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!

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!

A New Beginning

A new homeschooling year has begun, and with it, a resurgence in my desire to align my goals with my actions, my knowledge and ideas with my lifestyle. I haven't posted much here in years. In that time, I have turned inward. I have done a lot of work on myself and made quiet, sometimes winding, incremental changes in the way our family lives, eats, moves, and learns. We have come a long way, and have a long way to go. I'd like to return to this space to write again about our journey, both to share knowledge and to stay inspired. Where should I begin?

It seems there is so much to say and so many gaps to fill, so let's start with something simple: Our homeschool schedule for Fall! Every homeschooling parent will tell you about the huge expenditure of mental energy that goes into creating the year's schedule. What classes to take where, what gatherings to attend and with whom, when to simply stay home... It's a 15,000 piece puzzle that takes an exorbitant amount of time and thought to fit together. This is what I came up with, with each day having a morning and afternoon focus:

Monday: Life & Lessons with Mama :: Homeschool Friends Gathering
Tuesday: Life & Lessons with Mama :: Nature School at Irvine
Wednesday: Life & Lessons with Mama :: Speech Lessons
Thursday: Life & Lessons with Mama :: Nature School at Irvine
Friday: Life & Lessons with Mimi & Granddad :: Afternoon at Home
Saturday: Gymnastics :: Life & Lessons with Daddy
Sunday: Life & Lessons with Mimi & Granddad :: Family Adventure

I hope we've found a good balance between academic lessons, nature time, quiet time, family and friend time, movement time, etc. Time will tell! I hope to break down each component of our rhythm and talk about some overarching philosophies in future posts. I hope you'll follow along!

So that's it for today. Thanks for being here!

It's Greta!

Oh, hello there! It's been a while. Quite a lot has happened since the last time I posted. First, let me introduce you to my beautiful baby daughter, Greta Rose! (Though, I'm betting many of you have met her over on Instagram already!) She is a happy, smiley little thing and we are all enjoying getting to know her. There is nothing like a brand new baby, is there? So cozy and sweet. I just love her.

Shortly after welcoming Greta into our not-so-little-anymore family, we began another new chapter. We started homeschooling this Fall and the girl gang (yes, I have a gang of them now) and I have spent most of our days outside, which has been wonderful. We're doing 'yoga' here... ;)

Thanks for checking in, friends! Wishing you a peaceful week.

Fiona's Comic

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I just posted this to Instagram, but the small image really didn't do it justice. Fiona and I worked on creating some comics a bit today after she's shown an interest in Toon Books, even asking, Mama, can I have a million comics? Can I have all the comics in the world? Being the sucker that I am (with a very weak spot for books, and a very very week spot for books with pictures...), I said of course, and now comics are the new thing around here.

All I did was create the comic storyboard template and let her go to town. She came up with the story, images and words, just asking for help with spelling. When she finished drawing and writing, she asked me to color it in for her and I obliged. As usual, I am blown away by Fiona's work. I am so amazed that this tiny person has such big ideas.

(The comic goes like this: First, a mama fairy and her daughters are hanging out, then an evil witch zaps the mama. The daughters say, "Oh no!" and, "She's hurt!" Then the mama feels better and the daughters say, "Mommy! You're better!" and the mama says "Oh thank you, kids!" And the evil witch says "Hmph!")

Fiona's Cast of Characters

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This is a selection of Fiona's recent crop of characters, drawn over the last week or so. I kind of can't deal with how awesome they are. I make a great effort to act nonchalant about it all. I tell her I love them, because I genuinely do, but not so much that I give her a complex. I am very aware that too high of expectations or labels are not conducive to giving children freedom to create. But seriously, holy crap...

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It is an incredible joy to see Fiona's 4 year old imagination recorded on paper this way. One of these days, I plan to return to my weekly {family sketchbook project}. Her drawings need to be shared!