My oldest is 16 on December 23 this year. A milestone for us both. I am enjoying memories of her newborn days and all the days between. It is amazing how with each new developmental step, I have cheered her on, and how each step moves her toward who she is becoming. She walked young and talked young and has always been very discriminating. Funny to see how those qualities manifest in her personality now. I remember being thrilled as she pulled her self up and started toddling around, and then horrified as she started to run away from me at 9 months! Now she is a lovely young woman, cultivating who she is and stepping more and more into the world. I certainly have not always done everything right in the raising of my first, but I think she is turning out to be a wonderful person regardless. I so enjoy spending time with my dear daughter and feel grateful for every moment.
High in the sky the big round moon gave a light so bright shining down on the night.
Far down on the ground small creatures looked around amazed at the light so bright.
They all found their warm beds and kissed each others heads, feeling snug as a hug, beneath the shine of the light, all through the night.
I long to give my children the gift of hope for the future. So much talk and news these days about how we are bringing our earth to the brink of disaster, how the Mayan calendar ends and so will the world. This is scary stuff. My adolescents grab onto it and use it to feed their need to be hard edged and my younger one just keeps his eyes wide open.
This week Rowan encountered an adult who went a bit off the deep end with fear about the earth and nature and the role of humans in it all. I was not present when it happened so I could only question and support after the fact. This morning I told him the story of "The Burden Bull of Scotland" by Reg Down, borrowed with thanks from her website offering of free stories. This sweet story of a kind bull who shelters a young child and then brings a Christmas miracle to a starving village helped, I think, to share with Rowan yet another example of how the earth does provide and how hope is possible even in dark times. I also wrote the poem above (with the dual purpose of helping Rowan with his "ight" and "ou" sounds and to help foster a sense of safe protection in nature). I will try to take up more of this theme when we resume our formal studies after the new year.
Now we enter vacation proper! The big kids are out of school, packages and cards have been sent off, all we need to do now is enjoy our warm home and fun family. Ahhh.
The weather here in Santa Cruz is cooperating amazingly well with my lesson plans. We have moved from very cold days to dark wet days. How easy it has been to work with Rowan on the themes of Winter, Advent and Hanukkah.
I was not certain at first how to include the story of Hanukkah into our lessons. It is not an Old Testament Story and it is not something our family usually celebrates. I always have a hard time teaching things that I am not connected with and I worried that this was going to happen with Hanukkah. Books to the rescue! I found a lovely book by Erica Jayasuriya called Traditions. In the book I found wonderful prayers and verses and many stories to choose from to make Hanukkah come alive for us in our school day. I decided to tell the story of Deborah, Woman of Flames. I kept the story simple and was able to weave the bigger story of Hanukkah into the smaller story of Deborah who is seeking her true calling in service to God and finds it as a weaver of candle wicks.
We moved from the story into painting on Monday, filling our page with deep dark blue and then pulling the light of a menorah from the darkness using the lifting off technique. This was challenging for Rowan and he kept saying that it was hard, but he persisted and the painting worked well. I was most pleased with the mood that we were able to create, it really felt like we were honoring the human need to bring light into this time of year.
Our house can sometimes feel mired in darkness with the heavy adolescent influence it holds. Although I think my own two teenagers are questioning the world in a totally healthy and normal way, I worry that Rowan will have too much cynicism too soon. In taking the time to light our advent candles, sit together for our family meals and honor our own family traditions like gingerbread house making and finding the perfect Christmas tree, I hope to help all my children, especially the teenagers, hold onto the beauty and light that is inside of them.
Well the cold is really here. Frost covered the garden this morning and our homeschooling took place alternately near the woodstove and the kitchen oven. It was fun to pull out the Jack Frost verses and a new North Wind poem (Wynstones).
The north wind came along one day, So strong and full of fun; He called the leaves down from the trees And said, "Run, children, run!", They came in red and yellow dress, In shaded green and brown, And all the short November dayHe chased them round the town. They ran in crowds, they ran alone, They hid behind the trees, The north wind laughing found thm there And called,"No stopping, please." But when he saw them tired out And huddled in a heap, He softly said, "Goodnight my dears, Now let us go to sleep."
In an effort to keep with the theme of the second week of advent (Plants) and hold onto Rowan's enthusiasm for fairy tales, I chose The Turnip (Grimms) for our story on Monday and then"told the Russian variation today. In the Grimm's story, a soldier turns farmer, grows a huge turnip and gives it to the king. In the Russian story, a farmer grows a very large turnip and needs his whole family (and dog and cat and mouse) to help him pull it up. These "chain" type stories with repeated lines that go all the way out and then back in again seem to help children developmentally. I noticed it all the time when my older son was still homeschooling. With Rowan I sense that it helps him put order into his own world.
To keep with the theme of order, I am bringing in some form drawing this week as well. We did some mirror forms yesterday that also had a plant-like theme. Today I offered some transformations that also included containment. I feel like Rowan still needs to feel secure in himself and I always like to imaging drawing a protective field around him during these times. Today I had him create a lovely blue form containing a golden crossed lemniscate.
Gingerbread house making is an annual tradition in our house, even if I don't really feel like doing it. I always give in to the wonderful smell of baking gingerbread. We are now just in the cutting and baking part of the process. Tomorrow will be house construction and maybe decoration, but that may need to wait one more day. Acacia (15) proclaimed that no decorating can take place without her. Whenever I have a little moment I am feverishly working on the little farm animal set I plan to give as a gift to one of my darling nieces this year at Christmas. The shipping deadline looms so I must return to the needle and thread presently.
I ended up holding two drawings for the prize (so two hummingbirds will fly out). One drawing was for everyone who sent a comment. It was so much fun to read through them and to visit so many amazing blogs in the process! Thanks to everyone, really. The winner of the first drawing is:
I decided to hold a second drawing just for those who guessed correctly at the type of hummingbird I was going for in my design. The answer: Anna's hummingbird. We have many of these type in our garden and I love watching them zip around and argue with each other over the best flowers! The one in the photo is the male variety. The winner of the second drawing is:
Congratulations to you both! For everyone else, I hope you entered other giveaways and won something somewhere! I will also offer a 50% discount to of you who really wants a hummingbird (or another bird) from my Etsy shop (Henny Pennys Jumble) from now until January 1. Just mention that you entered my giveaway when you order.
If you are looking for My Giveaway, check out the December 2 post! I will pick a random winner at midnight (PST).
This week has been a flurry of fun activity and I have been so pleased to find even my teenagers engaging in holiday craftiness! My daughter actually brought a friend home and dipped candles! It turns out that some of her friends think its cool that I am so domestic and so she is grudgingly giving me a small bit of credit this week.
Rowan had a violin recital this morning and, whew! He practiced with more vigor than I expected and it really paid off. I am so pleased for him. He is the only one of my three still playing and I hope he can keep the inspiration a few more years at least.
Soon we are off to an Advent Walk on this very cold (for Santa Cruz, anyway) December evening.
Now I walk in beauty, Beauty is before me, Beauty is behind me, Beauty's all around me, Above and below me.
This is the song that has begun our homeschool mornings this week and last. One story I told was, "Little Dawn Boy and the Rainbow Trail", a Navaho tale. I found it on the Online Waldorf Library, submitted by JoAnne Dennee. Another story was a coyote tale, "The Sky Is Falling". Our watercolor painting followed the theme from that story. We also had a table puppet performance of "The Frog Prince". It is funny that I have been preparing for this for several weeks now and in the meantime have completely misplaced the princess and prince dolls I made for the telling. I did have the frog, the crown and the golden ball. We used an elf doll for the prince (the one in the photo in the previous post) and an antique from my grandmother's doll collection for the princess. Rowan set up the house scene (he loves to decorate) and moved props around while I told the tale.
It felt so good to be telling a fairytale again. I have done it a few times over the past several months. As my youngest gets older, I find that our story times have become slightly less magical. Rowan's mind wants to grab onto some of the things I tell in our recent stories and discuss them. I see this as healthy and natural and good, but it brings us out of the dreamy story place and engages our thinking capacities much more. As I told the fairy tale, I could feel the softness enter Rowan and myself. Here is opening and closing verse:
Mother of the fairy tale, Take us by your shining hand, Lead us gently up beyond, To where was it, where was it not? To when was it, when was it not?
I tried for this same quality with the "Little Dawn Boy" tale and it was there, I think because of the songs that puncutate the story. For Rowan's main lesson book, I had him focus on beautiful drawings, carefully written poems and completing stories he had left unfinished. Rowan had to complete a writing assignment for the homeschool charter group we belong to. He had to write a three-paragraph persuasive essay on this topic: "Your parents tell you that your family is planning to move. Where do you want to move and why?". The point is to practice the whole Intro, Body, Conclusion model for paper writing. I felt resistant at first, but decided to give it a go. Rowan's response was what I expected: "I don't want to move anywhere." He had very little trouble with the assignment. He sat down and in one sitting cranked out the needed paragraphs in a very sensible way. All of his spelling errors were phonetically correct. I was pleased. His reading still seems slow, but he is making steady progress. We read one chapter each day from a book by Reg Down, "The Tales of Tiptoes Lightly". I think the reading level is maybe high third grade or fourth grade, but it is a good challenge for Rowan and the story engages his interest.
Clearly I have much time for this post. Today is Thursday, the one day I have to myself all week! I try to luxuriate in the time as much as possible. I need to sign off now and go luxuriate somewhere else (like in front of the fire).
I am excited to participate in the Great Handmade Giveaway project hosted by sewmamasew. If you would like to win this hummingbird ornament, comment here and tell me what kind of hummingbird you think it is(you don't have to be right to win). On December 6 I will select a winner and ship it to you for free (in the U.S.)! If you want to check out the link to the bigger giveaway contest, please do: http://sewmamasew.com/blog2/?p=3314
As Rowan and I work away at school and fun and craftiness, I have also been working away (on the side) making little creatures for gifts and also to sell in my Etsy shop. This work has lead me to come up with fun new ways to present some old stories (bring back the fairytales!) and delve into the beauty of nature (I just love wild birds). Here are some of my creations:
Rhode Island Red Rooster and Hen Pair
Slowly but surely I am filling up a little Etsy shop called Henny Pennys Jumble. Clearly we like hens around here and are big fans of Beatrix Potter. Last year when I had a sixth grader still at home as well as my second grader we had some fun with Ginger and Pickles Economics and decided to make a shop. From that, our Etsy shop was born.
I feel so blessed to live in a mild climate. We get warm sunny days and weeks every month of the year. But I love it when we get something close to real seasonal weather once in a while, just for the effect on our mood! This year, the weather has been cooperating with my schedule of activities so nicely. Today we have a fire in the wood stove and are feeling very crafty. Our family found the perfect tree at a local Christmas Tree farm last Sunday and I was so happy to hear even my teenagers proclaim what a nice tree we have this year! Our first Sunday of Advent was easygoing and perfect! That doesn't always happen, I am thankful that it did this year. My family with our perfect tree