Natural Fibers-the Fabrics of Our Lives

I keep reading blogs about the dreariness of February.  According to these blogs, many people experience homeschooling hardship during this month.  Maybe it is the cold weather? Or the fact that others are looking at new school for the next year?  Whatever the cause, I can completely relate.  However, this is our third year homeschooling and I was prepared for this month!

In January, I felt overwhelmed with all of the work-teaching three kiddos at different levels and with three different learning styles.  I knew that I needed a break.  Thus, I decided to do a textiles block with all three children.  We took a break from our Waldorf Essentials and did a block on our own.  I guess the block was more like a unit study of sorts.  I varied the work load and the difficulty of the work based on the child’s level.

Overall, we studied three different types of fibers-silk, cotton and wool.  We used lots of picture books that gave the history of each fiber, the harvesting of each fiber and the process of taking the raw material and producing something wonderful.  The older kids had the task of finding appropriate videos for each fiber and the process.  They are all looking for the fibers throughout their days.  What did they learn?

The history of each fiber such as where it comes from, how its trade effected the world, and how its development changed the world.

How was it used in the past and the present?

The “life cycle” of the fabric.

How the climate and geographical position of its harvest affects the product.

The chemistry behind dying fibers.

The physics behind turning a raw product into yarn or thread.

The final projects included lots of main lesson pages, papers, tree weaving, ginning and carding cotton, spinning wool into yarn, a field trip to a cotton and wool farm and dyed fibers.  The best part was a relaxed month without too many meltdowns by mom or kids!

New Blocks in the New Year

Well, the new year has begun with a bang!  This was one of those weeks that flew by in some ways and took forever in other ways.

On the academic side, each child is starting a new block.  Parks, first grade, is focusing on reading fluency.  Thus, he is reading a lot of fun stories including Fred and Ted Like Flying and The Bathtub Pirates.  He also is officially using a spelling curriculum.  He just started Book A of Apples and Pears.  Sawyer, third grade, is doing her last block on the Old Testament.  The Old Testament is not her favorite and she is ready to start a new block after only one week, so I am trying to get inventive for the next couple weeks to strike her interest.  Sims, fifth grade, started his freehand geometry block this week.  I am thoroughly enjoying the circles that we are doing right now.  This week has been a terrific introduction to circles and an intro into the vocabulary that will go with it next week.

On the extracurricular side, everyone’s activities are in full swing.  Parks started winter swim team, is finishing up his basketball season and continues with gymnastics.  Sawyer is performing this weekend in The Wizard of Oz at our local theatre, starting the gymnastics team at our local YMCA, and continuing to dance.  Sims continues with tumble and trampoline and gymnastics.  In between all of the running around this week, we did manage to get out and play in what was left of the ice.

Hopefully, we will get back into our groove soon.  This week felt out of sorts and crazy.


September Studies

We are only two weeks into September and it has already been quite an exciting month.  Last week, we enjoyed a beautiful hike at South Mountain State Park as a family.  We continued the fun this week as we visited the Cabarrus County Agribusiness Fair in Concord on Tuesday, the National White Water Center on Wednesday for some white water rafting and Latta Plantation on Thursday for Muddy Boots Class.

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The kids began their Waldorf lessons this month as well.  Parks is continuing with the IEW program that I wrote about here.  He is doing very well with writing and is actually enjoying it.  We are continuing with fairy tales, folk tales and classic stories.


Sawyer is in the third grade.  This year she will be studying the Jewish faith and history.  We began her lessons by reading the book, Meet Rebecca.  Rebecca is one of the American Girl Characters.  We then researched on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipper.  This week, we started the creation story.  She is truly enjoying the art that goes along with the story.  Next week, we plan to finish the creation story and do a little geography on Israel.


Sims is in the fifth grade.  He started his Waldorf studies with a quick review of the United States.  He looked at the regions of the US and how they have changed over the years.  He is beginning to learn the states and their capitals.  This week, we “flew” over to Africa for a quick study of Africa.  We studied the geography and history of Africa.  Sims was amazed at how much the history of Africa was similar to that of the US with European exploration and trade.  We also thoroughly enjoyed a few African folk stories and fairy tales.

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I hope your studies are going well also.  Have a fantastic weekend!

Making the Curriculum Work for Us..First Grade

As I have stated in several past posts, we do not follow one set curriculum. We are very eclectic with our choices. I also do not follow each curriculum exactly the way the curriculum recommends. I tweak each one to work for each child. We have not gotten into all of our subjects yet with my older two kiddos. We are easing into the year this month.

Last year, my littlest guy worked through Melissa Neilson’s first grade Waldorf program, Waldorf Essentials.  He was only in kindergarten but I felt the material would be good for him.  Now starting first grade, what do I do?  He is not ready for the saints and the second grade curriculum so I had to look for something else.  I decided upon the Institute for Excellence in Writing’s Primary Arts of Language Writing Program as our main lesson book.

I am 90% sure that he has dysgraphia as my oldest son and I do.  He still has a difficult time orienting letters and numbers, spacing letters, and getting his thoughts down on paper (yes, I know he is only  The PAL’s program begins with letter formation using stories to give clues for the letters.  We used Handwriting without Tears for my older kids and it worked fairly well.  However, my little guy could not grasp the concepts for some reason with the HWT’s verbal commands.  I was concerned how the new program would work.  Well, so far he loves it.  He is enjoying the writing portion of his lessons and he is writing his letters beautifully and in the lines!  Small steps make a big difference in later years.

The writing program also uses fairy tales and folk tales to teach writing as does the Waldorf first grade curriculum.  PALs uses a new story each day.  This is where my tweaking comes in.  We are reading a story one day and drawing a picture, painting or sculpting.  On the second day, he dictates the story synopsis to me and I write it down.  We are doing a two-day cycle with the story.  The PAL’s writing program also recommends All About Spelling which we have done in the past.  We are trying out Apples and Pears this year.  I have not started it yet, as he is just now getting his letters down.  We plan to start it soon.

He is very motivated to start reading more this year (we used some rivalry with this one and it worked).  He has not been very interested in reading up to this point.  His motivation seems to come in spurts.  Right now, his motivation is high as he has a cousin who is reading fairly well and he want to be able to read like his cousin.      We are using the reading program called Dancing Bears.  So far, it is very straight forward and carrying over into other areas.  Hopefully, he will remain motivated and be reading like crazy by the end of the year.

Let’s hope the excitement of the past two weeks will continue as we move into more structured days.  For now we are getting our creative juices going and trying to find a new rhythm that will work for us during the school year.

Get Out the Planner….Part Two

In my last post, I spoke about the philosophies we tend to follow in our home in regards to schooling.  Today, let’s get into the nitty gritty…curriculum.

For the first time, we are going to loosely follow a science curriculum.  I have chosen the R.E.A.L Odyssey Earth and Science program and the chemistry program.  Both programs appear fairly hands on with lots of labs-which is a big plus for us.  My plan is to have the Earth and Science curriculum out with all of the needed materials available.  We will go over the big picture lesson together and then they will be able to pick which labs they want to follow up with.  I plan to do chemistry during a block, or maybe two, later in the year. 

The kids are in three very different grades.  This year we will have a first, third and fifth grader!  Parks’ main curriculum will come from the Institute for Excellence’s Primary Art of Language program.  I plan to use the program with a Waldorf Twist.  He will use his main lesson book for the work and we will go through it using folk tales and fairy tales.  For math, he will continue with Singapore math along with Montessori math using materials.  I found a new reading and spelling program this summer that I am very excited to get into.  We already started the reading program and so far it is terrific.  The programs are by Sound Foundations.  The reading program is called Dancing Bears and the spelling is called Apples and Pears. 

The mighty third grader is going to delve into Waldorf Essential’s third year program which focuses on the Jewish religion and the Old Testament.  The fifth grade Waldorf Essential’s program is filled with adventures from ancient civilizations, Greek mythology and geometry.  Along with their Waldorf curriculum, they will do teaching textbooks for math along with Montessori math and Apples and Pears for spelling.  Together, they will also use Institute for Excellence in Writing to begin some more formal writing. 

I am still trying to narrow down which chapter books we will read together.  If you have suggestion, I would love to hear them!  I would love to find a few books with themes that will flow with what they are learning. 


Get Out the Planner..Part 1

Last school year, I planned the school year out in May! I was not on top of things like that this year. I needed more time for researching curriculums. We are entering our third year of homeschooling, and we are still figuring some things out. Last year, I planned one thing and ended up doing almost an entirely different thing. I am hoping that this year, we will do better. So what does next year look like so far? I am continuing to follow two main theories of teaching-Waldorf and Montessori. I like several pieces of each so I plan to integrate parts of the two philosophies into our year.

Both philosophies are developmentally driven-meaning they follow the development of the child. In our house, all three children are in the second phase of development. I am excited about this and planning to use it to my advantage. In this phase of development, both philosophies have the teacher as a guide who gives the students information in the form of a lesson. The children are then given time to inquire, research, and experience the lessons in their own way. Another similarity between the two philosophies is the importance of having movement throughout the day and with the lessons. I definitely have two kinesthetic learners who benefit from this approach. Finally, both Montessori and Waldorf hold nature as a very important part of the child’s educational experience. From previous posts, I am sure you can see how important nature is to all three of my kiddos. Going on a hike can cure any bad day and bring all three of them together.

So why not follow just one philosophy? Well, that is the beauty of homeschooling. I can take what I like from multiple philosophies and make them work for us. Our initial schooling was Montessori. I LOVE the Montessori materials and dream of having a beautiful environment filled with all of the beautiful materials. The reality of the situation is we are at home. We do not have the space to have all of the materials nor the number of children to justify purchasing the materials. How do I incorporate Montessori into our homeschool experience? We integrate many of the materials that we have into our daily activities including the metal insets, the 100 board, the Pythagoras board, the multiplication board, the division board, the bead chains, diagraming sentences, timelines, puzzle maps and many cards for naming, grammar, science and social studies. This year, I am also starting a monthly work plan for Sims (5th grade) and Sawyer (3rd grade). I will have Parks work on a daily work plan. Work plans are a general outline for them to follow. It will allow them some independence in their work and give them a guide for the year.

Here is an example of Sawyer’s work plan. It still has some revising, but you can see the general outline. April Work plan grade 3

As much as I love Montessori, I have found a few things that we were missing such as bringing in work that uses the imagination. This is where I fell in love with the Waldorf approach. It brings drawing, painting and sculpting into daily work. The philosophy also uses stories to teach the children, and the stories are focused on the stage of the child. An example is using folktales and fairy tales in the early years (kindergarten through second or third grade) to teach morals and lessons and moving onto the myths in later years-starting in the upper elementary years. Waldorf also brings religion into the teachings. We are not a religious family so this is a terrific way to introduce my children to the many cultures and religions around the world. Last year, Sawyer studied the Saints and the Christian religion. This year, she will look into the Jewish faith. Meanwhile, Sims studied the Norse Myths last year and will go into Hinduism, Buddhism and the Greek myths this year. Parks will continue reading folktales and fairy tales.

Next for the specifics of the year.

Spring is here and so are the lessons!

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It has been an eventful three weeks-in fact, I am not even sure when I last posted!  Things have been quite busy.  Upon returning from the homeschool conference, my brother and nephew visited for three days.  My nephew Anderson got a taste of the homeschool life- he and Parks enjoyed their time together.  Then Sims and Sawyer completed their end of year testing.   The following Sunday, the kids and I headed off to Orlando!  Yes, spring break occurs even in homeschool.

The week began and ended at Aquatica.  The kids loved the water park so much on the first day that they decided to end the week at Aquatica too.  The second day was at Sea World.  It was a lot of fun to put the kids to work since Nick was not with us.  They read the maps at all of the parks and figured out where to go.  They figured out which shows to watch and managed the money.  I was very impressed with how well they worked together to get things done.  We also were very fortunate to get to stay and visit with a close friend and her kiddos.  A trip to Florida is always fun but spending the time with wonderful friends made it memorable! 🙂 When we returned home, the excitement continued!  My niece and nephew came to visit from Mississippi.  Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed our spring break.

With the beginning of this week-our first day back to the grindstone-I completely expected the natives to resist.  I was pleasantly surprised when both kiddos were very ready to start working again.  Mondays I read with children in Parks’ class for an hour in the morning.  Sims and Sawyer brought their independent work and got right to it.  When we got home, the same thing happened.  The nice part is that they have been very focused and excited about their work all week-long.  Wednesday they had a wonderful day out of the house.  Their kite making class was canceled a few weeks ago and rescheduled for Wednesday.  The kids had a blast.  They learned how to make two different types of kites-one for less wind and one for more intense wind.  The class was next to a neat farm that gave the kids some amazing songs to listen to during their class-roosters and peacocks and a donkey.  The peacock came up to visit a few times too.  After the kite class, the kids explored the area which included an old school-house from 1890 and an outhouse.  The day didn’t end there!  The kids then headed down the road to Cowan’s Ford nature preserve for a wetlands walk.  In the wetlands, they found tadpoles, salamanders, newts, skinks, fish, spiders and all types of fun friends.  It was one of those days that made me stop and say-“this is why I am homeschooling (although, I know in my head that I actually am doing it for a variety of other reasons, but this day was perfect-the kids played in a field without any toys except their own hand-made kites and they explored our amazing world).”

So the kids are working towards the goals that they have set.  They have already memorized one poem-The Goops and are working on another-The Land of Nod.  They are making wonderful progress in their math, spelling and grammar.  They are half-way through the book Tom Sawyer together and they are reading like crazy on their own.  They have been working towards completing a three-hour work cycle.  This is what they were used to in Montessori so  we are trying to implement it again.  As you can tell with each post, we are still learning how to learn and adapting to find the way that works the best.

How have you enjoyed the beautiful spring weather?