Sensory Spelling and Modeling Beeswax

We’ve really been jumping all over the place here.  I don’t know about you.

Even though I had the curriculum all ironed out, I just never know what will happen as I start a new school year.

Isaiah is a person. And as a person his likes and dislikes change. What works for him changes. And to be honest, I don’t do well with change.

And so I went back to what I know works, and we started a Waldorf spelling block. I’m adding it in twice a week. We have never done “spelling” per se so I am starting from the beginning with the first 100 of the High Utility 500 words.

And since this is Waldorf,

waldorf spelling

 

The beauty of Waldorf is they did Sensory work, before Sensory was cool.

We pulled out the box of modeling beeswax.

I have to say I really missed the modeling beeswax, and I didn’t realize how much until we started using it.

You can’t get anymore sensory integrated than having to wait patiently as the beeswax warms in your hands, as it warms you begin to smell that light comforting smell that is uniquely beeswax. Slowly you begin rolling it in your hands, it warms more and becomes more and more malleable until it’s ready to use.

The whole process is so integrated with the senses that it has a very calming effect. The key is getting your child there.

Isaiah is impatient. And at first refused to take the time to grab a lump and let it warm up.

So I grabbed a lump and worked on it as I walked around the room.

When I came back I found him working carefully on his own beeswax project. Even he couldn’t resist that feeling. It also speaks to just doing it, and waiting for your child to follow. Don’t press, just do.

 

Working in beeswax is completely unique and inviting. It responds so well to your directions. Even the artistically challenged can make something look like what they (I) want.

spelling modeling beeswax waldorf

 

The road became clear to me when yesterday I asked him to spell “the” as we were driving home from his allergy shots.

His response? “We don’t do spelling mom.” and then after some negotiating “th”.

I found this odd, I know he can read that word just fine. But clearly the idea of spelling was foreign to him. You have to start somewhere, right? Immediately I realized Waldorf’s method of learning to spell was going to be the right answer for us.

So today, I handed him my warmed up red and asked him to spell “of.”spelling with modeling beeswax

At first he resisted, but then he formed the letters carefully and put them in front of me.

We continued through the first 9 words of the first 100. And amazingly, even though he couldn’t spell them as we drove down the street, he had no problem modeling them out of beeswax.

Score 1 for Waldorf, or more like 100!

Of course I am nothing if not a crazy, whatever method works for you, homeschooling mom. And so this happened too.

spelling modeling beeswax unschooling

 

Here are some tips for Waldorf – Sensory Spelling.

Modeling Beeswax, slowly warm and then form the words.

Write the words in whatever handwriting your child enjoys using colored pencils or beeswax crayons, and then walk to the other side of the room and write it again, either the same way or a different way.

Then on his way back to you, have him walk the letters of the word he’s spelling.

Make it fun, encourage him, do it with him if he’s being resistant.

I know everything there is to know about a child who won’t do it “because.” He doesn’t need a reason to say no, me asking is usually enough. So be gentle, do it yourself at first if you need to.

I am very confident this will work for your reluctant speller!

working with modeling beeswax

 

Please feel free to ask any questions or share your ideas for sensory spelling!

signature.homeschool

 

When You Are Home Sick and Home Schooled

I had the best of intentions this week, as you may have noticed, the month was all planned out. I did so well, the boy didn’t even know Monday was a holiday. I’m tricky that way.

As it happened, it didn’t matter. Because sometime late night Monday early morning Tuesday, this happened:

“Mom, I feel yucky, mom….mom….wake up. Can I watch something?”

By 9am we were on our way to the doctor’s and long story short.  We took the rest of the week off.

IMG_2745

If you’ve read the page about The Boy, you would know that this is just par for the course. Nothing holds this kid back, sometimes we just have to take a break.

But that’s why we homeschool right?

This week I had already decided to switch things up a little, add Don Quixote into our reading. Since I had a captive audience, that’s just what I did.

Today he was feeling better while he was resting. Not so much after he realized he felt better and wanted to run around. Then the coughing would return, and we’d take a little break. And then he’d be back to his old tricks.

I figured that was as good of a time as any to throw in a little learnin’ (she says in a her best western accent).

It’s amazing what a few days of idleness can produce. That kid got to thinking. And the next think you know, this happened:

rube goldberg homeschool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve never “met” Isaiah, check out this video. It’s short and sweet, and it’s about this Rube Goldberg machine he made. I was really proud of him for spending about an hour, uninterrupted working out his plan. He drew it out and everything. So he made a little video showing us all how it works.

The Kalabazoo by Isaiah

We are closing down Isaiah’s blog at IsaiahDotCom. After much deliberation, I decided that there was no reason for both of these blogs. I think everyone who is interested in homeschooling would be interested in what he creates with his unencumbered mind. And so, on Friday’s, I will post something that is uniquely Isaiah.

 

The Kalabazoo

the kalabazoo

 

I’ve been eaten by a Kalabazoo

A horrible nasty Kalabazo

Now please close this book

I don’t want him to eat you too.

So if anyone asks you

what’s a Kalabazoo

say you don’t want to find out.

Whatever you do,

if you have a rhyme book never got to page 22.

Third Grade Curriculum – September

homeschool home school curriculum

I will try to get next month up before we start, we started the last week of August. Here is an overview of what I hope to accomplish in the month of September.

Click here for an example of our schedule in google docs, please feel free to use it and then fill in the blanks.

Our school day tends to be about 4 hours long, when teaching one or two children there is no need to spend excessive time on a subject. For us this includes lunch, a snack and playtime!

home school reluctant reader

Everyday:

Read aloud from reading level appropriate reader. For us this is about 15-20 minutes depending on how goofy he’s being.

4 pages from Explode the Code ( we are in book 3)

Cursive Practice – Ask your child for a sentence from the story you read

Math U See – we are in the Alpha book, we picked up again at exactly the halfway mark. My plan is to do 1 or 2 lessons a week depending on where he gets stuck. Rushing it never helped anyone!

Literature – Folk Tales in the evening from Oak Meadow Folk Tales book 2 or 3 times a week. (I am sure you can find a folk tales book in the library and a great FREE online resource is MainLesson.com you can search the site by genre. In the fairy tales section you can find folk stories and fairy tales from other cultures, which are essentially folk tales.) We read the story in the evening, or in the afternoon. The next day I ask Isaiah to retell it to me as he draws me a picture or series of pictures that he feels relate to the story. I do not lead him or guide him at all. If he wants to change the story as long as I feel like it started somewhere with the original story I’m cool with that.
If you have not read the Grimm Fairy Tales this would also be a good time for that.

Get Outside – Every morning we try to take a walk around the block and check out what’s changing in the seasons, it is also a good time to quiet our minds and get ready for the day. I try to remind Isaiah to not chatter on, by mentioning that I hear crickets or birds, and asking questions about them.
And of course plenty of play time throughout the day!

Week 1:

Folk TalesThe Fox’s Snack, The Mighty Caterpillar and The Queen’s Gifts

Science – ( you can do this M, W, F or over 2 days – we do the rotation models one day, and the tide video a second day)

Earth’s rotation, illustrated using that old-fashioned model of a balloon slowly rotating around a lamp without a shade. Draw a little stick figure on the balloon so he understands where we are in relation to the sun during the day and evening. Although this was not a new concept for most kids, it’s fun!

The Moon – Add a smaller balloon (this is now a two person job, you can use anything small and round) to illustrate the moon rotating around the earth. I explained that the Moon is large enough to effect our oceans.

Tides – There is no easier way to explain the tides than to watch a movie about. I recommend The Blue Planet – Tidal Seas. (I picked it up at the library) also The Magic School Bus Goes to Mussel Beach

Social Studies – (This year we are studying the Old Testament and Ancient Cultures) Read the story of The Garden of Eden and Cain and Abel (two separate days that should alternate with Folk Tales). (Once again a great resource for these stories are on Main Lesson.com  Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible)

 

Week 2:

Folk Tales: Jesper the Herder of Hares, The Faithful Friends (the musicians of Bremen),  and Prince Hyacinth

Science: How Plants Make Food - The Magic School Bus Gets Planted also Pushing and Pulling with balloon rockets.

Social Studies: Noah’s Ark and The Tower of Babel both of these present great opportunities for crafts and drawing.

 

Week 3:

Folk Tales: Rapunzel, The Gardener’s Son and The Pot of Honey

Science: Evaporation – place dishes with the same amount of water all over, and measure evaporation, talk about why it evaporated more in certain places.
The Magic School Bus – Wet All Over
Water Bead Fun!

Social Studies: This week we will spend the whole time reading about Abram’s journey and His choices.

 

Week 4:

Folk Tales: The Six Travellers, The Goat Eared Emperor, and Brother and Sister

Science: Salt Crystal Trees (this is a big project so we’re going to stick to one)

Social Studies: Continue our reading on Abram and how he becomes Abraham.

 

home school waldorf learn hebrew

 

Extra Stuff: Trips to the museum, so we may skip a day here or there. Learning Hebrew! And visiting some home bound relatives to brighten their days!

Remember! Each of those weeks includes the everyday list. Some weeks we don’t do science so intensely because for us science is a lot of everyday being outside. Also I embellish a lot as I go along, and will be writing about that weekly. So if you want to keep up with what we are doing, remember to hit the subscribe by email button!

 

 

home school curriculum third grade

 

What is a Main Lesson Book Anyway? Do I Need One?

 

main lesson books do i need

I don’t like rules.

When I started with Waldorf Homeschooling I kept hearing Main Lesson book, Main Lesson Book, Main Lesson Book.

Do this in your Math Main Lesson Book, do this in your Science Main Lesson Book and do this in your Literature Main Lesson Book. (Don’t even get me started on Form Drawing)

Listen lady, that’s too much for me to remember; let alone have, or spend money on, because my kid is a drawing fiend and I can’t say, “Hey! No! Don’t draw in that one, draw in this one!” That doesn’t seem very Waldorfy to me.

And don’t tell me only your best work can go in your main lesson book, because I am the child of a narcissist and when you say those things I feel the micromanager wake up inside me, and it says “The child must only put his best work in the main lesson book.” (in a scary voice) And by best, I mean best.

Back when he was in first grade I tried, that was before I realized it was okay for me to think outside the box, I was still trying to conform.

It was a nightmare. Yes, a nightmare. Don’t tell me I am exaggerating, because I most certainly am not.

My son is a drawing machine, if you don’t belive me check out this video. I cannot EVER tell him he can only draw on one page, or he needs to draw this picture just like me. Nor would I want him to. But I tried and it was bad….

Not to mention the fact that organization does not come easy to me.

So what is the solution you ask? The best one EVER. 100 page sketch books! For those of you who like to use drawing and creativity as part of your curriculum go to Michael’s when sketch books are buy one get one free. Like right now. And do what I do.

main lesson book or sketch book

Grab the first one and write the start date on it. Ours stays on our home school table, and by home school table I mean coffee table, with the box of colored pencils next to it. Whenever it’s time to draw he opens his sketch book and gets going. And if he wants to draw later in the day, he takes the same sketchbook and keeps going.

I know some Waldorf people will not be happy with this set-up, I’m not sure why. I think most might be relieved.

My understanding about the point of Main Lesson books was that all of your child’s work would be in one place and you or he, could go back and look at all of it. With Main Lesson books that’s a subject by subject deal, and if you run out of pages, then what?  I know that when you’re working on the alphabet you want to look back to yesterday, but if you are using the block system, then most likely all of your alphabet pictures will be grouped together anyway.

When you use a sketch book all of the lessons are in one book and when you run out of pages you just start a new one, and lessons continue. At the end of the year you have maybe two full sketch books, and ten years from now that will be much less cumbersome than dragging out 8 main lesson books, no?

main lesson books do I need

The First Day of Our Homeschool Rhythm

It’s not always easy to practice what you preach.

I put up a good fight, and tried to keep our rhythm this summer. Somewhere in the middle of July, it became a free for all. So of course I was concerned as we geared up for Day one.

No need.

Our day started Sunday night. I read him a Folk Tale called The Fox’s Snack before we went to bed.

He wanted more. Traditionally, in the summer, I’ll read forever. This time I said nope, it’s bed time and we’ll talk more about it tomorrow.

In the morning I let him sleep until he woke up.

Once he was up, uncrabby, dressed and snuggled on the sofa, I handed him his sketch book and colored pencils and said “I’m going to make you breakfast, while I do that can you tell me the story about the Fox that we read last night? And while you’re telling me, can you draw it too?” (of course this is me being tricky because he loves to draw as he tells a story)

His retelling was phenomenal, he retold it with his own twist! In the end the Fox steals a train!

Since his twist was so much fun, we decided our cursive sentence would be “The fox stole the train.” I wrote out the sentence and he traced it. Then I let him just play around with cursive for a while.

learning cursive waldorf

Also trying to explain why you can’t write cursive from bottom to top.

Then I read him a chapter of Charlotte’s Web (Trophy Newbery), and he read me Scholastic Reader Level 2: Inside a House That is Haunted.

in breath

In Breath

It was time for a break, and I told him to go play a little.

When he came back we were ready to review some math. We use Math U See, he really loves math and although we started with traditional Waldorf Gnome math, after a while that was too abstract for his very literal mind. And frankly, I find gnome math confusing.

 

Our next block was Science; I asked him if he wanted a break and he said no. At this point in his life it is fairly obvious to me when he needs an “out breath” or time to burn off some energy. He said he would rather keep going.

So we worked on learning about the Earth’s rotation around the sun using the old-fashioned method of balloon around a lamp. It was cool, we had a lot of fun, and afterwards Isaiah made a few balloon inventions and played while I did some chores.

out breath

Out Breath

Our day was over by 1:30, (we didn’t start until 10) and in there we took a mini walk to see some construction, he played on his scooter, had some tea, climbed a wall and had lunch.

It was a great day.

 

A few other mentionables. We have implemented a chore a day chart. He was pretty headstrong about that, I was headstronger.

He is also going to cook one meal a week, a simple meal, and of course I will be his sous chef.

We bought new colored pencils and sketch books to start our year off. We love these things Koh-I-Noor Progresso Woodless Colored Pencils 24 Color Set he wore his last set down to nubs. We stick them in a pencil-case and it goes with us wherever we go.

 

How is your homeschool prep going? Any exciting plans?

How Your Daily Rhythm Affects Your Child’s Behavior

I don’t know how many of you know about Waldorf education, there’s plenty to read about on my site if you don’t.

Until six years ago, I had no idea.  It seemed oddly more like being a Jehovah’s Witness, than a homeschooling method, in my mind.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Making the choice to home school my son was not an easy one in light of the stellar school system we live in and my academically focused family.  Yet it was a decision that was not optional for me. Once I understood Waldorf, knowing that it would be the method to my madness so to speak, I knew I could do no harm.

Don’t worry, I am not suggesting that if you have a child with Sensory Processing Disorder you should home school.  (Although if you are curious, please ask)  What this post is about is how bringing some Waldorf methods and ideas in to your home could make all the difference in the world to you and your child.

It’s about Rhythm. Rhythm affects your child’s behavior more than you realize.

Read any Waldorf blog, website, book or text and you cannot escape that word.  However, it took me about 2 years to grasp the meaning of rhythm and what that meant to me and my family.  I am hoping to pass this on to you, as a lay person, in just one post. Tell me how I do.

How many of you have noticed how much better your child does during a structured day, then a free-for-all day?

When I say free-for-all, I include running errands, visiting family, things that disrupt a normal flow.  You may actually notice it in the reverse so to speak.  You may say, wow, today went really well, and when you look back you can see a pattern to your day.

Any basic parenting book will tell you that a child, from a young age, needs a schedule.  They need to know what to expect, and when to expect it.  From meals, to bedtime, to play, to sleep; the more they know, the more well-adjusted they are.

I believe this is even more true for special needs kids, like mine, who has Sensory Processing Disorder.  These kids are thrown more than any others when they are forced into a life of unpredictability; and to them, almost anything different is unpredictable.  Miss a meal, or a snack, change a nap time or miss a loved class and you better watch it.

This idea of having a set schedule is basically Waldorf’s idea of Rhythm.  However when Waldorf speaks of Rhythm, they include not only the idea of a schedule, but the needs of the whole child.  The child’s need for movement, for up times and down times.  Times to use their minds, times to use their bodies and times to use their hands.  In Waldorf terms this is described is “in breaths” and “out breaths”.  So do that for me.  Take a deep breath in, and a deep breath out.  Now think of that.  When you take that deep breath in, imagine quietly taking in a story, or sitting quietly and drawing.  When you release that deep breath think of running in the yard, playing hopscotch or singing songs that involve finger play or hand movements.  Your in breath is introspective time, time to be quiet, to think, to create.  Your out breath is releasing time, time to be free, to play games, to laugh and sing.

In order for a child to feel balanced, the child must have both of these things, and they must have them as an in and out pattern throughout the day.

rhythm affects behavior in breath

If your child is in school, you have very little control over that, unless you have an IEP you can manipulate.  But for the most part, I think they experience it in the form of class time vs.  recess, lunch and PE.  Maybe also music and art if those things are offered at your school.  Still, there are so many things you can do at home to facilitate that experience.  And once again, here’s where I call on you mom’s to put your kids first and make some changes about what you do when they are around.

Try to save the errands for when there are no kids home or when you can leave them with dad, another family member or a friend.  If that’s not a choice, pick a specific day that is errand day.  Keep all errands to that time and day so that it is an expected part of your rhythm.  Try to never take them out hungry, and also to give them plenty of free play time before you leave for your errands.

Please, do not over schedule your child.  You are not helping anyone by having your child in multiple activities throughout the week.  All you are doing is stressing yourself, and your child.  The best place for a child to learn and be nurtured is at home.  Think about what your motivation is.  Are all the other kids in his school doing it?  Does this other mom you respect think its a good idea?  Are you just looking for some more time alone?  If you add rhythm to the picture, I think that last point will be moot.

rhythm helps behavior

This is my suggestion for a healthy home rhythm.  Depending on how your child comes home from school: is it a bus ride?  Or is it walking with plenty of romping and fun on the way home?

If it is a bus ride, go for some free play right when they get home.  Set a timer, this is to remind you when to rein them in, not as an alarm signalling the end of fun.
At that point guide them to their homework, make it fun, think of ways to encourage them to come to their work space.
Try these things:
Sing their name instead of screaming it.
Ask them to be a certain animal on their way to a special place.
Or be as elaborate as using a little verse to get their attention.  This is one I love:

Dip Dip Dip
My blue ship
Sails along the water
Like a cup and saucer
Dip dip steady:
I am ready!!!

If your child has a fun romp on the way home, I suggest straight to homework, with a snack of course :-)  And then they can have free play when done, until dinner.

If there is an inordinate amount of homework, please make sure they have some time to play or run before dinner, or dinner may not be as enjoyable as you like.  This goes for both scenarios.  If we need to get back to homework after dinner make the transition gentle so you can preserve that feeling of taking an in breath.

After dinner, keep things quiet and low-key.  The time leading up to bed time should be peaceful and calm.  You may know how I feel about media right now, I say very little, if no screen time before bed, and definitely no video games!  Also, I cannot stress enough the need for a bedtime routine.  This is when we go to bed every night, and this is how we do it.  Whether it’s a bath and a story, some milk and a story, whatever is your ritual.  It should remain the same night after night.  And it should be quiet, not animated. This will help your child sleep, this will comfort your child, this will be the backbone of their childhood.  Of course there are always special situations, just stick to this as closely as you can.

Weekends can be hard, they are hard. So trying to create a weekend rhythm would probably be a great idea.  Look at how your typical day runs now, and see if you can’t make it more predictable.  We always wake up at 7, we have breakfast, we do some chores around the house (please include your child in the chores!  more later on that), we have some play time.  Maybe now we have a snack?  If you need to run short errands on the weekend this might be the time to do it, right after snack and before lunch.  Then consider some sort of structured project for your child, a craft, reading a story (alone or with you), coloring.  Then lunch.  If you need more time to do errands, do them now, after lunch.  No one is hungry, they’ve had a fulfilling and centering morning and will probably behave so much better!  If you can get away with no errands, or certainly not on both Saturday and Sunday, continue some sort of pattern into the afternoon.  I strongly recommend a rest time after lunch, even if it’s just quiet time in their rooms.  I know we haven’t napped in 3 years, but now I read to my son, lying in bed, and gauge how he feels.  Does he seem sleepy?  Do I?  I go from there.  Be the example, we all need a rest sometime during the day.  After rest time, their can be more free play.  Try not to be the “entertainer”.  If your child has trouble playing on his/her own.  Consider taking some favorite toys and setting up a scene.  Then lead your child to that scene, maybe tell a little story about it, and let them run with it.  It may take a couple of tries, but believe me, it works!  Then let’s go for an afternoon snack.  Maybe some more structured activity, or coloring, or here’s an idea!  Helping mom cook!  Prep work, table setting, straightening, working together as a family!  My son loves to make menus.  So we discuss the meal and he draws pictures of the items with check boxes next to them, to distribute at the meal.  And then we come full circle, it’s bed time again!

On weekends we have a family movie night.  I try to stay with something low-key, probably older (60’s-70’s) so it doesn’t have all the flashy animation strobe like effect.  Your choice shouldn’t affect their ability to have a restful night.  Some of my favorites are Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Incredible Mr Limpet, The Cat From Outer Space, and Herbie the Love Bug (the original).  At Christmas we often indulge in the old animation/claymation Christmas specials of the 60’s and 70’s as well.  If you have any favorites that fall into these categories I would love to hear about them!

I realize now, that I really only touched the surface.  I would still love to discuss rhythm with a child who is not in school.  And certainly so much more about Waldorf.

Please, do not think that I have a perfect Rhythm in place. In my life, I am constantly growing, changing, improving, and having set backs too.  Parenting is a struggle no matter who you are, I don’t care how perfect you look on the outside.  However, if you try to implement even a little of what I’ve mentioned here, I think you will find things will get a little easier!

Here are some of my favorite Waldorf Sites, I am sure I have forgotten some, but they’ll come up again.  I’d love to hear from you!

  1. The Parenting Passageway
  2. Our Seasons of Joy
  3. Waldorf Essentials
  4. Waldorf Reviews
  5. A Waldorf Journey
  6. Why Waldorf Works
  7. Rhythm of the Home
  8. Christopherus Homeschool Resources
  9. Little Acorn
  10. Simplicity Parenting
  11. The Magic Onions

rhythm affects behavior

Amazingly Beautiful Winter and Christmas Stories for Children

I love a beautiful story so much. There is something about the internal calmness that one feels after reading a story that is filled with soothing imagery and elegant language. A story that touches the nature of who we are, that slows us down and reminds us to look at the world around us. No matter the eloquent words used to describe such a story, they touch the souls of our little ones because they speak to the universal beauty in this world, something that is not unique to one person, something that makes us take a deep breath, and relax into that moment. The moment the story takes us away. These treasures have crossed my path over the years as I have continued to search for books that are more… More than the fun hokey Christmas stories, more than the obvious morals and much much more than the pure entertainment. Of course there is a place for those. But when I know it is time to help my child quiet his mind, this is where we go. the tomten The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren – This book is really a winter book. The best way to describe it is quiet. The imagery is amazing, with very few words as we watch the Tomten’s footprints move through out the farm, our imagination is piqued. Astrid Lindgren creates a story that is captivating and calming all at once. snip snap sledSnipp Snapp Snurr and The Yellow Sled by Maj Lindman – These books are over 70 years old. The whole series of Snipp Snapp and Snurr are absolutely a gift. The stories of triplets and how they work through simple life tasks. In this story the boys desperately want a sled, they work for the money and visit it every day. Another boy visits every day too, but when they find out how come he won’t be buying the sled, you will understand why this is the perfect Christmas book. the night before christmasThe Night Before Christmas original poem illustrated by Douglas Gorsline. I specifically recommend this version, there is something about the very classic drawings, they are like you are peering into someone else’s world. The details are amazing, and captivate my son year after year. This version is not modernized, nor is there a twist. It is what you would expect, it is an amazing peek into history and a quiet lyrical way to look at Santa Claus. christmas in noisy villageChristmas in Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren – This book could not be more different than The Tomten. This book takes us back to a time where there was no electricity or refrigeration, where eggs were collected from out back and every single wonderful treat the children looked forward to at Christmas time was lovingly made from scratch by their mother. Christmas rituals consisted of time spent with friends and family, and also a few jokes. The children’s antics as well as awe are so wonderfully illustrated it makes you want to join them again. (Which you can by reading The Children of Noisy Village) the wild christmas reindeerThe Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett – Well this book would earn its spot on this list by the illustrations alone. But of course a book so wonderful would have to give us even more, and this story does. She is well-known for her illustration style because she uses the borders to deepen the story. While we watch young Teeka learn a lesson of teaching with kindness and the power of using kind word on the main pages, on the borders we watch the elves prepare for Christmas. The story is captivating, and the illustrations make you want to linger on each page. the secret staircaseThe Secret Staircase by Jill Barklem – This is one of many amazing books by Jill Barklem. After discovering this book I decided to just go ahead and buy The Complete Brambly Hedge. Within each of her stories you are transported into a world living beyond, the mice of the hedgegrow have homes and mansion within the trees along the river and at the edge of the fields. They are intricate, beautiful and delicate. They have a society amongst themselves, there are bakers, weavers, a keeper of the wine and even a Store Stump where every item you could possible need to cook with is kept to assure this beautiful community at Brambly Hedge makes it through the winter. The Secret Staircase is an adventure for two young mice who discover a part of The Old Oak Palace no one knows about and it is also about the celebration of Mid-Winter, such an intricately woven tale. We have read all of her stories year round for three years and the boy is still not tired of the vividness and detail that help feed this imaginary world that now has a permanent residence in his mind.

I highly recommend all of these books, I found them all through Amazon myself. Sadly many of them were not available at my library, however I never once regretted adding them to our collection.

How I Refused To Learn My Lesson and We Came Full-Circle

My husband and I always planned to home school.

Even before Isaiah was born it was the plan. So I had plenty of time to decide how we would go about it. I read lots of books, did a ton of research, checked out everything from Unschooling to Classical Schooling to Charlotte Mason. I researched it all.

I liked the idea of unschooling the best. It resonated with me. The freedom to learn about what you loved made sense. If you were passionate about it, it would become a part of you.

Sometime around 3 or 4, I started to be afraid of the idea of unschooling. What would that really look like I wondered. How would I have anytime to myself if Isaiah had no structure? How would I know what to do? Already thinking too much, I decided there was a happy medium and that would be Waldorf. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Luckily Waldorf kindergarten is basically unschooling, and Waldorf first graders should be 7 or turning 7 the first few months. So we had lots of time to prepare. I became an expert in Waldorf Homeschooling (as much as one can be without schooling). I knew what we should do and was ready to do it. What I wasn’t prepared for was Isaiah not wanting to do it.

Well, I thought, what kid wants to do school? I became part of multiple forums, I queried “What if he doesn’t want to do form drawing?” the response was “You are not asking him, you are telling him. ‘Now we are doing form drawing’.”
“Yes, but what if he won’t do it even when I say that.”
“Then you say, ‘this is what we’re doing now, we can’t do the next thing until we finish this'”

Well, that seemed fine and dandy, but these “experts” did not know my son. I tried that tact and we spent hours in struggle. 2 months into first grade I gave up. I couldn’t spend the whole day sitting on the sofa needle felting while saying “Just let me know when you are ready to start Form Drawing (or whatever) then we can move on.”

A child shouldn’t be so averse to doing something, that he willingly gives up everything that brings him joy to avoid it. 

And so, a third of the way into first grade we began informally unschooling. There was some structure; in the form of me reading to him everyday, him developing an on and off interest in needle-felting, science projects that involved fire, and nature walks. We went to the library often and checked out books on topics that interested him like Thomas Jefferson and The Titanic.

Then the family started asking questions. Why can’t he read, he’s 7 already! Why can’t he do math? I started to become self-conscious and bought the Bob Books and tried to teach him to read. He did not like that.

So we took a break and decided for second grade we would try Waldorf again.

We are one month into second grade. Apparently I have a thick skull and do not learn from past mistakes.

This year was even harder. He is 8 and his beautifully rich mind has also learned more effective ways to show-off his temper.

In my current state of denial I refused to see that what was setting him off was school. Everyday I would say, it’s time to start our day. He would say “NO! I don’t want to do school! I hate school!”

Second grade Waldorf involves learning to read and learning math. It is a little more aggressive, although it allows for the slow learners, but I didn’t believe he was a slow learner. What I believed was he didn’t want to do it.

So we stuck with Form Drawing because I was making it fun. Let’s make this castle turret, do you want it to be a haunted castle? Let’s read this story about the King of Ireland, and draw a wavy line like when he is stuck in the cave.

But eventually, I thought, we needed to get back to the reading. Boy was I in for a surprise. The tantrums got so bad I had to lock myself in my room. I was lost and had no idea where to turn. I didn’t believe him when he said it was the reading. I didn’t want to think that my son didn’t want to read.

And then I remembered where I started. Why was I pushing him? How many times had I read about unschooling? How many times had I seen the success of these kids allowed to work at their own pace on topics they were interested in? What good was forcing him to do anything?!

I reached out to the most brilliant homeschooler I know. Jane from Undogmatic Unschoolers, if you aren’t following her you should be.

She put me at ease, she reminded me that he would read when he was ready,

but if I pushed him, he would never love to read

She said, find some learning apps on the iPad but most of all read read read to him!
Well, that was easy. We were already doing that.

And so. We have come full-circle. We are unschooling again.

In his tantrumus rage, we decided we would call school “playtime” to stop his anger before it started.
The last two evenings he said “Mom! We forgot to do ‘playtime’ today!”
“No sweetie, we didn’t. We read Carry On, Mr Bowditch didn’t we? And The Willoughby’s? You built a ship in the living room with 3 masts and working flags. You colored a ton of sailing ships and we went for a walk everyday. I would say we did plenty of ‘playtime’ “
And he said, “Mommy, I love you so much. These are the best days ever, I love ‘playtime'”

IMG_0927

It’s Math His Way

IMG_0725I love my boy so much. I love him, but sometimes teaching him is H-A-R-D impossible. The funny thing is, he’s pretty good at math, he just wants to do it his way. So, on the day that we were going to work on Roman Numerals he decided to do it his way.

Sometimes I even let my brains listen through the frustration. This time it was a good thing. We had the mancala beads out to learn odds and evens (we’ll get to that soon) the little dude said “I don’t want to draw Roman Numerals, I’m going to do them like this.”
IMG_0726 IMG_0727 And then when it was time to do the drawings to go with our fable – instead he said, “No I want to draw the story of King Equal.” Well, what was I going to say? No? No sweetie, you can’t draw math stories, it’s fable time now.

Dude you go for it, draw away. “Oh, and mom, can I have the gnomes while I do it?”

“Sure honey, you can have whatever you want.”IMG_0728