“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” Thomas Merton

The time has flown since I last sat down to write.  Two weeks ago, our life was chaotic and out of balance.  We have since slowed down and found our rhythm again.  Last week was finally back to “normal.”  Everyone awoke, ate, played and headed to the school room each day.  We had our morning meetings and everyone got to work.

Parks hard at work They are working! Sawyer in deep thought.

A few things helped.  Taking the time to review what has changed is so helpful when trying to uncover chaos.  In my last post, I took the time to look at what we were missing.  I realized we had lost our rhythm and not been going outside as much.  Last week we focused on these areas as well as finding some fun research.

Parks is taking a class called Animal Discoveries at Latta Plantation Nature Center.  His first class was on reptiles, and the second was on amphibians.  We are using this class to guide some of the children’s research, and to give Parks an opportunity to be the teacher (being the youngest, he doesn’t get the opportunity to teach as much as to be taught to).  For the past few weeks, the kids were supposed to be researching a reptile or amphibian of their choice.  Of course, nothing happened with the research other than hitting the library two weeks ago when I was hitting my head against a wall.  🙂  Last week, however, the kids got to work.  They all researched and learned and shared.

On Thursday, the kids went to Latta and took a look at the reptiles and amphibians.

On Thursday, the kids went to Latta and took a look at the reptiles and amphibians.

We ended the week by celebrating the winter solstice with a hike and some hot chocolate.  It was a cold hike but so worth the ending.  We watched the sunset over the lake with its beautiful shades of yellow, orange, pink and purple.  We are looking forward to the longer days to follow!

Using his binoculars, Parks is on a misson to find some birds.

Using his binoculars, Parks is on a mission to find some birds.

Waiting for the sun to set.

Waiting for the sun to set.

It's beautiful!

It’s beautiful!

Sunset on the night of the Winter Solstice.

Sunset on the night of the Winter Solstice.

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The Magic of Nature

After many weeks of celebrating and reflecting, I imagined this week would be a week getting back to “normal.”  Of course, we all know what happens when one assumes.  The week started with another life celebration as Sawyer turned 8!  She was quite disappointed when she found out that her birthday was not considered a holiday, and we needed to still do some work-although, Monday’s are PE days so a good portion of her “work” was a lot of fun.

By Tuesday, I could feel the house enclosing on me and I needed to change school up a bit.  Thankfully, before I made any drastic changes, we all got out for a hike in the cool fall air at Latta.  It is amazing how much a hike can calm the nerves.  However-I still had to head back home!  We worked this week mainly out of our kitchen instead of the school room so that I could get some stuff done around the house while they worked.

It turned out to be a lot of fun and everyone enjoyed it.  As far as true school lessons, there were not as many as usual this week-but, we all experienced many life lessons this week.  We had discussions about the world as we finished reading Three Cups of Tea.  A book that has so much more to teach us than any text-book could.  We volunteered at Christmas in Davidson at the Ada Jenkins  (a center that I am a true believer in)Booth, which made them feel that they too could help others as “Dr.Greg” did in the book.  They had book club at the library.  We hiked and hiked and hiked finding our way back to our “normal” spot.

Maybe.

A discovery found on our hike

A discovery found on our hike

Stump-Sawyer saw this as beautiful

I love that Parks is peeking in!

I love that Parks is peeking in!

A Waldorf math on fractions that we started this week.

A Waldorf math on fractions that we started this week.

Serving Cider

Serving Cider

In front of the booth

In front of the booth

Numbers everywhere

It has been two weeks since I blogged.  It seems like too long, but there is not a whole lot to report.  September came to an end with the celebration of Autumn and Michaelmas.  The kids learned all about St. Michael and St.George.  We then started a new block for the month of October because we have a lot going on.  Math can be started and picked back up without losing the story or forgetting a piece of the story.  With our chaotic schedule this month, I thought this would be a good plan.  So now we are off-adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.

As a group, the kids are working on skip counting, roman numerals and playing games.  We have found some fun ways to practice math that everyone can participate in.  Card games including war, adding war, subtracting war and multiplication war are a big hit.  They are all enjoying the game of rectangles (a game of multiplication using graph paper), the stamp game (a Montessori game using the stamp game materials), magic squares (an activity with right start math) and shut the box (an old favorite).  Individually, they are each working towards a goal.  Parks is learning the parts of each number (ie-how many ways can you come up with to get the number 10) and adding using the Montessori materials.  Sawyer is getting more fluid with her addition and beginning multiplication.  Sims is reviewing all of the math activities (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) in activities with multiple steps.  The best part of this block is the practical applications!  They are working on a quilt.  We are cooking a lot and measuring everything!

The difficult part of this time is trying to keep with our normal rhythm.  We generally wake up, eat, play outside and start school around 830.  During school, we have our morning meeting, individual lessons and independent work, outside time and then lunch.  The kids do really well with this rhythm.  When we are out-of-town or doing an activity, we are not in our rhythm and we are all out of our happy, easy-going ways.  As much fun as we are having with our outside activities, hopefully-November will bring back our rhythm and some peace.

If you are curioius about what we are doing now…

This year I have found a new teaching philosophy called Waldorf.  I am still a Montessorian at heart but I am finding Montessori (as far using the materials) difficult in the homeschool setting.  Waldorf Schooling is based on the ideas written by Rudolph Steiner.  He, like Maria Montessori, based his ideas of education on child development.  However, it is much less disciplined!  Many people hear Montessori and think undisciplined.  However, it is the complete opposite of undisciplined.  In fact, it has a lot of order and rules.  In a Montessori classroom, the children have a lot of choices in the work they choose, as long as they have had a lesson on the work.  The lessons are given in a particular order although the lessons are given as the child shows interest.  (Montessori teachers, please elaborate as much as you can).

Waldorf appears to me to be much more arts-based once you go beyond the early years-meaning, beyond pre-k and kindergarten.  The lessons are taught through stories and through child inquiry.  This works nicely with the way my children have learned in Montessori because they all enjoy researching items.  In my previous post, I had pictures of Sawyer’s research of the saints and Sims’ research of coyotes.  They are given an area to research but also the freedom of what specific thing they want to research and how to present the research.  I have not visited a Waldorf school yet, although I do plan to at some point.  We are following a homeschool Waldorf curriculem from Waldorf Essentials.  So far it is working very well with our other chosen curriculems including Montessori and First Language Lessons and All About Spelling.

One of my favorite parts of the Waldorf curriclum we are doing is that the curriculem is told in the form of a story.  The story is about a family.  Parks is doing the first grade story, Sawyer-second grade and Sims-fourth grade.  The fun/coincidental part is that earlier this year, my hubby told Sims that he could research a few places that he wants to go.  Then for his tenth birthday, the family would decide upon one of Sims’ choices and go on a journey in the spring.  Well, low and behold, this is exactly what happens in the fourth grade story.  When Sims and I began reading the story, we both started to laugh.  Obviously, we are on the same track as someone else in the universe.

With that said, throughout my future posts you will see several things integrated.  Montessori material will be used as necessary.  For instance, Sawyer is using the stamp game to learn addition and subtraction with carrying, and all of the kids love the metal insets.  Waldorf focuses more on form drawings for handwriting.  My kids were not drawn to this but they do pick up the metal insets and use them daily.  We will use the Waldorf stories to guide us through our curriculem.  Parks is going through the folk stories and fairy tales (actually all of them are as they all put their work down whenever I begin to read one).  Sawyer is doing saint research and some fairy/folk tale work.  Sims is studying animals presently and will begin to study the Norse myths.  We will continue with the Charlotte Mason philosophy of nature study and short lessons.

This is one of the best parts of homeschooling-we can pick and choose our curriculum.  We can also change it as our needs change!

“He who is served is limited in his independence.”Maria Montessori

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Week 1-the introduction to school-CHECK

Week 2- the first full week of school-CHECK

The week began in a different way than I had imagined-but this is how life goes; so, I went with it.  Our family went out of town for the weekend, and we were all exhausted.  So 830 rolled around and none of us were ready to begin.  Thank goodness we are at home and we made the choice to start the following day.  This lasted until about 230.  By this time, the kids were on each other’s nerves and the day was going down hill fast.  I motioned everyone to the school room and just told everyone to find some work.  THREE hours went by!  They worked and worked and worked.  I loved what they came up with.  Sims and Sawyer used the metal insets to make pictures and then they each wrote a story about their picture.  Lessons were given.  It was beautiful.  My husband came home and asked if school started and the kids answered, “no, school starts tomorrow.”  I did not have the heart to tell them that they actually were in school.

Tuesday through Friday went a little more as I planned.  We woke up and had a leisurely morning.  They boys got outside most of the mornings to play in the yard before school  School started at 830 with the calendar, a song or poem and a review of the day.  Sims and Sawyer (Fourth and second grades) each have a new and improved workplan.  Parks has 6 drawers filled with activities and the lessons I planned for him through the week.  In my mind, I thought six drawers full of activities would be plenty.  The first thing he asked for was apple cutting.  Umm……there is no apple cutting up in the school room….What about the long bead chains?…..nope.  Hmmmm…..Thoughts that had not crossed my mind.  I knew homeschooling would be a change for Parks, but I did not consider how it will also be limiting the independence and choices he had in the past.   Obviously, I do not have loads of Montessori materials or even enough to keep him busy for an entire work period; however, we are going to work on a plan.

The work period continued until 11 at which time, the crew headed outside.  Parks worked in the garden and in sandbox on his creation.  Sims and Sawyer finished up their work and did nature study.  Then at noon, we all sat and ate lunch (which they cooked) and went on with the rest of the day.  Afternoon activities will begin next week and include dance (for Sawyer), if all goes well-a co-op with Spanish, drums (for the boys) and a lot of afternoon fun.

I found it scary last week that it was already time for school to begin.  This week, I am releaved.  Our family has come back together.  The kids are getting along well and playing together every chance they get.  They have started a band (I apologize in advance to all of my neighbors as I put them in the attic to try to stifle some of the “music”).  They are planning a fairy garden and a fall vegetable garden.  They are giving input on things they want to research and getting excited about the year.  Let’s hope the excitement continues.

It seems most children have officially begum school at this point in the year.  I hope all of your little ones are having a wonderful start in their journey this year as well.  Thank you for taking a few moments from your day to read my blog.  Please, keep the questions and comments coming.  I am always looking for feedback to keep people coming back for more!  Have a beautiful week!