Monday, August 24, 2015

Guest post at Waldorf Essentials



I have a guest post today about planning for the school year over at the Waldorf Essentials blog. Please pop over and check it out!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dangerous Things



I spent an afternoon binge listening to the NPR TED Radio Hour podcast while I sorted through our bookshelves and homeschooling supplies recently.  If you've never heard them, you must subscribe; seriously, do it right now. You won't regret it. For the podcast, they pick a theme, then play portions of TED talks which relate to that theme, and also interview the presenters. A talk, 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do, caught my attention. Granted, the notion that you should allow your children to take risks or try activities that might not be approved by the AAP is not a new idea, but this talk sparked a little more reflection than usual on my part. The older kids were spending a week with their grandparents, and during a FaceTime call my son showed us the sewing machine he had just made a project on. My first reaction was surprise and a little thrill, since he really enjoyed sewing (hooray!). My husband's first reaction was something like, "Wow, be careful using that." He saw danger. I did not.

The next day my father in law called to ask how to cook the allergy friendly mac and cheese I sent up. After talking him through the steps I mentioned that Madeline could help, since she had made it before at home. He noted his concern about boiling water. He saw danger. I did not.

While camping, my husband taught Max how to make a camp fire. He let him build it, feed it and stoke it. It was a pretty big fire. I saw danger. He did not.

Upon reflection, I realized how intimately connected the risk we allow our kids is intertwined with our own feeling of expertise. My mother in law and myself are completely comfortable with kids using a sewing machine because we both sew. I sewed on machines at ten years old. I started cooking around that age, too. Baking actually - from scratch, the whole nine yards. So I feel comfortable with teaching my kids to use the stove and oven. My father in law, and my husband for that matter, see the risk, because they are not comfortable in the kitchen. Just as I saw the risk with the camp fire, which is not part of my responsibilities when we camp.

Of course, now the question becomes how do we get comfortable with risks that are outside our areas of expertise? Oh, that is the catch, isn't it? How did my mother feel comfortable with me using the oven when she'd never made a cookie from scratch in her life? While I'm pretty good at letting my kids use tools and appliances to create what they wish, I'm much more protective with physical risks. Climb that towering tree? Jump off of high places? That's much harder for me to approve. And yet we know that's exactly what we should be doing, within reason. We should be allowing for wings to expand, for space to explore, for challenges that just might cause injury, but definitely will cause pride and a sense of accomplishment.

It's still an open question for me. I am making more of a conscious effort this year to allow more risks in areas I feel comfortable with (more sewing!!!) but also encouraging my husband to expose the kids   to things he feels confident in (power tools, anyone?). And those dangerous things that scare me? Well, for now, once in awhile, I will try to smile and say, "sure, but be careful." Try.

Do you allow your kids to do "dangerous things"?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Not Back to School


Well, it's that time of year again, when we homeschoolers don't go back to school.  We started our day with a walk to the park, and unfortunately, the timing was just wrong on this shot so I didn't capture their sweet hand in hand stride.


Both kids are starting off with sound for physics this year, so our first board went with the poem by Rumi, "The Breeze at Dawn."


Alex got his own board to match the ocean theme of his nature table this month. We have been making little felt creatures to go with it, but more on that in the next post.

Two days in and we all survived. It's a heavy academic year, with both kids in middle school, and the planning this summer was tremendous. I know it will pay off, but I have to admit that I am somewhat mourning the loss of my last month of summer! It is fantastic to be back in that learning rhythm. I do like having more structure to the days, and that sense of accomplishment when items are checked off of the to-do list. The school rhythm is a work in progress, as right now I only have academics scheduled. I'll be using the next two weeks to figure out where to add in form drawing, handwork projects, exercise for the kids and piano. Yes, form drawing in middle school. We haven't done much of it, since we came to Waldorf late, but I think both kids could still benefit from it, especially to improve handwriting. Madeline enjoys it; she says she finds it meditative. Isn't it fantastic when they unexpectedly express exactly what is supposed to be happening on a deeper level? Then you really know this "crazy" Waldorf stuff is working!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Waldorf DIY


This summer the wee one turned three, and I thought he might be old enough now to incorporate some little Waldorf inspired bits in the house. Fingers were crossed that they wouldn't get ripped apart immediately or sent to permanently live in the train cars or truck beds. There are some lovely Waldorf toys in catalogs and on Etsy, but I was looking to create some pieces from what we had on hand. 

First off, I wanted a Days of the Week calendar. In Waldorf, each day of the week has its own color. I used two pieces of our birthday ring for the base, a wooden candle from a play food set, and a wood teething ring (!) for the day marker. The gnomes are just simple peg dolls that have a small base which fits perfectly in the ring. I decided not to write the days on the peg dolls since he can't read them anyway, and the color signifies to the little ones what day of the week it is. I was thrilled to get an additional use from the birthday ring.



I felt that now he was finally ready for a nature table, but I didn't have a good spot in the house for it. So I found a wood tray (I think from a Doug and Melissa set), threw in a piece of green knit fabric and we had a nature tray! The tree was made from a twig that I glued to a block and used a bit of wool roving for the leaves. For the first week I just had the tree and some rocks. 


Over the next few weeks I added the bushes, some felted animals, a rubber frog to represent some we found in the creek, and  sun and moon gnomes. There is a little summer sign with a hand cut stamp, and I used a Scrabble tile holder as the base.

He likes to play with the pieces (as I knew he would), and sometimes they migrate to other places, but that's okay with me. He enjoys them, I didn't have to purchase anything, and they look cute on the bookcase!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Exhale. The combination of a toddler and technical issues with Google has left this blog quiet for far too long. There are many posts in the works, if the tech gods continue to be on my side;) For now I leave you with this week's chalkboard drawings, my favorite Waldorf obsession:





Soldiers' Tree
Wish

Baa Baa Black Sheep


Friday, December 6, 2013

Lego Geometry - Circles


Circles from rectangular building blocks? Am I crazy? No, I did not give the kids the task of creating circles from Legos, but we did create tools from Legos to make circles! The bricks pictured above are the ones we found in our collection that worked the best, but sort through yours and see what you can find.


Our favorite compass consisted of a long rectangular flat block with a half circle piece at each end (the kind with the holes). To make a circle, secure the compass at one end with a sharp pencil, then use a second pencil through the other hole to trace your arc. It helps if you tape the paper down first or have somebody hold it.


Flat pieces that have holes in the center also work well. The circular piece needs a very sharp pencil point as only a small portion shows.


The kids experimented with different sized pieces to make smaller and larger circles. We discussed pi and they measured diameter and radius, as well as calculating circumference. Who said Legos can't make circles?


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lego Geometry - Triangles and Polygons


After learning about the different types of angles, building them with Legos and measuring the tracings with protractors, we moved on to triangles and polygons. It's a pretty easy leap to take your Lego angles and add a third piece to make a triangle.


Easy in theory, yes, but in reality it can be difficult to find a third piece that is just the right size. Make sure you have as many pieces as you can scrounge out of those Lego bins for this activity, and remember you are looking for the shape inside the Lego, not around the perimeter. You would have a pretty wonky triangle if you tried to trace the outside, but look how nice they come out when you trace inside! We classified our triangles by sides ( equilateral, isosceles and scalene) and angles (right, acute and obtuse), then the kids traced examples of each in their math notebooks. You could also measure the angles of the triangles you traced with your protractor.


Break out those double row bricks for polygons, and of course you can use your single rows as well. The kids had fun combining different bricks to make some wild polygons. A polygon is a multi-sided  two dimensional figure made up of three or more line segments, so you can really go to town with building these shapes. We started out with traditional shapes such as squares and rectangles, then moved on to more creative builds. Since these were rather large constructions, the kids drew their examples instead of tracing them.

The real challenge is coming up next time - circles!