Hello again!

Hi everyone, I’ve been away for awhile, but I figured I would check in. How are you all doing?

Me, I’m doing pretty good. Planning a move in a couple of weeks, working on my curriculum and my rhythm for the Fall, and I’m quite excited about some of the stories I’ve found on http://www.mainlesson.com.  It’s a site with hundreds of free stories, many from the early 1900s, very sweet and in keeping with my own values and aesthetics.

Since I last wrote, my girl turned 5, we completed our 1st homeschooling year, and we went away for another month at the cottage. We also found out that we got the apartment we were hoping for–a 3-bedroom stacked townhouse in our same neighbourhood, with 2 little balconies (container gardening–yay!), and a laundry room! No more doing laundry in my kitchen and hanging clothes in the dining room!

Our homeschooling year went well. Of course there were tough times–like most of February! But I think we all get the winter blahs if we’re prone to them, whether we homeschool or not. I’ve gotten to know Waldorf a lot better, and have met many homeschooling parents in the area and made some very nice friends. And to top it all off, I’ve had the ultimate compliment from my daughter who told me, “I have the BEST teacher!”

So I’m trying to do even better this year, with a rhythm that will be doable, and also with some story content 🙂 For those of you unfamiliar with Waldorf, the kindergarten years are meant to be filled with the rhythms and work of the home, with rhymes and stories and songs and art. So the parent-teacher gets the chance to work on their consistency during the days and the weeks, planning this day for mending and this day for baking and so on, and the children get to know the days of the week not as “Monday, Tuesday” but as “Mending Day, Baking Day”.  You know you’ve succeeded when your kid asks you, “Mom, is it Washing Day today?” Extra gold stars if it’s because they want to help you wash the floor!

It ain’t easy, but it sure is fun.

On top of all that, moving to a bigger apartment means higher rent, which means our frugality skills need to ramp up a wee bit, which will be fodder for some new blog posts I’m sure. Over the time since I started this blog 3 1/2 years ago, our bank balance has wavered between the black and the red, but you know what? Each year we are moving forward. So I have faith we can meet these new challenges ahead.

And if not, I can always move back to drying laundry in my dining room.

More on homeschooling: the getting ready

Now that the decision has been made, it’s now time to start getting ready for homeschooling in the Fall. We’ll be doing Waldorf kindergarten which means strong home rhythms, lots of time outside, singing and moving, and lots of art, crafts and bread baking. There will also be lots of time for playing, building with lego, dressing up, and telling stories.

My curriculum is a full selection of songs, rhymes and stories for the seasons. There are a few books out there, and full curriculum packages to be had, but I’ve found a ton of materials through the public library. Many of the books recommended for Waldorf Early Years have been available through an interlibrary loan from the Edmonton public library. I’ve especially enjoyed looking at the Canadian song materials from the library and adding songs that reference “North Ontar-i-o-i-0”. This process has been so much fun. Learning new songs and rhymes, and re-discovering some from my childhood has been really satisfying and enjoyable, and I can’t wait to “unveil” them for the kids in the Fall.

The second key factor in planning for Waldorf homeschooling is getting our home ready. We have already seen huge success in de-cluttering and simplifying our living space. The more clear space we have, the better we play and the easier things are to keep tidy. This means a lot now, but it will mean even more in the long cold days of January!

So we are going further with that process especially with simplifying the play area, moving away from plastic, and gathering a few natural toys. We will be on the lookout for a few key pieces: two play stands, a play kitchen, a wooden doll house, some more play silks, and some natural baskets to keep things in. Some of these will require a bit of an investment, but if they are things of beauty that we will enjoy living with and quality that can be passed down to our grandchildren, it will be money well spent.

The third part of preparing for homeschooling has to do with me. I love that in Waldorf there is a big emphasis on the personal development of the parent/teacher. In that vein I am working on developing my will–the control I have over my impulses and emotions–as well as on my personal rhythms. This is a healing journey for me. Luckily, the more I develop myself, the more I can offer to my family.

What an exciting journey! I can’t wait to share more with you.

Staying the Course

Our little guy in the newly cleaned-up play space

All in all, last week’s Waldorf Week experiment was a great success! We got out in Nature and made a Nature Table, we eliminated daytime TV, we did cooking and housework together (my girl can crack an egg!), and I revolutionized her room to make it tidy, safe and completely playable. It was a great week, and this week’s plan is simply to stay the course and keep on Waldorfing it up over here.

I’m also very happy to say that my whole blog-the-meal-plan plan has been working too. Meals have been much more organized and our food costs are much more stable. We’ve cut way down on our meat, and amped up the veggies significantly.

All in all, it’s a very boring “life is good” post that I have for you today. Of course, that doesn’t count our trip to the emergency this afternoon (daughter’s headache turned out NOT to be meningitis), followed closely by almost burning down our apartment (yeah, if you go to the emergency, make sure you don’t leave perogies boiling on the stove. Luckily the smoke alarm worked and the super came and turned everything off and opened our windows. No damage except the pot, and a residual “barbecue” smell about the place).

Apart from that, life is pretty good . . .

This week’s meal plan:

Monday: salmon cakes and tabouli

Tuesday: pizza

Wednesday: Stir Fry with Sesame-Peanut sauce (we didn’t have this last week)

Thursday: Chicken drumsticks with broccoli and mashed potatoes (planning to check out Saslove‘s selection of organic chicken and hopefully soup bones–fingers crossed!)

Friday: leftovers

Saturday: veggie lasagne

Sunday: poached eggs

Waldorf Week

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Waldorf education and way of life. Unfortunately I didn’t bookmark the specific article that really inspired me, but a few of the sites I was browsing were www.naturalfamilycrafts.com, and www.waldorfinthehome.org. (Update: Found it! The really inspiring article was here.) If I wasn’t such a staunch supporter of public school, I would totally send my kids to Waldorf school. (Ahh, also if I won the lottery.) I still don’t know or understand everything about it, but here are some Waldorf-y things I’m incorporating into our life this week:

The Natural World

Waldorf education stresses a connection with the natural world, as well as emphasizing natural materials, to foster a connection with nature and natural systems. Since we live in Downtown Ottawa and don’t have a car, it’s a bit hard to get out in The Nature. But we’re trying. Actually, the River is within walking distance and it offers a very natural setting in the middle of the city. We took a walk there today for an afternoon play date and had a really nice time. We saw ducks and heard red-wing blackbirds and watched the river flow . . .

Less TV

When our little guy was born in October, Daddy would get up with our older girl, and watch morning cartoons. Mostly this was a coping mechanism because we were all too tired to think in the morning, especially while I was still night nursing both of them (crazy!). However, this quickly became the routine and has been the way the morning goes for the last six months. Today I did things differently. We got up together and instead of turning on the TV, my girl and I played. I had forgotten that she is often at her best in the morning, very focused and calm, and she really enjoyed the time together. Of course, it helped that the little guy was still sleeping, but I’m going to try to keep this going. Of course this isn’t specifically a Waldorf thing, but it certainly fits the theme.

Work as Play

When I read about this, it seemed so simple, I thought it wouldn’t really work, but it did. The idea is, instead of, say, putting the kids in front of the TV so you can cram in a load of laundry and quickly chop some veggies for soup, you involve your kids in the housework and make it a part of your activities for the day. This teaches the kids that they are not nuisances to be silenced while you frantically do the real but unpleasant work, but rather that housework can be fun, and a shared activity that involves satisfaction and learning, but also that the kids can be a part of making their home a nicer, cleaner, more orderly place. My girl is three, and she can now do things that actually help me and save me time. It was really pleasant doing housework with her today. Again, maybe today was special, but I’ll be trying this again for sure.

Reverence

We are not a religious family, so we don’t have many spiritual practices in our household. However, the more I read, the more I see the value of rituals and valuing the spiritual side of life. It’s funny–even though I’m not religious and never have been, I do consider myself to be spiritual, mostly in connection with the natural world (this is probably why Waldorf appeals to me so much). So this idea of reverence really struck me. The article I read (which I cannot find, gosh darnit!) spoke about using gratitude as a path to reverence. That is, thinking about where things came from and thanking the creatures and forces and beings that brought these things to you. Our girl got right into this. For our broccoli soup at lunch, we thanked the Sunshine, and the farmer for the broccoli, and Daddy for buying the broccoli, and Mommy for making it. This idea of stopping to think about where things come from, and then thanking those who brought or created it is common to Buddhism as well.

A simplified play space

Okay, I’m working on this. But our girl’s room has become messy to the point of being dangerous. She just has too many toys, all out and accessible all the time. Quite often, she flits from one thing to another. Other times, she works in “creative destruction” of her toys, painting them, cutting their hair, etc., it makes me wonder if she really values them. So my plan is to take away all but a few of her toys to play with at one time. The other things are going into her closet, so she isn’t worried about missing them. It will only make a visit to the closet extra exciting, but once this is all in order, I will make sure she’s only playing with a few toys at a time.

Today just felt so wonderful and so right. I know not every day can be like today, but I’m going to continue the experiment. I figure it can only bring good things!

And here is our Waldorf Week Meal Plan:

Tuesday: tabouli and hummus

Wednesday: chicken stir fry with peanut sauce

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: black bean soup and cheese quesadillas

Saturday: fish of some sort

Sunday: spaghetti (I’ll try to make it to the Organic Farmer’s Market on Saturday for some local beef–wish me luck!)