Things that Happened Today

1. We sat with Tibetan Buddhist Monks while they created a beautifully intricate World Peace Mandala that will be swept away the moment it's finished. We were reminded of the work we have to do to make peace with impermanence, with each other, and with ourselves. When Greta broke through the silence, singing loudly, "We will, we will ROCK YOU!" we were also reminded not to take ourselves too seriously. Laughing while contemplating world peace is good and right. The monks smiled. I have to add, on our way there, I was explaining that the monks would be creating a beautiful design out of sand to the kids, and Greta excitedly asked, "Are we going to the beach?!"

2. I was rear-ended this morning. When I got out of the car to make sure everything was alright, the driver said, "Oh, I'm sorry! I have a broken foot and I'm wearing a boot!" I responded, "Do you think maybe you shouldn't be driving?" She shrugged and said, "Yeah, probably. But the doctors didn't tell me that!" So, not only have we, as a culture, completely outsourced responsibility for our own health, we've also outsourced any responsibility to think on our own at all! #empoweryourself #think

3. Okay, this one happened yesterday. A friend gave Greta a new outfit and she asked to put it on. Once it was on, she said, "This isn't a dress! What is it?" I said, "It's a jumper!" Delighted, she squealed, "Ooooh!" And started jumping. <3

Springtime

I've been thinking a lot about tradition, about my own cultural heritage, and what I can carry forth with me and pass on to my children. How can we thread together a story of where we came from? Many of us in America have recent ancestors who sailed across seas to start new lives in a new land. Those who don't had their cultural traditions severely disrupted in other ways. I feel called to bring tradition to my family, to bring alive stories that have been told for countless generations, but my relationship to the religion and culture of my ancestors is shaky, and my knowledge limited.

We ushered in spring this year with an egg hunt and meal with friends and family. Next week we're hosting a May Day gathering for a group of homeschool friends. These gestures of gratitude and celebration connect us to our landscapes and our loved ones.

Then again, spring comes whether or not we mark the occasion. Perhaps our path forward is obvious. Nature is the anchor and the teacher, where we came from and who we are.

Wild and Free

We are only just beginning to understand the beauty of living in this new place. The girls spend all day outside. We are learning about wild edibles and have foraged chickweed, violet, and onion grass, among other things. Sheldon has been digging out a bed for herbs on the hill behind the house. A play structure was just delivered on Friday and the kids spent hours swinging and climbing all over it this afternoon. I took off my shoes and lied down on the grass, only opening my eye a sliver if it had been a few moments since I had heard a child squeal. (That hardly ever happens.) Sheldon and I talked about where the chicken coop and vegetable garden will go. Wouldn't it be nice to have them right near the play structure and fields where the children play? This evening before dinner, the girls dressed themselves in silks and ran around outside. I followed them with my camera and could hardly believe that this is my life and these are my children.

I've read this article before, On the Wildness of Children, but read it again today at the recommendation of a friend. It was just as beautiful and true as the first time. Sometimes it's nice to be reminded why we live the way we do.

Somewhere New

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We moved! To a new home in the country! Life is cozy and beautiful and fresh. The day we moved, I posted these words on Instagram:

We fell in love, made a home, and became a family in Fell's Point. We laughed, we struggled, we dreamed, we argued, and above all, we stuck together in Fell's Point. We showed each other what we're made of—equal parts love and grit. We experienced a sense of community we'll carry with us forever. Fell's Point will always be where it all began. But tonight, after almost 12 years, we'll be tucking our children into different beds in a different house in a different place. We'll always love you, magical little town on the water and all the beautiful souls who live there. Here's to the next chapter. Here's to doing it together. Always together.

I haven't posted here in a while, but I feel called to write in a longer format again. I'm not sure if that will be here or somewhere new. So much has changed since I started this little, once active, space. The truth is, I've changed most of all. I don't feel quite as young and new as I did when I started writing here almost 8 years ago now. I feel experienced and confident in our path, even when I stumble. I don't always have the courage to share my words and thoughts these days, because they aren't as simple as they one were. Years ago, I wrote about babies and crafting and being a new mama, because that's who I was! But as I find my ideas and lifestyle diverging more from what is mainstream and expected, I find myself keeping my thoughts to myself more often, especially online. Strong statements, whether through words or actions, inevitably alienate some people. I am working on living and sharing ideas with kindness and openness, without fear. I'm guessing that will be a lifelong process.

But for now, a few pictures will do, some taken on Fiona's 8th birthday!

Fiona is sitting on a big, beloved old rock in our new yard here. The kids named her Rock-a-Me!

Here we are painting in our new homeschool classroom. I absolutely love this space, and feel a sense of calm each morning we spend here. I've recommitted to our Waldorf Curriculum and its been wonderful to have some structure and focus again after the upheaval of moving and the holidays.

One of the best things about our new home is it's proximity to the NCR Trail. It's just a few steps from our front door! We have foraged many wild edibles here and waded in the small river.

Living in a home with clean, natural spaces right outside our door has been huge for us. I look forward to settling in and making the most of this new life.

Thanks for stopping by!

A Season for Healing

I've been quiet for the last few weeks, both here and on social media. I've stepped away from Facebook and Instagram for the time being. Some health issues have revealed themselves in my family and I've been so worried, it seems I only have energy to focus on support and healing. This all sounds cryptic and dark, when the reality is that if we ran into each other at the coffee shop or the playground, I'd explain it all to you quite simply and you'd see that we really are happy and healthy. I just want so desperately for it to stay that way. I find when there is even the smallest threat to my children's health or happiness or future, it brings my priorities into very clear focus. There are very few things that both matter to me and are within my power to change. I am going to live in that space for now. 

I do plan to keep posting here. Looking through the archives has reminded me how beautiful it is to look back at old posts and be transported to a different time. Childhood is so fleeting, as is life.

Signs of Autumn

I spent what felt like the whole weekend switching out summer clothes for winter. That may sound like an exaggeration, but in a six person household, it really is a huge job. The leaves outside are changing, there's a chill in the air, and we've been wearing long sleeves for a week or so now. It was time. Each year, I find that our seasonal rhythms come more naturally and feel more comforting. This is our second year celebrating Michaelmas and the kids have already integrated it into their seasonal expectations. Will we make dragon bread? Let's light the dragon candle! Don't forget to draw a new picture on the chalk board, Mama! I enjoy these rituals as much as they do, and am grateful for the extra push from them to follow through on everything involved.

This past week, we focused all our lessons around Michaelmas. On Monday, I told the story, which they pretty much remember word for word from last year, but love hearing again and again. On Tuesday, we worked in their main lesson books, drawing a picture with beeswax crayons and writing out a sentence. On Wednesday, we acted out the story. We set the scenes throughout the playroom and got all the characters into place. I narrated the story while the girls acted it out. On Thursday, which was the actual day of Michaelmas, we were planning to go to the Festival of Courage at the local Waldorf School Eli attends, but it was cancelled due to rain. It was still a wonderful day though, as we had Nature School in the afternoon and came home for a cozy evening of gluten-free dragon bread and lentil soup.

Wishing you all a wonderful week! Happy New Year to those who are celebrating Rosh Hashanah!

[10/5/16] The Waldorf School of Baltimore rescheduled the Michaelmas Festival for yesterday and we were able to go! I thought I'd add some pictures here to keep everything in one place. :)

Do you see Michael up on the roof above?!

After all the Michaelmas storytelling and celebrating of last week, the girls were thrilled to experience the festival at the Waldorf School of Baltimore yesterday. The children all looked and sounded so lovely, singing and acting out the story in their brightly colored costumes. We have a few more years while Eli is still going to school there to take part in these festivals, so I want to appreciate it while we can! Or maybe they will eventually set up some kind of program for homeschoolers so we can continue to take part! Wouldn't that be wonderful? 

How We Document Our Homeschool Year

Our homeschool year has come to include summer since camps and vacations provide such great opportunities for learning, so it is just now that I've been able to print out some final pictures and wrap up our homeschool records from last year. What a beautiful feeling of completeness! Homeschooling can often feel messy and overwhelming, so having a concise and organized record-keeping system can help create some order in the chaos. I've had a lot of questions and interest in my homeschool records from friends, so I thought I'd put together a post about it. My records for last year consisted of a few main elements:

  1. Main Overview Binder: Here is where you get the best sense of the whole year. The binder is divided into seven areas: Rhythm, Language Arts, Math, Nature, Art & Craft, Festivals, and Circle.
  2. Student Work Binder: This is where all student work is kept that was not selected to be included in the Main Overview Binder.
  3. Main Lesson Books: This is where most of Fiona's Main Lesson work from our First Grade Christopherus Curriculum lives. She has a Language Arts, Math, and Form Drawing book.
  4. Curriculum Binder: (Not Pictured) This serves as a record as well as it holds many of the projects and lessons for the year and I take notes and date things throughout.
  5. Mama's Planner: A general record of how we spent our days.
  6. Portfolio: (Not Pictured) Each child has a portfolio that holds any projects that don't fit in a binder.

Rhythm is the anchor that holds it all together, so it felt important to start our Main Overview Binder by giving rhythm its own section. This section includes our weekly family rhythm (above left) and the rhythm for homeschool mornings with my parents (above right). It then includes a photo sheet of each learning space in which the girls spend time: Home, Neighborhood, Parks, World House (the homeschool co-op we were in last year), and Mimi and Granddad's House. A huge part of homeschooling for us is creating and spending time in spaces that facilitate natural learning, so highlighting how we achieve that is important. Below, you see a spread that highlights a few learning spaces in our home.

Next in our Main Overview Binder, we get into the subjects: Language Arts, Math, Nature, Art & Craft, Festivals, and Circle. Each subject section starts with a sheet that gives a basic explanation for how that subject was handled.

Above, you see the beginning of the Art & Craft section. On the left, there is an overview of when and how we handle this subject and a list of select resources and projects. To the right, you see the first photo sheet that documents our time making painting boards. The little caption in the upper right says:

PAINTING BOARDS
cut, sanded, decorated, and sealed by hand
AUGUST 2015

My goal was to have at least one photo sheet (front and back) for each month in each subject. I was easily able to achieve that. The goal is to get an overview, not to document every moment of every day.

Each section also includes examples of best student work and informational flyers in clear sheet protectors for any classes taken or events attended in that subject. Below, you see select pages featuring Nature School photographs, the Michaelmas Festival of Courage photographs and flyer, and some examples of Fiona's Language Arts work.

The Student Work Binder, seen on top in the picture above, is just what it sounds like. It houses all the work that wasn't featured in the Main Overview Binder. It is also divided into subjects. Below, you see Fiona's Main Lesson Books.

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I hope this post will be of help to some of you as you start to document the upcoming year. I am excited to get started on our binders for this year soon. I'm sure our system will grow and evolve as we do, but I think we're off to a great start!

I'd love to hear about how other homeschoolers document their year. Do you have a system or resource to share? And let me know if you have any questions!

Oh, Graphite.

I have always been in my head. I feel like one of my greatest obstacles to becoming a functioning adult–who cleans and cooks and tends to children–has been to fully inhabit the earth, come into my body, be mindful. The easiest place to slip into is thought. But the ability to reason that I have put so much faith in all these years has little to say about drawing. Why do I draw? I don't know; because I want to. What do I like to draw? Images that portray a certain idea or concept? No, not really. I like to draw what I see, mostly faces, sometimes with bodies. To be honest, I have no reason for drawing other than I feel compelled to. I am not making a statement, other than love, I suppose. All I can really come up with is that human beings have been making marks on surfaces for a very long time. And I am no different.

I've updated my Fine Arts page if you'd like to take a look.