impossibleway: (Sunset)
Here's my little snow lantern from earlier in the week.  It was tricky to make, but this snow was so hard form into snowballs.  I had taken to analyzing which parts of the yard would provide me with suitable snow.  Call me a snow-ologist.  Anyway, it just goes to show that we really, really got the mileage out of the snow.  Apart from little bits on the sides of roads and the big piles in parking lots, the snow is gone now.  I hope it will return, of course, since snow play is my very favorite kind.  It makes a big difference when the children can mostly dress themselves.  Willow went out five times the day it was fifteen degrees.  Never mind that it will be sixty today.

Snow LanternThis past Advent season taught me even more about the importance for routine to help children feel right about things.  Many things were turned upside down with Mike traveling less and all the excitement of the season.  It was really hard on Willow and a little difficult for Roan.  She was plagued by nightmares and fear and he was struggling with too much energy.  The main thing that seemed to help in those few days we took off from school was movement.  Simple things like taking walks and riding bikes and just getting out of the house were so big and healing.  There are times in parenting that issues seem especially baffling (like hives!) and then the fix is so simple.

Last week was a little bumpy as we settled back into our school routine, though I know that we are all glad to be back to normal tasks.  I did some experimentation with a separate movement time for grade two, but decided to keep it all together.  That gave too much temptation for mediocre participation.  I can't explain sensory integration activities to children--it just wouldn't work.  Sometimes, I do say that the movements help us to feel good and do our work.  Really, it works best when we stick mainly with Enki materials or I find something in the Wynstones book that really captures the imagination.  We had a sleigh-riding circle last year that the children just adored.  I might have to revive it for February.

With a child in the grades now, we get to do bean bags and copper rods, along with poetry and songs from the culture we are studying.  That adds enough variety to keep the routine fun and a little challenging.  Laurel gets upset that she doesn't have her own copper rod, but there are some things that I just have to be really strict about--they bend easily and they hurt if you drop them on your toe!  She seems to be doing a lot better lately, too, and more agreeable to participate in things with all of us.  I really hope I can keep up my stamina to keep that going.

I've gotten us back on a good routine with some chores, too.  While setting the table is something where the tasks are always divided and done, dish-washing has been a little harder.  Now, as in the past, each person has a meal where they help me with the dishes.  Laurel does breakfast, Roan does lunch, and Willow does supper.  Roan is the most willing helper.  I'm trying to get this all set in our daily rhythms now so that I can avoid trouble later.  I hope.  I can hope, right?

It seems people are waking up now.  I wish I could have everyone sleep a little later, but I suppose that will come with the lengthening days.  I can hardly keep my eyes open after 7:30 each night!  Well, time to make some Swedish Cardamom Coffee Bread into French toast!
impossibleway: (Movingthe Soul with Color)
It's been a week of progress here, growing even happier.  It's hard to see it, sometimes, but I can watch things inch along back to where they should be.  Each day passes and Roan can play more and more.  He built a house and furnished it yesterday.  He and Willow made a factory, and he's been pretending to be our family dog.  I think play is a big indicator of what is going on with a child, very big.  A child who cannot find the zone and play is a child who is in trouble.  In addition, I've watched Roan become sweeter, with less mischief.  Laurel woke up from her nap and he grated cheese for her and shaped it into little balls.  They both love cheese.  He had hidden Willow's boots and she and I found them.  We waited and he told us about it on his own.  These are so small, but they are really signs of healing.

Yesterday, he would ask about playing with the family in question again every few hours.  I could tell he was dealing with his thoughts on it, as his mood was difficult at times.  I would have never imagined a young child could have had such a struggle as has happened over something that seemed so simple.  But, children are mirrors of their world.  As much as you try to create a safe, creative home, outside influences can shape things in a big way.  Other families have other stories that shape the people within them and they are reflected outward.  Those things, in turn, shape onlookers, like Roan.  There are times when we have to protect ourselves and pray for others.  It does work!

Cooking Photo

I am trying to say all this with great sensitivity, again.  I think of something, type it out, delete it, and try again.  I don't want to be unkind or judgemental in this space.  It's not the place for it.  I live in a mostly supportive environment, but there is always someone who has to lay the pressure on about children learning to be around other children.  The decades have passed for them and time has smoothed things over.  Playground struggles are just memories.  Roan and I, I think, are both fairly sensitive people.  I remember very vividly the challenges of "friends" and I have seen the gift of true friends.  He will learn the difference, too, in time.  I suppose that the whole experience here, with all of its peculiar details, has let me know how much I matter and how I need to trust my judgement above the outside remarks.

Perhaps, though, we have to go on these odysseys in order to really feel certain of what is inside of us, to really know how much each person matters.  It is hard for my children to be without their father five days a week as he works in other states.  It is hard to be the only person steering the ship in the unrelenting waves of life.  I've considered alternative scenarios where they go to school and I go to work and that is absolutely not for us.  We'd have so little time together and being the only adult would be even harder.  We do like to be here together and out in the community together.  Like I told someone at a Board of Supervisors meeting the other day--we are a package deal.

Honeyed Seashells

Take stock of what your children are doing, who they are around.  Don't assume that all interactions that seem mostly happy truly are.  Maybe we are more vulnerable because there is an attachment gap in our family, with Mike on the road.  I really hesitate to say much, for fear of judgement, but it is okay to have limits on social options and time in a world where "being social" is a high goal.  It is okay to hold onto your kids and keep them close as they come into this world and sort out who they are.  Children are meant to be sweet, I think, not the saccharine kind that adults expect, but truly sweet.  They are meant to feel safe and loved and open as they navigate things, and they can find creativity and joy within the careful boundaries their parents set for them.  Every family has to decide and live with their choices.  Ours, well, they weren't working.  And now we're doing something different, more like the old days when everyone was little.  It is good to see play come back into our days, and it is even better for everyone to feel more loved.
impossibleway: (Barefeet)
Pouring Water

Create for yourself a new, indomitable perception of faithfulness. What is usually called faithfulness passes so quickly. Let this be your faithfulness:

You will experience moments--fleeting moments--with the other person.  The human being will appear to you then as if filled, irraditated with the archetype of his spirit.
And then there may be--indeed, will be--other moments.  Long periods of time, when human beings are darkened.  But you will learn to say to yourself at such time: "The spirit makes me strong.  I shall remember the archetype.  I saw it once.  No illusion, no deception shall rob me of it.”
Always struggle for the image that you saw.  This struggle is faithfulness.  Striving thus for faithfulness, we shall be close to one another, as if endowed with the protective power of angels.


-Rudolf Steiner as taken from Lifeways: Working with Family Questions
impossibleway: (Children of the Forest)
We finished our second math block last week and it was a really encouraging experience.  We spent about three weeks on the Four Friends story.  In the story, Mini Minus puts food outside for the animals in late Winter.  Paddy Plus comes bumbling along and begins collecting it for himself when Max Multiply cartwheels by, grabbing up lots of goodies.  He knocks Paddy down, wants all the food for himself, an argument ensues, and Mini is unable to sort things out.  King Dominick Divide arrives and declares "an equal share for every hand," and so everyone puts aside their differences.

Number Cards

After a week of drawing pictures from the story for each character, a puppet show, and a play, we spent time working with grid sheets for the four processes.  These are simple enough.  The top column says "Mini has, Mini gives away, Mini keeps" or "Paddy has, Paddy picks up, now Paddy has" and so on.  The idea of giving away instead of taking away sounds much more agreeable to me.  Dominick "shares among," which goes well with the way families have to divide things in everyday life to keep the peace.  It was great to watch Willow discover how to do things.  One example and a little story recall and she was off on her way.  Discovery is a big part of Enki, as is the child taking the lesson in his or her own hands.  Much of Willow's work is independent, though I am always on hand.

Math Work

This week, we move back to word families for a coloring book that uses the first three. Then there will be a short vowels block and two more word families.  The sleep cycle has really worked so far, with continued digestion in the off months.  I could see math concepts working themselves out over the Winter as Willow discovered doubling, addition, and skip counting.  Willow has begun to recognize how words are put together and assemble clues as to what they say.  I am interested to see how things will go as we pick up language arts again.  There have certainly been numerous ways that I have fallen short of the ideal, but there has been marked progress this year and I still feel good about the path we are on.  I feel good about waiting and allowing things to slowly unfold in their own time, and I'm looking foward to doing it all again when Roan and Laurel are in first grade.
impossibleway: (Knitting)
We did our first word families story a couple weeks ago.  Word families are words that sound the same--our first was Eep/Eap.  This covered long "e" sounds, too.  This was new to me, as I really don't remember learning to read.  I just recall second grade being the time I really took off on it.  Anyway, these stories follow the same open intake, digestion and artistic output as the rest of the Enki materials.

Eep Family Jeep

We heard the story of the family's adventure and their wandering to the town of Conso Nant where they picked the tools they'd need to get back home.  The second and third days, we reinacted the story with gnomes, of course.  You have to love this model car my parents gave Roan (it is heavy, so we store it up high).  Willow does not like to retell stories, so this has worked very well.  The small house puzzled worked for all the houses the family members visited to pick up their consonants.

We did a picture from the story, of course, the Eaps in their Jeep.  Each story has a limerick, or verse, too.  And we used consonants on rings with the word endings of -eep and -eap.  Enki also suggests a town board with the houses being used to put the words together, but this is my very first first grader.  I'll probably use that later.
I think simple cards helped Willow to put the sounds together well enough, but time will tell.  Enki also employees a sleep and reawakening to their learning cycle, so it will be interesting to see this take shape later.  I can see now, for instance, Willow's digestion of the doubling math story.

Another day is beginning.  I hear a tiny voice calling for me.

Eeps in the Jeep

With a leap and a creep and a weep,
The trouble had gotten quite deep,
So Papa said, “Eee!
This is no way to be.
The answer is here in my jeep.”
impossibleway: (Advent Apple)
As adults, we have the wisdom of knowing that, often, the waiting for Christmas is really the best part.  We get to contemplate, time and again, what the Light of the World really means for us and how that image evolves with each passing year.  We also know that Christmas can be followed by a big let-down after all the hoopla.  I started celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas for the simple, shallow reason that I did not like that abrupt end.  That viewpoint has evolved, as well.

Four Lights

I love the beauty of watching the lights grow each week, I really do.
It starts so dimly and culminates with a great flourish.

The Light of Humankind

With three children in tow, I cannot help but try to grasp their viewpoint, as well.
They are, admittedly, waiting on presents.  Let's just be honest.

Cookie Calendar

Even with all the conversations about the "true meaning of Christmas,"
those mysterious gifts are still out there, looming and taunting.

Bernadette Watts Calendar

Like many things, my thoughts on the True Meaning are evolving, too.
Where did we get Christmas and how much did we steal from other festivals?
What made those festivals something to toss away or rebrand?

Advent Jar

It's not as much a question to answer, as it is one to ponder across the decades.
It's something I consider for the rest of the year, too.
How much of Easter is older than the Easter Story?
What about the ever-controversial Halloween?
What is the bigger picture of humanity?

2015 Spiral

These are the things that I am turning over this time of year.  The whole thing is, as much as I enjoy it, overwhelming to me.  Isn't it just a little funny to spend a month building up to a single day?  What does it do to my children to live with such fixation?  The Enki materials actually recommend celebrating just two festivals in the year, generally centered on a solstice or equinox.  A big part of it, I think, is avoiding overwhelm and materialism for the children.  Another consideration is sensory integration and learning to find joy in the everyday.  I really love that.  Life is full of everyday.

Enki suggests homemade gifts and a focus on the natural world, the lights in the darkness, and being comfortable with darkness and inward feelings.  That suits me well.  I think that is why I love the Advent or Winter spiral so much.  It begins with such a small, almost laughable, single light and grows.  And there are irreverent moments as people struggle to light their candles and try to figure how to get out of the spiral.  At the end, we all agree that it is beautiful.  The light is beautiful and that is the part we can commit to memory.

The term "Advent" was unheard of by me until I was in college.  I didn't see an Advent wreath or a calendar or anything.  I used to think that doing more was really my thing, that I would celebrate more than we did when I was at my parents' home.  It was my life and I would take all the jubilation I could get.  I can see how complicated celebration is, in general, now.  It becomes complicated when you let it happen.  I guess it is my own (quite simple) overcompensation that has me so baffled.  I think what I need to do is spend the year considering Advent and how we'll approach it next time.

I love festivals that mark the turns in the year.  We live in a place where agricultural rhythms are very visible.  We see haybales and corn and pumpkins and dairies and home vegetable gardens.  I feel blessed my children get to see those things, even with the challenges of Appalachian living.  The classic Waldorf festivals compliment things very nicely.  May Day is a wonderful way to really welcome the warm weather and Lammas is perfect for starting the harvest season.  August really is that full for us.  Martinmas suits us well, too, with its humble lanterns in a darkening world.

I suppose much of life is learning to navigate dark spirals and rejoicing in the light.  Yes, celebrating those journeys time and again seems very right.

On Plans

Jul. 30th, 2015 07:31 am
impossibleway: (Children of the Forest)
Our school year will begin in just over a month.  A month!  I've been reading through the Enki Grade One materials with diligence, but there are so many pages to cover.  Many homeschooling families are beginning to plan and it has been fun to read what each one is envisioning for the year ahead.  I'm still in the research and skill-building phase.  And I'm feeling really thankful I have another month.

Enki Grade OneThe wonderful thing about Enki is that you can pick and choose what you would like to do through the year.  You can do three, four, or five day weeks.  We did three day weeks for kindergarten, though there were numerous times that I wondered if it wouldn't have been better to do five.  Well, the difficult thing about Enki is that you pick and choose what you would like to do through the year.  So, I'm getting stage fright about planning and wondering about other paths to take.

I can say that this Summer has been overwhelming, on the whole.  It's been my first Summer with Mike at his new job and it's a very busy season for them.  Winter doesn't see such long trips and he has really been logging the miles and hours.  The natural pull of the outdoors, children out of school nearby, and the general disorder of the season have left me frazzled.  The children, too, I think.  It's like having too many choices in a candy store.  I've had to go back to the start of some of our kindergarten rhythms.  Daily walks and quiet times are non-negotiable.  I've tried the alternative.

So, planning and first grade.  It's definitely going to be different from kindergarten--there is deliberate academic work now and I feel quite certain that Willow is ready to begin tackling it.  Consonants and vowels, word families, recorder (and oh, the quandary that has put me in), form drawing, tangrams, cuisenaire rods, the four math processes, knitting, modeling.  There are multiple stories for each week and artisitice output for it all.  It's a lot when I try to think about it at once, there is a whole year to fit it all together.  But, I am working hard to trust my instincts about this curriculum.  It's a lot like Waldorf education, which I believe does work.  I have seen the fruit of kindergarten and I know first grade will be even better once I find my footing.

For now, I'm exploring and reading as much as I can.  That is hard these days, especially reading from binders, which are not quite one-handed things (though much-preferred to a computer screen).  I'm participating in some Enki groups, too, and looking back over the posts to see what others have had to say about planning and schedules.  It will all fall into place.  I know this.  I am really, really looking forward to days that are more carefully planned, even though we keep things very simple.  A trip to the post office is a special occasion, for instance.  I'm quite excited about new movment circles and the games that Willow will learn to play in them.  I think late Summer is about strengthening patience, will and faith that the coming year will be good. 
impossibleway: (Picking Blueberries)
I've had a books post in mind for a long time.  I even took pictures last year to do it.  Even now, it feels intimidating to do it.  Let's jump in!

I bought a simple folding bookshelf this past year, which makes me think of Fraggle Rock and Doc's inventions. It was frugal, so it suited me. Most of the books here are ones that are in use weekly. I try to be mindful about having too many books or keeping books that I don't use. I'm a real re-reader, though, so most of my books get referred to or read again on a seasonal or annual basis.

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The top shelf is mainly Waldorf books with a few others.  Some are titles I've had a long time and others are ones that I've bought this year from Thrift Books or on Amazon.  I've had great success with penny books on Amazon--several of them have been like new!  I've been able to find books that are no longer in print or are not available in the U.S. brand new, mainly Floris Books.  Here are some of the titles that I have enjoyed especially:

  • American Folk Songs for Children :: I bought a newer used copy of this book as the other one was falling apart.

  • All Year Round :: Through the year of Christian festivals with their history and meaning.  Many crafts and things to span all the years of childhood.

  • The Children's Year :: Wonderful book for learning how to make many, many seasonal crafts and even clothing.  Paper cutting, woodworking, knitting, sewing, felting.  Making this items in this book would yield a very well-rounded crafter!

  • Festivals Family and Food :: Another book that is quite thorough on seasonal celebrations.  Lots of recipes, many including Victoria Sponge.

  • Heaven On Earth :: A lovely book for the at-home parent and child(ren).

  • You Are Your Child's First Teacher :: A classic.

  • A Guide to Child Health :: This is a book from a different perspective.  If you want to know how to make a mustard plaster, this is the book for you. ;)  Also has delightful photos of early childhood.

  • Grimm's Fairy Tales :: Great to have on hand in any home.  Just make sure you find a list of age appropriate stories first.

  • Healing Stories for Challenging Behaviour :: A wonderful book that tackles stories for many common situations--tidying up, separation anxiety, boredom, loudness, death, wild behavior.  The stories are mostly short, so they're easy to read in one sitting.  Also includes writing your own stories.

  • Toymaking with Children :: I have said many times over that you could make the items in this book and be done with toys.  Succinct and informative.

  • Parenting a Path Through Childhood :: I mentioned this one recently.  Really a thoughtful book about the meaningful taks of parenting.

  • The Parent's Tao Te Ching :: I've had this book a long time and it always brings me comfort and inspiration.  You can find exerpts under this tag.

  • Steiner Education :: If you're looking for a comprehensive summary of Waldorf education, including the why's behind it, this is the book.

  • Lifeways :: What a nice book this is, a collection of essays from a group of parents in England in the seventies.  A few are a little heady, but most are comforting and community building.

  • Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook :: My go-to book for nearly all cooking.  As ficitional as she is, Betty knows how to cook.  Some recipes are dated, but all the rest stand the test of time beautifully and get lots of praise, especially the rhubarb pie.


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The middle shelf includes some of my nature books. A fair number sit over on the hutch--field guides, more delicate books. There are a few other books thrown into the mix, too, that might serve our homeschooling years. Numerous titles are library discards or ones from friends who have been clearing out.

  • The Elsa Beskow Baby Book :: Okay, not a nature book, but Laurel's baby book. Very, very sweet.

  • A Kid's Herb Book :: Wonderful ideas and stories for teaching children about common herbs. We used techniques in this book to dye silks last year.

  • The New Games Book :: I've been waiting all my life to use this book. The pictures in it are classic, lots of hippies.

  • Eastern Forests :: A simple Audubon guide that covers plants, animals, insects, and fungi in our part of the US.

  • Appalachian Autumn :: A daily reflection on the coming of Autumn and Winter in a woods in Pennsylvania. This was annual reading for a number of years. I hope to get back to it.

  • We Took to the Woods :: An account of a family living in the backwoods of Maine in the early 20th century. Really, really makes me want to go to Maine. I read this nearly every Summer.

  • Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitter's Almanac and The Opinionated Knitter :: Two great books for many simple-ish projects. blakdove has loaned me the Opinionated Knitter.

  • 1001 Questions Answered about Trees :: Good trivia and lore.

  • Weaving with Reeds and Fibers and The Indian How Book :: Homeschool aspirations.

  • The Appalachian Trail :: A wonderful photographic account of The Trail from National Geographic.

  • The Appalachian Trail Reader :: Reflections across the decades of folks hiking from Georgia to Maine. When I see thru-hikers walking looking down at space phones now, I feel a lot of the magic has been lost.

  • One Man's Wilderness :: A beloved favorite of mine. I've written about it before, along with some of these other titles. You can find them under the "Reading" tag.

  • The Foxfire Book :: The first in the series. Each of these is full of wonderful information and the whole collection is a treasure.

  • Blue Ridge Parkway Guides :: Written by a park interpreter. Includes back stories for the unique names along the road.

  • Feasts for All Seasons :: This book is full of very fancy recipes. They are sorted seasonally, but this book certainly doesn't match the modern definition of eating in season. My budget does not permit very many dishes, but Vermont Blueberry Grunt is one that I have managed and it was interestingly good!

  • Lichen :: Because, why not?

  • A Walk Across America :: I haven't read this one yet, but Carrie says it is very good.

  • Voices from the Hills :: Writings from and about Appalachia.

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And lastly, the Enki shelf.  These are most of the materials for Kindergarten and Grade One.  Enki really is the most complete curriculum.  I am starting preparations for first grade and it looks both exciting and overwhelming.  A couple other titles here: Singing Family of the Cumberlands by Jean Ritchie and Raising Waldorf, which is about building a Waldorf school in CO.

I have a fairly extensive collection of childbirth and breastfeeding books that come out when I have doula clients, but those are few and far between these days.  I also have my leather-bound Little House books that we are reading through right now.  I have joked with Mike that I need the bookshelf that stacks on this one for my birthday, but it's definitely not in the budget.  Willow wants to do that, sweet girl, and give me a few more books.  I'll be happy with a day all together and a trip through the countryside.

And that's it, or all I can stand to do.  My German pancake is ready and I have this morning's raspberries to go with it.
impossibleway: (Lazure Mama)
The time of heightened body awareness is marked by the experience of wholeness, of being at one with our world. Whatever is received is received as a whole; whatever is received, is received by the whole person. The child is inseparable from his world. It moves through him like a formative force.

It is generally agreed that the young child learns through imitation. But this is not simply a process of the child copying you. He does not copy the movement of your finger; its movement imprints on him literally as a foot imprints the wet sand. We find there are no buffers, no internal protection. Modern neuroscience is revealing aspects of the brain - mirror neurons - that are set up specifically for this skill.  The young child is fully pierced or imprinted
by all he meets.

~Enki Homeschool Teaching Guides : Book II

I often say that Laurel Mae is the most integrated of our children.  What I mean by that is a little fuzzy, but it's just the word that comes to mind when I think of her.  Let's see if I can make it more clear.

Some people talk about the baby of the family getting away with more because the parents are tired.  Here, we are still tired, but I have a better handle on things now.  I understand the power of boundaries and how children need them.  It's not a world filled with "no," but a home with rhythm, movement, and a mother who has confidence in what she is doing (most of the time).  Laurel knows the patterns to our days well and she is starting to know the boundaries we have here.

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Sadly, one of those is that she cannot run free on hikes, bless her heart.  She is our child with no fear and gets worn, quite often, for her own safety.  She understands "hot" and "sharp" and "yuck," but staying with a responsible adult is the last thing on her mind.  She is not at all timid.  I always hated those baby leashes, but our girl needs something--wrap, jump rope, something.  We have to attach her to the little slide while planting seeds and things.  She's getting used to the new boundary, thankfully.

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She is our only child who is unconcerned about cold water.  Water, in general, is fascinating to her.  She gets upset when it is not her turn for a bath.  The children have a little stuffed fish.  If you get close to water of any kind when Laurel is holding it, she'll throw it right in.  Every time.  Even in the swamp.

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She's also our child who has taught me the power of imitation.  Imitation and experience are the main teachers of early childhood and I am learning to look at them with reverence.  Hats for little people to keep sunburns at bay?  Mama wears one, too!  Laurel knows all our songs and can sing them at the appropriate times.  I don't ask her to, but she just does.  Songs for dressing, for sad babies, for going on walks, for circle times--she's got them.

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Laurel is our child who lives most fully in her body, integrated.  Even in the womb, she would twist and turn and stick her behind by my belly button.  Ooooh, it hurt!  She's still twisting and turning, sticking her behind in the air when she nurses, unless she is very tired or snuggly.  She runs and walks and slides and moves with great confidence.  Her trial at painting, above, was sweet until she wanted to taste the paint.  Oh, well.  My efforts at keeping her busy while the others painted didn't work out so well.

I must admit that I am both excited and a little nervous at the years ahead with her.  She does have the benefit of an experienced (sort of) mother and older siblings.  Roan and Willow were the warm-up for this sweet, funny, wild girl.

On Work

Apr. 25th, 2015 09:46 pm
impossibleway: (Children of the Forest)
Tonight and last night, we have had a fire in the fireplace.  Last night, it was a small one, but I got a really roaring one going today in the late afternoon.  The area around the firebox is so hot that I can't hold my hand on it very long.  The children have really enjoyed it and it has made everything feel so nice.  The rest of the house feels quite cool, but that's okay.

Fire on the HearthA big focus of the past couple weeks has been on the Old Ways.  We've been watching Tales from the Green Valley with great interest and enthusiasm.  It came at great timing, on the tail-end of reading Farmer Boy.  Play has ranged from churning butter, working in the fields, making lye, milking cows, to herding pigs.  It's been a joy to watch and occasionally take part in.  I've been Mother Wilder, of course, and the older of the two women in the mini-series.  Watching it has helped us all to visualize the work described in the books we read.  Our Enki story, "The Well Diggers," tied in perfectly with the story of digging the well in Little House on the Prairie.

My love of hard work is no secret, and I've felt quite inspired to see what I can really do with my days.  Oh, they are full without adding anything extra.  So full, but it feels good at the end of each day to know we've really done things.  The children have been willing helpers, too, which does wonders for mood and appetites.  It's a peculiar thing to see how sedentary and unskilled modern living has really become.  It is no great wonder why there are many struggles with focus among young people, and, hey, us grown-ups, too.  Good, purposeful movement helps so much!  It's a funny thing to think that people used to pay others to work so they could have leisure and now we pay people to make us work (at a gym or with a trainer) for leisure!

I could say more, but I suppose it would be redundant.  I just love that my children enjoy meaningful work.  It means as much or more to me than any academic progress.  I hope it is the start of many good projects and skills in the years to come.  Roan so loves, so needs, to work and it often leaves me wondering about the future.  For now, a bit of true leisure--reading a little before bed.
impossibleway: (Lazure Mama)
Since reading Hold Onto Your Kids again, I've been working diligently on connecting with my children.  It's something I've struggled with over the past year or so.  Last year was so difficult, survival was the only goal I felt like I could meet, most days.  We had many happy times, of course, but I felt like I wanted to crawl under a rock a lot of the time.  I would get through one hard thing, maybe catch my breath, and brace myself for the next hard thing, over and over.

BedtimeReading Heaven On Earth also helped to make things finally click for me.  I am finally really, really getting predictability into our rhythm.  I copied the bedtime routine from the book and it just worked, really worked.  And now it's something wonderful that we all look forward to each night.  Television is seldom in the picture at all anymore. We fall asleep to the light of the angel candle, having read in the Little House books and said a simple prayer. These are the things that will carry us through the years and I admit that I am now feeling like time is slipping away from me.

I remember Faith emphasizing connection in the Joyful Toddlers! class, but my main interest was working through the logistics of numerous young children.  Recreating a Lifeways-type environment in my home was my focus.  I wanted to include the children more in my work again and increase predictability in our days.  Both things are a never-ending task that always has room for improvement (isn't that all of life), but I have made significant strides since the class. And yes, my home, on most days, runs like a kindergarten and it suits me just perfectly.

I guess the idea of connection had to sit inside me for awhile before it could really start to make sense to me, like I had to get a handle on surface issues first.  We have rid ourselves of a lot of negative energy in the past couple months.  The burdens keep feeling lighter and the future seems less daunting, especially knowing what we have come through.  Human relationships feel more intuitive again and I find myself actually thinking before acting most of the time.  I'm not on auto-pilot.  I'm spacious, I have time, my energy is more protected.  My responses are self-assured and gentle.  I feel more patient and more able.  I'm still working hard and still tired, but I'm happier.
impossibleway: (Ferny Mei Tai)
Folding Napkins"Young children grow through being imprinted by those around them - their neurological systems are structured specifically for this. Therefore, while they are gaining their independent legs over the first twelve to eighteen years, forming attachments to adult models is critical. This means that ongoing and dependable relationships with the adults in their lives is a must. In order to be nourished by and learn from adults, children have to open at a core level. Until they hit preadolescence they have not yet digested what they have taken in, and have barely begun to make the learning (and selfhood) their own. For the adult to leave during this process would be like opening a water bag to fill it and then walking away without sealing it back up. When a central adult leaves, the child is literally torn and his life force cannot help but drain out that tear, any more than water could stop its flow. . .

"In the school situation, until the child enters the years of “heart awareness” his grounding in his parents overshadows all else and the teacher is really an appendage. But once the child enters the elementary years, part of his move toward independence is to attach to the teacher at a core level. Therefore, if a teacher has to leave unexpectedly or before the child reaches preadolescence, the child experiences a similar, though somewhat less profound, tear. And, as is true with the parent, this is a serious wound that can be healed, but only if we accept it and honor the damage. Today we are reaping the bitter fruits of an educational system which does not honor the need for attachment to adult models. All told, a stable, bonded relationship with an adult who is actively growing, is the primary nourishment for the growing child – without it, he cannot bloom."

~Enki Homeschool Teaching Guides, Foundations I

impossibleway: (Over in the Meadow)
Toy LibraryIt's been about three years since I first read Simplicity Parenting and was introduced to the idea of a toy library.  Many families do this on their own already. The idea is that most toys are put into storage of some kind while a few are available for play at a time.  It's also a place to store toys that come out when family visits, because that's just good manners  (especially when you have family that keeps track).  We still use one here and I consider it to be a valuable tool for keeping clutter under control.

Once a month or so, during a time that I am able to be alone for a couple hours, I sort through it and swap some items out.  There are trades and eliminations.  I'm looking to keep toys that inspire creativity and cooperation.  At the same time, I do believe in toys that allow a child to do his or her own thing without interruption, like the Little People house.  I sort out broken toys, of course, and try repair them if I can.  If not, or if they've been repaired and broken many times, I play taps and out they go.

I also look for items that are not contributing to truly productive play.  These would be things that are objects of great dispute, are very frustrating to use (velcro butter, anyone?), or are often placed in a high spot out of reach in order to maintain control of them (and not by me!).  Does that make sense?  Some of those are put away for a later time when they will be more appropriate, some are donated and some are sold.  I have moved out nearly as many, or maybe more, as I have kept.  Living in a small home goes a long way in aiding my efforts.

Tidying the LibraryIt might seem like I spend too much time on something that doesn't have to be done at all.  That's okay with me.  It is a significant task to our family and swapping toys does have a way of shifting play in more healthful directions.  I recently brought out some beloved stuffed animals.  It made things more tender and loving right away.  This is a good time of year for snuggling, anyway.  Other times, I've looked for toys that spark cooperation or don't require too much contracting activity.  This is not the season for Legos, but it does seem time for those Lincoln Logs.

I really have a true interest in the ways that children play and how it changes as they grow.  I'm also concerned with helping children who have trouble sinking into play, while maintaining the important element of free-play.  We have no shortage of creative, free-play here, but I often here from people who wish their children were able to play more.  With Willow on the edge of leaving early childhood, I feel a little nervous about how her play will change with time, because it is largely unknown to me.  But, she does have two younger siblings who will keep her in their sphere a bit longer.  I am so glad that I get to watch them all grow.  This time a year from now, Laurel will be pretending!
impossibleway: (Warning)
On a recent "snow day" (I think there was a light dusting), the children and I hatched a plan to have a picnic on the front porch on the sofa bed.  We acquired it from our neighbor who recently moved and it's out there waiting until Mike's travel schedule permits moving it.  Anyway, I covered it with blankets, Willow made peanut butter sandwiches, and I brought out my dad's backpacking stove.  I thought it would be fun for the children to see it work and make a pot of the Original Backpacking Food, ramen.

Our GirlLittle did I know, or maybe I forgot, that the stove would have a little trouble working in the cold.  It took forty minutes to get a pot of soup out of that little stove.  Oh, well, Roan was fascinated with the whole process and Laurel was happy to be trapped on the front porch while it sleeted.  We were all more than glad that Willow had made sandwiches to help us wait.  We did stay warm and that was the important part.

I feel like I've gotten into a good place with dressing the children to be warm, inside and outside.  It seems almost silly to say that, but anyone who has young children knows it can be hard to keep them clothed and warm.  I have had to put strict rules in place about dressing up, mainly for Willow and her love for play silks, to ensure that children have enough clothes on at all times.  Just making the boundary and holding it has made a big difference.  I would desire, as all mothers would, that their energy go to growing and playing instead of keeping warm.  Let me use my energy for that.

This year, I've done a combination of wool and fleece clothing, striking a balance between frugality and quality (for the most part).  Here's what works at our house:

  • Cosilana wool baby leggings: These are wonderful.  I got two pairs when Laurel was very little and they still fit.  They are very soft and easy to care for.  One pair got munched on by moths, so I learned a lesson about those zippered bags they come in.

  • Wool undershirts: These are ones I made for Roan using jersey from Nature's Fabrics.  They are not the softest and a few are moth-eaten, but they make a big difference for keeping Laurel, the all-terrain baby, warm.  I really want to get some for Roan when we get our tax refund.  Willow wears cotton tank tops, but I might be able to find some wool ones that are pretty and soft enough for her.

  • Simple fleece jackets or pullovers: Roan and Willow each have one.  His came from Walmart and Willow's is a refashioned Woolrich fleece that used to be mine.

  • Windproof fleece: We got these from Walmart (hey, I can walk there) for Roan and Willow--their expedition jackets.  They're waterproof and windproof--the biggest concern here most of the time.  These, over the fleeces or sweaters, work very well in milder weather.  They have parkas for colder weather and snow play.

  • Long johns or tights under pants: This is very easy and we do this numerous times a week.  Long johns have been easy to find a Goodwill and yard sales.  Willow often does it on her own and Roan's routine is that he always wears long johns.  Always.  He prefers to go without socks or slippers, so this is my compromise.

  • Hand knit hats with ear flaps: My favorite pattern is the Elf Cap, for which I seem to have acquired a bit of a repuations.  Mike has been asked why our children always have hats with points on the front.  Well, because they are warm!  Roan's ears get cold super fast, so I must keep them covered.  I've been thinking of knitting one for me.

  • Scarves: No brainer here, hand knitted.  Good for windy days.

  • Ruskovilla Wool Hood: This was Laurel's birthday gift from my grandmother.  She wears it a lot, usually under a pilot cap.  I like it as a wind-proofing layer, along with the increased coverage on her face.

  • SmartWool Socks: The children each got a long pair from Mike's family for Christmas.  Laurel wears an old pair of my short ones as mittens.  They're they only thing she doesn't try to remove, but she's also figured out how to use her hands with them on.

  • Power Mittens: This is what the children call them.  They also have handknit mittens for dry or mild days.  I have come to take keeping hands warm very seriously after we had some little fingers get so cold I thought it best to run them under cold water.  Willow wears Squall Mittens from Land's End and Roan wears a pair of toddler gauntlet mittens I got from Walmart.  That place can have some very good basic items if you are choosy.

  • Waterproof Overalls: Fleece-lined ones, like we have, seem to be hard to come by.  I picked up two pairs when a Lifeways store was going out of business, along with some unlined rain pants.  Laurel wears hers almost every time she goes outside.  Roan wears his most of the time.  Willow and Roan wear Hanna overalls in big snow.  I had gotten some cheap (plain and simple) ones for Willow from Zulily last year and they are worthless.  We use those for dry days.

  • Boots, of course: Roan wears Willow's old pink ones without a second thought.  Willow wears some super-warm rubber boots I found at Walmart last year.  Laurel wears Willow's baby boots, as did Roan before her.  She is the most adventurous child.  Where the others were paralized in cold-weather gear, she is a force to be reckoned with.

  • Calendula Weather Protection Cream: We use this before going outside to guard against windburn.  It soaks in easily.  It's my preferred face cream for the children, in general.  I love the smell.

And here you go, our very time-intensive pot of soup, that never quite came to a boil:

Forty Minute Ramen
impossibleway: (Warning)
From Comer's RockWhen I woke up this morning, I just knew.  Snow.  It is falling steadily and we've got about half an inch so far.  Halloween seems to be our first snow marker.  We don't get it every year, but I would say that it has happend three of Willow's six years.  The children will be over the moon to find it when they wake up.  I think it will also push me to finish the Snowy Fields dresss that's been sitting for many weeks.  I'm excited, for certain, but part of me wants to cling to these pictures of a golden Autumn.  It's still out there, after all, under the snow.

I've been mulling many things over lately, having felt like I was drowing since somewhere around May, trying to figure out what shifted and how to get back on my feet.  My dad has told me many times that I cannot change other people, that it's up to me to change myself.  I think of this advice very frequently as I try to navigate the world around me.  Three children in five years is not for sissies, but I don't think that parenting, in general, is.  You feel like an adult until you take on someone who is very much not.

I've been reading a lot.  In fact, I've been meaning to do a bookshelf post, but have simply been too busy and scattered to gather my thoughts.  I've also joined a teleclass about living with young children in an effort to provide me some accountability and encouragement.  I feel like I have the tools to live cooperatively and happily, but I've needed a chance to start fresh and really stay on task.  And things have been feeling better for me.  The days are hard with Mike's travel, but I am starting to see things more clearly.

Yellow the brackenCreativity and empathy are often the reasons I cite for homeschooling.  I think those are tremendously important skills for life and their necessity and power cannot be praised enough.  I think I'll add to that list another thing--self-discipline.  I always thought I had it until I had children, then it becamse clear how much more I needed to work on it.  As the one to hold the space here almost all of the time, I need to have (and keep!) it together.

With that in mind, I am seeing that my concerns with parenting are not about having the right tools or what to do when someone does this or that.  They are about myself, where I have come from and what I do with the experiences from my life.  I am looking to be worthy of the imitation that children so readily take up.  The days where I move confidently and peaceably are the best.  The days where I fall back on being coercive are a mess.  I am working, always, toward more of those confident days.

I'm turning over some ideas for self-improvement to work on over the winter.  I'll be writing more about the Joyful Toddlers! class soon and how I'm making it work for my slightly different needs and goals.  For now, though, it's snowing and the children are waking up and on the prowl for candy.
impossibleway: (Owlies in the Trees)
Riding in the SleighI've been experimenting with play spaces quite a lot lately.  Like maybe too much.  Roan thinks that when he goes out for a couple hours, he will come home to find things different again.  I suppose that is not too far off.  I've just been trying to figure out ways to prompt cooperative play between the children.  I love the play stands for their ability to be many things, so we've had them a lot of ways this Summer.

We had a portion of the room sectioned off with a wall of playstands.  That was especially successful, but difficult to keep tidy.  I felt like it was encroaching on the room, but I would do it again.  There was the cozy spot, dearly loved by Willow and the subject of much play at its start.  But then it became a place to keep "just so" and not really snuggle up in.  Roan had a woodright's shop for awhile, but he became the only person to use it.  So, I put the playstands back as a house.  It was still the woodright's shop.  Humph.

I am quite interested in play, wishing to learn how it evolves over time and how to make it peaceful with minimal adult input.  So, I do a lot of reading about it.  I know that environment is a huge factor, so I spend much of my energy on that.  It doesn't hurt that I love to move furntiure, the most frugal kind of remodeling.  My parents gave us a new big bookshelf/cabinet and we put it in Mike's room.  Working to make the space feel more productive, we put in my real desk and took out the bench table.

Christmas MorningToday was another shift of furniture, turning the cozy spot into a kitchen and moving the doll corner to the living room.  The woodright's shop is still in operation, but Roan does enjoy building things for us in that space.  He loves to use all his tools to make toys or furniture for us, making jokes like the woodright does about his draw knife and his half-brother.  It never gets old.

One thing that was especially fun was that the children decided to wrap up their toys in silks and load them on to a sleigh.  Willow helped with the wrapping, as I try to encourage her to help Roan with things like that.  He was Santa and drove the sleigh, using the climbing fairy as the reins.  The delivered the gifts, drove the sleigh back home, and then opened all the presents.  It was a wonderful thing to watch.

Knowing that the kindergarten child likes to have projects, I try to prompt this type of play as much as I can.  It gives me a little free time to put sheets on beds, which is often accompanied by their jumping on the beds.  That did not happen today. Moving toward more adult-led activities, like painting and drawing and stories, has meant that we have had to work on promoting independent play.  They just always want to be where I am and my goal is balance.  I know I will miss it some day.  Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy and I am hoping to shift to the insulated curtains for the chilly weekend ahead.  I am hopeful they'll come up with something else fun to do.
impossibleway: (Northbound)
Quiet TimeOh, what a week.  Whew.  I hardly know where to begin. Baby waiting Monday, a baby in the wee hours of Tuesday running very little sleep, a return to normalcy yesterday and the beginning of postpartum doula work today.  Helping new parents find their way is heavy, heavy stuff.  It's easy to sound like the together mama to one who is doing everything for the first time, but I surely remember feeling completely overwhelmed and inept.  I still feel that way sometimes, especially as I navigate childcare and schedules and my own introverted nature (with the ironic desire to serve others).

The one thing that has been constant through it all, blessedly, has been quiet time.  Having been a TV-free quiet period for three months, we've all come to depend on it as a time to recharge.  I remember the first few weeks, how deliberate it had to be in order to make it work.  I'd lay out mats, get out special quiet time things to play with and we'd put on Pippi.  There's less of that now, as we've found our places within the new rhythm.  Roan usually wants me to sit on the couch and read with him.  Willow works at some contracting activity like playing with small figures or coloring.  We listen to Sparkle Stories (as there are lots of free ones and I've bought a few) and Roan generally goes to sleep.  Laurel is nearly always sleeping.

My mind is worn now, scattered as I try to finish chores and put food on my family.  Potential future clients loom out there in periphery.  Mike has vacation time coming up next week.  I am looking forward to it.
impossibleway: (Barefeet)
In the early days of having my first toddler, it was often expressed to me that I needed to show that I was the one in control, that I had the authority.  I was to teach right from wrong, dispense plenty of "no" answers, and lay down the law of the land.  This idea never sat well with me, as evidenced by my response of "uh-oh" when I see something has gone wrong, even four years later.  I learned that mama yelling about things never made them right.  I have moments of feeling conventional, feeling tired and weary and wanting to take charge, but things are relatively the same, with a few more years of experience (and two more babies!) under my belt.

I've always looked ahead to parenting mentors, people I know like Susan who have some grown children, or authors who clearly have years and years of experience and learning under their belts.  Occasionally, barely into my own parenting journey and very much in the trenches, I am questioned about our family life and asked how we do things.  I must admit that my dad asking how I handle discipline really struck me.  I hardly knew what to say, though I am full of things in the quiet moments when my mind runs freely.  In the weeks since then, we have visited numerous times and moments have presented themselves that have shed light on why things are the way they are in our family.  I might not have an iron fist, but I do have a good grasp on things, most of the time.  And, I suppose that I am an expert on my own family and our experiences.

Willow Plays in the RoadSomewhere along the way, my dad and I latched onto the idea of really owning things.  Ray Jardine brought this idea to him--change the stuff you own, cut the tags off, sew it into something else, make it work for you.  So, I started with removing the safety warnings from various baby gadgets.  I did not need to be reminded at every turn about dangers that awaited users of car seats or baby carriers or strollers.  When Mike went to Sudan, we had to make plans for what we'd do if he died or came home gravely ill.  I was admittedly worried about him, so I sent him with the warning label from our stroller, half-jokingly.

So, I began to own my stuff and to own parenthood, to know that I do get to steer the family boat most of the time.  We mothers of young children often have husbands with multiple jobs and strange work schedules, and we are the lone masters of our days.  Over time, I've come to see that this doesn't mean that I am to be coercive and manipulative.  It means that I get to shape my home, the things in it, the influences that come in, and the way I act about things.  All I get to be in charge of is myself and my sphere and I have to work on me all the time.  My children are who they are--Willow who likes sparkly things and Roan who likes rototillers and Laurel whose interests remain to be seen.  I see clearly, lose my way, and come back again.

I hope someday that I do get to be a seasoned mentor to young parents around me.  I think that's why I like doula work so much, even though I don't do a whole lot of it in this season of life.  I want people to feel comfortable, encouraged, and empowered.  I want parents to know that they can say what toys and media come into their homes, to share the information that has helped me make my own choices, to know that they are the keepers of childhood for their own children and that they can do things differently with no desire to offend others.  The world is different now than it was when I was a child.  My children are different people from me.  They require different parenting, plain and simple, and I am just the person for the job.

I think consumerism, especially, seeks to rob parents of their authority.  I don't mean the conventional definition of authority, but the one that says we're the only people who live our lives and we are to trust ourselves to know what is good and right.  The Man forms focus groups and hires psychologists to construct products that have a pull so strong that children are powerless to resist or get through unscathed.  They want to make parents feel as if their children will be deprived or done an injustice if they do not purchase what is being sold.  Children have no ability to filter out things the way adults do.  It is an acquired skill and we adults have to hold the space until children can do it for themselves.  That's our true authority.  It is our moral prerogative to serve as the soft place to land in this swirling wild world and to show its beauty and capacity for love, above all else.
impossibleway: (Snow Flame)
Dip in the water's sweet surprise,
Colorful the ripples will arise.
Which will gleam in my sparkling tail?
Are trace my flight through the open air?


"Brushtail" ~ Enki

Painting Day is the most anticipated day of the week for all of us.  We've been at it, at varying levels of fervor, for 2.5 years now.  We've made lanterns, postcards, greeting cards, signs, silhouettes and garlands from the papers we've painted.  We've done salt watercolors and ice ones, too.  We chased one piece of frozen paper all over the yard and caught it to make a star garland from.  I have never tired of watching the colors mix on the paper.  I've learned a few things, too.

Painting Day

  • I always begin with a song, "Scarlet and yellow, golden and brown, winds of October throw the leaves down . . ."

  • We use liquid watercolors, as the little cakes break too easily and don't seem to last very long.  They are also more prone to misuse.  I learned pretty quickly that broken paint and broken crayons can be very upsetting to a child, regardless of whether it's a "part of life."

  • I mix up all the paint at once, instead of guessing how much it will take to get the amount of color I want.  A little bottle of Stockmar watercolors will make about a pint of paint, maybe a little more.  Yellow is a weaker color than blue, so you may get more mileage out of your blue.  I keep it in the fridge all the time as watercolors will spoil.

  • I put the paint we will use for a painting session into baby food jars.  They rinse their brushes in a big salsa jar.  There's no need to be a big spender on such things (save that money for nice brushes!).

  • I do two teaspoons of each color and that's it.  We generally paint with two colors.  Sometimes, I mix up green or orange with two teaspoons of yellow and one of blue or red.  That's all you need for two children to cover their papers very thoroughly.

Jars

  • Painting time is fairly short, less than twenty minutes, generally.   Sometimes, I read a story, but not often.  I have found that "rationing" the paint helps things to come to a more peaceful and natural end.  And, there's less mess.

  • Children may be rough on the paper at first, but give them simple, gentle modelling and they'll work it out.  I generally use 140 lb. paper, though 98 lb. works when you can't find the other.  I soak it briefly or just rinse it under the tap.  We use prefold diapers to dry the brushes or wipe the papers.

  • You don't really need a painting board.  We have two, but I have done a lot of painting on an inexpensive flexible cutting board.  You can also use masonite or, as it occurred to me today, a waterproof table top.  I think I'll try to do it right on the table next week (which is covered in thick vinyl).

  • Fluid watercolor papers and some other brands negate the need for a board or taping or anything.  They're bound on two or more edges.  Perfect!

  • Painting is a good activity for children to putter around a bit and get lost in the activity, so just be a silent observer and join in every now and then.  I tend to paint when I have something I want to make out of the paper and am wanting a specific look to the painting.

Rainbow Watercolor

On Time

Apr. 11th, 2014 03:18 pm
impossibleway: (The Little House)
Diapers on the line

We've been working hard on rhythm the last couple weeks.  You might say that I've become a slave to it, but I've felt it necessary in order to really internalize what needs to happen every day, what things can vary and so forth.  I am seeing that impulsive trips don't really suit us much, even though they've always been infrequent.  Mike and I have sorted out some priorities in regards to the non-negotiables, like family time for all and office hours for him.  With him working fourish jobs, it's more than necessary to have good discipline and boundaries about time, and to plan out the things that ought to (in an ideal world) come naturally.  I think it will help his self-discipline and productivity and all our moods.  He's also begun a bit of his own Enki reading and it will be nice to talk with him about it in more detail.

Me, well, I'm finding more time to do what I need or want to do.  Of course, these days "wants" are a little different.  I'm not in a crafting season, so my "spare" time is more about exercising or hanging laundry outside and feeling luxurious about it.  It keeps me more grounded in my day, to have it revolve around laundry.  I'm also really enjoying the set Adventure Time after Quiet Time in each day.  A set rhythm is as much for me as it is for my children.  It feels nice to know what is next, to see the energy ebb and flow more peacefully.  Now, well, time to enjoy these children who are moving beyond quiet time and maybe sneak in a little of that luxurious exercise. 

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