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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January 2007

  • Natalie is 4 years, 10 months
  • Leah is 3 years, 2 months
  • Rebecca is turning 2 years old

January 31 - I just placed an order for a dyed wool roving assortment from Weir Dolls. I am almost completely out of colors from all these crafts lately -- the Nativity scene took a lot! Now I have done seven little dwarves and tonight Snow White. A Child's Dream Come True sells roving also but if you want a little bit of a lot of colors, Weir Dolls is the way to go. A complete roving assortment (34 colors) is just $36.95. And comes in a storage box. A good investment if you plan to make a lot of figures. I think batting is easier than plain white roving for forming the bodies, and I got my batting from A Child's Dream and have been very happy with it.

The Southern Corn Bread is out of the oven and the kids are downstairs play happily waiting for snack time. The bread is cooling. It looks yummy but very crumbly. It fell apart when I took it out of the pan. Didn't stick, though, which is a good thing. N loved the dwarf story earlier and insisted that I tell it again. I had set up the scene secretly with the dwarves and covered it all with a silver silk (from Natural Earth Family Farm). When it came time to reveal the dwarves, I lifted the silk and there they were! I'll try to take a picture; they came out so cute. You can make them out of felt, too, of course but I happen to be a big fan of needle felting right now and it is so quick and easy.

Tomorrow morning all three children are going to the dentist -- whee! -- and then in the afternoon I'll do the story of Little Snow White (from Favourite Grimm's Tales) for Natalie. Tonight I have to make little Snow White! Which is what got me thinking I needed to buy some more colored roving which took me to the computer and here we are, full circle.

P.S. My little nephew Sammy was born yesterday morning by C-section. Mom and baby are both doing fine.

January 30 - Craft time this morning at the church went well and we were invited back. Natalie wasn't interested at all in finger knitting -- maybe because she thought it was pointless (that's a melancholic for you) -- so I'm going to try to think of a project that will use cords and then she can help me make them. The afternoon project went well. The hardest thing is getting the hole in the bottom of your can small enough so that you get only a few drops at a time and not a stream. Figuring out how to hang the can from the tree branch was tricky too. We tied yarn around it but I'm sure there's a better way. I was searching and searching for something to use as a bird bath but then I realized that we had a lovely stump with an indentation in the middle several inches deep. It makes a nice place for birds to come and wash themselves. So we hung up the water can and we'll see if it attracts any birds. Natalie loved her painting session, too. I have some photos of all blue watercolor paintings from the workshop with Barbara Dewey and I will try to add them here, as well as write up what I learned. Maybe tonight while the kids are sleeping.

Tomorrow's plan:

    AM - hang suet and suet feeder at bird feeding station
    hang a bell around the neck of the cat; read "Belling the Cat" from The Fables of Aesop

    PM - make Southern Corn Bread from The Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book

    while it's baking do the Dwarf Circle Play from Let Us Form a Ring by Nancy Foster. For this I will need a group of dwarves to hide under a silk "mountain". I'll make them tonight using the directions in Making Magical Fairy-Tale Puppets by Christel Dhom. also, I've packed the xylophone so I'll have to use some other kind of musical instrument - maybe the drum

* * * * *

Barbara Dewey just wrote to me to say she was reading my blog! So I hope I write down the notes from our workshop correctly. :-) I promise promise to get to that tonight. Have to go make dinner now.

* * * * *

And here I am with all kids in bed and my plate of dinner. Opening my journal...

    Family Arts Weekend
    with Barbara Dewey

    Friday night was our first gathering time. We began by singing songs together and then introduced ourselves. Misty (the drama leader for the workshop -- the weekend focused on improvisational theater) had us state our name in a unique way pair it with a unique gesture or motion. Then after you introduced yourself, everyone else in the circle had to say "Hi..." and repeat your name and do your gesture/motion. This imitation forced us to listen more carefully to the names of the other people and the gesture and tone of voice that people picked was a sneak peek into their personalities. Everyone there attended as a family so there were adults of various ages and children ranging from a 4 month old babe in arms to a cluster of thirteen kids aged 4 (Natalie) to 11. It was a total of about 25 people plus the workshop leaders.

    After another getting-to-know-you activity we watched a shadow puppet play of Saint George and the Dragon. The set was beautiful -- it was a carved wooden three-piece backdrop (like a science fair backboard) with a cut out in the center large piece that was covered with sheer fabric or tissue paper, I couldn't tell which. When the light came on we could see the silhouettes through this cut out. Then we talked about the elements of a play -- who, what, where/when. ie. character, plot and setting. Misty led us in a discussion of "What makes a Who?" where we talked about all the things that make a good multi-faceted character. Then we were told to pick who we wanted to be in our play, to be held Sunday afternoon. Misty is a GREAT leader and the perfect person to teach this workshop. She knew how to talk to the kids in a way they could relate to. She told them, now, between tonight and tomorrow morning during breakfast, you can change your mind about what you want to be as many times as you want... but after breakfast, you can't change your mind any more. So think about all the wonderful amazing fantastic things you want to be and then pick one. And we were told to "meet" our characters and carefully notice everything about them that we could, what they look like, what their story is.

    After gathering we headed off to bed. Natalie and I slept together on a futon mattress on the floor of the farmhouse on the property. We had the Rumplestiltskin room and got a copy of the story in our bedroom with us, as well as a castle setup with characters so we could act it out!

    In the morning, Natalie decided she wanted to be a baby elephant (having changed her mind from the original idea of lion) and I planned to be a tree fairy. A dryad, really. I didn't want a lot of lines. Normally I am the one who leaps in front of the camera every chance I get, and you can't shut me up :-) but I thought it would be better if Natalie had a steady place to go to if she got freaked out on stage. Instead of having me exiting or something. I had packed my copy of The Breathing Circle by Nell Smyth, my new favorite favorite book for preschool, and N and I did a nice morning stretch, then headed out on a walk around the property of Barbara's farm. N pooped out before we got to the top of the big hill but we still got a good walk and there was a nice view. Later that day it started to snow which was even better! We'd only gotten a few flakes before in MD and no accumulation, so the Ohio snow made her very happy.

    After breakfast we headed to the barn for our morning gathering. Misty led us in morning warm-ups. Every time before starting our drama work we warmed up four things: body, face, voice, and imagination. The body warm up went in this order: L hand, R hand, L foot, R foot. We would shake each 4 times, then 3 times, then 2 times, then once. Sounds simple but try it. It's very invigorating. For face stretches, we pretended our face was melting and falling right off our face, then lifted all of it up high. Then pretended the wind was blowing our face to the left, then the right. For voice warmups, she would hold her hand in the air in front of her and we'd move our voices up when she lifted in higher and down when she lowered it. We also practiced stopping all at the same time when she made her hand into a fist.

    The imagination warmups were my favorite. This was to drop down our barriers and get us into the spirit of improv. Again, Misty did a fantastic job of getting us to relax. First, we had to go all around the room calling things by any name except what they really were called. And you can't spend a lot of time as you're walking up to something thinking about and planning something clever to say, you just do it and move on to the next thing. Spontaneous. Next, we had to continue calling things by the wrong name but pretending it's something incredibly valuable and precious. That was a lot of fun and that was when the first snowflakes began to fall. I could see them out the huge glass windows of the barn (converted into living quarters). The glass windows ran the length of the building and overlooked a lake. So magical. I knew then at that moment that this weekend was going to be amazing. After I dragged my eyes away from the fluttering snowflakes, we were told to get in pairs. This was the exercise: first person mimes an activity. Second person says, "What are you doing?" First person says anything except what they are really doing. Then the second person begins to mime that new thing... the thing person A said they were doing. Then person A watches them for a minute and asks, "What are you doing?" Person B responds with something different then what they are doing and person A begins to act it out. And so on.

    Finally, we created a story with our partner by taking turns saying a word. I say the first word, you say the next word, and I have to keep going even though I had no idea what you were going to say and may have been thrown off by it... but the story goes on. By only giving input of one word at a time you are able to lend to the creation of the story but you cannot control its direction. So she was teaching us how to first create and then give up creation and share it with the other person, an important skill in improv. I found the skill building exercises very interesting. Natalie didn't understand the concept of the one word at a time storybuilding so we paired up with another mom and her daughter. One thing Misty spoke to the group about after this activity is learning when your story is done. It doesn't just keep going and going, it has a natural end and feeling this end and respecting it is an important part of story creation. She says when it comes to ending your story, usually sooner is better than later. Someone should tell this to Stephen King.

    After morning warm ups we headed off to our wet on wet watercolor painting session with Barbara Dewey. I took some pictures of this. She called it "Experience with Blue." Blue is the most calming of the primary colors (it is the color associated with the phlegmatic child) and children who paint with blue will work longer on their paintings than either all red or all yellow work. This is even true of adults. All of us wanted to keep on painting forever. Red is the absolute fastest. So, these were the directions Barbara gave us. First, you soak your watercolor paper in some water. She used a plastic bin, large enough to hold the paper with a several inch margin around the edges.

    The heavier the paper is, the longer you soak it. When getting a whole pile of paper wet, add them to the bin one sheet at a time and take them out starting with the bottommost one first. We used Strathmore watercolor paper, cut off the spiral bound pad. Now, I never realized this before but you don't tape your paper to your board. I always skipped the paper soaking and just brushed my watercolor paper with a wet sponge before painting on it because I thought that counted. When you soak your paper for a few minutes and then lay in on a piece of plexiglass as your painting board, it sticks to the plexiglass so no need for tape. Then the sponge is for drawing across your paper to remove visible standing water and to ensure your paper is pressed smoothly against the board with no bubbles underneath. So there you go. Then Barbara painted a dark blue strip at the top and bottom of her paper with a lighter blue (simply dip your brush in water before you put it in the paint to thin the color) in the middle. The entire page was blue. Then she made mountains, rising up from the bottom strip through the center strip and touching the top strip. Two mountains. Then you dry your brush by rinsing it in the water and then dragging it on the sponge, then pulling the bristles between two fingers to get as much water out of it as possible. With the dry brush, she removed paint from the tops of the mountains to create white snowy peaks. Where one drop of water fell on her painting and created a small blur, she used the dry brush technique again to pick up paint and made the shape of a crescent moon.

    You can see this painting more up close on the Group page under Photos. Then she left us with this example to create our own paintings from. For people who have done a lot of wet on wet watercolor painting, she showed us the Bunnies in Winter picture from the back of Waldorf-Inspired Watercolor Painting with Children. It uses only blue but starts with a pure white background and only the bunnies and shadows are added to create hills of snow. Barbara's final tip was to use a grease pencil, which will write on wet paper, to write our names on our work. Here is Natalie's painting, which I had her "sign" and then marked with a heart which is her symbol in our family.

    Following the painting session, we headed back to the barn for our play group meeting (the families were divided up into two equal-sized groups and the plan was for each group to put on a play Sunday while the other group acted as their audience). In this meeting, which was like nothing I had ever experienced before, we went around the circle and every person described the character they had in mind. Some even had chosen a name for their character. Karen, Barbara's daughter and one of the workshop leaders, was our scribe and faithfully recorded what everyone said in the computer. I was the last to speak. I was Twyla, the tree fairy. I didn't move. I spoke very gently and loved flowing water and animals. It was interesting because I listened to everyone else and I thought, should I really say who I want to be? I mean, doesn't it make more sense for me to try to change into something that would work better with one of the other characters? But Misty didn't have us do that, she didn't have us change in any way. We all got to be who we wanted to be. In some cases we changed where we had planned to live, simply so the play flowed better and had fewer location changes, but we all got to keep the essence of our characters. So after the introduction of all the folks in our play, we did some brainstorming about how the people might fit together, suggested some possible scenes or, at least, some interactions between people, and then took a break for lunch.

    For the remainder of the time, we alternated with the other group, except the evening timeslot. While they worked on their script with Misty, we worked on creating our costumes. While we worked on script, they worked on costumes. It was nice because after lunch we had some break time and Natalie got a (small) nap and the other kids got out sketchpads and started drawing and the adults sat around and chatted. Lots of the women brought their knitting. Anyway, I missed part of the second barn meeting because I wanted to let N sleep a bit but then I got there for the last warm up. It was the imagination one. For this, we had a large group audience and a part of the room set aside as the stage. The person on "stage" was acting out an action continuously while the group watched. When you thought you knew their location (not just what they were doing, but where they were) you raised your hand and Misty ran over and you whispered it in her ear. If you were right, you got to join the scene on stage. If not, she'd announce, no, they're not in a candy store, or whatever it was not. After several people have joined the scene and another person gets it right, Misty would annouce their location and then the last correct guesser begins the next round.

    So after that whole group session we hashed out our plot, which took quite a lot of time (Karen was the scribe again for this, our dialogue), and then did some more costume design. I couldn't believe how quickly it was all coming together! Dinner, then the second evening. For this one, Barbara did the puppet show The Frog Prince. Sunday we had dress rehearsal, practiced our scripts (we had improv'd the scene the day before so it wasn't a script set in stone or anything. But there were key things that had to be gotten across). After lunch it was Show Time! The workshop leaders got the whole thing down on DVD and the movie will be sent to our house in a week or so. I can't wait for everyone in my family to see Natalie's on-screen debut as Girlie, the baby elephant.

    During the final lunch, Misty came by to share ideas for integrating theater throughout the curriculum. One of the things she talked about first was walking the number line. She says, for everything you are teaching, see if it can be a character or a place. Anyway, they did a gigantic number line, with the space between each number equal to her daughter's stride. From 0 to 100. On zero the child is empty handed. When she steps to one, she stops and picks up a bean. She says out loud, "I am 1". Next, step, I am 2. When she steps to ten, another child is there. She stops and picks up a bean and a baggie and says I am 10, transferring all the beans to a bag because her hands are getting full. The second child is empty handed. At 11, child B picks up the bean and they say, I am 10. I am 1. 10 and 1 is 11. And this continues until you get to 100, at which point, all the baggies of 10 go into a basket which holds 100.

    Misty also gave suggestions for geometry. She made a map of their house on graph paper and began to hand her daughter pairs of numbers when she stood in certain places. After about two weeks, said daughter realized that they were the coordinates on the map! And when Misty gave her daughter three numbers, she said that after about a week her daughter realized that she had to go upstairs to find the point being referenced. For this, of course, you'd have to add an upstairs to your graph paper house as well.

    Fractions was the best. The Land of Fractions. She told her daughter a story about the princess one half and one third wanted to marry her but the King and Queen said NO because he was a pauper. So he went off and put on a disguise and came back as two-sixths. See, he's still 1/3 but he just looks different on the outside. Misty and her daughter actually made costumes and dressed up as the characters! She also talked about multiplying by one, where the other characters change costumes (1/3 multiplied by 2/2) to look the same but are really the same number. It was funny, she actually said they run into each other. You put on the costume and run into each other, bam! you are multiplied. :-)

    Anyway, I had a great time and I hope some of my notes from this conference are helpful to people. You can find Barbara's list of upcoming conferences and speaking engagements here and also buy her books on her website. She also sends out a quarterly newsletter which you can sign up for on the site.

January 29 - The Kids in Motion teacher turned out to be Natalie's previous Kids in the Kitchen teacher so that was nice. She remembered the children. We had a busy morning! Steve's giving the kids lunch now and then they will take their naps. I'm down in my office getting organized for our afternoon activities. This morning I scrubbed out the oven with Arm & Hammer baking soda since that's what the polymer clay woman told me to do. We baked the knitting needles yesterday afternoon. I had the kitchen window open, the door to the deck open, and two fans on but I still think we got fumed a bit. I had a terrific headache but it might have been psychological, you never know. Anyway, I don't think I'll be using polymer clay again. It just made me uncomfortable. We'll do acorn caps with my remaining students and maybe when Natalie and I make knitting needles again in first grade we'll try painting some wooden balls or something. The needles I got from Peace Fleece have hand-painted wooden balls on the ends.

So today we're doing pinch pots. I have some ideas for the rest of the week... we haven't done most of our bird feeding activities. I also want to paint some dried gourds to make maracas. They already have seeds inside so they make noise when you shake them. But I'd like us to decorate them in some way. My skin crawls at the idea of a set of poster paints -- I'd rather do walnut dye or something -- but I'm not sure what we'll do to decorate them. Hubby is finishing up my new office so N can take this room to be her bedrooom. So maybe I'll get some packing done this week as well! I'm toying with the idea of two offices. Actually, an upstairs desk and a supply room basically. I always have my piles of teaching books upstairs and they are usually on the floor somewhere. I need two designated spaces. One for long-term lesson planning, books & materials storage for past and future units, and my custom unit design work, etc. The other can be smaller and just hold what I'm using right now, what I need to have at my fingertips for the week. So maybe a flat surface and a bookcase. Then the larger office is a big desk and rows and rows of shelving. We'll see. I can't stand being so unorganized. I thought moving into a bigger house would automatically give me more room but now I'm seeing that it's very easy to make many rooms of the house into unorganized piles of garbage and just live primarily in two or three. In other words, having more space means that you can just shove your piles of unorganized stuff farther away from you and pretend they don't exist. I'm down here looking and I can't find any of my clay books or my clay... so we may do some last minute activity changes this afternoon.

* * * * *

What did it end up being? Pine cones covered with peanut butter and thistle seed. All three children participated. We went outside to hang them and I thought we'd follow with some outside play time but no dice. Too cold. It's about 34 degrees today. Right now Steve took them off my hands so I could make dinner and they are cleaning and vacuuming the playroom. I am briefly journaling about what we did today. The goal is less time complaining and more time documenting. Steve moved a huge bookcase into our bedroom so I could transfer my preschool teaching book collection and art and craft supplies for the week's activities to it. When I have time I'll write down the list of books. I like having every Waldorf book known to man (or, almost every) but sometimes it just gets to be so much and you wonder if you are really using them to their full potential. I myself am working hard to get more Waldorf-y. I hope to write a set of Kindergarten lesson plans that is really like a real classroom, whereas my preschool units were my fumblings to learn how to apply Waldorf but I was really still thinking more like a traditional preschool teacher. I don't know if I'll really completely lose that, especially in the absence of some honest-to-goodness Waldorf training, but I hope to get as Waldorf as I can before my kids get too much older. Oh, I'm back into complaining again. Whoops!

Plan for tomorrow:

    AM - craft time at the church - 9:30 am
    teach Natalie finger knitting
    (see "What Is Finger Knitting and How Do I Do It?" article from Waldorf Homeschoolers website)

    PM - continue Caring for the Birds and Squirrels (from Earthways, pp.72-73)
    they suggest punching a small hole in a large juice can and hanging it above a bird bath so the sound of running water will attract the birds

    &

    Painting wet on wet with blue
    Natalie and I did this last weekend with Barbara Dewey and I know she'd like to do it more. Blue is very calming, also the perfect color for wintery weather

January 28 - Okay, here is how my Sunday School lesson went for today. This was the first time I told the children directly that I would be teaching them to knit (I beat around the bush for a while because I was afraid I'd be faced with objections from the boys). Red Berry Wool was the perfect way to introduce it! and the kids are totally excited about this project. Here is what we did:

    welcome students as they enter, take attendance
    light candle, say prayer

    Service project:

  • what is our service project? review
  • read Red Berry Wool by Robyn Eversole
  • show knitting needles - able to hold many loops of yarn at the same time
    (as opposed to finger knitting, which we did in last week's class)
  • show sweater - ribbing, cables are formed by different types of stitches, etc.
  • look for other examples of knitted clothes children are wearing
  • pass out dowels, parchment paper, polymer clay, hand wipes
  • 2 colors per child - no duplicate color combination
  • show sample knitting needles in Kids Knitting by Melanie Falick
  • write down color choices of each child
  • when finished set aside, CLEAN HANDS
  • show raw wool, demonstrate carding
  • show plain roving and colored roving (from Weir Dolls)
  • show drop spindle, demonstrate spinning
  • tell children about spinning wheel demonstrations at farmer's market
  • I have instructions on making a drop spindle using old CD's in Spin It: Making Yarn from Scratch by Lee Raven - children who want to look through the book can stay after class
  • Bible lesson:
    storytelling (pp.79-82 of Old Testament Stories by Roy Wilkinson)
    Saul and David
    David Challenges Goliath

    HW:
    word search #37 from Bible Memory Word Searches for Kids by Richard & Ruth Spiering
    (I was having a hard time getting kids to memorize their Bible passages so this is my new approach. This Bible verse is Psalm 118:24.)

    blow out candle, say blessing
    dismiss students

So now I am sitting in my kitchen baking our polymer clay balls for the ends of the knitting needles. For children who are not here today, and will need needles made quickly at the beginning of next week's class, I will gather a collection of acorn caps which they can glue on the end of their dowel rods (the other suggestion given in Kids Knitting).

* * * * *

Tomorrow's plan:

    AM - Kids in Motion 10:30 am @ NECC
    $5 per child
    Music & Movement class

    PM - working with clay, pinch pots
    building with blocks
    check on ice cubes from Saturday, outside play time
    RNM gather acorn caps for S.S. lesson

January 27 - Just recovering from the stomach flu. Leah got me sick, I guess. All is well now however. Today I went to the farmer's market to meet up with some craft people and learn more about my Sunday School lesson for tomorrow. We're making our own knitting needles using polymer clay for the balls at the ends and I'm going to demonstrate hand carding and using a drop spindle. I got business cards from the ladies and hope to encourage my students to shop at the market for their yarn, if they get into knitting and want to do more projects, and thereby support local businesses. The fiber guild does spinning wheel demonstrations every Wednesday at the farmer's market. I hope some of the children really get into the fiber arts (I'm a big fiber arts nut) and start to experience the joy of making something with their hands. I know you get the same thing from woodworking and various other activities but I'm not as close to those. Maybe in a few years the students and I can do a large woodworking project. I'm going to have them do a "class play" at the end of the year, in May. I found a play written by Michael Hedley-Burton called Saul and David which will be perfect. We are beginning the story of Saul and David tomorrow in class. So we can learn the story and then I'll introduce the play, assign parts, make costumes, etc. etc. I think the best thing is for us to put on the play in the Fellowship Hall. It is the big room people exit into after the service. If we can coordinate the schedule so that the play does not happen on a day there's a fellowship meal, people can listen to the sermon (which I'll see if the pastor can do on something relevant to our story, so that it works well together) and then come through the double doors and sit down in the chairs and watch our show. There are several exterior doors into the Hall so it works well for entrances and exits. Michael Hedley-Burton even wrote two pieces of music to go with this play! David sings a song in it. I'm not sure if we'd be able to do that or not. Anyway, something to work towards. There are ten parts plus Chorus which uses everyone else who shows up that day. I definitely have enough students to do it. And it works well as an end-of-the-year project, to highlight the students and how well they have learned to work together.

Today is a nice day so the children are going to play outside with their Papa. I just did a bunch of grocery shopping so the freezer is packed full and I had to take out the bin of ice cubes from the ice cube maker in the freezer to make room. So I dumped the cubes into a large bin and the kids can play with them while they are outside and watch them melt. I had a large bin of flour when Natalie and I first started preschool and she loved it. I meant to change it every month to a new substance but we only did two or three before the bin got called into service for something else. I don't know if it's the New Year, or the Waldorf conference, or what but I feel very motivated to do more with school and get back into scheduling fun projects for every day. I hope this motivation lasts!

I feel really badly that I've been away from the computer for so long. I always try to faithfully journal what we are doing (or what we're not doing, for people who feel guilty that they're not homeschooling "properly") and I have definitely lapsed in that. I always think when we do something fun, I should put that in my blog, and then sometimes (especially if it's a really fun productive day) I just don't get to the computer and I forget. When I'm feeling way behind and frantically trying to get organized, spending a day or so making lists and charts and notes and plans... that's when I tend to be on the computer and so my blog entries lately have been more complaining about getting nothing done. That's not really the point of the blog so I need to get more on track. If we have a great day and I'm doing stories with my kids and nature walks and cooking then I am -- by definition -- not on the computer. So what to do? I guess the solution is to have the laptop in the kitchen or living room instead of downstairs in a dark office so that I am more able to blog when I'm feeling light and lively.

Making THE LIST has been part of that, since recording all the great preschool books that I own has reminded me that I have tons of ideas just sitting on the shelf. Again, if I can find the books and set aside some time each evening to plan for the next day, I'd be 90% of the way to homeschool perfection. I really really really want to do a better job with my kids. I'd like an easier planning and documentation strategy, something live on the website where I post plans for tomorrow and then notes about how it went, so that I don't spend hours typing and creating pdf files. Candlemas is coming up (Feb 2) and Valentines Day (Feb 14)... Gotta gotta gotta get on the ball.

Anyway, right now it's ice cube play time!

January 23 - I got as far yesterday as writing "How exhausted am I!" and then had to turn off the computer... so now I'm finally back. Exhausted, yes. But I had a great time. I have a lot to share from my workshop with Barbara Dewey. I'm not sure how long it will take to get it all written down. Right now Leah is at the doctor (Steve took her) because she's been throwing up since Thursday and we're worried about dehydration. Everytime I give her Gatorade it just makes her throw up again. The cat also went in to the vet for $2000 worth of emergency surgery. Poor cat. That happened while I was in Ohio, so it was a shock to me when I got back. I'm not sure if I would have paid for it, but what can you do. My husband already made the decision. I've never put an animal down, so I don't know how gut-wrenching of a decision it is, but $2000 is a lot of money. Anyway, what's done is done. Our dryer is broken and the repair guy won't come until Thursday so I have no way to get through the pile of throw-uppy clothes and things quickly. I guess we'll be using a clothesline.

So I'll get back online when things are quieter and write down my notes and share my pictures from the Family Arts Workshop. Thanks, Barbara, for organizing it!

January 16 - This morning we are going to the nature center for a program called "Tree Bark Posters" from 10 to 11:30 am.

    "Winter is the best time of year to make tree bark posters. We'll search for various trees and make rubbings of their beautiful bark. Bring mom or dad, come dressed for the weather. Warm drinks and cookies for all!"

After naps today I'd like to take the children to get haircuts.

Tomorrow another nature program, this one called "Animals Asleep".

    Some animals sleep through the winter and some do not. Find out from the puppets who sleeps all winter long and sho you might find outside on a winter day. Wear your pajamas and take a "nap." Then put on your coat and take a quick walk outside to find animals awake."
So that will be fun! Thursday is dance class for Natalie and gym class for Leah in the evening -- shopping for supplies for our trip in the AM -- and then Friday Natalie and I pack and leave for sunny Ohio.

* * * * *

This morning's program at the nature center went well. We took a long hike through the woods to choose our trees so the kids came home really tired out. Right now they are having a big snack... bread and meat and cheese. I set out cookie cutters for the cheese since making cheese stars was such a big hit at the party. Since the program finished a bit early, Ranger Jackie decided to read the children a story. She picked The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt since it takes place in the winter in the middle of the woods. There's another version of this story, by Jan Brett, but it is not as good. Try to find the Tresselt version if you can.

The kids loved it and luckily we have that book at home, so I went downstairs to pull our copy and set it out for naps and bedtime. It was a good incentive for me to change out the Christmas present books for a new batch. And here are the 12 new picks:

January 15 - Sorry to be AWOL for so long. It's been rough, trying to get this party going and then now I'm rushing around to get ready for the conference on Friday. Today I did take the kids to the playground for a picnic snack though. We packed bananas, crackers, roasted pistachio nuts, and the leftover chocolate cake. Yummy! Yesterday I had a GREAT Sunday School lesson which I'll write about some other time. The kids were so enthused about finger knitting, it got me really excited. It was completely contagious! I heard one of the teachers from across the hall say, yes, you did finger knitting, I know, I know, about 30 seconds after I dismissed. So news travels fast. She'd actually heard it enough times to get bored with it. :-) I left sub plans for next Sunday, which I hope goes well, and then on Feb. 4th we're doing David and Goliath, making the polymer clay balls for the heads of our knitting needles, and I'm demonstrating carding and spinning. Yesterday we had a babysitter come over for a big three hour block so my husband and I could go out to a nice dinner. We walked along the boardwalk and watched the sun set, then had a wonderful meal. It was terrific. Other than that, only gloomy things have happened. Which I won't get into because who wants to listen to someone else complain? :-) Hopefully tomorrow will be a great day and I'll have lots of really positive inspirational things to write about what my children and I did together.

January 10 - What have I gotten done today? Not much. I had to finish up some custom design work. I've already declared next year I will not do as much custom unit design. I want to spend more time with my kids! Steve did some Helping with them this morning. They sorted and put away the clean laundry while I was at the physical therapist. Today was my last day of therapy. I've been directed to go join a yoga class. My mom will do some Nature with Natalie tomorrow morning. They are going to a program at the nature center tomorrow while I take the other two to the pediatrician. L is getting her three year check-up and B is getting her two year check-up. Rebecca's also getting her two year portrait done. I got a free coupon for the Picture People when I was shopping at Gymboree. We'll also hit Gymboree since I have $150 worth of Gymbucks and redemption starts tomorrow. Time to get all three girls some raincoats and rainboots! They are only available in January, go figure. So mom with have N all to herself for the morning and I'm glad they are going to have some special time. Today I started a new knitting project -- a scarf -- so check out my knitting blog for the pattern. It's a free online one. Quite pretty. I also just popped dinner in the oven (Soy-Glazed Tofu and Carrots - yum!).

Yesterday I successfully finished the hot water bottle cover for my husband, so that's done. I also dyed my remaining white wool yarn. I had Steve stop and get some grape Kool-Aid on the way home from work (he was stopping at the grocery store anyway and called to see if I needed anything) since I'm not ready to try other dye ideas. I toyed with trying McCormick food dyes and/or turmeric or something else from the pantry. But I'm still exploring the Kool-Aid thing and having a great time! I did this yarn for 1 1/2 hours on Low with one packet of Grape and it is the prettiest lilac color. I love it.

I have a lot of books to read and post reviews. My husband got a book on dog training for me for Christmas. Think he's trying to tell me something??? :-) So that's on my list. Also some bird activities, if we can ever get around to it. Becca's party is Saturday. Her gifts arrived today from Nova Natural. I am not going to do a whole lot on her actual birthday since she's too little to understand. The other children got special books and stories and verses. I think for her we'll just save it for Saturday and focus on the party. She can blow out her candles, open gifts, and eat cake and that will be fine. Then the pennies in the jar at Sunday School. I can't believe she's two!

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Menu for Rebecca's Party
Moon Scones
Apple Crescents
Star Sandwiches
Spinach Salad with Dried Cherries
Double-Chocolate Cake with Kahlua Glaze

I am using some of the suggestions from "A Full-Moon Tea Party" from The Tea Party Book.

They recommend the Moon Scones and Apple Crescents. I'd like to buy some star-shaped ice cube trays and serve fruit juice with frozen juice cubes (so they do not dilute the juice as they melt). The tea party book suggests making placemats of black construction paper -- although we'll use dark blue -- decorated with gold stars, so I'll look for some of those. I'll set out sandwich fixings and large star shaped cookie cutters. Guests can cut their bread, meat, and cheese pieces to make Star Sandwiches. The Spinach Salad recipe rounds out the menu and the cake is actually a Bundt cake mix which was a gift from my sister-in-law who will be attending, so I hope she sees that as a nice gesture. I'll leave it unfrosted (less messy for the kids) with a Kahlua Glaze on the side for the grown-ups. The party is from 4:30 to 7 pm, so after dinner and gifts we can go outside to stargaze. It should be really low-key and I'm looking forward to it!

January 9 - Well, this day isn't going as I planned! I had wanted this to be a project day. My projects were to pack some more book boxes, to make the felted cover for my husband's hot water bottle which finally arrived, to pack up Christmas decorations (I just took down the nativity scene from the Sunday School classroom and want to box it up carefully. If I get really ambitious, I'll photograph each figure and put them on a page on the website. I'd like to create a dry felting page with directions on making these figures -- it's incredibly easy -- and links to the best books) and to dye some white wool yarn for our finger knitting next week. The children all chose the colored balls of yearn they wanted to work with and I demonstrated Kool-Aid dyeing with the white yarn. I tweaked some directions and came up with a method using my crock pot. They were really into it! I gave away all my Kool-Aid at the end to children who wanted to try it at home so I have to look around for a bit to see what I should use to dye this final batch. We can't use any white yarn in our knitted blankets because we are sending them to Africa and white there is the color of sadness and mourning, like black is here. I also wanted to research myrrh since it was one of the gifts of the wise men and I noticed last night that it is one of the ingredients in my toothpaste. I'd like to show it to the children and I know they will ask what the purpose is of the myrrh. In our book of legends that I used to tell them the stories of the three wise men (Stories for the Festivals of the Year by Irene Johanson), myrrh is described as a short bushy plant which has sap with healing powers. I wonder if this is true?

For activities for the children, I wanted to bell the cat and hang pinecones rolled in peanut butter and birdseed for our feathered friends. But it looks like this afternoon will be devoted to the water testing kit our dentist gave us! For this morning, as I was about to get dressed, Rebecca fell flat on her face and when I picked her up and cuddled her I found her mouth was bleeding. Most kids when they fall bite their lower lip with their teeth and that's the reason for the blood. But as I cleaned her off I discovered that the blood was welling up from the gums around the edges of her front two top teeth. So I called the dentist and they told us to come in. It's an hour away, our pediatric dentist, so we all hopped in the car and spent the greater part of the morning going to the dentist. Lunch has ended and the kids are down for naps now. I'm trying to figure out what to plan for the afternoon. After he examined her, the dentist told me that at their next checkup (which is scheduled for February 1st) they were going to talk to me about fluroide. So he gave me a kit to test our well water and see what minerals it contains. Maybe we could do that this afternoon. Maybe I could let the children sharpen their new pencils and we could have a drawing day. Maybe I can find a book about teeth to read. I don't know...

Off now to have lunch and work on my hot water bottle cover. The directions in Simply Felt luckily describe this as a perfect use for an old sweater. Most of her projects talk about how to make things from wool roving but I always have a terrible time when I try to do wet felting. My projects always end up with holes in them! So I felted a lovely thick red sweater in the dryer and am going to cut out the shape and then either embroider or needle felt the details on it. In my new plan for our Sunday School year, I see we'll be doing the story of Jonah and the whale. My superintendent gave me a pile of corrugated cardboard trays in case I could use them for something. They are grey-blue and have a bumpy texture. On one side it looks like large bumps and on the other side it looks like deep waves. So I was planning on making some kind of display using a Bible scene with water. I think now that we'll cover our bulletin board with these trays, making an ocean, and then the children can create the whale and I'll make a little Jonah to stand inside his mouth. Wet felting would be wonderful for this! I can buy a huge bag of natural grey roving and each child can felt a separate piece, then attach them together and cut into a gigantic whale shape. A Child's Dream Come True offers three suitable natural roving colors: light grey, medium grey, and dark grey-brown. Based on these pictures, I think dark grey-brown would be best. I'm not sure about how to create the water coming out of the spout, though. Maybe some white curly roving from (also from A Child's Dream Come True). Anyway, if we do that, I'll have to practice my wet felting techinques more to refine them. But for a hot water bottle cover, which I want to be sturdy and gap-free, I definitely agree a recycled sweater is the better plan.

January 8 - Today our Helping task is to pack up and clean the little cabin which we borrowed over the weekend. I'm going to pack some Swiffer cloths and other kid-safe cleaning supplies and the kids can rock and roll with that while I clean out the fridge, strip the beds, and so on. After all the communal dishes and linens are clean I'll go back over on my own to drop them off. We're also headed to the bank and post office. So basically an errand day. I'm hoping to do some bird feeding things in the next few days. I'd like to try something new -- instead of a newsletter, just a page for that topic and list my teaching ideas and others can write in with their own suggestions. That way the links are live, and there can be room at the bottom for journaling. I am always trying to figure out how to make the site more communal and not just me being stuffy and full of myself. :-) So we'll try it: Wild Birds Etc. I do like the idea of posting my teaching ideas and journaling notes by theme on the site so that people can find the info they need (or I can refer back to it later) without endlessly having to search through the blog. The blog has been fun but I need a way to make it a more accessible resource. Maybe summarize things into a series of articles? Like "Discipline" with a Two Year Old. HA.

January 5 - Rainy day. Yesterday morning we did gifts with the children at 7 am, before Steve went to work, and having them get up so early really threw off our entire daily schedule! Everyone was exhausted so we did a morning nap and then lunch was late and then I couldn't put them right back down so we went to the playground instead for an hour and then drove up to Leah's gym class to sign her up starting next week. When we got back the children were all tired so, even though it was 4:30, I put them down to rest and then of course we didn't have dinner until late and at 9:30 pm they were still awake! Absolute disaster. It just goes to show that you should always be consistent with your schedule. Then I realized that I really didn't want to repeat this off-schedule for another day, but Steve insisted on being around when kids opened gifts so we gave N and L their final gifts last night before bed. Natalie got a ballerina dress-up costume and Leah got the walking blocks from Nova Natural. I hope today I can get us back on schedule (even I was off, it was like my internal body rhythms weren't working -- really intense) because Saturday and Sunday I'm taking N and L to our little beach cabin and Steve is staying here with Becca. He's working all weekend to finish the schoolroom. Easier for him with fewer kids around. I can't take all three since there are only two bedrooms in the little cabin and my kids don't sleep in the same room with one another well AT ALL. So I was dreading bedtime and naps. But since we have one crib upstairs and one crib downstairs Steve can move Becca around if he needs to, and can do drywall mudding when she's sleeping and noisy things like hanging doors when she's awake. I have lined up a babysitter for Sunday morning so I can teach Sunday School. It'll be a bit hectic but should be worth it, doing one final push to get that room done. Steve's even taking off a week later in January (some use-it-or-lose-it leave that has to be taken) just to make sure he has plenty of time to get the room done in case this weekend isn't enough. My goal had been to have Natalie and Becca each in new bedrooms for Rebecca's birthday January 11th. Last night Steve brought home a dresser from Freecycle for Becca's new room so we're getting there slowly but surely. I just can't wait to have all my books and craft supplies and teaching things unpacked and organized all in one space so that I can start doing a better job with school. N will be five in March so if the county starts coming around to evaluate our homeschooling, I need to have better organization and documentation for them to see. One messy office and an overflowing closet of supplies is not going to be acceptable. I'd also like to add some display space in our living room and hallways for Natalie's "work", including photographs from Nature walks, craft projects, artwork, transcripts of circle time, and so on.

This morning Natalie and Leah got up and started to play their new game. Stomping in the Mud. This is a game inspired by the Farmer Will book we gave Becca yesterday. In this book Little Will's farm animal toys all come alive and he plays with them all afternoon. Since I took all the children's clothing down off of coat hangers (which they weren't able to reach, so not able to pick out their own clothes -- and we constantly had problems with them climbing on furniture to try to reach their clothes. Duh. Move the clothing down to their level) and put into their laundry baskets for storage, things have been going well. It's easy to put the children's clothes away once laundry is done. They all look through the clean bin for their own things and then go put their items in the basket in their closets. This morning I realized that the new game, Stomping in the Mud, entails people climbing into their laundry baskets and jumping up and down on their clean clothes. Well, I thought about it. My new life mantra, suggested by my marriage counselor (who says that my standards for myself, as well as everyone around me, are impossibly high and I need to relax more) is What's the harm? The kids are stomping on clean clothes. What's the harm? Really, nothing. I don't care if my children wear wrinkled clothing. And they're not causing any permanent damage. So I just let it go. Better at this stage to encourage fertile imaginations.

Tea party was cancelled this morning because Grammy has a sore throat and is going to the doctor. So I came up with a substitute plan last night and - lo and behold - today it is raining which is perfect. I'm going to read them Nell's Elf (the final Christmas gift) and we'll have our own elf party! In the book, little Nell is bored on a rainy day. She has no siblings and no pets. But she had drawn a picture of a little elf and he comes alive. He tells her to go get the bag of chocolate chips out of the kitchen and they draw lots of other little elves and fairies who all leap off the page and everyone plays together. The highlight of the elf party is eating chocolate chips right out of the bag! Normally something I wouldn't condone but I happen to have a partial bag (about 1/3 cup left) from a recipe I just made. So our school activites for this afternoon are going to be reading this book, drawing elves and fairies and eating chocolate chips as our party food/snack. In the morning we are going to head down to the community center and sign N up for dance class. Then everyone will be registered and paid for! I just need to buy her some ballet and tap shoes and a new leotard and tights and we'll be ready.

Tomorrow is Epiphany so I need to choose some stories or projects for this (see All Year Round and Festivals Family and Food for suggestions) and then we'll take down our Christmas decorations. I'd like to cut off the fronts of all our Christmas cards -- we got 19 this year -- and use a hole punch to make them into sewing cards. Then N and L can pack this new toy and we can head off to the cabin for the weekend. I have a set of very sturdy Wooden Sewing Needles from A Child's Dream Come True that will be perfect for this. We also will be just a few yards up the street from the playground, tennis court, basketball court, and ball field in one direction and the sandy beach of the Chesapeake Bay in the other direction. So lots to do! This little cabin is right next door to my parents house where I grew up. It belongs to Grammy and Papa. My mom and dad lived there right after I was born and wanted to buy it from them but they said no... so they bought the house next door. :-) I know that area like the back of my hand and always love going back there to stay, even though the cabin is quite small. Call it rustic. But beautiful! You can see the Bay from the large window in the living room.

Today I have to get organized for my Sunday School lesson by dry felting the three wise men (using Making Magical Fairy-Tale Puppets by Christel Dhom for directions) and finding out if I have permission to dye wool with my students by holding class in the kitchen. If not, we can try the sun method described in Kids Knitting but I'm not sure how well it will work in the winter. That would definitely be a last resort. I also need to choose what Epiphany story I want to tell to my students. I am having a hard time covering the ongoing events of the Christmas story, our service project, and the Bible reading, all in 40 minutes. I feel like I'm covering the material too quickly. I might rethink my S.S. curriculum, perhaps to cover only the OT over the course of three years. I've read nothing in Waldorf books about the proper age for students to study the stories of Jesus, and that material is generally what is covered in their other classes, so perhaps we should just focus on OT as being more age-appropriate. As well as less studied than the other section. Plus, I'm having a hard time figuring out how we would study the many epistles of Paul, not to mention Revelation. Seems a bit dry. If I rewrite the three year program I will update the site, obviously. There are 39 books in the Protestant Old Testament which would work out to 13 studied per year. The only real benefit to studying the NT is that we can get into Roman History (learnt in 5th grade in Waldorf). I don't know... I liked the idea of covering the entire Bible and I think it's appropriate. But I'm rushing rushing. I want the kids to have enough time that we are telling and retelling, as in the Waldorf way, acting out and illustrating and summarizing, and so on. But I REALLY REALLY felt good about having them read the entire Bible. You know what, though? It's not about me going all O.C.D. and perfectionistic about how good the plan looked on paper, or felt in my mind. It's about what works for the kids. And I simply cannot deny that we are moving through the material too fast.

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Okay, I'm looking at Roy Wilkinson's Old Testament Stories, which comes with a companion volume of commentary for teachers, and I think I may use that as my curriculum guide instead of trying to cover the books of the Bible in order. He moves the stories around from the order they are in the Bible to a more logical chronological order and has them broken up into lots of small sections which, ideally, I should read in advance and memorize. I'd like that -- more of a storytelling atmosphere. Let's see how many sections he has in his book. Fourteen sections. 127 pages. I know it's a little anal retentive to try to divide it up into three years and plan in advance which stories we'll do when... but I'm afraid without some kind of master plan I'll go too slowly and we won't finish the entire cycle of stories. I don't know if this would affect their spiritual nourishment negatively somehow. Like studying the Norse stories and stopping short of Ragnarok. 127 pages means roughly 42 pages of content per year, about 38 weeks. With the telling/retelling cycle, that's 2.2 pages of material every 2 weeks. I like the idea of relying upon Wilkinson since he is a master Waldorf teacher and would have chosen the stories of the Bible which are most relevant to the children's developmental stage. This is something I've been unsure about. He also provides the teacher guide in the Commentary on Old Testament Stories which I'm sure to find invaluable. So, it looks like I'll be re-writing my program! I can't do it all today, of course, but I do need to make some major decisions before classtime Sunday.

Note: Wilkinson also says that the children should first be told the stories by the teacher, then read the stories themselves. So I was doing that completely backwards. Gotta fix that pronto! I'm actually really glad to be making these changes, because the quality of my class has been going down since I started the second quarter. Too rushed, basically no Waldorf influence at all (whereas I had us painting the Days of Creation in the first quarter, a standard Waldorf idea, and it was going great -- kids loved it, I felt terrific). We rushed through making our sheep for the nativity because I didn't have time to teach the kids how to use felting needles and they got really depressed because their work didn't look as good as mine. :-( And I heard a girl say that she wanted to stop coming to church, which is something I had NEVER had happen in my class before. The kids hated writing their passages in their MLBs, there were no illustrations or decorations at all, even though I bought all these crayons, because we didn't have time to review the stories from the previous week, uggh. I'm more and more sad the more I think back on it, honestly. But change is in the air! So let's turn our chins forward and press on. I am feeling really inspired again and I think if we slow down and get more into a Waldorf groove, it will all work out. I have been dreading, actually, trying to dye wool, tell the story of Epiphany, and rush through the stories of King David (in 40 minutes). Now I don't have to! I can rethink it and make it better.

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I'll just be frank with the children and tell them that I feel we have started to go through the stories too fast and that we're not spending enough time talking about them and understanding them so we're going to make some changes. It's a new year so hey, why not? (Which I'm not going to say to the children, just thinking it in my mind.) I'm going to go back a bit since our last successful lesson was the book of Judges and begin Wilkinson's book with "The Birth and Childhood of Samuel" p.74, which will put me right on track with the parts we had started to rush through. I feel good about this! Beginning to illustrate the stories will be better, and fun, and hopefully kids will start to remember their workbooks. Most kids are leaving their workbooks at home, probably because they are incredibly boring. I can't wait to start teaching lessons in crayon drawing. Form drawing comes into play here, too, since the three archetypal forms (link is to this exact page -- it's an online sample lesson from Live Education!) behind animal shapes are the circle, triangle, and square. I like the Live Education! book Drawing Simple Animal Forms for this (here's their online sample page on drawing an owl) and I plan to use it a lot in my teaching. Drawing with Your Four to Eleven Year Old and Drawing from the Book of Nature are also good for this. I find that the more Waldorf-y I am in my teaching, the more my students enjoy the lessons and the more they get out of them. Ditto for the positive response from the community. I leant some Waldorf creative writing resources to a friend who is a teacher and she said the exact same thing. She loved that class more than her others and you somehow constitutionally feel better teaching this way. You feel more positive... lighter somehow.

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Okay, I know I'm not supposed to be putting all my energy into this now, but I'm thinking

    The First Year - Genesis through Deuteronomy (Creation through the Death of Moses)
    that's pages 1 through 65 of Wilkinson's book

    The Second Year - Joshua through Malachi (Joshua through Minor Prophets)
    page 65 to the end of Wilkinson's book

    The Third Year - Psalms, The Four Gospels

And if I find something that says definitely not to study the NT in these years, I will change the plan for the third year. But it seems so logical since a lot is written towards the end of Wilkinson's book about prophets foretelling the coming of Christ. And the church will be celebrating Christmas and Easter and so on during the first two years anyway. I was wrong about Roman History -- it's part of sixth grade. Which is what makes me think NT is not considered developmentally appropriate. But I'm not sure because I know the children learn stories about Christ during the festivals we celebrate during the year. My Waldorf books are full of references to the Christ Child. Is this different from learning about his teachings? I'm definitely not going to do Revelation and the Apocalypse -- too scary.

Ancient History is fifth grade which is Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and so on and we can definitely do that. My class is mixed 3rd/4th/5th so I'm not sure how, in an ideal world, a Waldorf teacher would handle that. I can't do three mini classes within my room. I don't know how harmful it is to a third grader to hear about Ancient Egypt -- is it? Anyone have ideas about this? We can study Proverbs when we learn about King Solomon -- that will be cool. Anyway, according to this new timetable, I rushed through the first five books of the Bible too quickly and am now into Year Two content. Which means that if next year we do the Psalms and the Four Gospels I'll have another year of having to find something to do before I start the cycle again (I have several 3rd graders this year who won't be happy if they have to paint the days of creation and make beeswax figures for Noah's ark again, too boring). That would be a great opportunity for me to do the Bible Alphabet. It's a little juvenile, maybe, but lighthearted and we'll travel all throughout the Bible. Then I can pass those completed plans down to the 1st/2nd grade teacher if the community liked them and go back to OT with my next cycle of kids. I would like to work more on the Bible Alphabet ideas. But I should probably have lunch first!

January 3 - For our felted soaps, only the rectangle stayed in place within the wool. I had been thinking to have the children stand at the sink and felt but then I thought, why not just take a bath? Playing in the water and scrubbing should help felt the soaps. It was a lot of fun and the felt is surprisingly soft and gentle on the skin. Less abrasive than a sea sponge or a washcloth for sure. So I'm still tweaking the actual instructions but when I have success I'll post them to the site.

This morning we had a wonderful time. I took the kids to the nature center to sign them up for programs and they spent about 20 minutes exploring all the hands-on exhibits while I stood at the desk and got our names put in the book about a gazillion times. They don't have a computer, it's all done by hand. The center has a honeybee hive on display, a giant snapping turtle (enclosed), different stuffed animals in dioramas, fish tanks, and a wonderful bird garden. You can sit on a bench in front of a huge picture window and watch hundreds of song birds flutter around. They set out a large tray feeder of seeds, there is a pond and a running stream, lots of bushes for protective cover, and berrying things... it's a bird paradise. Then the children and I went outside to see their resident owl (it lives in a cage, having been struck by a car. Owls' eyes take up a tremendous amount of room in their skull so when their heads are injured it almost always makes them blind) and walked through the bald cyprus swamp. The boardwalk is nearly a mile long I believe. It really wore the kids out. We had a wonderful time, though, it was so peaceful and quiet. Just a flooded forest in winter. We heard birds but no sign of other animals, although a posted sign said that turtles, frogs, insects, and raccoons also make the swamp their home. After this walk the kids were really tired out.

Last night DH and I went out on a date. One of our traditions is to purchase our yearly calendars in January when they are 50% off. This stems from our first Christmas when he got me several calendars and I requested to go back to the store and exchange them for others -- when we got to the store he realized he could get me twice as many calendars for the money. :-) So I got five calendars and a new planner last night. Natalie's comes with four fairy magnets, which I know she'll like. It is for her bedroom. I also like to have one designated calendar for each child hanging in the hallway so I can make notes about milestones, funny sayings, etc. If I try to keep a journal for each kid I just end up searching for the journal. But I can't lose a wall! I also like a family calendar. He also very kindly stopped on the way home from work to get Natalie a bed for her new bedroom. Becca will be moving up to a twin size bed with a railing soon so that means we were short a bed. Thank heavens for Freecycle! We got a sturdy pine bed with a built-in bookshelf in the headboard. N will be thrilled to have a new room. Me too -- I can't wait. After Becca wakes up we'll do gifts for today (then it's only two days of Christmas left) and then I need to head to my office to pack up some boxes of books. Tonight for dinner it's Tandoori Chicken with Yogurt Sauce. Yum!

January 2 - Happy New Year!

Sunday Steve and I took the children to Stride Rite to check all their shoe sizes. And -- surprise! -- everyone needed new shoes. So, five pairs of shoes later, we left. It was actually some nice family time. No presents that day. We told the children that their new shoes were their Christmas presents, in part because we got home late in the day and only had time for dinner and bedtime. The next day we had two days worth of gifts to give so we did Jenn and Glen's box in the morning (snow fairy costumes, rainbow silk streamer rings for wrists, and a pull-along purple hippo that opens and closes its mouth, plus lovely framed photos of the kids for Steve and me) and after naps we hit the road to go do gifts with Jay and Kate. We got to their house 1 1/2 hours late, something that never happens to me. I wouldn't say I'm punctual per se, but usually not more than half an hour late to something. But yesterday we left our house at the exact time we were supposed to arrive at theirs. For an hour and a half drive, that means we were running an hour and a half late. So we ended up treating them to dinner to make up for it. I had planned the gift exchange time exceedingly carefully so that my kids would get an afternoon nap but we wouldn't end up at Jay & Kate's too late in the day, ie. near dinnertime and therefore impose on them for an extra meal. In order to do this, I cut my children's nap short by an hour and a half. But we ended up being late first by half an hour because I had to run out to the grocery store to find plastic containers to put each color of bathtub finger paint in for gift presentation & storage (we don't have any plastic containers on hand and glass jars of paint in the bathroom just seems like a really bad idea) and so I wasn't able to divvy the paint up into separate containers and mix the colors until after I got back from the grocery store. It all looked like it was going to work out, though, as Steve had Natalie mix two colors and Leah mix two colors and I wrote out the card to include in the gift bag with the recipe in case they want to make more. And then we chucked all the kids in the car and headed out the door, having considerately called first to say we were running half an hour late. And then 1/3 of the way there I suddenly realized I had forgotten our other gift for their boys. If it had been a grown-up gift then no big deal because grown-ups don't really care all that much that they get their presents in a big glut of gift-opening, and we could have simply mailed the gift that was forgotten, but since we were talking about two little boys here (2 and 4) it seemed only fair to come with all gifts in hand. So I had my husband turn back. And, lo and behold, we ended up leaving the house at 2:30 pm -- the EXACT time my children get up from their naps. So I think it was karma telling me not to mess with the nap schedule. If I had let my children sleep their entire nap time, we would 1) have had more time to prepare the gifts and pack the car, and 2) arrived at 4 pm on purpose instead of by accident and it would have been much less rude.

This was a big sign for me -- don't mess with naps, the schedule is working just fine! -- because I've recently changed my children over to a new daily schedule and I am still evaluating it. But now I think I'm going to go with it all hands on deck and full throttle. In this plan everyone gets one long afternoon nap (including me if I need it). It allows me housework, handwork, and rest time (and exercise, if I ever get organized and start to exercise. My physical therapist is adament that it will help my back) and the kids then get to do the "school" things together instead of it being only N now that they are all older. So this is what we're currently trying

    Daily Schedule

    8 am - 11 am

    2:30 pm - 6:30 pm

I have it written down on the back of an envelope. Notice a distinct difference between this schedule and all previous ones? This one is a LOT less detailed. I find that when my schedule is really detailed I almost immediately feel behind. So I'm trying this new plan on for size. Meal times are 8 am - breakfast. 11 am - lunch. 2:30 pm - snack. 6:30 pm - dinner. From after breakfast until lunch we have a planned activity and free play time. From after lunch until snack is naps. From after snack until dinner time is whatever else we want to do (an activity, some chores, playtime, etc.) and then after dinner is bedtime. It's really nice! I love it. The way it came about was that I was thinking to myself, I don't spend enough time with my kids. They always seem to be down for naps, or I'm always shoving them downstairs to the playroom and staying upstairs to do my own thing. So I asked myself, "In an ideal world, how much time would I like to spend with my kids during the day and how much playtime should they have?" I decided on 7 hours. Three in the morning and four in the afternoon. I know that I want them to go to bed at 7 pm and get up at 8 am, and that I usually get cranky and need some personal space from around noon to 2:30. So that's what I wrote down and there it was. I never would have thought of a schedule that was just two large blocks and four set meal times but there it was, staring me in the face. Easy as pie! This morning I would like to make some felted soaps. I tried this for Steve's stocking but it didn't work out. I don't think I wrapped the wool firmly around the soap properly. It kept slipping out of place and so I am trying a shortcut. Last night I wrapped three bars of soap with wool (red, green, blue) and needle felted the overlaps so that it was completely encased in dry wool and there was no way the bar could slip out. Now today I'd like to let the children do the wet felting part. I'll let you know how this hybrid approach works out. In the PM I'd like to have us make some muffins. We're a little short on breakfast food, waiting for the first round of cereal from Amazon to show up, and so muffins for tomorrow seem the way to go. I found a nice recipe using all ingredients I have on hand: Maple Pumpkin Muffins. And we'll do a lot of whatever we want. I try to think total immersion kids from 8 am to 11 am and 2:30 pm to 6:30 pm. The part during naps is my own personal time. Otherwise, if they're up, I'm with them. In fact, I shouldn't be on the computer now but I wanted to update my blog. Gotta go downstairs and play!

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    Book Boxes from Office
    • 1 - Native Americans, Housebuilding
    • 2 - Oak Meadow, Spiritual Syllabus kindy, Storytelling, CDs/DVDs
    • 3 - Handwork (A), HCA fairy tales
    • 4 - Handwork (B), Festivals, Movement
    • 5 - PE/Games, Math manip (math gnomes, clock), Xylophone, Music (A)


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