Friday, October 29, 2010

A Successful Week

Wow.  We made it through a whole week of lessons, and no one melted down (I'm pretty proud of myself for that) and no one got bored or unmotivated.  That is my definition of success.

This seems to be a pretty good combination of Waldorf and other more traditional methods of teaching. We all love doing main lesson blocks and I guess it was a mistake to toss those when the boys asked for more math and science.  This week we learned the story of Divaali and the boys were entranced.

So far I really like our resources.  I am seeing regular improvement using Daily Grammar and Spelling City, especially with spelling.  It may be that the boys were just finally developmentally ready to learn spelling, but I think it also helps that there are games and that I am not the one giving a "test".  I removed myself from the equation completely and stopped being vested in whether or not they are good spellers.

Life of Fred is even better for our math than I thought it would be, and I love that it is so simple.  There aren't manipulatives to keep track of or separate worksheets, just the one book and our math notebooks.  I also think that it is teaching math in a way that is meaningful and long lasting.  We took our time this week, working all of the bridge exercises, and then today I separated them for their final bridge (test) and they were both less stressed.  We talked about why they felt stressed and how they don't have to do everything a book says they have to do.

It all feels so simple and right ~ basic academics mixed with humanities and the arts.  I feel more patient because I am more in tune with my purpose, which is to expose my children to new ideas and skills but not to force information into them.  We have good rhythm to the mornings and time in the afternoons to explore or just relax.  I'm not killing myself planning out every detail, either, since we are mostly just working in sequence.

Balance, that's what it is.  Simplicity and balance.  It feels good.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Happy Happy!

Okay, we're only two days into this new block and this new way of combining block learning with traditional lessons, but so far so good!

I've changed where we are learning, isn't that funny.  We have a huge desk set up in the family/learning room that we usually use for lessons, but this week we've been in the breakfast nook.  There is very little going on in the breakfast nook (fewer distractions) and it is always ready to go since we clear and wipe the table after every meal.  Plus we have to tidy up after morning lessons so that we can eat lunch.  So far it is working.

As the main lesson mostly consists of presenting new material this week we've had time for some baking and Halloween crafting, which we are all enjoying.  Once we get our projects completed I'll post photos.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I Miss Waldorf

We're two months into the school year an I am kicking myself for having sold our copy of Live Education Grade 5.  I don't need all of it, but I have decided to add more Waldorf back into our learning and now I am scrambling for resources and having to put blocks together on my own.

What we were doing wasn't bad, and we'll still be doing most of it, including keeping the math as a daily lesson rather than teaching it in main lesson blocks.  Spelling City is still a hit.  Actually, there was nothing wrong with what we were doing so much as it was kind of boring and not nearly as experiential as we are accustomed to.

So, these are the blocks we are going to do this year:

Ancient Cultures: India and Persia (timed to coincide with Diwali)
North American Geography I
Geometry (a hands-on block using String, Straightedge, and Shadow)
Botany I (time to coincide with planting the early spring garden)
North American Geography II
Ancient Cultures: Mesopotamia and Egypt
Botany II

We're still going to read Newberry Honor books during each block and will incorporate some of those into our secondary lessons.  We're switching our foreign language from French to Spanish; I found it to hard to try to teach the boys a language I don't know, and it is looking like we won't go to Belgium next fall anyway.

Anyway, I am knee-deep in planning the next block because we are planning to start Monday!

Dogs, Trains, and Baseball

These are the things that dominate my weekends.  But for a few weeks we will be minus the dogs as they have been sent away for "boot camp" obedience training.  Here is a picture of them with the boys last weekend:

After we visited the dog training site (we didn't leave them that day) we drove to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California.  We've been members ever since our first visit in 2001.  Trains are a big part of our lives, both model railroading and what some rail fans like to call 1:1 scale, a.k.a. the real thing.

We got a peak into one of the car barns; the ROTC kids tried to scare us off but a few volunteers welcomed us in.  We learned that the steam engine (VC-2) will be out of commission for a full year, but that SP 3100's restoration is coming along nicely.  Look at this paint job!

J-Baby has loved the signal garden since he could walk, and Wig-Wags are a favorite:

Every Sunday we have a baseball game.  This weekend we have two, as we played a game today in order to have Halloween off.

J-Baby was kind of lonely out there in left field.  He played right and left field today, had a couple of hits including an RBI, and scored a run.  He's doing fantastically for his first time ever.

T-Guy played right field, left field, and second base.  He loves playing in the infield and we are glad that winter ball gives him a chance to try different positions.  He played a pivotal role in a double play, had two hits, and also had the opportunity to score a run.

(He's the player in the middle.)

There was a wee amount of thrifting today, but I haven't taken any photos yet.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bike Weather Has Finally Arrived!

Wouldn't it be awesome to tool around town in one of these cool bikes?

Madsen Cycles Cargo Bikes

I am seriously in love.  I have an Electra Townie and a Burley Nomad trailer, but this is just so much cooler!

It's a sad truth that we can't bike year round; in summer it just gets too hot here for biking unless one is willing to go just as the sun is rising (and this one is not).  That's great for exercise, but even the bakery isn't open that early.  Why bike if you can't get a pastry?

Do you know what's the coolest?  Madson Cycles is giving away one of these bikes!  Click on the photo above to be taken to their website so you can learn all about their bikes and also this awesome giveaway.

Monday Musing ~ When Your Partner is Ill

Papa is sick.  Again.  He seems to pick up more viruses than the rest of us (probably because he is out in the world daily) and he is hit harder and the illnesses last longer.  It has been especially bad since he had the H1N1 virus summer 2009.  I'm rather worried.

I'll be honest ~ in the past my first response to Papa coming down with an illness was anger.  I got angry that he was sick again, that it was going to disrupt our day again, and that I would have to take on more than my regular share of child and home care again.  I think one reason I felt like this was that as a homemaker and mother I don't get sick days.  When I come down with an illness I have to manage by myself and often I would come down sick after Papa and still have to take care of everyone.

It isn't like this when one of my boys is ill.  I am immediately concerned and do my best as Dr. Mom.  I make warm herbal teas, homemade soups, and nourishing smoothies.  I draw warm baths and add essential oils.  I rub little chests with Winter Wonder Balm.  Of course, I try to enforce as much bed rest as possible.

A couple of years ago I realized that I was irrationally angry when Papa was sick.  He wasn't getting ill on purpose and he didn't enjoy being ill.  He wasn't trying to do anything to me at all.  Somehow I had picked up resentment and poor behavior toward an ill partner.   Growing up in my childhood home my mother was constantly ill with various chronic conditions and my dad was a bit of a martyr about the household tasks he had to take on, plus as the oldest girl child I had to care for my mom and my siblings.

Since I had my epiphany I have tried very hard to change my attitude and to give Papa all the concern and love that he deserves when he is ill.  I try to keep the boys quiet and will even take them out of the house to give Papa some true quiet for a restful nap.  I fix him nourishing foods and herbals teas.  I kiss his brow and tell him that I love him and want him to be well soon.  Because I really do, and I know he does too.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Waiting For Sunlight

I want to post all of the fun things we found this weekend, but so far today we have clouds and grey!  That doesn't make for very good photos, and right now I am still stuck with the camera phone.  Instead I will post some of my thrifted finds from August and September.

It's a 1 1/2 quart 474 round Cinderella casserole and I am pretty sure that it has the wrong lid, because I think it is the color of the Daisy 474.  So I will be keeping my eye out for a lid.

These are sweet little Vera cotton guest towels.  I found them online labelled as Vera napkins but the size seemed off to me so I took a chance and I was correct!

More guest towels ~ I love guest towels!  I have plans to find the right sized basket and put them in my front bathroom when we have guests.  Day in day out I don't put them in there because my boys would ruin them, but I do always have one hanging in my little bathroom.  With cold and flu season coming up I think they are a really great idea.  All but the His and Hers were found recently in a bundle for $1; the His and Hers were thrifted a couple of years ago.

A lovely leaf dish for our fall display!

Six dessert/salad plates from my favorite Mikasa Stoneware line, Natural Beauty.  There are several patterns within the line and I didn't have any of this one, which is Petit Fleur.  These are tucked away and I will bring them out in the spring/summer.

I had a terrible time getting a good shot of this pretty tin bowl.  I love the butterflies!  It was made in England!  Most tinware I find is made in China (but I did find a tray made in the USA ~ I'll post that one with the newer finds).

And finally, a Pyrex cheese server.  When the clerk wrapped this for me he made a big deal about how he had to tell me that it was very thin, fragile glass.  It cleaned up really well and I am looking forward to using it to serve cheese very soon.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Glass Confession #3 ~ Sometimes It Isn't Even Vintage

I came to collecting Pyrex (and later other brands of vintage glass) because of its safety and performance in the kitchen.  That's right, I bought fridgies because I wanted something to store leftovers in and I was tired of the way the plastic lids on my newer Pyrex storage containers would break.  I gave up storing food in plastic containers years ago, long before BPA was a dirty acronym.

I love glass and have always used it in my kitchen.  Indeed, I am a glass and cast iron kind of cook, with the occasional stainless steel piece here and there.  Glass performs beautifully whether you are baking brownies or chicken (not together please).  I have long used a covered glass casserole to cook frozen vegetables in the microwave (I tried giving up the microwave for almost a year; it just wasn't worth it).

These Anchor Hocking 12 oz. covered casseroles showed up at my Goodwill last weekend.  I knew they weren't vintage, but I also knew that I could find a way to use them.  I had just purchased the little Pyrex 080 dishes and had started thinking of the benefits of cooking in individual casseroles, especially as we are a household of food allergies and intolerances.  When I make a casserole I have to leave out pepper for one child, cheese for the other, etc.  Now not only can I customize for food allergies but I can take into account food preferences as well.

After washing them I did notice something:  they don't stack together neatly the way the vintage Pyrex does.  I can't figure out why it would have been hard to engineer that, especially since Pyrex already did, more than half a century ago.

Overall I'm not looking for newer glass pieces, but I wasn't going to turn these away just because they sold them very recently.