Monday, November 22, 2010

Finding Comfort

We've had a tough week.  I don't usually spill major details so let's just say it was a very tough week.  In the end, my grandmother passed away.

Sometimes I don't realize how important our rhythm is and how nurturing our environment is until we are away from home for an extended time.  It was difficult to be out of town with the boys, staying in a hotel and spending a lot of time at my sister's house.  Not only did I feel out of sorts but my boys started showing signs of real stress.  The first night we drove out (Saturday) they went home and I didn't and it was even harder for them; they love Papa but all is not right in the world if Mama isn't home.  I went home Sunday when I heard that both boys had cried themselves to sleep.  When I went back Tuesday I took them with me.  No matter what is going on Papa and my boys are still the most important things in my universe.

Whenever you are in someone else's house their differences are glaring.  Everyone has different values and habits and you find yourself trying to adapt as best you can.  Like many families, the TV is on almost constantly at my sister's house (it was only off when I turned it off and that would only last until my BIL entered the room).  There was a PS2 (game system) set up for the kids and having to choose between R-rated movies with foul language and the PS2 I had to choose the video games as the lesser of two evils, despite my misgivings.  At other times a more child-friendly show or movie would be put on (my sister doesn't let her children watch R-rated movies either).

The TV and video games made everything much worse when we were up there.  I tried to stay calm and centered but my boys were clearly overstimulated.  Unfamiliar surroundings, a less than peaceful environment, electronic media, and the magnitude of the situation were all too much.  In the end I had to make the decision to come home as it was clear that it was all too much for J-Baby.

(I want to say here that I in no way think that my children suffered any long-term damage from this week of chaos and excessive media.  Sometimes you have no choice but to be in the chaos for a little bit.  But there did come a point where I sensed that being there was more than he could bear.)

One of my goals is to have peace and warmth in my home, not only in our interactions with each other but also as a physical presence.  The physical peace comes from a strong rhythm and an environment that is tidy and uncluttered.  Knowing that each day will bring is comforting and allows us to be free of worry. Having clean and tidy spaces to live in eliminates mental chaos and frees us to relax fully.  It brings rest and calm.

For me, tidiness is also part of warmth.  A clean, tidy home is inviting, with both its physical presence and its mental calm.  A couch that is free of clothing waiting to be folded welcomes you to sit.  A dining room table with no more than a cloth and vase of flowers on it welcomes you to sit and eat.  So many people think that having a neat home is overrated, but it works for me.  I wouldn't want to have guests in my home if it wasn't tidy and I strongly feel that my family and I deserve the same consideration in our own home.  I grew up in a family that scrambled to clean things for visitors and it never made sense to me.

Here it is Monday and we are solidly back into rhythm.  Chores were done this morning.  The boys had quiet time and they did an afternoon project.  There was time for reading books and playing games.  They asked to knit and crochet so we got started on some holiday gifts.  Everything hasn't settled; a family member needed to stop by for some paperwork, there have been many phone calls making arrangements, and there is much to be done.  But I feel calm and peaceful.  The afternoon light is shining in the window.  The house is quiet (no TV, iPod, or radio).

This is where I find my comfort.  In the peaceful calm of home, in the warmth of my home and family, in the strong rhythms that guide my days.  Rather than being unmoored by my thoughts and grief I am grounded and sustained by our daily rhythm.  It brings me strength, and purpose, and the sure knowledge that life goes on.

Friday, November 12, 2010

It's Getting Better All the Time ...

Better, Better, Better.

(Yeah, we're Beatles geeks.)

We are three weeks into our customized method combining Waldorf with some traditional learning methods and a helping of unschooling and it is going exceedingly well.

Our days go like this: wake, breakfast, play (or computer for me), chores, lessons, lunch, quiet time, projects and free time, more play (while I make dinner), dinner, tidy, family walk, evening lesson with Papa, read in bed, lights out.

We're making even more of an effort to stay home.  I know many people think it isn't as important once a child is older than seven, but it's a habit that still works for us.  If I can at all help it we don't go anywhere by car Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday.  On Thursday afternoons we go to the library and the natural foods market and on Friday afternoons we have our park gathering.

It's different from what almost all of our other homeschool friends do, but as I said it works for us.  My children are grounded in their rhythm and nurtured by being home.  We aren't driving here and there for lessons and field trips and that means we can focus on lessons in the mornings and have a lot of free time for unscripted learning and even just being.  Imaginative play is so important for children; it allows the brain to relax and grow.

There is a quote (attributed to Yeats but that is widely debated) that goes along these lines:

Education is not the filling of a bucket,
but rather
the lighting of a fire.

Our entire American education system is about filling the bucket and it is easy for homeschoolers to get caught up in the same methods.  So even when I am teaching more traditional materials I try to remind myself what my goals are.  I want to expose my children to many different ideas and subjects, not so that they can recite facts back at me but so that we can find out what sparks their fire.

Wait, why did I bring up the bucket?  Oh yes, I was going to say that I am often dismayed at how busy some homeschoolering parents keep their children.  I guess it works for them and that is reason enough for me to stay out of it, but really, I do find it sad that even homeschooled children are so overscheduled.  Many homeschooling parents are desperately trying to fill the bucket.  Perhaps they were overscheduled as children and don't know anything different. Perhaps they are afraid that their children won't succeed if they aren't pushed as other American children are.

For me, this is no place for fear. I've already chosen something so very different for my children that trying to make them like other children doesn't make any sense to me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More Metlox!

A few weeks ago I found this Metlox Poppytrail Sculptured Grape teapot, which I blogged about over at The Thrift Collective.  I've only recently begun collecting Californian pottery in earnest and it is something I will only thrift for.

Yesterday I found an entire lot of the same pattern at my local Goodwill!  I grabbed it because it had the matching tea cups, creamer, and sugar, but there were some other pieces as well.

Here is the teapot in the china cabinet with the sugar bowl, creamer and a platter.

One of the tea cups (each had a saucer).

A stack of the other pieces.  There are seven bowls, seven luncheon/dessert plates, and four dinner plates.  The dinner plates have newer marks and two of them are pretty beat up.  I'm thinking they were added later or perhaps came in at the same time but from a different donor.

The pieces in the lot were pretty sad looking when I brought them home, but a date with some Barkeeper's Friend and a basin of hot soapy water (plus elbow grease) did wonders.  The outside of the bowls were nearly grey and now they look lovely.  I can hardly believe that I have gotten started collecting this pattern for so little; the teapot was $5 and the lot of everything else was $20.  Now I want to have a tea party!