adventures in life and learning…

Well, previously I had told you all that I would share photos from our trip out to Klondyke, AZ – I still haven’t finished working on those, but I do have some shots from Whitewater Draw, where we were able to see the Sandhill Cranes and take in some gorgeous natural beauty.

Whitewater Draw, AZ.jpg

It was definitely a lovely adventure. We had hoped to make it to another viewing area a ways down the road but did not get there until dusk, so we missed out on birdwatching there. But, that is okay!

We began our Maths Block here at Desert Starlight, and it has been an interesting, and slow, learning process thus far. Between HL getting seriously sick (it was only a cold, but her fever was ferocious and her cough was terrible) and just a general feeling of ick in the house, we have only done two of the planned lessons since beginning school again. We aren’t even finished with the second lesson. However, our little Math Gnomes have been so well received! They are wonderful friends for my children, who are constantly asking to play with them (they actually re-enact the chapters from The Gnomes Gemstones as we read them for the lessons).

Moon’s handwriting it soring, especially seeing as she hadn’t written much during the first part of the school year and we haven’t focused on the lowercase letters yet. I definitely see the advantage of using the larger paper (our main lesson books are 9×12), especially with writing. Sun has a bit of an issue with following the main lesson page-maps (I sketch the drawing out and place the writing so we have an idea of where things go without having too much blank-page-anxiety). When we reviewed the first lesson, he had an issue with making the connection between his writing and his drawing because it really doesn’t match. We had a talk about following the page-maps when I make them, and hopefully, when we do our page for Lesson 2 about Measuring Time by the Stars, he will follow the directions. *shrugs* If not, we will just have to keep talking about the benefits of using the page-maps.

Weeks 02 and 03.jpg

I am hoping to get back into the swing of things. The holidays always mess me up, especially since it seems like I get on such a good roll and then have to stop. *deep sigh*

I’m interested in what you all are working on in school right now! Leave a comment down below and share with me!

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planning

Okay, here is a bit of truth: I am not a planner. I am definitely a pantster – flying by the seat of my pants on everything. I have learned recently that this is definitely not the way to go about homeschooling unless we are doing UNschooling. With that being said, I actually have a plan for at least the next few weeks. Now, I don’t want to present myself as an expert, and I definitely don’t want you to think of me as perfect. Obviously, I am not. This is just one mum’s planning evolution and the things she has found that work for HER and HER family.

So, what does planning look like for me? Oh, how I wish I could share Pinterest worthy photos of my gorgeous bullet journal, my carefully thought out and hand-drawn banners and titles and dates – but, alas, my journal is simple and, in my opinion, unworthy of Pinterest. But, guess what?

We all start somewhere.

I have been slowly transitioning away from everything being digitised. I love technology, but I also will be the first to admit that I have an addiction to it. Well, addicted to using it. In other words, I spend way too dang long on some sort of technology. So, my planning has gone manual and I am actually digging it. Let me share with you the evolution of my planning (this evolution taking place over a matter of days, mind you):

Planning mood board 1

My planning evolution… A little of this, then a little of that, then finally a plan and all around a ton of coffee was consumed.

I really am considering keeping the original Daily Plan style page, just doing in manually and adding my own flair to it. Who knows. But I can tell you this: planning is NECESSARY. No matter what curriculum you use, if any (and if you don’t, then why the heck AREN’T you planning SOMETHING?!), you need a solid plan written out in front of you – better yet, written out BY YOU. So many studies have been conducted about how beneficial handwriting things is for our minds. And if you are like me, and find yourself addicted to your technology, then taking the time to handwrite your plans and rhythm and lesson ideas down in a notebook or journal can definitely make the difference.

So, a little bit about my PLAN. Let me tell you, there is truth in the old adage “less is more“. I am totally in love with the Head, Heart, Hands approach that I am taking now. It really simplifies exactly what we need to do each day.

Head work

  • Main Lesson
  • Daily Math
  • Grammar
  • Spelling

Heart work

  • Form Drawing
  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Music
  • Foreign Languages

Hand work

  • Bread making
  • Cooking
  • Nature Walks
  • Handwork

Even though we do not include every single thing on this list on any given day, this gives us a solid foundation to work with while we move through our days. From here, we can work on adding Park days, Library days, Market days. We can also continue to work on managing outings and appointments around Head, Heart, Hands work.

My first step in planning is to consider which aspects of each area we need to cover at this time:

For the month of January, we are only covering Main Lesson and Daily Math for the Head area. Originally, after putting everything to the very packed and detailed weekly plan (second planning incarnation) I realised that it would just be too much for all of us to try and cram into one day. Daily Grammar can hold off until Sun is in his Third Year.

For the Heart area, I considered where we are and what we enjoy – we are artists, so it is a given that we will be including Painting and Drawing, but I also felt that Form Drawing should be a priority. Moon saw a video of Hana (Pepper and Pine) and her kids using the book Creative Form Drawing and fell in love. She begged me to get the book (she didn’t have to beg for long!) and she just felt so comfortable with it when she was exploring it after it arrived. Music and Foreign Languages are not really things that I am concerned about bringing to them. Too many things to memorise, too many things to remember. I am not doubting their abilities, though I am cautious of overloading them. We will be getting a third recorder, for Moon, and we will see about including Music in our Heart work in the future.

Finally, the Hands area. I think that this is the hardest area for me to really set as a priority in our days. It is always pushed to last, and often just doesn’t get done because I am exhausted by the time HL is picked up. I just want to veg and breathe before starting dinner prep. But, I have been missing something in this area. This is a breath. Hand Work is not something that should be dreaded. It is something to be celebrated and enjoyed! It is, often times, practical work that needs to be done around the house. Heck, chores are Hand Work in my opinion! We are constantly working in this area, and perhaps that is why it has felt like such a burden to me. But, I have seen their eyes light up at the sight of their bread rolls, I have seen the joy they exude when they get to show people the different things that they have made, and I know the peace they feel while out in the fresh air, walking with a purpose. This is a necessary area, and I am slowly learning to love my own work here as well.

Once you know which things you want to include for each area, you can figure out where in your personal rhythm these things might fit in. Maybe it is Heart, Head, Hands or Hands, Heart, Head or any other combination! Whatever it is, be inspired by you and your children and your home.

Planning is daunting. Having no set curriculum, building your own, or un/de-schooling can lead to anxiety and doubt and stress when you don’t have a plan. Yes, even un/de-schooling families should have some sort of plan for what they will bring and how they will bring in, though it will definitely look different!

Just remember that no one plan will work for you, except your own. Take all of the inspiration that you find, but make it your own. It can take some time to find the right method, the right journal, the write pen – don’t get discouraged. And don’t doubt yourself because you may not be the best organiser or artist or whatever. You are enough, and you are amazing.

How do you plan your lessons, your days, or even your meals? Are you a planner or a pantster? Leave a note in the comments!

the first day…

January Day 01.jpg

TOP: our form drawing lesson books (Sun’s, mine, and Moon’s)
BOTTOM 1: Sun and Moon tracing the forms in the book Creative Form Drawing
BOTTOM 2: Sun and Moon walking the forms in the kitchen
BOTTOM 3: Moon exploring Oneness
BOTTOM 4: Sun’s daily math work with his sister’s counting rods

Today was definitely a Monday. Ugh. I woke up late (not late enough to make HL late to school, or to cause really any issues, but late enough that I didn’t get my self-care in); we had a very, VERY late start to our lessons (like 12PM late); and, to top it all off, the bread we made this afternoon was not what I thought it would be. But, you want to know what? We made it through today, and no one had any real major meltdowns. We had some minor ones, but after some explanation, peace filled the air.

Today has been a day of many lessons, for me mostly. One of the biggest things I learned was that we cannot, absolutely cannot, start late. I need to have the will to set aside some things and get to the lessons. I also learned that we definitely need to make sure we do the date, day Gnome, and do our calendar wheel – which I need to fill in with some of our rhythms! Final morning lesson I learned, for the time before and at the beginning of lessons, is that I really REALLY need at least 30 minutes in the morning to do some much-needed self-care. Some coffee, some nice and gentle classical music, and my cards. I haven’t prayed for days because I have been so stressed out. I saw that in myself today, in the way I put off and put off lessons.

Sun needs his rhythm written down and laid out for him, and he cannot deviate from it. Any deviation seems to cause him anxiety. Somethings less than others, I’ll be the first to admit (he was so set on going home after we had to make an impromptu trip to Target so he could eat his snack and play outside, but we adults decided to take them to the park and it threw him off for a bit before we arrived). But, it was apparent today that anything we might be doing needs to go down on the rhythm for his benefit. I have also been trying to tell him at least 15 minutes before we have to leave that we will be leaving – this has alleviated some of the intensity of his meltdowns, but has not saved him from the anxiety that being rushed and pulled out of the house seems to bring on for him.

Another lesson, learned the hard way, was that I cannot leave him to do his work on his own. It just won’t get done. So, I guided him to the table and we sat down and did the work together. He really needs someone there to bounce ideas off of and to check his work, or he will get horribly distracted (not as bad as he does without his medication, but still bad); and honestly, I prefer having him here at the table, even when my focus is on Moon. We weren’t able to get to the entire lesson today, but that is alright. Have a plan, but be flexible!

Speaking of Moon… She has decided that naps just aren’t for her anymore. And most days, it shows how much growing up she had done over the last few months. And, having Melatonin as part of the nightly rhythm has helped both Sun and Moon tremendously! We switched Sun’s night medication to the morning with his other one, and have started giving both of my Littles Melatonin at night about an hour or two before bedtime. This has made the transition so much easier. Sun even seems to be building a more typical sleep pattern, which is fantastic!

Also speaking of transitions… I have learned just how powerful a verse or a song (or a verse turned into a song) truly is when it comes to drawing the children in and setting the tone for the next activity or lesson or duty. I sang a cleanup verse, and there was no fighting against it when I began cleaning up the living room – they helped right away, and even started singing with me; when the timer went off and it was time to start lessons, a simple verse said on the porch got their attention and they ran inside to begin.

Making bread has been an anxiety-inducing concept since putting my whole heart into Waldorf. First of all, I hate scratchy stuff on my hands, and flour is scratchy like fine-grained sand. It was not the most pleasant experience, that flour. However, I saw just how potent the experience truly is for all ages, and I refuse to forego this tradition any longer. I might have been super unhappy with how it turned out, but all three of the kids (including the resident bread hater) ate their fill of bread and barely touched their spaghetti. Their hands made that bread. Their ears heard the directions, their eyes saw the ingredients, and their hearts poured into each roll they formed. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any photos of the bread-making process or the product, but I hope that in the coming weeks we will have at least a few shots of our newfound tradition.

So, overall I am proud of our day today. We completed Head, Heart, and Hands – Main Lesson, Form Drawing, and Baking bread. We had a relatively peaceful day, even when HL came home (OH! the kids even started straightening up the bedroom, without a fuss!). So many lessons learned from the most simple of interactions with my children.

and so it begins…

Little HL went back to school today. I have always thought it was strange that public schools start in the middle of the week sometimes. I just don’t get it. I always find that we are at our best if we begin on a Monday (okay, I am at my best if we begin on a Monday). Her return to school means that I have four days until we begin our Maths Block. I have it all planned out, for January… And I am already feeling overwhelmed. BUT, I am planning that if we get nothing else done, we will do the HEAD, HEART, and HANDS portions of each day.

“We are all influenced by a combination of preferences for thinking (head), doing (hands), and feeling (heart). ‘Head, heart and hands’ is easier to remember than ‘cognitive, affective and behavioral’ although it means the same thing.” – changingminds.org

As long as we get those complete, I will feel accomplished. The other things are there for the good days, the days without tears and meltdowns and tons of appointments and errands and people in and out of the house.

During the coming weeks, I will be considering our rhythm and how it works – the same thing I have been doing since we started back in September. I want to develop, to understand, more about the dynamics of this household and where we all fit in. I also think that my Sun will benefit more from having a rhythm chart put together so that he can see better what to expect throughout the day.

I have been looking into more inner work, for myself, recently – and, at the suggestion of the author of our curriculum, I have begun to pray. Yes, you heard that correctly – I am praying now. I did not do it today, which I can see deeply affected my place, both within and without.

What does praying look like for me? It looks like a cup of coffee, and me sitting down and shuffling my Tarot cards, asking Spirit for assistance. I then lay out three cards and proceed to read them – once I have their meanings, I write down everything and put it in my binder. I have no doubt that, as I continue to pray each morning, my inner work will transform. But for now, this is my start. I take it one day at a time, and I pray for one simple thing. I pray for Spirit for guide me in how to best meet my children so that I can better help them with their struggles throughout the day. Since beginning this practice, the answers I have received have mostly been about looking deep within for the answers and exercising patience.

I have also decided to work on a YouTube channel detailing our days. There are just some things that are easier when done in a video format.

I will also be updating you all on a recent road trip we took to Klondyke, Arizona! It was fantastic and I cannot wait to share the photos with you!

We have so many changes coming our way, so many things that will throw us all through the ringer, but I truly hope that I am capable of meeting my children where they are, not where I or anyone else think they ought to be.

I still have a bit of planning to do, and reflection, before we can really dive into the rest of the lessons that are plotted and planned out – but I am sure that we will reach them with a smile on our faces and warmth in our hearts.

review: exploring nature with children

exploring nature with children banner

I want to preface this post by saying that this resource is not entirely aligned with the Waldorf philosophy/pedagogy/perception. It is definitely Charlotte Mason (which I am somewhat inspired by, mostly for Nature Studies). So, with that out of the way, I can share with you my opinion on this resource.

First of all, this resource is set up as a nearly complete curriculum – it provides activities, poetry, book options to flesh it out, and many different areas to bring in math and language arts, and is always filled to the brim with science. With a few adjustments and additions, this could easily be used as an entire year’s worth of lessons. With that being said, using it as it is works amazingly.

Second of all, one of the best books the curriculum suggests for every single week is The Handbook of Nature Study. It is truly an indispensable book to have on your shelves, even if you don’t use this particular curriculum. It has so much information in it, sometimes I get dizzy thinking about it!

Third of all, with it being grouped by months, and then split into four weeks each, it is easy to print off the pages for the upcoming week and plan out what to do each day to bring it all together.

I’ll be honest, we haven’t been very consistent in using it every week. BUT, we are working on it, slowly. Starting in January, we will be following the curriculum for Nature Study almost faithfully – I say almost because some things will not work for us, some are better saved for other months, and some will need some tweaking before we can use it. Living in the desert makes doing certain things difficult, especially when long-distance travel is not really an option. But, again, it is set up in such a way that makes it more than easy to redo certain themes/weeks throughout the year or put your own themes and ideas into play.

Once we work through a few weeks of the curriculum, in a row, I will come back to this topic and do a more in-depth review. But for now, we are very excited to work with it and see what sorts of things we can learn about the topics provided.

If you want to check this resource out for yourself, read other reviews, or just read through the author’s blog (which is fantastic!), head on over to Raising Little Shoots and look through her website. The curriculum is definitely worth it, even if you use it just for inspiration or a starting point on your journey to exploring nature with your child(ren)!

how the weather came to be

I have been struggling to find a gentle yet inspiring tale for how the weather came to be, as the first week of January is Weather Week in Exploring Nature with Children (the Nature Studies resource we will be using). Per the book, we will be observing and documenting the weather throughout the week, and I wanted to introduce some Weather Gnomes to our Nature Table as part of our daily duties. So, because I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, I decided to put my fingers to work and wrote a short tale of how Father Sun and Mother Moon brought calm to their little Earth through taming some of the weather. I say some because I only wanted to work with the basic weather patterns for this introduction. Both of my Littles know the weather, that isn’t quite the issue, but because the desert generally has simple weather phenomena, I decided to keep it simple. I hope to have art to go along with this little tale at some point, as well as photos of our little Weather Gnomes once they are finished.

Here is my heavily Waldorf and Pagan inspired tale for How the Weather Came to Be:

Long ago, when the Earth was new and Father Sun and Mother Moon were still working their magic, the winds were harsh and Father’s beams were hot – Mother’s pull on the oceans was severe and the storms raged all over the planet. She spun and spun in the heavens, faster and faster, and refused to slow her rotation. They both longed to bring peace to the violent world but were unsure how to do it.

After many attempts to calm the land and sea and sky, Father and Mother were tired. They moved farther from the little planet – not too far as to lose sight, but far enough to take a moment to calm their own spirits.

“Mother,” said Father as his beams reached over the curve of the planet, “will we ever see a day where our little Earth slows down?”

“I don’t know, Father,” Mother responded softly, “there is so much work to be done, and little Earth will not listen. She has a will of her own.”

It was this last statement that inspired Father Sun. “I will take a little beam of light and place her on the surface. She will provide just enough warmth and light to bring joy to little Earth. Every morning, she will move over the planet and bring more or less light. She will always be connected to my rays, and will listen to Earth and her subtle cues.”

“That is wonderful, Father!” Mother exclaimed. And so, that day, as Father watched his little Earth spin and spin and spin, he sent his little beam down and told her about her job.

The little child, named Sunny, was a joyous creature who jumped and played all over the world, shining her light where Earth asked for it. As Mother and Father watched, they noticed that little Earth slowed – just a bit, not too much. But, it seemed that there were still violent and troublesome movements all around Earth. Mother, watched for a time, seeing that the clouds and the rain left some areas dry and others flooded. With a spark of creativity, Mother whipped a bit of cloud into a form and then brought a bit of rain together in another form.

“Here you are, Cloudy and Rainy. You must always work together and listen to one another, for without one there cannot be the other.” She sent the little children down to the Earth, where they danced and played over the surface. Here and there, they danced and played, but Mother noticed that neither Cloudy nor Rainy, were able to fully work their magic over the Earth.

Mother went to Father and spoke to him of the violent winds that plagued the little planet.

“We must harness these winds and give them proper duties, Father. I cannot do it alone, I need your help.”

Father and Mother wrapped their arms around little Earth and lifted the four Winds into the heavens, where they moulded the four winds into a single little child. When he was ready, and he knew his job – to help Cloudy and Rainy move from place to place – Mother and Father sent him to their little Earth.

Earth, now with sun and rain and clouds and wind all working together, slowed her rotations even more. She was calmer and gave her parents a soft hum of joy. Father Sun and Mother Moon were happy to see their little Earth and their Weather Children playing joyously.

The sky has always been inspirational for me, especially here in the desert.

Weather Collage 1.jpg

 

yuletide and update

Well, with all of the high energy and things happening, I wasn’t quite able to do everything I wanted to for Yule this year. But, we did share a lovely story written by Melisa Nielson over at Waldorf Essentials called The Yule Miracle. The children, mine and HL, were very much interested in the tale – so was I! So much of Melisa’s work is inspiring in so many ways.

We met with the new therapist for both Sun and Moon on Yule as well. It was fitting to meet her because hopefully, she won’t drop us in the middle of getting to know us like it seems we always are. Sun has been having some severe behavioural problems, likely due to the lack of rhythm now that HL is out of school for the winter, and all of us passing around this winter cold. He has been sleeping until Noon, or later, steadily for nearly a week – we are seeing if perhaps his bedtime medication is causing the issues, and so far it seems to be true. I even tried to take him down a dose but it didn’t seem to work. So, for now, we are only giving him his morning medication.

A final new thing to add to our week: Sun and Moon’s biological father, who hasn’t had but one or two moments of contact with them before seeing them on Friday in three years, bought them gifts for Christmas. We spent nearly an hour reconnecting and discussing the possibility of him coming back into their lives, but at this moment there is no solid plan for that because he feels it would not be beneficial for them as he is very unstable in many ways. I understand that, completely, and I made sure that he knew that if he wanted to see them all he had to do was text or call me. He offered that if they ever need anything, all I need to do is ask and he will try to make it happen. It was a lovely experience, much better than I thought it would be. I won’t lie and say it wasn’t nerve-wracking, or that I wasn’t anxious the entire time, but it was a nice first step and the children seemed to enjoy being around him. Baby steps, baby steps.

We have been doing a whole lot of resting this month, but there have been a few things that are noteworthy:

December Collage

Top Row –
1: Moon and her Vowel pages
2: She was working so hard!
3: Sun working on the MyraMakes packet he received in the mail! (link below)
4: Moon and her brand new glasses!
Middle Row –
1: Building a wooden town.
2: Creating a scene.
3: A friend wanting to play ball.
4: Balancing river rocks for peace.
Bottom Row –
1: A toadstool
2: Laying neatly in a row.
3: Sun created a fidgetspinner out of little round spheres and candle holders.

Sun enjoys the Myra Makes beta subscription I signed up for. I definitely suggest that you look into it!

For now, that is it. Once I have our Maths blocks situated and planned out, I’ll share them with you. Until then, have a wonderful holiday season ❤