Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Beach School

Though in most places school is out for the summer, we will continue on through most of the summer with lessons four days per week, interspersed with trips to the beach, hiking in the canyon, and discovering new parks. I am beginning night shifts this week, so our new challenge will be finding shady places for Curtis and the kids to conduct their lessons outdoors so that I can sleep in the morning...and probably in the afternoon as well. We will be embracing the idea of afternoon siestas for everyone as the days get hotter!

Noah has just finished a four week math block that included an introduction to Roman numerals and number qualities, a review of addition and subtraction and introduction to multiplication and division. Though many Waldorf curriculums use math gnomes for early math, we decided on the characters and stories suggested in the Live Education curriculum, as that is what we are using next year. Curtis did an amazing job crafting stories and making these characters and their interactions come alive for Noah (and Isaac, as he is always close by, participating in lessons as well). Small stones are used as manipulatives for solving problems involving multiplying and then dividing bread loaves between families, sorting sheep, and the many other problems encountered by Mul de Plier, Prince Divide, Addy the Baker, and Minus Miner.

The final week of the math block lead up to the Summer Solstice. This is the first time our family has observed the solstice. Throughout the week, we talked about the sun and the longest day. We read The Return of the Sun King and modeled suns from beeswax. The boys were up early on the Solstice making a special Father's Day card. We feasted on pancakes and spent the day relaxing together, also harvesting rosemary and lavender from the garden to dry for a later project. In the evening, the boys prepared a feast of honey, raisins, millet, and almond for our garden fairy and served it all on seashell dishes and a table cloth knit by Noah. She ate everything, of course!

As we move on to our next blocks, we will continue to incorporate math into all lesson days though circle time games, jump rope counting, and the secret message math problems Grandpa sends Noah. This past week, we started a ocean and tide pool block to learn more about our new environment. The Native American stories Salmon Boy and Octopus and Raven from Keepers of the Animals were an excellent introduction to the ocean and tides. In the evening we visited the magical and whimsical Victoria Beach, talked about all the gifts we get from the sea, and then sat quietly to think about our favorite gift from the ocean.

This nature sit was supposed to be just five minutes. Noah became restless and declared himself done after just two minutes, while Isaac surprisingly continued to sit quietly for the full time. After their sit, they used oil pastels to draw their favorite gift on a rock as a thank you to the ocean; a fish from Isaac, a starfish from Noah, a purple squiggle from Arwen.

The next day, we took school to the beach at Little Corona Del Mar. As the backbone of our tide pool unit, we are reading Pagoo by Holling C. Holling, a detailed story of life in a tide pool told through the eyes of a newborn hermit crab. I have also started choosing stories for Isaac to get him (and us) used to incorporating his lessons into our daily rhythm, as he will officially begin Kindergarten in the Fall. Isaac's stories for our ocean block are A Beach Tale and See the Ocean. Our beachside classroom...

Recently, thousands of tuna crabs washed ashore and died on our local beaches. Their remains offered an intimate look at the crustacean exoskeleton described in our story. 

After reading about little Pagoo's struggle to molt, we went on an exploration of the tide pools in search of live hermit crabs and found hundreds, as well as snails, crabs, little fish, and urchins. 

Arwen's favorite discovery was that the water in the tide pools is much warmer than the big ocean waves. This natural sandy bottomed pool kept her busy for an hour jumping and splashing while the boys built a sandcastle with Dad. She is ever so slowly becoming friends with the ocean and loves to walk barefoot along the beach holding tightly to my finger, staying just far enough up the shore that the waves only occasionally reach her feet.

We are looking forward to a summer filled with more lessons in nature, sandy feet, afternoon siestas, and lazy backyard dinners of fresh local veggies and fruits.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Here is a quick, picture heavy post to catch up on a fraction our latest activities, since the sun is shining, there is a lovely breeze blowing in from the backyard where I can hear the kids playing, and where I would rather be. Soon it will be time for our afternoon siesta because we are attending a full moon drumming circle on the beach tonight.

Mother's Day beach sunset. We saw a family of dolphins swimming just off shore. Nobody got knocked down by a wave. Perfection.

Noah finished up a three week fairytale block with two new Grimm's fairytales each week. During language arts blocks, he listens to the story told orally on day one, and then draws a picture to go with it. The next day, he retells the story and does another related activity. For the story of Simeli Mountain, everyone worked together to build the mountain in our 'mud box' then filled it with 'treasure' found in the yard.

Weekly hikes with Nature Kindergarten continue to be a highlight of the week. Arwen's little legs carry her a bit farther each time, and everyone returns home blissfully tired. Arwen loves to balance walk on anything that resembles a balance beam, and found a perfect spot to practice in our backyard.

As we continue to explore new parks, we are discovering some little gems, like this good old-fashioned FAST slide.

We are also discovering lots of different creatures living in our yard; snails and lizards and unfamiliar species of birds.

One of our favorite finds is just down the road in a grassy ravine behind a park. We were running behind one school morning, and I was very tempted to skip our morning walk and just get on with 'school'. But knowing the importance of sticking to our rhythm, we went walking anyway. While taking a back way to the neighborhood park, I spotted a board up in a tree. Lo and behold, it was a rope swing! Seeing a five year old experience a rope swing for the first time and hearing a thirty-something man holler as he swung across the ravine made my heart smile. Discovering this simple pleasure taught me a perfect lesson about slowing down and enjoying the rhythm of the day. You never know what magical things you may discover if you take the time to be in the present.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Welcoming Spring

As we continue to settle into our new home, our school days are beginning to fall into a simple rhythm. After breakfast, the boys and I take a little walk or go to a nearby park for a short time before coming home to do circle time as a family. Sometimes Arwen is still asleep and sometimes she joins us. After circle time, our main lesson starts with a little recorder practice. Our lessons this week were about Spring! On Sunday, we made a trip to a garden store and came home with some little helpers for our yard. We also planted some basil, lemon balm, mint, and a couple tomato plants.

On our morning walks, Noah and Isaac became fascinated with the ropy-polies (pill bugs) wandering around on the sidewalks. We checked out a book from the library and learned that they are not really insects at all, but tiny crustaceans, related to crabs and lobsters. We see them on our morning walks because though they are nocturnal, they seek out the moisture from lawn sprinklers in the mornings. Noah read how to make a home for them in a jar, and now we have some pets. They seem to find the nasturtiums that are growing in our backyard quite tasty (as does our little forager, Isaac).

On Monday, we read Spring Prayer by Ralph Waldo Emerson, talked about spring, and did some wet on wet watercolor painting. Isaac has not officially started school yet, but he wants to do everything big brother is doing. Isaac's 'school' books for the week were Mud by Mary Lyn Ray and The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss. Painting is one of his favorite activities.

Spring Prayer

For flowers that bloom about our feet; 
For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet; 
For song of bird, and hum of bee; 
For all things fair we hear or see, 
Father in heaven, we thank Thee! 

For blue of stream and blue of sky; 
For pleasant shade of branches high; 
For fragrant air and cooling breeze; 
For beauty of the blooming trees, 
Father in heaven, we thank Thee! 

Because Noah has had two years of Spanish Immersion school, we are continuing to incorporate Spanish into our daily lessons. His writing work for the week was a Spanish translation of Spring Prayer. He also had his first block crayon drawing lesson from Dad.

On Wednesday, Nature Kindergarten met at Little Corona Del Mar in Newport Beach. Curtis and I visited this beach when we checked out the area and it is still a favorite. It is an excellent place for walking the shore and peaking in all the tide pools for sea urchins, hermit crabs, sea snails, fish and brittle stars.

Arwen got over her grand dislike of sand, sitting for hours endlessly scooping and dumping sand. She even helped the boys dig their big hole.

Later in the week, we read The Rainbow Tulip by Pat Mora, a lovely introduction to May Faire that also happens to contain some Spanish. The boys made May baskets and delivered them to our new neighbors on May Day. To wrap up our week and celebrate Arwen's very special golden birthday, we attended a May Faire celebration at a local Waldorf school. Arwen loved the flowers, music, and the delicious food!

 Just as we are getting our school rhythm settled, things are going to be shaken up again as I start work this week. I am thankful that it will only be orientation for a couple weeks before I start with my night shifts. That is when things will get very interesting indeed.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hiking to the Top of the World

A week after moving into our new home in Southern California, we were honored to join a new group of friends at Santiago Oaks Regional Park for Nature Kindergarten. During circle time, us newcomers learned what to do if we encounter rattlesnakes or mountain lions. Then, in honor of Earth Day, we hiked "to the top of the world", stopping along the way to let the children explore and to learn about the various plants on the trail; which to avoid (poison oak!) and which are edible. We sampled wild mustard, malva, pineapple weed (wild chamomile), lemonade berry, yucca, and pepper berry.

After eating our lunch on the top of the mountain, our leader showed the children how to use stones to make paintbrushes from the leaf of a yucca plant.

Arwen was able to walk much of the trail. She found going down a bit easier, especially with her brothers helping her through some bumpy patches.

After story and tea time, Arwen enjoyed playing 'horse' on a log bench, while the children learned to bore out the middle of elderberry branch segments to make beads.

Noah loves his elderberry branch necklace and could not wait to get home and use his yucca paintbrush to paint a picture of the mountain.

We are looking forward to many more learning adventures in our new home!

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Nearly TWO years without a post! I am coming here to resurrect this space as a place to document our new adventures as we move across the country to warm and sunny California. Stay tuned as I share pictures and stories of our family and our adventures in homeschooling our boys in the Waldorf way.