedness later on) because her room was so so dark. It even was too dark to me. She's always been on the front side of the house before with traffic and streetlights and now she is facing the quiet backyard with a tree screen around. So I put the nightlight (the Kinderkram kind, with a beautiful Mother Holle tissue paper transparency) in the playroom so it would shine in the hall and her room a bit but she couldn't get to it to play with it or tear it. We talked about Mother Holle shaking her feather comforter and how all the flakes of snow were falling down. And I made a mental note to do that story today. And then... guess what? We woke up and it was snowing! So we'll definitely do that story today! :-)

We suddenly had luck getting birds to come to our feeders, and now I wonder if it's because they sensed the cold weather was on the way. This morning N and I watched a squirrel feast on some cracked corn (I found this in the grocery store, bird food is in the pet aisle) we had left on top of a tree stump, with the flakes of snow falling all around. So pretty.

March 2 - Welcome Spring!

Time to put away The Snowy Day and get out The Story of the Root-Children. This morning was so warm and rainy and we now know for sure that Mrs. Thaw has swept away all the snow. And here comes Lady Spring flying in in her carriage pulled by butterflies. Today we went to the little cabin and left a basket of daffodils and several birthday cards for my brother (they are coming to stay for the weekend) and gave the cabin a burst of Spring cleaning. The kids Swiffered and had a grand old time. Natalie even chose his birthday card (we stopped by the grocery store first) because it had glitter on it, I'm sure, but it turned out to be a very sweet belated birthday card which was perfect for the kids to give him. His actual birthday was yesterday. I gave him a goofy card which started with: Hi, I'm the Birthday Chicken. We had fun finding the perfect flowers and perfect card. Anyway, on the way down the cabin steps, I saw that the entire flowerbed was filled with snowdrops! (We don't have any here, gotta plant some. I was waiting to see what the previous owners had left. Apparently, nothing.) And it was such good timing because at breakfast I was telling Natalie that I thought today was the beginning of Spring. See, I have a set of wool puppets for a Spring story that stars... ready for this? A Snowdrop! So perfect, I can't believe it. So this afternoon after nap, it will be time for the Little Brown Bulb story and we can add all the figures to the Nature table. If you want notes on the story and how I made the figures, check the Group. Just search through the messages for "little brown bulb."

Yesterday, Natalie and Leah helped me move books into my new office (still cleaning the old one out -- tomorrow is Painting Day), unloaded the dishwasher, etc. In the afternoon, Leah went to gym class and Natalie and I read Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh and then painted with Sparkle Paint. Then we made dinner together. I'll give the recipe for the paint in case you want to try it, but it didn't really work out for us. It's from Kids Create. You combine equal parts flour, water, and salt and then add some powdered tempera paint to each small dish to create your colors. When the paint dries the salt in it is supposed to make it sparkle. Our paint ended up really thick and not sparkly, but that may have been our error in the mixing. Maybe we didn't mix it long enough to get the lumps out.

I planned this painting day to follow up our GREAT nature program from Tuesday! This was called "Colors in Nature" and, unlike a lot of the programs which we go to that I don't enjoy, this teacher does stations and doesn't force the kids to do something that doesn't click for them. So I can take all three of mine and they can each have a ball! First, all three girls painted. Natalie used a small brush (like a cheap watercolor brush that comes with Crayola paints -- she's never had such a small brush, we always use 1/2 inch) and was fascinated by it. She made lots of tiny dots and squished the brush flat to make "footprints." Leah and Becca both got foam brushes. Leah mixed her paints vigorously and ended up with a huge blob. Rebecca only got one color paint and spent most of her time doing long lines. Then Becca headed off to the blocks with some other kids and N and L made Squish Bags. These are ziploc bags halfway filled with shaving cream to which you add a few drops of food coloring, securely zip shut and fasten with duct tape (just to be sure) and then squish around until the colors get all mixed up. Leah did green and yellow. Natalie did green, yellow, and blue. They spent a lot of time comparing how their colors were both green but looked different. It was fun to watch them discuss it. Then we did books for a while and then all three headed over to the dirt box (a sensory box filled with dirt, just what it sounds like!). Then we had Circle and the teacher "read" Sky Tree by Thomas Locker, by looking at the illustrations of how the tree's colors change over each season. She passed out paint chips (the regular kind, from the hardware store), giving several to each child, and we put on hats and coats and headed out to find things from Nature that matched the colors on our chip. Rebecca had fun just walking around, ditto Leah. But Natalie (almost five) got really into it and kept finding things and then swapping paint chips with the teacher to try and find some new ones. She had a blast. Then it was snack (juice and popcorn) and home. Fun fun fun.


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