Welcome to Wood Nymph Way! I have created this blog with two intentions: (A) keeping our family and friends, many of whom live in lands Far Far Away, up to date with what we've been doing, and (B) as a tool to document and learn from our journey as a Waldorf homeschooling family. Enjoy! And don't forget to check out my resource pages on the right!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winter Tales and Other Resources

After finishing last night's blog post, I realized I had neglected to include some of the resources that have been valuable to me this Advent.  So here they are.  Also, please note that today at some point I will be changing the "This is the way we read" section below the posts to reflect current seasonal reading.

Winter-Wynstones Press.  An excellent source of inspiration for the winter holidays.  Songs, stories, and poems.  They make one for each season.  A must have!

All Year Round- Ann Druit. Another excellent book for celebrations year round.  Seasonal crafts, songs etc.  Great family resource.

The Festival of Stones-Reg Down.  Second in the series of the Tiptoes Lightly books.  Sort of a Chapter book, has lovely child friendly short stories of the winter celebrations as the characters celebrate them themselves.  A favorite of ours.

St. Nicholas Center-A website devoted entirely to St. Nicholas.  Information, stories, poems, and history for all ages.  Fascinating, and a tremendous resource!

Live Ed Homeschooling Curriculum-This is what we use as our main curriculum.  The Kindergarten Winter book is a great resource for this season's celebrations.  Can't say enough good things about Live Ed.  Love them!

A few good stories for this season (there are many more, but here's the short list!):

Hansel and Gretel (Grimm's)
The Star Money (Grimm's)
Pfeffernuse (found at the St. Nocholas Center website)
The Elves and the Shoemaker (Grimm's)
Mother Holle (Grimm's)
The Sweet Porridge (Grimm's)
The Story of the Advent Spiral (from Live Ed, but might be found elsewhere)
The Little Fir Tree (Winter-Wynstones)
An Advent Story (Live Ed, but might be found elsewhere)
Mary's Journey (Live Ed, but might be found elsewhere)
St. Nicholas (Winter-Wynstones)
The Cloak (Winter-Wynstones)

Happy Reading!

Monday, November 29, 2010

First Week of Advent (and some other stuff)

The first light of Advent is the light of Stones
Stones that live in crystals, seashells, and bones.
~R. Steiner

It has begun!  After getting through Thanksgiving in one piece, I was so excited to start our Advent celebrations.  This is the first year in our home that we will be celebrating Advent.  Until recently, I didn't know much about it except that it was some sort of celebration involving a wreath with four candles, and a way of working up to Christmas.  Upon further research, I was so delighted to find how nature based it can be!  Now this was right up my alley.

I have always celebrated Christmas in a pretty secular way.  We are not religious, and my spiritual inclinations have always been closer to nature based celebrations, such as those of the Solstices or Equinoxes.  I love the idea of the wheel of the year and rejoicing in nature's rhythms.  Needless to say, I always felt a little hypocritical celebrating Christmas at all.  However, traditions are difficult to break or change much.  So what a relief it was to find a way to incorporate my take on things into a holiday that I loved, but in many ways was lacking for me.

Perhaps some of you have been celebrating this for years (lucky you!).  For others, who are fellow novices,  I'll break it down quickly for you.  Advent is a four week celebration leading up to Christmas.  Each week concentrates on a different element of our world.  The first week is stones, the second, plants, the third, animals, and the fourth, humankind.  A candle is lighted on the Advent Wreath at the start of each week.  First one candle for the first week, then two on the second, and so on.

Traditionally, it is kicked off with a walk in an Advent Spiral.  You can read more about that here.  This symbolizes our receiving and returning of light into our world during the darkening days that precede the birth of the Christmas Child (this is how we refer to him, some use a more biblical approach.)  We were going to begin this way also, but decided it felt more appropriate to do the walk on the Solstice, when the light actually does begin its return.  So ours will be a Yule/Solstice Spiral instead.

Since we were going to celebrate Christmas and Advent, I felt it necessary to sort of hop on board as whole-heartedly as my conscience would allow.  Most who know me know I'm really an "all or nothing" kind of person.  If we were really going to have these holidays be a part of our family's traditions, we'd better put some real meaning behind them.

And so...[GULP]... I made a stable for a nativity scene.  (Again, our approach to this is really very symbolic and I see it as a means of telling a really inspiring and meaningful story to my children.)  On the first day of Advent, it stood empty, save for an empty seashell manger awaiting the Christmas Child.  On each day (in the kids' Advent calendar) there will be a small gift that corresponds to the current week of Advent.  These gifts will all be added to the Nativity scene until it is at last complete on Christmas day. 

This week, the children will find crystals, shells, and stones to add to it.  Next week, some bulbs to force in small vases and maybe some seeds or a pretty flower.  I am making felt animals to add for the third week, and on the fourth we will be adding the  shepherds, angels, and the family (including the Christmas Child) etc that I will also be making.  The Three Kings won't show up until after Christmas, in keeping with the story. 

Here's a picture of what it looks like so far.  The kids have added special items throughout the past couple days.

I will now leave you here to celebrate the holidays as you will (or will not).  Either way, enjoy!

And to quote a favorite old show I used to watch:  "And now for something completely different."

St. Nicholas Day is coming up!  Monday December 6th, to be precise.  If you celebrate it already, have fun!  What a great little festive day.  If not, you can learn about it here on this fantastic website!

Friday, November 26, 2010

We Are Thankful

We are thankful for the night
And for the morning's pleasant light
For rest and food and loving care
And all that makes the world  so fair.

Help us do the things we should
To be to others kind and good
In all we do and all we say
To grow more loving every day.

It's been a almost a month since my last blog post!  Yikes!  I completely missed the boat on writing about Martinmas, but this is how it is when we have busy lives with our children.  I'll get to it next year.

The verse above is something I found a few weeks ago from who knows where (my aplogies to the un-named source here), altered slightly, and used as our Thanksgiving blessing.  For the whole week prior to Thanksgiving, the children and I worked on memorizing it.  At our holiday mealtime, we recited it before we ate.  It was very sweet and heartfelt.

There are so many meaningful holidays this time of year and it can be challenging to present them all to the children with a feeling of importance.  Some touch us deeply and others...well, not so much.  Thanksgiving is one of those holidays for me that, quite honestly, I could do without.  It is supposed to be celebrated as a harvest festival, but by the end of November, the harvest season has already come to a close.  And besides, we celebrated the harvest (on time) with Mabon and Michaelmas.  It seems artificial and redundant.

Historically, in the United States, the details of the "first Thanksgiving" are vague at best, and a far cry from the gluttonous practices of today's holiday.

And of course, there's the food issue.  I'm a vegetarian, and we are raising our children as vegetarians.  The mention of "Turkey Day" makes me cringe on several levels.  First of all, isn't this supposed to be a day of, you know, giving thanks?  It is about the huge meal for most, and seems to have lost its meaningfulness in a big way.  Secondly, I don't like the idea of a celebration being centered around the dead bird on the table.  This is not to say that there are not people who have meaningful celebrations of thanks that happen to include a turkey as the main course.  I just think it's sad that it seems to be the focus of the holiday.

For the second year, we had Thanksgiving at our home.  Last year it was a lovely, quiet meal with just my husband, the kids, and me.  This year some family members joined us.  I was determened to have the holiday hold some meaning for my family beyond the opportunity of a huge (albeit turkey-less) meal.

So the kids and I chose our mealtime blessing, made place cards for the table, pored over countless recipes, and otherwise made our house welcoming to our guests.  We read stories with a common theme of gratitude for what we have (excellent preparation for the upcoming Christmas season, I might add).  I even sewed up a special dress for my daughter, complete with matching doll outfit.  These all seem like little things, but to the kids, who were involved to the best of their abilities in the planning of the big day, it built up a sense of anticipation and excitement.

When our guests arrived, my husband and I had just begun cooking.  Shortly thereafter, the kids were happily occupied playing with their uncles and we were able to get a big meal on the table with minimal interruptions.  This in and of itself is a cause for celebration!

So while I am thankful today that Thanksgiving is over and we can move on to Advent this weekend, I am happy that I was able to insert even a little meaning into a holiday that I previously loathed. 

This year I am thankful for my children, who make me search deeper for meaning in every way, and for helping me find the positive aspects of just about every situation.  For this, they have my unending gratitude.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, here's what we ate:

Autumn Green Salad
Pumpkin Mousse and Gingerbread Trifle