Tuesday, December 27, 2011

OMG! The Phoenix Rises from the Fiery Flame!

OK I'm not exactly a phoenix, but I feel like one after not being able to post for 6 months! I can't believe it...I'm finally able to post again! For some reason, my blogging status froze and I was unable to post anything new! I tried in vain to figure it out and then gave up all together, checking every so often and now...6 months later, I'm able to post again - woo hoo! My July post just went through - yeah!

So now I have to start taking photos again so I can return to blogging about our homeschooling journey. For those friends who have been waiting, thank you for your patience. I was *this* close to switching to WordPress - lol! I hope to resume posting about our waldorf inspired activities :)

And Jenn (from Our Little Nature Nest), if you read this, can you shoot me an email via comments so I can contact you? Thanks lady!

Sorry this is so jumbled - I just wasn't expecting to be able to post anymore on this blog and was trying to decide if I should walk away from it all together or start something new elsewhere...so I'm giddy with joy! Hugs and misses to you all! I'm leaving you with a photo of my big girls, who are still 8, and skated to Swan Lake (one white and one black swan) at our rink's holiday show last week. I'll have to post some favorite action shots in a subsequent post :) I'm so happy to return to the blogging world!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mending My Wings...

A butterfly will flutter by
It's lovely colors catch your eye
Let it go, let it go

A heart may sigh as it goes by
and you may catch it if you try
Let it go, let it go

It has but a few days to see the world
It is so short a time since it's wings unfurled
Give it a chance to flutter and dance
A few happy hours to sip at the flowers.
A butterfly will flutter by
It's lovely colors catch your eye
Let it go, let it go


I can't believe it's been since April since I last blogged, but then again, I can't seem to remember what I did even yesterday, so the passage of time shouldn't surprise. It happened to me, though...yes, it did. The dreaded "B" word in the world of homeschooling..."burnout". I was burning out between having one too many hands in one too many jars. So, I stopped blogging, I stopped needlefelting, I stopped going online and reading all those hundreds of group messages in the quest to be the best "me" I could be for my beloved girls. I even took a break from homeschooling - ack! Yup, indeed...

There are so many supermoms in this community; just amazing moms who inspire others and unite us all in the common goal of raising our children as best we can. But sometimes, we moms need to make sure we are caring for ourselves, as well, along the way. We have to forgive ourselves our mistakes and accept the things that come our way that we can not control and strive to continue to be true to ourselves.

I wanted to thank those inspirational mommies out there who emailed me or tried to contact me to make sure we were doing OK. You know who you are ;) and your caring words brought tears to my eyes. You knew I needed a 'pick me up' and you brought it. Thank you.

Right now, I'm mending my broken wings and feeling them strengthen and that desire returning to share our educational lives on this blog. Maybe I'll even get around to posting all the other fun educational elements we wove into our 2nd grade year that I never got around to sharing, but if I don't, know that I just don't have the time right now. I am excited about Grade 3 and know that my workload will be significantly easier thanks to Jenn at Our Little Nature Nest, who continues to blow me away with her creative energies and natural gift for organic teaching with her beautiful daughter.

Until then, I will enjoy the fruits of mine as this much needed lazy summer unfolds like the wings of a newly hatched butterfly...

Monday, April 11, 2011

The King of Ireland's Son

Padraic Colum

What a fun month March was for us - Springtime and Irish legends, along with some Language Arts tied into the block. We had such fun!

We're have been preparing a nature project and found some old stumps from a Christmas tree farm that we collected. You can contact one by you and ask them if you can pick up a bunch and they usually will welcome the clean-up and you get some free nature supplies for various craft and school projects! We clean ours off and then bake at a low setting to be sure we're not bringing termites and things into the house.

I apologize that this post will be somewhat short, but we are restructuring things in our home and I have been so busy that I haven't taken the time to document as much or share, but I'm goint to start back as soon as I can and until then, wanted to share this for the month of March and Grade 2!

Our monthly book was "The King of Ireland's Son" and we wove it into our homeschooling, as well. Here are a few pictures of some drawings and MLB's that we did that were tied into the story. Following Eric Fairman's suggestion of color coding grammar, we put our nouns in one color and our verbs in another and formed short sentences. Here are a couple more pictures that we tied into the story. I also wanted to share one of my favorite resources for Irish Legends and it is this book by Yvonne Carroll. Irish Legends for Children contains several wonderful stories to tie into this March Irish block! We also enjoyed stories of St. Patrick and some great legends using some of our favorite Tomie dePaola books! I have been working on various Saint stories that I was hoping to put in one big post and will do so eventually, even if it ends up being summer - lol! Great time to get caught up, right?

Also, I'm really excited because we have decided to move our school back into the old school room upstairs, which had been used recently as a play room. So we emptied it out and prepped it and I just primed it yesterday. I have big plans for this room that I will be sharing as soon as it is finished! Can't wait!

Hope you are all having a wonderful spring and enjoying your little elves and pixies grow!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Wonder of Childhood Online Magazine

Oh I am so excited about this online magazine created by Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie who blogs here. Lisa is well known for her beautiful outreach to the community, sharing her own wonderful stories and understanding of waldorf education and holistic living. She is putting the finishing touches on what promises to be an amazing resource for families everywhere with an emphasis on waldorf homes, life and education. The magazine is called, "The Wonder of Childhood".

I was honored when Lisa contacted me to write a monthly column for her new online magazine, representing the waldorf inspired homeschoolers out there. My first article can be seen here. I am so excited to be in the company of so many amazing contributors whom I so admire and who I have turned to time and time again for inspiration and education.

Lisa is one of the most beautiful souls that I've met. She willingly gives and shares with others, always striving to do more and to learn more. I am thrilled at this undertaking to put together an all encompassing free magazine for the benefit of families everywhere. Thank you, Lisa! And hope everyone gets a chance to check it out and take it all in. It is absolutely fabulous and has contributions by so many amazing experts out there, including Eugene Schwartz, Marsha Johnson, Christine Natale, Suzanne Down, and so many others that you will most likely recognize if you scroll through it.

Very exciting! Be sure to have a peek at The Wonder of Childhood...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sorry to be MIA...Bdays and Family Time

Life has been keeping us so busy lately that I've taken a break from blogging. I'm almost caught up and eager to share what we've been up to, but not today. I want to mention that I have several comments that I haven't published yet with wonderful awards that I'm so flattered to receive. I will blog about them as soon as I can and thank every one who sent some love my way :)

In the meantime, my baby girls turned 8 in Feb! My mom flew out from Chicago and spent about 3 weeks in California to attend a lavish wedding of my cousin who got married at St. Patrick's Cathedral in San Francisco, followed by a reception at The Palace Hotel where many VIP's have stayed at this historical hotel. Will blog some pictures about that later. It was gorgeous there!

In the meantime, we had two different bouts of the tummy flu blow through our home (coupled with a broken washing machine with parts on back order - ugh) and ended up having a very mellow b-day for the twins. They haven't finished opening their gifts yet because we kept getting hit with illnesses and family obligations. But here is a glimpse at our store bought cake (I know...I know...) and a couple of special gifts they received this year.

Charley held up the "banana cake" for Elena to blow out the candles on since she was under the weather :) Yes, it is literally an opened banana with candles - lol!

A few special goodies...

They were thrilled to get a few Ostheimer horses to add to their collection and some used Ostheimers we found from a special mama who was ready to pass them along.

And I will be returning to the blogging world soon to share some lesson plans. Am excited to announce that my friend, Lisa, has something very special planned for everyone that I'm playing a tiny part in...and I will be bringing back my shop soon! I've missed working on projects, but had to take a much needed break.

Hugs to all my friends out there and hope to catch up with everyone soon! Happy weekend!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Chinese New Year: the Year of the Rabbit - 新年快乐

Kung-Hsi Fa-Ts’Ai!
2/3/11 - 1/22/12

Happy Chinese New Year to all my friends! This is the first year we have partaken in a celebration of this festive holiday and boy have we been missing out...Some of the fun activities we did in preparation of today have been to read the colorful fairytale by author Grace Lin entitled, "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon".

This book was suggested to me by my friend Carrie of The Parenting Passageway when I was planning our Grade 2 year. She sang its praises and tossed the idea around of doing a whole block on it. One of the elements of our school is to read a special novel each month, carefully chosen to reflect the season, holiday or celebration. I decided to place this book in our January block so we would have a whole month to savor it before celebrating our first Chinese New Year. Well, lo and behold, the book was so fabulous and such a quick read that we ended up devouring it instead and changed gears and ended up doing a whole block on it as a vehicle, instead of more fables! Carrie has more wonderful book suggestions on her blog. For Grade 2, a link to some gems she recommends can be found here.

In continuation of our Chinese appreciation studies, since we flew through Grace Lin's wonderful book, we followed up with a familiar tale that now ties into our math block in February. It's by Helena Clare Pittman and is entitled, "A Grain of Rice". It explores the power of multiplication and is a wonderful read aloud for living math studies.

As an aside, if you are focusing on India, the talented author Demi has also penned a similar story set in India that we have also read called, "One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale". The illustrations in this book (as in all of Demi's books) are simply to die for!

Demi also has a book on celebrating Chinese New Year called, "Happy, Happy Chinese New Year!"

In preparation for today, the girls and I found some crafts that we altered a bit to fit our needs. We had a lot of fun creating Chinese firecracker decorations out of construction paper, glue, glitter, and yarn.

1. First fold red construction paper into fourths and cut.

This print out came with the craft so we used these letters to model our letters.

2. With glue, draw your letter(s) or design.

3. Take gold glitter and sprinkle it on the glue, lifting and sifting the paper to ensure the glue is entirely covered with glitter.

4. After it dries, you can wrap one end to the other so it forms a tube and glue it together. Let dry.

5. Cut strips of gold yarn and tape or glue to the inside of the firecracker and hang around the house!

Another fun craft is making lanterns. The tutorial, along with other fun tutorials (including felt fortune cookies, dragons, felt dumplings, etc) can be found for these here.

We bought some fun chopsticks and made a steamed rice meal.

The girls woke to find these little rice candies on their plates to enjoy this afternoon. And we will be attempting to make our own fortune cookies using the recipe found here.

We are also members of the Gene Autry Museum in Griffith Park and they have a permanent exhibit on the Chinese immigrants who came to build the railroads out west. The exhibit includes an interactive kitchen, a Chinese restaurant, and other hands on exploration for children. Traditional Chinese clothing can be put on the children as they play and learn about this beautiful culture.

The Year of the Rabbit is one to focus mainly on the home, on family, and on the relationships with women and our children. I like that focus and it will serve as wonderful reminder of what is really important in our lives - our children and being good to each other. The rabbit is a lucky sign and a symbol of the moon. As we embark on this new year, let us be grateful for all of our blessings. I know I am so grateful for all of my online friends. I have been so inspired by so many great blogs and teachers out there and extend a big giant cyber hug to you all!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy St. Brigid's and Happy Candlemas!

St. Brigid and the King's Wolf...

There are some wonderful legends of St. Brigid and some amazing traditions tied into this Patron Saint of Ireland, including St. Brigid's cross.
If you look online, you will see a wealth of interesting sites and links to this beloved Patron Saint of Ireland. I found this one quite extensive.

I also loved this post which ties St. Brigid into the hearth and Candlemas. The prayer for the hearth is very moving.

We have been telling two different stories of St. Brigid this past week. One of them is the same story told slightly differently in two different books. It is found in "Stories of the Saints" and a more beautifully written version is found in this gem of a book, recommended to me by Jenn over at Our Little Nature Nest. It is called "The Key of the Kingdom" and it is full of lovely stories and poems specifically to speak in rhyme and rhythm to children in the early grades.

The second story, which the girls much preferred is the story of St. Brigid saving the life of a careless man with the help of a wild white wolf. It can be found free online through The Baldwin Project and can be seen here. We used this story to tell the tale with some wooden figures standing in for the characters in the story.

The careless man who shot the King's pet wolf in prison.

St. Brigid bringing the wild white wolf to the King in exchange for the careless man's life...

St. Brigid and the prisoner riding off to safety...

If you are in the mood to make some lovely St. Brigid's Day breads or soups, you can check out this post at Catholic Cuisine here. Or Shower of Roses found here.

My last year's Candlemas post can be found here.

And a tutorial on making beeswax candles from my blog can be found here.

Hope you enjoy this lovely season and preparations for The Year of the Rabbit! There is so much that goes on these three days that I wanted to make sure to get this out before too much time elapsed. I will be back soon with our post on our first Chinese New Year celebration!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Family Nature Hikes

Morning Verse

Oh what a joy is the morning sun
Shining with love now the night is gone --
See how it gleams, feel the earth grow warm,
Flowers are springing to greet the morn.
Birds are singing in feathered flight,
Beasts they are moving with all their might,
And in my heart do I truly know
Nature and I by sun's grace must grow.
~ Anon.

One of the biggest influences in waldorf education is nature. It surrounds and engulfs us in its beauty, in its rhythms. When a baby is cranky, a wise grandmother will tell her daughter to take the baby out for a walk. There is something healing...something freeing when out in nature's glory.

As waldorf inspired homeschoolers, we have the freedoms to school anywhere we are able. For us, in the temperate climate of southern California, this means we are often found outside. My husband comes from a very active family and he recently has been taking the girls on weekly hikes through the canyons by our home while I get some alone time. He kept encouraging me to go, too, but I was feeling overwhelmed with all the housekeeping duties that have gone neglected in the name of education! This weekend, I went. And once again, I realized WHY it is so important for all of us, even those in colder climates, to get outside and breathe in that glorious beauty.

We found a spot off a canyon road and headed into the Angeles National Forest to hike to a small waterfall that trickles into our canyon.

Ever notice how children come alive when they are allowed to explore out in nature? It's like an instinct that is fulfilled when they are allowed to just *be*...

Here are some shots of our time spent in nature this weekend...

We reached the waterfall and took in the beauty...

Daddy wanted to continue up, but it wrapped around a narrow rocky pathway, falling off to the boulders below. I figured it was too steep for our youngins, especially without climbing helmets and proper shoes...

My honey...

The canyon walls rise from the earth's bed many feet above. It is difficult to truly capture it on film with the lens I had on my camera...

Gettin' dirty :)

Gorgeous tree roots gnarl around boulders as the trees grow sideways from the canyon walls. This one is so smooth and a perfect railing to grab onto while scaling the wet rocks in the stream. Nature provides.

More exposed roots - like majestic Grandfather Oak here...

I never had the girls 2nd grade photos taken this year, so I took these to be the ones to remember Grade 2...

Something in this meadow was so spiritual. You could just feel it was sacred ground. Certainly the natives occupied this land and it left me wondering what happened here all those years ago...

Ah...this one my daughter spotted, telling me, "Look at that dragon there, Mommy!" We finished reading "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" and one of their very favorite books is "The Dragon Boy" so dragons are certainly on their mind as we approach the Chinese New Year!

Then, imagine my surprise when we stumbled upon this old ancient hearth sitting in what is now a camping area of the National Forest! You can see the foundation of this small building, but the ageless acid washed stone still stands the test of time...

Here Charley is, pretending to be a lion guarding the hearth!

Emergency vehicles rode in, responding to reports of an injury near the waterfall. Mom feeling solid about not scaling that wall with the girls, after all...

Heading back to the car...I can't wait to find out where we're going next weekend! Happy exploring to you all!