Tag Archives: Homeschool

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!

Earthling turns 5!

Five years ago our, Ila (meaning Earth), our tiniest package arrived. Three weeks early and a little pipsqueak.

She is still our little pipsqueak but she has a lot of heart and a lot of person in that little body!

Birthday anticipation and excitement was in full force last night at bedtime. I told her the birthday poem that I love so much and say to all the children on the eve of their birthday. I’m not sure where it comes from originally but it is one my friend, a Waldorf teacher, sent me years ago.

When I have said my evening prayer,
And my clothes are folded on the chair,
And mother switches off the light,
I’ll still be …… years old tonight.

But, from the very break of day,
Before the children rise and play.
Before the darkness turns to gold
Tomorrow, I’ll be …… years old.

… Kisses when I wake,
…, Candles on my cake!

I stayed up too late last night finishing up her birthday garland, which will become our spring garland when her birthday passes. I enjoyed making our heart garland so much I decided to try a flower one.

Ulka ran out and cut 5 daffodils and a hyacinth from the garden and we set the table for birthday breakfast- her choice, Daddy pancakes.

After pancakes was present time. We usually have the kids wait until after supper and cake to open gifts, but we decided to let her open them this morning. Ishaan made her an awesome necklace. He cut out little house shapes and drilled holes in them so he could thread them onto a thin wire. One each little house he wood burned one letter of her name and made into a necklace

A few weeks ago Ulka went up to my moms for a few days. While she was there she made a doll quilt of Ila’s doll Lulu. It is pretty amazing. She sewed the squares together,machine quilted it and then sewed the binding by hand. My mom was there looking over her shoulder, but she did it all by herself. Ila loves it.

Andy needed me to take Ila out for a couple of hours so that he could finish up a project that he has been working on. More than happy to oblige, I took Ila out on a big birthday date. Now, anyone who knows Ila knows that she is “passionate” about hair. If you have long hair and you come over, watch out. Ila will persuade you to let her comb and style it for you. Ila doesn’t have long hair and so wishes that she did, but it is so thin and brittle that it just doesn’t grow long.  I decided to surprise her with a trip to a hair salon. I have always cut her hair for her so I thought it would be a special treat. She was a little nervous at first, but I think in the end she enjoyed it (at least I hope she did).

Ta Dah!! The after shot. It was a bit to  little girl pageant-y for me with it all styled, but it’s a super cute cut that I think will look great once we let it do its own thing. Ila loved how puffy and shiny it was.

We went out for lunch at the local diner and I let her order anything she wanted. Mostly she was excited that she could have orange juice and hardly ate anything!

When we finally got home, Andy told her she had one more present waiting for her. While we were out, he (nearly) finished her new bedroom. Her room was damaged when 4 trees fell on it during the tropical storm last year. She has been sleeping in Ishaan and Ulka’s room since then. The renovation project is a very long story that will get its own entry soon.  Ila was so thrilled with her new room and just couldn’t stop saying thank you. It was worth every ounce of effort that went into it. It is an amazing room though- I would love it too. Tomorrow Kairav will join her in there, but for tonight it is just hers.

Mimi, Andy’s grandmother came over for supper and cake. I do the baking and Andy does the decorating. I think we are a good team- when I decorate it looks like a 4-year-old has done it.

Good night my little Ila. Sleep soundly in your new room. We are so happy you are here filling our lives with your sunshine.

autumn approaching

I love summer. I love running outside in bare feet and summer dresses. I love going to the beach and the pool and soaking in the sunshine. I love lemonade and mojitos. I love dinners of fresh fruit and yogurt. However,  I am beginning to realize that I am learning to welcome the change of seasons too and that I enjoy living seasonally.

At the first signs of spring I rush out to the garden and prepare it for summer- pruning, planting, planning. For the first few months of summer I am an avid, bordering on compulsive, weeder.  I spend hours tending and caring for the garden and it looks beautiful and neat and tidy. Then, as the summer progresses, my enthusiasm wanes a bit. The days are hot and I am not quite as excited to spend hours nurturing our garden. I’d rather sit in the shade and knit and enjoy the garden in its glory. Every so often I go on a weeding rampage but for the most part I just leave it alone. By the time fall comes, I’ve completely given up on it, and what I’ve realized is that is when the garden is most glorious. All the summer annuals that we set are big and mature and still full of blossoms. The fall flowers- sedum, holly, and mums, are starting to show their colors too. The flowers and plant have gotten big enough that they out compete the weeds. It still looks well-kept, but has a kind of wildness to it that I love.

I have been trying to make the most of these weeks of early fall by letting the kids play outside as much as possible, even if that means cutting into a little bit of the school day. We will have plenty of long winter months when we are forced inside to make up any work that I feel like we have missed. The leaves are just starting to change and I don’t want to miss out on that. Too many years I’ve mourned the end of summer and completely missed the beauty of the fall. I don’t want that to happen this year.

Ila learning how to whittle

Kairav mowing the lawn

In the coming weeks, after the hard frosts arrive, we will have to bed the garden down for winter. I will split and cut back the peonies, pull out the dead plants, take down the fence around the vegetable garden,  harvest the last of the potatoes and swill chard, and rake and rake and rake. I look forward to that too.

We went around and picked some flowers to bring inside. The little roses are blooming for a second time this summer- I suppose all that pruning in July paid off.  We also picked some for pressing so on those cold and dreary winter days, when we’ve forgotten what summer is like, we can pull them out and remember and look forward to next summer.

flower pressing

First week a success

The first week of school could not have been better.  Admittedly we only had two and a half days of ‘real’ school work and I kept my expectations pretty low, but still, we had a great week.

We started the week and the year off with a trip to Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts.  It is set up  like a village from the 1880’s which I thought was very nicely done and authentic feeling. The buildings are old buildings that have been transplanted from other sites. There is a potter’s studio, a blacksmith shop, a school-house, a church etc.  A couple of times a year they hold a home school day and there are workshops for the kids to do. Ish did a workshop on textiles and one on herbal remedies. Ulka did cooking and farm life. They were pretty neat classes, at least the kids seemed to enjoy them.  Andy generously offered to keep Ila and Kairav so that we could drive out with our friends Sarah, Jack and Lucy and have a day with the big kids.

This one just cracks me up

Goofy fun at the museum

Learning about training oxen

On Tuesday we jumped right into our school routine.  I was skeptical about circle time, but to my surprise everyone, including Ishaan, loves it. Kairav is hilarious to watch as he marches around trying to keep up with the finger plays and movements. Pretty cute.

Ishaan’s first big project is to make a clay oven that we will use to bake bread outside. I found the idea on this fantastic website called Pyrites.org. There are all kinds of super great ideas and some fascinating articles on the value of handwork and crafts in education. A few weeks ago  Irene took down many trees in our neighborhood (including 5 on our property 2 of which landed on our house, but that’s another story). One of the trees that came down just down the street was a large willow. The kids and I collected lots of branches to make the basket which is to be the dome part of the oven.  The basket will get covered in many layers of leaves and clay to make the clay oven.  This week we got to work on the basket.  Once we assembled the framework, which was very frustrating, the weaving went quickly and was rewarding. We used forsythia for the frame because it was straight and easier to work with and used willow for the weaving. The next step is to located some clay and to get some straw from a farmer we know.

Beginning the weaving on the framework.

The finished basket

As part of Ishaan’s math review I want him to master his times tables, so I had him make a multiplication wheel. It was a fun project for him, especially since he doesn’t love math. I think it is really pretty and we can hang it on the wall where it is easy for him to see all the multiplication tables.

Working on the multiplication wheel

Finished wheel

We spent a lot of time coloring with block crayons and doing wet on wet water-color. I want to focus on art this year with the kids. I’ve always left this to Andy since he is an actual artist and I can barely draw a stick figure, but honestly after he is finished working all day he is not really up for an art class and I’m really bad about making that happen.  So, I figured I would teach the kids and myself as well.  It’s been neat experimenting with crayon drawing and am beginning to see how those beautiful waldorfy crayon drawings are done.  We are still working on blending clouds of color, but it’s still pretty cool.  I’m using a great book  by  Sieglinde De Francesca. It’s hard to believe that her pictures are done entirely with block crayons. Check them out at Coloring with Block Crayons  if you get a chance.

watercolors

We’ve been trying to get all the lessons done in the morning and saving the afternoons for art and handwork. So far it’s been working out. Our general schedule goes something like this:

9:00 circle time

9:30-12:00 main lessons, spelling, math, and music practice

12-1:30 lunch and outside time

1:30-2:30 art and handwork

2:30 day ends.

We don’t do school on Wednesday because Ishaan has his wilderness class and on Fridays we just do a half day and save the afternoon of outings and getting together with friends. This Friday was a perfect day for apple picking- the Honeycrisps are amazing!

Ila enjoying a honeycrisp

Kairav meeting the goat.

As I said, this was a short week and everyone was fresh and excited but hopefully that excitement will carry us through for at least a few weeks while we get a rhythm.

Why did I decide to start a blog?

I should say ANOTHER blog.  I read other people’s blogs. I like reading blogs, especially blogs about crafts, homeschooling, or Waldorf education.  I love to hear about what other homeschoolers around the world are doing. What inspires them, what works, and what doesn’t work.  Also sometimes I do feel a little trapped in my little world here, so maybe blogging will help me feel a little more connected.  Who knows, maybe something we do will be inspiring to others.

The title of this blog.  It’s the middle of the summer here and it’s been a wonderful summer. We are outside much of the time and at the end of the day my kids come home pretty filthy, exhausted, and happy.  Watching my kids play on the endless hot summer days reminds me of when I was little.  My dad used to read me poems all the time and this was one of my favorites:

Mud is very nice to feel,

All squishy-squashy between the toes!

I’d rather wade in wiggly mud,

Than smell a yellow rose.

Nobody else but the rosebush knows,

How nice mud feels between the toes.

—Polly Chase Boyden