Wednesday

hey, it's wilder

i forgot to tell you guys....

Wilder Ocean was born November 8 at 7:12 pm.
9 pounds 3 ounces
22 3/4 inches
Born at home, in the water after a 4 hour labor.
He's beautiful, calm and amazing.
God is good.









 

Monday

truly, it's a good thing






It's raining. 
California needs rain, desperately, and I am so grateful but
still, the rain just makes me awfully down.
I need cool temperatures, foggy mornings and sunny days and
these things help me breathe.  I think that I'm weather picky which
is kind of an unfortunate thing to be. 

Or maybe it's just the circumstances right now that make the rain
a bit depressing.
Tomorrow is my 14th anniversary and tomorrow is this baby's
due date so I'm a bit anxious and if I'm being honest,
we kind of moved into this place that stifles me,
so far removed from the type of home we desire.  I'm so grateful to be
back in California and so grateful for this house in this time,
but some days, some days,
like the days when we are stuck indoors or the days
before special moments, it just kind of gets to me.

Pearl was born in a house we loved, a place that was home.
And I feel so many emotions about this baby, Wilder,
being born in a house that I have no connection with.  Maybe it's
not actually the house but the land.  We were created to have connection
with the land.  But whatever it is, it's getting to me today,
this day of rain, this day before anniversaries and due dates,
this day that needs a bit of magic and some beauty and
I'm having a hard time finding both.

It's raining.  And truly,
it's a good thing.

Friday

8 steps towards peaceful homeschooling

So homeschooling.
We've been at this thing for ten years now and there has been trial and error, success, graduation, challenge, ease and anything else you can imagine.
I often get questions about what works, requests for advice and curriculum recommendations, questions about how to plan, create a schedule and deal with unmotivated children.
First let me say this. My way is not THE way. What works for us might not work for you.
Our values may be different than yours.
But I'm sharing in case it helps someone.
I'm sharing to have this written down for the next time and the next time and every time after that I am approached for advice.

I also want to say that we have been influenced by many educational philosophies; mostly Charlotte Mason, Waldorf and unschooling. As long time readers know, we have gone through periods of being only CM, only Waldorf and only unschoolers (or more appropriately deschoolers as we've never really moved past that process on the journey towards unschooling, otherwise as full unschoolers can attest to, we would be unschoolers). These philosophies most definitely affect who we are and how we do things, and yet there is no philosophy that is perfect and comes with a guarantee. Every child is different and the beauty is that God is sovereign and each of your children will get what they need regardless of philosophy. Sometimes a particular method or curriculum will suit your present needs and that is fine. Just stay aware of your children, yourself and the peace of your household and do not be ruled by methodology or curriculum. Be willing to make changes when necessary. 

Instead of being a homeschool that is fully one method or another, we have instead adopted principles that I consider to be the most important aspects of a successful homeschool. They are the things that rule our days, the things that have carried us into high school and college, the things that have become a part of who our family is and our lifestyle.  Because just as when you follow the law and forget about the grace of Christ or when you tie yourself down to a schedule and have no flexibility for life, committing religiously to one curriculum or method can be stifling and doesn't allow for the uniqueness of each child, each family. It can be condemning when you feel you don't match up or aren't cm/Waldorf/unschooling/anything else PURE enough. It can cause turmoil and feelings of failure in mama when she sees the so-called perfect homeschool on Instagram. And it can be stifling for the child when this one method or curriculum doesn't meet their needs or passions or style.  Instead of experiencing the freedom and peace of homeschooling, these families are struggling with feelings of failure and inadequacy.

So in hopes that some can be set free, here are the 8 most important things, in my opinion, for successful homeschooling all the way through high school.

1) Create an inspiring, lifestyle of learning atmosphere. This has been the absolute, most important thing for our family. Build a library, hang beautiful things on the wall, play music, fill your home with natural, open-ended toys, bring nature in, and model learning and creativity! Your children will naturally involve themselves with what is in your home, they will copy what you do and the atmosphere will seep into their souls.



2) Let childhood be a time for play.  There are so many years for academics but not nearly enough for play. Don't rush things! Let the little ones spend hours with their toys, following mom around while she works, digging in dirt, watching birds. Even after they are reading independently, allow them their play time. So many skills are gained from play, so much is experienced and such growth occurs that rushing our children out of this stage and into the time of academics, really robs them of important development. So let them be!


 3) Read! Our children are surrounded by books from birth. I'm always reading, I read aloud to my infants as I nurse them, we give books as the most special gifts, read aloud to the littles numerous times a day. Everyone in our house knows that if a little one brings a book to you, everything you are doing stops and you read the book to the child. Never is a negative spin put on reading, it's just a natural, normal part of life. Eventually the children want to read on their own and then the wonderful process of expanding their horizons begins. I've had people tell me that they would love to encourage this sort of reading environment but their husband doesn't read and so they are unable. But here's a little secret... My husband doesn't read. He had the love of reading killed when he was in elementary school and never developed the habit and now reads maybe a book a year. I promise, it's still possible! My husband may not be a reader himself but he understands the importance of raising our kids to be readers and so he encourages it all he can. He may not be part of the example but he is definitely an encourager (and who do you think buys all those books?!)

3) Talk! (And listen). Ask questions about the books your children read, talk about events, tell stories, talk about movies. Listen more than you talk. Be attentive. Put the phone down. I love to ask my kids these two questions when they are telling me about their books... Should they have done that? Does this make you think of anything else? Great conversations are had from these two questions, connections are made and so much is learned. Get your children in the habit of natural narration and having wonderful discussions; it lays the foundation for open communication and critical thinking.


4) Work together. House work and chores do not have to be awful, fight-inducing experiences.  Involve kids from the youngest ages in the daily work and make it normal. If your older children are not in the habit of helping out, this can still be accomplished without a struggle. Communicate. Explain how all the work of the house is too much for one person and things could be cleaned much faster if everyone pitches in. Tell them you need them. Don't guilt them, just be open and honest and most likely they will happily jump on board.



5) Outside everyday.  I cannot stress the importance of this enough. We all need fresh air and a dose of nature to be mentally, emotionally and physically healthy. Children are no exception. Man was not meant to spend so much time inside four walls and when we are disconnected from creation our souls feel it. This isn't a lesson or a nature journaling session, it's just a refreshing experience. (And on the topic of nature journals- don't overdo it! Maybe don't do it at all. CM recommends journaling and it's the really hip thing to do right now but honestly, for some kids it just doesn't work. I only have one child who likes to keep one. The others hate it and it ruins their nature experience when they are required. Without the expectation of nature journaling my children are observant and enjoy everything they see and hear. But if they think they're journaling they look for the most simple thing and then turn off. I'm not saying don't do it, I'm just saying you don't have to. It's okay. Know your children, know what feeds their souls, realize it's okay to be different.)

 6) Set expectations. We have three expectations for our homeschool days. The school-age children all know that they need to do these things every day: 1. Read 2. Write 3. Math  These three things must be done throughout the day and the kids are really free within these bounds.

 Read~ The kids read, at a minimum, an hour a day. (Though most of the kids read 3 or more hours.) They are free to read what they choose from our home or their personal libraries which are filled with wonderful living books, both classic and modern. Occasionally I will recommend books to them (for example if one of my children hasn't read history in awhile I will suggest a particular history book that I think that child will enjoy) and they will almost always follow my suggestions. Most of my kids have numerous books going at once.

Write~ We initially teach handwriting along with reading when the individual child shows interest. Once they are able to write they are expected to write what they choose daily. They write stories, narrations, letters, copy quotes, journal, poems, etc. I read their writing and if they have any sorts of grammar or spelling errors we go over them. Occasionally we will add a few weeks of grammar or writing lesson if a child seems to be needing more help in those areas. Most of their spelling and grammar is learned naturally through the reading of great books.

Math~ Usually 6 months or so after a child learns to read, we begin working on the 4 processes so that they understand the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Once they have these concepts down we find a math program that works best for them. Most of my kids love doing a combination of Life of Fred and Khan Academy, though I have one who prefers Saxon. Every day they do a lesson or two of their preferred math, and then of course there is the math that occurs in daily life -baking, cooking, shopping, in games, etc.

These are the expectations for our days and the kids know they must be done. They are free to do them when they wish as long as they do them. Honestly they are so much a part of our daily life that the kids do them without really thinking about it as their school.



7) Be flexible and listen to your children. I put these two together because I think that often they go hand in hand. We get this idea about what we need to do in our homeschool and we implement it to a t, but our kids protest, either with words or behavior.  Much of the time we either don't hear them or we do hear them but refuse to be flexible. There is of course a time and a place to be firm and say "I hear you, I understand your feelings but this is just too important and we need to continue my plans. I hope you can hear me too," but that is not always the case and oftentimes their feelings are reasonable and if we are willing to be flexible we can usually find a solution that works well for everyone. Keep in mind that a love of learning, a peaceful home and caring, well-rounded children is the goal. 



8) Keep life simple.  Seriously. I know simplicity is this popular thing right now but it really needs to be a priority in family life. Too much stuff, too much stimulation, too much activity is stifling to children and adults alike. A slow pace of life, where there is time to notice the little things and enjoy the moments, is a necessity for us all.  So we strive to keep life as simple as possible. We menu plan every two weeks so that we are prepared and ready. We focus on the basic things in our homeschool; reading, writing and math. Extras are thrown in here and there but they don't have to be constant. My son wanted to make an Egyptian art notebook while reading about Ancient Egypt. He worked hard on it everyday and it is a wonderful thing to have. But he doesn't do that for every book he reads, just on occasion. The same goes with things such as nature journaling, crafts, tea time, etc. They don't belong in our everyday but we do add them in here and there. (This is different than our passions. Those we focus on throughout our days. The twins and I love to knit and we do so daily. We have a musical child who plays everyday, an artist who draws, a Lego enthusiast, etc. Spending a good amount of time on our passions is another reason a simple life is so important!) Also, most of our time is spent at home. I love the poem Stay at Home My Heart and Rest by Longfellow and I take it to heart.  We focus on creating a life and home that is simple and that serves us instead of allowing other, outside activities to be our master. This is not to say we don't do things outside the home such as classes, groups or play dates, but we carefully consider each activity and how it will benefit or not and make our decisions accordingly.  Our goal is a simple, mindful home life and so we attempt to make those things possible in all areas; food, school, play, technology, influence, time, possession, cleanliness, etc.

 
 

So these are the 8 things we focus on in our family and homeschool.  I offer them as suggestions if you are looking to create a relaxing, lifestyle of learning environment in your home.  Again, they work for us but they may not work for you and that is okay.  Do for your family what your family needs.  Know your values, your goals, and work to make them happen.

Peace,
Amy

Tuesday

homeschooling 2015-2016 :: waldorf essentials::

 

 

 

 

i have this boy who doesn't really like rhythm and structure and yet
he thrives off of it and needs it.
and so this school year we have decided to embrace that and jump
full in to the grade 5 curriculum from waldorf essentials.  

i was a little hesitant to go this route with him at first.
yes, we already had a waldorf inspired lifestyle and
yes, the twins had been following the waldorf essentials curriculum for
the past couple of years but
with him i foresaw difficulty, struggle and resentment. 
because let's face it, i am a peaceful/gentle/attached parent and for me,
sometimes that means push over.  not intentionally,
but i often find it hard to stand my ground, even when i know i need to stand.
in the past we have had many beginnings where i was determined because
i knew it was right and then the struggles of my boy convinced me otherwise.
and so, i thought, why even start? do i have the strength to keep going?

but we began.  as always, the first day was lovely,
followed by an awful, hair-tearing day.
the first day he was ready, he was willing,
the next he questioned everything and wondered why he had to do this and that,
he flat out refused to do one activity and tore up his paper.
this is typically when i second guess myself.
but not this time.
i had been working my way through the mom lessons in waldorf essential's tfw program and
finally, my heart and head were on straight.  i could still be caring and compassionate towards him,
could still follow peaceful parenting principles and yet, remember the gentle authority and
the boundaries we had established. 
i knew this was right.
and so we kept on.

on day three i think he was surprised we were continuing these lessons but that
surprise gave him pause.  if we were continuing after the previous day,
maybe there was something to this.  he even told me, "i don't know why i was so upset
yesterday.  this block is geography and geography is one of my favorite subjects."
and so we made it through day 3.

so here we are.  middle of week 2.  there have been a couple more rough spots but
honestly, he's doing great.  his main lesson book is lovely and creative with a bit of
his comic flair.  he's interested in his subject and sometimes dives a bit deeper than we
are going.  he asked to begin handwork with finger knitting (which he has always loved)
instead of knitting (which has always been a source of frustration for him) and i agreed.
he's embracing the rhythm of our days and i find him to be more at peace than he had been
in a while.

there is so much gold, simplicity and beauty in this curriculum and i'm so looking forward to where
grade 5, grade 2, kindergarten and the tfw program (wow, we're doing a lot!) are going to take
us this year.  i'm not even worried about when baby is born at this point because we have our
rhythm down, lessons planned and happy children.

"receive the child in reverence;
educate them in love;
let them go forth in freedom." 
-rudolf steiner


Friday

Well, there you go.

I'm tired.
Tired of rethinking my words and trying to sugarcoat my thoughts,
tired of having to say what I want to say in a pc way to not offend anyone. 
Sometimes, things are offensive. 
Sometimes, you don't like what someone has to say.
But I don't really think that means it shouldn't be said. 

I read things all the time that I don't agree with.
I read books and articles that irritate me and make me want to tell the author how wrong he is.
I do this intentionally because it's healthy to hear other viewpoints, it's healthy to disagree, to consider the ways and ideas of others, to either change your own thoughts if necessary or strengthen what you already believe. 
So for the life of me, I can't understand why people get so mad and offended over other's
words just because they disagree with what they are saying, no matter how passionately they are saying it.

I admit, moving to Idaho has made me extra feisty with my words. 
It's like every single person here has the same brain and lives in the exact same way and
that brain and that way are the complete opposite of my brain and my way and it makes me speak
when I probably shouldn't.  And then I post things on facebook that maybe I shouldn't. 

But I only think maybe I shouldn't because of the way people get upset.  Because really?  I don't think
there's anything wrong with speaking up with a different mind than the majority.  In fact, I think it's necessary.

But whatever.  I can either censor myself so as not to cause offense to someone who thinks differently or I can just be me.  And since I'm tired of censoring myself, well, there you go.

Tuesday

We have 7 kids but sure as hell aren't the Duggars

We have a lot of kids.  And yes, it's intentional.  We like kids.  We are perfectly happy to have a big family and it works for us.  It's totally normal for us to be asked, "Are you guys the Duggars," when someone finds out how many kids we have.  And typically we just laugh and shrug it off.  But I now find it necessary to make a broad and definite statement that, yes, we have a lot of kids, but no, we are not like the Duggars at all.

We raise our children in a very relaxed, relationship and respect- oriented way.  Our kids are allowed to question us, question authority, say no, have their own thoughts, opinions and desires.  Our kids may believe what they want, though of course, it is likely that much of our beliefs will rub off on them.  They know that they can question those beliefs, come to us and discuss differing beliefs and explore as God leads them. 

Unlike the Duggars, our kids can dance, our girls can wear pants, there is not a tie in our house.  We are against punishment, we are against forcing our kids to be a part of raising and caring for the home and big family that we chose to have and therefore are responsible for, and we encourage our girls to do what they want to in life; whether that be marry and raise a family, go to college, pursue a career, or all of the above.

Though we feel that sex is best left for a committed relationship, we do not teach our kids that purity is the only way.  We give our kids information, talk to them, answer their questions, let them know our opinions on God's intentions for sex and relationship (which I can guarantee is nothing like what the Duggars think) and let them make their own rules for their own bodies, teaching them to always be respectful of other's rules for their bodies.

While we are comfortable with a big family, we do not impose that on anyone else, our children included.  People can have the families they want. 

We teach our children that God is love and love wins and kindness, peace, respect and love are always right. 

On any given day in our home, you will see our children running around free outside, people reading YA novels, kids playing minecraft, tv shows, emotional littles yelling, a toddler outside naked, pre-teens questioning us, asking why, saying no, you'll hear cuss words from someone, see the sweetest hugs, kisses, snuggles, be privy to an Elizabeth Mitchell or The Cure dance party, watch us laugh and have the very best time.  You won't see order, or bed times, or everyone cleaning together, you won't hear rules spouted off or see big meal times, or any punishment at all.  You'll see lots of love, discussion and friendship.

I'm telling you, we have a big family, but we sure as hell aren't the Duggars.


Saturday

we can add more color







I think sometimes people worry so much about spoiling their kids that they miss out on so much of their children's heart and spirit.  They miss out on opportunities to be a friend and show their kids that their wants matter. 


I think sometimes people live in a black and white world and miss the color everywhere.  They have determined that everything is either this or that and there is no room for considering circumstances. 


I was at the store yesterday and in front of me in line was a little girl and her father.  He told her that she could get a candy and so she put m&m's on the conveyor belt.  She then proceeded to put two other candies up as well.  At first her father looked down at her and said, "one honey, choose one."  She whined a bit and said she wanted them all. 


This is that moment when parents typically panic and realize they have two options, the black and white world viewers.  They can either stand their ground while their kids throw a fit and others pat them on the back for being a good, firm parent or they can give in, buy all the candy, get their kids to be quiet and happy and try and ignore the angry stares from others lamenting over their raising entitled kids. 


I was so glad that this dad saw the color in things and chose a route of light, of connection. Kneeling down to her level, he said to her, "You want all of these candies?"  Sniffling a bit, she said, "And this one," while adding another candy to the three already there.  He asked her, "Why do you want so many candies?" Her response was beautiful.  "I want to give those ones to my friends."


Her daddy smiled and said, "That's very nice of you.  We will buy them all; one for you and three for your friends.  Next time try to remember to talk to me about it when I don't understand instead of just getting upset."  She hugged her daddy, they finished their transaction, I smiled at them as they walked away.  I thought about how if he had just told her no, she would have cried more, he would have put them all back, she would have thrown a fit and been in trouble and he would have never known the kind deed his daughter wanted to do.


Once they were gone, from behind me came the black and white reaction.  "Ugh.  I can't believe he gave in."  I should have kept my mouth closed but it's oh so hard for me to do.  "He didn't give in," I said to them, "He communicated with his daughter and worked things out.  Her thoughts were completely kind and giving, she's just a little girl and doesn't quite know how to express them yet.  Her father listened to her and gave her the ability to communicate.  He showed her that he cared about her and her thoughts and her wants. He showed her that she can talk to him and he will listen. It wasn't mindless give her what she wants to shut her up or frightened better stand my ground so she doesn't become a spoiled brat that still lives at home at 30 and won't get a job.  It was mindfulness, it was connection. That was a great father."


Color is such a delightful part of this world, we need to embrace it. We need to consider circumstances, listen to each other, realize that our first thought may not be the answer.  If we allow for it, we can learn so much from each other and that includes our children. Age difference, cultural difference, faith difference, any difference at all just means that if we listen, if we don't stubbornly push others away, we can add more color to our lives.

Wednesday

There was no other option



I walked into the mist because there was no other option. 
Where I stood was clear but stifling and my soul couldn't wake up but
surrounding me, a cloud, and yet the only hope for my soul
was to enter this great unknown.  Why do we feel safe when we are
stifled?  Why do we fear walking into a question? 


I think the simple truth that nature is circular and never fails,
is kept turning, kept moving, kept rhythmically staying true by
the God who created it,
whispers to us that we need not fear,
and that we are in greater danger from the complacent,
stifled soul than from the unknown.



I fear standing still for forty years desiring to step into the mist and
yet so afraid of what lies beyond that I never go.  I fear letting society's
values guide my life and living in a bubble of materialism,
consumerism and striving for so-called success, when just beyond is freedom.


Comes the crossroad and it's this moment that you must choose. 
Safety, complacency and soul~sickness or
the unknown and freedom?
Came my crossroad and
I walked into the mist because there was no other option.


The mist is beautiful.



"The mountains are calling and I must go." - John Muir
"I need this wild life, this freedom." - Zane Grey

Monday

The Things



1. Sometimes I don't notice the things that I should and I spend way too much time focused on those that I shouldn't.

2. I think that if most people truly knew me, they wouldn't like me all that much.

3. I think the atmosphere that we create in our homes, in our lives, is one of the most important parts of parenting, maybe of relationship in general, and that we can do so much for others if we focus on creating an atmosphere of peace, beauty and gentleness.

4. I don't think I do a good enough job of creating that atmosphere and so I beat myself up daily for that failure.

5.  My husband tells me I focus too much on atmosphere and that I am missing the beauty and joy in our everyday life because of it.

6. My stress and turmoil over not creating the atmosphere I long for and believe my children need is what causes me to not create the atmosphere.

7. I see the cycle, I get it, but wonder how to move past it.

8. The key is to realize that the atmosphere is an outside representation of my heart, my soul.  If I want an atmosphere of beauty, peace and gentleness then I need to be walking in beauty, peace and gentleness, to breathe them, to be filled with them.  As surely as the rain brings forth green, a soul filled with peace will bring forth an atmosphere of peace. 

9. I can fill my home with lovely music and art, with books, poetry and tea, with whispers, soft looks, candlelight, but there will be nothing but turmoil and chaos if I am not breathing beauty myself. 

10. As with everything, it's the pattern of life, of God's grace.  What comes from us outside is merely a representation of who we are inside.  When we fall short, our sin is not our outward behavior; our outward behavior is a symptom of the sin, which is the area where we are resistant to God on the inside. 

11. To create the ideal atmosphere for my children, my husband, and anyone else in my life, I need to focus on my own soul~care, on allowing God to move through me, to soften my heart to Him and His ways.  So focus I will.  Who's with me?
 

Friday

If... I may name him Wolf



I'm not dancing and yet,
I twirl.
There is a moon glowing and it speaks my name and
I can't quite breathe when it grasps me like that,
demanding to be seen, heard, known.

Sometimes I make mistakes and they keep me spinning and
nothing makes sense until
the moon.
January's full moon was called the wolf moon and
I remembered how I spun,
overtaken with anxiety or remorse or something else and
that yellow light held me and
if I was a wolf I would have howled, so yes,
I understand your name, wolf moon.

If I ever have another son I may name him Wolf.

I lost my voice, the one that writes,
and now I can do nothing but let the words flow and
I think that may be okay,
for now.
Rat and Mole sailed down the river and
my words sail and there is peace and
chaos combined and
oh, yes,
that is life, isn't it?
The combination of those forces which oppose and yet,
when viewed under the captivating light of
full moon,
wolf moon,
they connect as gently as rain,
creating the beauty in the daily.  We can howl,
oh yes,
we can howl and welcome and be free and
we can live.

And as we live God whispers through it all,
I am that I am.  Come to Me. 
And as the moon glows and the wolves howl and
we twirl, He holds us up and together,
moon, wolf, man
just stops.
And bows at His beautiful feet. 

If I ever have another son I may name him Wolf.