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I’ve always wanted to try needle felting, so for Christmas, we bought the girls a Valentine themed needle felting kit from Nova Natural. We had great fun. I’m definitely getting some more of the kits and individual supplies. It is a good activity we can do and learn together. Even Daddy got in on the fun a little. 🙂
I’m excited to do more.
At Confluence Academy this week, we are taking a break from the routine studies to delve into some holiday fun. The way we celebrate the Christmas season in the US has always been counter intuitive to me. I miss the days of the winter spiral that we had in Louisville when we attended Parent/Child classes at the Waldorf School. St. Nicholas and St. Lucia came by for a visit to our little homey classroom. It was so cozy and introspective.
The rush and fuss of the holiday season often leaves me in tears. Too much stress involved. I don’t like feeling pulled and tugged. Expectations are high. We want to see all of our family, but it is hard to go to at least 3 different places in the course of 2 days. That doesn’t include our own home. There are always too many presents and I end up feeling more frustrated and guilty than blessed because we just can’t reciprocate and our space here is limited for bringing in more things for the girls. It is my problem and not appropriate at all. We are abundantly blessed. It is the consumerism and the pressure that makes me feel like my head is a spinning top and my guts made of mush. I don’t connect with this type of celebration at all. I honestly do not think Jesus, Mother Nature, or St. Nicholas are bothered in the least by my rejection of it, because when they espoused this season they had a totally different thing in mind. I lackadaisically drift in and out of our families’ homes trying to keep an even keel.
The darkness and soft lights… the cold air… the gray blue sky… it makes me want to retreat. I want to read books, drink warm drinks, eat hearty food, and make traditions with my daughters. I want to breathe into the Truth of who we are – beings in the image of God, never lacking.
So, this week we are going to explore in our schooling things that are typically lost to us as we scramble to buy gifts, get to every expected location, and zip through it all barely conscious of why we are doing this in the first place. We are going to look at the great stories, art, and timelessness of the season.
Tuesday, we explored The Nutcracker with this FREE unit. We listened to an adaptation of the story on Story Nory, watched the ballet on YouTube, drew a nutcracker (see Deladis’s below), and read about Tchaikovsky. We talked about composers and choreographers. It was a good time. Deladis has been humming the music since.
We discovered the story of the real Santa Claus – St. Nicholas – on a lovely website – St. Nicholas Center. We read several of the stories. Our favorite was – And Now We Call Him Santa Claus by Kay Tutt. We did an drawing of St. Nick as well (again… Deladis’s is below). Then, we went on a nature walk to gather decorations for the house – moss, evergreen twigs, rocks, seed puffs, and wood. Tonight, we’ll eat popcorn and sip hot chocolate.
We haven’t gotten around to putting up a tree this year with all the running around like chickens with no heads. Sunday night, we decided not to put up one at all. There isn’t the space right now, and I think we are going to go in a totally different direction with our decorating. We are getting real, simple, light. I think the fake tree will be going away beginning this season.
I think it is just right.
We loved our time together. I can’t believe it was 60 degrees out on Wednesday and today – Winter Solstice – it is snowing.
Thursday, we learned how to care for hermit crabs, since the girls will be getting one from us for Christmas. They danced a Christmas performance at the area nursing home in the evening. Today, we are learning about Winter Solstice. Then… a much needed break from school.
Later, we’ll put up our stockings. I’m going to read and do some more writing. We are going inward. Winter Solstice is drawing us inward with its snow and sleepy skies.
Maybe if I make a few reasonable adjustments, I’ll be able to enjoy my first new pair of tennis shoes in six years that I know my mother has under her tree. I know I can manage. 🙂
This week John and I are both working at the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School. I am co-teaching Kids on the Creek, and John is the faculty coordinator. Both of the girls are attending this year, and are with me in Kids on the Creek. It’s a busy and exhausting week. So many personalities in one place, lots of music and dancing, smiling, and fun. It is in its 9th year.
It seems though that our family always has a bit of a crisis during the time of the music school. Last year it was our van breaking down. This year, it is the dogs killing the diddles (chicks). They have killed two, and yesterday, we realized that we had to get the mama and the remaining seven into the old coop for safety. They have been totally free ranging since they were born. We hadn’t been able to touch their mother since she left the coop months ago. I figured I’d have to have John to help me catch all of them. In fact, I wasn’t even going to try without him. His duties keep him at the school from morning until wee morning, and we see him in glimpses. I had resigned to grieve the diddles and resent the dogs.
Deladis on the other hand, resigned to get the chickens into the coop come hell or high water last night. After a thunderstorm that knocked the power out, Deladis chased the diddles all around the yard in the steady rain. Ivy was asleep inside. When I stepped onto the front porch to check on Deladis, I realized she was catching them! She had a diddle in her hands. She handed it off to me and I rushed it to the coop. When I returned, she handed me another diddle. “Get the mama,” I said.
They were all huddled under the front porch, and it takes quite a bit for me to maneuver under there, so I wasn’t too hopeful that Deladis could get her hands on the mama, but I knew that if she were caught, the diddles would be easier. “Oh, she’s pecking me!” I hear. Then, I see my four year old turn around, her arms full of hen. “Hang on!” I say. We rush her to the coop, and proceed to round up the last five diddles.
The proud look on her face said it all. Her eyes round and wide. Her smile open and full. “I did it, Mama,” she said. “Are you happy at me?” She was determined to get those chickens to safety with or without her daddy, and that she did. I was beyond joyful at her accomplishment. She did something I thought wasn’t doable. Something I thought it would take our man to help us with. Deladis taught me something last night.
What/Who am I waiting on? I have been waiting on John to have time for barn repairs for months, so we could move the chickens down there once again. I have been working so hard on advertising my birth work that I have neglected my housekeeping and writing. I have been waiting on acceptance to a known literary journal before sending off the collection of stories to small presses for consideration. I’ve been submitting those stories for two years. I have 25,000 words on a novel that I am waiting for time to finish. There’s no waiting. There is just now. Now. Right now. There is nothing that exists to wait for. All that is, is present now.
Miss Angie, over at The Artist, The Mom, and mine and Deladis’s former Parent/Child (Waldorf) teacher told me once that I was exhibiting some sanguine traits. At the time I thought – no way. But, I couldn’t just put it off. She had really studied the temperaments after all. She gave us an article on parenting and temperaments. I thought – sure, I’ll accept melancholic, even choleric, but sanguine? I had always thought, if only I had some sanguine tendencies. I am not the life of the party by any means. I’m lucky if I can approach you for conversation after knowing you for some time. I’m one of those who gets shy and ducks in and out of store aisles trying to avoid eye contact. Not because I don’t love conversation, or crave it even, but when I’m not prepared for it, it is very hard for me to initiate. I want to be assured that someone wants to talk to me before I approach them. I also remember things, and have been notoriously good and holding grudges (though not any more. What a blessing!). I have strong opinions about a lot of things, but I don’t go declaring most of them everywhere, and in most situations my opinions aren’t such that it makes me dislike anyone or confront anyone.
However, I see what she means in that I have my hands in so much at once. My focus changes so often, I don’t think I give anything time to really be what it is going to be. Just go through this blog and you will see that I have this and that then that and this on my mind. Does it mean that I need to find just one thing? Does it mean that I need to give up my little work for the important work of mother and homemaker, so I can do those better than I am now? I don’t think so. I really don’t.
I think it just means that I need to focus on what needs to be done in any given day. What work do I wake to? What work lends itself well to the feelings of the day – mine and the girls? Does it mean that I will take the conventional approach to things? No, I’ve never been conventional. Does it mean that the path I had set out on will be the one that gets me to where I am going? Nope. In fact, I think it is most doubtful. I need to always consider alternatives. Always consider now.
I wonder if I can do the work down at the barn. I wonder. I wonder how much time and advertising to put into my birth work. I wonder which small press I should query first. I wonder what it will be like to pick up my novel again. I’ve been wanting to switch this blog over to one that will allow me to do the Amazon Affiliates program, and post links to my book when it is published by a small press or myself. I wonder if I’m computer literate enough. I wonder. Deladis didn’t sit and wonder. She just did it because it needed done.
I’m not a poet, but this day is poetry.
Releasing bonds and feeling myself in the space I’ve been led to take.
My mind churned all night from happiness.
Today, I woke to warmth and joy filled little girls.
Walks to the barn, marveling at such tiny little hens,
Songs, rhymes, small peat pot green houses and quick sprouting seeds;
Digging in the dark winter full dirt,
Swinging feels like flying.
Mommy can still hang upside down from bent knees, climb a tree and feel it grasp me back, enjoy wind in my hair, relax in height, and allow the Fix-It-Up-Chappy to make me a star bellied Sneetch.
We rest with smiles and the relief that seasons bring.
Adding my new work to our daily schedule is already changing things up quite a bit. Not in a bad way though. I feel myself relaxing about things that worried me so much before, things that I took way to seriously. Sure, it has only been two days since the end of my training workshop and I am still riding that wave of pure joy, but the relaxation is very real.
I don’t know why. I suspect it is because I am finally paying attention to where my heart has been leading me for years. Not just the childbirth education, but actually listening to that part of me that has said, you’d really enjoy _____. Listening to that part of me instead of making decisions based on some “dream” idea of what our family life should look like, what makes a great parent, or how a grown woman can give to her community and children. What makes one a productive, satisfied individual? It definitely isn’t trying to adhere to someone else’s prescription of that idea. So far, I’m finding that giving in and listening to what your heart says, doing the leg work for yourself, is much more satisfying. No, it’s not going to look anything like what other people have found satisfying. We are all gifted differently. We are all unique, so it shouldn’t.
Yes, we may get ideas from one another. Of course, if something speaks to us, but is challenging, we should give it our best effort and time to see if it is something that is beneficial for us. But, if we are attempting something for our benefit and thus that of our family, and it is doing nothing but bringing discontentment, it is probably not a fit. There can be great satisfaction in a challenge and hard work, so I am learning to look for that satisfaction. For example, doing an hour of yoga everyday is a huge challenge. Finding the time for it in my day, trying to relax despite the bustle around me, and listening for that still small voice is anything but easy. Yet, while practicing, I feel satisfied. I feel like I have done something important, and in turn I feel happy for it. That is how you know that an idea is a good one. The work it takes isn’t always easy, but you continually have the feeling that it is right.
This morning, Deladis started drawing bodies on her figures and animals. Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer suggests that this is one of the first signs for academic readiness. However, for most children this won’t occur until around age 6 or 7. I watched Deladis’ glee as she showed her new accomplishment to her artist daddy, who in turn looks at me and says that his daughter is a genius. 🙂 I smile and think that it’s cute that Daddy gives such esteem to his little one. Then, Deladis looks at me and says, “This little girl cat is beautiful and this boy one is handsome.” Her mommy who thinks in words couldn’t help but be amazed and think maybe her daddy is really onto something. Does it mean she is ready for academics? I’m doubtful. Do I ignore this sign? Absolutely not. The recommendation for Waldorf education is no formal academics until age 6 or 7. Is that a strict rule to be adhered to in homeschool families? I don’t think so. I think it is something to deeply consider. I’m going to spend many weeks, perhaps months watching her cues… seeing where she leads me, and listening to my heart.
Our lives are changing. The road for me has been rocky, but some lessons are hard learned and should be. I’m glad for it. I’m really glad.
Please bear with me as I try to figure out what place this blog will have in my new schedule. I am going to try to still post regularly, but I am almost certain that things will change here a little bit as I am devoting time to different things. I hope you will continue to check back in and share your thoughts here.
I am broken-hearted about the situation in Haiti. I am concerned for all the people there, especially the children and elderly. It has been on my mind quite a bit from wondering how someone like Pat Robertson could feel justified in making the embarrassing comments he has made, to hoping for peace for them, to wondering how a mother like myself could help. Today, I saw one mother’s solution to that wondering and wanted to share it with you. Shivaya Naturals has reopened her Etsy store with 100% of the proceeds going to Haiti relief. Please visit there today if you are able and contribute. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Haitians and those around the globe helping to meet their needs.
I have had Deladis on my mind quite a bit lately. Her reactions to it being a “school” day, her temper with me and hitting, and whether or not she should be watching television and how much. I think about when she was a baby and the two of us would traipse all over Louisville (well, the familiar parts ;)) going to parks, play dates, Gymboree Play and Music, and Waldorf Parent/Child. Her favorite place to eat was Whole Foods and she would clean her plate. We would laugh and play games. I didn’t raise my voice at her. We had a wonderful time. Motherhood was still new and I was consumed enough to be meticulous about so many things.
Recently, I posted to a Waldorf Homeschool Support Group about Deladis losing heart with our schooling. As Ivy grows more able to participate in our Circle Time and enjoys the activity, Deladis seems to be losing interest. In the past, I have tried to eliminate television completely from her world until she is older, but since moving home, that is a lot harder to do. Our family enjoys TV, and so do John and I. We don’t have cable here at the cabin. In fact, John and I have only had cable 6 months in ten years of marriage, but we do enjoy movies, documentaries, PBS, and certain TV shows, and we subscribe to Netflix.
In the last months, I have limited television viewing to weekends. A few weeks ago, Deladis started asking me if it was a school day or a watching day. When I would tell her it was a school day, she would become disappointed and not participate well in our activities. I, then, decided that there should be no difference in school days and weekends, and since our TV would remain in the home, she could have one program a day during the time in the evening when I cook supper (when the girls are not at their best).
I posted to the support group wondering what to do about Deladis’ seeming non-interest in singing, or reciting verse or fingerplays with me and I called her downhearted. The truth is I was projecting my feelings onto her. I have been disheartened that my attempts at a Waldorf home for my family has not worked out as I had envisioned. My home is not TV free. It is not simple and tidy. Deladis’ favorite toys of late is Littlest Petshop and she spends hours in imaginative play with those, so I have allowed them to be bought for her this Christmas. The truth is, I don’t know where we fit in the big picture of the world of Waldorf.
I know Waldorf education works. I will never forget when we toured the Waldorf School of Louisville and I found myself teary eyed passing through each classroom and seeing all the beautiful, safe, and pure learning going on in each of them. The clincher was walking into the fourth grade classroom seeing a room of engaged students reading from a chalkboard the most beautiful cursive handwriting without missing a beat. They were learning the fundamentals that so many students coming through our public schools today miss, as they vie for teacher’s attention and fumble their way through computer games and busywork. (Please don’t take this the wrong way. I was a public school teacher, my great grandmother was a public school teacher, my grandmother worked for the Board of Education and was a substitute teacher at times, and I have many friends in the world of public education. I believe it is the environment that government run schools have created for students that are the disservice.)
I was reminded of the stories of my great grandmother and grandfather (Golda and Luther Johnson) and their school days – plain, simple, and fun. I compared it to my daily experience in the public school system as both a student and a teacher, and knew I had to bring the Waldorf educational environment to my children. If I could not send them to a Waldorf School, I had to bring it to them.
At this point, I am unsure of what is next for our little home “school”. I am dedicated to Waldorf philosophy and I am going to be diligent about coming to a better understanding of it. But more, I want to find how it will fit into our family. Each family is unique and has its own special culture. We are individual and I believe that is what is wonderful about homeschool. The educational experience can be just as unique as we are. I can still be within Waldorf educational philosophy and not look like the Waldorf of other families. This blog has given me hope of that.
The great thing is, I have two more years before I need to start academics with Deladis. So, technically, I’m not schooling yet. In the meantime, I’m going to explore this further. I’m going to read some Rudolph Steiner, take some free online workshops, and keep reading the many great Waldorf inspired blogs out there. I’ll get it figured out. But, most importantly I need to reconnect with Deladis. I need to make some time for just me and her. I need to observe her, meditate on her, and meet her needs.
Some of my favorite Waldorf inspired blogs:
Last night, it rained hard, slapping our tin roof like the wings of a hundred angry crows. This morning, when we went out for our nature walk, the wind was roaring across the ridges like it tends to do in the mountains. It roars and moves the clouds like someone shoving their way through a crowded room, or it whips down the hillsides shaking tree branches and blowing dried leaves, filling you nostrils with the scent of moist earth. It does those things, or it gets trapped in the hollers whirring through them like the air through the whistle of a football coach when he wants his team to move now. I love the wind. It was warm today. The girls and I walked down to the barn to give our chickens some scratch. I took deep breaths.
This morning, I was disappointed by some news that I would have never thought would have hurt my feelings. In fact, I had pictured myself being relieved – wonderfully so. I haven’t been able to shake the melancholy. Yesterday, I spent the day preparing myself, reminding myself that the news I thought I might get was the definite inarguable answer to my prayers. Today, I don’t know what to call the news but inconclusive for now. It’s hard sometimes being the only one who knows how it feels, for you I mean… right now.
Tonight, it is raining again. I didn’t have the stamina after taking Deladis to dance (toting an unhappy Ivy who can’t stand not to be in the dance room with Deladis), grocery for supper, and church to put the girls to bed. Instead, I shared with them pineapple and cottage cheese. We popped some red popcorn in a pan for the first time ever and ate a whole bowl covered in real sea salt. They lay sleeping across my lap now. We have all been staying up too late.
Wednesdays are Painting Day for our homeschool. We are working our way through the primary colors as suggested in Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children, by Sharifa Oppenheimer. Right now, we are exploring red.
It is the freedom of the wet colors as they move, each in their own unique way, across the damp paper, that allows the various “natures”, or feeling qualities, of the colors to be known.
-Sharifa Oppenheimer Chapter 7 Artistic Experiences for Your Young Child
I rounded the corners of three pieces of watercolor paper and soaked them in water for a few seconds. I mixed brilliant red with water in the new paint pots I bought for us over the holiday. I tied the new green art aprons around the girls’ waists, and with each of us a brush in hand, we began to experience red.
My purpose is not to create a formed image, but rather to experience the feeling of red!
-Sharifa Oppenheimer Chapter 7
Deladis kept asking me what I was painting. I kept saying red. She got frustrated with me, insisting that I was painting something. I kept insisting I was only painting red, until it clicked and I told her a story. The red fairy found her gift one cold winter when the fairies wondered how they would keep warm. She used the warmth of her color to ignite a fire in some wood she gathered. Deladis was more than satisfied and asked me to tell her what she had painted – the fire fairy.
When the colors are introduced slowly and with care on the adult’s part, we can see that the children use the paint differently. They approach color with wonder and respect, like they are playing with best friends. It takes planning and effort, but this is a tremendous gift you can give your child and yourself. Chances are good that you have never experienced color in this way, either. You will find that this can be a calming, centering, and healing time for both of you.
-Sharifa Oppenheimer Chapter 7
I felt red today. I breathed red today. I tried to make it make me warm. I’m still disappointed – in myself.