Category Archives: waldorf homeschooling

The trouble with reading

It is the middle of August. That means it is time for me to freak out about school planning and get all anxious and crazy. The anxiety and craziness came way early this year.  At the beginning of July I had a complete and total homeschooling mom breakdown. From time to time I do second guess my homeschooling decision and wonder if the kids would be happier in school and then I remember why we are doing this and go back to being really happy with our choices. This time my melt down was far worse. Within 2 days I went from my typical second guessing to actually calling the school district to find out how to enroll my kids in school and calling the department of special ed to get Ulka evaluated. I was a mess and spent most of those two days in tears. Andy calmly looked on and let me go through my craziness without saying much. He knew that I would come around back to where my heart really lies.

The forms came from the school and I sat down to fill them out and got completely overwhelmed by that process. SO MANY FORMS. Wow. Who knew it was so complicated to enroll your child in school? Then, I saw my more sane and stable friend Sarah who so patiently listened and nodded and agreed. When I saw her two days later, she talked me off the ledge and reminded me of all the benefits and pluses of homeschooling and offered encouragement and support and suggestions.

So, the back story. Ulka has really been “struggling” with reading. By this I mean that she isn’t reading where she “should be” if she were in traditional school. As a homeschooling mom it is sometimes hard to gauge the children’s progress and I fall prey to all the school standards that I am so desperately trying to avoid. I looked up reading  by grade level, researched how to determine fluency, measured her reading in words per minute and basically made myself and Ulka crazy. I convinced myself that if there is a problem it would be best to find out sooner than later so I decided to have her evaluated by the board of ed. Every single homeschooler that I talked to said clearly “DO NOT DO THAT”.

I know that every child learns at her own pace and I knew that in my heart I was not convinced that Ulka had a “problem”, but that she is just taking her own time. I didn’t get her evaluated and am so thankful that I didn’t.  She has been practicing a lot recently and has made some good progress. I know that schools have to have standards to measure students progress. There are certainly kids who really have a need for intervention and it is great that those resources are available to them. But some kids are just ‘late bloomers’.

Some kids potty train at 2 and some at 4 . Everyone tells the frustrated mother not to worry, that she will do it when she is ready and that she won’t be in diapers when she goes to school. Some kids learn to ride without training wheels when they are 3 and some not until they are 8. If a child is still riding with training  wheels at 7 nobody freaks out and says that there must be some sort of problem and that the kid should be evaluated for a physical problem. It is similar with reading. Ishaan read Tom Sawyer in the summer between 2nd and 3rd grade and Ulka is still sounding out words. But she will get there, I know she will.

So now onto the fun of planning the school year. I have lots of fun ideas, trips and projects in the works and am looking forward to this year. More on school planning later. Now I have to go and do it!

Healing Herb Garden

Ishaan is, at the moment, very interested in learning about medicinal and edible herbs and plants. The other day he went out into the small woods behind our house and came back with a bag of what looked to me like grass, weeds, and dirt. He told me he had collected edible plants and asked if he could cook them up for his breakfast. Now, I must admit that I was a little bit distracted and just said sure. I realize that I probably should have investigated a little bit more, but really what do I know about edible plants. He has learned a lot in his wilderness class so I trusted him. He sautéed them in butter and sat down to a plate of who knows what for breakfast.

One of the things I love about homeschooling is that we can take these interests and ideas that the kids have and totally run with them.  It also works out very nicely because we are currently in the middle of his Farming and Gardening Block. I love it when things work out like that!

In our back yard we had a row of huge peonies. I love peonies, but we have them in the front of the house too and I’ve been wanting to do something else with that space in the back so we decided to turn it into a healing herb garden. I checked out a few books from the library and we did a little bit of research. The book I ended up liking most and getting the bulk of our information is called The Medicinal Herb Garden: How to Grow and Use your Own Medicinal Herbs by Anne McIntyre.  We looked through it for ideas and then decided to narrow it down to about 6 types of plants. We thought about what ailments we wanted to make remedies for and chose plants based on that. We are going to grow Echinacea, Feverfew, Marshmallow, Lemon Balm, Stinging Nettle, Calendula and a whole bunch of cooking herbs. We’ve got plenty of Plantain growing in the grass in the summer.

I had Ishaan look up each plant and write down what it is used for and draw a picture of it in his garden journal. We dug out the peonies and gave them away to several different friends. We certainly didn’t want to throw them out, so it is nice to know that they will be making other people’s gardens beautiful.

We weeded that area and sectioned it off using bricks from our chimney that were removed when it was rebuilt after the trees landed on the house. Now we have to spread some compost and natural fertilizer on it and it will be ready for planting.We ordered seeds from Bountiful Gardens and High Mowing.

The Bountiful Garden seeds came a couple of days ago and today we will plant them in small pots inside and them transplant them once they are a couple of inches tall.  Some of them we can sow directly in the ground, but I don’t like doing that because when they first come up they all look the same to me and look just like the weeds, so I’m afraid I will pull them out while on one of my weeding rampages.

While they are starting to grow we will research how to use them properly. Some, like plantain and nettle, you just mash up and apply directly to the skin. Some, like lemon balm are used to make tea, and others require more of a process to extract the good stuff so I’ve got a lot of learning to do.

Anticipating Spring

I know I’ve said before that I don’t like winter, but I know that I have also talked about how I like the change of seasons- that I need each season to prepare for the next. This year we kept waiting for winter to arrive.

Normally the snowdrops start poking their little heads out of the ground while still covered with a blanket of snow. When the snow melts, exposing the snowdrops, the end of winter is in sight and spring is just around the corner. Since there was no snow this year, the snowdrops seemed to emerge in the middle of winter. I didn’t know if it was me or the flowers that were confused about the seasons!

I wasn’t ready for spring, we hadn’t had winter yet! The thought of preparing the garden and spring cleaning overwhelmed me. I wasn’t ready for all that. I hadn’t had  my time of winter dormancy. I feel like I need that  sleepy time of cold, snow, long nights, and cuddling down by the fire to fully appreciate the excitement of the coming of spring. Winter is a time of planning, and wondering, and pondering before the flurry of activity that the change of seasons brings.

I had just about given up on winter and was starting to wrap my head around the idea of spring when old mother nature finally delivered us the winter weather I needed. Leap day brought us 15 inches of snow. We immediately commenced all winter activities- snow day, sledding, snowball fights, shoveling, and hot chocolate with whipped cream.

We managed to squeeze in a whole season’s worth of winter into 24 hours. Then it rained and warmed up.

A week later we were out in the mud in 60 degree weather. But I got my winter, and now I am ready and eagerly anticipating the arrival of spring.

I’ll end here for I’m  off to order my garden seeds!

A Week in the Life – Day Seven

I wish we could sleep in or at least laze around in our pajamas drinking  coffee on Sunday mornings but that is not the case in our house. We have to be up, dressed, breakfasted, and ready to be out the door by 8am for church. We could go to the 11:15 service but then we don’t get home until 1:30 and we feel like it’s a waste of our day. We are late for church about 100% of the time, but hey, at least we make it.

When we get home we get some lunch on the table, put Kairav down for a nap and proceed with a relaxing but hopefully productive Sunday afternoon.

It’s blood orange season!

Lately with my increase in students I’ve had to go out in the afternoon to tutor for an hour or two which I don’t usually mind. Today I really really really did not want to go, but I just kept reminding myself that every hour of tutoring is a cello lesson for Ulka, or a month of YMCA membership, or part of an iPad. A little motivation goes a long way.

I did get to squeeze in some cuddle time with my favorite 4 year old before I left.

Ulka, my own little live-in mother’s helper, got Kairav ready  and put him down for his nap.

Ulka does not have any idea how to relax and be still. For her doing gymnastics is relaxing.

On her beam that Andy made her for Christmas.

Ishaan could literally read all day if we let him.

While I was out at the library Andy and Ishaan made a shelf for Ishaan’s bedroom wall.  Ishaan is a collector of treasures and he needs a place to keep them where they are not in my way and out of the reach of curious little hands. It came out super great and he is thrilled with it.

Sunday night is pizza night. No pizza here even approaches real Brooklyn pizza and frankly it’s just not worth buying.Andy has become an expert dough maker, though he hasn’t yet mastered throwing it up the the air and catching it to stretch it out! Although our homemade pizza doesn’t really come close to Brooklyn pizza either, it is it’s own thing and we quite like it. It’s fun to experiment with toppings. Today we made a leek, mushroom, and garlic with herbs and feta (no red sauce) and a spinach, garlic and tomato for our family. We also made a pie for our neighbors who just had a baby and delivered it piping hot.

After dinner the kids watched the 1950s version of Cheaper by the Dozen on the computer. Movies for them are a real treat so they were super excited.

I spent some time working on those blasted colored pencil rolls. Ulka’s is almost done and Ishaan’s is well on it’s way. And now after I’ve finished this post I think a glass of wine and an early night is in order.

I am sure that over the last seven days you have noticed a pattern to our little life here. Homeschooling, making stuff, cello, gymnastics, reading, and cooking. That is how we spend most of our time- at least in the winter. I am planning to make this a seasonal project so watch for the spring edition!

Well friends thanks for tuning into my little experiment here. I appreciate every one of you and all your kind and encouraging comments. It’s been a little bit exhausting documenting everything  and blogging every day for a week and I’ll be glad to have a little break!

Good night!

A Week in the Life – Day Six

I find that when we are out of milk and bread, we often have a more hearty filling breakfast because we cannot resort of bowls of cold cereal which the kids all love. Usually by Saturday we are pretty low on groceries but we almost always have dry grains and beans on hand, so it was steel-cut oats with lots of yummy toppings. Sounds great, but it would have been better if I hadn’t stormed off in the middle of breakfast because I couldn’t deal with the nonsense. Not a great way to start the day.

The kids have been in 4H for a couple of years and the leader moved away over the summer. I took over the position, not at all because I want to be the leader but because I didn’t want the group to die out.  I’ve got to be just about the worst 4H leader around. I have plenty of plans and ideas but I fail miserably at executing them. All my organizing and planning faculties are used up on school and home duties and the group is falling apart a little bit. I finally asked another mom to take over the administration part of the group- arranging the meetings and e-mailing etc. She is super motivated and organized and much better at it than me.

We had a meeting today and we are making wren houses. The kids were all pretty excited about the project and Andy took charge of it since it is much more his domain than mine. He cut out the pieces but the kids used the drill press to make the holes and to hammer and screw them together. They came out nicely. Next time we will paint them and research more about wrens for our group project for the county fair.

The afternoon was pretty low-key. Ishaan read for hours, Andy split some wood, and I studied Physics. After a lunch of leftovers we went out  to the local DEC Nature and Education Center which is less than 10 minutes from our house. It is a lovely place to go for a half an hour or a whole afternoon. There are lots of trails and a visitors center with some neat stuff including a rescued Barred Owl named Aries.

There are lots of photos from our little afternoon hike/walk. What the pictures don’t capture is Ila crying because she got soap in her sleeve when she used the bathroom, and then crying because she couldn’t put her mitten on her wet hand, and then crying because she couldn’t walk very fast. They also don’t capture my frustration with her crying and my lecture about how she is not a baby and she has to start acting like a big girl. Nor does it capture her glee when she climbed down the big hill all by herself because she actually is a big and very brave girl now.

Ishaan found a dead raccoon on the trail and after poking it with a stick to make sure it was really dead, there was much discussion and speculation about how and why it died. Kairav just kept asking if it was lost.

We returned home to find a package from my mom with an awesome new vest for Kairav and her heart shaped cake pan that she’s passing on to me. We had a quick hot cocoa (mine had Kirsch in it!) and off to Andy’s parents for dinner. Yay! Off the hook for dinner!

Somehow I had enough forethought to take the kids pajamas with us, so they all got ready for bed over there. All they had to do was brush teeth, have a quick story and fall into bed.

Not a bad Saturday. I really should either clean the office- which has become a pile of my tutoring stuff and craft stuff, or work on those pencil roll ups but I know that I will end up crocheting more hearts and watching something mindless on Netflix.

A Week in the Life – Day Four

My love for Wednesday does not carry through into Thursdays. Thursday is a busy day and nearing the end of the week and we are all a bit tired. Thursday morning is chore morning. There are  chores every hour of every day, but on Thursday mornings we try to catch up on all the things that got away from us during the week. That way the house is nice a clean for our Friday and into the weekend.

I knew that  leaving that big pile of laundry on the chair when I went to bed would be something that I would regret it this morning. I did. I’m all about portioning my day out and rewarding little small accomplishments throughout the day. I’m talking about for myself, not the kids here. I don’t know what, if anything, this says about me but it really helps me get stuff done. So, I forced myself to fold a small mountain of laundry and put it all away BEFORE my morning coffee. I don’t function well without my morning coffee, so getting it was a big reward. An even bigger reward was that while I was putting away laundry, a task I simply hate, Andy made a Panakeuken for breakfast. Yummy.

After breakfast Andy started work and the kids were all given chores. The kids dusted and tidied their bedroom, the girls tidied the playroom, and Ishaan tidied the mud room while I raced around trying to cross things off my list.

Ishaan has a daily chore of unloading the dishwasher. He used to complain bitterly about it, but after two years of doing it every morning I think he has come to the realization that complaining about it only makes it worse and he is happy to get it over with.

School started a little bit late and seemed to drag on and on. Ishaan had a hard time focusing and I had to keep nagging him.

I am sewing colored pencil rolls for Ishaan and Ulka for Valentine’s Day so I needed to work on those. The kids almost never ask me what I am making so I can still make things while they are around. Maybe because I’m always making something or another so they don’t really even notice. I don’t especially like making these roll-ups but I really love how they turn out and they both need one. Ulka lost hers and Ishaan never had one. I worked on those while Ishaan plodded through his school work and practiced his knot-tying and Ulka and Ila painted and did gymnastics in the living room.

After the kids’ school work is done, my school work begins. I often have a few hours a week of prep time. I don’t mind it though- I like working through problems that have a formula and a clear answer.

My plan was to make dinner early because our Thursday afternoons are a mad rush, but the kids and I were both going stir crazy so we headed outside for a while. Ishaan, Ulka, and Ila go in and out all day but it was fun to go out with them and to take Kairav out to play too.

So, instead of the lentils and veggies and quinoa that I had planned for dinner, Andy made pasta while I took Ishaan to swim practice. I dropped Ishaan off, gave everyone a kiss and hopped on my bike to meet my Physics student. Andy cleaned up from dinner, packed up the kids and drove them over to his parents house, and went over to our friends house for our weekly fellowship group. I biked over and met him after tutoring and gobbled down the banana and yogurt he brought me for dinner. See, too hectic for my liking. I don’t like Thursdays and am exhausted and going to bed so rest up for Friday- my big day of fun.

Clothing and Fibers Block- Leather Moccasins

The fibers and clothing block that Ishaan and I are working on is by far my favorite so far. It probably has a lot to do with how much I love making things and exploring new fibers and fabrics. The fact that we took a much needed long Christmas break must also play into it. Although it took a week to get out routine back, we came back to school refreshed and excited. Ishaan also enjoys making things so this is a perfect hands on block.

We’ve decided to study leather, flax/linen, wool, cotton and silk. In addition to learning about each fiber and how they are made, we also plan to do a “making” project for each of them. The first one we have completed is a pair of leather moccasins. We looked at many pattern and kits online but ended up choosing a pair of one-peice soft sole moccassins which we found the instructions for on a website called Native American Technology and Art. It is a great site which I am sure we will refer back to when we do our Native American block this spring.

Above is an example of the instructions that we followed. I traced around Ishaan’s feet and then measured and drew out all those complicated looking lines. Really they are not complicated once you read the instructions all the way through.

making the paper pattern

paper pattern

After we made and cut out the paper pattern, we made a mock up out of a piece of scrap fabric. I HIGHLY recommend that you do this as we had to make some adjustments to make the pattern work. We added about 1/2″ to the width of the flaps to make them a little bit longer when folded down. We also had to add a bit to the length and make them a bit narrower across the foot. The photo show the mock up just pinned, but I had Ishaan sew it up to practice his stitching. Also, it gave him something to do while he waited for his leather needle to arrive.

mock up out of scrap fabric

Once we were happy with our pattern adjustments, Ishaan traced the pattern onto his piece of suede and cut it out.

cutting the leather

cutting leather

tool to mark the holes or stitches
We didn’t end up using this nifty little tool. I think it is for softer, thinner leather and couldn’t make a deep enough mark with it. I just marked the leather with a sharpie every 3/16″. We also did not end up using the glovers needle I got.  I could barely get it through one layer of leather and I knew that Ishaan trying to force it through two layers would likely end in disaster. I just punched the holes with a leather punch that my mom had left over from her den-mother days. It made the sewing for Ishaan much easier and he just used thick waxed thread and a darning needle.

Leather punch

sewing up the moccasin

 Ishaan sewed up the moccasin almost entirely on his own. According to the instructions he used a whip stitch from the underneath to about the end where the big toe would end. He did the rest using a running stitch so he could gather the stitches giving a puckering effect. He did a similar thing in the back. The tab in the back was a bit tricky and I helped a lot with that.

finished!

boy in moccasins

It was a super fun and less complicated than i originally throughout project for the clothing and fibers block. Ishaan is proud of himself  and pleased as punch with his new moccasins!