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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Looking back on our 2013/2014 school year - leaving the guilt behind



I've done a lot of thinking about what we have completed this year.  As I said in a previous post, we used Waldorf Essentials grade 2 as our main curriculum (meaning we did nearly all of it) and supplemented with Oak Meadow grade 2 (adding in anything we saw that looked fun or interesting.)

I struggled with myself this year.  A friend of mine, Nicola over at Creative.Light.Less, was gracious enough to listen to my struggles and was in a situation similar to my own (combining WE and OM).  It was nice to have someone to go on the journey with.  

In the beginning of the year, I used both WE and OM.  We enjoyed ourselves, but I kept thinking I should be trying to be all Waldorf.  So I decide "Okay, I am going to JUST do Waldorf Essentials and focus on it and make it all it can be".  I leave Oak Meadow behind for a few months and do the lessons in WE. We read the stories, we recall, we draw and summarize, we model, we paint, we knit, we bake, we work with our rhythm, we go outside.  It's a good curriculum, and it has lots of stories and is laid out completely for you.  I even had a great conversation with the author, Melisa.  One thing I can say is that she is always willing to talk through it with you, and to help when you get stuck.  But I don't think anyone can really help me through this, because it is me.  I am having a problem with me.  As hard as I try, I am not Waldorf.  

Let me explain.  I love the Waldorf method.  I enjoy the artistic qualities, the nature, rhythm, the main lesson books, the knitting and handwork, educating the whole child - head, heart and hands.  Being hands on, having stories that speak to the child, it is an amazing method.  And you hear people say, if you do it right, they will never be bored.  

We were bored.  

I've struggled with the "we must not be doing it right" doubts before.  But you know what?  I *am* doing it right!  I am doing what works for *us*.  Oak Meadow isn't strictly Waldorf.  You will hear people say that over and over.  I fail to see the bad in what OM brings.  I'd love to see OM have a block schedule instead of all subjects at once, because doing all subjects every week can be a lot.  But a lot less than a classical or traditional schedule for sure! Yes, OM does bring in the alphabet a grade earlier, and have actual science lessons, and they bring in some social studies.  But after you get over the alphabet reading thing, they focus on a lot of the same things.  Fairy tales in first grade, saint style stories in second grade, building, gardening, creation stories in third grade.  It's not all that different, and - dare I say - it was fun?

So, what did I discover about myself during this struggle?  Well, that no matter how hard I try to be a Waldorf purist... I like science, and so do my kids.  I'm not going to make them memorize scientific names and things like that at this young age, but we like experiments and crafts.  And I'm a mom of 3 so I need to be practical.  I would love to have a basic curric and then add all these fun cool ideas I think of myself.  But my brain is fried and I'm lucky to think of 7 dinners a week.  I need help.  I need someone to think of these activities and crafts for me and let me decide what we will and won't do.

Oak Meadow does that for me.  Once I looked back over our year (after I got over my "I want to be a waldorf gal" phase), I noticed that we had done almost all of the OM curriculum, besides the social studies because we had done so many WE stories.  We were far too burnt out on stories by December to do anymore.  (Note: if you do grade 2, you may want to break up the stories.  We did stories from September to December as laid out in the curriculum before getting a break in January with math.  By that time, we couldn't force ourselves to return to stories after the math break)

So, for age 9 we have a copy of Christopherus and a copy of OM, and I will look over them this summer and decide - do I try the Waldorf route again (Christopherus does look a little more my style - with more information, ideas and flexibility), or should I stick to OM because it is laid out easier for me and we like the ideas it has?  

We have already done several lessons from Christopherus 3 this spring and summer - building a chicken coop, gardening and a 3 sisters garden, raising chicks from day olds, weather journals, beaufort scale, etc. and have enjoyed them.  I'd ideally like to do our own thing, using pieces of each. Isn't that what I do every year anyway?  ;)

In short, I'm wanting to inspire others to be yourselves.  If being totally Waldorf doesn't suit you, why stress out about it?  Most people are not going to judge you by what curriculum you use, and if they do... what does that say about them?  And no one is going to come into your home and tell you that you aren't Waldorf enough, or you aren't doing it right.  No one but you.

If you like most aspects of Waldorf, but also enjoy more activities and a little mores academics, check out Oak Meadow.  If all the subjects in Oak Meadow overwhelm you, do something like Waldorf Essentials.  If you want to be more true to Waldorf, but still want more ideas and activities, look into Christopherus.  All are reasonable when you find them used on the Facebook and yahoo groups (and they really are fairly affordable new).  Just do what works for you, and leave the guilt behind!  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Menu 1/13-1-/19

     We have done really well with sticking to the plan!  *pats self on the back*  Our rhythm is getting stronger every day, we have only ate out once unplanned, our budgeting is going great.  I thought I'd share our menu with you for the week.  Please be gentle, I know it isn't the healthiest menu in the world, but like I said in my original New Beginnings post, I am taking baby steps!  I will begin working on healthier meals once I get comfortable with our new changes.

The Menu - 1/13-1/19

Monday  B: Bagels with cream cheese
                L: Ramen noodles, carrot sticks, apple sauce
                D: Taco ring
                S: Annie's bunny grahams

Tuesday  B: Banana splits (banana, peanut butter, yogurt, granola)
                L: Peanut butter and jelly (Didn't think that one through, peanut butter twice.  LOL)
                D: Spaghetti, homemade italian bread (This is the best, easiest italian bread - ever)
                S:  Vanilla wafers

Wednesday  B: cereal
                     L: pizza rolls
                     D: chicken, cous cous, peas
                     S: cauliflower, ranch

Thursday  B: oatmeal
                 L: Peanut butter and jelly
                 D: Meatloaf, green beans, homemade mashed potatoes
                 S: crackers and cheese

Friday   B: cereal
             L: tuna or egg salad
             D: Pizza and movie night
             S:  carrots and ranch

Saturday  B:  eggs, toast and sausage links
                L: Leftovers
                D: pigs in a blanket, macaroni,
                S: graham crackers

Sunday  B:  oatmeal
              L:  grilled cheese
              D:  porkchops, corn, applesauce, baked potato
              S:  smoothies

Sunday, January 5, 2014

School Rhythm

     Getting a good School Rhythm is high on my priority list for my New Beginning challenge to myself.  When I have a good school rhythm, it helps our entire day.  Lucky for me, our first school block for January is a math block focusing on time/calendar/rhythm.  I'm going to take advantage of this and really focus on our weekly rhythm, and teach Jujubee about daily rhythms.

     Another reason I feel this is important, is because we decided to pull Cocobear from her playschool, so she will need more activities to keep her happy and allow me to do lessons with Jujubee.

Cocobear at her Christmas program with her class.  She is second from the right in the top row. 


     I had a nice chat with Melisa at Waldorf Essentials, and she helped me realize that in order for us to have a good rhythm, I really need to work on my sleep.  Kaybug has been bedsharing or cosleeping with me for the past 18 months, and she wakes a lot.  So we are working on getting her into her own bed and me getting more sleep.  While working on that, I am working on making sure we bring our school rhythm back.

Our January Rhythm

Wake up
Morning chores
Prepare and eat breakfast, clean up
Gather for circle time
Main Lesson
Free play (if time)
Lunch
Naps for the younger two, handwork or reading for Jujubee and I.  (or dinner prep if needed)
Afternoon Lesson
Free play
Prepare and eat dinner, clean up
Free play
Bedtime routine (bath, pjs, teeth, tea, story, prayers, sleep)

     I am working on having at least two weeks planned in my Homeschool Planner at a time, and continuing to plan in my free time.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Budgeting

     Many people don't find budgeting fun.  I love it.  Don't laugh, I really do!  There is something satisfying about putting it all down on paper or in a spreadsheet, and making it work.  In the past, I haven't really tried to stick to a strict budget.  I had a general idea of what we made, what we spent, and had alerts set on my bank and credit card for when we got close to a number I didn't want to exceed (or go under).  It worked for us.

     For as long as we have been married, we have purchased everything on credit cards.  Every month we pay them off completely - we do not carry debt besides our home and vehicles.  I often read about Dave Ramsey's envelope system, but I have to admit... getting the 5% cash back on our Discover Card made it hard to make the switch.

     Well, I wanted to get serious about budgeting, and the only way for us to stop making mindless purchases was to go all cash.  I had a chat with my husband, we both decided to give it a try.  I'd love to make these cute cash envelopes soon, but for now I'm using plain old paper envelopes.


     Right now, I am only using cash for food.  I don't have any money budgeting for anything extra this month besides birthday presents for our niece and nephew.  Gas is the only thing allowed on the credit card to make it easier on my husband, and will get paid every month.  Our paycheck goes directly into our account, and I pay our mortgage, cars, insurance, and phones online, so I couldn't really justify getting the money out just to put it back in...  

     For January, I have budgeted $100 for eating out (pizza night, and any unexpected outings), and $500 for groceries.  I cringe at $600 for food, but we were way above that in December.  Part of our plan to stick to this food budget includes meal planning, and weekly grocery trips, and no more eating out with our pizza movie night being an exception.  

     I can do this!  Do you have a budgeting method?  What helps you stay on track?

     


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Menu Planning

     As part of my "New Beginning" for January, I wanted to start meal planning in an effort to stick to a budget, and stop eating out so much.  It was getting a little crazy how much we were eating fast food or out during the holiday season.  I justified it by telling myself we were so busy, I had more pressing things to do, etc.

     This will be a good way to work on my will and our rhythm, also.  I really have to will myself to make a meal plan every week, grocery shop every week, and - the most challenging - actually make those meals, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack!

     Back to basics.  Cheap and easy, tried and true.

     In order to make this work, I have to take baby steps.  Trying to make a month long meal plan of 31 different meals is not going to work for me.  At least not right now.  So I am going back to basics.  I will use the meals I know best, aren't super expensive, and my family will eat.  And I will limit myself to only a handful of selections.  Also, I'm going to allow myself a little grace, schedule in a pizza night, and not beat myself up if I slip every once in a while.

     The best way for me to do this, is to make a meal plan that has a general theme of the day, and repeats somewhat.

The plan

Monday - Some sort of Mexican meal.  Tacos, burritos, taco ring, etc
Tuesday -  Pasta.  Spaghetti, buttered noodles, lasagna...
Wednesday - Chicken.  Chicken and cous cous and peas, or quinoa, or stuffing, or noodles.
Thursday - meatloaf.  Every week.  (I make several at a time and freeze them to cook each week)
Friday - PIZZA DAY!  We order pizza, pick it up, and enjoy pizza and a movie.
Saturday -  Quick and easy.  Pigs in a blanket,
Sunday - Comfort food.  Pork chops, pot roast, that kind of thing.

     I put all my meals into my Homeschool Planner (available HERE) on Friday, make my grocery list, go shopping, and do any prep work over the weekend (like making extra meatloaves, hamburgers, separating hamburger or chicken from the bulk packs).

     If possible, put the plan on a chalkboard, dry erase board, etc somewhere prominent.  I have a large dry erase board in my dining room with our meal plan, notes, grocery list, and homeschool notes.  Having it available to everyone really helps eliminate the "what are we having for dinner?" questions twenty times a day, and also allows my husband and I to be on the same page.  If he knows we are having spaghetti and I need some help, he can throw the noodles in the pot for me until I'm available.






Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A New Beginning...

   

     Many of us tend to use the start of a New Year to change things we didn't like last year.  Improve, adjust, add.  I am one of those people who love a blank slate, a fresh start.  But all too often, I find I put too much on myself all at once.  I want to change everything on January 1.

     It is insanely stressful and unrealistic when I do that.  Budget, eat completely clean, focus on the kids, minimize internet, be an amazing homeschool mom, keep a spotless house, organize every room floor to ceiling, clean out the basement... the list goes on.

     Not this year.  This year I decided to take things in chunks.  In January I am going to focus on our rhythm (home and school), and budgeting.

January Goals:

  • Create a school rhythm, and work home into it.
  • Create a budget.
  • Make a reasonable plan for sticking to the budget.
  • Only eat out for pizza night and the occasional spur of the moment meal. (Note:  Occasional is not every day...)
  • Work on my will


     Yes, I'd love to start eating clean, lose weight, take care of myself, and all those wonderful things.  But trying to create an entirely new menu of healthy meals and still stick to a budget and not stress myself out just isn't going to happen.  Instead I am going to start with meals I know, easy meals that will ensure my success.  Then, once I start feeling comfortable (or when I get an itch to try something on pinterest) I will add in a new recipe.

     That is the plan!  Happy New Year!



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Playsilk Parachute

This is why I love my husband.  Okay, I love him for a million reasons, but his creativity and engineering nature is fantastic for homeschooling.


I can't remember what I was doing, or where I was, but he was left with the big girls for a while.  When I came home, he had created this really cool parachute from a playsilk (we dyed our own from Dharma Trading), yarn, clothes pins, and an empty peanut butter container.


Overall picture

He had drilled 8 holes in the lid (2 for each string), but after a few rounds, realized one central hole (or, two holes, I suppose) is better.  4 locations seems to tangle too much


He just drilled a hole in one side of the clothes pin for the yarn.  


This works best if you have a nice high deck to throw off of.  Luckily, we do.  ;)


They tried several different methods, from scrunching it all up and letting it go, to lengthening.  I think holding it out like Jujubee is doing worked best.  


And let it fly!  

You may notice there is a stuffed orange inside the jar.  It seemed to help when we added a little weight.  Too much weight made it sink too fast, too little didn't give it enough oompf to spread out and fly.  

There you go!  A parachute from a playsilk.  Have fun!