Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Early Spring

Well signs of spring are here already. After almost non-stop heavy rains for two weeks, we finally have a lovely, sunny day! The bulbs are up and the smell in the air is unmistakable! I am feeling that annual pull to get back into the garden! Another sure sign, an egg in the egg box! After taking the winter off, my hens feel the slightly longer days as well. I might have to set the handwork aside for a bit and take advantage of this wonderful break in the weather. Rain must return so our state will have enough water for the dry seasons ahead, but for now...

This week our main lesson moved away from the Old Testament and more firmly into Shelter. On Monday I told the story of Toba, a nomad child who lives in the foothills beneath snowy mountains, maybe in what we today call Afghanistan. Toba and her family are shepherds and they carry their come, a portable yurt, with them on camels as they search for good pastures for their sheep, goats and oxen. Toba carries a drop spindle in her belt with her wherever she goes so that she can work on spinning yarn whenever she has free time. She also helps her mother prepare food for the family. Flat bread, goat cheese, olives and grilled meat are some of the foods they commonly prepare. Because they are nomadic, they sometimes stop at more settled farms and trade wool for things like olive oil, olives, fruits and vegetables. On Tuesday, Rowan drew a picture into his book to go along with this story. Today, he is working on writing some sentences.

Earlier today I told another story, this one about Uli, an Inuit child whose family hunts walrus and caribou in the Arctic tundra. Sometimes they build igloos, or snow houses and stay warm with fur rugs and blankets. Other times, they go out on the ice with their large pack of sled dogs pulling the whole family in search of animals on the hunt. In the wintertime, it is almost always dark, but the sky is beautiful with stars, moon and the Northern Lights all reflecting off the ice and snow. In the summertime, the sun never sets and much ice melts so that the family must use kayaks to hunt instead of dog sleds. Autumn and Spring are times when day and night are more balanced. In the autumn, Uli helps his family repair the hunting gear and take care of the dogs. When they do go hunting, every part of an animal is used. The fur makes warm clothing, the fat makes oil for lamps and the meat will be food for the family and the dogs. The dogs get to eat first because they work so hard pulling the sled. Uli and his family do not get many fruits, grains or vegetables and so they must get most of their nutrition from fish and meat. At night, Uli is snug with his family in the igloo, lit with seal oil lamps, listening to stories of the great spirits that inhabit the sea, the ice and the animals all around.

I think I will try to create two or three more stories like this (perhaps a wood house, a clay house and a house in the jungle).

We also took ourselves into the garden and tried to find a good tree for a treehouse! This is something I have been wanting to build for years and I think this year with the Third Grade Shelters Block, I finally have the chance! Rowan wants the house to be huge, but I think it will end up measuring about 4' x 5' and be anchored by three medium sized Bay Laurel trees up behind the chicken coop. It may take us the rest of the school year to complete, but it must begin sometime.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sweet Birds After My Own Heart

Each month a new "featured etsy blogger" is chosen by my fun new group called etsybloggers. All members take a look at the featured etsy blogger's etsy shop and blog, leaves comments, shops around and gives a little press on our own blogs. This month's featured artist is NicoDesigns. Anyone can visit NicoDesigns by going to Nico creates fabulous goodies to enliven the home. My personal favorites are her bird designs. This one especially caught my fancy:

Winter entertainment, a blog carnival

I have many favorite winter pastimes and they all take place indoors! I love to sit by the warm woodstove with one or more children and pets around me! Sometimes we play board games, sometimes we get out the clay, but usually it is handwork. I have dabbled in knitting, but can still only handle squares and rectangles. I satisfy myself by trying out different lacework patterns. I did make a pair of socks once, but the stress of it was too much! I like the meditative state knitting puts me into. I don't like to have to pay too close attention.

I wish I could make something as lovely as this red ruffles scarf I found at FoxyGknits etsy shop!

As those who have read my blog posts before will know, I really like to sew. I only sew by hand, machines bother me. I guess this is why I focus on small projects, primarily felt. Wool felt is a fabulous fiber and it is just wonderful for working with children. Even small children can get a large needle through the thick pile of the felt and the edges do not fray so you do not need to worry about hiding your seams. This is quite liberating for young stitchers. When my children were very young, I would put the needle in and have them pull it out, stitch by stitch. Needless to say, this took a while! It was a great way to pass away the time on snowed-in or rain-ed-in days. It does not snow where I live (sniff), but we do get a good deal of rain. It is raining right now, in fact. The long gray, wet, cold days are perfect for starting a new sewing project. Lately I have been working on creating a new pattern for a raccoon. Here is what I have so far.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rain is Good for Studying and Sewing

Teaching the Old Testament stories in the context of the third grade Waldorf curriculum is such an interesting experience. On a personal adult level, I have many questions and meditations that come out of reading the Old Testament, including some conflicts. I am striving to look beyond my own personal questions and delve into the archetypes that are being presented and find the way to deliver this to my son that will meet his own needs, not mine. With those thoughts in mind, we had a very pleasant week with the stories of Jacob who wrestled an angel, Job who was tempted and Joseph with his coat of many colors.

Our shelter and clothing block is progressing alongside the Old Testament. I found some great books at the public library with lovely illustrations of all types of early shelters and clothing. Rowan loves to sit and peruse these illustration-rich, high in detail books. He was so inspired, he had to go off and draw a huge picture of the inside and underground part of his own idea of an Egyptian pyramid, filled with secret passages and traps. Finally, we completed the clay house. We also pulled out the small lap held weaving loom and added a new color.

I find myself with more time to sew now that Rowan is reading more independently. It is so great to give him a reading assignment and see him go off and read it! But, I have found that it is best to be in the vicinity, not off on the computer, when he stumbles on a new or difficult word. For this reason, I am trying to discipline myself to doing only handwork, not other housework or mental work, when he is reading. So far this is working well and I have come up with two nifty new fashion items to offer in my Etsy shop!

I pulled out grandmother's old tattered mink coat and wondered what to do with it. The collar was in perfect condition, so I re-imagined it, combined it a piece from an old cashmere sweater and added some antique lace.

Since I had already cut up the sweater and dragged out the box of old lace, I made up a pretty little choker while I was at it. It seems that on Etsy, these are called "necklets". Finally, I found a few minutes to madly click away on my computer and have joined the prestigious group called the EtsyBloggers. Now I just have to figure out what to do to participate!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Serious Nine Year Old Stuff

Oh Noah, do you wonder why,

The children of God are doomed to die?

Know this: that only bodies die, souls return to Heaven on High.

The spirit lives and does not perish!

Today was another great Monday. These truly are wonderful days in homeschooling. I told the story of Job, his trials and hardships and his continued faith. This led to a discussion of Job's children, the ones who perished when the roof collapsed in order to see if Job would curse God or not. Rowan wondered if they were brought back to life once Job proved that he was still faithful. I reminded Rowan of the lines he is working on for the upcoming Noah play. This led to further discussion of what happens after we die. The talk we had was heavier than I expected on a Monday morning, but totally appropriate for a sensitive nine year old boy. Are we just this body? Do we have a soul that lives on? How do we know this? Who is right? Do we reincarnate like the Hindus believe, to work out karma in life after life or are we sent to Heaven or Hell depending on our "goodness" or "badness" in this life? These were the questions that came to us in our lesson.

Our Old Testament lesson led very smoothly into a lesson on clothing and shelter. The weather right now is powerfully stormy and it is so easy to see why we need clothing and a house! We spoke of all the parts of the world we know about from our travels and also the parts we know about from books and teased out the different needs for clothing and shelter just based on weather and available resources. From here I offered a big stack of library books with great photos an illustrations of clothing and shelter through the ages.

Our painting today was of a rainy day scene with a shelter in it. We both ended up with a similar painting: mountains and rainy sky, forest with a log house.

All this work with shelter and clothing and Old Testament stories seems to be reaching Rowan right where he needs it. He is in the midst of wondering who and where he is in this world and he needs to feel secure. This curriculum is giving him the support and structure he needs to express himself.

As I do this little work in my home with my youngest child, I think of the larger world and the events currently happening within it. The large earthquake and devastating damage in Haiti have moved many and I have found a little place to contribute. The group called Craft Hope for Haiti is an Etsy shop selling donated handmade items. 100% of these sales is going to Doctors Without Borders in Haiti. I am making my small contribution by offering one of my white felt doves to the cause.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Saga Continues

I decided not to tell the story of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac. After recounting the story of Ishtar, the Morning Star in a lovely, fairytale-like way, I moved right on to the life of Isaac, his finding Rebekah for a wife and his sons Esau and Jacob. This was good for Rowan. We continued to focus on shelter and clothing and bring a definite anthropological perspective to the biblical discussion. We finished the clay house and wove Watsonia grass into roofs. Our whole week had a tone of form, structure, pattern and rhythm.

Our homeschool group is working on a Noah's Ark play. It is so fun to watch the group evolve and take on parts. Today we built the ark out of cardboard and practiced lines. Rowan is to be a villager and a rhino. The poems that will serve for chorus lines are very lovely and are helping Rowan in many ways. Reading of course, is helped, but also memorization, alliteration, timing.

Rowan is also just now joining his first strings orchestra. This will force him to improve his sense of timing and being "in-time" with his group. I am thrilled for this. He was like a deer in headlights sitting in the audition, but I was relieved that he was still willing to go back next week (after putting finger numbers on all his music).

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Old Stories, New Questions

Today, as part of our block on the Old Testament, I told the story of Lot, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot's wife being turned into a pillar of salt. Rowan declared, "I think God is a jerk. How could he kill all those people, including children? What about the animals when all the fire and brimstone fell?" Hmm. This is a hard one for me. It all started with Noah. Rowan did not think it was fair that only two of each kind of animal was saved. He could not understand why God would drown all those animals due to the "badness" of humans. He hears these stories and notices the highly judgmental nature of God in them. I try to bring a fullness to them, get a sense of the deeper meanings so that I can imbue the stories with that feeling, create a beautiful picture, but I am not sure if it is working. I suppose Rowan's reaction is a normal nine year change thing that questions authority and the fairness of things. Still, I wonder how I am going to possibly tell the story of Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac without Rowan being aghast at the idea of a father being asked to kill his son to prove his love of God! The points are stacking up against the God of the Old Testament in Rowan's book. I hope by the end of the block that I can help him have a more balanced understanding.

On the other hand, my attempt to bring in lessons on shelter and clothing along side the Old Testament are going very well. Right away this week Rowan was very interested in the types of houses that Abraham lived in. He wanted to build a clay model house immediately. We do not have access to a kiln like we did when older brother made his ziggurat, so we had to settle for the DAS air-drying clay. For the past two days we have spent a bit of time molding and stacking small clay bricks, modeling the structure on photos and drawings we found of Biblical clay houses and ruins. This was a very satisfying activity for both of us.

We also spent some time today learning all about wool. I dug out my old drop spindle (although I don't know how to use it!) and we went around finding things in the house that were made of wool. Rowan had fun working with the carding brushes. We discussed how cool it is that so many different animals can give up extra hair by combing or shearing without needing to be killed. We also talked about how in some places, like in Greenland or Alaska, animal fur and skin is essential for human survival. I had Rowan write an essay on the subject of wool in his Nature and History main lesson book.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Shepherds and Shelter

We had a lovely Monday back to school today. We started out with a new years verse and a discussion of new year celebrations in different cultures. We remembered Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and our fun celebration of that holiday back in the autumn. We talked about the Chinese New Year and the Chinese Zodiac. We also talked about the tradition of New Year's resolutions and goal setting. Rowan said that his school goals were to get faster at both reading and writing and to work more on his times tables. He also remembered his goals of becoming more agile and stealthy at his nature awareness program on Thursdays.

I found a nice way to enliven the Abraham story and introduce our Clothing and Shelter block at the same time. As I told the story of Abraham I spoke of how he was instructed by God more than once to take his family and flocks and move to a new place. Rowan and I talked about the kinds of sheep and goats that they might have had and how different they probably looked from the sheep we see on farms today. He may have had camels and donkeys as well. We also talked about the kinds of shelters that Abraham might have lived in. He was born in a cave, as his parents hid out from King Nimrod. Then he lived for many years with Noah, we imagined in a modest clay farm house. Next he spent time traveling, first to Canaan and then on to Egypt. During his travels he must have lived in tents that could be easily packed up for the move. We pulled out the clay ziggurat that his older brother made a few years back in fourth grade and spoke of the building materials available in the desert regions Abraham lived in. Our story ended with the amazing news that Abraham and Sarah became parents when they were one hundred years old, with the birth of thier son, Isaac, the one who laughs.

After violin practice, we painted. My instructions were that we needed to paint a desert scene and there must be at least one animal in it. Rowan chose to do a difficult painting of Egypt with pyramids and a palm tree and people and camels. All of his creatures were on a very minimal scale and it was a challenge to keep the wet on wet paint from bleeding his fine details all over the page. We waited for the paper to dry a bit before he added his animals and discussed the importance of putting in the sky before the details to avoid the tedious work of bringing the sky down and around these features. The rest of the day was filled with familiar school work: math, writing (thank you notes!) and reading. I do think his reading was just a tad bit faster than the last time...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year and a New Block

I love preparing for a new block in homeschooling. This one is nice in many ways. I feel rested from a fine vacation, mostly at home, but with a little adventuring in this beautiful state of California. I feel happy with Rowan's progress so far and especially his enthusiasm. He really does seem to enjoy homeschooling and puts in such admirable effort to all of his work for me. I am enjoying trying to figure out how to make this next block meet him right where he is at. On the other hand, I have an ongoing nervousness about the Old Testament, which feels like the right place to delve next. Our work with Creation went wonderfully well so I don't know why I am hesitant now, but I am. I think I have a direction with the Abraham story, but I had to stop in my preparations when I got to Isaac and the sacrifice. I know I will pull it off when the time comes, but not tonight. For now I am feeling into what it might have been like to be a wandering shepherd in the desert, following God's orders and waiting one hundred years to start a family.