Somehow, October is halfway over and the autumn is racing by. The weather has been variable- sun, rain, snow, wind. I can’t remember having snow this early, and we don’t have the winter tires on the car yet which makes me very nervous. But it seems to come and go still- a white wintery morning leading into a wet and drippy afternoon. Which is good because my head just can’t wrap itself around winter just yet. My skier boys however, cheer when the snow starts to drift down.
They waited all day for their Papa to have time for a snowball fight. By the time he did, most of the snow had melted, but that didn’t seem to stop them.
Homeschooling is still going really well. I am loving the simple little preschool routine I have going with Miss W. (I think I’m done with the fake names for my kids on this blog- it feels too weird. I’ll try using their first initials and see how that feels.) Just seasonal books I’ve gathered, some simple circle activities and a basic little craft or baking project. She is thrilled with her special time with Mama, and seems to be a lot more willing to play quietly while I work with the boys after she’s had this time. I have the winter books waiting in the wings for when the snow decides to really stay.
And she is actually going to a preschool out of our home this year, 2 mornings a week- a Reggio Emelia one that is just lovely, and that gives her some time to play and explore with kids her own age and not just be along for the ride with the big boys all the time, which is great. It is an adjustment for her and for me, but I think it is a good thing for everyone. Those mornings feel so quiet.
The big boy homeschool time is going very well. D is working on an Italy/St.Francis block after our visit to Assisi. He is reading more and more and we are regularly being entertained by the joke book he got for his birthday. He just turned 8 which is rather hard for me to wrap my head around. Big, sweet boy of my heart.
He got a chemistry set for his birthday too. Much exciting experimenting going on.
The local geography block A. is working on is going so well. We’ve been pouring over maps, spending weeks learning about the local First Nations’ knowledge and understanding of the land, and working on a local animals project. A. chose the bald eagle to study and is working on a habitat diorama complete with clay eagle.
And our fiddling adventures continue with a big production planned for this year. And this adult learner just might be squawking her way through fiddle lessons of her own this year (gulp. I’m nervous every single time!) Plus there is this weekly adult-only fiddle-and-wine social that is rather a lot of fun. It’s all pretty great.
I hope October is treating you all well, too, friends!
So I thought I would write more about incorporating waldorfy/enki-ish things back into our days, since that’s what I’m thinking about a lot of the time as I organize and plan our homeschool lives.
This summer, as our big adventure was nearing its end, I started doing some homeschool planning. We were staying in the sweetest little apartment in Italy- my favorite of all the spots we stayed, and it had this beautiful teeny writing nook. I spent a good chunk of time taking notes, writing in my journal, researching things on my phone and starting to form a plan.
This is what I started to realize from my sweet little nook:
That I missed a lot about what we left behind by putting aside the enki/waldory methods, but I did not miss the stress and expectations I had carried when I was trying to follow the curriculum to the letter.
So I started sketching out a plan for our year that incorporated the things I felt we were missing, but leaving out the stuff that wasn’t going to work for us- keeping it very simple and guilt-free.
So this is what we are focusing on:
1. Simple Mainlesson blocks for each of my boys (plus very simple pre-schooly seasonal “blocks” for my 3-year old), based on the developmental understandings of waldorf and enki, and choosing blocks I know will nurture and interest my kiddos. This was so fun for me to put together- researching what is typically studied in the grades and the reasons for those, choosing and adapting topics and creating blocks around them. This is where my inner teacher-nerd comes out strong. I love doing this. It makes me a little giddy.
2. Mainlesson books. I really missed this ongoing, careful, beautiful representation of what they are learning. And seeing how my boys are both working with great dedication in their books this year, I think they did too.
3. Well chosen projects that I know they will enjoy and that I know I can reasonably fit into our lives. No, we will not be building a life-sized replica of a traditional First Nations dwelling (not joking. that’s in the curriculum.) But we did go out and harvest fiber from nettle stalks and twist it into rope. Fun, manageable, hands on. Good.
4. Stories, stories and more stories. We’ve always had a ton in our home, but I think we all missed having our special homeschool stories, and really think that stories are what make these philosophies shine. Basing learning around story just makes sense. It’s how we humans are wired. And besides, I love making them up, and telling them, and researching good ones that have already been written, so it’s fun for me too.
5. A good rhythm. We currently have a good rhythm groove going on where I am able to have focused one-on-one homeschool time with each child, and still allow plenty of time for exploring and playing too. We have a lot of outside activities that we have to squeeze in carefully to still manage good chunks of time at home. It feels full and busy but manageable right now.
6. A nice hodgepodge of math strategies. Using a mainstream math curriculum as our base and doing a couple waldorfy math blocks for the bigger concepts like place value and fractions and long division that lend themselves nicely to that visual, story-based style. I’m having fun waldorfying the mainstream math too. More teacher-nerd-dom.
7. Fitting in bits and bobs of the other stuff where it works for us. Form drawing will slip into the borders of our mainlesson books here and there. Recorder lessons are replaced by a plethora of fiddle music and music-making together. Circle time has been utterly rejected by the boys but they love a good walk in the woods, and they are happy to do do a daily “fun run” where I can sneak in plenty of yoga and and sensory integration stuff. No memorized class play, but we will keep reading and reciting poetry over breakfast. We still love nature walks and seasonal book baskets and natural toys. And we love lego and robotics and minecraft too.
Purists we are not. But I should say, that I have nothing against follow these methods closely. I still have dreams of taking my waldorf training, and teaching in a waldorf school one day- I love these methods! But homeschooling is a different beast altogether, and finding a way to make these methods work in our own particular homeschool setting feels like a triumph.
I’m planning to write more about the details of how this all works in our home, and I’d love to hear from those of you who are adapting waldorf or enki into your homeschool lives. I have loved hearing from those of you who have sent me personal messages on this subject and those of you who have encouraged me to write more about it- thank you! I’m pleased to know I’ve struck a bit of a chord. Please feel free to comment here or on Facebook or Instagram too. We’ll keep talking!
We are settling into a really great homeschool flow this autumn, one I feel so pleased with because it it so much closer to how I imagined homeschooling would look for us. It looks waldorfy, artsy, hands-on, nature-based, seasonal. Which sounds a lot like how it looked a few years back. But it feels very different now.
The last couple eclectic, un-schooly, years taught me a lot. That kids are natural learners and soak things up and can thrive in many different kinds of learning environments. That I can teach my kids and guide their learning in many different ways, but not all of them are fun for me, and flying by the seat of my pants doesn’t make me happy. That sometimes when things aren’t working it’s good to step back and take a break, try something new.
And taking a different route this last few years was essential to my sanity with a busy toddler and 2 school-aged kids and way too many rigid ideas about how Enki/Waldorf would have to look in our home. And after that break, I can see so much clearer.
It seems almost ridiculous, all those things I seemed to think I had to do. Somehow the world was going to end, or my children would be be damaged in some serious way if I didn’t manage all the form drawing and handwork and recorder lessons and eurythmy gestures for their letters and if I couldn’t memorize all the circle verses or create a cultural mood for each set of developmentally appropriate stories (and I couldn’t let them ever hear each others stories-in our little tiny house!) and somehow manage to keep the toddler from munching on those delicious beeswax crayons while I was at it.
(She’s less inclined to eat the crayons these days, but she still likes to use them to draw on the furniture when we aren’t looking.)
So now you could say that we are back where we started with our homeschooling, or you could say that we are in an entirely new place, but either way it is good. We are taking a relaxed approach to it all, but I am feeling more organized and prepared and I really like how that feels. I’m choosing blocks I know my kids will love, and things I know I will love bringing to them. And still, there is a lot of time for unstructured projects and exploration, so I don’t know if they would even say that what we are doing this year is so different from what we did in the past couple “un-schoolish” ones.
And I don’t feel worried to “eclectify” my waldorfy homeschool by adding in things that probably wouldn’t fly in a waldorf classroom- I’ve gotten good now at seeing what works for my kids and going with it. It’s so simple, really. We are doing what works for us, in our own way. It just took 6, years to get here, that’s all.
Well now, that was quite an extended break, wasn’t it?
Clearly I was speaking a little loftily when I implied that I could manage several creative pursuits at once! I have been having a grand old time behind the scenes making things and playing music, but I miss this space and I want to get back to it.
And while I was away I was really actually away- like on the other side of the planet, away. We took our family trip to Europe this summer- to meet up with my sister’s family who are living there- and then my brother-in-law and family came and met us too, so it was a time of cousins and family and sunshine! It was beautiful, exciting, magical and sometimes downright tough (taking a 3-year-old to the Colosseum in the heat of August is not for the faint of heart!) but such a gift for our family in so many ways.
(And in case any of you homeschool families are wondering if we just happen to be independently wealthy- um, no. We live simply, in a little cabin on one income, and we scrimped and saved for a long time, and still- it was rather a stretch! But we decided this was a chance we just had to take. Any envy you might be feeling would likely evaporate with a single glance at our VISA bill.)
So we went and we came back home. We have a thousand stories to tell and likely many will weave their way in here.
We are still reminiscing around the dinner table about our little apartment in Rome with the windows that opened on the neighbourhood square, that gelato place in Perugia with the most incredible flavours, the awesome game the cousins made up on the rock formations on a beach on Paros, that night where our little one fell asleep at dinner and woke up in the bustling old town with her siblings and cousins ordering fancy desserts and she groggily but happily chose one herself…
Oh and that little family run gyros place with best food and the cool motorbike delivery set up, and playing in the park at 10:00 at night with the Greek kids (who all nap in the afternoon!) and that amazing sandcastle they built that was flattened by a big wave when a ferry passed, or that tiny baby kitten we visited in a white-washed Greek alley…
So many memories we made, and we will keep sifting through them and reliving our adventures together.
But now we are home. And we are all glad to be (if you are planning a trip with kids be sure to leave the big, crowded cities to the end so that you will be truly exhausted and ready to go and glad for the peace and quiet of your own home!)
We have settled back in, back into the routines and schedules and activities that fill our days, back into our homeschooling learning adventures, back home together. That’s the best part of traveling, isn’t it? Coming back home?
And I hope to come back home to this space more often again. I am excited about what we are up to this year in our homeschool realm and hoping to share it here as I am able.
Happy October, Friends!
I was lucky enough to be asked some time ago to join a mama’s craft collaborative. A bunch of wonderful, creative mamas making beautiful things to sell in a shop together was a dream come true- except that I hadn’t made anything at all in more than a year. I’d packed up my yarn and my fabric. I would pull out a pair of socks, or a hat, or a pair of pants I had made years ago for the boys and tell Flora “Mama made it!” and she would look at me funny- clearly wondering how on earth that was possible.